Thursday, March 31, 2011

Election promises

Ready to go

Canadian readers will know there's a national election in process. Part of the campaign involves politicians getting on their knees and promising the pie in the sky to vote for them.

I'm happy to report that kayakers will benefit as a result of promises made by the Conservative Party. One of the planks in their platform is is a tax credit on kayaks and kayaking gear.

Lucky ducks

But only for good looking boats and they have to be in pictures with ducks.

Gotcha .... April Fool!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The best roll

Rinsing out the salt

What is the best roll? Some would argue that its the one that gets you upright. I wouldn't argue with that. But, what one is the key to rolling in all its incarnations?

Speaking from my experience in the pool this winter, I've come to believe the sweep roll is the best roll to learn as a first roll. Once the mechanics are learned and practiced, its effortless. Once confidence in it is established it can be done almost at slow motion.

A number of years ago I watched people perform the C-C roll. For me as a beginner at the time I thought there was just too much that had to work right for success. Failure meant coming out of the boat or assisted rescue. However, with a reliable sweep roll I'm now finding I can try anything without fear of failure because an unsuccessful back deck roll, for example, can easily be followed up with a sweep roll to get upright again.

Pretty soon I'll be able to take the lessons learned in the pool into the great wide open. And, I'm looking forward to that ... its getting very crowded in the pool now that winter is closing down.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cut and run

A snow squall moves in

Sunday Clyde, Dean, Neville and I were out for a bob-about in St. Philips. Its wasn't going to be a pleasant day for a day paddle so we opted to pound into the wind and waves a bit. The more we do this the more commonplace it seems.

I had my new toy, the Garmin GPS with me. I was surprised to see the detail in the track I downloaded and our performance. We paddled 2.5 kms into a 15 knot wind with numerous breaking waves for 35 minutes at an average speed of 4 kms/hr. At times, paddling into the wind it feels like the boat isn't moving but the mind is only playing tricks.

Once we got to St. Thomas Cove we sat for a few minutes and drifted at 2 kms/hr as we discussed whether we'd carry on to Topsail. Looking in the direction the wind was coming from we saw a snow squall moving in so we decided to run in front of it. Riding the waves back took 18 minutes at an average speed of 8 kms/hr. Nevertheless, the squall overtook us as snow swirled all around.

After a coffee, numerous refills and a yak at By Da Beach Restaurant we were soon warmed up again.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Make hay while the sun shines

Narrow escape route

Last night I found out, through mutual friends, a Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador member passed away a couple of weeks ago. I didn't know Christine M (partner of Rick H) well but met her at Ben and Linda's a few times and sometimes on the water. Both she and Rick had kayaks and paddled a lot together.

She had developed breast cancer and through testing it was also discovered in her liver. She lived only 3 days after her first treatment.

Such an event is a sad occasion and its also a wake-up call to action. Sometimes we put off things to another day because maybe we're not in the mood or some other reason. Would we if we knew what was around the corner and our days were counted?

I thought of Christine today as we took advantage of the day to do a couple of hours in the wind and waves. Live in the moment and seize the day. Trick is to remember that every day as I put my feet on the floor in the morning.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vertical storm roll

Vertical storm roll

Tuesday before last, a group of divers were in the pool, in the deep end, for training. Unknown to us, lurking beneath the surface one of them shot some footage. Sue of the dive shop on Pippy Place was kind enough to give me a copy of part of the video. It was nice to get as it was taken from a different perspective.

I had a go at trying the vertical storm roll. Its interesting but I'm not sold on the application. Nevertheless, its another trick to add to the bag as you never know when you'll need to pull one out.

My first reaction was that its a better tool to practice hip snaps than holding onto the edge of the pool for example.

The yellow hull is Neville and Dean in the short boat.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hang in there

Ralph watches Gerard in the soup

At the pool again last night to work on rolls from non-set-up positions. Malcolm was there and asked if I had read his comment on a recent swim I took playing behind some rocks at Witless Bay. A wave reared up bigger than expected and faster than a speeding bullet, I was over.

Malcolm wrote: "First rule: unless you are quite confident about your orientation under water, take the time to set up properly. That usually means waiting to let the boat settle upside down. Second rule: if you fail on your first roll attempt, take the time to set up properly. That means waiting to let the boat settle upside down. The shock of hitting the water unexpectedly tends to cause us to rush the set up and thereby fail to execute a roll that we are quite capable of performing."

His comment is very applicable. The suddenness of the flip combined with the moving waters caused me to become disoriented.

Sometimes learning is a byproduct of making a mistake. The next time this experience will give me the confidence to maintain control, to hang in there and let things settle before rolling up. I know I have the hang time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring is here

Idyllic summer day

Today is the first full day of spring. Getting up this morning there isn't much evidence of it with light snow falling, a temperature of -5C and a wind chill of -11C. Around here spring is only a date on the calendar. But things are going in the right direction so we live in hope.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

North magnetic pole

Green Island - a small target

We usually handrail along the shore or make small crossings. Sometimes we make crossings in sunny weather when we can see our target. Sometimes fog creeps into the picture and we need to rely on our compass. When we use the compass to navigate, it helps to know a little about Earth' magnet is field.

Earth's north magnetic pole is galloping across Canada's north towards Siberia at a blistering pace of 55 - 60 kms per year. That can make a significant difference when we navigate to unseen small targets.

Topographic maps or marine charts can't be updated every year so the declination from geographic north to magnetic north must be known when plotting a course based on compass. In Canada the government has a site where the declination can be determined from any site in the country for any year.

If you are shooting for a small target in the fog, check out their site before you launch into the unknown.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to delete maps from Garmin GPS

Somewhere in Colliers By

So, I have a new toy. The Price Club were selling off their Garmin 60CSx GPS units for $199.99, too good to pass up.

Sometimes I'm a man of little patience. I had a bit of fidgeting to do to get detailed maps loaded onto the unit and didn't take the time to read the Manual. I ended up loading all of the island of Newfoundland and parts of Cape Breton and Quebec. Afterwards, I realized I could zoom in closer and select just the maps along the coastline. I thought all I'd have to do is delete the ones I didn't want. That proved to be difficult to do or to find instructions. For once, Google was not at all helpful.

I did figure it out but stumbled onto the solution.

On page 13 of the MapSource Manual under "Transfering MapSource Data" it states "each time you transfer maps to a data card, you completely erase it with new data".

I took my time to select only the maps I wanted and created a new map set to download. Before starting I checked the memory card usage. It had 70.78 megs of map data using up 7% of the space. After transferring the new, slimmer map set I checked again and it had 25.34 megs of data using 2% of the capacity! The old maps I didn't want were gone.

Nowhere in the Manual does it use the word "Delete" or "Remove" in connection with removing maps. I was lucky I stumbled onto the solution.

What are the wider implications? Let's say a trip is planned and the necessary maps are loaded onto the GPS unit. At a later time you realize one map was missed so you download that one. When you get to the beginning destination of the trip you will find you only have one map on the unit, the last one loaded.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Getting real

Moving waters

Saturday I swam. Why, when I've done hundreds of rolls at the pool this winter? I think the unexpected dunk and moving waters played a bit part in my failure.

At the pool immersion is planned, the mind is prepared to perform a roll, its warm, the water is clear and still.

On the sea immersion is unexpected, sudden, the mind is initially confused, the water is moving and cold.

The answer is obvious. Practice in realistic conditions. I do. Probably not with the same gusto as I do in the pool but I plan more honest practice in realistic conditions on the ocean this year.

In the meantime, last night I introduced some confusion at pool practice by wearing a blindfold for part of my rolling practice. Its not the same but does add a degree of something.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The great outdoors

I've had a great winter at the pool spending as much time under water as above it. My on-side roll had gotten smoother and my off-side is getting ingrained. I lose count of the number of rolls I knock off each night. I felt pretty confident I had a combat roll.

Until Saturday. Welcome to the real world.

We were playing in the waves (Clyde has a good shot) breaking over the rocks in Witless Bay. Over I went. It happened so fast its taken me a few days to sort out in my mind how I got knocked over.

I got too close to the rocks; the water sucked out making the incoming wave stand up (at the right side of Clyde's shot). At an angle to the wave as it broke on my bow, I couldn't brace into it before I was upside down. I did try to roll but in the moving water I got disoriented and I bailed. I felt embarrassed and disappointed. I survived but I have work to do transferring a solid pool roll into a roll in realistic conditions. Realizing that fact is the first step.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Penultimate winter paddle?

Outward leg

Today was the second last weekend of winter. It wasn't a beautiful day by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn't freezing but it was damp and the dampness made the cold go right through me when not moving.

It was a gray day; the pictures don't lie. Not much exciting on offer in them but, hey, it is what it is - a day of paddling.


There are numerous rocks along the south side of Witless Bay. Wherever they extended from the shore there were breaking waves to play in or avoid. Here a couple of the guys were in avoidance mode.

More breakers

The sound of breaking waves adds to the sea kayaking experience.


A swell was rolling in as we paddled out of Witless Bay harbour and lost the protection of the north side.

Witless Point

Near Witless Point and the open ocean the southerly wind, unabated by the land, whipped the sea up. We paddled out to the point, hung out a bit and made our way back for lunch.

On a rocky shore

We stopped on this beach called, I believe, Camel Beach. Kind of appropriate, only way more bumps on this beach than on a camel.

After lunch we put back in and played for a while in the breaking waves just offshore.

An easy day, a total paddled of 14.7 kms at a laughable average moving speed of 3.9 kms/hr. That would include our play time so when we were "moving" we did go a bit faster.

Some days are better than others but at least we were able to get out and that's what mattered to my paddle buddies today.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Take me to your leader

Lead from the front?

A leader is not necessarily someone who is in front as we found out last night when Richard did a presentation and lead a discussion on leadership in an outdoor setting. Its a complex topic that could be the subject of a PhD thesis and not suited for a short blog entry.

An eye opener was when we were given a 15 point personal leadership assessment we were asked to complete. We had to contemplate our own performance in given areas of leadership and what aspects we could improve.

Here is the list. Leaders have to be proficient/knowledgeable/considerate of:

1. physical fitness
2. paddle strokes and rescues
3. equipment
4. basic camping kills
5. weather
6. navigation
7. wilderness emergency procedures and treatment
8. trip planning
9. safety and risk management
10. leave no trace philosophy
11. natural and cultural history
12. communication skills
13. decision making and problem solving
14. expedition behaviour and group dynamics
15. teaching, processing and transference.

An extensive list for sure. Maybe I should add 16 as "can walk on water"! All joking aside, a leader is more than just someone who is the best paddler or who has been paddling forever.

I can scratch off some of these items as covered or put them at the back of the line for later consideration. Some work is required, not necessarily for a leadership roll, but to become a more valuable asset to the paddle group or the broader community as a whole.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Go west young man

Can you see your compass?

Clyde took some good natured ribbing on Saturday after one of the guys noticed he had placed his compass facing away from the cockpit.

Its easy to do either in a hurry or pre-occupied with other thoughts. It could be an issue if there was a need to read the compass, like in fog, but not on Saturday in bright sunshine and with five others nearby, it was just a chance to have a laugh.

Its not only the compass, due care must be taken with all gear.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cape Broyle in winter - return leg

Underway again

On Saturday we put in at Cape Broyle and paddled along the north side of the harbour to Brigus south where we stopped for lunch. After lunch we decided to go back to Cape Broyle via the south side requiring a crossing of a tad over 3 kms.

We started as a group but at one point a rabbit took off and I took the bait and gave pursuit. The crossing was was a quick one as we arrived at Church cove in no time flat.

Cathedral Cave

Just east of Church Cove is a huge cave called "Cathedral Cave". The kayakers in the mouth of the cave give a perspective of how the cave got its name. Luckily none of the large hanging icicles came down while we were in the cave.

More ice

The key attraction for the day was all the water that had turned to ice on the cliff walls. The contrast of white ice on the black coloured slates of the St. John's formation was striking.


This is a cooling shower in the summer but in March, with the water running over the icicles, well, lets just say it was refreshing. After Gerard was done I moved in for a turn.

Still some ice

In the shadows there was still a bit of light ice on the surface on our run in to the slipway where we had put in earlier in the morning.

The mileage on the day was almost 25 kms and Dean's GPS gave us a moving average of 5 kms/hr. Surprising given we took our time. Coffee at the restaurant and rehashing the days paddle was a great way to end the day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cape Broyle in winter

Clyde the icebreaker

The plan Saturday was to paddle from Cape Broyle to Brigus South. We were going to put in at the slipway at Cape Broyle because our normal access was not cleared of snow. When we got there I was dismayed ... ice for about 250 metres before there was clear water. We're such babies with fibreglass boats aren't we?

I followed Clyde, in his plastic boat, to open water through the channel he broke.

First stop

The first stop when paddling in Cape Boyle is the falls in Shore's Cove. Its always fun to stick the bow of the kayak into the falls but not today. There was still some water running but it was much subdued compared to normal. The tide was falling during our paddle as evidenced by the high water mark nibbling off the ends of the icicles clinging to the rocks.

Nooks and crannies

Dean floats on the crystal clear green waters of this a notch in the cliffs.

Along the north side

Cape Broyle is a familiar paddling destination to most paddlers on the Avalon. Most cross at The Narrows over to the south side to explore caves and have lunch at Lance Cove. On this day we kept to the north side where there is also lots to see and explore.

Raising the roof

Around Admiral' s Head on the north side we entered this small enclave that at one time would have been a cave. At some point the roof collapsed allowing the elements in. We stayed clear of the icicles clinging to the walls overhead for fear of being skewered.

Frozen still

It was a glorious day evidenced by the blue sky and bright sunshine, excellent paddling, spectacular scenery and friends to share it with.

Brigus Head

To get to Brigus South from Cape Broyle means a short paddle across an exposed headland. It was a little bumpy but overall today it was pretty mild. We are such small insignificant specks in this environment with the backdrop of 200 foot high cliffs. An eagle soaring overhead probably thought the same thing of us.

Lunch stop

Having rounded Brigus Head we considered lunching in the community of Brigus South so as to be in sunshine. Coughlan Cove just outside of the community had just enough sunlight falling in it to allow us to have both a bit of heat from the sun and a bit of privacy.

After lunch we returned to Cape Broyle to check out a number of caves and more waterfalls. But I'll leave that for another post.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The best paddler

A good paddler

A while ago one of my friends made a comment on our newsgroup about the big (read, best) three paddlers in the province. They certainly are excellent paddlers but possibly others could be placed at the level also.

I would hope that theses people are better paddlers than I am. For example, Jim P has been paddling in excess of 30 years or more than 50% of his life. I've been paddling about 10% and would have to live in excess of 100 to hit 50% in order to be as proficient.

There will always be people who will exceed me in any category, there's no point in making comparisons. I'm just glad that there are better paddlers - these people I can learn from.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The money pit

Dean sporting his new cag

Kayaking is not a cheap activity. It takes an investment in the order of $3,000 to get outfitted with a used boat, paddle, spraydeck, PFD, drysuit and other safety gear mandated by Transport Canada. No wonder most people I see in boats are middle aged plus.

On top of the basics, there's no end to the list of equipment and supplies that is either recommended or nice to have. For example, a VHF is not required but is recommended. Then as a back up its nice to have a Spot, EPIRB etc etc.

Three of the guys I know have cags now. Its a nice thing to have but at $350 and a GSP on my wish list, I'm wondering if the bottom of the money pit is in sight for me yet.