Friday, August 31, 2007


Lake Massawippi just waking up.

I love sleeping in, but today - Day 7 - I was up early and on the water long before I usually am. Yup, that's 7 for 7 so far; right on track. I probably scared the natives as they saw me paddle by so early. A few no doubt checked their watches to see if something hadn't gone astray with their day as they know I usually pass by much later. Sorry for the mix-up folks, but today is special.

I'm up and out early because we're heading into Montreal to pick up our son. He's been in Singapore and China for over a year and I can't wait to have him home. I hope he still speaks enough English for us to communicate. My Chinese is really lousy. I only know how to say Hello...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Does This Make Sense to You?

After more than a year away, my son flies home from Hong Kong tomorrow. His ticket costs to Asia and back cost roughly $1500 Cdn. I want to fly up to Kangirsuk in northern Quebec this Fall. My ticket will cost roughly $2000 Cdn. Does that make sense to you? He flies the equivalent of a trip around the world. I fly a 4 hour flight inside my home province and I get to pay $500 more than he does!

It's bad enough for me, but these costs have made prisoners of the Canadians who live in the northern part of the country. They can't go anywhere. The government has the gall to spend billions of our tax dollars on arctic military adventures which help no one - we only have one 30 year old icebreaker with real arctic capabilities, yet they want a deep-water port (!?) - meanwhile they have stranded thousands of people in their home communities thanks to the incredible costs of airfare. The logic here escapes me.

I paddled today mulling these thoughts over and the clouds dropped lower and lower. Was that mind control or what?

BTW, I wore my Kokatat storm cag today for the first time. I got it for Newfoundland, but never wore it. It was neat, warm and dry. I wish I'd had it paddling around Manitoulin when I damn near got hypothermic paddling in the rain one day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Build a Boat

Someone once told me that the road to a happy life required only three elements: one must plant a tree, build a boat and raise a child. I suspect the advice was right. I have few complaints at this point having accomplished all three and can say they all continue to give me great pleasure.

Today I noticed that someone else has been following the same advice, or, the boat building part, at least. On Day 5 of my 100 Day Paddle I discovered this wooden beauty all rigged out and ready to go. There was finally some wind on the lake to make things interesting for both of us, although the 31°C temperature was brutal.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Road to Burgeo, Newfoundland

There are roads and roads that lead to Rome,
But they don't lead down to the sea;
And they take me not to my island home,
So they're not the roads for me.

I came across this poem snipette yesterday, written by Alasdair MacGregor in 1925, and it made me think about the drive down to the sea at Burgeo, Newfoundland. These are the highlands of Newfoundland in a way, clear, rolling vistas, nearly devoid of trees with an arctic tundra feel to them. A road that doesn't lead to Rome, but definitely to the sea. My kind of road!

Day 4, I've got some paddling to do! ;-)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Life's Little Challenges

My wife and daughter both ended their summer yesterday. My wife headed off to work and my daughter dragged herself to university. Neither of them was that happy to see me bid them good-bye at the door. I know the feeling. Still, I face some challenges too. I want that SOF of mine recovered in time for Delmarva in October, so I'd better get busy. There's some work to do on the ribs and chines first and I want to put in some slats for easy entry and paddling comfort.

Then I have promised myself to paddle at least for an hour a day for 100 days before the end of the year. I wanted to make that consecutive days, but fear other obligations will prevent that, so to make this do-able, I'm going with the 100 days total before Dec 31, 2007. That will give me a few days leeway for other things (like driving to Delaware, etc). I'll try to remember to post each Monday, how my count is coming along!

The 'Post' taken from above the water, looking nasty.

The 'Post' from underwater with attendant fishes.

Today was day 3. It was a nice, sunny day after two days of rain and thundershowers. I finally found the sunken post I look for every summer. It's been in the lake since long before I was a child, perhaps close to 100 years, so each year I check for it. It owes me a good number of propeller shear-pins from when I was a kid. It had a way of reaching out and hitting our outboard motor back then that was uncanny. This summer, it had eluded me until today so I took some photos of it above and below water for posterity. I guess it doesn't mind kayaks.

Tomorrow? I'll be paddling. Wonder what I'll see?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Giving Back

Over the past few years I have met a number of well known people in the world of kayaking. I have been taken by how sincere and welcoming these people have been to me, how they wanted to give of their time and expertise to me, a relative beginner in their world. A few of these people, knowing that I had spent time in the Canadian arctic, mentioned the idea of 'giving back' something to the people who's ancestors designed and paddled the first kayaks.

To them, 'giving back' is a way of returning something to those who, most likely unknowingly, gave them something, which has enriched their lives beyond measure. Kayaking has a way of doing that. So many people have express their thoughts and feelings about how kayaking has brought something special into their lives, far beyond what might at first glance be expected from such a humble craft, primarily created for hunting.

But is hard to 'give back' something to a group of people who have no recollection of giving you something. It becomes more like 'giving' without the 'back' part. That's not to say people who want to 'give back' are wrong. It's only that the context needs to be clear and the act of giving needs to be carefully worked out so everyone feels comfortable with what they are receiving.

I'm looking forward to discovering that 'comfort zone' as I do my little part in 'giving back'. I personally have a hugh debt to repay a number of people who probably are totally unaware they gave me as much as they did first when I was young and looking for a path through life, and then when I began kayaking in my 50's. My present ideas about giving back are as small as this baby ptarmigan as I write, but hopefully they will grow and take off just like this bird will someday do.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm Ruined!

I know that, just a few years back, I used to read stories of people who had the good fortune to go paddling in far off places, living exciting lives, surviving on pure adventure adrenaline and so on. Oh how I yearned for those days! My retirement couldn't happen soon enough so that it could begin and I would finally live the life worth living.

Well now that I am retired and am doing my best to crank up the adrenaline pump again, I have been able to taste the 'good life'. I hope you all get there. It's all they say it is. Just look at one of the rock garden fun spots in Newfoundland you could spend the day mucking about in. Places like these make paddling worth doing.

However at the moment, I'm ruined. You see, I didn't work hard enough or get rich enough. I can't stay out in the Paddleland for very long before the bank starts grumbling. I have to return home and hunker down until the coffers refill a bit. Now I go kayaking in a somewhat more subdued rock garden, like this one in the picture above. A single rock lying in about 15 cms of water.

So, if you're still young and, like me, yearning to paddle with the lucky ones, work hard, save your money and once your duties and responsibilities are behind you, you'll paddle your dreams, even if it's with grey hair and wrinkles. In the meantime, I'm ruined, at least until my money pouch refills and I can take off to Paddleland and turn on my dream machine again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

For those New On The Planet...

The 'Privacy Folks', as I call them, have gone to new lengths on my local lake. I noticed this interesting sign while paddling along a section of deserted shore yesterday. Now in the old days it was sufficient to post 'Private' - or Privée, in French - but now they have video surveillance. Come again? A deserted shore with video surveillance? I don't think so! How do they transmit the video signal over the hill and far away? Let's face it, we're being led astray here...

Don't you just love it when people get up the nerve to feed you a chunky load of BS? How dumb do they think we are? It's not like many of us are new on the planet (although I've known a few people who keep acting like I'm a recent arrival...)!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Ups and Downs of Sea Kayaking

One of the joys of sea kayaking is to paddle in many different locations, but even paddling back and forth in the same area offers lots of variation and interest. These two pictures were taken 'somewhere on Trinity Bay', Newfoundland, on a day when Alison Dyer and I paddled I along a coastline she's paddled often and knows well. While her kids, husband and their friends walked the trail along the coast heading to a picnic beach, we got to enjoy a rollicking downwind paddle along the cliff face. The waves were good and bouncy, the birds in full scream, the whales just visible now and then and best of all, the wind was at our back. We surfed along at times and at others, we played in the rock gardens, squeezing through narrow slits and channels, taking advantage of the swell to get through. It was a fun outing on a warm, sunny, breezy day.

At the end of the ride and after the picnic, we had the option of borrowing a car to shuttle our boats back home, or to paddle over the same route we'd just come, albeit, this time, upwind. We didn't need to discuss it. We'd had so much fun coming downwind, going back up was bound to please as well. And it did. So even paddling back up the coast we'd just past was fun, challenging and completely worth the effort. It wasn't boring or plagued with a sense of 'sameness'. It seemed completely new and exhilerating. The joy of kayaking!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lousy Day, Great Paddle

I don't want to give the impression that I'm just a fair-weather paddler. I do paddle in lousy weather and here is an example of one such paddle out of Avondale, Newfoundland with Rick and Jim. Poor weather, but great company and a little surprise as well!

We launched in Avondale off a slippery slip.

We headed into the fog and skirted the cliffs leading out to Conception Bay.

We passed over the shallow bar, which nearly blocks off Avondale Bay from the sea when it dries out.

We saw some disturbance on the water and discovered it was made by a whale feeding just offshore. Perhaps, it's two. A mother and baby? Just as I was getting some close in pictures, a large motor boat came along and the whales disappeared, so we never found out.

After several hours of liquid fun, we returned to the put-in and headed home for something warm and dry. Lousy weather, great day!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Banting Memorial

When I was a child, my parents would sometimes visit Lady Banting and have tea. I'm not sure how they knew her, except we lived not too far away from where she had a small estate near the Quebec - Vermont border. We children would be invited as well and it was always a fun time going through her barns and seeing all the old stuff that was kept in them: horse carriages, ageing farm equipment and so on. I always wondered where Sir Frederick Banting was and why we never saw him. He was the co-discoverer of insulin and quite famous, but never there.

As an adult I found out that Sir Banting had been killed in an air crash, but again I knew no details.

After leaving Fogo, I happened to camp near Musgrave Harbour on the north coast. It was there I found this memorial to Sir Banting and his comrades. They had been killed when their plane, like the one in the picture, crashed about ten miles inland just as it was about to head overseas during World War II. Unexpectedly, the questions I had wondered about for over 50 years were answered. It was heartwarming to think that a small Newfoundland town recognized the importance of perpetuating Sir Banting's accomplishments, but it also begged a question: what have I done for humanity that would deserve a similar honour? Interesting thought for each of us to ponder on, isn't it?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Irish Tilting and Cape Fogo

I believe that following where the road leads me often brings wonderful surprises. So after finding no place to stay in the town of Fogo, I drove down the road until it came to an intersection. A road led east. I followed it. On Fogo, there aren't many roads so I knew I come out someplace people lived. Sure enough the road ended in the community of Tilting and the first place I tried had a room for me. It was an old fashioned house, about 100 years old or more, built in the old way with ceilings just above your head, two rooms down and three tiny bedrooms above. The people were friendly and after several days of camping, the beds were luxurious. How could I not stay there?

The maps said Cape Fogo, right at the eastern tip of the island. Surely I'd find the Edge of the World out there somewhere. This view looking along the garden fences behind Tilting shows the beginning of the Cape in the background. I prepared for a long day's paddle and headed out. When I finally got to the 'cape', a fisherman told me, "You've a ways to go yet, b'y..." And I did!

Along the way, I came across a 'growler', a piece of ice, mostly submerged, lying in wait for some poor boat to damage and possibly sink. I broke off a piece by giving it a good whack with my Greenland paddle (naturally) and voila, a taste of Greenlandic iceberg served fresh right on the foredeck! Yummy!

Cape Fogo may have been one of the Earth's Four Corners, but I saw no signs of the Edge. I did see some signs of the old community that had once been located along the south facing shore, but little now remained after the re-settlement occurred years ago. My paddle had taken me along the whole east coast of Fogo, a shoreline of shallow bays, low hills and Atlantic swell and a cape that seemed endless! A great day on the water!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fogo - The Island At the Edge of the Earth

"A new tourism commercial (2007) for Newfoundland cites that the Flat Earth society believed that Newfoundland was one of the four edges of the world." so says the Wikipedia's entry on the society. While in Newfoundland, I heard that Fogo Island, on the north coast, in fact, was actually one of the four corners of this flat world. I decided I had to check it out. Wouldn't you?

Step one was take the ferry over to Fogo. Had I known how delightful the trip over was to be and that we'd encounter whales along the way, I'd have paddled through the series of islands and camped along the way and on Fogo itself. Next time.

Once on the island, I drove to the Atlantic shore where I assumed the Edge would be located and then spotted an iceberg off of Joe Batt's Arm. I quickly launched from a sandy beach to see both it and, naturally, the Edge of the Earth, which no doubt lay just a short distance beyond.

I hadn't gone more that a mile or so offshore when the wind and swell began to kick up and the sea state got noticeably rougher. I was also surprised to encounter a reef so far out with the swell crashing over it. Was I getting closer to the Edge? As well, the iceberg seemed to be moving away from me, like a Siren beckoning me to my Fate... What to do, I pondered?

I finally decided not to chase the iceberg any further out to sea and turned back to shore. Coming close, I watched the surf pounding along the rocks while the patches of fog drifted nearby...

There would be other icebergs to chase. Perhaps the Edge of the Earth was closer to the shoreline elsewhere on Fogo. I packed up my things and headed to the eastern end of the island to have a look...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It Was a 'Bergy' Good Year!

Everywhere I went along the north and east coasts of Newfoundland, people remarked that 2007 had been a "very good year" for iceberg sightings. Here is a small sampling of the many I came across...

Eastport Bay off Sailor's Island.

St Chads, off Baker's Loaf Island seen on right.

Off Bonavista in Bonavista Bay

Entrance to Joe Batts Arm, Fogo Island

Looking out of Cottrell's Cove, Notre Dame Bay

Twillingate, Notre Dame Bay

Sailor's Island - Part 4 of 4

This last video completes the series on our visit out to Sailor's Island. Rick and I had been trying to get out to visit at least one of the icebergs we could see from the shoreline near his cabin in Eastport. Each time we headed out, the winds conspired to keep us from getting close. This one near Sailor's Island was more accommodating: we had both wanted to visit the island since the previous summer, the weather the day we made the paddle out was sunny and calm and the iceberg couldn't have been more welcoming and beautiful. Changing weather the following day resulted in it's eventual breakup. It simply disappeared overnight. All that remained were a few 'bergy bits' rolling on the shores of Eastport Bay.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sailor's Island - Part 3

Here is the third part of the video I made of Rick and my paddle out to Sailor's Island, an old re-settled community near Salvage, Newfoundland. In this episode, we paddle into the harbour for a look around and to take some pictures. We then leave to head out to look at the iceberg seen in the pictures posted yesterday.

Tomorrow's video will be the end of the series: the visit to the iceberg!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sailor's Island, Newfoundland

We landed on the tiny beach in the protected harbour of Sailor's Island and started exploring. The first thing we noticed was a willow tree, just above and to the left of our kayaks, which seemed out of place. Perhaps it had been planted by residents years ago. An area just beyond seemed squared off and may have been a garden.

From the water, we could see the summer inhabitants: a flock of sheep, including a black one! It appears that someone has solved their fencing costs by moving the animals onto an island! We also caught sight of the iceberg in the bay beyond and decided to go out for a closer look. I'll post the video of that excusion in the next few days.

Rick went over to look at the area where we'd seen the swell breaking on the Bonavista Bay side of the island seen in part 2 of the video series. There were several hazards lurking out there for the unwary paddler. We decided it was just as well we didn't go out through the narrows after all. The ground was covered with lots of bakeapple berries slowly ripening. Perhaps they'll pick them in late August when they pick up the sheep.

Returning to our kayaks, we left the harbour and paddled past these lobster traps, then headed around the island and out to the iceberg. It was melting rapidly in the sunny warm weather, water came streaming down its sides and bergy bits trailed off to one side as they broke off and sailed away.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sailor's Island - Part 2

In part 1, posted yesterday, Rick and I made the passage from the mainland over to Sailor's Island in Eastport Bay. Today, in part 2, we begin our exploration of the island, particularly the eastern entrance to the old harbour area.

To be continued...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Paddle To Sailor's Island - 1

Sailor's Island is a small island a mile or so offshore in Eastport Bay, just around the corner from Salvage on Bonavista Bay in Newfoundland. It was once the site of a tiny fishing community which like Ireland's Eye was re-settled some years ago. Today little remains on Sailor's Island except for some grave stones, foundations and hints of old gardens and so on. Most of the houses were either floated over to Salvage or torn down. Still it is an interesting place to visit and explore as you'll see. Over the next few days, I'll post a series of short videos I took during the visit Rick Hayes and I made to the island last July. Hope you enjoy!

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Trinity, Newfoundland

You've arrived in the community of Trinity on the bay of the same name for a little paddle. It's a town full of history going back to the days of fishing schooners and the Labrador fishery, iron men and wooden boats. It's a great place to paddle, especially if the weather's fair and you wish to get out and see whales, caves and, this year, icebergs.

So you look around for a place to unload your kayak and gear. Where's the put-in? Can you see it in the picture above? You'll have to look carefully (or click on the photo to enlarge it). You won't be alone out on the bay. There's an outfitter who uses the same beach for running kayak tours.

Okay, now park the car. Does it matter where? Not really, as you can see from the next picture. Four cars found a quiet vacant spot...

Now you're on the water. There's lots to see and do. Whales, sea caves, icebergs, the open waters of Trinity Bay and closer to those cliffs, lots of clapotis effect if that's your thing. Heading deeper into the harbour there's a mussel farm where you can practice your slalom skills using the floats as 'posts'. Enjoy your paddle!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Unsettled Weather

I had been looking forward to visiting a few of the places in Newfoundland where people used to live until recently. Many of these old 're-settled' communities were out on islands close to the fishery and thus provided an advantage years ago. As the way of life changed when the fishery declined many of these places were abandonned, some willingly, some not so.

The Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador Club had planned a 3 day paddling trip out to one such community on Ireland's Eye, an island on Trinity Bay in July. I was looking forward to meeting some local paddlers and visiting the island to get a feel for what life there must have been like years ago. The put-in was at Old Bonaventure seen in the picture above. I headed down there the Friday before the launch. It was a miserable day, rainy, wind, fog with heavy seas pounding outside the cove. Clearly, the trip would be put off unless a miracle occurred. And, can you see that lovely iceberg? Getting out to it would have really iced the cake! I wasn't a happy boy...

I had planned to camp in the cove overnight, but the foul weather forced me to retreat into nearby Trinity and a warm, dry B&B. The next morning, the weather had not changed. If anything, the winds had increased. The trip was off. Fortunately I did get to meet a number of club members on subsequent paddles here and there. I discovered they are a lively and very competent bunch with lots of stories to tell of their paddling exploits as well as other paddlers they've been out with, both Newfoundlanders and others like me, from 'away'.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Newfoundland Kayaks

As one would expect given the possibilities the coastline and numerous lakes (often called 'ponds') present to the paddler, Newfoundland has several local kayak builders. While heading up to Twillingate, I saw this sign and decided to check out what was happening in Cottlesville. The community isn't very large and I soon spotted this rack of boats on the lawn of a small house. I stopped and knocked on the front door.

Lindy Rideout and his dog answered the door and we spent some time talking about the boats he makes. I was a bit surprised to discover that the 'factory' was in the garage behind the house and the 'employees' consisted of only he and his wife. Together they make between 50 and 100 boats a year depending on demand. The boats themselves look well made as you'd expect of a small family operation like this one. What particularly struck me was the flat mid section of the hull suggesting a boat that would like to surf down waves. The rocker would permit good manuoverability if playing in rock gardens is your thing. The large hatches seem to beg for an over-nighter or more if you're so inclined.

A week or so later, I spotted one of another local builder, Eastern Island Kayak's boats on the beach at Trinity, the famous old fishing village where ships used to depart for the Labrador. No one was around for me to talk with, but again the boat looked interesting and I would loved to taken it out for a spin.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Summer Fun

One of the best past-times when we were kids was to pack a lunch and hike into the woods to a secret swimming hole and go swimming. It's fun to know that hasn't changed. While I paddled down the rocky coast with their mother, her two children, their father and several friends hiked the coast to their favourite secret sandy beach. The wind was at our backs as we surfed down the lumpy waves and rebounds. In no time we'd covered the kilometers to the beach and for fun began weaving in and around the shoals and reefs just offshore seeing how small a space we could slip through in our boats. Then suddenly the cove filled with laughing voices and in an instant, like seals, the kids all jumped into the freezing waters of Newfoundland! Good times live on!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hiking in the Rain

The weather at Cape Bonavista turned back to wind and rain the following day and I ended up not paddling at all. Instead I went hiking along the shore of Trinity Bay. Here are a few pictures of what I saw...

Blue iris and the unknown (at least to me) yellow flower were often found together wherever I traveled in Newfoundland. I began to wonder if the official colours of the province ought not to be blue and yellow!

In the old days, domestic animals were often allowed to roam free and gardens were fenced in. Today, in most part of Newfoundland, the reverse is free. However one can get an idea of the old days near 'The Dungeons' near the tip of Cape Bonavista. There's a large area where horses, cattle and sheep all roam as though they were loose like in former times.

There are numerous puffin colonies along the cliffsides of the cape. These little guys were as busy as ever despite the wind and the rain than kept me moving along from place to place, stopping only for the occasional picture.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


There's no excuse anymore for those wishing to increase their kayaking skills by actually learning to speak the language of the original kayak builders! What better way to really wrap yourself into your favourite pastime than to be thinking in Inuktitut as you paddle.

Here's a quote from the recently available website that will make all this possible...

"Anglophones who want to learn the Inuit language can now do so with a computer, mouse and speakers, thanks to a newly launched learning website that lets learners hear the language out loud.

", which was launched Friday, offers Inuktitut grammar and conversation lessons, thousands of sound files and a glossary of more than 600 terms. The lessons, which come with sound files, show learners how to engage in different kinds of conversation, from exchanging basic greetingsto describing one's workplace, and even explaining how one's hunting trip went."

By the way, the term tusaalanga means "let me hear it" and kinauvit means "Who are you?" in Inuktitut. Login at Tusaalanga and let your lessons begin! Ataii!

• • • •• • • •

Just a quick note to today's blog to let you know that Hadas and Tomer of Terra Santa, Israel, have completed their incredibly fast paddle around Newfoundland. Good to have them home safely!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Bonavistan Cautions

I was anxious to get out and paddle when I was in the Bonavista area. Both the cape itself, its cliffs, the squat lighthouse and the area called the 'Dungeon' on the Trinity Bay side of the cape made the place interesting and exciting. After a rainy day's drive, I found a room at a B&B near the historic 'Ryan Premises', old merchant stores near the waterfront. My room overlooked the harbour and some icebergs beyond.

As the rain had stopped and the sky seemed to be clearing, I headed out for a harbour walk and a bite to eat. The gentleman running the B&B cautioned me to be back around 9 pm. He'd be "Having a 'lunch' for the B&B guests," he said.

I wandered around, took some pictures of Cabot's boat, the Matthew, and the icebergs in the bay, found a fish and chip spot for dinner and finally headed back to the B&B. The owner was out on the front porch having a cigarette as the sun lowered itself into the bay. It had turned into a glorious evening.

"You planning to go paddling tomorrow?" he asked me having seen my kayak on the car. I was.
"Stay away from the cape, me boy." he cautioned. "Especially the Trinity Bay side. There's currents there. They're very dangerous. We had a lady paddler here last year. She'd come in at night after crossing Trinity Bay. Couldn't see a thing it was so dark. Just heard whales coming up around her. You paddle down into the bay that way." he said, pointing southward into Bonavista Bay. He kept shaking his head as he finished his smoke. "Time for that lunch. You won't go paddling up near the cape, now, will you?" He said one last time as he crushed his cigarette out.

Cattle with an iceberg view

The 'Dungeons'

We went into the kitchen where his other guests had also begun gathering 'round the table. From the stove he heaved a big pot to the sink and poured off the water. Bringing it to the table, I could see it was full to the brim with crab legs. We all sat down and he began to cut open the legs and toss them to us around the table. As fast as we could pick out the meat, he'd have another leg cut and tossed our way. We stuffed ourselves, as his wife served up tea. I wondered about his advice and about that paddler from last year.