Archive for January, 2010

Talk at Patagonia's Corporate Office in Ventura, CA

Thursday night I gave a presentation at Patagonia in Ventura, CA for a few from my local kayaking club, the California Kayaking Friends, Patagonia employees, a local journalist who is very generous, and of course, some friends.  It was the first of a series of talks that we will do to get the word out about MedShare’s environmental impact, my expedition plan, and previous kayaking experiences crossing to the channel islands, Iceland, Arizona, and Glacier Bay.  It was a humbling experience talking at Patagonia because I know they have had many professional outdoors athletes speak there, but moreover, Patagonia has really been a harbinger for corporate environmental policy.  In the modern day US, companies have an overwhelming ability to influence how people work, think, interact with their families and friends, and the list goes on…  As a company, Patagonia has taken environmental responsibility seriously which I congratulate.  Patagonia understands this and takes their care for the environment and people into how they operate their business and how they make their innovative products.

My friend Mary Looby, who works at Patagonia, offered to help me with this project by sharing her superb library of books about kayaking in Alaska and by arranging for the presentation.  She even posted flyers around town.  Although my good friends Sabine and John told me for years about her, I didnt actually meet her till one day after a long paddle into the Channel Islands Harbor.  I was paddling with George and Jeandrew and we saw some CKF’ers (aka The Old Farts) so we went to talk and that’s when Mary came up and introduced herself.  From there on we’ve been lamenting about paddles and talking about adventures in Alaska.  Thanks for all the help, Mary!

At this meeting, I also presented my risk analysis for the trip.  You can see my first revision here: CauseToPaddle Risk Assessment rev1.xls

Lastly, I must also thank Kim and Ryan for helping arrange the room, steer folks to the room, and for all the support!  Thank you all for coming.

Describing circumnavigating Anacapa


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I had heard that Aqua Adventures in San Diego had groupies and a cult of kayak enthusiasts.  Now I understand why and I wish I lived closer.  That store is the way kayak camaraderie should be.  And I think it is because of the generosity and deft coaching skills of Jen Kleck, the owner and BCU 5 star instructor.  Knowing only a little about the BCU (British Canoe Union), I kind of felt like the boy from podunk that all of a sudden went to university for a schooling.  Given that, I wanted to learn some more of the basics before I went to GGSKS for my crash course on the finer details of kayaking.  For the last four years, I’ve been learning on my own and had a lot of bad habits to break and others that I was glad to hear were good.  And even though I use a sculling pry instead of a sculling draw, Jen actually complemented it for ingenuity which helped me learn to do the draw better.

One of the obvious yet often sought after skills for kayaking is the roll.  This will be fundamental for my expedition in the event that I capsize and thus far, I’ve had a low probability roll, relying mostly on strength and drawing my paddle through the water.  So after a nice long day of on the water and in the surf zone training between La Jolla and Mission Bay, Jen was patient enough to give me a great lesson and some excellent analogies that finally got me to click with the sweep roll and a back-up Pawlata roll.  I’m psyched to finally have had the Eureka moment and I’ll keep practicing it in the weeks ahead while I can still enjoy this nice and toasty ocean down south 🙂

The other highlight of the day was kayaking through some huge 16-18 foot swell into the Mission Bay channel.  During our first attempt to enter, the life guard boated out and told us to turn around, so we back paddled and took a little while before coming in again.  There was a surf advisory after all, but we were training, were in good control, and had Jen as an expert guide.  It was not too tricky but had a likelihood of a splattering onto the jetty’s amidst some big breaking waves.  Something about being able to ride waves that sail boats shudder to think of makes me respect the kayak even more as a vessel.  It was an awesome day on the water and not only did Jen teach me many kayaking skills but we also managed to sort out many of the problems of our healthcare system and reasoned why organizations like MedShare do such a great service.

The other attraction for me to Aqua Adventures was the variety of kayaks in the shop.  They must have the most kayaks in Southern California.  And since buying a kayak is like sizing a shoe, it is essential to sit in as many boats as you can to find the one that works for you.  For me, a naked turtle trying to pick his shell for the next 5 months, and hopefully for years after, I was in need of sitting in a few boats that I’ve been researching.  So I would highly recommend visiting this shop above all in SoCal if you want to know which boat will be best for you.

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GPS Tracking of our loop around Anacapa

For a training paddle and good time with old friends, George, Jeandrew and I went for a nice trip to Anacapa and back.  All told, we covered 38 miles in about 12 hours.  We had an easy passage out with a pod of dolphins that lingered magically around us for awhile.  We saw some deteriorating weather around the Arch so we listened to NOAA on VH-F and learned of good conditions till after midnight.  Landing was a bit rough because of the high swell, but we were able to land and have a good lunch on the back side of the island.  I had a cheese pita with an entire can of crushed pineapples. And to top it off with some chunks of Trader Joe’s chocolate that George brought.  Oh, the luxuries of kayaking and carrying heavy stuff.  I would never bring canned pineapples with all of its tempting sugar water on a backpacking trip, but for quick calories while climbing or kayaking, you cant beat it.  On the return, we had some pissing rain and paddled though the dark for about an hour and a half…it made me look forward to the expedition dry suit that I’ll wear for Alaska.  We made the best of the window of decent weather right before the big rains came in.  And as is becoming customary, George’s wife took good care of us and had a warm meal ready for us when we got home to Oxnard.  That is something I’ll miss after a nasty day in Alaska.

It also gave me a good opportunity to try out a loaner boat from Seda Kayaks.  The owner there, named John is really cool and lent me a Viking to try out.  So I did just that for 38 miles, plus two other paddles during the week.  It has excellent storage capacity which would be great for my long trip and with an enormous 25″ beam it is vastly stable.  Seda specializes in long narrow boats which are a bit tight for me but are great for racers like George.  Thanks again, John!  Here are some of the good pics:

Anacapa's Arch

Pelicans on Back Side of West Island

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For those of you who wondered what it is exactly that MedShare does, their quick response to send 5 huge containers of medical supplies to Haiti this week demonstrates their shining moment.  They have raised over $500k very quickly and will be sending a projected 20 containers over the next few months.  Very well done!

Founder of MedShare, A.B. Short, is in the Dominican Republic working directly with government officials on the island to ensure the immediate organization and distribution of these supplies.  Talk about a hero!  See more about MedShare’s work in Haiti here.

I’d also like to highlight another hero of mine, Kelly McDonald.  She will be going to Haiti as a nurse for Doctors Without Borders.  With less than 48 hours notice, she packed her bags, requested donations from friends for DWB (http://doctorswithoutborders.org/), and flew to Port-au-Prince.  My prayers are with you, Kelly and A.B., and those in distress that you’re serving.

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Have no doubt, I am one of the luckiest human beings on earth!  Not only have family and friends totally kicked off this fundraiser with a whopping $3800 for MedShare, but I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the kayaking industry’s best.  On Saturday, Kim and I drove down to San Diego and met John, the owner of Seda Kayak who lent me a demo boat to try on for size.  He has some sweet boats and I learned quite a bit, including some better techniques for tying down boats to the car 🙂  My old habits hadn’t been checked in quite awhile.  Like me, he is a mechanical engineer who loves kayaking and he shared a few interesting principles about kayak design with me that made a lot of sense.  If anyone wants to know, ask about flexing of bulkheads and T joints sometime 😉

Then to pick up a spray skirt, we went to Aqua Adventures and got to meet Jen who I’ve read about and had heard great things about.  She invited us to give a talk at her store about MedShare and the fundraising expedition which will be great to get the word out.  I’ll definitely forward the invite to all of you once scheduled.  The first talk will actually be at Patagonia’s Ventura Corporate office.  See invite here in the Live Events section.

Then, after running much later than anticipated, but in good laid back San Diego time, we met Jeff who is the Chief Editor for Canoe & Kayak magazine.  We went for a coastal paddle from Dana Point to San Clemente and enjoyed the typical ideal weather and a great sunset.  He is a very approachable and down to earth guy and with my garrulous self, we had one of the most talkative paddles I’ve ever had.  It was great to finally meet him and next we’ll make more time for a Catalina crossing or trip along Camp Pendleton’s coast.  Here is a great picture of Jeff in front of a schooner as he tries out my beloved kayak I call Solveig.  After some superb Thai food and beers, we called it a day and Kim and I made it back to Santa Monica quite knackered.

Jeff of Canoe&Kayak Magazine

Conor beneath San Clemente Sunset

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