Archive for the 'kayaking' Category

When company presidents go trolling

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Welcome to the intertoobz, boys and girls. Web 2.0, and all that bullshit. Let’s step into the Not-So-Way-Back Machine, shall we, Mr. Peabody?

Seven months ago, in my part-time, volunteer role as webmaster for the Seattle Sea Kayak Club, I got an email from a web entrepreneur asking us to join his community. I sent him back a polite email detailing the issues I saw with his site (including pointing out a potential IP/copyright violation that his development team committed), and then wrote a snarky blog post about the experience.

Well, guess who came trolling tonight? (more…)

Even when you play by the rules,

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Mother Nature bats last. From last week’s Bellingham Herald:

BELLINGHAM — A well-liked local doctor who practiced at St. Joseph Hospital died there Saturday, after his surf ski capsized Thursday in Bellingham Bay.

Lanny “Bip” Sokol, 40, of Bellingham, spent three hours in the water before U.S. Coast Guard personnel found him face down and unconscious, approximately one mile from the Fairhaven Cruise Terminal in Bellingham Bay.

Sokol, who was wearing a dry suit and life vest, was rushed to the hospital. He and another man were kayaking from Boulevard Park to Post Point when a gust of wind tipped them over about 5 p.m., Bellingham Police said. The other kayaker was able to recover, get back in his kayak and paddle back to shore to get help.

Three hours in the water is a long time, dry suit or no. I can see a few things I would consider red-flag-ish: 5PM might as well be after dark – what kind of lighting was the pair using? Assisted rescues (where your paddling buddy steadies your kayak while you climb back in) are typically far easier to perform than self-rescues – while the second kayaker may have improved the response time by paddling for help, he might have improved Sokol’s chances of survival by sticking around to see that he got out of the water. And why did he have to paddle for help? Didn’t they have a radio?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I don’t know how much insulation Sokol was wearing under his dry suit. I don’t know if they had flares or radios. I don’t know if conditions were too rough to perform an assisted rescue. I can second guess, but it’s pretty pointless. I can say that I personally probably wouldn’t have gone paddling in Bellingham Bay that late in the afternoon, but it’s something I might have considered as part of a more experienced group.

Sokol sounds like he was an experienced kayaker, which counts for a lot. But in the end, equipment can fail. Weather can change suddenly. Cumulative decisions, good and bad alike, merge, combine, replicate, and resonate; they intersect and interact with external factors such as wind and tide and light conditions. And in the end, even when you do everything right, it’s still just you against an awful lot of water.

[updated to add: the Coast Guard press release has slightly different information in it – according to USCG, the pair turned back because of the weather. It was upon arriving back at shore that Sokol’s friend realized that he was alone, and notified the authorities.]


Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Last night, I went for my 2nd pool session, and dammit! I’m just not getting it. Maybe I was just in a mood last night, but I just could not bridge the divide between theory and praxis: when I watch someone else perform a roll, it makes total sense; when I try to make myself move the same way, I Just. Don’t. Get. It.


I’m gonna give it one more group session, then see. If I don’t make any headway next week, maybe that should be my sign that it’s time for an individual lesson…

Oh yeah… a new category and a corresponding re-labeling of the relevant posts.

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Monday, October 29th, 2007

I just got back from a pool session where I attempted to roll a kayak (on purpose) for the first time… In my opinion, they didn’t have quite enough instructors for the number of novices that were there, but I still managed to get both some second-hand instruction and some good practice on my hip-snap.

No full rolls tonight, but I’ll be back next week. I don’t think I did too bad for my first time in a white-water boat; I think I’m going to wait until I can roll comfortably before I sign up to try it in a sea kayak.


Saturday, March 31st, 2007

I took advantage of the weather today to take the kayak out for its shakedown cruise. It was… educational.

First off, the previous owner put a fair amount of energy into customizing the cockpit to fit to his body, using closed-cell foam pads to make hip pads and thigh braces. Having a fit like this means that you don’t so much sit in the kayak as wear it. Admittedly, it’s like wearing something (very) highly starched, but still… It makes for a much more responsive boat, but there’s a fine line – too snug, and you can’t easily bail out in an emergency; too loose, and you slop around inside. (In theory, a good fit will also help you with Eskimo rolls, but I’m not at that point yet.)

When I bought the boat, I knew I was buying something that had been changed from one-size-sorta-fits-most to one-size-fits-one. I also knew that I was broader and taller than the previous owner, so I knew that at some point I’d need to reshape his foam. That point came late this morning; I spent about an hour making room for my wide(r) ass.

Still, it felt pretty good sitting in the driveway. I strapped it to the car, and headed off for Lake Washington. When I got there, I learned that I’m going to have to tweak the replacement skeg that I fabricated – it’s a shade too wide, perhaps due to expansion in the cold, and I’m going to need to figure out a better way to secure it to the S-hook that attaches it to the cable that raises and lowers it. Okay, so let’s see how it handles sans skeg. That’s the boat’s true nature, after all.

The verdict? It’s a nice little boat. It’s quick and responsive – maybe a little too responsive sometimes, I surprised myself a couple of times when I did something stupid creative – and very nimble; I’m willing to bet it does fun things in the surf. There was a steady wind, resulting in some smallish (1m or less – mostly less) waves, which the boat handled just fine. It does love to weathercock, so I’m really going to have to get that skeg squared away ASAP.

I’ve still got a little work to do with the foam, too – my right side fit fine, my left not so much. My hips were fine (otherwise, I probably would have tipped over), but my left thigh wasn’t quite in the right place.

Oh, and my second-hand dry gear is, in fact, quite dry. Not that I’d lose my balance while getting out of the boat in the shallows or anything like that. No. Never. Still… *ahem* Quite dry.

Good to know.

My inadvertent waterproofing test also brought home in a very real way the value of the maxim “Dress for the swim, not for the paddle.” The air temperature today was in the high 50s, low 60s, even with the wind. The water temp? High 40s, low 50s. Capilene thermal underwear is a Good Thing.

All in all, it was a most productive 90 minutes of paddling. The boat looks like it was a good purchase, as does all my gear… And I have definitely whetted my appetite for more. Er, more paddling that is, not gear.

Well, okay; gear too. But that’s sort of a given. C’mon, summer!

How I know I’m not *really* serious about kayaking…

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

If I was, there’s no way in Hell that I’d have gone in to work today – I’d’ve spent it on the water instead. Today was simply glorious… and the extended forecast? Rain. Straight through the weekend. Temps in the 50s, but still. Lotsa lotsa rain.

Eh. Oh well. Spring is well underway, even if the water is still really bloody cold. I managed to pick up some secondhand semi-dry gear in great condition this past winter (w00t! Craigslist!); now’s as good a time as any to see how well it works, right? That and some Capilene long johns and I should be fine.

On a semi-related note, I’ve recently learned about this new boat:
[thumbnails link to full-size image; images originally from here]

Current Designs’ 2007 Raven

Big deal, a red boat; so what. Okay, so look at it here:


Gosh, it’s like a kayak, only smaller!

Yup. It’s scaled to kid size, with all the features you’d expect of a serious adult hybrid/light touring kayak. Current Designs has been offering this new Raven model in limited production for a few months; according to a factory sales rep I emailed, they’re just now gearing up for full-scale production.

In addition to this new model from Current Designs, Wilderness Systems is also introducing a kid-sized sea kayak. WS’ boat is plastic, unlike the CD boat which is composite; there’s about a 4kg difference in weight, but there is a fairly substantial price difference. The WS boat is also scaled for a slightly larger child, with a bottom weight of 28kg or so; the Raven starts at 23kg (23kg or so is where The Boy should be by the end of summer – that’s also the lower bound of most of the adult-styled floatation vests).

There’ve been a couple of niche builders out there for a while who make ‘yaks for kids, but this looks like the first time that any of the major manufacturers has decided to build a full-featured kayak for kids instead of offering a glorified recreational boat. I don’t know if this is a cyclical trend or not, but I hope it lasts a few years – the niche builders’ boats are competitive in price, but not once you add shipping…

So… Bet you can’t guess what we’ve got The Boy signed up for this summer (among other things).

Really? What gave it away?

And to-day we have naming of parts.

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

The Boy has spent much of the day happily breaking down my old PC into its smallest constituent parts. I, on the other hand, have spent much of the day trying to make parts…


Surfing with Sir Isaac

Monday, July 17th, 2006

Patches of blue sky are starting to show through the grey Pacific sky. They rain has stopped, and the morning fog, still snagged on high seaside bluffs and conifers, is starting to lift. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

At the moment, I am noticing none of this. I am in a 5.3m-long sea kayak, riding on top of a 1m wave, cruising in to the beach. (more…)

By the time you read this,

Monday, July 10th, 2006

…I will be gone. Uh, gone sea kayaking, that is. What did you think I meant?

For the next 5 days, I will be simultaneously battling dehydration, heat stroke, and hypothermia as I learn How Not To Kill Oneself Or Others With A Sea Kayak. We (the class, not my family – I’m the only one embarking on this little adventure) start on Lake Union for some rudimentary skills training/refreshing, then head out to a state park on Puget Sound for 2.5 days. Then it’s off to a campground on Neah Bay for a couple of days of Pacific surf – not the full force of the open ocean, but surf nonetheless.

So I’ve got my camping gear, sunscreen, Gore-TexTM and a bottle of ibuprofen at the ready – I should be all set. Barring any major mishaps, this should be one of the best birthday presents (okay, combined b-day/Father’s Day present) I’ve ever gotten.

So, for what should now be obvious reasons, posting will be uh… light until this coming Friday or so. For varying values of ‘light’, of course.

On the importance of context

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

Because when Googling “men’s paddling tops”, it helps to know if the searcher is into kayaking or, um, leather.

That is all. May your Google-foo be strong.

Aphrodite’s island refuge – Milos

Friday, March 3rd, 2006

Ever since I got this book as a gift (I probably wasn’t all that much older than The Boy is now – I might have been 8, 9 at the most), I’ve always wanted to visit Greece. And, in what will seem like a completely unrelated point if you stop reading this too soon, this past year I’ve started to get into sea kayaking. After reading this article about the Greek island of Milos where one can see sites like this:

and this:

…I now realize that I now have no reason to not do both at the same time. Looks like I need to get serious about my paddling, eh?

Oh yeah – and they have catacombs – what’s not to like!?