Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mississippi Kayak Challenge (last pre-trip post)

I went out yesterday with my good friend Ted Gornall to do a pre-trip photo shoot. My adventure is beginning to attract media attention, and I realized last week that I have very few kayaking pics of myself—I'm always the one behind the camera. The photo shoot also gave me an excuse to try out and show off some of my cool new gear. The day was windy and overcast, but we still managed to get 150 good photographs. I've posted 16 of these new images to my gallery. We were both rather pressed for time, so I didn't get a chance to set up the tent and unpack all my camping gear.

When I talk to reporters and friends about my trip, the question of danger usually comes up. There are five factors that can make kayaking dangerous: currents, tides, wind, boat traffic and stupidity. Of the five, boat traffic is the most unpredictable, and stupidity the deadliest. Large freighters and cruise ships can be intimidating to most inexperienced kayakers, but in reality they pose little threat. You can see them from miles away, so you have plenty of time to get out of their way; they stay in deep water, usually far from the shore and sensible paddlers; and they track a steady course and change direction slowly and deliberately, again giving you plenty of warning. I worry most about recreational power boaters when I'm on the water. Whenever horsepower and speed meet with a lack of common sense and consideration, somebody suffers—in this case the kayaker. Kayaking is, generally speaking, one of the safer recreational activities. Most, if not all, kayaking deaths are caused by errors of judgment and a lack of common sense, collectively known as stupidity.

The value of good navigation charts for this kind of undertaking cannot be overstated. I love maps, the more detail the better. The US Army Corps of Engineers have been custodians of the Mississippi for more than 170 years, and they have the most accurate and up to date navigation charts. The charts show all the navigation features I need for my trip: hazardous areas, historical sites, state and national parks, campgrounds, locks, dams, etc. They have a scale of 1:31,680, or one inch on the map for every half mile of river, which allows for great detail. I will also be using a handheld GPS receiver.

I'll be making my way downstream fully armed with notebook computer, cellular phone, hands-free digital voice recorder, GPS tracking device, and on the other end of the technology scale, but still very cool, waterproof notebooks and paper. The GPS tracking is really neat: it will be possible to follow my progress in real time on my web site, courtesy of Eye-On GPS tracking technology, provided by The Real Security Company. I hope to have that up and running by the end of next week.

So far everything is on track to set off from St. Paul on Sunday, May 13th. Visit my web site for media news and press releases.

Jacob van der Merwe, a.k.a The Crazy Kayaker

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was wondering if you could point me in the direction of a good scholl in the St.Louis area.



4/19/2008 10:26 AM


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