Friday, October 30, 2009

Book value

Stan doing a bow rudder

Most kayak instruction books tell you to get some good forward speed going, edge, sweep and bow rudder in order to turn upwind when paddling in a beam sea. Gordon Brown's book "Sea Kayak" also suggests doing a stern draw at the end of your last forward stroke before edging to sweep. Either way, its very easy on calm water. I'm working on moving that skill up into more challenging conditions.

That's the funny thing about books, in some ways the instruction is overly simplified. They don't address the complications that waves and wind introduce into the equation. This is where you're on your own to figure it out or obtain qualified instruction.

What follows are some musings (OK, I'm thinking out loud) what I think will work.

We are told to turn right upwind in waves: edge left, sweep left and bow rudder on right. Edging left (away) from a wave coming from the right increases the possibility of capsize. I intend to edge left and sweep on the backside of the wave and quickly switch to the bow rudder on the right, front face of the next wave. The bow rudder can be held as the kayak crests the wave to keep the exposed bow from being blown downwind. Repeat as necessary until the kayak is facing upwind. There will be some protection from the wind also in the trough.

To turn upwind before substantial waves can form can also be tricky. Edging and sweeping downwind can lead to a capsize in strong winds or a gust. I intend to edge less and compensate by doing a couple of sweeps before putting in the bow rudder and not hold the bow rudder too long causing a loss of speed.

Up to now I've used brute force and ignorance to turn into the wind. I'm going to try and apply what I've reasoned out in my mind the next chance I get. I'll keep ya posted.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day paddle?

Malcolm reverse seal launches

Yesterday the winds were 50 kms gusting to 70 NW and Conception Bay was a boiling cauldron of froth. I looked at the map and suggested to Malcolm that Holyrood Bay would be an option as we would be protected from the wind under the cliffs and we could venture out into the bay to tailor the winds to our liking. Its only a 30 minute drive so close enough for a couple of hours in the kayaks.

We put-in and paddled into the wind for 20 minutes or so until we got in under the hills. Then we paddled along the cliffs for a bit. I thought I was getting Malcolm into a "day paddle"; he even made a comment to the effect. Not going to happen. We stopped to consult. Malcolm said lets practice paddle strokes by paddling boxes. I said great, I'll follow you eager to see how skillful he was in turning into the wind and hoping to learn something.

Well, he did it effortlessly. I struggled to duplicate his crisp turns. Why? He has gotten propper instruction, he's practiced and he's meticulous in his practice. Myself, I've concentrated on developing a sense of ease and comfort in conditions in a new boat.

I've practiced turns in calm conditions on a pond. I need to move that up a notch now to more demanding conditions. Malcolm gave me some corrections I had to make and the example of what is possible when you apply yourself. Many thanks Malcolm, I will improve.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A year ago

Malcolm in Torbay a year ago

On October 25th last year Stan and I met Malcolm and friends in Torbay so Stan could test paddle Malcolm's Nordkapp. Stan was in the market for a new boat.

It was a sunny and pleasant fall day.

Yesterday, a year later, it was cold and wet. Its been cold, wet and windy so far this fall. Normally fall is a pleasant time of year we can count on but not this year. Ah well, at least it hasn't cut into my paddling time. Yesterday, I spent an hour in St. Philips by myself to practice turning into the wind using sweep and bow rudder. It was an unplanned spur of the moment thing. It put me 41 paddles for the year ahead of the number at the same date last year.

And, Stan bought the Nordkapp, as did I. A year later, a year 99% filled with good things. Funny what kinds of mileposts we all use to measure the passage of time!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Seeing double

Twins (almost) in Bauline

Yesterday was the sixth straight time paddling in challenging conditions. In the last week I've paddled with Malcolm 4 times. Malcolm wants to get to 50 paddles before the end of the season but he was stuck on 37 with his paddling regulars only able to paddle on the weekend. I have the freedom to paddle during the week so Malcolm asked if I was interested in doing some paddling.

Malcolm likes to paddle in conditions; he seeks them out. That's fine with me because, while I'm comfortable in conditions, the more time I spend in conditions the more it becomes natural. Paddling in conditions means paddling away from shore and get out in the wind and waves - not much opportunity to take pictures of scenery.

I like to dabble in all aspects of sea kayaking but given a choice I'd pick paddling in the scenery of the seashore. Its been a while. I'm not sure what paddling on calm water feels like anymore.

Yesterday we paddled in Bauline; Malcolm showed up with his Nordkapp LV. I paddle a Nordkapp. Both boats have the same colour scheme - almost twins!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Maritime radio - VHF course

Derrick, Pam, Darla; keeners at the front of the class

I've bought a VHF radio and the law requires that I take a course to get my ROC(M) - Restricted Operators Certificate (Maritime). There's a fine of $250 if I use my radio without the certificate, if I get caught of course!

A group of 23, a lot of them kayakers, were on hand last night to take the course. Last night we covered the basics - phonetic alphabet, making a "MAYDAY" call and a tour of the facility where distress calls are received.

We were applauded for making the investment in a VHF radio. When I bought mine I had selfish reasons - its a safety thing. I was thinking of my own Bravo Uniform Tango Tango. Last night I learned I could be part of a larger picture. As kayakers, we may not be able to come to the assistance of a large vessel in distress but we could relay a distress call if they don't get a response to their call. Or we could call in the sighting of a navigational hazzard.

Next week its the DSC - Digital Selective Calling part of the course and the exam. That means I've got a week of Sierra Tango Uniform Delta Yankee because I want to Papa Alpha Sierra Sierra.

This is where your distress call comes in

The Canadian Coast Guard monitors the emergency VHF Channel 16 (and others) at this location. If you make a "Mayday" call at sea in the Avalon area, these are the people you're counting on to send someone to save your Alpha Sierra Sierra.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The charts don't lie

Weather charts from Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club

When I got home from our short paddle in Middle Cove on Saturday I was curious what the wind had done over the preceding hours. We had put-in in a 5 knt SW wind but was blowing hard on my drive home.

The Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club has a web page that shows historical wind direction, wind speed, barometric reading and temperature. I was surprised by the steep increase in wind speed shortly after we took out. It was fortuitous that I suggested to Stan that I had enough. The increasing wind speed and swing in the wind from southwest to north would have made for a very tricky take-out on a dumping beach.

Stan was right about a lull in the storm; it was very brief.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Stan getting ready to launch

Today's entry is "bookends" represented by a picture of the put-in and take-out. There was a paddle but no pictures of our paddle from Middle Cove to Outer Cove. Stan wanted me out front because he was filming today. He'll have a clip of the paddle on his blog which is "Kayaking Dreamin' " which is in my list of "Blog Favs".

Stan called and we agreed to meet at Middle Cove. We sized up the situation where the surf was dumping all along the beach. We found the best spot to launch and off we went. The water was big and confused by rebounding waves in the cove. We paddled over to Outer Cove and back. After an hour I had enough and we agreed to take out. Good thing too because the wind came up soon after and landing would have been a lot trickier.

That was 4 straight paddles in level 3 conditions; I feel ready for a leisurely day paddle in calm waters. But we'll see, its dependent on the weather.

Stan waiting to time his landing

Friday, October 16, 2009

To the Cape

Cape Spear in a shimmering sea

This is as close as we got to the Cape today. Big swell meant prudence and maintain distance.

Capes are mystic places. There are no places to hide at capes, they're open to the weather and the sea. We don't always get a chance to paddle in their vicinity either because of wind and/or waves.

Its been 2 days since a strong Nor'easter blew through and the swell was starting to settle but it was still forecast to be in the 3 - 4 metre range. Malcolm figured it was a good day to go for the cape. It was but it still wasn't a walk in the park. On our way back from the cape a set of three huge waves rolled in that Malcolm guessed were at least 6 metres tall.

Cabot Tower on top of Signal Hill

We paddled back from Cape Spear with a bit of a following sea from the southeast combining with the remaining northeast swell from a storm that blew through 2 days ago. I found it interesting. The swell would roll under me from starboard and then wind waves would hit me from port. Staying loose was imperative. On top of that we thought a ship was coming our way as it was leaving the port of St. John's so we had to keep an eye on that too.

Its difficult to see the sea state here except the picture is a little tilted, caused by my desire to stay upright.

Malcolm entering Quidi Vidi harbour

Inside the Gut the water settled a bit and inside Quidi Vidi it was calm and the battle for the day was over. We spent 3 hours going out to the Cape and back.

Behind Malcolm is St. John's Bay and the open North Atlantic. Its a very narrow entrance and not a problem to get thru today. Different story yesterday. Yesterday we were still feeling the effects of a "weather bomb", a Nor'easter with winds clocked at 114 km/hr. To get back in yesterday we had to sit, wait and time the charge in thru the narrow entrance.

Malcolm in "Victory"

These are my favourite types of pictures, kayakers in action in a picturesque setting.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Resize pictures

Stopped for lunch in Fermeuse harbour

I've been puzzled for some time how to resize pictures so that when they are clicked on they stay within the confines of the screen. I've been puzzled and I knew it could be done but too busy to really look into it. Now I have it solved.

I found a website that allows you to resize your pictures and save them. The address is

The beach where we stopped for lunch is typical of beaches in Newfoundland, most are cobble beaches. Not a problem if you have a plastic boat but launching and landing a fibreglass boat can sometimes be a challenge.

Now I'll post and see how the resized picture looks!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How vast is Thy sea ... how small is my boat

Pete leads the group out of Ferryland
(Scott Yates photo)

Unknown to us, a couple of hikers were on shore and took a picture of us on the vast ocean on Saturday when we paddled from Ferryland to Port Kerwin. We're just specks on the water. Its easy to see from this perspective why the fishermen we meet every now and then can't believe we're going out in "that". There was a 2 - 3 metre swell on but we felt secure in our kayaks.

There were five of us but I'm not in this photo. Don't know exactly why. I'm likely catching up after taking some pictures.

Ferryland lighthouse is in the background.

Tony catches up
(Scott Yates photo)

Here I've caught up with the group again. Pete must have been in a hurry to get to the lunch break knowing he's got a can of Heineken and cigarello for lunch. Its a tradition of his.

At the beach where we stopped for lunch just inside the harbour at Fermeuse the hikers caught up with us. Scott showed us the pictures but we were difficult to see on the small screen. I asked if I could get a copy and Scott obliged. I have to say, I'm impressed with his and Chris's memory to remember my e-mail address.

Its not often you get to see pictures of yourself on the water but these were good to receive. Thanks very much Scott.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall colours

Fall is here!

The road on the way down to our paddle destination on Saturday was lined with birch and dogberry trees that were changing into their fall garb. I wondered whether I'd see much of the fall colours from the cockpit of my boat as we paddled the shoreline. There was a large swell running which made us stay a bit further offshore so I didn't see much colour until we got down into Fermeuse harbour. Once we got into the harbour I wasn't disappointd. Its such a beautiful time of year.


The yellows and greens in Sue's boat and paddling gear are reflected in the colours of the hillside in fall splendor.

Even the rocks were turning yellow

I haven't seen this before - the grey slate rocks of the St. John's formation were losing their chlorophyl and turning yellow *lol*


The green and yellow dogberry leaves with its red fruit hang down over the slate grey rocks in Fermeuse harbour.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Into the great wide open

Split shot

Today a group of 5 of us paddled from Ferryland to Port Kerwin. It was a beautiful fall day. The road down the Southern Shore was ablaze in fall colours and I hit on the idea of taking a shot out the front windshield of the road ahead. Doing so I also caught myself in the rearview mirror which I thought gave an interesting picture. A little madcap; it was just the anticipation of a fall paddle and the hope of seeing the coast ablaze in the same colours.

Pete couldn't resist doing a bit of rock hopping

Leaving Ferryland it was calm but the marine forecast promised more. The whole coast was being hammered by the sizeable swell coming in from the North Atlantic. Pete did a bit of rock hopping before we swung to the left and further out. Sue commented she was going to tell Brenda ... no need to now Sue! Very impressive Pete. I'll wait another year before I try this with my new boat.

Brian approaching Aquaforte harbour

The slate grey rocks of the St. John's formation were our company all the way down the coast from Ferryland.

Brian and Pete with Spurwink Island in the background

We had to cross over the mouth of Aquaforte harbour on our way to Port Kerwin from Ferryland. Its not far but I was surprised how fast we had reached Aquaforte.

Sue and Dean cross the mouth of Aquaforte harbour

About a month ago we did a Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador Club paddle from the bottom of Aquaforte harbour out to and around Spurwink Island (above Dean in the yellw boat). We looked into the harbour at the falls and commented they had really swollen in the last month.

Dean, Sue and Brian looking "swell"

Paddling from Ferryland to Port Kerwin we were in the great wide open North Atlantic, to port was Ireland. The marine forecast was for swell of 2 - 3 metres and it was for the most part. Occasionally, the swell picked me up and took me to the fifth floor. I find it often difficult to capture the size of the swell in a picture.

We stayed offshore a considerable amount but the rebounding waves still reached us to make it interesting. Interesting also taking pictures while maintaining my balance.

Dean, Brian and Sue on a mountain of water

Every now and then there were times I felt like I was either on the roof of a 2 story house looking down on my paddle buddies or looking up from a deep valley. When that happenned I estimated the vertical distance to be close to 5 metres.

It was the first time Dean was out in these conditions but he was fine. He's been ever present at out St. Philips practice sessions but today he said it was a few notches up. He grows in large leaps because he's not afraid of much.

After an hour and forty minutes of swashbuckling paddling we reached Pot Kerwin and stopped for a snack break.

Here they are all together

After a snack break we paddled to the south side of Fermeuse harbour where Brain said there was a wreck. We had lots of time so we went to have a look.

Sue taking a peek

The hull here had been eaten away by the salt water but the ribs being thicker were slower to rust away. They look like teeth as Sue takes a peek at me in the mouth of the monster before the upper jaw clamps shut.

Dean with the windmills of Fermeuse

After hanging around the wreck awhile we crossed back over Fermeuse harbour to finish our paddle in Port Kerwin.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Dean in the wind, waves and rain

The word committed was the first word that came to mind for this evening's paddle in St. Philips. It was windy, raining and a good sea running from a northerly direction. But, it was Thursday evening and after all we do this rain or shine. It would be our last practice paddle in St. Philips for this year because of early darkness. Five (Brian, Clyde, Dean and Sean) of us showed up, all committed paddlers.

Then the other meaning could also apply. I'm sure the people who could see us probably thought we should be committed. You know, to a psych ward.

I thought it as the best evening of the whole summer in spite of the rain. I took a few shots but the motion in the ocean made it hard to hold the camera steady so sadly most were blurred or off center.

The exercise of the evening for me was dumping the water out of Brian's boat. He climbed on my bow, we dumped the water out and he got back in. That was the first time I did that one. I suspect Brian was teaching me a new trick.

Its the last Thursday evening but there's interest in continuing on the weekends, which is fine with me. You can't pay to have fun like this.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A twist of fate

A foggy day in Fortune Bay

Yesterday the subject of my blog was how the glorious days of summer sustain me when we have extended days of less glorious days. It was actually a result of a chat I had with my sister the day before. She had worked all summer with a home renovation project and missed the summer. She was a bit down about that.

Life is sometimes odd. Yesterday, the day after our chat and my post, I got a call from her husband. She was in hospital having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. That came like a thunderclap to me. She'll recover but its a reminder to me again that life can change in the blink of an eye - a motor vehicle accident, sickness, you name it.

This business of my life taking a negative turn haunts me; I wonder when it will be me. When will I be forced to rack the kayak for good? I have lots of chores to do around the home. I could spend every waking hour of everyday at it. Instead, I put in a few hours of work, then I go paddle or do something for me. Balance.

Times like this I must live positively.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Battery charging

Peter on a beautiful day in Placentia Bay

I was lucky this summer in that I had my share of memorable paddles. Beautiful days, scenic locations and great people to paddle with.

Change of direction for a minute.

The last 4 or 5 days around here have been grey, damp and dreary. Its enough to get a person down if the batteries have been run down.

Back to Placentia Bay. Its days like this that I consider as battery chargers. Days that nurture me on extended dull dreary days. But, what if ya run your batteries down on those glorious days of summer, there would be nothing in the battery to draw on when needed. And, that's no way to either take care of yourself or drive a car.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


T-rescue in progress

I had this ad's song on the brain today. The smarties ad, you know "when you eat your smarties do you eat the red ones last, do you suck them very slowly or crunch them very fast". Do you eat them like that everytime?

Reminds me a bit of kayak practice. I always try to practice something that I know I'm no good at or something that I'm uncomfortable doing. There's no point in practicing a skill that I can do blindfolded. That's not a good use of practice time.

Unless, of course, you're a skilled paddler with a full toolbox of tricks and practice is then just keeping them sharp. But, I have much to learn before I have that luxury.

Paul in the a sea (and sky) of grey

After almost two hours of paddling upwind, in a beam sea and catching some good surf rides and some self-rescues we stopped at the restaurant overlooking St. Philips harbour where Paul treated Mike and myself to a coffee and fries. From inside we looked out to where we had just been playing. We commented that the water didn't look all that challenging sitting comfortably with our coffees. Maybe it looked the part when there were kayaks bobbing up and down in the waves. Without them there was no point of reference.

Thanks for sharing the afternoon guys and thanks Paul for the coffee. I'll have to remember in future to carry some cash as the coffee was a nice treat apres paddle.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dealing with wind

Clyde paddling into Bay Bulls into the wind

The first time I had a paddle on the ocean 5 years ago I had a slog into a 40 km/hr wind of about 5 kms. The second time it was into a 50 km/hr wind though it was a shorter distance. I hated it and I recall saying that to myself.

If I paddled only on calm days I wouldn't paddle much. The wind is pretty much a constant; the only thing is how hard it blows. So, deal with it.

On that first day I could only fix on the destination and how long I'd have to keep paddling to get back. Since then, after many days in the wind I've changed my view. It was a Sunday last year when that changed for good. Stan and myself paddled to Bell Island in calm winds. The wind came up and we had a 5 km slog back into 40 km/hr winds and 1 m wind waves. Stan charged ahead. I just got into a rhythm and paddled at my rate. I enjoyed it, paddling in the moment.

Now, in wind, I don't fixate on the destination. I just enjoy the paddle one paddle stroke after another. Eventually, after enough strokes, I'll reach the take-out.