Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"I must go down to the sea again..."

"... to the lonely sea and the sky." So said John Masefield in his poem Sea-Fever and he's so to the point.

I leave tomorrow for Nova Scotia, "for the call of the running tide..." to lead "the vagrant gypsy life".

"And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume and the sea-gulls crying".

Surely that's not asking too much of the sea?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rowing Races in 'Cranky' Boats

If you paddle it isn't very long before you're racing. Even solo paddlers race against themselves! People who row are the same. I know of at least two traditional rowing races held on the east coast each summer. One goes back a long way to the fishing rivalry between Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and Gloucester, Massachusetts. Now known as the 'International Dory Race', this year's event is held on June 20th in Gloucester.

A month later another rowing race, this time in Newfoundland fishing punts, will continue from Fogo Island to the Chance Islands and back. This is a tough 16 kms race on the open ocean and not for the feint-of-heart! Recently a documentary video was made showing some of the contestants as they prepared for and took part in a recent race. Check out the trailer from the video called 'Cranky'and see if you're ready to race! If you are, this year's Fogo Island Regatta race is set to go on July 28!

Fogo Island punt photo by Janice Thomson

Friday, June 12, 2009

Charleston Lake Wildlife

When we're out paddling, most of us keep and eye out for wildlife of various kinds. Even folks who paddle the craziest rock-garden sites, tend to mention the seals they saw. Charleston Lake didn't provide any heart-stopping surf swirling around impossibly rugged cliffs, but there were moments of quiet amazement nontheless.

We found the lake to host a healthy loon population. The birds were plentiful, larger than I'm used to and much more friendly, allowing us to paddle relatively close. I like that feeling!

The turtles were nearly as thick in the water. We often saw them sticking their heads out of the water, but more commonly they were piled up on the rocks sun-bathing like this group.

Bugs were thankfully almost totally absent, but we did encounter this life drama. During our lunch one day, we were surrounded by dragonflies swirling through the air. In fact, we discovered we were lunching in their birthing area! We watched a dragonfly nymph crawl out of the water - where it has spent the winter - and, after climbing into some vegetation, it suddenly began to split apart. A new creature soon emerged when things began to go terribly wrong. In the photo above, you can see an ant on the dragonfly busy puncturing the vital system which pumps a green fluid into its wings. Once it had done this, the dragonfly could no longer extend it's flight system. The ant then attempted to pull the much larger dragonfly away! I had no idea that ants would be a threat to this birthing process. We all watched totally amazed with what took place.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Charleston Lake, Ontario

A couple of Ottawa friends and I spent the weekend exploring Charleston Lake near Kingston, Ontario last weekend. I'd never heard of this small provincial park before but it turned out to be a gem of a place. Full of rocky little islands, interesting wildlife and some bug-free campsites, this lake provided all we needed for a great getaway.

The park has a number of campsites which can be reached either by boat of via hiking trails and it was one of these that we used. These sites provide tent platforms, firepits, tables and backhouse facilities. Not exactly wilderness camping, but perfect when returning to the same site each evening after a day's paddling.

Given about half the lake is located within the park, it is easy to get the feeling you are miles from anywhere. Paddling alongside granite cliffs adds to the feeling. We were continually amazed at the number of loons on the lake and particularly how approachable they were. In the evening, whip-pour-wills, a bird species I'd thought was endangered seem to surround us with their calls. Another species which was widely noticed were zebra mussels. These little mollusks coated the bottom of the lake in many areas. Inadvertently introduced into many of Canada's waterways, their presense results in nice, clear water, but they have also proven to be a nuisance in many other ways, clogging pipes and other underwater items.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Oh, There's Some Fun Up Ahead!

Long time readers will recall that a little over a year ago I wrote about a new kayak company named Maelström Kayaks based here in Québec that had designed two very interesting kayaks and were on the verge of putting them into production. Now with a new association with Boréal Design Kayaks, they've ramped up both production and, most importantly, distribution.

On my way home from a little paddling trip into Ontario, I stopped to pick up my very own Vaag 174, built to my colour choices of yellow and black. Today I quickly snapped a couple of photos and then spent a good part of the day at the lake having some fun. I wish I could say the waves were huge and the conditions extreme, but they were calm and gentle. This boat wants to play, so I had to make do with slalom runs through the mooring buoys and around the bridge tressels. More exciting paddles will come in the days ahead, I'm sure. This kayak will be my first choice as I head out on my summer voyages.

This boat has a skeg rather than a rudder which I'm more used to using, but as I also paddle SOF kayaks, it didn't take me long to have the boat tracking where I wanted and spinning around the buoys when I want that. I suspect this boat will push my skill level farther ahead and I'm looking forward to that! Another skill I'm looking forward to acquiring is remembering to bring the camera when I go out paddling...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Migration Season

Living and paddling where I do makes for interesting times, especially in the Spring and Fall when many species of birds migrate. You might think that being out on the same water several times a week can get boring, but these birds are one of the things that keep things interesting.

Yesterday as I paddled down the western shore, I noticed an unusual duck. As the various merganser ducks have been common recently, I thought it was one, but when it flew off, I missed seeing the large white wing patches. Instead this bird had a narrow white band along the trailing edges of its wings.

A little later, returning along the eastern shore, I came across the same bird. This time it didn't take off immediately on my approach so I was able to get the quick photo found above. Once I was at home I was able to identify it. It's a Greater Scaup, one of two Scaups found in eastern Canada. It will soon head on further north unlike the three loons I also saw who will spend the summer in the area.