Say yes to the dress!!!

Charlotte Gannet wearing a wetsuit and having lunch.
Charlotte Gannet wearing a wetsuit and having lunch.

OMG! What am I going to wear? Most girls know this panic before going on holiday. Especially, when wearing the outfit for 5 weeks, do you go for functional or fashionable? So let me take you around my kayak wardrobe and the thoughts behind it.

Well, let me start with fashionable. Of course, we are on prime beach fronts, but the deserted island we like are inhabited by two and a half sheep. So a fancy suit is maybe not high on my priority list. I am more looking for functionality.

So do we have options? Yes of course. For the non-kayakers, some regular outdoor clothing and a pair of green English wellies might sound like a good option. However, cold water and weather combined with sea spray and incidental capsizes should be taken into consideration. So to add some safety to our endeavours, the only valid options are dry-suits or wetsuits.

The drysuits keep the water out and seem to be the more fashionable statement at the moment. This fashion comes at a cost of about 600 euro and up. A wetsuit is made from neoprene and comes at a cost of approximately 65 euro. But costs aren’t everything, there are more things to consider….

Suit comfort
A drysuit keeps me perfectly dry. Water can’t come in, and it can’t go out. Excellent in cold weather, not so nice in hot weather. Imagine a wearable sauna. Getting in and out of a drysuit is like a rebirthing experience, the narrow cuffs around the neck, wrists and ankles are really very tight.
A tight-fitting wetsuit stretches with all my movements. But it doesn’t dry very fast, on cold day’s I got to wiggle into a cold and wet suit. Luckily my body heat warms it up pretty fast.

More suit comfort
A drysuit is a nightmare if you need to pee while kayaking. The zipper sits not anatomically in the right position in the suit. A wetsuit can be altered to have a zipper on the right spot and thus making peeing easy.

Suit abuse
I can throw my wetsuit over barbwire and there won’t be any holes in it. I don’t recommend doing this with a drysuit. One hole in a drysuit and the suit has to be fixed by a specialist. I can sew my wetsuit with a sewing machine and alter the suit myself.

Suit management.
A drysuit is great, it dries very easily even when it’s a bit salty. A wetsuit doesn’t really get dry when using it on the sea. It is the salt in the water, you see, it doesn’t get dry. And there is not enough Scottish sunshine to dry the suit.

Suit safety
A drysuit is very safe, it keeps me warmer when I’m lying in the cold Atlantic for an hour. But kayaking a sport where I supposed to be in a kayak…. So it is very good against hyperthermia but not so good when overheating by kayaking in 30 degrees.
A wetsuit is sufficient when I’m planning to stay in the kayak and not too much in the water. I can make the suit wet when the weather is hot and not too wet when the weather is cold.

Charlotte Gannet jumping on Little Green holm, Orkney. Happy that she is wearing a wetsuit.
Charlotte Gannet jumping on Little Green holm, Orkney. Happy that she is wearing a wetsuit.

Suit looks
I look so much better is a slinky black wetsuit instead of a bulky loos fitting drysuit.

Charlotte Gannet

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To pee or not to pee, that is the question…

Alexanders pen drawing after Rembrand's 'Man making water'
Alexanders pen drawing after Rembrand’s ‘Man making water’

Men are already ‘designed’ in a way that it is easy to make a device that lets you make water in the boat. A cheap, one euro PVC insert from your local DIY store, some old bicycle inner tube and a plastic sanitary towel bag, does the trick.

This is an image, I reproduced from an etching by Rembrandt. It’s a nice introduction to the next story. Actually, this story is not about men but about a woman making water. We perceive the British as polite, and at the same time, after crossing the Minch or any another four or five-hour crossing, they ask curiously “But what if you have to go?”. They look at Charlotte with that question because for girls it is much more difficult to pee in a kayak then for men. So for those whose imagination is triggered, this is the story.

However, for Charlotte, and for woman in general, it is a different story. Even before we went to Scotland, paddling from the Dutch Wadden back to the mainland, on a 25 km crossing we discovered that it is important that you can relief yourself while kayaking. The first step into a successful pee in the kayak for women is a suit with a zipper on the right anatomic position. Not many suits have that luxury for women, You need to be handy with a sewing machine and a zipper of around 35 cm. With the zipper installed, it was easy, the weather was absolutely calm and the water flat. We rafted the two kayaks together and Charlotte threw one leg over my kayak opened up the zipper in the suit and peed between the boats. We concluded this would not be an option in anything above a force two Beaufort.

We know a few female club members, who just drinks less and solve the problem of going by not going. But on a five-week trip, this is a dangerous and unhealthy solution.
We looked for a ready-made solution in outdoor shops, I mean, there must be more girls with this problem, right? We found the Uribag and for our first couple of years, Charlotte used this device.

The Uribag

But the uribag was not always successful, urine could escape over the rim of the device because of the sitting position.Unfortunately, the thing was a little bit big and had to be stored in the deck bag, between all the fishing gear. After using it for four years, when rounding the Mull of Oa, it slipped off the deck and disappeared into the deep. A big disappointment, not only because it littered a beach on Islay but also because the Uribag is not cheap (about €24) and we were far from any form of an outdoor shop to buy a new one. Panic, what to do now?

The only solution was for me to become the creative handyman. With an old Marmite jar found on the beach, a small plastic bag and an elastic band I crafted a replacement. The plastic jar was first modelled with a knife and later sculpted with some heat from a lighter. It was a crude device, modelled after its predecessor. Charlotte, however, was impressed and the device was more successful than the first one!

This made my engineering curiosity flame up. Back home, I decided to do some research. At first, it was not so easy, I learnt some very strange things and visited some very dodgy websites…
The solutions I found was for woman visiting festivals trying to avoid dirty toilet seats by peeing standing up and ill ladies confined to their beds. Useful, but not where I was looking for.

Then one day I spotted a glider, soaring high in the sky. I realised that the girl-pilots were spending a long time in a seated position. So I restarted the research like a true scientist and learned some new few useful things.
Broadly, the glider-girls use three systems; nappies, external funnels and internal funnels. Charlotte thought of the nappy idea; ‘Seriously, nappies? No way!!!’
That plan was dismissed immediately to be too bulky to carry around, create a lot of waste but foremost, ‘I’m not a baby/I don’t have that fetish!!’.
Our Uribag and later the Marmite Bag where the external funnel types. Festival girls and ill ladies use this as well. This device, you place over the Labia majora. More or less the ‘take it all’ approach. This makes the device large, and in the sitting position might give you some leakage through the creases between your legs.

All the external funnel devices you can find for girls to pee standing up

For the next device, the internal funnel, you need a bit of knowledge of the female anatomy. Get out your biology book and open it on the chapter describing the human female bits. (the Internet can also help you in your research)
This smaller device only covers the Urethral orifice. This is a much smaller device and it sits between the Labia majora for a bit. Some small plastic draining pipe in the right shape, a bicycle inner tube and an sanitary towel bag are all you need to create your own pee-device for girls.
After some prototypes and practice trails by Charlotte in the shower (I don’t think Google will allow these pictures), this looked like a successful design. According to Charlotte, it takes a bit of getting used position it on the right spot and to letting the pee flow and trusting the device.
But the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. (Strange use of words in this context) So we went on a larger trip to try out this new design and it worked. It really did!! No leakage and no fuss. It was great. Charlotte recommends this pee solution to all girls in a kayak.

In the picture gallery below, you will find how you make your own pee device for kayak girls. Be sure to practice the handling of the device in the shower!! Have fun!! Let us know how you get on with using it!!

Charlotte and Alexander Gannet

Jennie, a wreck in a cave

The bow of Puffer Jennie, in her last resting place.

Partly due to the weather the light is already dimming out. We had an early start and some rest on the southwestern tip of Arisaig. But then late in the afternoon, we started a long crossing in some formidable waves and a strong wind. Now we move along the lee side of Isle of Eigg and everything is calm again. However, it is hard to make landfall on the rocky beaches and the grassy slopes are to steep for a tent. We keep pushing on and around 20:00h we approach the northeast point of Eigg and the Sound of Rhum. Sgorr Sgaileach, which appropriately translates from Gaelic as the Shady Hills. Here the cliffs that fall straight into the sea. Before we can circumnavigate the point we pass a cave, in it the skeletal remains of the bow of a ship. The force of the sea has the rusty corpse firmly wedged in the dark chamber. Where the hull is riveted together the heavy metal plates are not jet corroded, leaving a rough but picturesque trellis. Fascinated by the scene, I snap a few pictures with my small digital and waterproof camera. Unfortunately, the camera is already signing that it is too dark or that I am too shaky.

Back home there are two issues, a burning curiosity and some blurry pictures. The later is solved by some drawings and watercolour and results in the image above. To satisfy my curiosity, I start normally at the Canmore site (https://canmore.org.uk). The site contains information about archaeological sites, buildings, industry and maritime heritage across the whole of Scotland. By starting on the map page you can normally find the smallest cairn or mitten by just zooming in. Just get the right location on the map.

In this case, I discovered, it was the Clyde Puffer “Jennie”. She sank in February 1954 when she hit Sgorr Sgaileach. The tragedy worsened when int the spring of 1954 the Puffer “Lythe” tried to salvage cargo from the wreck of the “Jennie”. The “Lythe” did strike her and ended up on the bottom of the Sound of Rhum herself.

The Clyde Puffer VIC32 at the Crinan Canal

Puffers are stumpy little coal-fired steamboats. They were the workhorses of the Hebridean. Transporting cargo between Glasgow, through the canals and on to the islands. This “Jennie” was built in 1902. We did see one of the last two seagoing Puffers, the VIC32.

Alexander Gannet