Monday, November 30, 2009

The life of Brian

Friend Stan paddling along the massive cliffs of Fortune Bay

Friends are people we choose to associate with as opposed to family who we are related to by birth. I have three friends that I've known for over 50 years that I see regularly. That is a gift really to have a bond that has stood the test of time.

Yesterday, November 29, was the sixth anniversary of the death of my friend Brian. Brian was someone I met at the gym and our friendship was primarily limited to the gym. He was someone full of life; always laughing and joking. He and I shared many interests like gardening. He raised chickens and it wasn't unusual to find a frozen chicken in my car once a year. He was the type of person who would bring a bottle of rum to your home, have a couple of drinks and leave the rest at the end of the night.

Six years ago Brian took his own life. The last person on the earth that I would expect that from. It hurt, it hurt a lot, it still hurts.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Goofing around

Paul in a red sun world

I got my National Geographic on Friday. The cover story was "Are we alone?"; a favourite topic of mine. Its an update on astronomy's search for other earths in our Milky Way galaxy.

I've often surmised when I'm out in my kayak whether there was someone anywhere else in the Universe (other on the same Earth as I) that was also out for a paddle. What are the chances? I suspect slim to none, maybe infinitesimal. Possibly so but the chances are much greater that there is some form of life, even complex mulitcellular life. Maybe trilobites?

Astronomy has identified suns that are most likely to harbour a rocky planet in a habitable zone. Stars like our sun or smaller. There are also red giant stars. I played around with a recent picture of Paul until I got an effect that might suggest he's living in a red star sun system.

Note, Stan is starting to rub off! I'm not going to go where he does but I might just play around a bit as time permits.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Sunset thru the eyes of a welder

Its believed Stonehenge was built to enable Neolithic people to mark when the summer solstice (the longest day) arrived. There are other theories however.

This time of year I track the sunsets as the days get shorter. The point where the sun sets is gradually creeping in a southerly direction on the western horizon. I don't have a Stonehenge. I have a househenge - a house on the horizon that marks the point where the sun sets on the shortest day of the year.

Its sort of like a low point in the year. I know all I have to do is look at the calendar but watching where the sun sets is so visual. It ties me to my prehistoric ancestors.

I shot the sunset through my welders glasses.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Time to tally up

How many kayakers?

Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador had its Annual General Meeting last night. The agenda included presentations by the President and Treasurer.

Treasurer's Report was my duty. I made my living as an accountant and felt some obligation to apply those skills to the duty of the office. In the past the financial statements were presented on a cash basis and that's fine. My background made it possible to prepare the statements on an accrual basis. It ensures revenues and costs are applied to the fiscal year to which they relate.

Take the picture above. How many kayakers are in the picture? Do you count the kayaks partially in the picture? Its a bit like splitting hairs isn't it or a trick question. Something like accounting.

This accounting is all pretty dry stuff but necessary to account to the membership how the money was raised and spent.

Jesh, I thought I was getting away from debits and credits when I retired!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

When its miserable, paddle

Malcolm in Intrepid

Today the forecast was for 15 knot SW winds at 8:30 increasing to 20-30 SSE at 11:30 with a promise of rain. On the upside, the temperature would be 10 C. Malcolm, Stan and I decided on St. Philips again.

We headed out of St. Philips in calm conditions and as we turned the point to paddle to St. Thomas Cove we had the 15 knot winds in our faces. As we neared St. Thomas Cove the wind gusts were close to 20 knots and the wind seemed to be shifting to the south. We decided to turn because the shift in wind suggested the winds would be strengthening as forecasted.

We covered the 2.5 km distance in 35 minutes. We returned to St. Philips in 12 minutes aided by the wind at our back and some excellent surf rides.

Stan in GullFeather

We got back to St. Philips and the winds did pick up and it started to rain. It was miserable by most standards but it didn't dampen our spirits. In fact, I rather enjoyed the inclement weather. Sometimes the more the elements are against me the more I enjoy it. Maybe I'm warped but I got used to it growing up. I lived a mile from school and I walked to and from in rain, snow or sleet. That was before kids got bused to school. I wonder if we're making softies out of them?

Worm castings

Ordovician worm castings from Bell Island

This past summer 4 of us did a 26 km circumnavigation of Bell Island. Bell Island is composed of Ordovician sandstones and siltstones with beds of hematite (iron ore). The beds dip gently in a westerly direction indicating there hasn't been much tectonic activity since the beds were laid down. The Ordovician is a geologic period spanning the time 488 to 443 million years ago.

After our rounding and answering the call of nature, I had a look in the talus slope of the hill behind the beach. I knew what I was looking for and after a few minutes I found it, a rock with pronounced worm castings. Worm castings are the remains of worm tracks through the sediments.

Most people would know about the fossils left by trilobites; they left their hard exoskeletons as they moulted. Worms are pretty delicate so they don't leave a lot of fossil evidence. The rocks of Bell Island don't contain fossils of the worms but they do preserve the ghostly trails of their existence.

Rocks are part of the paddling environment and I find it interesting to know a little about them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Cape Neddick looks a long way off

There's discussion from time to tine on our local newsgroup about paddling preferences of Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador members. Des, Linda and Malcolm are devotees of open ocean paddling; they're a small club. They like to paddle in big swell, wind and exposed areas. Others like to paddle in calm water on a sunny day, close to shore. And, there are some who like to paddle close to shore in rock gardens swirling with soup.

I like to treat my kayak like a smorgasbord where I get to sample all kinds of paddling environments. Some days I like to just take my time along the shoreline and take pictures of fellow paddlers or shore scenes of interest. I've done some rock hopping but picture taking can be very tricky unless its taking pictures from outside the soup zone. Offshore, the pictures are of vast open waters and paddlers. Sometimes even in big water the camera doesn't capture the sheer size and complexity of waves.

People are different. If we were all alike we wouldn't find anything interesting in other people. As people are different, then so must they also have different interests. Even where they have the same interest, like kayaking, they have different kayaking tastes.

Whatever turns your crank, enjoy it.

Malcolm making for Bauline Head in the distance

Des looks like a speck on the ocean

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ocean paddling

Getting ready in Ferryland

On Sunday Des, Malcolm and I completed a 10 nautical mile open ocean paddle from Ferryland to Bauline East on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula. The east coast has world class open ocean paddling. There is nothing but ocean east of of here all the way to Ireland; nothing to stand in the way of swell generated in the north Atlantic. The marine forecast was for 1 - 2 metre swell and 15 knot SW winds. We would be paddling north into the swell and have the wind behinds us on our left shoulder.

Leaving Ferryland

Malcolm and Des paddle out of Ferryland heading for Stone Islands in the mouth of Calvert Bay, north of Ferryland. We had prearranged to huddle up there to check if conditions were suitable to carry on with our planned paddle. The conditions there would be indicative of the rest of the paddle.

Malcolm approaching Cape Broyle Head
We were protected from the SW winds by the cliffs. Approaching Cape Broyle Head we knew that we would soon lose the protection and be fully in the wind as it blew out of Cape Broyle harbour. We crossed the mouth of Cape Broyle with the wind on our port stern quarter and some waves washing over the deck. It was a good but manageable ride.

Malcolm explained the protection afforded by cliffs. The wind shadow under cliffs extends out 30 times the height of a cliff. So, a 200 foot cliff gives protection from the full force of the wind up to just over a mile offshore.

Des and Malcolm in LaManche Bay

Last Sunday Stan and I paddled south from Tors Cove to LaManche. We had paddled along the coast.

Today we approached LaManche paddling north and much farther offshore. In the shadow of Cape Neddick we had a short respite from the wind before we crossed LaManche Bay in the open making a bee-line for Bauline Head. As the cove at LaManche opened up we could see the suspension bridge where Stan and I had been the previous week.

Des paddling into Bauline East

Des and I had slowed down to chat as we got more protection under the cliffs from the wind as we passed Bauline Head. We almost missed our take-out in Bauline East. As we paddled into the cove I suggested we tell Malcolm the reason for our tardiness was because we had paddled around the outside of Great Island.

Taking the kayaks out at Bauline East

Bauline East was the planned take-out at the end of our 10 NM paddle. Malcolm was already on the beach when Des and I paddled into the cove. He had sped ahead while Des and myself slowed down to chat. As we chatted we discovered a bit of a link - his mother and my sister were good friends in his hometown. I had heard my sister speak of her but never put two and two together. Its a small world indeed.

After our paddle we had a 30 minute run back to Ferryland to pick up the shuttled vehicle, load the boats and congratulate each other on a fine paddle.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No surprises

Malcolm with the setting sun in Conception Bay

Yesterday after I went to the Remembrance Day ceremony I shared a paddle from St. Philips to Topsail with 4 other paddlers. As we approached Topsail Beach the wind swung to the NE, increased to 25 knots and snow started to blow. We decided to take-out at Topsail Beach and formed a plan to retrieve our vehicles which we left at St. Philips.

Today Malcolm (not with us yesterday) and myself met in St. Philips and in 10 knot winds from the WSW we started to paddle to Bell Island. After a while we conferred and decided to carry on to Bell Island. We made good time against the wind and wind waves covering the approx 5 kms in just under an hour.

On the way back the wind dropped and we had a relaxing paddle back to St. Philips. The sun was going down and I lamented that I hadn't taken my camera. Malcolm offered his and mailed me the above picture.

No unscheduled take-outs today, no surprises just a great paddle.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Today I remembered

The tikes of Paradise in the Remembrance parade

I attended Remembrance Day ceremonies today in the Town of Paradise. I had usually watched the ceremonies from the National War Memorial from Ottawa in the past but today I went in person.

A lot of the talk today was about the sacrifices Newfoundland (pre-1949) and Canadian soldiers made for our freedom. I can't get my head around that - freedom in Canada so far away from the wars in Europe. It had a more direct impact on me, however, being born in Holland. Without the undescribeable sacrifices made by Canadian and other Allied soldiers, I would never have seen the light of the earth.

My Uncle Ad was taken to Germany to work as slave labour. "De Moffen" (Dutch term of endearment for the Eastern neighbours) also came for my Dad to be pressed into slave labour but he escaped into the countryside before they arrived.

My parents never spoke of the hardships during the war but my Mother did speak of the Canadian soldiers who lodged with her family when they liberated the City of Tilburg. No wonder so many Dutch people came to Canada after the war.

So, today I remember. I remember how lucky I am and I bow my head in gratitude

Children of Paradise Elementary School lay a wreath

While there were "dignataries" on hand to present speaches with the usual November 11 themes, the poignant parts of the ceremonies for me were the kids. Why? Because a lot of veterans are passing away and its going to be the children of tomorrow who will be left to remember the sacrifices made by the soldiers of today and yesterday.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another resettled community

Stan with Great Island in the background

Today Stan and I put-in at Tors Cove and paddled south along the Southern Shore of the Avalon Peninsula to the site of the resettled community of LaManche. Its the site of a provincial park now but in its heyday 54 souls called it home. Its only the size of a hole in the wall really with very little flat land and for that reason the population peaked at that number.

It was founded by a George Melvin in the 1840's and was inhabited until 1966.

Between a rock and a hard place

On our paddle up to LaManche we noticed a notch in the cliffs and we went over to have a look.

A river runs into it

We paddled around Bauline Point and into LaManche Bay. At the bottom of the bay there was little indication that there was any kind of a protected cove. We kept paddling and at the bottom of the bay a cove opened up that curved to the right. At the head of the cove we found a river tumbling over a falls into the sea.

Stan coming in for a landing

There's no beach to land on in LaManche but on the left the rocks slope gently enough to take out. It would have been tough to prosecute the fishery from this place. Old photos show the hard work of fishermen to erect stages, flakes and wharves. Memorial University of Newfoundland has a maritime history archive with lots of pictures of how LaManche looked prior to resettlement. Check it out here:

A room with a view

Well, there's no room here anymore but whatever structure stood here, it would have had a great view looking out LaManche Cove.

I was struck by the trouble people went to in order to make a place to live and a community. The community grew in what can only be described as a notch in the hills and cliffs. Foundations were still standing and put in every-which-way. The key for the people that lived here was the access to the sea and it seemed that it didn't even matter that there was no beach to land boats.

There were no sidewalks

There's not much level land where the resettled community of LaManche used to be. This looked to be a trail that would have been walked often by the people who lived here. Forget sidewalks, houses were connected by trails. Everyone in a community this small would have had to be on good terms with each other because there's nowhere to go to avoid neighbours who had fallen-out.

At the top of the picture, the foundation of some sort of building that still stands.

A little of the old ... and a little new

The new bridge constructed for the east coast trail spans LaManche cove where all that's left of the former community are foundations.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Figuring it out 4 yourself

Stan the day we picked up our new boats

The day Stan and I picked up our new Nordkapps we went to Long Pond to try them out. It was blowing hard - constant at 50 kms/hr with gusts to 70. I put-in and the wind just blew me sideways down the pond. Try as I might, I couldn't get the kayak turned into the wind. Sweep, sweep, sweep; the wind was too strong and I kept going sideways. Lucky I wasn't on the sea in an offshore wind.

I did eventually get the boat turned into the wind by what I thought were unorthodox means. I did a couple of reverse sweeps on the upwind side trying to get the stern to drift downwind as opposed to trying to turn the bow into the wind. It worked.

Now I feel sort of vindicated after reading Gordon Brown's book "Sea Kayak". That's not Gordon Brown the British Prime Minister, its Gordon Brown the Prime Minister of Scotish kayaking. He writes "Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you are facing downwind and no amount of sweeping will turn the bow of your kayak into the wind. Hopefully you will have read this section before heading off into the great blue yonder." He goes on to describe reverse sweep (upwind side) - forward sweep with bracing component (downwind side).

I hadn't read his book but I figured it out by necessity and now I have authoritative weight to support my approach. Sometimes its a matter of doing what ya gotta do.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

She's cooling down

Birch trees, Topsail Pond

Today was my first time at Topsail Pond for a couple of weeks. I'm sure some of the residents must have wondered where "that kayaker" was. I've been pretty regular on Tuesdays at Topsail Pond over the summer.

Strong SE winds meant it was a good chance to practice turning into the wind without waves to contend with. That way I only had to deal with one piece of the puzzle. Even so, I found I needed considerable speed before sweeping and planting the bow rudder to counteract the wind. Otherwise the wind just balanced my attempt to turn by blowing the bow downwind. Making progress though.

Along with the wind it was cold and its really evident where the season is going. 3 degrees C and -3 with the wind chill. I checked the water temp and it stood at 5 C. I found it colder than at some paddles I did with Stan last winter. I'm getting acclimatized for the coming winter.

Dogberries overhang Topsail Pond

The change of season has happened so fast. It seems like it was only a couple of weeks ago the yellow leaves were still on the trees. Now they are completely nude. Here only the red dogberries are left on the trees.

Stuff happens

The title says it all

Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador purchases kayak books and contributes them to the public library system for the benefit of all kayakers in the province. I checked this one out to have a read. Its a bunch of short stories of kayak incidents from which we can all learn.

One of the common threads that runs through most of the incidents is that mostly inexperienced kayakers are involved. Some of the mistakes they made include:
  • not wearing a PFD (can you believe it!);
  • paddling in conditions in which they were inexperienced ;
  • going out without thermal protection;
  • paddling without a spray skirt;
  • failing to to check the weather forecast before putting in;
  • overestimating their ability to deal with challenging conditions;
  • paddling without a means to signal for assistance such as a VHF radio or flares;
  • failing to practice realistic rescues in conditions.
Some, and there are more, of these mistakes were not limited to inexperienced paddlers. Some paid for their mistakes with their lives.

I think this is a must read for all paddlers and particularly for people doing basic kayaking courses. I occurred to me, however, if someones is dumb enough to go paddle in cold waters without thermal protection, they're not likely to take the time to read this material. We see them on the water from time to time and have found that they are pretty touchy about having safety issues pointed out. But, we should continue to preach the safety gospel if for no other reason than to fulfill our responsibility as experienced paddlers. Maybe we'll save one life.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A safe harbour

St Philips harbour

Yesterday Malcolm, Stan and I paddled out of St. Philips harbour, around the point and south for Topsail. The wind was blowing at 15 knots with a forecast to increase to 20. The sea was fully developed at 15 knots and it was something we felt comfortable in. We paddled into the wind for 30 minutes when the wind did strengthen.

We turned back. An increase in wind speed would have meant a corresponding increase in wave height and complexity and the forecast may have been wrong on the low side. Discretion is the best part of valour.

Paddling into the wind is a bit like beating your head against a wall. So why bother? For me its a chance to measure fuel consumption. I mean, I know by the conditions how much I'm good for if I absolutely need to paddle when the wind comes up.

The amount of work I was doing wasn't apparent to me until we turned and paddled with the wind at our back. The first few paddle strokes felt like I didn't have the paddle in the water.

Back at St. Philips we had the opportunity to stick our noses out into the conditions and still get some respite inside of the point.