Monday, August 30, 2010

No room at the inn

Cabins everywhere

Kayakers need access to the sea to put-in, take-out and get off the water in an emergency. Kayak camping also requires a level area and, usually, potable water. Even in Newfoundland with its thousands of miles of coast, beachfront property is being gobbled up. Its getting harder to find wilderness campsites that hasn't been claimed by someone building a cabin.

Foreigners are buying up land that fronts on the sea. Local people need their get-away cabin even if they live in small remote communities. Kayakers are just one of the impacted groups with conflicting interests when considering use of coastal areas.

Surprise, the government has issued a discussion paper "Coastal and Ocean Management Strategy and Policy Framework for Newfoundland and Labrador" and is asking for input from interested parties.

I always thought that no one could own or control land 15 metres above the high tide mark. That doesn't hold if the land is part of a squatters' rights claim or an older land grant.

I have my doubts whether we'll get everything we need but one thing for certain, there's no need to lament if we get nothing if we do nothing. Let government know your concerns by mailing them at

Friday, August 27, 2010

Moonlight paddle


It was full moon time of the month. Clyde suggested a moonlight paddle so instead of our usual Thursday evening practice we put-in late near sunset. The sunset wasn't spectacular and fog threatened to hide the moon but we were undeterred. If the moon didn't present then we'd just have a night paddle.

The light begins to fail

We left St. Philips around 8:00 and decided on a paddle southerly towards Topsail. To starboard the sky turned to salmon after sunset and gradually night overtook us.

Time to relax

We were in no hurry as we stopped to take in the night. Overhead the stars shone and the planet Venus sparkled in the southwestern sky.

Beached at Topsail

We arrived at Topsail after beating into very gusty winds that were bursting down over Topsail Head. All along the beach people had campfires going. I heard one comment that our kayaks looked "creepy" on the water with our glowsticks. We pulled out and stood around cracking jokes very pleased with the paddle.


Paddling back to St. Philips we set sparks racing along the water with some good bioluminescence and near St. Thomas Cove the moon consented to grace us with its presence. It shone through a foggy window but with enough clarity we could pronounce the paddle was indeed a moonlight paddle. Unfortunately, the moon itself wasn't captured as Clyde sat in moonlight. We carried on back the St. Philips where we took out at 10:45. Loading boats was quicker than usual as we all beat it home.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A matter of perspective

The long view

I usually go to Topsail Pond on Tuesday to practice paddle strokes and rolls. I didn't this week because I'm just too busy with things that have to get done. Drats! My waterproof camera is no closer to being fixed than it was 4 weeks ago. My computer is sick and uncooperative. A few of my current trials and tribulations.

Yesterday I got word that the daughter of friends John and Bertha passed away. Andrea was diagnosed about 25 years ago with MS and finally succumbed to her illness. During that time she was lovingly cared for by her parents who must have suffered as much as her to see the disease progressively rob her of her life.

In my case, as they say sh*t happens. I feel guilty about my trivialities in light of my friends plight. Its put things back in perspective for me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cornering winds

Sheltered for now

On Saturday we paddled under the hills and cliffs between Portugal Cove and Bauline to avoid a fresh breeze blowing from the right. As we approached Ore Head we lost the protection of the land and faced a 15 knot wind into Bauline. We thought the wind had changed from that forecasted.

Hard to believe winds

The winds for the day were forecast to be from the east (red arrows) at 20 knots.

As we approached Ore Head shown on the map we were face into 15 knot winds gusting to 20 (green arrow).

The book "Where the wind blows" indicates that the wind can change direction at the edge of a landmass, creating a cornering effect. The effect is caused by friction of the land on the wind. Windy conditions off a prominent headland are a common example and it does warn of cornering winds at Cape St. Francis.

I accept that there may be some change of direction but we experienced a change in direction of 90 degrees. The seems a little extreme to me and therefore, confounding.

When we stopped at Bauline for lunch a fisherman told us he had been to Pouch Cove on the east side of the peninsula and the wind was blowing easterly as forecast. We looked out through the harbour and the waves were breaking caused by a northerly wind. all I could do was shake my head. I find it confounding but one of those things that I now just accept, something like gospel.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Windy day paddle

Boats departing

The wind forecast for Saturday was east 20 knots. Get out the maps. We settled on a paddle from Portugal Cove to Bauline along a line of cliffs on the west side of Conception Bay. There we would be sheltered from the winds and we were for the most part. Bauline lay 11.5 kms north as we set out the same time as the ferry left for Bell Island.

A carpet of green

Some nice shades and tones of green contrast against the earthy hues of the rocks. The grass and stunted fir and spruce trees looked to me like a ragged carpet with holes in it draped over the bedrock.

The gulls scatter

The gulls resting on the rocks decided to scatter as Paul approaches. The sea kayak is a non-invasive craft but I find no matter how far or how close I get to seagulls, they rarely trust me and take to flight.

A crack in the wall

A crack in the wall of cliffs always attracts Clyde's attention.

At the falls

About an hour after leaving Portugal Cove we came to Brocks Head falls. These falls are always a fine sight as the water spills over the 200 foot tall cliffs. The falls are fed by Brocks Pond on the plateau of land above.

Sheltering cliffs

Continuing in a northerly direction to Bauline the cliffs are an imposing sight and on this day our sheltering friends.

The wind was blowing from the east (to the right) but we were well protected here. Not much further and conditions changed past Ore Head in the distance. We completed the last 4 kms into Bauline into 16 - 18 knot winds working up an appetite for lunch.

Lunch stop Bauline

The sun came full out and felt warm on our backs as we sat on the slipway in Bauline to have lunch. A couple of local characters came down to talk to us. There was the usual discussion on the seaworthiness of the kayak as the locals looked out on the waters outside the harbour and the whitecaps. It'll be rough at Gull Rocks on the way back one said.

We finished our lunch and surfed back the Portugal Cove for a total distance of 23 kms.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Big Brother

Walking the dog

Daughter Aimee called to let us know that her mother had been captured on Google Maps walking her dog. We checked and sure enough Sherry was there alongside the road walking Aimee's dog Mojito. It kind of blew me away that she would be walking there at the moment the street view was being taken.

It reminds me a little of Big Brother is watching but I wonder what intelligence is being obtained. Like, who needs to know this except friends who'd get a chuckle out of it?

I checked my home address and sure enough, its on there too. Unfortunately the timing wasn't good. I would have been very impressed if my car had been parked outside with the kayak on top ready to go for a paddling adventure. Now that's something worth sharing with the world!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A name at last

A nice shot - almost

What a beautiful boat! Forgive the smudge on the lens.

For a long time I've thought about naming my boat as Malcolm and Stan have done. I've thought on many: "Westerbork" - concentration camp in Holland; "Waterman" - the name of the ship that brought my dad to Canada; "Swordfish" - the name of the submarine my dad served on in the Korean War; "Iconoclast" - the rebel in me.

After much thought I've settled on "Stardust". I've always been interested in astronomy and cosmology. I sense very deeply that I'm made up of stardust, as is the Nordkapp. Stardust from the supernova of previously exploded stars so its fitting in more than one way.

Now I'll have a call sign to use when I need to be called by VHF on the water. And, a reminder that we are stardust, we are golden ....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A thin calendar

Sean has options

Each year Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador has a summer Calendar of Events that includes club paddles. Club paddles are guided shared adventures. By that I mean its not a guided tour, nor is it strictly a shard adventure. It a shared adventure that's led by a Paddle Canada level II certified paddler.

These paddles are an opportunity for newer paddlers to meet similarly minded people and establish contacts to paddle with in general. This year the club had only 3 club paddles. Why is that? First, the trip leader has to be certified to level II. I am not. Some of them have led paddles in the past and don't want to anymore. Second, there's a fear of public ridicule if there are kayaking incidents during the paddle. There probably are more but these I believe are the main reasons.

What to do? A more concerted attempt to coerce people to come forward would be a good first step. Public ridicule may be difficult to control but certainly closer monitoring of the newsgroup would help.

A full Calendar of Events is important to attract and retain club members. KNL has some work to do to re-establish a full calendar. Otherwise, the club will bleed away members and threaten its continued effectiveness as a voice for paddlers in the Province.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Spout, made it!

Put-in, Bay Bulls

Paddling twice in Bay Bulls in two weeks. But this time with a difference. This time the conditions were good to turn north outside of Bay Bulls and reach the Spout. Its wide open ocean paddling once Bay Bulls is left behind so picking the right day is imperative.

There's no possibility of an emergency take-out for almost 30 kms at Petty Harbour in conditions. With a 1 metre swell and light wind we did take out at Freshwater Cove and saw another option to take out just before Little Bald Head.

We made the Spout and had we set up a car shuttle we could easily have made the run into Petty Harbour.

Pete and Derrick

Pete and Derrick lead the way out of Bay Bulls.

Dan and Leslie

Dan and Leslie paddling out of Bay Bulls. This my my first time paddling with Dan's better half Leslie. I believe this was her 4th time out this year. Ya gotta work on that Leslie, I mean more time in the boat.

Rounding Bread and Cheese Point

Say "cheese"!!!

We paddled on into Useless Bay where Pete, Dan and Leslie decided to turn back while Derrick and I continued on to North Head and on to Freshwater Cove just around the corner on a totally exposed coast.
Into Freshwater Cove

Just north of North Head was Freshwater Cove where an abandoned community once stood. Get this - the people who once lived here came from Bay Bulls. Apparently the Catholic population had a falling out with the Protestants living in Bay Bulls and they forced them out of Bay Bulls and into this small, not very accessible cove.

Launching any kind of boat from here would be a daunting task with wind anywhere from SE to NE.

Derrick finds a takeout

Around a spit of rock Derrick spotted a shallow cave with a cobble "beach".

A 2 kayak take-out

This take-out is the smallest yet for me. It was nothing more than a hole in the wall and only enough room for our 2 boats.

Pleased with the roomy take-out

So, off the water we had a bite to eat.

After lunch Derrick suggested we paddle north towards the Spout for 30 minutes and then turn around. We had a push from the swell and a very light wind. We zoomed along without even trying at 8.5 kms per hour. At 30 minutes I knew we were close to the Spout so I suggested we carry on and 10 minutes later we were there.

Sadly, the natural blowhole wasn't putting on much of a display today and besides my not-water- proof camera was safely in my dry bag because the plastic zip lock bag had torn. My waterproof is in for warranty work so I'm playing Russian roulette with an older camera just to get pictures of my paddles.

We turned back covering the same distance in 60 minutes at 5.7 kms per hour. Not bad under the circumstances. A shake down paddle today for Derrick of 25 kms.

Nose plugs

Torbay return

We paddle without nose plugs so I've always wondered why people practiced rolls with nose plugs. I didn't use them, until recently. I started to have sinus issues when I spent too much time upside-down. So I broke down and bought a nose plug to use in roll practice.

While I've resorted to using a nose plug, I do at the end, do a few rolls without it just so as not to become reliant on it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bombproof roll

A little rock hopping

At Flatrock Point a ledge continues out past the point where the waves were breaking. The water was surging over the rocks from both directions and also pull away to expose half a metre of rock. We spent some time there riding the surge before we stopped for lunch.

Timing the run to coincide with the surge had to be perfect or there was a risk of being stranded on the rocks.

I watched Dean take a run; it was mistimed. His kayak hung up on the rock as the water sucked away. I watched as he went over. Extending his Greenland paddle he carefully set up to roll and he was up. Very impressive.

Then Gary mistimed a run. He didn't go over but saved himself with a very good brace.

It got me to thinking more seriously about my roll. In the past when I practiced I set up before going over. That's good when learning to roll but you're not going to get many chances to set up when you're actually knocked over.

OK, so I have a roll but I have to be honest with myself, I'm not sure if its bombproof. From now on I'll practice flopping over with the paddle in different positions trying to make it as realistic as possible. Only then will I know whether I have at least a reliable roll.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Car shuttle

Coming up to Flatrock Point

One thing I'm not fond of is car shuttling. It takes time and it burns extra gas.

What guy hasn't looked back at a girl after passing her (or a guy if you're a gal!) on the sidewalk to see if she (he) looks as good going as coming? So it is with the shoreline. With that thought in mind, why car shuttle?

Just before we reached Flatrock Point we paddled in a channel formed by rocks that were more resistant to erosion. Paddling north the channel is open.

Looks as good going as coming

Here's the same channel on the return leg. It looks totally different because the line of cliffs curving to the left makes it look like we're paddling into a dead end. It doesn't give the impression at all that we've retraced our steps.

Sometimes a car shuttle is necessary but seeing the other side of the coin gives new perspective to a shoreline just paddled.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kayak police

A half blind eye

This is what you get when the lens cover doesn't completely open. Its sort of a photographic metaphor for a meeting we had with 2 new kayakers coming out of Torbay on Sunday.

We met them coming out as we paddled in. A young couple, they were in T-shirts and each had a PFD, spary skirt and paddle. That looked about it.

We were decked out with dry suits etc, etc. The couple must have thought we were over-doing it a bit.

We exchanged pleasantries. They were new to kayaking and weren't going to go far.

I thought how unpleasant things could get if one or both ended up in the water without thermal protection. The wind was blowing at 10 knots and would be against them coming back in. If the girl tired or the wind increased there was no option of a tow.

We, in effect, turned a half blind eye to their situation. We didn't ask about competencies. We didn't point out the need for thermal protection. We didn't ask if they had all the equipment required by Transport Canada. The question is should we have?

Its a delicate situation trying to show concern without coming across like the kayak police. How bad would we have felt if there had been a safety incident?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sea World

A whale surfaces behind Sean

On Sunday we were lucky to be among whales. They were all over the bay. We could see their spray and hear their exhaust breaths. They swam within yards of us. It was thrilling.

Paddling by the steep cliffs, seagulls screamed their plaintive cries that's so characteristic of the seashore. There were white gulls and the immature grey.

Puffins floated on the waters and while we tried not to disturb them, they half ran and half flew to avoid us. They look such ungainly birds as they run and flap across the waves trying to get airborne.

We were in the world of the sea.

Then, there's the other Sea World, where sea creatures are kept in un-natural pens and tanks. I don't know, I just don't understand it.

I do know how lucky I am to live in proximity to the sea and to have the means ( the kayak) to be able to enjoy unobtrusively the ocean environment.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A yaffle of whales

Torbay Beach

The community of Torbay is located about 1o kilometres from downtown St. John's. It used to be primarily a fishing and farming community. Torbay fishermen were good oarsmen in their day but not as good as those in Outer Cove where I grew up!

Anyway, today most residents work in the big city but the sea is still there and it called us on this day. Its a spectacular paddle and so close at hand. But, it is not to be paddled on just any day. The waters of Tor Bay can get gnarly so you have to pick the right day. Clyde, Dean, Gary, Sean and I took advantage and had a very enjoyable day paddling to Flatrock and back.

Leaving Torbay

Leaving Torbay and heading for any number of coves. Any little indentation in the shoreline deserves a name and so we paddled along Gallows Cove, Cow Cove, Herring Cove. That's just the names that fit on the map. I'm sure local fishermen have many other quaint names that I'll never know.

One of many whales in the bay

Paddling north from Torbay towards Flatrock we saw 3 plumes of spray. Then, we heard more behinds us at about 4 o'clock. There were whales and plenty of them. I can't say how many in total but we were in the right place on this day.

We got relatively close in a few instances with numerous display of flukes but they weren't sociable today. They seemed intent on feeding and didn't really pay us much heed. Still, the presence of so many whales added to the anticipation and excitement. After a while we decided to let the whales be and paddled on.

Massive slabs of rock

The sedimentary rock beds are massive but persistence by the sea over eons have found a weakness to carve out a cave. Clyde provides perspective for this huge cave as he floats on turquoise waters.

The sun split the rocks

It was a cloudless day with bright sunshine. The sun behind us reflected off of the grey coloured sandstones that really made the etching in the rocks stand out.

The cliffs were imposing

The cliffs rose straight out of the water. Thousands and thousands of birds were nesting on the ledges and flying all around us overhead. Don't look up!!!

A fine layer of guano has built up on some cliff surfaces which added to the aroma of sea air.

Flatrock Point

On a map Flatrock Point is not very imposing but the cliffs were impressive. Inside lay the community of Flatrock and our lunch stop.

Going to check out another cave

I was the only one in the group who had paddled in Flatrock before (I believe) and I had seen the cave hence. That meant we had to go have a look before stopping for lunch.

Hauled out for lunch

Caving done, we opted for a take-out just outside the community where the rocks dipped gently into the sea. The rocks were covered in kelp which made for an easy run up onto the rocks even in a fibreglass boat.

After lunch Clyde and I jumped into the salt water and then went to shower in the fresh water falls in the picture.

Fed and cooled down we were ready to head back to Torbay. We did so but in a roundabout way. Trying to engage more whales, with some success.

An amazing place to paddle that's right on our doorstep but so rarely taken advantage of.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Breakin' up (is hard to do)

Taking the inside route

Sunday a group of 9 of us started a paddle in Bay Bulls. We finished as a group of 3 and a group of 6. Did we make a mistake in separating?

On our way out of Bay Bulls harbour and out into the open ocean it was apparent the swell was closer to the 2 metres in the 1 - 2 predicted range. I wasn't comfortable venturing north with all members of our party so by consensus we agreed to paddle south where we thought it was more manageable for all.

We decided on a crossing across the mouth of the bay when 3 indicated they preferred to paddle back to a narrower point in order to cross. Here the group broke up and we didn't see each other again. It became a group of 6 and 3.

Should we have all stuck together? If it had been 2 who wanted to separate I would say yes, but, 2 of the 3 were level 2 paddlers so I personally felt OK with the decision. They could take care of themselves and if need arose the third paddler could go for help. So, no, we didn't make a mistake in separating. It was unfortunate but not a mistake.

These types of decisions have to be made carefully on the water giving consideration to all safety factors.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Grey foggy day

Waiting to assemble

We had a party of 9 today for a paddle out of Bay Bulls. The slipway we use there is not very roomy so the first on the water have to wait for the others.

The forecast was for rain but light winds. Driving down to Bay Bulls it was clear but within the harbour the fog had settled on the water. It seemed to be held in place by the surrounding hills.

It didn't matter to us. It wasn't pea soup fog because we could still see the land on both sides of the harbour. Safe enough! We turned on our VHF radios and headed out of the harbour.

Just underway

Tobias and Gene just getting into their stride as we head out the foggy harbour at Bay Bulls.

Damp, but not our spirits

The fog hung over the hills on the south side and it drizzling rain but we were happy to be on the water. Every day can't be a bright sunshiny day and even a dull dreary day like we had today has its appeal. Especially if your butt is in a kayak.

Crossing in swell

There was some concern for unsafe conditions off of North Head for some of the party so we changed gears and crossed Bay Bulls harbour from the north side to the south side. We carried on to Witless Bay for lunch.

No pics from the headland for good reason. My waterproof camera sprung a leak and is in for repairs and I was carrying an older camera that just couldn't get wet. I chose the picture ops carefully. Suffice to say it was too lumpy to risk taking it out of the zip lock bag out at the headland!

Around South Head

Stan led us back from our lunch in Witless Bay. At the headland the swell was 2 metres with the rebounding waves creating clapotis. It was knarly but comfortable.

As we rounded South Head a whale tour boat was on its way out to the seabird sanctuary and we had a few anxious moments until it passed to starboard. Stan had taken the correct course.

The next level

Back on the south side of Bay Bulls harbour we were out of the swell and clapotis we paddled through from Witless Bay and around South Head. Gene said later that it was the biggest water he'd been in up to that point.

Gene's a regular at St. Philips practices and today he stepped out of his comfort zone and took it to the next level. It showed how much progress he's made by coming out on Thursday evenings. I stuck close by behind and he didn't misplace one paddle stroke. Good for you Gene!

Things got calmer

On our way back to the put-in Clyde suggested he was going to take his time because he'd be back at work tomorrow soon enough. So we took our time because it was still early. I commented that after our ride in the gnarly conditions it was like putting a piece of expensive chocolate in the mouth to just let it melt slowly.

Heading back to the end of our paddle

We were taking our time but even so, the bottom of the harbour came into view as did our day on the water in Bay Bulls.

Clyde checks out a cave

Here Clyde floats on a palate of blues and greens and savours the last part of our paddle. Where we started the day in fog, we now had some reprieve with brighter light that made the colours really stand out.

After we put away our gear Clyde, Tobias and I decided we'd stop for a coffee and debrief the days paddle. It was another memorable day in our boats. Thanks to all in the group.