Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Haunted Hatley

I discovered tonight - Halloween, of all nights - that my castle is haunted! That's it, in the picture: Hatley Castle. Yes, it's true. They had some paranormal people in to check and they know. They have films and sound graphs and all sorts of other dreadful ways of telling. Very creepy.

I had had fond hopes of one day paddling in the Vancouver Island area of British Columbia. Now I don't know. I walked past that church in St John's last summer and watched as tourists entered. I had tingles up and down my spine and shivered in the heat. They were going to walk past that veiled Madonna, probably in total ignorance of what they were doing. I didn't even enter the building. Would you?

Now Derrick says that Tasmania never happened, and probably a bunch of other things didn't either. I can't wait for tomorrow when all this rubbish will pass and we can paddle in peace again.

Monday, October 30, 2006

What in the world...?

My computer's internal modem bit the dust over the weekend and managed to bring down all the phones in the house along with it. Talk about communication shutdown! While that was messing things up, there was a raging wind and sleet storm going on outside which eventually brought the electricity to a halt. Fortunately, I own a generator so I was able to restore power to selected items like fridges and freezers, but I don't carry spare modems so that had to wait until today to be remedied.

It got me thinking however how fortunate I am to have what I do have. I gain great joy from 'seeing' the world via my computer screen. I have learned so much and met so many wonderful people because of it. It has led me deeper into the kayaking world than I ever thought I would go and has enabled me to paddle in places and with people who have amazed me with their kindness and generosity.

I look at my 'Clustermap' now and then to see where you all are. Certainly North American and Europe is home to most of you. A few others look in from time to time in other parts of the world, like Australia and New Zealand. My son in Singapore sometimes checks on his dad (Hi Lee!). Then there are the parts of the world I never hear from: Africa, Russia, South America and China are missing. Somehow the cyber world, the world which is bringing us all closer to friendship than any other medium we know, has not reached these places yet in the same way it reaches me. I hope to see that change as time goes by. I hope they do as well.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fishing, Anyone?

I'm having a shore day today. It's just too windy, rainy, cold and nasty to think about heading out for a paddle. Besides, I have a sprained knee for some reason and a day off would probably do it good. Instead, I began thinking about the Inuit in Kangirsuk, a community on the western side of Ungava Bay, Nunavik where I spent a few years teaching.

About this time of year the people there can begin using their snow-mobiles to head overland up the river to go ice fishing. Once one gets above the tidal part of the river, it will ice over and there are some good spots where people set out their gill nets. This is done by opening a series of small holes in the ice and stringing the net from one to the other until the whole length of the net is stretched out. Only the holes at the ends of the net are marked with sticks because they will be used again when checking the nets. The nets nowadays are left until people can get back to them usually on the weekends, and sometimes more frequently. In the old days, they were checked nearly every day as people lived close by.
When I was living there, we would head up river on the weekends to see how the nets had done. We'd open the ice holes at both ends and tie a line onto one end. The net would be pulled out of the ice hole at the other end and cleaned of fish. It was usually so cold that the fish were frozen within minutes of exiting the ice hole. Once the net was cleared, it was pulled back into the water and left for another week.
Once that work was done, it was our turn to fish the traditional way using a 'kakivuq', the fish spear shown in the picture above. For this, you opened a hole in the ice then lay down and peered into the water. With one hand a small lure, usually a little piece of something white, like a small bone, was jigged a couple of feet below the bottom of the ice. The 'kakivuq' was held up-right with the business end in the water just above the lure. Fish attracted to the lure would then be speared and then quickly pulled out of the water to be removed. The 'kakivuq' was a deadly device and very efficient at catching and keeping it's prey. In the old days, one made sure to lay out the catch in a circle around the hole. That way one always remained within a school of fish and your catch would increase accordingly!
Sunday night we would make our way back to the village of Kangirsuk for another week. Fish was on the menu almost every meal during the winter, served up with tasty 'misaraq', a slightly rancid seal oil dip, no doubt full of vitamins and other goodies to get you through another arctic winter!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Returning Home, All Done!

The intrepid paddlers who unbelieveably set out to kayak around Lake Superior at a time of year known for unpredictable and nasty weather have arrive home in Grand Marais. They did what they set out to do and furthermore, they did it in a way that could be shared by others.

The goal was to increase awareness of the lake and its environment. The target audience was school children, but the messages they sent out were such that anyone had a chance to learn something new and interesting. I really liked their effort and am glad to see them home safe.

Click on the 'Lake Superior Fall Tour' item on the right to read their postings.

Photo from the Superior Waters Project

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Picture Update

I decided to change my profile picture. After all, this is another year of blogging and a bit of house-keeping is probably in order. The previous picture dated back to the Spring of 2005 when I went paddling out of Kamouraska, Québec looking for whales. This new one was taken automatically by my camera during one of my video shoots from the foredeck. I like the picture as it will serve to remind me to continue experimenting with the deck camera mount and to keep exploring the range of photographic possibilities. My videos put up on YouTube (see right column) each tackle the video environment in a different way. I know they don't represent great photography, but hopefully they do indicate that I'm making some advances in my technique to some extent.

I usually paddle on my own these days as not many people are still on the water at this time of year, so I'm looking forward to paddling with some new friends on Lake Champlain in early November. These people are real 'frost-biters', two having paddled in the Antarctic and one in Greenland. Buying that drysuit a few weeks ago is all starting to make more and more sense, especially when the money bag was starting to feel a bit pinched and I was all in doubts over the purchase. Not any more!

The picture above was taken a few weeks ago as I played hide and seek under the over-hanging spruce tree shore flora. It's always good to know where the hide-outs are should the water-cops show up with harassment on their minds...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Losing the Light

This weekend's paper had an advertisement to travel to Igloolik in January for the Return of the Sun ceremony. If you were in Igloolik today you'd find the 'day' becoming increasingly shorter than it was even a few days ago. By early November, the sun will no longer rise above the horizon at all. Instead all you'll see is a pinkish blush on the distant southern horizon around noon. The rest of the 'day' will be lit by star and moon light. In fact, this light arrives in sufficient intensity to carry on most normal outdoor activities thanks to the reflection from the snow and so on. In mid-January the sun re-appears above the horizon at noon and the Iglulingmiut celebrate that arrival with a ceremony and a feast which the whole town attends.

Conversely when the picture above was taken it was early June and the sun circled the sky, never setting at all. We enjoyed the freedom the light brought as it enabled a person to enjoy the outdoors 24 hours a day. There was no mention of, "Let's leave in the morning." A person could leave anytime as it was always light. It did mean that people would sometimes be asleep in the middle of the day, as it were, and one would have to wait until after supper to go out hunting or whatever.

On a nasty, cold, sleet filled day like the one I'm presently 'enjoying' it would be nice if I could get away with returning to bed, knowing I'd be able to head out paddling tonight when it was nice and sunny outside!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Guns at Sea

Why not begin the with a victory! Tomorrow, October 21st is the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar fought between the English and the combined French and Spanish navies. It's hard today to think about those sea battles and what it must have been like to pound heavy lead into a boat only a few meters away while at the same time they fired away at you.
I was a great fan of Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey books and scoured all the local libraries so I could read his complete series of stories dating back to these wars. I eventually managed to find them all, although I was forced to read them out of sequence. They were wonderful nonetheless and made my last years of teaching so much less onerous. I used to give a lot of in-class reading assignments, sometimes lasting for the whole afternoon! I produced a lot of great readers that way...
I haven't seriously thought of mounting any cannon on my boat yet. The thought of even firing a gun anywhere but straight ahead from a kayak is a bit intimidating. I was interested to learn that guns actually forced some design changes to kayaks in Greenland where the builders sought to increase the boat's stability when aiming and firing. Clever fellows! I suppose their success accounts for the lack of a 'Cannon Roll' in the rolling repetoire at competitions.
I wonder where my old gun is? After all it's nearly hunting season around here and I do have a gun permit... No, maybe not!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bye bye last year, goodbye, goodbye...

Probably the best sunset of the past year was this one. It was a beautiful calm evening up at the lighthouse in Twillingate, Newfoundland. I was with a fair bunch of people who'd come up for the view and no one felt like leaving. Only darkness finally forced us back down to the town and into its restaurants and bars.
Weather in Newfoundland seemed to be highly changeable, never leaving one hot or cold, wet or dry for long. I was told to wait a minute if I wanted the weather to change! It wasn't quite that bad, but nearly. The biggest constant seemed to be the wind and the ceaseless waves. All in all, a wonderful place, the highlight of my paddling year - and I didn't even paddle there, but I will!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's Been a Year!

It will be a year this Friday since I began to write a blog called 'Canadian Ckayaker'. Actually the name changed a few times after that beginning, but the name 'ckayaker' was always a part of it. When Hotmail was a separate company before it's purchase by Microsoft, I opened my first email account. 'Seakayaker' had already been taken as a login name, so I chose 'ckayaker' as a second choice. It's been a lucky word for me as it's turned out. I've since discovered several other 'ckayakers' out there, some who paddle, and one who seems to be foremost an RV'er. I know at least one 'ckayaker' lucky enough to have car plates sporting that word, a neat idea not available where I live - boo-hoo! This same person actually began a blog at the same time as I did using the word 'ckayaker' in the heading, but never developed it. Makes one wonder whatever happened there...

My blogging experience has been a good one. I've enjoyed greatly the various comments people have sent in. And I especially was happy getting to meet some of you on my various journeys here and there. I look forward to seeing where the new year will take me and who I will meet once I get there! You're a great bunch, but, of course, you're kayakers!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Qajaktutuuq Nunavimi!

"On August 31, 2006 six youth from various Nunavik Communities have traveled along the Hudson straight (sic) communities in Nunavik through kayak to promote a healthy life. The project begun on a foggy morning August 1, 2006, in Ivujivik, the northern most community in Quebec. The purpose of this project is to travel around Nunavik by kayak to encourage and motivate youth in Nunavik to live and maintain a healthy life. This is a method of telling youth that suicide is not the answer and that there are people out there to support them whenever it is needed. A great emphasis will be put on the culture preservation, and bringing back the traditional kayak to the Inuit method of transportation on rivers, lakes and oceans."

Every now and then a bright light shines out of the Canadian Arctic because someone has done something new and exciting. Here is a case in point where young people are being introduced to kayaking. While this endeavour is really good news, obviously the next step is to begin looking at building some more traditionally designed qajait and seeing if something more permanent can be organized, perhaps along the 'qajaq club' idea used in Greenland.

More pictures and information can be seen on the Saputiit site. Hopefully we'll see this project develop into something long lasting for young people in Arctic Québec.

Photos by Saputiit

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Maps, Maps, Maps

Word quickly spread around the Canadian kayaking community a week or so ago that the Canadian Government, in its infinite wisdom, had decided to give up the business of printing paper maps, They unilaterally decided that the digital world had arrived in every Canadian home and so anyone wishing to have a map could easily download the required item and then print it out on our industrial-sized home printers.
Thankfully a group called Maps for Canadians were watching and appealed to people to write in and block the move to an all digital map future. Well, 'People Power' won out and we've got our paper maps back again - for a while at least. That is so gratifying. When I think how much my paddling partners and I have depended on maps to safely take us out into the world we paddle in, it is unbelieveable to think those maps would cease to be available. As for getting my new industrial-strength printer anytime soon, I don't think so!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Making Mitts

I joined the neoprene mitt making workshop at the Delmarva Retreat and I'm glad I did. Making my own neoprene paddling gear has always been a mystery. Even going back nearly 40 years to my scuba diving days I thought making stuff would be too difficult. Well Shawn Baker made it simple! If you have the chance, try making something easy like mitts. You too will be encouraged to try something more challenging once you've seen how simple the process really is!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

YouTube's an Old Tube

I recently acquired an interesting book about film making in the Canadian arctic called Northern Exposures. It appears that taking YouTube style videos from my foredeck isn't that new an idea. As a kayaker who has been learning how to take decent videos from the vantage point of my kayak's foredeck, I was astounded to see this was done many years ago. The front cover of the books shows an unknown Hudson Bay Company cinematographer filming in 1919 with a hand-cranked camera. I can only imagine the problems he must have faced trying to paddle and film at the same time! At least he had a massive Canadian 'qajaq' to use as a film platform and not a quirky little Greenland boat.
I'm presently reading a couple of books about the 'Milky Way', the pilgrims' route from St Jean-Pied-de-Port to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela across the northern part of Spain. I want to walk this route in the next year or so after I've satisfied my paddling needs for a while and feel I can back off for a month or two. Once these books are finished, I'll dive into 'Northern Exposures' and learn how the old boys did it. Should be interesting reading.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Delmarva Greenland Paddling Retreat - 2006

The annual Greenland kayakers retreat this year had two very different faces. The first face was heavy winds and driving rain which kept all but the most experienced off the water. The storm surge at one point buried the dock itself underwater and threatened to invade the trees above the beach. Those who did get out were happy to discover their storm rolls actually worked in heavy weather. Others discovered that Greenland paddles worked well with the camp SOT boats which were employed as surf boats. No kayaks were left on the beach for fear they would become airborn. Instead they littered the forest floor like giant fallen leaves.
Fortunately on both Thursday and Friday I had signed up for off-the-water activities so was not too disappointed to be beach bound. On Thursday I made a pair of neoprene mitts, custom fit to my hands. On Friday I enjoyed an all-day session on surveying and lofting small craft. We used a Greenland kayak as our model and learned how an experienced person like Harvey Golden goes about measuring and drawing kayaks around the world. We also got a sneak preview of his book due out next month. Yes, buy it!
Thursday and Friday nights many tents slowly succumbed to the wind and rain forcing their owners into the few remaining cabin bunks. I was lucky. My tent was well up to the task at hand and kept me warm and dry throughout the ordeal.

Sunday the weather finally broke to reveal the second face of Delmarva, the boats moved out of the trees and onto the beach. Everyone was able to get out on the water in warm sunshine at last. I was happy to learn that doing balance braces and sculling braces in the still wavy conditions were within my meager ability level in my stubborn QCC which has resisted being an easy rolling boat for me in the past. Having expert and patient help has no equal in acquiring new skills, and I had both in ample amounts.
Sunday night the few folks remaining enjoyed a clambake and bonfire on the beach while an orange harvest moon slowly rose from the water and hung in the night sky as we joked and passed away the last of a great weekend.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Gone Paddling...

I'll be off on a little paddling trip for the next week or so. I'm finally going to the Greenland paddling meet in the United States, something I've been looking forward to since hosting Maligiaq Padilla several years ago.

Photo by W. Killoran

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Look Ma, the Water's Gone Green!

As you can tell from the picture above, the water has indeed turned green. Almost pea soup green in fact. I could bearly hang on to my paddle it was so slippery paddling along. So we've got an algae bloom on our hands.
The local town and several nearby, which get their water from the lake sent the usual 'Don't Use The Water' notices around to everyone, but this time they added 'For Anything!'. No drinking, no bathing, no teeth brushing, no laundry, nothing. The algae was a form of blue-green algae thought to produce a toxic substance and so the towns got worried big time. One recently got a lawsuit for $2.3 for the hotel fire last Spring and decided to err on the extreme side of caution, bringing the others along for the ride.
This week things are a bit calmer, people can wash again, but still not drink the water. The algae disappeared for a few days, but I noticed it was back yesterday as I made the daily circuit tour I do most mornings. Farm run-off is the suspect, as usual, as if to suggest that the rest of us had nothing to do with causing it. Mmmmm....