Friday, April 30, 2010

In the soup

The waves were crashing

Yesterday evening saw 9 of us again in St. Philips for our usual practice.

The swell wasn't huge but it was big enough to create interesting conditions along the face of the cliffs. The bigger swells created big holes as they pulled back from the cliffs so we had to be careful not to get too close but stay just in that zone on the edge. Any closer and there was a risk of being sucked in.

The more time I spend at this the more comfortable it becomes.

Traffic was congested

Everyone wanted to get in on the fun. Tobias, Sean, Des and Clyde grouped together to see who was going to take the next run in the soup and clapotis.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where are the bergs?

Icebergs look to be scarce

This time last year and we'd already bagged a couple of icebergs. So far there's nothing in our area. The iceberg finder map shows a couple of icebergs at the northern tip of Newfoundland near St. Anthony. As I live near St. John's (in the lower right circle) I expect to have a bit of a wait this year to do any iceberg cruising.

Pouch Cove iceberg

No icebergs yet but here's one from a paddle we did from Flatrock to Pouch Cove last May 1.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where once they stood

One lone house remains standing

One of the lines in the "Ode to Newfoundland" goes "Where once they stood, we stand". That is so apt for Newfoundland today. Many, many communities in the past 50 years have been abandoned and the people resettled into larger centers. So its gone with the community of Tickles.

On Sunday 6 of us paddled in Pinchgut Tickle and stopped at the former community. There's one house left standing surrounded still by a grassy field.

In 1921 Tickles had 40 citizens in 7 households. They were named: Linehan, Nolan, Dobbin, and Conway.

We got out to have a look

In 1935 Tickles boasted 8 families with 48 souls. Of the 48, 23 were still living there from the 1921 census. Some had passed on or moved away; one new family of Kelly moved in.

Sons of Linahan and Dobbin had started their own families. Though Tickles didn't grow by much in the intervening 14 years, there were 24 new faces.

I wonder who owned the last house standing? The Linehans, Dobbins and Nolans had sizeable families requiring numerous rooms to house them all.

The truck has seen better days

In 1945 the census showed the population was the same as 10 years earlier - 48 persons. The family Kelly had moved on and the families who were living here in 1935 were stable and growing. Of the 48 from 1935, 34 were still living in Tickles in 1945. Five of the 6 families had 15 new children.

Fourteen individuals were still living in Tickles 24 years after the 1921 census.

Then Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949. The campaign was led by Joey Smallwood. Though elected Premier, he ruled as dictator. He decreed that fishermen should burn their boats and people in far-flung, remote communities pull up roots and move to larger urban centers where modern services could be provided.

In the 1960's the last of the people in Tickles moved away.

In 50 years time there will be many more such communities for kayakers to visit and wonder who the people were, what they thought and how they lived.

Sean was here!

Looking around the place I found this bit of PVC pipe that had been fashioned into a square for some reason. I brought it over to the guys and suggested Sean had been here before us. Anyone who knows Sean will know he has an affinity for making things out of PVC pipe. We had a grand chuckle and even though Sean couldn't join us today he wasn't forgotten.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In a pinch (gut)

Pinchgut environs

The forecast called for 10 - 15 knot winds out of the north so we drove the 80 kms south west from St John's to St. Mary's Bay. There was light dusting of snow when I got up this morning and the temperature wasn't going to get much above zero. We were in a bit of bind to find a paddle destination we could enjoy under the circumstances. In a pinch, Clyde came up with 20 km paddle leaving from Harricott, out the outside of Tickle Island, back down Pinchgut Tickle and return to Harricott.


One of the rituals of sea kayaking is loading the boats and the anticipation of the days paddle adventure.

The sun came out

After we put in the sun came out for a while and we were on top of the world.

In the lowlands

The area of Pinchgut Tickle in St Mary's Bay is made up of low laying land that at times is no more than a few feet above the high tide mark. There are lots of emergency take outs so its a great area to bring beginner paddlers for their first taste of salt water paddling. Or anyone else for that matter as it was today.

The air was alive today with the chirping of birds where the trees grow so close down to the water. But ya had to stop and listen.

Speedy Gonzales

I think Gerard had tooooooooo much coffee this morning. He was like the Energizer Bunny and kept sprinting ahead. Some days are like that when the paddle has extra bite and the boat just flies along.

Here he's paddling along on the outside of Tickle Island. I don't know if all the dead trees are a result of a natural life cycle where they've reached their maximum age or the salt has wreaked havoc on them because there was a lot of dead wood.

Shallow water

You'd never say it from this picture but here the water was barely 1 foot deep.

Underwater life

Pinchgut Tickle is as shallow as the land on both sides of it are low. That means that the scenery below the water is as accessible as the scenery above it. While I did take time to look beneath my boat, I need to take more pictures like this one.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Is practice always "practice"

Dean doing back deck scramble on

I'm learning to play guitar. That means a lot of practice because I have years to make up for. What does that have to do with kayaking? Plenty.

I read an article recently on practicing the guitar that applies to anything that requires practice. In the article a student had trouble with a particular chord change in a piece of music so the teacher had the student show him how he practiced the piece in front of him. The student practiced the whole piece, even the parts he could play well without focusing on the trouble spot.

The best use of practice time is spent on learning or practicing the things that can't be either performed or performed well. I practice some things that I've pretty much have under control just to make sure I still have it. After that, I try to concentrate on what needs work. That's the be use of "practice" time.

Then there are people like Brian (keeping a watchful eye on Dean) who are very skilled and show up to show us what we have to aspire to.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What can go wrong?

Neville gets an assisted rescue

What can go wrong in a kayak? There's no way to imagine everything but you know that things will go wrong from time to time. Simple things can quickly get complicated.

Last evening 8 of us met for our usual Thursday evening practice. After some paddle stroke practice I heated up enough to want a dip in the 5 C water.

I jumped out. As I did the camera which is tethered to my PFD came out, landed in the cockpit and slid under the seat. A simple cowboy scramble on became a little complicated by first having to disentangle the camera from under the seat. It was no big deal in the setting I was in but what if that were to happen in the soup, in the rocks when speed of action is needed?

That's the beauty of practice. Even if something totally different happens for real, a past practice may just provide the coolness of mind to get out of trouble.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What's in a blog?

On a sunny day near Flatrock

Sometimes I ask myself, why do I blog? The main reason I've reasoned is to share pictures of the paddles I'm on with the others in the party. Another reason is to remember sunny days like Ysabelle, Neil, Stan and I had on days like today after 8 or 9 days of rain or wet snow. But one I hadn't thought about before, I realized when I looked at where people who visit my blog are from.

I noticed there are visits from non-coastal areas and I realized that I'm able to share pictures of an environment they don't usually paddle in. When you live in the middle of continental America or anywhere away from the sea you paddle where you can, on lakes, rivers, whatever. Anything to get that paddling fix.

So, I find it satisfying to be able to share shots of my environment with people who don't have access to it. And I think how awesome it would be for someone to decide to come to paddle in Newfoundland and come paddle with us.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When you have to go

The only exit

On Sunday Stan, Clyde and I paddled a 10 km stretch of coast where we thought there was no chance of getting ashore. Turns out there was one boulder strewn "beach" where an emergency take-out was possible.

That raised the question before we put-in: what to do if nature calls?

Depends! OK, that's a possibility but I meant depends on factors such as sea state and what the paddler is wearing.

In a wet suit it could be as simple as going in the boat or jump out to go. If going in the boat is repulsive, let some seawater into the cockpit and pump out after.

Wearing a drysuit limits options for both guys and gals. I haven't tried it but I doubt I'd be able to go sitting in the boat without soiling myself - may as well not bother opening the relief zipper.

Most often mentioned on the subject is have someone hold the boat, stand and go over the side. Better be practiced in calm conditions and extremely doubtful of success in active water. Big, big risk in cold water to slip in with the relief zipper open.

Option I like is to find a spot where its possible to scramble up onto the rocks. Have someone hold the boat, jump out, swim and climb onto the rocks. Do an assisted re-entry to get back in. That's what I did Sunday, it as simple.

On a long crossing I'd be inclined to limit liquid intake and wear depends. Better to wash yourself up rather than have to do a complete set of laundry.

In any case, consider the options and know beforehand how to deal with it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On second thought

Unattractive, maybe not

My last post I called this stretch of coast as not particularly attractive. Reader PO left a comment that he thought it was. On second thought I change my mind and agree with him.

I wonder if my mood was maybe a bit like the weather that day - a bit foggy and gray? Its been like this now for a week, I felt tired and the boat felt sluggish. I didn't feel like I had the usual zip or bounce in my step. Yet, I was happy to be back in my boat after a week of crappy weather.

Sorry, even a cold rainy miserable day on the water is a blessing, though it took me a day later to realize it.

Could it be Hawaii?

I suppose, if the temperature was 20 degrees warmer. Here Clyde sits to enjoy both the spectacle of the water falling and the sound of it as it tumbles over the rocks into the sea.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gimme shelter

Here comes Stan

The forecast called for winds from the east gusting to 40 kms. There are not a lot of paddling destinations to pick from then but the east shore of Conception Bay is a good choice when looking for protection. We settled on a paddle of 10 kms from Bauline north towards Cape St. Francis with the hope of being able to paddle into Cripple Cove for lunch and then return.

Its not a terribly attractive paddle as the entire coast forms a line of massive cliffs. Not attractive but sheltered, so it fit the bill for the day.

Fog hung like a veil over the tops of the cliffs

To our right, on the other side of the peninsula is the north Atlantic where the wind was blowing the fog easterly over the land. It would not have been a good day over there to be for sure.

The fog made it a gray day but our spirits weren't dampened. 10 kms on we came upon Cripple Cove Rocks at the end of the line of cliffs. We looked anxiously at the agitated water ahead and decided the conditions weren't right to paddle around so we turned to paddle back.


We've had a fair amount of rain recently and the ponds at the top of the hills were overflowing as waterfalls at a few places along the shore. To be honest, they were the only interesting break in a monotonous line of cliffs.

Bauline is down there somewhere

When the coast ahead looks like one wall of cliffs its hard to see exactly where the community of Bauline is. Its hard to believe that people found a place along here to actually build a community.

Just inside the tip of the darker cliffs in the distance is where Bauline is located. We took out and were asked where we had been by fishermen busy getting crab pots ready to catch crab. One joked that had he known he would have asked us to take a few pots out for him.

20 kms, 3.5 hours in the boats, a good day's paddle.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ebb & Flow

Stan in Cape Broyle this past March

Ebb & Flow is the newsletter of Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador. Mine came in the mail yesterday and even though I proof read it for Neil (the Editor) I was anxious to get the paper copy in my hands. You see, it contains my first published kayaking photo - the one of Stan above. I submitted it for cover consideration but Neil used it for inside. Next time cover or bust!

Its not Sea Kayaker or Ocean Paddler but its a pretty nifty publication for such a small club. There are articles on the low brace, kayaking in cold water, review of Boreal Design's Baffin and an interview with Brenna Kelly the whitewater guest for our kayakers Retreat this May.

Past issues of Ebb & Flow are available on the club website.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jekyll and Hyde

Dr. Jekyll

On a calm day the channel leading out of St. Philips harbour is gentle and good spirited.

Mr. Hyde

With winds blowing at 36 kms/hr and gusts to 54, the harbour at St. Philips was transformed into an evil sea that would have chewed us up and spitted us out had we been foolhardy enough to proceed with our normal Thursday evening practice.

You have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. It was intimidating just standing on the wharf to catch these shots, I dread to think how I'd feel looking up from the seat of my kayak. On the open ocean, OK; in a narrow channel, no thanks. We took a pass on this Thursday.

Waves breaking in the channel

The north westerly waves were being pushed into the narrow channel leading into the harbour and most were breaking. It would have been interesting to try to get back in.

Whole lot of water comin' in

The water is washing up on the wharf on the right whereas on the left the wharf is mostly out of the water even though both sides are the same height.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One and the same

A galaxy worth of sand?

What kind of people are kayakers? I think its more than just being adventurers.

I think we're all naturalists. We might not all have the same natural interests such as wildlife or geology but we're interested in one or both. Even if I can't tell the difference between an eagle or a hawk, I stop to observe when I see a bird flying.

We're environmentalists, at least we care about the environment. We may leave footprints and keel trails on sandy beaches but that's about as intrusive we get.

I think we're spiritual. I may not be part of an organized religion but I am spiritual. My house of worship is the seascape. I observe and marvel and wonder about my place in all of this.

We are stardust. We are made up of elements forged in stars that have gone supernova and spread their remains all over the cosmos. There are billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy and there are 100's of billions of galaxies. There are as many stars as there are grains of sand on all the beaches on the Earth.

We are not terrestrials, we know we're part of something bigger. And, somewhere out in the expanse of space, in our Universe, on another earth, someone named Tony is out for a paddle. Surely it must be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two year deal

Neville practicing for safety

Today I got a notice from Canada Post that an expected parcel had arrived and I could go to my local post office to pick it up. It was an agreement between the Department of Transportation Office of Boating Safety and Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador to undertake and cost share a kayak safety program.

A group of us has began meeting in St. Philips on Thursday evenings for practice that hopefully will make us safer kayakers. Its not a formal thing, just a bunch of us get together to learn from each other. There are many who don't see the need which I think is unfortunate.

I hope that we can attract them to a more formal series of safety sessions that we will be able to offer under the shared funding.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Head first

On a calmer day

When I went swimming as a kid, I'd stick my toes in to test the water before getting in. Rarely did I just jump in head first. Same when I go the the gym, I warm up before getting into the heavy weight. Yesterday it was head first, right into the heavy duty stuff for Sean and myself.

Winds were forecast to be 35 kms south so we decided to practice paddling a bit into the wind and ride the wind back. Where we paddled it was 25 - 30 with gusts almost 50. No big surprise.

The water was a surprise. The wind didn't create organized wind waves. Swell from the NW countered the ebbing tide and rebounded off the cliffs to mix with wind waves from the south. It was chaotic with a lot of pointy water. Sudden gusts of wind added to the need to concentrate.

I would have liked to ease into paddling in active water after a winter (by necessity) of calmer water. The longer I paddled the more comfortable I became as muscle memory kicked in. We put in almost 2 hours and were content to go home.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The smallest details

New under deck pump installation

The smallest details are often the most important.

Thursday I rigged this up to store my pump under the deck. I tested it out with the boat sitting on the backyard grass, bare hands, no gloves. Worked great!

Thursday evening I wanted to make sure that I could easily retrieve and restore the pump after use on the water, with neoprene mitts on. I was wise to test it because there was a little bit of a difference even in calm conditions. I wouldn't want to retrieve the pump for the first time when I needed to and find myself fumbling to get it out. Those are the small details that have to be checked and practiced, not just paddle strokes and rescues.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Can you practice enough?

Sean does a slo-mo roll

We started up practice sessions at St. Philips for the year last night. That's 5 weeks earlier than last year. There were 7 of us, exactly 6 more than the first session last year when I braved the cold and ice pellets by myself.

We'll be at St. Philips every Thursday evening rain or shine, calm or windy. There's no guided instruction except when someone does something well and we try to copy. Everyone is free to do whatever they like, be it just paddle around or practice rescues. The only pressure everyone is under is to have a good time.

And more rolling ... Dean

I checked the water temperature; the thermometer said 5C! Unbelievably warm for this time of year when I would expect temps in the 2C area.

That sparked a bunch of rolls and out-of-boat episodes.


Eugene and Craig were content to practice paddle strokes. I'm not sure but I believe it was Eugene's first time on the water since our exciting paddle last November when we go caught out in a sudden snow squall and had to take out far from our cars.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Paddling overhead

Getting ready for a club paddle

Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador is a club dedicated to skills development and safety through kayaking activities for its members. I joined the club because I wanted to meet people who I could paddle with and I've been fortunate in that regard. I've gotten a great deal from the club so I've also given back. I've been on the Board of Directors for 4 years and the last 2 I've been club Treasurer.

It takes time to fulfill these responsibilities. Monday, 2.5 hours to submit a claim for expenses related to a cost shared initiative with Transport Canada's Office of Boating Safety and 1.5 hours to meet to discuss matters related to club membership. Tuesday, 1 hour to prepare for completion of year end financial statements. Wednesday, 1.5 hours to do the bank deposit and carry forward membership for 2010 - 2011 year.

This cuts into time for personal responsibilities and paddling time. When I'm under time pressures I question the commitment but if someone doesn't step forward it will be difficult for other future paddlers entering the sport to find paddle partners to kayak safely. I've benefited from the efforts of past Board members so I chalk it up to paddling overhead. And, its worth it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What's it all about?

Smell the roses

What's it all about? Not the big picture but sea kayaking.

Sea kayaking can span the gamut from a leisurely paddle along the shore to paddling in stormy conditions on the open ocean.

Malcolm seeks out the open ocean and is pushing the envelope again. Paddle Canada has 5 levels of conditions for which paddlers can reach certification. Level IV, the highest, requires persons for be proficient in the following conditions:
- open coastline,
- landing sites infrequent & sometimes difficult,
- winds strong, 20 knots (36 km/hr),
- combined sea state more than 1 metre & moderate to rough,
- surf more than 1 metre,
- current 3 knots or more.

He's raised the point whether Paddle Canada should add levels for more challenging conditions. I wonder would anyone set out in more adverse conditions for a day paddle?

Personally, I want to be able to handle such conditions in the event I'm caught up in them but I also enjoy a calm day along the shore when I can take my time, savour the moment and smell the roses.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dressed to kill

Cooling off in frigid waters

Marie left a post on our NewsGroup with a question about what kind of thermal protection to wear at this time of the season when air temperature may be warm but the water is still cold. Even with water temperatures are in the 1 - 2 C degree range I don't think there's a one size fits all answer.

Everyone knows the saying "Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature". I don't think its that simple as there are a number of factors to consider before dolling up to get on the water.

Yes, dress for water temperature if you expect to be in the water a long time which could happen if you paddle solo or if you and the rest of your party don't know how to do an efficient rescue.

If you trust your paddle buddies to get you back in your boat promptly you could dress a bit lighter on a warm day just to avoid the sudden cold shock.

The amount of personal insulation you carry will also bear on the layering you pick. Someone with a higher body fat content will not feel the cold as much as say, Jack Sprat.

Metabolic rate has an impact on how fast you heat up when exercising. Some people build up heat quickly when exercising and built up heat will give extra time in the water before the effects of cold water are felt.

Consider the sea state and your own skill levels to assess the risk of going in the drink.

The first thing I decide on with the cold waters as we have here is whether to wear a neoprene skull cap and neoprene mitts or gloves. It doesn't matter how many layers you have on under your drysuit if you succumb to cold shock and the gasp reflex and drown before surfacing or your hands get so cold you can't use them to get back in your boat.

The right amount of thermal protection is what works for you and you have to try that out by trial and error. Dress, paddle, get in the water. Check out how it feels under different circumstances.

Above all else, err on the side of caution. I'd rather be a bit hot and uncomfortable in the boat paddling than find out when I'm in the water I'm under-dressed.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A good Friday paddle

Glassy calm waters of Conception Bay

It was Good Friday. It was another crossing; Stan and I did one last year on Good Friday too. Maybe it'll be a tradition.

The forecast was for calm winds so five of us met in St. Philips to paddle the 5 kms across the Tickle to Bell Island and spend the day sacrilegiously (to some) in the temple of the great outdoors.


After we reached Bell Island we conferred and decided on paddling up from the ferry terminal towards the north end of Bell Island. Stan thought the scenery was better. None of us cared which way we went; we were just happy to be on the water.

Sean rounds a sea stack

There are lots of things that excite kayakers. Rocks, caves, sea stacks ... OK everything on the water excites us. We have to stick our bows into the smallest crevice, scoot between half submerged rocks (without leaving gel coat) and paddle around sea stacks. Sea stacks aren't abundant because the sea usually shows no mercy and eats away at the land without favour. Where the rock is just that little bit more resilient, it survives as sea stacks.

Massive cliffs, massive day

The cliffs of Bell Island NW of the the ferry terminal rise vertically 200 feet from the green waters. I had to get a bit further off shore and hold the camera vertically to catch where the cliffs meet the sky.

A swell day

There wasn't much swell but at places where the bottom rose sharply, the water turned to foam as it crashed on the rocks.

Lunch stop beach

Near the top of Bell Island we decided to stop for a break and refuel. This looked to be a suitable spot nestled in between the towering walls.

Birthday Stan

As we sat having a snack Stan casually mentioned it was his birthday. We all wished him a happy 39th birthday *lol* (stop counting there Stan). I know you had a good one and many more my friend.

Spring runoff

We rounded Long Harry Point, Polls Head and Redmonds Head and everyone kept paddling. We were going to turn around at some point but it took a while before we looked at each other as if to say where will we stop to turn. I thought for a while it looked good for a circumnavigation of Bell Island but not to be on this day.

Loading up on java

We were going to have coffee at By the Beach restaurant but it was crowded with religious people who were hell bent on having a feed of fish on Good Friday. Thou shalt not eat meat on Good Friday! So Sean invited us to his place not too far from the take-out and we enjoyed the sun and rehashing the day's paddle - and a good cup 'a.

From left to right - Dean, Gerard, Tony (me), Sean and Stan. Thanks guys, enough said!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Good Friday again

Just about a year ago

Last year on Good Friday Stan and I paddled out to the Iona Islands in Placentia Bay. It was a week later last year but still Good Friday. I always called it Best Friday - every Friday was good as it meant the weekend was upon me but when I didn't have to work on Friday it was "Best" Friday.

I ran into a high school classmate of mine yesterday. The remarkable thing was I recognized him after 40+ years.

These two are related in that both are connected to the passage of time. One Good Friday to the next is just one year apart and that seems to fly by. After running into my classmate I realized 41 had gone by since we left school and things were put into perspective. Funny though, I don't feel any different, than when I was in school, that is.