Thursday, December 10, 2009

Clim-ATIC!


Now that the ice is beginning to form - yes, really - I have no kayaking stories to tell. The Folbot Kodiak is packed away for the winter and the carbon-fibre paddle really doesn't need sanding and varnishing. However, I could make a "ditch kit" as suggested by Bryan over at Nessmuking. Brilliant article.

But, I have opted for a little more Arctic News. I am currently in the process of finalising my participation on a course for teachers in Lycksele, Lapland in February next year. As more details become available I'll post them here. In the meantime, check out the Clim-ATIC website for information about this forward-thinking group.

Monday, November 2, 2009

International Polar Foundation, Part II

If you are following my interview then I'd like to let you know that part two is now online at the International Polar Foundation's educational site: Educapoles.

I have really enjoyed my relationship so far with IPF and would like to thank Clémentine Rasquin for collaborating on this project which is not quite finished yet! My 8th grade students and I are working on a presentation which we hope will be ready during the ice season.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

International Polar Foundation


For something completely different; less kayaking anyway, click here to read the first part of an interview I did with the International Polar Foundation for the educational website.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Our backyard!


The kayak season might be over - almost - but it is now the perfect time of year for walking the dog. It is too hot for a Greenland Sledge Dog to run in the mountains during the Summer, but Autumn is balmy with temperatures just slightly above and then slightly below freezing. The mountain is right outside our front door and we are on it within the few minutes it takes to get the dog off the chain and on the lead. Perfect!


The snow cover is also enjoyable with plenty of exposed rock to walk upon. Soon, however, we will have more snow, and then the walks get interesting! With ice just beneath the surface you need crampons to walk the dog! Then we get more snow and you need to switch the crampons for snowshoes and some serious gaiters. Nansen, my dog, doesn't have any problems.


As the sun starts to disappear the walks will be confined to the two hours of twilight we get each day during December and January. The ravens remain throughout the winter, teasing the dogs and stealing the fish we hang up to dry. They are clever birds though, I have to give them that!


I have to get out in the kayak at least one more time next week before flying to Ilulissat and Nuuk for a course. The winds are picking up but maybe there will be a slight window of opportunity. I'll swap my oatmeal that morning for a spoonful of cement as a famous paddler once suggested! ; )

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sleet, snow, hail ... and brief moments of reprieve!


Yep, winter is upon us. The paddling season is drawing to a close as it gets darker and colder and generally less pleasant on the water. I had a quick paddle on Wednesday and had the pleasure of a Fin Whale for company, surfacing just a few metres in front of my kayak. The prospects of paddling this weekend though look very bleak - it is hailing as I write.


The "mothership", our very own Umiak, cunningly disguised as a Folbot Greenland, is now washed and ready for storage over the winter. I say "ready" because it hasn't actually got beyond the kayak rack on the deck outside our house. I have to wait for another dry spell ...


Sledge dog puppies were curious about this rubber whale. They didn't get the chance to chew on it though like they have done my Folbot Cooper!


Back on the water. the light is fading. The winter dark will soon be in effect and it really is all about enjoying the daylight hours before they dissapear altogether.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Have you seen the Great White Whale?


Getting too much of a good thing can drive you a little crazy at times. Full of adrenalin having spent two nights with the whale I decided to take whale watching to the next level ... underwater!


At the risk of frightening the whale with my lilly livered cheeks I chose not to stay in the water all that long - in and out in less than 25 seconds. Inspired by some crazy Norwegians on TV I decided to document this asspicious occasion. The camera was still running when I surfaced and exited. My caring and supportive wife asked later if I really felt it necessary to "cover up"!

I now fully appreciate why one should wear a drysuit when paddling up here!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's getting cold!

It is getting colder here in Uummannaq. Last year we had snow already in September so I am anticipating the end of the paddling season soon(ish).

Whilst the Folbot Kodiak has been cleaned and packed away I am still paddling the Cooper and enjoying the massive icebergs that have been plying these waters the past few weeks.

You might also be interested in finding out how Sean Smith is getting on with his Folbot Cooper in Alaska and be sure to check out Bert Poffé's new and improved webpage with lots of information about past and upcoming adventures.

Meanwhile, I will try and get on the water this weekend - see if I can catch a whale!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Slow Motion Screenshots





No text needed really ...

Geez ... more whale!

video


I like this one because you get to see the whole of the whale's head, albeit briefly.

I have about one and a half to two hours of whale footage. These short videos of a couple of minutes each are the bitesize chunks!

Telephone Book or Outdoor Brochure?


Just in the door, the new TelePost "brochure"!

It's a great telephone directory. Very thin and acts like a family tree. Jane was often surprised to see staff reading it during a break but I am sure it is a great way to find out where people you know have moved. With only 57, 500 + people, it's not all that impossible!

I just like the cover.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hide & Seek

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Another short whale video with the humpback and me playing hide and seek between the icebergs. While not as dramatic as the previous video you can clearly see the whale fluke when he dives.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Kodiak - the verdict


I had a pretty good idea what to expect of the Folbot Kodiak having paddled the double Greenland II and the single, leaner Cooper. But I was still pleasantly surprised at both the similarities and the differences between the three Folbot kayaks. The Kodiak is as easy to build as the Greenland with great volume. However, the Kodiak is similar to the Cooper in terms of speed and tracking. It fits well inbetween the two models.

Whilst not intended as a professional review of the Kodiak, here's a quick run down of the more important points I found - in no particular order:

Seating Position/Cockpit
I had already imagined what it would be like to sit for a long time in the Kodiak as I know from experience that my bum usually goes to sleep and then my legs start to ache after a couple of hours in the Cooper. The standard seat is mainly to fault but this is, and luckily was, easily remedied. Either buy the inflatable seat that Folbot now offers or make your own modification. I settled for an inflatable cushion - be careful not to inflate too much - and after some experimentation I found the right amount of air to provide a comfortable and higher paddling position.

The seat back needs a quick modification to secure it in the upright position to prevent it falling down when you enter the kayak. It can be a real pain to reposition the seat when sitting on it. Annoying but easily fixed.

My knees were often braced against the washboards of the cockpit but this was only a problem on the very first night of paddling. Most kayaks are modified to fit the paddler and the Kodiak is no exception. A bit of ensolite foam taped to the washboards should solve any future problem.

The Position of my legs was an issue at times as I felt there was little room for movement when I was using the rudder. Luckily, the Kodiak cockpit is large enough that you can pull back the spraydeck and lift your legs and move them around without making the kayak unstable. On longer crossings I will remember to make the spraydeck ready to be removed for this purpose.

Stability
The Kodiak has very good initial stability. It can, however, still be leaned relatively easily to assist "cornering", okay, turning, without feeling off balance. The inflatable longerons running along each side of the kayak help both in stretching the skin and provide built in bouyancy. I am sure it is possible to roll the Kodiak - never say never - but it will not be easy. It is more a question of recovery and self-rescue than rolling. I have yet to try that out - was too busy videoing whales!

Being flexible the Kodiak also absorbs waves very well. I did not experience rough weather but neither did I feel the small waves out on the water.

Speed and Tracking
Folding boats are not as fast as hardshell boats but I was pleased with the way the Kodiak responded from stationary starts, and the tracking is superb. I did have a problem with the rudder but more as a result of me tying the rudder lines than anything else. Something I need to work on.

Packing
Packing the Kodiak was a dream. Very quick, easy to experiment and position the weight for trim with good access and loads of room in the bow and stern. While only packed for five days, it was not necessary to have anything stowed on the deck of the kayak other than my deckbag.

Material and Quality
The Kodiak is well made and very tough. Although a tighter fit than the other models I have built and paddled, this is no bad thing considering the whole kayak feels solid and tight. The hull is made of hypalon and this seems to stand up well to abrasion from sand and ice. I can see no sign of damage on completion of this short trip and at no time did I stop to think I should take care of the hull - I paddled and "parked" carefree. It was also quick to build and for that reason the Kodiak should be easy to maintain. Folbot stock all the necessary replacement parts, should they be needed.

Portage/Handling
Whereas portage is not an issue it is neceessary to move the kayak relatively high up the beach so as not to lose it when a wave from a calving glacier or iceberg catches you unawares. Having to move the kayak it is nice to known that it is easy to do so, although I am sure I can refine the technique yet. The dry weight of the Kodiak is just under 24 kilos. At the end of a day of paddling, tired and wet, this is appreciated.

Watertight?
I had no water enter the boat during five days of paddling. However, I did not experience any rough weather either. But the skin does not leak; it sheds water well from the deck.



Conclusion
I am very confident that the Folbot Kodiak will perform well on the expedition next year. It does need a bit of fine tuning for comfort but then most kayaks do. It swallowed gear without feeling sluggish in the water, and it actually felt sporty on take-off. The fact that I could sit comfortably and enjoy the nature and yet feel secure amongst calving icebergs and feeding humpbacks felt really good.

One last thought ... why did I choose a folding kayak when there are so many hardshell kayaks to available? Well, the fact that they can carry a lot of weight without being very heavy, they absorb waves rather than bounce off them and, not least, I can store the kayak inside the house. We don't have a lot of storage options and it gets way too cold to keep things outside during the winter. The modern folding kayak is also very closely related to the Greenland skin-on-frame kayaks in terms of construction and it feels good to be paddling such a kayak alongside the traditional qajaqs in Uummannaq.

I feel I have chosen the right folding kayak for the expedition and looking forward to filling it up with gear and starting next summer!

Following this link you can see all the technical details concerning the Folbot Kodiak.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Folbot Whale Magnet Part II

video

You may have seen this video on the TSS 2010 Facebook page but if not here is another teaser of what happened on the second night of paddling!

I tend to paddle late at night during the summer; it is not quite so hot and the weather seems to be more settled. Starting often around 11pm I make my new camp anywhere from 2am to 7am depending upon how far I have to paddle. It was around midnight that I found the whale among the icebergs!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Watch out! Folbots are whale magnets!

video

I have just got back from a short paddling trip to try out the Kodiak. I was very privileged to enjoy two nights in a row paddling alone with a humpback whale. Here's a short video clip from the first night.

More about the trip and the boat later.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Building the TSS 2010 Kodiak


I thought I should record the process of building the Kodiak if only to show that it is indeed a kayak that comes out of a bag - two actually.

However, the dogs got bored and the kids playing hide and seek under the deck didn't seem all that interested. So, instead of 30-40 minutes of me sweating and puffing in the heat I thought I'd speed up the film and only take a few minutes of everybody's time ... unless you want to play hide and seek - don't let me stop you! ; )


Screwing the camera onto the neighbour's bathroom window was perhaps the most risky part of this daring documentary. I had no idea how I was going to explain myself in Greenlandic if they caught me. I haven't really figured out how I would explain myself in any language! Given the position of the camera you can perhaps appreciate why the film is "silent"!

Without further ado - here's the film:

video


The finished Kodiak was worth all the sweat. It was the sun on the deck rather than hard work that had me sweating. It really is a straightforward build, especially if you refer to the instructions once in a while - or a lot, as I did.

Everything clicks easily into place without the need to be heavy-handed. No tools are needed either. I have built three different brands of folding kayaks and canoes and the Folbot is by far the easiest and quickest. This is a bonus when the mosquitoes are out for blood!

All that remains now is to thread the rudder lines, attach the rudder and make my seat comfy. The Folbot standard seat is not comfy at all. They now make an inflatable optional seat, but I will use a lightweight thermarest placed on the seat with an inflatable cushion behind me.

Folbot included a spraydeck and skirt with the TSS 2010 Kodiak along with lots of other goodies like the rudder and a sail etc. I am excited to be using a Folbot kayak on this journey and very grateful to Folbot for agreeing to sponsor the expedition! A huge thanks to David and Co.!


From Hi-Tec to Low-Tec ... my wet shoes are an old pair of running shoes worn over my drysuit, seen here drying out after a quick trip in the GII the other night.


Sea Trials begin on Monday when I will be paddling solo for a week in Uummannaq fjord.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

One year to go!

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The expedition ticker says there is one year to go before the start of the expedition. Suddenly it all seems so real!

Having just returned from a summer trip in the Folbot Greenland II (double kayak) I am looking forward to paddling the Kodiak on its maiden voyage in a few weeks time. Until then, here's a short video of paddling through ice left over from an iceberg calving.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Greenland's National Day


Overcast but brilliant! Uummannaq has been celebrating their National Day and the introduction of Self Rule including, not least, the UN recognition of Greenlanders as an independent people. This is a major first step on the way to independence.


I was invited to join in the qajaq demonstration and I brought along my modern monstrosity - no offence intended Folbot! ; ) I did okay in the 100m informal race, but I left the rolling to the experts!




I really have to get back into rolling. It has been way too long since I started learning to roll in the swimming pool at Strathclyde Uni. I switched to canoes shortly after that. However, rolling aside, I did get my hand in at fishing today ... literally!


The kids called me over to help them catch capelin that were swimming in huge shoals in the harbour. I took a modest four to begin with but came back for more when Jane joined me with the camera!


It has been a good day - paddling with the pros and catching fish with the kids. A nice way to see in the first day of an exciting future for Greenland!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

First day on the water ... finally!


After several days of repairs to the hull of my Folbot Cooper, I was finally ready to get on the water. I have been late this year and I could feel it as the anticipation of paddling began to creep into my bones. Of course, I can feel it now too - in my muscles!


Marie and I took our Coopers out into some fun waves to play around a little. I chose to take the Cooper instead of the Kodiak as I will be using that later this summer on a shakedown cruise to get used to it before the expedition this time next year. Without mentioning too many Folbots ... Jane and I will begin our summer paddling trip in a few days time using the double Greenland II. Can't wait!


Back to today though ... after an hour or so of fun I experienced the highlight of my paddling "career" in Uummannaq. After having taken the boats up by the side of the road, Marie and chatted a bit about the waves, work and what not. While we stood there the chairman of the local Qajaq club drove past. He stopped and said we could put our kayaks on the rack if we wanted to! Amazed, I double checked and then thanked him enthusiastically in Greenlandic.

Feeling honoured we moved one boat at a time only to have a few puppies start chewing on my cockpit coaming while we went back for Marie's boat. A few more holes won't hurt my already patched boat and little can take the edge off my feeling of pride at our new found parking place!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The first days of June


1st June: there is still a lot of ice in the fjord. Small floes and lumpy bits that can easily be pushed aside by fishing cutters but not so much fun for a folding kayak - I have the holes to prove it!


2nd June: the day of the general election in Greenland. For once the nature of Greenland was outshone by the remarkable goings on in the Home Rule Government of Greenland. With the advent of Self Rule to be initiated on the 21st June, Greenland's National Day, it was fitting that the current ruling party, Siumut, that have held power for 30 years, was toppled by a landslide victory for the Inuit Ataqatigiit party. The future of Greenland is about to become very exciting indeed.


4th June: more movement on the water and the bergs are most definitely free to roam, sail, or whatever it is that icebergs do.


5th June: the Cooper is dragged out of storage and put in "dry dock" for maintenance and the patching of holes. You don't need to put holes in folding kayaks but I had way too much fun paddling up onto ice floes last June. Repairing kayaks could and perhaps should be a winter job, but at minus 20 Celsius it was never very appealing, and I don't think the dogs would have been too happy either!


6th June: paddling season can clearly begin! I have heard that some of the locals have already been out in the skin on frame kayaks. I had better get those holes fixed so I can join them.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Waiting Game


After the icebreaker ploughed a channel through the ice over a week ago it has been very tempting to get on the water. Last year I was paddling by the 2nd of May. I am curious as to whether I will be paddling before June this year, a month later than last.

The shops are well stocked again and there is beginning to be signs of "boat life" out on the water but it will be a least a week or more before any serious traffic will be seen on the water. Right now there are plenty of large slabs of ice to be shoved aside and, having made a hole or two in my kayak last year, I am waiting for a bit more open water before paddling.


The ice situation from the island of Uummannaq deeper into the fjord is still prohibitive to kayaks and smaller craft. I just hope it clears within the next three weeks as my wife and I will be paddling in that direction on our summer holiday. Good training for the expedition and the first time away from the island since January.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Breaking up the ice!

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I borrowed this video from our family blog to show the lengths at which I will go to to start paddling!

Okay, so there was a greater purpose for the arrival of the icebreaker from Royal Arctic Line. It will still be a couple of weeks before I can get on the water in the kayak!

Friday, May 1, 2009

End of the season


We still have good solid sea ice but for these two pups and me our sledging days have come to an end this season as work has to take precedence. The 10th graders in Uummannaq are currently taking their end of school exams and I will soon be marking many exam papers from different parts of Greenland. Busy times ahead!

While the sea ice is still thick enough for cars to drive on it is starting to get spongy around the icebergs and the lack of provisions in the local store might suggest that the first supply ship of the year would be very welcome. Until then, life goes on in Uummannaq.

While waiting for the paddling season in Uummannaq you might also want to check out Bryan Hansel's Around the Great Lakes Expedition here. Bryan starts his 5 month long expedition on May 2nd.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Old and New


I built the Kodiak in the living room. Owners of folding kayaks and canoes will appreciate that the obligatory "living room build" is very important. Sure, there is certainly not enough space. Yes, I nearly put the longerons through first the computer screen and later the television. But all this is worth it as you are within the comforts of your own home and, more importantly, away from the hordes of curious onlookers. While it can be very enjoyable sharing the building experience with others it is nice to make those first-time mistakes by oneself!



I am happy to say that the Kodiak is as easy to put together as its bigger sibling the Folbot Greenland II. What took time this first time around was finding all the parts that were carefully wrapped for transport. Adding the velcro for the spraydeck was also a little time consuming, but fun. All in all I used about an hour and twenty minutes to unpack and find everything, add the modifications (e.g. spraydeck) and fiddle. Fiddling with all the bits is interesting and makes for a huge distraction, so much so I failed to check the clock. I am confident that the next build will take about 30 minutes or less.

I was again impressed by the quality of the materials and the design of the kayak. The improved spraydeck which is a lot stiffer than its predecessor is very satisfactory and I would recommend that people buy this accessory. I was also impressed by the contents of the repair kit included with the kayak and feel that a lot of thought has gone into it.

I have now put together several very different folding kayaks and a folding canoe. Of the Folbot kayaks I have assembled the Kodiak is by far the easiest. I have also put together a Feathercraft Klondike. While I must admit that the Feathercraft achieves a slightly more rigid shape the effort involved, read: blood, sweat and tears, makes the assembly of a Folbot very relaxing compared.

Strangely, the more I assemble the modern folding kayaks the greater my interest in actually building a Greenlandic skin-on-frame kayak. Luckily, I find myself perfectly situated to research and attempt such a project. But while thinking of the old I am very content with the new!

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's HERE!


The Folbot Kodiak has arrived in Uummannaq!

My original intentions were to collect the kayak in a box from the Post Office by dog sledge. That may seem cool to us but it is just plain silly by Greenlandic standards! However, undeterred I created this photo op down on the sea ice where I will be starting the expedition in a little over one year from now.



Why, you might ask, have Folbot and I agreed that the Kodiak be sent so far in advance? In terms of shipping, the Kodiak has travelled by plane and helicopter to get this far. We will not get any goods shipped by boat until an icebreaker visits us sometime in May. The sea will still be frozen at this time and perhaps even into June. The expedtion will start in late June/beginning of July in 2010 and if I am going to paddle the Kodiak before then to try it out then I want to do it in good time.

So, Folbot agreed to send the kayak early and I get to put it through its paces, even during ice break up! That's always exciting.


Greenlandic hunters traveled with their kayaks strapped to the sledge in search of open water to hunt for whales. While not as slim as a Greenlandic kayak, I think I have proven that it at least fits on a dog sledge!

Thanks Folbot!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ah ... winter in Uummannaq!


This is what life is about during the winter in Uummannaq!

Hunters work hard throughout the year in all temperatures and all kinds of weather. They use boats in the period when there is no ice, roughly June to November. They then have a tricky period when the ice is forming in November and December. If they are lucky they can begin to drive dog sledges and snowscooters out to their fishing lines and seal nets from January. The ice season currently lasts from mid-January until late May.


When not working hard, many hunters are playing hard and training for the annual dog sledge races. We have recently had the Greenland Championships held in Ilulissat. Last year the championships were held in Uummannaq. Hundreds of Greenland Dogs were brought to the island. They ran here from several settlements and were freighted in with Sikorsky helicopters. There was easily 1,000 plus dogs here last year!

Dog sledging in Greenland is as much a part of the culture, especially in the North, as kayaking.

There are two seasons in this part of Greenland: kayaking and dog sledging!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's nearly here!


The Kodiak has been built, boxed and shipped! Brilliant! Hopefully it will arrive before the ice breaks up so I can transport it home on the sledge - saves on the price of a taxi!

You might be wondering why I need the kayak so far in advance of the actual expedition - summer 2010? Well, the water becomes extremely cold and full of slush ice already in late September and October. Add to that the rapid loss of daylight and the paddling season becomes very short indeed. We typically have sea ice from January/February until May/June leaving very little time before the planned departure in late June 2010 to try out the boat on a shakedown cruise. David and I arranged that the Kodiak be sent already this Spring so that I might try it out in July/August this year when the conditions are favourable.

To see more of the Kodiak being built check out David's photos here.