Friday, February 24, 2006

Dinner with the Heros!

Arrived yesterday afternoon in 30C weather, with some cloud and wind, but nothing wild. Not the freezing weather many people had talked about.

Settled into my campsite and then went out looking for 'Kayaking Heros'. It didn't take too long before Greg and Freya showed up, then Nigel Foster and Kristin. We were 14 out to a Thai dinner in St Petersburg last night. I have yet to meet Leon and Shawna, but have seen them from a distance so I know they're here. I'll track them down today.

hey, where are all those comments!? LOL

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I crossed the Georgia - Florida border late this afternoon on the I-75 and the first thing I noticed was a palm tree! A small tree for mankind, but a big milestone for me! LOL

I expect to roll into Sweetwater's camping area mid-day tomorrow and finally get into the kayak that's been sitting on the car roof for over a week now. Can't wait!

Don't forget to post your comments. I read them all (like there are been lots...)!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Winter Fun in Georgia

Temperatures dove below freezing today in northern Georgia. Driving around in the mountains produced ice covered trees and even some closed roads as the picture indicates. By chance I ran into a multi-millionaire and got invited "for drinks" to his mountain top home. He must have thought I'd be interested as it's listed for $4.5 million... A totally incredible place with 12 bedrooms, full staff, gated entrance, a view that goes forever, outdoor fireplaces on the balconies... It's incredible what money will get you these days. I just missed meeting John Travolta and guests. He had flown his own plane in to the local airport and stayed at the 'Chateau', as it's called, the week before. I guess I'll meet my famous people in Florida next week!

I've yet to kayak, but there'll be plenty of time for that in Florida!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Google Earth Rocks!

It being a cold, rainy day I spent much of it indoors. I took advantage of hi-speed internet to download and use Google Earth. Amazing! I was able to virtually paddle around Manitoulin Island again, picking out actual campsites, nearly even some of the trees I sat under, especially on the west end of the island near the quarry where one can obtain greater details. Totally incredible tool to have at one's fingertips both for reviewing old paddle trips as well as planning new ones.
The Lower North Shore looks like a wonderland of islands and interesting coastal features. You have to check out Google Earth before your next paddle!

Northern Georgia

I was lucky enough to squeeze in between two nasty weather systems and arrive here in northern Georgia in gorgeous, warm sunny weather. Back home it's howling winds with snow and as you can see in the picture, there's snow and icy roads in the local mountains. This picture is actually a view close to my sister's house where I am staying for a few days. On Wednesday, it will be off on the next leg, Florida!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lost in the USA!

Where is this car and attached kayak? Somewhere on I-81 heading south. One thing for sure, it's in Truckland. I never realised there were so many trucks on the roads down here. I'll be very happy to get out paddling somewhere quiet and the sooner, the better!

Don't forget to add your comments below!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Sweetwater Here I Come!

I'm on my way to the annual Sweetwater Kayaking Symposium in Florida. You can follow my travels in the days and weeks to come by returning to this site. Stayed tuned. Who know where else I'll go, who I will meet and what other adventures I could get into! ;-)

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Looking for Whales, the end.

So the first weekend was a bust. No whales and very little in the way of paddling either. A few weeks later, we had a second chance. Once again we rented a little cabin as the weather way rainy when we arrived on Friday. It rained on the Saturday, but Sunday was a glorious day with briilliant blue skies and just a breath of wind. We were off!

We drove to Kamouraska, parked the car and headed out before the tide reduced the river to a mud field. We aimed for some islands a mile or more out into the river and kept our eyes pealed for whales.

The islands were mostly steep sided and offered little in the way of landing spots. The stunted trees looked wind-shaped and gnarly. Some of the islands were devoted to bird sanctuaries. We saw snow geese, black headed gulls and cormorants, the latter nesting up in the poor trees. Ungainly Great Blue herons were also nesting in the trees, a sight almost too strange to believe. But where were the whales?

We decided to paddle downstream, following the chain of islands which paralleled the shore. Then, a white flash in the water, there they were! Belugas, several of them in close to one of the islands. Their white backs would break the surface, roll and then with a raising of the tail, down they would go. As we watched them it became clear we were in an upwelling of the river current and the belugas were taking advantage of the good feeding to be found there. The whales were quite aware of our presence. A couple of times they would move in close and release air under our boats. The first time it happened I thought I'd been hit, but we soon learned it was their way of playing with us. When we sighted a baby whale, we wondered if we weren't being warned to keep our distance!

It was a magical few hours on the water. After watching the whales work the area, we slowly made out way back to Kamouraska. We wanted to get in before the tide left us with a long trek in to the shore. We'd had seen only one other boat on the river all day, but when we stopped for lunch on the only sandy beach we'd seen, several other kayakers pulled in right behind us. We wondered if they'd seen whales too, but as they kept to themselves, we never found out.

Back in our cozy cabin, we both agreed we'd been blessed with a special day out on the water. It was worth the days of waiting, the milkshake water conditions, the driving rain and the blasting wind. Looking for whales was a perfect paddle!

Looking for Whales, continued...

Once we were finally clean again, we took a drive down the river to check out the possibilities for launching elsewhere. This shore is known for its traditional old fashioned architecture. This was where the French first settled in New France in the 1600's and many of the original divisions of the land still exist. A lot of the old houses have been carefully restored especially in Kamouraska, perhaps the crown jewel in a string of wonderfully quaint towns along the river. We stopped to explore and have something to eat.

To our surprise, down at the public beach, two kayakers were attempting to do exactly what we had tried to do only hours earlier! This time we took seats on the wind torn wharf to see how they did. Perhaps they were more skilled than we were...

The girl launched first with the help of her friend. She stabbed into the waves with confidence. So far so good. As she moved out from the lee of the wharf, the wind caught her bow and swung it downwind. She tried to correct, leaning into her turn, but more and more her boat was driven backwards despite her efforts. She slowly headed backwards towards the rocks downwind of the launch site. Then her boat turned broadside to the waves, and over she went. Like me, she had little choice but to wet exit. She and her boy-friend walked her kayak back to the more protected put-in. Her paddle was over.

Undaunted by her experience, the boy-friend launched into the waves. Like her, he paddled out looking very much under control until he passed into the wind near the end of the wharf. He too was blown rapidly downwind, however he was able to stay further offshore, away from the jagged rocks. He struggled to get his bow heading upwind, but obviously the boat would not respond as he wished. Within moments he turned downwind and headed parallel to the shoreline. With only jagged rocks as far along the shore as we could see, it was clear he would be in trouble wherever he decided to come to shore.

We raced back to the car and headed along the coastal road trying to keep him in sight. Hopefully we would be able to help when he came ashore. We weren't the only ones. In the end, several of his friends, including his girl-friend managed to get to him in time and perform the rescue without harm to either him or his boat. He was lucky that day!

As the wind and rain continued into the afternoon, we decided to break camp. We rented a tiny cabin right on the water's edge and watched the waves explode against the stone cliff a few feet away. The chocolate spray splattered against the windows of the cabin just like it does on the sides of a milkshake canister. We wondered how the whales were doing. It was comforting to be warm and dry inside!

Looking for whales!

The St Lawrence river in Quebec is well known as a place to see and interact with whales. In fact the north shore is known as the 'Whale Route' where spouting whales can often be seen from the roadside. In the spring of 2005 two members of the 'ckayakers club' went out looking for these whales. Here's the story!

The first weekend out we departed from the town of L'Islet on the south side of the river. The wind had been blowing a gale all the previous night churning the water into something that more closely resembled a frothy chocolate milkshake than it did river water! To make matters worse, the tide was low forcing us to slog out to the water through gluey mud. However we were pumped for whales and wanted to head out and see what conditions were really like. I launched first and began punching my way through several wave sets. Bam! A wave hit the deck and my spray-skirt popped open. I began to taking on water, more and more with each oncoming wave. In my attempts to avoid rocks and continue facing the waves, I found it impossible to get the skirt snugged down around the cockpit rim. I tried moving sideways into the lee of an old dock, but even this proved useless. That skirt refused to lock in place and in the spray I couldn't figure out what the problem was. I'd have to return to shore and find out what was causing the trouble.

My paddling partner had not been successful launching her boat either. When I finally found her through my spray covered glasses, I could see she had decided to pull her boat up on the beach and watch to see what I was going to do. I turned in towards the shore, taking advantage of a few smaller waves to make the turn. I was pleased to see the boat turned easily in the wind and waves. I'd heard stories about boats that refused to follow orders in similar conditions, giving their owners a rough time.

I was soon surfing rapidly in towards the beach. My QCC is not a fast surf boat, but in these conditions, I rapidly picked up speed as each wave passed under the boat. I had the rudder up and was leaning out, steering with my paddle. It was exhilerating watching the bow cut through the backs of each wave and then crash through the foam as the wave broke up. Then it happened. The load of water I was carrying in the cockpit finally got the better of me, and shifted. Before I could recover from the sudden tilt of the boat, I was over. I made an attempt to recover, but the shallowness of the water made a wet exit the better option. I got my first chocolate milkshake bath ever. I was in the shower for the longest time before the water began to run clear!

... to be continued!