Thursday, July 30, 2009

Five Island Provincial Walk

Do you have a list of place you want to visit someday? I do and on that list is the American southwestern desert area. When I look at the photo above, I see that desert. The red coloured sandstone, the weathering, the layering of the rocks. It all evokes the southwest to me, but it isn't. It's what I saw as I strolled along the sea bed at low tide in Five Island Provincial Park in Nova Scotia.

Here's a cute little arch I discovered where the seemingly torrid desert stretches to the horizon. Interestingly, it's the camera angle which gives this false impression, making it seem much larger and more distant!

The red rocks are covered by a white layer, which might be an ash of some kind. The dark upper layer appears to be volcanic in origin, at least to my partly trained eye. The result is a kaleidoscope of colours in the cliff faces.

Finally the rapidly rising tide forced me off the sea floor and onto higher ground. Later in the day we paddled past this same area, floating meters above where I had walked that morning.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cape Anguille Lighthouse

The last evening in Newfoundland was windy so what better place to go than a lighthouse! Cape Anguille is on the southwest corner of the island. The light no longer functions as such, but one can stay in the buildings which have been converted into a small inn.

The winds which began early in the afternoon continued to build to the point where it was actually difficult to remain standing. The swell rolling in was being blown back out to sea by the east wind creating a spectacular sight in the evening sun.

This kayaker could look, but like the rest of us he wasn't prepared to launch into a sea like this one from the cobble beach below - or any beach, in fact! For all of us, it was a 'look, but don't touch' vista!

Returning back down the road towards Codroy, we pulled into this little restaurant. With only about 6 tables, the place was busy. The wait was worth it. We feasted on massive fillets of halibut, lightly panned fried with cold glasses of white wine. A lovely ending to my Newfoundland holiday!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Codroy Valley Estuary

There are two ferry ports of call when coming to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia: Argentia in the east and Port aux Basques in the west. A few miles up the highway from the latter is the Codroy Valley. This brackish water river estuary has a reputation for being a good place to see birds, so a couple of us decided to check it out while I waited for the ferry home.

The day was overcast with 110 kph winds predicted for the 'wreckhouse', as the section of the Trans Canada Highway road in this area is known before it leads northward to Corner Brook. We decided to get out early so we weren't caught on the water in those winds. As you can tell from the photo, the weather was, well... unsettled, might be one way of putting it!

The estuary was mostly shallow and we found our kayak bottoms on mud banks regularly. After a couple of hours of poking around without seeing any birds more exciting than a pair of black backed gulls and some Canada geese, we passed under the first bridge. Actually, we were pushed under the bridge by the rising winds and the ebbing tide.

It was clearly time to turn around and head back to the put-in. By this time we knew the river well enough that we could paddle in deep water most of the way and avoid the shallows. The blasts of wind in our faces made us aware that our decision to turn around had been wise. As I write this several hours later, the wind is really howling down the river. Word is, the ferry will be several hours delayed on account of winds...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Taking My Memories Back Home

Good things have a way of ending as we all know and that's about to happen to me. My visit to Newfoundland is winding down. I'm heading westward tomorrow and catching the ferry to Cape Breton on Sunday. That's the dark side of today's post...

... but the bright side is all the great memories I'll be taking home of people met and places paddled most of them for the first time. Will I be back? Of course I will!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Adventure

On the Eastport Peninsula in Newfoundland, sticking out into Bonavista Bay, there's a tiny place called Happy Adventure. I couldn't resist having a look around, so I went for a paddle. I launched just below the tea room called the Bosun's Whistle. From there I headed around a little island and thence into Newman Sound. The sound was being well mixed up by an easterly breeze, so I headed upwind towards Sandy Cove. As I passed the cove where the fish plant is situated, I noticed this nice little sea arch. Probably too far out of the water to paddle through except on the highest tides, it is no doubt easily reached from the land.

Continuing along the shore, I saw an entry way opening in the rocks ahead. I watched for a while and while a bit tight, I thought I'd be able to slip inside and let the slight swell pull me through. I got most of the way in and was wondering how many scratches the hull would receive as I made the final twist back out the exit, when suddenly water began pouring into the crack and I was shot out the way I'd come in. It was a bit disconcerting to be ejected so unceremoniously like that, but the hull was no doubt much the better for it!

I paddled on into the easterly breeze thinking I might get to Sandy Cove only a short distance along. As usual, the never ending geology of Newfoundland kept drawing me to shore in spite of the rebounding wave action I found there. I was fascinated by this particular section where layered rocks were overlain by some igneous ones. The result was the fractured sedimentary layers were eaten away over time leaving a series of widening channels and collapsed caves. I would love to return to explore more on a calmer day. Soon after leaving that area, I sensed the tide turning against the wind, so reluctantly I swung the bow around and began the surf ride back to Happy Adventure. Once there,and in my own way, I understood the naming of the little community! I loaded up the car and entered the Bosun's Whistle for some tea and cake. Highly recommended!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Newfoundland River Paddling

Given the remarkable coastline of Newfoundland, it's no wonder few people think about heading inland and trying out the various lakes and rivers. However there's a growing white water crowd and some rafting sites opening up which can extend one's paddling adventures well beyond the reach of salt water.

With winds gusting to a predicted 60 kph today, we decided to try out the Terra Nova River. Launching right off the Trans Canada Highway at a convenient put-in with ample parking, we headed up-stream. The water was a light coffee colour, the bottom mostly gravel beds with a few rocks here and there to keep it interesting. The first section was totally flatwater with few signs of human habitation, however things changed the further up the river we paddled.

The river continued to shoal, again mostly over salmon spawning gravel bars. Rounding a bend, we suddenly came upon cabin country! Numerous homes appeared in the bush, some of them elaborate enough to be in town, sprouting TV dishes and river-side deck furniture.

Eventually the river picked up speed and became sufficiently rock-filled to discourage us from continuing. It might have been fun to keep going, but a couple a rocks had already taken bites out of my new gelcoat, so I didn't object to pointing the bow downstream. Taking one of the cut-off channels on the return, we came across a huge beaver lodge. It was a rare chance to see their well worn entrance tunnel. Normally this feature is under water, but I suspect the changing water level in this river has forced the beavers into making multiple entrances at different heights.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Foggy Day Hiking

Walking the dog along the beach I came to a couple of kayakers coming out of the fog. They were paddling just outside of the breakers, I suppose thinking by being in close to the shore they wouldn't get lost. Certainly it was the only way they were going to see anything other than their front decks!

A couple of weeks ago, on another foggy day, I chose to go hiking out along Cape Split in Nova Scotia. I was hoping to see the tidal race that forms out there. Being at the mouth of the Minas Basin off the Bay of Fundy, it is said to be quite the sight once it gets moving at mid-tide. The trail made for good going although it was a bit wet and muddy. Given it had been raining off and on for the previous month I wasn't too surprised.

Once at the headland, the cliffs opened up as the trees gave over to open grassy patches. There was no way I could see a way down the vertical drop to the water, but the fog made for some dramatic views. Gulls swirled about squawking. My luck, the tide was fully out. The water slack and nearly still. The 90 minute hike had not turned out to be quite what I had anticipated. What can you expect from a fresh-water paddler who forgets to check the tide tables before embarking on a hike in the fog? Had I known the water would be so quiet on my arrival, I might have tried paddling out in half the time. Still, in the fog, what would I have seen but the foggy shoreline, just like the paddlers I came across on my beach walk?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can't Affort A Boat?

Not to worry. Carve up a couple of paddles, slip into your drysuit, head to the put-in and you're good to launch.

Photo by Rick Hayes, Eastport, NL.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Everyone who paddles soon meets other paddlers. Before long you find yourself comparing kayaks and paddles and that's exactly what I've been doing here in Newfoundland. As the Maelström Vaag is a relatively new boat on the kayaking scene, lots of paddlers have been anxious to try it out. Rick Hayes has been no different. When we went out this morning off the beach in Eastport, Newfoundland, it wasn't long before he talked me out of the Vaag. Then I discovered, not only did he want the Vaag, he also wanted to share my Greenland stick!

I got to paddle one of Rick's Volkskayaks. He was telling me that since building his first one at a workshop several years ago, he's been responsible for about 15 more being built either by himself or friends who admired their ease of construction and good handling characteristics. I enjoyed how well the 'VK' tracked and how responsive she was, at least in the flat water conditions we paddled this morning.

For his part, Rick offered me most of his material wealth if I would agree to leave the Vaag with him. Then he wanted my Greenland paddle as well! At the same time, I was starting to enjoy the 'VK' and as I paddled along, I began to think about the modifications I'd make, particularly to the deck height and layout of Rick's boat once I talked him out of it. Suddenly we weren't sharing anymore. We were lusting after each other's boats! Before doing anything too rash, we each got our own boat and paddles back, happy to have learned from sharing our knowledge and friendship.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Changing the Pacing

A bunch of paddlers made the short hop from St Chad's to Eastport, NL the other day and as I kayaked along I started to think about how conditions were constantly changing. Not only did the wind come on strongly only to go down to nothing as suddenly, the swell would rise and fall as we changed our position from open bay to narrow 'tickle', the name for a passage between islands here in Newfoundland, but our mood also varied from quiet to excitement and back. At the put-in, spirits were high, especially for those who were launching for the first time in Newfoundland waters.

Leaving the tranquil cove of St Chad's, it wasn't long before we began to see the North Atlantic swell. Taking one's kayak in close to the rocky shore where the waters alternately pushed and sucked at the land meant our adrenalin ebbed and flowed in our veins as well. The power of the ocean was getting to us!

Then 'rounding the point brought us into another quiet cove touched by neither wind nor wave. The clouds parted and let the sunshine through, dappling the waters and bringing the shell covered bottom up close. A quiet time to marvel at the wonders of sea and rock and what they've done together.

Moving on once again, a booming noise captures our attention. A small sea cave is busy trapping the swell and blasting it back towards the ocean. Once again the adrenalin surges in us. We wonder how close we dare approach the mouth of the cave. Can we enter and catch the spray or is it too dangerous? Standing to off the mouth we eventually locate a nasty sunker. It's a boat killer and we paddle on.

The thrills of coastal kayaking is often all about the pacing and how it changes from moment to moment. Just a few hours of these ups and downs makes the whole day just that much better.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Safety in Paradise...

... Newfoundland, that is! The local kayak club together with the Avalon Dragon Boat club and the Tumblehome Canoe club put together a day on the water of Octagon Pond in Paradise, a town just outside of St John's, Newfoundland. The theme of the day was 'safety'. members of all three clubs were on hand to demo rescue techniques and assist new boaters in learning and practicing safe paddling skills.

It was also a chance for me to show off my new Vaag. In the above photo KNL president Alex McGruer is putting her through her paces. Meanwhile I paddled a new Nordkapp and was interested to see how similar both boats were in the way they handled on the flat water of the pond.

I'd seen Dragon Boats before, but this was my first chance to see a team of ladies put a boat out on the water and demonstrate what they can do. It's an impressive sight. Now I want to see a race. These ladies are currently training for their next big race in London, Ontario later in the year. They will compete in their new boat, one which they built themselves. Later in the day I got a chance to be paired off with a lady named Jennifer. Sitting beside me in the gleaming wooden dragon boat, she gave me some brief instructions and then we headed out on the pond, twenty eager paddlers, moving one boat. What a thrill! If ever you get the chance, going out in a dragon boat is an amazing experience!

Friday, July 10, 2009


Making my way across Newfoundland to meet up with some paddling friends, I chanced to stop at Springdale's local campground. Lo and behold the fly-fishing season for salmon was well underway. I am not a fisher in any sense of the word, but I do admire the skill of those who fly fish.

There were a couple dozen people on the river, both men and women, young and old. Watching from the high river bank, it was like a ballet or sorts, with fishers moving here and there, their lines darting in and out of the river. It all seemed carefully orchestrated in some way, especially when a salmon struck and the fisher gradually worked it to shore.

The river is highly regulated. Permits to fish are required and a variety of tags are needed to take fish. Hooks are un-barbed and gear is carefully examined to see it meets certain requirements. Most people - including the 83 year old gentleman I met - are local people from Newfoundland, but a few people from out of province had purchased the right to enjoy the fishing. It was easy to see why.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cape Breton Island's Gulf Coast

There's a terrific road that winds its way along Cape Breton's Gulf shore. Called the 'Cabot Trail', it twists and turns its way around the hills and, now and then, gives one breath-taking vistas of the Gulf of St Lawrence. Just south of the National Park, I stopped to go for an afternoon paddle in order to have a look at the interesting shoreline.

I managed to launch from one of the very few sandy beaches and headed up the coast for a few hours. The sun had finally returned after weeks of cloudy weather and it gave me a chance to enjoy the incredible variety of rock formations in the cliff faces along my route.

Nova Scotia was actually part of north-western Africa before the Atlantic Ocean developed and so shares much of the same geology. I found this fascinating. I could almost imagine I was paddling along the coast of Morocco!

Along this section of the coast, the waters are relatively shallow and warm. As one heads further north, the hills grow in size, drop directly into the sea, the sandy beaches disappear and are replaced in a few spots by steep cobble beaches and the waters get deeper and colder. Whales are often seen feeding close to shore.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

If you've ever spent a dime in Canada, then you'll know the Bluenose, the ship on the back. She was a Grand Banks schooner that made a reputation for herself racing similar boats along the northeastern seaboard years ago. In the photo above is her replica, Bluenose II, built in the same shipyard as the original. I suspect the first Bluenose didn't have the gleaming woodwork as this lady does, but it's good to know the ship on the dime is still sailing!

Right alongside the Bluenose II, two other period boats are also alive as well. The yellow dory is still used for many jobs, not the least of which is entering in the International Dory Races held each summer in Glouchester, Mass in the USA, which I referred to a few weeks ago. The white double-ender just came in to tie-up, her 'make n'break' motor making a very distinctive sound as she putted through the moored boats in the harbour.

These young people were out getting some dory rowing practice in while their 'coaches', quite a few of them actually, shouted various words of encouragement from the end of the wharf. I'm not sure if the coaching was all that useful, but the young ones took it all in stride nonetheless.

Lunenburg's a great place to visit, but paddling a modern, glass kayak seemed a little out of place amide all the history!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

StanFest in Canso, Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia when it rains, it appears to be ignored by most people, especially when there's some fun to be had. When it really pours down, then folks start looking around for their rain jacket or at least their fishing gear. So it was at StanFest, the annual folk festival held each summer in Canso, Nova Scotia in honour of the late Stan Rogers. I was here last year to paddle, but this year I'm here to listen to some amazing performers from around the world putting their music on stage for us all to hear.

Canso is not only the furthest east one can go on mainland North America, it's about the best place you can go to hear great folk music as well! I particularly enjoyed Anna Ludlow playing Stan's 'Mary Ellen Carter' on the fiddle. Totally awesome!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Five Islands Provincial Park, Nova Scotia

Just inside the Minas Basin, an offshoot of the Bay of Fundy is Five Islands Provincial Park. The weekend I was there, a 5km and 10km run was held across the tidal mud flats to the islands offshore. The run called Not Since Moses has been growing in popularity since it began a few years ago and attracts hundreds of people. It's now a two day event. If you're a runner, this one is definitely a challenge with a difference! If you click on the picture above you can make out the runners on their way out to the islands.

I chose to go for a geology walk along the shoreline, but later in the day when the tide returned a bunch of us went for a paddle over the same ground many of them had run on hours before. The red, black and white colours of the rocks in this area of Nova Scotia make for a fascinating paddle. Luckily for us, the weather was calm and we could take out time exploring the various caves along the way. In rainy weather there are waterfalls one can paddle under.

We made do paddling through a large arch that the 10km runners had gone through when the tide was lower earlier in the day.

The high tides in the Minas Basin force paddlers to keep a sharp eye on the clock. Generally one has about an hour either side of slack water. After that the tidal currents begin running at speeds well beyond the capacities of a kayaker. As we headed back to the Park, we could see the swirls and boils beginning to form on the surface. We didn't linger any longer...