Friday, December 21, 2007

Joy For the Holidays!

As I did last year, I will take my leave of you for the holidays. I hope you will be spending the time, as I will, wrapped in family activities and fun. Enjoy! Family is all any of us really has especially if you've suffered ill luck or meager times. I'll return in January. In departing, I'll keep my tradition of relating a story. This one is French Canadian, but has roots that go back to First Nation people who also told of flying canoes and magical happenings. Enjoy!

The Magic Canoe

Joe 'La Bosse' the old cook was a hunchback. The gang of rough looking men sat on their bunk-beds, which surrounded the central cook-stove, as he worked his way from pot to pot, stirring a little here, sampling a little there. Outside the snow was piled half way up the walls of the log cabin. Now and then a tree would snap in the cold like a rifle shot and the hungry wolves would howl with fear. It was New Year's Eve, and the lumberjacks waited for Joe to give the signal that their midnight 'lunch' was ready. It had been a long winter. The men, far from home and their loved ones, eyed the keg of rum on the table, a gift from the foreman. It would help them forget their loneliness for a while. After all, it would be spring time before they saw their families once again.

While they waited one of the older men began talking quietly. "Hey Joe, why don't they have 'Witch Canoes' like the old days? We could all be home tonight if we had one of those..." A few of the younger men laughed. Here come the stories, they thought to themselves. Joe was famous for his telling of them.

"Don't you laugh! Those old stories are often true. We could have one, but the costs are too great." said Joe, looking very serious. The men began looking around at each other. Most knew the stories of the old witch canoes which could travel through the night sky, but most knew as well they were old stories with little truth to them, stories the French had learned from the Indians years ago. Their origins had long been lost in the past.

"Those are just stories, Joe. No one believes them these days..."

"Let me tell you my story then," began Joe. Here's what he told them.

"When I was 19, working in this very camp, we took a witch canoe. It was the new foreman's idea. We'd all go home on New Year's Eve and see our girl-friends. We were ready to sell our souls to the devil that night. That's how anxious we were to see our girls again.

"Dazed by rum, I was to be the 8th member of the canoe. You always needed an even number or it wouldn't fly. We went outside into the cold night air, a night just like this one, got our paddles and took our places in the camp's biggest canoe. Baptiste, an older man, was steersman. The foreman warned us we'd be taking an oath to the devil. He was very serious. None of us was to drink or swear or speak the name of God. We were to avoid getting close to any church steeples as well. Understanding the oath, we all swore it and suddenly we felt the canoe jolt into the air. We were on our way. We paddled like madmen.

"We rose into the air above the Gatineau River and Baptiste turned the canoe east towards Montreal. Our homes lay in a small village down river from Sorel and in about two hours we could see it in the distance. We couldn't believe our good luck that night. Baptiste brought the canoe down in a field belonging to his uncle, not far from the village. Walking up the only street, we soon heard the sounds of fiddles, laughter and stomping feet coming from the home of Batissette Auge. Baptiste warned us again of our oath, not to drink or swear, and to take our leave promptly when he gave the signal. We walked up the steps and entered the house.

"Of course we were recognized right away and questions of surprise rang out from around the room. My girl Lise was dancing with a guy named Boisjoli, but I managed to get between them and, to the risk of my eternal soul, we danced together for nearly 2 hours, laughing and carrying on like I'd never left for the winter camp. To my surprise, our foreman began passing a bottle of rhum around. He even offered me a drink! I couldn't understand what he was doing.

"Then, just as suddenly, he whispered to me it was time to go. We were not to argue, just leave immediately, all together, as we had come. So reluctantly, we slipped away silently, like Indians, not even thanking our hosts. We got to the canoe and as quietly, paddled up into the night sky. We soon discovered that Baptiste was very drunk. The canoe zigged and zagged all over the place, swooping up and down, nearly spilling us out several times. Once or twice we nearly collided with church steeples, one of them a temperance cross especially put up for the season. I was sick with worry, remembering the terrible oath I'd taken before we'd set out. I knew we were all going to the Devil that night...

"Just as we were coming down to land in our lumber camp, Baptiste's luck finally ran out and we hit the top of a large pine tree. The canoe rolled and tipped us all out. I heard Baptiste swear like a demon as he fell into the pine branches. We all fell down through the branches, finally landing in a snowbank at the bottom.

"The next day, no one but me remembered the trip. I never saw the foreman again either. He simply vanished. Lise, my girlfriend married that Boisjoli boy later that winter and always turned away from me when we met. I was a boor, she'd tell me. Baptiste was lost in the log run that spring. His body never found. The injury I got that night wrecked my back. I could never cut trees again. That's why I'm a lowly cook today."

Joe 'La Bosse' turned back to the stove, opened a lid and began spooning out long ribbons of maple taffy, a twinkle in his eye. The men knew the meal they'd been waiting for was finally ready.

98/100: temp -2°C; cloudy; calm

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Life's Little Barriers

We all face barriers in our lives, some big, some small. These come in many forms, but are most apparent when in the midst of some sort of challenge we've set ourselves. When they appear, we fret and curse and sometimes we let our frustrations get between us and our chance for happiness. Yesterday I faced one of those barriers...

I knew it was there, but I thought, there must be a way either through it or around it. I paddled under the old train bridge and faced 'The Ice Barrier'...

I paddled up to the ice. Surely it was flimsy, just barely holding itself together. Alas, it seemed remarkably solid in spite of its thinness. I paddled from one shore to the other looking for a weak spot. I wacked it with my paddle. It wouldn't break. I was getting frustrated. It was too strong to break, but too thin to walk on safely.

I considered ramming my way through like the old explorers used to do in their stout wooden sailing ships. A closer look at the serrated ice edge changed my mind. My gelcoat would never take that sort of punishment.

I returned to the train bridge and spent some time practicing weaving in and out of the pilings. It was good practice in small boat handling. I began to make up a game with variations: through forward, then backward, alternating the two, skipping every second opening... Well, after confusing the villagers for an hour or so, I retreated down the river to chase the many ducks which live there throughout the winter. I was beginning to have fun in spite of the Barrier!

97/100 temp: -1°C; cloudy; light wind

Update: It seems Freya has 'hit' her own 'barrier' on her circumnavigation of the South Island of New Zealand. In launching and returning through the beach surf, her kayak was damaged and part of a paddle was lost. Thankfully she's not hurt and thanks to spares and her own ability to repair her kayak, she will be able to continue. I understand people are working to replace her paddle and boat clips at the first opportunity.

You have to hand it to Freya, well into her second major expedition of 2007. When things turn against her or equipment fails, she gets tough and solves the problem. No complaining, no blaming, just on with the business of moving ahead. Very classy! Good for you, Freya!

Check her blog link in the right sidebar for details.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Amazing Goop!

The never-ending search for a warm dry paddling mitt goes on. I've been using my LevelSix mitts mostly in the last weeks. Of all the things I've tried, they leak the least and are quite warm. Their only downside is the raw neoprene outer surface which tends to be quite fragile and prone to tearing. It makes one understand why most neoprene has a nylon coating for abrasion resistance. On the upside, the stickiness of the raw rubber is an asset hanging onto paddles, cameras and other gear. Any holes that have developed have been successfully repaired with SeamSeal.

Recently I came across another seam sealing material, shown here in the picture, Amazing Goop! Richard Jensen has some pictures up on his Webshots site of a tuiliq he made, first sewing the seams and then doing a very neat job sealing the seams with black Goop (it is usually clear). I'm always looking for ways to stay warm and dry with easy to use repair ideas, so I'm going to add a tube of this stuff to my repair kit.

Now, I'm going paddling!

97/100 temp: -2°C; cloudy; low winds; lake ice...!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Traditional Knowledge

As a kayaker, I often think about the roots of the boat I paddle. It interests me to know that I paddle a craft with a long history, one that is spread across the arctic world from Siberia in Russia, through Alaska, Canada and onto the eastern shores of Greenland. The people who developed these craft and paddled them ever eastward, changed them to suit their needs. They told stories about them and incorporated them into the wider culture they lived within.

From time to time, we outsiders are given a glimpse into this world. Usually it is a view through the eyes of another outsider who was able to visit that culture and form an impression and pass it along. Sometimes, more rarely, we get a direct view and can form our own impressions. The site Traditional Knowledge is a combination of these two points of view. While the site was designed by the Francophone Association of Nunavut, many of the pieces are taken directly from stories and information provided by Inuit Elders. All very interesting. Have a look for yourself!

Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada / PA-165664

Monday, December 17, 2007

Is This A Gift?

Looking through the giant Christmas wreath leading onto the pier in North Hatley, one might be thinking about the coming holiday season. Why not? We've got the snow and all the fancy trappings most people around here look for at this time of year.

Now look a little closer. Look beyond the wreath and what do you see? That's right, you can see ice! Ice that bridges the entire width of the lake, effectively blocking my ability to get from my new put-in on the river, out onto the lake proper. I was shocked to see this ice, here so prematurely. A month early! Even the winds of the recent snow storm we've had failed to break it up. Oh woe is me! What sort of gift has Nature given me this time?

In desparation, I've driven around the lake looking for another safe place to launch, but it isn't looking good. I'm determined to finish this challenge of mine successfully, so if you live on open water, don't be surprised to see a crazy paddler launching into the storm!

Update! A related story to my previous post on Canada's approach to Global Warming was written up here. It seems some of the ever-tough souls of St John's, Newfoundland braved it all the other day to defy the coming effects of greenhouse gases. Check them out (viewer discretion advised if your mental age is less than it should be...)!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Ethical Voyager

It's too cold to paddle today (-21°C), but I've got a hot topic for you!

If you can think for a moment, of our planet Earth as your kayak afloat on the ether, then imagine that each year we make a circumnavigation around the island we call the Sun. Now as good kayakers, we all know the rules and ethics we need to follow to safely make a voyage. We need to stick together. We need to look out for each other's well-being. We need to 'get along'. We all need to have adequate safety gear and so on. All these things will contribute to a happy and successful trip. Get out of line and flaunt these guidelines, and you risk losing everything both personally and collectively as we have seen so many times in news stories, magasines, books and blogs.

Today, I'm ashamed to say, Canada has not followed the rules. We should know better. Our national representatives at the environmental conference in Bali, have stuck their middle fingers up at our fellow voyagers. Just like we all know from other group voyages, we are seeing arrogance and uncaringness. We are witnessing people pushing their own selfish needs ahead of others. We are watching people blame others for their own mistakes. We will soon be paying for this foolishness. Canada's reputation as a solid team-player will soon be tarnished. Like paddlers who follow this route, we will become isolated from our fellows. We will become pariahs among our peers. And for what end?

For nothing. Our stubbornness will gain us nothing because everyone on the planet travels together as a community of people or we don't travel at all. I trust the New Year will see Canadians jettison the leadership we've elected so that we can catch up with our fellow travelers, apologize for our foolish ways and work for the common good of all. I want to continue to enjoy this annual trip around the Sun. I suspect all our children would too!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Boo-Hoo, Sorta

Snowstorms and the effect they tend to have on the mountains road of northern Maine have conspired to cancel my little trip to the Halifax waterfront. Oh well, back to local paddling!

Speaking of which, here is a little video I made the other day while out on the water. Overhanging trees provide an interesting tree-tunnel experience and seeing icicles hanging off the cliffs make fun out of what could be just another ho-hum paddle.

96/100 temp: -2°C; snowing; light winds.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Late Night Visitors

Living as we do in the country, my wife has both dogs and horses, as do many other people in the area. Living as we do, we know all the neighbours and frequently visit back and forth, sharing news and meals and so on. Late last night, our older dog suddenly did something he rarely does: he barked. Then he barked several more times. My wife instantly knew something was up and looked outside. Sure enough we had visitors. Or, at least, our horses did!

We threw on our winter gear and plunged into the - 20°C night. Up the hill at the barn, we found the visitors. Two of our neighbours horses had decided to come for a visit with our two! All on their own, they had managed to escape from their barn, trundle down the road, turn up our driveway and here they were, now wondering how they were going to join our horses in our barn with all the doors closed!

My wife soon had the barn door opened, had grabbed some halters and lead lines and got them on the visitors. We let them have a few quick snorts with our guys and then we headed back to the neighbours, each of us with a horse in tow. Fortunately our neighbours had realized their horses were out on the prowl and met us in our driveway, so all was well and we didn't have to walk all the way back to their barn.

Another uneventful evening in the country, where life is so slow even the horses are bored, but the fires warm, the neighbours are friendly and we like it when nothing much ever seems to happen...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Icicles Galore

I didn't paddle today. The temperature was in the 'good' range, but the winds were way too high, gusting above 50 kph. That and the fetch they had made for one crazy lake. Tomorrow looks cold so we'll see what happens.

Now that I only have five days to make my hundred, each day counts! I'll be heading to Halifax on Friday for a few days. Hey, who knows, maybe I'll get a paddle invitation down there (hint, hint, if you're reading this from Nova Scotia...).

The picture is of some of the icicles which have formed over the past week or so. I'm always impressed how high up some of them are and how long they can get without breaking.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Kick and Scream No More

I was one of those people who had to be dragged, kicking and screaming the whole way before I bought a drysuit. Because I was cheap and living in denial, I opted for a suit without a hood. Everything seemed okay until this fall when I decided to paddle into winter. By mid November, I knew I had not made the best possible choice. I was going to require a warmer neck and hood arrangement if I was to be successful in my quest to paddle 100 days before the year's end.

I started looking around for hooded paddling jackets. I finally decided on the jacket seen here, a Palm designed Aleutian Ocean EXP. What I liked about this jacket was its waterproof cuffs, yet adjustable neck closure. Given I planned to wear it over my drysuit, it didn't have to have a fully dry neck seal. It will serve me well during the times I want a weather tight paddling jacket, yet don't require a full drysuit.

Thanks to this jacket, I have been paddling in some fairly nasty weather, yet have stayed warm and dry, head to toes. I purchased it through Scott Canoe, the Canadian supplier of Palm gear. I found their service and pricing to be excellent should anyone be interested in their equipment at any time.

95/100 Temp:-1°C; cloudy; winds moderate

Monday, December 10, 2007

Joy in the World

What an interesting world we live in! Yesterday I was in Montreal to visit my son who has just written his last exam at McGill. It occurred to me that at his age many of my friends were heading off to Europe to try their hand at the Grand Tour. That seemed to be the then known limits of the world at that time. I'd met a few Australians and New Zealanders who were touring the world, but they were seen as the disadvantaged, being so far from the center of the world - or so we thought.

Today, young people like my son, are multi-lingual and see world travel and friends from everywhere as the normal run of things. Speaking three languages, English, French and Chinese, the world is at his doorstep. They regularly email friends around the world.

Returning home, we gave a lift to my cousin's son. He has a friend from China will be visiting for a few weeks while en route to France where she'll do an exchange term at a French university. We stopped in at my daughter's boyfriend's family. They too have a child who headed off to Thailand when she was young. My daughter and her beau both speak English and French and a smattering of Spanish.

I, on the other hand, speak a bit of English, some poor French, worse Spanish, and I once could get by in Inuktitut. I've yet to see the world, but I'm seeing lots more of it via my children. I wish I was their age again!

94/100 temp: -3°C; cloudy; low winds

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Icy Waves

A quick paddle up the lake and back in the icy waves. For the full effect, put your dry-suit on and get in your shower. Set up a fan directed towards your face (Slather yourself with lanolin if that's your thing or if you're in an experimental mood). Turn on the cold water and let the good times begin!

93/100 Temp: -1°C; Cloudy; Variable winds.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wind, Waves and Icy Spray!

I'm having to pick and chose my paddling days carefully now as it's decidedly less fun to have to face into the icy spray when it's really cold and windy. When I passed under the bridge today to get to the lake, it was reasonable calm with only a slight breeze. I was about a couple of kilometers up the lake when suddenly the wind kicked in fairly hard. In no time, waves had built and began their nasty habit of throwing spray in my face.

I slipped over to the opposite shore and into a wind-shadow and this tactic worked for a while. Then the shore line veered off and let the wind at me again. I turned about and surfed my way back to the ice jackets on the bridge pillars. Interesting how they grow, now fat and then pinched in. I didn't stick around to watch the process, but it is curious.

I've been storing my kayak in an unheated shed which means I have to de-ice and free-up all the fittings, the rudder cables and so on before heading out. I'm getting better however. I now turn the boat over so some of the water/ice manages to drip off should the shed warm up at all. There are lots of little secrets to cold weather paddling...

92/100; temp: -4°C; cloudy; moderate wind.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

T Anyone?

Seakayaker Magasine has a nice looking T-shirt for sale on their web site. What I particularly like is the SOF on the back of the shirt. There's something about the naked frame of these traditional kayaks that is so appealing. So if you're wondering what to get yourself or a paddling friend this ConsumerFest, click on the link above and shop away!

Meanwhile, I bought some light-weight boots more suitable for snowshoeing than my heavy rubber barn boots. My wife has been running a tally of her outings either on snowshes or skis and making me look bad as a simple (minded) kayaker. Life's about to change!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Storm Paddling

Storm paddling is a bit different from the usual stuff, so here are a few things to keep in mind when heading out. First, it really pays big dividends to clear the snow off your vehicle, especially around the windows. Not only will you be able to see out making the put-in easy to locate, but people in the area will know it's YOU who is heading out paddling, not some flunky up the street.

Once at the put-in, there's no need to lug your heavy boat to the water's edge. Instead, turn it magically into a sled with a simple tap of your Greenland paddle, then begin filling it up with all your gear, food, you know, whatever and then off you go. The lucky ones can even suit up at the car, climb in and push off down hill and into the lake. My put-in is nearly level, so I pull my sled-kayak. Perhaps in my next incarnation I'll get a hill-side put-in.

Once on the water proper, paddle to your heart's content, but be watchful for ice build-up. The stuff you see here on the deck is nothing. The stuff to watch is growing out of sight on your hull, just above the water-line. In no time - if it's cold enough - you'll grow ice-sponsons, which unlike the foam kind, do not prevent you from rolling, but actually encourage it, especially the first 180° of the roll. When you've had enough fun, read this backwards to return home where a nice hot drink might be waiting for you!

91/100 temp:-6°C; cloudy; light snow

Monday, December 3, 2007

Music For The Soul

Now that your Inuktitut language lessons, which I mentioned you could take a while ago, are well underway, I have something new for you. This is particularly handy as winter brings more indoor time for many of you and time begins to drag a bit. As you've gathered already from the photo above, it's all about Flamenco, the thrilling guitar music of the gitanos of southern Spain.

This site, called Flamenco Lessons provides lessons ranging from the beginings of the art to the more advanced. As you will also discover, there's a free plug-in you will require to see the scores, but again it all adds to the pleasure of venturing into new waters, so to speak. Enjoy! Now don't forget to post up your concert videos...

UPDATE! I suddenly realised that while the snow was falling, it wasn't blowing... I loaded up and was on the water shortly thereafter. The drive to and from the lake was the adrenaline pumper, the paddle the slow, easy relaxer. There's something fun about paddling on a calm lake in the snow. The sudden encounters with ducks, the slush ice around the shorelines, the warm house lights winking along the shore... The toughest work was cleaning the snow off the decks before putting it back in the storage shed.

90/100 temp:-2; cloudy; snowing

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I'm not a happy paddler these days. The weather hasn't been helping me accomplish my 100 days of paddling goal which I set for myself in late August. It's been well below freezing, but worse than that, it's been very windy for the better part of the past week.

Now I am looking at this weather map. Above the picture on their web site, Environment Canada posted a red box in which was written SNOW WARNING. From the size of the cloud, it will snow from today right into Wednesday and they also promise high winds as well. Now, I want a white Christmas too, but I can wait for it. No need to begin piling the stuff up for a while yet!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Freya's Point

Here's a picture of the lighthouse atop Puysegur Point on New Zealand's South Island. While the light doesn't look that impressive, it sits 45 meters above the water on one of the toughest paddling venues in the world. Open to the huge seas and constant winds of the Southern Ocean, it also marks the southern entrance to the Fjordlands, a remote area on the South Island of New Zealand where few people live and where easy beach landings are hard to come by. I don't want to pretend that it will be easy-going once Freya passes this point, but it does mark the successful completion of a major hurdle in her circumnavigation. It marks the half-way point as well.

Freya Hoffmeister will be looking up at this light in the next day or so as she rounds the Point on her solo paddle around the South Island. Like you, I'll be wishing her light winds, low swells and favouring currents!

You can follow her trip by clicking here or on her blog link in the right-hand sidebar.

Update! Freya posted on Dec 2 that she's entered Fjordland, having paddled around Puysegur Point! Sounds like the gods were good to her and kept conditions moderately easy...

Docks on Wheels

In another six weeks or so, the lake will freeze over, but even before then, ice will form around the shoreline and gradually edge out to the center of the lake. Anyone with a dock will need to remove it or risk suffering ice damage during the winter and spring break up.

Recently, many people have opted to buy aluminium docks which can be dismantled and stored during the winter on shore. However, over the years some ingenious solutions have been devised. The dock in the picture above is one example. The deep end is mounted on old wagon wheels. In the fall, the beach end is pulled up the bank, out of the water. In the spring, down she goes, instant dock!

This dock comes complete with tire bumpers. The small platform it's sitting on is a wooden structure, filled with rocks. These tend to survive the ravages of winter, but eventually they have to be replaced.

No paddle today - 50 kms winds on the water...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Up the Creeks...

Another seemingly nasty day. Cold, with some wind and sleet in the air. To brighten things up a bit, I headed to the south end of my lake, the end I seldom visit. I had forgotten how convenient the put-in is at that end. Easy parking and a very short carry brings one onto a sandy little beach.

I headed southward towards the camp-ground at the end of the lake, but before I got there, I discovered this little stream rushing into the lake. It was swollen with melting snow and I was able to paddle some distance up it before being blocked by shallows and fallen trees. It was another stream that liked to produce mini foam-bergs!

I took a wide turn along the shore, past the camp-ground and the new condo building, then turned north and paddled along the eastern shore past the fancy hotel located there. I accidently scared a snow goose out from under some evergreen trees, or perhaps I ought to say it scared me, flying right over my bow! I nearly got 'goosed'!

Crossing back to the western shore I went up the other little creek that enters on that side. I was able to get farther up than I ever remember going before thanks to the additional water. A big fat beaver let me get right up to him before he decided to slap his tail and submerge. He has quite a good pile of branches stacked up for the coming winter.

Well worth the outing! I'll head back there again to see how things have changed before I finish this year.

89/100; temp: 2°C; overcast; sleet

Monday, November 26, 2007

Isuma TV!

Isuma Productions of Igloolik brought us the wonderful film called Atanarjuat a few years ago. Since then it has continued to break new ground and present exciting visual stories from Canada's far north. More recently however, they have been promoting other arctic film-makers. On their new site Isuma TV, they will be encouraging people to upload their works for all to see - sort of a YouTube, Inuit style. At the moment, there are about 80 short videos one can see and as the site is developed, more will be added. I encourge you to check this out!

Photo by Oana Spinu

Sunday, November 25, 2007


There was a fair breeze blowing down the lake today as I headed out. I'm at my river-side launch site now so that means a short paddled up-stream, ducking under two bridges and thence onto the lake proper. Just at that spot, if there are waves coming down the lake bouncing off a sea wall at the end of the lake, you can encounter a patch of standing waves or clapotis. I tried looking up this term in my dictionaries and on Wikipedia, but none of them cares to define what it means for me.

However, one does get some interesting knitting references and pictures, like the one above on Google. I like this one for its sea colours and waves. It even got me thinking things like, "Knit boat you got there, me boy!" and "Knit pearl ya did in that wave there, fella. Do another!"

In any case, I got through the knarly bit of clapotis, didn't hit any of the bridge abutments and headed into the wind and waves without flipping over or scaring myself too badly. I checked on my poor goose, but didn't find anything, not even tracks. After playing in the waves for a while the wind began to taper off and the waves began dropping so I headed back to the river and home. The caplotis had disappeared.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Time For The Tough To Get Moving!

The past couple of weeks have been touch and go ones. I was never really sure I would be able to crawl back up from the lake to the car after paddling. Once at the car, would it get up the drive to the road?

The weather at this time of the year is so variable, and usually not for the better. Yesterday it was -7°C, windy, snowy and it just seemed to be waiting for me to launch in order for it to turn worse and catch me out. The other day as I paddled, I watched the ice building up on the foredeck. How thick will it need to get before it pulls me over, I thought? So, for the first time since early October, I didn't go paddling. I didn't go out today either. Instead, I used the set of rear wheels I bought last summer and ran my kayak up the hill I usually go down.

As you can see in the photo, I'm moving. I'll be launching from my winter put-in location on the river where the carry to the water is short, flat and usually not too deep in snow. I've got 12 more paddling days to get in before the year's end and over twice that number to do it in. I'm laughing...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Seasonal Paddling Advice

If you live in a northern climate, here's some tips real Canadian kayakers use to insure their safety while paddling in different temperature regimes. You may have your own version of these guidelines, but they work well for those who haven't a clue...

65°F /18°C - Stop kayaking to avoid dangerous over-heating or add ice to cockpit.
60 / 15 - Paddle at reduced speed, use cooling rolls frequently. Drink lots of... ah... beverages to avoid possible de-hydration.
55 / 13 - Remove remaining clothing to avoid over-heating. Haul in the beer net you're dragging behind the boat before the contents explode in the heat.
50 / 10 - Remove T-shirts. Paddle nude. If squeamish, fill cockpit with ice water.
45 / 7 - Wet down T-shirts to maintain normal body core temperature. Check that others have done the same.
40 / 4 - Replace long sleeve T-shirts with short sleeves ones. If you don't have a T-shirt, use a marker to paint a logo of some kind on your chest.
35 / 2 - Switch from shorts to long pants in falling temeratures, reverse otherwise. Use your paddling knife to make shorts if you don't have a pair.
32 / 0 - Send dry-suit/top/pants out for repair estimate. Seriously consider getting the work done next year, if possible, maybe.
30 / -1 - Put on dry-top (the one with the broken neck seal) or your wool paddling sweater.
25 / -4 - Put on dry-pants, first removing any under-garments. Use woolen hunting pants if you don't have any real paddling clothes.
20 / -7 - Match seal on dry-suit and pants to reduce water seepage. Be careful of raw neoprene seals on dry skin.
15 / -9 - Use T-shirt and shorts under dry-suits. Leave zippers open at least half way to maintain normal core temperatures.
10 / -12 - Do up dry-suit zippers, if they still work, duct tape them if not. Consider using that hot glue gun they gave you for Christmas if you paddle often in big seas.
5 / -15 - Switch to long sleeved shirts and pants under the dry-suit. Duct take or hot-glue the neck seal tears. Keep wrists open for proper cooling.
0 / -18 - Wear woolies under the dry-suit if you think a wet exit may happen or you're a wimp. Fleece if not. Duct tape wrist seals if you still have them. Look for your mitts if you plan on paddling in cooler weather.

Armed with this information, I don't want to hear about anyone getting into trouble out there due to their own foolishness. Ya hear?!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fourth Adam Hansen Interview

I've uploaded the fourth of the Adam Hansen conversations with Cheri Perry to YouTube recorded at this year's Delmarva Paddler's Retreat. This is a particularly interesting part as they talk about the Greenland Kayaking Championship and how it got started. When a few people in Greenland realised their traditional kayaking culture was either going to disappear entirely with the appearance of an imported motorized hunting technology, or be relegated to a few dried out museum specimens. Instead they had the foresight to evolve parts of the old culture into a new sport, which has since spread around the world. Not only has the kayak design been copied and developed nearly everywhere, but today the old rolling skills have opened up new vistas for many kayakers far beyond the fjords of Greenland.

The Championships have also provided an opportunity for Greenlanders, both male and female, to come together each year in a different community. These gatherings promote a sense of pride and self-esteem for all who attend. They have also provided a setting for the continued development of the Greenland style kayak. For example, the keenness of the competition has served to refine the 'rollability' of kayaks to the point that organizers had to step in and dis-allow some designs with negative free-board! As well, the hull shapes of kayaks are changing in the search for lightness and higher racing speeds. To say that the competition has raised the self-esteem of young people is to understate what is happening. For some it has provided whole new futures, from kayak guides, like Adam to kayak ambassadors like Maligiaq Padilla.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Another Lovely Day for Paddling!

Just look at that photo! Talk about a paradise! I've got the whole lake to myself, no sea-doos, no wave-boat wakes, not even a fleet of Lasers scooting into view. I can head out blindfolded and still be safe. Admittedly, the ceiling is a bit low for flying, which brings me to...

The Canada Goose that I found the other day. It can't fly for some reason. Perhaps it's been injured or wounded, or it may just be getting old. Whatever the reason, it has been swimming about on nice days and hiding out on the lawn of a summer cottage when the wind picks up. It's been bothering me, so today I left some cracked corn on the beach for it. Am I just prolonging its suffering? Perhaps, but if it's injured and will possibly be able to fly again, then my food might help. I'll keep an eye out for it and see what becomes of it.

It also looks like these clouds are about to dump a big load of snow on me in the next couple of days. I've really been lucky this year to have been able to keep my kayak at the boathouse for so long. Now it's a long walk in and out thanks to the snow we've already got. I'm starting to wonder if I've been too clever and will have to borrow a toboggan to get it out of there. I hope not!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Close Call!

It's been snowing most of the morning today and then it switched over to rain as I headed to the boathouse. Driving down the snow covered road towards the lake, I began to realise that I just might be in trouble when it came time to head home. Thankfully, me wife had got me an appointment to have my snow tires put on the car last week, so I ignored the advice I was getting from the left side of my brain and headed down the hill...

Once out on the water, it was wild. Windy and wavy with the air full of rain. I played about in the waves for a while, paddling up wind and surfing back down. I went up the little brook to have a look and....oops. It was frozen right across from shore to shore. I turned and headed out noticing the ice has begun to form along the banks. It will slowly creep outwards and cut me off completely before long.

I returned to the boathouse, packed up and walked up to the car. Then the trouble started. All I got from the tires was a spinning noise! Exercising all my years of winter driving skills, I slowly managed to get back up to the highway, but I was wondering about whether that was going to happen for a while. I think it's time I got that boat out of there and moved over to my usual winter put-in... Maybe tomorrow!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Pushing the Season

Someone walking their dog yelled at me the other day as I paddled by. "Pushing the season, aren't you?" they bellowed out. I guess there are those who think I should get off the water, get inside and start watching early winter TV, but just look at the light in the picture above. There is nothing on TV that comes even close to that. Besides, there are a couple of female Common Mergansers trying to sneak by me and some crows staulking the beach looking for edibles. The air is still, the sun's aglow and I'm warm and happy. Pushing the season?


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Now the Fun Really Starts...

It's been snowing on and off the past couple of days. My wife went cross-crountry skiing with the dogs... I went paddling. Much more fun, at least, while the water is still liquid. Here's the road leading to the put-in. Closer to the lake there is much less snow than we have, so thankfully, I can still get to the boathouse!

Almost ready to drop the boat into the water, climb in and head out to see what awaits me.

Heading back to the boathouse. Another interesting day on the water. Every day brings new insights. Paddling each day has given me a small insight into why it was that older Inuit people, who'd spent their whole lives in the outdoors, didn't care much for warm their new wooden houses. They cut them off from the whole world outside, their world, their home. Inside, they missed so much.

Today, if I'd stayed home, I would have missed seeing an injured Canada goose which swam along the shore, trying to hide from me, unable to take off. I'd have missed the ducks and the eagle I saw. I would have missed the action of the waves on the cliffs at Black Point, the glint of the sun on the water and the snow-flakes dropping into the water only to magically disappear. But it's tough leaving the house. Only when I leave the dock do I understand why these last 82 days have been so rewarding.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Bergs on My Lake?

Imagine my surprise to discover yesterday that I have 'ice' bergs on my lake! Not big ones, mind you, but a fair number of bergy bits seem to be floating out there...

Thankfully, I thought, I was not in my 'skin-on-frame'. There was probably skim ice out there as well, just waiting to slice through the kayak's canvas covering. I have a friend who suffered that fate once, right in the busy port of Montreal. The results were quite dramatic! He has since begun building stitch-and-glue epoxed plywood boats for his winter paddling.

I approached the 'ice' with caution. Then with a bust of speed, I charged the nearest berg, blasting it in two. It was made of foam! It turned out the foam bergs were being created in the rapids of a small brooke which enters the lake nearby.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cold Weather Paddling

The other day a mentioned the difficulty I was having with paddling gloves. All my neoprene gloves, even brand new ones and even some mitts, leak. I like dry hands when paddling in the cold. I don't subscribe to the 'wet-suit' theory when it comes to gloves.

Richard Hayes of Newfoundland offered a solution so I went looking for the gloves he mentioned. I found them at the local farm coop. They're rubber coated, part-way-to-the-elbow cotton (yes, cotton!) gloves. Mine cost me $8.00 and came with a warm fuzzy lining. I added some poly gloves and went paddling. I returned a couple of hours later with warm dry hands! It was a good test day as the waves were running about 0.5 meters and slightly more, with lots of them breaking. That means my hand and wrists often go into the water with my Greenland style paddle, yet I came home dry. I carry back-up neoprene mitts on days like these in case these new gloves get soaked, but I didn't need them yesterday.

Back at the dock, I relaxed with a mug of hot Ovaltine, another cold weather paddling friend I take out with me these days instead of the water bottle or bladder.

Update: Here's a picture of my arm sporting the glove in question...

If these things work out, I think I'll add some velcro tabs on the arms to keep seepage to a minimum. So far, they seem to work well, although I've taken to drying the perspiration moisture out of them by suspending them over a heater once I'm home. I suspect when I get some fleece liners, this moisture build-up will be reduced to nil. Ever the optimist!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Adam Hansen Interview - Part 3

In this third part of Adam Hansen's conversation at Delmarva, he talks about the kayak club house in Assiat. It is the club house which brings paddlers together to take classes and instruction in both boat building and paddling skills. He mentions the various types of members and how those without kayaks can borrow one until they build their own.

You can watch this video by clicking on YouTube if you prefer. The previous three videos in the series are also found in the sidebar on the YouTube page. As well, there is another short video of Adam speaking in Greenlandic if you'd like to try your language skills listening to Greenlandic.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yesterday, Today and...

Paddling along in dead calm water yesterday, I saw this...

So I looked upwards where, above the dark hills ahead of me, I saw this...

Which is why today I paddled in this... A change in the weather with some wind and a slight increase in the temperature from 1°C to 5°C.

No threat of snow today, but, tomorrow, who knows!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Qallunaanik Piusiqsiuriniq

Qallunaanik Piusiqsiuriniq is Inuktitut and means 'Why White People Are Funny'. This is the title for a new film in The National Film Board's catalogue. The film examines the culture of 'white people' from the point of view of the mythical 'Qallunaat Studies Institute', an Inuit research group located somewhere in the Canadian north.

Here is what they publicity has to say about this ground-breaking documentary film -
Funny? What's so funny about white people, otherwise known as Qallunaat to the Inuit? Well, among other curious behaviours, Qallunaat ritualistically greet each other with inane salutations, repress natural bodily functions, complain a lot about being cold, and seem to want to dominate the world.
This docucomedy is collaboration between filmmaker Mark Sandiford and Inuit writer and satirist, Zebedee Nungak. Zebedee is CEO and head researcher of the mythical Qallunaat Studies Institute (QSI). According to Nungak, "Qallunaat ought to be the object of some kind of study by other cultures. The more I thought about the way they have studied us over the years it occured to me, why don't we study them?"
In its use of archival clips, Why White People Are Funny pokes as much fun at the illustrious history of NFB documentaries as it does at society in the south. Of course, well before the NFB came into existence, and at least as early as the classic 1922 feature "Nanook of the North," white society has been fascinated with native subjects, studying them as exotic specimens, documenting their cultural and social behaviours. That tendency to frame a world of Eskimo "others" dominated both film Why White People Are Funny brings the documentary form to an unexpected place. Those who were holding the mirror up to Inuit culture finally have it turned back on themselves. The result is not always pretty, but it sure is amusing. From the Inuit point of view, visitors from the south are nothing less than "accidents waiting to happen."

The film is listed on my Consumerfest Wish List right at the top! I can't wait to see it.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Adam Hansen Interview - Part 2

Here is the second part in the series of conversations with Adam Hansen made at the Delmarva Retreat. Click on the video below or visit my page on YouTube to view it.

In this part, Adam talks about the job of guiding kayakers in his home area, who his clients are and the growing popularity of the sport in Greenland. Enjoy!


Friday, November 9, 2007

Interesting Cabins

Now the leaves have fallen off all but the most stubborn of the trees, it's possible to see into the forests which cloak the shores of my lake. While no new cabins have 'appeared', a few that I thought must have been removed have now become visible. The owners paint them in very discrete colours allowing them to blend into the forest perfectly. At least one of these 'invisible cabins' is located on a sliver of land that doesn't seem to 'exist' on the official registry! It appears that the original surveys of the area, being somewhat less than accurate, resulted in a small sliver of land being omitted by mistake. A few years ago, someone noticed the error and has now erected a little cabin in 'nowhere-land'. Very clever of them as they now 'own' lakefront which is not taxed and was never paid for because it doesn't official exist - yet!

Enlarge to read the house sign.

This 'paradise' situation brings to mind another place named after the fabled land of Shangri-La. The only access is by water or by footpath. No electricity, no phone - not even cellular - and few visitors. The perfect get-away, but this one's on the tax rolls!

Another similar place, in the bay where I've been seeing the bald eagles, is this one above. It has all the appearance of an early settler's homestead, yet looks comfy and cozy. There's even a kayak lying next to a canoe just above the beach. Perfect!


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Adam Hansen Interview - Part 1

Here is the next segment of the interview with Greenlander Adam Hansen made while attending the Delmarva Paddler's Retreat last October.

In this part, Adam describes where he lives, how he became interested in making and paddling kayaks and what was valuable in learning the skills which would become so important to him today.

I will continue to post additional parts as I finish editing and up-loading them to YouTube. If you wish to see all of the interview segments, visit YouTube by clicking here. They should be listed in the scrolling sidebar, or by clicking on other 'ckayaker' videos.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Paddling Gloves

I must have more types of paddling gloves than Emelda has shoes! I keep buying them in my never-ending search for some gloves that don't leak. In the picture above- I know, it's a lousy pic, just like the gloves - the only pair that don't leak are the mitts. Granted they are easier to make - even I have made a pair - the good news about them is they don't leak. The bad news is I don't really like the feel of mitts while paddling. There's something about having separate fingers gripping that paddle...

So here's what I want. I want someone to make a pair of neoprene gloves with thin rubber on the palms and thicker stuff on the backs. Glue them, sew them, whatever it takes to hold them together. THEN - and this is the secret step I reveal to one and all this morning - dunk them in some kind of flexible sealant like the non-paddling glove manufacturers do! To test this amazing break-thru, I'm going out today to look for some of that liquid-plastic-in-a-can stuff people dip their tool handles in. If I can find some, I'll try dipping a pair of gloves and see how they last.

Update! After reading Richard Hayes comment below, I realised I'd seen a pair of the gloves he writes about some place and so I began looking. Sure enough the Lee Valley tool catalogue had them. I've posted a picture of them below. I think Richard is right about their suitability for staying warm and dry. I believe the greenlanders made a similar mitt for summer use with their mini-sprayskirts, called aqulitsak. I'm still going to try salvaging my present gloves with that plastic dip if I can find some.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Darkening Days

The days are darkening as we slowly creep into winter. The clouds yesterday were our part of TS Noel which raced by to the east dumping tons on water and high winds on those along the Atlantic coast. We were threatened with snow on Sunday, but other than this cloudy sky, we didn't even get rain to add interest to my paddle.

What did perk things up was sighting a bald eagle, the first I have ever seen on the lake. In Newfoundland, paddling to Chance Cove we saw them by the dozens, but here they are relatively rare. Seeing this fellow and his cousin, the osprey earler in the summer were both joyous events.

Update: While out paddling today, I discovered that there were two bald eagles!


Friday, November 2, 2007

The Hebrides

After reading Cailean McLeod's review of it, I just had to get a copy of Ewan Gillespe's new book titled Hebridean Waves. I ordered direct from the publisher and received the book within a week. I'm just finishing the last chapter now and a great read it is. He has a easy way of writing and gives the feel of a good story-teller recounting the day's outing at the pub afterwards.

More than ever I am encouraged to make a paddling trip to these islands some day, and this, in spite of Ewan's accounts of paddling in huge seas and being nearly blown away on a few occasions! I don't pretend to be as high a caliber a paddler as he obviously is, but others who've written about the area have convinced me that there is plenty of good paddling for the competent kayaker at my skill level.

See you there?