Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nikon Coolpix S31 camera review


Recently my Olympus Stylus Tough 6020 camera has been giving me attitude.  A couple of weeks ago when I turned it on, at home, in the dry, I got a "No Connection" message.  After some cajoling I got it to work but the next time I wanted to use it on the water it decided to not work again, though no water had gotten into the camera.

Looks like a software issue and I may need to send it out for repairs.  That could take 2 - 3 weeks I'm told but I know it will likely be longer.

So, unable to live without a camera on the water, I bought a Nikon Coolpix S31 camera to use if I eventually send the Olympus for repairs.  I used it for the first time on Saturday in Tors Cove.

The first thing I noticed was how quick the camera was ready to take a picture.  In comparison to the Olympus, it was like night and day.  In fact, I'd say it was instantaneous whereas the Olympus is very s-l-o-w getting ready for picture taking.

The camera is not as robust as my Olympus as the casing is hard plastic.  It is waterproof to 5.0 meters which is more than enough for my needs as the tether is no more than a meter.  It is shock proof to 1.2 meters which again is adequate for my needs.

I bought it because the $105.00 + tax price tag was reasonable given my reason for purchase.

But there is one issue.  The lens sits behind a waterproof "housing" that doesn't seem to shed water drops very well so I ended up with a number of pictures like the above.  I haven't had that problem much with the Olympus.

Next time I'll take a cloth to clean the cover as needed.  That is a bit inconvenient but is an acceptable tradeoff on the price for me.

Putting the cart before the horse, I checked reviews on the web after I purchased it.  I would agree with most of them.  There aren't a lot of features but it makes the camera easy to set up and get using it.  Fine, its a basic camera.

The most interesting part of the reviews I read was the camera is targeted at kids.  I'm good with that too because I am, after all, still a kid at heart.

Though I bought the camera as a fill-in for my Olympus, I would not hesitate to use the camera full time on my kayak adventures.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Looking for whales in all the wrong places

Today seven of us met at Bay Bulls en route to Tors Cove on the Southern Shore to look for signs of whales.  The plan was to paddle on the outside of the islands of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve and survey the vast expanse of ocean for spouts.  Afterwards we intended to paddle into the abandoned community of LaManche for lunch before returning to Tors Cove.

It was a bright sunny morning as we got our boats loaded in Tors Cove.  In the distance the isands of the Reserve awaited our visit.

The first island in the cove is Fox Island.  This is the front side and ...

... this is the back side.

Before long we reached the southern tip of Fox.  After some on the water, long distance conference calling with raised voices to be heard, we decided to cross directly to Great Island, bypassing Ship Island on starboard.

The hot, penetrating sun made the dark shales look less than dark.  I regretted wearing the dry suit already.  As it turned out the temperature peaked just over 30 C, 39 C with the humidex.  Too hot to be out in a drysuit.  I was basting inside the suit like the Thanksgiving turkey cooking in the oven.

Thankfully there are a number of caves to explore on Great Island where the air was a lot cooler.

Dean and I handrailed and eventually reached this slot in the westerly dipping greenish grey sandstones of the Cabot Group.  Actually, there are two slots.  One difficult to see to Dean's right.  Dean and I paddled through the tunnel where the rest of the gang was hanging out in Southern Cove.  After paddling through we turned and paddled back through the other slot before striking out across the 4.5 km expanse on choppy seas in the direction of Cape Neddick.

It was a bit of a slog into the 15 to 20 knot winds.  Dean set the pace and after 45 minutes we were under the cliffs of Cape Neddick.  I find a crossing like that plays tricks on the mind at times as the target hardly seems to get any closer with the passage of time and effort.  Reviewing the track afterwards it was hard to believe we were doing a respectable 6 kms/hr.

Handrailing again along the south side of LaManche Bay to max out the kilometers we reached the entrance to LaManche dominated by the magnificent suspension bridge of the East Coast Trail.

At LaManche we had lunch and said hello to numerous hikers who were on the trail today.  Refueled, we stuck to the shore on our way back to Tors Cove, dodging behind this rock.  Usually a fun place to be in gnarly seas but pretty tame today.

Just past Bauline Head Dean, Gerard and I checked out this crevice in the cliffs.  As we entered an eagle left its perch but it was too evasive to catch with the camera.

Passing by Pee Pee Island under fluffy white clouds I was almost cooked and I really just wanted to get out of my drysuit.  But I couldn't resist ...

... checking out this spot for passage through.

Back at Tors Cove I cooled down in the inviting salt water before getting back into more comfortable clothes.  A good day extended by a trip out to Cape Neddick for a daily total of 23.8 kms and bringing my cumulative total for the year so far to a hair under 600 kms.  Crossing that mark will have to wait for another day.

Oh, and the object for the day - whale watching.  Didn't happen, not even a sniff of one.  Maybe too on another day.

Friday, July 26, 2013


I haven't posted in a while but I have been paddling.  Problem is my camera seems to be on the blink.  For some reason when I power it on I get a message "No Connection".  I'm dealing with it and I'm sure it will cost money.

Yesterday evening Dean joined Sean in Sean's double.  Dean also has kayak woes.  His car is in for repairs after someone ran a "Stop" sign.

I offered to take some pictures of them with Dean's camera.  He sent me the pics.

They tried different things and rescues.  Here I caught them executing  successful double roll.

Then they thought they'd try a variation.  Dean stored his paddle and bent forward while Sean tried to roll the double by himself.  That didn't work so Dean grabbed his paddle off the deck and they both got in on the act and rolled once again.  Oh, those crazy guys!

Enough fooling around, we decided to go for a short paddle.  With Dean and Sean both strong paddlers none of us could keep up with the double.

As the sun was going down we turned and headed back to St. Philips.

Yesterday the temperature was in the high 20's with a humidex of 35C.  It was too hot really to paddle but nine of us showed up.  The good thing about kayaking in hot weather is there's always a good cool down right underneath the hull.  And, we took advantage of it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

For the birds - The video

Saturday we were out looking for whales.  We ended up paddling around Gull Island and Green Island in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve..  I took some pictures but thought stills wouldn't convey the sounds of the birds.  So, I shot five short video clips that I put together quick and dirty with Movie Maker.

Also uploaded on YouTube

A most impressive paddle destination.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Among the whales and birds

Saturday seven of us decided it was time to get out among the whales and birds.  The whales have been here for a couple of weeks already but other things got in the way.  After a tour of Witess Bay the community, Dean and I put in above the main road and met the rest for the crossing to ...

... Gull Island.

Suddenly we heard the woosh of whales as they breached for air.  There was no predicting where they would surface.

One here, a bit of a distance away.

One barely visible out where Dean waited patiently for whales to present themselves.

Then my patience paid off.  A whale a bit closer.  These were minke whales and they were oblivious to us as they seemed to be everywhere feeding.

The whales seemed to be heading out of the bay  As we followed them out we reached Gull Island where the fog had set in for the rest of the day.

At the north end of Gull Island Dean and I explored this large cave.  The air temperature was in the mid-20s but inside the cave it was cooler.  The difference in air temperature caused a localized mist on the waters in the cave ...

... that gave an unusual effect to the picture I took of Dean.

We caught up with the others as they paddled along the outside, on the open ocean side of Gull Island.  At the southern end we checked out this cove and cave with screaming birds lodged on every foothold in the rocks.

We tried not to disturb the puffins, cormorants and gulls but it made no difference how far away we stayed.  As we approached they took to the sky in droves.

We left Gull Island and paddled back inside Witless Bay where we stopped for lunch before paddling out across the bay again to Green Island in the fog.

Green Island is also part of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve packed with sea birds as they dotted the sky.

Sadly, after we reached Gull Island we didn't spot anymore whales.  We saw lots of minkes but not one humpback.  That will have to wait for another day.

Check out Dean's post of our whale watching paddle on his blog.

Monday, July 8, 2013

California dreamin'

Earlier this spring I put my first kayak, a Necky Looksha IV, up for sale.  One night, at 1:00 am, I got a call wondering if the kayak was still for sale.  I was asleep and a bit confused.  The guy on the other end got excited when he saw the posting and had to call.

It was Mark calling from California and he wanted the kayak for a month long paddle he was doing at different locations around Newfoundland.  He must have forgotten about time difference.  Anyway, long story short, he arrived and picked up the kayak.   Near the end of his trip he was again close and called to join him for a paddle.

He wanted to paddle from Flatrock to Pouch Cove (pronounced Pooch).  We met in Pouch Cove, transferred now his Necky to my car and we drove to Flatrock.  We put-in heading for Red Head.

The water was flat and there was no wind.  We took our time handrailing, here in Stiles Cove.  I paddled the same coast earlier this year but the conditions demanded we stay offshore a bit.

This time the water cooperated for us to get into some of the caves, this one being a cavern.

We exited and paddled to the next.  It was narrow.  Mark went in while I floated outside the entrance.  I waited for a while and out comes Mark having gone around a "U" shaped cave.  This was a discovery for me and followed Mark around for a second time.

The cliffs towered over us in Small Point Cove ...

... and were multi-coloured.

Spectacular scenery.

In the calm conditions we paddled between the cliffs and seastacks ...

... at every opportunity.

This arch was another discovery in Sandy Cove.

Almost into Pouch Cove we checked out this cave.  It was a respite from the 27C temperature.

Its not a long paddle but handrailing religiously made it almost 19 kms.

Part way through the paddle I became aware of a coincidence.  The last time I saw my old boat on the salt water was 1 May 2009.  It was a paddle I did along the exact same coast with Neil, Stan and Ysabelle.  The next day I picked up my Nordkapp and the Necky was never paddled again, until Mark from California came north to take possession.

This was my third time but the discovery of a couple of things missed on the previous two made it a most enjoyable paddle.  That and the company of a fun guy from Cali.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Endgame - closing the circle

We had gotten up at 4:30 the morning of day five of our circumnavigation of New World Island and North and South Twillingate Islands to escape the northeast winds and get around the northern end of the island.

Due to the early start we arrived at Intricate Harbour, 27 kilometers later, at 11:15.  Dean had identified a cove where we could camp.  We did a recon.  It was perfect.  It was level and protected from the wind.  Dean picked out a spot for his tent.

Then, three of the guys decided they didn't want to spend the best part of the day in camp and opted to continue on to Dildo Run Provincial Park.  As Dean and I had carpooled, we had no choice but to come along.

Warning!  This is more text than spectacular photos.

Three kilometers after leaving Intricate Harbour we turned east and were face and eyes into a 20 knot wind.  Dean and I crossed over to Farmers Island.  Brian, Hazen and Neville carried on following the coast.  At Scrub Island we stopped for 15 minutes trying unsuccessfully to hail the other three on the VHF.

We carried on getting some protection from the wind from Scrub, Cone, Coffin, Transit and an un-named Island.  Rounding the un-named island (which I'll forever call Sight for sore eyes Island), I saw the Curtis Causeway in the distance.  But the wind was in our faces again and it began to rain heavily, so much so, I could only squint to see in the stinging rain.

Brian, Hazen and Neville had arrived at the causeway a few minutes before us and were waiting  I cursed the 15 minute stop.

We arrived to find the tide in retreat and the tidal current against us.  Yes, we had tide tables and a marine chart but failed to refer to the marine chart for direction of flow.

Brian tried to paddle through the current but was swept down stream.  He summonsed us to the other side and Hazen followed but Dean, Neville and I carried our fully loaded boats over slippery, sharp rocks around the bridge abutment, attached a bow line and nursed the kayaks upstream along the side and out of the current.

Mine was the last and waiting to be put back in the water.

Our three kayaks were back in the water inside of the powerful tidal current.  We had paddled already 40 kms and taken 30 minutes to get past the causeway.  We had another 10 kms to go.

Ten kilometers to paddle through a maze of islands in the wind that was still blowing.  The sea state was not an issue due to the limited fetch.

Finally we saw the knobby island that lay just outside of the park and the wind was somewhat behind us.

When our bows touched the sweet sand and the end of our journey it was 6:00 pm.  We had paddled 50 kms (and a good chunk of it into the wind) since getting into our boats in Mortons Harbour at 5:30 am.

The final labour was to carry the loaded kayaks up from the beach to the road where we could unload them.  It was a ragged looking crew.

With the gear loaded in the vehicles we went for a much appreciated shower even though the water coming out of the shower head was barely warm.  Then we drove to Twillingate where Dean bought us all a supper of fish and chips.

In the morning we drove to Gander for breakfast and then hit the road for the 3.5 hour drive home.

The first two days of our trip were in glorious sunshine.  The final three were cold and damp.  I don't set out on these longer trips expecting perfect weather so I live with it.  It is just part of the experience.  A little adversity never hurt anyone.

So, the total circumnavigation was a few meters under 150 kms.  It was a memorable trip.  Thanks to Brian, Dean, Hzen and Neville for sharing the experience.

Here is the track for the final leg:

And, here is the birds eye view of the hole thing: