Sunday, August 20, 2017

In memory of Brian

This morning the Newfoundland and Labrador Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association held their Tickle Swim for Mental Health.  The event is a 5 km swim in ocean water between Portugal Cove and Bell Island.

The call went out to the kayaking community to provide on water support for the swimmers.  I believe the swimmers numbered 21 and 24 kayakers attended.  One kayaker for each swimmer and three to act as floaters.  We arrived at Portugal Cove in the early morning hours before the sun had fully risen.

The swimmers huddled on the beach waiting to commence the swim; supporters stood on the breakwater while ...

we were ready to match up with individual swimmers.

Brian was a friend of mine who took his own life on 29 November 2003.  I met Brian while training in the gym.

And they were off at 7:15.

Brian was the type of person everyone takes an immediate liking to.  He was the life of the gym when he was there; always cracking a joke and laughing.

The wind started off calm but there was still  bit of chop to get through.

On my 50th birthday party he came with a custom baked cake, some oddball gifts and a bottle of Lambs rum.  He was the type of person who'd take a few drinks and leave the rest of the bottle.  Kind beyond words.

Five kms and two hours later the tail end of the fastest swimmers reached the beach on Bell Island and the end of his swim with cheers and applause.

Brian was the last person anyone would think would take his own life.  I can still see him on the last Friday I saw him.  He shouted out and waved as he left the gym.  Saturday I got a call he was gone. 

There were still swimmers in the water so I paddled back to see if I could help with them.  Roy has in support of this girl that was finding the swim was taking forever.  We paddled on either side to offer encouragement.

I'm not saying Brian suffered from a mental illness because up to 98% of persons with a mental illness do not commit suicide.

Almost three hours after setting out her swim came to an end as she was greeted with cheers, applause and her supporters.  I know she suffered the last kilometer and to not give in deserves so much respect.

But more than 90% of people who commit suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

The swimmers took the ferry back to Portugal Cove while almost all the kaykers paddled back.

I was glad I helped out but most of all, I developed a great deal of respect for those in the water.

Brian used to raise Cornish hens.  He wouldn't have them slaughtered when they were, you know, Cornish hen size.  He'd grow them as large as he could before getting them processed.  One day when I came out of the gym I found one on the seat of my vehicle.  I found it tragic that he would do that but not be able to ask me, or anyone, for help.

What can we do?  We could learn about signs of mental health issues and maybe, just maybe, find a way to reach someone who is having trouble.  Here's a link to to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

I think of Brian often, never more so than this morning.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A tale of two humpbacks

Its been a while since I attended Wednesday evening practice at St. Philips.  Early in the year the turnout had been very thin and I honestly lost interest.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find two newcomers last evening.  Wednesday evenings for me are all about a safe environment for newer paddlers to build on their skills.  As such then, if there is even one new paddler showing up its an incentive to keep it going.

As it was flat calm we decided to go for a relaxed paddle.

I really like the colour scheme on Jenns kayak, after the orange of mine *lol*.

Paul, one of the newer paddlers.  He spent a lot of time in the pool last winter which indicates to me he wants to learn.

I generally want to paddle with people with good kayak skills, especially when conditions dictate.  But, I also want to give people who want to learn an avenue to paddle.  I'm certain Paul will get invites when the conditions are right.

Also new to the Wednesday evening group is Mark.  Another reason to keep these sessions going.

And then we got the surprise of the evening.  Paddling slowly along the shore we spotted two humpbacks out in the bay.  We paddled out to where they were feeding and waited or them to surface which ...

... they did with regular frequency.  I hoped for a tail shot but they were too busy feeding near the surface so this is pretty much all we saw of them except the occasional spout.

After sending some time with the whales we paddled back to St. Philips as the sun was setting totally thrilled with the close, unexpected encounter with the two humpbacks.

So, I'm reinvigorated for Wednesday evening practices.  They will continue into October.

Jenn sent me a couple of video clips she recorded of the whales surfacing:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

One whiff of a whale

Wednesday was a municipal holiday in St. John's.  Five of us decided to go for a paddle rather than take in the festivities at the annual Royal St. John's Regatta.  Clyde, Dean, Hazen, Ron and I drove to Tors Cove with the hopes of seeing some humpback whales around the islands of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.

We left the beach in Tors Cove and paddled through the Gut between Fox Island and the mainland.  There was a bit of swell running creating clapotis, rebounding waves, off of the island.

There didn't seem to be a plan but we just headed for Great Island in the distance.  Away from Fox Island the confused sea settled down.

We arrived at Great Island at the ...

... Cribby Rocks which we ...

... paddled around.

The intention was then to paddle along the exposed eastern side of Great Island where it got rather large.  It was a good spot to practice a rescue before we decided to return to ...

... and paddle through the Cribby Rocks.

Along the east shore of Great Island it was calm under the guano covered cliffs of sandstone.  It was along here that we spotted the one and only indication of a whale and that was only a solitary spout in the distance.

The seabirds are nesting at this time of year.  The sky seemed full of puffins and hundreds floated on the water, though, to get the idea, you will need to click on the picture to enlarge.

We arrived at the south end of the island.  I decided to paddle out far enough to catch sight of the great leaning slot.

That was pretty much the day.  We left Great Island for Ship Island where the other guys stopped for a break whereas I carried on back to Tors Cove with other plans for the remainder of the day.

The whales are about but its often a hit or miss situation.  This day was a miss but still a good day in the kayaks.