Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #1

Harbour Mille, departure point

Well, so far I've identified 9 fantastic paddles I was involved in during 2009. I could easily have expanded the list but 10 is a good round number. The list included a bit of everything so it captures the flavour of my paddlng season.

My top paddle for the year was a two day overnight trip Stan and I did in Fortune Bay on 25/26 July, paddling from Harbour Mille to Stone's Cove. It was an obvious choice for me. Though only two days, it was a great adventure starting with finding a camp spot at Harbour Mille, a bit of a crossing, exposed coastline, abandoned communities, overnight camping and good companionship.

I recall doing a Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador workshop on planning an extended paddle trip. Our group looked at the upper reaches of Fortune Bay to complete a trip along an exposed coastline. At the time I never dreamed that it would become a reality 4 years later though I didn't think of the workshop at the time I proposed it to Stan.

The paddling and scenery was fantastic but the highlight for me was visiting the sites of four abandoned communities. Going back to where lives were lived, families were raised, tears were shed and a thousand other events took place was awesome.

Inside Petticoat Island

We paddled along the exposed coastline until we reached Petticoat Island where we ducked inside and paddled down the protected passage.

Some fine paddling in a stunning landscape

A picture is worth a thousand words!

Great Conne

When I got home I checked some of the census records for the area, in particular, Anderson's Cove, Crant's Cove and Stone's Cove. I was surprised to find a lot more communities listed, one of which was Great Conne. I probably should have done the research before I left. The community is gone now, the people resettled to larger communities where the people had access to schools, medical services and othe modern conveniences. Gone, but people have come back to build cabins and inhabit the place on weekends over the summer.

Cemetery at Crant's Cove

The resettled community of Crant's Cove was nestled in the shadow of this impressive hill. All that's left there now is this cemetery. I couldn't find any evidence of its former habitation like foundations etc. There was, however, the faint remains of what must have been a footpath or narrow thoroughfare through the community.

A cement sentinel at Stone's Cove

A cement sentinel looks over Stone's Cove where three fishermens' cabins have been built since the community was abandoned. There were lots of cement shores and foundations scattered around where previously a thriving community existed.

All the cement had to be mixed by hand and you can see in the pillar how each successive batch of cement was thrown into the form.

Our hotel for the night

This was our campsite for the night in Lobster Cove, just inside Long Harbour.

What is camping without a campfire?

Stan got to work right away to collect wood and start a fire. We cooked supper, set up the tents and kept the fire going until we hit the hay at 9:30. The fire was great entertainment as we sat and chatted and reflected on a fine paddle. Just as we decided to call it a day, it started to rain and blow hard.

Ready to head back

After a restless night in the wind and rain, we packed up our gear and were ready to go.

Paddlin' in a fog

I peeked out of my tent at 4:30 to see if it looked as bad outside as it sounded inside the tent with the wind. It did. It looked like we were in for a bumpy ride back but the wind dropped and fog came in with flat calm seas.

In a very big landscape

Stan on our way back to Harbour Mille. The scenery is always different going the other way.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #2

Alison, Peter and Stan along Sound Island

A paddle the four of us did on July 1 in Placentia Bay is my choice of the second best paddle I did in 2009. It was one of those days that will undoubtedly stay with me for a long, long time. Everything came together to make for a memorable day. Peaceful paddling, a resettled community, a natural swimhole at the top of a waterfall, an eagle and two caribou.

On this day we left Garden Cove and paddled down the outside of Sound and Woody Islands, ducked inside between the mainland and the islands and made our way back to Garden Cove. Its a drive of 90 minutes but on the day, worth every minute it takes to drive here.

Lunch stop

After paddling down the outside of Sound Island we found this sandy beach at the tip of Woody Island. We took off our wet suits and some of us got wet in the cove.

The water was glassy calm and reflective

After our lunch stop we continued down outside Woody Island. Rounding the island, we paddled between Bar Haven Island and Woody Island. It was a zen type place: no wind, beautiful scenery, water clear right to the bottom.

Alison and Peter at Rattling Brook Falls

We paddled over from Woody Island to Rattling Brook Falls where the brook takes a 5 metre leap to the sea.

Swimhole at Rattling Brook Falls

A walk up an embankment next to the falls revealed a beautiful swimhole about 5 metres above the sea. Stan and I didn't bring swim gear but I'm coming back to this spot and I'll be better prepared for a swim.

A caribou!!!

Peter said there was a good chance to see caribou along here and we weren't disappointed, we saw two. This caribou came out of the forest and ambled along the shore as we sat and watched.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #3

Malcolm leaving Quidi Vidi for the Cape

The day before Malcolm and I had been out of Quidi Vidi towards Small Point when conditions got interesting. I wondered what adventures we were going to have today as we met at Quidi Vidi at 12:30 on October 16. I didn't have long to wait and I had a logical candidate for paddle #3. Why? Because on that day the water was huge and I was not intimidated.

Leaving the Gut, we had mildly confused water of about 1 metre but the swell built outside of St. John's harbour as we made a bee-line for the Cape. A paddle of about an hour in 2 -3 metres of swell got us out to the Cape.

The Cape, from a safe distance

We got out to the Cape where there was 4, occasionally 5, metres of swell. Malcolm stayed off and I paddled on for a bit, stopped looked to see where Malcolm was and paddled a little closer, looked again. Malcolm wasn't moving. Drats, I wanted to get closer. Then I thought of my first trip to the Cape in May. It gets very shallow closer to the Cape and getting too close with the swell on that day could mean being washed right up on the rocks.

Maybe my brashness was caused by the moment but Malcolm had been at the Cape many times and he was the voice of reason this day.

Returning to Quidi Vidi we both saw the biggest set of waves either of us had ever seen while in a kayak. We saw it coming, looked at each other and without saying a word, volumes were spoken. No panic, as we took the elevator ride to the sixth floor three times and carried on. We both agreed on 6 metres.

Stan at the Cape on May 24

Here's a closer look at the Cape when Stan and I were there in May. We paddled out past the Cape and could see all the way own the east coast of the Avalon. I paddled close to the Cape on the way back to Quidi Vidi and remarked to Stan that I could see the bottom. I got on my horse and beat it into deeper water.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #4

Stan on his way to Great Island

Great Island is part of the seabird sanctuary off of Tors Cove and area. Its one of the places I hoped I would one day be able to paddle. As a newbie, I thought places like this were the domain of advanced paddlers. Making it on April 25 puts the paddle at #4 (though I don't claim to be an advanced paddler) just because I did it. It was more about satisfying a goal.

It was also an eye-opening experience for me. After stopping at Ship Island for lunch I went ahead thinking we were going to paddle around it. After 10 minutes or so things were a bit too quiet so I looked around. I was by myself and everyone else looked like specks on the horizon. I was effectively doing this part of the paddle solo. A moment of panic in the 2 metre swells before I accepted it for what it was, settled down and paddled comfortably back to the put-in. A realization that I can be self-reliant.

Brian in his office

A 2 to 3 metre swell was running. On the left side of the picture, water draining off the rocks gives an idea of wave action.

Paddlers disappeared and reappeared amidst the swell

The swell on this day didn't allow for passage through the arch but on my second paddle here later in the summer a few did go through.

Lumpy water coming in

Though the water was lumpy, it was mild compared to outside of the island. Inside there was a bit of protection from the North Atlantic.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #5

Massive cliffs plunge steeply into the sea

A paddle Ysabelle, Neil, Stan and I did on May 1 from Flatrock to Pouch Cove is my #5 paddle of the year. Every paddle is in its own way special so its probably unfair to rank them. What made this day memorable though was the scenery along an exposed coast, sea caves and an iceberg. This coast is open to the North Atlantic and not always accessible because of the seastate and there are few emergency take-outs. Even where a take-out is possible, the cliffs will keep you on the beach, unless you're a mountain goat!

Stiles Cove

The paddle from Flatrock to Pouch Cove is along an exposed coast. It was calm on this day. Here a Stiles Cove where there's no way out, the fishermen used to hang a ladder to let them scramble out in case they had to seek refuge in the cove from sudden changes in the weather. We stopped here for a shower and lunch.

Our cathedral for the day

Cathedrals have been built for the glorification of God. Here we had one natural made cathedral in which we could experience the spiritual aspect of sea kayaking. The entrance was maybe 3 metres wide and 10 long before it opened up with vaulted ceilings and other "religious" trappings. The light from outside barely made it inside but the camera's flash illuminated the scene.

"You go ahead Ysabelle"

As usual, where there are places to squeeze through, there's a bottleneck.

A waterfall tumbles over the cliff edge

Bright sunshine, little wind, the sound of the waterfall ... we took our time a let it all sink in.

And, there was an iceberg

As we neared Pouch Cove we caught sight of the iceberg we saw when we shuttled the cars. We paddled out to it to have a closer look. I find icebergs have their own environment about them - a bit mystical and a bit intimidating.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #6

Middle Cove was choked with ice

My ice paddle on March 27 was one that was certain to be on my list of top 10 paddles. I set out to paddle with the ice floes in Middle Cove but when I got there the cove was choked with ice. Not much room for a kayak in there, so I moved one cove over to Torbay. There I found enough open water to have a paddle about.

X marks the spot

Above the water line the rocks and ice formed a V. The clear water reflected the scene to give the hint of an X. X marks the spot and it was the spot where I found treasure on this day.

A good patch of open water to paddle in

The right side of the cove was fairly open when I got there but I had to be alert for shifting ice.

There were leads opening and closing

The left side of the cove had more ice in it and I played here for a couple of hours manoeuvering around ice floes using bow rudders. In open leads, a couple of powerful forward strokes and glide past the floating ice. At one point I went out in the cove a bit further, the ice shifted and I thought I might have to haul the boat over the ice to open water.

Now, where's that lunch?

After paddling around a while, I got hungry. I took a good run at an ice floe and got on top where I sat, had a snack, looked around and generally felt pleased with the day's outing.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #7

Brian with the obelisk of Bell Island

This is on my list of top 10 paddles of 2009 because it was a circumnavigation. Its something I've wanted to do in while. Regatta Day, August 5, was a day do it. Regatta Day is a civic holiday that only happens when conditions are right to hold North America's oldest continuous sporting (fixed seat rowing) event.

Brian, Dean, Derrick and myself took the ferry over and completed the 26 km circumnavigation in a not-to-shabby time of 4 hours.

It was one of those memorable Zen days and another good reason to put it on the list.

Paddling down the east side of Bell Island

The rocks of Bell Island slope gently towards the east so the sea bottom gets shallow near the shore. A very slight swell can rear up in a hurry all along this coast. On this day we had pretty benign conditions. Picking your day to this paddle is imperative.

Approaching the "Bell" of Bell Island

Bell Island gets its name from the "Bell" which is located on the southeast corner of Bell Island. The scale is very noticeable from a distance.

Dean and Derrick leaving our lunch break beach

You can see here that the sedimentary beds of Bell Island have hardly been disturbed by continental collisions and ruptures since the Ordovician period (488 - 443 million years ago).

On the west side returning to the ferry terminal

Da byes were really stepping on the gas and stopping to take pictures made sure I was playing catch-up a good bit of the time. The conditions were ideal for generating some speed.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve paddle


Today, Christmas Eve, five of us cleared the cobwebs and fog of Christmas shopping out of our heads with a short refreshing paddle. The four in alpha order are attached. We have understanding partners!

All the shopping is done. All that's left to do now is let the spirit of the season sink in and count our blessings. Enjoy the presence of loved ones and hold close thoughts of those who can't be with us.

And, above all, keep the spirit of the season with you all year round.

Merry Christmas wherever you are.



Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #8

Along the shore; destination Bacon Cove

What puts this paddle on a top 10 list? A couple of things. It was a winter day's paddle. Days of suitable weather to paddle in the winter are rare. I got one on February 26th and made the best of it.

It was a trip back in time in 2 ways. A trip back to 542 million years go, to the Cambrian period. I had been to the site where the Cambrian beds are exposed almost 40 years ago and I wasn't sure I'd remember where to find it. But find it I did and had a deja vu moment.

Basal beds of Cambrian rocks on the Avalon

The Cambrian period represents the first period of geology when life forms exploded on the earth. There was life previous to the Cambrian but in the Cambrian, life expanded and diversified leading to, ultimately, the blogger!

Here Cambrian beds lie unconformably on Conception group rocks. The Conception rocks were exposed and eroded for millions of years before sea levels rose and the Cambrian beds deposited.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #9

Stan in Placentia Bay

I've had many great paddles this year and its hard to pick the best 10 but there's something that lingers about each one. In this case, it was doing a crossing to the Iona Islands from Long Harbour with Stan on April 10.

There's something about doing a crossing, paddling across an expanse of water and watching the destination creep closer and closer. I like the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere and looking back to where I came from. Its not a route that's frequently paddled but I highly recommend it to my fellow kayakers.

Looking back towards Long Harbour

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 10 paddles of 2009 - #10

Brian, Sue, Dean and Pete in some active water

I've had some great paddles this year and its hard to pick the top 10 but the paddle I did from Ferryland to Port Kerwin on 10 October was a memorable one.

Ferryland to Port Kerwin is on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula and open to the great North Atlantic. There is usually active water along here because there's no protection. The thing that stood out for me on this paddle was that it was the biggest water I've been in up to that date.

IMHO, paddling along this coast offers world class paddling. That's a good reason to have it on the list.

F and Bm

Stan finishing a roll

I knew I was retiring and I knew the date. I bought some toys to keep me occupied - a kayak and a guitar.

The kayak is obvious but not so obvious is its relation to the guitar. I bought the guitar to keep my mind active, to keep it from turning to mush.

I started out just simple strumming and changing chords. After a while I started looking for songs I could learn to play. But there were always new chord changes to learn or the dreaded F and Bm chords. A friend of mine has been playing for over 40 years and gets around it by playing bastardized versions. I wouldn't give in because the difficulty was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted the challenge.

Kayaking at first was just on calm water and forward strokes, concentrating on staying upright. Then a couple of times wind kicked up and conditions got close to the edge. I wasn't prepared. I looked at advanced paddlers and thought that's where I want to be. So, after a few years of calm water paddling, I ventured out into challenging conditions and I learned.

If its worthwhile doing, its worth doing right even if its hard.