Tuesday 26 October 2010

An Australian rowing in Japan

I had a bit of a doubletake when I opened this picture. It looks pretty but ordinary at first, with the bright red oriental gate drawing the eye. Then you look behind...and there is Mount Fuji.
The rower is Peter Miller of Sydney, with Mrs Miller in the back seat. He writes:
Many years ago my wife and I were exchange students to Japan so we were very much looking forward to our recent  holiday there with the kids.  The plan was to take it easy, meet up with some friends and do a bit of sightseeing.  The two rowing experiences were of course just a bonus.
The first row happened by pure chance. As we went to the hot springs in Hakone we stopped briefly next to Lake Ashi (Japanese: Ashinoko) which was formed in the caldera of Mount Hakone after the volcano's last eruption 3000 years ago. 
When I saw boats were for hire I paid my 500 yen and with my wife took a quick sprint to the Toori (the red gate in the water next to the Hakone shrine).  We knew it was going to be a memory that would last a lifetime and we were laughing all the way.  We were especially lucky to see Mt Fuji through the clouds and have our friends capture the experience in a photo.
The second outing which was a row in the moat of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was actually planned.  Problem was I didn't know when the boatshed opened and my schedule was a little tight.  When I arrived at the palace I captured some workers weeding the wall of the moat.  As you can see Occupational Health and Safety considerations appear to be ignored when serving the Emperor.
After a long walk I found the boatshed but it didn't open until 11am and I had a Bullet Train to catch early in the afternoon.  It all turned out OK though - I woke a snoozing attendant and explained my predicament and he allowed me to get on the water a bit after 10.  The Palace unfortunately is not surrounded by a single moat but a series of moats so you can't row all the way around but I was still able to have another decent sprint.
Good times.
Thanks for that, Peter. I have been to Japan a few times but never managed to get out rowing. It is interesting to see that in a country with a huge range of fascinating types of indigenous boats made from wood with all the fastidious attention to detail for which the Japanese are famed, they still hire out rubbishy plastic tubs to tourists just like we do.

Saturday 23 October 2010

The Langstone Archipelego

Went out with Langstone Cutters in the Clayton skiff Mabel today. The forecast predicted a heavy shower midday, so we got out the instant we could get Mabel in - she lives on a mooring 200 yards out in the harbour that only gets wet a couple of hours before high tide.
It was a bit breezy and the wide expanse of Langstone Harbour gets quite choppy compared with the relatively narrow channels of Chichester Harbour, so we stayed at the top end where the waves were more manageable. This also gave us a chance to row round the islands.
North and South Binness Islands, Long Island and Baker's Island were dotted with lights in the Second World War to distract attention from Portsmouth on one side and the air base at Thorney Island on the other.
It got blitzed regularly, according to the fascinating Langstone Harbour WW2 Decoy Site:
"To help protect Portsmouth from German night bombing, a series of 'Q' decoy sites were built in Langstone Harbour and on Sinah Common Hayling Island. These elaborate constructions consisted of two main elements. Firstly a string of carefully positioned structures were erected, mainly in the north of the harbour, which when lit from the inside would mimic the effect of light shining through chinks in doors and windows in a carelessly blacked out area. The second, and most crucial element of the deception plan was the deployment of decoy fires known as "Starfish" sites. These decoys were designed to present to the enemy pilots a convincing illusion of a city under attack.
This site was often dramatically successful; on the night of 17/18 April 1941, over 140 enemy aircraft were lured away and un-loaded in excess of 200 air-dropped munitions, originally intended for the City of Portsmouth, into Langstone Harbour and Farlington Marshes. This was the most successful Q-site operation of the entire war."
The islands are now owned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who maintain it as a reserve and very successfully too, judging by the huge flocks of godwits and Brent geese we saw. Then an osprey appeared, majestically soaring overhead, and all the birds buggered off sharpish.

Sunday 17 October 2010

A local watermark leaves

I shall miss the Gerald Daniel. She was moored at Cobnor as an accommodation hulk for the sailing centre there for more than 30 years, and now she is being replaced by a spanking shiny new steel barge.
Gerald Daniel was built in Appledore as the minesweeper HMS Sidlesham in 1955. She was sold out of the service in 1967. In 1973 she was moored in Bosham Channel as a training centre for West Sussex Police - PC Gerald Daniel was a young constable who died while in the force. The centre was later taken over by a Christian youth sailing school.
Now the mahogany vessel is going to the Thames to become a houseboat in Chelsea.
I took the photo early this morning - a crisp, cold autumn day.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Old Lasers never die

Over at that excellent blog Proper Course, world master Laser sailor Tillerman has been agonising over his poor showing at Hayling Island recently.
This is clearly the way forward for him:
Gavin Atkin spotted this Laser converted to oars at Orford, Suffolk, recently (thanks for the pic, Gav!). It has a sliding seat and everything, which seems a bit over the top for a hull that will do 5 knots if you really thrash it, but if you have the hull, why the hell not?

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Oar/Sail vs Sail

Clint Chase, boatbuilder and rower in Maine, went to the TSCA regatta in Small Reach Regatta at Lamoine State Park on the coast.
Clint took his lovely rowing boat Drake, with its auxiliary sailing rig, and had a blast keeping up with much longer sailing boats by the simple strategy of sailing down wind and rowing upwind. He writes:
But this morning was proving something that I try to espouse whenever possible: a rowboat with at least some keel to it can sail downwind quite fast, but not up wind. And you don't need to ruin the lines of the boat for rowing and you do not need to add the complexity and drag that a centerboard or daggerboard introduces. Lee boards are simply not necessary for off the wind sailing. Drake has enough stability and keel to even sail without any slippage on a bean reach, and this was a revelation this morning on Frenchman Bay.
The return trip was a 8-mile row to windward....Drake showed her stuff by being able to row a steady 4+ knots back to the start line and beat most of the sailboats that had to tack many times to get home. This is what she was designed to do: sail smartly off the wind and row efficiently upwind. If this were a real RAID I would have no doubt that we could be very competitive and with a larger boat for two rowers, probably win. But I enjoy the autonomy, privacy, and relaxation that rowing and sailing alone can bring.
I will be going out with some sailors on Saturday, although I don't have a sail so it will be rowing all the way. Must watch to see how much faster I am than boats who have to go upwind crabwise.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Behind the scenes at the Great River Race

A gallery of great pictures of the Great River Race has been put on the organisers' website, including this one of Gladys being taken to the water at Millwall. I can still feel the edge of the gunwale cutting into my fingers - ouch. I have suddenly realised this is probably the only picture of almost all the participating members of Langstone Cutters at the race (plus a few strangers who helped) - pulling together for the greater good.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Snarleyow back on the water

This time of year, you have to grab rowing opportunities when they occur. Over the weekend it rained continually and the tides were at dawn and dusk, so I didn't get out at all. Today, the tide was up, there was no wind and rain was predicted for the afternoon. God was clearly telling me to get out there.
So as not to take too much time out of my punishing work diary (ha!) I put in at nearby Dell Quay and rowed briskly as far as I could without losing sight of the pub, which is a surprisingly long way.
On the way I spotted this nice Sussex beach punt, about which you can learn on intheboatshed.net.
I actually remembered to record my track on Sport Tracker. Speed was nearly six mph on the way out and rather less on the way back, when the tide had turned.
About half way out, some alarming clicking noises began to come from the newly repaired stretcher. A small bit of wood acting as a spacer had broken in half and fallen out, causing the footrest to wobble a bit. Must get that redone.
My new spandex trews have zipped gussets along the thighs, which you can open up to cool you down. I thought I would never need them, but today I was a bit overdressed and began to build up a bit of a sweat. Rather than take my sweater off, I unzipped my gussets and they worked a treat, to my surprise. Nice'n'cool for the rest of the row, with the sweater keeping the cold air off my arms.

Saturday 2 October 2010


Water was all in the wrong place today. There was none in the harbour (high tides dawn and dusk) but the stuff was pouring out of the sky pretty much most of the day.
I couldn't go out anyway because the stretcher or footrest on Snarleyow was broken. I suspect I bodged the repair last time. So today was spent dodging out between showers and doing a bit of the job at a time. Here is the final result, in the dark and in the rain.
On a more positive note, I have had a result on the rowing trousers front.
Readers with long memories may recall I have been searching for waterproof trousers/footwear for getting in and out of the boat, that does not involve either waders (too sweaty) or shorts (too embarrassing).
Waterproof socks with sandals sprung leaks very quickly due to grit coming in between sole and shoe.
At the Home Built Boat Rally at Cotswold Water Park, Tim O'Connor was showing of a new pair of trews in a water-repelling fabric.
Get them wet, and the water just rolls off and they are bone dry within seconds of getting out.
I bought a pair of beach shoes used by divers at the very acceptable price of a fiver, a pair of Berghaus polyamide/spandex mix trousers. These were a sixty quid, more than I have ever spent on trousering in my entire life.
But the combo works a treat! The shoes fill with water, but the water then keeps your feet warm just like a wet suit. The trouser bottoms dry out instantly you get in the boat, and they keep the wind off nicely as I discovered in the Great River Race.
But there was a totally unexpected benefit that makes that £60 look very good value indeed.
The old cotton chinos I had been wearing for rowing before had been causing painful chafing, especially when they got wet. The spandex not only stays bone dry, it allows my behind to slide slightly on the thwart, eliminating chafing. Rowing is now dry, comfortable and pain free. Let's hear it for spandex!

Friday 1 October 2010

Dressing up

There was the usual dressing up at the Great River Race, with the usual cavemen and Vikings.
My favourites were the Runaway Brides in a Thames double skiff called Violet. I'm afraid they took nearly five hours to complete the course. Perhaps they stopped for a quick wedding. Anyway, it was all for juvenile diabetes research which is a particularly good cause - donate generously here.
And then there were the wasps, rowing as Waspish One in a Celtic longboat called Cunnigar Stinger (3rh 6min).