Sunday, February 24, 2013

Another winter paddle

I got up this morning and checked the latest forecast before heading out for a day paddle.  I noticed the Weather Network had a visitor survey entitled "Which summer sport do you miss the most?"

Interestingly, 4% of respondents indicated "kayaking".

I was amused because I don't miss it at all.  I've just carried on padding without noticing winter had set in.

Dean and I made it a sixth straight weekend of winter paddling.  It was cold in the northerly wind and a sizeable swell was running in the bay which made for attentive paddling.

The channel we like to paddle through at Sailing Point was off limits today with waves washing over the top of the rocks.

The zone of clapotis extended out some 100 - 150 meters from the cliffs.  Standing waves were created where the clapotis met the incoming waves.  It meant for some gingerly picture taking.  Each time I took the camera out I had it in the back of my mind that I was prepared too roll if I got knocked over, camera in hand.

A recent snowfall of almost 25 cms still laying on the land reflected the sun giving the landscape a bright cheerful look.

If I didn't admit this was Newfoundland I think could easily convince the reader we were paddling in Greenland. (?)

We stopped for a break just to step on solid ground after being bounced around for almost an hour.  Dean and I each had a granola bar.  Mine was supposed to be chewy but the freezing temperature rendered it crunchy.  It went down well nevertheless.

Back on the water we retraced our steps, this time paddling with the incoming waves behind us but we still had the incessant clapotis.  It was like a carnival ride without the cotton candy and we didn't have to stand in line to take our turn.

We washed up in the fresh water of the river as is our habit this time of year.  I like to pick paddles where the takeout is near a fresh water source so that I don't have to wash the salt out at home.  The padding gear is not so much an issue, its just hard to wash the kayak in the bathtub *lol*

Another fine winter paddling adventure with Dean.  That survey I mentioned, we weren't in the 4% who missed kayaking just because it wasn't summer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Up she comes

A week ago Sunday, Dean got knocked over at Sailing Point on our way to Portugal Cove.  I didn't realize it but the longer I waited for him to appear I knew something was wrong  I doubled back to see if I could be of assistance.  When I did he emerged from the channel, wet.  I knew he had needed to execute a roll.

Sunday on our way back rom LaManche he followed Clyde through some rocks.  Cyde rode the rising water and got through no problem.  Dean caught the water sucking out, his kayak went near 45 degrees sliding back into the hole and he had a look at the fishes.  I watched as he set up and he rolled without fuss.

That was two weeks in a row.  I was impressed.

The point is he's practiced, practiced and practiced.  That''s why I was at the pool last night.  There is no substitute.  If you get knocked over its too late to wonder if the roll is still good.  Confidence is everything then.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Apres manger in LaManche

As I said, there's no beach takeout in LaManche, only this stream cascading into the cove at the very end.

So, we hauled out onto the rocks on the south side of the cove.  The sea weed and bits of ice made for tricky footing carrying the kayaks above the water line.

We sat on the cold rocks somewhat protected from the cool breeze to have lunch.  Some distance away a lone hiker sat, probably surprised and amused at seeing a group of kayakers out at this time of year.

Finished our lunch, we waved goodbye to the hiker and began the paddle back to Tors Cove.  The sun continued to shine brightly, now at our back.  It was so bright that these normally black slates of the St. John's Formation took on purplish grey tones.


Great Island of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve covered in snow shone brightly on the horizon.

At Bauline East we stopped to catch some surf rides where the swell broke over a submerged rock.  Hazen falling over the edge looks like he's catching a good one.

Done playing we carried on into Tors Cove as the islands were put behind us.  We stopped for coffee as its become our habit to debrief an excellent day kayaking.  Thanks guys for sharing the day.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

LaManche, escape from St. Philips

The last four weeks Dean and I have paddled out of St. Philips for a variety of reasons.  Today, we went further afield.  Today Clyde, Dean, Hazen, Sean, Tobias, and I departed Tors Cove for the resettled community of LaManche.

It was a bright, beautiful sunny day.  The sun made the water sparkle like diamonds.

There was a little breeze from the west but we were protected by the land.

 A little swell made it fun to paddle behind rocks ...

 ... which we all did.

It was a day to savour and take our time.  We poked into pretty much every hole and notch in the cliffs ...

 ... some of which were decorated by hanging walls of ice.


The imperceptible swell on the ocean to port reared up as it approached the land as we made our way into LaManche Bay.

Handrailing along the shoreline we arrived at our destination of LaManche.  Where people lived until the mid-60s, now it is visited by only sea kayakers and hikers on the East Coast Trial, one of the iconic features of which is this suspension bridge across the cove.

There's no beach in the cove.  The takeout is over some seaweed and onto the gently sloping rocks where we had our lunch.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Million dollar paddle

This past week the winner of a $30,000,000 lottery prize came forward.  I am happy for the couple but I'm not jealous.

Sure, I like to win that kind of money.  I can imagine many ways to spend some of it.

But its not a make or break thing in my life.

Its not like money can buy happiness ...

... and money can't buy friends but I guess having a $30,000,000 bank account will mean lots of people will want to be friends.

There are some things money can't buy ...

... like getting out for a paddle on a fourth consecutive weekend in the middle of winter with a good friend.

Saturday we got the remnants of a nor'easter that pasted the Boston states.  They got a meter of snow.  We didn't get as much but it was not very pleasant nonetheless.  It blew itself out overnight and Sunday morning we were in the warm side of the low pressure system.  Warm at 0C by winter standards and no wind.  Cha-ching, another super paddle with Dean.

I hope the lottery winner decides to buy a kayak.  It would be some of the best money they could spend.  I could be his friend too *lol*

Monday, February 4, 2013

Whitewater in long boats

On Sunday Brian, Dean and I stopped at Topsail Beach.  Fresh water is backed up behind a cobble bar when its high tide.  When the tide drops the water runs out through  small channel that is evident in the above image.

When we were there the water was still running out.  We thought why not?  We carried our kayaks up from the beach and into the fresh water to run the "rapids".  I shot an almost 60 second clip of Dean making his way down to the sea.

We volunteered Dean to go first because he was in a plastic boat.  Brian and I followed without incident.  It was good fun.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Groundhog day 2013

Groundhog day was on Friday, two days ago.  The verdict was mixed.  Some saw their shadows and predicted an early spring.  Some didn't so that meant another six weeks of winter.  Today, Sunday, Brian, Dean and I didn't worry about another six weeks of winter.  We went paddling.

On Monday I usually check the long range weather forecast wondering if it will be favourable for a paddle on the coming weekend.  Normally the forecast changes day to day as the weekend approaches.

So I ask myself, if the weatherperson, with the best technology tools science can provide can't get the forecast right a week in advance, even sometimes a day in advance ...

... then how can a rodent predict spring six weeks out?

It makes for good theatre and I know its a bit of light hearted humour to get over the winter blahs but ...

... winter isn't so bad if an effort is made to get out and enjoy it.  For example, when we reached Topsail Beach we noticed there was a good flow of water coming out of the estuary.  We thought, it could be fun to drag the boats up (two pics above) into it and ride the current back out to sea.

Which we did of course, with  great deal of glee.

When the prediction of spring is dependent on whether the sun shines or not on a mid-winter day, its best to have a chuckle and get on with what the weather and season offer.

Either way spring will come eventually.  Until it does, we'll carry on paddling.

Today the fresh water was running in the river so we could wash out our gear and the coffee was on at the restaurant to cap the day.  Thanks Brian and Dean.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Risky business

On Wednesday evening Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador members were treated to a presentation by kayak pioneer John Ramwell.  He spoke about the threat of legal action to assumption of risk when undertaking guided tours.  Rather, it was about not taking risks because of threat of legal action in case things go south.

The premise was that taking on some risk adds spice to adventure and makes for memorable moments.

John gave several examples.  In one example he spoke about paddling into a Force 9 gale.  Setting out, it was a known, measured risk.  By any measure that is a challenge for even the most experienced of paddlers.  He said even in the present he remembers it clearly even though it happened many years ago because he felt so alive.

While some risk adds excitement and memories, it needs to be measured in relation to skills.  For paddlers without the requisite skills to deal with such conditions or an accident, its pure folly.  Its life threatening and often ends up as tragedies in news stories.

In another example he described an English Channel crossing attempt.  At the time there were no such things as cell phones or GPS.  In addition, the heavy boat traffic in the Channel made the venture very risky.

His colleague's rear hatch began to flood due to a leak in the rudder cable arrangement.  The crossing had to be abandoned part way across and the retreat punctuated with frequent bailing stops.

I saw it as an example of occasions when we take on risks unknowingly.

A number of years ago a group of us left the shelter of a protected cove and were caught in a sudden wind and snow storm.  No one had checked the forecast.  The risk we ended up taking on certainly made the day memorable but also memorable for the lesson learned.

Kakaying is by its nature inherently risky but risk can be mitigated by the development of skills.  As skills are developed additional risk can be assumed but should be measured in relation to the level of the skills.

I remember one day early in my paddling development paddling down wind on a small pond.  As I ran out of water near the bottom of the pond, an uneasy feeling began to raise in my stomach.  I realized I had to somehow turn the kayak around.  The waves were only a foot and half high but I hadn't been in a broached position in small waves before.  The risk to my safety was minimal but so were my skills, yet I remember it well.  Its all relative.

Today, I can take on more risk but I measure it.  Its fine to take on some risk but not to the point of being foolhardy.  I assess risk before putting the paddle in the water and hopefully it allows me to stay safe while still letting me experience the feeling of being completely alive in my kayak.