Saturday, November 30, 2013

A first taste of winter

Today the forecast was for 15 - 20 knot winds.  The temperature was -2C when we landed at St. Philips and -7C with the wind chill.  It was familiar territory but it was a convenient spot to clock some more kilometers.

We left the harbour with the winds WNW in choppy seas for Topsail Beach.

It was interesting paddling.  I felt in the zone.  We arrived at Topsail Beach with me having taken one picture.  Paddling south we were paddling into the sun; not optimal for taking pictures.

We had a quick snack huddled down on the downwind side of the beach out of most of the biting wind.

With the sun behind us now I no longer needed to squint to see where I was going.  Bottom to top, Jake, Dean and Brian paddle along the sun drenched hills.  Though it was sunny the temperature didn't make it above zero C.

The camera rarely captures the sea state accurately but this comes close.  Moments later Dean found himself unwittingly ...

... almost getting washed up on the rocks.  Some frantic ninja backstrokes and he was safely out of the rocky grasp.

Behind the rocks it was calm.

Dean arrives.  We were almost back at St. Philips.

After stowing our gear and loading our kayaks we stopped for coffee in the welcome heat of the "By the Beach Restaurant".  Brian also treated us to a large plate of French fries that were fried crispy golden brown which we ate overlooking the cold windswept sea we had just been immersed in.

It was cold but comfortable.  It was cold and its going to get colder.  The paddling will continue nonetheless.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Picking through the chaos

This morning we were supposed to get winds in the 15 - 20 knot range.  Not all that appetizing for a day paddle so Dean and I opted for St. Philips again.  Dean had suggested a paddle to Topsail Beach.

When we rounded the point we were greeted by wind waves coming from the west on top of swell running in the bay from the NW colliding with clapotis from the rebounding west waves.  It was very confused.  I questioned the wisdom of paddling to Topsail Beach but followed Dean down the coast.  It was work and required as much mental exertion as physical exertion.  Paddle strokes required a high degree of accuracy.

Near St. Thomas Cove, 3 kms later, I asked Dean if we still wanted to paddle to Topsail Beach or turn back.  I suggested we could increase our sense of security by paddling side by side and continue.  So, on we went and as we passed Whalen's Point the water became a bit more predictable.

We did a surf landing, snacked and got back on the water for the return.

There were times we paddled, there were times we braced to let the breaking waves roll past.  It was more or less picking through the chaos with the prime directive of staying upright.

Back at St. Philips we had put in 13.5 kms in some gnarly conditions.  We were happy we decided to continue on.  On this day it was as much or more about the mental side than about the physical effort.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Looking for Snowball Earth

How to add spice to a paddle?  How about having an objective other than just the paddle and scenery?  Today, Dean, Neville and I set out in search of Snowball Earth.  Or, at least the evidence for it.

Geologists believe there have been three major glaciations prior to the dawn of multi-cellular life on Earth.  The last major glaciation occurred during the Ediacaran perod and is know as the Gaskiers Glaciation that occurred 580-582 million years ago.  Some believe the entire Earth was a frozen ball during this time.  Some believe it was the catalyst for the emergence of multi-cellular life, the fossils of which are exposed in the rocks of Mistaken Point dating around 565 million years ago.

I was guided by the excellent book by Martha Hickman Hild entitled "Geology of Newfoundland".

We met at Indian Pond an paddled out into Conception Bay under the Trailway bridge ...

... and paddled south past the hydrothermal generating plant where we were going to do a short crossing to Chapel Cove.

We paddled past Chapel Cove and entered Red Rock Cove where red Cambrian slates are faulted against Harbour Main volcanics and Conception Group sedimentary rocks.

There was no wind or waves.  We poked into every nook to explore.

Dean checks out a route through kelp covered rocks in Harbour Main.

We stopped for lunch on a little beach near the church in Harbour Main.  After we had our lunch we went looking for the evidence of Snowball Earth in the rocks.  The Gaskiers Formation contains rocks that were formed from debris flows of sediments that were of glacial origin and we were on top of them.

At Moores Head the rocks are exposed.  Martha Hickman Hild's excellent book "Geology of Newfoundland" supplied all the information I needed to find the outcrop.  Prior to leaving home I entered the GPS coordinates supplied in the book enabling us to walk right to the outcrop.  Scattered cobbles could be seen in the cliff.

The rocks on top of the outcrop are heavily weathered but the same rounded cobbles are inbedded in the finer grained matrix.

Yes they are just rocks but knowing something about their history adds substance to their legacy.  Imagine, we were walking on rocks some 580 million years old, laid down when all or most of the Earth was in the grips of a global ice age.  Mind boggling, at least for me.

Satisfied we were in the right spot we explored further looking for a distinctive layer of rock known as a "cap carbonate".  The rocks are indicative of the end of glaciation when elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rained out as carbonic acid, leached out large quantities of calcium into the oceans which in turn precipitated out as carbonate sedimentary rocks.

After our geological explorations we got back in the kayaks and paddled up to Salmon Cove Point.  Along the way sea urchins clung to the rocks, as well as a small starfish.

We probed this cave.  Neville and Dean were in the entrance as I made my way back out.  I could see light at the far end of the cave but it proved to be impassable and therefore, a dead end.

The draw at Salmon Cove Point is this cleft in the rocks.  We paddled back and forth through the cleft waiting to catch the larger swells that rolled through.

Half a dozen trips through, we turned for a return to the take-out under Butterpot Mountain in the distance.

It was a large day.  For me it was more than a paddle along a shore.  It was about a reference point relative to how I fit into the grand scheme of things and the long, long, long evolutionary road that led to today.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Comrades in paddles

Enroute from Great Island to LaManche Dean and I passed the 1,000 kilometer mark for the year.  Tobias was paddling along with Dean and snapped this shot of us having a congratulatory handshake.

Dean and I have paddled just over 50 day paddles for the year starting in January.  We've paddled in freezing temperatures, rain, wind and calm and sunny days.  There have only been 3 or 4 days when we did not paddle together or in the same group.  I made up the difference by myself so we'd reach the milestone together.

Dean is a true kayakoholic and a valued friend and paddling buddy.  Here's to many more kayak adventures and thanks Dean.  Thanks also to Tobias L for the use of this photo.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Going over 1,000

Today was a monumental day for myself and friend Dean.  We both started the paddle at 993.0 kms paddled on day paddles for the year to date.  Today we knew we were going to go over 1,000 kms for the year.  It was going to be a milestone type of day.

We met the crew for the day (Hazen, Julie, Ron and Tobias) at Bay Bulls and decided on Tors Cove or our launch site.  In the distance the islands of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve called out to us.

We left Tors Cove, paddled on the outside of Fox Island and headed for Great Island.

Where we experienced only a gentle swell of 1 meter on the way out, at Great Island things got confused as the water met the immovable rocks.

Approaching the couple of north facing coves it was relatively calm until the deeper reaches of the cove were probed.

Finally we reached "The Great Slot of Great Island".  This shot is from the south end after I emerged.  On the north end, at the entrance, the water was confused.  In the slot the water rushed in from both ends.  I watched and decided there was enough head room for me to pass through without getting my head pushed into the ceiling.  I temporized and paddled when the time was right and got thru.  Unknown to me I was by myself until after I exited the south end when I looked back and ...

... realized the rest of the gang had bypassed  and paddled around the outside.

We left Great Island behind to cross over to LaManche.  In the middle of the crossing Dean gives me a "two thumbs up" meaning we had both paddled over 1,000 kms for the year.  Not an insignificant feat for a couple of recreational paddlers, mostly on weekends.

We didn't set this out as a target in the new year, its just we crept up to it and as the year wore on we realized it was within our reach.  After some self congratulations and exchanges of congratulations we paddled on to ...

... the entrance to the abandoned community of LaManche.  The six of us took out for lunch.  In hind sight, I should have brought champagne but I washed down my sandwich with orange juice.  The temperature hovered just above zero so we didn't stay long after we have eaten our respective lunches

Some of us paddled around the rocks with surging surf  Others tactically paddled further offshore on the way back to Tors Cove.

Inside a cleft in the rocky cliffs we found still water and stopped and floated around for a few minutes.

Ron at the rear end of the cleft.

On our way again I said to Dean I had to get a shot of Julie so I innocently lagged behind until she passed in front of my camera.

And so, under cloudy but indigo blue skies Dean and I made our way back to Tors Cove while the rest had carried on ahead.  It was fitting as both of us had shared so many paddle strokes to reach this milestone.

And, this was only November 10th.  Six more weeks before the end of the year.  Who knows how many more paddle strokes we'll make yet this year but each one will be as sweet as the thousands up to today.

Congratulations to my friend Dean and thank you for the company on each and every kilometer.

Here's Dean's pics from the day.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Paddling under an annular eclipse

Today at 7:02 am an annular eclipse of the sun was supposed to happen.  The forecast was for rain so there was no chance we'd be able to see it but I figured it might get darkish and be an interesting paddle anyway going from light into darkish and back into the light.

We got going as the eclipse was supposed to be happening.  Maybe the fact that it was overcast and the light was subdued then anyway meant the effect of the eclipse was imperceptible to us.

Solar eclipses, of any kind, don't happen very often in any location as it is, so when one is scheduled I'd just once like for the weather to cooperate so I can take it in.

So, I was disappointed on that front but not so on the paddle.  Winds were calm and the rain held off as we reached Topsail Beach where we got out to stretch our legs.  Behind the beach the water on the lagoon reflected the fall colour of the trees on the far bank.

Fog and clouds hanging just at the top of Topsail Bluff signaled the rain was not far off.  We got back in our kayaks and ...

... decided to paddle the 5 kms diagonally out the bay to visit the drill rig West Aquarius.  When we got close we just innocently crept as close as we could before the security boat came over to sheppard us away, which he did.  Apparently, there was a 500 meter safety exclusion zone.  We didn't argue and politely got ourside the safety perimeter which apparently was out where ...

... this blue supply vessel was stationed.  I think they were amused to see kayaks so far from shore as they crowded on our side up on the bridge to stare down on us.  We waved and they waved back.  After several minutes we were off back to St Philips and the customary after-paddle coffee.

But first we paddled into the harbour and up the river to wash our gear.

Before the day was over though there was some drama to deal with.  I couldn't start the kayak mobile.  We pushed her several times trying to pop the clutch and pick her up to no avail.  To make a sad, long story short, I discovered the negative terminal on the battery was loose and all ended well.

Another short 16 km paddle but now I'm within spitting distance of making 1,000 kilometers paddled for the year so far, along with Dean.  We'll probably do that next weekend.  Maybe champagne will be in order.