Wednesday, September 28, 2011

At a safe distance

Too close?

Getting up close and personal with icebergs is not an issue for most kayakers. Here in Newfoundland, in iceberg alley, we probably see more icebergs than anywhere else in the world. We often paddle near them because they are an awesome sight.

Icebergs pose dangers. They can break up and cause waves or even roll over onto unwary kayakers. Some icebergs have ice shelves that extend out underwater from the above water part that can break off and come up under the kayak.

Some people preach safety and warn paddlers not to get too close. They have a point but ...


... how close is close enough? Its a personal decision I think. Kayaking is a risky activity at the best of times. Anyone paddling close to icebergs should weigh the risks of mishap themselves based on iceberg size and structure.

A tabular berg is less likely to roll. A blocky berg is less likely to break apart unexpectedly. An irregular shaped berg poses the most danger for both roll over and breakup.

In any case, I don't linger close by too long to minimize the risk yet still get an exciting experience. Just because I do doesn't mean anyone else should do the same. Its your decision.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Perfect ending

A piece of the pie

I was out paddling from iceberg to iceberg doing a tour of 12 icebergs off of Seal Cove. There were bits of ice floating around. I picked up a piece and secured it under my bungees. I had something in mind.

A perfect combination

As soon as I got back from my paddle I put the bergy bit in the freezer. It was destined to become ice cubes in a favourite concoction of mine.

I don't know how many thousands of years old the ice was but it was a novelty and the perfect ending to a memorable day paddling.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Icebergs, icebergs and more icebergs

There were icebergs in White Bay but should I go to Seal Cove or Wild Cove? A phone call to Seal Cove confirmed there was an iceberg right in the cove. As I came over the top of the hill I could see the berg. There were others. I quickly found a nice sandy spot to launch.

There was great anticipation as I paddled out of the harbour.

There was my first iceberg sighting in two years. I paddled over to it and took my time circling it to savour the moment.

On to the next one, a whimsical shape with gentle curves but also jagged edges where it had broken apart from something else. To my left ...

a more massive berg off of Southern Arm Head. I went to get a closer look.

Up close it was all iceberg. As I paddled around it I looked into Southern Arm and spotted ...

two large tabular bergs. I felt like a youngster in a candy store and being alone, it was all for me.

Bits of ice floated around.

Around every corner another iceberg.

What I thought were two bergs were in fact three. The popping sound of trapped gas escaping from the melting ice coupled with water dripping off of the bergs and a few drops of rain was magical.

I was deep in Southern Arm with the massive bergs but there were more to explore. Near Flat Point a contorted iceberg was calling.

It had a cave running right through it. I contemplated it for a minute but resisted. I looked down into the water and thought it wasn't massive enough and could break up any moment. Discretion is the best part of valour so I moved on.

Most of the bergs were massive blocky or tabular bergs but this one had been sculpted by wind an water. Further out in the bay there were still more so I moved on.

This one was jagged. In the distance off of Pound Head was one more I had to go check out.

It took me 30 minutes to paddle out to this one. I went because a fragment of Petermann A lay behind it. Unfortunately, it lay too far way on this day as my time was running out.

I turned and headed back to Seal Cove totally blissful. It was feast of icebergs, the most I've ever seen in one place and a day I won't soon forget. The only thing missing was someone else to share it with.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A paddle with sis

Steppin' in

On Sunday past I was out to visit my sister Dory in Woodstock, a 6.5 hour drive distant. She also has a kayak but no paddling buddies and no instruction. I took my boat out with the intention of teaching her everything I know and that didn't take long *lol*.

She hadn't been in her kayak for several years so we had to dust off her kayak before she got in with Harry's help and the "lesson" began.

Brilliant sunshine

I believe a new paddler often get overloaded with information. I showed her the basic strokes that she can work on by herself. Once she has a better grasp on that she has something to build on.

Rustic stages

After some time in the inner harbour we paddled along the shore past pink granite outcrops, boulders and fishermens' stages. Stages are where fishing gear is stored, fish is landed and processed.

Red Point

The wind came up a little bit. I reassured her that I would tow her back if it became an issue. Running in front of the breeze it wasn't long before we arrived at Red Point.

Red Point comes by its name for obvious reasons - the colour of the granite. Some of the granite has specks of the mineral chalcopyrite in it that adds weight to the rock that can really be felt when hefting it.

The smile says it all

We ducked in behind Red Point out of the wind and floated in our boats for a while before crossing the harbour over to Charlies Cove.

Charlies Cove

The paddle over to Charlies Cove meant taking the wind and chop on the beam. I stayed close but Dory was fine, maybe reassured by my presence.

Onwards again

In Charlies Cove across the harbour, and across from the pink granite, the host rocks were no longer pink but black and metamorphosed to hornblende schist by the heat from the granite as it was intruded.

We hugged the shoreline where we had some protection from the wind. Dory soldiered on and didn't need a tow. It wasn't a long paddle but we both enjoyed it. She learned a few things that will make her paddles more enjoyable. She has her kayak to just putter around in the harbour, look at the bottom and the rocky features of the shoreline. That's what makes her happy and that's what counts.

Away from it all

We put our gear away, packed supplies for a barbeque and drove a short distance and walked into Dory and Harry's cabin. Hidden away in the woods its a refuge from the worries of everyday life.

They cut the trees and had all the wood in the building milled at a sawmill. Then it had to be hand carried into the site. It looked to be a monumental amount of work but the results speak for themselves.

The BBQ was the perfect topper to a perfect day. Dory is a special person in my life and I was so happy to be able to spend it with her in the way we did.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hurricane Maria

Giddy up

There was a TV program on the national broadcaster a while ago entitled "How do you solve a problem like Maria". I don't know how it turned out but today Dean and I had a solution to Maria, the hurricane.

Winds today hovering around 26 - 28 knots with gusts to 40 meant there'd be no day paddle . Dean and I opted for an hour and a half at St. Philips to do a bit of surfing. It was interesting but felt like another day at the office. An hour and a half well spent.

I'm off to the Baie Verte peninsula tomorrow to spend a few days with my sister who also has a kayak. Iceberg finder shows 9 bergs in White Bay and while I'm out that way I hope I'll get out to some of them and have a few shots to show for it. So, the next post likely won't be till coming Thursday unless I can find an internet connection.

Keep out of trouble till then!

Friday, September 16, 2011

In a trance


I find it interesting how conversation stops when we do crossings.

When we handrail and take our time to explore or when we first get underway there's always conversation with paddle mates to catch up on news or just marvel at the excellent day.

Crossings seem to be a different experience. I get into a rhythm and slip into my own world as we silently paddle as a group towards a distant objective. As the blade cuts through the water it becomes hypnotic and I enter a trance like state where there are no problems, deadlines or commitments. Its a high, all without a prescription.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A moonless moonlight paddle


There are four ingredients to a moonlight paddle. Three things that are nice to have and one must have.


One: Calm water. Darkness adds a degree of difficulty in itself; no need to add active water into the mix.

Last light

Two: light wind - for the same reason as calm seas.

Dark stranger

Three: fellow paddlers. I'm afraid in the dark *lol*. There were 10 of us, even Stan whom I haven't seen since April was there.


Four: Moonlight. Doh! Forgot to arrange for an appearance by the moon.

Text ColorDean paddles into the dark

All the ducks seemed to be lining up early Tuesday. Calm wind and seas and a crystal clear blue sky with bright sunshine. Then, later in the afternoon it began to cloud over. I knew then we wouldn't have the moon for company.

What are the probabilities of having all the ingredients on any full moon night? I don't know but not good I suspect. We went for a paddle anyway and still enjoyed the night.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Disappointment salvage

What now?

Today we headed down to St. Mary's Bay hoping to do some kayak surfing. The remnants of Hurricane Katia had passed by on Saturday and huge swell was forecast along the south coast of the Avalon.

A check of buoy data at the mouth of the bay indicated a swell of 2.2 meters straight up into the bay. I fully expected to find good surfing conditions at Point La Haye. Huge disappointment. There was huge swell alright but only where it broke over the shallow underwater extension of the point. No green water at all. Only water being stood up and turning to foam. There would be no surfing.

I felt bad for suggesting the location. We had driven over an hour so we were going to paddle anyway. Once everyone had gotten on the water safely we decided to paddle down to St. Mary's, the community.

Wide berth

The swell at the point was awe inspiring. Getting caught in it would have meant getting trashed and possibly seriously injured. We steered a wide berth.

Heading north

Once out of danger of getting caught in the breaking swell we turned and headed north to St. Mary's. While it wasn't suitable for kayak surfing, the swell did make things interesting along the shore.

Around the stack

Paddling around rocks and this sea stack meant careful timing. Mistimed and there would be a surprise.

Almost there
We made it to St. Mary's and stopped on a beach just out of sight for lunch. The wind came up and made for a bit of a slog on the return paddle. It was only 13 kms paddled today (felt like more though) but we made the best of it. I'm reminded of the Stones song ... "you can't always get what you want ... but if you try sometimes ... you might find ... you get what you need."

And, that today, was to get on the water.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sean's new SOF Disko Bay

First look

Sean just recently finished his second kayak build of the year. Its a skin-on-frame Disko Bay from plans by Dave Gentry. Sean has a number of blog entries detailing the build.

We got our first look Thursday evening at St. Philips for our weekly playtime.

LinkTwo craftsmen

Sean is a craftsman and as they say around here "he can put an as* in a cat". Derrick, as craftsman himself, was there last night in his strip built and took a keen interest in what Sean had done.

Sculling balance brace

Sean's an able builder and paddler. He put the boat through its paces and was very pleased with the results. When we had enough as daylight was running out, we washed off our gear in the river. First Dean got into it for a test fit, then I had a turn. I was swimming in the cockpit but still found it rolls effortlessly.

I'm green with envy and may build one myself eventually. Maybe Dean too? Great job Sean, you can be proud of the result.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A unique cave

Left or right?

I've been in a number of caves over the last few years. A lot are the same, just openings pounded into the rocks by the waves. There are a few notable exceptions. One north of Flatrock opens up into an inner room that's like a cathedral. On Sunday, I got into a unique one. From the outside it looks like two separate caves next to each other. Which one to explore first? Made no difference because while they look to be separate when you enter you find ...


they come together at a little beach at the head of the cave. I paddled into the cave on the right and Neil, the left. At the end I saw daylight and then Neil's bow. A little higher water and I could have gotten around. Amazing bit of sculpture completed by Lord Neptune.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rest interrupted


Saturday Dean and I did a 16 km paddle out to Little Bell Island and area. I wanted a relaxed paddle due to a couple of weeks of intensive labour. I planned to take it easy to recharge my batteres on Sunday. Then Neil posted a paddle from Flatrock to Outer Cove. Too much to resist.

Inside channel

We rounded The Beemer and pointed our bows southerly paddling between cliffs to starboard and a string of rocks to port.

Massive sandstone cliffs

The sun was in our faces bathing the cliffs in brilliant sunshine.

In the shade

Caves along the way towards Torbay meant respite from the sun and heat. The difference in temperature emerging from the caves was marked.

Caves to explore

This is really a cave paddle. I was here with a few of the guys a couple of weeks ago and posted a bunch of cave shots then.

Cross to Middle Cove

We didn't paddle into Torbay proper, rather we crossed the mouth of the cove towards Motion and Middle Cove beyond.

At Motion

Motion was very placid Sunday. Normally any amount of swell produces active water and therefore its name "The Motion".

Prospective kayakers

We took out at Middle Cove for a stretch. We recruited some future kayakers who wanted to sit and try it out.

Low headroom

After a brief rest stop we were on our way again towards Outer Cove exploring the caves along the east side of Middle Cove. This cave didn't have much headroom and is impossible to get into with any swell.

Moving on

We took our time moving from cave to cave and as we did we were building up the mileage under our hulls.

Dark world

This cave must have been 200 feet deep. At the end it was so dark none of the light reached and even the camera flash couldn't fill in the cave details.

Timing is everything

A narrow slot and even a little action means stopping to look and time the run through.

Heading back

We entered Outer Cove, explored a cave there and decide to cross to a point halfway between Torbay and Flatrock.

A little breeze came up for the run in to Flatrock but its cooling effects were welcomed. A day that started out as a day of rest turned into a fantastic 24 km paddle. On a day with the right conditions it is truly a jewel so close to the city of St. John's. Thanks Neil for posting and thanks to Dean, Paul and Ysabelle for the company.