Thursday, February 28, 2008

There's Light Beyond The Trees

I've been wanting to upgrade the look of this place for a while now, but was reluctant to let go of my old comfortable format. It was so easy to work with and make little changes to. I especially liked the wider page I had twigged on the old page. Still it was getting out-dated in some ways, so here we are, nearly our of the woods, as it were.

So I took today to make some changes which may be readily visible. I'm not entirely happy yet, but at least all the old information and links are back up and hopefully working.

I'm heading off for a few days to play, so don't look for much until next week sometime. Tavvouatisi!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Here We Go Again!

It's a bit ironic that on the very day that friends are heading to Tampa, Florida to begin this year's WaterTribe Everglades Challenge Race I should be returning to winter with another big fall of snow! So instead of paddling through mangrove tunnels, I'll be shoveling my way through snow-drifts. Poor them, missing all the fun!

On another topic, I've subscribed to Rapid Media's Green Magazine version of Adventure Kayak. To me this online version of a print magazine is the way into the future and I wish more publishers would consider an online version. It's cheaper, quicker, more ecologically sound and there's nothing to clutter up the house. Back issues are always handy and don't go moldy in the basement. To my way of thinking, it's the best of all worlds.

The current issue has mini-bios of many of today's women paddlers and a review of Boréal Design's new Baffin. Is there a plastic boat in my future? A woman paddler? Hmmmmm... LOL

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Getting Cranked to Paddle

If you're the type who camps as you kayak, and if that camp site happens to be out of reach of resupply depots, then being self-sufficient is all important. One item which always seems to be in short supply are fresh flashlight batteries. Well, here's an interesting item that can help, a hand-crank flashlight. Two minutes of cranking provides about 20 minutes of light, and you'll never have to worry about dead or leaking batteries. I got mine from Canada's Lee Valley Tools.

It isn't waterproof, but I like that it's much smaller than similar lights at only 3-1/2" long by 2" wide by 1-1/4" thick with the crank folded for storage. It is perfect for stuffing into a small corner somewhere. I keep mine in my sleeping bag dry-bag so it's handy for those midnight nature calls. Its three bright LED bulbs are rated for 100,000 hours each, so they will never need replacing and will light up any camp intruder with glaring results!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Winter Got You Down?

People living in places where cold and dark can persist well beyond reasonable limits can take heart by counting their other blessings. Here's a perfect example, a wonderful mid-winter smile from a young lady named Suzie who hailed years ago from Kangirsualjuaq who's clearly having a good day. She was over in Old Fort Chimo having a look at the musk ox and wearing her home-made parka with it's gorgeous white fox fur trim on the same day I was there. She seems to be happy to see us, doesn't she!

Now don't you feel better?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Amusing Myself and/or Informing Others?

One of the interesting things about putting up a kayaking blog is to be able to see where one's visitors live. Until recently I could only think, "That's interesting. I've been to that place. I wonder who that person is?". I naively assumed everyone who was reading the blog was a kayaker like me, just dying to get out there and paddle.

Well, it isn't exactly like that. I'm sure many visitors - perhaps most - are paddlers and it might be fun to connect up if/when I pass through their town. However, there seem to be many other reasons for visiting my blog... Here's some I've noticed in the past few days when the following 'keywords' were typed into a Google search and led a person to me. For example "inuit hunting gear" and "inuit ice fishing". That seems fair enough. I do mention topics like those ones now and then. Then there was "what's wrong here"... Yup, straight to my site for a look... I found that odd too. "It's been a year" also led to my blog as did "cherish the morning that comes into view". Perhaps the most bizarre have been "wife briefest bikini" and "naked paddler". We know what they were after!

Now I'm getting to know my readers' desires a bit better, the question becomes, do I cater to their obvious needs, or do I selfishly continue writing for my own amusement? Time will tell, or maybe it won't...

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Golden Book

Those of us who paddle kayaks like to think we are kayakers. We train to improve our skills and techniques. We regale our friends of the trips we've made, the places we've paddled, but, in the end, what do we really know? Can we tell the kayak's story? Do we know of the kayak's birth, it's growing up, it's working life, it's near death? Or do we only know the present, it's new life in what might be called 'kayak heaven' where all things have become possible?

Harvey Golden has made it his passion to learn the story, the history of the Greenland Kayak and now he has made it his business to market a marvelous tome of stories and designs, The Kayaks of Greenland. I met Harvey and first saw his book over a year and a half ago when we were both at the Delmarva Paddlers Retreat. I knew then I would need to have his book, but for some reason I waited. I don't know why. I have no excuse, really. Now I have got over these silly inhibitions and bought the book. What a relief! I'm going to slowly go over each design, each story, each line drawing, each photo. I will probably wear a mask so I don't accidently drool. Thank you Harvey! I'm beginning to think I might become a real kayaker some day after I've read this book a few times, build a few more boats and paddle a few more hundred miles...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tea at Midnight

Every days that passes sees the sun rising a little bit earlier and setting a little bit later. By mid-March we'll arrive at the equinox, that day when light and dark become equal in length. From that point, the day grows longer and longer until the summer solstice, the longest daylight of the year.

If you live in the high latitudes, then the period of daylight accelerates even more quickly to the point when night disappears entirely long before the solstice. The sun can be seen above the horizon 24 hours a day or nearly so. The higher your latitude, the earlier this effect occurs after the equinox and the longer it lasts after the solstice.

In the photo above taken in the 1970's, a group of us are traveling by skidoo, taking advantage of the late night sunshine. The low sun is still bright enough to give a clear view of the terrain with all it's bumps and hollows, yet, the snow is hard and easy to travel on. We're en route to Quoartaq, a small village north of Kangirsuk to do some visiting and enjoy the dancing which the people there were well known for. I've removed the cowling on my skidoo because of the 'heat'. The girls are taking a break from riding in the box on the sled or kamotik. While the interior is padded, the ride can get rough at times! Someone is brewing tea, a constant excuse for stopping along the way.The two gentlemen are probably discussing their stock-market investments, a constant worry for high-rollers out on the trail far away from their brokers in Toronto and Tokyo...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

'Babs' Lindman's New Zealand Voyage

It's no secret that it's the 'Year of the Women Paddlers' in New Zealand this winter (their summer). Freya has already completed her journey in fine style and, hopefully, is looking for some time to write about it for the rest of us. Barry and Justine are en route as I write, although Justine's back problems have forced them into a short break. Hopefully they are getting some good video footage to edit into a film we'll be watching at this time next year. Then there is Barbro Lindman, the quiet one, the unknown lady...

When these three ladies first announced their intentions to paddle around New Zealand's South Island, most of us knew of Freya and Justine, but who was Barbro Lindman? Frankly, she isn't that well known in the paddling community, but if you take the time to follow her blog, I think you will be impressed by this woman. She has paddled more than half of her trip so far and done so with little drama or upset. She has all the attributes a competent paddler who quietly goes out, does her thing and moves herself along the often daunting coastline. I, for one, am enjoying following her trip blog! Her story is a good one and the maps and photos her team's been posting are excellent. Have a look and cheer her on!

Photo lifted off Barbro's blog...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Northern Patience...

On Sunday, rather than lie abed with my newly acquired head cold, I went for a car ride with my wife, who was participating in the 'Great Backyard Bird Count'. She had been out earlier on the weekend with some friends and seen some rare and interesting ducks and to my mind, where there are ducks, there is open water and a paddling opportunity! I had to check for possible paddling leads, sick or not.

Unfortunately, while there were plenty of ducks, mergansers, both common and hooded, some mallards and even some browsing deer, for me there was also the dreaded and ubiquitous shore ice, a slippery shelf of thin ice seen here in the photo, reaching out from both shores towards the lovely liquid stuff in the middle. What makes this ice so nasty is that it's so easy to slide your boat across it from the shore, sliding out to the water like a seal on it's belly. The return trip is where things turn sour. The thin wet ice is nearly impossible to clamber back over and regaining the shore is more a matter of good luck than skill, even for those equipped with ice picks to pull themselves along.

We drove the length of the open water section, she admiring the fowl, I becoming more foul until the idea of returning home for hot drinks laced with something soothing seemed like a most welcoming suggestion. Patience, my northern friends...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Camera Battery News

I've been trying out some new re-chargeable batteries recently while out skiing. This activity gives camera batteries a good workout as the combination of cold and my own laziness in seeing that they are charged often results in my camera being unable to function. These new types of batteries have been working well. They maintain their change for a much longer time than regular Ni-MH batteries and they have stood up to the cold weather well. Yesterday I was out from 9.30 AM until 2.30 PM on a long ski in weather around -13°C. My camera was in my exposed jacket pocket and it continued to function well all day. I've had trouble using regular Ni-MH betteries doing that, so I'm a convert. Here's what the reviewers have to say about one brand made by Sanyo:

"Eneloop batteries are Ni-MH batteries made by Sanyo in Japan. They come fully charged out-of-the-box, and have a slow self-discharging range. They can also be recharged in any Ni-MH charger. Sanyo says Eneloops can be recharged up to 1000 times, and they will retain their charged capacity even after 6 or 12 months of storage. (According to Sanyo the specs are: 90% of charged capacity retained after 6 months, and 85% capacity after 12 months at 20 degree Celsius). The AA-sized (R6) batteries are rated at 2000mAh, and the AAA-sized (R03) cells are rated at 800mAh. The price is similar to the Hybrios — a pack of 4 AA Eneloops costs about $12. The charge times are as follows: AA Eneloops charge in 230 minutes, and AAA Eneloops charge in 135 minutes."

I will definitely use them when on longer trips thanks to their slow discharge rate. Last winter, in Florida, I was caught without sufficient battery power several times, so this feature ought to help considerably.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Here Be Paddles, Mates!

Okay, pine is not the wood of choice for making Greenland style paddles, but it did occur to me as we were skiing today, that someone is growing lots of wood to make paddles! Good ski. Good paddles!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day and Kayak Buddies

What are you thinking about today? Of course, it's your loved ones! Two of mine are in the photo above taking our dogs for a ski now that we have our snow back again in huge quantities! And, of course, as a passionately involved kayaker, I'm thinking about my four boats patiently waiting in the shed for open water days, two glass ones and two home-built SOF boats. They certainly deserve a hug for all the pleasure they've given me during the past year. Where would I be without them?

Then there are the best Valentine's, you know, the secret ones, the tantalizing ones, the ones perhaps forever out of reach... I'm thinking about you as well. You know who you are, don't you? Think back. We're avid kayakers. We enjoyed a meal together and some stimulating conversation, perhaps fueled with some red wine. We might have paddled along a rugged coast in sparkling water under a sunny sky. Maybe I'm just dreaming about that... We parted with a tight hug, perhaps making a little secret promise to ourselves. I'm thinking about you today and sending you warm, happy Valentine wishes for another great year of paddling ahead, perhaps together ;-)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blogging Security

It's a sad fact that many bloggers eventually find their site being attacked by someone holding a grudge. This often takes the form of malicious comments being posted in an attempt to discredit the blogger's reputation. Fortunately, I have been mostly free of these attacks, having had only one instance about a year ago when over the course of an hour a person put up numerous nasty comments throughout almost a year of postings.

I soon discovered that some tools exist to help. Most blogging sites provide options allowing the blogger to scan comments before they get posted and many people use this method of weeding out the inappropriate. Another option, which I use, is to enable a third-party monitoring site. This site tracks all visitors to my blog. I can now tell where people visiting Canadian Ckayaker are coming from, where they were prior to their visit, when they visited and who provides their internet service.

This latter information has provided some surprises. I was recently visited by the American Dept of Homeland Security out of Kansas City, Missouri! They were using Goggle to check out "The American Club" on nearby Lake Massawippi. This social canoe club was established in the 1800's by Americans from the southern states who summered in my part of Canada rather than in New England. It seems feelings still ran high stemming from the Civil War in the United States. I guess Homeland Security thinks these feelings may still be on simmer. They may not know the trains no longer run and few Americans list the club as one they belong to. The tufted titmouse in the photo above, on the other hand, does still make the trek north from the Gulf states each year, and, I understand, continues to avoid checking in with border security. I wonder...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Kangirsuk Ice Challenge

Just look at that ice jumble! The tides of Kangirsuk rise and fall many meters each day and that together with the huge rocks in the bay they conspire to create a total chaos of ice each year. The fact that the old Hudson's Bay Store and the village are on opposite sides of the bay, forced everyone to take the long way around when visiting or shopping. Trying to take the short-cut across the ice was full of perils as the ice was full or cracks and holes just waiting to gobble you up as you made your way through the mess. Everyone went the long way around the bay.

In the spring however, at high tide, the bay became a playground, albeit a dangerous one, for many people, especially teenagers. The challenge was to cross the bay by jumping quickly from one floating pan of ice to the next without slipping into the water. Here and there were 'safe' ice pans able to support one's weight, but most would sink under foot. The few safety panes gave a person a chance to plot the next few moves across pans of ice too small to support a person's weight beyond a second or two. Lightness of foot and speed were the tactics to use. Only a lucky few were able to get all the way across the bay without getting something wet, and, of course, wet meant cold as well. Really cold!

The helicopters? Well, they were another way to get across the bay without going around, but you really had to be on the pilots' good side...

In the top picture, the small house just to the left of center belonged to Tomaasi Kudluk who built a traditional kayak while I was there in 1972. It was perhaps the last of several he built for museums and various collectors and probably the last one built in Kangirsuk. I know that one now resides in the collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, but it seldom sees the light of day. Its lines are found in E.Y. Arima's book Inuit Kayaks in Canada (figure 37 on page 226). It would be a fun boat to build, having a 14'9" length and 24-1/4" beam.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Jesse Cook Came to Town

Canadian virtuoso guitarist Jesse Cook was in town last Saturday to give a concert at Bishop's University. He likes to tell the audience that he was actually conceived on the golf course behind the university some years ago and thus has close attachments to the place for obvious reasons!

While a guitarist versed in many styles of playing, I enjoy his rolling rumba tunes although his latest material is getting a long way from traditional flamenco. He played with three other musicians, another flamenco style guitarist, Nicolas Hernandez, an amazing Cuban drummer, Rosendo Leon and his old stage-mate Chris Church who plays violin and also appears on Jesse's latest CD 'Frontiers'.

To be honest, I enjoy Jesse best when he plays alone or with just cajun and/or palmas. The addition of a full set of overly amplified guitars, drum set and a violin just don't do it for me, although the packed house at Bishop's gave him several standing ovations and lots of cheering. I wished his sound man had used a bit more of a delicate touch in setting up the sound for the small intimate concert hall at Bishop's. Having done so in the past, I know it can provide a real flamenco night club atmosphere if it's done with care. That said, it was a warm musical evening, in spite of the snow blowing around outside.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Arctic Ink Art

Outboard by Josephie Annahatak

In the 1970's Kangirsuk and most small arctic communities were cut off from the outside world in many ways. No roads led into them nor was there any outside contact other than radio telephone and only that when it worked! No TV, no radio, no video movie rentals, nothing. Everyone had to make up their own entertainment. During the fall and spring each year even airplane traffic came to a halt for six weeks or so as the water used for landing was either freezing of melting. This was the hardest time of the year as hunting and fishing also slowed down until travel became safer and easier again. It was a time to keep busy and get creative!

Ski-doo by unknown

In Montreal, I had learned to draw directly on blank 35mm slide stock with old-fashioned nib pens and acrylic inks, so once in Kangirsuk I introduced both students and adults to the technique in the evenings when there was little else to do. Many people attended these fun sessions and together we produced hundreds of coloured slides. Over the next few posts, I'll put up a few examples with the artist's name attached below when I know it. Often the name is missing, which is a pity as there is some good material here!

Ski-doo by Jessie Takolik

Today's slides show what was on everyone's mind: boats and ski-doos, the changing methods of transportation everyone used. We were all putting one away and getting ready to use the other.


Kristen had a good idea in her comment, so to follow-up, I've put up a selection of the ink art slides on a Flickr site. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Bearded Ones Come To Town

In the early 1800's the Hudson's Bay Company built a post they called Fort Chimo on the Kuujjuaq River which flows north into Ungava Bay. During the Second World War the Americans built an airstrip to refuel aircraft en route to and from Europe a few miles upstream and across the Kuujjuaq river from Fort Chimo.

Eventually the old HBC post closed, it's early history all but forgotten. The new town of 'Kuujjuaq' arose on the site of the old airbase and today has become a major hub of activity in Nunavik, the most northern part of Québec.

While living in Kangirsuk, I occasionally got a chance to visit Kuujjuaq. At that time, old Fort Chimo had been converted into an experimental field station to introduce musk oxen - known in Inuktitut as omingmuk or 'bearded ones' - into the northern Québec wilds. It was an interesting experiment and one which I believe met with some success.

Now and then people living in Kangirsuk report seeing some of the released animals out on the tundra, many miles from where they were originally raised. Protected from hunting, perhaps some still roam the hills and valleys on Nunavik!

Friday, February 8, 2008


Regular readers will know I've taken the plunge into making kayaking videos in my own humble way. I would like to think I've been making some headway improving both the story-line, composition and editing of the final product. I've also gone through a number of different camera types and presently own a Sanyo Xacti waterproof videocam which I think is the best of the bunch I've tried so far in the low end price range.

That said, Panasonic, no slouch in the videocam field has just announced its entry into the field of low cost waterproof videocams, the SDR-SW20. This link will take you to a review of the camera. As you can see in the picture above, it's a cutie, but at this point, I think the Sanyo has more useful features. In any event, if you're looking for a waterproof videocam which also takes stills (sorta...) then here's something else to check on.

Note: I've altered the date and time of this post for reasons I won't go into...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hearts and Dragons and Little Birds

Nature is the Great Artist many would say. No matter where one lives or looks, natural art abounds, but what you get in one place isn't necessarily found in another. Here is an example: window frost art.

Found only in temperate areas and colder and, these days, only where windows have poor insulating properties, nature will draw the most amazing creatures. Here are some examples I photographed on the school windows of the Kangirsuk School in the 1970's where we often burned more than 500 gallons of oil every month trying to stay warm!

I see hearts and dragons and little birds. Just the thing to get children (or anyone else, for that matter) writing stories about their loves and fears and flights of fancy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ice Fishing Inuit Style

Traditionally many Inuit in Nunavik, the most northern part of Québec, depended on fish to get them through the winter. These families would head inland during the winter rather than go sealing along the coast. One of the reasons for this migration is the extremely high tidal range in Ungava Bay - one of the world's highest - made floe edge sealing a very dangerous occupation. The chances of the piece of ice you happened to be hunting on breaking off and floating out to sea was very high and your chances of returning to shore very low.

Fishing was actually done by 'spearing'. First one chopped a hole through the ice, seen here on a river where the ice wasn't too thick. Lake ice could easily grow up to several meters thick during the winter, so looking for a good stream with thinner ice was important! Once the hole was open and the ice chips were removed, one lay on the ice and dangled a little lure, often a bear's canine tooth or something else white and heavy, and bobbed it up and down to attract the fish. In one's other hand, a long three-pronged fishing spear was held with the point aimed towards the lure. When a fish came close to the lure, one made a quick jab and with some luck, the fish was quickly hauled out of the water and removed. In this somewhat damaged picture, two spears can be seen, with the nearest man already fishing.

In later years, gill nets were set via a series of holes, across a stream. Once set, they could be hauled out from either end and cleaned of fish. Then they were pulled back into the water from the hole at the far end and re-set for the next catch.

When I lived in Kangirsuk in the 1970's we ate fish every day, sometimes three meals a day! Yum!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Paddling Lists - Taiwan

Another place on my paddling list is Taiwan. I know nothing about Taiwan other than my son is presently working there for the next year or so. A Google search for kayaking possibilities doesn't seem to bring much up to assist the interested paddler.

Given the apparent lack outfitters, etc., the place appears to be ripe for some kayakers to explore! Besides, if I go there before next year, I'll get to see my son all that much sooner...

So what's keeping me at home? I don't (currently) own a folding kayak, nor a take-apart, which given the lack of information about the place, might be an item a person ought to take along on the flight if they really want to paddle. In the meantime, my son is checking into what's actually available. He also speaks Chinese, another good thing!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Paddling Lists - Eqe

It isn't very long between the time you begin paddling and your creation of a list of places you'd love to go paddling. In no time you start to accummulate your own personal 100 Places to Paddle Before You Die.

I made up a list a few years ago and have been slowly crossing off some places, but of course, there are many more to go, not to mention, a few to return to, as well! The two pictures on this post are from I place called Eqe, a series of long bays extending into the west coast of Baffin Island from northern Foxe Basin. I was there years ago looking for some caribou to eat and some of their skins to take home to make winter clothing. It's a beautiful spot choked full of wildlife and fed by streams coming down from the central Baffin ice cap, one of the few remaining in the northern hemisphere.

I'd just love to go paddling there some day! So what's holding me back? Mostly it's become a question of money. Travel to the Canadian arctic has become crazy. It's cheaper to fly around the world than paddle in Eqe at the moment. Which brings me to my list again. Mmmmm...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Weather Watching

Barbro Lindman, paddling around southern New Zealand, could feel something was not right the other day and she got off the water. Not long afterwards, the bay she was attempting to paddle across got torn apart by high winds and tumbling surf. What was that 'feeling' she had? Well, it's probably something we all have, but seldom use because we live 'outside' the weather rather than 'in' it. Inuit who had grown up in camps, living most of their lives in the outdoors, had a keen sense of what the weather was about to do. Living indoors, we have become de-sensitized and tend not to pick up the subtile signals that are out there. Go paddling for a while, and suddenly you'll begin to 'hear' nature's signals again if you know what to 'listen to'.

Driving home the other day, I stopped and took the sunset photo seen above. Then I turned slightly and took another, seen below. The picture above speaks of the old adage "Red sky at night, sailor's delight', the one below actually gives us more information. Can you read its message?

That's right. That line of clouds moving in is a warm front. By morning, the clouds will cover the sky, the wind will pick up and we'll have some precipitation. Sure enough the following day we saw a succession of snow, freezing rain and wind passing through our area.

Like Barbro, it pays to watch the weather and to catch the little signals that tell us of change.