Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Paddling Sparrow's Island - 7

Our hosts could not have been kinder to us. We were wined and dined and taken all over the island to visit the sights. Sadly the satyrs had long since died out, but the huge nine foot tall ruka birds still lived in the southern parklands where they tended the trees. The blue pigs in the swamps provided the monthly ceremonial meals now the satyrs were gone, which pleased me just as well. Somehow, eating mythological beasts was a bit beyond the pale...

I was anxious to visit the ancient Temple of Gir. I wanted to see the mirror that foretold the future. Alas, the temple was a ruin, nearly impossible to get to let alone enter. After a day spent hacking a path up to its red rock walls, the best we could do was peer into one of the remaining hallways. The roof over the mirror hall had collapsed and lay buried under tons of rubble. Many of the remaining walls, now mostly returned to the jungle, seemed ready to come down as well.

Captain Sparrow's enclosure had also returned to nature, although a few people maintained hunting camps in the area for old times sake and rough roads made it somewhat accessible on four wheeled ATV's. The original pirate settlers had all been killed by the giant ruka birds, something that began at the end of Wright's book. Today's human population had grown from a number of castaways like those whose story is told in his book. How they managed to build such an incredible city would be a book in itself and can only be imagined...

Our kayak decks, loaded with fresh fruit and gifts, we launched and waving our goodbye's, we headed westward to complete our circumnavigation. After all we had seen and done, it was difficult to match the experiences we'd already had. However one further adventure was discovered: a narrow slit leading into the cliffs on the west coast. It was a giant blow-hole, perfect for nosing our boats in where we'd lie in wait for the swell to blow. At that point we'd get to ride the wave back out, surfing down it's face back to sea at great speed, as the cliffs raced by in a spray filled blurr. It was so much fun, we entered the cleft again and again in spite of the fact that we were frequently rolled by the surging waters of the incoming swell we met on the ride back out.

Fortunately the seas remained favourable for paddling the remainder of the way around Sparrow's Island and we were soon back with our waiting friends on board the mothership. Naturally they were in awe of our stories and, after giving us a few good pokes in the ribs, suggested we best be off homeward before we came up with any other wild stories. Our attempts to prove the places we'd seen actually existed, proved fruitless, our decks having been swept clean in our exuberance at the blow-hole didn't help either...


And so ends our make-believe circumnavigation of Swallow's Island, an imaginary place first described by S. Fowler Wright in 1928. Thanks to all who unknowingly contributed photos to the story. Those places actually do exist and someday perhaps you'll get out to paddle them. Perhaps some of you already have. Or maybe, like me, you are still dreaming about getting out there!

• I'll take a break and be back in January •

Monday, December 22, 2008

Paddling Swallow's Island - 6

Obviously either our charts were seriously out of date, this isn't an imaginary island made up by Fowler Wright, or the discontinuity we'd passed through at the headland was more serious than we imagined. Ahead of us, spread for kilometers along the cliffs lay a magnificent sea-side city devoted, it would appear, to a Club Med lifestyle. Hotels and condos stretched to the horizon, cascading off the cliffs into the sea below. All manner of watercraft filled the bay before us.

Where to go was the question, but that was soon answered for us when a hard hulled Zodiac sped up to our kayaks, circled and motioned us towards a marina about a kilometer ahead of us. As we entered the enclosing breakwaters, a young boy in a light skiff pointed to a dock low enough to the water to enable us to disembark without having to climb a sea-wall. People began crowding around us, talking and jestering, all very excited, but unfortunately for us, completely unintelligibly!

Soon someone who appeared to be in charge motioned us to follow him, indicating first to the crowd that they were to leave our kayaks alone and leave the area as well, which they did. We entered a building at the foot of the marina's dock area and were shown showers and changing rooms. Perfect, I thought thinking a cold beer would be even better. No sooner had the thought come into my head when two boys rounded the corner with a ice chest trolley. Cold beer! Life was good and getting better!

We both changed out of our paddling gear, basically our swim suits and so on, and slipped on some street apparel. Back in the main room of what I gathered was the marina lounge, our new friend attempted to speak with us, but other than the odd word here and there, it was clear we had few words in common. Thinking back to Wright's book, it occurred to me that a mixture of slang English and French was originally spoken on the island, but so much time had passed, neither of these languages appeared to have survived in anything like their original form.

What was clear however, was the fact that we were guests. Dinner was being laid out in the lounge and we were made to understand rooms had been given to us for the night! I wonder, briefly, should I try contacting our mothership...?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Paddling Swallow's Island - 5

The closer we got to the sea stacks, the more I could see we were in for some fun. The swell coming in from the northeast was long and lazy and about 2 meters in height. I watched as each wave would rush up the weed covered rock faces, creating a valley of swirling water behind it. Eager to get in the midst of it, we headed outward and then dove into the next wave front. Our boats carved lines in towards the stack, but responded to our edges as we surfed up the wave face as it approached the rocks. I was reminded of snow-mobiling giant curves into steep hillsides back when I lived in the far north. The sensation here was much the same but this time there was no trace of our track in the water. There were seemingly endless places to play in the waves and rocks and we took advantage of everyone we could reach.

We must have played for several hours, dodging in and out, using the power of the swell to race our boats in and out of the garden of rocky island chunks. The sun was dropping into the west and it was now time to decided our next step. We had both noticed some sort of discontinuity in the island cliffs to the west and so decided to make for it in hopes of finding a camp site for the night. If nothing presented itself, we'd have to radio the ship to circle round to pick us up.

It was difficult to believe the island could be so completely ringed by hill cliffs in the way it was. Here and there along the face, we could see the rock faces had been worn away creating long overhanging shelves. It was possible in places to paddle under these rocky ceilings for a hundred meters and more before being forced out by the wave action.

Turning the last headland before the odd discontinuity, we were astonished by what we saw. Nothing prepared us for the view ahead. The thunder of the waterfall was one thing, it's height and water volume was another, but the object coming down it was beyond believe entirely! Looking further along the coast were even more incredible sights...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Paddling Swallow Island - 4

The adrenaline began to rush into my system as I felt the wave lift the stern. I dug in hard to accelerate the boat ahead of the wave and surf down into the mouth of the sea cave. From Wright's book I knew the cave was large enough inside to be able to maneuver once inside. The tide was nearly at it's highest, so the rock shelf he mentions rising out of the water at low tide near the entrance would be water covered and not pose an obstacle. Twisting around and edging my boat to the left as the wave subsided, I saw my companion also carve down the next wave and enter the cave behind me. Suddenly, a rebounding wave caught me, tilting my boat over. I braced hard, but it was too late. I was over. As I set up underwater to roll up, my kayak received a jolt: I'd been hit by the incoming kayak! I reached up and felt the hull slipping past me, then I completed my roll. That was a close call, but no harm done!

We had plenty of light inside the vast sea cave and once orientated, headed deeper inside to look for the iron rings and staircase supposed to be located deeper inside. Then we saw it. Over the years, the ceiling must have fallen. There did not seem to be any possibility of reaching the back of cave. At first I wondered whether we could climb over the jumbled rocks at the fall, but this too was impossible, or at the very least, dangerous in the bouncing waters. To make matters even more complex. seal lions covered many of the rocks. They seemed friendly enough in the water, but did not like it, making threatening gestures whenever we approached them basking on the rocks around the cave. It appeared the only entrance we knew of to the island was cut off probably forever.

We turned and paddled back to the cave's entrance and waited for our chance to exit. I'd been a bit concerned getting out might be difficult, but the face of the swell was gentler than it seemed and we paddled out easily and headed northward towards the rock spires we'd seen earlier. At the least we'd have some fun there before continuing around the island to our waiting mothership. As we made our way towards the rocky towers, we could see the waves breaking over them and spilling across the sandy beaches which connected them now the tide was going down. Would they too deny us any adventure?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Paddling Sparrow's Island - 3

Our first morning, we woke to clear tropical skies and unlike the previous day, the sea was much more settled with just an easy swell rolling in from the west. Our boats already packed, we launched off the stern platform and headed eastward out of the bay. High, basaltic cliffs topped here and there in dense green growth led the way. Our first objective was a tiny inlet marked on our ancient map, but we were none too confident of being able to find it. Our GPS units, as we expected, were useless. No island appeared at all on our screens. Instead, open water was all there seemed to be in this location.

Paddling in the left over clapotis along the cliff edge, it was impossible to see any bottom. The black smooth rock plunged straight to great depths. After paddling about twenty minutes, the nature of the cliffs changed. Instead of wave worn smooth volcanic rock, we entered a section of columnar towers seemingly glued together. Each multi-sided column again rose from the depths and then each appeared to have been broken off far above our heads. It was in the maze of these columns that we found the tiny inlet marked on the chart. My companion nosed her way in, hands touching either side of the aglae covered rock. I filmed her movements as the swell alternately moved her kayak up and down as she poked it's bow into the small opening.

Back on the open water, we continued our eastward heading. Our plan was to discover the cave which led to the interior of the island and to see if the tunnel and stairway was still passable after all this time. As we worked our way around to the eastern coast, the cliffs maintained their jagged heights. No sign of vegetation appeared however, suggesting there was little to support their growth. Up ahead, we got our first glimpse of the islands marked off the most easterly point. They turned out to be rocky, volcanic pipes, spires which stood tall in the sea. We could see the swell, now increased in height, crashing against their bases. It looks like a fun place to play in once our main objective was discovered and explored.

Making our way towards the spires, the opening of the entry cave soon came into sight. It was huge, the largest cave we'd ever seen, easily over 20 meters high and almost as wide. The swell could be seen swirling around its entrance, especially the side nearest us. Standing off beyond the agitated waters at the opening, we debated our best move. It looked like the northern side was our best bet, coming in on the back face of a wave, then surfing it into the center of the cave's entrance. We both paddled into position and waited for a smaller wave to carry us in...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Paddling Sparrow's Island - 2

First reported by Capt Geoffrey Cooper in 1744 sailing the brig Good Adventure. The island is roughly 20 miles around with few bays or inlets of any merit. The island is, in fact, a huge volcanic crater with the south side fertile land containing miles of park-like gardens bearing a variety of fruit trees and tropical flowers as well as large birds called ruka which stand over 9 feet tall. Somewhat domesticated, they were said to be tended and groomed by the original native inhabitants of the island. To the north lies a large swampy area inhabited by blue pigs similar to small tapirs. In the old days, three groups of people lived on the island: Sparrow and his fellow pirates on The Fighting Sue, who landed in the 1850's; the original natives most of whom died after contacting Europeans and their diseases and, lastly, a group of satyrs, although this latter group were said to have become somewhat degenerated once the pirates arrived...

Given a coastline comprised mostly of high cliffs and no beaches other than at the lowest tides, our only landing spot will be via the small tunnel shown on the map I've been fortunate to find, on the east coast. To enter, we will require calm seas and a high tide as part way down the tunnel we'll meet a rock face which blocks our entry except at high tide. At the end of the tunnel there were rings placed in the rock wall and some rudimentary steps leading up to a small chamber. This room exits via another tunnel onto the hillside from which we can get our first look at the interior of the island, it's central volcano and so on. To my knowledge, we'll be the first visitors in well over 100 years, so this should be an exciting adventure!

While we explore in our kayaks, our chartered mother-ship will rest at anchor in the shelter of the rocky islet on the south coast. Tomorrow, we'll paddle around to the tunnel entrance and see if we can get on the island!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Paddling Sparrow's Island - 1

When I lived among the Inuit, it was impressed upon me that I wasn't to laze about during open water season. Time was short and there was much to be done. The winter would come and only then could I relax. Winter was the time to play games, dance and most especially, to tell stories for everyone's amusement. The stories could be true, half-true or, best of all, spoken dreams of what might have been or perhaps could one day be.

So as the water slowly freezes over here in the planet's northern climes, where people have hauled in their boats and now sit at home with warm drink in their hands and toast their feet by the fire, it is again time to begin telling our stories. Some will think back to trips made during the past year, some will think about trips that nearly happened or might yet happen in the future. I want to go the next step. I want to dream about paddling the impossible; paddling in places that are purely imaginary, real dream worlds!

Here's what I mean. Back in 1928, S. Fowler Wright who wrote the book 'The Island of Captain Sparrow' (I'm not sure if this Sparrow was the same film pirate rogue Jack Sparrow or not). I thought it might be interesting to have a look at his island. Would it be a worthy place to visit by kayak? What awaits the adventurer around its coastline? Who lives on the island today and what sort of hospitality might we expect to receive? Is it a worthy challenge for the ice-bound voyager?

Well, let's find out! First, where is the island and how do we get there? According to my information, the island lies in the Pacific, 1500 miles north of the fabled Marquesas Islands and 2000 miles east of the Christmas Islands. With few bays or landing sites and nothing in the way of landing facilities for aircraft, the best plan would be to charter a 'mothership' out of Hawaii for our voyage. Not cheap, but that's the beauty of this expedition: we've unlimited funds at our disposal!

Tomorrow, I'll describe our arrival at the island and we'll begin our exploration...

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Nova Scotia Paddling Guy

I went down to Halifax, Nova Scotia last weekend for a bit of socializing, pub crawling and, inadvertently, to experience their interesting December weather. As I drove through Maine, it was obvious that things would be a little out of the usual when I saw snowplow trucks lined up along the inter-state, their salt bins full and at the ready. Passing into New Brunswick, the freezing rain caught up with me just moments before I pulled into my B&B in St Andrews. Wildly fluctuating temperatures with shifts of up to 16°C within a few kilometers - 'ribbon weather' was what one friend called it - were commonplace along the route as were high winds said to be close to 90 kph! The wave action along the Fundy shore was spectacular!

Browsing the waterfront's bars and bookstores seemed more in order than any outdoor activities! I was happy to discover a series of paddling guidebooks written by Bryan Darrell. These books are aimed at folks heading out of the Halifax area, the most recent being on the Bras'd'Or lakes of Cape Breton. His web site also has information about some stitch 'n glue kayaks boats he's designed for the home builder. Thinking back to my paddling trip to Nova Scotia last summer, I wish I had known about these books. Once the weather closed in, I could have profitably gone on many of the short days paddles listed in his books as I waited for improved conditions to return to the sea. Check out his site if you plan to visit Nova Scotia!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who's Watching You?

Watching YouTube, that is! A glance at the right sidebar will tell you I have an account on YouTube where I've posted some videos of my travels over the past few years. Recently I discovered that there is a section on the site called 'Insight' where you can get a variety of graphical information about who has been watching your videos. The graph above represents the number of views since January, 2008. Okay, not that impressive, but it appears a steady stream of people (about 15 a day on average) are dropping by for a look. I wonder what happened in August that produced the spike in viewers?

Other data on the 'Insight' page includes the male/female split (69%/31%), which videos have been the most popular (Pogo Jump) and a map indicating where the viewers have been coming from. I suppose it's always good to know that the graph above hasn't flatlined at zero when you weren't paying attention!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Iceman Cometh Slowly

Driving down to the lake today I was shocked to see ice forming on the shallow south end. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that way, especially with the recent cold weather hovering in the -18°C area, what else is there to expect? The iceman surely cometh my way! If only he would bring along some snow.

The top photo shows what snow there is so far - enough for our dogs to have fun with, but hardly what we need to ski comfortably. The lower photo, looking away to the distant hills, isn't much more promising. A dusting of snow, under clear, cold skies. I'm in the season of patience, torn between kayaking and skiing, my two favourite activities.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bloggers Beware!

I suspect that no matter what got you started as a blogger in the first place, the last thing on your mind was a major life change! In the recent best-seller 'Petite Anglaise', blogger Catherine Sanderson thought it would be fun to blog about her new life as a young English lady living and working in Paris.

It was a fun pastime for her in the beginning. Her blog began to attract attention from outside readers; she started to get comments from readers and blogging was good. Then things began to go wrong. Her family life started to unravel, her relationships started failing and her employer fired her for blogging about office life. People who have read the book she has written about her experience have not been very kind to her either. Comments like "Catherine comes across as totally and utterly self-absorbed and lacking in any sort of humour or sense of irony. Frankly, it hardly seems surprising that she experiences a number of failed relationships."(Sybille) are typical and are hardly the reward any of us strive for when we begin blogging.

I suspect those of us who blog regularly about our personal lives need to tread more carefully than we originally thought. As one commentator mentions, "It must not be easy to write one's personal life so openly and to expose oneself to the judgement of people who would have acted differently in the same circumstances." The world can sometimes be a harsh place when we expose ourselves to it. Then again, some people, like Sanderson, like to live in the midst of controversy!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Igloolik Seal Hunt - Part 2

After following the floe edge for a while without success, we decided to head out to the floating ice pack we could see several miles offshore. This area was also rich in marine mammals of various kinds, including ring seals, bearded seals and sometimes when the wind was coming from the right direction, walrus.

Motoring through the pans of ice was not as easy as one might expect at first glance. The pans were in constant motion due to the currents and often butted up against each other, sometimes quite suddenly. We would also be cut off in dead end leads forcing us to scramble quickly to drag the heavy canoe up on the ice to avoid getting squeezed and sunk. After a few weeks of this routine, I became much more fit than I've ever been before!

Seals would be seen here and there both lying on the ice pans and also swimming about in the water. As the number of hunters working out of Igloolik had increased around this time because of the move away from camp life and into the community, seals had become much more scarce close to Igoolik and those that remain were fast becoming more wary of boats and guns for good reason.

Still we were lucky to spot a bearded seal lying on the ice and slowly made our approach, hunter in the bow and another man running the motor in the rear. The seal would seem to doze with its head down and then look up and around for any danger. The trick for the those of us in the canoe was to remain still during these checks and to make our approach during the seal's dozing periods.

Much of the time, no matter how careful we were, the seal would get spooked and jump into the water where it would be chased if possible, but often thick ice made that impossible.

This time we got a shot away and claimed our seal. The next step was to land on the ice pan and cut the 200 lb animal into pieces we could lift into the boat to bring home. Both people and dogs benefited from the hunt, nothing was left behind. If there was sufficient meat at home, we would often bury the carcass in a cache on nearby land to be retrieved the following winter.

Usually hunting would be a two or three day affair away from our homes in Igloolik. It was a time of both serious work to hunt for food for families and dogs, but it was also a time of considerable fun and good humour, a time when people bonded closely together for mutual aid and safety. As the picture above indicates, we also set aside some time to sleep as well. Tents were usually not used, instead we just crashed out, fully clothed, on a few winter caribou skins!

One made a point of not taking much in the way of food when we left the village. It was expected that other than some tea fixings and bannock, a form of bread, we would have to catch our dinner. After all, we were hunting! Happily, the Igloolik hinterland was well supplied with food items. It was up to us to have the skills and patience required to find it and harvest it successfully. In the picture above, a yummy stew is boiling on the Coleman stove, and yes, those are some chewy intestine chunks in there. Waste not, want not!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Igloolik Seal Hunt - Part 1

Given the kayaking season is now at the day-by-day point and I'm not getting out there much and given the skiing season is having trouble getting going, I thought I would go on a nostalgic seal hunt with my old friends in Igloolik. While these scenes occurred in July, 1968, hunting today goes on much the same.

Leaving early in the morning we traveled by dog team out to where the boats had been stored a few miles away from open water. The boats were kept this far away due to the fact that pans of ice were breaking off and floating away and naturally no one wanted their boat to leave by accident.

Once at the boat, the outboard was gassed up and the boat loaded onto the dog sled for transport to the 'floe edge'. Our job at this point was to run alongside the boat and help steer the sled away from large blocks of sea ice etc. When the ice was smooth, we could hop aboard for a brief ride.

While this was happening a couple of people took advantage of a high pile of ice to scout around for ring seals which would often sun themselves on the ice beside their holes, something which they commonly would do at this time of the year.

At the floe edge, we decided to wait and see what was happening. We'd often spend hours at the sena waiting for a seal to appear. Often young seals with little hunted experience could be found along this edge where their food, small fish and tiny crustaceans were plentiful.

Finally, we decided to launch the boat and head out to the floating ice we could see in the distance. Here we hoped to get a 'bearded seal', a species which preferred hauling out on floating ice rather than the 'fast ice' attached to the land.

However, before we left, we decided to have a mug of hot, sugary tea!

At first we decided to follow the floe edge for a while, but seeing nothing, we then headed further offshore and into the ice pans.

Next time, I'll continue the story of this hunt...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Is Canada Wearing Its PFD?

I'm certainly interested in following political affairs as they run in various parts of the world although I tend not to write about them here on ckayaker. After all, this blog is mostly about my love of kayaking, guitars and the arctic. However, the current political fiasco here in Canada is too wild to ignore. It's like paddling through heavy clapotis alongside storm smashed cliffs and not wearing your pfd your helmet or even your sprayskirt. Here we are in the midst of a world-wide financial meltdown and in response, the Harper government leans over and takes a swipe at women, unions and party funding, all the while ignoring the dangers around us.

What's that you say? If you're not following Canadian politics - and why would anyone under normal circumstances? - then here's what going on. The finance minister stands up to deliver the government's position on the financial crisis and how it will respond. Everyone in Canada leans close to the TV. We're up against the wall, he says. Canada nods, cause we surely are. So to protect Canadians in this tough time, he says, we're going to forget about pay equity for women. We're going to stop paying political parties money to finance themselves. And we're going to cap union wages and take away their right to strike. Say that again...? Isn't this about the economy...?

Did we all feel better after hearing this? I guess not! Our jobs are still on the line. Our mortgages are still in peril. Our savings are withering away just as fast. Knowing that women will still get second class pay, unions will not be striking and political parties will be silenced does nothing.

So, like any decent person who screws up and gets caught, Harper needs to do the right thing to make amends. He needs to say Mea culpa and resign. Will he? Not a chance. He will blame everyone and everything for his problems. He could very well mess up a country most of us are very proud of as his star sinks in the west. Why not push him off the cliff and see if he can fly? Naaahhh... It's the economy, silly!

Update! Like the school boy who pulled the fire alarm rather than fail his exam, our brave leader got out of facing certain defeat in the House. Now isn't that something to teach your children... Shame knows no boundaries!

Photo lifted from:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit

I you are a member of one of the world's majority languages like Chinese, English, French, Spanish and so on, then the idea that a day might come when no one speaks your language anymore seems a bit odd. Let's face it, speakers of these languages never give a thought to their language disappearance. Alas, this isn't the case for many other languages. In North America, almost all of the indigenous languages have disappeared. Only a few of the hundreds of languages formerly spoken on the continent are holding their own, and even these feel threatened. One of these surviving languages is Inuktitut spoken in various dialects across the North American arctic region from Alaska to Greenland.

Recently, Canada's northern territory, Nunavut, passed new legislation intended to strengthen and protect Inuktitut, the language of the majority. I'm glad to see this move. I'm a real believer that a language is a way of seeing a landscape - both real and imagined - through the eyes of another culture. What better way to understand Nunavut, it's people and their environment, than through their language? So bravo, Nunavumiut, you've not only helped yourselves, but given the rest of us a gift as well!

Sadly, but somewhat typically, the Conservative party presently running Canada has announced that they won't be bound by the language legislation. How's that for pretending you were appointed to rule from above rather than elected by citizens from below? Given recent events in Ottawa, that perception may be coming to a sudden end!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chignecto Lessons

Watching This Is The Sea - 4, Justine's latest DVD about kayaking in various parts of the world, an amateur videographer like myself can learn a variety of things which make a video more interesting and exciting to watch. Take note, for example, of the way she mixes her images, going back and forth to the kayak, to the shore, from one boat to another, and to a narrator, often herself. These clips are mixed in a way to increase the appeal of the story and provide the viewer with a variety of perspectives all of which add up to that "I was there" feeling.

Compare her work with my video of paddling Cape Chignecto's Three Sisters formation. I simply filmed as I paddled through the area. It does give an idea of what it's like to be there, but it's all very one-dimensional and flat. There's little feeling of actually being excited to be there.

One of the things I could do would be to get on shore and film from another view-point. This would add to the 'feeling' and give the viewer that additional perspective which is lacking in my video. I found a great guide which would help anyone wanting to see the Sisters from onshore. It's the Cape Chignecto guidebook written by David Hamilton. Once again, doing some pre-trip research helps to make the paddling trip - and the video record - so much more satisfactory!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Trip Planning & Research

While in Montreal this week I bought a copy of Kas Stone's latest book, Paddling and Hiking The Georgian Bay Coast. This book takes the reader around the bay suggesting paddling and hiking routes and most importantly, gives some ideas about what there is to see en route. I'm the kind of paddler who plans trips to see places not easily visited in any other way. The fact that I enjoy paddling and camping along the way is an added bonus.

Imagine my horror when I discovered on reading Stone's account of the trip around Philip Edward Island that I had paddled right past a pre-historic pictograph in Collin's Inlet! It wasn't the fact that it was raining, but my sloppy research that led to this omission. Of course, there is a limit to how detailed one's pre-trip research can be, but it also points out that simply having the charts or the GPS way points is to err on the opposite side. Having access to guide books and previous accounts can significantly add to the enjoyment and satisfaction of a paddling trip.

I don't own that many guide books, but this is about to change. I hate discovering that I passed something because I didn't know about it. Of course, now I can happily redo the trip with the goal of finding that pictograph...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beer, Pizza, Kayaks!

I almost chickened out when I read the weather forecast: high winds, rain and snow. Not the kind of conditions for making the 150 km trek into Montreal, but the prospect of seeing friends, eating excellent pizza, sipping micro-brewed beer and having my first opportunity to see Justine's TITS-4 video, was too strong a draw. It turned out to be over-forecasted. A bit of wind, some rain and hardly any snow.

There's no need to repeat what every review of Justine's latest video offering has already said. In my opinion, she only gets better and better. The images, the stories and the intimacy of the viewer experience is wonderful. In fact, even more than in any of the previous videos in this series, I really felt I was alongside for the adventure. Perhaps it's because I had the chance to meet Justine last summer in Toronto, but more likely because her ability to tell a video story keeps jumping up a few notches with every DVD she produces. There's a lot of material in these videos for those of us who take videos on the water to learn from a real master.

My thanks to the organizers of the Soirées Aventures for hosting this showing!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Canada's Information Highway

Kayaking along close to the shore allows a person the chance to chat with people who aren't paddling. A while ago I got engaged with a couple about, among other things, internet access here in Canada, one of my pet rants. They told the story of their neighbour who wanted cable TV back when it started to become available in our area only to be told it would be far too expensive to hook up at his lake-side home. Fine, he said. He bought the cable company, installed the service and then sold the company a few years later at a tidy profit.

A farmer in Ontario recently got tired of waiting for his hi-speed internet connection to arrive, so he began a small company which uses farm silos to transmit the hi-speed signal from farm to farm in his area. Not only did he get service, but he by-passed the monopolistic communication companies, and he was able to provide friends and neighbours with cheaper service than the one subsequently offered by the giants when they finally woke up to what was happening.

On the weekend I got an unbeatable offer. For 'only' $69.99 a month I too can have hi-speed internet access! I 'only' have to agree to a three year contract ($2519.64), a "one time system access fee", a meager $99.00 ($2618.64). With the $200 savings offered, I'd pay only $199 for the satellite equipment ($2817.64). In very small print, I'm informed that unspecified "additional charges will apply" if I live beyond the 50km round trip limit from the dealer - which I do... Naturally the offer omitted any mention of taxes, another amount which brings the total to $3212.11.

You know what? I can buy a pretty nice kayak for that kind of money and go surfing wherever I like. Who needs hi-speed anyway? I'm just glad I'm not trying to run a small business because, thanks to the dinos at the wheel in this country, there are no roads, information or otherwise I could travel on that would help me succeed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blogger Brain Activity

Just when I was pretty sure than my blogging activity was a brainless activity and a total diversionary dillusion, I'm shown to be wrong. Clare, an ex Canadian police officer living in Arctic Bay on the northeast corner of Baffin Island, writes a marvelous blog on northern events in his part of the world. He showed us the way recently, suggesting that blogging does, in fact, use a part of our brain during production! Will wonders, ever cease?

The chart shown above is a map of my brain actually writing this blog according to a service called 'Typealyzer'. It turns out, not only am I using my brain to write this stuff, but I'm a 'Doer' as well. In spite of some criticisms I had in the past, I can actually do things! This site has been a really big boost now I'm facing these darkening days' descent into the desperate doings called winter...

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Been Chilly...

Instead of taking the kayak to a new location to paddle today, I decided to walk the route. Sounds strange, but being a cold (-6°C) day with yet another bone jarring wind, walking along the river bank seemed a better option. I cold easily retreat to the car if I felt I was getting too numb to go on.

It turns out that beavers have been very active along this section, only minutes from town. In the photo you can see the tree beside their well-worn path has been nearly chewed through.

The ponds along the river have started to freeze over. No wonder the beavers are putting away their winter's food. Once the lake is covered over, the beavers food source is harder to get.

My boats are put away, well... sort of put away. When it began snowing the other day, I more or less threw them into the shed until I can make better arrangements for the winter to come. This way, if I want to suddenly dash out, they're handy. I still have the rack on the car, so I can be off in a few minutes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oh My!

We all know we're not supposed to lust after various items, but, oh my, we do, don't we? Just have a look at this new... aaah... sexy Greenland style kayak from Tahe, a company in Estonia. Here's what they have to say about the kayak...

The Tahe Marine Greenland was born when centuries of established kayak culture met up with the creative capabilities of modern technology. This kayak is a direct descendant of the traditional canoe inspired kayaks of Greenland, ancient boats that reached Central Europe as early as the 17th century. Our modern reincarnation uses the same classic low volume hull with a V-shaped bottom. Although this requires a level of proficiency, at the same time it delivers unmatched speed and performance on both calm waters and in the face of breaking waves. The Greenland’s cockpit space for your feet was carefully engineered, keeping in mind the characteristics and needs of the human body on long journeys. On trips that last several days the true wonders of this tradition inspired kayak clearly manifest themselves – speed, lightness and one very relaxed paddler.

The profile image clearly shows off the skeg and the low volume features of the boat. I haven't contacted them, but if you can't keep yourself from that 'look, don't touch' part of lusting for stuff, then here in North America, Camilluskayak in New York might be able to satisfy your urges...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Just Imagine!

Six figure income! Even in these tough economic times that's serious loot. You could have any kayak in the world, paddle anywhere you want, take anyone you want with you... I'm ready to click on the picture and start some serious blogging.

Being a serious business oriented person, I decided to look behind the picture first to see exactly what else might be involved. Sadly, that's where things began to unravel. The first name that came up that I recognized was Howard Stern's. Okay, not my favourite, but who else was there? Natalie Dylan. Who is she, I wondered? That's when things totally collapsed. I wouldn't be getting the bucks.

You see Natalie is running a blog with Howard to auction off her virginity. That's where the big money is. Ya gotta be a virgin. My problem is my virginity would probably be questioned by any possible client. Maybe if I took out the part about being a father in my profile statement... Naaa... accepting the money would be a form of sponsorship and I really don't feel comfortable going there. Oh well.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Know, I Know...

Justine paddled around the south island of New Zealand, one of three women to do so a year ago, but so did Barry Shaw. And I know Justine is on an American tour to promote her new DVD which includes footage of the trip, but so is Barry.

What I bet you don't know is that Barry is much more famous. For example, towns around the world are rushing to change their names to include Barry somewhere, somehow... The above shows one such example, a town in Ontario. I expect to see New Barry or Ft LauderBarry, perhaps even LondonBarry and so on quite soon. And why not?

I've yet to visit a Justineville or Justine Bay, but maybe they're out there, waiting for me... and Barry. OK, Justine too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What Does It Mean?

The other day I talked about how some bloggers begin to slow down and then stop posting altogether. There are lots of reasons, perhaps as many as there are bloggers. Closer to home is another slightly worrisome fact: I haven't paddled this year as often as I did last year...

For fun, I've kept a record of each kayak outing I've done during the past few years on my Palm Zire PDA. The picture above shows the database screen on my PDA. It's open at record #51. That's the last outing of over an hour's paddle that I've been on this year. Yes, YEAR! A year ago, I was well over 100 outings by this date... What's happened?

I began paddling in January much like in 2007. I then headed south, but didn't paddle nearly as much as I stayed with my sister and her husband who was in poor health. I lost as many as 30 paddling days right there, but don't regret that for a second. The same thing occurred in September when I returned to Georgia. Again perhaps as many as 20 paddling days missed. During the summer, in spite of traveling to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine, poor weather seem to keep me off the water more than usual.

It's easy to make excuses for not paddling. I'm going to have to work more on making excuses for NOT paddling if I'm to regain the higher number of outings I've achieved in previous years!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Far, Far Away

I took this photo a few days ago, the same evening sunset view seen in the previous posting. Weather moving along the New England coast pushed into our area as the sun was setting and provided us with the beautiful display. To me the picture has a 'Chinese' look about it for some reason. Perhaps it's the colour or maybe the bridge with its multi-stilted legs. I'm not sure, but something about it says "Far, far away..." to me.

I suppose most people who become regular bloggers assume they will continue writing and posting forever. Why not? It's fun, it's a past-time and there's often feed-back which leads to other interesting and varied experiences. Still, for one reason or another, blogs go missing and disappear. I recall a wonderful blog from Iceland which then moved to Vancouver Island. It was full of wonderful photos, far, far away shots with great colours and textures. It's gone, perhaps for good. Too bad.

Another well known blogger wrote of great adventures on dicey seas, around rock-bound coasts in a variety of settings around the world. Like many, I was hooked, following the kayak's wake as each adventure unfolded. It too now appears to be missing, gobbled up in some far away cyber world. People move on to other challenges and opportunities, I suppose, leaving us readers to wonder.

A little known fact about Google however, is that we have the ability to dig into their data-banks and retrieve virtually everything ever posted to the web. I have recently indulged in a bit of nostalgia and re-read pages from these two missing blogs. They may be missing, but they live on in the timeless depths of the Google universe far, far away...

Friday, November 7, 2008

What a Day!

Some days are just meant for paddling and nothing else... First you drive down leafy roads to the put-in...

... then you paddle calm waters, under brilliant skies...

... and the heavens burst into colour to celebrate the drive home. Does it get better than that?