Tuesday, November 30, 2010

To ballast or not to ballast

Hazen catches me at Tors Cove

The Valley Nordkapp was designed to be an expedition boat. It handles best when its loaded. Normally on day trips I don't have much in the kayak so it rides fairly high in the water and some might say the kayak is really twitchy.

On flat water

This is where my Nordkapp usually sits in the water. The Nordkapp is 21 inches wide at the gunwales but I lose an inch of beam at the water line without extra weight in the kayak.

Not much of the Valley logo to see

Friend Stan, who also paddles a Nordkapp, has at least 60 pounds of lean body tissue on me at 140 soaking wet. Plus he loads a pile of gear in his boat. The extra weight settles it 2 - 3 inches lower in the water compared to mine. That really lowers the center of gravity and therefore makes it more stable.

This is, I believe, how the boat should be paddled.

Question is, should I ballast the kayak? Friend Malcolm would say yes; he adds lead ballast to his Nordkapp. The problem for me is, just dealing with body weight alone, I'd have to put the equivalent of 28 litres or 6+ gallons of water on board. That presents other issues.

Maybe I need to put some weight on!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Double the pleasure

Breaking waves

Today we ended up at Tors Cove after a scouting mission in Brigus South. There we spoke to 3 local fishermen who advised against launching. They wouldn't go out in their 10 metre fishing boat they said. That was almost a dare and the testosterone cut in for a bit but we listened to reason and retreated to Tors Cove

We launched and went first to have a look at the massive waves breaking between Fox Island and the Cribbies on the mainland.

The Cat in the Hat

Clyde in his element. What we saw here was a hint of the conditions we'd paddle in today.

Now I see you, barely

I had checked the ocean wave model on the Environment Canada site. Swell of 2 - 3 metres was predicted. Swell bards north of Tors Cove were out of the ENE and south it was SW. That could be interesting I thought, if it would run all the way to the coast.

We were on the east coast of the Avalon, the closest land on the continent to Ireland, where the ocean has a mind of its own. It was active and entertaining.

Ship Island

We paddled on the outside of Ship Island in what I consider ideal paddling conditions - active water without the wind.

Bauline Head

We paddled on to Bauline Head where the wind began to increase. We thought it prudent to turn back and make for Tors Cove again.

It was a shortish paddle of a tad over 10 kms but it was primarily open ocean paddling with 2 - 3 metre swell, at times from 2 directions, with a helping of clapotis. Because of that, when we got back to the beach it felt more like 20 in comparison to calm protected waters.

Tors Cove today doubled our pleasure. Thanks guys.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wag your tail

Happiness is ....

Yesterday Sherry and I picked up Aimee's dog and took her for a walk on a trail around Octagon Pond, a local walking trail. The dog pranced along smelling every tree all the while its tail wagging. The dog was happy.

Every now and then we'd encounter people walking the other way. I'd greet them, some grudgingly returning an acknowledgment. The thought occurred to me that people should have tails too so that it would be clear to see who was happy and who was having a glum day.

In a kayak of course, we're always happy. No need for a tail then but when you're not in your kayak, think about wagging your tail.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Digital Selective Calling

Who ya gonna call?

Everything related to kayaking must be beta tested for functionality. Today, I tested the accessibility to the DSC button with neoprene mitts.

Last year I bought a VHF radio because its a desirable piece of safety equipment. I bought a Standard Horizon HX850S radio. Its waterproof, floats and is DSC enabled. DSC is a semi-automated method of making an emergency distress call.

I obtained a Maritime Mobil Service Identity number from Industry Canada and that number, input to the unit, is linked to my personal information I supplied with the MMSI application.

By pressing a button under the red flap an emergency call is issued on channel 70. Bare-handed lifting the flap is not an issue. However, with neoprene mitts on its another matter; its just not possible. Its important to know that and have a plan before an emergency call has to be made. Removing a mitt in icy, cold water may involve other safety issues such a loss of dexterity.

I'll be attaching something like a letter opener to be able to pry open the flap when I'm wearing my mitts.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Warning shot

Winter's coming

Yesterday we had our first snowfall that stuck. Its a signal that one thing is ending and another is beginning.

Its the end of warm, or even cool, fall paddling. A lot of us will be living off of mental images of summer paddles past.

But, its also the beginning of other opportunities. A few of us will continue to paddle throughout the winter, which is a different experience. It'll be cold but there won't be any flies. Also, we'll be looking over our maps with a mind to planning possible kayak camping trips next summer.

Most will look upon the first snowfall with dread. I say its mind over matter ... if you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time matters

Homer Simpson would say "Doh!"

Time is elusive. Some say time flies. There are situations when time matters, like when trying to take a picture in moving or active water.

Almost two months ago I received an Olympus Stylus Tough 6020 camera in place of a Stylus 850SW under a warranty agreement. I didn't have a choice as the 6020 was closest to the 850SW for replacement purposes. The reviews weren't glowing.

One issue was the length of time it takes from pressing the "ON" button to being able to take the shot. One review indicated as much as 7 seconds. I timed it and that's not far off. Then, once the shutter release button is pressed it may take a second for the camera to actually take the picture and a couple to store it to the memory card. Its not a speed demon.

That mattered to me on Saturday when I wanted to take pictures in the active water. I pressed the shutter release and started to stow the camera (I needed to for safety reasons) before the composed picture was taken. The above picture was the result. Its not an award winner but emphasizes my point.

I'm not saying I don't recommend the camera but some of these what I'd call "shortcomings" have to be taken into account when buying a waterproof camera. Shop around and do the research.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A change can do you good

A windy and cold day

St. Philips has gotten to be a comfortable feel for paddle practice. Its convenient too. Today however, tucked in behind Bell Island 5 kms away, it was sheltered from the WNW winds that were blowing at 18 - 20 knots.

We went a little further afield to Bauline where a fetch of some 25 ensured we would get big seas. We weren't disappointed. The largest waves in the sets were close to 3 metres, steep and breaking. Otherwise, the water was very active and confused.

Had we gone as usual to St. Philips we would have had a good but ho-hum day. At Bauline Cylde, Gary and I were challenged. The change in venue got us out of our comfort zone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The curse of numbers

Another day on the water

Records are made to be broken. All sports have records that subsequent athletes chase to get their names into the record books.

Last year I set a personal record - I was in my kayak 115 times. This year I felt I had to reach that same level or beat it. Well, I won't make it and I have mixed feelings about that. I'll still have an embarrassing number of days in the boat but I won't reach 115. I have 100 firmly within my sights and that's still not a bad year of paddling.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Patience is a virtue

Waiting ... waiting ... waiting

Rock hopping and squeezing through narrow passageways is fun but it requires patience. Something that I lack at times. This past March I tried to paddle through some rocks with swell rushing in and receding. I didn't stop to watch what the swell was doing and dashed right in. I didn't get through before the water sucked out of the hole and exposed the rocks lurking under the water. I came up on one rock before the next surge of water knocked me over.

Once bitten, twice shy. I now take my time to watch what the water is doing, look for hidden rocks and evaluate how much time there is to paddle through.

That's important because there may be situations when fellow paddlers may not be able to come for a rescue. Also, consideration should be given to the risk of putting other paddlers in harms way should a rescue be necessary.

A little patience make it fun and safe for everyone in the group.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Captain Bob Bartlett

Captain Bob Bartlett memorial

There are many great heroes of Arctic exploration. One of them is a Newfoundlander born in Brigus where we had a paddle on Saturday.

Captain Bob Bartlett was captain of the Roosevelt, the ship that carried Robert Perry and his expedition to the conquest of the North Pole. He was part of the last team to accompany Perry to within spitting distance of the pole. On April 1, 1909 he reached 87 degrees 47 minutes N before being turned back. He was reported to have been keenly disappointed he wasn't chosen to go the full distance.

Captain Bob Bartlett spent 50 years mapping in the far north.

When there's a plaque ...

When there's a plaque in your honour you know you've done something significant.

In 1913 - 1914 he captained the ship Karluk to the Canadian western Arctic where it became stuck in ice. Bartlett managed to get the crew and supplies to Wrangel Island and then with one companion walked 700 miles over the ice of the Chukchi Sea and Siberia to the Bering Strait. There he arranged for the rescue of the remaining survivors 13 months later. Though 11 did not return Bartlett was singled out as a hero.

Three sheets to the wind

Another perspective probably more apt for Captain Bob Bartlet - looking out to sea.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In the Brickhouse

Husband and wife team

Our paddle yesterday was out of Brigus which some believe was settled in 1612, just two years after Cupids, making it the second oldest English settlement in Canada. Its thought the name is a corruption of the word Brickhouse or Brighouse. There's a lot of history in these small communities that isn't taught in school, or at least that I don't remember. So, I checked out the history of Brigus after I got home. It warrants anther visit.

Brigus was Plan C on the day and it turned out to be a wise choice.


The rocks of the Conception Group outcrop along north side of Brigus harbour. They are Proterozoic rocks, from a time when there was no life on earth, composed of greyish green slates, siltstones and greywackes.


One of the keys (*lol* private joke) to taking advantage of a beautiful day is to get out there and enjoy it.

The lighthouse at North Head

At North Head we pass into the lower Cambrian geologic period evidenced by the red rocks under the lighthouse. The Cambrian period was when life exploded on the planet.

Foamy waters

There was some swell running that made paddling close to the cliffs fun. The water was deep along the cliffs as they plunged straight into the sea so there was no danger the swell would break.

Sean emerges

A large rock surrounded by water must be paddled around. In this case the swell turned the water behind the rock into a washing machine and added to the difficulty. I timed it for a kinder passage. It was more challenging for the others.

Coming ashore

At a spot called Greenland, the location of an old resettled community, we came ashore for lunch. The waves were dumping on the small beach but all managed to get off the water safely.

As we sat eating our lunches I paid close attention to the waves crashing onto the beach. The five others had plastic boats and could seal launch. I, with a glass boat, had to be more careful. After a while I had it down and after everyone was off the beach I too launched without incident.

We took our time paddling back to Brigus with the bright sunshine in our faces and diamonds sparkling on the water. A diamond of a day this late into November.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Loose lips

Sculpin Point, Torbay

A navy saying is "loose lips sink ships".

In a kayak, its loose hips that will keep you upright in chaotic conditions. Today Dean and I had a great paddle in Tor Bay in chaotic (at times) but manageable conditions.

Leaving the cove in Torbay we started to feel the swell; the foam on the water giving evidence that waves were piling up against the cliffs. We carried on, letting the kayak yaw back and forth rather than fighting to maintain a straight course. Fighting only wastes energy because the back and forth motion averages out anyway to keep us on bearing.

Torbay map area

Yesterday we had a good blow out of the NE. I expected swell to persist today but it was much bigger than I thought it would be. At Motion, between Torbay and Middle Cove the swell was at about 3 metres and breaking when it reached some rocks offshore. We continued to have sizeable swell into Middle Cove and Outer Cove so we only looped into the coves before heading out to Torbay Point.

Crossing Tor Bay

At Torbay Point we agreed on a straight crossing of Tor Bay. As we paddled we had a near 2 metre swell on starboard with rebounding waves well out into the bay on the port rear quarter. The swell was impressive but a considerable wavelength didn't pose any problems. Some trouble though capturing the action on camera!

9 kms to here

We arrived near Whaleback Rock at the other side of Tor Bay after our crossing and an hour and a half of paddling. We made good time considering the conditions and taking into account we stopped several times to watch the swell crash against the shore, especially at Motion. We paddled back to Torbay beach where Dean's GPS said the total was 13.5 in total.

It was 13.5 but the conditions made it equivalent to considerably more compared to calm water.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The pump in action

Sunday I paddled with most of the regular crowd. They're a great bunch of people, full of fun. At one point Cyde jumped out of his boat to do a back-deck scramble-on recovery. Then someone suggested to Sean we'd like to see his electric pump in action. He obliged by lifting his skirt and allowed water to enter his cockpit.

While reattaching his skirt he turned on the pump and there was more hilarity as we laughed at the "geyser" that sprang from his boat.

The electric pump is one of numerous "projects" that Sean has done. Sean's blog has installation instructions for the pump, and other tinker endeavours worth checking out.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hens' teeth

Put-in at Cape Broyle

The warm, sunny weather persisted for a second day Sunday so a group of 10 met in Cape Broyle for a relaxing paddle. The average daily temperature as this time in November is 6 C. The temperature this day was 16 and days like this around here in November are like hens' teeth.

Cape Broyle harbour is an eight kilometer indentation of the sea that was gouged out by glaciers in the last ice age. It runs west to east providing good shelter from southerly winds forecast to be 25 kms/hr.

It has everything a sea kayaker would want ... like massive cliffs sheltering small coves, rocky passageways and caves. So, we took advantage of the great weather in a great paddle destination.

A waterfall

The waterfall on the north side of the harbour is must stop but on this day there wasn't much water flowing. The cove was in shade while the sun blazed overhead. After checking out the falls we crossed over to the south side.

An easy crossing

It was an easy crossing at The Narrows in Cape Broyle harbour where we usually cross from the north side to the south side where there is much to explore.

Narrow passage

Barely wide enough to get a kayak through, a bottle neck develops as we wait our turn to squeeze through.

... a little bit wider

Enough room for two paddlers to get through.

... and wider still

Here the rocks were spread further apart but still interesting to paddle through.

Massive cliffs

Massive cliffs on the south side with rocky sentinels to paddle around. The sun sits lower in the sky this time of year and with the height of the cliffs its unable to shine into the little coves.

Shower room

Massive cliffs with small waterfalls to cool off on a warm November day.

Floating on turquoise

Massive cliffs shelter small coves with clear turquoise water.

There were small caves ...

Cape Broyle has lots of caves to explore. Some are small, merely rock overhangs really but they have to be explored.

... and medium sized caves

Room enough for a few kayaks in this one but not very deep.

... and there were big caves

This cave was about 50 metres deep and at the end it was starting to wear through to the cove behind it.

Church Cove

You know we stopped for lunch! The beach was in shade while the sun shined brightly low in the sky.

Out in the open ocean

We paddled out of Cape Broyle harbour passing the south headland out into the open ocean and a little bit of a swell. Objective met, we turned taking our time to paddle back to the take out. After racking our boats and stowing our gear we stopped at the local restaurant for a coffee before heading home. Sean's GS said 21.5 kms, not bad.

Days like this, in November, are indeed like hens' teeth.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jetstream gift

Clyde moving in for the rescue

The average daily temperature here at this time if year is 6 C. This morning it was 16 as the warm side of the jetstream climbed high to the north. We were paddling anyway regardless of the weather but it is just more pleasant when warm.

The wind built from the south while we were there as did the seas. In the middle of the Bell Island Tickle the weather got to Clyde as he jumped out of his boat to do a back deck scramble on self-rescue. Then Dean jumped out so Clyde could do a T-rescue.

I'd like to think I slept through winter Rip van Winkle like but no, it will cool down in a few days and its back to reality. Nevertheless, the weather today was a gift and enjoy it we did.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fetch me some waves

Checking out the breaking waves

Most will know that wave height is a function of wind speed, duration and the distance of open water the wind blows over, i.e. fetch. Recently I've researched this a bit and was surprised by some of what I read.

For example, a fetch of 10 nautical miles with wind blowing for 2 - 3 hours at 10, 15, 20 and 25 knots will develop waves of 0.3, 0.5, 0.8 and 1.1 metres respectively.

There is a maximum height waves will develop at a given fetch and wind speed no matter how long the wind blows and this is referred to as a fully developed sea. Waves will only increase from that height if the wind speed increases.

Its interesting also to note the effect of fetch on wave height. If the fetch is increased from 10 to 20 nautical miles and the wind blows for 4 - 5 hours at 25 knots the maximum wave height produced is 1.4 metres. That's a slight increase of .3 of a metre for a doubling of fetch.

Waves are complex and affected by other factors such as water depth and shoreline topography. Its worth the time to read up on something that has such an effect on our kayaking.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Judgment Day

KNL club paddle

Tonight on the agenda is Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador's (KNL) Annual General meeting. Its judgment day for Board members. Well, for some anyway like the President and the Treasurer. I'm the Treasurer and I'm ready, as is my presentation. I think members will be pleased with our solid financial standing.

I've been on the Board for four years. The first two years I developed the club's Calendar of Events for summer and winter and for the past two years I've been in charge of the money. Its been a tightfisted monetary reign! That reign comes to an end tonight as I haven't offered for the position again.

Its been a busy two years, busy in the context of volunteerism. I've enjoyed myself, I've helped put the club on a sound financial footing but its time to pass the torch. After tonight I'll be Joe Clubmember and I'll just paddle.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Too much stuff

The simple pleasures in life

A friend that trains at the gym with me is a successful businessman. He is self made and that is to be admired as opposed to inherited money. He can buy pretty much anything he wants and has. But there is a cost to having stuff. The more stuff you have the more there is to look after and care for.

He has a summer place almost an hours drive out of town. In the winter, if the furnace for his hot-water radiation heat system doesn't function he gets an alarm message and he has to get out of bed to go check it out. He's concerned he'll face additional taxes for owning a house in Florida as an "alien".

I listen to this and I think "that's not for me". For me the trick is to only as much as can be enjoyed. One of those things is my Nordkapp. It can't get any better than that when I'm in it floating on the water without a care in the world.