Incredible Journey [50]

Part 1 of Oskar Speck’s Epic Journey From Germany to Australia

By Oskar Speck (As told to Duncan Thompson)
Reprinted With Kind Permission of Australasian Post Magazine

You might think that it has taken the Melbourne Olympic Games to introduce the kayak to Australia.

You would be (understandably) wrong. Mr Oskar Spec, citizen of Hamburg, Germany, introduced the kayak to us in 1939. He paddled it here — alone!

For seven years he paddled it, from Ulm on the Danube, to Australia, skirting the wrath of great seas and oceans, slipping from island to island, in a craft never designed for the sea.

That you did not hear of his arrival was either his fault nor yours.

For Speck chose a wrong period in world history for his amazing voyage — 30,000 miles in a frail frame-and-canvas canoe. For the kayak, the longest way round hugging the coastlines of the world is the only way home.

Germany was at peace (and in poverty) when Speck left Ulm in 1932.

Seven years later, in September 1939, he coaxed his kayak through the surf and on to the beach at Saibai, an island 60 or 70 miles north from Thursday Island. Officially, Saibai is Australia proper. At his bow, often smothered in the flying surf, fluttered the tiny Swastika which he had brought from Germany with him.

Three Australian police were waiting for him to berth his kayak. If this was the German invasion, these cops could handle it. “Well done, feller!” they said, shaking his hand warmly. “You’ve made it — Germany to Australia in that. But now we’ve got a piece of bad news for you. You are an enemy alien. We are going to intern you.”

They did just that.

Speck went behind barbed wire at Tatura, Victoria. Security seized his Leica and films — he has got most of his films back since. Censorship clamped down on the story of his voyage.

So that is why you have never heard of Oskar Speck.

In this issue, POST has the distinction of commencing the story of the man’s seven-year saga.

Here it Begins…

Originally, it wasn’t my intention to write the story of my voyage. I only wanted to tell Australians about Faltboots (folding boats), which are the modern version of the ancient Eskimo kayak. But would Australians recognise my authority to speak about it?

In Germany, I was a recognised kayakist before 1932. As my voyage progressed and reports of it went home from Cyprus, from Greece, from India, I became acknowledged as the most experienced sea-going kayak expert in the world.

My old paddle was a trophy to the winner of the Marathon Canoe Race, Carl Toovey, who rowed 100 miles on the Hawkesbury River, NSW, in 18 hours, 32 minutes.

Sailing men in Australia know me — I have been elected an honorary member of the NSW Canoe Club, and the kayak in which I arrived here has been presented to a member of the River Canoe Club.

But the mass of Australians did not know me at all — except, perhaps, as a name appearing from time to time in local newspapers which briefly recorded the progress of the earlier parts of my voyage.

Only a fuller account of the voyage will introduce me. I hope that it will convince you that I am a skilled kayakist — if I weren’t, there were many perilous occasions on the voyage when I should have perished. But I am lucky, also.

Only with luck was I allowed to survive to acquire the skill which brought me through hostile seas in the later parts of the voyage.

The original, primitively shaped kayak was used by the Eskimos for many centuries. More modern, streamlined kayaks, made of solid timber, have featured in the sport and recreation of Europe for many years. But these were no use to city dwellers. They could not cart a great boat home with them and park it in their town flats. And in Europe to hire a small boatshed or even to store a boat is too expensive for the ordinary man.

What was needed was a oat that would not only be safe for shooting rapids, and light for porterage, but which would collapse into a small bundle, easily carried by train or bus to the scene of the weekend’s sport.

The inventor of the faltboot kayak fulfilled all these requirements. It consists of a framework of very light, pliable timber stays, over which the fabric of laminated rubber and canvas fits like a skin.

So ingenious is its design that, once put together, it becomes as rigid as its all-timber prototype. Taken apart and packed, it can be stored in any odd corner in house or flat. There are single and two-seaters, weighing 40 and 65 pounds, respectively.

Continental railways cut freights for faltboots, to bring this recreation within the means of the masses. During summer, faltboots in the tens of thousands swarm over the rivers and lakes of Europe.

Dimensions? My double-seater kayak (I took the second seat out) weighed 65 pounds, was 18 feet long with a 33 inch beam and a freeboard of 9 3/4 inches. It carried a load of 650 pounds. With a good wind and a quiet sea it can do up to 6 1/2 knots. Loaded, and propelled by a lone paddler, it can do three knots.

Currents, of course, affect these speeds. Its sail measures 16 square feet, but a strong wind makes sailing risky. The rudder is worked by the feet, wire lines linking rudder to the foot control.

For my voyage I carried a spare paddle, a prismatic compass, sea charts, and ‘coastal pilots’ which show every landmark, every depth, every tiny inlet and cliff. I had two large waterproof brass containers for my films, cameras, and clothing. Fresh water went into small tanks shaped to the sides of the kayak — they held five gallons.

Fresh water, did I say? In many tropical places on my route the ‘fresh’ water was lurid green. So I also carried young coconuts, dependable for a germ-free drink; and condensed milk.

I have given the specifications of the faltboot. But my kayak proved to have qualities which even the maker never claimed for it. It won me friendships right across the world.

It was a first-class ticket to everywhere. A little restricted while one was actually travelling, more than a little perilous, but it brought me privileges which your passenger in an ocean liner’s de luxe suite can never know.

I will always remember meeting the Governor of British Baluchistan, Sir Norman Carter. A shooting party had bee arranged for him by the two local maharajahs, and a magnificent camp, complete even to triumphal gateways, had been erected near the beach.

It was just chance that I had landed on that beach a little earlier.

Sir Norman and his aides came walking down towards the beach. There to greet him, with colourful retinues and in all their regal splendor, were the Maharajahs of Kalat and of Las Bella. In turn, their names were announced to the Governor. He half-turned to his right, and bowed stiffly to the Maharajah of Kalat; then to the left, bowing just as stiffly to His Highness the Maharajah of Las Bella.

Then he saw me, dressed in informal shirt and pants taken from my watertight tank. Sir Norman hurried forward and shook my hand warmly. “Let me congratulate you, Mr Speck,” he said. “A splendid performance.”

He insisted on taking me to his marquee, and with his own hands served me with a drink which he listened to my story. Two jealous maharajahs waited outside for the shoot to begin.

Such welcomes are not guaranteed by the Pionier Faltboot Company, makers of my kayak, but they could be depended upon none the less. But let me get started on my journey…

In Hamburg I had been an electrical contractor, employing 21 hands. Then came the depression.

In 1932 my factory had no work, and I had to liquidate.

There seemed no hope for me in Germany. But I heard there might be work that I could do in the copper mines in Cyprus. I did not dream of going on the Australia then.

I had a little money – enough to equip my boat.

So, one morning I took my folded kayak and the supplies to Ulm by train. There, beside the Danube, I put the ash frame together, and pulled the rubber-and-canvas skin over it.

I loaded up, and, without any fuss or farewell from anyone, I set off to paddle down the river in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea.

By All Sane Standards, I Was Mad.

Faltboots are not built for the sea. If you must compare them with a land vehicle, there are most nearly related to the bicycle. On a bicycle you must keep pedalling and steering or you fall over. In a faltboot you may sail while the weather is kind, but you must be constantly active, constantly steering to bring the boat’s bow to the right position to meet every single wave.

Take just one wave wrong and your boat will spin sideways, you will turn over and be swamped. Your first capsize on the open ocean will be your last.

When the wind becomes strong you must take in your tiny sail and paddle. Sometimes I have had to paddle for 16 hours on end without a moment’s cessation.

Life becomes a dreary, endless monotony of paddling, arms and shoulders aching, and your whole body longing inexpressibly for one thing — sleep.

But you must not even doze for one moment. You must be constantly using the rudder, meeting each wave just right.

In larger boats, sailors pray when they get into difficulties. In bad weather in a kayak one also prays, but with both hands cramped around the paddle, both feet tense on the rudder bar. There are no long prayers, either — just one cry for survival, and how often this is repeated only God knows.

Praying for survival and working up an emotional fury against the elements — that is how one fights a storm. I had luck with the weather in the first part of my voyage, and only that luck enabled me to live to gain the skill and experience that brought me through the rest of it.

On my voyage I had 10 capsizes, but they always happened riding in through the surf, never at sea.

The kayakist learns that he has little to fear from oncoming waves taken at a right angle. But following waves must never come under the boat at a right angle. If one does, the tiny rudder will lift clear out of the water, control of the boat is lost, and it swings sideways and turns over. It is curtains.

Continue with part 2


Four Day Trip [50]

… – With a Difference

By Andre ‘Grasshopper’ Janecki

It was my 1st solo trip without my Mama…
No head winds, no currents, no big waves…
Plenty of food and water at call and a panoramic view all over Sydney CBD…
All legal and free… no need to even do your bed…
Not even a spare paddle or all the safety gear…
All I took was my Medicare Card!

Anyone interested ?

I would not like to stay another day in Sydney Hospital, but after all it was an experience on how to travel ‘fast & light’!

In short, what happened was that 7 days before my kayak launch I accidentally pierced my finger with a single, dry bristle that was coated in epoxy resin, which I carefully removed intact. For 6 days I noticed nothing, then 1 day before the launch, my finger suddenly turned into a Polish sausage.

As from today, I am back and my right index finger is in good shape too.

After all it resisted the surgeon’s knife, thanks to the rest of the body swallowing the following cocktail:

Benzylpenicillin: 1.2 grams, 4 times a day (intravenous poured)

Flucloxacillin 1.0 grams, 4 times a day (intravenous poured)

I will be kicking back more of these cocktails (in a tablet form), so no surfing for the next 10 days, hoping, that all of you like me, are ready for Arunas’ Hidden Valley weekend.

This looks like a good time where I can thank Master mixers like David and Dirk for their expert advice and recipes… without giving them the finger!

Flotsam & Jetsam [50]

The Fishkiller Files

By Mark Pearson

Survivor 2003

The ravenous paddler bit hard into the huge spider. A rear leg of the arachnid, still twitching, fell to the ground. Seizing his chance, the paddler’s watching companion snatched up the limb and stuffed the tasty morsel into his mouth.

Could this be the most revolting opening to a NSWSKC trip report ever? Well, it could well happen in Issue 53!

In a major scoop, Flotsam has uncovered a ‘Survivor’ epic currently being planned by a hardcore element of the South Coast Bruisers fraternity. A Flotsam reporter caught up with Trip Leader Gary ‘Deliverance’ Edmonds at his secluded training compound in the Wollongong hinterland, where he and his team are preparing for the expedition.

Edmonds told Flotsam, “The trip outline is simple… my group will kayak a section of wilderness coast in January 2003. What is different is that supplies on embarkation will be restricted to a small range of condiments and a reasonable amount of alcohol. The group’s mission will be to acquire enough food from natural sources along the way. It is a challenge but I’ve got every confidence in my lads.”

Asked about how the concept had got off the ground, Mr Edmonds, who has only recently returned from two years in the UK, said, “Well, even when in England I’d heard that the Club has had problems with controlling Homo Eroticism on longer trips… so I had the idea that if the guys were spending most of the time and energy paddling or looking for sustenance, there would be less temptation in, uhhm, other areas…”

Returning to the big issue, food, Mr Edmonds said, “It is hoped that seaweed will be the dietary mainstay as it is fairly slow moving so relatively easy to catch, even for us.”

The rugged Trip Leader added, “But one of my main worries is how the group will endure tough paddling conditions on a likely diet of boiled kelp and a few fried insects.”

To this end Mr Edmonds confirmed that, despite his personal unpopularity, Mark ‘Fishkiller’ Pearson had been offered a place on the trip, given his expertise as a protein hunter and trip reporter. However, Mr Pearson, at 82 kg and (according to some high-tech bathroom scales), only 16% of that in body fat, was apparently concerned at his ‘fitness’ for such a venture. On this, Mr Edmonds added, “Mr Pearson does have a point… the rest of the group probably has enough ‘love handle’ reserves to see it through the week without any food at all, but if the fish aren’t on, the skinny bastard might be literally starving within a couple of days…”

Flotsam attempted to contact Mr Pearson for confirmation of his involvement, only to be told by his Press Secretary that he was no longer cooperating with this column after the ‘distorted press’ he received in Flotsam & Jetsam in Issue 49.

All New!

The most unusual thing I’ve seen in ten years of kayaking, it curves and twists and sweeps as far as the eye can see… awesome… like something from a different time and space.

Just some spontaneous comments from gob-smacked viewers of Andre Janecki’s new and original design, Hybrid III. Triple-chined and with a ‘gondola’ like deck profile, Hybrid III may well redefine design parameters for sea kayaks in this new century.

Flotsam tracked down Mr Janecki and his devoted partner Catherine at his workshop in Surry Hills, where, over coffee and cake, he told our reporter in his delightful Polish lilt, “Well, my friend, I wanted to build not just a good kayak, but a very beeyyyuutifull kayak to honour my sweet Catherine. My new craft had to have a special shape… so I used my lovely lady’s flowing curves and fine features as the great inspiration for me and for my design… at first I was even going to call her Catherine but then I thought if this is so all the other men would be trying to take her out all the time and I would never get to go in her… so I called her Hybrid III… OK, not such a pretty name as Catherine but I like it and it is better for tax if you know what I mean… she will be a fine boat my Hybrid III, and I will love her on and off the water for many years to come I tell you, for she is beeyyyuutifull…”

A Flotsam Apology

On 03 August, the Executive organised a general meeting at Bundeena to discuss some crucial issues facing the Club. Although Flotsam had intended to publish a full report on this important event and its outcomes, this is unfortunately not possible due to the on-duty reporter falling asleep shortly after the first session.

Despite the reporter’s excuse that “sudden fatigue” had set in as a result of two glasses of wine and a long period of “over-stimulation” during the presentation by Amanda Whitaker, he has been suspended from duty forthwith. Flotsam offers it sincerest apologises to our readership.

Blown Away

One man who stayed wide awake, President Mercer, considered himself a lucky man after nearly losing some very precious items during the storm that lashed Bundeena that Saturday night.

On returning to the campsite after the meeting, our busy President was shocked to find his tent had disappeared. Worse still, there was no sign of his First Lady, the very petite Sharon! It took only seconds for the terrible truth to dawn… such had been the ferocity of the squall; the tent and its contents of sleeping bags, pillows and poor Sharon, had simply been blown away.

A concerned group of friends managed to follow the trail of pegs across the campsite, along a track, through a car park and down an embankment. There, half way up a tree near the water’s edge, they found Sharon, still in the tent but luckily unhurt!

A relieved Mr Mercer told Flotsam, “I thought I had it pegged down well enough, and with Sharon already in there, I thought there wouldn’t be a problem.”

But the rueful President added, “It was certainly a lesson well learned… I’ll be sure to lash her down more securely next time I leave the tent…”

Very Interesting

Meanwhile, Professor Andrew Eddy of Flotsam’s Science Department has carried out some interesting research after being inspired by the excellent BBC Production The Battleships recently shown on the ABC. Professor Eddy informed Flotsam, “Did you know that if you were to scale down the 247 metre German battleship Bismark to a sea kayak length of about 5.43 metres, its beam would be a whopping 79 cm, compared to the average 62 cm for our boats?”

“But,” Professor Eddy enthused, “the really interesting thing is, and I’ve run this through the computer several times, is that even with a steel hull, reinforced deck armour and complete superstructure, our Bismark sea kayak would still weigh less than a ten year old Greenlander!”

Tough Judgement at Tribunal

And there were dramatic scenes at the latest sitting of the NSWSKC Judicial Tribunal, where defendant Paul Loker was charged with contravening Club Regulation 28 XI (c) by Assisting a nuisance motorised vessel in distress. The incident occurred at Box Head in Broken Bay, where Loker apparently single-handedly towed a stricken speedboat out of danger after a wave swamped its engine.

Proceeding straight to sentencing after a guilty plea by the defendant, a sombre Judge Mercer delivered the following judgement; “I view this offence as very serious indeed; witness statements show that this motorised vessel was obstructing sea kayaks in their legal and proper attempts to ride waves, that the vessel was both noisy and smelly, and that the vessel was very probably being driven by a hoon of the marine variety. In essence, Mr Loker, your inexplicable action saved this craft from a fate that was well deserved!” “Therefore, it is beholden upon me, as Chief Justice of this Tribunal, to impose a penalty commensurate with the gravity of the offence. I hereby sentence you to 12 months paddling the Greenlander belonging to Mr Matthew Turner of Wollongong, NSW. Furthermore, I order that during this time you shall not seek assistance when carrying this craft to and from the water, or when loading the craft onto or off your vehicle. It is the Tribunal’s wish that the physical and emotional stress of this sentence serve as a warning to others who would so dishonour the core values of sea kayaking… take him down.”

Outside the Tribunal a shocked friend told Flotsam, “Of course Paul is devastated, and we shall be raising funds for an appeal… surely he didn’t deserve that sort of punishment for a first offence… just one moment of madness… he’s not a big bloke, that Turner boat’ll kill him.”

Later, a tribunal insider said that he thought that the harsh sentence was partly due to Loker’s membership of the renegade sea kayaking gang, The Sydney Push. The insider told Flotsam, “Two of its most notorious members, Stuart Truman and Alan Whiteman, have already served time for Jet ski sympathy offences in the past 18 months… Judge Mercer has obviously had enough of these people, and fair enough too…” .

Fitness for Kayaking [50]

Myths and Hard Realities

By Trevor Gardner

So you want to improve your kayaking performance. This will mean different things to different people. The Wednesday night Lane Cove River Mirage time triallers probably want to go faster over a known and relatively short distance. The South Coast Bruisers need to be able to tab away in foul weather for hours on end for days on end. The Wollongong Pod Sandon Point surfers probably want to avoid tearing their arms out of their sockets in three metre swell. The overweight corporate desk paddlers need to lose weight and make slow improvements in their general health. Well, there is something for everyone. Read on.

The human body is a combustion engine. Your very own Mark 1 power plant, given to you at birth, it is the only one you are going to get. If you stuff it up you can’t trade it in like your car. However, just like your car you burn carbon based fuels in oxygen and produce carbon dioxide and water. You too are a greenhouse gas emitter.

Factory fitted, your body has a duel fuel system with short and long range tanks. In the main, fuel selection and utilisation is automatic and seamless. However, a little bit of knowledge can assist in maintaining optimum performance. Perhaps surprising to some, it is entirely possible to undergo major, sudden decreases in engine output whilst having enough fuel in store for weeks of work. With a little bit of effort and sweat on your behalf you can improve the performance of your engine and improve the efficiency of fuel utilisation.

Whilst you may be able to improve the efficiency and optimise the performance of your Mark 1 power plant there are some basic immutable limitations that must be accepted. Kayakers, like rowers, apply their power without much regard to gravity. Lesser mortals, those undertaking land based activity, expend a lot of energy overcoming gravity. This means that different land based sports require different body morphology for optimum performance. Long distance runners are small, thin and lightweight while 100 metre sprinters have large muscle mass with limited endurance. This doesn’t mean long distance runners can’t sprint and sprinters can’t run long distance. One body type and training style will favour better performance in each sporting discipline.

In kayaking, like rowing, it’s the size of the engine that counts. If a bigger engine is fitted to your kayak any extra weight is relatively unimportant and so the bigger the engine, the faster you go. There is no advantage in being small and thin for long distance touring as you are not lifting your own body weight against gravity. The big V8 paddler running at 50% power setting will find it easier than the 4 cylinder paddler running at 75% power setting to maintain the same speed. This assumes that all else is equal. In reality, paddlers who train regularly, are fit, flexible and exhibit good technical ability will be of little disadvantage on the average paddle. However, if the V8 paddler is at the same standard of preparation then the 4 cylinder paddler will have slower top speed and have to turn out more watts/kg in the cruise. If you are part of a multi-day, multi person open sea trip you might want to check the size and fitness of the engines driving the kayaks in your group.

You may also want to consider the on-board computer controlling the kayak engine as well. Is it a group-conscious computer or an every-man-for-themselves type computer. This might override fitness aspects in group spread.

Time to put a few numbers and equations down to provide some terms of reference for what is to come. I mostly round out numbers, give ball park figures and, unless stated otherwise, the data refer to the medically mythical 70 kg young male adult. Women can reduce numbers by about 25% for muscle mass, calories burned, fuel required, strength and the like. Physiologic fact, not any misogynistic ideology.

I will use Calories instead of kilojoules much to the despair of the scientists amongst you. Calories with big C are 1,000 calories, little c. That is, the big C is 1 kcal but usually just called Calories (Cal). You will either see Calories or kcal on the label of foods but they are the same thing and relate to kilojoules (kJ) as: 1 Cal = 4.2 kJ.

How many Calories do you need every day? Basal metabolic rate for our mythical 70 kg paddler is 2,000 Cal. This is to lie in front of the TV. Add on a bit for getting about and 2,500 Cal is the often quoted figure but will depend on how active you are during the day. This is about 100 Cal/hour. How should we fuel this paddler. Standard wisdom says carbohydrate (CHO) 50% (or more), fat 35% (or less) and protein 10-15% (about 1 gram/kg body mass). These percentages relate to calories not grams.

What about the energy density of these fuels. Carbohydrate (CHO) is a bulky inefficient storage substrate with about 4 Cal/gram. Protein also gives 4 Cal/gram. Fat is anhydrous (without water) and stores 9.1 Cal/gram (call it ten for doing the sums in your head). Thus, you need about 300 grams CHO, 80-90 grams fat and 70 grams protein per day. Only about 2% of caloric needs for exercise come from protein in the first 90 minute but this can rise to 15% or so after 90 minutes of sustained exercise. Alcohol, for the record, provides 7 Cal/gram.

The muscles use mostly fat as their fuel when pottering about (as free fatty acids liberated from stored triglycerides in adipose tissue and free fatty acids stored within muscles). The brain uses about 90% of the blood sugar and red cells the other 10% when at rest. There are about 100,000 Cal of fat stored on our lean paddler, could double that on some more padded paddlers. Clearly, a fat deficiency is not likely to occur under any conceivable paddling expedition. Six hours paddling a day, three weeks might need about 3 kg of stored fat. About half the energy requirements come from CHO when exercising but this percentage increases with increasing exercise intensity.

How much CHO can we store? Not much is the answer and this is very important for paddling endurance. The muscles store CHO as glycogen; 400 grams in muscle, 100 grams in liver. This is about 2,000 Cal. For various tedious biochemical reasons, fat metabolism during exercise requires the intermediaries of carbohydrate metabolism. If you exhaust your CHO stores then fat metabolism suffers as well. Excess fat in your diet is stored as fat, excess CHO is stored as fat. Fat cannot be catabolised to CHO so you need the right amount of CHO to balance your requirements. An excess of 3,500 Cal will lead to about 400 grams of fat.

Now a look at training. In 1968 Dr Cooper, a US Air Force physician produced a book titled Aerobics. He contended that cardiovascular conditioning was important and that everyone should perform regular aerobic activity. Dr Cooper’s concept of aerobic activity was any continuous exercise that required relatively heavy breathing. The exercise needed to be vigorous enough to raise the heart rate above 70% of the predicted maximum. This concept remains the basis for cardiovascular conditioning. There are lots of trendy programs, theories and myth associated with training. Vast amounts of literature is available on the subject. Despite all of this, the basis of useful cardiovascular training involves continuous aerobic exercise (jogging, rowing, cycling, paddling, swimming, etc) of at least 20 minutes duration, with a heart rate of 65-70% maximum or greater and at least three days per week. This is the threshold for increasing cardiovascular fitness, less than this and biochemical and anatomical changes associated with increased fitness will not occur. The body is a machine of adaptation, both up and down. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

An increase in fitness is demonstrated by the ability to perform more work for the same oxygen consumption and heart rate. The enzymes of fuel utilisation can be increased and the physical mass of the heart muscle and its pumping performance can increase. This allows an increase in the oxygen delivery to support an increase in the maximum output. Your pump (heart output) can increase from about 22 L/min to 35 L/min. Your absolute maximum oxygen consumption is genetically determined. What you do with what you have is up to you but not all of us will make the Olympics despite the most expensive sports psychologist with a cattle prod.

Significant increases in fitness can occur in as little time as three weeks, so it is always worth putting in some yards before a big paddle. After about three months of regular training you will be on the plateau and unless you push you training up a notch you will maintain the level you have reached. The ability of muscles and tendons to deal with a sudden increase in regular exercise may lag behind biochemical changes and lead to strain injuries. A graded approach is always advised if you starting from a level of inactivity. This allows time for anatomical and structural changes in the muscles and tendon inserts.

Reference is often made to the VO2max, the maximum oxygen consumption, mentioned above. Remember, the muscles are burning oxygen and producing heat and greenhouse gases to move that kayak. Usefully, oxygen consumption has a linear relationship to heart rate, given by the equation: %HRmax = (%VO2max + 28.12)/1.28.

The amount of work you can perform and the amount of oxygen you can utilise is determined by genetics, the size of your muscle mass, your training effort and your age. Your maximum heart rate has been shown to be predicted by the simple equation of 220 – your age. The 40 year old will have a maximum predicted heart rate of 180 beats/min. You can see from the two equations above that as you age your maximum oxygen consumption decreases, reflecting a decrease in the amount of work you can do. Fact.

50% of VO2max (%HRmax about 60%) seems to be the accepted threshold to stress the cardiovascular system enough to make improvements in fitness. A minimum heart rate of 65-70% max predicted is a better target I believe. Duration wise, 20 minutes is the minimum useful time. The process of lipolysis, the breaking down of stored fat to useful fuel units for the muscles, takes 20 minutes to ramp up. Ideally then, 30 minute sessions with your heart at least 65% of your predicted maximum is the go. At this rate of effort there are about equal amounts of CHO and fat burned. As you increase intensity, there is a greater percentage of CHO burned but at this higher level of calorie expenditure you will burn more fat overall than you would have at the lower intensity. 85% HRmax is the usual upper end of the training range. Three days a week is the minimum remember. There are recognised general health benefits for doing less than the above but you will not see increases in cardiovascular fitness in the strict sense.

How does all this theoretical rot translate to the real world? I have used myself as a kayak test dummy and have some preliminary data. I also have good data from a rowing ergonometer. All data was recorded after at least 20 minutes of target heart rate warm-up. I am the average middle-aged male, 41 years, weight 84 kg with fitness somewhere in the middle to lower side between sloth and athlete. My training heart rate range is 116-152/min (55 to 80% VO2max). At HR 116 I burn 670 Cal/hour (110 watts of work). At 80% HR max, 143/min (75% VO2max), my calorie burn rate is 880 Cal/hour (170 watts).

In the future I will have data for correlating different kayaks, their speed, heart rate and calorie consumption. Preliminary data shows that paddling a Mirage 530 on flat water at 7 km/h requires only a heart rate of 100-105 for me. This is below my training heart rate lower limit of 116 and even below the 50% VO2 max. My guess is a burn of about 500 to 550 Cal/hour. These numbers are important for highlighting that just being on the water paddling may not provide much improvement to your cardiovascular fitness. You can now see that if you only paddle on the weekends (2 days) and don’t push the heart rate up then there will be little, if any gains in cardiovascular fitness. This is not to say that you don’t gain improvements in general health but don’t kid yourself that you are improving your endurance to any significant degree.

For those looking to lose weight, have a look at the grim details. At 500 Cal/hour burn at the cruising 7 km/h I was utilising about 250 Cal/hour of fat. This is about 30 grams fat for the hour. So, five days a week for an hours paddling will burn 150 grams fat. Six weeks to drop a kilo. In fact, regular exercise raises the metabolic rate and you will probably burn a little more than that but there are no quick fixes. A burger at Maccas will cost you about 30 grams fat.

Another feature of aerobic training is that the low resistance, high repetition pattern is not especially good at firming and toning if that is what you are after. Further, if used as a technique in isolation, aerobic training can lead to a loss of muscle mass, as seen in the scrawny but very fit marathon runners. Remember the deal with the size of the engine being all important in kayaking. This is the reason some resistance training is a good idea. At least two days a week of free weights to add strength and mass is a good idea. When added to your regular aerobics training you become a killer paddler.

A very brief mention about flexibility. If you train without stretching you will shorten your muscles. This limits range of movement, inhibits maximum performance and predisposes to injuries. Get someone to show you how to stretch properly if you don’t know how. Warming up and cooling down should also be routine for all paddling/training.

How about endurance events. The Hawkesbury Classic or paddling down the coast in some moderate swell and sea might see you paddling with a sustained heart rate of 70% predicted max or more. For me this is about 125/min. When I paddled from Jervis Bay onto the exposed coast heading south my heart rate went from the 100-105 at 7 km/h to 125/min at something less than 7 km/h. For me this is a burn of 740 Cal/hour. At this intensity I am burning about 500 Cal/hour of carbohydrate. At higher heart rates the proportion of CHO used is higher and fat utilisation becomes inhibited as well. This is where the cardiovascular fitness training shows its benefits, providing higher outputs at lower heart rates.

Under the conditions above I am going to ‘hit the wall’ after just a few hours. This is commonly seen in the Hawkesbury Classic (111 km overnight endurance event). Not only are the limited CHO stores used up (2,000 Cal) but invariably paddlers do not drink enough. As a rough guide, not accounting for high heat or humidity, you need about 1 ml of fluid for each Calorie burned. My 7 km/h cruise needs about 500 ml/hour and my coastal push about 750 ml/hour. These are what I would consider to be the bare minimum. Realistically, a safer amount would be half as much again.
If you don’t eat and drink but only paddle for a few hours then when you stop you can make it up. But if you are still on the water when you fade, you may well be in trouble. You will not make up the deficit and ongoing losses if you have to keep paddling. Acute weight loss while exercising is due to water loss. A 1% dehydration leads to 2% decrease in performance. This can be in as little as one hour. A 7% fluid deficit will cause a 30% decrease in performance and marked incoordination. You are also at greater risk of hypothermia. Your body is about 70% salty water. A great deal of effort goes into maintaining this wet environment, it doesn’t like dehydration.

Thirst is a late indicator of dehydration and kicks in at about 500 ml fluid deficit. You need to make a conscious effort to maintain hydration. What fluid to drink? Simple answer, isotonic drinks of sodium and carbohydrate. The one hour potter-about paddle doesn’t matter, drink water or whatever. The so called sport drinks have a great advantage over water when you paddle for more than an hour or so. Good studies show that while exercising, people will drink water as freely as sport drinks but not enough of either. After exercise, people will drink 60% less water than isotonic sport drinks. It seems that water quenches the thirst leading to less being consumed. In either case, too little fluid is drunk when left to thirst.

The other advantage of sport drinks is the simple carbohydrate solution can assist in delaying fatigue and improve recovery post exercise. The sodium salt is not for replacing salt loss, which is minimal but to assist in retaining water in the body. Plain water can lead to a decrease in the serum sodium concentration which can paradoxically lead to an increase in urine output of water. The sodium added, like the glucose, also optimises the rate of fluid absorption from the gut, providing an optimum solution for the transport mechanisms in the small bowel. The concentration of carbohydrate should be between 5% and 8%. The lower end while paddling, higher end for recovery. Soft drinks, juices or solutions of carbohydrate greater than 8% will lead to delayed absorption and should not be used. 50 grams of sugar in a litre of water with a pinch of salt will make a home brew. Otherwise, buy the tins of sport drink powder and you can make up your own solution a bit weaker or stronger as required.

The proprietary sport drinks have between 260 and 290 Cal/1,000 ml. So, for me, paddling at 70% of max heart rate (60% VO2 max) using about 500 Cal/hour of CHO, a litre an hour will provide about half my carbohydrate needs. This is probably a very good use of sport drinks when on a sustained paddle. You need to drink by the numbers, not by your thirst. In any case, you can now make ball park estimations of your hourly Calorie expenditure, about half this (or more) is CHO, and then aim to drink enough fluid with some CHO in solution and make up the difference with munchies of your choice. When eating carbohydrate you may find it of benefit to drink water with the food rather than sport drink. This requires two fluid sources but probably worthwhile. All the training in the world will come unstuck if you don’t eat and drink you way through a long, hard paddle.
Are there any drugs that I can take legally to improve performance? Caffeine is the only proven drug that is worth taking. Caffeine does appear to assist in fat utilisation by increasing circulating free fatty acids (FFA), increasing the flux of FFA and increasing the oxidation of FFA in the muscle. Carbohydrate is conserved and time to fatigue is increased. All good stuff. 250 mg appears to be an effective dose, about a strong brewed coffee. All the rest appears to be bollocks. Usually expensive bollocks.

Finally, is there any benefit in using a heart rate monitor? I certainly think there is a place for a simple, non-invasive monitor. There can be a tendency to geek out too much on the technology and not go out and do some hard yards. But as an adjunct to training they do have a place. Despite what some people say, it can be very difficult to know what your heart rate is during a paddle under different conditions. In my case, I used the heart rate monitor to find training levels within my effective training range and then establish Calorie usage at these levels. With this information I can predict how much fluid and food I need on longer paddles. I also found out that my casual 7 km/h was not doing me any use as a training paddle with respect to improving cardiovascular fitness.

Another use of the heart rate monitor is to assist in logging your training progress. On a rowing machine you can row a fixed distance and see the times come down or row to a time and the distance should come up. Importantly, as you improve in fitness your heart rate will fall for the same training session. Training to a specific heart rate can be very useful. You know you are in the training range and doing good and over time either the distance you go will increase or the times come down. The same technique can be used on your favourite training paddle. If your heart rate is not in the training range then fitness will slowly be lost. Very unfit people can find that they don’t have to do very much work at all to get the heart rate into the training range. This can prevent going out too hard and becoming disheartened by the pain and suffering. There is also a positive reinforcement in seeing workloads increase for the same heart rate.

If you are into long distance paddles, whether on open water or closed, the heart rate monitor can alert you to a failure of your hydration/fuel maintenance. If the heart rate starts increasing for the same paddling speed or your speed drops off for the same heart rate then the odds are fuel starvation or dehydration is the culprit. Mind you, you will probably feel pretty stuffed as well.

The take home messages:

  • The more muscle you have the faster you can go in a kayak.
  • Any exercise is better than none.
  • Aerobic exercise at least three times weekly, at least 30 minutes, at least 65% of predicted maximum heart rate, will improve your cardiovascular fitness.
  • Resistance training will add muscle mass and strength.
  • You have months of fat but a day of carbohydrate in the tanks.
  • You need carbohydrate to keep everything running.
  • Dehydration is bad, permissive and avoidable. Drink by numbers, not thirst.
  • Most paddlers probably burn between 500 and 750 Cal/hour on average.
  • Know what you are eating and minimise the fat.
  • Sport drinks are useful for maintaining hydration, performance and aid recovery.
  • Heart rate monitors are OK but hide them from friends to avoid ridicule.
  • I paddle near good coffee shops for a valid reason.

Check out Food for Thought: How to Maximise Your Paddling Energy, by Sharon Trueman: Issue 44 of NSW Sea Kayaker.

Dead Fish Technology [50]

By Karl Noonan

Our President, Rob Mercer has bought another fishing boat.

“A grey hull will attract fish,” he has observed. So that is what the Preso ordered, a grey hull, pelagic grey to be exact. Pelagic grey being ocean swimming fish grey.

Rob’s last boat, the Coho was designed to skewer big fish, it had a point to it. And when the opportunity never came he turned to demonstrate more inventiveness. Never holding back from a novel idea Rob developed Dead Fish Technology.

You never see dead fish in the water, not for long anyway, just live ones I note in a conversation with the woolly white-headed one. They become burley too quick I explain.

Rob went on, “Light grey will attract the fish.”

One day Rob may follow in the strokes of The Old Man and the Sea of Hemingway fame. Rob may just catch the big one too or go mad. The old man did both and was happy.

Rob’s observations have noted, “Fish gather around dark objects, as in piers and wharves.”

I added my observations: “Fish floating don’t last long. They are easy prey. The resultant burley attracts more and so on.” We nodded in agreement.

So I went on, “Pelagic fish commonly are light grey on top and white/silver on the belly. It’s a fast moving catch for a predator. It is an easy catch dead. It is a more attractive catch struggling and this is what this boat must look like under power in paddle mode. No doubt it will have some appeal floating on the surface, appearing to be belly up, floating dolphin-size-like and bloated.”

In the living world of fish, seen from below, white underbellies are camouflage against the light above the surface. The fish’s grey top surface blends with the dark depths of the deep sea seen from above… but of course, dead fish floating are easily seen. They are arse up.

Well now, our illustrious thinking Preso has a grey hull these days with all the conviction of the committed. So, a grey hull is a lure to predators. Now Rob has the lure and unwittingly is the bait. A dead fish in the sea waiting for the big one. Flap the stiff fish in paddle drive… activate one struggling mumma. For a while, Rob will be happy catching anything until the big one strikes. Hemingway’s big one was no white pointer.

Hemingway’s big one was yes, a very big fish, a 750 kg marlin. In southern waters we have the infamous White Pointer. The White Pointer is no ordinary fish either. And Hemingway’s old man was a happy fisherman. This unfolding drama is potentially bigger than Hemingway’s story.

Rob is armed and off to the Barrier Reef for a month. Our readers wait in anticipation for the results: Rob goes fishing and his fishing story using Dead Fish Technology.

New Idea will pay big for this one. Bring home the pics, Rob. Or, sequel ideas…

  1. I am sure Rob’s brave heart paddling mates, if they are true to their ilk, will be there to gather about and bring in the catch. Should the great white-nosed one come from the deep at a rush, they will gather to lend a hand.
  2. A photo opportunity is waiting for the front cover of this magazine, something Hemingway was not able to achieve for his book.

New Idea wants pics, they will pay big.

Big fish like marlin and shark don’t come by very often. Chances are few. As a predator fisherman Rob has been trying too hard. Now Rob has changed his tactics. The fighting sportsman and his equipment have turned to become the lure and the bait, the piece de resistance, the wounded prey, brave heart and sacrificial lamb. And now, to borrow a phrase from Rob, I hear the command, as the wolf said, get the flock here. Now Bad Boy Rob may just attract the great white devil from the deep. Well, that’s how the theory goes. God save the Preso. I know for a fact he has said no Hail Mary’s, Lord’s Prayer and so he is not in God’s hands now.

Can you see it. Flap the stiff fish in paddle drive… activating one struggling mumma, the fishing fleet in waiting, birds circling, a school of barracouta drawn to the life struggle and a white nose appears above water, sniffs the action and disappears. On cue in expectation Bad Boy Rob smiles. The tending fisherman put away their fruitcake and join in the smiling and begin to circle the bait. The Kevlar hull is about to be tested, Rob’s smile shifts to a hint of smugness…

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination! Or until it happens and then the headlines will tell it all. Will the next episode deliver us with our next game fish killer or a good story?

I am for the results of Dead Fish Technology. I may even paddle with Rob again and bag a live one. Or then again ponder, while eating fruitcake amongst the paddlers, on improvements to fish killing.

The Bull Shark [50]

A Serious Case of Mistaken Identity

By Trevor Gardner

This shark is very, very dangerous. Some experts consider this shark to be the most dangerous in the world, even surpassing the Great White Shark. Surprisingly few people have even heard of it. It has a number of different names both in Australia and around the world and people think they are a different species of shark.

And I was one of them. The first I had heard of the Bull Shark was when a child was taken in thigh deep water at a beach in Florida, USA. Then some guy is tossed off his surf ski in the Georges River in Sydney by a shark. The name Bull Shark comes up again. So, a quick Google search later;

I have an ongoing argument with the game fisherman over the identity of sharks caught. They claim to regularly catch Bronze Whalers, which apart from a few small patches, do not usually inhabit tropical waters. Most have never heard of Bull Sharks.

Not impressed yet. The Bull Shark has been found in most Australian water systems including Brisbane River, Herbert River, Swan River, Clarence River, Daly River, and even Lake Macquarie. Many ‘experts’ believe that the Bull Shark is responsible for most deaths around the Sydney Harbour inlets. Most of these attacks were previously thought to be Great Whites. The Grey Nurse was also blamed in the sixties and seventies. Bull sharks most often reside in water between 30 metres and waist deep.

The Tiger Shark, the Great White and the Bull Shark are the sharks commonly cited as being the most dangerous and responsible for most adverse human encounters. The Bull Shark is said to be the less aggressive of the three but the Bull Shark’s proximity to populated shoreline areas make it extremely dangerous to humans. The Bull Shark is one of the most commonly caught sharks in the world.

The notorious Great White and Tiger tend to live in deeper ocean water and therefore are less immediately dangerous to humans (Australian Museum, 1999). All semantics really. All about being in the wrong place at the right time. However, there are specific behavioural and habitat characteristics of the Bull Shark that should give sea kayakers the heebie jeebies (especially if you are really an estuary/harbour kayaker).

So who is this masked marvel. Only a credit card thief has more alias’ (or is that aliae?). Known by the marine boffins as Carcharhinus leucas, the Bull shark is AKA Cub Shark, Ganges Shark, Nicaragua Shark, River Shark, Slipway Grey Shark, Freshwater Whaler, Estuary Whaler, Swan River Whaler, Square-Nose Shark, Van Rooyen’s Shark, Ground Shark, Euphrates River Shark and Zambezi Shark. The Bull Shark is certainly related to the whaler family and is commonly confused with the Bronze Whaler. Note that many of the Bull Shark aliases include the words estuary and river.

The global habitat of the Bull Shark is extensive, encompassing the majority of tropical and sub tropical coastlines of the world. As mentioned previously Bull Sharks tend to stay close to shore and frequent estuaries, rivers and lakes. One of the most distinctive features of the Bull Shark is the ability to live in fresh or salt water. Bull Sharks have been found 4,000 km upstream in the Amazon river. The Bull Sharks in Lake Nicaragua were thought to be a different species until they were observed jumping rapids, a la salmon, to enter the lake. Bull Sharks tagged in Lake Nicaragua have been later caught in the ocean. In Africa, the Zambezi Shark is known to have caused many deaths among swimmers in shallow water as is the case in the Ramu river in PNG.

The Bull Shark will eat almost anything. The shark seems to favour murky water for hunting. Listed in its diet are fish, sting rays, sharks, turtles, birds, molluscs, crustaceans and dolphins. In southern African rivers cattle and antelope are eaten with tree sloths; dogs, rats and people also recorded amongst Bull Shark prey.

So what does the mystery villain look like? The Bull Shark is heavy bodied with a short nose. The shark is wider in comparison to its length than other sharks giving an almost stout appearance. The female grows to about 3.5 metres and 230 kg and is larger than the male at 2.1 metres and 90 kg. There is a large triangular dorsal fin and moderately large second dorsal fin (about a third the height of the first). The first dorsal fin is more pointed than the second. There is no interdorsal skin ridge between the fins.

Coloured grey (to pale brown) above and off white underneath, there may be inconspicuous pale white bands along the side. The Bull Shark has small eyes and very powerful jaws. The upper teeth are broad, serrated and triangular for cutting chunks of fibreglass. The teeth are very sharp. The lower jaw has more pointed teeth for holding skin-on-frame kayaks.

Is any of this relevant to the average sea kayaker? A common, aggressive, omnivorous and well sized shark that frequents murky water in shallow coastal, estuarine, river and harbour habitats encompassing the entire Australian coastline. You decide.

Bull Sharks are just another reason to:

  1. Learn to roll and not wet exit in the surf zone.
  2. Paddle offshore instead of harbours, rivers and estuaries.

Remember, no one dies from the loss of an arm or leg. They die from blood loss, exposure and drowning. If you get munched, STOP the bleeding as a priority. Direct pressure, compression bandage or tourniquet. Whatever suits you and your training. Me, I’m using the paddle leash. Tourniquet pressure necrosis is not an issue to me if the limb is missing and I am likely to bleed to death at sea.


Kayak Review – The Blue Water Kits [50]

By David Whyte

As there appears to be quite a proliferation of plywood kayak kits available now I thought it would be interesting to do a write up of one.

Mike Snoad who sells the Blue Water kits volunteered to lend me one that he had built as a demo boat.

This gave me the advantage of looking at the boat as it should be built — which may have been different if I had put it together. For this particular exercise I was looking at the boat as a finished product rather then the kit. Having seen many examples of Mike’s workmanship I know it’s well put together. It’s not worth commenting on the build quality as it’s a kit and this can vary from individual to individual. The model I tested was the Blue Water Enduro kit with no extras provided, but it does give you a boat for under $1,000.00 that you can paddle and add the other bits later.

Before going into to the test I should give some of my background. I started sea kayaking about 8 years ago after many years of flat water touring. I have done many multi-day trips in all conditions and one 650 km expedition and am comfortable in the surf. My first sea kayak was an Estuary but an unfortunate accident with the Bermagui breakwater ended its life prematurely. My next kayak was an Inuit Classic, which I still have, followed by a Nadgee Expedition in December 1999. In looking at Mike’s boat I compared it mainly with the Nadgee and with some reference to the Inuit. And as these details may be important, I weigh 84 kg and am 1.75 metres tall.

The first test was an hours paddle on a cold and windy day on Lake Burley Griffin. It was blowing around 20 knots giving me a good chance to test it on a choppy lake. For a wooden boat I found it light and easy to lift off the car and the hoop pine deck with the clear finish looks great (and it’s plantation pine too, not rainforest trees like that foreign stuff). Mike offers a choice of two cockpit coaming sizes and I had the large coaming on the demo model. I felt pretty loose in it and would prefer the smaller coaming like the Nadgee (which is Mike’s other one) though this one does make it very easy for a cowboy entry. It felt a bit hard on my knees when bracing, so some padding would be needed there as well as around the hips.

With its chined hulls it looked like a longer version of the Inuit and my initial impression was it behaved like one, which from my perspective is a compliment. We paddled around the lake taking the wind on all different sections of the boat. I notice only a very small amount of weather cocking but I was easily able to adjust my weight to compensate. If you built one of these it would only take a small amount of tuning with the seat placement to get the weight location right. I found I could bring the boat around to face any direction, particularly into the wind without any problems in strong conditions. I can still remember the huge effort needed to turn Dave’s prototype Nadgee into the wind before he took to it with a saw. The Blue Water is not a wet boat and despite the wind and chop I got no water in the face.

This boat didn’t have a rudder (though that’s optional extra) and after paddling around the lake I decided it didn’t need one. At one stage we paddled at a sustained 11 km/h with the wind right on our backs and there was no tendency to wander. I found the boat comfortable in these conditions and very stable. At the end of a few hours paddling I was quite impressed with the boat except for one thing — the seat. I didn’t find the standard seat that Mike provides very comfortable. It was an almost flat piece of semi-hard foam with no contours. Mike says it’s fine for racing but I wouldn’t like to spend all day in it. I had only a thin pair of shorts on and it was noticeable. And for a bit of wisdom on seats, the secret is the contours. My other two boats (excluding the Nadgee) have hard plastic seats but I could sit in them all day. The big difference was that the seats were moulded with nice cheek inserts and it’s this that makes them comfortable rather than the material. Mike does offer a contoured seat as an extra and my advice would be to have one. Plus a contoured seat takes away some of that loose fitting feeling.

The next trial was a day trip on the ocean. We left Durras paddling down to North Head for a photo session stopping at Myrtle Beach on the way. There was a gentle SE wind blowing on a moderate swell. The wind picked up for a short while but didn’t last long. There were some choppy conditions near the rocks but nothing really substantial. I had about 4-5 kg of gear in the boat. I missed not having a day hatch and these days would not consider having a boat without one. Again these are all extras you can order with the kit.

After paddling for a while on the open ocean it comes across as a stable sea boat and would certainly suit anyone new to paddling. It took a bit of effort to lean it right over and I felt the Nadgee was better in terms of lean turning, especially if you wanted to do it quickly. Paddling on the sea it felt like a long Inuit and was easy to maintain a course and didn’t take much to bring it back if it did wander. The Nadgee probably held its track better but it has a much deeper keel. After taking off from Myrtle beach, which had a bit of a shore dump, I found it an easier boat to launch than the Nadgee. With a shallower keel you could start paddling sooner where as the Nadgee’s keel digs into the sand taking more effort to get into the water. The other thing I noticed was it doesn’t make that awful slap sound as you go out over a big wave which is a bit disconcerting in a fibreglass boat. This may be a product of plywood rather than the boat design.

We cruised along at 7 km/h and I found this a very comfortable pace in the boat. My gut feeling was the Nadgee was a bit quicker but I didn’t carry out any tests to prove it. And for a touring kayak a fraction of a knot is neither here nor there.

Once back at the launch site I tried it out in the small surf at Durras. It picked up the waves easily but I noticed the nose buried itself easier than the Nadgee and I had to make sure my weight was well back. The Nadgee probably has more volume up front. It recovered well from the nose plant and once used to the different weight shift found it handled the surf ok. I wore my wetsuit for this trip and didn’t find the seat as uncomfortable as before but would still recommend having a contoured one.

Before hopping out I tried a few rolls and although I was a very loose fit it was easy to bring it back up, though with no padding under the deck it was a bit uncomfortable on the knees. It would need some padding inside and maybe get the smaller cockpit coaming. Though I did notice one advantage of this cockpit — out at sea I was able to take my shoe off, remove a stone and put it back on again. I certainly can’t do that in the Nadgee. The cockpit design allowed you to lean right back which is important for rolling. If you a keen supporter of the cowboy entry then the larger cockpit would suit you. The foot rests were comfortable and solid but I had trouble adjusting one after we got some sand in the boat — I believe this is common with adjustable footrests. If I was building one I would get the bulkhead in the right position and use that. Mike has a good setup with the optional backrest which gives good support while paddling. The elastic suspension system allows the backrest to spring back to the right position if you sit on it when hopping into the boat bum first.

In summary I liked the boat. It was comfortable to paddle and had plenty of room for storage and was very stable, plus it looks good. It would suit novices and experienced paddlers. I would be inclined to buy it without the rudder and paddle for a year or two like that. You would probably only use the rudder for a long trip when it’s very heavily loaded and you have lots of miles to cover. But don’t take my word on this — contact Mike for a paddle yourself. He will have several different models at the next Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend. More details can be seen on Mikes website at