Sunday, September 27, 2009

Paddling in familiar territory

Under the "Gaffer IV"

We paddled today in Bay Bulls. I'm beginning to know it very well but, what the hey, its a day on the water.

The Gatheralls operate a whale-watching and sea bird tour business in Bay Bulls. I've been on the catamaran, the "Gaffer IV", that they use for the tour. Its much more stable than a mono-hulled boat which is a good thing for some landlubbers who don't have well developed sea legs.

I took a picture of Cyde and Gene who carried on while I padded under the catamaran.

Eugene and Clyde in Valley boats

Eugene is in a Valley Aquanaut while Clyde is in a Valley Nordkapp RM. That made it a theesome in Valley boats. A lot of people are buying them and they certainly had a lot of desireable qualities that suit the paddling environment we have here in Newfoundland.

Gene used to paddle a Feathercraft inflatable which in a stiff wind must have been a slog to paddle. This year moved into a sleeker boat and I expect he'll be difficult to catch once he gets comfortable in her. Joining us at St. Philips for practice in rough water (or not depending on the weather) is definately helping him grow into the boat.

On the land - the East Coast Trail

We paddled along the north side of Bay Bulls where a part of the East Coast Trail also runs. The East Coast Trail runs all along the east coast (duh!) of the Avalon Peninsula. Its a world class hiking trail that runs through some spectacular scenery and a few scenic fishing communities. We see most of the same scenery but from the cockpit of a seakayak.

We saw a number of hikers out today taking advantage of a great fall day. I noticed some of them stopped to look at the three of us. There's a couple of them in this picture but you'll need to enlarge it to see them.


Seagulls are so much part of the seakayakers environment. I don't know how they are seen in other parts of the world but here in Newfoundland I think they part of the spirit of the place. E.J. Pratt wrote a famous poem about seagulls that every Newfoundland student has learned in literature class.

If there are seagulls, then does that mean there are other gulls - like landgulls? Why not just gulls?
Tour operator "The Outfitters" clients

From the north side of the bay we could see kayakers on the south side. We decided to cross over and tag along. The Outfitters operate tours out of Bay Bulls and I didn't expect that they'd still be taking clients out. The paddlers were almost all in doubles. They had a great day for it today; its a sign that paddling season for most is still not ovr.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Goofing around

Goofing around at practice

They say "practice makes perfect". Not true. Incorrect practice doesn't make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.

Thursday evening I had a lot of fun at practice but I didn't really apply myself. I jumped out of the boat to try a cowboy backdeck re-entry. The camera came out of a pocket on my PFD and I figured I may as well take some pictures from the water. Then Brain took the tethered camera and took a picture of me at the stern of my boat. Good thing the water wasn't too cold and there was no emergency.

Its alright to goof-off from time-to-time but next time I need to get serious and treat rescue practice as a real-life situation. Someday it could well be for real.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Out in the elements

Sean getting back in his boat

Thursday evenings we meet at St. Philips to practice paddling strokes and rescues - rain or shine. Today if it was going to happen it was going to be in the rain.

Sean posted a query on the newsgroup early in the day whether we were on given the expected wind and rain. Dean replied "of course, we practice whatever the conditions".

The wind had dropped by the time we got there but it was still raining. There was still a bit of swell from the southwest so we made the best of it. We got wet and practiced rescues.

Then the wind picked up from the north and quickly northerly wind waves developed to interact with the swell that continued from the southwest to create confused seas. Perfect!

In spite of the weather 6 of us had a very enjoyable evening. Thanks Brian, Clyde, Dean, Neville and Sean.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pleasure the senses

Peter and Alison on the glassy waters of Woody Island

Isn't this picture a feast for the eyes? Crystal clear waters, the trees reflected in the gently rippled water, the colours and peaceful paddlers.

It was a beautiful sunny and warm day yesterday after I got back from some kayak practice. It was time for further self-indulgence so I brewed a cup of coffee and splurged with a shot of drambuie in it. I savoured the taste as I sat, my dark T-shirt soaking up the sun. It was a pleasure to the sense of taste.

I find sometimes I'm so busy that in hectic times I forget to count my blessings. Not so yesterday, time to stop smell the roses and pleasure some of the senses.

Monday, September 21, 2009

On looking foolhardy

Malcolm and Stan in St. Philips

Yesterday the forecast was for 35 - 45 kms/hr N winds. That would be blowing in the right direction at St. Philips; if I got into trouble at worst I'd blow back onto the beach. I went to have a look. The sea state was as expected. The morning was grey, gloomy and raw in the north wind.

It was manageable for a solo paddle within the confines of the cove. I had second thoughts. The cove is lined with houses and there's always someone driving by. I wondered if I wouldn't look like a fool out in the wind and waves by myself. Or, if I ended up in the water would that precipitate an unwarranted call to emergency services. So I passed and went to Topsail Pond instead.

The question remains though, should I have put-in and pay no heed to what anyone might think?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

As the world turns

Sunset Conception Bay

At one time the sun revolved around the earth. Its not hard to understand that thinking as I watch the sun set below the horizon. The earth seems so immoveable; the sun just seems to slip across the sky until it disappears.

Copernicus set us right on that. The earth revolves around the sun but that doesn't have anything to do with a sunset. Its of course the rotation of the earth that gives us our sunsets.

When I look at a sunset I get a sense of how fast the earth turns as it takes me away from the stationary sun. Especially after the sun touches the horizon. The last disk full of sun just seems to sprint under the horizon.

Sunsets are beautiful but they make me feel small in this great big world.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The big boys join us

Des and Malcolm

Des and Malcolm are paddlers apart. They seek out wind and waves, exposed coasts, long open crossings. They are part of a triumvirate, the other being Linda who wasn't with them this evening. They go big.

Usually they paddle out of either Bauline further up the coast or Quidi Vidi. These put-ins are on opposite sides of the Avalon peninsula. When its calm on one side they're likely to find the conditions they crave on the other. This evening they joined a bunch of regulars that have been practicing paddle strokes and rescues in St. Philips on Thursday evenings.

It wasn't a rough as they're used to but I think they still had a good evening out. Our group isn't as advanced as they are but we're working on it. Ya got to start somewhere!

Clyde, where's your boat?

Des looks like he's telling Clyde "Clyde, you can't play with us without a boat".


I caught Stan rolling up, I've seen him roll lots of times but never realized that the water caused this interesting effect.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On retirement

Clyde crusin' in Aquaforte

Recently Michael in Quebec blogged about ageing and continuing to paddle full bore. He indicated he paddles lots because he had the luxury of not having to go to a regular day job.

I'm in the same boat in that I'm also retired. I think there's a misconception of retirement. That is, ya have all sorts of time to do what ya want. Not true. I'm busier now than when I had to punch the clock. In fact, I don't know where I found the time to work.

I don't see retirement as having paid my dues and being entitled to put my feet up. I see it as an indication that time is getting tight and I'd better get on my horse and get to the bucket list. At 57 I have to be realistic; I don't have 50 more. So, I've made myself busy to a point where I sometimes don't have time to turn around. I need to remind myself - balance Tony.

Oh, I paddle, an embarrassing amount of time. I won't apologize for that; I'm busy playing catch-up.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Different styles

Paddlers stretch into the horizon

Saturday Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador had a club paddle with 41 paddlers attending. It was a large group with a wide range of paddling experience. Paddling in a large group means following a trip leader. No need to decide on where to paddle, just decide if you want to paddle the advertised plan and contribute to group dynamics.

There may be people you haven't seen in a while so you catch up on news. There may be slower paddlers so you can paddle at a more relaxed pace. There's more banter back and forth on the water and always someone with a joke.

Its more of a social event and I find its important to take these club paddles in because it gives me a chance to stay connected with a great bunch of people.

Stan in "Gull Feather"

I've paddled a lot in small groups of two or three, and, usually with Stan. Paddling in small groups is different starting from making a decision where to paddle. We discuss where we want to go and agree on what we're going to do. On the water we stick closer together, chat or get lost in your own thoughts. When one stops to take a picture or just to have a look at something, the other stops or slows down.

I like paddling in large groups and I like paddling in small ones. Either way, I just like paddling and having paddling buddies ensures I can do it in safety. Aquaforte was the last club paddle for the year but Stan and I will continue to paddle as part of smaller groups or with each other.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

KNL Aquaforte paddle

A gaggle of paddlers

Today Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador had its last club paddle for the year in Aquaforte. We had a fantastic turnout of 40 plus paddlers; its great to see so many people supporting the activities of the club. Thanks to Dan M for leading the paddle. The club wouldn't be able to have these events without experienced, Paddle Canada certified paddlers who are willing to lead.

Aquaforte means strong water but based on the conditions we had today for the paddle I wondered how it came by its name. The conditions were pretty benign today.


A seastack and a paddler (Brian) always makes for a great sea kayaking picture, I think.

Waiting to regroup

A group of 40 or so paddlers tends to get strung out as people stop to sight-see, take pictures, rock hop etc. Every now and then the lead paddlers hold up to bring the group back together. It was a beautiful sunny day with practically no wind and no one was in a hurry. Spurwink Island in the background.

Spurwink Arch

After paddling down the south side of Aquaforte Harbour we rounded South Head and we came upon Spurwink Arch. The arch is formed in the tilted beds of the grey to black slates of the St. John's formation. A sea cave would have been pounded out by the sea and when the cave roof fell in the arch was formed.

Spurwink Arch is part of the East Coast Trail that runs down the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula, most of it along the tops of cliffs with a view of the ocean. I haven't hiked this part of the trail but I got a different perspective of the arch today than hikers get.

I am free

Alison was doing a bit of rock hopping and got stuck on a rock after the receding water left her stranded. A bit of squirming, rising swell and she freed herself (all smiles) by the time I got in position to take the picture. Pete thought I was coming to her assistance and I was, just I wanted to get the picture first.

Technicolour beach

40 + kayaks means you're going to get a rainbow of boat colours, from white to Stan's black Nordkapp.

Spout River Falls

After our lunch stop we made a stop at Spout River Falls. There was quite a torrent flowing over the falls which surprised me because its been pretty dry all summer and I would have expected water levels to be much lower.

Most of the group wanted to poke their bows into the falls. The force of the water running out meant ya had to take a run at it and then paddle and brace to stay in the falls.

My turn, my turn

With 40 + paddlers and most wanting a piece of the falls, it got a little congested.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Time bandits

A scar in the fossil record

A diamond saw was used to deface the fossil bed at Mistaken Point. What was taken or destroyed? We'll never know. One thing for sure, what was here can't be replaced.

Recently fellow kayaker Neil reported that the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve had been expanded and it is no longer legal to land a boat in the Reserve at Drook or Long Beach. This could be a safety issue for kayakers paddling in the area if they need to get off the water. My first reaction was sort of indignation.

On Saturday I visited Mistaken Point to see the world famous fossils and drove out with Richard Thomas who is the Manager and was our guide for the day. I raised the issue of landing a boat in the Reserve with Richard. The conversation went something like this:

Tony: "But Richard, kayakers aren't the type of people who would vandalize the fossil beds."

Richard: "That may be true but anyone intent on collecting fossils illegally could use a kayak to gain access and who can say whether anyone is a bona fide kayaker or a fossil collector?"

Good point.

After seeing the fossil beds and the damage already done, I thought that the custodians should do everything they can to protect the fossil beds. And, how much of an imposition is the restriction on kayakers? The area along the Reserve is very exposed and 99% of kayakers wouldn't be paddling here anyway. Those that do have to have advanced paddling skills and should be more than capable of an extended stay on the water.

People react adversely when something is taken from them. I think in this case, considering what is at stake and the number of people affected, its a reasonable imposition and I accept that.

Damage to fossil of Charniodiscus fronds

Charniodiscus (right side of picture) was anchored to the sea floor by a holdfast. A tube stood straight up from the holdfast with what looks like fronds flowing out at the top.

Someone was angry with the world and took a hammer to the holdfasts of the frondlike Charniodiscus. Damage like this can't be repaired and what detail may have existed is lost forever. This significant because future researchers will not have these details to study.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mistaken Point

The trail head to Mistaken Point

Mistaken Point is a spiritual experience, simple as that.

Mistaken Point is a famous fossil site about 140 kms south of St. John's, Newfoundland. It has the best preserved Ediacaran fossils anywhere and they represent the oldest complex multicellular life forms yet found on the Earth. These organisms lived on the sea floor of a volcanic island archipelego 565 +/- 3 million years ago when this area lay south of the equator. The volcanic ash from an eruption settled on them preserving a picture of life at that time and it also made it possible to radiometrically date the event.

That's the short history version, there's hardly space here for a full discourse. If you want more information, just google "Edicaran fossils" or "Mistaken Point".

I had known about these fossils for over 40 years but just never made the effort to go see them. Why is difficult to explain now that I've been there. This past Saturday I finaly made the trip with wife Sherry and daughter Lisa.

Like I said, it was a spiritual experience. To actually stand on the surface of a 565 million year old sea floor and see the life forms that existed then was a bit overwhelming really. These weren't animals because they didn't have a mouth, digestive tract or anus but we were looking at the start of complex life forms taking hold on our planet.

The excitement begins to build

There's a well defined trail out to the coast where Mistaken Point is located, just over the heads of the group. Richard Thomas is the Ecological Reserve Manager and we were lucky to have him lead the guided tour, though he did set a bit of a torrid walking pace for some! We were also lucky to have a small group as the day before Richard said he had a group of 28. Access to the fossil beds is now only possible by guided tour. The tour is free and you can get information by calling 709-438-1100.

"Sacred" beds

We walked up over a small rise and we were there, within minutes of walking on the fabled fossils of Mistaken Point. Before we were allowed to walk onto the bed we had to take off our walking shoes and put on cloth booties that Richard provided. The fossil impressions are beyond price; they cannot be replaced so every precaution to prevent any wear on the fossils is necessary.


The fanlike impression in the bottom right quadrant of the picture is called a Bradgatia. What it was all about is unknown. This fossil also occurs in Ediacaran beds in Charnwood Forest in central England.

A "pectinate" fossil

Another "un-named" fossil (the crescent shaped) that the internet calls a "pectinate" fossil. What it was is subject to a lot of speculation and maybe we'll never know. It would be nice to know but one thing we do know is that none of these Ediacaran fossils survived much past the Ediacaran - Cambrian boundary. It didn't matter to me that none of these life forms led to us, there's still a bit of a genesis moment on display here.

A disk among the spindles and feather dusters

There's a defined disk at the top of the picture and I think it was a holdfast for the organism laying below it. The organism was attached to the sea floor by the holdfast and floated in the current. These organisms couldn't move and its thought that they collected nourishment by collecting food as it drifted by. When the volcanic ash settled on the organism it caused it to collapse on the sea floor.

Spindles and feather dusters

These un-named organisms resemble spindles and feather dusters. They were most of the fossil impressions in the beds we visited. These fossils have much more fine detail than other similar sites because here the fossils were preserved on siltstones as opposed to sandstones.

An application to be designated a World Heritage Site will be completed in the near future. If anything deserves to be so-named, this is the place.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Another way to Avondale

Bound for a distant shore

Avondale is a popular paddling destination in the area of St. John's. Its about a 70 km drive if you put-in in Avondale. Sometimes I want to put-in closer to home and save the gas. There's more than one way to skin a cat they say and so it is with getting to Avondale.

Today Dean, Gerry and I put-in at Indian Pond (which was a 30 km drive for me) on the east shore of Holyrood Bay and we paddled west across the bay to Chapel Cove, Harbour Main and Salmon Cove Point. Avondale is on the other side of Salmon Cove Point but we didn't get down there as we were short of time. Nonetheless, its another option to paddle Avondale and environs but a more direct crossing would save time to be able to get down into Avondale.

Gerry bathed in bright sunlight

I caught Gerry backing into this cave and got out the camera for a shot. That's the thing about digital cameras, you don't always get the shot you want. The subject (Gerry) was partly in the dark cave but outside it was bright sunshine. The camera probably didn't know what light reading to use with the resulting picture a bit overexposed.

Salmon Cove Point

A bit of swell was running at Salmon Cove Point which we rode back to MacKay's Point. We discussed a run down into Avondale but time was against us, so, we headed back and just took our time.

Surf's up

The beach at MacKay's Point looked pretty inviting for a break even though it was a dumping beach. Still getting used to landing and launching the fibreglass Nordkapp in a bit of surf. The more I do the smoother it gets. Sometimes a plastic boat is a lot simpler; just get in and knuckle walk it until the surf picks ya up.

Harvest the wind

There were a lot of sailboats out today and this one caught my eye with is colourful spinnaker. The wind had dropped and this sailboat was doing its best to harvest speed from the wind with the big sheet spinnaker. Even with the spinnaker I had no trouble catching her for a picture.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

All ship

Tanker "Vinland" lays at anchor

Stan and I had to pass by this tanker when paddling back to Long Pond after our excursion on Conception Bay Wednesday. It supplies the Holyrood hydro generating station with fuel and was laying high at anchor after discharging its cargo. Only the orange part of the hull is out of the water when the tanker is loaded.

From this vantage point, I paddled between the bow and anchor chain. I felt a bit like a mouse creeping beside a sleeping elephant - hoping that it wouldn't roll over!

Nothing but ship

I went to the stern of the Vinland and was struck by the enormity of the ship. I wanted to get a picture where the ship filled the whole frame but still be able to recognize it as a ship. Its not going to win a photo contest but I liked the effect.

The sun dances on the bottom of the hull reflected off of the water.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pirates arrrrrr......

Arriving at Martin's Cove, Kelly's Island

Legend has it Kelly's Island was frequented by pirates in the 17th century. Cuper's Cove, not far from Kelly's Island, was settled in 1610 and the colonists there reported skirmishes with the pirate Peter Easton. Where there's pirates, there's pirate treasure and there are in fact legends of treasure that's supposed to be burried on the island.

When people think of pirates I believe they think automatically of the Carribean. Newfoundland is considerably north of that, so what were they doing here? It might be well be to bury their treasure here, far away from the watchful eyes of the British navy who was trying to capture them.

There might be treasure burried here but Stan and myself weren't concerned with that on this day. The treasure on this day was the paddle we had paddling around in the middle of Conception Bay.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tour of Conception Bay - almost

Conception Bay, Newfoundland

Conception Bay lays to the west of St. John's, the capital city of Newfoundland. Stan and I (familiar theme) took advantage of the beautiful weather for a paddle but couldn't be gone all day as Stan had an appointment at 2:00. I suggested a paddle out of Long Pond and around Kelly's Island which Stan had never done. When we landed at Long Pond I suggested we do a "tour of Conception Bay"; do three crossing and visit the three islands in the bay. Turns out time didn't permit but we did do a mini-tour and maybe some time in the future we'd also cross to Bell Island. The mini-tour was for a total distance of 16 kms.

Black diamond?

Stan's black boat looks sweet paddling in the calm waters of Conception Bay with a massive tanker in the background. We'd have a chance to get a closer look at the tanker on our inward paddle.

We left Long Pond northbound for Little Bell Island in no wind and glassy waters with just a very gentle swell. We had the bay to ourselves but were under watchful eyes on doubt all along the shore of the Town of Conception Bay South.

Orangy cliffs of Little Bell Island

As we approached Little Bell Island the cliffs looked orangy (if that's a word, OK is now!). When we got closer we discovered the rocks were covered by a rusty or orange coloured lichen of some sort. I tried to get the orange of my deck in the picture to compliment the orange colour in the cliffs. The crossing from Long Pond to Little Bell Island was about 5 kms.

Stan rounding Kelly's Island

We left Little Bell Island and made for Martin's Cove on Kelly's Island, a short crossing of about 2.75 kms. Paddling up the backside of Kelly's Island it was surprising how the swell just piled up until the waves broke as they passed over sunken rocks. At one point I sidesurfed one breaking wave without consequence. We steered well wide of the point and submerged rocks and looked for a place to grab a bite to eat.

High and dry

After we paddled the backside of Kelly's Island we stopped for lunch on a small pocket beach. It was sunny and hot but there was shade to be found. Getting ready to put in again I thought the boat looked very fragile laying there on the cobbles and the cliff all around. Fibreglass looks great but ya can't just haul it up on the beach or seal launch. Handle with care!

Stan dwarfed by tanker "Vinland"

On the way back to Long Pond we passed by the Penny Ugland tanker "Vinland". Its a huge boat. I paddled under the bow, inside the anchor chain and along the side. I find paddling alongside a huge ship kinda creepy. After I sized up the stern I turned to catch Stan who looked like a speck in comparison.

A dandy mini-tour of Conception Bay and well worth scaling up to visit Bell Island. As usual, thanks Stan!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


You never know who's watching

Stan watches Brian catch a surfride in St. Philips Saturday morning. A group of us also practice paddle strokes and rescues here Thursday evenings. Its a chance for all of us to safely practice in realistic conditions if the weather cooperates.

There's a popular restaurant in the cove where they serve excellent fish and chips. After I got home Saturday a friend of my wife called and asked about my kayaking. She also said she had been at the restaurant one evening when a few kayakers were in the cove. She explained how the kayakers would get out and in their boats and go upside-down and then right themselves etc, etc, etc.

I was amused because I realized that while we're practicing, we're also providing entertainment for the patrons of the restaurant.