Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nearly There

Here she is, all white and pretty in her brand new skin! The first coat of paint is white, but the remaining coats will have a brownish tint in it to simulate a sealskin colour. I'm using a alkyd polyurethane industrial paint. It looks like it should bear up to most of the beach gravels around here!

My fingers are recovering. It's the sewing and the tightening of the thread that does the damage. I'd forgotten how nasty putting on the cockpit coaming can be on the hands as well, but I came away with only minor wounds. I'll live another day or two, perhaps even get to bounce my grandchildren...

I'm still plugging away at my challenge to paddle every day for 100 days. The weather has been awesome and really helped me get so many days in back-to-back so far. The experience has been interesting and I've learned a number of things about the lake and myself which have been good to know. For example, I've come to know the lakes moods more at different times of the day. I have had a bad knee for several months, but the 75 stairs down and back up from the boathouse have done wonders to bring the knee back to its old self. Exercise, exercise...


Friday, September 28, 2007

Mystery Spot

Something nasty appears to be at work! A dark and mysterious spot has appeared on the Monarch's chrysalis. My wife thinks the roundish brown object is related to the spot in some way as is, perhaps, the orange item. I think otherwise, but nevertheless, trouble is afoot for sure. We'll keep the chrysalis for a while yet, but I think it may have been parasitized and nothing will develop. Sad, but nature can be that way, one thing living off another...

I paddled today between the rain showers. It was still, warm and calming on the water. Several people waved, people I don't know, but they seemed to sense I'm out there for some reason having seen me day after day for a while now. Yesterday a man called out that I seemed "devoted" to my kayak. He's right! I am, very much. And I'm a third the way to my goal of 100 days of paddling, back to back.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Suddenly, Rain!

While we have not had the drought which many seem to have had, September has been dry, warm and sunny for the most part, especially these past two weeks. I've really appreciated the weather given I head out at some point every day to paddle. Today, we had rain and presently we've got some crackling thunderstorms passing through.

A good day for tackling the long center seams of my SOF. I really like using this style of seam as it draws the material up nicely. The skin is nearly drum tight. The little black threads you see are the anchor points for the zig-zagging cord holding the canvas skin tight. Once the seam is finished I'll cut the threads and release the cord. It's arranged so it can be pulled into the cockpit and re-used on the next boat. This is the third time the same cords have done this job for me: real loyalty and devotion!

In the close-up below, you can see I'm using a pair of clamps to maintain the tension on the seam thread while I add another set of cross stitches. There are other methods, but the clamps were handy (I've got lots of them!) and they do the job well. The piping stitch is made using 1/8 inch nylon cord turned inside the canvas on either side of the seam. Unlike the tensioning cord, it will remain in the seam when I'm done.

At this point, I just have the two ends of the boat to finish sewing, then the cockpit rim will get sewn on. Sounds odd, but the rim actually 'floats' above the frame in these boats. With any luck, I'll get the first coat of paint on tomorrow afternoon.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Paddling on the Wild Coast

For day 32, I paddled Massawippi's 'wild coast' this afternoon. It's a section of the lake's western shore that appears not to have any cottage life. In fact, there are a few cabins, which I define as cottages without road access, as well as some camps, they being small cabins, hidden from view with neither road access nor docking facilities. In a real sense one can paddle this shore imagining one is in the far north of Québec miles from civilization. Of course, one isn't, but like so many things, perception is everything.

On the home front, our Monarch caterpillar changed itself into a chrysalis overnight, dropping its former attire on the counter in a tiny packet for us to dispose of. As most of you know, it will remain encased for several weeks before stepping out, utterly transformed, as a butterfly. Unfortunately, poor timing will probably result in it missing the annual migration call. The only hope is that this warm weather continues for a few more months. Somehow, I fear its fate is sealed far from that mountainside in sunny Mexico...

After a long summer recess, I've also started writing my Ilatsiak story again on my sister blog, ctories if any of you are still following. David is looking for his family and coming to grips with the news of the disaster that is slowly overtaking his former ship-mates. The question is, can he save them or is it too late?


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

They're Baaack!

I got out for paddle #30 early yesterday. As I was carrying my boat out of the boathouse, a flock of Canada geese went honking past the dock a few meters off the calm water. They're back from spending the summer in the far north. It's a mixed blessing. While we all love to see their flying wedge formations in the sky, they can be a nuisense as well.

Monarch butterflies have enjoyed a great year from all accounts. I was speaking with my aunt who lives in London, Ontario (on the banks of the Thames!). She had been down to Lake Erie and seen trees full of the butterflies. I suppose they were massing for the flight across the lake and like all good kayakers, see safety in numbers...

Meanwhile nearer to home, my wife has been feeding a monarch caterpillar for the last few days. This morning it seems to have decided to change gears and build its chrysalis, but what a strange site to choose! It crawled along the kitchen counter and attached itself to a tin pie plate. I guess we won't be having apple pie out of that plate for a while!

Finally, Alison Dyer and friends went on an unforgettable paddle the other day in Newfoundland. Make your day by visiting her blog and then follow her links over to Kayak-the-Rock and to Stan's blog. You'll understand why some people live in Paradise while the rest of us have to die to get there!


Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't Ya Just Love Tight Skin!

We've had a string of July weather days recently and I've been outside working of the re-skinning of the SOF boat. In the picture on the left, I've already stretched the material about 10 cms from end to end and sewn little pockets to hook it over the end posts. Next I've marked the material's center line and stapled it to the keel stringer. This prevents it from slipping to either side as I tighten it in the next step. Here, I've flipped the boat up-right and begun to cut away the excess canvas.

There are a number of methods to get the skin tight, but I like using the traditional one seen here which is commonly used by the Inuit. Here you can see the zig-zag tightening cord which holds the fabric once I've given it a pull. Going back and forth pulling from either side eventually gives one a nice tight skin. Ya gotta love it!

I ought to finish this tomorrow and start sewing the long seam down the decks. Then it's installing the cockpit coaming, slapping on some paint and the decklines and go paddling!


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Playing in the Waves

In the summer just past, I can remember very few windy days out on the water. I got a few in Newfoundland but almost none here at home. Today was an happy exception, with a good steady breeze fetching down the lake building up lots of breaking waves. It provided a good classroom for learning about one's boat and how it handled in waves.

I mounted up my video camera and headed out with the intention of filming my boat in various situations ranging from directly up-wind, to down-wind and the angles in between them. Most people prefer to be headed into waves as it's perhaps the most comforting. You can see what's coming and take appropriate action. Going down-wind is often the scariest as you hear breaking waves, but it's not always easy to know if you're about to be swamped by one. Paddling at an angle to the wind also presents challenges requiring braces and remaining flexible. I practiced every which way looking for uncomfortable situations and working them to gain greater experience with my boat control. Conditions were perfect for exploring and learning.

One interesting effect I hadn't felt before was how my boat would find a groove in which it was most comfortable heading up-wind. Bear off too far and the wind began pushing the bow of the boat off the waves setting it into a slight sideways spin requiring correction. Head up too far into the wind and the boat would begin pounding into the steep waves and burying its bow. But a happy groove existed at a point just below the angle where the bow was caught and pushed downwind yet off the wind enough to soften out the steepness of the on-coming wave. At that spot the boat was really happy. Cutting the waves at this angle was pleasant, the boat maintained its heading with little correction and my progress upwind was considerably easier. It was like that spot when you're wind-surfing and everything comes together perfectly. Finding the same groove on the opposite tack enabled me to rapidly move up the lake to my destination. I hadn't realized such a spot existed before, although reflecting back to my paddle in big waves going around Manitoulin, I recall something similar. I just never was conscious of it until now.

A great day on the water, full of learning and satisfaction!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Playground Earth

I got one of those emails today requesting me to sign a petition to get the Canadian government off its butt and commit to doing something serious about global climate change. Even the dead have begun to feel its effects which says a lot about the powers-that-be in Ottawa these days. Arctic graveyards are being reclaimed by the sea, rising ocean temperatures are creating monster storms. The list of nasties goes on.

I know we all love to paddle, and many of us Westerners are fortunate enough to be able to fly to distant places to do it, but should we be adding to the planet's woes by doing this more than once in a while? My take is yes, go on your trip, but travel with moderation in mind. Once a year ought to be enough most of the time. There are people who regularly fly overseas several times a year to paddle, present or teach. They are a minority, granted, but I think it's time even they stop and reconsider. Could the presenting and teaching be done more locally by equally competent people? Would it be as effective to present your 'talk' via a real-time video link or simply as a DVD home-theater style show? Do you really need to paddle more than once a year in an exotic locale?

It's always easy to point the finger at the 'big carbon users' and say "naughty, naughty", but if we all change our habits slightly and think about new ways of doing things which reduce our personal carbon footprint, the net change in emissions will benefit us all, much more than if a few big offenders stop and we don't.

Okay, I'm off the soap-box. What do you think?


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some Days...

Do you have days every now and then, when nothing seems to go right? I went to get my rack set to put on the car. I was all set to head off to a new lake for a paddle. I found one of my car kayak racks on the floor of the shed. It had somehow fallen from its hook. Picking it up, I was surprised to see the plastic foot which rests on the car roof had broken. How could such a thing have happened? It seemed impossible, yet there it was in pieces just when I needed to use it.

I got the various part numbers and called SportRack using their 800 number. I spoke with someone for a few minutes and was told my part would arrive in a couple of days! Great service, to be sure. I was amazed at their service.

I happily headed out of the house to work on my SOF, only to discover while I was on the phone our puppy had managed to chew into the rubber pad on the bottom of the rack's foot! Back to the phone. Yup, they would include the pad with my order. What else was going to go wrong...?

So, I will be paddling on Lake Massawippi for the next few days. Meanwhile I'll be keeping the puppy away from the rack and I'll be checking to see why it fell off it's hook!

I put tung oil on the finished frame today and gave it a light sanding, checking especially that it was smooth wherever the canvas will touch the wood. Cover gets stretched on tomorrow and then comes the nasty job of sewing the long seam down the centerline. Pray for my fingers. They will suffer!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Skin For SOF-2

Back in April 2006 - ya, '06! - I removed the skin from my second SOF boat. I wanted to reduce the volume and to give the boat a tighter fit and also lower the freeboard to make it an easier rolling boat by permitting more comfortable laybacks. I took off the old skin and reduced the ribs along its length, but then I stalled.

The more I worked with the frame, the less happy I was with it. The gunnel wood was heartwood and was beginning to split here and there and some of the ribs were iffy at best. So I hung the boat from the rafters of my workshop and went on to other projects. Two paddling seasons have passed with only my original SOF boat to paddle and frankly, I miss having a boat that I can happily mess about in (my original SOF is fine, but it 's very tippy, hates rolling back up and is way too high volume).

Yesterday, I took the frame down and in spite of its problems, I'm going to put a skin on it, paint it and take it to Delmarva in October. The picture shows me about to sand off the paint which worked its way through the original canvas cover. I'll add some slats under my feet to make it more comfortable to paddle and I'll redo the stern shape a bit. Hopefully the changes I've made to the hull will reduce its weathercocking tendencies as well.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wonderful Children

Children have a special way of getting their parents - and other people as well - into doing the most incredible things. Yesterday morning my daughter wanted to bicycle to university. To do this meant getting up earlier than usual, and getting a lift to within an hour's ride to school. I was appointed 'driver'. Up we got at some ungodly hour and off we went to the dropoff point. A hug goodbye and off she went, leaving me out of the house, on the side of the road, miles from my warm bed, with nothing to do.

Or was I? Of course not! I drove over to the boathouse and was on the lake by 7:30 am. What a scene presented itself! The lake was still boiling off, the 'steam' caught in the glowing heat of the rising sun. The scat of over-nighting ducks and gulls drifted here and there, bubbles and downy feathers sailing down wind. I headed to town thinking that a shoreside coffee would be the final touch although I doubted anything could improve the morning. That meant paddling down stream a bit, passing under these two bridges. Beautiful! Incredible! Thanks, Erica!


Monday, September 17, 2007

All Kinds of Weather

Going paddling every day no matter what puts a person out in weather which, at first glance, suggests warm fires, good books, mulled wine and a hound at one's feet. Of course paddling for a minimum of one hour in that sort of weather, allows for all things. It was mindful of these thoughts that I headed out to joust with the wind and waves on Lake Massawippi the other day. Great fun! The wine was carefully mulled with a dash of lemon and cinnamon, the hounds - French Spaniels - respectfully quiet, the book, something Italian in the vein of Bocaccio's intrigues of the Rennaisance. A wonderful day.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

100 Day Challenge Update

If I get out on the lake tomorrow as I intend, I'll have gone paddling for 23 days in a row (I've missed only one day due to a scheduling difficulty) on Lake Massawippi. Interesting as it has been, I'm beginning to weary of the scenery just a tiny bit. So I will take myself on the road and begin exploring some of the local lakes this week. I've been on a few of them, but not all. Once the nearby ones are done, I might pack my camping gear, travel further afield and spend a few days exploring. Who knows, it might even be fun!

Today's picture is interesting. I took one almost from the same spot a few days ago, but this one looks colder, a steel grey lake with frost a promise in the night. I am slowly adding warmer and warmer clothing each time I head out. No dry-suit yet, but I can see it on the horizon. In a week or so I'll be in my Reed gear no doubt and have switched to my cold weather pfd. Aaaah, seasons!


Friday, September 14, 2007

Are You Responsible?

Life is a web of relationships, some strong, some weak, some good, some bad, some we cherish, some we'd love to forget, but they're there whether we like it or not. As Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" in the sidebar so profoundly says, (We are) a part of all that (we) have met.

Last week my cousin had a motorcycle accident, crashing into a car that suddenly pulled out in front of him. He was lucky. A broken leg and some 'road-rash' will keep him in the hospital for a few more days, but the web of relationships that surround him has quickly become apparent. He's a dentist, with patients, and an office staff. He's a father of three children scattered across the country and a husband. He has numerous friends. Slowly arrangements are being made for other people to take over his responsibilities and life (and work) will continue, but an accident like this brings the web into focus like nothing else. Suddenly one realises how connected we are to the web of others I mentioned above. Suddenly all sorts of people find they need to adjust to our accident, often in unforseen ways.

Next time I head out to challenge the wind and the waves, perhaps I'd be wise to think of the web of responsibilities I trail in my wake...


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spreading Cat's Paws

When I went out paddling today, the wind was up and the lake looked cold as the grey water felt the churning it was getting. Cat's paws spread out in every direction and white caps burst out ahead of them. I decided to wear long pants instead of my shorts and I put on a wind jacket over my long sleeved T-shirt. Fall is in the air.

A few weeks ago I put back the 1 cm thick foam mat I usually have under my feet in the kayak's cockpit. I first started doing that when I paddled in the arctic, thinking the cold water would chill my feet. Since then I've done it to protect the hull from my paddling shoes and when not wearing shoes, to give my heels something more comfortable to rest on. Slowly, I'm switching over to my fall and winter paddling gear. That's okay. I love the changing seasons and wouldn't give any of them up!

As I write this today, I notice that the 'Cities' counter lists 50 places. I don't recall it ever registering that many before, so thanks for dropping by!


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sights and Smells

Today I paddled southward along the western shore to check out another beaver lodge. I had been alerted about its existance by a reader who emailed me the other day. Sure enough, there are two lodges along that shore about a kilometer apart. This one has two entrances which can be clearly seen, one much deeper than the other which enables the beavers to exit under the winter ice.

The day was overcast, but calm. I had the lake mostly to myself. Passing a local hotel, I was struck by yummy smells coming from their kitchen, one with a 5 star rating. Like the famous story about the hobo in Paris, I feasted my fill before moving along.

In the middle of the lake I came across this sugar maple leaf, having already changed its colours... Am I ready for what's coming?

I'll be keeping tabs on my 100-days-of-paddling challenge by showing the days paddled/100. To date, I've not missed a day since I started, but November ought to change that nonsense...!


Monday, September 10, 2007

Drinking Habits

A recent comment on Seakayak Photo, the wonderful Scottish blog written by Douglas Wilcox, chided him for writing about visiting seashore pubs for an occasional ale. Of course, we shouldn't be drinking and paddling at the same time, but sometimes it's just too easy. For example, look at these photos. Seeing something odd out on the lake yesterday, I went to check what it was bobbing up and down. Wow, it was a nice cold one, opened, about half full and ready to drink!

First thing I discovered was how ill suited my foredeck was as a place to drink. Each wavelet conspired to pitch the brew into the water diluting the precious contents. I did get some exercise however, each time I recovered the bottle...

Finally, like most enjoyable things, I arrived at the last drop. I must say not having to even get out of the kayak for a brew got me thinking here in Canada we've managed to go one better than the Scots and their shore pubs.

Am I ready to drink and paddle given how easy it's become? No! And, hopefully, not you either!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Oh Yeah?

Lots of people around Lake Massawippi put out various devices to discourage the seagulls from using their docks and rafts as personal toileting facilities. One of these devices is a plastic owl. While the seagulls tend to be wary of these plastic birds, this kingfisher had no problem at all using the perch to improve its view of the waterfront! "Owls right if I can sees the fish" he must have thought!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Going Electic

With so many Anas Acuta boats for sale these days, it make one wonder what else is for sale. How about this little electric run-about? I'd add one of those flexible electric panels to the roof material and head out on a world tour.

So if I don't get it first, Claire or Derrick, who's going to outbid me on this beauty?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Newfoundland's South Coast

The south coast of Newfoundland is a dramatic and wild place to paddle a kayak. It is no wonder many paddlers dream of giving it a try. A few brave ones actually launch, often from near the site of this photo and video in Rose Blanche, and head eastwards out into the fog.

Rose Blanche is the end of the road which departs from Port aux Basques. From here on there are few communities and only a single road reaching the coast until one reaches the eastern part of the island. The video was taken from the lighthouse seen in the photo. It has an interesting origin. Apparently Robert Louis Stevenson's father was in the lighhouse business and got the commission for designing this one in 1871. Its light lit the entrance to Rose Blanche for 70 years. While it deteriorated afterwards, it has now been restored. There's a nearby B&B one can stay at to get a feel for the isolated life the early light keepers experienced.

The day I was there was rainy, windy and foggy. I had hoped to paddle eastwards for a day or so to try my mettle, but decided it wasn't a good day to die. There would be better opportunities!

Note: I used Bloggers own video upload today for the first time, avoiding the intermediate step of posting to YouTube. The video was taken with a Pentax WR 40 and converted to DivX format before uploading.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I Wonder...

Now that I have manage to reduce my carbon imprint while afloat, I still need to look at land trasportation costs. An outfit in Germany called Cab-Bike is producing an interesting human powered alternative to cars. I like the idea of it being weather-proof and having some cargo carrying capacity. Obviously it's not going to work here year-round, but I can see it being suitable for the little errand runs we all make frequently. For example, I could take it the 12 kms over to the boathouse for my daily paddle outing. For old gimpers like me, they will even add on an electric assist for the hills. I can see attaching the batteries to a solar panel for re-charging.

Currently it's priced around $10,000 here in Canada, but I suspect it could be had directly from Germany a bit cheaper, especially if one traveled over to pick it up.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Teach Me, Teach You

During the past week or so, I have enjoyed reading Silb's Blog as he described the Greenland Qajaq Camp he attended two weekends ago. His experience sounds much like the one I had at the similar event called the Delmarva Qajaq Retreat held each October. Both are characterized by the philosophy that 'We are all teachers as well as learners'. As such, no matter what you think, you can both learn from others and have something to teach to others. I like that idea a lot. It's just one more reason I like to paddle with a Greenlandic paddle. Each stroke is done knowing someone taught it to me and I can teach it to someone else. A good feeling. Thanks for sharing with us, Dick!

I like the feeling of paddling in summer gear: no drysuit, no full spray-skirt, short sleeves, mesh-sided pfd, but always my Greenland paddle. That's year 'round gear for me!

Monday, September 3, 2007

That One of Yours, Grey Owl?

I paddled at dusk yesterday. The tree-lined shores were dark and mysterious as were the waters beneath the over-hanging branches. I knew the area well, but still, I had to be careful. There were snags lurking, waiting to push my boat suddenly aside and possibly tip me over.

Suddenly, just to my right, a loud slapping sound, rustling water and then quiet ripples circled outwards lapping my hull. A beaver! On my return, another SLAP! The beaver's still around and watching for me.

A beaver? This morning I paddled the same route in bright sunshine. Yes, I'd known there was an old beaver lodge stuck underneath an old cabin that has to remind one of Grey Owl and his pets. If you look carefully, you can see part of the cabin just above and to the right of the pile of sticks marking the beaver lodge. I never thought there were still beavers living in this lodge. Well, I guess there are. At dusk, at least!

Ten days, 10 paddles of at least an hour in length and often more. Today I paddled in wet, clammy clothes. You'd think I was on an expedition the way I felt as I pulled them on! In fact, it was my forgetfulness, leaving them in the car overnight and not bringing fresh, dry stuff. I never thought of this challenge as an expedition, but hey, why not! LOL

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Birds as Bloggers

While paddling today I got thinking about this blog. What got me on this topic was seeing a loon, the first I'd seen since last Spring. A few days ago I saw a couple of cormorants which are not usual visitors to my lake. Such different birds and they raise very different emotions in me when I see them. One I like, the other makes me shake my head.

Cormorants seem like birds with no shame. They don't mind exposing themselves to one and all, freely hanging out their laundry for us all to see. Some days I wonder if my blog is a bit like that. I hope not. I don't really care for that 'me, me, look at me' kind of blog. Hopefully I have better things to blog about.

Now loons, they seem to say, 'oh, look!', then quickly and mysteriously they're gone, off to something else interesting and fun. Hopefully this blog is a bit loon-like. Not 'me, me, me', but lots of 'look at this interesting place or thing I've discovered', then quietly moving on. That's a much more interesting blog, the kind I like to read.