Saturday, January 31, 2009

Theory of prudence

The picturesque village of Quidi Vidi

It was a rocking outside of the protected harbour

Heading back to the put-in to revise our plan

Today Stan and myself finally got some decent weather, decent in that the wind calmed down. We decided that Quidi Vidi might be an option and went to look. What looked calm in the inner harbour hid what lurked outside in the open ocean.

This is where the theory of prudence came in. The wind of the last few days had died but there was still lots of swell coming in from the open ocean. Open in the sense, next stop Ireland. Probably on a summer day with warmer water temps we would have gone but cold water and just the two of us, we decided against it. Our paddling colleague Malcolm Rowe had cautioned us to back off if in doubt. He would have been proud of our decision today.

We paddled back and forth in the confused waters that were reflecting off both sides of the entrance to the harbour for a while and headed back into the protected harbour.

No sweat, change of plan. We put the boats back on the vehicles and drove to Portugal Cove about 30 minutes away and got on the ferry to Bell Island. Those pictures follow.

We weren't foolish, there's no need for bravado between Stan and myself and, we had a great paddle anyway.

Tony :-)

Theory of prudence - off to Bell Island

So, Stan and myself cheated and got on the ferry to get over to Bell Island. A crossing was doable today but the ferry ride added to the "adventure". And, it gave us a chance to wolf down some lunch.

Theory of prudence - Bell Island pictures

A few pictures of Stan paddling along the massive cliffs of Bell Island

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Theroy of navigation

A butterfly from the Insectarium display in the greenhouse at Bowring Park

What do butterflies have to do with navigation? The same as whales, birds and other creatures that migrate great distances to overwinter. I don't know which butterfly this is, it'll be a standin for the Monarch.

I watched a show called Nova last night about the annual migration of Monarch butterflies. Another one of nature's miracles.

They overwinter in Mexico in an area only 60 square miles. When the weather warms up they begin their flight north ending up in southern Canada. The first leg of the journey takes them to Texas gulfcoast where they mate and the adults die off. This second generation flies farther north and produce a third generation. They reach their summer habitat where fourth generation is born.

It is the fourth generation that makes the return migration to Mexico for the winter. Where previous generations live about a month, the fourth generation makes a 2,000 mile, two month journey and lives seven months until its time to start the journey north again.

The $64,000 question is, how can a fourth generation butterfly find its way back to the same place year after year? And, how come the fourth generation lives about nine months rather than a month? There is much to bewonder a person.

Tony :-)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Theory of time travel

A classic rock album from Deep Purple

According to Einstein's General theory of Relativity, both space and time are curved near massive bodies. The greater the mass of the body the greater the curvature of space-time near it. There's some speculation whether space curves back on itself, and therefore time also. If time does curve back on itself, would time travel be possible?

So far time travel is the stuff of science fiction. Its interesting stuff especially with things like string theory being developed. Imagine 11 different dimensions, boggles the mind. I think its sometimes difficult enough getting my bearings upside - down in a kayak.

I know I won't see time travel in my lifetime but I can still take trips back in time. I got out some old albums (yes, albums) last night and had a listen to Deep Purple's "In Rock". Its been a long time since I've listened to that one and it certainly did take me back. It was like meeting a long-lost friend again and isn't that a great feeling?

I can't go back in time physically but I can between my ears and I wondered what happenned and how did I land here.

Tony :-)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Theory of floccipaucinihilipilification

In Holyrood Bay, Newfound- land looking towards Kelly's Island (center), Little Bell Island (right) and Bell Island in the further distance

I'm told "floccipaucinihilipilification" is the longest word in the Oxford English Dictionary. I can't dispute that without leafing thru the entire thing and I'm not that desperate - yet. Its meaning is that the action of estimating is worthless.

Looking at Kelly's Island in the center, it doesn't look that far away and a tempting target for a crossing. In actual fact its close to 15 kms and a 2 hour crossing in these waters. But, if you didn't know the actual distance you could be tempted to have a go only to find out its much further than it looks. Not so bad on a day like this but it could be a disheartening exercise in heavy winds.

The ability to estimate distances is a good ability to have if you don't have charts with you. I practice it usually when I'm on the highway. I pick out a far landmark and estimate the distance, drive there and note the distance travelled on the odometer. Like anything, it takes practice.

Making an estimate is worthless without any basis for making an estimate, so practice. And, floccipaucinihilipilification is a mouthful!

Tony :-)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Theory of guts

Mount Everest in all her majesty (photo Dave Schell, a friend who recently trekked to Everest basecamp)

My blog entry today is inspired by Kayak Newfoundland and Labrdaor member T. A. Loeffler. T. A. is an outdoor educator at Memorial University of Newfoundland. I don't know T. A. personally but I've just finished reading her book "More than a Mountain, One Woman's Everest". Its a story of her climbing exploits and training for an Everest summit attempt.

T.A. didn't reach her goal on this attempt as she was felled by giardia that caused constant vomiting and sapped her of the strength necessary to reach the summit.

But that's probably not the story anyway, at least, that's not the story I took away. I don't think I'll ever complain about an inconvenience or hangnail again. I was totally blown away by the intense training program she followed and the tenacity with which she persued her goal. She vomitted for days, went down to lower altitude to recover, back to base camp and continued to vomit. All the while trying to hide that from her male climbing team members for fear they would percieve her as weak. Far from it.

Everyone has an "Everest" whether its a mountain or not. Whether its learning to roll your kayak, run a race at any distance or sometimes just dealing with a life's complications, the goals or problems must be faced and overcome. It depends how much we want it and how much intestinal fortitude we have at our disposal.

T.A.'s book is a good primer and very inspirational. She has a website for anyone interested in her story.

Tony :-)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Theory of perspective

Looking down on Holyrood Bay from Butterpot Mountain

Butterpot Mountain just above Stan from the waters of Holyrood Bay

There's a saying "you can't tell where you're going unless you know where you've been". Sometimes I wonder about how I ended up where I am today. The answer of course is I am the product of everything that has happenned to me in the past. I've made mistakes and I've done a lot of things right. They weren't big mistakes mind you or else I'd be blogging from a prison cell! Just things I might have done differently. I can't change those things now but I can make sure that I don't repeat them. Maybe its a function of age; as you get older you (hopefully) get wiser.

A few years ago my daughter Lana and I hiked to the top of Butterpot Mountain where you get a bird's-eye view of Conception Bay, Newfoundland. This past Sunday Stan and myself did a paddle along the far side of Holyrood Bay and as we were coming back I got a shot of Stan with Butterpot Mountain in the background. On top of the mountain, it looks like a big drop to the water but sitting at water level in a kayak, the Mountain doesn't look so intimidating.

What looked like mountains to me many years ago now looks like no big deal. A difference in perspective. Like the spider said as he walked across the mirror "that's one way of looking at it!"

Tony :-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Theory of diversion

Stan getting his shot of the rare Ivory Gull

Where the Ivory Gull lives and where we saw it

On Sunday past Stan and myself were out for a leisurely paddle out of Holyrood, Newfoundland. On the return into Holyrood we happenned upon a biologist who was out photographing a rare visitor to our area - the Ivory Gull. We probably passed it on the way out but without the eyes of a biologist, maybe mistook it for the ordinary common gull.

It breeds in the high arctic and only migrates short distances south in the autumn. It spends the winter in northern latitudes along the edge of the pack ice. In 1998 the breeding population of Ivory Gulls was estimated at 500 - 700 birds and thought to be in decline. So, we were indeed treated to a special occasion of sorts. We sat floating in our boats watching until it flew out of sight.

I wonder how it got here and I think there's a metaphor in it for me. Sometimes I get myself caught with too many irons in the fire and I'm scrambling to attend to each of them. Enjoying neither as I put pressure on myself to deal with the overload. I do have my eyes on the prize, on what I want to be occupied with, but like the Ivory Gull, I sometimes get diverted. Its times like this that bring things back into focus and the need to drop the distractions. Thank you wayward traveller and god-speed.

Tony :-)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Theory of convenience - pictures

A few pictures from Stan and my paddle in Holyrood, Newfound- land today. Cold water, icicles but great company!

Theory of convenience

Boats lined up and ready to go, we're destined for the headland in the distance.

One definition of convenience relates to personal comfort. The flip side of that is inconvenience. There's no question about it, I'd prefer to do something that's convenient. But, this time of year if ya want to paddle in Newfoundland there's going to be an element of inconvenience. The inconvenience of paddling this time of year is cleaning the salt off of the boat and the equipment. Burr!

I hadn't been able to paddle in almost 2 weeks so the need to paddle outweighted the inconvenience. Today Stan and myself paddled from Holyrood to Chapel Cove and turned around at the entrance to Harbour Main harbour. Stan was on call and this was as far as we could venture. The air temp was right at 0 C and the water temp is still at 1 C. Calm water with little wind, a perfect day to be on the water in January.

We did a little rock hopping and at one point I got surprised by a few waves that came out of nowhere. A sideways surf, a hard brace onto a second wave, still going sideways laying full out on the water and seal landed on a ledge. I managed to get the boat pointed into the direction of the next incoming wave, pushed off and escaped. Wished I could have read Stan's mind as he looked on!

A few pictures which will post above this entry as I should have posted those first. Learn for next time. Overall another great day on the water thanks to Stan.

Tony :-)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Theory of greener grass (Part 2)

Last house standing in the resettled community of Ticklets in St. Mary's Bay, Newfound- land

My last blog entry was about the depopulation of rural Newfoundland through a resettlement program started by the government. People were given incentives to give up their communities as government wanted to centralize the population in order to provide modern services. This is one of 24 houses that existed in Tickles at one time. The census of 1921 listed 122 individuals in 24 households. Family names were Upshall, Marshall, Hollett, Gilbert, Crann, Best, Masters, Gregory and Dicks. Scattered now to where? Who knows?

In 1992 the cod fishery collapsed in Newfoundland and the federal government of Canada provided income to fisherpeople for a period of 2 years. Then, realizing the fishery would not recover soon, they provided money to train former fisherpeople to do other things. That was really moronic because the unemployment rate was an already national high of about 17%. Where did they think the new plumbers, computer programmers and other skilled workers were going to be able to find work? Thus began the depopulation of Newfoundland proper.

The resettlement program for the most part only moved people around within the province. Now, people began leaving Newfoundland in droves, bound for the provinces of Alberta, Ontario or wherever they could find work. The highest population figure I can remember was 568,000. The current population stands at about 500,000 give or take a thousand. That's a drop of 12%.

The people that left didn't because they saw the grass greener on the other side of the fence. They were forced to leave due to the missmanagement of the northern cod fishery by the government of Canada. A fishery that had sustained Newfoundland and fed Europe for 500 years. Now, we're reduced to a few days each year when we can fit out our kayaks to catch cod in a "recreational" fishery.

When Newfoundland joined Canada it was forced to give up control of its fishery. We were pretty "green", too green to burn they say.

Tony :-)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Theory of greener grass (Part 1)

Abandoned house in the resettled community of Tickles in St. Mary's Bay, Newfound- land

There's an expression "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence". That applies to not only the grass but also the other worldly possessions of our neighbours. I guess I should say the grass "appears" to be greener.

Newfoundland was settled by people who came here to fish. In the early years it was a summer fishery and the fishermen went home after the season was over. After a while fishermen decided to overwinter and they built settlements in isolated and hard-to-find nooks and crannies along the coast. They did so to hide as it was against the law to live in the newly-found-lande.

Communities sprang up and there was always the next bay or cove around the point where the fishing was better or access to the fish was more convenient. People moved on to greener pastures so to speak. Life was hard and people essentially subsisted.

In modern times the isolated communities didn't have basic services like access to timely medical care, electricity etc. It was too expensive for government to provide services to more than a 1,000 isolated communities so consolidation in larger centralized communities became the greener pastures. People resisted resettlement, as it became known, but government offered cash incentives and communities became divided between those who wanted to stay and those who wanted to leave. Teachers became difficult to recruit to isolated communities and for other reasons, slowly the depopulation of rural communities began.

In the end some 307 communities were abandoned between 1946 and 1975 affecting over 28,000 individuals. The community of Tickles pictured above was one of them. There were things gained and lost. The gains were tangible, the losses more intangible. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, its just a different shade.

Tony :-)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Theory of detachment

Destruction of a bog by all terrain vehicles

The Concise Oxford Dictionary gives one definition of "detachment" as selfish isolation. I believe that's what this senseless destruction of a bog represents. This bog is just off of an abandoned road that leads to the sea on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland. There's absolutely no need for the all terrain vehicles to access the bog as the road is passable and perfectly suited to those vehicles.

I think it just represents an attitude that some people have towards the environment. They don't see it as belonging to them, they don't have a stake in it so there's no need to protect it and to hell with everyone else.

What got me going on this was watching "An Inconvenient Truth" last night. I'm aware of all the science and discussion on the subject of climate change but never saw it presented all in one place so nicely bundled.

The attitude of society in general is the same as the yahoos who caused the destruction in the bog. The developed world is too dependant on non-renewable energy and too selfish to make a sacrifice to try an correct the upward trend of greenhouse gases. They think it won't be our problem. It will have an impact on future generations but selfishly we carry on as normal and pass the buck.

Sometimes I feel powerless to effect change because the government of the country must make the macro decisions and government just doesn't listen to its citizens anymore. But I can make a difference at my, micro personal level. I can carpool to get my boat to the put-in, I can drive slower, I can take the boat out at the same place I put-in so I don't need to shuttle the car etc. etc.

As kayakers we have a sensitivity towards the environment. Lets do our part and paddle with a clear conscience.

Tony :-)