Saturday, January 30, 2010

Watchin' the wheels go round and round

The "Fantastic Four"

Still suffering from the effects of a wicked cold but decidedly feeling better than last Saturday. Not quite well enough to get wet yet so I sort of feel like John Lennon who was seen at one point as "watchin' the wheels go round and round."

Where I couldn't drag myself out of the house a week ago, I felt good enough to check out my friends' cold water rescue practice today. I looked on in envy.

The water is only at about 1 C but Clyde, Dean, Neville and Sean enthusiastically threw themselves into the drink for self and assisted rescues. I timed the assisted rescues at 50 seconds immersion time which is well within Paddle Canada standards. I watched Dean practice his off-side roll, miss occasionally, set up on his good side and roll up. I watched Neville do a wet re-entry and roll. Major ice cream headaches! Sean did butterfly rolls with his storm paddle whereas Clyde, without a GP, stuck to the regular roll.

Well done guys, in fact, astonishing!


Friday, January 29, 2010

Get off of my cloud

What a spot for a cabin

Yesterday the Auditor General of Newfoundland issued his 2009 Report on his audit work for the year. One item in it is of keen interest to kayakers in Newfoundland, namely illegal occupation of Crown land. The Auditor General found thousands of cabins have been build on Crown land and Government doesn't have a good handle on the numbers, where they exist or whether they are legal in that a license to occupy was obtained.

Newfoundland has many bays filled with islands that are a joy to explore far from the clutches of civilization. Unfortunately when you paddle in these locations you find that other people have gotten there before you and built cabins in the best locations. Now, there's a question every time we encounter cabins whether they are kosher.

The issue for us are safe havens to be able to get off the water in an emergency. Most Newfoundlanders wouldn't deny a landing but incidents have been reported where Americans have tried to keep kayakers off "their" beach even by force of arms.

The other issue concerns the desirability of developing a water trail with a string of safe landings with good camping and a source of water. Newfoundland has some of the best seakayaking in the world and its a resource that could be built on to attract tourists who are kayakers.

We have to protect what's left and try to get evictions of illegal occupiers.

Lunch stop at Back Cove, Woody Island

We stopped for lunch on this idyllic beach at the top of Woody Island that had already been taken possession of. After reading the Auditor General's Report, I wonder if the occupation is authorized.

We enjoyed our stay here regardless of the structures but certainly would have enjoyed the place more so without the reminder of humanity. Who wants to camp here on weekends when there are going to be cabin owners around?

A cabin tucked away

Someone went to a lot of trouble to save this tree they planted as a substantial concrete butress was poured to keep it slipping into the sea. Don't care too much about this spot as the landing doesn't look inviting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Its a small world

Stan in Placentia Bay last summer

I recently got a bunch of old Sea Kayaker magazines from Dan and I've been making my way through them.

February 2001 cover had a watercolour painting of a paddler in Qoornoq, Greenland. I looked through the table of contents and read the articles that interested me. Then I turned to the "Letters to the Editor". One letter was a response to a previous letter wherein the writer referred to kayakers who had misadventures as idiots. Interesting. The letter continued on the next page and as I turned the page a name caught my eye - one Stan MacKenzie from Fort St. John in BC.

I said to myself "hey, wow, its a small world". Five years after that letter I met Stan on a KNL paddle in Aquaforte after he had moved to Newfoundland. Since then we've struck up a great friendship and have shared many great days paddling.

I always find this kind of happenstance interesting.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

One more hypo thing

High hypothermia risk

Yesterday I was in sickbay, laid low by the common cold. Sinuses stogged tight, no energy etc. I had planned earlier in the week to do some practice rescues in the frigid waters here but the risk of making the cold something worse kept me on the sofa. Some of my paddling friends did make it though at the above location and it looks like they had a good day.

Anyway, so, I couldn't paddle. Luckily I recently got a stack of old Sea Kayaker magazines from Dan and I enjoyed going through them. My last bunch of posts were on the subject of hypothermia. They were based on web research I had done and were sort of me thinking out loud. I learned some new things.

Yesterday I read a letter to the Editor of Sea Kayaker magazine from the February 2001 issue dealing with the same topic. The gist of it was that a kayaker had been rescued from frigid waters. The survivor reported his rescuers kept rubbing his legs continuously which turns out, is a no-no.

Apparently, by rubbing his legs and getting circulation going in his legs there was a risk of cold surface blood going to the heart and stopping the heart. There seems to be a risk of warming up a hypothermia victim too quickly which I hadn't thought of before. There's much to learn so today I'll check that out from the comfort of my sofa and find comfort in the thought, I'll gradually recover from this cold.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Check it out for yourself

OK, listen up

My last four posts were a cursory look at hypothermia. I had the feeling that my posts would provide useful information to some of us that paddled last Saturday. I personally take a rather lax attitude to it myself at times so it doesn't hurt every now and then to rethink attitudes to such a serious subject.

I gleamed as much pertinent information from various websites as I could without bogging my posts down. There's much more information out there that I urge anyone who paddles in the cold to do their own research or take a class if possible.

There are lots of safety articles in Sea Kayaker magazine, some of which ended up in a compilation book called "Deep Trouble". Some are available on-line. A lot of the incidents were caused by paddlers kayaking in conditions outside their capabilities and failing to dress for immersion. There's a lot to learn from the mistakes of others.

My friend Stan is very safety conscious, learn from the good habits of such people.

As is said frequently in the community ... "Paddle safe". 'nough said!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Out of the woods?

Its cold out of the water too

You end up swimming and your paddle buddies get you back in your boat but your cold. You think as you reattach your sprayskirt, I'm safe. Not so! 20% of immersion deaths occur during extraction or within hours of extraction.

The first 30 minutes during rescue is the most critical phase of hypothermia management. I'm not going to get into details here, rather I'll refer you to fellow kayak blogger abduk who provides a very good analysis in a recent post:

The key to treatment of hypothermia is having the items you need to rewarm a hypothermic paddler. Here's a list I'll finish putting together:
  • change of dry clothes,
  • plastic sheet or large garbage bags,
  • sleeping bag or heavy wool blanket,
  • tarp,
  • space blanket,
  • thermos of hot liquid
  • stove and pot to warm liquids
  • wind shelter
In the case of a severely hypothermic victim who may need to be evacuated to hospital for treatment, someone should have a VHF radio to call for assistance and signaling equipment like flares.

Making the right decisions to manage risk will minimize the threat of hypothermia but know what to do if it happens.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Into the danger zone

Looks are deceiving, water's cold

Cold water kills. After a swimmer has gone through cold shock and swimming failure, hypothermia sets in. After an extended time in the water the swimmer will lapse into unconsciousness, resulting in either drowning or cardiac arrest.

The longer a body is in the water the more heat it will lose. Heat is lost from surface tissue to the water. As surface tissue cools heat begins to transfer from deeper in the body to surface tissue.

The rate of heat loss from convection and conduction is affected by three factors:
  • Temperature difference between the body and water; the bigger the difference the faster the heat loss will be.
  • Surface area exposed; heat is transferred faster when more warm surface area exposed to the cold water, that is, whether the swimmer is partially or completely immersed.
  • Relative movement of water next to the body. Moving around brings more cold water into contact.
Other factors that impact heat loss are:
  • Clothing that acts as insulation.
  • Ratio of body mass to surface area, for example, a taller thin person of the same body weight as a shorter person will lose heat faster.
  • Subcutaneous fat, essentially insulation.
  • Whether the individual ate beforehand and what they ate.
Dress for the water temperature is an expression all kayakers are familiar with. I've seen numerous posts to our kayak newsgroup about advice on dressing to paddle in the cold. There's no one pat answer because of personal differences in body composition. Also, some people are more suseptible to cold than others.

My advice is to experiment with a clothing combination that works specifically for you, keeping in mind the above info. And, dress for the maximum amount of time you could be in the water; that will depend on your paddling group and whether you practiced self and assisted rescues.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stage 2 - swimming failure

A tricky spot

My last post addressed cold shock as the first effect of cold water immersion leading to possible death. Having survived cold shock, the swimmer is not out of the woods yet. Combined with cold shock, swimming failure accounts for more than 50% of immersion deaths.

Death can come between 3 and 30 minutes to those who try to swim. It is caused by the rapid cooling of muscles and nerves, compounding the effects of respiratory and cardiovascular responses from cold shock.

The causes of swimming failure don't just apply to persons attempting to reach shore but also those trying to get back in their kayaks if having wet exited. The cooling of muscles and nerves will manifest itself by compromising physical tasks needed to be performed to get back in the kayak like holding onto the kayak, deploying the paddle float and climbing onto the back deck. Fingers become numb, grip strength is reduced and cramp can disable limbs.

If you paddle solo (not recommended) and can't get back in your boat quickly, you're in trouble. The ability to do so must be practiced in realistic conditions, i.e. in cold water with help close at hand just in case.

The key defense against swimming failure is paddle with a group and keep the group close together. A dispersed group could mean many minutes getting to the swimmer. Know how to get yourself back in your boat because even in a small group, everyone could end up getting dunked.

Know the risks and prepare- physically and mentally.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Some shocking cold

Sean and Dean with different head wear

More than 50% of immersion deaths are caused by cold shock and swimming failure.

Cold shock is exactly as advertised, a shock from sudden immersion in cold water. The surprising thing about cold shock is that it begins at 25 C; its effects peak at 10 - 15 C. If you think back to being a kid, even in summer the water felt cold until you got into it for a while.

Cold shock lasts for 2 - 3 minutes. The first response to cold shock is a sudden, large inspiratory gasp, that is breathing water if you're upside down. That's followed by up to a four-fold increase in breathing rate, best if the head was above water. The blood vessels constrict causing a massive increase in heart rate and blood pressure. If the ingestion of water doesn't kill then less fit individuals could die of cardiac arrest.

Our seawater temperature now is in the 1 - 2 C range so cold shock is a very real concern when kayaking in winter. What can be done to minimize the risk? Primarily, wear head protection such as a neoprene skullcap, dive hood or similar gear. That protects the head from the sudden cold at immersion. I wear a neoprene skullcap and I've started wearing my helmet.

The other helpful thing is to practice cold water immersion. This can be as little as putting the face in cold water to get used to the cold.

On Saturday some of us wore wool hats or the like. These could come off and cause the gasp reflex under water. Just be aware of the risks whatever you wear.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A new record?

Getting ready for a winter paddle

A few people have paddled in the winter before but today our group was made up of 10 and that must be a record for the largest group yet to paddle on a Newfoundland winter's day. At this time last year it would have been just Stan and myself. We're pleased to have more people take advantage of winter's paddling opportunities.

Winter paddling means picking your day because its not prudent to paddle on some days we would if it was summer. Wind is the main concern because if there's a swimmer this time of year, a strong wind will bring hypothermia faster than you can say "roll". The wind cooperated but the sun didn't come out. That didn't dampen spirits.

We paddled from Conception Harbour to Colliers Point and stopped at Bacon Cove for a snack. The snack break didn't last long as some cooled down pretty fast and wanted to get going again. Back at Conception Harbour 3 of us did our obligatory rolls to cap the day with an exclamation mark.

Following are individual pictures, in alphabetical order, of each of todays hardy paddlers.


Clyde gets the dedicated paddler of the day award. Our start this morning was too early and we didn't think we'd see him on this day. He put in almost an hour after us and met us on our way back in.


Dean paddling back to Conception Harbour in a bit of a breeze. This time last year he would have been home with his feet up wishing for spring paddling to start. Not so this year, now he's one of the hardcore winter paddlers.


Gerard making tracks for the soup zone behind the offshore rocks. Gerard, shouldn't you have been at work? *lol*


Neville out for his first paddle of the new year. Neville also got a new waterproof camera from Santa so maybe he'll start a blog too?


That's a sweat looking boat you have there Ralph.


Robert was in the shortest and widest boat on the water today but still did a great job to keep up with the rest of us.


Sean trying out his new Greenland paddle. He's carved a couple and this one is a beaut. A cedar stick, sanded smooth and oiled to show the natural grain of the wood.


Stan paddles along the cliffs made of slabs of rock tilted as if they were going to fall into the ocean.


Tobias enjoying Gerry's Tempest that he bought last fall.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sedimentology 101

On a turquoise sea

Back to a favourite topic of mine - geology! I must have rocks in my head *lol*

Sedimentary rocks are like tree rings; the variation in the sediments indicates differing sea conditions in which they were laid down. Finer sediments are laid down in deeper water because they remain in suspension longer during transportation. Coarser grains can't be transported very far before they settle out of the water column. Therefore, coarser rocks indicate deposition near shore in shallow seas. Finer grained rocks are indicative of deposition farther off shore in deeper water.

Sedimentary rocks are laid down in "beds". A change in grain size results in different beds that can be seen in the sedimentary strata. Every change in appearance means either a change in sea level or uplifting/subsidence of the land.

Its part of the paddling environment that I particularly enjoy and I like to know something about it.

Will I or won't I?

The lines of the sedimentary beds here draw the eye through the tunnel and to the focal point at the end.

The far end looks inviting but rocks were exposed in the floor of the tunnel at the time we were here so we didn't go in. A higher sea level would make it possible.

Optical illusion

A small cave eaten into the cliff makes it look like the rocks have been contorted. The sedimentary rocks of Bell Island had suffered very little deformation since they were laid down some 440 million years ago.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Take me to your leader

Who's the leader?

Last week four of us paddled to Bell Island at my instigation. We put in and assembled just outside the harbour. Brain asked what what heading we were going to use to paddle across. That got me to thinking after about leadership. I wondered whether I was a leader or follower.

Most group paddles I've been part of were proposed by someone else and take the form of a shared adventure. The paddle organizer becomes the paddle leader in my mind even though there's no formal decision. As long as conditions are as advertised there's no need for decision making. If conditions are contrary (worse) than forecast, then decisions have to be made. What happens then?

It becomes less of a "lead by organizer" paddle and more of shared adventure where a group decision has to be made.

Majority rule? Not possible unless the skill level of the group is known individually and is homogeneous.

Consensus? May not be possible because if there's an unknown quantity in the group they may not want to indicate their discomfort with the conditions. Consensus may be to proceed with the paddle in adverse conditions but there could be safety issues during the paddle.

Rule by most conservative? Possible if everyone in the group is honest enough to accurately assess their own skill level.

Making sure the right model is applied in the circumstances is part of the growth of a paddler, the same as learning the technical aspects of paddling.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter paddling is catching

In Holyrood a year ago

A year ago today Stan and I had our first winter paddle together. We each had done separate winter paddles before but this was our first together. Other paddlers in Newfoundland have paddled in winter at times so we weren't the first but we are certainly the first to paddle consistently throughout the winter.

This year Stan and I are not alone. Yesterday four of us paddled in St. Philips with snow falling, a true winter's day paddle. I was a dumb ass and left my camera home so I don't have pictures to show for it. But the point is that maybe winter paddling is catching on here as there are almost 10 of us who have ventured out so far this winter.

Stan always has his camera, he never leaves home without it. I'll be sure to take mine every time from now on. If you check out Stan's blog you'll see what picture ops I missed. Here's the link:

Friday, January 8, 2010

In the groove

Brian and Ralph in the Tickle

Wednesday was one of those days when everything was good with the world, when yin and yang were in perfect balance. Four of us were out for a gift January paddle.

There wasn't much wind but the fetch still made for a bit of chop. The sun was shining brightly. Every now and then the bow would be covered by water as the kayak moved responsively through the water. I sat comfortably in my boat; my body moving in unison with the craft, we were as one.

I could hear my soul sing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Winter - not!

Ralph in his Nordkapp LV

Today, old Christmas Day is usually minus, minus around here with snow everywhere. There's no snow left from December after a couple of weeks of mild weather and the temperature was forecast to be 3 C. Its winter but winter has gone south, literally; it was warmer here this morning than it was in Florida. No excuse not to paddle.

Brian, Gerard, Ralph and I did a 5 km crossing from St. Philips to Bell Island, paddled south 4.25 kms to Lance Cove and then crossed back 7 kms to St. Philips. Winds were light but there was a bit of chop.

Ralph christened his new Nordkapp LV (her first taste of salt) and Gerard was there in his, new to him, Valley Aquanaught LV. It was amusing to find out that Gerard's boat used to be Ralph's which he traded in on his new kayak. When we got back Gerard appologized for being slower in his plastic boat, which is exactly whyRalph traded up. It must be the boat!

Brian and Gerard leaving St. Philips harbour

Brian is one of the best paddlers in the province and vastly experienced. He's paddled in many areas of the province and circumnavigated Bell Island a couple of times. I was really surprised to hear him tell me that this was going to be his first crossing. I guess there's a first time for everything eventually.

Brian, Gerard and Ralph heading for Bell Island

Crossing from St. Philips to Bell Island is only 5 kms but it was January so its not something to do lightly with the frigid waters of Conception Bay.

Don't anchor here

This is where the power lines come ashore on Bell Island after crossing the Tickle. This is also where we landed after we crossed over from St. Philips. It didn't matter that we couldn't anchor because neither of us remembered to take our anchors today. *lol* We paused momentarily before deciding on paddling southwards to Lance Cove.

Brian paddling along the massive cliffs of Bell Island

The sun catches the sedimentary rocks of Bell Island as Brian paddles past. These rocks were laid down in an Ordovician Sea that was located somewhere at 60 degrees south latitude. Given that they now reside at 47 degrees north latitude, they're globe trotters. Globe trotters that took 440 million years to arrive.

Today we were a bit faster having paddled the 16+ kms in 3 hours including a rest stop in Lance Cove. Great day today guys, thanks!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

N means north

Looking north through the Tickle

Daughter Lana gave me a gift certificate from The Outfitters for Christmas. I knew immediately I wanted to buy a deck mounted compass so Santa Claus ponied up the difference and I went to buy it. It was a little un-nerving drilling holes into the fibreglass but I got it installed.

Today, I went down to St. Philips to try it out, to make sure I could see the numbers clearly and to make sure I had declination figured out.

Here the declination is, in round numbers 25 degrees W. That means the kayak would be pointed true north when the compass showed 25 degrees. I've decided to use 30 because its easier to see on the compass. Its a small difference but enough precision for me. If I was striking a course for Bristol, England I'd be more precise.

We all know the primary use for the compass but there are other compelling reasons to have a compass. One is it enables me to check the actual wind direction (rather than guestimate) with the forecast and if different, adjust my paddle plan.

Its a useful instrument and I think it doesn't look too bad either nestled in its designed place.

New Year's resolutions

A little bit of rocker

Its clear to see how much rocker the Nordkapp has in this picture. A boat with a lot of rocker turns well when put on edge but doesn't track as well as a boat with less rocker.

I'm very much a person of habit, of routine. In other words, I track well.

I don't have a lot of rocker; I'm not easy to turn from a straight course. I don't handle spur-of-the-moment impulses well if that interferes with my normal routine.

My resolution for 2010 is to develop a bit more rocker and become more flexible. If a bit more rocker on a boat makes it more responsive, maybe it'll work for me too. We'll see.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christmas is over, almost

Alex out for a paddle New Year's Day

There are still 3 days left in the Christmas season but it has the feel of being over. Its Monday and everyone has gone back to work. Its quiet around here.

A few of my paddling buddies were off during the Christmas season and I was lucky to have had a chance to paddle with them a few times. They're gone back to work so I'm left to my own devices now. There are options but any decent paddle must now wait for the weekends and hope that the weather cooperates.

I love Christmas, there's a different routine. Friends and family visit. Its a festive time of year when there's little heed paid to moderation in eating and drinking.

And, I hate Christmas, when there's a sudden return to the normal routine. It'll take few days but I'll settle back. For now though, I'll enjoy what's left of Christmas and on Thursday I'll take down the tree after which life will return to the normal routine.

I like routine, routine is good.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The numbers are in

Brian looks on as swell breaks in the Gut

Well the numbers are in for 2009 and the total stands at 115, 115 times in my kayak for the year. The numbers kept growing throughout the year and as the year end got closer I thought maybe I could get to 122. That would have been once for every three days but December weather just didn't cooperate.

It breaks down to 43 day trips, 38 practice paddles in the sea, 32 practice paddles in fresh water and 2 times in the pool.

I did 9 winter paddles. That is, paddles within the winter window but there were more in "winter-like" conditions outside of what the calendar calls winter.

Twenty of the 43 day trips I paddled with Stan but I didn't keep track of how many times I did practice paddles with Stan at St. Philips.

I had 20 paddles in my Necky Looksha IV before I got my Nordkapp on May 2.

There were 4 months when I got 14 paddles in and in January I had the fewest at 2.

Like the commercial says "Having the freedom to paddle when I want, priceless!" Hopefully 2010 will be as fruitful.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Day paddle

Jim started a tradition of paddling at Quidi Vidi on New Year's Day. Its a long standing tradition, I'm not sure how long, but I think at least 10 years. It was my first New Year's Day paddle.

Quidi Vidi is a small fishing village next door to St. John's and its surrounded by hills, offering excellent protection from winds in every direction except westerly. It was windy with light freezing rain but we were good to go.

Nine of us showed up this year: Alex, Brian, Craig, Dean, Gerard, Jackie, Jim, Robert and myself. We paddled around a bit, went to check out the sea state at the entrance to the Gut, got some surf rides and then packed it in after an hour.

Jackie and Alex

Alex and Jim go check out conditions outside the Gut. There was a big swell on outside in St. John's Bay and as it approaches Quidi Vidi it gets pinched and squeezed through a narrow opening. That makes for a chance to get some surf rides.

Jim catches a surf ride

Brian in the soup zone

The swell turned into soup after it squeezed into the Gut.

Floating about in Quidi Vidi

After an hour the general consensus was that it was time to go home. Time to go home and dig into New Year's turkey dinner.

So, this is the only day each of us can say "We've paddled every day this year!"

The year is off to a good start. Happy New Year everyone, hope 2010 is a good one.