Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thinking of Light

I'm on the verge of beginning my paddling adventures for 2009. I've been paddling for several weeks now locally, but it will soon be time to hit the road to paddle more exotic waters.

Part of my preparing this year's trips has been to add a solar panel to my mini-trailer. I've purchased a 50 watt panel which will help to extend the amount of time I can be 'off the grid' as they say. At the moment it is a portable unit, but I am thinking of permanently mounting it on the trailer's roof. I was afraid that the roof rack's shading effect would reduce the number of amps the panel would produce, but testing in sunny weather this week has demonstrated the reduction is negligible.

I've recently learned that should air-travelers each loose 10 pounds, the airlines would save 350 million gallons of fuel in the United States alone. These figures are for 1991, so the savings would be even greater today. This astounding fact has led me to another project which is to reduce the amount of 'stuff' I'll be lugging around as I travel. "Traveling light" is my motto this summer!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Greening The Hills

Okay, so this photo doesn't show what I'm trying to get across, but there is a hint of green in the hills around here. One of the nicest signs of spring is the subtle hint of green in the woods. It's a young green, a just barely green, a new-born sort of green, a difficult to describe kind of green. In short, the leaves are slowly bursting from their buds and unfolding into their final summer shape and size. Soon the raw browns will be hidden and we'll be paddling in a green coloured wonderland. Green is a better paddling colour than brown, unless the browns are glorious soaring rocky cliffs!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Drysuit Heat Doesn't Suit

We been struck with incredibly warm temperatures the past few days, which is always nice if you're not studying for exams, but today things have moved into the ridiculous stage. Air temps are over 30°C and that's just too hot for me to consider putting on my drysuit and heading out for a paddle. With water temperatures in the 2°C range, I'm reluctant to paddle without my drysuit, so I'm shore bound and heat struck!

Not all is lost however, I'll wait until this evening and take a dusk paddle when things cool off a bit. There's always a way to get out for a paddle!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Earth Day!

You might think I am depressed that it's Earth Day today, but I'm not. Just because the leader of our country doesn't believe in global warming doesn't depress me either. That Canada has been creating one of the world's biggest environmental messes in the Tar Sands project doesn't depress me. Not a bit.

You see, I've read the Gaia books and I know who's going to win in the end. In the meantime, I'm keeping my footprint small and my dreams big. I'm not worrying about the problems, just working on solutions.

Have a great day, Earth, you've earned it!

Cartoon by Tabloons

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Taking The Train To Nowhere

With the requirement for proper environmental assessments now removed in the gutted Navigable Waters Act, Canadians are beginning to see what the government's economic recovery program looks like. I'm wondering if we are about to build a bunch of tracks to oblivion? Is this a Canada looking to the future? There are hydro dams projects starting in La Romaine and British Columbia and I hear a gas pipeline project is being pushed ahead up the Mackenzie river. While these projects will generate jobs and other industrial activity, what are the long lasting effects? Are we kidding ourselves with all this activity? Are we living in the past which gave us the problems we see all around us?

Clearly two things come to mind. Certainly pristine paddling environments will be lost as this program moves ahead. Natural waterways will be ruined for many water-users from fish to paddlers. While the many parts of the world move ahead with projects for a future 'green' economy where low carbon footprint and environmental impacts are minimized, Canada's answer is more of the same old destructive activities. The retaining lakes behind hydro dams will create tons of carbon emissions as the flooded lands rot and where mercury pollution will again seep into every living thing. Natural gas from the arctic speaks of the world we ought to be leaving behind, not a bright new future. Flooding indigenous people's heritage lands in British Columbia again is old, tired thinking which benefits no one.

Sadly Canadians have saddled the country with a backwards thinking government which is leaving us mired in the past. Having recently elected this government, some Canadians are now about to take it to court to get it to act more intelligently. I wish them luck, but feel we really need to start electing people who can see the future and stop dreaming of the past. For my part, I'll be watching my nearby lakes and rivers like a hawk. I don't like where we're headed. Those tracks in the photo don't give me hope...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Clean An Ocean, Save a Planet

Interesting boat? I think so, but what's really interesting in this picture isn't the boat. It's really the paddler and what she's doing. In 2007, Margo Pellegrino of New Jersey paddled this boat from Miami to Maine in an effort to raise awareness in the general public about the state of the world's oceans. A few days ago, she began another journey to continue this awareness campaign. She's paddling from Ft Pierce, Florida to New Orleans, a trip of about 1000 miles to again bring to mind the sad state of ocean pollution.

Not enough can be said about this topic. Everyone who paddles has found examples of our mindless littering of the shorelines. A number of bloggers, from Newfoundland, New York and Australia have shown that it's possible to collect rainbows of litter just by making a short walk along a beach these days. Our mess is everywhere. Our oceans are in big trouble. We need to find solutions to our destructive behaviour. Sadly we often work against ourselves in our effort to help. In Key West recently, some paddlers were "caught and fined" for cleaning up the garbage on a small mangrove island. The court ruled they had been stealing fishermen's trap buoys... Margo's trips help raise awareness, the first step in working on solving this problem.

So I'll be encouraging Margo on her trip. Visit her web site and get to know her vision. I know she's on Facebook if you want to follow her trip as well.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Winds and Clouds

I'm two for two so far, which is to say that since I began paddling two days ago, I've been out twice! Imagine that, twice! In a row, even!

Okay, what was really interesting were the high winds I encountered, probably the highest wind speeds I've ever paddle in. I didn't have my little Brunton windspeed gauge with me, but checking later at the local airport, they reported 37 kph with gusts to 54 kph. I don't know if that's the range I was out in, but I do know at times, I was moving backwards rather than forwards despite my best efforts.

Another interesting feature of the paddle and perhaps related, perhaps not, were a number of high lenticular clouds upwind of my position. I know these clouds are formed by high winds, but whether those winds appear at ground level as well is something I don't know.

All said, it was an interesting day to be on the water! Now for day #3...

Friday, April 17, 2009

So Where Does The Ice Go?

For the past week the ice on my local lake has been looking more and more rotten. Next it broke into huge rafts which the wind began blowing back and forth. The rafts would push up against each other and up the beaches and wharves. When I went for my first paddle on the lake yesterday, almost all the ice rafts had suddenly disappeared. Where did it go?

Well some of it is still floating on the lake. In the above photo, you can see the ice as a thin white line on the water horizon (click on the photo to enlarge it). This last piece still stretches from shore to shore. One of the first sections of the lake to freeze last fall, it must be thicker and will be the last to go.

Some of the remaining ice is piled on the shore where it got pushed during the past few days. I can only assume that the rest simply melted. When you think of the tremendous amount of energy required to melt ice, it is one of Nature's little miracles that enough heat energy is available each spring to get the job done!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I'm Renewed!

Everyone knows that Spring is called the season of renewal and so it is. For me it is also the time to renew my domain name ''. Now this was supposed to be an automatic process, much like the seeds sprouting. No one is required to dig into the dark ground to kick-start the natural process. Well, this year a number of things conspired and '' didn't renew itself. To make matters worse I momentarily lost control of the domain name and it went into 'suspension', a kind of domain no-man's-land. That situation was corrected early last week, but then for another week or so, '' couldn't be accessed because it had lost it's 'host'.

I'm glad to be able to say, the seed is now above the ground, as of this morning, the site is once again available to the people who prefer using the shorter URL name. Hopefully next spring, nature will be back on automatic pilot

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Almost There!

I took another wander around my local lake today to see how the melt was coming along. I've good news. The ice has broken into a number of large rafts and it being blown here and there by the wind. At one point I watched it being pushed up and over a cement wharf. It's always amazing to watch the slow, unstoppable power of so much weight once it begins to move.

It made me realise, it was no place to be in a kayak. The temptation was there, especially when I saw the open water along the shore. I could paddle there, I thought. Later as the ice quickly closed the gap and tumbled over the wharf and up the shoreline, I began to think otherwise.

Patience is the game here. Another day or two and I'll be out there...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Life's Little Moments of Stupidity

Let's face it, we all do things now and then which we know are dumb. Sometimes we get away with the act and sometimes we don't. Here's a lovely example of one of those latter acts...

Our neighbour's woodworking shop burned to the ground the other night. It looks like it was deliberately set, so a rent-a-cop was hired to keep an eye on the scene until a complete investigation could be carried out. Now sitting in your car, out in the middle of nowhere, watching a smoldering ruin, just isn't the most exciting thing in the world to be doing. The rent-a-cop had his boxed lunch and finished off his water. Down went the car window and out went the empty water bottle.

My daughter happened to be looking out the window and saw the bottle fly into the ditch. Out she went. She walked over to the bottle, picked it up and approached the rent-a-cop's car. Just imagine the scene. A total idiot, pretending to uphold the law, gets his litter back from someone half his age. Humiliation or what? It made my day.

Even better, the arsonist has been arrested. Twenty-three years old. Now that's just plain sad.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Beautiful Weather

I swung down past my lake this afternoon to see how things were coming along. It was a bit nippy at 3°C, but the rain was steady. A little wind, actually a lot of wind, would have made it a perfect day. That dark line of ice seen in the middle of the lake is now in the 'candle' stage of melt meaning the crystals are aligned vertically rather than horizontally. In this configuration, the ice has little strength to resist any sideways force like wind or current. It also means than the warm rain water percolates down into the ice following the spaces between the crystals and hurries up the melt process. So bring it on! I'm ready to paddle on a moment's notice.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Swirling Decisions...

About a year ago I discovered a new kayak. I was intrigued. She was made here in Quebec; she was British in inspiration; and, best of all, she was a playful looking companion for my 5 year old QCC 600 tripping boat. I looked forward to getting out on the water to try her out in her element. That chance came in the late spring and I wasn't disappointed. It was now only a matter of seeing my banker and being patient.

All the hurdles have now been jumped, except this last one. Maelstrom Kayaks sent me 20 suggested colour combinations to choose from, yet none seemed perfect for me. In the end, I knew the answer I sought was some combination of the three schemes seen in the photos above. I think I have it right or do I? What do you think the answer is? What combination would you choose? Choose a deck colour, a hull colour, a shearline colour and the hull fin colour and you've got it! Or do you?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Banyan Trees in Key West

I found Silb's comment yesterday about the Kapok tree interesting because, like him and others, I too saw the kapok tree and immediately thought 'banyan'. A passer-by put me right when I tried to impress him with my vast knowledge of exotic tree species by referring me to the sign below the tree which clearly stated what it was. One learns so much through travel...

I was also informed that a locale B&B just down the street was called the 'Banyan Inn' or something like that and had a tree growing in the front lawn, so I wandered down to have a look. In the photo it is clearly a very different tree indeed. Not a kapok seed in sight, but instead dozens of hanging support roots streaming off the upper branches of the tree. The owners of the property had to pull some of the hanging roots aside so as to continue using their driveway. In time, the tree will no doubt envelope the house and enlarge itself throughout Key West, merging with the more native mangrove islands offshore. Be careful what you plant...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Remember Kapok?

Wandering around the streets of Key West recently, I came across this magnificent tree. I wasn't sure what it was at first, but the huge buttresses at the base of the trunk had me curious. It turns out to be a Kapok tree. Now if you're old enough, you'll remember wearing life jackets filled with the soft material from these trees. If you're like me, you'll also remember them being uncomfortable and perhaps even cutting one open to expose the source of the discomfort, all wrapped up in little packages, which then were cut open and spread around the house in an impromptu science exploration. Some called it a mess, but the science held. I remembered the word 'kapok'.

I understand the fluffy material comes from the tree's seed packets. A little search on the web suggested the material is still being used here and there in the life jacket industry as a replacement for the foam materials more commonly used.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chick Magnets

Spring Break was winding down as I arrived in Key West, but there were certainly lots of young folks still around strutting their stuff. Take a look a this guy who I surprised foolin' with his honey behind some bushes. He came running after me making all kinds of noises. Some are chick magnets, some aren't...