Saturday, 13 October 2007

Uncle Chalu's Race

Hi Jonathan

About the race, I have told everyone at the race about you. It is happening tomorrow from the Battery Park in New York City. So everyone knows about you. There are some Olympic champions like the Hungarian "The White Hun" Zsolt and Joe Glee-ckman whose funny mugshot he sent. I am sure they love to meet you for you are a happy boy. Here is the course on Google Map.

The race goes around the island of Manhattan. Most people don't know they live on an island with amazing body of water. The island straddles between the great river, the Hudson, the Long Island sound and the Atlantic.

Because it is located between them, water moves in strong motions. The race is 30 plus miles. The top racers like Joe and Zsolt will finish in 3 hours and 20 minutes. A newbie like me, who knows?

After my knee injuries, I started kayaking as recovery. It turned out to be a gift. I learned about the ocean especially little place called Jamaica Bay; shallow bay where small young fish come and horseshoe crab spawn. I would like to take you one of these days.

I spent good few months learning and want to try longer paddle. This is a big test for me and my skills.

The difficulties of the race are; long distance, strong currents, terrain and vehicles. I can't stop and eat. So, I need to drink something like Gatorade and lots of it. Paddling constantly makes me hungry like you have a hole in your stomach. You sweat a lot too. If I don't eat, I will run out of energy.

Currents can help you or fight you. Even champs like Joe are respectful and afraid. They can lose and waste precious energy. So, we study currents. Currents change with the Moon. It can go from low tide to the high tide in matters of hours.

Terrain around the island is challenging. To make the island, many engineers built many things like bridges and tunnels and channels. Long time ago, people did not have cars. They used boats. To connect and tame rivers and water around the island, engineers dug and blasted channels. One of the challenges is called Hell Gate.

The name "Hell Gate" is a corruption of the Dutch phrase Hellegat, which could mean either "hell's gate" or "bright gate/passage", which was originally applied to the entirety of the East River.
Dutch is people from Holland. They discovered the New York (aka Manhattan Island) and sold it to us.

Vehicles are boats of all sizes; power boat, cigar boat, barges, sail boat. They make big waves as they drive by and waves could knock me and capsize me.

So, I need everything I learned in school taught by coaches of Sebago Canoe Club. I practiced on a lake north of New Jersey; Lake Sebago near a town called Sloatsburg. Next summer, we can all go and swim and kayak in this lake.

What I really need is; courage and confidence; mind over matter. It is going to be cold, wet, tiring, scary, painful, confusing, frightening. Sometimes, like that all at the same time. I feel confident to survive and difficulties don't scare me. I am scared of myself not believing in myself. So, I like to reward myself; pat on my shoulder like "You are doing great. Keep going."

I need to go through it like passing through an open window. Keep going believing in myself. I don't know how long it will take me. I do like open ended challenges because I will feel and learn something valuable about myself and the world.

Jonathan, I will be thinking of you and your courage during the race. Hopefully, I will make it through. Think of me and my race.

If Jonathan is not tired by now,

About little boats we paddle, New York Mayor's Race. The race involves human-powered boats; single kayak, double kayak and outrigger.

Kayak means hunting in Inuit language. It is actually Qajaq. Inuit and Greenland people live by hunting since there is no growing season. If you can't hunt, you can't live. They eat delicious raw meat, seal and whale meat a lot like sushi.

Image:Greenland kayak seal hunter 2006.jpg

His qajaq is made of seal skin sewn together and cured by peeing as a way of preservative. Paddle is called Greendland paddle and the Olympic paddle comes from it. The stick next to is a harpoon with the walrus spear tip. When you harpoon a whale or seal, it will drag you so fast and so hard. You could be pulled into the water.

The water is so cold that you can't stay longer than minutes. The cloth he is wearing is called tuiliq, a form of anorak fitted so water does not come in. But you tip over and capsize, you need to roll back up.

Jonathan, I must have Inuit genes because I learned to roll so easily on both sides and different styles. If I were an Inuit, I could be on the water. I don't know yet if I can hunt a whale. I think that would be hard.

Kayak design evolved some 5,000 years. In modern times, it rapidly evolved in boats designed with newest materials; carbon fiber, new paddle design, shapes and sizes.

Outrigger is another boat but comes from the Pacifics. There are many deep traditional communities around outrigger racing. It is not a race but gathering of tribes.

A six-person outrigger canoe
A six-person outrigger canoe

Outrigger on a contemporary Hawaiian sailing canoe

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