The Old Sea Dog’s Gear Locker [41]

By Norm Sanders

There are many good things about the AGM/Rock’n’Roll Weekend. One of them is the opportunity to wander about and see how ingenious Club members have invented and/or modified gear. The Old Sea Dog was most impressed with the mast arrangement which Mike Snoad had developed. He had taken the OSD’s pivoting mast a step further by using a tubing socket to hold a removable mast. This allows the competitive Mr Snoad to use a much bigger mast and sail than could be accommodated with the original design, limited as it was by the necessity to avoid interfering with the paddle when stowed. In addition, he stayed the mast on each side as well as diagonally aft, which gives it more support.

The OSD is quite happy with a smaller sail, having wrestled his ego more or less into submission, and in fact thinks a smaller sail is a more practical proposition as it has a lower centre of effort and thus less of a heeling moment. Sea kayaks ARE paddle craft, he also points out. However, he is planning to use the Snoad staying arrangement, with a minor modification on his new plywood Greenlander. The OSD plans to have the existing forestay, two side stays (one on each side), and one backstay, leading centrally aft to a fitting on the centre of the deck.

Also seen at the AGM was an innovative skeg on a rented Necky. Skegs are traditionally used on directionally unstable craft like Skerry’s and Arctic Raiders to stop them from rounding up into the wind while running. On these boats, the skeg drops out of a slot near the stern. This necessitates a housing for the skeg to be moulded into the hull. It is difficult to retrofit a skeg with this system, although the skilled Arunas Pilka once accomplished this feat. The Necky, however, simply deployed its skeg over the stern, like the usual folding rudder. The skeg gives the same downwind control as a rudder, but is lighter, less complicated and requires no rudder pedals and attendant cables. A good idea for boats which need more lateral resistance aft.

The OSD himself had an entry in the innovative gear section in the form of his ‘Rollaide’. This took the form of a foam headband, cut from a blue sleeping mat. The OSD has noted that he gets a bit dizzy after two or three rolls, but that his neoprene winter helmet solves the problem. It seems that the cold water hitting his eardrums is the culprit and the neoprene helmet keeps the water out. Hence the ‘Rollaide’ which has its ends glued together with Quick Grip. The OSD has also experimented with ear plugs, but finds that they tend to fall out in the surf. A better solution is Blu Tac. It stays in well, but is painful for the OSD to remove because it gets stuck to his beard.

Another interesting item was Rob Mercer’s ‘Coho’. He built the beautiful plywood craft from a kit supplied by the US firm Pygmy Kayaks. In America, the kits offer an inexpensive way to get into sea kayaking, as well as giving the builder a great deal of pleasure. Australian kit buyers still have the fun of building the craft, but they aren’t cheap by the time all the freight and duty charges are paid. The kits are very complete and come with a comprehensive instruction booklet. For people with limited knowledge of woodworking and/or stitch and glue boat building, the kits are the way to go. The only thing Rob had to add was the black rubber nose on the bow of his kayak. Rob, a gentleman, acquiesced to the wishes of various wimps who were afraid of being impaled on the extremely pointy end.

Pygmy Kayaks also offers plans, which would be a much cheaper option here in Australia. The OSD favours Greenland style kayaks, and Pygmy has two of these, the Queen Charlotte and the newer Arctic Tern. The OSD likes the Arctic tern best, perhaps because it is very similar to his Inuit Classic. Unfortunately, Pygmy only will sell plans for the Queen Charlotte. Another American outfit which offers complete plans and construction details is Chesapeake Light Craft on the East Coast. Both of these firms have good web sites: for Pygmy and for Chesapeake Light Craft. The OSD also designs and builds plywood boats, but hasn’t taken the immense amount of time required to draw up plans and write an instruction manual. He’d rather be paddling, or like now, messing about in his shed building a 17 footer called the ‘Inuit Explorer’.

Recently, the OSD’s lovely and long suffering partner, Mona, brought a book about something called the ‘Glycemic Index’ to his attention. This was all about avoiding peaks in blood sugar for greater long-term energy and, generally, more healthy living. It pointed up the advantages of having high carbohydrate foods which digested slowly, thus fuelling the body for longer periods. There were a bunch of tables in the book which showed the relative merits of various foods. Pasta (including the ODS’ cherished 2 minute noodles) generally rated well. In addition, the OSD was not surprised to find that Semolina, once the wonder food of the ’90’s, but now sadly neglected, also had an excellent rating. The OSD’s ‘New Millennium Resolution’ was to resurrect Semolina to its proper place on the podium of superior foods.

Have a Happy, Semolina fuelled, 2000.