Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blow Me Down!

It's been blowing hard these past two days making for some decent waves to play in - finally. My lake seldom seems to stir itself up too much, but I've had some funout on it at last thanks to the 20 kph winds. Yesterday I made some videos of the boat pounding upwind, turning in the waves and then surfing downwind. I'll edit them down a bit and post something on, that video cyber-wonderland.
Today I just went back and forth seeing if I could scare myself in the waves. Not really. Even paddling parallel in the troughs and turning 180°, where I usually run into trouble, showed that my skills have improved, no doubt due to the increased time I've spent on bigger water than usual this past year.
I think I'll go out again tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Can You...?

Some carrots picked in the garden the other day had an interesting caterpillar eating its way through the green stems. We put the greens aside intending to look up the species name of the little chewer after dinner, but when we went to look him up, he was gone! Oh, oh, we all said, where has he gone? A thorough search produced nothing. Yesterday my sharp-eyes daughter found him, all transformed into a chrysalis, nicely hidden in this small piece of ornamental driftwood. Can you find it?
Looks like we'll have to wait for the butterfly to appear before we finally find out who he is!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Days are Changing

The skies are cloudy and threaten rain. The winds are strong, cold and filled with coloured leaves. The ground has the smell of fresh fallen leaves. The days are changing from the sultry warmth of summer to the crispiness of fall. For many this is a favourite season filled with sunsets and community suppers, harvest time at its best.

I have opened a 'YouTube" account and will be making and posting more little videos to it. I have put my little paddle on Lake Massawippi film up there and have now added a hand-held film I took of the gannets on Ile Bonaventure in the Gaspé last summer. I've seen better videos of course, but none were made by me and that's what this is all about. Getting better! So enjoy my early attempts and if you're a pro, well, no wonder your boot are shaking!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Early Lessons

Growing up to become a brave and skillfull walrus hunter or anything else that gets you out into the natural world these days has gotten to be harder and harder in recent years. There is a massive migration going on from the rural areas into the concrete jungles we call 'cities'. We all know the social and economic reasons behind this migration and we as kayakers also face the difficulties of swimming against that flood of people and the mind-set they have each time we head out for a quiet, soul-enriching paddle on our favourite body of water.
I recently came across this interesting and informative book by Richard Louv and was struck, as a teacher, with the many children I faced each day who seemed so detached and disinterested in the daily academic grind they were presented with. Well, no wonder! Too many decision-makers need to see what they are doing to children and in turn to the future they are gradually creating, a future without people who know, care and cherish the natural world.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Going Hunting

Here's a little background to yesterday's posting. The picture above shows Enuki Kunnuk bringing his boat to the water's edge across the sea ice. Enuki is the father of Zack Kunnuk who made the film 'Atanarjuat - the Runner' a few years ago.

We'd launch the canoes and head out looking for seals and walrus. Often this meant being out for several days in whatever weather there was. Finding walrus was a happy situation because of the large amount of meat they possessed. They weigh well over a ton, and that feeds a lot of dogs during the winter.

This picture of walrus suddenly waking up on a pan of ice gives an idea how close you have to get if you intend to harpoon the animal. As they can sink once killed, it's important to have a line in your kill even when hunting with modern rifles. Tricky work for which only the brave and skilled need apply...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Walrus Hunting Anyone?

I was over visiting my Mother yesterday and she tried to give me a subscription to a magasine called 'Walrus'. I wasn't really that interested as obviously it doesn't come in a waterproof format, so can't be read while I'm kayaking. Besides I'd need to get a double so the other person could keep the boat moving while I enjoyed reading.
It got me thinking however, that I should finally get on with one of retirement projects: scanning my arctic slides which date back to 1967 or so. I've got tons of them, more than a lifetime of scanning, so today I decided to look through and at least scan the best of them.
I used to go walrus hunting in open 24 foot motorized canoes with the Iglulingmiut. And as the subject of walrus hunting was fresh in my mind, I decided to scan a couple of pictures from those old 'aiviksiorqtuk' days.

Just imagine yourself in your skin-on-frame qajaq, with your harpoon raised as you get closer to the walrus sleeping on an ice pan...

but as you approach just a bit closer, they awaken...

... and dive into the water. What's your next move?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

U Kayak Tube, Mate?

I heard that 100 million people a day hit the UTube video site and of course we kayakers have been checking in there as well. Derrick's blog features a new selection from UTube each Tuesday which is worth checking out. I noticed that most of these kayaking videos use cameras which are either land based or handheld. They lack the on-board 'you-are-there' action of Justine Curgeven's TITS films which have revolutionized kayaking video work.
The answer to this oversight is in the picture above. No more drab and boring still-camera pictures! It's time to get out and make some action videos just like the big boys...err, girls! Here's how I did it...
First, I got a cheap little weather and water (read it's mostly plastic) resistant tripod. Next I mounted my waterproof Pentax camera on the tripod, then simply used the deck bungies to attach it on the foredeck ahead of the cockpit where I could manipulate the various controls. Using the camera's built-in ability to take videos, the rest was easy. I simple paddle as usual and clicked the video on and off as required. I soon discovered having a 1 or 2 gig memory card was essential!
Once home I used computer software to transform the video clips into a little movie (I used iMovie). The quality is as good as most of the stuff on UTube so Justine need not get too anxious about upstarts like me in her wake, but, hey, turning the camera around, I got myself in the action, something she hasn't managed to do yet!
So that's my fun news. Get out and make paddling videos of your next outing. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun it is.
Drop me an email and I'll send you a copy of my first video, complete with a Camaron and Tomatito flamenco soundtrack (talk about a world of opposites!). Taking my lead from Justine, I'm calling the film 'Back At Long Lake Solo'. She'll die when she sees that, but she did start it, didn't she? Or wait until I get a UTube account... your choice!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Messing About in Boats Today

I don't recall exactly when, but I previously posted a picture of my all time favourite water-side cabin. Well, guess what? I've changed my mind. I have a new favourite. It's a favourite because it's way cuter. It has cool chinked log construction - so Canadian - and flower baskets and a handy water-side device for storing my SOF qajaq. Now how great is that? You're right, it's rocking awesome!

Now this next item is a turtle. I believe it's an 'Eastern Painted' turtle which I don't recall seeing around here before. The books tell me it's near it's northern range limit in this area, but we all know there are robins on Baffin Island these days, so these turtles have probably been around here since I was a child! Anyway, I love seeing other water dwellers when out paddling. I spotted a 'Great Blue Heron' on my dock as I was returning from the usual tour, but the devil got away before I could get a decent shot. Well, they're plentiful, so I'll be patient.

Now tomorrow, I have something very cool to reveal! I can't wait...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Oh Montreal!

A friend of mine had a daughter attending classes at Dawson College in Montreal when the shooting started yesterday. The teacher pushed his desk up against the door and the class sat on the floor under their desks. At one point loud banging occurred at the door. Then a voice yelled saying it was the police. No one dared move and certainly no one moved to open the door. Eventually the teacher did open the door whereupon the police told them to stay in the classroom.
About twenty minutes later the class was instructed to get outside as fast as they could and to follow the police line to safety which they did without harm.
What a horrific day to be a student, a teacher or a Montrealer. One interesting factor which probably saved lives was the widespread use of cell-phones. Students called each other alerting people of the danger, and guided their friends to safety outside the building by suggesting the best routes. Then they called home so their parents knew they were okay. Some called the media with eye-witness accounts of what had happened.
I think I'll get a water-proof case for my cell-phone. Life has changed since the fellow in the picture took up paddling.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Renata's Voyage Ends

As I look at my kayak's bow waves in the picture, I know unless I keep paddling they will soon edge in towards the hull and eventually, as the boat comes to a stop, they will cease. My voyage will be over. On Friday, Renata Chlumska's bow waves will swing in towards her hull and her incredible voyage will also end. A voyage which, by kayak and bicycle, has taken her around the mainland USA.
Naturally people will wonder why anyone would take such a trip? What pushes some people to take on challenges like that? It's an odd question, actually because all of us know life is better when we push ourselves to do things we see as challenges. Sometimes these are big and showy, with web pages and interviews and all that sort of thing. Other's know their challenge is just getting through their day. Either way, both answer the question of 'why'. Both are equally selfish: everyone needs to find life's meaning in order to make their lives worthwhile, to feed their souls, to soar with the eagles.
So good for you Renata. I'm glad to know you met your challenge and I wish you luck on your next goal, whatever it might be.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Today's Perfect Paddle

It was a perfect day. No wind, no clouds, no one else on my lake. As it should be. I've shared it all summer, but enough is enough.
At first I thought I would follow my usual one hour route, a circle through cottage country, into the village, back along the eastern shore and then cross the mile or so to the put-in. All was going perfectly. Not a soul on the lake or even on the shore line. Perefect! It took about half an hour to get to the village (the geese are still there), half an hour up the opposite shore, then I knew I couldn't stop. It was too perfect. Even though 70 bales of bedding were being dumped off outside my wife's barn, I just kept on going.
Two and a half hours into my paddle I was at the end of the lake - a distance of roughly 11 miles at an average of 4.6 miles per hour. Not bad for an old guy, perfect, in fact. I headed home. One hour and 45 minutes to the dock, roughly 6.5 miles for an average of 3.7 miles per hour. Was I getting tired or was it the not so perfect headwind that set in during the last hour or so? Mmmmm... must have been the wind. That gives a four and a quarter hour paddling average of 4.2 miles per hour for the whole lake tour. Not bad I suppose for an old guy. I used to be about 15 minutes quicker in the same boat a few years ago. I guess the wind was more than I realised. Maybe it's all the scratches on the hull. I wonder...
I saw all these sailboats pulled up on the beach at the Camp for Handicapped Children. Wow! I was so impressed. Are these kids training to be future Para-Olympians perhaps? I hope so. That would be perfect. I think if the camp hadn't been closed for the season, I would have landed and volunteered on the spot. That sight alone, made my paddlejust that much more perfect. I'm glad I share my lake with others! I'm glad I'm slowing down to see things along the way.
Oh ya. It wasn't much fun getting the bales into the barn. I must be getting old. I'll sleep like the dead ce soir...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ya, I Don't Know Either...

A few years ago someone began adding things to what used to be a field full of sheep. First came a 'sculpture' thing, apparently made of the steel girders, people claimed, that had supported an old wooden covered bridge. Next came a little pond, followed by a wooden walkway which went partly around it, beginning and ending at random spots. Now and then some trees and shrubs get added. Suddenly, last year, a big excavator machine was in the field and I thought the farmer was back and returning everything back the way it was, but no. A berm was added, maybe to hide the pond from the road. I was hoping for a nude beach, but so far nothing.
A few days ago, this chair was added. Big and white and strange it is. I don't know. A conversation piece at any rate. I'm thinking of doing a circumnavigation 'Round the Pond' once the leaves turn and I'll write up the trip on my blog. I might even spend the night camped in the chair. You just never know what I might learn...

Friday, September 8, 2006

Guess who's coming to diner?

I went out for a combination canoe and kayak paddle today with my wife and daughter and our dog. We had a great time, especially given my daughter was home from Alberta where she had spent the summer working. It was a good day, with just a bit of wind and lots of late summer sun.

Coming around the old turn of the 20th century pier remains (a old hotel had been on the spot years ago but burned down around the time of the First World War), where a small brook empties into the lake, guess who we saw? Right, a large flock of Canada geese. They seem to be still molting as there were feathers floating everywhere you looked. In the old days these geese seemed to rest up for a day or two and then would head off for their usual wintering grounds along the mid-Atlantic coast of the US. That's changed.
Driving home later in the day, we saw either the same group or another equally large one sitting in a farmer's field looking for their diner. This is the new pattern. These geese will stay and forage the fields in the early mornings and evenings until January. They'll return to the lake during the day. Once the water freezes over most will reluctantly fly further south, but a few die-hards will stick it through the winter before re-joining the flocks for the Spring flight north.
Needless to say not many farmers are happy with their uninvited diner guests...

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Camping Upgrades Old and New

The first year I went out to stay in the Iglulik hunting camp, I had a local lady make a tent for me. I bought yards of canvas 'duck' at the Hudson's Bay Store, enough for what was called a "3 panel" tent. That meant the length of the tent would be three times the width of the material. For the next several days, the lady's living room was a billowing sea of canvas with she and her hand-cranked Singer sewing machine labouring away in the center. I couldn't figure out one end from another and was certain I'd made an expensive error. Miraculously however, on the third day, a perfect tent rose from the sea of cloth and we dragged it outside and put it up. I was completely amazed at this incredible feat. It even had extra material at the corners where sled dogs tended to lift their legs at times.
I lived in that tent the rest of the summer and used it again the following year. The first year, like all the other dozen or so families camped at Iglulik, my tent followed the traditional Inuit floorplan. That is, I got some winter caribou skins and laid a double layer across the back end of the tent floor. This formed the sleeping area, with heads facing inwards. I put a piece of driftwood across the center of the tent to mark off the sleeping area from the area used for storage, cooking, and so on. And I had a dirt floor. That first year, wooden tent doors were the rage, so naturally, I eventually acquired one of these as well.
The following summer, camped in the same place with most of the same people, much had changed. The first noticeable item to change were the winter skins. Instead, many people began bringing out their bed mattresses from town. No more breathing and drinking caribou fur while at camp! Next to go were the quaint Primus stoves. These old fashioned, three legged, single burner, brass wonders were replaced with Coleman campstoves. The wealthier purchased the three burner versions and kept their tents good and warm both for themselves and their visitors. Finally, the wooden doors all disappeared and were replaced with more modern and bug-proof zippers.
I was sad to see the old traditions getting swept away so quickly at the time, but on my last visit to Igloolik - that is, the town - we drove (yes, they have a road now!) to Iglulik - that's the camp - and I was shocked to see a cabin going up. No more camping. I bet the place looks like any other cottage area today. It probably even has its own baseball field, maybe even a convenience store...

So when I saw Amy and Dave's setup for their kayak trip around Lake Superior, I wasn't too shocked to see their huge tent and colossal stove. As you can see in the picture, it's sure to attract lots of visitors and I imagine the home-baked goodies they'll be producing will change kayak-camping forever around the lake. I just wonder how they cram all that stuff into their boats...

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Fall Tour of Lake Superior

A couple of young adventurers, Dave Freeman and Amy Voytilla, have left on a Fall kayak tour of Lake Superior. I've added a link to their site so interested people can check into their trip. I like the layout of the site as it appeals to my roots as a teacher. It's a fun way to combine one's love for paddling at the same time providing a learning experience for children. Check out the site and see what they've done!

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Making Movies

A lousy, cold, rainy day. It's Ernesto on his (its?) way by. I don't mind. I've things to do, like put the video film clips I took while in Newfoundland into some kind of edited order so the final film is interesting, exciting and 'tight'. I enjoy this editing activity, especially on a day like today when being outside is a bit less than fun.

I enjoy the almost god-like ability of going through the film clips, removing this and that, playing around with the order to see which is most effective and so on. If one could only do this with our lives, imagine what we'd have ourselves doing? I'd definitely trash a few of my life clips, but there's lots of others I would put on replay over and over again. At my age, I've accumulated a goodly number of both types. Certainly this trip to Newfoundland has a lot of those 'replay' clips.

The picture at the top is of the camera lens used by Justine Curgenven when filming her TITS videos. It's waterproof and is attached via a cable to the recording device inside her kayak. The lens you see rests on an adjustable arm which she can quickly position anywhere using a suction cup device. Very cool! Perhaps something like this ought to be my next acquisition...
In the meantime, I've got some film editing to do and I'm only just on day 4 of the 10 day voyage!

Friday, September 1, 2006

All That Sparkles...

At school, the teachers and kids are back at it again. I heard some geese overhead as I paddled today. The evenings are noticeably cooler. The lake water has odd chilly patches here and there which haven't been there all summer. The seasons are changing, moving from summer to fall. That's okay with me. I love the change and what it offers, but it does bring to mind that I'll soon be paying bigger electric bills again and have less to spend on essential kayaking stuff.
I was over at a friend's place yesterday. He moved into a new house a couple of years ago and is quite proud of some of the innovations in the place. For one, his annual electrical bill is only a few hundred dollars, not the thousands I pay! That's because he heats his house by extracting heat from circulating deep well water, which he then uses to warm the floors of his house. His garage, a separate building, is heated in similar fashion, but the heat source is a greenhouse attached to it. As the greenhouse warms up during the day, water pipes overhead warm up and the warm water is then stored in tanks. It is then pumped under the garage floor whenever the temperature in his garage drops below a set point.
This may not seem to be kayak related, but if one can save money in one area, it surely means one can spend it in another. With a system like that I could be going to more kayak symposiums and taking more trips to far-away places, buying new boats and lots of related gear. The trouble is the system would require another mortgage to purchase and install and that's the rub. Perhaps I'll listen to the geese overhead, paddle boats I can build and wonder why the water gets colder patch by patch in the late summer. That won't cost too much.