Friday, April 29, 2011

Neither snow nor rain ...

Pitter patter of raindrops

Neither snow nor rain [nor sleet] nor gloom of night stays these paddlers from their schedlued Thursday evening practice.

Thursday evening's forecast didn't look good. Freezing rain changing to rain. I wondered who would turn up for Thursday evening practice. As I caught sight of the harbour I felt elated. Clyde, Dean, Dennis, and Karen were already there. Not long after Sean pulled in.

We just hung out, did a bit of rock hopping and some rolls. The cold water felt like icicle daggers in my ears. What good fun!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

In over their heads

Not everyday is so placid

The latest issue of Ocean Paddler magazine has an article by Nigel Dennis describing a sea kayaking tragedy at Anglesey in 2010. A group of five paddled in an offshore wind of some 20 knots. The five had mixed experience paddling in challenging conditions and also did not take adequate safety equipment before departing. One paddler became a casualty.

How often are stories like this detailed in kayaking magazines? Too often.

I find the main themes are: paddling in conditions beyond the ability of the weakest paddler, not wearing safety gear (like a PFD) and hypothermia (not dressing for the water temperature).

Why do we constantly see these types of articles in what seems like month after month? Beyond the obvious reasons, I think newer paddlers do not read these articles. I know I didn't at first when I started but I had a healthy respect for the sea to begin with. There's no excuse now as many of these accident report articles are available on-line. Read and learn from the mistakes of others, that's why these magazines keep publishing accident reports.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What is it about water?

On the water

I spent part of the day lugging water for my greenhouse. Water, to sustain life that has survived the winter there. Its a magic liquid that not only sustains plant life but most forms of life, including us. It got me to wonderin'.

Its a necessity but why are we so drawn to it? What is it that makes it so appealing that we feel an urge to get out on it in our kayaks?

We came from the ocean but we are many, many millions of years removed from Tiktaalik, a fishlike transitional animal leading to four legged animals and ultimately us. Surely that attraction is not coded in some gene that may have been passed down.

Is it because of the watery world we developed in before we were born?

Is it the water itself or is it being on the water, the motion of the boat? Is it the vessel itself that allows us to experience the sea, and the land-sea interface, unlike anything else afloat?

I don't know. Maybe its not for me to know but something to be enjoyed, unquestioned.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dildo and beyond

Our track in Trinity Bay

We paddled Saturday in the bottom of Trinity Bay from South Dildo to Southern Point and back. At one point we wondered why the name of the community hadn't been changed. The name "Dildo" comes from the term for the pegs that hold an oar in place on a fishing dory. Its since of course become to mean something else. Credit the people who live here though with a sense of self-confidence to stick with the name.

Off we go

Every paddle starts off with anticipation. Every paddle is different, even if we paddle with the same people and in the same places. We three paddled here last year but this day would prove to add new memories.

Old Shop

Old Shop is a collection of houses and fishing stages along the shore of Dildo Arm. Generally I don't like paddling along populated areas but this was different today. Spring was in the air, people were out cleaning up and making repairs to damage caused over the winter. As we paddle along there were cheery hellos and comments about what a beautiful day it was. Maybe they were also amused at our mode of travel.

In the wind

We had the protection of the land from the westerly winds since leaving Dildo South. As we rounded the point to paddle into Spread Eagle Bay we had the wind directly in our faces. The wind only created small wavelets due to the limited fetch.

Clear waters

After a short lunch stop at the bottom of Spread Eagle Bay we set out again on crystal clear waters.


Paddling up the left side of Spread Eagle Bay became more interesting with a few rocks paddle around.


And sea stacks ... OK just one, but a beauty.

Marley's Cove Campsite

On our way to Southern Point we happened upon a lovely secluded beach with a level grassy area that would make a very nice campsite. It was a developed site complete with picnic table, accessible overland but it didn't seem to be used that much because there wasn't much garbage around. A little river running through the site added to the ambiance and would surely lull anyone in a tent to sleep.

Hello down there

At Southern Point Clyde got out of his boat again to check out whether there was a suitable campsite here. Dean and I waited in our boats as Clyde scampered around to deliver the verdict.

Missed 'em by that much

Leaving Southern Point we made the 2.5 km direct crossing to Dildo Island. Dildo Island is an archaeological site once occupied by the native North American Indians, the Beothuck. We arrived to find them gone. Gone by a couple of hundred years from this area but with the teepee in the clearing we we could imagine they still existed.

Homeward bound

Having checked out another small, un-named, island for possible campsites we headed back to Dildo South and the end of a glorious day on the water. The GPS said 23.2 kms. We felt good for more but after seeing as much as there was to see in this area we were content to call it a day. And, a great day it was.

Everyday on the water is great. Some more memorable than others. This one rates an 11 out of 10!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The first berg

First iceberg spotted

The first iceberg of the season was spotted yesterday near Bonavista.

The iceberg map can be found at IcebergFinder.Com. The red circles on the map represents satellite coverage area and, well, the berg symbol is self-explanatory. I don't know if bergs outside of the satellite area are reported or if the satellite area is shown for bergs spotted. In any case, we have a first sighting; the only question is will some drift our way and how many.

Sign up at IcebergFinder.Com for weekly email alerts to find out exactly where the bergs are.

After not seeing one berg last year, I'm looking forward to getting up close and personal this season.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A roll is a roll

Nice but the water is cold

A roll is a roll is a roll, right? Mechanically it is, but there's no question there's a world of difference between rolling in the pool and rolling in frigid sea water.

At the pool I wear swim goggles to keep the chlorine out of my eyes. The water is warm and still and I can see clearly what I'm doing.

On the sea, the main differences are the cold and less so the moving water.

After a winter in the pool the roll must be taken outside where it may have to be used. So, I'm in transition but its not just a question of carrying on as if in the pool. The mechanics are there, the main transition is acclimatizing to the cold water. Cold water induces the gasp reflex and a lung full of air doesn't seem to last as long. Therefore, my emphasis now is to build up underwater time and mind control versus the physical side of the roll.

And, I love those ice cream headaches!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Savour the day

Sean checking it out

A beautiful day for a paddle that I just couldn't let pass. Cheryl wanted to get out for her first paddle of the year and husband Sean was willing to oblige. Dennis and I tagged along. I knew it would be at an easy pace today and that was perfectly fine with me. I knew it would be a day to savour being on the water.

Does it get any better?

See what I mean? A day to savour!

Dennis scoots through

The water was at low tide. In fact it was probably at its lowest low. A lot of rocks were exposed and we couldn't get through some spots that are normally passable.

Cheryl and Sean emerge

One of the pleasures of sea kayaking on a day like we had today is taking time to navigate between the rocks.

Icicles persist

It was 6C today for our paddle but the nights have still been bitter cold for this time of year. Therefore, icicles continue to adorn the cliffs.

We had a slow, leisurely paddle today at an average speed of 4.5 kms/hr. We weren't intent on breaking speed records. We were out to savour the day; like enjoying a piece of dark chocolate ... best to just let it melt on the tongue.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Boat control

Kayak slalom course

Paddling is not just about going forward but involves many skills that must be learned and practiced. One skill that comes in real handy in rock gardens is close boat control.

The harbour authority at St. Philips must have gotten some more money from the federal government for Christmas because they have a bunch of new bouys for their boat anchorages. Right now they're waiting for the boats to show up but until that time, there's an chance to practice close boat control weaving in and out between the bouys.

Sometimes its easy to miss the obvious opportunity.

Friday, April 15, 2011

On being grateful

Respite from the wind

I'm grateful or many things but today I'm grateful specifically for my foul weather paddling friends.

Yesterday was Thursday, our regular practice evening at St. Philips. It was windy and rain was also in the forecast for the evening. I wondered if I'd be there by myself. Dean mailed, he'd be there. So did Sean. Hazen showed up. Small group but we had great fun.

The wind at the weather station at St. John's International Airport reported steady wind SW at 48 kms/hr with gusts at 63. Outside of the cove the sea was covered with whitecaps; inside it was unbelievably calm. Such is St. Philips.

It made for ideal surfing conditions. An easy paddle up to the point, short slog up wind and a long run downwind in the breaking waves. Some people stopped to look and probably thought we should be committed. Maybe so, but at least I would have had company. That was comforting!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On your six

I have your back

I recall when I was a novice paddler I would try to stay in front of a least a few paddlers in the group. My thinking was that if I went over at least someone behind me would see and hopefully come to my rescue. In the meantime, having said that, the last thing I wanted to do was go over and be a maintenance issue for the group. Luckily, I never was.

I don't know if anyone in the groups I paddled with in those early days took note of how green I was and deliberately stayed behind me. I know that now, a number of paddling years later, I usually watch for the opportunity to lag behind and provide cover where I think it might be needed or appreciated.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Scattered by the wind

Choppy seas

We had a mixed bag for yesterday's paddle. Four of us had our sea legs having paddled all winter. We were joined by three out for their first paddle of the year.

There was a bit of swell running into the bay on the tide that was opposed to wind waves coming in from the southwest. Along the cliffs, clapotis rebounding at an angle made for a choppy sea.

One of the guys quickly fell behind, had a swim, was rescued by Dean and Sean and guided back to the put-in. Dean and Sean gave chase but we didn't see them again, somewhat hidden by the choppy seas. The remaining four paddled on into the wind and after a while got somewhat separated as two pairs. At Topsail we were together again but got separated paddling back in the quartering sea.

There were no consequences as we buddied up but we have to be more careful to to keep the group together.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Risky business

Welcome aboard

In the past 16 years there have been five sea kayaking fatalities in Newfoundland waters.

Sea kayaking is inherently a dangerous activity, we know that. We can manage risk first by exercise of good judgment and only paddle in conditions that match our skills. Even on a calm day though there is risk involved. The lower the skill level the higher the risk.

So, what is the answer. Sea kayak courses are one option. Even after that, skills learned must be practiced so they come as natural to us as walking. With this in mind, we've started our regular Thursday evening practices in St. Philips.

A good turnout of eight paddlers on our first evening.

Over and up again

Toby knocks off his first salt water roll as Dean looks on, ready to assist if needed.

Incidentally, this is my 500th post. Wow! I didn't know I had so much (or little *lol*) to say about kayaking.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hot or cold

Black cold water

Friday past I was at St. Philips for the launch of Sean's new boat. Feeling pretty good about my roll now after this winter's pool sessions I did a couple. It was a rude awakening, the shock of the cold sea water compared to the warm waters of the pool that is. Two was enough and after a scramble on recovery I stayed topsides.

I'm off to the pool again this evening but the cold ocean water will be in the back of my mind. Roll practice is one thing. Practice to desensitize from the cold is another and I won't get that at the pool. I suspect pool sessions will be coming to a close for me soon as I move outside to get used to the cold dark world below the surface.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sean's shakedown paddle

Sean's new stitch and glue boat

The last two months Sean has been busier than a one armed paper hanger spending ? hours building his new kayak. He's documented the whole process on his blog that's worth having a look if you haven't been following along. As you can see from the finished product Sean is an artisan. Its not for me but completing something like this deserves a pat on the back. Well done Sean, you have good reason to be proud of the work you've done.

So, today was the big day ... the christening. Dennis, Eugene and I were on hand to see the hull get wetted for the first time.


Sean and I lingered in the cove for a while until Dennis and Eugene showed up. The plan was to stay in the cove but I think Sean quickly got in tune with the boat and off we went along the shore rising and falling in the gentle swell rolling into the bay.

Looking good

The boat looked striking against the dark rock. Every now and then Mother Nature picked up the colour of the white hull to contrast the volcanic rocks along the shore.

Puttin' her on edge

Getting the feel of the boat on edge and how far she can be pushed until it looses stability is one thing that needs to be determined.

And that will do it for now

After a relaxed paddle a couple of kilometres towards Topsail we turned around and took out time heading back to St. Philips. Sean's assessment of the boat is so far, so good. The more he paddled the more he got used to the difference in stability from is Baffin. He'll likely have a more detailed synopsis on his blog.

Sean, everyone who has followed your journey in construction I'm sure wishes you many happy hours in your new boat.