Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Restoring confidence

A year and a half ago I developed a shoulder impingement where I couldn't raise my right arm even level with shoulder height.  As a result, I didn't practice rolls for a long time and only sporadically last year.

Confidence in my roll evaporated.  A couple of times recently I was where I should not have been and got knocked over.  The first time I set up to roll twice to poor effect.  The last time I was in the above channel with volumes of water running in from three directions.  Again I got knocked over and that time I didn't even try to roll.  I felt embarrassed and disappointed in myself.

So, it was back to the pool to reconstruct my roll.  The first night the roll came back.  The mechanics were still there.  In the two pool nights since my confidence has been restored.  At least, in the warm confines of the pool.

The next step is in the near 0C water.  Then its not a matter of mechanics but rather mind control of both the cold conditions and the moving water.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wind and weather forecasts

Accurate and reliable wind and weather forecasts are most important when we decide to paddle and where to paddle.  I have found SmartBay to be the most reliable, at least the most reliable to verify the forecasts of other sources.

The URL for the SmartBay website has recently changed as have the links to the wind and precipitation forecasts because they have expanded their forecasts to beyond Newfoundland to the Atlantic region.  I couldn't see the path to the wind forecast so I mailed them and it turns out the information is still there.

My favourites link still takes me to the site but here's the new link if not bookmarked.  Click on "Weather & Tides", then on the tab "Regional Forecasts" and then either "Surface Winds" or "Pressure and Precipitation".

The screen shot above is the wind forecast for 2:30 pm today.  Needless to say I'm sitting home with the 30 - 40 knot winds in the forecast.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Back in the saddle again

Last weekend we had almost 1.5 meters of snow on the ground.  It was too windy to paddle so we cross country skied.  Between last weekend and this one we had a big melt and lost all our snow.  But luckily the weather cooperated for the first time in almost four weeks.

Winds were calm, the temperature hovered around 0C.  Time to paddle.  The first paddle of 2014 was close to home along familiar territory but it was on the water.

Brian, Dean, Neville and I left St. Philips harbour and headed towards Topsail Beach under overcast skies and low lying fog.  Unusual to see fog this time of year but it testified to the unseasonably warm weather.

Not far from St Philips we entered this little cove protected by a rock which we usually paddle around.

Some snow and ice still clung to the cliffs even though it has been well above zero.

It was high tide when we put in and a little swell that made for it pleasant to paddle through rocky openings.

There was no hurry as Dean stops to contemplate the pleasure of being on the water again.

As we neared Topsail Beach the fog draped over Topsail Head.

It looks like snow but its not.  Its a deposit of quartz that may have formed during movement in the Topsail fault or maybe somehow related to the Holyrood granite that was intruded not far away.

After a sort stop at Topsail Beach we made our way back to St Philips, retracing our route around this rock.

I believe the almost four week, weather imposed hiatus is the longest time I've had to endure between paddles for at least the last 6 or 7 years.  It sure felt good to get back to paddling.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The big melt

Winter came early in December.  It snowed, a lot.  It was cold.  It was windy.

It continued to be windy.  Too windy to paddle the last three weeks.  The last time I was in my kayak was Christmas Eve, almost three weeks ago.

The forecast for the weekend suggested the winds would not cooperate again.  But, we had almost 1.5 meters of snow on the ground.  The cross country skiing would offer to be the outdoor activity on the weekend.  It was fantastic: my wax was spot on, the day was bright and pleasant, I had the company of four of my otherwise kayaking friends.  That was Saturday.

Sunday was mild, wet and windy.  The temperature reached 10C, we had 20 mm of rain and the winds blew near 90 kms.

We had endured a string of snowy winter storms without being able to paddle but it did build up a good base for skiing.  Now that's gone.  So, I'm back to looking at the long range forecast and hoping to finally get back on the water.  Mercifully tomorrow the pool sessions begin again.  At least conditions will be predictable.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The numbers are in for 2013

Ive checked the captains log for seakayak "Stardust" for the 2013 calendar year.  I missed 100 times in the kayak by a whisker - 97.  Its only a number and I would have gotten there except the weather over Christmas just didn't cooperate.

Of the 97 times in my kayak, 66 were day paddles.  Twelve of the 66 were day paddles I did on three multi-day kayak camping trips.

Out of those 66 day paddles, 31 were paddles out of St. Philips towards either Topsail Beach or Portugal Cove.  They are short paddles of between 11 and 14 kms that I've done due to weather or other various reasons.  But, they are days I've paddled when I may not have otherwise.

Twenty-six times in my kayak were Thursday evening practice/socials at St. Philips.  It seemed Thursday evenings between April and October were calm more often than not this year so self and assisted rescues etc weren't practiced a lot.  Hopefully, we'll get more inclement weather on Tursday evenings this coming year.

I missed paddling on only 2 weekends during the winter months having paddled 13 times during the "off season".  Most of those trips were with, what seems to have been, my constant paddling companion Dean.

It was a great year all around.  The total mileage from all the day paddles topped out at 1,170 kms.  I don't know what the goals will be for 2014 but I will be setting targets.  One of those is to practice rolls in the most challenging of conditions.

Wishing everyone a Happy New paddling Year and stay safe.

Thursday, January 2, 2014



Today it is -14C with the 40 km/hr wind driving it down to -25C with the wind chill.  The rocks on the beach at St. Philips were covered with frozen sea spray.  The wind blew a layer of ice crystals against the shore.

The harbour was choked with ice.

Not much room to put-in.

I walked out into the wind on the harbour apron to survey the numerous white caps.  It was bitterly cold with wind gusts in the 50 km/hr range.  It was so cold my eyes watered and my ears were stinging.  Any extended time in the cold wind would surely risk frostbite.

Paddling will have to wait for a break in this current cold snap.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top paddles of 2013 - #1

My top paddle for the year was a solo, 35 km circumnavigation of Bell Island from St. Philips.  The original post is here.

I left for Bell Island with the intention of just doing a crossing but had it in the back of my mind to extend the paddle once I got over there.  When I got in the middle of the Tickle the swell increased to the point where I couldn't see the island.

By the time I got over I developed some comfort in the swell and decided to paddle to the north end and have a look.  The swell increased substantially but was running from the north.  I reasoned that if I stayed a bit offshore I'd be safe and with the northerly swell behind me I'd make good progress down the west side.

Looking down the coastline I was acutely aware that I was totally alone and out of eyesight of anyone.  It was, in a way, a liberating feeling.

I came around one final bend in the shoreline and spotted the "bell" of Bell Island.  I was at the southern end of the island.

At Front Bell Cove I stopped for lunch.  The rest of the circumnavigation would be along the east side and more protected from the swell.  The comforting sight of the mainland shore lay to starboard.

At Scotia Pier I was almost around the island.  I stopped for a brief stretch at Dominion Pier before making the remaining 5 km crossing back to St. Philips.

It wasn't an epic journey or anything compared to more illustrious paddlers who, for example circumnavigated the island of Newfoundland, but it was a significant bit of work for me.  The feeling of paddling alone and having to be responsible for my own safety made this paddle my top paddle.  That decision is subjective.  Every paddle is a great paddle.  This one just stuck out more in my mind as I reflected on the year.