Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Topsail Pond

A skim of ice on Topsail Pond

Its March 30 and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw from the bottom of Topsail Pond it was clear of ice. That has to be the earliest yet so I beat it home, put the boat on the car and spent a couple of hours practicing paddle strokes and self rescues.

There was still a skim of ice on part of the pond. The rippled water was liquid but just beyond that the ice shimmers and reflects the landscape. Only one roll let me know why there was still a bit of ice.


It wasn't all practice strokes ... some time to look for different perspectives too.

Icicles line the shore

There's still a bit of snow between the trees but where its melted the water dripped over the edge of the bank and froze into icicles.

On my own

Looking down into Middle Arm

Last Tuesday I paddled by myself between Avondale and Conception Harbour. It was a safe location with benign conditions. Paddling solo is not recommended and I certainly don't want to encourage the practice. I weighted the situation on the day and felt comfortable so I went.

There's something different about being out on my own, whether its in a kayak or even for a hike. Its not a thing about being self-sufficient. Its a time to be with my own thoughts, to reflect on things that need reflecting on, to feel grounded, to be happy and be on my own timetable.

We are social animals and I enjoy paddling with other people but every now and then I like to find out if I like my own company.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Burrr ... its cold

The fog cleared ... it got colder

Yesterday, Saturday, we started a paddle in calm foggy weather. A cold front was sweeping down on us but wasn't expected until later in the day. It was early and today, Sunday, we are fully in winter's icy grip once again.

This morning it was -7C with a wind chill of -16C caused by NW winds of 45 kms/hr.

Friday it was sunny and 6C. I thought spring had caught on but it was only a teaser. In this part of the world there's no clean cut-off. We just have to be patient.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Finding my sea legs

The fog before the storm

The forecast for the morning was SW 10 - 15 knots swinging and increasing to 15 - 20 from the north around noon accompanied by freezing rain. A window of opportunity presented itself so Dean and I went for a paddle with intention of being off the water before the weather went downhill.

The forecast was wrong because 30 minutes after we put-in at 9:00 the wind and rain moved in. We stuck around; suckers for punishment as the driving rain stung our faces. We paddled into the 15 knot winds for 30 minutes, sometimes unable to see through our glasses. After 30 minutes the wind had whipped up the water pretty good so we decided to call it a day.

A group of us have been paddling all winter but only in calm conditions. As a result we hadn't been out in conditions since, as Dean pointed out, November 11 of last fall. After months of calm water paddling it was apparent today that it will take a few times out to find my sea legs in more challenging conditions. It won't take long though.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Simply pleasureable

Stopped for lunch

Sherry and I are taking care of Aimee's dog for a few days on account of her sickness but Aimee and dog used to live here before they moved out several months ago. Every morning I have a bowl of oats that I spruce up with cinnamon and raisins. One time one raisin fell on the floor and the dog swooped. The next morning the dog came to sit and wait for her raisin; it was the beginning of a ritual. So, now I pick out a plump raisin and let it slip onto the floor by accident. I wonder how the dog can enjoy just one raisin with a mouth so big.

I thought of my lunch stop in Conception Harbour a couple of days ago. It wasn't a stop in the middle of nowhere on a long expedition. It was on a very small beach right along the road in the community. A small space between two large boulders protected me from a northerly breeze where I could sit completely out of passing view. I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere and I felt pretty smug in my contentment. It was a bit like the raisin to the dog - just one of life's simple pleasures. The trick is recognizing it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Do as I say

A fleet of one today

A glorious day for a paddle and paddle I would. I know - never paddle alone but the conditions were fine in a well know area. I can rationalize anything if I want to bad enough, as we all can. Today it wasn't about setting a good example.

So, I headed for Avondale, about a 45 minute drive from home and as I made my way along the coast my decision was vindicated.

I don't advocate paddling solo but there's something liberating about being on the water alone. A thought to pick up on another day.

Why we call home "The Rock"

Newfoundland is affectionately known as "The Rock". Its a rock sitting out in the middle of the North Atlantic and its a rock with not a lot of topsoil to support the trees and shrubs that take hold.

Ballyhack Point

I handrailed along the shore from Avondale to Conception Harbour and just before Ballyhack Point I saw a couple of stragglers - erratics deposited here when the glaciers melted about 12,000 years ago.

Shipwreck at Conception Harbour

This will be a familiar sight to Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador members.

I got on the water late so, after checking out the wreck I stopped for lunch. I found a little beach right alongside the road but nestled in between some large rocks I was well hidden from view. Only the sound of the odd car passing told me I hadn't left civilization.

At Salmon Cove Point

I left Conception Harbour and made for Salmon Cove Point. Rather than make a direct crossing, I took a bearing and paddled straight, diagonally across Gasters Bay towards Salmon Cove Point. The wind freshened and was a bit stronger than forecast but I was paddling straight into it. The water was lively at the point.

I turned and with the wind at my back I felt like I was paddling in air. It was startling the difference in purchase on the water with the wind at my back. It went as planned, paddle into the northerly breeze and coast back. A few hours well spent.

Skerwink Arch

Alex squints for a view into the sun

Skerwink arch was once a sea cave until the roof caved in and left an arch in its place. The arch is on the East Coast Trail which runs along the eastern edge of the Avalon Peninsula, this section being on the south side of Aquaforte harbour.

Sea kayakers are naturalists. We have to seek out these kinds of natural structures, poke our bows into the shallowest of caves and get sprayed from every waterfall we encounter. We're out there observing in a non-intrusive manner and we like to take pictures. Sometimes the pictures don't turn out so great.

As the arch is on the south side, when its a sunny day any pictures are often overexposed because the basic point and shoot camera can't deal with all the extra info. I've taken few of these images that just weren't fit to post. Now through the wonder of PhotoShop they can be doctored to be a bit more presentable.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring has sprung

Spring in Torbay

Well, winter paddling is over as spring has arrived. We may well be paddling in winter-like conditions in spring here yet but I can feel the heat in the sun as it rises higher into the sky.

The arrival of spring means the breakup of ice that built up in harbours and along the shore all along the northly coast of Newfoundland. The wind blows it to and fro and sometimes we get lucky and it blows it in our direction.

Last year I had a very enjoyable day paddling through leads in the ice that had drifted into the cove at Torbay. Unfortunately, I don't expect to see the ice this year as its been unusually warms this winter and a lot of ice didn't form.

The arrival of spring heralds a new beginning for nature as the land comes back to life. Similarly, as the weather warms up there'll be more paddlers out and paddling season will get into full swing.

Next on the agenda - icebergs.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mind over matter

Great paddling comes to mind

I have a favourite saying that goes "if you don't mind, it don't matter." Last night we learned that using the mind does matter. Mike gave Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador members a presentation entitled "Rolling - mental preparation and physical preparation." It touched on "self talk" and mental imagery to prepare to roll or undertake any task for that matter.

I was aware of the impact of mental imagery on successful completion of tasks. Most athletes do it when they see visualize their routine in their mind before performing. We do it prior to setting up to roll. We don't have that luxury when we take an unexpected dunk. That is in my opinion when we can most benefit from the self talk and mental imagery we do beforehand.

Self talk and mental imagery is something that can be done anytime. It is possible to imagine a knock-over in circumstances not previously practiced while sitting in a car waiting for the light to change. Practicing the reaction over and over in the mind will help with an appropriate response if it actually happens. All without getting a hair wet!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Caught red handed

In the washing machine

I was caught red handed today trying to sneak in a paddle on a gloriously sunny and temperate day. Near St. Philips I saw Brian, we stopped, rolled down the windows and I had company. A stop at Ralph's house on the way it was three's company.

It was just a paddle we've done many times close to home but on a day like today it didn't wear thin. We paddled past Portugal Cove and on up to the falls flowing out of Brock's Head Pond. There and back Brian's GPS said 9.4 NM, or 17.5 kms. Not bad for a tad under 3 hours and not bad for a chance meeting. I was mighty pleased.

Brian in kayak heaven

Isn't this a quintessential kayak picture? Paddling through a short channel between St. Philips and Portugal Cove, dodging rocks exposed by low tide, a bit of white water (though not in this picture) all on a sunny springlike day. I don't think this channel has been named; maybe we should.

I moved in to get this shot of Brian and as soon as I heard the shutter close a wave put the bow up on the seaweed covered rocks. Bang! Oops. Battle stations! Brace like hell until the water comes back. I got free but then a bigger wave threatened to drive me right into a rock in the middle of the channel. Back paddling I got off the wave and after it rolled under I carried on. Happier outcome, hey Stan.

Ralph and icicle daggers

Up past Portugal Cove the cliffs just drop vertically into the sea. Here right next to the rocks there's upwards of 30 metres of water or more. Even with a bit of a swell running there wasn't much action against the cliffs because of the water depth.

Brocks Head Pond falls

Brian and Ralph heaved to as we came up to the falls. I was hoping they'd paddle up and in front of the falls to get a kayak in the picture.

I was surprised that the falls were not frozen over, even partially because there were a few icicles on the cliffs along the way. It was sort of why I wanted to come here but it may have to wait till next winter. I won't look forward to that just yet as spring is about to burst upon us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A coast less paddled

Stan with his new Greenland paddle

Cape Broyle was the paddle destination today for seven of us. Its still winter on the calendar but we had weather that was more spring-like than winter.

I got a late call from Stan as the crowd was leaving for Cape Broyle. I thought I'd slept past the meeting time but with haste I could meet them in Cape Broyle. I was 15 minutes behind them but in racing mode I pulled up as the last of the boats were being taken off the cars. Made it!

Made it and glad I did, thanks to my good friend Stan. It would be a glorious day.

Salty water on ice, neat

Fresh water pours over the falls and floats on the heavier salt ice and freezes over. The falls here are the first stop for paddlers when paddling in Cape Broyle.

At the falls

After punching through some rotten ice, we were able to get close to the falls. Hard frozen ice can be rotten to get through but when we call ice "rotten" its because it has started to meld and is crumbly.

We took turns paddling up to the falls to let the falling water sound out a beat on the deck of our kayaks.

In unfamiliar territory

Cape Broyle is the usual destination for Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador's annual Fathers' Day paddle. Normally, we would cross over to the south side of the harbour at the narrows at the point behind Neville. We decided to continue paddling along the north side to see what treasures we pass up on Fathers' Day. We weren't disappointed.

It was a bright sunny day

Here we discovered a cleft in the cliffs that had at one time been a cave. The roof had long ago caved in to let the bright sunlight pour in.

Paddling between the rocks

We had just a little bit of swell that made paddling between the offshore rocks and cliffs safe but still interesting. The shore here was protected from the swell but things would change on the south side of the harbour.

Massive cliffs

The cliffs here are part of the black shales of the St. John's formation but caught in the bright sunshine the weathered surface reflects in purple and bright grey. It was a day of just enjoying the scenery and taking our time to let it sink in.

Another picture of kayakers stopped for lunch

We stopped on a small beach just outside of Brigus South. Lunch is a chance to heed the call of nature, stretch legs and refuel with what goodies were packed for lunch. On a day like this there was lots of back slapping about what a fantastic day it was for March 14 and how good it was to be out on the water.

Checking out a cave

Back on the south side of Cape Broyle we checked out the caves on our way back to the take-out. On the north side we were in bright sunlight but here we were in the shadows under the tall cliffs.

Some of us did some rock hopping. Some of us, meaning me, have to learn to be a bit more patient and read the situation before paddling into tricky situations. No damage done and rescue techniques which we've practiced were found to be effective. Enough on that for now.

After we lashed the boats back on the cars and stashed our gear we stopped for coffee at the local restaurant where there was more basking in the afterglow of a wonderful day. Thanks guys.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Awfully simple

A row of piles leads up "long pond"

Last Saturday Richard did a forward stroke clinic at the pool. Today Dean and I went to Long Pond to start working on it. Its considerably different from the touring and racing (power) strokes, at least used around here. Here's a link to a video clip Neil shot of Richard.

After a number of years doing one stroke the muscles have it memorized and its going to take time to build muscle memory for a new forward stroke. I'm going to break it down into bite sized pieces that I can work on separately and hopefully put it all together at some point. To try to execute all of it at once is just too much for me to concentrate on.

Today went OK but if Richard was there he'd be yelling "more torso rotation", "take the paddle out at the hips", "keep your hand at eye level". That reminds me of a saying: "If you know it, it's awfully simple; if you don't, its simply awful".

Dean charges through some ice

It wasn't all work. Near the upper part of the "pond" the water was frozen over and passable with a bit of effort. A lot more liberties can be taken with a plastic boat but I wasn't going to try it with my glass Nordkapp.

Ice cap

After a couple of hours of "practice" we had enough and called it a day. On the way back I thought this buoy with the ice cap would make a quirky photo.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kayak Bill

Moonlight Wave by Kayak Bill

I'm picking up my framed Kayak Bill print tomorrow.

I posted a short while ago that I had purchased one and I posted an oblique picture (I wanted to avoid copyright issues) of it along with some information about Kayak Bill. I've since received a jpg file from Lori Davidson that I can use to give a more true representation of the art work.

You can see that its a beautiful piece of work. But its not just the art, its the story behind the art that I find so attractive. If you haven't read my previous Kayak Bill blog entry, you can check out the story in a Sea Kayaker magazine on-line article from October 2005.

Unfortunately, Lori and Wes have taken down their website where I could order from a number of prints. You can get more info from son Wes by mailing "" if you like what you see.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Power phase

Stan in Bay Bulls

Last Saturday Richard took us through a forward stroke clinic at the pool. The forward stroke he taught was one more based on a racing stroke used by the likes of Adam van Koeverden, Canada's K1 king.

After getting the paddle in the water up to the shaft at a more upright angle the business part of the forward stroke is the power phase. This part is considerably different from the stroke I'd been using. Keeping the non-working hand at eye level the paddle is pulled through the water by pivoting the torso as if doing the waltz at arms length. The paddle is kept vertical and sweeps out from the hull at an angle like one side of a "V" and taken out, as in the past, at the hips.

This explained Richard keeps the paddle out of the disturbed water alongside the hull. I';m sold on this part.

Why take the paddle out at the hips? What I've read suggests taking the paddle out further back causes the paddler to lift water and force the stern down. Otherwise I haven't seen a good explanation but Richard led me to a valid argument.

Most of the power is produced by the paddle up to the hips. As the paddle goes past the hips power is still produced but at only about 60%. A propeller driven boat has the prop in the water 100% of the time and is therefore very efficient. Our prop is the paddle and its not in the water all the time. The key to efficiency then is to have the paddle in the water when most of the power is generated and not keep it in the water when not generating maximum power, i.e. behind the hips.

I wish they would just come out and explain the rationale.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The search for efficiency

Synchronized paddles

Dean, with the Euro blade, shows good forward stroke form from the recent past. This is what I saw people around me do when I started paddling so I too followed that form.

Saturday past I learned this stroke is passe. The stroke of the present (since, I don't know when) starts at the catch with a more vertical paddle and non-working arm straighter. Its based more on a racing stroke and you can check that out for yourself on YouTube, just search for Adam van Koeverden. Before I jump on board though, I wanted to think this through and reason it out for myself.

The greatest force exerted by the paddle blade is a right angles to the blade. With the non-working hand near the shoulder and the working side extended to the feet the paddle is placed in the water at a low angle. The force is exerted downward until the paddle reaches a more vertical angle where maximum force is generated as the paddle is drawn back.

When the non-working arm is extended away from the body the paddle is more vertical at insertion and maximum forward force is created right away resulting in greater efficiency.

That makes sense but there's more to it than just insertion.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Full speed ahead

Freezing rain coats everything

Two days of freezing rain; what to do? Retreat inside and luckily Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador had a forward stroke clinic last night at the pool that I was signed up for.

I knew my forward stroke wasn't perfect but it gets me where I want to go and in not too shabby speed. I wasn't prepared for the humiliation I was in for when I learned pretty much everything was wrong with it.

Sea Kayaker mag has an article on the forward stroke in the August 2003 issue. Throw that out; everything's changed. Now, at least according to Paddle Canada, its more like a racing stroke like you'd see from Adam van Koeverden.

I have to assimilate everything I learned last night and see where I go from here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tipping point

OK, so you'll need a magnifying glass!

Its early March and spring is within sight. Its at the tipping point between winter and spring. I'm wondering if winter paddling is behind us and I'm anticipating taking the snow tires off the car. Its been a mild winter and they say there isn't much coastal ice to drift our way this spring. There may not be much coastal ice but icebergs will come.

Recently I purchased a piece of safety equipment that I think also has some tipping point or multi-season application.

Its a Thermal Protective Aid "Alusafe T"; aluminum bivvy style bag that a wet kayaker can get into to protect against hypothermia after a swim.

I'm thinking too that it could be used to stuff a sleeping bag into to give greater warmth on cold nights when kayak camping. That would save on storage space as a thinner sleeping bag could be carried.

Sorry about the small representation but you can get the skinny on the product on the Lalizas website.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Group of Seven

Tony at Cape Broyle Head

The Group of Seven is a name given to a group of Canadian landscape painters from the 1920s. They worked mainly in the medium of watercolour paints.

I've been playing around off and on with Photoshop just to see what kind of effects I can get. I used the Group of Seven as an inspiration to modify a picture Malcolm took of me at Cape Broyle Head last fall.

Photoshop makes quick and easy work of producing a watercolour out of a scene but I don't think it will ever fetch the same kind of money as an authentic one-of-a-kind watercolour. The next step for Photoshop would be to produce a paint-by-numbers print that could be completed filled in with a paint brush. Now, that would be worth money!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


An erratic - at rest for 12,000 years

Last Thursday I did some cross-training for kayakers. A 20 minute drive outside of St. John's is Butterpot Provincial Park that is taken over in the winter by the Avalon Nordic Ski Club. They groom the the snow covered road that loops through the campsites for freestyle and classic skiing.

It was the first time on skis for me this winter so I didn't push myself right into the red zone but still had a great aerobic workout all the while enjoying the solitude in the park. I saw fresh human tracks but luckily not a person, so, I had the park all to myself.

A river runs through it

After a series of downhill runs from the park entrance the cross-country ski loop begins at the bridge over this stream. There were the faint remains of a classic track covered by freshly falling snow that I freshened up that in the second time around the loop was a joy to ski.

It was an overcast day and in hindsight I almost could have taken these pictures in black and white mode. Notwithstanding the absence of colour, this is till a pleasing picture that speaks to me of the land in slumber.

Butterpot in the background

At the far end of the loop I stopped at this campsite for lunch. The green picnic bench stood out in the white and dark landscape dominated by Butterpot mountain in the background. I sat on the bench amid the utter quiet except for the gurgling of a small stream. It was one of those contemplative moments when the feeling of being one with the earth was reinforced and I was in balance.

Butterpot is also a dominating sight from the seat of a kayak on the other side of the mountain in Holyrood Bay.

Moose tracks

There all sorts of moose tracks along the back part of the course. I was on heightened alert for moose charging out of the woods for fear of being run over. There were also numerous rabbit tracks but no fear of being run over by a rabbit *lol*