Sunday, July 26, 2015

Second time around the Bell in two weeks

The plan as I left home this morning was to paddle to Bauline from St. Philips and back for a total of 30 kms.  As I drove to the put-in I thought I'd suggest to Dean that we paddle around Bell Island for 35.  I had one the circumnavigation solo two weeks ago but was game to do it with Dean for his first time this year.

He said yes and we struck out across the Bell Island Tickle to Bell Island 5 kms away.

Dean loves crossings *lol*, not, so he put his head down and paddled hard to get across.  A minute and a half later I also arrived at Dominion Pier from where we headed southerly to begin our rounding

The thing that makes Bell Island such an appealing paddling destination are the massive, tall cliffs.  Here we're reaching Chimney Rock near the south end.

At Front Bell Cove we were nearly at the southern extremity of the island where we found "The Clapper".  It looks like its attached to the island from this perspective but it is a seastack which symbolically rings the ...

... "Bell" on the left.  It too is a seastack separated from the island by a channel of some 40 meters wide.  As I entered I could feel the swell running down the west side and heaving up in the shallow passage.  Committed, a wave broke right in front of my bow.  I paddled hard to get over the surging water and then paddled back otherwise I'd have been clocked by the next breaking wave.  Picking my spot I paddled safely through.

Where we had calm conditions on the easterly side paddling south, when we arrived on the westerly side the swell was running from the north directly in front of us.  The rebounding waves made for chaotic conditions.

The cliffs run northerly for 10 kms, the only interesting feature being this seastack with bands of oolitic hematite.

The swell forced us to keep off a bit making it seem like a long paddle as the cliffs marched unendingly into the distance but ...

... paddle stroke by paddle stroke we arrived at Eastern Head and near to the turn back southerly.

Four hours straight in the kayaks we were ready to stretch our legs and grab something to eat.  Long Harry Cove looked a good option.

A short lunch break saw us back on the water with 10 kms left to cover for our circumnavigation.  We exited Long Harry Cove with the distinctive Long Harry Point on the southerly side of the cove.

Great looking cliffs and rock formations and calmer water made the return to Dominion Pier a pleasure.  From there we crossed the 5 kms Tickle back to St. Philips, both of us agreeing to make the crossing at a relaxed comfortable pace.

Two weeks ago on my solo circumnavigation I paddled counterclockwise.  Today we went clockwise.  It made the scenery look different so it made a familiar area interesting anyway.

Six hours later we were back.  Coffee and a bite to eat at the restaurant topped off an excellent day.  Always fun to paddle with Dean who is always ready to paddle because he is a kayakoholic.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

On the way to an unenviable record

We are on the way to an unenviable record in the St. John's region.  Its been a cold month so far with no summer in sight.  It doesn't look good going forward into the end of the month either.  It means we'll likely log the coldest July on record.

The year of no summer yet is all due to a blocking high pressure system over Greenland that keeps low pressure systems over our heads.  The normal average July temperature is in the 20C range but we're headed for a 16C average.  The upside is its comfortable paddling weather.

So, regardless of the fog and mist seven of us met Wednesday evening for a short paddle while the thermometer registered 12C.

The #1 topic of conversation currently is the weather.  One 20C degree day in the whole month up to the 22nd.  Some people were interviewed on the local news to give a one word description of the weather.  Most responses ranged from terrible to crappy.  Had I been interviewed I'd have said "awesome".  That would have gotten a few questioning looks I'm sure.

That's about all one can say because until someone can do something about the weather we may as well ...

... accept it and make the best of it.  Which of course the seven of us did.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

I remember an evening paddling in St Philips in bigger waves I'd paddled in up to that point.  It was probably in 2008.  That evening I paddled with a group.  I don't remember the whole group but I remember Brian.  Brian paddled nearby and I knew he was keeping an eye on me.  It was my security blanket allowing me to spread my wings so to speak.

That first taste of more challenging conditions got me started on a journey of incremental learning.  Here's an old shot of Stan when we mutually supported each other to practice in waves.

In April 2009 I had my first truly open ocean paddle.  It was a paddle with a bunch of experienced paddlers out of Tors Cove and around Great Island.  I felt like maybe I had at least established some credibility.  This was a shot of me in my Necky Looksha IV by Derrick I believe.

A lasting memory I had from that paddle was being separated from the group by about a kilometer.  Here I was out in 1 to 1.5 meter waves by myself stripped of my security blanket.  I reasoned that I had not gone over in the group so all I had to do was paddle and stay calm.

So, where is this going?  Its about how does one learn to paddle in conditions?  There is only one way - get out and do it.  Today seven of us were out in a bit of wind and 1 meter waves, some close to two.  I believe it was a first for some of the gang and a refresher for others.

It was an opportunity for myself to provide a security blanket along with a couple of the other guys.  It was a chance to repay a debt I owed to the experienced when I first stepped it up past flatwater padding.

At times I was concerned the conditions were too big.  Probably, but everyone did fine whether or not they had butterflies and I think grew a bit as a consequence.

Monday, July 13, 2015

On a wild goose chase, the after lunch part

After paddling 21 kms to get to the south end of Bell Island I stopped for lunch.  I only ate half before deciding I'd continue my circumnavigation to Dominion Pier where I'd finish it and cross back to St Philips.

The water was clear to the bottom but not deep so I had the view of the tall cliff and occasionally the seafloor changed from sandy bottom to more interesting life.

Chimney Rock stands out from the island like a sore thumb.

The sandstones and siltstones of Bell Island are Ordovician in age (484 - 443 million years ago) and mostly lie flat dipping gently away from this view to the west.  Except here in this small cove.  Here a fault runs diagonally from center bottom to upper left.  On the right side of the fault the beds were bent down against the footwall.  The warping of the beds in the hangingwall is caused by drag folding when the beds were not quite solidified.

As I got closer to completing the loop I reached the remnants of Scotia Pier and the cliffs turned from brownish grey to a reddish stain caused by a film of hematite coating the grains of sand.

Bell Island was at one time the location for one of the largest iron ore mines on the planet.  That all ended in 1966 when the mines, located underground, were forced out of business by development of cheaper surface mines.

A short distance away was Dominion Pier, the second transshipment terminal for the iron ore.  The pilings still stand after almost 50 years.  I was fully around Bell Island at Dominion Pier and stopped to finish my lunch before making the 5 km crossing back to St Philips.  Before I got back in the kayak I had a look around and spotted ...

... this rock with its recording of ancient life.  The raised surfaces are worm castings that have been preserved for hundreds of millions of years.  It makes me feel small to think more than 400 million years ago worms dug through these sediments.

Back to the present.  Once in my boat again I pointed the bow to the ...

... distant shore from whence I came 5 and a half hours ago.

This was my second solo circumnavigation of Bell Island.  Its a liberating feeling especially on the west side of the island for if anything goes wrong there one is left to one's own devices as there is no one looking out over that water.

I was disappointed there was no iceberg but I was contented taking the kayak out of the water.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

On a wild goose chase, the before lunch part

Someone I know informed me he saw a huge iceberg on the other, northwest, side of Bell Island when flying over this past week.  Some guys went on the club camping trip.  The others did not express an interest in checking it out.  So, I went by myself.  I passed through the Pillars of Hercules to start my 5 km crossing to the island.

Its 5 kms across.  I like crossings because halfway is always in the middle of nowhere.

Forty minutes later I was across and arrived at Dominion Pier.  I was going to look for the iceberg but I was also doing a circumnavigation of the island.  I'd come back to this point before returning to St. Philips.

I turned north and paddled under the massive cliffs of siltstone and sandstone.

I arrived at the distinctive feature at Long Harry Point.  I was close to reaching the other side and I wondered what I would find.

No iceberg yet to see at Eastern Head.

After I came out of Number Two Cove I had a good view down most of the length of Bell Island.  Nothing.  Again, it was a two mission paddle so I carried on with my circumnavigation hoping the berg may have drifted down to the south end of the island.

Between Gravel Point and Big Cove an attempt was made to mine iron ore at sea level.  The dark spots in the cliffs are cavities where the ore has been extracted.  The lighting wasn't great.

The same sequence of rocks are exposed in this sea stack.  At the bottom just above the flat slope a bed of iron ore about 1 meter thick is exposed.

At the southwest side I reached "The Bell".  The was no iceberg on the westerly side of Bell Island.  I crossed my fingers and padded ...

... through the opening and ...

... emerged with the view south.  Off in the distance towards Holyrood was one berg but I needed the Hubble Telescope to get a good view.  It looked small so far away.  Maybe a project for another day?

With "The Bell" on my right and under "The Clapper" in Front Bell Cove I stopped at 12:30 for lunch, 20.5 kms into my 35 km circumnavigation.  I was disappointed with not finding an iceberg close by but I was feeling good about the second part of the day's mission.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Making new padde friends

The regulars that I paddle with most went to central Newfoundland to paddle down the Gander River.  They were Brian, Clyde, Dean, Hazen, Neville and Terry.  Hazen mailed me a picture taken as they were ready to shove off.

So, I had to make other plans.  Wednesday evening Julie had asked to let her know if there was a sensible paddle on the weekend.  So I did and we agreed on a plan.  It was going to be a relaxing paddle so I thought why not post details on the Paddle NewsGroup.  That netted a group of ...

... six, Derek, Julie, Sam, Shane, Tina and myself.  I've paddled more often with Julie but, while I knew the others, I've only paddled a couple of times with them.  So, in a sense I was making new friends.

There was no wind and seas were calm.  I needed a low intensity paddle as my batteries have been feeling a little run down but needed to get on the water.  Here are some pics of today's crew:




Shane (in the blue boat)


Derek again, just because I like the picture

We usually mail around a set group of people when organizing weekend paddles.  Thereby, in many ways our regular group has gotten a bit clickish mainly because we've paddled a lot together,  developed our skills beyond beginner and feel we can rely on each other if the crap hits the fan.  That though is no reason why we should not invite newer kayakers who want to get out when conditions are appropriate.

We should do that more frequently if for no other reason than to provide networking opportunities for individuals of similar skills to form their own groups and progress as we have done.

I was glad I made a public posting for I really enjoyed today's paddle that came out of it.