Saturday, September 28, 2013

On the road to Port aux Basques

Yesterday, Friday, it was blowing a gale and it was wet, wet, wet.  Brian and I considered going for some surf rides and a general bounce in the waves.  We didn't in the end.  Not that wet is an issue but today the winds were forecast to continue at a slightly reduced speed but it would be sunny.  We lost the wind but there was impressive swell still running thanks to the departing wind.

So, surfing was off and instead Brian, Clyde, Sean, Tobias and I paddled the familiar coast to Portugal Cove.

All along the shore the incoming swell reared up and crashed on the rocks.  We stayed off shore for fear of being caught inside the break zone and getting washed up onto the rocks.  Still the clapotis reached us.

We arrived at Wester Point at the entrance to Portugal Cove.  The swell was really pounding in at the point, though the camera doesn't do it justice.

When the breaking waves generate haze there's a violent collision between water and land.

At the entrance to Portugal Cove we stopped and bobbed on the incoming swell.  We decided to return to St. Philips.

It wasn't a long paddle today but it all adds up.  The distance from St. John's, the capital city on the east coast, along the Trans Canada Highway to Port aux Basques on the west coast, where we catch the ferry to the mainland of Canada, is 905 kilometers.  If I was paddling it, after today's paddle the cumulative total would put me just past Tompkins, only 35 kilometers away.

1,000 kilometers is within reach.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rainy day people

It rained all day Thursday.  I didn't expect many people would have much of an appetite for our Thursday evening get-together.  I was wrong.  Five of us were there and went for a paddle up to Portugal Cove.  It would have been six if Dean hadn't been nursing an injury.

It continued to rain with moderate winds; no way to avoid rain on the lens.  The swell added interest.  Clyde goes first.

After I got through I held the camera to catch this rear view shot of Brian and Sean (barely) coming through too.

I enjoyed the evening.  It rained.  So what?  We were in drysuits which would not have been very comfortable sitting home on the sofa.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Around alone

On the same Saturday last year Brian, Dean, Hazen and I paddled out of St. Philips to Bell Island and around and returned to St. Philips.

This year everyone was either doing a Paddle Canada course, attending a club paddle or otherwise unavailable.  I had to stay closer to home.  I decided to cross to Bell Island by myself and decide what I'd do when I got over there.

I checked the wave forecast model and expected swell in the Tickle.  It was sizable but broad open swell.  At times Dominion Pier, where I was headed, disappeared.  I wasn't concerned but questioned one option of doing a circumnavigation of the island.

Five kilometers later I arrived at Dominion Pier.  I felt good.  I decided to paddle north and have a look before committing to the rest of the day.

It was lumpy.  Swell was washing up on the base of the cliffs at Long Harry Point.

At Eastern Head I could see a bit down the shore.  It didn't look good.  Bell Island's sedimentary rocks dip gently east so near the shore its shallow and the swell really kicks up.  The swell was breaking all along the shore from my vantage point.  I paddled a bit further until I convinced myself I should just keep going, though I questioned my sanity.  Keep going, but stay well offshore out of the reach of the curlers.

The swell was running with me all along the eastern side of the island.  It was easy paddling while I made good progress.  Past Big Cove the effect of the swell lessened.  I was able to move in closer to shore without the threat of getting washed up onto the base of the cliffs.  This stack is still fastened to the land.

Behind me the sun was less harsh on the camera.  Typical shoreline.

At Big Head I finally caught sight of "The Bell".  I was near the south side of the island after paddling 10 kms from the lighthouse at Eastern Head, oddly enough at the North end of the island.

I paddled through between "The Bell" and the island and into Front Bell Cove.  It was time for lunch.  It was 1:30,  three and a half hours after leaving St. Philips.

After a 20 minute stop for lunch and a leg stretch I got along the SW side of the island and headed north.  At Scotia Pier I was close to Dominion Pier from where I started my circumnavigation.  This is all that's left of the Nova Scotia Steel Company's iron ore operations on Bell Island.  The red hematite staining on the sedimentary beds is evident in the sunshine.

And, this is all that's left of Dominion Coal Company's iron ore operations on the island.  The iron ore on Bell Island was mined from 1894 until 1966.  The operations here are underground and extend some 3 kms from shore.  Discovery of more economical surface deposits elsewhere sounded the death knell for Bell Island mining in 1966.

I stopped for a 5 minute stretch at a beach near Dominion Pier before making the 5 km crossing back to St. Philips in the middle distance.

Three quarters of an hour later I was back at St. Philips.

I felt elated.  I enjoyed my own company, being able to paddle at my own pace which on the day was a not too shabby 6.5 kms/hr moving average.  I was gone 6 hours covered 35 kms and only stopped for a bit over half an hour.

I prefer the company of others but at times going solo is a rewarding experience, as it was today.

The bread crumbs.  The effect of the ebbing tide on my return dragged me a bit off a straight line course.  Next time I'll have to take that into consideration.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Glorious sunset

It was a calm, warm evening for our Thursday evening practice at St. Philips.  We decided to paddle up towards Portugal Cove.  Practice then consisted of practicing the forward stroke.  Or, it was just a  fine evening to spend a couple of hours on the water.

Evenings are getting shorter every week.  That means we're catching sunsets at the end of our evenings when its time to pack up.

This stuff is nourishment for the soul.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sailing clear blue waters

A few years back I did some paddling with Malcolm.  It was great stuff because Malcolm liked to paddle in the bigger stuff.  Two years ago he bought a sailboat and he hasn't paddled much since, for obvious reasons.

A little while ago he mailed to ask if I'd be interested in doing some sailing.  Today it happened.  We met at the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club at 8:30.  I looked around marveling at the $$$ tied up.

A few instructions as to my duties upon return, Malcolm started the engine and we heaved off the mooring lines.  The rules are specific - leave the harbour under motor power.

We motored out into Conception Bay where I assumed my first responsibility - hold the yacht into the wind while Malcolm raised the mainsail.

We set sail for the south end of Kellys Island.  After a bit Malcolm asked if I'd take the tiller.  Having never sailed before I felt  little intimidated because only so much can go wrong in a kayak but so much more can go wrong on a 28 foot yacht.

It turned out the angle to the wind on that heading was good.  Enough wind to keep the sail full and make good headway.

We got around the south end safely with my hand on the tiller.  It was interesting getting in tune with the boat, getting a feel for how the rudder affected the direction of sailing.  In a quartering sea in my kayak I edge into the wave as it approaches to keep the stern from being pushed downwind and level again as is passes.  Its easier than sweeping.  I found myself trying to make the sailboat do the same thing but with the tiller - steering the bow downwind and pulling it back as the wave passed.  Don't know if that's correct but seemed to work.

I expected to be a passenger more or less but I kept to the tiller while Malcolm keep an eye on proceedings.

We sailed around the island and Malcolm suggested we sail upwind and around a couple of vessels anchored in the bay.  That meant we were going to have to tack to beat our way upwind.

We tacked, if memory serves me correctly, three times.  Again, a similarity with kayaking.  Get up some good speed, sweep and bow rudder.  In the sailboat its also gather some good speed and then smartly pull the tiller to effect the turn while trying to maintain some speed through the turn.  I think we made one very good tack which I felt good about as a newbie.

After rounding the anchored vessels we returned to the harbour as another sailboat was leaving.

All in all it was a great experience.  I found there was more "work" involved in sailing than I imagined and I only had to handle the tiller.  Malcolm had to keep an eye on everything and trim sails etc.  A challenge for a single handed sailor but I'm sure no problem as experience is gained.  Malcolm is well on his way in that department.

Thanks Malcolm for the opportunity.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A paddle nonetheless

It was supposed to blow hard today so I didn't think a paddle would happen.  We organized a bounce in St Philips with some surfing.  When we got there the wind dropped so we opted for a paddle anyay down to Topsail.

I was going to shoot some video of the surf action and when that didn't happen I decided I try to capture the action on our paddle.  It was pretty tame but it was fun.  Here's the clip I put together and  posted to YouTube.

OK, I'm having some trouble embedding it in this post so here is a link to the clip.

Music by Bif Naked and Audioslav.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A record Thursday evening turnout

We've been averaging 6 - 8 paddlers all summer for Thursday evening practices at St. Philips.  Sometimes we get 10.  This evening we had 15.  It was an excellent turnout.

It was an excellent turnout not only for the numbers but also because it was blowing hard all day and that usually means smaller numbers.  But, the wind dropped over the later afternoon and was gone when we arrived.  We didn't have conditions but it was still an enjoyable evening on the water.  Its always good to get in the kayak.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Club paddle in Aquaforte

Aquaforte was the destination of a club paddle on Saturday.  Its an arm of the sea that penetrates into the land some 6 kilometers, well protected from the wind.  A crew of 28 kayaks with paddlers of mixed skills showed up on a brilliantly sunny day.

Dean and I arrived early and decided to paddle up the river that flows into the harbour to crank out some paddle strokes while the rest arrived and were ready to put-in.  We returned as most were floating in their boats waiting for the starting gun.

And, they're off!  Looking down the long arm of the harbour.  Gerard, leading the trip, wisely decided on keeping to the north side as the forecast was for increasing winds later in the day when the south side would give better protection for the return.

The paddle along the north side was nondescript until we reached ...

... the Spout River falls.  Its been a wet end to summer so there was lots of water falling.

Some of us decided to paddle up to the thunderous falls close enough to feel the power in the water and spray on our faces.

Things started to look more interesting as we reached Howlett Point on our way towards Broom Cove and North Head.

A cave to explore carved out of the steeply dipping siltstones of the Conception Group.

We arrived at North Head, at the mouth of Aquaforte Harbour.  The wind had slowly picked up as the morning progressed and at North Head the water was a bit lumpy.  Some people got their first taste of more exposed waters but it was only a taste as the harbour is only a tad over one kilometer wide.  We set off for a beach on the south side where we would stop for lunch.

With everyone safely escorted across and deposited on the beach, Dean, Gerard, Ron and I made a short detour past Spurwink Island and past South Head to check out this impressive ...

... sea arch.

The four of us returned to a congested beach but found room to take out.  We had lunch under a gloriously sunny sky.

As chance would have it, the wind dropped out for our paddle back into the harbour.  A relief to most and, for some, different reasons I'm sure.

Dick paddles by this small sea stack adorned by a lone forlorn tree.  Amazing to see the places life decides to take hold.

The rest of the paddle back into the harbour was uneventful as a procession of kayaks passes.  Back in the inner reaches, part of the group tried to paddle up the river at the head of the harbour but the tide had fallen considerably since Dean and I had been there earlier to block access.

Kayaks were loaded and wet gear stowed for the hour long drive back to the big city.  A drive worth taking for a fun day on the water.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Spit is the answer

My Olympus Stylus Tough 6020 camera is gone for repairs.  Its cheaper than buying a new camera.  In the meantime, I've been using a Nikon Coolpix to capture images of my kayak adventures.  I take lots because when the lens cover gets wet, the resulting pictures look smudged.

I googled the problem.  The answer is spit.  Thursday evening, while Dean was doing a backdeck scramble on recovery, I tested it.

The picture taking procedure now goes: take camera out of PFD pocket, turn on, lick, immerse in water and shoot.  Its quite an involved procedure but appears to work fine.

The spit keeps a film of water on the lens cover which then becomes part of the optics.

I was happy to see the results when I downloaded the shots from the evening.  I'll still takes lots of shots to make sure I have some keepers, like this unaltered shot as the sun was going down.  Unusual colours but sharp in any case.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sister golden hair surprise

Sunday, on our return to St. Philips, we stopped for a bit near a bed of sea weed.  The sun penetrated the clear water highlighting the life under the surface.

I stuck the camera underwater and took a bunch of speculative pictures.  Some were not very interesting but several were.  This one just had the right amount of light that gave an interesting effect.  I also like the mirrored reflections on the underside of the surface.

In a group there isn't much time to lollygag because the group just continues on and then I'm continually playing catch up.  But, on a solo trip when there are no pictures to take of kayakers there are opportunities to stick the camera under water and see what happens.