Friday, July 28, 2017

Isle Valen: A summary

Blogger lets you put in labels for each post but if the same label is used for a series then the posts come up in reverse order.  Therefore, I'm posting a summary of my four day solo trip to Isle Valen with links to each day so the posts can be viewed in sequential order.

Day 1; July 17: Garden Cove to Ship Island - 24.7 kms.

Day 2; July 18: Ship Island to Isle Valen - 32.1 kms.
                          A look around Isle Valen

Day 3; July 19: Isle Valen to Browns Cove, Bar Haven Island - 41.3 kms.

Day 4; July 20: Browns Cove to Garden Cove - 16.9 kms.

Four day total of 115 kms.

Totally awesome trip and experience!!!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Isle Valen: Journey complete

Wednesday I landed a Browns Cove on Bar Haven Island.  As I set about making supper it began to drizzle lightly.  It eventually stopped and I had my campfire.  During the night I was awaken by rain beating on the tent.  Oh well, I thought, I'm 17 kms from completing the trip and rain wasn't going to put a damper on it.

Morning came and I must have paid my dues because I woke to sunshine.

The tent was in shadow but south of the cove the sun was making its mark.

I was only 17 kms from the take out and I had only one stop to make on the way.  I had lots of time to have a leisurely breakfast and take my time breaking camp.  I put-in and left the cove heading back to the mainland on the Burin Peninsula.

I was back at LaPlante Cove where I stopped for lunch four days earlier on my way south to Isle Valen.  This time I didn't stop but paddled inside of a small island claimed by a cabin owner.

To starboard the tip of Bar Haven Island was left behind and Little Woody Island floated on the horizon.

As I made my way north I kept an eye on the map to make sure I identified Soldiers Cove.  Here it was, not much of a cove but people made an attempt to settle here in 1911.  It was a small "community" as the census for 1921 listed 18 individuals in 3 families.  I didn't see much room for expansion and maybe it wasn't such a good idea in the first place as the cove was abandoned in 1945.

And so I arrived at Rattling Brook Falls.  I was stopping here for a dip, for, if you only checked this out from the seat of your kayak you missed the best part.

In 2009 I was here with Allison, Peter and Stan.  I was newish but Allison and Peter knew about the swimming hole above the falls.  Then I didn't have swim gear so I had a dip in my drysuit.  This time I came prepared with swim trunks.  I got out of my paddling gear, put on my trunks and light footwear and walked up around to ..

... what is a natural infinity pool.

I had a sweet swim and a most enjoyable treat on the last day of my solo expedition to Isle Valen.

I was sped along the last four kms by a tail wind that created small surfable waves.  The end of the trip was close at hand at the north end of Sound Island.  I turned around the point and made for ...

... Garden Cove.

Like all good things, they have to come to an end.  I had four super days with a bit of everything.

Its not recommended to paddle alone.  IMHO, its not recommended for unexperienced paddlers to paddle alone.  I've paid my dues with practice in all kinds of conditions.  I had two short solo trips last year.  This year it was building on what I learned, not only about solo tripping but also about myself.  I was alone but never lonely.

I checked the weather forecast each day the previous week.  It was clear a stable air mass had moved in.  I planned a four day trip but I had supplies for more days.  There's always some risk involved in every undertaking.  The key is to minimize the risk through good judgement, skill development, reliable back-up plans and all the recommended safety gear.

Its up to the individual to assess the risk - reward equation.  When the rewards outweigh the risk its time to take the leap.

I'm glad I did with this trip!!!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Isle Valen: Thank you

I got into Isle Valen on Tuesday and discovered there was no cell phone service.  I was concerned that if I had to wait a few days to get out my wife would be worried I hadn't made contact.

With that weighing on my mind I decided to pack everything I didn't need for the night stay, hit the hay early and planned as early a morning departure as possible.  The wind continued to buffet the tent and sometime overnight the wind dropped.

I awoke at 4:30, packed my sleeping bag, air mattress and tent, put on my kayak gear and Stardust was ready to face the day.  It was foggy!

At 5:10 I was on my way wondering about sea state.  Near the entrance it seemed the fog was even thicker.  I knew I wouldn't be losing touch with the shoreline and luckily the sea was flat calm making that possible.

I decided on following the south shore of Isle Valen east and then north.  I knew I was going to have to make a blind crossing back to the Burin Peninsula in fog.  I had a map and a bearing to get to Deep Cove but I liked the comfort of knowing near the end of the island it bent in the direction I wanted to go so all I had to do was depart on the same bearing I held on the last bit of coast.

At Beachy Cove Head almost an hour after leaving the fog seem to lift a bit as entered Pete Cove.

The fog lifted further until I got to the northern tip of the island and beyond the fog thickened.  I launched out ...

... into the soup trusting my compass and I also had a backstop to rely on.  It was a 2 km crossing so I knew that if I didn't make landfall at the end of 20 - 25 minutes I had better take a more aggressive track to port.

Twenty minutes after leaving Isle Valen I could hear birds singing but still couldn't see land.  I paddled a bit further and it loomed out of the fog.

At 8:10 I had been on the water for 3 hours and I had not yet eaten breakfast.  Ladder Cove offered one of only a few places to get off of the water along the coast.  Just on speculation I took out my cell phone and on this isolated beach remarkably I managed to place a phone call.  That was a relief!  Then I set about cooking up some ...

... seaweed stew!!!  Just kidding.  I had porridge and a cup of tea and cleaned my pot with seaweed.  Refueled and ready to carry on I continued on along the fog shrouded coast maintaining close contact with just shadows at times until ...

... a couple of boats loomed out of the fog in Davis Cove which confirmed where I was.  I kept track of where I was by counting off the blocks on my topo by 10 minute, 1 km, intervals for 12 kms after making landfall.

Four kilometers on the fog dissipated at Great Sandy Harbour so I could made the crossing across the mouth of the harbour before landing at Gulch Pond and lunch time.

Reinvigorated after a good meal and a cup of tea I crossed over to Bar Haven Island and my paddling day ended after 42 kms at Browns Cove.

The day brightened with off and on sunshine.  I set up my tent and collected some ...

... firewood.  There was lots on the beach so I collected enough to start a fire and add more as the fire was burning.

After eating supper, which I did in a bit of drizzle every now and then, I got the festivities underway.  Oh ya, entertainment for the night.

I burned quite a lot of wood, some of it big sticks so I stopped piling on more wood and let it burn down to die before I hit the sleeping bag.

The day that started out with some trepidation resolved into a day of fulfillment unlike any I've had in a kayak up to then.  I felt great and the song "Thank You" by Alanis Morissette came to mind:

"Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence"

 I sang it but substituted "Isle Valen" for "India".

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Isle Valen: A short look

The narrow entrance to Isle Valen Harbour did not escape me in the fog as I found my way in.  My first impression was that the harbour was hemmed in on all sides by either vertical rock walls or steeply upsloping banks.

Here's a screen capture from Google Earth showing the layout of the harbour.  I ended up finding just enough flat ground to pitch my tent (in the northeast end of the harbour) ...

... by the side of the water.  There was level ground further away but a longish carry uphill.

The next thing I did was to try to call home to say I had arrived safe and sound.  I climbed to the highest hill without finding any service.  That made me a little concerned that people may worry.  You see, I wasn't 100% sure I'd get out in the morning an I already heard from the attendant at Garden Cove that he had been stranded here for 30 days a number of years ago.

The fog started to lift just a bit so as I came down from the top of the hill I got some photos.  Here you can see how the harbour is hemmed in by steep cliffs.

Here was an option with some level ground but a long carry from the kayak.

I was getting the real Placentia Bay experience where fog is a regular companion.  I would have enjoyed a bit of sunshine and more walking access around the harbour but it was what it was and like any lady dolled up, the harbour in sunshine would look a lot better and, to prove it, heres a link to sunshine photos of Isle Valen.

Isle Valen was settled in the early 1800's with the census for 1836 showing 167 persons.  The population peaked at 289 in 1857 and thereafter began a steady decline.  By 1921 the population declined to 184 individuals in 38 families.  by 1945 the population was down to 147 and completely resettled in the late 1960's.

This is the only house left behind as a common practice of resettlement was to float and tow houses to new communities.  I went to have  ...

... look inside.  This room looked like it could have been used as a dining room used for special occasions.  The sideboard still had some old dinner ware stacked on it.

I wondered what family lived here and decided to just leave everything behind.  The census for 1935 shows the predominant family surnames were Bennett, Gaulton, Leonard, Lockyer and Williams.  Was it one of them?

Turns out the mother of a friend of my wife was born there and is listed in the 1935 census: Mabel Williams, age 16, daughter of John and Julia.  They also had a son named Jethro, age 23.

The census of 1945 shows son Jethro married and with a new child named Doreen which is also the name of my wife's friend, but not surnamed Williams.

The stairs looked safe enough to climb but I didn't investigate upstairs where the bedrooms were.

Here's the entry to the kitchen, the paint still looking pretty fresh after about 50 years.

The kitchen stove!  This would be the central focus, and warmest room, of the house.  Everyday meals would be eaten here and guests entertained.

I have been to many resettled communities and have always wondered how people managed to eek out a living and survive in Newfoundland's isolated outports.  Some places had good arable land, others not so much.  Here in Isle Valen I couldn't see how anyone could even plant a few pototoes to fill a barrel let alone to feed a family for a year.  I take my hat off to their memory.

So much of Newfoundland's history is in these resettled communities.  Granted we have census records but so many stories of survival, how people lived and appreciation for the tenacity of the residents is being lost.

I always feel we have it pretty cushy by Isle Valen of yesterday standards.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Isle Valen: Here I am

After a marvelous day Monday I camped on Ship Island.  It was warm in the tent overnight and a bit damp caused by the fog rolling in after a day of glorious sunshine.  I woke at 5:30 and had a peek out of the tent to see what the day was doing.  Totally calm with lingering low laying fog.  Woohoo, a great day for a paddle to Isle Valen.

I was excited with the prospect of getting into Isle Valen Harbour so I didn't waste any time getting breakfast on the go, packing up and hitting the water.  Just on the left is the beach on Ship Island and in the distance, the dark horizon is Great Sandy Harbour, my first port of call for the day.

I crossed straight across the wide open mouth (1.5 kms wide) of Great Sandy Harbour with my next target down the coast of Little Chambers Island just before Davis Cove, here just 150 meters off of the coast.

I squeezed through the opening and into Davis Cove.  At Davis Cove the sun was working its magic and starting to burn the fog off of the land.  I thought it might turn out to be a bright day after an overcast start.

At Butts Hole, seriously, you couldn't make this up, the sun had won the battle over the fog but ...

... my optimism was dashed 40 minutes later at Ladder Cove Head where the fog was clearly winning.

And so it was for some six kms along the shore when Isle Valen came into view with the fog easing a little.  I intended to paddle to Benny Point at Deep Cove when the crossing to Isle Valen was only 2 kms but as I could see the island, I noted the compass reading and decided I may as well make the longer crossing directly.  What could go wrong?  If the fog got thicker and the island disappeared in the fog I'd just paddle trusting the compass.

The island creeps closer!

And, landfall.  Small wind waves were forming with some whitecaps coming from the south.  The island is 5.5 kms long end to end.  One km from the south end the coast bends to the southeast and there I realized it was going to get interesting.  There the fog was lurking again and I could really feel the wind that, while not strong by any means, was blowing at 15 knots, gusting a bit over.

With the long fetch to the south, it was whipping up 1 meter wind waves as I turned Dongle Head (my name, click to enlarge the track image below and you'll see why I so named it!).  Oh boy, out here by myself, I questioned my sanity.  But, I'd been out in that many times before (thank you St. Philips) and the Nordkapp was heavily loaded making her very stable but ...

... still knowing the entrance to the harbour was very narrow I had to concentrate on the conditions and keep a close watch for it.  I breathed a little easier 500 meters out when I got behind the Canary Islands, the sea quieted behind them and the entrance came into view, barely.

Yahoo!  I was here, goal realized.  I cruised easily into the harbour and snapped my first pic before paddling around the harbour that looked hemmed in everywhere by vertical rock walls.  Tim Hollett and company stopped here in 2007, if I remember the year correctly, and moved on citing a shortage of suitable camping ground.

I wasn't going to give up the ground gained so I couldn't be as choosy.  I found just enough level, man made ground barely 2 meters wide and settled in for a stay.

Here are the breadcrumbs from the day's paddle, a distance of 32 kms from Ship Island.