Friday, October 31, 2008

You'd Think...

... that with digital photography making it easy and cheap to take countless photos of interesting situations, I'd take more than one picture when the wind and waves conspire to make it fun out there. Not today. Here is the only sample from a fun, chilly, wet, sunny few hours on the water. At least no one can accuse me of being a great photographer, although that water droplet is rather well placed for visual effect, don't you agree?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fishy Odor Eaters!

I've come across an item which could totally change the way we go kayaking! We all know the joys of paddling as well as the sorrows. One of the latter is the small matter of... aaa... let's call it, 'odor control', both personal and equipment related. Well, a very ecological solution may be at hand or perhaps I should say, at foot!

It seems the Asians have developed a small industry already using the technique. It's called "Fish Pedicure", but obviously, it has a wider application than mere pedicures. Carry a small bottle of these fish, a species of carp, along on your next trip and not only get your twinkies cleaned, but I suspect the guys would be happy to have a swim in your neoprene booties as well! It used to be 'Sink the Stink'. Now it's 'Eat the Stink'!

Now it's important to note that this procedure won't work as well in North America where sanitary regulations insist that the fish be sterilized between each treatment. Sadly, the poor little fish don't react well to being boiled, rendering repeated treatments less than successful. The good news is the rest of the world can enjoy healthy, clean feet not to mention paddling equipment during and after each outing!

Photo from

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Snow Geese

The first time I recall seeing snow geese was back in the 1970's when I lived in Kangirsuk in northern Quebec. I remember walking through the village with several Inuit friends when these large white geese with black wing tips flew overhead. My friends were surprised I didn't know what they were. While the geese didn't often land in northern Quebec, they were certainly well known to the Inuit as they flew overhead on their way to Baffin Island further north.

That has changed. Not that long ago when the number of snow Geese was down to about 5000 birds, they tended to migrate along the St Lawrence river and seldom came inland where I live. Today, I've heard there are about 800,000 or more birds and they've become well known visitors to local farmers' fields and ponds.

I rode my bike over to one of these farms the other day to see how they're getting along. Interestingly, I noticed at least two 'blue geese' among the flock (in the picture above, there are a couple of birds to the right of center with different, darker colouring). These are snow geese which have a slight genetic mutation which gives them different colouring from the more common type. Fun to see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Inuit Rosetta Uyaraq

I've always enjoyed languages other than my own maternal English. To me they're a fascinating peek into how different cultures see and make sense of the world around us. To really understand another person means to understand their language.

Recently the Inuit of Nunavut (Our land) put legislation in place to help fortify their language and prevent it from disappearing in the modern world. The press release was put out in four different versions, one English, one French (spoken in southern Canada) and two versions of Inuktitut, one in Roman letters, the other in the syllabic script widely used in the eastern arctic. Here is the release...

Quvianaqtualuk Inuit uqausingata sappummijauninganut piqujaq (maligaq), angiqtaujuq ippassaq 10muaqtillugu unnuk, Nunavut maligaliurviani. Suuqqaimmat uqausivut kinaunittinni nalunaiqsijuq. Piqqusirijavut. Nunavummiutaunittinnik nalunaiqsijuq. Sivummuagiaqta inuit uqausinga sannginiqsauliqullugu angirrattinni, nunalittinni, pilirivittinni amma ilinniarvitiinni. Piliriqatigiiktuinnaujunnaqtugut inuit uqausinganut.

ᖁᕕᐊᓇᖅᑐᐊᓗᒃ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᖓᑕ ᓴᑉᐳᒻᒥᔭᐅᓂᖓᓄᑦ ᐱᖁᔭᖅ (ᒪᓕᒐᖅ), ᐊᖏᖅᑕᐅᔪᖅ ᐃᒃᐸᔅᓴᖅ 10ᒧᐊᖅᑎᓪᓗᒍ ᐅᓐᓄᒃ,ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᒪᓕᒐᓕᐅᕐᕕᐊᓂ. ᓲᖅᑲᐃᒻᒪᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᕗᑦ ᑭᓇᐅᓂᑦᑎᓐᓂ ᓇᓗᓇᐃᖅᓯᔪᖅ. ᐱᖅᑯᓯᕆᔭᕗᑦ. ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥᐅᑕᐅᓂᑦᑎᓐᓂᒃᓇᓗᓇᐃᖅᓯᔪᖅ. ᓯᕗᒻᒧᐊᒋᐊᖅᑕ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᖓ ᓴᙱᓂᖅᓴᐅᓕᖁᓪᓗᒍ ᐊᖏᕐᕋᑦᑎᓐᓂ, ᓄᓇᓕᑦᑎᓐᓂ, ᐱᓕᕆᕕᑦᑎᓐᓂ ᐊᒻᒪᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᕐᕕᑏᓐᓂ. ᐱᓕᕆᖃᑎᒌᒃᑐᐃᓐᓇᐅᔪᓐᓇᖅᑐᒍᑦ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᖓᓄᑦ.

This is an important day. The Inuit Language Protection Act was approved yesterday by the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. Now we can work forward to implement it in our homes, communities, workplaces and schools. Language defines us, and is an important part of our culture. It tells who we are as Nunavummiut.

La Loi sur la protection de la langue inuit a été approuvée par l’Assemblée législative du Nunavut hier soir. C’est une journée mémorable. La langue est élément important de notre identité et de notre culture. Elle nous définit comme citoyens du Nunavut. Nous pouvons désormais renforcer son utilisation dans nos maisons, nos communautés, nos milieux de travail et nos écoles.

Now how many of you can use one language to see into another using this 'Rosetta Stone' style press release?

Monday, October 27, 2008

So, Who Ya Gonna Vote For?

A common question these days. Here in Canada, we just finished voting for a new national government, although, from the results - a minority conservative house - it doesn't seem like much of a change. Even worse, only about half the eligible voters bothered to support a candidate for office. They didn't seem to care. The result is we have a national government in power, making and implementing decisions, who have the support of about 10% of the population. That doesn't feel good to me!

As kayakers, we need to care, and care a lot. For example, the previous government here in Canada quietly decided we paddlers didn't need topo maps to get around. They tried to stop their publication until the paddling community discovered their plans and raised a stink. This same government is allowing the environment to be trashed. This is especially true of rivers. Just look at what the tar sands development is doing to northern waters... Instead of strengthening preservation rules, new rules for navigable waters are being proposed which will allow less regulation and more development, opening up a whole nasty nest of stuff. These items are but the tip of the iceberg. Instead of moving Canada towards a new economy based of sustainability and a low carbon footprint, the reverse is being fostered.

The United States votes next week. As kayakers, I hope they get out and vote, unlike us Canadians. I also hope they look at which of the next presidential candidates is prepared to see that the paddling environment is protected and enhanced. 'Friends', to be frank, I'm asking for your help in this because I love kayaking in clean and natural American waters. I have lots of places still to visit and I need to know they'll be there when I arrive at the put-in. I'm counting on ya! We're all in this together...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What Next?

Just when you thought it was save out there, news arrives to suggest otherwise. This photo arrived in my inbox the other day and has me worried. I understood that the Great Blue Herons I see along the shores of my lake were harmless creatures, eating up a few frogs and minnows etc. It seems they have other, larger goals in mind... bunnies!

What's next? Us?

If you can stomach more on this, check it out this site...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

All Fall Down

Almost all the leaves have fallen down. Nature's hard work is over, now it gets the winter off. This picture shows what's left, a forest - and a country road - buried in leaves soon to be returned to the soil from where they came. Interestingly our lives follow the same pattern: we work hard to make a name for ourselves in whatever is our chosen endeavour, we shine for a while and then we take our ease and let others carry on.

Well, for some, anyway. For me, it's more about keeping the light burning, not trying to shine too brightly, but shining just enough to see the next headland, or the height of navigation in a little brook like the one in the photo above. That's enough for me because I like the journey best. I know where I'll end up sooner or later. I'm in no rush to get there and see the "shining light" people talk about!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ferry On Over

Taking the ferry on the Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia this summer.

Speaking of ferries, why not ferry on over to my other blog and catch up on how my lonely survivor of Franklin's ill-fated expedition is doing? I've sadly neglected to update the story for almost a year, but I'm back at it with the view to try and finish before... well... to finish it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Visitor Surprises

Many bloggers like to know both who visits their site as well as what led them to visit. Given the snow clouds of yesterday brought their promise over-night and I won't be paddling today, I thought I might provide you all with what I know about you and a bit about what may have led to your recent visit.

So far this month, 801 people chose to check out the blog, roughly 40 people a day, which is a bit slower than usual. Of those, 203 have visited previously. Curiously, almost half the people visiting (47.2%) arrived via a Google search of some kind, which suggests that a good many of them may not have any interest in the blog's stated focus on seakayaking and the arctic. For example, 'teardrop trailors' (5.1% of search requests), 'Mars bar logo' (6%) and 'Killarney Fish and Chips' (3%) are listed in the top ten search keywords, none of which are specifically related to the main focus of the blog. A number of people have searched for certain people by name including me. Some others have been looking for specific 'nude' paddlers, whom they seem to think have posed in the buff on 'ckayaker's' centerfold! I haven't had any personal requests so far, which is probably just as well!

The remaining people have come to the site either because they've bookmarked it, or they've linked over from other paddling sites. Derrick's Kayakquixotica is the most common (8.3%). Others include (3.1%) and (2.8%). Most visitors live in the USA (42.1%), followed by Canada (31.7%). Great Britain comes next with 5.4%, with other parts of the world trailing far behind these English speaking countries. France leads the non-English speaking group with 2.1% followed by the Netherlands (1.5%), Germany (1.5%) and Spain (1.2%).

Finally, most visitors are using 'Windows' (80.6%) and 'Internet Explorer' (52.7%) in one of their variants. Mac OS (12.8%) is the next most common operating system followed by a host of others including Linux (1.7%) and even iPhone OS (0.5%). The next most common browser is Firefox (33.9%). Safari is well back with 9.1%.

So there you have it - everything you wanted to know about your fellow readers! Now if the weather will improve I can get out for a paddle!

Monday, October 20, 2008

No Rope Burns

I dropped in to see my banker today. Given the recent economic melt-down, I was anxious to see if she had any rope burns on her neck. She didn't, or I couldn't detect any from my side of her desk. I checked the windows, but then realised that being on the ground floor, she'd probably not bother jumping out. In fact, she was very composed, up-beat and confident that my $50 investment portfolio would weather the crisis intact. Why I might even be able to lower my costs if I wanted to buy low...

I went paddling in calm waters, confident in the future and ready to make plans for another trip somewhere. I see there's to be a Rendez-vous in Bretagne next spring. Hmmm...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Paddling Companions

As the days grow shorter and both the air and water grow cooler, there are fewer and fewer paddling companions about. In fact I haven't seen another kayaker on the water since Thanksgiving (Oct 12th). This is both sad as it means that not many people have the proper equipment to be out there, but also it means that they are wisely staying off the water, knowing the risks of taking a tumble into waters too cold for casual clothing.

I'm not totally alone however. Yesterday I was led along the shore by a Great Blue Heron. It would watch me approach, take off and fly along a few hundred meters and land. I could see it watching me carefully, checking my every stroke as I made my way closer. Satisfied that I was doing okay, it would take off again and wait once more, again keeping me under cautious scrutiny. It's lonely out there, but I'm not alone!

Friday, October 17, 2008

RV - Kayaking Report

Beach camping in Nova Scotia...

I bought my mini-RV last May and so far have made three overnight trips with it. The longest was roughly three weeks when I took it to Nova Scotia and the shortest was a couple of weeks ago when I went down to Maine to paddle for a few days. I thought I would reflect on the investment, both the good and the bad.

... with a view to die for!

To begin with, towing the lightweight trailer has definitely increased my gas consumption somewhat. Interestingly, traveling with the kayak on its roof rack accounts for the major decrease in mileage with the 450 lbs trailer adding only another slight decrease. The total amount is roughly a 17% decrease in mileage per tank full of gas. I feel this is a worthwhile cost given how much longer I'm able to travel in relative comfort and the savings I've gained not having to pay for motel accommodations each night while on the road. Generally my mini-RV has been subject to the same camping fees as my tent set-up had been in the past, so I haven't increased my camping costs to any extent.

The trailer has also allowed me to drive to and park directly on the beach when campgounds were located there. In Maine and Québec, there are many such places and this allows for making multiple day paddles in the same area with little fuss or inconvenience. In Nova Scotia, I was able to do the same thing in three campgrounds, but I ran into a couple of problems as well. Unlike most areas of North America, the province does not permit overnight parking anywhere but at licensed campgounds. In some areas, I discovered there were no campgounds available making it difficult to pull off the road when I got tired. In one case the place was filthy beyond belief, but I had to stay there as there was no other option. While I prefer to stay in convenient campgrounds, I believe Nova Scotia ought to take a more localized approach when banning overnight parking. It has been shown that local regulations tend to result in cleaner campgrounds and increased commerce by RV'ers as they pass through. Their one-rule-fits-all approach is ruining the camping experience which is a great pity given the beauty of the place and the wonderful people who live there.

I'm looking forward to taking my mini-RV south on another paddling trip this winter. I expect to be away for several months (depending on how good the skiing is here at home). So far the RV experience has been very positive and, I feel, has greatly enhanced my kayaking opportunities and enjoyment. I expect to see more RV-kayakers on the road!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Safety Bay

While out paddling in the winds the other day, the idea was to paddle up-wind and then surf back the way I'd come. The winds were kicking up some good sized breaking waves making the windward leg a real workout. The kayak would regularly bury its nose in the advancing wave, then bounce up, over to crash into the trough with a bang and a splash. Needless to say after about a mile or so up wind, it was good to reach this little bay, dubbed 'Safety Bay' for the occasion. I wasn't the only one taking a breather. The surface was covered with hundreds of leaves waiting their turn to head down the lake towards the outlet and whatever fate had in for them.

After a moment to let the adrenaline subside, I would charge into the fray once again, this time trying to catch a few good rides down the backs of waves. Once at the starting point, it was a quick turn, the odd brace to avoid going over and another slow climb back to 'Safety'. The wind held out longer than I did. It was a fresh, young thing, I guess...

I don't get to paddle in heavy wind and big waves very often, so it was good practice for those times when I do get out on the ocean where conditions like these are much more common. Oh, that that could happen more!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - Poverty

When I was old enough to travel on my own, I was determined to try to get to some of the wild, out-of-the-way places in the adventure books I'd read as a teenager. So while my friends headed off to Europe, I found myself in small Mexican highland villages, along rivers paddled by the French-Canadian Voyageurs and living in Inuit seal and walrus hunting camps. It never occurred to me that today some of these places would be called examples of poverty. True the people living in these places had relatively few possessions and at times found themselves hungry, but poor? I never thought so. These experiences taught me that poverty can often be a state of mind more than a state of being.

Today, like many of you, I live in a world full of magical electronic gadgets, with nearly instant world-wide communications and stores full of everything imaginable. Yet around me I see poverty worse than anything I saw as a young traveler. Today I see a poverty of spirit, of hope, of joy. The seal hunting camps may have been devoid of almost every convenience, yet all around one heard laughter, caring and warmth. The poverty I see today seems to have happened because we have become isolated and detached from each other. It has happened when we abused each other and forgot to be friends. It has happened because we have been thinking too much about ourselves and not enough about those around us. We have become selfish without realising it.

We can fill the world with material possessions and think we have solved the problems of poverty, but I believe we will do far more good, if we take care of those around us by helping, by being there, by expressing our joy for life, by raising our collective spirits when times get tough.

The photo above was taken yesterday when the lake was rough. The waves kept breaking into white-toothed splashing smiles as I paddled and surfed. There was nothing out there by my boat and I, but oh, what joy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Tomorrow is 'Blog Action Day', a day when many bloggers around the world will share a common theme: Poverty. Given the times and our potentials, it makes for an interesting topic. I'm working on my contribution so hopefully will have something useful to say tomorrow. Join in!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Want An Adventure?

There are those who claim an 'Adventure' occurs when the unexpected happens, and not the other way around. Others see the unexpected as an 'Accident'. Either way, it seems some people expect the unexpected. Some get lucky and walk away. Some don't.

I went paddling today. It was sunny, calm, warmish - about 16°C - the water definitely chilling down now that it's fall. I noticed a lady launch her rec-kayak... I didn't say anything other than 'hello'. About an hour later, the wind had picked up considerably, the clouds had begun obscuring the sun and there was a chill in the air. I was crossing the lake heading home when I noticed the lady in the rec-kayak (see the tiny dot mid-photo). It occurred to me she had no spray-skirt, no immersion gear and no pfd visible when I'd seen her launch. I hope she did now because conditions were changing quickly and she had a mile or more of upwind paddling to do before she got home.

I always worry when I see people out there setting themselves up for an 'Adventure'. Personally, I'd rather enjoy my outings and keep the unexpected events to a minimum.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Leg Work Today

The highest town in Québec is St Malo, less than an hour's drive from where I live. To look at the area, it's difficult to believe you are as high as you are. The land seems relatively flat and rolling. To really have a better idea, get on your bike...

Suddenly the reality of the place comes home. Those rolling hills seem to last forever. The open vistas are wind generators that somehow seem to always twist around to face you. Our roughly 40 kms peddle today turned out to be quite the leg workout.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Errr... Not Quite

Everywhere you look these days as you paddle along the shores of the lake, people are busy putting things away, cleaning up and preparing for the coming winter. It's part of the routine each year, but there are some people who just don't seem to be in the 'How It's Done' loop.

Take this item, a ride-on toy designed to be pulled behind a motor boat. Why is it being left under this tree? Surely that's not quite what you'd call 'winter storage'. I always wonder about these items: should I tow them home and have a boathouse sale in the spring?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

They're Back...

Claire made the comment yesterday that the lake water looked cold. In fact, it's still rather warm. I heard that some people were actually in swimming - voluntarily! Not me. I'd rather paddle, thank you.

Today I decided to see what was floating in the water. Here are a couple of samples. The leaf is one of thousands having been shaken out of their summer homes in the trees.

The second photo hints of a transient. Canada Geese are beginning to show up again on their way - or not - south. As in recent years, these birds are staying on the lake until it freezes over completely in January. Unlike the olde days, they no longer follow predicable migration seasons, tending to linger wherever the food is. And they'll eat practically anything they can find. Another reason for No Trace camping. Pretty embarrassing to have a gaggle of geese following you from campsite to campsite!

Putting Some Colour In It

Coming around Black Point...

We've been having a streak of grey, rainy weather recently making it difficult to really appreciate the display nature has been putting on in the hills and valleys around here. Yesterday that changed. Here are a few examples of what I paddled in during my outing yesterday...

A home set ablaze with leafy colour.

The up-wind slog coming home.

Monday, October 6, 2008


The temperature was down to an ungodly 7°C yesterday when I put the kayak in the water. Knowing it was chilly, I dressed in my Fall paddling gear for the first time since the summer. No more short-sleeves, no more partial spray-skirt. Now it was serious. I donned my Reed 'Stealth' jacket which has the spray skirt attached. I clambered into the boat, attached the shirt and then...

...I looked down. Can you see what I saw? I hope so. I was headed for a potential accident. Here's what I should have seen when I looked down...

... the pull tag on the spray-skirt showing and ready to grab if and when I should need it! One more little thing to check before pushing off, but, oh, so important. This particular skirt fits so snuggly that it's quite difficult to remove without access to the pull tag. With bare hands paddling in 7°C air, I would have been in serious difficulty trying to wet exit should I have had to - and you just never know. I fail rolls all the time, perhaps you do as well. Don't let a mistake like this happen to you!

The remainder of the paddle passed without incident!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Things You See When Kayaking...

When I left home to drive over to the put-in the sun was peeking out through the clouds so I'd hope to have some photos of the Fall Foliage to put up on the blog today. Alas, the sun soon disappeared and stayed that way the remainder of the day. So no foliage pictures. Instead, I'll offer you these curiousities...

Yup, someone has been neglecting their canoe in this picture. Won't they be sorry to discover the stern section has totally disappeared? I hate to see neglect like this when it involves one of Canada's iconic symbols. Imagine if beavers let themselves go like this canoe. What then...?

The next picture is a great idea which never seemed to take off. Developed locally, the Surf-Bike was a brilliant attempt to get the hardcore cycling community out on the water. I've never tried one of these (note, the seat has been removed...), but I've seen the owners out on the water enjoying themselves, happily peddling along through the waves like it was a perfectly natural thing to be doing. I don't believe they are still being manufactured, but with the collapsing economy, who knows, those island dwellers out there may want to take up cycling to get to work...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

One Way Or Another!

I'm not sure who owns this lovely craft. In fact, she remains at her mooring nearly all summer and never seems to be sailed, which is a pity. She's a beautiful craft and I'd love to see her under sail with a 'bone in her mouth' as the expression goes.

Not to worry however. There are those who use her on a regular basis! This kingfisher is often perched atop her mast gazing into the waters below for his dinner.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Inuit Myths For All

I recently came across a new site, a valuable resource for those interested in Inuit mythology and stories. Here's what the developers have to say about their mission...

"Storytelling traditions around the world are passed from generation to generation, linking people to their cultures and ancestors. Traditional stories are an important aspect of Inuit culture. Currently in the Arctic, however, many of these stories are not being passed on and are at risk of being lost.

"The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) works hard to promote and protect Inuit culture. QIA has developed, to provide a resource for Nunavummiut and people from around the world who want to learn more about the Inuit storytelling tradition.

There is actually a way to add your own myths for possible posting to the site making it able to grow and expand as time goes by. Check it out!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Knotty Bits

Most of us use our decklines to temporarily store our paddles and other gear while we're out paddling. The fact that the lines tend to lay flat on the deck can often make it a pain to quickly slip the blade under the line, especially out at the bow. Many people end up using plastic beads or - if you're really traditionally minded - carved bone or antler rings to keep the lines slightly off the deck. I've used another method: using the line itself by tying some inline knots along its length.

At the leading edge of the line, I tied in a knot just as the lines came off the forward anchor point.

About 30 cms along the line, I put another knot just ahead of the next anchor point running aft. Voila! The line is off the deck and ready for whatever I want to slip under it, including my mitted glove should I find myself in the water in my winter immersion gear. Things like that have happened!

The knot I use is simple to tie. Make a small loop in the line at the point you want the knot. A few centimeters from the curve of the loop, give the cord a few turns around the loop and then thread the bitter end through the loop. Pull tight and you've got yourself knotty bit! Repeat as needed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Down Ta Maine.

Tropical storm 'Kyle' had its way with a little Greenland style event which a few folks down in Maine had planned for last weekend. Thanks to 'Kyle' the event got washed out and chilled out, and now has been re-scheduled for another weekend later in October. I was disappointed. I was looking forward to meeting some old friends and making some new ones. By Monday, I decided, why not go down to Maine anyway and at least paddle around a bit. So I did!

I put in off the dock in South Freeport and in no time came up against this imposing bow of a good size motor-cruiser. Lovely boat actually, but hardly my style. As I headed out towards Casco Bay, this lovely wooden schooner appeared. Not many of these ladies around anymore, so I was glad to come across her and take her picture for my scrapbook. I just love the lines of a schooner rig. I wish she's been underway!

I followed shorelines and watched the lobster boys do their thing for most of the day. It was fun to be on the coast again and just paddle here and there, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds. I didn't get to play with the Greenland crowd, but the trip was worthwhile. I'll have to go down there again this fall if the weather stays half decent!