Thursday, August 26, 2004

Paddling the Seven Seas

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: Sky and Sea - Cassandra Wilson - Traveling Miles
I tell people one of my favourite pastimes is kayaking, but I hardly ever get to kayak these days. Back when, then and all that time ago, I didn't kayak all that often either. So I suppose kayaking is a favourite in the sense that I remember liking it a lot when I did do it. I like kayaking for the quiet solitude it affords, though I don't mind having a companion kayaker who shares the same sentiment, and who might be able to help you out if you don't execute a kayak-capsize-drill properly. I dislike any motorised water sport, which I think to be the domain of clueless landlubbers who think they love the sea. And don't even get me started about wakeboarding. If you really love the sea, you'd love kayaking, and perhaps sailing. But... A kayak can go almost anywhere in practically any weather. In the right hands it is probably the most adaptable and seaworthy vessel afloat. Kayaks have been paddled across the Atlantic and through the Caribbean and up the Alaskan Coast and down the Nile and the Amazon.... ...There have been paddlers in kayaks at the (Cape) Horn for as long as there have been humans.... Four hundred years later the kayak is still unchanged in its basic design, because for its size it is as near as possible to being a perfect boat. ~Paul Theroux, Paddling to Plymouth, Fresh Air Fiend I haven't paddled even the shortest stretches of the Atlantic, the Caribbean or Alaska, but I have, with a friend, paddled from Singapore to Tioman in a double Klepper kayak, similar to the ones the British and Australian commandos used to blow up Japanese ships in Singapore Harbour. Made of maple and canvas, it is the most seaworthy craft I have ever paddled, even if I haven't paddled many. The trip took twelve days from Changi Beach to Pulau Tioman, and according to my kayak journal, which I fortuitously found while trying to tidy my room (and which prompted this post), we set off from Changi on Wednesday 7th of August 1991: 0700 Arrive at Changi Point. Ate breakfast. Bought water. Forgot bread. 0720 Changi Beach. Assemble Klepper. Load up. 0800 Leave Singapore. 0900 Paddle past Tekong. 1100 Arrive at Tanjung Pengerrang Immigration checkpoint. 1630 Arrive at Tanjung Datok, set up camp, dinner, rest. Total travel 30km, 8 hours paddling. Current and wind against us. The rest of the journal gets even more sketchy as tiredness and boredom set in: 9th August 1991: 1600 Land on unknown beach. Super seasick. And then there's one long journal entry about how Jason's Bay (Telok Makhota) is extremely depressing. The whole beach is littered with cowdung. And our greatest challenge is combating boredom. , followed two days later by: Most nervous moment of trip so far when storm blew up gale force 6 winds. Made it to Sibu after 8 hours non stop paddling. That is a classic understatement. I remember shitting bricks when the storm hit. I remember throwing up on both sides of the kayak. I remember the sizable shark circling us after probably overdosing on the scent of my vomit. The journal ends with these entries: Pulau Tinggi, Thursday 15th August 1991: ...Have decided to push for Tioman tomorrow. Will be toughest leg so far (>50km) and will take 12 hours or so. Friday 16th August 1991: Woke up late. Decided to postpone crossing till Saturday 3am or later, maybe 8am. Bored to tears. Word has gotten around the island that we're two Japanese commandos. Saturday 17th August 1991: Rained heavily in the morning. Have to postpone crossing again. Decided to slot midnight as departure time. Didn't get to sleep last night because of the wedding party on the island. Sunday 18th August 1991: Left Pulau Tinggi at midnight as planned. Couldn't see anything in the dark but our slipshod navigation skills managed to see us through till dawn, when a storm broke. Got terribly seasick. Barfed twice. Sighted the island at 0745hrs but paddled like mad to arrive at Tioman at 1300hrs. Total time in the saddle 13hrs. Sore bums, hunger pangs and physical exhaustion norm for the day. Booked into cheap resort (RM15 a night), relaxed. GAME OVER. This is the one trip I'd love to be able to do again, for whatever vainglorious reasons which I won't admit to. Why, me and my kayaking friend even wrote the leisure article for Straits Times Life [Saturday, November 16, 1991, Leisure, Page Ten] and got paid $200 for our effort - writing and the trip. Cheap adventure. But for some fucked up reason, the editor decided to omit my name from the story, so it would sound like it was an almost solo adventure but the adventurer decided to ask a friend along. But these days, I find that a good kayaking day consists of two hours or so of paddling through scenic waters, and the only place available with kayak rental and scenery is Pasir Ris Park, where you can rent a kayak for $15 an hour and paddle to Pulau Ubin and back. There are creeks on Ubin which are worth exploring for their flora and fauna and grumpy fishermen living in huts with big dogs that threaten to leap into the water and take a chunk out of your paddles. Forget the sharks, these marine dogs can be real mean too. Back in Sydney, I paddled Middle Harbour, where you have to fight traffic as if you were on the road. I once paddled in the middle of the channel without knowing there was this passenger ferry bearing down behind me. The ferry pilot must've thought it was funny to wait till the last moment to sound his damned loud horn, startling me to the point of my bum leaving my seat. Good amusement for the 100 plus passengers on the ferry. Later that same day, a deranged seagull attacked me while the same ferry was making its return journey through the channel, so the passengers had the benefit of watching me fight off the seagull with my paddle. I think there's something nagging me to return to the sea. (Duh. You think??) I want to do the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Alaskan fjords and maybe the Cape. I might start off easy again and go do the Pasir Ris to Ubin leg. But please don't leave any comments about it being a mid-life crisis thing, all youse landlubbers. Jason's Bay Laundry time, Pulau Tinggi Dinner time, Sungai Ringgit The Klepper Aerius double kayak The Seagull Slayer, Middle Harbour, Sydney


Blogger Lost In Transition said...

Yay i wanna go kayak, get seasick and camp on beach full of cow dung!!! Yer never too old to do a good thing twice!

8/26/2004 04:18:00 AM  
Blogger FF said...

What were you cooking over the open fire? So funny lah, how the seagull attacked you.

8/26/2004 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger JellyGirl said...

Res-peck. Also, is your kayak perhaps Mary Poppins' bag? It seems to hold so much!

8/26/2004 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Caleb said...


WHy don't you organize another kayaking expedition to Tioman? I would love to sign up.

8/26/2004 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Mandrake said...

Cowboy, are you sure you can handle the kayak? I think by the time you reach the immigration checkpoint in Malaysia, you want to come back.

Mr Miyagi, 12 days+ on a kayak, hah. respect man.. 3 days on it and I am staying away from it as much as possible.

8/26/2004 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger PP said...

I wanna go kayaking too!

8/26/2004 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger veola said...


Next time u need a quiet kaki, can consider moi. Just need to show me 1 thing, what to do when capsize. The rest should be no problemo.

the closest thing I did, but cannot match of course, is cycling from west coast park to east coast park and then back again, with a close friend.

But yours takes the cake, cos saying 'kayaking' sure sounds way cooler than 'cycling'!

8/26/2004 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kick ass!

The last time I kayak-ed for 8 hours was in OBS. I vowed never to do it again. Just out of curiosity what did the 2 of you do during a storm? We met with a storm too but there were 10 of us, so we could 'park' parallel to each other to prevent from capsizing...


8/26/2004 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger aGent X said...

Respek brudder!
Last time I ever kayak-ed was on the Outdoor Bound School expedition during JC days, or was that canoe-ing?

8/26/2004 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

Lost in Transition: I'll camp on the beach with you any day.

FF: We wuz cooking chicken marinated in seawater and soy sauce. We bought the chicken from Kampung Sungai Renggit.

JellyGirl: The Klepper has large bulkheads which we filled up with supplies. Before departure, we weighed the items and ourselves, and the total tonnage was 400lbs.

Caleb: Yeah, I'd organize a trip, if I could find a kayak that was seaworthy for ocean crossings. The Klepper is mui expensive, as are the other folboat brands. Around USD7K for the whole kit and caboodle. The one we used for the trip belonged to my friend's dad who was suffering from midlife crisis then but didn't have the guts to do the trip himself. Folboats are good because of their portability. I.e. you can pack the thing up and take a bus home if you're too tired.

Mandrake: I think anyone can handle the kayak. It's like walking. Just gets boring, is all.

PP: I'd go kayaking with you any day.

Veola: I'm not too good with the eskimo roll either. I practice NOT capsizing.

DG: In the few storms we encountered, we paddled like mad to ride bow first into the waves. We put on the spray skirts so we wouldn't flood. The kayak sat low because of the weight, and also because of the wooden structure, it was flexible, as opposed to rigid fibreglass.

AgentX: What you did in JC was kayaking. They don't know the difference between the two.

8/26/2004 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Caleb said...


you just burst my bubble.

8/27/2004 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger PP said...

Can rent one or not?

8/27/2004 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Caleb said...

how about starting a small local kayaking group with not so lofty ambitions?

Train up first with cheap gear.

8/27/2004 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Gulaman Girl said...

What happened to your taggie board? I miss you!

8/27/2004 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

Yup Caleb, thanks for the suggestion. I will find out more from the Pasir Ris place. Sekali close shop liao also dunno. My only free day is Sunday though.

GG, I miss you more! Taggie's gone cos it's been playing up.

8/27/2004 07:32:00 PM  

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