Friday, March 31, 2006

Would you like ice with that paddle?

Seems like every paddler on the planet has heard about this summer's Rocky Roundabout - the ladies will circle the Rock, as Newfoundland is sometimes called, or at least Wendy Killoran will. No doubt she will be having some ice in the water she paddles!

Freya Hoffmeister, seen here in the Floridian surf will be tackling leg one, Newfoundland's south coast. Let's hope her 'all in black' outfits show up in the fog!

Wendy, paddling here on the St Lawrence last spring, will go for the whole distance. I wish them both a safe, fun-filled trip full of fabulous memories of their adventures. If you're in Newfoundland, then get out and paddle with the ladies! They're great fun and super kayakers! And if you live in Newfoundland, then I'm sure they'd love a warm shower and a meal!

Installing newly shortened ribs!

In the photo below, you can see the value of owning a vast number of clamps! No kayak builder should be without lots of clamps. Beg borrow or steal as many as you can. You simply can't have enough. You never will. Never...

I tried shortening the ribs while they were still attached to the keel strip and chines, but it was too difficult to align them and have the hull depth values where I wanted them. Instead I separated them and am putting them in one by one as is usually done when building. The difference here is I'm using some templates taken off a boat I know is easy to roll - a serious 'cheater' - to help me get the hull depth values throughout the boat's length correct. When I'm all done, hopefully I'll be able to get in! It looks tight at the moment. Maybe too tight. Skin boat tight!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tranformation trauma!

As you can see above, I've removed the cockpit coaming and started to slice into the seam along the front deck using a utility knife. Oh, the pain! But the gain should be worth it once this tranformation to a 'cheater' hull is complete.

The skin is nearly off in this picture, only clinging by a few spots where the paint adhered to the frame. Built in 2003, I was glad to see no signs of deterioration either in the canvas cover or the wood frame. Once the skin was removed, I cut all the ribs where they joined the gunnels and loosened the keel from the bow and stern plates. I then removed the ribs, chines and keel as a unit. The next step will be to install temporary templates so that the new interior volume will give the boat it's 'cheater' shape. Then I'll re-size and bed each rib and renew the canvas, paint and paddle away, rolling as I go!

Smoke on the Water

Yesterday I went down to North Hatley to see how the ice was doing in its annual melting process. I do this now and then each Spring. I have learnt to focus some mental forces on the ice, forcing it to melt. I found out how to do this while watching Yoda in some of the Star Wars flicks... Do you remember how he showed Luc how to get that rocket ship out of the muck? That scene is critical... Anyway the ice was beginning to look dark and thin. My powers were obviously working! The Force was powerful.

Then I noticed smoke drifting over the water! I was over-doing it. No, wait, it wasn't me! It was the ancient 5 star hotel, Auberge Hatley, burning. Now that was unbelieveable. A century old hotel was rapidly being turned into flame, smoke and ash. It was horrible to see. So many of my kayaking (yes, there is a kayaking link here) photos have that hotel in the background. There will definitely be a hole in those photos from now on. A sad day in this little resort town...

Hopefully no one noticed me using the Force. I'd hate to get locked up for starting a fire, although most prisons probably have rolling pools these days so I could work on perfecting my Greenland rolls while incarcerated. Prisons have come so far in the past century or so. Hey, and there's always Photoshop for putting the hotel back into the photos...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Whitey's Getting a Refit!

I've finally decided how to get me a 'cheater' rolling kayak without flooding the basement! I'm going to re-fit my white SOF boat. I'll remove the skin, the stringers and the ribs and cut them all down to reduce the volume. Then once that's finished, I'll re-assemble, re-skin, paint and launch. This boat was a wicked weathercocker so hopefully I can do something about that as well, perhaps putting in a skeg keel like Petersen does in his boats. Even if this fails to improve the boat's handing in a straight line, I'll end up with a good boat to practice my growing number of Greenland rolls. And I should have it all done in a couple of weeks! Just in time for open water paddling, which looks like it may come early this year. I'm becoming a supporter of global warming, at least locally this year! It will mean having to go to the lake to practice instead of simply heading downstairs, but I'm willing to make sacrifices if I have too...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Brrr's been kayaking again!

Those of you who know 'Brrr' will recognize his kayak and his favourite kayaking put-in. Actually this photo is more likely his take-out site somewhere down the St Lawrence river from his usual Montreal venue. Looking at the picture makes me wonder why I thought I had to go to Florida for some winter kayaking fun! Don't you just love the ice coated grab handle at the bow? It's so... ah... seasonal! You rock Brrr!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Oh Dear, Where to Begin...

I've never built anything as large as a kayak in my basement (aka trash heap) before. The previous boats were built either in our barn or my workshop in another building. This place looks cramped, untidy, unready... Do I clean up first or just dive in? Why clean up, I'm only going to be making a new mess... Maybe I'll go and get the wood first... Mmmmm those boards will likely be too long to fit in here... What if the kayak is too big to take out? Could I get away with flooding the basement and having my own, personal rolling pool, with built in floating obstacles mimicking Greenland ice floes? That would be cool! After all, this kayak is to be really for rolling practice. It's isn't for tripping or anything... Still, a permanently flooded basement could raise other issues...
Maybe I'd be better off thinking this through a bit more...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Snowy Hills of Home

The drive through Ontario and even past Montreal was nearly devoid of snow, an indication of the strange winter here in eastern Canada. By Granby, snow finally appeared on the ground (rather than the odd frozen pond) and Orford mountain looked like it usually does at this time of year - covered with snow and rime frost.
My trip is over. It reached and surpassed all expectations. I met many of the paddling legends I've only heard and read about and became friends with many of them. I found interesting paddling partners everywhere I paddled, and seldom ended up paddling alone. I discovered a wonderful paddling environment which seems nearly endless. I will return!
My next project will be to build a Greenland rolling kayak - finally a 'cheater' boat of my own! Stayed turned...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fire in the Mountains, Spills on the Road!

Just as I was coming to the Tennessee - Kentucky border, I noticed smoke in the mountains. The Smokies really were smoking! I'm not sure what caused the fires, but there were several hot spots all along the ridge on the left side of the car. Smoke had filled the valley for some distance before I could actually see where it was coming from.

Once in Canada, the 401 lived up to its evil reputation once again. This time I was held up for nearly 4 hours by this truck which had run partly off the road and spilled its load everywhere. To make matters worse, this delay put me in Toronto in the middle of rush hour - not a pretty sight! I think I could have paddled home faster today!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Please, Don't Make Me Go Back...

Ugh! It's over. I'm really on my way home. Back to snow and the cold and frozen lakes. Please don't make me do this....

Oh well, at least today was a great drive through the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains, past the Olympic Kayaking Center on the Ocoee River and the Nantahala kayaker center. Truely spectacular area if you're into white water paddling.

Even the I-75 is a better road than the I-84 on the way down, less wind and fewer trucks. Tomorrow it's the 401, Toronto and that much closer to home.

I recommend everyone paddle in Florida at least once a year for a month or more! I've had a great time.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mountain Paddling

Lake Chatuge is a large lake straddling the Georgia - North Carolina border. It was formed as part of the TVA system back in the 50's. Today it's many bays and peninsulas gives people a chance to paddle high in the mountains in scenic surroundings. The blue Smokey Mountains, the red clay soils and the puffy clouds all made for a great day on the water.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Pogo's Paradise

The weird sensation of paddling into a forest of drowned trees is all too real. Getting lost in there is also very real! I kept my eye on the compass...

Gators are sun lovers and this fellow was not interested in giving up his spot even when I pushed the bow of my boat in really close for a picture.

Turtles and swamps naturally go together, so I had to throw this picture in. I never did see Pogo. Maybe he no longer lives in the Okeefenokee Swamp since the name was changed to the Stephen Foster National Park. Doesn't seem to have the same ring to it, does it?

Homosassa Springs Area

This little spring was bubbling out the most delicious looking blue water and was surrounded by a golden bouquet of frilly algae. There was just enough room in the channel to slip in a kayak bow for a picture.

Some springs were bubbling out of places where even our kayaks couldn't get to. So we walked the rest of the way. This 'secret' place, called the Crack by locals, had a swinging rope allowing one to swing out over the spring and jump into the 72°F water! Fun!

Aaaah! To live in a nice, cozy $300,000 US cottage on the water, with manatees basking by the dock, bubbling springs just around one corner, and the wide open sea around the other... If only!

South Florida Pics

Marco Island looking (and being) all built up!

Don't ask me! Some nut built this place out on wind and tide swept Cape Romano only to be blasted by a hurricane a few years later. Maybe he thought he was in a Star Wars movie, who knows? Now its pillared domes are sinking slowly into the sea...

Bird life on Indian Key off shore from Everglade City. A quiet, desolate place, great for shells and picnics.

Kayaking pirates me thinks! This motley crew were caught on Egemont Key off Ft Desoto State Park. Can you guess which one is in the race around Florida right this minute? Do any of them look prepared?

Monday, March 6, 2006

Homosassa Paddling

I arrived in this area north of Tampa yesterday. Quaint, quiet and full of interesting paddle adventures. I went out in search of the illusive manatee and finally found one in town (!) and not out in the back-country as I was expecting. I tried getting photos, but what with water glare etc, it could be anything in the water! Thankfully, there are 'Go Slow' warnings everwhere to try and protect these creatures.
Today it was more excusions into some of the many fresh water springs in the area. Clear, clear water bubbling out of the ground, which create mini-rivers, lots of fish and bird life everywhere. Saw two small alligators and a black snake with orange bars along its body sunning itself on the shore. It lay quietly allowing me to pass...
I'm beginning to wonder if there really are any dangerous animals down here! Maybe I don't really want to know...

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Ungavamiut Unite!

One of the highlights of the Kayak Symposium was meeting Nigel Foster and his wife Kristin. They had paddled the east coast of Ungava Bay, past Killineq and then down the Labrador coast to Nain. I met them afterwards at the house they were staying at and had a look at their pictures of this incredible trip. What an amazing experience adventure. What warm and friendly people to have done such a trip into the land and seas of the Inuit. Hopefully we'll meet again!

Mangrove Island Paddling

In the area of Marco Island there are thousands of mangrove islands, marking the beginning of the Everglade coast which stretches south to the Florida keys. One definitely requires a good map and a compass to avoid getting hopelessly lost. The up side is the abundance of wild life, especially birds, fish and dolphins which one encounters. In the picture we've stopped for lunch, but were soon forced back into our boats as the tide was sweeping in so rapidly we could bearly paddle against it!

Surf Paddling!

One of the fun activities at the Symposium was to play in the surf. Here's a picture of German paddler Freya in her Japanese Greenland style rolling boat, as she watches for her chance to blast out through the incoming surf. Not everyone was as expert as Freya and many paddlers found themselves swimming more than paddling. Still, learning the proper techniques for entering and landing in surf allows one to soon feel comfortable in the stuff.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Southern Florida

I went on a river paddle into a saw-grass swamp on Tuesday and slipped quietly between numerous alligators both swimming and basking. Very spooky feeling when they slowly slide into the river and submerge. Where are they headed??? Are they about to bite the boat in half? Do they eat you head first or foot first?

In fact, the alligators are not that nasty and other than slip into the water and look scarey, they usually just let you paddle by. Mind you, they act up in breeding season which begins in March...