Friday, July 29, 2011

Homemade throwbag

Tony's throwbag

Last year, during the winter, one of the guys had a swim in the rocks in some gnarly conditions. Neither of the other three had a throwbag. We got the situation under control after a while but a throwbag would have simplified things. I had a look at the local kayak store for a throwbag but wasn't really struck by what was available.

I thought a throwbag should be easy to grab onto in the frigid waters we have here and it should be easy to get a grip with neoprene mitts or gloves. Also, a bit of weight on the working end to enhance throwing distance would be good - the beener provides that and allows the swimmer to clip the rope onto the kayak.

I bought 50 feet of floating rope complete with float at Canadian Tire and a stainless steel beener. I had some flexible PVC piping I slipped over the rope before tying off to make it easy to slip a hand in. After a few test sews on my wife's sewing machine I had it going well enough to tackle the bag itself. I cut the material so that when it was sewed together it was tapered which I thought would allow all of the rope to come out of the bag. The rope feeds out through the bag through a brass grommet. I put a knot on both sides of the grommet before tying on the float etc.

Next - practice using it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Taken in tow

Under tow

Dean and I were out today for a paddle with practice. The plan was to paddle a bit practicing various strokes then do a few rolls, paddle some more etc, etc. Turns out we paddled a total of 8 kms to cover a distance of about 4 linear kms.

At one point Dean wanted to do a roll with a boat in tow. I wasn't sure about that thinking there's a release on the tow belt for a reason. But off we went.

And rolling

After a short tow he went over intentionally. He came to an abrupt stop while inertia kept me moving ahead. The line went slack as Dean rolled up. There was no entanglement but I wonder if the safest thing to do isn't a straight release of the tow belt before rolling. I can't recall reading anything in any of the kayak books or mags on this ... comments welcomed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cape return

Heading back

After we had hung out at Cape Spear for a bit we turned to make our way back to Quidi Vidi. We could have made a direct crossing of 7 kms but chose to paddle headland-to-headland and then back along the Southside Hills. It would add 4 kms to the distance paddled.

The wind picked up a bit and things got a bit bumpy but the wind waves off the front starboard quarter were very manageable.

Look up

Back under the Southside Hills, they tapered down at the entrance to the harbour. Here Cabot Tower looms over Fort Amherst.

Waiting to dash across

St. John's harbour isn't as busy as say Rotterdam but it still pays to have a peek before scooting across to the other side.

Cabot Tower stands on top of Signal Hill above Dean's head. In colonial times, a company of soldiers were quartered here to keep an eye out for French and raiders of other nationalities coming in by sea. In more recent times, Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless signal here in 1901 when the Morse code for "S" was picked up.

Across safely

Not long after we got across the mouth of The Narrows a supply vessel left port. These vessels supply the offshore oil rigs and production platforms that has turned Newfoundland into a have province. Things have been slow economically around the world but here things are really hopping with lots of money going round.

In the Gut

Gary enters Quidi Vidi Gut where things were pretty calm though there's a hint of a bit of fog hanging outside.


The sun was shining brightly. It added a bit of mystique to the fog and mist hanging in the air.

Fresh water

Quidi Vidi Lake runs out here at the head of Quidi Vidi. Its fresh water. Not very clean but its fresh so we washed the salt water out of our gear before loading the kayaks and driving home.

A very good day with 27 km paddled and a first trip for Dean out to the Cape he can now cross off of his bucket list!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In search of Bjarni Herjolfsson

The breadcrumbs

In the year 985 Norwegian Bjarni Herjolfsson sailed from Iceland to Greenland, following his father. Once out at sea a fierce northeast wind sprang up "for many days" and he was blown off course. When the wind dropped and the fog lifted they were able to sight land but it wasn't Greenland. Farley Mowat in his book "WestViking" presents a plausible argument it was the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula between Cape Race and Cape St. Francis.

Today, Dean, Gary and I paddled to Cape Spear to see if there was any sign of Bjarni through the wisps of time.

Incidently, my GPS started a second track (the black crumbs) after it lost satellite contact when I was in a cave.

Leaving Quidi Vidi

We met at 10:00 in the quaint fishing village of Quidi Vidi. There was no wind as we made our way out of the protected harbour right on the doorstep of St. John's.

Massive red sandstone cliffs

The conditions were pretty benign for St. John's Bay. Everything looking good (depending on your perspective, right Malcolm? *lol*) we paddled south towards the entrance to St. John's harbour and Freshwater Bay.

The Narrows

We checked for traffic entering or exiting the harbour before dashing across the Narrows but not before having a peek inside.

Fort Amherst

Across the Narrows, we paddled along by Fort Amherst. The gun emplacements that protected the harbour during WW II (the Big One) are still there but the guns have been removed.

Bottom of Freshwater Bay

We continued on past the Southside Hills to starboard until we reached the bottom of Freshwater Bay. A large barasway separates a freshwater lagoon from the ocean's salty water.

Inside passage

There were some opportunities to paddle through interesting passageways.

A flock of seagulls

The easterly cliffs of Freshwater Bay were occupied by thousands of seagulls. As we approached they were circling around like a halo of flies, and just as thick.

Spriggs Point

Out of Freshwater Bay we continued to handrail along the coast.

Approaching the Cape

We passed by Blackhead and approached Cape Spear from the west. Its a popular place for tourists and local residents alike as its the most easterly point on North America. We could see it was busy with the sun shining off of the windshields of cars parked.

Dean and Gary at the Cape

Made it; the most easterly point of North America. Conditions picked up a bit as we paddled out past the Cape but nothing like it has been on previous occasions I've been out here.

Dean and I did a couple of rolls like trained seals for the sightseers lining the cliffs. We hope they enjoyed it but couldn't collect the money they no doubt threw our way.

The Cape is 7.5 kms from put-in at Quidi Vidi as the crow flies but handrailing bumped the distance up to 16 kms. We hung out a while at the Cape but never saw Bjarni. Maybe he had a beautiful sunny day after the storm to see this coast as we did today. In any case, time was moving on so we turned and headed back.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Money in the bank

Dean in his old drysuit

Sea kayaking is an expensive hobby if you buy all the gear. And, once you have it all, its not the end of the spending. Things wear out and things get lost. I'm noticing my drysuit is suffering from use. Not abuse, but use - over 100 times in each of the past two years alone and close to 500 in the six years since I bought it. I have to prepare mentally for the coming money hemorrhage.

Dean's drysuit began to leak last week. He sent it in for repair or replacement but couldn't do without it the 4 - 6 weeks he'd be waiting for its return. So, he bought a new one. Like he said, what good is money in the bank above a cushion for emergencies? And ... a drysuit is an emergency!

Thanks Dean for keeping it in perspective.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


In the action

On Saturday we had a swimmer. I wasn't on the scene having paddled ahead a bit but I have the details from a debriefing of the incident.

The paddler went over when hit by a steep wave that rose out of nowhere. Two unsuccessful roll attempts and he bailed. One of the guys tried to dump the water out of the boat but wasn't sufficiently perpendicular to lift it out onto his deck. Then there was an attempt to tow the boat out of the soup zone but there was a problem clipping on and when the overturned boat was taken into tow, it was difficult to move upside-down. The swimmer was in the water about 10 minutes but didn't feel concerned.

Any incident like this is an opportunity to learn what went wrong and make adjustments for the next time this happens. A better option may have been to get the swimmer back in the boat without dumping out the water and have him paddle the boat out of the soup into calmer water to pump it out. That takes less time and gets everyone out of the danger zone quicker.

The good thing was that no one was hurt.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Going Mobile


We met in Bay Bulls to decide upon a place along the Southern Shore where we hoped to see whales. We decided on Mobile and put-in in drizzle and fog. Even in the inner reaches of Mobile there was a bit of swell which meant it was probably rocking and rolling in the open ocean.

The swell increased in size

As we paddle east out of Mobile and towards the open ocean the swell gradually increased and violently crashed upon the rocks.

Sizeable swell

The swell was considerable but the long wavelength caused no problems for us until we reached Tinker Point and the open ocean. There the swell was heaving up into steep waves that broke well offshore in the shallow water off the point. It felt like paddling in a washing machine.

Dean rolling

Dean couldn't resist doing a roll.

Neville and Sean at Fox Island

We paddled around Fox Island and into relative calm. Huddling up we decided to paddle a bit further south to Ship Island where we knew we could get off the water for lunch.

Tobias and Dean reach Ship Island

As we reached Ship Island the sun was winning a battle with the fog as it started to brighten up.

Sun, glorious sun

We left Ship Island, our lunch stop, and paddled the short distance to Burnt Cove where the sun had burned through the fog and we had full, bright sunshine. The heat felt good on the face and hands but best of all, I could take the wiper blades off my glasses!

The Gut

We continued south to Bauline East where we reversed course to return to Mobile. Clyde, Tobias and Dean paddle through "The Gut" at Tors Cove. Its a shallow entrance to the cove between Fox Island on starboard and the mainland opposite. It was still sunny but it would revert to fog.

Returning to Mobile

The fog came back in after leaving Tors Cove and seas were large again once outside of the protection afforded by the islands of the bird sanctuary. I was in front as we entered Mobile and periodically looked back to check everyone's position. It was impressive looking back to see them appear and disappear behind walls of water.

We saw no whales, if that makes sense, because of the fog and the 2-3 meter swell but we had a very good paddle of 21 kms in interesting conditions typical of the exposed ocean along this shore. In spite of the fog I discovered I had been sunburned when I got home, go figure.

As for whales, they'll be around for a while yet and we'll have opportunities in the weeks to come.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Singing in the rain

Dean waits patiently in the rain

I loaded the boat yesterday evening for our regular St. Philips practice in a torrential downpour. I wondered about my sanity.

When I got to the harbour Dean was there and I smiled to myself. Someone on the same wavelength I thought. Dean said his daughter was incredulous that he was going paddling in the hard rain but as he explained, he was wearing a drysuit and intended to get wet anyway. So there were two of us.

Chasing the gulls

Out in the cove we did some rolls and were paddling about when all of a sudden, what I thought was a small breaking wave, turned out to be the exhaling of a whale only a half dozen meters away. It surfaced a number of times but I couldn't get the money shot.

The gulls seemed to be feeding on the same food source as the whale so we paddled to where the gulls were hoping to catch a glimpse of the whale again, which we did, again it eluded the camera.

Upright again

We went back to rolling and paddle drills. I snapped this shot of Dean just finishing a roll as I was coming up from a hand roll. OK, I'm kidding; be a great story if it were true though! I tried the camera on the diagonal to get this shot for interest sake.

How hard did it rain?

It rained so hard that the runoff turned the normally clean river to brown. This is where we normally wash the saltwater out of our gear and we did again last night but traded the salt for silt. No matter, it'll wash out the next use.

Dean and I went for coffee at By the Beach Restaurant where the girls who served us excitedly asked us about the whale. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get a picture but it was still a great sighting and an interesting Thursday evening practice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Painting a fence

5 km crossing

What does painting a fence have to do with kayaking? Plenty. Especially crossings.

Painting a fence is a repetitive, a time consuming, tedious process. One board at a time ... edges then the face. Looking down the length of the fence I wonder when I'll reach the last board.

I found open water crossings are a bit like that at first. If the focus is on getting to the other side the focus becomes getting there. Its no longer about the paddle strokes. Its always a question, am I getting closer?

No end in sight

In a foggy crossing however the destination is out of sight. Then it becomes a process of just paddling in the moment and trust the compass. When the land at destination looms out of the fog its a surprise because there no fixation on a specific target.

The point is, just paint (paddle) and keep painting (paddling) and the destination will be reached. Its about the journey, not the destination ... and isn't that what life is all about?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gambled and lost

A good day in the boat

This weekend I gambled and lost.

Saturday was a beautiful day for a paddle. Sunday was going to be wet and somewhat windy.

Chores called. I've been ignoring (to paddle) them for too long and now they've caught up with me. I opted to continue painting the fence and have a short paddle on Sunday.

Sunday the weather had a surprise for me. Wet yes but windy - gusts to 100 kms. I stayed on shore. I regretted not being able to paddle ... I may have a problem ... is there a Paddlers Anonymous?

Friday, July 8, 2011


Tony in Placentia Bay (Hazen photo)

Some days I really, really look forward to getting in my boat, like yesterday. A busy day, as they all have been recently, made the prospect of paddling very appealing.

The day started in the winery when I put on a batch of blueberry wine. Its been a pressing issue because I have to clear out some of the berries in the freezer for this year's crop.

Good weather finally broke with the arrival of summer on July 1. That, for me, means painting. I particularly dislike painting. I motivated myself with the thought, OK, I'll do this but I'm rewarding myself with an evening of kayak practice, the in-water kind. It felt so refreshing to discard the oppressive heat of the day and feel the cool salt water on my face. All with a clear conscience too as I had paid my dues.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A seat repair

Full metal bracket

Last week when we camped off the highway near Arnolds Cove I cracked the seat completely off where it attached to the kayak on the left side. I use a bicycle cable lock to secure the kayak to the roof rack, not because I don't trust people, but because I'd rather not give them the opportunity to steal it. As I "forced" the cable along inside the hull the seat came apart. I'll not repeat what I said.

When I got home I epoxied the broken piece in place and cut a piece of sheet metal to form into a brace to strengthen the repair. I drilled holes for pop rivets before clamping in pace and putting in the rivets.

And riveted in place

I used pop rivets to secure the piece I made up for the repair. I spray painted after riviting to protect the rivets from salt water corrosion.

The other side was also cracked

In doing the repair I knew I had to make to the left side of the seat, I noticed the right side was also cracked. I felt bit better seeing this because I knew it wasn't my forcing the cable through that caused the break on the left. Good thing I caught this so I could do a repair while I had the seat loose.

There must be too much stress at these points for the plastic to last. Maybe if the seat were thicker here it would stand up better?

You'll also notice I drilled a 3/4 inch hole in the seat to allow the cable lock to pass through unobstructed.

A little support

A little support I hope goes a long way. I expoxied a piece of plastic over the top and underneath on both sides to add a bit more strength.

I guess these things can be expected given the amount of use I get out of my boat.

You have a Valley boat (?), you might want to check your seat for cracks.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bellevue Beach club paddle

Off you go!

Saturday Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador club paddle in Bellevue Beach was on the calendar. We met at 10:00 to prepare for a 10:30 put-in. The first order of business was to get everyone safely on the water off of a dumping beach. Co-trip leader Tony did a great job.

A pod of kayaks

As the last were being launched we huddled up before heading towards Chance Cove.

Looking for action

There was a gentle swell running into the bay that provided interest where the water got shallow and around stacks. Alex checks it out.

Steering wide

Most of the group steered wide and stayed in open water.


Tony took the lead but even the leader has to stop to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.

Rough stuff

Alex seeking our the rougher stuff again.

The tail end

Co-trip leader Paul was the sweep and never let anyone get behind him, except me to take a picture. It wasn't lonely at the back though as Sean keeps Paul company.

What's in here?

Gary peeps into a cave. The paddle didn't feature many caves but lots of eagles and a few seastacks and rocks to paddle around.

Stopped for lunch

Stopped for lunch in the brilliant sunshine. Lunch is a chance to catch up on news with club members we may not paddle with regularly.


Caplin were rolling in on the beach on the surf and some of the group collected a meal of the small fish for supper. Caplin are not only eaten by two legged mammals but also codfish and whales. This resource I'm afraid is being over exploited and it tells on the size of the caplin. The stress on the species is evident as they are much smaller than they should be.

Chance Cove

After lunch we headed up the coast and into Chance Cove. Group speed slowed a bit as the wind picked up.

Hunkered down

Stopped on the water for a short break in the shelter of Chance Cove harbour.

Return leg

Leaving Chance Cove to return to Bellevue Beach the wind was behind us. That made things a little easier.

Interesting geology

Herb enjoyed the the action to be found close to the cliffs along the shore, includng the interesting geology. Maybe not the geology but it was interesting. Not sure what the red band of material is but it sure stands out against the grey. Herb had a few encounters with large waves that he excitedly explained in detail.

Colin visiting

Colin and his son were visiting from Central Newfoundland. I hope they enjoyed the scenery on the Avalon but they also have great paddling at home.

Surf landing

Back at the Beach at Bellevue the last thing was to get everyone off the water safely. The gentle swell rolling into the bay made for a dumping surf which is always a challenge. Its something I need to practice because, though I made a safe landing, it wasn't very elegant.

Thanks Tony and Paul for organizing a very enjoyable paddle and also to the other 16 club members who showed up to share the day.