Thursday, November 29, 2007

Freya's Point

Here's a picture of the lighthouse atop Puysegur Point on New Zealand's South Island. While the light doesn't look that impressive, it sits 45 meters above the water on one of the toughest paddling venues in the world. Open to the huge seas and constant winds of the Southern Ocean, it also marks the southern entrance to the Fjordlands, a remote area on the South Island of New Zealand where few people live and where easy beach landings are hard to come by. I don't want to pretend that it will be easy-going once Freya passes this point, but it does mark the successful completion of a major hurdle in her circumnavigation. It marks the half-way point as well.

Freya Hoffmeister will be looking up at this light in the next day or so as she rounds the Point on her solo paddle around the South Island. Like you, I'll be wishing her light winds, low swells and favouring currents!

You can follow her trip by clicking here or on her blog link in the right-hand sidebar.

Update! Freya posted on Dec 2 that she's entered Fjordland, having paddled around Puysegur Point! Sounds like the gods were good to her and kept conditions moderately easy...

Docks on Wheels

In another six weeks or so, the lake will freeze over, but even before then, ice will form around the shoreline and gradually edge out to the center of the lake. Anyone with a dock will need to remove it or risk suffering ice damage during the winter and spring break up.

Recently, many people have opted to buy aluminium docks which can be dismantled and stored during the winter on shore. However, over the years some ingenious solutions have been devised. The dock in the picture above is one example. The deep end is mounted on old wagon wheels. In the fall, the beach end is pulled up the bank, out of the water. In the spring, down she goes, instant dock!

This dock comes complete with tire bumpers. The small platform it's sitting on is a wooden structure, filled with rocks. These tend to survive the ravages of winter, but eventually they have to be replaced.

No paddle today - 50 kms winds on the water...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Up the Creeks...

Another seemingly nasty day. Cold, with some wind and sleet in the air. To brighten things up a bit, I headed to the south end of my lake, the end I seldom visit. I had forgotten how convenient the put-in is at that end. Easy parking and a very short carry brings one onto a sandy little beach.

I headed southward towards the camp-ground at the end of the lake, but before I got there, I discovered this little stream rushing into the lake. It was swollen with melting snow and I was able to paddle some distance up it before being blocked by shallows and fallen trees. It was another stream that liked to produce mini foam-bergs!

I took a wide turn along the shore, past the camp-ground and the new condo building, then turned north and paddled along the eastern shore past the fancy hotel located there. I accidently scared a snow goose out from under some evergreen trees, or perhaps I ought to say it scared me, flying right over my bow! I nearly got 'goosed'!

Crossing back to the western shore I went up the other little creek that enters on that side. I was able to get farther up than I ever remember going before thanks to the additional water. A big fat beaver let me get right up to him before he decided to slap his tail and submerge. He has quite a good pile of branches stacked up for the coming winter.

Well worth the outing! I'll head back there again to see how things have changed before I finish this year.

89/100; temp: 2°C; overcast; sleet

Monday, November 26, 2007

Isuma TV!

Isuma Productions of Igloolik brought us the wonderful film called Atanarjuat a few years ago. Since then it has continued to break new ground and present exciting visual stories from Canada's far north. More recently however, they have been promoting other arctic film-makers. On their new site Isuma TV, they will be encouraging people to upload their works for all to see - sort of a YouTube, Inuit style. At the moment, there are about 80 short videos one can see and as the site is developed, more will be added. I encourge you to check this out!

Photo by Oana Spinu

Sunday, November 25, 2007


There was a fair breeze blowing down the lake today as I headed out. I'm at my river-side launch site now so that means a short paddled up-stream, ducking under two bridges and thence onto the lake proper. Just at that spot, if there are waves coming down the lake bouncing off a sea wall at the end of the lake, you can encounter a patch of standing waves or clapotis. I tried looking up this term in my dictionaries and on Wikipedia, but none of them cares to define what it means for me.

However, one does get some interesting knitting references and pictures, like the one above on Google. I like this one for its sea colours and waves. It even got me thinking things like, "Knit boat you got there, me boy!" and "Knit pearl ya did in that wave there, fella. Do another!"

In any case, I got through the knarly bit of clapotis, didn't hit any of the bridge abutments and headed into the wind and waves without flipping over or scaring myself too badly. I checked on my poor goose, but didn't find anything, not even tracks. After playing in the waves for a while the wind began to taper off and the waves began dropping so I headed back to the river and home. The caplotis had disappeared.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Time For The Tough To Get Moving!

The past couple of weeks have been touch and go ones. I was never really sure I would be able to crawl back up from the lake to the car after paddling. Once at the car, would it get up the drive to the road?

The weather at this time of the year is so variable, and usually not for the better. Yesterday it was -7°C, windy, snowy and it just seemed to be waiting for me to launch in order for it to turn worse and catch me out. The other day as I paddled, I watched the ice building up on the foredeck. How thick will it need to get before it pulls me over, I thought? So, for the first time since early October, I didn't go paddling. I didn't go out today either. Instead, I used the set of rear wheels I bought last summer and ran my kayak up the hill I usually go down.

As you can see in the photo, I'm moving. I'll be launching from my winter put-in location on the river where the carry to the water is short, flat and usually not too deep in snow. I've got 12 more paddling days to get in before the year's end and over twice that number to do it in. I'm laughing...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Seasonal Paddling Advice

If you live in a northern climate, here's some tips real Canadian kayakers use to insure their safety while paddling in different temperature regimes. You may have your own version of these guidelines, but they work well for those who haven't a clue...

65°F /18°C - Stop kayaking to avoid dangerous over-heating or add ice to cockpit.
60 / 15 - Paddle at reduced speed, use cooling rolls frequently. Drink lots of... ah... beverages to avoid possible de-hydration.
55 / 13 - Remove remaining clothing to avoid over-heating. Haul in the beer net you're dragging behind the boat before the contents explode in the heat.
50 / 10 - Remove T-shirts. Paddle nude. If squeamish, fill cockpit with ice water.
45 / 7 - Wet down T-shirts to maintain normal body core temperature. Check that others have done the same.
40 / 4 - Replace long sleeve T-shirts with short sleeves ones. If you don't have a T-shirt, use a marker to paint a logo of some kind on your chest.
35 / 2 - Switch from shorts to long pants in falling temeratures, reverse otherwise. Use your paddling knife to make shorts if you don't have a pair.
32 / 0 - Send dry-suit/top/pants out for repair estimate. Seriously consider getting the work done next year, if possible, maybe.
30 / -1 - Put on dry-top (the one with the broken neck seal) or your wool paddling sweater.
25 / -4 - Put on dry-pants, first removing any under-garments. Use woolen hunting pants if you don't have any real paddling clothes.
20 / -7 - Match seal on dry-suit and pants to reduce water seepage. Be careful of raw neoprene seals on dry skin.
15 / -9 - Use T-shirt and shorts under dry-suits. Leave zippers open at least half way to maintain normal core temperatures.
10 / -12 - Do up dry-suit zippers, if they still work, duct tape them if not. Consider using that hot glue gun they gave you for Christmas if you paddle often in big seas.
5 / -15 - Switch to long sleeved shirts and pants under the dry-suit. Duct take or hot-glue the neck seal tears. Keep wrists open for proper cooling.
0 / -18 - Wear woolies under the dry-suit if you think a wet exit may happen or you're a wimp. Fleece if not. Duct tape wrist seals if you still have them. Look for your mitts if you plan on paddling in cooler weather.

Armed with this information, I don't want to hear about anyone getting into trouble out there due to their own foolishness. Ya hear?!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fourth Adam Hansen Interview

I've uploaded the fourth of the Adam Hansen conversations with Cheri Perry to YouTube recorded at this year's Delmarva Paddler's Retreat. This is a particularly interesting part as they talk about the Greenland Kayaking Championship and how it got started. When a few people in Greenland realised their traditional kayaking culture was either going to disappear entirely with the appearance of an imported motorized hunting technology, or be relegated to a few dried out museum specimens. Instead they had the foresight to evolve parts of the old culture into a new sport, which has since spread around the world. Not only has the kayak design been copied and developed nearly everywhere, but today the old rolling skills have opened up new vistas for many kayakers far beyond the fjords of Greenland.

The Championships have also provided an opportunity for Greenlanders, both male and female, to come together each year in a different community. These gatherings promote a sense of pride and self-esteem for all who attend. They have also provided a setting for the continued development of the Greenland style kayak. For example, the keenness of the competition has served to refine the 'rollability' of kayaks to the point that organizers had to step in and dis-allow some designs with negative free-board! As well, the hull shapes of kayaks are changing in the search for lightness and higher racing speeds. To say that the competition has raised the self-esteem of young people is to understate what is happening. For some it has provided whole new futures, from kayak guides, like Adam to kayak ambassadors like Maligiaq Padilla.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Another Lovely Day for Paddling!

Just look at that photo! Talk about a paradise! I've got the whole lake to myself, no sea-doos, no wave-boat wakes, not even a fleet of Lasers scooting into view. I can head out blindfolded and still be safe. Admittedly, the ceiling is a bit low for flying, which brings me to...

The Canada Goose that I found the other day. It can't fly for some reason. Perhaps it's been injured or wounded, or it may just be getting old. Whatever the reason, it has been swimming about on nice days and hiding out on the lawn of a summer cottage when the wind picks up. It's been bothering me, so today I left some cracked corn on the beach for it. Am I just prolonging its suffering? Perhaps, but if it's injured and will possibly be able to fly again, then my food might help. I'll keep an eye out for it and see what becomes of it.

It also looks like these clouds are about to dump a big load of snow on me in the next couple of days. I've really been lucky this year to have been able to keep my kayak at the boathouse for so long. Now it's a long walk in and out thanks to the snow we've already got. I'm starting to wonder if I've been too clever and will have to borrow a toboggan to get it out of there. I hope not!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Close Call!

It's been snowing most of the morning today and then it switched over to rain as I headed to the boathouse. Driving down the snow covered road towards the lake, I began to realise that I just might be in trouble when it came time to head home. Thankfully, me wife had got me an appointment to have my snow tires put on the car last week, so I ignored the advice I was getting from the left side of my brain and headed down the hill...

Once out on the water, it was wild. Windy and wavy with the air full of rain. I played about in the waves for a while, paddling up wind and surfing back down. I went up the little brook to have a look and....oops. It was frozen right across from shore to shore. I turned and headed out noticing the ice has begun to form along the banks. It will slowly creep outwards and cut me off completely before long.

I returned to the boathouse, packed up and walked up to the car. Then the trouble started. All I got from the tires was a spinning noise! Exercising all my years of winter driving skills, I slowly managed to get back up to the highway, but I was wondering about whether that was going to happen for a while. I think it's time I got that boat out of there and moved over to my usual winter put-in... Maybe tomorrow!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Pushing the Season

Someone walking their dog yelled at me the other day as I paddled by. "Pushing the season, aren't you?" they bellowed out. I guess there are those who think I should get off the water, get inside and start watching early winter TV, but just look at the light in the picture above. There is nothing on TV that comes even close to that. Besides, there are a couple of female Common Mergansers trying to sneak by me and some crows staulking the beach looking for edibles. The air is still, the sun's aglow and I'm warm and happy. Pushing the season?


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Now the Fun Really Starts...

It's been snowing on and off the past couple of days. My wife went cross-crountry skiing with the dogs... I went paddling. Much more fun, at least, while the water is still liquid. Here's the road leading to the put-in. Closer to the lake there is much less snow than we have, so thankfully, I can still get to the boathouse!

Almost ready to drop the boat into the water, climb in and head out to see what awaits me.

Heading back to the boathouse. Another interesting day on the water. Every day brings new insights. Paddling each day has given me a small insight into why it was that older Inuit people, who'd spent their whole lives in the outdoors, didn't care much for warm their new wooden houses. They cut them off from the whole world outside, their world, their home. Inside, they missed so much.

Today, if I'd stayed home, I would have missed seeing an injured Canada goose which swam along the shore, trying to hide from me, unable to take off. I'd have missed the ducks and the eagle I saw. I would have missed the action of the waves on the cliffs at Black Point, the glint of the sun on the water and the snow-flakes dropping into the water only to magically disappear. But it's tough leaving the house. Only when I leave the dock do I understand why these last 82 days have been so rewarding.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Bergs on My Lake?

Imagine my surprise to discover yesterday that I have 'ice' bergs on my lake! Not big ones, mind you, but a fair number of bergy bits seem to be floating out there...

Thankfully, I thought, I was not in my 'skin-on-frame'. There was probably skim ice out there as well, just waiting to slice through the kayak's canvas covering. I have a friend who suffered that fate once, right in the busy port of Montreal. The results were quite dramatic! He has since begun building stitch-and-glue epoxed plywood boats for his winter paddling.

I approached the 'ice' with caution. Then with a bust of speed, I charged the nearest berg, blasting it in two. It was made of foam! It turned out the foam bergs were being created in the rapids of a small brooke which enters the lake nearby.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cold Weather Paddling

The other day a mentioned the difficulty I was having with paddling gloves. All my neoprene gloves, even brand new ones and even some mitts, leak. I like dry hands when paddling in the cold. I don't subscribe to the 'wet-suit' theory when it comes to gloves.

Richard Hayes of Newfoundland offered a solution so I went looking for the gloves he mentioned. I found them at the local farm coop. They're rubber coated, part-way-to-the-elbow cotton (yes, cotton!) gloves. Mine cost me $8.00 and came with a warm fuzzy lining. I added some poly gloves and went paddling. I returned a couple of hours later with warm dry hands! It was a good test day as the waves were running about 0.5 meters and slightly more, with lots of them breaking. That means my hand and wrists often go into the water with my Greenland style paddle, yet I came home dry. I carry back-up neoprene mitts on days like these in case these new gloves get soaked, but I didn't need them yesterday.

Back at the dock, I relaxed with a mug of hot Ovaltine, another cold weather paddling friend I take out with me these days instead of the water bottle or bladder.

Update: Here's a picture of my arm sporting the glove in question...

If these things work out, I think I'll add some velcro tabs on the arms to keep seepage to a minimum. So far, they seem to work well, although I've taken to drying the perspiration moisture out of them by suspending them over a heater once I'm home. I suspect when I get some fleece liners, this moisture build-up will be reduced to nil. Ever the optimist!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Adam Hansen Interview - Part 3

In this third part of Adam Hansen's conversation at Delmarva, he talks about the kayak club house in Assiat. It is the club house which brings paddlers together to take classes and instruction in both boat building and paddling skills. He mentions the various types of members and how those without kayaks can borrow one until they build their own.

You can watch this video by clicking on YouTube if you prefer. The previous three videos in the series are also found in the sidebar on the YouTube page. As well, there is another short video of Adam speaking in Greenlandic if you'd like to try your language skills listening to Greenlandic.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yesterday, Today and...

Paddling along in dead calm water yesterday, I saw this...

So I looked upwards where, above the dark hills ahead of me, I saw this...

Which is why today I paddled in this... A change in the weather with some wind and a slight increase in the temperature from 1°C to 5°C.

No threat of snow today, but, tomorrow, who knows!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Qallunaanik Piusiqsiuriniq

Qallunaanik Piusiqsiuriniq is Inuktitut and means 'Why White People Are Funny'. This is the title for a new film in The National Film Board's catalogue. The film examines the culture of 'white people' from the point of view of the mythical 'Qallunaat Studies Institute', an Inuit research group located somewhere in the Canadian north.

Here is what they publicity has to say about this ground-breaking documentary film -
Funny? What's so funny about white people, otherwise known as Qallunaat to the Inuit? Well, among other curious behaviours, Qallunaat ritualistically greet each other with inane salutations, repress natural bodily functions, complain a lot about being cold, and seem to want to dominate the world.
This docucomedy is collaboration between filmmaker Mark Sandiford and Inuit writer and satirist, Zebedee Nungak. Zebedee is CEO and head researcher of the mythical Qallunaat Studies Institute (QSI). According to Nungak, "Qallunaat ought to be the object of some kind of study by other cultures. The more I thought about the way they have studied us over the years it occured to me, why don't we study them?"
In its use of archival clips, Why White People Are Funny pokes as much fun at the illustrious history of NFB documentaries as it does at society in the south. Of course, well before the NFB came into existence, and at least as early as the classic 1922 feature "Nanook of the North," white society has been fascinated with native subjects, studying them as exotic specimens, documenting their cultural and social behaviours. That tendency to frame a world of Eskimo "others" dominated both film Why White People Are Funny brings the documentary form to an unexpected place. Those who were holding the mirror up to Inuit culture finally have it turned back on themselves. The result is not always pretty, but it sure is amusing. From the Inuit point of view, visitors from the south are nothing less than "accidents waiting to happen."

The film is listed on my Consumerfest Wish List right at the top! I can't wait to see it.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Adam Hansen Interview - Part 2

Here is the second part in the series of conversations with Adam Hansen made at the Delmarva Retreat. Click on the video below or visit my page on YouTube to view it.

In this part, Adam talks about the job of guiding kayakers in his home area, who his clients are and the growing popularity of the sport in Greenland. Enjoy!


Friday, November 9, 2007

Interesting Cabins

Now the leaves have fallen off all but the most stubborn of the trees, it's possible to see into the forests which cloak the shores of my lake. While no new cabins have 'appeared', a few that I thought must have been removed have now become visible. The owners paint them in very discrete colours allowing them to blend into the forest perfectly. At least one of these 'invisible cabins' is located on a sliver of land that doesn't seem to 'exist' on the official registry! It appears that the original surveys of the area, being somewhat less than accurate, resulted in a small sliver of land being omitted by mistake. A few years ago, someone noticed the error and has now erected a little cabin in 'nowhere-land'. Very clever of them as they now 'own' lakefront which is not taxed and was never paid for because it doesn't official exist - yet!

Enlarge to read the house sign.

This 'paradise' situation brings to mind another place named after the fabled land of Shangri-La. The only access is by water or by footpath. No electricity, no phone - not even cellular - and few visitors. The perfect get-away, but this one's on the tax rolls!

Another similar place, in the bay where I've been seeing the bald eagles, is this one above. It has all the appearance of an early settler's homestead, yet looks comfy and cozy. There's even a kayak lying next to a canoe just above the beach. Perfect!


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Adam Hansen Interview - Part 1

Here is the next segment of the interview with Greenlander Adam Hansen made while attending the Delmarva Paddler's Retreat last October.

In this part, Adam describes where he lives, how he became interested in making and paddling kayaks and what was valuable in learning the skills which would become so important to him today.

I will continue to post additional parts as I finish editing and up-loading them to YouTube. If you wish to see all of the interview segments, visit YouTube by clicking here. They should be listed in the scrolling sidebar, or by clicking on other 'ckayaker' videos.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Paddling Gloves

I must have more types of paddling gloves than Emelda has shoes! I keep buying them in my never-ending search for some gloves that don't leak. In the picture above- I know, it's a lousy pic, just like the gloves - the only pair that don't leak are the mitts. Granted they are easier to make - even I have made a pair - the good news about them is they don't leak. The bad news is I don't really like the feel of mitts while paddling. There's something about having separate fingers gripping that paddle...

So here's what I want. I want someone to make a pair of neoprene gloves with thin rubber on the palms and thicker stuff on the backs. Glue them, sew them, whatever it takes to hold them together. THEN - and this is the secret step I reveal to one and all this morning - dunk them in some kind of flexible sealant like the non-paddling glove manufacturers do! To test this amazing break-thru, I'm going out today to look for some of that liquid-plastic-in-a-can stuff people dip their tool handles in. If I can find some, I'll try dipping a pair of gloves and see how they last.

Update! After reading Richard Hayes comment below, I realised I'd seen a pair of the gloves he writes about some place and so I began looking. Sure enough the Lee Valley tool catalogue had them. I've posted a picture of them below. I think Richard is right about their suitability for staying warm and dry. I believe the greenlanders made a similar mitt for summer use with their mini-sprayskirts, called aqulitsak. I'm still going to try salvaging my present gloves with that plastic dip if I can find some.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Darkening Days

The days are darkening as we slowly creep into winter. The clouds yesterday were our part of TS Noel which raced by to the east dumping tons on water and high winds on those along the Atlantic coast. We were threatened with snow on Sunday, but other than this cloudy sky, we didn't even get rain to add interest to my paddle.

What did perk things up was sighting a bald eagle, the first I have ever seen on the lake. In Newfoundland, paddling to Chance Cove we saw them by the dozens, but here they are relatively rare. Seeing this fellow and his cousin, the osprey earler in the summer were both joyous events.

Update: While out paddling today, I discovered that there were two bald eagles!


Friday, November 2, 2007

The Hebrides

After reading Cailean McLeod's review of it, I just had to get a copy of Ewan Gillespe's new book titled Hebridean Waves. I ordered direct from the publisher and received the book within a week. I'm just finishing the last chapter now and a great read it is. He has a easy way of writing and gives the feel of a good story-teller recounting the day's outing at the pub afterwards.

More than ever I am encouraged to make a paddling trip to these islands some day, and this, in spite of Ewan's accounts of paddling in huge seas and being nearly blown away on a few occasions! I don't pretend to be as high a caliber a paddler as he obviously is, but others who've written about the area have convinced me that there is plenty of good paddling for the competent kayaker at my skill level.

See you there?


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Greenland Qajaq Guide

Adam Hansen works as a kayak guide in his town of Assiat in West Greenland. Cheri Perry and Adam spoke together earlier in the month while both were attending the Delmarva Paddler's Retreat and I filmed their conversation. I will be posting parts of this talk from time to time. It gives an interesting look at how Adam has been able to use his traditional kayaking skills to make a living for himself and his family in a new way. Instead of using his kayak as a hunting machine, he now leads interested people out onto the water to explore the Greenland coast.

This first clip is mostly addressed to Canadian Inuit encouraging them to consider a similar path. This clip is spoken in Greenlandic, a language closely related to the Inuktitut spoken in Northern Canada. The remaining clips will be in English. Remember, you too can speak Inuktitut! Visit Tusaalanga Inuktitut and start taking lessons!