Monday, May 31, 2010

Destination Dildo

Leaving South Dildo

OK, get your mind out of the gutter! There is, in fact, a community in Newfoundland named Dildo. Dildo was settled in the late 1700s but native Americans have lived here since 2000 BC. In 1613 Henry Crout came into contact with the native Beothuck indian tribe. So good on the people of Dildo for hanging on to their community name. The people of Fucking in Austria, no doubt, share the same snickers.

A dildo in fact (before its modern equivalent) was a peg inserted into the gunwale of a dory to lock the oars in place for rowing.

But, as the saying goes, I digress. Sunday Clyde, Dean, Tobias and I launched in Dildo South to paddle in the south end of Trinity Bay about an hour's drive from St. John's. A beautiful sunny day with no wind but excitement did lay in wait for us.

Wharves and stages

The community of Old Shop lies along the coast across the Arm from Dildo. This is so typical of outport Newfoundland where fishermen have built their our wharves and stages. Less so now but in bygone days fishermen would land their catch of cod on the wharf, carry it into the stage where it would be split, sound bone removed and salted.

No more houses

As we paddled up Dildo Arm we left the houses and wharves of Old Shop behind. It felt good to be out of the public eye.

Yellow on blue

The yellow boats of Dean and Tobias make an exclamation mark in an almost all blue picture. After rounding the point past Old Shop we left Dildo Arm and entered Spread Eagle Bay and started thinking about lunch.

The water was calm but we would find rougher stuff to play in.

Fine lines

She sure shows her fine lines in this shot looking up Spread Eagle Bay from our lunch beach.


From our lunch beach we could see breaking waves on the point between Southern Spread Eagle and Spread Eagle. We ate our lunch in anticipation of getting out there to have a look. We weren't disappointed as the higher breaking waves reached heights of 3 metres beore toppling over. We stayed for about 30 minutes riding up and over the waves and occasionally getting trashed around by them.

Between a rock and a hard place

Just short of Southern Point in Spread Eagle Bay we ducked inside a sea stack before crossing over to Dildo Island.


North of Dildo Island, land gave way to a spline of rocks that rose from the sea like the teeth of a saw. We stopped on Dildo Island as nature called and because we spotted breaking waves here we decided to go play some more. Too, Dean's GPS told us we'd paddled 14.5 kms to that point and we wanted to make the hour long drive worth our while. We needed at least 20.

Ride 'em cowboy

The grouping of rocks provided breaking waves. Getting caught on the largest of the set meant getting ridden onto the rocks about 3 metres up out of the picture just off to the right.

We played around here for a bit before paddling straight down Dildo Arm back to our put-in for a total distance of 23.5 kms. Not a bad piece of business on a beautiful day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sweet spot

Rolling, almost upright

If you've ever played golf or baseball or tennis you'll be familiar with the term "sweet spot". Its when the club, bat or racket hits the ball in just the right spot and it flies away effortlessly on its intended track. I find rolling like that also.

Last year I lost my roll for a short period. It was unnerving. Back to basics to rebuild it and I had it back. But there were times when I felt like I relied too much on power. While I got the end result I wanted, it didn't feel effortless. It didn't always feel like I had hit the sweet spot.

Last evening I was so there and it was a sweet feeling.

Rolling is as much a mind game as it is technical. Try this. Get out and tip the kayak over. Bet you can flip it back upright with just a couple of fingers on the bow and the up-sweep of the keel. Realizing that makes forming a positive mental image of rolling easier.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Practice for all

Rescues in progress

So far this year I haven't seen many female paddlers out for our practice sessions. Those that did were just out for a short paddle about. I wonder why when there are so many good female paddlers?

Several have stated they want to attend our Thursday evening sessions but haven't made the plunge yet. I hope there's not an intimidation factor because we're all learning. At least the most of us are anyway.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sea breeze

Stan making his way in the rocks

In my beginner days I'd often gone for a paddle in calm or light wind conditions only to find myself later in the day in windy conditions. I didn't know a lot about wind at the time but since I've found its useful to be in-the-know about something that affects kayaking as it does. One wind phenomenon that catches some off guard is a sea breeze.

A sea breeze occurs on a warm sunny day when the land is heated more quickly than the sea. Warm air rises off the land and cooler air over the sea flows in to replace the rising air. A circulation sets up.

A sea breeze cannot become established on a cloudy day as the land doesn't heat up sufficiently. Also, a sea breeze cannot be established if the prevailing wind is on shore because the onshore winds prevent the land from heating up. This is useful to know because locally our prevailing wind is SW. Therefore, on a sunny day paddling on the shore between Holyrood and Cape St. Francis we wouldn't expect to experience a sea breeze. Paddlers, on the same day, on the east coast along the Southern Shore could experience sea breezes because the offshore winds in this case help a sea breeze get established.

Knowing this, especially for beginners can help them avoid unpleasant surprises.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In bloom

Forsythia breaking into bloom

There wasn't much interest in a paddle yesterday from the few kayakers left in town. Almost 100 paddlers are attending the annual Kayakers Retreat in central Newfoundland. It was almost as well as I was still feeling the exertions of Thursday evenings paddle in the wind.

So, wife Sherry and I met daughter Lisa at Oxen Pond Botanical Garden to see what was in bloom. Its still really early in the gardening season here but there was lots to please the eye. That and the tranquil setting made for a peaceful afternoon, just not in a kayak.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nickel and dime

Preparing to put-in

There's enough Government to nickel and dime us with taxes, fees, permits and licenses. Now, the Harbour Authority of St. Philips wants to charge us for the use of the slipway. The cost is $10 per use or $60 for the year. That's the same rate they charge to launch the biggest boat that can fit on a trailer and that hardly seems fair. I don't mind paying for the use of the facility but it should be proportional. I think its just a cash grab but I won't play that game.

My new put-in

A small river flows into the harbour not far from the slipway. Its a 3 metre drop from the road to the river but once on the river I have the same exit onto the sea as I would using the slipway. So, pick and shovel in hand, I cut a set of footsteps into the grass covered slope that makes for safe access to the riverside. Its not as convenient but its a workable solution.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Coastal convergence

Clyde catches a surf ride

Seven of us were out yesterday evening for a bit of practice in the wind and waves. The low laying clouds were blowing past us from a SSE direction. Wind waves were coming at us from the SW. It was a classic case of coastal convergence.

Wind behaves differently over land and sea. The direction of the wind can vary between land and sea because the land causes more friction than does open water. When the wind is aft and the coast is to starboard these different angles of surface winds converge and cause a band of wind that's 25% stronger. Friction caused by the shoreline keeps coastal wind speed lower than those just offshore.

That's why the wind forecast sometimes says "winds 30, gusting to 50 except 70 near the coast".

That is precisely what we experienced last evening. After beating into the wind a few times to catch surf rides back downwind, I paddled upwind hugging the shoreline where the wind was less severe, paddled offshore in the beam seas and surfed back.

After 2 hours I was content and went home, another lesson learned.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My kid sis

At Topsail Pond with my kid sister

Yesterday I was at Topsail Pond with my sister Kathy to teach her everything I know about paddling. It didn't take long *lol*

She bought a used Necky Elaho 2 years ago and did her Paddle Canada level I last year but hasn't spent much time practicing since completing the course. In a way it was a painful reminder for me from when I first began kayaking. It was frustrating to see how adept other KNL members were and how green I was.

That was then and, while I still have much to learn, I have made considerable progress. As will my sister provided she invests the time to practice what she's learned.

Kayaking is not something that can be learned by watching videos or reading a book. They're good source of information but it takes time in the boat. That's how skills are advanced; that's how everyone has to do it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Valley hatch covers

Clyde, minus his day hatch cover

Sunday after a lunch stop in Witless Bay we decided to paddle out to Green Island to check out the mass of birds spotted circling the island. A paddle through some breaking waves and when we got near the island, confused seas. I wanted to raft up with Clyde to get some shots of the birds and when we did I noticed his day hatch cover had gone missing. Given the sea state, we had no choice but to stick close together and head back to the cover of land.

There was no chance of finding it in the sea but just in case we paddled back to the lunch beach to have a look. No luck. On the beach Clyde took the stuff out of his day hatch, restowed it in his rear hatch, put his paddle float in the now vacant day hatch and blew it up to limit the amount of water getting in.

The three of us had Nordkapps except Clyde's is a plastic boat. Stan's and mine are fibreglass and have all three hatch covers tethered to the boat. The plastic boat doesn't. That's odd because it seems such a small item that adds practically no production cost to a very good product.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

At wits end

Yahoo, on the water again

At wits end? Not really, just in Witless Bay for a paddle today. It was the first time I've paddled in Witless Bay; I'm at a loss to explain why. Right next door to Bay Bulls which I've paddled lots but so much more to enjoy. A lot of the south side is very shallow and with the swell and submerged rocks it was a great decision to try it today.

We put in on the upper side of the road and paddled under the bridge to get into the bay.

Stan with Green Island

Stan christened his hand carved Greenland paddle today. He's getting pretty comfortable with the stick because today he got into some gnarly spots and came out unscathed.

And, I have the largest collection of Stan paddling pictures! Another one to add to the collection.

In the shallows the swell was breaking

All along the south side of Witless Bay the swell was breaking over rocks and onto the beaches. At a couple of places we stopped to play in the breaking waves.

One of those rocks is actually Stan!

We carried on around Breaking Point and Witless Point keeping well offshore as the swell was breaking over the rocks 100 metres off the headland. The combination of swell, rebounding waves, wind waves made for a bumpy ride over into Mobile Bay. We didn't stay long and headed back into Witless Bay for lunch.


From our lunch beach, aptly named "Twelve O'clock Beach", we could see Green Island 3.5 kms away. We were just totally amazed at the number of birds in flight around the island. They actualy looked like a halo of flies from where we were. Unbelieveable, so we had to go have a look.

The cat in the hat!

The cat in the hat is Clyde.

Here I've rafted up with Clyde to try and capture the huge swarms of guillemots and puffins at Green Island in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. I never know how successful I've been until I get home and download the pictures. This picture doesn't do justice to the scene but if the picture is enlarged, the little dots are birds.

Not impressed? Well, ya should have been there!

Time to pack up

After a good day of exciting paddling it was time to get out of the paddling gear, pack up, rack the kayak and head home. This is a time when we congratulate each other on a good paddle and a time to feel good about the "fraternity of the paddle".

A total of 19.3 kms paddled. Clyde was disappointed as he likes to get to 20. We would have made it if we hadn't spent so much time catching surf rides and goofing around.

Its also a time when I think about my next paddle and where it will be.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A peaceful stroll

Off we go

Can't paddle all the time, even if its good weather to paddle. To do so just narrows the perspective as blinkers do on a horse. On Friday, my sister and I had a stroll down Manuals River located just outside St. John's in the community of Conception Bay South. The river flows through a gorge on its way to the sea some 1.5 kms away. The Manuals River Natural Heritage Society is charged with maintenance and preservation of the site. The Society has upgraded a path along the river that makes the river accessible.

Here the river flows in a series of falls over Cambrian conglomerate which rests unconformably on Late Proterozoic granite and volcanic rocks. The conglomerate contains well rounded cobbles up to fist size suggesting this site was once a beach approximately 542 million years ago.

Below the falls

The river loses some of its fury and continues its flow to the sea.

A path follows the river on both sides. Strolling down the path is soothing as the water bubbles and gurgles over rocks.

Black shales

Walking down the path you actually walk up in time. That's because the beds dip more steeply than the pathway. Here the rocks are black shales that contain trilobite fossils also from the Cambrian geologic period.

Bluebird bridge

The Manuals River Natural Heritage Society has built two bridges to span the river and connect the path on each side.

The water loses its force

The water becomes a spent force and becomes flat calm.

Peaceful, easy feeling

Early spring, the leaves have yet to break out so there was a lot of brown and red shades.

End of the line

At the bottom of the trail the river flows into a lagoon, separated from the sea by a cobble and sand bar. A couple of ducks swam up to greet us. We couldn't go further because the path became too wet.

A stroll down Manuals River is a nice change from paddling. I like to take my time and stroll, stop, look, drink it in. A chance to connect with nature that's removed from the shoreline I so often visit.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Apparent wind

Stan goes like the wind

Sometimes I'm out for a paddle and the wind seems stronger than forecast. It may actually be so but it may also be that my mind is registering the apparent wind.

The apparent wind is the strength of the wind I feel on my nose. Paddling into a 20 km wind at 5 kms/hr makes it feel like 25 kms. Turn and paddle downwind and it feels like 15 km. The only time its possible to get an "accurate" feel "on the nose" for the wind is sitting still.

As far as the actual wind speed goes, I find the most accurate indicator is the sea state. White caps begin to form at about 20 kms. Knowing the sea state at various wind speeds, taking into account the fetch and the wind forecast will give an accurate enough indication for the strength of the wind being paddled in.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

High and dry

Take-out for lunch

Clyde said he was hungry. I said to myself, I could eat the leg off the lamb of God.

There were no take-outs, read "beaches", (nor fish and chip shops!) in Freshwater Bay. We surveyed the situation. I thought here was as good as anywhere as I jumped out into waist deep water. A scramble up onto the seaweed covered rocks and we had a perch for the kayaks and a place to refuel.

I wouldn't have tried that a year ago.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Paddle downhill

Peaceful now ... things will change

On our way back Sunday from Flamber Head at Freshwater Bay to Bauline Point we had an open ocean paddle in following seas of up to 2 metres and wind waves on the port beam. Clyde said he wasn't fussy about paddling in a following sea; can't see what's coming from behind he said. That's true but its easy paddling.

Who would chose to peddle a bike uphill as opposed to downhill if given a choice. Obviously, most would opt to coast downhill. Same with paddling in a following sea.

Paddling forward in a following sea, it feels like the boat stalls as the swell overtakes me and I get the sensation its actually slipping backwards on the backside of the wave, so I stop paddling. To continue paddling would amount to paddling uphill and an inefficient use of energy. As the next wave approaches I feel the stern being picked up and I begin to paddle to catch the wave; I shoot forward - sweet.

After a while I begin to get in sync with the water and edge the boat instinctively to counteract a broach. Its like a ballet. Occasionally, its unpredictable and the kayak veers off course. In the past I'd sweep etc to get back on course. Now, I just let the boat go knowing it will, unpredictably, come back again.

I hated paddling in a following sea but I've practiced and found what works for me. Going downhill is not always bad!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poor judgement

Skills to match conditions

On Saturday we had a kayaking incident in Outer Cove not far from the capital St. John's. The media reported on it but provided few details except to say that one of two kayakers flipped, couldn't get back in their boat but managed to swim to shore. Both paddlers had on dry suits. Other than that, details are scanty.

The winds on the day were westerly 30 kms, gusting to 50.

I have no idea about the skill levels of these guys but one thing for certain is that they were unable to perform an assisted rescue. That might give some indication.

Spies in the area report that after the swimmer got ashore, the other towed the empty boat back to the put-in at Middle Cove 1.5 kms away.

I won't criticize the judgement of these guys that led up to the incident because there's insufficient information. I will say that the decision to paddle alone back to the put-in showed poor judgement. The return paddle would have been exposed to the westerly winds at the point between Outer Cove and Middle Cove.

At short walk to retrieve a vehicle from Middle Cove would have been the better call.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Heads AND tails

It was a swell day

Today Clyde a I had a 2 stage paddle, one totally different from the other, something like heads and tails of a coin.

We were paddling to Freshwater Bay from Tors Cove, partly in the shelter of the cliffs from the westerly winds and partly directly into the wind where the bays were open to the west. We had what might be called a sightseeing tour going down.

On our return we did stage 2 where we stayed off-shore and completed one longish open ocean paddle. No sightseeing on return but careful attention to each paddle stroke.

Entering La Manche

We rounded Bauline Point and had a stiff paddle into a 30 km wind gusting to 50. As we got closer to the resettled community of La Manche we got some protection from the wind. I recall Malcolm telling me that the wind shadow created by a line of cliffs is 6 times the height of the cliffs. Unfortunately, the westerly winds were funneling and even as close as we were here the wind managed to find its way through the narrow opening.

The bridge is part of the East Coast Trail on the Avalon Peninsula and replaces one that the former settlers had erected here in order to connect both sides of the little cove.

Cape Neddick beckons

Leaving La Manche we head for Cape Neddick on our way to Freshwater Bay.

The swell reaches the cliffs

Working our way to Cape Neddick we paddled along the south shore ofLa Manche Bay. The swell was refracting around Cape Neddick giving us some nice paddling close to the shore. Here Clyde is in Money Cove.

Cape Neddick gets closer

Money Cove Point with Cape Neddick just behind it. In La Manche Bay we were sheltered for a while from the winds but shortly we'd swing to the right and into Freshwater Bay where we knew the winds would be back in our faces.

Freshwater River

After a short run into the wind and waves we reached the bottom of Freshwater Bay where Freshwater River tumbles our over a set of falls.

On the rocks

We were hungry but nowhere to take-out in Freshwater Bay. We found a spot with some seaweed covered rocks that was kind to the boats for landing.

Perched high on the rocks we had our lunch congratulating ourselves on a fine paddle to that point.

Start of stage 2

After lunch we paddled past Deep Cove to Flambro Head on the left side of Freshwater Bay. From there we started stage 2 of our paddle - an open ocean crossing from Flamber Head to Bauline Point instead of hugging the coastline.

The westerly winds blowing out Freshwater Bay and LaManche Bay made the bays full of white-caps. The wind and waves on our beam combined with a following southwest swell of 1 to 2 metres made for right good open ocean paddling. The camera stayed in my PFD pocket.

Once we got to Bauline Point we had shelter from the wind and paddled on to Tors Cove for a total distance of 24 kms.

Great paddle Clyde, thanks!

Friday, May 7, 2010


Early carrots

I am a kayaker but not just a kayaker. I have many irons in the fire. At times, too many irons. Some irons I have limited control over; others I have in the fire because I'm too optimistic about the number of balls I can keep in the air. That's a fault I have to work on.

One of my interests is gardening. Last fall I planted carrots in my greenhouse hoping to get fresh carrots for Christmas. They didn't make it before frost came but I left them in the ground anyway. When spring came I was surprised to see them start to grow again. Now it looks like I'll have the earliest carrots in Newfoundland.

What does this have to do with kayaking? I don't know, I just find it interesting that carrots, like bears, hibernate.