Friday, June 25, 2010

Off to the South Coast

Air photo of Grand Bruit area

Tomorrow Stan, Ralph and I are off to Burgeo on the South Coast of the island to do a multi-day paddle between Rose Blanche and Burgeo. We'll take the last provincial ferry run to Grand Bruit and on to Rose Blanche to begin our paddle back.

Its a very exposed coast. Due south are the Bahama Islands, Cuba and the rest of the Carribean islands. I checked out the air photos at the Government Lands Division and noted there are very few and far between takes outs. Once launched, we're committed.

Our greatest asset will be judgement. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

I expect to be back around July 5.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wrist gasket replacement

Remove old gasket

Picture from my last post I'm using again to document the entire gasket replacement process in one post.

This was the left side that didn't work out so smoothly but I came up with a better system that worked very well.

I cut off most of the old gasket and then used the iron set on medium heat to remove the remaining piece of the old gasket.

Recommend checking out Kokotat website for other hints to replace wrist gaskets. I won't comment on all the details. This post is directed more at the mechanical part of replacing the wrist gasket.

My hardware

I cut off a piece of wood from a log that was just bigger than a coffee can that I knew slipped into the sleeve of the drysuit. I sanded and trimmed so that it would be relatively snug when inserted. Then I cut the round piece in half and a bit off of each side so I could insert wedges to really snug-up the material.

Inserted into drysuit arm

I taped a piece of waxed paper on both pieces to prevent the work being glued onto the wood.

I placed both halves of the form into the sleeve and tensioned up the material by sliding in the shims.

An elastic placed on the material above where I will apply the Aquaseal holds the material in place, just in case.

From here I placed the new gasket in position where I wanted it and placed another elastic over the latex gasket to hold it so it can't move while gluing and manipulation.

Ready to apply Aquaseal

After securing the gasket with the elastic I peeled the edge back so that I could get it ready to apply Aquaseal to both the gasket and the drysuit material.

I cleaned both surfaces with rubbing alcohol and then sanded with 220 grit sandpaper. Clean up with rubbing alcohol after sanding. Apply Aquaseal with a popsicle stick on both surfaces.

I put popsicle sticks under the gasket where I rolled it back. The popsicle sticks made it easy to roll the glued gasket back over onto the edge of the suit material where I also applied Aquaseal.

Ready to dry

Here's the new gasket in place and now all left to do is wait for the Aquaseal to dry.

Just like a factory job

And this is the finished product. This looks as good as the original factory job so I was very pleased.

Interesting note: its a small gasket that Jon at The Outfitters salvaged from Alex's suit. He didn't have any small gaskets in stock so he gave me the used one. Thanks Jon!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Good timing

Removing the old gasket

Last Thursday as I put on my drysuit for a practice session at St. Philips one of my wrist gaskets blew out. Bummer. I pulled the velcro tight and had a productive night anyway.

I was lucky that it happened when it did because I have an extended trip planned for next week and it would have been a scramble to get it fixed. I doubt I would have had it repaired in time.

So, I had a week. Brian suggested I have a go myself. Nothing to it he said. That's easy to say after you've done a few as I now know.

With considerable trepidation I started the job and cut the old gasket out. Set iron on medium heat to release the remaining gasket from the drysuit material. That worked good.

To make a long story short, I made a mess of it. I had it all set up nicely to glue the new gasket on but the gasket moved. Aquaseal all over my hands, sweating bullets, a prayer or two and I took it apart to dry and make a second attempt the next day. Better luck but the end product wasn't pretty.

I've learned and made up a jig to do the other gasket that I believe will work better. If so, I'll post some pictures to save some other poor soul the experience I had.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pot of gold

A double rainbow!

They say there's a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I don't know anyone who's found it. I know lots of people who chase it, everyday. I don't. I'm content with my lot in life.

Today I celebrate Fathers' Day. A hug and a kiss, that's my pot of gold.

Happy Fathers' Day all you dads.

Friday, June 18, 2010

T-rescue variation

Come on aboard

At practice yesterday evening we did a bunch of self and assisted rescues. There are numerous versions of the T-rescue. The most quoted one is where the swimmer goes to the back of the boat while the rescuer takes the overturned boat onto their combing to dump out the water. Last night Sean and Dean did a variation of the T-rescue that gets the swimmer out of the water.

In this variation Dean gets himself on Sean's deck as they then both work to dump water out of the overturned kayak. The emptied kayak was then put back in the water and Dean moved over into the cockpit of his own boat.

There are a few benefits to this variation. If the water is particularly cold (or heaven forbid the swimmer isn't appropriately dressed) it gets the swimmer out of the cold immediately. The rescuer can also keep a close eye on the swimmer. Furthermore, the swimmer's mind is diverted away from the shock of getting wet and is focused the action of the rescue.

There is a drawback. The front deck of a kayak is higher than the rear deck and will be harder to scramble up onto.

Rescues are not one-size-fits-all. Each one has its place and each one should be practiced.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dining out

No supermarket in sight

We're taking an extended kayak camping trip at the end of the month. That requires packing enough food for the trip. Space is limited in a kayak. Camping gear, extra clothes, first aid supplies and food have to crammed into a small space. Economy of volume has to be considered for all necessities.

Some food will spoil if not kept cool. Some food like canned food is bulky and heavy. The preferred choice is dehydrated food. Commercially prepared dehydrated food is very high in sodium. Home made food must be prepared and dehydrated. I've found another option.

I shopped yesterday at a bulk food vendor. There I found two soup bases very low in sodium. I added beans, soy slices, lentils, mixed vegetable flakes, barley, rice. All I have to do is rehydrate the food and combine for a complete meal. I'll start with a soup base, add beans and the other purchases in various combinations to give me some variety. Further variety can be had by adding different spices. For example, adding some peanut butter, lime juice and chili paste gives the dish a Thai flavour.

It may not be 5 star dining but it won't be bland either.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Group dynamics

Waiting ..... waiting

Paddling in a small group of 4 to 6 people has different dynamics than in a group of 24. That's obvious but sometimes I forget that and get entangled in a large group.

Sunday we had a club paddle where 24 members showed up to share a paddle in Cape Broyle. We were to meet at 10:00 and put-in by 10:30. That got pushed back to 11:00. Most were on time, some were late. Some of us were organized quickly and got on the water. We sat patiently at first while the rest got their act together, then some got impatient and started off. By the time the stragglers got on the water it was 11:30 and the group was already spread out.

In a smaller group where we all know each other things go more to schedule.

On the return leg after dinner herd mentality set in and the group seemed intent on finishing the paddle as soon as possible. The group made a bee-line for the put-in. There was no opportunity to improvise and no discussion of what everyone wanted to do, like explore the nooks and crannies of the north side.

In a smaller group where we all know each other we can revise the plan to suit the mood at the time satisfy everyone's paddling aspirations.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Early Fathers' Day paddle

Getting underway

Every year Alex caters the Father's Day paddle in Cape Broyle. This year he's signed up for a swiftwater rescue course on Fathers' Day so we did it a week early. Its a scheduled Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador club event and this year I counted 24 paddlers out to brave the unseasonably cool weather.

The club's paddles are for entry level paddlers. Its an opportunity for them to meet fellow paddlers and network to make connections for paddling partnerships.

The paddle follows a fairly strict agenda: falls, cross, caves, lunch and back. Not too exciting for me but I feel its a chance to support the club and newer paddlers just as I was once taken care of.

First stop

The usual first stop for paddles in Cape Broyle is the falls in Shores Cove where the river from Horse Chops Pond flows out into the sea.

Getting ready to cross

Next on the agenda after the visit to the falls is a crossing of Cape Broyle Harbour at "The Point of the Narrows" to get to the south side where numerous caves can be explored.


Cape Broyle is a great paddling destination for caves. Here a group waits for just the right moment when the surge of water can carry them over the slightly submerged rocks.

Somber cliffs

It was overcast all day and cool. The dark skies made the cliffs along here look dark and somber.

Lunch beach

We stopped at the traditional Cape Broyle paddle lunch beach at Lance Cove. Its a long crescent shaped beach with fine sand so its a gentle land and launch.
Not quite Angel Falls

On our way back to the put-in Gerard, Joy and I checked out the falls where the Freshwater River runs out over the cliffs. The rest of the crew paddled on as if intent on reaching the end of the paddle by the shortest means. I felt obliged to catch up to shepherd the less experienced paddlers back to Cape Broyle. Off the water at 3:00. Oh well, I'd be home in time to catch the last World Cup game of the day. That's like dessert!

Thanks Alex for another enjoyable (albeit early) Father's Day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Peaceful easy feeling

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste
And remember what peace there may be in silence"

That's how the Desiderata begins. If you have never read it, its worth a read. If you have, but not in a while, its worthwhile to reacquaint.

My kayak takes me out of a world full of hustle and bustle. It takes me to places where the silence is only broken by the sound of water lapping at the shorelines, the sounds of seagulls soaring overhead, the sound of sunlight sparkling on water. It brings me home to myself.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Assisted rescue disection

Hard lifting

Last week I was in a similar position while completing an assisted rescue. I got into a position where the overturned boat wasn't perpendicular to me and had considerable trouble getting it onto my lap to dump the water out.

With the boats almost parallel its very difficult to get good leverage to lift the overturned kayak. It puts the rescuer in a precarious position because they can easily pull themselves over trying to do the lift.

The key to the assisted rescue is to get promptly to the overturned boat and at right angles to it. That means using the right paddle strokes to get into that position. Once there its possible to almost fall onto the overturned boat as leaning on it provides considerable stability while lifting out of the water. Speed is of the essence because waves can quickly move the overturned boat out of perpendicular.

Look at that boat lean

Here Dean is dumping water out of Clyde's boat and its clear to see how stable the rescuer's boat is while using the other boat as a prop. The same holds for an overturned boat. The rescuer can safely lean onto the overturned boat in order to pull it up onto the combing to prepare for water dumping.

Lets talk about it

Clyde and Dean talk about the assisted rescue after completion. Discussion of what went right and what could be done better after the fact is always a good idea. It validates how the rescuer feels about the performance because the swimmer sees it from a different perspective. For example, the swimmer may be confused with the shock of having to wet exit and wanted more specific instructions from the rescuer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World Oceans Day

A friendly paddler waves back from the deep

Yesterday, June 8, was World Oceans Day. I thought it was this Friday so I guess I missed it. Well, not really. Not when I treat every day as an Ocean Day. Its something like Christmas Day. Its no good just to have glad tidings and goodwill on the one day, its something that should be practiced every day.

Saturday near Duck Islands in Bull Arm the water was so crystal clear that I cast a shadow through the water onto the bottom below. In a moment of childish joy I waved to my shadow below and it waved back. But the ocean is not to be taken lightly.

The one thing on most of our global minds is the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It saddens me to see what's happening to the sea, the wildlife and the shoreline. On a lesser scale it also happens here. Lots of beaches along our shoreline have various bits of flotsam washed up on them.

Maybe we should take a few minutes after our lunch stops to pick up some of the garbage and carry it out .... to be burried in a landfill .... (groan).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ancient marriner

We meet after all this time

Saturday Stan and I were awed by an encounter we had with a whale in Bull Arm. It was the subject of 2 previous posts by both Stan and myself. I have another reason, other than its sheer majestic size, to be awed by the whale. Allow me to explain. We'll have to go to paleontology class for a short lesson. The next time you see a whale, maybe you see it also in a different light. Lets go.

Earliest known whale ancestor

This is an artists rendition of "Pakicetus" the earliest known whale ancestor. The skeleton was found in 1983 in Pakistan.

Pakicetus was about the size of a large wolf and lived on the edge of the Tethys Sea some 53,00,000 years ago. Its believed that Pakicetus may have exploited food in the margins of the sea where food was scarce on land. Over millions of years it progressively spend more time in the sea which precipitated the evolutionary changes we see today. As it ventured into deeper water where existing large predators roamed, evolution responded by increasing its size.

Three features of the skeleton lead scientists to conclude it was the ancient ancestor of the modern whale:
  • position of the ear bones in the skull;
  • folding in a bone of the middle ear; and
  • arrangement of cusps on certain molar teeth.
Its hard to believe but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Humpback encounter

Hello there

Saturday Stan and I had the good fortune to share some time with a humpback whale in Bull Arm. It had surfaced next to Stan about 200 metres away and before I knew it the whale was under me. I could see the white flippers in the waters beneath my kayak and motioned to Stan to come.

Its a very un-nerving feeling knowing such a leviathan is directly underneath the boat but, it was a gentle giant. It rose to the left of my boat and looked straight at me. I can't find the words to describe the feeling but maybe "spiritual" comes close. Words were not spoken but I felt there was a communication between us.

It sank back under the water, disappeared for some moments and rose again to wave its flipper at me.

A conversation ensued

Stan arrived and we shared a close encounter. We sat in our kayaks transfixed with what we were experiencing.

This shot is not as sharp as I'd have liked but you get the picture. I rushed to get the picture and didn't wait for the camera to finish focusing.

So much unseen

The whale bobbed around us; so much of its mass unseen beneath the water. Except by Stan who got lots of great shots on his Kayaking Dreamin' blog.

Just hanging around

At times it raised its head and other times it just swam around us, every now and then exhaling air with a fine mist of water.

I lost track of time. Maybe it was 5 minutes, maybe 15 and the whale swam off. Later we heard it a kilometre or so in the distance and paddled over to re-establish contact. It approached but did not stop.

Good bye friend

And, so, on this day we said our good byes. We'd only come into contact for a short time but I'm left with lasting memories.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

On the sunny side of life

Looking down the Arm

Saturday a paddle took time to organize. Stan had a work committment that made for a later start. Some couldn't wait and made their own plans. Stan and I drove to Sunnyside at the head of Bull Arm. It turned out to be a wise decision. Beautiful countryside, an eagle, a humpback whale and a couple of seals.

Its a bit of a drive from St. John's but after this, our first paddle here, I can testify its a drive well worth taking. Probably our only regret was not to have planned for an overnight camping trip on this day.

We put-in at 1:30 and wouldn't be back for 7 hours on an eventful day.

A typical Newfoundland scene

I don't think there's anything that says "outport Newfoundland" more than a house, wharf and stage and a boat or two moored off. This is on our way out of Sunnyside where the houses have been built more apart.

Lower Cambrian rocks

The geology is always of interest wherever you paddle in Newfoundland. Here on the east side of Bull Arm just after leaving Sunnyside the lower Cambrian red and pale green slates have been faulted as a block into the surrounding andesitic volcanic flows, breccias and tuffs of the Bull Arm formation. Man, I love this stuff ... can ya tell?

Always a crossing

Starting out on the east side of Bull Arm we had a 10 knot wind in our faces blowing straight into the Arm. Looking down the coastline, Stan thought the other side might be more interesting so we crossed. Events in about an hour would prove it was a fortuitous decision.

Bull Arm construction site

Here we are a Great Mosquito Cove where the Hibernia Oilfield Gravity Based Structure was constructed. The waters in the cove are very deep, 77 metres Stan reported. At one time, if I remember correctly, there were 5,000 people working at the height of construction. Things have slowed down while the Government looks to attract more work to this world class site.

A humpback whale

Paddling up the Arm towards the Shag Islands on the west side I was some distance ahead of Stan. A whistle blew; I stopped to see why. Stan didn't look in distress so I hailed him on the VHF. A whale he reported. I went back and he was beside himself with excitement. A whale had surfaced right next to his kayak, so close Stan could have reached out to touch it.

It didn't stop so we paddled on hoping to catch another glimpse. After a few minutes I stopped when I saw the white flashes of his flippers right under my boat. It came up a mere metre on my port side and our eyes met. Christ! I swallowed a lump in my throat.

For about 5 minutes the whale surfaced and swam around us as we sat captivated by the encounter. I'll post more pictures later.

Waiting for our friend to resurface

After our encounter with the whale we continued to paddle up the Arm. After a while we heard the whale feeding in the distance so we paddled into its vicinity and sat waiting to see if it would approach us again. It did briefly but its curiosity previously satisfied it didn't stick around. We respected its decision and, sadly, parted ways.

A Zen moment

After following the whale up the bay we we near Bull Island and the Duck Islands. The water was oily calm. There wasn't a sound. It was magical, a Zen moment.

Supper stop

It was getting towards evening and I was interested in taking care of my hunger. We found a spot on the Duck Islands that allowed us to get off the water. We scrambled up a bank where we could look back down the Arm and where we could sit in the sun that was slowly sinking into the hills beyond.

The waters around the Duck Islands were crystal clear. Looking down it was possible to see shoals drop off as underwater cliffs. All sorts of sea urchins, scallops and sea snails were clearly visible in water that looked to be 5 fathoms or more deep. An inviting place to dive if that's your bag.

Another enjoying the water of Bull Arm

We took our time paddling back to Sunnyside and spotted movement in the water. Going to look we realized it was a seal. We kept our distance, watched for a while until it carried on its way and we went ours uneventfully the rest of the way back to Sunnyside.

Caught in the setting sun

We made our way back into Sunnyside at 8:30 as the sun was sinking low in the sky. The clouds diffused the light but there was enough to light up the water and silhouette Stan. We got back the the put-in at 9:00, drove home in the dark arriving at just after 11:00.

Tracking our paddle on the map we paddled 30 kms "as the crow flies". Our meanderings during our encounter with the whale probably added 2 or 3 mks to the total. All I can say is "what a day". Thanks Stan.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Closer to home

Clyde H shot of me from Sunday's paddle

Bob Gagnon, an avid kayaker here, had an article in the Spring 2006 edition of our club's Ebb & Flow newsletter entitled "Closer to home". The gist of the article discusses the kayaker's passion and how its connected to human beings' relationship to the sea. Its an interesting read.

Recently, Bob mailed me to suggest I might be interested in reading it and what I thought. I had read it 4 years ago but at the time I didn't give the content much thought as I was still pretty new to the sport. I was more concerned with learning skills rather than the esoteric aspects of kayaking.

It was interesting to read it again after progressing a little distance down the road towards being a competent kayaker.

Bob believes our passion for kayaking and the sea is because we came from the sea. Possibly. He also suggests there's a connection because we spent the first 9 months of our lives in a "small fluid-filled world". I can buy into that.

In any case, our connection to the sea has been embedded in our DNA as has our fascination with fire. Who can't sit in front of a campfire and stare into it for hours? In the case of the sea, we want to be in it and the kayak meets that desire like no other craft.

When I first began kayaking I felt I was fighting the craft, concentrating on staying upright and dry. Now, I feel a closer connection by "wearing" my kayak and letting it move with the water. Its beginning to feel like putting one foot in front of the other without having to think about it. I'm starting to feel closer to home.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A helping hand

Paul with an assisted rescue for Mike

Spent a couple of hours with sister Kathy at Topsail Pond today where she practiced her paddle float rescue. After she had enough I suggested we do an assisted rescue before heading home.

After dumping out her boat I lined the boats by stern to bow and asked her to climb in as I held the rafted boats steady. She couldn't get herself out of the water; she may have been exhausted. What to do?

There are lots of options like using a stir-up. Don't have one (Note to self: acquire). I reached across both boats, grabbed her PFD and pulled her onto her rear deck and it went smoothly from there.

That's nothing special but a beginner may not have thought of that option. And that's the reason for this post.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oh, those crazy kayakers

What ya at?

A lone figure stands on shore watching the waves, and us, as we make our way towards the breakers. We were out for a day paddle on Sunday and stopped to play in the breaking waves in Spread Eagle Bay.

There was an imperceptible swell in Trinity Bay on Sunday but at this point they piled up into 2 and 3 metre breaking waves. It was too much to pass up. At first we contented ourselves with riding up the waves on the edge of the action but we got bolder because the waves were breaking offshore.

Clyde paddled in and got pasted in the chest and face. Tobias rode one wave so steep it looked like he was lining up for a moonshot. Dean teetered on the crest of one, went over ... one attempt ... two roll attempts and he was up. His first commando roll. I surfed a smaller wave, stalled, looked behind to see 3 metres of water bearing down on me. All hell broke lose as it crashed over my head, back and back deck. Dean said I completely disappeared.

All this as our spectator on shore looked on. He must have thought we were crazy. Maybe so, but it was great fun and we will be going back.