Sunday, February 28, 2010

Out of juice

Sean checking out icicles; ice fog hangs in the air

Thursday I finally managed to try out my new X-country ski bindings at Butterpot Park. It was the first time on skiis this winter and 10 kms was about all I had gas for in the tank. Friday I was pretty sore but went to the gym anyway for a gut busting workout.

Yesterday Dean, Neville, Robert, Sean and myself got on the water and had a 20 km paddle from St. Philips north past Portugal Cove to the falls at Brocks Head. I took about 6 pictures when the camera sent me a message that it was out of juice. I knew the battery was getting low and the cold killed it. I packed the camera away and even though I too felt out of juice, continued on.

The falls at Brocks Head were amazing in winter. I can't paint a mental image of the falls because, as they say, a pictures is worth a thousand words and without battery power I couldn't get the shot. But, I will go back, recharged, camera and I.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Kayak Bill

Moonlight Wave by Bill Davidson

My Kayak Bill print of "Moonlight Wave" arrived yesterday amid great anticipation. Above is an oblique shot to avoid copyright infringement but you can see it and other wonderful prints at the Kayak Bill prints website. Its honestly worth having a look.

I came across Kayak Bill in an back issue of Sea Kayaker magazine that I got from Dan. I was immediately captivated by the story. Kayak Bill was "a reclusive kayaker [who] made his home among the islands of British Columbia's Pacific coast and left only fleeting glimpses of his life and death." That pretty much sums up the article. There's not enough room on my blog to get into further detail but you can read an on-line article from October 2005 on Sea Kayaker website. Its really worth the time to take a read.

If the links don't work you can Google "Kayak Bill".

I've always been drawn to these stories of people living on the fringes of society, being self-sufficient. Maybe I have that longing too but don't have the courage to act on it. That's why kayak camping is so compelling, I can somewhat satisfy the wilderness feeling and come back to the comforts of society. But I admire those people like Kayak Bill who do live by their convictions.

The magazine article had a couple of examples of Bill's art and I had to have a print. Its unique and beautiful work but more than anything, I had to have one for what it represents. I can't wait to get it framed and hung so that I'm reminded everyday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wonderful world of Photoshop

Stan - photoshopped

Last night Stan did a photography presentation for Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador. Anyone who's been to his Kayaking Dreamin blog will know that he's a wizard with the camera and more than qualified to talk on the subject.

Stan does some wonderful things with the kayak pictures he captures and must spend hours tweaking his shots to get just the right effect. Pictures that look like they're out of this world require passion and software. Something I don't have in the same abundance but I'm interested in maybe dabbling a bit in Photoshop to add a bit of interest to some pictures.

So, I thought I'd have a rudimentary go at a picture of Stan I took this past Saturday in Saint Mary's Bay. The simple effect of adding some "noise" adds a different dimension to the picture. Interesting but the original wasn't a bad picture either.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The lot of the shutter bug

Rear view shot

One thing that strikes me about most pictures of kayakers on blogs etc is they have a common perspective. They're usually of paddlers taken from the back, kayaks at rest on beaches or sweeping panoramas of seascapes.

If you are a kayaker and take pictures on paddles then more often than not you're acting as a sweep and taking pictures from behind the pack. Take a picture, the group paddles on and you're playing catch up - pretty much all day long. Except when its just Stan and myself, we stop or slow down when one of us dallies to take a picture.

I'd like to take more front on shots and the only way to do that is to learn to hold the camera level while holding it pointing backwards. Its largely hit or miss but its always a surprise because there's no control over the composition.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

All for one

Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador member Stan

After our paddle on Saturday I heard from Dean that someone we both know wanted to be a part of one of our winter paddles. I wasn't sure if that was a good idea for two reasons.

While this person has a level II certification from Paddle Canada, having the certification and having maintained the skills are two different things. Taking a paddling course is a good idea for some people; I prefer to learn the skills myself. However the skills are learned they must be constantly kept sharp. In this case I wasn't convinced they were.

The second reason I was skeptical was that I'm a member of Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador and I prefer to paddle with members of the club. Why? Because being a member means I'm part of a bigger thing. I'm part of a group who are concerned about promoting kayaking safety by means such as mentoring, sharing experiences etc.

In the end, we concluded we would invite this person along to one of our practices at St. Philips and covertly assess their skills before deciding we could risk taking them along on a winter paddle. And then I'll work them over to join the club!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A winter respite

The group leaving O'Donnells

We picked St. Mary's Bay for a paddle on Saturday, mainly due to the forecasted winds. Stan also had in mind to possibly paddle a bit up the Salmonier River. So, we met at a gas station in Donovans where we carpooled for our 45 minute drive.

When we reached St. Catherine's at the the head of Salmonier Arm we were thwarted by the entire Arm being frozen over. We drove southwest for 10 kms and it was still frozen. The fresh water flowing out onto the seawater was frozen solid.

After a few stops we decided to just keep driving until the water was no longer frozen. We put in at O'Donnells and paddled SW to Admirals Beach.

There's not much snow left here

Where Salmonier Arm was frozen from St. Catherine's down to St. Joseph's there wasn't much of a sign here that it was still winter. There wasn't any snow in between the trees, only just patches here and there along the shore.

Rock formation

There are some places where we paddle that aren't very dramatic with high imposing cliffs. That is the case along the eastern shoreline of St Mary's Bay. Its a bit of a challenge then to compose shots that have some interest. I saw this rock formation up ahead, put on a burst of speed and laid in wait for Stan to paddle by.

Not all rocks were visable

The coastline along this part of St. Mary's Bay is not very exciting but it fit the bill for the day as it gave us protection from the forecasted 15 - 20 knot SE winds. There were a few rocks to paddle around but some were hidden just below the surface. They could be spotted by looking for the seaweed that grows on top floating on the water.

Great Colinet Island in the background

Sean had his newly minted Greenland paddle out for a spin today. He hollowed out the loom to make it ultralight so wanted to try it out for strength. Its a sweet looking paddle with white tinted epoxy tips that make it look like an authentic bone tipped GP.

We carried on a bit further to Admiral's Beach where we crossed over to Great Colinet Island just above the stern of Sean's boat.

Stopped for lunch

9 kms down the eastern shore from O'Donnells is the community of Admiral's Beach. The community is named for the custom, dating back to the 15 and 16 hundreds, whereby the first sailing captain in port for the summer fishing season was the "admiral" or authority in the community.

We remarked how mild it was for this time of year as we didn't need to wear gloves while stopped for lunch.

Where once they stood

After we arrived at Admiral's Beach we looked at each other as if to say "what now"? I suggested a crossing to Great Colinet Island in the middle of St. Mary's Bay. Its only a couple of kilometres across and we made landfall after a 15 minute paddle. This site was where the resettled (repeating theme in Newfoundland) community of Reginaville stood. We didn't stay long as the wind threatened to pick up so we headed back and took our time paddling back to O'Donnells for a paddling distance of almost 25 kms.

Note to self: This would be a great camping spot enroute to a full crossing of St. Mary's Bay and onwards to Cape St. Mary's seabird sanctuary.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Spirit world

A ghostly spirit in the pool?

A couple of weeks ago I took a picture of Alex looking up from under the water. His white boat gave the impression of a ghost in the pool. That got me thinking about Inuit religious beliefs.

Their religious tradition was animistic, that is that everthing was imbued with a spirit. Harmony with the spirit world was maintained through the wearing of amulets, the observance of a vast number of taboos, and participation in a number of ceremonies relating primarily to the hunt, food, birth, death, the life cycle, and the seasonal round.

We might sat that's simplistic.

When the Inuit make a kill it is treated with respect and thanks given to the animal spirit for giving up its life to provide food for nourishment. I don't call that simplistic, that's reverence for all forms of life, something I think western culture is sometimes lacking.

Seems it is more about spirituality than religion.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jumping hurdles

Spit-shined ready for the road

We're lucky where we live in Newfoundland on the Avalon Peninsula. The salt water doesn't freeze over and that gives us a chance to paddle all year round. A few hours away and its possible to drive a vehicle over the sea ice.

But salt water is corrosive and taking good care of the gear requires the salt be washed off of everything. That's sometimes a bit of a hurdle because there isn't much open fresh water and certainly no rain barrels. Getting out the water hose isn't a lot of fun either this time of year. Therefore, I try to find paddling destinations that have flowing fresh water at or near the take-out.

Topsail is one such location. Sunday after our paddle Dean and I pulled our boats into the fresh water of the lagoon behind the sandbar where I rinsed everything out. A guy walking his dog looked on in disbelief as I stood in waist deep water with ice floating around to rinse off the boat and then threw myself into the water.

Washed up, I pushed the boat up onto the ice, spit-shined ready to go home. Dean in a plastic boat was able to beat his way through the ice.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Paddling at last

Dean waits for me to put-in

Its been 4 weeks since I had a day paddle. A couple of weeks suffering with a bad cold and then weather was against me. I was chomping at the bit yesterday to paddle but as I was getting ready to put the boat on the car I found my brake peddle went all the way to the floor. That put the boots to those plans as I took my car to the repair shop.

Today I had the good fortune to have a friend who wanted to paddle and who was kind enough to pick me up. Dean didn't care where we went and I certainly didn't under the circumstances. We decided to put-in at Topsail Beach and paddle down the shoreline in Conception Bay South and play it by air. We ended up paddling 9 kms to Kelligrews where we stopped for a break before heading back.

On our way

Paddling from Topsail Beach down to Kelligrews takes you along the municipality of Conception Bay South. Its the result of a forced amalgamation of a bunch of smaller communities that grew along the shores of Conception Bay. Its not very exciting in terms of scenery but its another face of sea kayaking. Its close by and its a few hours on the water. One thing for sure is that there are lots of people to keep an eye on any paddler that gets into trouble.

Crowded together trying to keep warm

The prevailing winds in the winter are NE which blows right onto these houses. Dean and I commented that we wouldn't want to pay the heat bills here. But, image is everything isn't it?

By the time we reached this point we had worked up enough heat that we were comfortable.

In Foxtrap marina

We stopped in Foxtrap marina to check out the expensive yachts and day cruisers. I couldn't afford even the cheapest on the wharf but I rationalized it away. I figured I'm on the water in my little seaworthy craft whereas the captains of the pleasure boats on he wharf can only dream of summer days when they can enjoy their craft. And, I don't need to buy those fancy white-soled deck shoes!

A threatening sky hovers overhead

It was overcast all day except a few times when the sun tried to force its way out. Off and on we had flurries but its only added to the ambiance of a winter day's paddle.

Bouys at the entrance to Long Pond

As we weren't entering the harbour we paid no mind to the marker bouys at the entrance of the harbour at Long Pond except to take a picture. I stopped to take out the camera when I was to the right of the red bouy but the current carried me well past it in the matter of seconds. Its one of those challenges of taking pictures from the seat of a kayak in motion. It still captured the perspective I was looking for.

Almost back at Topsail Beach

Topsail Head looms as we neared Topsail Beach where we had put-in almost 4 hours ago. A fantastic day to be on the water, thanks a lot Dean.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The "Yay" factor

"Yay"says it all

This is an ad for points collecting at a local gas station. Only 67,000 points equals a sea kayaking tour it says. Interesting that someone in the advertising department sees one of the benefits of collecting points is a sea kayaking tour. Maybe a kayaker themselves; maybe they know something.

What is it about the "yay" factor in sea kayaking that we all experience? Moreover, what is it that drives some of us to become addicted and others content to paddle a few times in the summer?

I feel it more at this time of year when paddling opportunities are limited by weather and circumstances. Its the freedom to poke along the shoreline, scoot between rocks, poke into caves or at the other extreme, to paddle out in the open ocean in big waves far from shore. Its about being a master of your own ship, learning new skills and a chance to prove your own self-sufficiency. Its about being out in the great wide open and leaving everyday ordinary chores behind on the beach.

Sea kayaking is many more things of course but one thing for sure, it makes me happy. Even if its only looking forward to my next paddle.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Odd places to paddle

Erin practices a scramble on self-rescue

Yesterday I did a 3 hour paddle at the doctor's office. I had to go to see him because I needed a slip for bloodwork and I knew it would be a bit of a wait so I took John Lull's book "Sea Kayaking - Safety and Rescue" to read while waiting.

I've read through the book before and read most chapters more than once. Now, I have it almost memorized. Of course, reading and doing are two separate things and that's why practice is so important. Learning in the pool is one thing but it must be followed up with practice and application in realistic conditions.

I found the 3 hour paddle tiring as I checked the time off and on. On the plus side it brought a lot of things back to mind and I formed a mental checklist of things I want to practice. A 3 hour paddle on a good day is a joy but in a doctor's office - maybe I need to find another place to paddle.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The art of rolling

Dean setting up to roll

Last summer I lost my roll for a while. Its such a mental thing that once I lost it I lost confidence that I could retrieve it. It came back of course but it was a bit unsettling.

I went back to basics; proper set up, slower full sweep, keep head down and hip snap. I know sometimes I don't have the best of form when I feel like I've just powered my way to the surface. That feeling I think comes from not tucking forward enough to the front deck at set-up. Hanging too much below the kayak at set-up is making yourself like the massive keel of a yacht - designed to keep the boat from going over in wind. Therefore, it also works against the motion to get the kayak rolling up or requires much more power to get up.

Setting up close to the front deck means a better wind-up for the sweep roll and it also puts the paddler closer to the surface at the start of the roll.

One thing I found that helped me was to fill the cockpit with water and roll without the skirt attached. It slows the entire roll sequence down.

I'm far from an expert on the subject but its my 2 cents worth anyway.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blizzard warning

Snow and plenty of it

Friday we got a taste of snow after a spell of cold, windy but dry weather. A winter blizzard dropped 45 cms of snow that was whipped around by wind gusts up to 90 kms/hr. It had pretty much blown itself out Saturday morning so it was out to clean up the mess. I was greeted with snow drifts over a metre high that looked like they tried their best to hide my car.

I spent the best part of the day clearing away the snow all the while contemplating whether I'd go to a scheduled pool session. The prospect for getting out for a saltwater paddle didn't look good so it was settle for comfort.

Balmy conditions inside

So I got myself and boat to the Aquarena. In the Aquarena the conditions were steamy compared to snowtown outside as my glasses fogged up, a far cry from some of the winter paddling I've done so far this year.

Neil hosted a Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador pool session called "You can't do that in a kayak". It was just about goofing around and thinking outside the box as we tried different things that Neil had dreamed up.

I'm not a big fan of pool sessions because it involves, for me, almost more effort than its worth. But I went as it was an opportunity to learn something - and I did. The hardest lesson learned? Bring a towel to dry off after the shower.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Russian roulette

Foxtrap Marina in the dead of winter

Last night Malcolm did a presentation for members of Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador. It was called "Special problems of sea kayaking in Newfoundland". The problems addressed were: cold water, variable conditions, few landing sites, little boat traffic, unfamiliar coastlines and the unforgiving sea. Certainly, some of these issues are common to other areas but the constant cold ocean waters compound the other issues. Make a mistake and the sea is unforgiving.

The key to safe kayaking in these circumstances is to know the dangers, research weather and sea state and exercise sound judgement before putting in.

I occasionally paddle alone in winter; I know I shouldn't. Why? The chance of good weather on the weekend is 2 in 7 so I feel compelled to make hay while the sun shines. This year I have other options to have company so I'll do less solo paddling but if I do I'll pick my day and a safe location. After all, I want to be able to paddle tomorrow.