Thursday, 3 November 2011

Friendly Floatees at Night Mk II

Ooooops! I kind of forgot to tell you about the latest nightcaching event in Melbourne which will be on tomorrow: Friendly Floatees at Night Mk II

Hope to see you there
Philipp


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Nocturnal Yak


If someone mentions the word "yak" you normally think of a large cow-like animal which can be found somewhere in the Himalayas. For some strange reason Australians seem to be a bit obsessed with these creatures but that shouldn't concern you for now. I am actually talking about a different type of yak - a kayak. Yes I know what a punt but I didn't come up with it - if you want to blame someone for that, choose covert.
Anyway. If you are just buying a yak, you have a lot of options of types, shapes, materials and prices. The local anaconda, bcf or ray's outdoors might help you with choosing one that suits you however they probably fail if you tell them you need the yak for geocaching. "Geo-what?". Exactly. How should they know if they never heard of it and this is where this little post comes in.

I think I did place one of the first if not THE first combined night-water-caches but it took me six more years to finally get a proper kayak. Now I want to share some of the experiences I made in the past months with the new toy :) I started with a little recreational kayak (Miss Piggy) which has been superseded  by a new one (Mr Kermit).

  • Sit-on-top or Sit-in
    That's the question of all questions when it comes to a yak. As the name says you are sitting on top with the first and in the yak with the latter. Both have pros and cons but in the end there is no right or wrong when it comes to the usability for geocaching. In the end you have to make your own choice.

    Sit-on (SOT):
    + easier to handle for beginners
    + unsinkable / if you capsize just flip it and you're good to go
    + easier to get back on if you fell off
    - you are exposed means warm weather use only or you have to wear a neopren
    - limited storage (except for fishing yaks)
    - higher point of gravity means less stable

    Sit-in (SINK):
    + higher storage capacity
    + protected from elements which allows cold weather use
    + better performance in choppy water because of lower centre of gravity
    + option to roll instead of falling off
    - has to be drained with a bailer if you capsize (but most of them are unsinkable as well)
    - difficult to get back in if you capsize

    Personally I prefer a sit-in kayak since I like to paddle all year around and I like putting stuff into the yak without having to worry if they can fall of the deck.

  • Type
    You got a lot of types to choose from. The last four aren't exactly kayaks but are still interesting if you have one of those anyway:

    • Recreational (both) - short and wide, very stable but slow
    • Whitewater (sit-in) - extremely small and very manoeuvrable but slow and uncomfortable
    • Ocean Kayak (sit-in) - long kayak which is around 5m and has a rudder
    • Ocean / Surf Ski (sit-on) - very long, very fast, very unstable >> you will get very wet (The difference between the ocean and the surf ski is just that the nose (bow) is a bit different)
       
    • Waveski (sit-on) - similar to a surf board but you sit on it and use a kayak paddle
    • Stand Up Paddle Board (stand-on) - bigger surf board which can be used with a special paddle
    • Canoe (sit-in ... sort of) - often designed to be used with two paddlers, bad performance in surf
    • Dinghy (sit-in ... sort of) - dead cheap, very slow, small river / lake use only

    All kayaks are purpose build but unfortunately there isn't a geoyak. The watercaches in Victoria do vary from the easy island in a pond over a paddle along a river to a paddle literally kilometres off-shore. This is what makes picking a yak for geocaching so difficult because in the end it is a compromise. If you go for a cache you don't want to spend a lot of time with setting-up the boat. Take it of the car, toss it into the water, done. On top of that the point of entry might be a bit away from the car park which means less weight is handy as well. That said basically all longer (heavy / bulky) yaks are out of the picture. Covering some distance on the other hand asks for a longer yak which makes me to recommend a recreational kayak for geocaching.

  • Material
    It's basically the choice between carbon-fibre, glas-fibre and polyethylene (PE) hulls and this one is easy: PE it is. While geocaching you well get close to get a lot of solid objects and obstacles. Your yak is in constant danger of being damaged. PE hulls will take a fair amount of hits before they have to be repaired. In the field duct-tape does the trick for a quick fix and the repair itself at home isn't hard either. Just check youtube or if you've ever fixed the base of a ski or snowboard: that's the same principle and material.

    On the other hand glass-fibre or even carbon kayaks are lighter and faster but you wont be happy with the dents and punctures. Both aren't really fixable in minutes.

  • Rudder
    A rudder has an impact on pricing and going backwards can be a bit more difficult if it's not retractable. That's about it with the things speaking against one. Longer kayaks have one anyway but especially shorter yaks do profit in terms of handling.
    But the real advantage is the ability to use a Windpaddle. If you try this with a yak without rudder, it will be a pain.

  • My Choice
    Sit-on-top or Sit-in: Sit-in >> night means cold. Cold means sit-in.
    Type: Recreational >> easy to handle and affordable
    Material: PE >> I am very experienced in fixing that from my snowboard
    Rudder: With a rudder >> keeping course in choppy conditions without it isn't much fun

    Easy handling is important for me so I did go for a Emotion Comet (Meanwhile Emotion Kayaks have released the Comet8 which is a bit better than the old one and still reasonably priced). It is short enough to fit into a SUV and small & light enough so a single person can handle it. Just recently I replaced it with a Point 65 N Martini which is a split-yak and has a rudder. You can take it into pieces so a 416cm tandem yak fits into a 463cm car. In the solo configuration you still have a rudder and a lot of storage space. 
Alright - to sum it up you don't need a fast kayak. Steady and robust wins most caches. Of course you can get yourself a long and fancy ocean kayak but keep in mind that there are these sneaky hides where a big boat is something between you and the cache.
You got yourself a kayak but what else do you need? There are a lot of accessories available but in terms of geocaching not all of them make sense. Trust me: You don't need a fishing rod holder. Just to give you an idea I marked the stuff I own in green.
  • The Essentials
    No questions: You do need a paddle and a PFD (Personal Floatation Device) / life vest. With that and the kayak you are good to go. In Australia you need to have a PFD by law - any fine exceeds the cost of them by far.

  • Additional Safety Gear
    There are a couple of things you can add to your kayak and your safety. Depending on where you are paddling, some of them are required anyway due to regulations. 
    • If you have a SINK - a bilge-pump or bailer. That's the thing to get water out of the yak. A cut-open 3L milk bottle does the trick.
    • Paddle-Float. Again this is something you'll only need if you have a SINK. It's for self-rescue in case of capsizing.
    • Paddle leash. Losing propulsion can be really annoying.
    • SPOT or PLB
    • Flares and Smoke

  • Spray Skirt
    This is another thing which you only need for a SINK. It makes paddling way more comfy since you won't get wet by the water dripping from the paddle, it's warmer and if it's choppy you won't see much water splashing into the cockpit. Of course if you have a spray-skirt you can roll your yak as well. 

  • Anchor or Leash
    I must admit that I can't think of many caches where an anchor would be handy but a leash is definitely a must-have. Every now and then you are forced to leave your kayak behind and then you don't want or can't pull it out of the water. 

  • Boat Trolley
    Normally a yak doesn't come under 20 kg which means it can be a bit of a pain to carry it all the way to the water. Most trolleys can be disassembled and put into the yak so you don't have to leave them behind or bring them back to the car.

  • Storage
    Well you are a geocacher so I don't have to tell you anything about waterproof containers. Just pick the one which is right for you to keep your keys / phone / wallet dry. I use some small peli-cases.  Make sure to fix them to the yak so they don't disappear when capsizing (trust me - it happens more often than you think).
    And yes: a cup-holder is a very handy thing for a yak :o) Fortunately my yak came with two per cockpit
    .
  • DashboardThis is something I still want to build. The idea is to have something in front of me where I can clip on my GPS, the SPOT, a pouch for the camera and something to scribble / a map. There are some you can buy off the shelve but the fun is to have something self-made. Have a look at fishing-yaks: These guys are experts for mounting all kinds of stuff to their boats.

  • Light
    Yes I didn't forget about this one :o) By law you have to have a white light if you paddle at night. After just strapping a torch to the deck, I decided that's kind of stupid because I can only be seen from the front and the life-span of the torch doesn't really extend by being splashed all the time.
    What I came up with is a simple light-pole made of PVC water pipes screwed to the kayak. You can also build something which goes into the cup-holder. Another big advantage is that you can attach a flag to it which makes you more visible in daylight as well.
In the end you don't need a fancy piece of equipment for the watercaches in Victoria. If a kayak and the usual gadgets don't get you there, you'll need some other stuff anyway like for diving or snorkelling. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable in your yak while doing other stuff e.g. playing with the GPS or taking pictures. And if it gets dark you do want to be familiar with your yak and everything in/on it. But always remember: Safety first. No cache is worth dying for.

Happy Paddling
Philipp


Links
Watercaches around Melbourne
Maritime Kayaking Safety
Windpaddle




Light Pole

Pole Base

Pole Top

Night at the beach

SPOT

Trolley



Monday, 5 September 2011

Placing a Nightcache



So what makes a good nightcache? It's not any different to a normal cache: location, location, location! It is that important that groundspeak wrote it three times in the Hiding Your First Geocache Guide. Also the guidelines emphasise that as well:

"When you go to hide a geocache, think of the reason you are bringing people to that spot. If the only reason is for the geocache, then find a better spot." – briansnat

For the purpose of this exercise I'll show what I did while placing The Black Mesa Invasion - GC2Y70N.

(1) Location Scouting
Finding a location can be very easy - or very difficult. Easy would be to just stumble upon it: You could read about it in a book or you come across it while hunting for another cache. If you look for certain features of your location it is difficult. E.g. you are searching meadows with scattered trees and a little lake ... it's not that easy and most of the times a cache has already been placed there.
I make excessive use of these three websites for scouting: Google Maps, Nearmap and Parks Victoria. If you find something which could be good, check for caches in the area first. The guys at GCA created a very good feature on their maps page: Just tick the box "Proximity" and it shows you a blue circle around every cache which has the 161m radius. If you have areas with Multi or Mysterycaches the only thing you can do is find them and use this tool. All good? On to the next point.
How did I find Blue Rock Lake? Pretty simple: I went for another cache in the area and took a little detour afterwards. Right away I knew that I so have to place a nightcache in that unreal scenery.

(2) Finding the Path
A nightcache can't be a traditional cache (well it can be in theory but that's very tricky and I haven't seen it). This means you are placing some sort of multiple stage cache and that really works good if you can match the stages to the location. By "story line" I don't mean you have to create a Pulitzer Prize book - I mean if you do that'd be even better. No, I just want to say that the stages should be in some sort of logical order. It's not really fun if you run back and forth in a suburban park where a nice round-trip would have been possible as well.
See? So far that isn't any different to placing a normal cache but now comes the twist: Before you place anything visit the area during daytime. It gives you a much better overview and feeling for the whole place. You can place a nightcache during at night but I wouldn't recommend that.
Alright: You got your location and you have a rough idea which way you want to lead the nightcachers. Let's get some material in the wood.
Since Blue Rock is a bit away from Elwood I wanted to place the cache in one day. I used whatever pictures I took from my first trip and Google Earth to determine six to eight places for a stage. I also marked some things which looked interesting and worth checking out for a stage. I decided to go for a one-way ticket because I wanted to have the cache-box in a more remote area. In the end I used only half of the points .


(3) Preparing Stage and the Box
There are not many nightcaches which work without any additional material and just have the cache-box - lighthouses or some city lights would do the trick but normally you have to install some sort of stages. If you use reflectors - here is a link how to build them. It's not exactly rocket science but it's work which is easier done at home.
Also the cache-box itself needs some preparation. A nice standard is a small ammo can, a 2L sistema box, some spray cans and a self-made stencil. Now here is a short how-to-make-you-own-stencil: Design something on a piece of paper - if you use a computer and need a font use the DIN Schablonierschrift. Take that piece of paper and laminate it. The fun part is to cut your stencil with a carpet-cutter. Yes this takes a while :o) After you have punched all the holes into it you can start to prepare everything. Spray the backside of the stencil with hairspray (DON'T spray the cachebox!) and "glue" it to the surface. This way you get a sharper edges. Now you can use the real paint and spray the stencil.
Very easy - this is how the cache-box looks like:
For the stages I used the plaque-style reflectors with pre-printed hints like "A = 25" on it (I have access to a tag-printer). This way I only had to number punch one tag in the field after measuring the coordinates for GZ:



(4) Building
You got all the reflectors or stages. You got a cache-box and you have a plan. This should be pretty straight forward, shouldn't it? Maybe. Maybe not. It could be that all goes to plan and you can place all stages and the cache at once but it doesn't have to be this way. It could be that one stage doesn't work as you planned it for whatever reason. Now it's the time to be prepared for adjustments. I suggest to have tools in you backpack which allow you to create a stage from scratch. Being familiar with your tool-box in the field is a real plus.
I had to create one tag in the field to make sense out of the prepared tag so the cachers get a set of coordinates. In order to be able to create that tag, I had to place the cache-box first. Effectively I placed the whole cache in a reverse order (Final - Stage 7 - Stage 6 - ...).

(5) Problem Solving
No matter how well you prepared in advance and how nice your cache turns out to be, there could be something which prevents it from getting published. It could be a final of a far away puzzle-cache or some local legislation you didn't know about. Keep in mind that it might take several trips to get your cache on the green side. If you don't want to do that, then don't place a cache at that location. Contacting your local reviewer in advance is always a good idea for any bigger cache project. This way you can prevent disappointments and you'll see that they are very helpful as well. To find their account just click on a cache close to you and scroll down to the publish note.
Fortunately I didn't run into a trouble with this cache but the very next Black Mesa cache had a conflict with an existing cache. There was no way to get around driving out there again and moving one stage. 

Done!
That said - this is only how I placed that cache. There are a million ways to create a good cache. If you like a certain cache and you want to place something similar, there is nothing wrong with that. E.g. it took me a long time to come up with my current reflector/tag design. It's simple and it works - why not using it for your nightcache?

Happy cache placing
Philipp

Saturday, 20 August 2011

That was quick

Here is a little update. I just published a new challenge with the words mentioned below. It got archived within 2 minutes. I must say I am quite impressed by the speed of groundspeak's censorship. Since the spam-tactics obviously don't work, I choose to be a bit more constructive. Here are the things which don't work with challenges:
  • There are no rules and guidelines which state what is acceptable as a challenge and what is not. Archiving challenges is more an arbitrary act than anything else. At least there should be a reason why this challenge got archived. The big advantage of Groundspeak over every other listing-site is the reviewing process.
  • Links don't get parsed and you can't use BB code / html.
  • Uploaded pictures can't be deleted even before you publish it.
  • Fake logs can't be deleted.
  • There is no map or listing to search for them.
  • Once you completed a challenge and it got archived, you can't delete your log anymore.
  • The challenges count as a find but they are clearly not a geocache. They shouldn't count or make it a separate statistic
  • There is no identifier who did set-up the challenge
  • There is no email notification what happened with your challenge
  • There is no opt-out option for everyone who doesn't want to participate which removes everything challenge related for the this cacher
  • ...
I will continue to publish challenges but they will be really really dumb like "find a seashell / some sand on the beach".

Friday, 19 August 2011

Vote them down - Geocaching Challenges

"That's just wrong in so many ways." This sentence was the first thing which came to my mind when I had a look at the new Geocaching Challenges. The huge difference between any geocache and these is that they weren't supposed to be reviewed. So you could basically come up with any stupid task and make it a challenge. The idea was that by a voting and flagging system the boring and dumb challenges get filtered out.

Too bad the whole concept is a flaw. Geocaching itself is defined by Groundspeak as the following:
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
That clearly doesn't work well with the non-physical nature of challenges.If geocaching is too boring for you then you might want to try waymarking or other outdoor games and sports. But let's face it - there are two reasons why this whole debacle happened. First Groundspeak didn't want to create a second waymarking which gets barely used because it is not part of geocaching.com. The only option was to implement it into the old geocaching website. And second they wanted to release it before the Geocaching Block Party which is tomorrow (20.08.2011).

Instead of releasing an elaborate concept, they made it somehow work and unleashed a beta-version which has so many programming and conceptual errors that I don't even start to name them. Right after the release a lot of old-school cachers (a cache is a box at a nice location) went berserk and raided the feedback forum like a London mob. Within minutes the suggestion to remove challenges from the site gained over 1400 votes and a very short answer from Jeremy:
It is staying on Geocaching.com. If you don't like the new activity, don't participate.
That answer didn't went down so well with the crowds and I must admit that I am one of them. I don't see the point of defacing this hobby. Maybe Garmin will use their chance and make opencaching.com work within the next few days - now is the perfect opportunity to release something which works, listens to the community and is in the spirit of the game. But again: this is probably not going to happen. Do we have to accept this stupid change?

Of course not! Here are a three things everyone (with a premium account) can do. If Groundspeak doesn't want to listen to their customers like a little prima donna we have to make them feel:
  • Change your geocaching avatar to the following pictureWith the avatar showing up before every log that will deface the site pretty fast.

  • Vote down each and every challenge you can find - just click on the thumbs down button. The idea of this feature was to filter the good from the bad challenges. If every challenge is bad the whole thing will be reduced to absurdity.

  • Create a new challenge every single day with the following text. Try to use a harmless title for the challenge so it makes it more difficult to pick (like find 5 seashells at this beach).

    Your Challenge is to Create a Challenge... one a day, every day, until Groundspeak realise how utterly ridiculous this is. No doubt this Challenge will be censored and archived quickly, so you have to act fast. You may log this from anywhere in the World at any time as there is nothing I can do to check or stop that anyway... and there in lies the heart of the issue.

    Each Challenge should contain the following text...

    "Groundspeak. This idea had so much potential and possibility, but the execution has been beyond woeful. This is not Geocaching. This is not "Go somewhere, Do something". This is rubbish. Even the old locationless had accountability, and the old virtuals were much better as they had owners and checks in place and got you out to interesting places. You need to roll back this blight and go back to the drawing board... do it properly, and re-release it when it is ready."

    I am sorry I had to resort to a Spam Attack, but as you are DELETING all negative feedback in favour of "We are right, you are Wrong" tactics I found little other option.

    Regards, a PAYING member of your community who does not want to see this game destroyed.
  • Log CX3 with a frog-eating picture. I know this is very childish behaviour ... but hey it's fun! Google might be able to help you find some.
Dear Groundspeak: Thanks but no thanks. You can have your challenges back. I don't want them.




Sunday, 17 July 2011

Pocket Query Maps

So here is a little feature which might not work for long: Displaying PQs on Geocaching Maps. If you want to have a look at your PQ as a map, just klick on the link next to the PQ. If we take the "Melbourne Watercaches" the link would be http://www.geocaching.com/map/beta/default.aspx?pqk=GzsgU6lpmUiDB0eMjjLGCg

And there starts the problem: If you click on that link, you won't see anything because it's the link for the beta maps. You'll only see this map, if you use my log-in.


That isn't really helpful if you want to share this map with a friend and besides the actual cache-type of the caches in the PQ isn't shown either. Bummer. But there is a work-around :o) The old maps are still working!
  • Go to your PQ site and copy the URL of the PQ you're after:
  • Enter "http://www.geocaching.com/map/default.aspx?guid=" into the address bar of your browser .
  • Paste the URL you just copied behind that
  • Delete the part "http://www.geocaching.com/pocket/bmquery.aspx?guid=" - effectively you just entered the guid behind the old map link.
  • In my case I ended up with http://www.geocaching.com/map/default.aspx?guid=53203b1b-69a9-4899-8307-478c8e32c60a which also works if you don't use my account :)
In my opinion the old map is way better than the new beta stuff. I did a PQ to filter caches, so I don't want to see each and every cache on the map! The old map also shows inactive caches, it shows your caches and the ones you already found and on top of it you can see the cache-type as well. The only strange thing is the blue rectangle but hey - you can't have it all.

 
Happy mapping!

Monday, 27 June 2011

RUN!

This is not about nightcaching ... but it's still important. I am going to participate at Run Melbourne and I am fundraising for Big Brothers Big Sisters. My aim is to run 10km with more or less of training (at the moment: none) and raise 1000 AUD



You can support me and donate at runmelbourne.everydayhero.com.au/philipp :o) If you donate more than 100 AUD I'll throw in a nightcaching Australia geocoin for you. Please contact me if you do so!

Now you might say "Wait a minute. What is this Big Brothers Big Sisters about?" Well that's a fair question. Why should you spend any money on a charity you don't even know about. Well here is what they are:


Big Brothers Big Sisters is a Not-For-Profit that matched adult volunteer mentors with vulnerable and disadvantaged young people. They target the children who need us most, including those living in single parent homes, growing up in poverty and coping with parental incarceration. Starting something begins with finding a great match between a Big and a Little. Making these matches, and performing all the background work involved with them, is possible because of donations from people like you. It's also why we're able to offer such a wide variety of programs that pair children, ages 6 through 18, with role models in one-to-one relationships.


If you want to know more visit www.bbbs.org.au (and no: I don't know why there is a flying milk carton on their website).

Thanks and keep the coins coming
Philipp

Monday, 13 June 2011

Map Update

Finally. I updated the nightcaching maps and got rid of this nasty bug which placed the icons too far north. So far the old Groundspeak maps are still working so here is the direct link to the PQ-map as well.
And don't forget to mail me about new nightcaches so I can put them on the bookmark list :o)

Cheers

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Meet The Nightcachers

It all started as one of those stupid ideas and it ended in a really good event. I left home early Saturday morning because I wanted to place another cache. Unfortunately that took me a bit longer so I turned up late at the event which means I didn't meet quite a lot of cachers. Before I To sum it up:
  • Planking and trail-cameras go along very well
  • Sorrento Fish'n Chips is still the best
  • Allen is a quiet fellow
  • Liam is only 13
  • Rigger truly had a go at the evil tree
  • Next time bring a cup
  • ... and where the hell did all the fog come from?
What a night!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Yes We are Open

You already might have seen it: I added a little shirt-shop to the nightcaching page. After testing an Australian service provider I decided to go overseas (pistolclothing is crap - I placed an order 3 weeks ago and they don't react to emails). Anyway. Since I am a good guy I decided that all profit goes to charity which will be Big Brothers Big Sisters. I am actually helping them as one of many volunteers next weekend on a fundraising event so I know what they are doing really makes a difference.
Hoodie Men - Glow in the dark

In order to be honest it is not one but two shops - depending on where you are located the pricing and shipping is different. At the moment I am limited to two design - the nightcaching-guy and höpshöps the roo - so I just put some variation of these into the stores.

If you miss any colours or want to have special text, just let me know >> I'll add it for you.

Enjoy and happy retail therapy

Shop OZ / US
Shop Europe

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

We come in Peace

Another Aussie cache made it onto the blog of geocaching.com as the cache of the week. And on top of that: GC1DA0H is nightcache! Can it get even better? Well it can. The little devil which toured with me through Tasmania is on the blog as well :o)



Well done Snuva! It was a brilliant night out in Hobart.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Nifty Nocturnals Eventcache

Covert made it: GC2VREP is online :o) Ok ... I admit the event has been published a few days ago so sorry for the delay posting it here (but you probably know about it anyway)


Friday, 6 May 2011

GeoPro - the green tracker

Here's another gadget :o) Don't we just love them?

Some time ago I was blogging about the Spot 2 messenger which is basically a one-way satellite tracker. GeoPro on the other hand is a two-way satellite tracker. That means you can send and receive messages: You can write and send a 160 character message as you go. GeoPro uses the Iridium network which has global coverage and is not restricted.  That sound like a nice deal if there wouldn't be a price tag: It's 699.99 USD ... and I guess you'll need some kind of subscription on top of that. So far I couldn't find any information on that.



So how does the GeoPro compare to a Spot2? Let's have a look. I also added the McMurdo  FastFind210 to the list in order to compare both of the trackers with a PLB:

Device: GeoPro Spot2 FastFind 210
Check-in Function: yes yes no
Check-in reminder: yes no no
Tracking Interval: 2 min to 1 day
(adjustable)
10 min no
Custom Message: 160 characters 1 pre-programmable message + programmable help button no
Satellite Network: Iridium Globalstar Cospas Sarsat
Coverage: Worldwide restricted to most land masses excluding Africa and SE Asia Worldwide
Position Finding: GPS GPS GPS + doppler processing
SOS Button: yes yes yes
Waterproof: IP66 (splash and dust resistant) IPX8 (Immersion beyond 1 m) Temporary immersion to 10m for 5 mins. (IP 58, IPX7)
Battery Type: Lithium-ion 3 AAA Lithium Lithium
Battery Life: Up to 1,000 message reports (which would be around 7 days at 10 min tracking) Power on: Approximately three months; SOS/HELP/SPOT Assist: 3–6 days; Check-in/Custom Messages: Approximately 350–700 messages 5 years storage, then 24 hours operating
Weight: 380 g 147 g 150 g
Dimensions: W 6.35 cm x H 12.7 cm x D 3.8 cm W 6.6 cm x H 9.4 cm x D 2.5 cm W 4.6 cm x H 10.0 cm x D 3.4 cm
Price: 699.99 USD 149.99 USD 249.99 USD
1 Year Subscription: unknown 99.99 USD + 49 USD tracking none
Colour: green orange or silver yellow

As you can see there is no real winner of this comparison. (Of course I'd go for the green one but I already spent over 300 AUD for the Spot). Again it really depends on your needs and how much you are willing to pay. If you live in Europe such a device is completely pointless since the GSM network coverage is excessive. If you really think about spending that much money for the GeoPro, you might want to consider to add another 400 USD which gets you e.g. a Thuraya XT satphone including SIM-card.

The Spot is still the cheapest satellite tracker and if I would look for a 2-way device I'd expect it to be cheaper than the GeoPro or I would spend the few hundred bucks extra and go for a full scale satphone.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Getting Started

Sometimes I hear that cachers don't "dare" to try nightcaching. "It's so much different", "I don't know where to start", "That's just out of my world" are just some sentences I've heard. Well it's not that hard. In fact it is not much different from normal caching if you keep a few things in mind:

  • Know how to call for help if you need it. If you are going on your own, have some way of communication and let someone know where you are going.You should actually do the same thing with every cache.
  • Like with every Multi read the description and get an idea what to expect and which equipment you might need.
  • Have a back-up torch. If you loose one or it breaks you can still find your way back to civilisation.
  • Wear good shoes. You don't want to twist your ankle just because you wore only thongs* and stumbled over the root you couldn't see in the dark.
  • Don't be afraid of spiders ... ok I admit this one is difficult to follow but most spiders are nocturnal. Be aware that you might face some nasty encounters. If you are afraid of spiders, keep a headlamp on at all times - this should prevent you from running into webs in the dark
  • Don't worry about that sound. Yes there are animals around you and they make noise. Possums, deer, boar, tassie devils, ducks, cats or whatever animals live in your country. Most of them are quite shy so you won't even see them. The is no boogie man behind the next tree.
That's about it. The rest is just pretty straight forward like Geocaching. Of course there are a lot more tips, trick and hints around nightcaching but you don't need all of that to try it. Just pick an easy nightcache and go for it :o)

* aussie slang for flip-flops

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Royal Event

Last Friday the Melbournian paddlers did meet on Herring Island. As I already wrote in the log:

I thought that not too many people would show up but as a pleasant surprise this truly royal and noble event was actually quite crowded The barbie worked perfectly and as far as I can tell nobody fell into the water. It was fun catching up and coming up with new ideas (Milk! Tritium! Fish'n Chips!). We already have set some wheels in motion So it was a good mixture of cachers and location which leaves only one conclusion: We'll do it again in a not so distant future

Yep. There are more events to come ... or at least I am planning on setting them up (God knows if it is really going to happen):
  • The next one will be a nightcaching event down at Point Nepean.
  • There will most definitely another event on Herring Island. The location is just way too good.
  • And I am thinking about another camping-event. Any ideas are more than welcome.
Cheers
Philipp




Tuesday, 29 March 2011

LED Lenser Flashlights Pack

Just in case you're looking for a flashlight: catchoftheday.com.au has a nice P3 + P7 pack on sale today.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Cave Clan

Going out there is fun because it's dark. Well there is another way to turn off the light: Just go underground! Back in Germany there is a well-known and famous series of caches in the Bavarian city of Ulm. Those caches set the wheels in motion and you basically find crawling caches all over the country.



You might say that there is no point in crawling into drains but is that really a good argument if you are a geocacher? Thought so :o) By chance I stumbled upon an entrance a few weeks ago but forgot about it soon. I didn't really considered that this would lead anywhere. Maybe 100m or 200m but that's about it. Well I proved myself wrong. Yesterday I got a new torch and that entrance was the perfect opportunity to test it: Off I went.

I walked, climbed ladders, walked, took pictures, walked and admired the waterfall. Yes it was a long way and at one point I found a little inlet to stick my hand out >> I got a GPS fix! Now I stared in disbelieve on my display: I was two kilometres away from where I had started, had crossed a park, several major roads and a railway line and all of that without stopping or waiting for a traffic light. The tunnel did go on but I called it a day and went back.

So there is a whole new world out there waiting to be explored ... errr maybe not. As usual wiki is smarter than I am and it reveals that the Melbourne Cave Clan is exploring the Melbourne underworld since 1986. Now I would expect to find a lot of information online by now but it's quite the opposite. It looks like the original website has been shut down due to the deaths of two sprayers in Sydney. Also going the extra mile through the webarchive doesn't do the trick. 

Back to square one: Gathering the crew and getting into the ground :o)




Friday, 18 March 2011

Black Mesa Sequel

The Black Mesa Aftermath went online - enjoy your weekend.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Black Mesa Aftermath

Are you living around Melbourne and have no plans for tonight? Yep? Well here they are. Spladem, c@h and I placed it last week. It's GC2FTNX which is obviously unpublished because I didn't activate it. Have great night out.


The Black Mesa Aftermath

rift between dimensions
 




The
Facility


The Black Mesa Research Facility was a private research and defence contractor comprised of a massive complex built within Phillip Bay just off the coast of Melbourne. Built deep into the bottom of the ocean, Black Mesa has been a site for broad scientific research relating to theoretical, quantum, and particle physics, applied mathematics, robotics, genetics, biotechnology, trans-dimensional travel, teleporting, and other classified subjects.

 

The submerged character of Black Mesa is due to the shielding nature of vast amount of water on top of it. Although it being close to a major metropolitan area, it always was considered to be one of the safest facilities on this planet .. until the Black Mesa
Incident a few days ago.


The
Incident


A few days ago the Black Mesa has been rendered inert by a catastrophic
failure
of the lambda-experiment. An uncontrolled trans-dimensional portal opened together with a secondary much smaller portal. Both of them could be closed however the secondary portal stayed open for a few hours.

 

During that time-frame some unknown artefacts slipped through the portal and found their way into the bay. The lambda satellite discovered the seven items while still afloat and fortunately they weren't washed into the open sea. This is were our luck ends: After being washed ashore they kept moving inland which means we are dealing with some kind of machine or life-form and as far as we can tell from the data received, they are causing another rift. They have to be stopped before they reach the southern coast and disappear into the ocean.

This is considered to be another class three incident so Point Nepean has been sealed off by local Police and the SASR. This area is a national park hich allows to have the whole operation unnoticed by the public. VIC Parks just announced the park to be closed for maintenance reasons. The only thing left in order to prevent this major catastrophe from happening is to bring in a specialist to neutralise this thread ... and by specialist we mean you.

 

Proceed to the Park Office where the forward command post has been set-up. You will be provided with a Hazardous Environment Suit (HEV) since the Xen-radiation which the lambda satellite picks up is not exactly healthy. From there you have to make your way into the hazard-zone. There is one fact which plays in your favour: The artefacts seem to be idle during night-time. It is unknown if the units are able to communicate. We just have to assume that this is the case so they have to be taken out simultaneously. Recon and place charges if they are entrenched otherwise we have several drones ready for an air-strike.

 

We recommend that you get the job done before dawn.



 


(The Hunt)

This is a nightcache.
You'll only need this paragraph to find the cache: Proceed to every stage and find the information. You don't have to follow the sequence in fact I recommend to bike to the far end first, enjoy the sunset and then start the search.

 

  • Stage 1 - The Hill
    S 38° 18.604 E 144° 39.923
    Look for a reflector

     
  • Stage 2 - MG emplacement
    S 38° 18.519 E 144° 39.866
    Look for a reflector

     
  • Stage 3 - Fortress
    S 38° 18.432 E 144° 39.557
    Look for a reflector

     
  • Stage 4 - Barracks
    S 38° 18.378 E 144° 39.485
    Look for a reflector

     
  • Stage 5 - Flat Top
    S 38° 18.219 E 144° 39.190
    Look for a reflector

     
  • Stage 6 - Ammo Store
    S 38° 18.190 E 144° 39.155
    Enter here and go to the ammo storage in the basement. Look for a number close to a reflector.
     
  • Stage 7 - Engine House
    S 38° 18.118 E 144° 39.166
    Enter the Engine House and look for a number close to a
    reflector

     
  • Stage 8 - Cache
    Use all the information you have and go to the cache.

     

In terms of logistics I can recommend the following: Pick a nice evening, get yourself some Fish and Chips (Shop south-side of Ocean Beach Rd in Sorrento), have dinner at the Park Office (there are pick-nick tables and drinking water), head out to the point, enjoy the sunset and search the cache.



Point
Nepean


Point Nepean National Park is open 24/7. I especially asked about night-time access at the visitors centre and was assured that it is allowed to enter on foot or with a push-bike during the night. Some buildings are closed at night but that does not affect this cache. Enjoy the cache and take your time to explore. There are more places to discover around Point Nepean. The cache doesn't show them all but it's definitely worth to spend some extra-time around.
 

Viel Spaß *gg*

Philipp

Monday, 14 February 2011

The lights of Tassi

I just spend until 3 am together with c@h and sladem on the Mornington to place some caches. You will love or hate them. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Spot on

Finally. Now I got a device which sends signals into space. Despite the fact that I named it "Spock", it doesn't talk to aliens. Just to a satellite which orbits earth at an altitude of 1414 km. That's actually not bad: A device powered just by three AAA batteries with that range.

It's a Spot 2 Tracker. A little orange device with a GPS and the capability to link into the globalstar satellite network. Actually it doesn't do very much: Get the coordinates and broadcast them. That's it. No two-way communication >> just a one-way street. Attached to that data-burst is one of four flags depending on which button you pressed:

  • OK / Check in Message
  • Custom Message
  • HELP / I need assistance
  • SOS
These messages can be configured via internet so if I press the "Custom Message" button, it sends Martina an email that I'm done for the day and heading home (You can't configure where the SOS message is going >> it will always ends up at a rescue centre). In that mail will be a link which shows you from where the message came. Instead of an email the server can also send a SMS. And of course: you can link facebook and twitter as well. Pretty geeky.

Now to the downsides: This is not a PLB. If the Spot doesn't get a GPS fix your doomed ...or at least it can't tell anyone where you are. Also the uplink isn't that reliable. And finally it's not exactly cheap: The Spot is around 150 USD plus another 150 USD / year subscription fee. If you live in Oz add another 40 USD shipping.

So why bother and not just buy a cheap PLB? Yo can get the McMurdo Fast Find 210 for 250 USD! The storage life of the battery is 5 years and no additional fees or charges. Well here's the thing: A PLB is for emergencies only. You might know that you are ok and don't need help but here's a shocker: You're not alone on this planet and some of these people might care about you: They want to know too! Now it's just a button on the Spot.

If you want to have a super-reliable emergency beacon go for a PLB
If you just want to ease the minds of the loved ones while you're out in the bush* go for a Spot.
If you have too much money, buy both.

Just remember SAR is much more fun without the search - especially if you're the one to be rescued!

* = The Spot is quite pointless in Europe >> mobile coverage is really good: All the way up to the top of Mont-Blanc I had 3G and tweeted along the way.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

On the Water

For months nothing happened in Melbourne in terms of nightcaching. Seriously: quiet as a cemetery is still an understatement. I am also not very keen on placing new nightcaches or organising a nightcaching-event. Why? Well it's still the kayak :o)

So I did place some cache and bookmarked them together with other watercaches. The next logic thing is to host a watercache-event and here it is:




Friendly Floatees in Albert Park Lake. We thought about having that event in the bay but then we chickened out and went for the safe option. On the other hand now everyone with a $15 kmart rubber dinghy can attend the event as well. That will be fun.


There is a BBQ are close-by but I want to have a look by myself if that is actually ok and not totally trashed before I put it on the eventpage. And I still have to figure out a way to keep the logbook on the lake.


Cheers
Philipp