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The GOSSIP

Number 216 / December 2009

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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its predictability until Lord Kelvin unlocked these only a little time ago. The best meteorologist I know is certain that the wind and its weather have a purpose predictable in terms of scientific practice: that it will, perhaps in our own time, be possible to display the rule by which the wind is made, saying where it will blow, and for how long, a week on Tuesday. And what will happen to the sailorman then? (Even supercomputers and the best brains of our day are still far from predicting the wind with any great certainty. Ed.)

A canoe may be paddled against a head wind, but it is work. The cunning voyager about to make an open-water passage prefers to wait until the wind is favourable. A favourable wind is one which is going his way, although he may have to be content with one which does not blow farther ahead than either quarter. A beam wind or anything ahead of that will bring up the muscle and cut down the rate of travel. Square sails, such as we used, blossom in a following wind. A fore and aft rig requires more elaborate gear, and is better with some drop-keel device to reduce leeway, or sideways skidding down the wind.

There is a good deal of fun still to be had by some suitably tough group prepared to investigate the whole range of canoe-sailing possibilities. John Marshall used to experiment in the Firth of Forth with a box kite flying aloft and attached to his bow. To follow up this inspiration alone should ensure a release from boredom, and if its problems of remote control were to be overcome, the sea-canoeist could look forward to going with the wind, and at the wind's speed.

These two, tide and wind, are the chief allies, and they should both be on your side. With the wind and the tide in your favour there's nothing to stop you. Complications follow when the wind and tide are opposed. This conflict sets up a difficult sea, and in open coastal water it may be the wet, jabbly, rhythmless sea, which make misery of travel. That is why, even on a good day with a steady wind blowing, two separate sets of sea conditions will be created - one when the tide is with the wind, and done when the tide turns against the wind.

Whatever tricks he may be up to in the rigging of sails, the main propulsion used by the canoeist will be his own paddling effort. The chief glory of the canoe is the extreme comfort of the rowing position. One faces forward, in an armchair, and sees all that is coming. The paddling action is a leverage between the two hands, and a feathering motion set by a quick wrist movement in the brief moment when neither blade is in the water. The tendency when learning to paddle is to spread the hands too widely apart as they grip the shaft between the blades. With familiarity they come closer together. The novice also feels that the total length of the paddle is too little. This awkwardness, too, will pass, although few will be comfortable with a paddle of seven feet or less, the Eskimo length.

With practice the canoe keeps a much straighter course than would seem possible from a merely mechanical examination of the side thrusts, which create the movement. This paddling is very much simpler than rowing. Results can be achieved from the first stroke, as we found with quite young children and with elderly non-seamen. There is no catching of crabs, losing rowlocks, and falling over backwards. Even the timid beginner feels happy while dipping gingerly and awaiting results. It is perhaps relevant to mention that the action reduces the waistline noticeably and puts bulk and hardness on to the upper parts. At the end of our trip we had each added fourteen or fifteen pounds of weight, all of it hard stuff around the shoulders: and we could almost span our waists with our hands. (Read Part 1.)

Alastair Dunnett, "The Canoe Boys: The First Epic Scottish Sea Journey by Kayak"
By kind permission of
Neil Wilson Publishing Ltd, G/R 19 Netherton Avenue, Glasgow G13 1BQ, Scotland.

 

Niue - Tonga - New Zealand (TyroneC)

We stayed in Niue for a good week and really enjoyed the island. There was a "yacht club" just up from the harbour where the yachties would hang out, not much more than a restaurant (they had a commodore, club house, international membership, moorings but no yachts!). Stayed on their moorings while we were there as it was too deep for anchoring and they were so hospitable. Not much on the island. It got trashed by a cyclone some years back, so there were a lot of unoccupied house foundations along the top of the cliff. We made new friends with Babalu (Hans and Erica) who had been helpful in guiding us in after dark. None of the French boats would respond on the VHF when we were coming in except to their "friends" - no change there!

Some good trips around the island with snorkelling in caves and around the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs. Some of it was most unusual with a layer of blurred cold freshwater on the surface but when you swam down a foot there was warm, clear saltwater underneath.

While we were there we had a request from Imagine to pick up a dinghy that was on the island. Another boat, Dosia, had lost it in Beveridge Reef, 140 miles away, a month earlier. A Niue fisherman had found it at the coast upside down, he hauled it out, cleaned out the engine, which he

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