Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 paddles of 2010 - #1

Red Island

And the winner is ... drum roll.

From June 27th to July 4th Ralph, Stan and I completed an extended trip along the south coast of Newfoundland. We planned to take the ferry from Burgeo to Rose Blanche and paddle the 100+ kilometres back to Burgeo. We arrived a couple of days early to take two day paddles in the Burgeo area before the ferry's departure on a Tuesday.

Our first day paddle was east to Red Island. The island got its name from the red Silurian age granites.

Islands in front of Burgeo

Day two we paddled around the islands that protect Burgeo from southerly storms.

The community of Burgeo faces due south into the Atlantic with no land until Bermuda, and that only a speck on the ocean. Being so exposed, the whole coast is unforgiving. We were lucky with the weather on our trip because this area is not the place to get caught unexpectedly in a sea kayak.

Leaving in a fog

We hooked a ride from Rose Blanche a few kilometres to the other side of the peninsula to Harbour Le Cou after we arrived by ferry. The next morning, on Thursday July 1st, we left in fog paddling with the sound of crashing waves everywhere.

Campsite LaPlante Harbour

Destination the first night was Indian Harbour but we decided on an abandoned community that once existed at La Plante Harbour. We arrived again in fog. It was bleak and desolated but had its charm.

In Roti Bay

Friday, July 2nd, we woke to bright sunshine. The sun was just finishing to burn the fog off La Poile Bay when we were ready to depart for Grand Bruit.

Grand Bruit

Ralph planned the whole trip around the resettlement of Grand Bruit. The people there were leaving a community that was settled in the mid 1850's; they were giving it back to nature. New generations weren't prepared to live in isolation, they were attracted by bright city lights and better services.

It was in one way a morbid feeling watching them pack up all their belongings as they prepared to start a new life in new communities.

Friday night we slept in the church at the top of the hill overlooking the homes.

Exiting Cinq Cerf Bay

July 3rd, Saturday we left Grand Bruit in glassy calm conditions and made super speed covering 36 kms easily and arriving at Wreck Island we set up camp. We set up camp on a level area about 3 metres above a sandy beach. Looking back down the coast I could see the Blue Hills of Brand Bruit way off in the distance from where we had come. Up the coast hidden from view was Burgeo and the end of our adventure.

Home sweet home, Wreck Island

A room with a view! One thing that appealed to me was our isolation, being away from it all.

Islands outside of Burgeo

Midday on Sunday, July 4th, we celebrated our return to Burgeo. The end of our south coast adventure. We had been on the water 6 days for a total of 150 kms. Not a marathon but it wasn't meant to be. We came to paddle and particularly to enjoy the scenery because we may never come here again.

The whole trip was awesome. The 2 day trips we did near Burgeo, the ferry ride down to Rose Blanche, truck ride to Harbour Le Cou, our stay in Grand Bruit, the campsites. In total it had to be THE paddle of 2010.

The anticipation of 2011 lies ahead!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 paddles of 2010 - #2


On June 5th Stan and I drove and hour and a half from St. John's to Sunnyside on the isthmus of the Avalon Peninsula. It was going to be an extraordinary day because we would have a close encounter of the third kind - with a whale.

Leaving Sunnyside

We left Sunnyside behind, paddling out Bull Arm into a little lop. The day started out as a normal day paddle. Little did we know how things would unfold.

Coming to have a look

We crossed over and stopped at Misquito Cove for a break. We got back in our boat and went on.

Stan blew on his whistle. I stopped to look back but he wasn't in trouble. I raised him on the VHF - "a whale" he said. It came along side and in about thirty seconds I looked down and I could see it directly underneath me. I froze. It rose. Maybe 2 metres in front of my bow. Our eyes met. Impossible to put into words the feeling I had. Spiritual, mystical ...

Words were not spoken but I know we communicated. I felt privileged. I felt connected.

Very close indeed

We just sat in our boats and let the whale dictate the interaction. At times it would splash around putting on a show.

There's more to the eye

Other times the whale hovered in the water with the top of its head just breaking the surface.

Ciao Stan

The whale seemed to wave good-bye after it had seen enough of us. It was on its way out the Arm where we saw it was obviously feeding.

Oily calm

Near the mouth of Bull Arm as it opens into Trinity Bay the sea was oily calm, islands floating in the water.

Looking back down Bull Arm

Bull Arm is a narrow 11 kilometer long arm of the sea; Sunnyside is at the head of the Arm well off in the distance.

Bull Island

Checking our position as we prepare to return.

End of day

It was a long day and fulfilling day as we headed back to Sunnyside in the failing light of day. We'd be driving home in darkness, talking about the incredible day we had. We often see whales when they are around. They seldom come by up close and hang around. When they do its a mystical experience and that's why our Bull Arm paddle is in the number 2 slot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 paddles of 2010 - #3


On August 26th, a Thursday when we'd normally hold our practice session, we had a full moon. At the end of August the evenings were starting to get short. I don't recall who came up with the idea to have a moonlight paddle but it made sense. The evening started out clear but as it plunged deeper into darkness some cloud cover started to creep in. Would we be rewarded with moonlight? Only time would tell!

The light begins to fail

With the sun gone we paddle out of St. Philips in failing light. It wouldn't take long before we were in total darkness.

Deer in the headlights

We had glow-sticks so we could keep track of each other in the darkness. The flash of the camera catches the reflective tape on our gear as well.

Now, where's my snack?

As we approached Topsail Beach in the dark we could see and smell the bonfires people had going on the beach. We saw them first because no doubt they weren't expecting to see kayakers in the dark. As we got closer they could see our glow-sticks and they started hooting.

We pulled out for a break congratulating ourselves on a great idea and a great night even though up to this point we hadn't seen the moon.

Clyde under the moon

We were in luck. The moon graced us with its presence near St. Thomas Cove and then only for a brief period behind some light cloud cover. It didn't matter, we had seen the moon and we could call it a success. It was a great idea, it was different, its why its on my list of top 10 paddles.

I've tried to post pictures not previously posted in my countdown but this was the only decent shot where I captured a guy in a kayak and the moon. So, I have to use it again. Just like we'll have to do this kind of thing again in 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 10 paddles of 2010 - #4

Crossing St. John's Bay

On December 8th Malcolm invited me along on a paddle out to Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America. It was a beautiful December day. The water at the Cape if often big and in constant motion. Coupled with wind its not always accessible, especially in the last throes of fall. This particular Wednesday we were granted passage.

At the Cape

The Cape was shrouded in a bit of fog and low laying clouds. The sun trying to burn through the cover reflected on the steel-gray waters heaving up and down in the undulating swell. It was as Malcolm would say "magic".

The return

Leaving the Cape we had swell on our port rear quarter. It took me few minutes to adjust to the new rhythm as I followed Malcolm to our target, a notch in the cliffs in the distance.

Arriving back in the boat basin

Negotiating the Narrows (entrance to St. John's harbour) and evading the departing Coast Guard ship Sir Wilfred Grenfell we were back at Prosser's Rock boat basin. The smell of diesel oil on the water hung heavy in the air amidst the moored fishing boats. My hip hurt like hell and the smell of diesel had me wondering if I had blown a gasket. A couple of hours later I was fine and thinking about the great ride out to the Cape.

Any day out to the Cape, the end of the western world, is going to be on my list of top paddles.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 10 paddles of 2010 - #5

Bright sunshine

On May 30th Clyde, Dean, Tobias and myself had a very enjoyable day paddling from Dildo South to Spread Eagle and environs. I like all sorts of paddling ... crossings, big water in the open ocean, rock hopping, handrailing along the shore. Sometimes there's no need to hurry and every delight is savoured. May 30th was one of those days.

Rolling waves at Spread Eagle Point

A low gentle swell built up to some impressive breaking waves where the bottom rose up at the point. Dean went over and rolled, I disappeared and re-emerged from the foam, Clyde got pasted and got some good video.

Smelling the roses

It was a beautiful day and none of us were in a hurry.

Between a rock and a hard place

There was a seastack that of course had to be paddled around. Tobias misplaced his paddle and had to roll after he went over. Practice pays off!

Stopped on Dildo Island

Nature called and that necessitated a stop on Dildo Island. Its a site of archaeological significance as native Beothuk Indians were found to camp here by the early English settlers.

Sittin' on the dock of the bay

At the top of Dildo Island the swell reared up and broke of the shoals. We teased the waves for a while and satisfied, we paddled back to our put-in. It wasn't particularly challenging except in the breaking waves. It was one of those days when the Universe unfolded as its supposed to. That's good enough for me and #5.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Top 10 paddles of 2010 - #6

Forrested hills outside of Torbay

A paddle on a beautiful day with whales on the 8th of August is my #6. Each year humpbacks arrive along the Avalon Peninsula in late spring or early summer. Tapping into the grapevine to find out where the whales are to be seen, we decided to try a paddle from Torbay to Flatrock. It wasn't long before we spotted the plumes of the breath of three whales. Off we went in an attempt to get closer.

Incoming whale

The bay seemed to be full of whales. Some of them came fairly close. Just to the left of the whale a fine mist still hangs in the air from the last breath taken. Even when the whales weren't close we could hear them broach for air or see their spray in the distance.

Massive cave

Dean and Gary moved into the mouth of a massive shallow cave with seagulls soaring overhead. Don't look up!

Flatrock Beemer

The Beemer is the extention of Flatrock Point out under the water where on this day the sea surged back and forth over the almost exposed rocks. We stopped here for some time to ride the surge.

A lunch stop

Out of sight of the community of Flatrock we found a small stream running over some gently sloping rocks. We got out, ate lunch and cooled off in the running water before heading back.

Inward bound

Paddling back to Torbay we saw more whales in the bay. A few of the guys came across what appeared to be either an injured whale or one sleeping but I didn't manage to get close anymore that day.

Any kayaking day that includes whales is a red letter day and that's why its on my list of top paddles.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top 10 paddles of 2010 - #7

Start your engines

On January 16th we had a significant day paddle in Conception Harbour. It was significant because on that day I believe we had the largest group together for a winter's day paddle - probably ever in the province. The group included Clyde, Dean, Gerard, Neville, Ralph, Robert, Sean, Stan, Tobias and myself.

With everyone having put in we left Conception Harbour to paddle along the coast up to Collier's Point.

It was cold enough

It was mid-January and cold enough for icicles but there wasn't much snow. There isn't usually along the shore close to the water.

A bright, crisp day

We were together but at times in our own little kayak world. At times the group got a little strung out along the coast.

In no hurry

Every now and then we'd huddle up if the group got too strung out.

Moving on again

Stopping in Bacon Cove for lunch, it wasn't bitterly cold but cold enough to get chilled if the stop was too long.

This wasn't our only winter paddle but it was in my mind the most significant one in terms of numbers and that's why its on my list of top paddles.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Top 10 paddles of 2010 - #8

Beautiful day in Bay Bulls

A paddle I did with Dan, Derrick, Leslie and Pete on August 14th is my #8 paddle of the year. I've paddled Bay Bulls lots. A couple of times we stuck our noses out past North Head but had to turn back because conditions were not suitable for all members of the group. Its on my list because on this occasion Derrick and I did get out of the harbour as we made our way to a natural attraction (the Spout) along a very exposed coast with no take-outs.

In Freshwater Cove

A kilometer past North Head at the entrance to Bay Bulls we entered Freshwater Cove, an old abandoned fishing community. Years ago the predominantly Catholic community of Bay Bulls forced the Protestants to move to this location but they have moved on again.

Derrick haul out

At the end of the cove behind some low rocks Derrick found a small take-out no bigger than a whole in the wall.

Room for two

There wasn't much room but just enough for Derrick and myself. We had a lunch here and it was good that we didn't need this for an emergency exit because there it would have been extremely difficult.

I was using an old dry-use Canon kept in zip-locked baggie to take pictures on this paddle as my waterproof Olympus was in for repairs. I noticed the zip-lock baggie was no longer watertight so I had to stow the camera in a drybag in the day hatch. No more shots on the day but Derrick and I continued on to a sea-run geyser know locally as the Spout.

We were halfway to Petty Harbour and could easily have made it had we placed a car there. Reaching the Spout by seakayak was reason enough to make my top 10 list. Next year I'll do the entire stretch from Bay Bulls to Petty Harbour. I know a few guys who may be interested also!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top 10 paddles of 2010 - #9

Three islands on the horizon

There are three islands in Conception Bay. On October17th we had a clear sunny day to do a kayaking tour of the three islands. We first visited Little Bell Island (center), then to Bell Island (left) and then Kelly's Island (right).

Here are a few previously unpublished pictures from that memorable day.

Leaving Little Bell Island

We stepped out of our kayaks on Little Bell Island as if to tag first base on the first island visited.

Announcing our arrival at Bell Island

Arriving at Bell Island we looked for a suitable beach to land and have lunch.

Rocky outcrop

A rocky outcrop showing the bedding in the sedimentary rocks of Bell Island overlooks our lunch beach.

Departing Bell Island

Our bellies full after lunch on Bell Island we made for our third stop of the day.

Green waters of Kelly's Island

Having left Bell Island we arrived at the third island for the day. It was the jump in our hop - skip - jump paddle.

Making our way back to Topsail

Leaving Kelly's Island we made a straight line crossing back to Topsail Beach where we launched from earlier in the day.

It was a paddle of four crossings to visit three islands on calm waters. It was something I've had in the back of my mind for some time and because we pulled it off on that day its my 9th top paddle of 2010.

More pictures of the paddle can be seen in my "Three island hop" blog entry from October 17th.