Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Theory of retrospection

Life is good and don't forget it!

End of the year and tomorrow is a new year. Its only another day but I guess at some point we have to take stock and see where we are and where we're going. December 31 is inventory day, a day of retrospection.

Retrospection can be pleasant survey of the past years events or it can instill a melancholy feeling if you live in the past, the loss of another year. I like to live in the present with a hopeful eye on the future. But, I am going to look back and for one reason - 2008 was such a fantastic year that making a list makes me think of what I have to look forward to in 2009.

Here are my 2008 paddling highlights:
1. Paddling with Stan generally - a good friend with the same mindset.
2. First overnight kayak camping trip to Tickles - see for outdoor sauna instructions.
3. Kayaking with whales in Mobile Bay - got to get you some whales next year Stan.
4. Practice sessions in conditions started by Graham Openshaw.
5. Rounding my first cape - Cape St. Francis.
6. Rolling in the middle of Conception Bay in the shadow of a tanker.
7. Surfing at Chance Cove - need to do this more often.
8. Crossing from St. Philips to Bell Island.
9. Beach cleanup at Trinny Cove, Placentia Bay.
10. Volunteering at Kids Day at Long Pond.

It can only get better.

Happy New Year to everyone in the paddling community all over the world and paddle safely in 2009.

Tony :-)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Theory of the scratchable itch

Daggers of ice

Water falls frozen over at pocket beach Beachy Cove

Rinsing off the salt in the fresh river water in St. Philips

Is there anything worse than an itch you can't scratch? I remember my Dad broke his leg many years ago and often complained about the itch in his full length cast. That wasn't easy for him as he couldn't get at the itchy spot.

I had an itch today too, to get out paddling. It was 2 weeks since I was able to get out for a paddle. No one around to paddle with and a temperature of -1 C. But there was no wind.

I waffled and decided to go to the gym. Coming out of the gym I decided to scratch my itch and hurried home to put the boat on the car. I paddled 5 kms from St. Philips to Portugal Cove. It wasn't a long paddle but its close to home and 10 kms wasn't too bad a way to scratch an itch to paddle.

The snow is almost all gone but there were lots of icicles where the run-off water had frozen. At -1 C it wasn't too cold and after a few minutes I warmed up to a point where I could have shed clothes if I was on land. I had a nice low following swell to push me back to St. Philips and did the obligatory rolls before washing up in the river. The water temp was +1 C but felt warmer because of the heat I had built up.

I ran into paddler Ralph Smith who lives in St. Philips on the way home and he offered to wash my gear out for $10.00. Maybe after the river freezes over Ralph!

So, I scratched my itch and rounded my paddles off to 75 for this year.

Tony :-)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Theory of breadmaking

My new Cuisinart bread-
maker's first day on the job

My daughters Lana, Lisa and Aimee gave me a new Cuisinart breadmaker for Christmas. I started making bread last year in an effort to cut as much salt and saturated fats from my diet as possible. I had been using Lisa's.

I was very surprised and felt a little awkward because I just don't want my children to spend their hard earned money on me. They want to give a present of course but I always stress that I don't want anything big. Lana said it wasn't much after everything I've done for them.

Yes, I suppose I've done a lot for them but it was always for them, to help them start their own lives and give them a head-start. Never the thought that anything other than love would come back. Apparently, while I was taking them to swimming, hockey, waiting for them at the university after classes, scraping ice and snow off their cars and the other little things over the years, I was making bread.

My reward for what I have done (and your Mother) is to see you grow to be beautiful, responsible and caring young ladies. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I love you

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Theory of the first Christmas

Ornaments from the first Christmas in Canada

In 1953 my parents came to Canada from the Netherlands. I was 1 year old and while I don't remember that first Christmas, I have a picture of myself and my next born sister sitting by a very small tree. That little tree had the round ornaments on the left hanging on it. They look a little knarled and they are after 55 years of use.

This is the first Christmas for me where neither parent is alive as Dad passed away in October. Its a milestone. But its not a melancholy Christmas, life goes on.

This evening my children, my wife and I decorated the tree and hung the heirloom ornaments on the tree. I am thankful for another Christmas where we're all still able to be together. It won't last forever. As I hung the small old ornaments on the tree I was reminded again that its the small things I have to be thankful for. Family, friends, a sunset, snow that sparkles in the sunshine....

So, that's my wish for everyone. Have a Merry Christmas filled with the small things that mean the most. And to all a good night!

Tony :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Theory of destination

Stan heading for .....?

This is a picture of Stan paddling towards Bauline on a paddle we did back in November. If we had blinkers on and this is all we could see, in a couple of seconds Stan would be out of the picture, destination somewhere left.

Destination is somewhere I suppose we're all going. Sometimes we know the destination because we've gotten in a boat, car etc and purposely gone there. Sometimes, we don't know, like what's the plan for tomorrow.

Sometimes we think we're already there. I have a friend who has been playing guitar for years and years. I've been learning to play for 4 years. I can only get better; he can't because he thinks he's already there (no disrespect to him), an accomplished player.

In kayaking, thinking that you have all the skills mastered can be dangerous. The sea can throw things at you that are totally unexpected and there's always a need to be on top of your game. I try to be honest with myself and when I don't handle a situation very well, I plan to practice for better future execution. Learning to be a skilled kayaker is a journey, there is no destination.

In that sense, kayaking is like life.

Tony :-)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Theory of Sustenance

Salvia and Monarda are all that's left of our flower garden sticking thru the snow

Sustenance is the word we use to describe our need for food to survive.

Over the last 2 days we've had our first substantive taste of winter and it appears that the season for homo sapiens kayakerious newfoundlandus is drawing to a close for this year. I'd like to get out today, even Topsail Pond, but it doesn't look good. Temps last night -12 C with wind chill of -27 C; temp today -7 C.

Reflecting on that, I think about the people who gave us the kayak in the first place, the Inuit. They didn't have the luxury of deciding "Ah, I won't go kayaking today". They had no choice. If they wanted to eat they had to get out. One image I have is of a show on the tube I've seen, of an Inuit sitting silently for hours in his kayak, in a polynia waiting for a narwhal to surface. The slightest of sound and the prey that surfaces is gone. Hours of waiting wasted and no prospect for another chance.

Things have changed today but I respect those people of days gone by and count myself lucky to be able to make a choice. Today, I'll still venture out but in search of the perfect Christmas tree. But, I will promise myself to get out some bitter cold day this winter just for the experience and sustenance of my soul.

Tony :-)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Theory of Gadgets

Gadgets are little devices that we all come up with to serve a particular function or to do something that we can't buy off of a store shelf. Its improvization on the fly.

A little while ago I bought an Olympus Stylus 850 SW to take pictures while out kayaking. Its the perfect camera for that, light weight and waterproof. On calm days its just as easy to stash it under you deck bungees when not in use but in more challenging conditions it can be intimidating to take pictures. There's a need to grab the camera, hold the paddle and stay upright in wind and waves and all the while try to get your picture.

I got some info from one of Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador's Central Chapter members on how to attach the camera to the paddle. Good idea Colin but I thought there might be a better way.

Here's what I did:
- cut a small piece out of a bicycle inner tube and slip over the paddle shaft
- cut a piece of plastic slightly wider that the camera out of any plastic container
- fold over sharply on one end and wrap around the paddle shaft
- tuck the sharply folded end tight and drill 2 small holes on both ends, secure with small screws
- make a template out of cardstock to get the location of the hole under the camera for mounting to tripod
- transfer to your gizmo
- drill hole and attach camera as if on a tripod.

Here's the camera attached to the paddle shaft. Slightly out of focus but hey, you get the picture.

The bicycle inner tube keeps the gadget from slipping around on the shaft. The plastic has to be a little wider than the camera so the screws on both ends don't interfere with the camera mounting. If you have a 2 piece paddle, slip the wrist strap over the paddle before putting the paddle together.

All the controls are readily at hand so that's convenient. There is a drawback as I recently found out. To take a picture you have to take the paddle out of the water and in very strong wind both paddle blades are open to the wind. A sudden gust while taking a picture to the side and broadside to the wind can knock you over. You'll have to play with your set-up to safely take pictures under those conditions.

The proto type is white, I'll made a final version in black so that it all blends in with the paddle. Hope you make one for yourself too. Finally, a little "theory" that's practical!

Tony :-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Theory of sugar-plums

The kayaks were nestled all snug in their racks ...

while visions of sugar-plums danced in my head. Please allow a little poetic licence!

Its a week before Christmas and a good time to check your list of kayak related toys for Santa to leave under the tree. Kayaking is not a cheap hobby and Christmas is a good time when gifts can do double duty. Well, you're going to buy the stuff anyway, right? There's always more stuff to buy and gear to replace. A throw bag, paddle leash, tow rope, deck compass and on and on.

With the current economic turmoil it seems a little extravagant to be thinking about expensive toys like this. There's a big up-front cost but when I consider the number of times I've been in my boat this year alone, the cost is less than the cost of going to a movie. Say nothing of the need to be outfitted for safety either for yourself or to help another paddler in trouble.

I have to confess, I'm thinking out loud a little here and on-line, justifying my need to buy a Nordkapp for next years paddling season. I'm 99% certain that I'll place my order after Christmas and while I throw it back and forth in my mind, I'll have visions of sugar-plums dancing in my head.

Tony :-)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Theory of the unscripted swim

Ride'em cowboy Stan

Stan's kayak has after burners?

Jim Price is one of the best kayakers in Newfoundland and Jim says "there are 2 kinds of paddlers: swimmers and those who are going to be swimmers". Before Stan and myself put in today at St. Phillips (again!) I was in the category of "going to be swimmer". Now, I've joined the ranks of the swimmers.

It was blowing at 55 kms/hr with wind gusts of 70. It wasn't ideal but with air temps on December 13 at 15 degrees C, Stan seconded the motion of carpe diem - sieze the day. The wind was very brisk and the gusts threatened to rip the paddle out of my hands.

Then, there was a picture op of Stan. I have my camera attached to the paddle but it means presenting the whole paddle to the wind when taking a picture. I turned broadside to the wind, raised the paddle to snap the picture, a gust of wind caught both paddle blades and over I went. I made one attempt to roll unsuccessfully and bailed. No panic, we've practiced assisted rescues and before long I was back in the boat. I decided not to pump the boat out so I paddled into the beach with the cockpit full of water, 50 kms wind and 1 metre wind waves. A good exercise in balance control.

We hung around for about an hour after and I had to do one roll before calling it a day. I had to reassure myself because I was disappointed that my roll failed just when I needed it.

Anyway, I learned something today - exercise caution taking pictures in challenging conditions and a friend in need is a friend indeed. Thanks Stan!

Tony :-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Theory of landlubbers

Waves crashing at Laurie's Beach in Paradise, Nfld.

A landlubber is defined as someone who lives and works on land. I don't know the origin of the word but my guess is it would be derived from "land lover".

Technically, by the definition, I'm a landlubber as I live on land. But I'm not a landlubber in the sense I love the land and avoid the sea.

Today we have southwest winds gusting to 100 kms/hr at the coast. I remember an article on kayak paddling techniques (Technical Nuances for Cruising in Wind; Seakayaker Magazine, June 1995) by Nigel Foster wherein he says "The following techniques ... work in strong winds ... up to 65 knots". (100 kms/hr). I don't know what planet he hails from but I'm skeptical. I've been out in some strong wind much less than 100 and found forward progress to be quite a challenge.

In any case, I had to go down to the shore and see for myself what it would be like on the water. Yup, based on what I saw, today I lubbs the land!

Tony :-)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Theory of smiling kayak gods

The pleasure boats are done for the season! (A)

Glacial till NE of Long Pond (B)

Houses perched on Conception Bay (C)

Well, the kayak gods did smile on me today. It didn't look good early this morning as my paddling buddy Stan was tied up with house chores. My better half doesn't like for me to paddle alone but today she had faith. So, I was off for my first solo paddle on the briney sea.

I put in in Topsail in Conception Bay, Newfoundland, and paddled some 5kms southwest to the community of Long Pond. It was blowing only about 15 kms from the WSW, 3 degrees C and small wind waves. Had I gotten in trouble I'd have blown up on the shore all along the way.

Its not an exciting paddle but it was a day out. This part of the shore of Conception Bay is either houses spilling out down to the edge of the sea (picture C) or unoccupied cobble beaches (picture B).

On the way to Long Pond the sun was directly in my eyes but I found the marina at Long Pond. Got out and stretched my legs and found it funny that I was still out on the water but all the pleasure boats were hauled up for the winter (picture A). Isn't it ironic?

The hills backing cobble beaches consist of glacial till (B) that was dumped when the glaciers retreated here some 12,000 years ago. The houses are somewhat newer and look like clumps of habitation dumped unwittingly here too.

While it was liberating to be out alone, I did miss Stan. I hope there'll be other days when the kayaking gods smile on me yet this year. Either way I've no reason to complain if I was able to be out on December 6!!!

Tony :-)

Theory of discretion

Dumping surf at Middle Cove, Nfld.

One of the meanings of discretion is the ability to make responsible decisions.

Earlier this summer, in August, three of us had a practice session here at Middle Cove that I feel now was pivotal in my progression as a kayaker. It was the first time I was in substantial water. The sea wasn't as angry as on the day I took this picture but there were occasional 2 metre waves and a dumping surf. I launched through the surf safely and the three of us just paddled back and forth in the cove. For me, it was just being in the boat and being in the bigger water. After a while I felt comfortable and thought, its no biggie.

There in lies some danger. There's a risk of being overconfident to the point of being cocky. There are people who could get out thru the surf on this day but I'm not there yet. Make a responsible decision, leave the boat on the car and wait till I'm ready. Know my ability and my limits.

Sometimes you want to get out for a paddle but sometimes the gods are against you. When they are, its probably for a reason.

Tony :-)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Theory of hardness

Bucket and float set-up

Bucket and float out for a tow!

The theory of hardness, more accurately, Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness, is a system which characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals. Its on a scale of 1 to 10 with talc as 1 and diamond as 10. There's another definition of course where hardness is based on relative difficulty.

Paddling on calm water is easy whereas paddling into a strong wind is more difficult. Taking someone in distress under tow also adds to the degree of difficulty.

Recently I've rigged up a float and a bucket to add to the difficulty of paddling practice. The float keeps the bucket close to the surface and the bucket adds resistance. I find that the addition of resistance allows me to concentrate more on form and is good towing practice.

Practice easy and you end up with talc; add some difficulty and you end up with diamonds. And you'll know you have diamonds when you take the resistance off because the boat just glides effortlessly across the water. I guess its like life, you have to have some difficulty in your life to know how good the "good times" are. That last part was an afterthought, WOW!

Tony :-)