Words & Photos: Johan Snyders and Sanri Knoetze
COMOROSTO MOZAMBIQUE BYKAYAK I’D LIVE BY THE SEA IF I COULD.
MY SOUL YEARNS FOR WIDE OPEN SPACES AND THE SOUNDS OF NATURE. BUT WHEN I TOLD MY MOM WHAT I WANTED TO DO WITH MY LIFE - LIVE ON THE BEACH LIKE A BUM - SHE WISELY NOTED THAT I WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO PROVIDE FOR A WIFE AND KIDS ON A BUM’S SALARY. So now I live in the city. For my bread and butter, I run two businesses. For exercise, I run. I run to meetings. I run to the shops. I run a couple of hundred other errands a day. I run from that last psycho girlfriend. It keeps me fit and vigilant. But not sane.
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Loaded and cruising down the Orange River.
A BIRD IN A CAGE IS NO GOOD.
IT ONLY TAKES SO LONG BEFORE YOU REACH SATURATION POINT: FROM THE SMOG, THE TRAFFIC, THE DAILY NEWS. THEN I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING DRASTIC. WHEN I CAN STAND IT NO MORE, I BREAK OUT. This is where I meet myself again, where I laugh and live and love - the free, the wild, the scary, the lonely, the breathtaking. This is where my soul becomes whole again.
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I started small. My first trip was by bicycle from Prince Albert Train Station, in the Western Cape, on the N1 to the coastal town of Glentana, via the Swartberg and Montague Passes. Trip number two was an eight-day adventure up the West Coast, again by bicycle. Then it got bigger. My next trip was from Pomene Point to Tofu, Mozambique, by kayak with two friends. Our aim was to complete the 120 km trip down the coast in nine leisurely days. It was a first for all of us and many lessons were learnt in a relatively short period. The scorching sun, seasickness, blistered hands, bad weather and lost equipment were just a few of our challenges, but we did remarkably well for complete novices and managed to complete the trip in the allocated time (not in a leisurely fashion, though). A year later, I was on my own again. Just me and my bicycle, cycling from Steinkopf in the Northern Cape through southern Namibia and the Richtersveld to Alexander Bay, finishing at Port Nolloth. The stretch through Namibia was exceptional, awe-inspiring. It is a vast and unforgiving landscape, comprising the barren Namibian Desert to the right, the blackened mountains of the Richtersveld to the left and carving its way through the middle is the mighty Orange River. Virtually devoid of human life, this is the perfect place to contemplate not only the endless challenges of our beloved planet, but also the next adventure! And I decided that this one had to involve a kayak and open water. Back to the city (ever so annoyed) I went. To work. And run. And whatever it is we do to survive here. But with the seeds of my next adventure firmly planted, I was looking forward to planning my next outing, around June 2014.
With a kayak and open water as the main criteria, there were many gaps to fill. The ‘where’ for me was the most obvious place to start. I wanted to pick a route that would stretch my abilities and stamina, but which would also be doable, especially for a first attempt. One option was to kayak from a suitable point on the coast of Mozambique to Ile de Europa, a beautiful tiny little dot of an island in the southern Mozambican channel. With an unmanned weather station and completely uninhabited, it seemed the perfect spot to explore. This was mainly due to the exotic and isolated look of the place, definitely not because of practical considerations.
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Brian Jacob is an accomplished sea kayaker, kayak fisherman and kayak manufacturer. I was lucky enough to have Brian on board with the last kayak undertaking, although he could not make the actual trip. This time his adventurous side got the better of him. With his vast experience, such a trip had a much better chance of reaching its full potential.
I SOON REALISED
I WAS BEING OVERLY OPTIMISTIC IN EXPECTING A ROOKY LIKE ME TO FIND SUCH A TINY, UNINHABITED DOT IN A VAST OCEAN OF WINDS, STORMS AND CURRENTS. Further reading revealed
I discovered that there is more to consider than just the route, winds, currents and eddies when attempting an expedition like this. I needed to take shipping lanes into account. To avoid being on a crash course, I had to find out how I could be visible to these ships. This entails employing a radar reflector, strobe light and two-way radio with VHF function, to communicate my presence to oncoming traffic, whether cargo ships or fishing vessels. The radar reflector that I will be using is made of marine-grade aluminium and does exactly what the name suggests. The pulses sent out from the ship’s radar device are reflected back, creating a ‘blip’ that will alert them to my presence. In theory, they should give way. The strobe light will be used as a back up, especially at night, with the VHF radio as a last resort.
that the underlying currents and eddies and a predominant headwind between the Mozambican coast and Ile de Europa - would make it extremely difficult.
I moved my sights to an expedition from Pemba, in Mozambique, to Madagascar and back. But the north-easterly winds and southerly current would only support the return trip, not the trip to the island. Plus this was way too far for my liking. Then I decided to research the possibility of an expedition from Moroni, in the Comoros, to Pemba, Mozambique. This is a stretch of 340 km as the crow flies and would take approximately seven days. The downward curve of my proposed route tied in well with the prevailing winds and current. Although it seemed feasible, I felt more comfortable once I had run this by more experienced people. Edy Beulink and Marguerite Vogel have sailed the world’s oceans for five daring years. Over numerous bottles of red wine, they shared their invaluable knowledge, insights and wild adventures. They strongly felt that I should take someone with me to minimise the risk. Fortunately, I knew just the person. Our route.
You don’t want to connect with one of these big ladies. A ship like this needs about 8 km to come to a stop.
With this in mind, I put together my list for a first aid kit, emergency equipment like flare guns, parachute flares, mirrors and a pea-less whistle to avoid clogging through water. Although the kayaks are made from very sturdy material, we will try to prepare for whatever might come our way. This brings me to my next point: sleep. With a sit-on-top kayak there is always water in your vessel. To elevate ourselves above the water, we are erecting a rigid PVC pipe frame on top of the kayak. This will then be supported by pontoons on either side of the kayak and a sail will be suspended over the frame to (hopefully) aid a good night’s rest. For extra floatation, we’ll add two pool noodles (donated by my godsons) inside each kayak, and have equipped ourselves with hand pumps to drain any water that gets inside our kayaks. Although we will be fairly close to the equator and can thus expect mild to warm weather, care will still be taken to combat the natural elements. To protect against chilly nights, rain, wind and ocean spray, we are using K-Way’s Franklin Jacket, which is waterproof, windproof and breathable. In strong wind, I’ll also have the option to use a dive mask to prevent excessive ocean spray from getting into my eyes.
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Catching our dinner.
Passing a local fisherman on a dhow on a previous outing.
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We hope to catch fish to supplement our diet. This is a beautiful dorado bull caught off a kayak.
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WE WILL ATTACH THE PADDLES
AND OURSELVES TO OUR KAYAKS BY ROPE. ONE OF THE WORST THINGS THAT CAN BEFALL A KAYAKER IS TO LOSE THE KAYAK. A PFD (PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICE) IS NOT AN OPTIONAL ITEM. WE’RE ALSO ATTACHING A DROGUE TO EACH KAYAK. This is a type of underwater
parachute made from heavy-duty ripstop nylon, to be used when you are pushed in the wrong direction by a strong current or strong wind. It minimizes drift. Our drogues will have a mouth opening of 1 m in diameter and a back opening of 30 cm in diameter. These will be attached to our kayaks with a rope of about 15 m. To make retrieval easier, a float on a 2 m rope will be attached to the drogue. So we don't get lost on the ocean, we'll take a GPS, laminated nautical chart (kept safe inside the kayak), and deck-mounted compass (plus one on my person in case we and the kayaks go our separate ways). Other items on our shopping list include a satellite phone, two-way radios with VHF function and solar panels to power the GPS, phone, camera and strobe light. We will try and stick to necessities, understanding that 40 litres of water and food still needs to be added. Thankfully, the kayak can hold about 250 kg. There’s an awful lot of sitting involved in this type of expedition, so due consideration must be given to the backside. We will each take a piece of high-density foam that can also double up as a pillow. Another crucial item is fresh water. We are taking enough for 13 days, just in case. Food is also vital and here, weight, optimal nutrition and perishable foodstuffs are major considerations. If all goes well, we hope to paddle for a total of 18 hours per day, for seven days, with a remaining six hours for R&R. At an average of 3 km per hour, we should be able to cover 50-odd km in a day. Sleep will form part of the 18 hours paddling. The person taking a snooze will attach his kayak by rope to the other's kayak, thus allowing someone to be always awake and alert.
PIRACYAND POLITICS On a kayak we are easy prey. We hope we won’t encounter any pirates, but it's something we need to keep in mind. The EU Naval Force recommends that all sailing yachts and pleasure crafts stay clear of the High Risk Area, highlighted in yellow on the map above. Fortunately, our route falls outside this area. Pemba, our end destination, is the port city of Mozambique and lies in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. With the general elections coming up in October, tensions between the ruling party, Frelimo, and the main opposition, Renamo, have escalated. This is another thing we have to keep an eye on.
DO I THINK ABOUT LIVING AND DYING?
A LOT. SOME MAY THINK THAT THOSE WHO SEEK ADVENTURE HAVE A DEATH WISH. I CAN ONLY SPEAK FOR MYSELF - I DON’T. DIAS, COLUMBUS AND DA GAMA WERE CURIOUS ADVENTURERS, DARING MEN WHO WANTED TO KNOW MORE. I look up to them and I don’t think
they had a death wish. Their mode of transport and available equipment were meagre (no energy bars, satellite phones, etc.). It’s all about LIVING - in capital letters - about feeling alive and staying alive. Life is of a passing nature, we are born, we grow up, grow old and die; sometimes sooner than we thought we would. What we need to do while we’re alive is LIVE.
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CHOOSING THERIGHT KAYAK Words: Brian Jacob
WHEN JOHAN TOLD ME ABOUT THE TRIP EARLIER THIS YEAR, IT
WAS AS IF THE WORLD HAD CONSPIRED FOR US TO DO THIS, BUT LET ME EXPLAIN WHY. For the 340 km that Johan and I plan on doing, our kayak need is slightly different from your everyday paddler. We need a faster kayak to help us cover the 50+ km per day, as well as a flat surface we can sleep on, with ample storage space and weight capacity to stow all our gear, food and water. Fortunately in September 2013, my company started the development of a new kayak, the Kraken. At 4,6 m long and boasting a slick hull with beautiful lines, it is the fastest, best performing kayak we have ever made. It is also unlike any other kayak manufactured in South Africa. An exceptional feature of this kayak is the flat deck that has been integrated. A flat deck allows for an infinite number of seating arrangements, thus making this kayak extremely versatile and unique. It can be used totally naked, with no fittings or seats, or it can be fully fitted and customised for fishing, touring, birding, commercial use or just for recreational paddling. The Kraken is absolutely perfect for our Comoros to Pemba trip and we will most certainly put the kayaks through their paces!
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KAYAK CHOICE GUIDELINES
If the kayaking bug has bitten you and you're ready to purchase your first kayak, there are a number of considerations you need to bear in mind so that you can make an informed decision. Here are a few questions to help you choose the right kayak and ensure you enjoy your kayak for many years to come. • The most important question is where the kayak would be used? Is it on flat water such as a dam, estuary or river, or ocean paddling with possible extreme winds and waves? • How far will you typically go? Are you planning to paddle for just a couple of kilometres or go on a week-long tour? • Will you be taking camping gear? This could affect your storage needs. • Will you paddle solo or in a double kayak? Solo paddlers need a more portable or lighter kayak for easy carrying. Paddling in a double or in a group gives you more options. • What are your skill levels and aspirations? • How will you transport the kayak to and from the water? Does your vehicle have a roof rack? • Do you have enough room to store the kayak at home? Kayaks need to be stored in shade. • What is the maximum load (weight capacity) of the kayak? • What is your height? Can you get in and out of the cockpit area easily?
WITH ALL THIS INFORMATION, YOU ARE NOW READY TO PURCHASE YOUR KAYAK. HAPPY PADDLING! • Legend Kayaks has a wide range of kayaks to suit your needs. To check out the range, visit www.legendkayak.co.za
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