Sunday, June 29, 2014

Chasing imaginary whales

When you leave St. Philips there are three ways you can go: south or north along the coast or cross the 5 km wide Tickle to Bell Island.  I proposed an easy short paddle to Topsail Beach.  Derrick said he saw whales in the Tickle Thursday.  Dean said there were no whales around yet.  We agreed nonetheless to go to Bell Island and hope to find whales on the crossing.

We arrived at Dominion Pier on Bell Island without seeing any whales.  They were Dean's imaginary whales, the ones that were not around yet.  At least if they were around, they didn't present themselves to us.

At Dominion Pier I paddled through the piles still standing since mining was abandoned at Bell Island in the mid-60s.

Derrick thought we'd just cross and then return to St. Philips.  That would have been a short day so we paddled north along the layered Ordovician sedimentary rocks bathed in brilliant sunshine.

At Pulpit Head the land curved to the left.  Across Conception Bay the land stretched further north to Cape St. Francis.

At Green Head Cove we stopped for a snack hovering over the rocky bottom which we could see through the clear water illuminated by the sunshine.

The water was flat calm.  The sun created a mirror surface reflecting the white hulls of Dean's and Derrick's boats.

Paddling around Ragged Head and into Ragged Head Cove the distinctive rock formation of Long Harry Point came into view.

Eastern Head separates two small coves but they are connected by this tunnel through the headland.  Passage through the tunnel is protected on the west end by rocks.  Today it was high water when we arrived and even with high water we barely squeezed through.

The three of us emerged from the tunnel into bright sunshine again and paddled on to Jackmans Cove where we pulled out for a break.

I was on the clock.  I had to be home for the 1:30 kick off for the World Cup football game between Holland and Mexico.  Time was getting tight so after getting through the tunnel again we left Eastern Head and crossed directly to Portugal Cove.  Two crossing today.  Not sure if Dean was thrilled with that but every crossing requires a return.

We arrived at Portugal Cove waiting for the ferry to clear before making our way back south along a familiar shore.

We didn't see any whales but we got more than we anticipated.  The short 14 km paddle planned turned out to be 22.5 km.  Edging very close to 500 kms in the first half of the year.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hot fun in the summertime

Its the first Thursday evening for the summer at St. Philips.  The air temperature was a cool 11C but the water has warmed up to 10C.  That meant is was comfortable for extended time in the water and under the water.  Dean doing a high brace.

A small bit of swell to negotiate through rocks at the south end of the cove.  Entry level stuff.

Hazen was there with his new Eastern Islands Torngat kayak.  Here he's doing his first saltwater roll.  He wanted a picture.  I asked what side he was going to roll on.  No definite answer.  So, he rolled up on the side away from me.  Dean watches in case a bow rescue was required.

Karen was there too in her outrigger canoe.  For someone used to sitting lower in a kayak, I thought it must be tippy seated so high.  Definitely want to emphasize weight distribution towards the outrigger side.

Great also to see such a different craft on the water.

Thursday evenings are a chance to practice different kayak skills in a supportive environment.  Reference Hazen's roll under our watchful eyes.  But, its also has a social side as a bunch rafts up.

In the middle of the raft-up Hazen was persuaded to play musical kayaks.  Neville got in his Torngat and Hazen got himself  safely in ...

... Neville's Victory.  That precipitated Dean trying out the Torngat as well as Clyde.  Neville checked out Dean's Nordkapp and Sean's strip built Black Pearl.  Oh those zany kayakers.

It was a fun evening with some of the regulars and Karen and Dale out for the first time this year.  Hope to see more in the following weeks of summer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The bones of Mosquito

We arrived at the abandoned community of Mosquito on Great Colinet Island after leaving Wild Cove earlier Sunday morning.  We had only been on the water about an hour and less than an hour from the take-out so we had lots of time and stopped for a look around.

About all that's left in Newfoundland's abandoned communities are stone foundations and headstones in graveyards.  This lonely weathered dead tree trunk was the first thing that caught my eye as I made my way to the cemetery at the top of the hill.

It looked like a woman turning to wave good-bye.

Further along I spotted this planting of narcissus.  They are not native so someone planted them here to admire.  I wondered who.  Maybe they were planted in front of a kitchen window to brighten the view for the matron of the house as she washed dishes.  Now, they are left to grow alone amidst the grasses forgotten by the gardener who has moved on.

A concrete foundation also lay in the grass.  Did a house stand at this location?  If so, did it resound with the laughter of children?  Did it ache with the passing of a mother or father?  Who knows?  All that's left are faded memories.

Here stands the entrance to Mosquito's graveyard, the repository of the former community's history as told by the names on the grave markers.  The cobbles imbedded in the posts still wore their colours of red and green.

They stand here now as two isolated sentinals that once bore witness to parades of mourners as they carried the remains of their loved ones to their final resting place.

One cold day in January 1898 Patrick Linehan helped carry his beloved wife through the gate and laid her to rest.  Its not that difficult to conceive of a group of mourners standing around the grave with breaking hearts and tears falling as people still do today at the passing of a loved one.

 Mary Linehan was buried more than a hundred years ago.  A hundred years is nothing in the grand scheme of things.  The people of Mosquito moved on and trees grew in the untended graveyard.

 And trees blew over.

Walking down from the graveyard these two trees overlooking Colinet Passage caught my eye.  Two trees standing in a wide open field where once a thriving community lived.  In 1921 the population stood at 45 in 11 households.  By 1945 the population had grown to 70 souls.  In the early 1960's the community was resettled off of the island and people moved to other existing communities on the mainland.

The flesh has been stripped off of Mosquito as in so many other Newfoundland resettled communities.  All that remains are the bones.  So much dust in the wind.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Leaving Wild Cove for home

On Saturday Brian, Clyde, Dean and I had paddled from Admirals Beach to Wild Cove on Great Colinet Island where we camped.  Hazen joined us later in the day.  After roasting a duck, having a few swallies and a fire we hit the hay with the sound of seagulls overhead and the surf pounding on the shore.

In the morning we had breakfast, broke camp and left Wild Cove.

We rounded Wild Head, which it was, wild that is, and paddled northerly along the southeast side of Great Colinet Island.  The cliffs were higher along this side than elsewhere on the island as we drifted into small coves with caves.

We only had 9 kms to paddle back to the cars in the morning so we took our time to enjoy the scenery.

The morning that started overcast began to brighten as we made slow progress up the east side.  Maybe there was a bit of reluctance to end the trip too soon.

The further north we went the land lost its height and some of its interest.

About 5 kms from Wild Cove we got out to have a look around the abandoned community of Mosquito.  The main point of interest there now is the graveyard which is set on top of a low hill overlooking the now vacant fields.

Mosquito is one of the abandoned communities featured in the book "Places Lost" by Scott Walden.

Leaving Mosquito, which makes it sound like its still a place, we weren't far from the north end of the island and the short crossing back to ...

... Admirals Beach.  End of trip.  Almost.  A stop for a meal of fish and chips on the drive home and it was complete.

It wasn't a weekend of a lot of paddling.  The distance to our camp site in Wild Cove was only a tad over 14 kms but it was a bit of work in the wind.  The return was a short 9.3 kilometer paddle in calm conditions.

We knew beforehand the trip would not offer a lot of paddling but the focus was more on getting away.  The highlight was the roasting of the duck.  Dean wondered how the duck would turn out.  I replied that either way, it had a lot of entertainment value.

The duck was fine and the trip was excellent.  Thanks guys for sharing the weekend.

Here's a link to Dean's blog and detailed account of the trip.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sticking it to the duck in Wild Cove

It was the first day of summer and we were off for our first overnight kayak camp trip of the year.  Cyde, Dean, Brian and I drove to Amirals Beach in St. Mary's Bay to make the short crossing to Great Colinet Island where we would camp.

We left St. John's in drizzle and overcast skies and the further we drove the nicer the weather got.  At the put-in it was breezy but sunny with cloudy periods or vice versa depending on perspetive.  We were in luck.

We discussed plans for the day and decided to paddle down the west side of the island and camp in Wild Cove at the south end of the island.  The breeze kicked up small wind waves in Colinet Passage for our short crossing.

A short while later we were rounding Bluff Head ...

... and headed south through Regina Cove, Back Cove and the west side with a 10 - 15 knot wind whipping up wind waves.

The wind persisted but we had the south end in sight.

It was gnarly as we went along the exposed south coast of the island but once we got around South Point we had the wind and waves at our backs for the short two kilometer paddle to the beach in Wild Cove.  Its probably aptly named for with a southerly wind the fetch is basically limitless all the way from the West Indies and South America.

Dean put up his new tarp "Big Yellow", started a fire while I went for a short hike where had a good view looking back at our home for the night.  When I got back to camp ...

... the duck had been given some harsh treatment and suspended over the fire to begin the roasting process.  It took some time for the duck to thaw before the sharpened stick could be forced through and then to Dean's satisfaction, on the second spearing.

At 5:20 Hazen showed up after leaving later due to other commitments but arrived in time for ...

... a swally under "big Yellow" before he took care of carving and portioning out the roasted duck.

The duck was roasted over a small stick fire so as not to burn it but once it came off we piled the wood on.  I don't recall who said it was a good idea to contain the fire with the large rocks but as it got darker and I innocently and slowly added more wood, the fire reached ...

... its truly intended magnificence.

Dean and Hazen saw the last bits of wood consumed by the flames before hitting the hay near 1:00 am.  The end of a fabulous day where we had paid our dues and were rewarded.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ants paddling by an iceberg

On Saturday Clyde, Dean, Gary, Hazen and I did a tour of icebergs (here and here) near St. John's.  As I paddled under Signal Hill I could see people up on the hill checking out the bergs from up on high.  I wondered if they could see us.

Yesterday evening Hazen mail to say there was a picture of us on the local website of the CBC, Canada's national broadcaster.  When I saw it, it was an instant WOW.

The picture was accompanied by the following comment: "One does not truly appreciate the size of an iceberg until you have something to compare its' size. From Ft. Amherst Saturday morning, 5 kayakers were observed paddling near the iceberg. Check the size of this iceberg against the kayakers! (Dave Armstrong)"

I called David and he was kind enough to mail me a copy.

Click to enlarge the picture to see the true scale of the berg relative to the five of us next to the berg.  I am one of the two to the right followed some distance behind by the other three.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Out of the fire and into the calm

We had arrived at Cape Spear and there was one more iceberg we had to tag.  It was a monster in the middle of St. John's Bay.  Dean and I arrived first and looked back to see where Clyde, Gary and Hazen were.  Only when we were all on the top of a swell could we see them in the mountains of water.

Clyde cruises by dwarfed by the berg.

Hazen in his new kayak was starting to get the feel of her and beginning to feel more comfortable.  We paddled around to ...

... check out the slippery slope face.  Water was flowing off of the berg melting in the blistering sun.  After several minutes admiring the mountain of ice we ...

... headed back towards the first iceberg we encountered earlier in the day hoping we could get better pictures with the sun behind us.

Cabot Tower on Signal Hill is caught between two bergs, the only earthy colour dominated by blue water and sky and white ice.

Ride 'em cowboy!  Closer to the shore the swell got bigger again which we had to paddle through until we were back in ...

... the tranquil sheltered waters of Quidi Vidi.  Our stabilizer muscles had gotten a good workout on our 20 km journey among the bergs.

Back on the slipway at Quidi Vidi we stowed away our gear before heading for the nearest coffee shop where we debriefed the day's paddle.

Its been a banner year for icebergs.  This was my six time out.  We may not see them again for a few years so we have to take advantage and enjoy them while they are accessible.