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.


  1. Thanks Mia, it was a red letter day.

  2. Thanks Stan, it was an interesting paddle being out there alone. A little nervous at times but liberating as well.