ade my first “departure” on this first day of the new year 2014, year of the horse; a 20 km paddling roundtrip. I want to see more of that same city, from a different point of view, not that usual view of most of the 20 – years – long living here. There is another completely different Saigon, a Saigon seen from water, as on flat land, for the most part, it’s a messy city. It took me a long time to get accustomed to its main roads, especially in the southern parts, as they usually turn around and around, forming untidy, complex, bizarre networks. But if you see them from the waterways perspective, the topologies immediately become clear and easy. That reminds me the essential geo – ecological things about this southern young, energetic city…
Một dòng sông sâu, cuồn cuộn sóng, trôi về nơi đâu?
Gió đưa buồm nâu, mang tâm hồn, vào cõi u sầu!
ome pictures from The Junk Blue Book – Marion C. Dalby (Vietnamese title: Hải thuyền thanh thư). Despite some little efforts here and there (to recreate at least one functional Vietnamese – traditional sailing watercraft), a brilliant tradition had been lost, for more than half a century, virtually nowadays, none still possesses the full knowledge on Vietnamese sailing as it was the old days.
We now can only view these beautiful images and admire a heritage that had long ceased to exist 😢! Anyone care to know can download a PDF copy (40 MB) of The Junk Blue Book (bilingual, English and Vietnamese texts in parallel columns) directly here, lots of details on VN indigenous boats, and lots of interesting images too!
tay at the 15 ~ 16 kilometers level for quite long already and can’t proceed further, it’s just because of my limited time. In order to practice beyond the 20 km range, it would probably take up whole day, not within a single morning or afternoon that I’m currently restricted. Anyway, I’m trying to keep up a good sustaining speed at 5 km per hour (GPS – measured with my Garmin, consider the plastic touring – boat I’m using a kind of clumsy and heavy design), and improving my endurance as well: continuous paddling in 3 ~ 4 hours couldn’t cause much fatigue for me, even at noon while the tropical sun is burning “fabulously”. Experiments with backward – looking camera mounting, too bad that it was raining and so gloomy today for a good video shot!
ons: buggy, can cause lots of frustration until you’d learned some hand – on experiences with it, image quality is not really good under sub – optimal lighting conditions, short battery life… Pros: simple handling, great protections for outdoor uses (the case is water – proof up to 60m), have tons of accessories for all your needs: diving, racing, skiing… lots of software options and settings to try out… A demo video below, you may recognise the background music: Deep Purple’s Highway Star 😀, once one of my favourite songs! It’s only when reviewing this clip did I realise that traffic is very dangerous nowadays in Saigon (or never has it been safe!?). Should we ban motorcycle completely, I would be happy with my bicycle then!
Tous les oiseaux de ma rivière,
Nous chantaient la liberté.
Moi je ne comprenais guère…
ained some experiences in video editing, I hope the compilings below will better convey my moods while “patrolling” a boat in a “waltz dance” on water! 😀 Fish – eye camera is superb for outdoor’s wide sceneries, it creates an illusion that… the earth sphere is such small, and we could circumnavigate it in no time! 😀 Hate Youtube compression, it considerably degrades image quality, can hardly see the rain drops like in my original version.
Rains, I can say, it’s the most pleasure thing to me to go paddling in heavy rain, and even more fun in stronger winds and waves!
La Maritza c’est ma rivière, comme la Seine est la tienne… the story began like that… Enjoy the video, and the stunningly beautiful Sylvie Vartan’s song too!
Đến đây với tôi cánh buồm đỏ thắm xa vời…
xperimenting with this new kind of first person shooting (on a second thought, almost any photo and video are first person’s view, aren’t they!?). Let press play, then press the fullscreen button to see the 720p, and turn on the speakers too. I don’t have much video shooting and editing experiences, but the up – coming capturings (to be uploaded in the next few weeks) would be better, I promise! 😀
About the music: it’s a Vietnamese interpretation (sung by Mỹ Linh) of Tchaikovsky – The Seasons‘ 6th piece named: June – Barcarolle, usually known in Vietnamese under the titles: Tháng sáu (June) or Chèo thuyền (Barcarolle). Yet it’s a bit late (now is August already, not June anymore) but anyhow, wonderful are the enjoying moments! 😀
Beau le bateau, dansant sur les vagues,
Ivre de vie, d’amour et de vent.
Belle la chanson naissante des vagues,
Abandonnée au sable blanc!
ros: ruggedised, water – proof (to IPX – 7 standard only), good battery life (uses 2 AA batteries, I can usually make 4, 5 paddling “sorties” before having to recharge), good display (clearly visible under sunlight with low – LCD – backlight setting), doesn’t depend on cellular network to function like a cellphone, could use both GPS (US) and GLONASS⓵ (Russia) satellites’ signal, good 3D – stabilized digital compass to show directions (very useful for navigating even on rivers.
Sometimes, the river is so wide that I can hardly find correct heading based solely on its 2 banks’ landmarks), large internal storage space plus the ability to add an external memory card to store more maps. Cons: the Garmin’s default map is very vague on Vietnam’s territories, next to unusable, GUI responsiveness is slow compared to a smartphone’s standard. Most importantly, correct and content – rich maps are very much demanded:
I’ve replaced my Garmin’s default map by Open Street Map, which is much better. However, Open Street Map, and even Google Map, are somewhat outdated for many parts of Vietnam. I’ve found out some places which are not right, even in the very vicinity of Saigon.
Thanks to NASA’s satellite image projects, the topographical information is now available publicly for most part of the globe, in high resolution. I’ve found these data built – in into Open Street Map already, so “the contours” are available on my Garmin.
I’ve long been collecting hydrography data, but there’s very few of them for Vietnamese water, and most are for blue – water regions, not the brown – water. Also, I’m still seeking a way to convert those data into Garmin map format to make them usable.
Garmin supports displaying tidal information (given it is in the map), but unfortunately, those information for Vietnamese water is virtually zero. For me, this is currently the most important issue. Southern VN belongs to an area with complex mix of diurnal and semi – diurnal tides (Vietnamese: nhật triều & bán nhật triều). The highs and lows of tide within a single day can differ by 2 ~ 4 meters or more, which could make paddling very difficult, or even impractical at times (e.g: spring tide at new moon phase). For now, I consult this tides4fishing.com website to do the planning prior to going to the fields.
⓵⏎ From iPhone – 4S onward, Apple includes a GLONASS receiver into its hardwares, this explains the exceptional positioning performance of the devices. In term of precision, GLONASS is better than GPS at higher latitudes, but slightly behind GPS elsewhere. The use of both systems greatly extend signal coverage: GPS alone has 31 satellites, a receiver working with both GPS and GLONASS will have support from a total number of 55 (31 + 24) satellites, which improves signal fixing time, improves tracking performance and even precision would also receive a boost.
nyone still remember this famous Australian television series (1983) ?! I can’t remember exactly when, but the series was broadcasted on Vietnam TV some time in the late 80s, under the title: Tất cả những dòng sông đều chảy. It created deep impressions in me, even though many years have passed, and now, I can’t really remember all film’s details, but the silhouette of the paddle steamer Philadelphia, the protagonist Philadelphia Gordon (Sigrid Thornton), after whom the boat is named, and captain Brenton Edwards (John Waters), their struggles for life and happiness… raised in me lots of inspirations about life on rivers (and life as rivers), with all its ups and downs, all its hardship and poetic moments. Look at the pictures below, how lovely is the couple at helm!
For today, I really like it after the rains, the water is so calm and warm, a curtain of light mist hangs across river and over mangrove swamp regions. Almost silence, only me, sound of the paddle and water drops. Some few times, ships’ horn breaks the “viscosity” of this vast, obscured space, reminds me that I’m not alone still in this all – calmly – moving world… A harvest along my paddling path, a cluster of fruits from the mangrove palm tree. Why do I have to buy it in the city while I can get one for free in wide wild nature!? Choose a ripe one, take some effort to cut it down while standing on my small floating kayak, carry home, crack open the fruits in halves, take the inside, add some little sugar and put into the fridge for an about hour, a good dessert indeed! 😀
eached my planned milestone of 15 km, in 2h 55′, or 5.14 km/h in average. I’ve been able to increase my sustained – speed considerably from last measured numbers at 4.4 km/h: revised my paddling techniques, learned a bit about the current, wind and especially the tide, changed to a slightly heavier but narrower boat with greater water – piercing power and lower windage. With the progress made so far, I’m confident to say that my 25 kilometres projected target is foreseeable beyond the horizon! 😀 But apart from those numbers, the best things are many beautiful scenes and interesting encounters on my paddling ways, one of which I would really want to tell below!
I came across this fishing boat which is frequently anchored in a calm river corner, and something on its stern immediately catches my eyes (click on the below images to see larger versions, you could have noticed a big model boat at aft). Feeling curious, I knocked on the wooden planks, an old men, perhaps in his late 60s or early 70s appeared. We then had an interesting talk, about – an – hour – long, on everything: boating, fishing, the tide, life on rivers… (pity that I hold on too much to our conversation and forgot to shoot him a picture). The man lives on the boat with his wife, and they do fishing on rivers and canals, roaming from place to place, pretty much anywhere in the Mekong delta.
Then, all of a sudden, the man proposed me to try a kind of crab claw sail onto my kayak, then he talked about sailing, I saw passion sparkled in his eyes. He talked about the “good old days” of sail, then he talked about ghe nang⓵, its unique system of daggerboard. The conversation went on to everything about sailing and rigging. The man then explained a bit about his model boat, made out of pieces of foam, glued together and painted outside, the big fishing vessel in his dreams. Everyone has a dream, even this poor, 70 year old man! When I show this photo and recount part of the story to some of my friends, they all indifferently reply in one same way:
it’s just a model boat, so what!? 😢
⓵⏎ Ghe nang: a “classic” of Vietnamese traditional boat building, very well admired by ones who got to know it, best described in: The Junk Blue Book – Marion C. Dalby (Vietnamese: Hải thuyền thanh thư) and Voiliers d’Indochine – J.B. Piétri (Vietnamese: Thuyền buồm Đông Dương). Ghe nang has a unique architecture: a light yet durable double ender with wooden upper structure and woven bamboo bottom, a symmetric system of retractable daggerboard at bow’s (and rudder at aft’s) slotted sternposts. Back in its time, the boat is known for its extreme agility (perhaps the best in its tonnage class) and seaworthiness in rough water and difficult weather conditions.
Rowing is the only sport that originated
as a form of capital punishment…
rossed a major milestone in paddling: 10 kilometers roundtrip finished in 2h 15′ (including resting time), speed – made – good averages out at 4.4 kilometre per hour (km/h), or almost 2.4 knot. That is already better than the baseline usually applied for casual paddlers at about 3.3 km/h, but much behind that of frequent paddlers, they can easily make it at 5 ~ 6 km/h. Of course, velocity depends on various other factors, most importantly the boat and paddle designs, which I currently don’t have much choice.
About range, that’s still not half of my ultimate (projected) target somewhere around 25 km, which approximates a typical whole – day canoe camping trip. Still having a very large gap to try and overcome! Paddling for me is not racing, and like they often say:
it’s a marathon, not a sprint!, but you need some measures to evaluate your performance progress anyhow. As I paddle on, I’ve learned some below lessons.
Most beginners like me are low – angle paddlers, naturally. That is arms rarely raise up to shoulder level, the paddle’s shaft is more often in a horizontal position, the “angle of attack” at which the paddle’s blades enter water is much smaller than 90°. In contrast, high – angle paddling requires keeping ams at shoulder level, paddle’s blades penetrate water in a near – vertical manner. For beginners, the first approach cause less tiredness: arms don’t need to be kept high, and movements are easier.
But high – angle is more efficient: first, blades enter water at steep angle, providing more propulsion. Second, blades are nearer to the hull, producing less turning moment and more forward – pushing torque. And third, most importantly, not just your arms pull and push the paddle, but the rotation of your torso brings much force into action, and helps relieving stresses to your hands and arms. So, I’ve tried overcoming the fatigue of high – angle paddling, in the long run, it will make benefits.
Paddling a boat sometimes reminds me of the Latin phrase:
Mobilis in mobili, yes you may have remembered it, captain Nemo’s personal motto in Jules Verne’s famous novel: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, moving in a moving environment, moving amidst mobility… 😀 The wind, the wave, currents, all affects your rowing, sometimes you go along the current, sometimes against it, sometimes with the aid of winds and sometimes, winds are your enemy.
And the waves too, on the rivers where I go paddling, waves are mostly under 1 foot high, upto 2 feet in the wind gusts, not enough to pose any threat to the boat’s stability, but can make lots of troubles in keeping up a steady course. Sometimes, the current, wind and waves, all at the same time, corporately and deliberately push me off course, sometimes I could hardly make an advance at all, and it turned out to be a real fight in which I need to keep my stamina over a long distance and over extended period of time.
Some of my lessons learned: don’t put too much effort into each paddling strokes, perform strokes gently in a smooth rhythm. Don’t paddle in too shallow water (less than 1 ~ 1.5m), that will considerably reduce boat speed by 1/4 ~ 1/3. (I don’t really understand the physics of this fluid – flow dynamics though). Don’t try to perform many corrective strokes: sometimes the boat is not on an intended heading (e.g: there’s usually some flow turbulence where river changes its direction, or where river’s branches join…)
And you would try to correct it by adding more strokes on one side, it’s not the right way. Instead, just paddle in balance, then offset the heading by a small angle to compensate the dragging effects. That will eventually make your boat’s path slightly zig – zag, but in reality, a direct line is not always the shortest path between 2 points, it’s so in the 2D Cartesian space (e.g: map) only, not in a higher – dimensional space where we take other factors (current, wind…) into account.