Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh, the Pain!

Coming home from a paddling trip is always a bitter-sweet experience. While it's a good feeling to once again be back in the family fold, the fact is you're no longer pumping out the heady adventure hormones. Even a few days of adventure paddling can get you hooked on these drugs. Being home is having to fight withdrawl symptoms. So I'm in a de-tox mode as I face the reality of paddling on the 'ordinariness' of my local lake: no whales, no icebergs, no bald eagles, no salty spray, no soaring cliffs, no swell, no foamy explosions on rocky shores, no feelings of going down a never-ending coastline, in short, no fun...

But there is also no dry-suit, no clammy spray-skirt, no driving cold rain, no blinding fog... mmmm... maybe I can make it through this period after all! At least, if I can make it long enough for my VISA card to recover, I can head off once again! I just gotta hang in there and deal with the pain...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bonne Bay Mouth

I turned around and headed back to the put-in. The wind was out to get me as I paddled out of Bonne Bay into the Gulf of St Lawrence. I could feel my limits would soon be reached. Waves had been building for a while and now they were beginning to break and roll down on me, something I don't like to be out in alone. Then I turned around again. I had a goal, a promise to keep that I'd made last summer. I could handle the conditions as long as things didn't deteriorate further. I headed out again and soon passing the rocky spire called 'The Pinnacle' in the picture above. One thing my boat likes is to go up-wind if I want to paddle it!

Once passed this point, the wind died away almost completely. I had been slogging through a wind funnel created by the high hills near the mouth of Bonne Bay. I dug in and was soon easily gliding on, knowing I would be able to get to my objective, a narrow falls on South Point. To visit the falls was a paddling promise I'd made the year before from the lighthouse near Rocky Harbour on the north side of the bay. I'd soon be there.

When the falls came in sight, I got a surprise: there was a hole in the rocky wall which formed the south end of the beach at the falls. It wasn't big, more of a window than an arch, but it was something few others had seen as most kayakers visiting Bonne Bay tend to stay within the inner bays.

I walked the length of the curved beach and looked back to the lighthouse. I doubt people are able see the falls this year as the present flow rate is considerably reduced. I wondered if a local kayaker I'd met in Rocky Harbour had managed to visit the falls. I'd forgotten to ask when we'd talked the day before.

It was a fun and satisfying visit. I like keeping little promises. To celebrate, I collected a small rocky souvenir and headed back to my put-in at Norris Point, using Gros Morne as my beacon.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bonne Bonne Bay!

When I visited Newfoundland in 2006, one of the places I knew I wanted to return to and paddle on was Bonne Bay in Gros Morne National Park. This UN World Heritage site has so many attractive qualities about it. For example, in the top picture notice the brown hill in the background. Called 'The Tablelands', it is actually a block of the Earth's mantle which has been thrust from it's usual position under the continents to being exposed on the surface. Little grows on it due to the nature of the rock. I was surprised to see snow still lying here and there on its flanks in July. Hiking its trails is an 'otherworldly' experience to say the least and well worth the effort.

Paddling in Bonne Bay is dominated by the 'Tablelands' on the south or by 'Gros Morne', a bald blob of a mountain on the north side of the bay. The water is protected from the sea winds blowing out on the coast, but can be subject to sudden blasts coming down from the hills, so one needs to be weather-wise. A drowned glacial moraine at the point where the bay divides into two sections, reduces the circulation of sea-water on one arm resulting in it being slightly warmer than the other arm which receives a full complement of chilly Gulf of St Lawrence water with every tide.

Streams tumble into the bay here and there...

Paddling along the cliff faces provided a never-ending close-up geology lesson.

Paddling close to the shore revealed a wealth of sea life including fish, sea urchins, jellyfish and starfish easily seen in the clear waters of the bay.

One cannot paddle for long in Bonne Bay without wondering what it's like on the coast. Tomorrow I'll post about my venture out into the territory usually reserved for the intrepid circumnavigators, the most recent being Hadas and Tomer from Israel, who I understand are only days away from finishing their trip in record time.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Waterproof Video Cam

I was no sooner in Newfoundland when I heard that Sanyo had placed the first Hi-Definition waterproof video camera on the market. While I have more than enough waterproof videocams which I'm still learning to use properly, this new camcorder is very interesting. Not only does it shoot video in HD format, it also takes 6 mega-pixel stills at the same time.

For the time being I'll continue playing with my Viosport H20 waterproof lens setup and the handy Oregon Scientific mini-camcorder (which took the Capelin video on yesterday's post), but should my trusty old Pentax Optio-43WR fail, this Sanyo might be a likely replacement.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Capelin Anyone?

Tony Lee, a kayaker and member of the Kayak Newfoundland & Labrador paddling club, has a wonderful web site called Kayak the Rock where one can find hundreds of photos of paddling the coast of Newfoundland. On a recent paddle together with a number of other KNL members from Bellevue Beach to Rantem at the head of Trinity Bay, I took some video footage as we encountered thousands of capelin spawning on the beaches. At one point these tiny fish were rolling onto a few yards of exposed sand inside a sea cave and, well, things got out of hand, as you might expect given we were literally paddling more in fish than on water at times. Have a look...

Check out Tony's photos of this paddle outing on his Gallery. Be sure to check out his photos of other trips as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Burgeo's Surprise

Of course, Burgeo is not all rain and fog. The pictures above and immediately below were taken on a brilliantly sunny day from the town's observation deck just a short climb across the street from the B&B where I stayed.

Coming into the harbour is the ferry which plies the south coast towards Ramea, the offshore islands and other places to the east. The B&B owners are working on two additional places for people to stay, one in Ramea and the other in François, a community to the east along the south coast. These ferry services from Burgeo open up the possibility of paddling the coast one way and then returning on one of the ferries! Tempting, isn't it?

Cradled in such a rocky land and seascape, is another of Burgeo's surprises: the glorious sandy beaches in nearby Sandbanks Provincial Park. This area is well worth the visit if only for the exercise one gets taking the numerous walking trails it offers. In past years the park has been used by kayak clubs as a training venue for which its variable attributes make it ideal.

I had been thinking I would camp at Sandbanks Park as the day I arrived it was beautiful, warm and sunny. However, the high winds and promise of rain and foggy weather ahead changed my mind and I'm glad it did. Staying at Newfoundland's B&Bs are often a special experience, a chance to meet local people, sample local foods and learn about life in the community. It's also a way to 'give back' as one can put a little cash into the communities one visits. This act is something that's becoming increasingly important as these places make the sometimes difficult change from an economy based less on sea resources to one more service oriented. I like win-win situations like these!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Paddling Burgeo

Once you paddle out of Burgeo, the urge to continue along the coast is almost overwhelming. The rugged shore line disappears into the distance ahead of you. Headland after headland, the treeless, barren hills, cliff-lined inlets, spray clad islands and the never-ending rhythm of the sea all conspire to lure you on. Trapped by its powerful pull, I tried to slip through a tiny gap leading from Bay de Loup into the next bay to the east. This break in the hills would save me several additional kilometers of paddling out and around the headland. As I approached the narrows and entered its confines, I could see the swell breaking in the rocky shallows at the narrowest point. With the timing of the in-coming swell different on each side of the gap, the surf that resulted was a bit too confused for my 'rock-garden' skill level to manage. I tried to catch the effect in the picture above, but the shutter delay conspired against me. All looks calm above, but a trap awaited...

I backed out of the channel until it widened enough to turn around. I'm just not a rock garden paddler, at least not yet! Perhaps had the tide been higher, the chances of getting through unscathed would have been better. Perhaps had I not been alone, I would have dared it. It beckoned so strongly, but then again, its timing looked tricky...

There was so much more to explore in the area. I headed several kilometers up the Bay de Loup inlet until I could see its head. Cabins dotted the shore. The bare rock hillsides were a geologist's dream, both in their formation and subsequent glaciation and weathering. In places, trees clung stubbornly to the slopes, somehow managing to live in such precarious a place.

The longer I stayed out, the more the weather continued to deteriorate. The clouds kept dropping lower and finally the rain began. Patches of fog started drifting here and there as the wind rose from off the sea to the south. It was time to break the spell, turn around and retreat back to Burgeo. Certainly the temptation to keep on going eastwards along the southern shore was strong. It's a fascinating place to paddle with so much to explore and enjoy, in spite of the reputation it has for foul weather. It's easy to feel the draw it has on you, urging you to keep paddling, to keep exploring. Time slowly disappears, responsibilities vanish into the fog... Paddling becomes everything.

Monday, July 23, 2007

All Good Things Eventually Come to an End

My paddling trip to Newfoundland has come to an end. I arrived home yesterday with some wonderful memories of experiences which I'll share over the next little while. Our planet is filled with interesting places to kayak, but few are as varied, challenging and heart-warming as Newfoundland. It is truly a remarkable place.

I stopped in St Andrews as I returned along the Fundy shore and stayed at the Rossmount Inn. This inn looks old, but is actually less than a century old. The original house had burned to the ground in the 1960's. The present building was built to replace it, using the same foundations and fireplaces. Many of the furnishings and interior woodwork was re-cycled from an 19th century hotel which was being torn down in St John, a city further up the Bay of Fundy. The dining room is the real treasure, where the food is locally grown either at the Inn's own gardens or from down the road at a nearby organic farm.

Behind the Inn an old carriage way was built years ago, leading up the hill to the top. The road was built by the original owners so they could take their friends on picnics at the smooth granite rocks at the top, where a 360° view of Passamaquoddy Bay and it's superb kayaking can be seen.

But this was my last stop. In future posts, I'll retrace my steps, looking at some of the places I paddled, hiked or experienced in some way.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chance Encounters

I was in St Brides yesterday, thinking I would get out and see the gannets at Cape St Mary, however the fog was too thick to see a thing. However I spied these two interesting kayaks on the slip in the harbour...

...and these two interesting people in the local library using the public internet access. Tomer and Hadas, two paddlers from Israel on their way around Newfoundland. They too were frustrated by the wind and fog, but making the best of their shore time. They've been making excellent time, but now plan to slow down a bit and enjoy the south coast before they finish their trip in Cornerbrook.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ferry Time

Traveling to Newfoundland by car means taking one of the ferrys which leave from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. One service goes to Port aux Basques on the southwest coast, the other heads eastward to Argentia on the Avalon further east. I chose the shorter of the two passages to Port aux Basques - about 6 hours. The above picture was taken of the dock area in North Sydney, Nova Scotia. Cars and trucks are starting to line up. In a few hours they'll be onboard, heading across the Cabot Strait.

The interior of the ferry is huge. I'm not sure of the number of vehicles it can carry, but certainly one can see anything from motor-cyles to tractor trailors and everything in between.

From the passenger deck, one gets a good view of the seas in the Strait. Here the wakes disappears astern. It is interesting to think that more than one kayaker has made the crossing successfully. Usually their route has been via a small rocky islet in mid channel where the crossing can be broken into separate legs. To say this kind of paddling is only for the very brave and highly skilled is an under-statement!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Leaving Home

Setting off on this paddling trip, I purposely didn't make many fixed destinations. I just loaded up the car and headed eastwards with the plan to eventually end up in Newfoundland. The first day of driving took me into the state of Maine in the northeastern corner of the United States. This area is home to many seakayakers and interesting paddling spots, but I didn't stop. I crossed back into Canada near St Andrews and the Bay of Fundy. Then I stopped.

New Brunswick's Bay of Fundy coastline has some great paddling spots. On my recent trip along this coast, I began at the Maine border. As soon as you get to St Andrews, the wealth of inlets and tree covered, rocky islands begins. One could literally spend weeks exploring them all the while staying in inns and B&B's which line the shore.

The path leading to a typical put-in in the picture above is a bit further eastward along the coast at a small Provincial Park at New River. There is great parking and a protected cove to launch from. If the weather is not suitable for paddling, walking trails lace the point which juts out into the Bay of Fundy. Along the way, you'll come across an old homesite where a family tried to make a go of it fishing and farming for a living. Like many of these sites, it offered a marginal living mixed with considerable isolation, yet for many it was a toe-hold on a new start in a new land.

The picture above shows the coastline as the point juts out into the Bay of Fundy. On a warm, sunny day, it provides great paddling. An onshore gale, makes landings a less than easy endeavour given the multitude of rocky obstacles waiting to catch the unaware. On a calm day like the one in the picture, it's a great chance to observe the tremendous variety of intertidal sea life.

I could easily have spent more time on this coast, but other venues beckoned...