2011.05.28-29 The pleasure goes on: kayaking from Oltenița to Călărași or how to use the kayak as a submarine by Olivian Breda

On the 28th to 29th of May, 2011, I went from Oltenița to Călărași on the Danube, via kayak. A total of 55 km in total, made in two days: 30 + 25. The days were sunny and the camping site (we spent the night on an island, in tents) was welcoming. The organizers provided (some of) the participants with kayaks.

Other details (from Costin IATAN):
Tot mai inainte… – Cu caiacul pe Dunare mai departe, de la Oltenita la Calarasi pe 28 – 29 Mai | TID Romania’s Blog

See a follow-up of the event:
Follow-up tura din 28-29 Mai 2011 – “Jurnalul unui incepator” de Anca CRUCEANA | TID Romania’s Blog

I’ll provide below a 1st eye view on how the event was.

… but first some photos and videos:
Photos made by me:
https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf
(see in full-screen)

Photos made by others, in which I appear (guest star :) appeareance):
https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf
(see in full-screen)

A 25 minutes video made by me, piece-by-piece:

And two photos I’m fond of:

  • A photo showing a behind-the-scenes look on how another photo with me was taken:
  • A photo with me just after I got out of the water:

Thoughts: It was my second experience of the kind. The first was enormous pleasure: great, fantastic, über hot. I went to this trip with this thought:

OK, I liked it the first time, it was great; but I’ll get bored; I won’t like it as much; I’ll go and be disappointed;

By the end of the trip, my thoughts turned into:

OK, I liked it the first time and (to my surprise) I liked it the second time; must do this again;

Following the first experience, four of my friends wanted to go with me (in two two-person kayaks). To some, this would be “great, I’m with my buddies”. To me it was mostly “it’s fine I’m with my buddies, it would also be fine with other people than my buddies”.

Opening moments: On the night prior to the event, I slept longer and I was much rested in the morning spent in Oltenița. Still, I woke up at 4:45 AM, and it was a bit tiring.

We get into kayaks, and start paddling. At my previous trip, I was in a two-person kayak. This time I was alone. Soon I began understanding the differences:

  • Two-places – much stable (won’t turn over), harder to start moving (inertia), harder to stop (inertia), harder to turn;
  • One place – rather unstable (easy to tip over), easy to move it, easier to stop it, easy to turn;

So, the main disadvantage of the new kayak was the stability (or lack of it).

I started to paddle – left-right-left-right. I had two problems:

  • It was hard for me to take curves; to take a curve, one had to paddle on the opposite side (to turn left, you had to paddle right); the problem was that one hit in the water alone wasn’t enough, and after a few hits, the kayak was rather unstable; I later solved this by paddling also on the opposite side, or by putting a bit more force when paddling on one side (so, instead of 5 low-impact hits on the left side, it was better to do 3 hits with a bigger impact);
  • I couldn’t stop it; me (and my partner) on the first trip didn’t know very well how to stop it, we just put our paddle in the water, and the kayak would stop; on a one-person kayak, this seemed much harder – there was danger of tipping over (the solution to this was simple – use the same procedure, put the paddle in the water, but be careful to do it in such a way it wouldn’t be a danger; you had to learn how much of it was fine);

At this point, I wanted to learn how to use the new toy.

When we launched the kayaks into the water, we were in a port. Lots of big boats around us. At some point, I realize that my friends should know that when a wave (made by a passing-by boat) hits your kayak, it’s much better to hit you perpendicular, rather than parallel (so the wave should come from the front, not from the side). The danger? Tipping over. So, as a hero-of-the-day, savior-of-the-planet, I go to them and tell them about this. I wasn’t paying much attention to other kayaks at this point. From the past experience, I learned that bumping into other kayaks was fine. On the previous trip I and my partner had a two-place kayak, very stable. Bumping into others would be like 4WD bumping into a Mini – the big car would be stable, the mini … (oh, but who cares about the Mini, anyway?) :) So, at some point I notice I might bump into my friends kayak. I don’t care too much about this, due to previous experiences. One of my friends says “Careful, you’ll bump into us”. I say to him “Oh, that’s fine, nothing will happen”. And my kayak immediately after that bumps into theirs, and turns over.

How was it with the kayak as a submarine? Thoughts and actions:

  • The last thing I know while above the water was saying “No, no, no, this is bad” (OK, perhaps a bit of swearing also); the first thing I know while underwater was me looking at the kayak and thinking what should I do; I realized I was underwater, and I was thinking; quite interesting, since I would have presumed that, at this moment, most actions would be from instincts;
  • At some point I thought – “What will happen to my stuff”; I answered to myself “There’s really not so much you can do at this moment”;
  • I went above the water, the kayak was tipped over; all I wanted was to make as little disturbance as possible; I knew how to swim, I was floating, the kayak seemed fine; nothing to bother, right? So I tried to push the kayak to the dock of the port; I soon discovered that my not-that-bad swimming abilities were actually quite-that-bad with a lifeboat; I mean I could swim, but push a kayak to the deck – this wasn’t easy;
  • A person yells “man to the sea!”; this time I was a bit annoyed; I was causing disturbance, and the yelling was not in condition to my state-of-mind; I was safe, the yelling was not; but I got used to this;
  • Soon a canoe came, dragged my kayak to the shore; I was holding from the edge of the canoe and we went to the deck; we had to sail for some time, to find a proper place to get to the shore (this is also important on the trip itself – if you want to get out of the Danube with the kayak, you have to find a proper place; there are a lot of places were, while you can go out if you really want to, it’s best to look for a better place – no mud, no trees, no vegetation; you can’t just stop anywhere);
  • The water was just fine, not too cold; I remember that up until this point, I felt to fears / stress; I had a life vest, I was warm waters, I felt safe; I actually liked the water;
  • The kayak had a place in front of me where I could put some belongings, a place on my back, and some place between my feet; I was pretty convinced that the things from the front and from the back of the kayak won’t fell, but I did a rather not-so-smart thing and put a container (OK, an empty 1 kg bucket of yogurt) with my phone & camera between my legs; I was pretty sure they won’t get wet, but by the time I got to the deck I already figured out the value of those items and what would happen if I’d lost them;
  • We got to a proper place to be on my feet; the yogurt thing was fine; after a quick evaluation, I saw that I only lost my glasses and my hat (afterwards, I was given my hat from another person, and indeed I only lost my glasses in there);
  • The unfortunate problem was with my belongings being wet; I anticipated that I might get wet into this trip, so I put my belongings into bags; but I really thought I would be under water for a few dozen of seconds or so, not for a few minutes (it took some time to get the kayak and me to the shore); thus, the bags which contained my belongings were not that well sealed, and pretty much everything I had with me was wet; most of my stuff dried prior to sleeping that night (some of the things dried right on my body)
  • Why not turn the kayak up again and get yourself up and running right into it in the middle of the Danube? First of all, when a kayak goes under water, it stays there, it doesn’t do a 360 degrees turn upside down; then, when it goes under water, it gets filled with water and, thus, becomes heavy, very hard to tip over; another reason for not turning the kayak upside down in the middle of Danube, rather than at the shore is for things not to get lost in the water; lose things at shore – you can recover them; lose them in the middle of Danube – not so much; it’s also very very hard to get into a kayak while you’re in the water; it’s really not that stable;
  • While I was dragged to the shore, one of the organizers said to me “You scared us!”; what’s interesting? Let’s go back a lot of years ago, while I was in the seventh grade (1995-1996); I started a beating with a classmate (I was quite a trouble maker) and I was taken to the hospital for some injuries; a teacher (which, at that point, I didn’t really like and perhaps some of this feeling was mutual) said (probably thinking more about me than about my fighting partner) “If you don’t care about yourselves, you should at least care about me”; to me, her logic was so funny (I should not get into a fight not because I should be afraid of damaging my body, but for caring for that person more) that I burst into laughter; it was a very serious situation, everybody was silent and worried, and I couldn’t stop laughing (the teacher probably loved me even more after this); coming back 15 years after this, it was a similar situation – I did something and not really cared about me, but there was a worried person; and this time it wasn’t funny anymore; my actions from falling generated these unfortunate side-effects – polluting the Danube with some glasses, making people do some efforts to help me (both immediately after the event and later on) and this very strange thing – people caring for me and getting worried; the latter one was, to me, most damaging;
  • I wrote these thoughts on my previous blog post about kayak experiences:
  • Prior to the event, I was very scared of doing something wrong (like turning over). While the event wouldn’t have been all that wrong, I would have got wet, some objects from the kayak could have been lost, and I would have been both scared and embarassed. I was pretty sure that if someone were to fall, that would be me. In the first stage, the unbelievable thing happened. Someone did fall, and that person was not me. It was actually an experienced sportsman (OK, perhaps not an expert, but also not an absolute beginner like me). I was sorry for the poor guy, but I was also very relieved that it wasn’t me. By the time I found out that his kayak was much more prone to turning upside down than the one I was in, I was already satisfied in my ego, and in love with kayaking to care for such details.

  • This time, while I also anticipated that something might go wrong, I wasn’t that scared about it; “Oh, it won’t be that bad; I got a trip without tipping over, this time it will be fine even if I fell”; so possible consequences were not that bad; in this trip (May 28-29) another person fell in the first day; I have a tendency to consider inquiring about stuff like this (“How did you fell?” “Describe me the experience”) as rather morbid (you want to know about a person falling just as a pleasure of living a bad moment; you have some sort of twisted pleasure out the misfortune of others; tabloids sell this kind of news – “X murdered Y; full details, pictures, and reconstruction of the event”); in this case, I think it’s quite important to know how the other person fell, since you can learn from their mistakes; you generally learn nothing (or very few things) by reading how did a person die, but you do learn a lot of things by finding out how did a person fell (Costin IATAN had a funny way of putting the question – “Should I dare to ask how did you fell?”; so, while acknowledging there is an unpleasant side of the question, still putting it, to find out about the way to prevent it;
  • The other person that fell that day did it while having a conversation on the boat (and my – joking – advice was to stop having conversations) and losing equilibrium for a second; what can you learn of this? The kayak is much more unstable while staying still than while moving (1) and you should pay attention not to make sudden gestures while in the kayak (2);
  • What can you learn out of my experience? Don’t bump into others (1), pay attention to what other people say, like “You’ll bump into me!” (2), a one-person kayak behaves differently than a two-person one (3);
  • I’ve lived most of my life in a town near the sea-side – Năvodari; I love water, of any kind; I love the contact with water, being wet; water is so cool; thus, the experience of being underwater and, afterwards, wet for a lot of time felt great; I actually got a great feeling with everything being wet, with my body being dragged into water, with my clothes slowly drying on me;

What can I learn from Teodor BIRA?

  • When I got to the shore with my kayak, Teodor BIRA, one of the organizers, was in the canoe to help me; the first thing I noticed was how good he was with handling things – handling my kayak, turning it upside down, helping me dry my clothes, advising me on how to grab the kayak, tipping me on how should I put my feet on the rocks; he was much better than me with objects, physical things, practical stuff; as in much better; OK, should I learn this? Let’s see how Nicolae STEINHARDT sees a similar situation:

Nu ştiu care binevoitor ne îndeamnă să folosim cenuşa din sobiţă; apa — apă rea, puturoasă, viermănoasă — e foarte puţină. Avem de spălat în câteva clipe şaizeci de gamele, ori şaptezeci. Cenuşa se combină cu zeama de arpacaş şi formează un pap rezistent. Puţina apă de care dispunem s-a dus. Ce ne facem? Ne este ciudă: doi intelectuali care se fac de baftă din neîndemânare. Schimbăm priviri lipsite de orice simţ al umorului. Ce ne facem? Dumnezeu se îndură de noi şi face o minune.

  • (Nicolae STEINHARDT, in prison, with Alexandru PALEOLOGU, have practical problems with a simple task of washing dishes/recipients; they feel very bad, but the problem does solve eventually) OK, so, perhaps, it’s not that bad that I’m not good with things; I mean, I would love to be better with handling things, but this is not the priority to develop for me; if I had infinite time, I’d do it; for this short life, I won’t work (at this moment) on this; being good at handling things is a great skill, but there are other priorities for me;
  • But Teodor was also very good with emotions; have a look at his affirmation above “We got scared!” (after I fell into the water); there is no blame on me falling over, and on the other hand he expresses the way in which he felt; there was much more than this for his ability to handle emotions; take, for instance, his reaction to me tipping over – practical steps, doing everything (I can’t think of anything more than this to have been done) to solve the situation from the practical side; and, on the other side, joking (the “submarine” thing was his), feeling good and keeping things cool; solve the problem and have fun; that’s good emotions; and in a critical situation, the kind of emotions you can use;
  • Not in this particular case, but I noticed he just does things; I think a lot, put questions, ask for permission, don’t take a fast decision; in some cases, what he does is much better; for example, when a kayak went, later, to the shore, I went and asked “Do you need help?”; to be polite, the guy said “No, I’m fine”; I took the “no” as a “no”; Teodor came and dragged the kayak a few meters; the guy thanked him; ooops, it was not a real “no”, it seems; later, I went and asked “Can I give you my tent, to be safe in case I tip over”; and then he did a very manipulative thing to make me think positive and act the same way – he said “You won’t tip over; stop thinking like this; put your bags inside your own kayak and don’t tip over”; I didn’t; now, I’m not very sure about it (I have to ask a few people about this), :P but his solution in these particular cases was much better than mine; I’m into “do no evil” thing, even if this means sometimes not doing the good thing; play it safe;

On the road again:

  • When I got back into the kayak, I noticed the difference between me and other people’s worries and what really happened – “Wear a hat / use sunscreen / have clothes with long sleeves / have different clothes for the night” versus “Don’t tip over”; when back in the boat, should have I really been worried about the fact that the sunscreen fell due to the contact with water?
  • I start to think that falling one time may be fine (I was pretty OK with most of the consequences of that action), but falling twice is not really the greatest thing to do; so, I’m much more focused on not bumping into others, paddling with care;
  • Being wet felt great;
  • I had fun with understanding the logic of others – “Were your glasses sunglasses or regular, optical, glasses?” (with the intent of finding out if now I can see to the distance or not); the problem with the logic of this question is that the past is irrelevant to the future; it’s irrelevant if prior to the kayak tipping over, I could see or not (prior – could I see properly?); what’s important is that whether or not I can see now or how well do I see; and the question doesn’t address these issues; quite funny; for some, the intent of the question was to find out if in regular days I wore sunglasses or optical glasses; but the question was also addressed by people who knew what kind of glasses I regularly wore;
  • We passed by a flight of pelicans; I couldn’t see the details, but I could see the birds rising in the air; the flight was much more inspirational, to me, than the birds themselves;
  • It was lots of fun to have talks on the middle of Danube, with the kayaks stopped;
  • Thing to learn – don’t be the very first in the group, nor the last, if you’re not experienced; I was never last, but I was at some time the first; it’s best to follow someone and be followed by someone else;
  • Thing to learn – if people stop for a break, it’s much better to stay with them, rather than waiting on the river; it can get a bit boring if you wait on water on your kayak;
  • I don’t like nature, but if I liked it, I would have thought this was great – great views, trees, lots of vegetation, birds singing, birds flying; oh, and no fish; they must be dead or something; :)

The paradise lost:

  • There’s a dream of some people – “Oh, when I’ll make a fortune, I’ll go and sit on a beach on an empty island for the rest of my life”;
  • At the end of the trip, we stopped for the night; it was an empty island, with a beach; it also had a forest; I’m not sure about the others, but me, for the hours spent there, I felt how it’s like to be at the end of your life and live your lifelong dream (oh, and sorry to disappoint you, but it’s really not that great; movie stars just make it more glamorous; I mean, it’s OK, but just an island with a beach; I have other dreams);
  • The view was great – if you’re into that sort of stuff; white beach, green forest, blue sky; and in front of you the dream of a lot of Romanians – the other country; OK, perhaps Bulgaria is not a prime example, :) but still, it’s a foreign country right on your beach;
  • Killer funny experience – when we got to the shore (I can call it “beach”, it was just that), we left the kayaks / canoes to the shore; some of the participants left their belongings there; there was a big wave coming to the shore, atypical (the Danube was usually calm); most (and I mean most) of the people looked at it – “Wow, what a cool wave” -, I even saw a person taking a camera to film / photograph it; I yelled – “The wave is coming!” It did come, took some stuff (and made it wet), moved some boats; so fun fact 1 – everybody thought it’s a cool wave; also, did I mention I get all of my clothes wet? Yes, I did (mention); when I got to the beach, a person (very kind) advised me to put my clothes to dry; so I took my backpack from the kayak, and put the clothes on the beach; when the wave came, it didn’t reach the clothes, and I took care of my backpack, but it would have been very very funny to have my clothes all wet for the second time in the same day (fun fact / hypothesis 2);
  • In the evening, a child told me he wanted to build a swing; I helped him with that, and I was pretty amazed by my abilities to build the swing, think the process, organize everything; I was actually quite good at this, to my surprise; I could visualize the process and optimize it; and it’s not Search Engine Optimization, it’s building-a-swing Optimization; what was interesting to see was my care for things people won’t usually notice – when the child came to ask for the swing, I asked him (insistently) if he had approval (let’s not call it authorization, shall we) from the parents; and when I had to cut a tree, I first went and asked for legal stuff; this was nice;
    The process was nothing like the one below:
  • The night ended with a fishermen-style fish soup and some meat barbecue (we would still have something out of this to eat for the next day, so it was plenty);
  • In the evening there was not much to do – film / photograph only at the provided sources of light (my camera has a poor blitz, and I don’t generally like photos with blitz) and talking to others was the other option;
  • In the night of my first trip, I was for the second time in my life in a tent; I woke up from time to time, and felt claustrophobic; I opened the tent (it had three different layers), calmed, went to sleep again; did this for a few times; eventually, I left the tent opened; this time, no claustrophobic feelings whatsoever; but I did wake up one time and thought “How much is the time? What if everybody left and I’m alone on the island?”; and then a rather unusual thought calmed me down “Ehhh, so what? I’m alone on a great island; let them go, I’ll go back to sleep”; so I didn’t check neither the phone (for the time), nor opened the tent (to see if everybody left);
  • Joke of the day – “try not to get sand into my (… whatever)”; riiight; when I got home there was sand and water into pretty much everything; there was water between banknotes and there was sand into very little spaces in my camera; there was water between my phone and his coverings;

The road home:

  • The camera got dirty and again, as in the first trip, I forgot to check for this;
  • I figured I only remember one joke with kayaks (it can’t be translated):
    “Sticlism, coniac-canoe, halbere și alte sporturi”;
  • I know it was a different trip, but things were strikingly similar at this trip (May 28-29) to the previous one (April 30 – May 1); about the same distances in the first day with breaks, about the same length in the second day for the breaks, similar length of last portion of the road, even the sightings had similarities; perhaps I compare things to much; :)
  • I was asked, as a joke, if I will bring any surprise in the second day; the response couldn’t be but “How can I ruin the surprise and tell it to you?”

The surprise

  • In some movies, there’s a saying like this “Hey! What could go wrong?” and then the inevitable bad accident happens; it’s quite a cliché, actually; you do remember that the accident in the first day? I was assuring my buddies that things will be fine and then, boom!, I fell into the water; now it was the second day; it was the last portion of the road; most participants were already in the water; me and two other kayaks / boats remained; I went into the water, after helping someone else; I took great care on some things I learned on the road (how my feet will be, how will I be safe, how will I be dry (it seems people tend to care for things which don’t happen, after all; or it seems I draw conclusions too quickly); I get into the water and start paddling;
  • Let’s talk a little about paddling styles and effects; the best way to paddle quickly, if want to advance in the water quickly, is rather vertical; put the paddle as vertical as you can, and paddle; you thus push the kayak in front and, to some extent, up in the air; the problem with this approach is that the kayak might have some lack of stability (due to the vertical force); my solution to paddle was different – very close to a horizontal angle, the paddle barely touched the water; this made the kayak very stable vertically, but it also caused it to move like a zig-zag; my paddling style made it difficult to turn;
  • Now let’s talk a bit about my kayak; when I fell into the water, I got a sense of what instability does to my boat; I also felt the lack of control – the kayak tipped, and I could do nothing to stop it; after this, I was very careful not to tip it over; talking to other participants, I noticed (now, not in the first trip, with the two seats kayak) that they are concerned about tipping over; so worrying was, to some extent, in everybody’s mind; when I paddled, I was careful not to make sudden moves, and if I corrected the course, I didn’t push things too much (so, paddling six times, repeatedly and fast, on the left side, to make the kayak turn right is not such a great idea, since the kayak can swing too much); the thing is, I didn’t know the tipping point of my kayak; but I didn’t want to find it out either; play it safe; also, as a side note, it’s much safer to turn left or right when your advancing with speed, than when you’re staying stills; it’s harder to tip over if you advance fast (like a bicycle);
  • Let’s get back to my story; I’m in the water, with two other participants on the shore; the stopping site was an empty island (to my left) and on the right side there was the Bulgarian border; my phone was in another boat, safe this time; when I paddled, I started notice that the kayak won’t listen to me much; I paddled one time on the left, the paddle would go right, as expected; but it would go too much; I paddled right to fix it, but the rotation won’t stop; the kayak would still go right, even if I countered this by paddling on the right side; I couldn’t insist too much, since this would cause instability; eventually, the kayak would stop, after a full circle; now I would start paddling to the right; no movement; again to the right, now it starts moving to the left and won’t stop until it makes a full circle, no matter what I do; this seems like a problem; after a few more tries, I give up, I have no solution; there are three things which might cause this (I thought back then):
    • I can’t paddle well anymore (yes, this is viable);
    • Currents on the Danube are too big;
    • There is a problem with my steering;
  • Let’s talk about steering, shall we? There are two different notions: a skeg is something which is fixed on a kayak/canoe/boat and helps it keep direction; it doesn’t move; a rudder does move (left/right) and helps the kayak turn left or right (you can control the rudder, the skeg not, since it’s fixed); during my two trips, I noticed people had rudders, but all of them were not used (I’m not sure why, probably it required rather advanced skills, and with the paddle you could do things just fine);
  • When on the Danube, I thought: “Hmmm, there’s a problem with my steering, there is probably something wrong with my rudder”; I didn’t know back then about the skeg, all I thought was that I had a rudder and it somehow got wrong (in a wrong position); one of the two other remaining canoes came; I was having great difficulties handling the boat, they had a canoe with a 3-year-old boy; I didn’t ask them for help, since there was another canoe (actually more of a boat) I could get help from; I waited for them to come, and asked “What’s wrong with my rudder?” “You have no skeg?” “What’s a skeg?” (explanations followed);
  • Now the coolest thing in the whole trip happened to me – I handled the situation just nicely (from my perspective); the person in the other boat did the following: tried to convince me that:
    • There’s something wrong with my paddling style (I paddle too much horizontally, that’s why I go in circles);
    • I can make it if I have enough will; it’s a problem of wishing / desiring / wanting things enough;
  • There are two solutions/opposite affirmations in my head to these affirmations:
    • Yes, there is something wrong with my paddling style, but that style keeps me safe;
    • Yes, I can make it, but there are dangers on the water, and the last thing to do is to be the last person in a convoy and travel 12 kilometers on the Danube with a hard-to-control kayak;
  • What was cool, very hot and nice, is that I got the above situation in my head; the person with whom I talked was yelling in a trying-to-convince me voice that I’m not doing things right (not paddling right); I could now have said “OK, I trust you more than I trust myself in this situation”, or I could have said just “Stop” (I said “Stop”); what’s more important is that even if I did manage to paddle right, there would be still danger (so, yes, I can physically make it 12 kilometers, it’s possible to take into the risk and succeed; but the question is – do I want to take it? And why – because the person yells at me and tries to convince me to trust her? Or because I really think I can make it the 12 kilometers?); now, being a stubborn guy, I can see when other people are stubborn; I kept saying my paddling style keeps me safe, the person kept on saying I should trust her and paddle her way (but this wouldn’t have solved the risk of travelling on the Danube with a poor kayak); so I manipulated things with emotions, and made her think about the future – “What will happen if I fell?”; she assured me this won’t happen if I paddle right; what’s the solution to others being stubborn? You being more; so I yelled back the very same thing – “What will happen if I fell?”; and I solved the situation, I was dragged 12 kilometers by that boat (it was a two persons boat; it was a rather difficult thing to do);
  • What was the alternative? I would have never paddled differently, no matter what she said (this is what I think now, afterward); sorry, I don’t take risks I don’t believe in; yes, it’s possible to make it safe; but I won’t let you put risks for me; play it safe, shall we?
  • Bottom line: saying no is one of the most difficult things to do, since it’s challenging authority; in this case, I challenged authority and won the situation (from my perspective); cool;

On filming

  • I think the best thing to film is a first-eye view of the trip, while in the kayak / canoe; this can be done in the following ways:
    • In a two seats kayak, one person can film, while the other can slowly navigate the vessel;
    • In a one seat kayak, it’s trickier both due to the lack of stability, and due to the fact that the boat won’t move;
    • Much better is the solution of putting the camera on the deck of a kayak and filming with it this way;
    • (OK, what’s better than “much” better?) Exceptionally better would be to have a camera on your head;
  • In the first day, after I fell, I wanted to film things, so I made an analysis; let’s have a look at what happened in four accidents I know about in the trips:
    • On a trip prior to the one on the April 30 – May 1, a person tried to film/photograph stuff and dropped the camera in the water, to save the paddle (you should note – paddles float on the water, cameras don’t);
    • On the April 30 – May 1 trip, one person tipped over and the camera & phone got into the water; the phone was fine;
    • On the current trip, one guy tipped over and his smartphone got into water;
    • Not to brag or something, but when I tipped over, I lost a pair of ~50 RON glasses (which I had plenty at home);
  • There are two questions to put:
    • Take the value of the camera (let’s say 500 RON for a compact one and 1,500 RON for a DSLR; if you think your current camera is worth less, do think you’ll pay for a new one, not for an old one); multiply it by the risk of getting in the water (10% risk? 5% risk?); you get: 500 RON x 5 / 100 = 25 RON; so, for a compact camera, worth 500 RON, with a small risk of 5% of getting in the water (you can include various factors like tipping over, dropping the camera, water coming from another source), you pay 25 RON to take a picture; the cost is greater if the risks are higher, or the camera is more expensive; if you’re fine with paying 25 RON to take a few pictures / a video, you’re all set; so the question is – will you pay X money to take a photo?
    • The second question to put is – what’s the value of the filming? I’m sure to you the picture of boats in the middle of Danube is worth a lot – you know the boats, you make the photos yourself, it’s your first eye view; but what’s the real value? It’s fine to consider that photos of a group of people are more valuable to you than to others (so, if you photograph other people paddling, this is worth more to you than to others, since you know the people); but if you photograph pelicans, what’s the real value of the photos? Wouldn’t you be better off looking 20 minutes at home at photos of pelicans on the Internet? It’s also fine to consider that your photo of a pelican is worth more than a stranger’s photo of a pelican, but take into account that it’s mostly of sentimental value; and this may be fine also; but acknowledge the fact;
  • Using the above thinking, I got to consider that filming / photographing from my kayak was just not worth the effort, the risk of losing the camera was too high; I took into account other alternatives (giving the camera to a two-place kayak, but people were too stressed about my camera to photograph anything, in spite of my assurance to them that things will be fine even if I do lose my camera); shooting from the kayak itself or from my head was out of the question (water would get to the camera); how about giving the camera to the safest people – those in the canoe? Yes, but this is not kayaking; I’m here for the kayak business, not the canoe business; not too many options left for me to shoot inside a kayak;
  • So I did what I like best – find a different approach; OK, perhaps a first eye view is great; I would love to have it; but, also, a third eye perspective is also nice; so, on the second day, I filmed people getting into the kayak and paddling; third-eye view; not 100% perfect, but pretty good at little to no risk; if you’d like to know more on this logic:
    The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up | Illuminated Mind;

The double-place vs. single-place kayak – a comparative analysis

  • On the first trip, I shared a two-place kayak; me and my partner get in the boat; I was considered to be heavier and thus, given the place in the back; the thing is, the person in the place in the back has the role of coordinating the movement of the kayak, while the person in the front has, mostly, the role of pushing things further (barely any coordination); at first, my partner complained a lot about me “You can’t handle things; you’re a poor coordinator; how can you be so poor at doing things? This is pathetic!”; we soon switched places, so it was his responsibility now; then my partner started complaining again “This kayak is so bad; I don’t like the kayak; what a poor kayak!”;
  • Two of my buddies made little jokes on how to handle the kayak, but things seemed fine; not too many arguments, but some complaints did exist; they know each other from long time, so things were fine;
  • Two other buddies first blamed each other and then turned the blame on the kayak;
  • On my second trip, I was alone in my kayak; when I fell, I fell due to my (lack of) coordination; when I wanted to have fun, I had fun (I could speed when I wanted); if I wanted to go left, I went left; the downside was the fact that I had to coordinate with others, since I didn’t trust my abilities to pick a good route, so I generally followed some other kayak; but the overall feeling was “great fun, total independence”;
  • What to do when you’re in a double kayak?
    • Don’t blame the other person; ever;
    • Do try to give the other person the ability to be better (sometimes you can do this by telling the person “do this”/”do that”, other times just by shutting up and letting the person find out things on its own; also, don’t insist “I already told you so!”);
    • Don’t blame the kayak; ever;
    • Do focus on what you can do the second time to find the second time on what you can do to have a better experience with the kayak (like asking Costin how will the kayak you will be given be, like making sure your bags won’t get wet in the water);
    • You can talk about everything, but the process of kayaking itself; sure, to some point it helps to tell the other person a basic tip – “Do this and you will get that”; but after you said this once or twice, learn to speak of something else; things will, most likely, be fine anyhow (no matter if you argue about a subject of kayaking or not);

What’s the greatest danger?

  • The currents on the Danube can be misleading – yes, you can be dragged by currents; currents can drag you to the shore (where there could be vegetation like trees, and branches), or under a boat (see below), or on a course you don’t want; for the latter case, in the current trip there was a boat which had troubles fighting against the current, and they were helped to get back; they also crossed the border (literally); the solution – avoid being too far in the center of the Danube, or too close to the edge; avoid going places where you don’t need to go; if you see whirlpools, avoid them; currents can be dangerous; also, while swimming, the currents are even harder to beat, since you have a lifeboat on you;
  • The waves from the boats passing by – you may think that a small boat passing by a kayak won’t do any damage; but do think that even a small wave is big when dealing with a kayak which, by itself, is not 100% stable; the solution – after a boat passes you by, you should take the waves perpendicular, not parallel;
  • Being dragged under a boat – a plane stays in the air because the air passes above his wing faster than below his wing; in the water, water is flowing faster under a boat than at the sea level; some currents do form, which have a tendency to drag you under the boat; I don’t know too many technical things on the issue, but it’s best to avoid passing right near a boat, be it large or small; especially if you’re in a kayak; on the trip, a big boat passed by a kayak and the kayak was fine; but you should make a rule to avoid passing near boats; solution – avoid passing right near big boats;
  • A boat hitting you – I think you will understand this; solution – avoid all boats, except yours;
  • Crossing the border to Bulgaria – it’s best to keep a course on the Romanian side of the land, and avoid landing on Bulgarian land; from what I’ve heard from the participants, all you risk is a fine, so it’s not that big of a danger, but you might want to avoid a fine; solution – keep the course closer to the Romanian side of the border;
  • Health effects – you go for two days on the Danube, sleep in a tent; like some Romanian president would put it, “the Danube is not Dâmbovița”; you can get calluses, back pains, sickness, sunburns; one participant felt sick in the second day of the trip; at the previous event, I got sunburns; the positive part of this is that you can learn some of your weak spots in a safe environment; I mean, if you have back pains, you can start doing something about it; this may be the right trigger to do so; sunburns? You’ll learn how to take care of yourself better next time;

Why there is, actually, little danger?

  • Are there dangers? Yes, there are, some more real, some more fictional; but the dangers are there, more than crossing the street on a sunny day; but, at the end of the day, you might want to look how other participants, with experience, treated the trip – the organizers brought their wives and children; one person came with his wife and 3 years old boy; there were a lot of first-timers on the trip;
  • On the two trips I took part to, three persons fell (me included); none was at his first trip; the most fragile groups – wives, children, first-timers – were safer than the older participants;
  • I don’t go there for the thrill of danger, I would prefer to get the same experience and no risk; but at the end of the day, to me, the danger is too little compared to the pleasure and gains I get out of this;

Why I loved the experience?

I like kayaking on the Danube for the following three experiences, which I didn’t get elsewhere:

  • I forget about everything – no worries, no problems, no clients, no addictions, no wishes and desires; me and the kayak, that’s it; nothing else; I do have thoughts, I do think and analyze, I do have memories; but the thrill of the experience is so big, that I forget about stuff; Monday morning (the first day after the trip) a client asks me what are my plans for the night; I had to apologize and tell him I can’t remember a thing, my mind is blank, no plans; what was planned was an event planned for a few weeks, so I had to cancel my appointment with my client;
  • The water – you may have this, or you may not; I love the water jumping when I paddle; it touches my hand, it enters my eyes sometimes; and, at the end of the two days, I can pretty much say it’s everywhere; lots of water everywhere; being wet; being in the water; I love this; what’s more than this is going right into water – swimming; swimming is fine; what’s less than this is being too far away from the water to always get wet – canoes, boats, they’re too far away from the water;
  • Freedom; on a two-seats kayak, the freedom, if you’re on the front seat, is not caring about anything but to paddle; on a one-seat kayak, the joy is your free will – you can stop if you like it, or paddle like the group, or go very very fast; you get a similar feeling while on a sleigh in the winter; you go and feel that, somehow, you rule the world; on the current trip I liked to go like this – stopping, then going very fast; then stopping; then going very fast; very cool;

Organizational things:

  • The cost of this was 50 RON if you brought your own kayak / canoe / boat, and another 20 RON if you used a kayak of the organizers;
  • Every participant wore a life vest;
  • You had to find your way for transportation (there were both public transport solutions, and participants from Bucharest with places in their cars);
  • Things to bring – food, tent & things for sleeping for one night, basic materials for an expedition;
  • Things not to bring – stuff you don’t really need, stuff you care much about (don’t bring an expensive watch, even if you think you need it; how about taking a regular phone instead of a smartphone with you?);

Why should you take part to a trip like this?

  • It’s safe;
  • It’s a great experience (it was to me and too all four of my buddies I’ve taken);
  • It’s bloody cheap (50 + 20 RON for a two days experience? Just for carrying a kayak for a few dozen kilometers you might pay more);
  • The people participating are very nice;

To prove to you on the above sentences, have a look at the discussion below:

“Salutare!
Am si eu o intrebare,sper sa nu deranjez.
Pot sa particip si fara taxa de 50ron ?bineinteles ca nu am pretenti la mancare sau altceva!
Numai bine,si vant din vest!”;

“Salutare si tie Romeo!
Ne-am gandit mult si am analizat pe toate partile pana am stabilit ca taxa sa fie de numai 50 lei. Logica a fost ca taxa sa fie cat mai mica pentru a putea fi accesibila oricui, dar in acelasi timp sa ne acopere cheltuielile fara a fi nevoiti sa bagam mana in buzunarul personal. Este foarte trist ca totusi si aceasta taxa de numai 50 de lei nu ne este tocmai accesibila tuturor. Din pacate insa asta este realitatea si nu putem face nimic sa o schimbam.
Desigur Romeo, esti binevenit si fara sa platesti taxa de inscriere. Astept pe email o copie de pe CI si un numar de telefon de contact cat mai curand posibil.

Costin IATAN
TID Romania”;

The discussion has everything – it’s safe (Costin makes sure every legal aspect is met), it’s a great experience (“ești binevenit”), it’s cheap (hey! What’s cheaper than paying nothing?) and the people are very nice (even if the request is, to me, rather absurd, Costin says yes and welcomes the participant).

Convinced?

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3 Responses to 2011.05.28-29 The pleasure goes on: kayaking from Oltenița to Călărași or how to use the kayak as a submarine by Olivian Breda

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  2. Pingback: Haideţi cu noi de 1 Mai pe Dunăre cu caiacul | TID Romania

  3. Pingback: Ultima tura de doua zile cu caiacul pe Dunare de anul acesta | TID Romania

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