The Coracle: A Vietnamese Fishing Boat and Handy Dinghy

28 12 2016
20161114_083044

Paddling a coracle. The paddle is held on with a rope.

Along the Vietnamese coast and waterways, I couldn’t help but notice people paddling round basket boats. I’d heard about these boats and couldn’t remember what they were called. I thought they were found mostly in Europe, but here they were!  And I’d never seen one in person. Hot damn. I came to learn they are coracles. Not the most efficient craft for sure, but somehow, these craft have endured for centuries, so there must be positives for them to persist.

Some research reveals coracles have been used since the Bronze Age and apparently Julius Caesar’s army made use of them. Since then, the round boats have spread all the way to India and Southeast Asia. In Ireland, they are called Curragh, and in Tibet, Kowa. Traditionally a coracle is like a woven basket, with a layer of waterproofing on the outside. The waterproofing might be resin and tar, for example. Today such boats still ply the waters, though fiberglass and polyethylene versions are common.

My favorite memory of Vietnam was stopping by a fishing village where coracles were the primary means to get to the quarry. We walked through the village, and its inhabitants were not used to seeing Westerners at all. They looked at us with a bit of trepidation. We learned they were concerned we might be prospective real estate buyers. As if we might buy their whole village. There has been so much development on the Vietnamese coast that their way of life is endangered. No, we were just tourists having a look. Children squealed with excitement to have visitors, though, lining up to high-five us. And then we had offers of food and fish.

20161115_154808

Net repair

Walking through, we saw life as they live it. Cooking meals over coal-fired stoves. Knitting or repairing clothing. Kids playing.

 

 

20161115_155014

Some coracles had motors

Out on the beach there were dozens of coracles plus some larger boats lined up. Folks were mostly immersed in maintenance tasks.

Some were fixing nets, some working on motors. Others were caulking the older style basket coracles.

I could have spent a whole day working with these people. Just to get a glimpse on their way of life would be fulfilling.

 

 

 





Kayaking in the Footsteps of Lewis & Clark

6 09 2016

I have lived in Portland, OR for years, but I’d never visited Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806 following their Voyage of Discovery across the American continent. This summer I made plans to see the place. A little research revealed that besides the fort, there is also a free historical kayak tour. So my friend Jessie Bader and I made plans to make a trip out there.

Fort Clatsop lies on the Oregon Coast, near the mouth of the Columbia River and Astoria, Oregon. We decided to overnight at Fort Stevens State Park Campground. Our first day, we arrived in mid afternoon. So we set up camp and, with plenty of time, headed to Astoria to check out the waterfront. Our kayak tour was the following day at 1:00.

First up was ice cream. Cones in hand, we headed down to the riverwalk along the Columbia River. The Columbia River Maritime Museum, with exhibits like a full sized Columbia River Pilot Boat beckoned. We debated and didn’t enter. But behind lay the Columbia Bar Lightship and the Coast Guard Cutter Alert.

20160803_155710

Just a few dozen yards inland we discovered the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. It is super cheap $1 a ride. It glides along the waterfront running to the end of the line east. Then it reverses and goes to the western end of the line, in town. The seats are benches, with a twist – literally. When the train needs to head the other way, passengers get up, move the seat back the opposite way, and sit down facing the new direction.

20160803_143222

The streetcar showed me some new things about the waterfront. It gets much closer to the docks than the road. There are a number of piers with restaurants and recently opened breweries on the piers.

20160803_143022

 

We got off and took a stroll down the waterfront.

It was a really beautiful August afternoon. A sea breeze blowing. On such a pretty day, it was easy to forget that Astoria spends most of the year in gray stormy conditions.

But on that day, all is forgiven.

Not so for the Lewis and Clark crew in 1805. For they arrived in the winter season. The expedition spent 106 days at Fort Clatsop, it rained every day but 12 and they saw the sun a total of six times. It’s no wonder they gave names like “Dismal Nitch” to landmarks in the area.

Today, Fort Clatsop is administered by the National Park Service. It’s got a museum, gift shop, and dedicated guides to share information on the place.

One of the most popular attractions is the daily loading and shooting of a musket. At 10:00 a.m. a guide gives a talk on the uses of fire arms back in those days, and the way people loaded and fire them.

20160804_103600

After the musket presentation was finished we took advantage of a half mile guided nature walk. And then, it was time for lunch. We found a thoughtfully constructed picnic spot nor far away. On this day it was Euro style, cheese, hard sausage, crackers, fruit, nuts, etc.

20160804_123207

Then we met the tour down at the put in on the Lewis and Clark River. The group would be a family, a couple of individuals, plus Jessie and I. We had two guides, Pat and Cadence.

20160804_134733

A bit of paddling 101 instruction by Cadence got the group started.

The river here is completely tidal. At low tide, much of the area is mud flats. So, the time the tours take place vary all summer, to coincide with high tide. Reservations are required. Our tour was full. We had some lively children, and Pat wasted no time in gaining the upper hand. If they even so much as yawned or stared away, she snapped “A-tten-sion!!!”

On the water, Pat immediately dropped her VHF radio and it was gone, stuck on the bottom. “Well, that’s my second dropped. They’ll fire me!”

With everybody launched we made a three-mile paddle.

20160804_151459

At various points we gathered for a little talk about conservation, or the challenges Lewis and Clark faced.

20160804_142954

The Park Service has purchased additional land adjoining the original site, and has done a good job restoring its property to the way it looked back in 1805. Wildlife has taken note. Many species of birds have returned. Elk and deer are more common.

If you are in Astoria, or camping at Fort Lewis, a stop at Fort Clatsop is definitely worth your time!





I’m Back – From a Back Injury, that is…

8 03 2014

You may have noticed I have not posted to my blog in months. If you’ve read my blogs, you know I’m a very active individual. My hearts desire is to be outside, breathing the air, being active. Whether hiking, trekking the Himalayas, paddling surf, or skiing the Wasatch, I live for outside activities. Travelling overseas is especially rewarding to me, whether soaking up cultural experiences or adventuring rivers or mountains.

My lifestyle is also my work. I have taken kayaking/paddlesports and wrapped into a way to earn my keep. I’ve been a brand manager for Feelfree Kayaks, a company that imports New Zealand-designed, Bangkok manufactured kayaks into the American market. And I’ve converted countless couch potatoes into outdoor enthusiasts as kayak guide / instructor for Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe. I never tire of getting great gear into a customer’s hands and then hearing their stories of their adventures using it. To put it mildly, I am a tireless evangelist for outdoor recreation.

But my passion does involve risk. It can’t be avoided. It can be managed, and minimized, but not entirely eliminated. When it comes to kayak instruction or guiding, lifting boats is part of the work. I carry boats to the dock for renters. I set up lakeside trade show affairs involving dozens of kayak models. When guiding, I sometimes have a trailer of kayaks and have to lift then on/off of the trailer. I’ve done it thousands of times. I’m in my early 50’s.

So, the reason I have not posted to this site in months is a mistake I made loading a kayak onto my car. One day, in August 2013, I was in a rush to get extra boats to a kayak class and purposely grabbed a boat and heaved it onto my car. Not the right way. I have paid dearly for it. I strained the illiolumbar ligament in my back. It connects the 5th vertebrae to the hip. When it’s strained, it “refers” pain down the hip. For months, I had pain when sleeping in my back and hip. I could not get going in the morning without 20 minutes loosening my leg. I could not sit in a movie without writhing in pain.

I have been on workman’s comp since August. I still work, but on “limited duty.” I have cancelled a September trip to Yellowstone National Park, and a trip kayaking down the Mekong River from Vietnam through Laos and into Vietnam. Plus a two week ski trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming and Park City Utah. It has been depressing. Yet I have never skipped one single physical therapy routine.

If you’ve had back problems, you know my plight! But I am a fighter. I have been with a chiropractor and massage therapist. I have been with a physical therapist. I have been with a osteopathic doctor. And now, Pilates. Thousands of hours of work later, I am much improved. Slow, steady progress. So, I continue my daily two hours of physical therapy work. Yes. Two hours.

I have content for a few things I have done, some hiking trips and ski trips. Stay tuned, they are upcoming! And in just a few weeks I am snorkeling/camping/camping on the barrier reef in Belize!

I’m blogging again because I am proof positive HARD WORK PAYS OFF! I can engage in activities again. There will be new content very soon! You may see some content about working with physical limitations! I will never give up.

See you soon!

Rod





Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake, Oregon

1 08 2013

IMG_0659Just returned from a kayak camping trip to Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake, Oregon with my friends Jessie and Laura! These two lakes are located right on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway in Bend, Oregon. Wow! These are two of the most scenic lakes in the Pacific NW.

Bathed in fantastic clear blue skies and looked upon by 10,450 ft South Sister, Broken Top and Mount Bachelor, these crown jewels are worth paddling. Everyone visiting Oregon ought to come and ply these waters.

On the water you’ve got a 200-degree view of glaciated peaks above. The lakes are easy to explore, their waters typically calm and not too deep.

Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake have different personalities. Sparks Lake is dominated by flows of a’a lava flows, so sharp they pierced one of my dry bags. These flows make for isolated channels and difficult boat landings. Yet, we found a beautiful camping site with a jaw-dropping view of South Sister!

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Out on the lake I’m overwhelmed with the views before me. In every direction there is an otherworldly view – each one magnificent all in of itself, yet here there are THREE!

IMG_0640I feel justifiably spoiled.

We have perfect weather, impeccable views, and I have two women with me.

For dinner, we have fresh shrimp and veggie skewers, plus rice. After a laborious preparation involving ginger, garlic etc. the meal perks my taste buds!

IMG_0633

Mount Bachelor provides a backdrop…

Evening is quiet. I have to disclose Sparks Lake is a tourist hot spot. During the day kayaks, canoes, inflatable rafts, everything is out enjoying the view. But we put out on the lake with our camping gear and found a quiet spot, so once dusk came all became quiet. One bright light in the SW sky we determined was Saturn.

After dawn and a breakfast of oats, nuts and fruit, washed down with Sumatran coffee, we packed up the kayaks on the 2013 Ford Escape and headed 20 minutes down the Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway to Hosmer Lake.

Hosmer Lake is characterized by lakelets connected by lillypad clusters, rushes, and channels filled with rainbow and brook trout that would make a fly fisherman blush. It’s a different vibe than Sparks Lake. It’s just as busy though. So, on the channels connecting the lakelets, you have a parade of stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, etc., and oar powered fishing boats. Everyone is looking down at the fish! Although the whole time, you are surrounded by the mountains!

IMG_0646 It was another impeccable day, with different scenery as a backdrop.

IMG_0645With mountains above, lillies on the water’s surface, and beautiful trout below, it’s hard to beat Hosmer Lake.

IMG_0652Parts of the lake feature Caribbean Blue waters where your boat’s shadow can be seen underneath!

We follow a channel up one end of the lake in search of a waterfall everyone told us about. The water temperature drops precipitously, an indicator we’ve found the source. The width of paddle-able water narrows to two yards – in some places, two feet. Then we glimpse some beached kayaks.

Here, we haul out and make lunch. Just above, there is a to-die-for waterfall beautiful enough to make Laura cry!

That is enough for me. Such a perfect day. We head back to our camp at Sparks Lake for another fabulous meal. Tomorrow we head home, full of memories.





Transforming my new Kayak: The Thunder Dragon Rises!

29 07 2013

I recently acquired my first fiberglass sea kayak – a used Tiderace “Extreme.” It’s one of the world’s most advanced rough water sea kayaks. Specifically designed for kayaking along the ocean surf zone! It’s LOTS OF FUN, if you know how to use it. I’ve used it in the surf and Holy Cow it catches waves with ease. What a ride!

It was used with a lot of scratches. I wanted to refresh its finish. Plus, I was a bit embarrassed by the huge “EXTREME” label up on the bow. It came with some fraying black deck lines and bungees. So, a project was born. “Project THUNDER DRAGON.” I would take this slightly abused “Extreme” and transform it into a fabulous dancing dragon! She came all red. That’s a great start. A Ferrari red, in fact. What goes with Ferrari red? Answer: YELLOW!

IMG_0619

Start by removing black smudges with acetone…

So, how do you refresh a scratched all-red kayak with frayed black bungees? Remove those offending bungees.

Then use acetone to remove rubbery black smudges from the finish. Then get some Boat Guard. Boat Guard is like Liquid Gold for kayaks. Rub it on, even buff it on using a electric buffer, and it hides scratches, leaves a UPF 50 barrier, and leaves a super nice shine!

IMG_0622

Boat Guard makes everything new.

Keeping the boat in the shade, I worked aboIMG_0620ut 90 minutes on the entire hull.

One thing about working with Boat Guard is that, once you start, the results are so fantastic you cannot stop. This kayak went from dull, scratched-looking to fabulous in an hour and a half.

But I was not done. I removed the “Extreme” label from the bow, and substituted a dancing dragon! I felt that was much more the kayak’s true nature.

I replaced its deck lines with yellow bungee cords and yellow reflective perimeter lines.IMG_0677IMG_0676

Here she is, the end product. She is now known as the Thunder Dragon! And she turns heads everywhere she goes! I love it.