craftsmanship

ften, I’m not quite pleased with my boat building products, it’s not up to the quality level I’m expecting. And quite regularly, I’m in a dilemma situation that I don’t know what I should improve on: my craftsmanship or my seamanship. (Well, I know, all sound big bold words: craftsmanship & seamanship, but let use them anyhow). The fact is that I’ve just turned to woodworking and boat building for around a year, there’re lots of things still to learn and to improve.

I’ve decided to invest on improving my ‘craftsmanship’. Many hours spent on reading documents and browsing woodworking, boatbuilding forums. Also decided to upgrade my small workshop with more professional tools: a table saw, jig table saw, router and a routing table, air compressor and nail gun, etc… I’m in the preparation process of building Hello World – 3, my next boat, a boat I can trust my life on in the upcoming journeys, and I want to do it as good as I can.

As for Hello World – 3, there’ll be no fixed schedule. All boat designs and boat buildings is kind of compromisation, there’s no such thing as “ultimate perfection”, but I’ll do it until it’s good enough, with no pressure on a launch day, and as my free times permit. There would be lots of new things built into this Hello World – 3: electric pump, battery, electronics, and solar charging system, etc… That’s still a long way to go, concentrate on the basic task of building woodworking tools for now!

It looks like that I’m turning into a cabinet maker for now :-) , of the 3 pieces of “cabinet”, one will be the pedestal for my new Makita MT100 table saw, one would be a routing table (to be fitted with the Maktec MT362 router), and the other table will be used for small cutting and carving tasks with the Dremel’s MultiTool and MotoSaw. I’m adding more and more into my tool collection: Bosch (and it’s subsidiaries Dremel & Skil), Makita (and it’s subsidiary Maktec) and Fein.

to be updated…

figures

Làng tôi ở vốn làm nghề chài lưới,
Nước bao vây cách biển nửa ngày sông.
Khi trời trong, gió nhẹ, sớm mai hồng,
Dân trai tráng bơi thuyền đi đánh cá.
Chiếc thuyền nhẹ hăng như con tuấn mã,
Phăng mái chèo mạnh mẽ vượt trường giang…

ver thought that the Golden Age of Great Explorers was long over!? Think twice, it’s not quite so indeed. There’re lots of great adventurers out there still nowadays going on redisconvering old things in new ways, in finding the meanings for their lives. Below are just a few of them… men, women; teenagers, middle ages, old ages; paddlers, rowers, sailors… all in a very long list of figures which I follow closely and passionately along their adventurous paths. Read their stories thoroughly to understand their thoughts and attitudes toward life.

Aleksander Doba

The Polish adventurer turned 67 years old as he paddled his 21′ specially – designed kayak across the Atlantic, making more than 6500 miles in 6 months. Departed from Lisbon, Portugal on October 5th, 2013, when landed in Florida, May 23rd, 2014, the man finished a journey believed to be the longest open – water crossing ever made by a kayak in history. It’s not until 40 years old that Aleksander Doba started with kayaking and paddling, he’s been living by the motto: It’s better to live one day as a lion than a thousand years as a lamb.

Sandy Robson

An Australian kayaking instructor with lots of feats under her belt (including a 6000 km journey along the Australian coastline). In 2011, she started out for a trip from Germany to… Australia in an effort to retrace that of Oskar Speck, the legendary German kayaker who made that 50,000 km voyage in seven years from 1932 to 1939. Sandy Robson has finished the 4224 km 1st phase and the 2260 km 2nd phase, and is currently on the 3rd stage of her great journey, cruising Sri Lanka and the India east coast. For more details, follow her website here.

Roz Savage

An English ocean rower who crossed the Atlantic in 2006 in 103 days, Roz Savage then finished the 4811 km crossing from California to Hawaii in 99 days in 2008, after a previous failed attempt in 2007. Two additional legs from Hawaii to Tarawa, and from Tarawa to Papua New Guinea were made in 2009 and 2010, finishing the conquest of the largest ocean. Roz Savage successfully completed her Indian ocean crossing on 4th October 2011 in 154 days, becoming the first woman to solo row the “Big Three”: Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.

Chris Duff

An American sea kayaker notable for his large scale projects and world – record breaking attempts, having kayaked over 14,000 miles since 1983 in various endurance expeditions: the circumnavigations of Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand and Great Britain. I really like his saying: there are very few times in our busy lives where we have the luxury of true solitude. I love the simple focus of these journeys; the physical challenges of the sea balanced by the inner calm which comes from living purposefully and so simply.

Laura Dekker

The 14 years old girl, the youngest ever to circumnavigate the globe. Born on a boat, fought the Dutch government intervention and attempt to block her from going out to sea, and sailed the two – year – long, 27,000 miles trip around the world, alone! A stunning record that would stand for many years to come. I remember a few years back, watching her news and updates along the voyage in the 11.4 m boat Guppy at lauradekker.com. Let see also Maidentrip, a 82 minute documentary about the journey around the world, and into adulthood!

Matt Rutherford

Matt sailed a 27,077 nautical mile lap around North America and South America continents, in 309 days, on his 27′ boat St. Brendan, an incredible feat includes rounding the treacherous Cape Horn and the icy, dangerous Northwest Passage. North of the equator, in a 50 – knot squall on his April 6th birthday, everything broke, once and for all: the engine was toast, the wind generator was finished, there were no lights or power, nothing. Happy birthday, Matt!. For more information, read his website: solotheamericas.org.

Capucine Trochet

Suffered from a genetic disease (the Ehlers–Danlos syndrome) that kept her in wheelchair for months, Capucine decided to fight and to win, and I had an irresistible urge to go, to get back to sea, to the sea…, J’ai éprouvé un vrai sentiment de plénitude… (I’ve enjoyed a real sense of fullness). Behind the pretty face of great sweetness, this young French woman hides an iron will, with which she sailed across the Atlantic in 2012 and 2013 aboard her Tara Tari, a Bangladesh traditional style fishing boat. Follow her stories at whereistaratari.blogspot.com.

fortitudine vincimus

etting a bit more serious in paddle exercising day after day. I start to carry a 15kg (of brick and stone) load onto my kayak, and would gradually increase the load. Also, resting time between each paddling legs is reduced to the minimum possible. Sunny or rainy, until today, a 20 km paddling path is just like a gentle promenade to me, I should be more aggressing and demanding on myself.

But practicing hard won’t stop me to relax and have some nice picture shot occasionally along the way. Whenever I’m tired or feeling down, there’re always the nice sceneries, and the motto (on this post title) to put my mood into order again! For more on the Latin motto, read about Ernest Shackleton, his polar explorations, and his incredible voyage on the 21′ open boat James Caird!

boating books

ome very worth reading books on boating. Some are very well – known novels that I’ve read already (a few of them in multiple times), some are new documents that I’m reading or plan to. According to my categorization, they fall into the following 3 groups: Fiction, purely imaginary, although not real, they’re highly inspirational, Non – fiction, real accounts of real peoples and their adventures, Technical, the fundamental details that help building those archivements. My 3 simplified, consecutive steps of a self – actualization process… All these books are available in public domain, I collected and compiled into PDF format, click on each titles to download.

FICTION


Twenty thousand leagues under the sea – Jules Verne

 

Sea wolf – Jack London

 

Treasure island – Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Moby dick – Herman Melville, my all – time favorite, a piece of hard to read, highly metaphoric literature

NON – FICTION


A thousand miles in a Rob Roy canoe – J. Macgregor

 

Voyage of the paper canoe – Nathaniel Bishop

 

Alone in the Caribbean – Frederic Fenger

 

Sailing alone around the world – Joshua Slocum, my favorite, another neo – classical Ahap captain!

TECHNICAL


The dory book – John Gardner

 

Small boat building – H.W. Patterson

 

Canoe and boat building for amateurs – W.P. Stephens

 

The Gougeon brothers on boat construction, a very helpful, thorough book on wood working and epoxy.

the call

We’re all following a strange melody.
We’re all summoned by a tune…
And we dance beneath the moon!

The piper remixed – ABBA

ery busy lately, can’t even find some little time slots for paddling! For many time I’ve been hearing it, the tune sounds like Enya’s Orinoco Flow (a.k.a: Sail away), and I know, it’s calling, I just have to “Slide to answer”, but pressing “Remind me” is my only option right now! :-( Won’t miss your next call again!

folding bike

new toy, a “towing platform” for the kayak, a GIANT tiny folding bike that can be carried on the boat through the waterways! Steel frame, 20 inches wheels, 6 speeds derailleur gears, and weighted at 15 kg, this is the best balance I can find: small enough to be folded and transported on the kayak, while still large enough to be able to attain some speed while towing the kayak in return on long roads! To be used in my upcoming trips! :-)

NSTarget

Once we were standing still in time,
Chasing the fantasies that filled our minds.
…Now looking back at all we’ve planned,
We let so many dreams just slip through our hands.

[
Do you know where you’re going to – Diana Ross ]

his has been added into my intermediate – term TODO list, a promise to return to Poulo Condor made earlier last year, in a different way, not by way of air of course. Don’t really know if I could make this, cause it’s really a tough (and adventurous) target to conquer, and there’re lots of things I also wanted and planned to do, too many of them indeed, but let just set the milestone there!

vũng tàu, june 2014

his has been in my TODO list for quite some time, but for various reasons, couldn’t get it done till now. To the present day, I’ve accumulated more than 1,000 nmi under my belt with Hello World – 1 & 2 (nearly 1,900 km, as logged by my Garmin), but that’s only the 20 ~ 25 km paddling around my home. I need something longer to testify my endurance; and for the last 2 months, I’ve been preparing for this 60 km paddling trip to Vũng Tàu: physical exercising, equipments, plan A, plan B, etc… It just comes the time to… get your paddles wet!

My Hello World – 2 kayak is a true player on rivers, but it’s surely no performer at sea. A 14 footer, it’s quite unsuitable to be deployed on longer journeys, so I need to make careful planning. The trip will be completed in 3 legs, approximately 20 km each, the first 2 will follow Sài Gòn and Lòng Tàu rivers, the last leg would pass Gành Rái bay to reach Vũng Tàu on ‘open sea’. And indeed, I have no ‘plan B’, no camping gears, no food and drink for a 2nd day of paddling, no signaling devices… it just has to be done, 60 km in a single day, in a single try!

Leg 1

Wake up at 3:30 AM, I carefully check the gears, load the kayak, have a big breakfast, and at 4:30 AM, I depart. Right at the first paddling stroke, it begins to rain, cats and dogs! And it continues to rain lightly for the next several hours, but that’s good really. Silently pass by many fishing boats, some was sleeping, some was watching a FIFA World Cup’s live football match! Heavily loaded, I make my way through the misty, dark water with a pace around 6 ~ 6.5 km/h. At 5:30 AM, the Garmin indicates a minor rise in speed, ~ 7.5 km/h, it’s the tide’s coming into play!

6:00 AM, as the dawn was breaking, I steadily made 8 ~ 9 km/h, 6:45 AM, I was making a comfortable 9.5 ~ 10.5 km/h riding. The tide plays quite a role in my planning, it should help to conquer the first 2 legs as fast as I can, reserving stamina for the last troublesome leap. Velocity then increases to 11 km/h for a short while, momentarily reaches 12 km/h, woohoo… I finished the 1st leg in 3 hours with little resting time, reaching Tam Thôn Hiệp crossroad, the southern most outskirt of Sài Gòn, beyond this point is Cần Giờ mangrove biosphere reserve.

Leg 2

8:00 AM, after a short break, I start the 2nd leg, which traverses the Cần Giờ mangrove forest to reach the sea. The Garmin instructs me confidently through this complex maze of rivers and canals, making ‘bip – bip’ sound in approximation of each turn point (the planned route was made on computer and transferred to the device). I’m a bit in hurry as I know I don’t have a large time frame to utilize the tide, in all, less than 4, 5 hours or so. 8:30 AM, the tide will finish lowering in Vũng Tàu area, though for inland water, there’s still a delay effect.

Speed drops gradually along this 2nd leg, and at 10:00 AM, I was returning to 6 ~ 6.5 km/h, as the tide was coming to a complete stop. The last few kilometers of this leg was a bit difficult, cause although my arms and shoulders showed little sign of tiredness, my butt was in great pains after hours of idleness. Then it was a moment of thrill, to stand here and watch over the large calm estuary where the river joins the sea! Another leg done, an hour of resting, lying leisurely in the boat, watching the sea, having lunch, and making some selfies! :-)

Leg 3

Right at noon, I start the final leap. I was having a good day, it’s heavily cloudy, the sea is quite calm, small waves, south – west light wind at 2, 3 on Beaufort scale coming to my convenience from starboard ‘broad reach’ or ‘beam reach’, Vũng Tàu‘s mountains are clearly visible across the big bay. I decided to start as soon as I can, fearing the regular afternoon tropical gales and rains could bring much trouble later on. Switch the Garmin to compass mode, keep the bearing at 125 degrees for several hours, this gonna be just a piece of cake! :-)

The following hours turned out to be not easy indeed! I begin to feel pains for my hands, the waves have hampered my efforts and reduced speed into the 4.5 ~ 5.5 km/h range. I have not a single moment of worry, but rather a kind of tranquility in my mind while navigating this immense sphere. I stop for a while having an nice talk with a local fisherman, then keeping on the straight line to target. On starboard side then seen the Cần Giờ Aval lighthouse (VN: hải đăng Bóng Trắng). Then at 4:30 PM, landed in Vũng Tàu at the precise pre – planned spot.

Return

Terra firma eventually, my 12 hours of paddling completed with flying colors! :-) Nothing more to expect for the day, I go for dinner, then back to the hotel and have another 12 hours of sleep! Next morning, I was messing around the harbors, watching the fishing boats, then at noon, load my kayak onto a rented truck and return to Sài Gòn. My arms are still having some little pain as I’m typing this, but the feeling is really pleasant. It could be a small thing to others, but a little real achievement for me! Another milestone in my boating progress!

The trip helps rectifying some defects and shortcomings on boat building and boating equipments. It’s only in these longer trips that I would find out what gears, food, drink, clothing, etc… should I have, what improves and accessories I could do for my boats. Yet Hello World – 2, at 14 feet, still belongs to the recreational class, it’s not a real expeditional sea kayak by design… The trip also helps consolidating my understanding and experiences on what I should prepare to make successful future sea crossings and longer passages into mare liberum :-) .

Epilogue

The Sài GònVũng Tàu route is crowded in maritime traffic, big boats from a few thousand to a few dozen thousand tons come and go every few minutes. It’s a real risk that your tiny boat could be overseen and overrun by those giants, as I was ‘near – missed’ by a huge freighter at great speed by just 50 ~ 70 m in one case. I should have an VHF radio to communicate with them to avoid collision. The waves created by those boats, though could be as high as 1 ~ 1.5 m, are not dangerous actually, as they are well patterned and well behaved.

Routes plotted with Google Earth: planned route in blue, actual route in red. Some GPS logged data: distance travelled: 58.4 km, total time: 11:31′, paddling time ~ 9:00′, resting time ~ 2:30′, I averaged out only 5.08 km/h over all. Obviously, there’s still lots of things to be improved here!

Another aspect of paddling in tropical weather: the ‘thermal efficiency’ of your body (like any other machines or engines) would degrade badly in the 30 ~ 38°C temperature range, you’ll need lots of water (and food) to keep up the pace, a sunny day could easily use up 4, 5 litters just for drinking (not to include cooking). That could cause a ‘logistical problem’ as a kayak has limited storage capacity, it could be a headache to prepare food and drink rations (among other things) for a 4, 5 days trip, the heavier the load, the slower the boat of course.

Some video scenes of the trip captured with my GoPro camera.

Vũng Tàu is no stranger to me, having visited it many times before. But this time is different, a chance to view the city from another perspective. For many moments, I thought I had quite some illusions of grandeur, the literal, optical meaning :-) , as the sceneries appear as in tilt – shift photography: people, houses, cars, boats, the trees… all appears to be so small under the blue sky, even the mountains do not look really big… A fantastic feeling when you observe the little city of Cap Saint Jacques from the back of waves, some distances off from shore.

a bit of roughness

typical small tropical gale during this rainy season… winds can momentarily reach up to level 5, 6 or more on Beaufort scale. It can get pretty rough at time right here on Saigon river and without a spray skirt, the kayak takes on water easily in this weather, when filled up about 1/3 of the volume, the boat is heavy to paddle, it becomes less responsive and easier to take more water in. I need to pump the water out several times during my routine 20km paddling trip.

But it’s also fun, the rougher it get, the tougher you need to be! :-)

woodworking

y humble woodworking corner with a modest collection of tools for sawing, cutting, drilling, planing, chiseling, sanding… dozens types of chemicals for epoxying, painting, varnishing… For now, it’s still a small corner with basic tools, but it’ll be growing into a “well – equipped” boat – building workshop soon! :-)

4th image below: a clock, a thermometer and a hygrometer to help mixing epoxy resin, a process which is quite weather – sensitive…