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June 2008
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August 2008

Dubside's Film "Modern Greenland Kayaking": A Look Inside the Cult of Greenland Style

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I have just received word that the trailer for Dubside's latest movie, Modern Greenland Kayaking is out on YouTube. I saw an incomplete version of this movie a few months ago over pie and coffee with Dubside and Tom Sharp at Anderson's General Store on Guemes Island and it sure was exciting. It had interviews with some of the big names in Greenland Style kayaking and incorporated a lot of footage that Tom and Dubside took at the Greenland National Kayaking Championships.  Some of this stuff has been shown in bits and pieces at kayak symposiums all over. I'm glad they finally made a feature length film out of it. Unlike the This is the Sea series and Pacific Horizons, this movie has less action and more talk, and even some great historical footage.  It's interesting nevertheless and a "must see" for enthusiasts of Greenland Style. 
Rumor has it that after the initial public screenings some members of the BCU crowd got their panties in a bind about someone in the movie suggesting that using a standard kayak paddle (the so-called "Euro-blade" for lack of a better name) would eventually rip your shoulder to shreds or something of that nature.  So Dubside actually ended up putting in an interview with an internationally-recognized local BCU expert to dispel all those nasty misconceptions.  Well, I love a good debate. Controversy is good for the sport. It keeps people interested and engaged.
My only criticism is that they really didn't have a lot of coverage of the American do-it-yourself skin-on-frame kayak building subculture.  Well, that could probably fill an entire movie all by itself! 

Dubside's "Modern Greenland Kayaking" (2008), Trailer from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

Messing About on Annabel Lee


It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon for sailing so I put my Joel White Pooduck Skiff Annabel Lee in the water. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of her under sail from land but I did make a little video. Check it out -- I'm really moving. I think I was making 4.6 knots! (The music is Heave Away Me Johnnys from an album called The Wind in the Rigging.)


Sailing Annabel Lee from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

Do you remember the first few times you ever went sea kayaking on your own?  I vividly remember taking my kayak out on sunny days and practicing rolling, back when I would wet exit more than roll.  Well, it felt a little like that today. Things I learned:
  • A drysuit is very helpful, especially for getting in and out of the boat on the beach. 
  • Rig the boat completely before getting out on the water.
  • A purple toy bucket can serve as a bailer and double as a head! 
  • A lee shore is not the best place to put in and take out, unless you want to get crushed by your boat or get your teeth smashed out. 
  • Lastly, remember to charge your VHF radio and test it before shoving off. 

I turned on my GPS a while after I had launched and drifted west of Dash Point. There was a nice breeze from the north so I had a good run south toward Browns Point (yellow path), then I turned around and headed back, beating to windward (blue path). As you can see, she doesn't sail too close to the wind, so going upwind can be a real slog.


Launching "Annabel Lee", a Joel White Pooduck Skiff

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At long last, after 17 months of boatbuilding I've finally completed my Joel White Pooduck Skiff! I launched her Saturday afternoon during a Small Craft Advisory and occasional showers, and christened her Annabel Lee.

The conditions didn't make for very good photography but the sailing was great.  It took a while to get all the lines figured out, but once I did (and remembered to put the centerboard down) she sailed very easily. The mast can be raked forward so she can be sailed under the mainsail alone, or raked back when the jib is added.  She has a really cute little jib.

I found it incredible that with such a complicated craft everything just seemed to work. You know how it is with a new kayak -- after the first time out you'll want to change the seat, adjust the footbraces, change the rigging, etc.   With this boat I couldn't think of anything I needed or wanted to change.  I think it is a testament to the skill Joel White put into his designs, even into the plans for a little plywood boat.  

A few final building notes:

I added 1/4 inch bungees under the seats to hold gear, drybags, fenders, or extra floatation.  They are attached using nylon webbing and silicon bronze screws and washers according to the Chesapeake Light Craft method.  They are completely hidden under the seats and should hold everything securely in the event of a capsize.

The rope is 1/4 inch low-stretch polyester three strand from New England Ropes. Three strand rope is essential because you need to make a few eye splices.  It is amazingly soft and easy on the hands, which is also very important if you like to sail without gloves.  It is absorbent and feels just like cotton.

I'm really glad I used bronze cleats. You can't have enough of those. I added two cleats that were not in the plans for the outhaul and the downhaul, which makes them easier to adjust while underway.  

For more pictures check out my photo album.

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Tall Ships, Small Ships

Aboard the Hawaiian Chieftain: Tall Ships Tacoma 2008 from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

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Well, it has been an exciting 4th of July weekend.  The Tall Ships Festival came to town and everyone who has a boat of any kind has been out watching them on Commencement Bay.  My friend Richard Lovering, who happens to live on a boat literally in the middle of the festival, says he’s finally had enough of listening to people singing sea shanties while dressed up like pirates with stuffed parrots on their shoulders and saying "Arrr" all the time.  I guess the festival gets loud and stays loud long into the night. You know how the yachting crowd is -- they’ll use any excuse to get drunk and Tall Ships is just one big party.

Today I joined the South Sound Area Kayakers for a paddle from Owen Beach at Point Defiance to the festival on Thea Foss Waterway.  Dozens of little boats had crowded the waterway and the air was toxic from all their gasoline and diesel fumes.  Of course, when paddling right behind one of these boats you are at the perfect height to breathe in their exhaust.

Out on the Bay I got a few pics of the Hawaiian Chieftain giving the Amazing Grace a broadside.  Damn those guns are loud!  For more pics take a look at my photo album.

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Why You Should Drive Like Your Grandma


A while ago I posted on the Kayak Building Forum in a discussion about how car topping kayaks affects your MPG. I recently discovered for myself that it makes a significant difference whether I transported my kayak upside down (which probably decreases drag) than right side up. Since gas prices have gone up I started to pay attention to little details like that especially on longer trips. Then a few days ago I read this very interesting article in Mother Jones about hypermilers, these guys who have become experts at squeezing as many miles per gallon from their cars as possible by changing the way they drive. They have been in the news recently, which tended to sensationalize their more dangerous and illegal practices, like drafting behind semi trucks, not stopping at stoplights, not slowing down around curves, and turning the engine off to coast down hills. These guys can get 59 MPG using a regular Honda Accord (not a hybrid)!    

For the past several years I’ve consistently gotten no better than 42 MPG in my 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid. Yesterday though I decided to try some of these tricks. Since I have a instantaneous MPG indicator on my dash board it makes it easy to see how every little move changes my fuel consumption. Today I tested these techniques while driving around running errands, mostly gathering a few final pieces for my Joel White Pooduck Skiff. I accelerated very slowly from complete stops, taking a second to let the idling engine get the car moving without pushing on the accelerator. When I could avoid it I would never stop completely at stop signs. I tended to drive slower, at whatever speed I seemed to get the best mileage. One advantage to driving slowly is that you don’t have to push on the breaks because there is someone driving slower in front of you. Breaking is a waste of momentum. I tried not to break going around curves. I put my car in neutral (but kept the engine on) going down hills. With a hybrid engine, keeping the car in "drive" and coasting down a hill recharges the battery, but I found that in neutral I go farther faster. I tried to anticipate stop lights. If a light in front of me turned red, I would immediately let off the accelerator and coast toward it. I used cruise control on the freeway. I chose parking spots that were on high ground and that faced out so that when I left I could just put the car in neutral and coast down to the street without putting the car in reverse, stopping, then going forward (really). I kept the air conditioner off until I needed it. I did not draft behind semi trucks.
Well after about 50 miles in mixed freeway and city driving I averaged an incredible 52 MPG! And this was due entirely to my first clumsy attempt at changing my driving habits.  Can you imagine if everyone improved their fuel efficiency by 10 MPG?  I didn’t have to do anything at all to my car, like strip out the seats, take off my roof rack, or even make sure the tires were inflated or change the oil. Hypermiling really works! And it’s something you can do right now. In fact I recommend you do it right now. You don’t need a hybrid car to make it work, although you really should have a real-time read out of your MPG. It also requires a paradigm shift in driving. Say goodbye to the NASCAR culture. You can’t think of driving as a race anymore, where you aggressively push toward your destination in the fastest time possible, speeding up just to stop and wait at the next traffic light, and where every other car around you and the speed limits are there just to get in your way.