Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Hardy Boys

Dean cooling his heels

It was no mystery today who the Hardy Boys were.

The weekend started out as a wild and woolly weekend with little prospect of getting on the water. Awoke today to bright sunshine but cold. West winds at 20 knots gusting to 25, -5 driving the windchill down to -12. There was an opportunity after all - yahoo!

We weren't cold however as we spent an hour or so of beating into the wind and seas to catch some excellent surf rides back. My paddle shaft started to ice up so we called it a day and went for coffee. Our waitress told us we were making her cold just watching us so it was just as well we stopped.

Iced up

Ya know its cold when the salt water freezes to every surface it touches. Here the ice is stuck onto the pillars of the wharf as we finish up our bob-about in the wind and waves.

And stuck on me

Sometimes the more unpleasant it is, the more enjoyable it becomes.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Windy tomorrow

All the various weather forecasts report it will be an onshore day tomorrow. The source I trust most is SmartBay. They forecast 35 knot winds from the south.

The nice thing about SmartBay is that there's a wind and precipitation forecast for every three hours up to 48 hours ahead. Its a local forecast that I find very accurate and provides more detailed information than the other sources.

The forecast map looks as angry as I'm disappointed that I won't be paddling this weekend. Its just one of those things I have to accept because it can't be changed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Brocks Pond falls

Objective reached

The objective of our paddle on Saturday was Brocks Pond falls which would give us 20 kms on a return trip. The falls are formed by water running out of, wait for it, Brocks Pond (!), tumbling over the 200 foot tall hill.

When we got there I was somewhat disappointed with the display. I was hoping for a mass of ice and icicles. Water was running and there was ice but it was all hidden under a blanket of snow.

With the water running

What a difference a year makes. This shot is from a scoot up to the falls on March 16 last year. It was still technically winter but there was a clear absence of snow and ice.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Barren and desolate

Helluland is one of three lands discovered by Leif Eriksson and believed to be on Baffin Island or Northern Labrador. Either way, it conjures up images of a barren and desolate land. This stretch of land north of Portugal Cove, on a February day, cloaked in snow and ice, must look something like that Helluland of Leif the Lucky.

It looks like an appropriate setting for a kayak albeit a plastic one.

Saturday was gray and cloudy and with the stark black, snow covered cliffs it didn't look like much of a day to be out on the water. Not! Don't get me wrong, paddling a sit-on-top kayak in Fiji sounds like a fun thing to do on vacation but this comes closer to a true Arctic experience and I love it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The sea, she speaks to me

... and to Stan

Sometimes the sea is calm as if asleep. She's welcoming and says to enjoy the peace and tranquility.

... and to Gerard

Sometimes the sea purrs under a gentle swell. She says she is calm but underneath she possesses pent-up energy.

... and to Tobias

Sometimes the sea looks like a tempest in a teapot and she speaks sternly. She says enjoy the ride but pay attention because waves can come out of nowhere when she rebounds off the land.

... and to Clyde and Dean

Sometimes the sea is very agitated and she speaks in a cacophony where she meets the land. Then, she speaks ill sounding as if to warn away from areas that are too dangerous for kayakers to venture.

Whatever the sea says, we are wise to pay attention and pay her the respect she is due.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rear view mirror

Once upon a time
(fr. pic by T. Lee of

This is a shot taken from one of my first few forays upon the sea, in 2005 I think. I was as green as could be with no training but all nerve. It was good fun but I relied more on my athleticism than on ability and luckily I didn't cause anyone any grief by having to fish me out of the water.

Then, three years ago, Graham organized practices at St. Philips for Level II kayakers. I wasn't near that at the time but as bold as brass, I went anyway. I was really pushing the envelope and probably imposing somewhat.

That was a turning point for me really. I still haven't taken a course but I've incrementally developed what skills I have by doing. I think that carries more credit than a piece of paper. I know lots of intelligent people that score well on exams but have no practical aptitude what-so-ever.

Looking back and thinking of the first couple of years, I hardly recognize myself today, though I still have some way to go.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pool night is late night

Its warmer in the pool

Tuesday night's pool sessions lately have not been money makers. It takes 15 bodies to break even and last night there were only 11. Some nights of course there are more than 15 so a pot builds up to cover the lower attended nights.

It takes a bit of an effort especially this time of year. Yesterday people coming home from work would have had to shovel snow that fell during the day. There's probably not much interest in loading the boat then to go to the pool. On top of that, it'll be close to 11:30 for sack time after stowing boat and gear and those working the next day will have to get up early.

I'm retired so its relatively easy for me. That's why I applaud the "working class" *lol* when they make pool sessions.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cold tollerance

What is this?

Well, its not a prize winning photo that's for sure!

Saturday I went out for a paddle in -12C (-20C windchill) weather. The Olympus Stylus Tough 6020 camera is rated to work down to -10C.

I paddled along with the camera in my lap, on the skirt. A thin layer of ice built up on the skirt and the camera, tethered, slipped into the water. No big deal I thought, its waterproof.

I took some pictures. The display didn't look right but the camera worked. The downloaded pictures were disappointing; what happened?

I think in the cold, after the camera slipped into the drink, some water froze on the lens. The camera worked in colder than advertised temperatures so I give it an A+ for that. I just need to keep it out of the water when its this freezing cold.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Smaller still

Today's paddle group line up for put-in

Last weekend Gerard and myself were a small group of two. Today I had a still smaller group.

Gerard was going to meet me at St. Philips for a paddle to Brock's Pond falls. After waiting 30 minutes I decided as I was here anyway, I may as well carry on by myself.

It was -12C with a wind chill of -20C at put-in but it was sunny with a gentle breeze. There was a small chop created from a northerly swell and SW waves.

I don't advocate paddling alone but doing so is awfully liberating. Today, the cold added to the intrigue. The kayak yawed back and forth in the chop as I paddled towards Portugal Cove; I felt at ease with myself as I settled into a comfortable paddling rhythm. Gradually, the salt water started to freeze onto everything it touched, even the sleeves of my drysuit yet I did not feel cold myself. Everything was right with the world. I felt vindicated with my decision to go.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cheryl Gallant

Who's got your back?

Well, I slept much better last night knowing that members of the Canadian Parliament are so concerned about my safety when I'm on the ocean for a paddle. *dws*

Cheryl Gallant, member for the landlocked riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke in Ontario, visiting Newfoundland as a member of the Government's Defense Committee, indicated people who work in the North Atlantic Ocean should not rely on the Coast Guard for help. She reportedly said "In Ontario we have inland seas, the Great Lakes, and it would never occur to any of us, even up in the Ottawa River, to count on the Coast Guard to come and help us."

No? Really?

The search and rescue services of the Canadian Coast Guard are not discretionary but are mandated under the Oceans Act and the Canada Shipping Act. In addition, Canada has an international obligation to operate an effective search and rescue unit to deal with emergencies that arise in or near our territorial waters.

The North Atlantic is one of the least forgiving places to paddle on the planet as two paddlers from Michigan found out last June outside of Fleur de Lys. One paddler perished and the other was picked off an offshore island the next day by the Coast Guard. I guess he was happy that Cheryl Gallant isn't running the show, only just running off at the mouth.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pool session cancelled

Warm waters

What's worse: A) not being able to get to the pool or B) the pool not being open? With a heavy snowfall warning in effect I didn't have plans to go to the pool because I knew I wouldn't be able to get back up my road and in my driveway when I got home. I was bummed about having to make that decision.

Then, I found out the Aquarena was going to close due to the storm and the pool session would be cancelled. The end result was the same but it was easier to accept that I wouldn't make a pool session this week.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Paddle season

Winter day's paddle

There's nothing closer to kayak ancestry than a paddle on a cold winter's day.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A group of two

Put-in at Conception Harbour

Stan was out of the province, Clyde had errands to do, Dean and Gary were not feeling well, Sean was fibreglassing his new stitch and glue kayak. It was down to two of us for today's paddle - Gerard and myself.

As I waited for Gerard at the rendezvous it was obvious we were out of step with everyone else who was outside today. In the space of 10 minutes at least 50 vehicles hauling skidoos drove out the highway. We did get some curious looks.


The air was still as we left Conception Harbour. All of Gasters Bay was like a mirror reflecting land and sky.

A blanket of snow

A few flurries fell as we paddled along. The snow lay deep where there was open ground and where trees grew, the snow looked sprinkled on the trees as if done on purpose by Mother Nature's artistic brush.


The cliffs were adorned with icicles where water trickled off the land. Salt water at high tide nibbled on the ends to make them all of even length.

A cool lunch stop

We crossed Colliers Bay, making for Marysvale, after we reached Colliers Point at the top of Gasters Bay. The shoreline above the high tide mark was a jumble of ice and there was nowhere to sit for lunch. We stood in the snow. Before long my feet started to get cold so we got back in the boats and paddled back to Conception Harbour for a daily total of 25 kms.

I've paddled lots before in a smaller group but haven't found the company all that great *lol* Thanks Gerard for making it a group of two today.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Crossing thresholds

Chimney Rock

I remember one Thursday evening during our practice at St. Philips a couple of years ago when Dean and myself watched Brian do a wet re-entry and roll. I wasn't sure what I had seen so I asked Dean. Did he just put his skirt on before he rolled back up I asked. Ah ha Dean said. I was left to scratch my head over that one and thought of it often, massively impressed. It was a skill well out of reach for me at the time.

I've gotten the odd re-entry and roll but it was hit or miss so I've been working on it at the pool on Tuesdays. Its now consistent (for the pool) but will need to be tested in realistic conditions.

Tuesday past I thought of Brian's "stunt" and gave it a go. Its such a mind game keeping calm while methodically replacing the skirt around the rim before reaching for the paddle to roll. It went without a hitch. I was stunned, I couldn't believe I had done it.

I felt I crossed a threshold. Everyone has thresholds; this was one of mine.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Sean waves upside down

Having shot a submerged picture of myself and rolled at Tuesday night's pool session, I asked Sean if he'd go over so I could also get a picture of him. It was more than just shooting a picture underwater. It was about developing a level of comfort underwater to do simple tasks like use the camera and roll up.

There's also a practical application I had in the back of my mind. Last June Stan and I had a close encounter with a whale in Bull Arm. Stan had some fantastic underwater shots. I thought to myself after, how cool would it be to roll over, shoot a picture of the whale and roll up again?

Hopefully, the opportunity will present itself some time in the future and I'll be ready.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Goggles Tony

Like a fish out of water

Hey, a fish out of water doesn't look so good either *lol*

This is the first year I've been going to the pool. Last week was trip #5. I found no ill effects from the chlorine on my first 4 trips but last week they must have added too much chlorine because my eyes itched like crazy for days after. Off then to the store to get a pair of swimmer's goggles. I was amazed at how much I could see underwater and it was a bit disorienting at first.

This week I tried a bunch of new things. One thing I wanted to address was the possibility of being knocked over while taking pictures. How would I react? Well, the pool is the first place to find out so over I went with camera in hand, shot a picture of myself, stowed the camera back in my PFD pocket and rolled up again.

I'll have to practice this in conditions of course but sometimes even the smallest of victories brings the greatest satisfaction.