Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A matter of control

Looking out at the world

I admit it, I am a control freak.

I sense it particularly now. I seeded grass on Sunday and yesterday it was windy. Some of the grass seed was blowing around. It was hard to look at. It was something I just couldn't control.

I got to thinking about kayak practice. Was it that I practice because I like to practice or that I have to be "in control" of my kayak? Probably a bit of both.

Usually in confused seas I just the the boat go but there are times when I absolutely must maintain control. A light went on! When things get confused on the ocean, control must be exercised over both the kayak and the mind. It is imperative to maintain control over the mind when everything is out of control around me. And, so I can't control the wind or the grass seed blowing around but I can control my mind to accept my loss of control.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mad dogs and Englishmen

A bit of alright

Mad dogs and Englishmen, as the song goes, go out in the midday sun ... I must be a mad dog. For the last week I've been busy spreading topsoil. Yesterday I spread the last of four and a half tandem loads and put the grass seed in for my daughter. Its been sunny and hot, hot hot. Long days. After seven, I felt knackered.

I needed rest. No, I needed some alone time in the boat. I put in just after 7:00 as Jamie and his wife were finishing their paddle. I explained my need and therefore the lateness of my launch.

The sun was setting over Bell Island to port. There was very little wind. A lone seagull flew in the same direction but further out in the bay. I thought to myself, I understand. I wondered if it understood what I was about.

After working like a dog all week the cool ocean breeze made it all seem worthwhile.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Learning in the soup

Clyde in the chaos

My experience in the surf zone last Sunday suggested two lines of practice and each is mutually exclusive of the other.

I had one thing in mind and that was to stay upright while doing some side surfing and practicing my braces. That was fun for a while until I got too close to where the waves were breaking. I braced onto the wave but it was too powerful and I went over.

I rode it out upside down and rolled once things settled but it was my trip under water in such violent conditions. That suggests another line of practice. Instead of trying to stay upright, plan to flip and ride some waves upside down. That needs practice too. That is, getting used to the the forces underwater. Anything can be learned but it needs to be practiced incrementally in more and more challenging conditions.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On second thought

Aerated water

I've read in a number of places, in books and on the web, that good roll practice is to deliberately miss a first roll in order to set up for a second. Dean and I discussed it this evening and we both agree its not a good idea. And, here's why.

Roll practice should be directed at developing muscle memory associated with a reliable roll. Purposely attempting to "fail" a roll is only confusing to this purpose.

An exercise that I like to do towards a second roll attempt is to purposely slice the paddle directly down, point to the bottom and then bring it back to a set-up position for rolling. No attempt is made to roll right from the outset. The only purpose is to get the paddle deep under water forcing me to get it back to the surface to set-up.

Best not to develop muscle memory for something that doesn't work, especially when you don't need conflicting messages coming from the brain in a need to roll situation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My first combat roll

Breaking waves at Motion

Sunday we stopped to play in the breaking waves at Motion. There, some offshore rocks cause the swell to stand up and break and spill before hitting the cliff line.

I practiced side surfing for a while and at one point I got too close to the rocks where the waves were breaking. A wall of standing water came at me and I thought to myself "Oh, oh". I couldn't see over it; I knew I was going to get clobbered.

I braced aggressively into it as it slammed into me and went for a short bumpy ride sideways for about 3 or 4 seconds when my ride above water stopped and my ride under water began. I was shocked at the violence of the ride but did not panic. It felt as if the wave was trying to pull me out of the cockpit so I pressed my legs harder onto the thigh braces.

I went along for the ride and suddenly, briefly, I was upright. I have no idea why because the water was so turbulent I hadn't tried to set up to roll. Over I went again to continue my upside down ride. After what seemed like a long time, but was probably 6 or 7 seconds, things calmed down a bit. I set up to roll and I was back up, breathing air. Then I thought to myself "Whoa!".

I was incredulous and elated at the same time. And, on my offside too I might add. I retrieved my tethered water bottle and camera from the water and went for more. I don't think I'll forget that one for a while.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Looking for caves

Today the main menu featured caves. Clyde, Hazen, Gary, Gerard and I met at Middle Cove to explore the numerous caves in the cove and also in Torbay. After putting in we paddled along the east side of the cove towards Outer Cove.

Small caves

We saw our first cave for the day. The slates are actually black but the bright sunshine cast them as grey. We thought these two caves might be joined at the rear but that was not the case. We surmised that because they were too small to enter.

The Molar

This cave was a lot bigger and is known at "The Molar". Sitting inside and looking out gives a sense that it could really close its mouth on you at any moment.

Having a blast

Between visits to caves we had chances to play in some active water. We paddled from Middle Cove to Torbay by way of Motion. Motion is a stretch of shore where the water is very active and breaks over some offshore rocks. This is nearing Torbay where we stopped for lunch.

Netherworld entry

After lunch we paddled from Torbay towards Flatrock and explored a bunch more caves. This one looks like it could be an entry point into the netherworld but it wasn't.

And a cave

The waters were a beautiful turquoise.

Distorted rocks

Here the rocks enter the picture level with the water from the right and then suddenly sweep straight up. The forces involved had to be massive.

The eagle has landed

An eagle was perched on the rocks and we stopped to look. It was undeterred by our presence, simply turning its back on us.

Take off

It was getting on in the afternoon so we returned to Middle Cove but stopped at Motion to play in the waves for while as they piled up to break over the rocks. We all had some wicked surf rides and side surfing. Its a great spot to practice because there's enough water behind the rocks to dissipate their energy before crashing on the cliffs.

We explored a lot of caves; I lost count. It was a great day.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Something to look forward to

This is where it starts

Thursday evenings a bunch of us get together to practice at St. Philips. Its something I always look forward to because I know its one day in the week I'm sure to get on the water.

So, I arrive at St. Philips wondering who will show up, carry my boat down the river bank and get dressed for action.

This is where it ends

After almost three hours, 80 rolls (yes, I was counting) and some excellent surf rides the evening was drawing to a close as the sun went down.

We are losing about 3 minutes of daylight each day now so next week we'll be off the water 20 minutes earlier. In 7 weeks the evenings will be too short to carry on. I will miss these Thursday evenings with my paddling colleagues.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


First in, last out

I remember when I did my first accounting course. One of the items to account for in the books is inventory. We had an acronym for the two options: FIFO - cost of goods based on first in, first out and LIFO - last in, first out. In times when purchase costs are rising the option chosen can make a difference in the profit recorded.

There was no recording for FILO - first in, last out. That applies to kayaking and the roll in particular. In this case, the head is usually first into the water and it should be the last out. Trying to lift the head out first results in a failed roll. Its the one thing I found the most difficult part of the roll when I was learning. I'm reminded of it again now that I'm getting my offside roll down.

Its awfully simple when you get it and its simply awful when you don't.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Arrrrr pirates!


A late start today after a morning of grunt work. That has to be done too. Dean, Gary and I left Long Pond to do a short crossing to Kellys Island at 1:00. Kellys Island is reputed to have pirate treasure burried somewhere on the island. If I only knew where!

The put-in was crowded with all sorts of power boats as this was the last weekend of the summer food fishery when the ordinary Joe can go and catch a meal of cod fish.


The water was like oil, the only disturbance caused by the multitude of motor boats buzzing around the bay looking for the best place to catch fish. They had that annoying sound like bees buzzing around. I was grateful for the quiet in between.

Cooling down

It was hot. Summer decided to show up again for a few days. We got over to Kellys Island and did a few rolls before starting our paddle around. Note to self: Camera cooled in seawater will result in ...

blurry images as the cool camera meets the warmer air to fog up the lens.

Up on high

Kellys Island is only a 30 minute paddle from the community of Conception Bay South. Because its an island it is an option close by for a one night camp trip. We knew of a couple of places where we could get off the water that might serve as campsites. This was the first place we scoped out. A bit of a climb to carry the gear but a great view.

Going down

We climbed down from our perch high above the bay but didn't look like mountaineers at all. A bit warm to climb in drysuits but a dip in the sea soon had us back to a comfortable operating temperature.

Sammy, the seal

A the south end of the island we came upon a seal sunning itself in the warm sun. Seals usually slip off the rocks into the sea when we get anywhere close but this guy didn't mind us at all.


At Martins Cove we got out again to check out another possible campsite. Not as high and a bit more isolated in that we'd be away from the lights along the shore on the other side.


The tanker Jasmine Knutson was in the bay and riding high after discharging her cargo of Bunker C. We figured it was worth a paddle over to have a look see.

The elephant and the mouse

It was an impressive sight paddling up close and in the shadow of the giant beast. With her cargo discharged she's riding high in the water and its easy to see she also has a good bit of rocker. Makes her easy to turn when put op on her sides *lol*

We took out back at Long Pond amidst the hub-bub of people launching and extracting power boats. We had a shortish paddle of 16 kms and I, for one, was happy to be doing it in a kayak.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Remembering sunshine

One day when the sun was out

Every morning lately I open the curtains with anticipation. Will it be sunny or will there be continued fog, drizzle or rain? This morning it was foggy again. I'm not sure if I would recognize the sun if I saw it because its been so long. But, ya know, its still there and this can't last forever. In the meantime, I have photos of better days to sustain me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer, where art thou?

"Great weather or wha?"

Summer seems to have passed us by. In June we had 6 days without rain and 4 in July. August isn't shaping up to be much better. But, no odds, we have drysuits.

Sunday wasn't fit for man nor beast. That didn't stop us though. I met Clyde, Dean and Neville at St. Philips where the wind was blowing out of the north at 20 knots with gusts to 35. Waves were breaking further offshore than I've ever seen. It was marginal for getting out of the harbour safely as waves broke over the wharf but we made it without serious incident.

Two to three metre breaking waves, rain pelting down or driven sideways in the wind and cold at only 10 C. Not a recipe for the faint of heart but we had great fun. Funny how the more paddling is done in these conditions the more comfortable it feels. Not only that, the safer it becomes - never know when Mother Nature will throw a curve ball unexpectedly.

Thanks Dean for the use of your picture.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Savvy Paddler

Beautiful sunny day

Not every day can be a sunny day. Some days, like today, are not fit for a paddle. Rain is pouring of the heavens bolstered by a 50 km wind with gusts to 70. What to do? Luckily, I was at the library yesterday and checked out the book "Seakayaker's Savvy Paddler" by Doug Alderson. I'm not paddling but I'm learning lots.

A good book to have

This is not a technical book about paddle strokes, rescues and the like. Its a book with over 500 tips to make the entire paddle experience more enjoyable. It covers tips on learning to paddle and equipment purchase for the uninitiated. For the experienced paddler there are a ton of good practical tips on navigation, safety, food and water, clothing, camping and trip planning.

I've borrowed the book from the library but I certainly will be adding it to my kayak book resource. My mind won't retain all this info so I'll want to have it for ready reference.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011



Dean and I had a paddle practice combo yesterday. We had moderate conditions so we did some rolls, paddled etc. It was at a relaxed pace which gave me some time to experiment with shots underwater. I didn't know what to expect but I can see potential. Reminded me of some of the psychedelic art of the '60s - psychedelic being derived from the Greek meaning "soul-manifesting". How funny, a child of the '60s still soul-manifesting. The answer my friend is blowing in the wind!



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Return from Pinchgut

After the rain

Saturday night it poured rain for about four hours. Some water got into my tent but on top of my air mattress, I was dry. At 5:30 I was awake, the rain stopped and I carried some gear down to the boat. Dean and Dennis didn't stir so I lay down for another snooze until I heard zippers opening. After breakfast we loaded up and paddled south before turning west towards John's Pond.


The shoreline from John's Pond north back to Colinet is not very interesting so I found myself looking underwater for interest. Above water the sea was calm and reflected the grey sky above. Underwater, the surface acted as a mirror reflecting the image of seaweed below.

Lurking below

Gigantic seaweed lurked below the surface as Dean and Dennis floated above in this shot of two worlds captured in one shot.


The only thing to disturb the mirror smooth sea surface was my paddle.


The Rocky and Colinet Rivers run into the harbour at Colinet. We paddled about a kilometer up the Rocky River to the falls and the old bridge. We did a few rolls in the frothy fresh water and some rescue practice with fully loaded boats.

Rocky River

Satisfied with our stop at the falls, we paddled back down river and took out at Colinet. It was only one night out and the scenery wasn't spectacular with the low laying country all around but this time it wasn't so much about the paddling. This was, for me, a chance to get away. We had a great time, more than a few laughs and I felt ready to return to civilization. Thanks Dean and Dennis.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pinchgut camping

Loading the gear

Dean had promised to take a co-worker, novice kayaker, kayak camping this weekend. He couldn't make it but Dean, Dennis and I went anyway. It was an overcast morning as pulled into Colinet where we loaded our boats to head down to the resettled community of Tickles for our campsite.

Entrance way

As we approached the entrance to Pinchgut Tickle, the body of water between Pinchgut Island on the right and the mainland to left, it started to brighten up.

In the grass

The water as falling all the while as we made our way south. The tickle is not very deep as it is but in low water the eel grass was breaking the surface. There were places it was difficult to get a full blade in the water making the going bit difficult as the eel grass tried to cling on to our hulls.

U pick!

We pulled a string of mussels to have a look and, happy with the size, helped ourselves to a few to taste test.

Home sweet home

We landed on the beach at Tickles in a bit of a breeze. We walked around to decide on where we'd pitch the tents so we could be out of the wind. It was warm but pleasant in the wind as we unloaded our boats and set up camp. Dennis strung a clothes line, we gathered some wood along the shore for our evening fire and I took a short stroll to look at the one house left standing in the abandoned community.


It had undergone dramatic changes. Not that long ago it still stood upright, derelict but still showing its original character. Now it was a jumble of broken timbers and broken dreams. It looked like it may have been pulled down on purpose or it may have succumbed to the winds of Hurricane Igor that blew through last fall. I felt saddened. Things change, I know. However, this fine, popular kayak destination campsite didn't seem the same now.

BBQ pit

We used a section of chimney for a barbecue pit. Dean brought a bag of charcoal and a grill that fir perfectly on top of the opening. Dean and Dennis had steaks to barbecue and with the few mussels we harvested they had surf and turf.

Roaring fire

We were told there wasn't much wood around for a fire. I found a stash of wood which along with the wood we collected on the beach made for a rip roaring good fire.


Flankers blowing from the fire filled the night sky like the stars in a galaxy. It took a long while for the fire to die down. When it did, we retreated to the tents for the night content with the world.