Friday, March 30, 2012

Passage interrupted

Saltwater passage

Well, we've passed the spring equinox. The weather has been trending towards warmer weather and I thought our passage through winter was complete. But, around here, winter can come back with a vengeance even though the calendar says spring.

We're in for a blast of winter tonight and tomorrow that is expected to bring upwards of 30 cm snow.

I knew Saturday was out. Maybe Sunday too. So, after two hours at the gym I figured another hour and a half in the kayak was mandatory before the weather arrived.

The weather will get better yet. We live in hope.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A bit of spit

Warm waters

The chlorine in the pool water makes my eyes itchy for days after so I wear swim goggles. Tuesday evening I found them fogging up constantly.

The solution? A bit of spit. Sounds gross but a bit of spit in each eye piece rubbed around and drained gave me clear vision for the rest of the night.

Seven pool nights this past winter but I think I'll be spending Tuesdays outside from now on. I noticed Topsail Pond is ice free on one side.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More sources of ice info

Ice extent

I'm checking the ice situation every day now in anticipation. Environment Canada publishes various daily and weekly ice updates. This map shows the extent of sea surface ice which is mainly first year ice. It looks like a giant tongue of ice coming down from Arctic regions and the Labrador coast carried on the Labrador current. When it get here it looks like ...

Slob ice and growlers

The winds drive the ice into the bays and coves of the Avalon Peninsula. Sometimes its crammed in tight. That's when we, as kids, would go out hopping from pan to pan oblivious to the danger.

As an older kid now its fun paddling though when it loosens up enough to create channels to explore. And ...

Lunch time

... a place to haul out for a lunch break. A self taken picture from 2 BN (2 years before Nordkapp *lol*).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Refracting waves

Interference pattern

No big trip today, just some play time in confused seas.

The wind was blowing WNW for the last two days. It was blowing in directly over Bell Island. I expected organized seas but where we were the seas were choppy and confused. Waves were coming from both NW and SW directions. At first I was confused until I realized what was happening.

Westerly waves were refracting around the southerly and northerly ends of the island and meeting in an interference pattern on our side.

The mantra for the day was"loose hips".

Lumpy seas

Most waves were very modest as the wind had slowed considerably.

There's always a question of how high waves were. In this case, looking in the direction of Little Bell Island, without seeing the island, indicated the larger waves were at least 1 meter.

After a couple of hours Neville and I called it a day, satisfied we had wetted our craft.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Iceberg Alley

Last year's crop

The coast off of NE Newfoundland is known as Iceberg Alley. Maybe so, but the last couple of years we didn't see many along the Avalon Peninsula. This year we life in hope to see more without having to travel large distances. If the ice map following is any indication we should see a few this spring.

Ice map for NE Newfoundland

Environment Canada's Weather Office website also provides marine information on sea ice. The map extends far beyond what we can reach in a kayak but favourable winds may blow them into the coves and bays closer to shore.

I not only look forward to the arrival of icebergs but also the arrival of first year slob ice. It too makes for excellent paddling.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Water, water everywhere

On the briny

Water, water everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

From "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". Remembered from a long time ago, in Grade 11.

A trip of possibly 6 - 7 days means I'm not going to be able to take along enough water. I'll need to collect along the way and make it safe. There are options such as boiling and pills but I like the idea of filtering better.

I see two options, one on each side of the spectrum. A MSR MiniWorks EX for about $80 and a Katadyn Pocket Water Filter for $330. Both from MEC.

The MSR doesn't get great reviews while reviewers rave about the Katadyn. Both have 2 micron filters. What to do?

The saying "penny wise, pound foolish" comes to mind. So does "you get what you pay for". It will take some thought to make a decision. Ultimately I think it will come down to "you can't take it [money, that is] with you".

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gimme shelter

In August a group of us are going to paddle around Merasheen Island in Placentia Bay.

Placentia Bay is known for fog and wet weather. After July the weather is supposed to be drier but it can still be miserable. The trip is going to be about 7 days long so there's a good chance we'll encounter some rain.

I'm not much of a woodsman so I know next to nothing about putting up a tarp, at least a stand alone tarp. I better learn before leaving. Amazing the things to be found on YouTube. I found three videos by this guy "BushcraftOnFire" on setting up different tarps. He certainly seems to know his stuff. Here are the three:

OK, so after I posted I noticed that the window isn't big enough for the video to run. Got to figure that out yet so here are the links:

Quick tarp set up
More tarp tips Part 1
More tarp tips Part 2

Sorry about that. Suggested fix would be welcomed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rug hooking, stamp colecting and hobbies

No doormat

My sister kept herself busy during the winter with a few rug hooking projects. One of those was kayaker Tony paddling into the sunset with the gulls. You can see it was a bumpy evening on the sea *lol* in St. Philips.

Several weeks ago when I did a First Aid course we had a number of simulations to deal with. One victim was Hazen who had broken his back. Three of us then had to determine what happened and extricate him with a make-shift stretcher. Hazen was told to be negative and not cooperate. Scene was set.

Hazen implored us to let him die because he didn't want to live. We did our best to "console" him. After some time, knowing this was only a simulation, I jokingly asked Hazen if "he had thought about stamp collecting". I just couldn't resist the joke.

Hobbies are great things to keep things interesting, but, for now, as long as I can, I'll keep paddling.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The last winter paddle

What a day

Winter is over on Wednesday so today five of us had our last winter paddle for this season. Hard to put this forward as a winter paddle because it was such a beautiful day.

Its still winter

But it was as we were brought back to reality, by sheets of ice, that it was still technically winter.

How sweet it is

No wind, flat calm water and temperatures hovering just above zero gave promise to warmer days ahead.

Not today

Low tide made it impossible to get through some spots that are navigable in higher water.

Room here

There was room here either side of the protruding rock.

Muscle power

Sometimes its marginal but guys with plastic boats will give it a try anyway. Here Dean puts his Greenland paddle to good use *lol* to pry himself over the rocks.


Clear water reflected icicles hanging off the cliff face above the greenish grey rounded pebbles of the sea bottom.


Bright sunshine penetrated the surface to highlight seaweed growing on submerged rocks.

Slob ice

Fresh water floating on the surface of the briny seawater was frozen into slush. No icebreaker needed today though.

Front row seat

Another fine display of icicles that begged a look.

Going round

Gary rounding a rock in the last little cove before we finished for the day.

It appears that winter is going out like a lamb. We'll look forward to warmer weather but look back on a productive and enjoyable winter of paddling. As the weather and the water warms up more paddlers will come out of hibernation. We will welcome them back after a long absence.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Size does matter

One of da boys

We have a group of ten that we call on for paddles. We don't always get ten but occasionally everyone is on the same page and we get 100% turnout.

Yesterday I got mail from one of the gang to add another paddler. That raises the question as to what is the optimum group size. At a recent paddle in Bay Bulls there were six of us. The wind speed picked up to force 5, gusts to force 6. The group got strung out but no one was left alone. It was manageable but on that day a larger group could have been problematic.

Furthermore, we all know the capabilities of each of the group members. We practice rescues together. We feel comfortable with each other. We are a team.

We will have to decide whether we can accommodate one more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I am a child

On the toboggan hill

Earlier this winter I went for a walk in Bowring Park with my daughter Lisa. We stopped to watch the kids sliding on the snow covered hill. I brought me back to days I spent sliding down, walking back up and sliding down and so on. Years later I did the same with my young children but not lately. Now I've traded the toboggan of my childhood for ...

Water toboggan

the kayak of my so-called adulthood. Its not so much different really. While kayaking is a bit more serious in terms of danger it is still, in essence, playing, most of the time. Take for example, riding the surge over and around rocks or that surf ride that just seems to keep going and going.

I'm not sure what I'm going to be when I grow up but one thing for sure, I'm going to keep the child inside of the man.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Paddling in the snow


Brian, Clyde, Dean, Lee and I met at St. Philips with the initial intention to play in waves expected to be generated by northerly winds. The wind didn't materialize so we paddled north knowing we'd have the wind at our backs for the return in case it did kick up.

It was snowing lightly and it built up on the deck as we prepared to launch.


Snowflakes streaked the picture like a time exposure of a starry night.


Snow stung the eyes as we paddled into the little bit of wind there was.


We were not fazed in the least. It was padding in an environment with conditions close to those expected in the ancestral home of the kayak.


Dressing for the weather makes all the difference.

The four horsemen

The guys lined up side by side.


No sign of Bell Island hidden in the snow.

What weather?

Paddling into the blowing snow it built up on my PFD. I love it!!!

We paddled a familiar coast but it wasn't boring by a long shot. There's always something to add interest. Today it was a bit of blowing snow and unusually high water. The high water made it possible to get through some spots inaccessible otherwise.

I'm sure people I passed on the road to the put-in questioned my sanity to be kayaking on such a day. These things though are hard to explain to the uninitiated.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Follow the sun

Brighter days to come

The days are getting noticeably longer, well, at least the number of hours of daylight. Tomorrow sunset is at 6:00. I wondered if sunset times were symmetrical around June 21 which is the longest day. Turns out, not quite. Sunset is at 6:00 (adjusted for daylight saving time) on September 21, 92 days after June 21. March 12 is 101 days from the June 21.

Technically June 21 is the longest day but the sun sets at 9:00 from June 19 to July 4. That's 16 days when we seem to be standing still in our orbit around the sun.

What does this have to do with kayaking? Well, its good news. Days are getting longer and we'll soon be able to get in some evening paddling and in particular, Thursday evening practices at St. Philips.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Staying in paddling shape

At "Gerard's Rocks"

Saturday was Dave's first paddle since November and his first winter paddle ever. After paddling 19.5 km, he felt it. Dean and I, having paddled throughout the winter, fared much better.

We've paddled through the winter but only five times due to the windy weather we've had and then only for a total of 82 kms. There are cross-training benefits to going to the gym and doing strength training and cardio but there's no substitute to putting the paddle in the water for staying in paddling shape. You just have to get out there and do it whenever the weather allows

Saturday, March 3, 2012

To Brocks Pond Falls

Off we go

Today our destination was Brocks Pond Falls. This past week we had the coldest days of the winter so far and I suspected the falls would be spectacularly frozen in time by Mr. Freeze. Dave, Dean and I met at St. Philips but could not put-in in the harbour as it was choked with thick pans of ice. We put-in on the beach.

Daggers of ice

Not long underway we came upon the first shallow cave that was framed by huge drapes of icicles. We stayed well clear of the icicles because if any of it came down we would be paddling in the great beyond.

No, the picture is not off kilter. I tried this on purpose.

Through the channel

This channel between St. Philips and Portugal Cove is always interesting if there's even a bit of swell. Dean went in first - boom, up against a rock. Dave went next - the water drained and he was up on a rock. It looked like things could get really interesting but they made it through as did I.

Clearing traffic

Tobias joined us in Portugal Cove where we waited for the Bell Island ferry to cross before we headed on further north towards our destination for the day.

Under rocky hills

Paddling north from Portugal Cove the land looks like the land God gave to Cain.

At the falls

Almost 5 kms we hit the falls. We weren't disappointed as stopped to look up at a wall of frozen water some 200 feet high. Again, the off angle was something I tried.

Matching colours

Paddling back to Portugal Cove we beat into a stiff wind that seemed to be blowing from a totally different direction than forecast. Calories burned to propel our craft forward had to be replaced. We stopped on this beach dominated by cascading ice that just matched the white of my boat's hull.

The Pillars of Hercules

Back at St. Philips the twin piers leading into the inner harbour were all iced up above the high water mark. It reminded me of the Pillars of Hercules.

As is our custom, we paddled up the fresh water river to wash up before stopping at the restaurant for a well deserved hot tea. Half a kilometer short of 20, it was a fine way to spend a day in early March.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Developing good judgement

Frequent paddlers

Good judgement is our primary skill for staying safe on the water and it is a skill that has to be developed and practiced like any other skill.

Good judgement is not something we are born with. If we were, then I would not have done some of the things I did as a teenager or young adult. It is developed through experience.

Experience is built up through doing and that includes the good and the bad. We accumulate experience even from the exercise of bad judgement, assuming we survive the consequences.

Having good judgement means we've done a bit of living.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Image is everything

Winter ... no problem

Went to the gym yesterday. I parked next to a vehicle with two J-racks on top. I didn't recognize it and certainly haven't seen it at pool nights. I've seen a few people driving around town with kayak racking gear on their roofs but I've never run into anyone else other than our regulars on the water during the winter. What gives?

Maybe its just an image thing?