Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 paddles of 2012 - #1

My top paddle of the year was our trip around the island of Merasheen between August 11th and 16th.  It was a six day, five night kayak camping trip in Placentia Bay with Clyde, Dean, Hazen and Neville.  This is a summary of the trip with a few new shots.  The original series of posts of the trip start here.

We left from Arnolds Cove to cross to Long Island and then a further short crossing to Merasheen.   Paddling down the east side of the island we landed for the night at Rosiru having covered 36 kms.

The next day we finished the east coast, paddled across the exposed south side and camped in the resettled community of Little Merasheen for a daily distance of 32 kms.

The third day was windy with fog.  We had a short paddle of 19 kms to Merry Harbour.

The next day we left all our gear in Merry Harbour and spent the day paddling around the Ragged Islands.

After two comfortable nights in Merry Harbour we moved on to Tacks Beach, another resettled community on Merasheen Island.

The threat of incoming windy conditions and work commitments of some of the guys meant we cut the trip one day short and headed for home.

We had flat calm conditions for the crossing back to Arnolds Cove which lay in the center distance.

Any of the daily paddles could individually have made a top 10 paddle but it wouldn't have left much room for my other memorable paddles in the year.  Overall, it was a great year with a nice mix of experiences.

Now, its looking ahead at 2013 to plot next years memories.

Happy New Year paddling world.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 10 paddles of 2012 - #2

On April 7th a bunch of us went for a paddle with icebergs.  The icebergs were grouped together close to shore just north of Quidi Vidi.

After exiting Quidi Vidi, we were there in minutes.

They were huge.

There was a gentle swell that washed up against the mountains of ice.

 It was early in the year so it was still cool, more so close to the bergs; Hazen wore a wool cap.

The bergs are brought to us from Greenland via the Labrador Current.  Once they drift into our vicinity we need northeast or easterly winds to blow them onshore where they are close enough for us to reach in kayak.

These two pieces of ice sticking their necks out of the water are pieces of one that are joined underwater.

Closer inspection showed a third piece was part of the same berg.

If I recall correctly, there were half a dozen bergs in the small cove.  It was like hitting the jackpot because its been several years since bergs drifted in close enough for us to reach.  We hung out for quite some time just sitting in our boats admiring the spectacle.

Because it doesn't happen every year, a paddle with icebergs in my number 2 paddle of 2012.

By coincidence (I looked back) a paddle with icebergs was also my #2 paddle last year but I had to drive 6 hours to see them.  Last year I was by myself, this year I could share the experience with friends.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top 10 paddles of 2012 - #3

On June 16th Clyde, Dean, Tobias and I put-in in Middle Cove in search of whales.  We left Middle Cove and paddled over to Motion and Torbay where flocks of seagulls hovered overhead, a sign that was where the whales were.  We mostly sat and waited for a glimpse.

We sighted some whales.  I got some pictures but mostly of flukes going away from us.  One came towards us and dove.  I plunged the camera into the water and caught it swimming under my kayak.  Awesome!

I posted all the decent pictures on the original post so you can check them out there.  Unfortunately, those are all I had.

It wasn't the best whale sighting ever but it was a short encounter with whales.  That's always a highlight for anyone in a kayak.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 10 paddles of 2012 - #4

Some of us have talked for some time about paddling around Bell Island, the long way around.  Most who paddle around the island take the ferry over, do the circumnavigation and take the ferry back.  We intended to paddle over, around and back.

On September 22nd, Brian, Dean, Hazen and I put the plan in motion.  We left St Philips and made for Bell Island.

We arrived at Dominion Pier after the 5.5 km crossing in perfect conditions.

A short paddle north and we turned our bows south along the western side of the island.  The island is almost 10 kms long but bends in the coastline prevent us from a straight line of sight to the bottom.

Paddling through some impressive cliffs.

I ran my kayak up on the slippery slope to check out some mine workings.  Most of the iron mining was done underground and all the way out under the sea.  Here, the iron beds were some 8-10 feet thick.

"The Bell", Bell Island's signature sea stack signaled we were near the bottom of the island.

At Front Bell Cove we got out for lunch.  From here we were within 9 kms of competing our circling of the island.

We passed the jumbled ruins of Scotia Pier on our way back to Dominion Pier.  Both of these piers served as loading points for the iron ore mined on the island.  The red hematite stained rocks are a hint that there's iron ore in "them thar rocks".

Back at Dominion Pier where we had landed in the morning.  We had paddled 30 kms and had a 5.5 km crossing back to St. Philips left to complete our project.  The wind kicked up making the return crossing a bit of work but back at St. Philips we were pleased to cross this off of our paddling bucket list.

Bell Island is always a super, scenic paddle.  Doing it the long way around made it special and that's why its one of my top 10 paddles of the year.

The start of three original postings can be found here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 10 paddles of 2012 - #5

Every winter the sea along Canada's northern coast freezes over.  In spring it breaks up and drifts south on the Labrador current.  So, on the 3rd of April I went looking for the pack ice.

Here, in Middle Cove, it was rafted up tight to the shore leaving no open water to paddle in.

A few kilometers over in the next community of Torbay the ice was in but further off shore so I put-in and paddled out to it.

Bits and pieces floated near the main field of pack ice.

Some indescript, some with more interesting features.

I reached the main field where there was no way through.

After drifting south on the Labrador current we need  north to northeast wind to drive it on shore.  It was the middle of the week so I took advantage of its presence before an opposite wind drove it off shore again.

Middle of the week meant going by myself but it was safe enough in the cove.  I was within eyesight of anyone on shore.

Paddling around the ice floes is great fun practicing bow rudders and ...

... paddling through icy channels and ...

... running the boat up onto an ice pan to get out for a stretch.

I was glad I went.  On the weekend following, the ice was gone.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top 10 paddles of 2012 - #6

On September 9th Clyde, Dean, Hazen and I paddled from Quidi Vidi to Cape Spear.  Cape Spear is the most easterly point of North America so its always a significant place to visit.  Leaving Quidi Vidi the paddle starts dominated by red sandstone cliffs.

And, a scoot across the entrance to St. John's Harbour.  Always have to be looking both ways to avoid being run over by passing traffic.

We follow the cliffs southerly into Freshwater Bay.

The land is lower at the bottom of Freshwater Bay fronted by a giant cobble bar.

Paddling out along the other side of Freshwater Bay the rocks are covered by bird droppings.

Dean at Spriggs Point. 

When we arrived at Cape Spear we paddled out past the Cape to have a look down the coast.  We were surprised to see three kayakers coming up from the direction of Petty Harbour.  They were friends of ours Des, Gerard and Linda.

We hung out for a bit before riding the southeast wind and waves back to Quidi Vidi.  I try to get out to the Cape every year.  The key to a safe trip is to pick the right day and on that day we did.  Not a lot of our fellow paddlers get out there so, when I do, its a highlight of my paddling year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Top 10 paddles of 2012 - #7

On September 29th we had a moonlight paddle.  It was the third year in a row we've tried.  In the previous two years clouds hid the moon but this year it actually made an appearance.

Getting ready is the same in the dark as in daylight.

Assembled an all accounted for we were off.

 Sue paddles in the dark with the lights of the drill rig Henry Goodridge in the distance.

We did have moonlight.

We got out for a stretch at Topsail Beach, found an abandoned fire pit that was still smouldering and got it going again.

Here's a group shot of the crew that made the night.

Paddling in near darkness is different and that's why its on my list of top paddles for the year.  It likely will be each and every year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Top 10 paddles of 2012 - #8

On January 15th a group of us went to Bay Bulls for a cool winter's day paddle.  The day started out sunny and bright.  We paddled along the south shore.  There was no wind.

We poked into every little cave and overhang.

 Icicles clinging to the rocks testified to the fact it was cool out.

We were in no hurry as we ducked into every cove ...

 ... and every cavernous opening.

We reached the end of the shoreline and reached the open ocean where things were a little more active.

Up to that time it was easy going.  We crossed the mouth of the harbour and as we did the wind picked up sending meter high wind waves on our port side.  We made the crossing but were then faced with a 5 kms paddle back to the put-in with 50 km winds, gusting to 60, directly in our faces.

It was a tale of two paddles.  It started off a benign paddle but ended as a gut-busting slog.  All of us were relieved to get back and off the water.  The second part was a paddle from hell but that made it memorable and that's why its on my list of top paddles for the year.

The original posts are here and here.