Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sea Wolves Chase Kayak!

Canso Village is reputed to be one of the oldest fishing villages in North America. Today is it the very end of the road on mainland Nova Scotia. One of the islands, called Green Island just across the harbour, is where one of the first trans-Altantic cables came ashore. Today you can go out there, tour the island and read about its history. Of course today Canso is also famous for the Stan Rogers festival it puts on each summer.

With that done, I paddled through a narrow gut between two of the larger islands and came out in a maze of granite islands which reminded me very much of the part of Georgian Bay I had visited a month or so ago.

This lone cabin looked over the island group. It had a commanding view of the whole archipelago almost to itself, although there were a couple of other houses hidden on one of the larger treed islands a bit further out. All in all, a quiet little paradise on the day I was there. I suspect things can get a lot livelier when the wind kicks up!

Returning to the mainland I headed southward in Glasgow Harbour to get a look at what the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia looked like. Again, it resembled Georgian Bay with the addition of salty water, tides and grey seals. This group attracted my attention with their wolf-like howling. When I got closer to investigate, many of them got in the water and swam out to have a closer look at me. Bobbing up ever closer, we all got good views of each other. Several followed (chased?) me for a while as I paddled away to explore some more.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Water Yes, Land No

Glenn MacKay and I took to the warm waters of Northumberland Strait yesterday in mid afternoon. Glenn wanted to head down the coast a ways to have a look at the fossil cliffs in Arisaig Provincial Park. Conditions were perfect, a bit of wind, some current and warm weather, it was shirt-sleeve paddling. The run down to the park was fairly rapid and it seemed we were at the cliffs in no time. Ice cream was on our minds, but after landing and making a few enquiries, it was discovered, the Park was an ice-cream free zone. Incredible! What an over-sight!

We had a look for some fossils and Glenn found a rock on the beach with some tiny shell impressions on one of its surfaces. They didn't look that interesting at first glance, but when you realize they are some of the world oldest shell fossils, literally hundreds of millions of years old, their importance to science begins to sink in. I thought these rocks, carefully placed in little niches in the cliff, made up for the fact I didn't find any fossils...

It then occurred to us that if we couldn't have ice cream, we could get some fresh fish and chips back at Lismore where we'd put-in, so back we paddled. A cairn on the shore marked the landing site of boatloads of Scots who first landed in this area to begin new lives having been removed from their ancestral homes in Scotland. Scottish culture is still visible in this region as a result of the successful homesteading these people carried out.

Boats back on the van, we headed up the road to our fish feed. The place was closed. Another over-sight! We crawled back to Glenn's, weakened from our efforts and finally settled for pizza gratefully provided by Glenn's sympathetic wife. A great day on the water no matter we didn't find exactly what we wanted on land!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Visiting the Sisters

Nova Scotia's Cape Chignecto Provincial Park has some great paddling spots probably the best of which is a visit to the Three Sisters. These are a series of spires and stacks just off the cliffs. At high tide it's possible to paddle around them and gaze into the numerous small sea caves under the cliffs. At low tide, the area turns into a walking tour after you paddle to the site. I chose to paddle longer than necessary. There's a put-in in Spicers Cove only a short distance away.

My paddle to see the Sisters from Apple River Bay began about an hour before high tide. This gave me time to paddle the distance, see the girls and then return to my put-in before the Fundy tides had their way with me. Earlier in the day I'd had lunch at the Cape d'Or lighthouse and watched the tide have some fun in the Dory Rips just off the cape. Truly a sight - and sound - to see and hear! It's a spot only the best of paddlers might want to find themselves in and then only by choice.

Once at the Three Sisters, I was astounded at the site of the needle-like spires of rock, some black and others red jutting out of the sea. Some veered off at unlikely angles, others were slender needles pointing straight up. The on-shore cliffs, glowing red in the late afternoon sun, towered overhead and were pierced by wave action all along their bases. I was lucky to have quiet sea conditions and sunny skies during my visit. On the paddle back to the car, fog came and went and a thunder cloud rumbled now and then over my left shoulder

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blogging off the Beach!

One of the delights about travel is making sudden and unexpected discoveries. At the last minute I changed directions, turned off the east bound highway I was on and headed south to visit Nova Scotia's Fundy shore. In a few moments I was in Springhill, the home town of Anne Murray . a well known Canadian singer. Not long afterwards I was looking across the Minas Basin. Here the narrow entrance creates interesting tidal currents not intended for the faint of heart, with streams running over 12 knots at times.

I turned westward towards Cape Chignecto, a potential paddling venue in the coming few days. The Cape and Bay area offer cliffs, currents, stacks and sea caves, everything to make a paddle along the coast interesting and exciting - provided the weather cooperates. We'll see what the days ahead will allow...

For now, I'm camped at The Old Shipyard Beach Campground in Spencer's Island. The ghost ship 'Marie Celeste' was actually built here on the beach years ago. She was christened 'The Amazon' at her launching, but later became more famously known as the 'Marie Celeste' when she was found drifting at sea, abandoned by all aboard.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Eastern Paddles

With any luck at all, I'll finally head down the road on Monday towing my micro-teardrop style trailer. I'll be heading east into the map area above, arriving eventually in Nova Scotia, sampling paddle opportunities here and there along the way. So if you live in Maine, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia and think I ought to be paddling where you do, leave a note in the comment section below and I'll try to hook up with you. My email address can be found on my profile if that works better for you.

I'll be out there for a few weeks, so posts for the next little while will be sporadic at best...


Monday, July 14, 2008

Look Ma, No Pictures!

I spent the weekend on - or near - Seneca Lake in New York State. The purpose of paddling over there was to take in a Greenland style paddling clinic given by Turner Wilson and Cheri Perry. I've joined their classes on several previous occasions and without fail I've come away a better paddler. This past weekend was no exception, especially in the stroke department.

I've paddled for years with a Greenland style paddle and really thought I knew most of what there was to know. Wrong! Turner had more to offer me. Cheri did as well in the rolling and bracing department. Unfortunately for me, the heat had got to me and I didn't do as well as I had hoped. I'm an old arctic hand, as they say, and really like to have a bit of ice in the water or in a nearby glass, at least, to get the most out a paddling experience!

All to say, if you have the chance to take a clinic with either of these two people, don't hesitate. Great instruction given by two very generous and knowledgeable people!

Oh, and the fact I don't have a picture of all this fun is mostly due to the fact I was too busy enjoying the day to bother taking pictures...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wine on the Go!

There's nothing like a small glass of wine with dinner after a long day's paddle! The problem has been not the wine, but the container it comes it. Glass has a nasty tendency to turn into shards for some reason, especially when dropped. I've used bagged wine which is sold is a box on several trips, but have never been overly pleased with the quality of the vintage. For some reason, the product tends to be a cheaper blend of so-so wines. Not what I have in mind at the end of a tiring day on the water.

On the other hand, this little box, pictured here about to be recycled, is yet another way wine is being delivered these days. Much like a sturdy milk carton with a screw top, these new packs bring with them a much improved, high quality product. This particular wine, a Shiraz from South Africa, was excellent. Even better, it comes from a grower who raises his grapes organically and produces a wine with minimal additives. I like that! I'll be stocking my kayak with more of these containers...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lowering the Bar

In spite of careful measuring and a host of other precautions, the rim of my re-constructed skin-on-frame qajaq sits too high off the hull and thus manages to gouge a groove out of my back whenever I try to lay back on the rear deck. This past weekend, I decided to see what I could do to change this annoyance.

I began by gluing a new flange to the rim just underneath the present one. Once it was set, I cut off the old flange. In the photo above, you can see I've got about half the flange cut off. I actually left the forward part of the old flange on the rim to make the skirt easier to pull on or off and also provide slightly more chance for water coming over the deck to be deflected off should I happen to paddle skirtless. This lowered the rim about half an inch. Once that was done, I 'sculpted' the top of the flange itself making the rear section slope gently into the cockpit, giving it a wider, gentler surface area, which will hopefully make it more comfortable when I lay back for a snooze - or a roll! I'd already provided for the rear of the rim to 'float' by lowering the cross-piece at that point, so I have great hopes...

I'll have the boat out for a tryout tomorrow once everything dries out a bit...

In case you're wondering what the 'hull liner' is in the picture, it's a Krazy-Karpet' left over from winter sliding fun. It makes a perfect slip in - slip out, with a whole lot less wiggling and reverse knee bending!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Greenland's Gift

It's no longer much of a secret that Greenland style kayaking - or perhaps I should say qajaqquni - is taking the world by storm. Almost anywhere one goes these days to meet up with fellow paddlers, one sees Greenland "skinny stick" paddles and even a few home-built 'skin-on-frame' kayaks. There is a reason for this recent diaspora of Greenland qajaq culture and much of the reason can be seen and heard in Dubside's latest video: Modern Greenland Kayaking.

This is the latest product coming out of the collaboration of Tom Sharp and Dubside. I was lucky enough to wrangle a copy out of Dubside's hands when we were both in Toronto last month. It should be available now through his web site and I can highly recommend adding it to your collection. The DVD takes the viewer through the re-birth and transformation of Greenland's qajaq culture as it moved from a hunting implement to a national sport. Well documented are all the varied aspects of the sport from the qajait themselves, to the rope gymnastics, the rolling and the racing. From there the video moves to the United States where a number of early pioneers like Cindy Cole and John Heath brought the rich and varied qajaq culture home to people in North America and now it's busy spreading around the world.

So get out there and buy this video! Then get involved in one of the most fascinating parts of the kayaking world, one that goes directly to the heart and spirit of its beginnings - and future.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Canada Day in Hatley Village

If you live in North America, then you know your country's birthday celebrations take place in early July. In Canada, it's July 1st. All over the country, villages, towns and cities put on some kind of special event. In Hatley Village this year they put on their 100th consecutive parade and fireworks display. Literally the money that is collected from those who donate to see the morning parade, is all blown up later that night on a big noise and light show in the skies. Dogs, babies and grannies for miles around cower under their beds until the racket settles down and another year of bucolic peace takes over.