Monday, March 31, 2008

Final Check

On Sunday, with the sun poring down out of a cloudless sky, my daughter and brother and I took a walk on the lake and through the surrounding woods. It was time before my departure for a final check to see everything was ready for spring. It was. We are. So bring it on!

I want to paddle here when I get home at the end of the month...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Stroking Your Kayak

I picked up a copy of Doug Alderson's 2007 title Sea Kayak Strokes the other day. Now there are lots of 'how-to' books out there explaining what to do with your paddle while you're in your kayak, but I particularly like the approach this book takes. To begin with, there are lots and lots of pictures. Then there are lots of paddles used including the Greenland paddle. As I paddle with one, I found this refreshing.

Another nice addition to the usual explanation given in books, are some exercises to try out after each chapter description. These are useful for the beginning paddler who doesn't always have an instructor close by to say, "Ok, here are some thing to practice...". As someone who mostly had to learn to paddle from books and videos, I know what the beginner goes through trying to figure out how to paddle.

The book deals as well with bracing and rolling. I liked the way the two were presented in the book as a continuum, a low brace being a slight roll, and a full 360° roll being a complete brace. This fits in with my way of thinking about learning to roll where a person acquires a series of braces right up to a controlled capsize with a balance brace at the water's surface. Once at this stage, any roll can be turned into a balance brace or a sculling brace position and, from there, turned into a recovery to the upright position.

I'd recommend this book to anyone starting out, to teachers and to people like me, with lots more to learn.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Newfoundland's South Coast

Click to enlarge

I was in Montreal yesterday to see a presentation about paddling a section of Newfoundland's south coast. Anyone who knows this area doesn't need to be told it's a paddler's paradise. The rugged coastline plunges into the sea, huge granite lined inlets pierce the land every few kilometers and bold headlands push out into the North Atlantic to challenge your cape rounding skills. Years ago there were more communities than the few that survive today, but those that do are well worth visiting.

It was also an opportunity to meet some of the people involved in the new Maelstrom Kayak company. I can tell you they are young, talented and very excited about their new boats! I look forward to trying one out, perhaps in May. There was some talk about getting a few pictures of the boats in the development stages. I'll post them if I am able to get them. It'll be a bit like watching the birth of a child, won't it?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wanna Paddle?

I've given the lakes and rivers around here every possible opportunity to thaw and let me go paddling, but their stubborn refusal has given me no choice. I'm heading south where the water runs free and the sun shines brightly. So postings will become erratic for the next month, more or less. My itinerary will run down the east coast of the US. If you want to go out for a paddle together, get in touch either via 'Comments' or my email address (see profile). I'm always interested in meeting new friends and paddling on new waters...
• • •

Tonight I'm heading to Montreal to a presentation on kayaking Newfoundland's South Coast. Naturally, I'll be driving in snow. It's too far to ski, unfortunately!
• • •

The picture? Sumac. Frozen sumac.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Living High

If you live in the high latitudes, say above 60°N, you'll no doubt be taking advantage of the longer days you're beginning to have. The further north you live, the more night-time is switching into daytime. Some people will soon be getting no night at all! The longer day provides lots of time for these lucky people to get out on the land to look for dinner and just enjoying life.

In this series of pictures taken in Kangirsuk in the Spring of 1972, a bunch of us are heading out for a day 'on the land' as we called it. The snow has been melting in the warm temperatures so some people would remove the cowling from their SkiDoos to aid in cooling, especially going up hills or when towing a sled. For others, it was a matter of being 'cool' in both senses of that word.

The first task was to climb up the hills off the river and head inland. It wasn't unusual to find small flocks of ptarmigan, small grouse-like birds that buried themselves in the snow up to a dozen or so at a time, white arctic hare in groups of two or three and solitary foxes out on the tundra. The small songbirds had also been returning, so there was always lots of wild-life to be found.

We used to drive around for hours, roaring our machines up hillsides, jumping off snow-drifts, generally enjoying being able to freely explore after a winter spent mostly indoors or dressed in warm, bulky clothing when we were out. We used to laugh about the high price of gas back then and be thankful we weren't driving cars. Today, we pay almost three times as much for gas to power our cars and we wonder whether we ought to be polluting the planet when out joy-riding. The joke has returned to mock us...

Friday, March 21, 2008

A New Set Of Wheels

NRS is selling a new type of boat cart. Made mostly of plastic, they claim the cart is "stout, sturdy and ridiculously simple". It is designed to carry loads up to 300 lbs and easily "breaks apart and snaps together" - I said it was plastic! - making stowage inside one's kayak simple. With no moving parts and nothing to corrode, rust or jam up with sand, this cart sounds interesting.

Anyone out there tried one yet?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Has Sprung. Sorta, Maybe, Whatever...

Today is the first day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox if you still speak Latin... It's not that obvious in today's picture, but I wouldn't lie to ya. The good news is that yesterday it was a fact that the ice was melting, large puddles of water were lying on the surface of most lakes and ponds. Ducks have been returning to the few open water sites around. My blood is starting to flow again. I'm sanding the dings out of my Greenland paddles...

On another front, Maelstrom Kayaks have announced the launch date of their new kayaks: April 6th at the Aquadrome Pool in LaSalle, 5 to 8 pm. See my posting for details.

And... today just might be the day that Barbro completes her paddle around the South Island of New Zealand! Be sure to visit her blog and give her a cheer!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Here We Go Round Again!

The ferry MV Caribou is currently stuck in heavy ice off Cape Breton resulting in a Canadian icebreaker heading to her aid. About 170 people on board are having their 6 hour crossing prolonged. Not to worry, the ship has lots of entertainment centers aboard including internet. Those addicted to reading blogs will not be deprived!

Not aboard is Greg Stamer, although he may well be in June 2008 if his plans work out. He has just announced, via his new blog, his intention to paddle around the island of Newfoundland this summer. This will be the third summer in a row that kayakers have accepted the circumnavigation challenge since Wendy Killoran made the trip in 2006.

Let's wish him luck and don't miss following along via his blog! Perhaps someone will post his web page above the computers on the MV Caribou so those stuck on her will know to where to follow the trip as well...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Goin' Fer Bear, Dung That Is...

As the summer paddling season approaches, many of us are planning our upcoming adventures and I'm not just thinking about location! I'm thinking food as well. If you're sticking to places you can drive to then this item might not interest you. However, if you are contemplating flying, then finding a stove the airlines will let you carry with you isn't easy. Here is a possible option:

"The Vital Stove is a unique survival stove especially designed for extreme situations. It is so light and compact that you can carry it with you and be prepared wherever you go. It is safer than other stoves because it doesn't rely on toxic fuel, either liquid or gas.

"The Vital Stove is environmentally friendly and gives you complete freedom of action since it can use any dry biological material as a source of fuel: Pieces of wood, ecologic log, paper, cardboard, twigs, straw, natural fibers, animal dung, charcoal and combustible waste

You have to love them mentioning that old trusty fuel: "animal dung". It's a bit like eating the bear before he eats you kind of idea!

I don't own one of these stoves, but have a similar one which lives in its own 1 liter pot. I can attest for the heat output, although they are thirsty for wood. I find having a nice little chip and twig stockpile to be handy. In fact, on a windy, shore day, it's a worthwhile activity making up a bag of wood chips to take along when it's either wet or you can't find any twigs or dung...

I also have a crank-up 12 volt charger which can be used to power this stove when the batteries run down. Finally, the Vital Stove people donate a small portion of the stove's purchase price to Earth-friendly causes, another nice feature I like.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St Paddy's Day!

If you're lucky enough to be Irish, then you're lucky enough...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sectional Kayaking

Most people prefer to paddle a one piece kayak, but there are those other adventurous souls who need to fly off to remote beaches to launch their boats. Air travel and kayaks can be expensive combination and this has led to the production of sectional kayaks: boats in pieces. Best known perhaps are the English boats from Nigel Dennis and Rockpool. These boats are special items, I understand, in that one orders a regular kayak and it is then prepared as a sectional for you.

Here in Canada, Nimbus Kayaks on the west coast also make up a sectional boat. It's the one in the pictures above. This boat is built from the start in three pieces and requires thirteen thru-bolts to assemble at the put-in. It's short, only 16'3", relatively wide at 23.5" and in kevlar weighs a whopping 57 lbs. The short overhangs at the bow and stern give it a longer waterline than one might expect for so short a boat.

I've often toyed with the idea of a sectional boat. Transporting my kayak to the arctic and back was about the same as paying for an extra passenger. Transporting a sectional is more like paying for a bit of over-weight baggage and sometimes, not even that. I'd love to try one of these boats!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Get Out of Here!

I know, most kayakers spell the word 'n-e-e-d', but do you 'want' some new gear? The time is now to get out there and see what's left in your local outdoor stores. Sales are on! I went through the two local stores to have a look the other day and came home with a really nice Icebreaker Merino wool zip-T. These things cost the earth itself around here, but I paid 40% off regular price. Not only was the price within reach, but if you look at the colours in the picture, then at the two major colour themes in this blog and my kayak, you'll know how incredibly well coordinated I'm going to look paddling this Spring. So get down to the local. They've got your stuff, maybe.

Now, if I can find an ice-breaker at a reasonable discount to get the ice out of here... Failing that, I'm heading south. It's one or the other by the end of the month!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Maelstrom Kayaks

A new kayak has appeared! Let there be light! I actually don't know much about the company other than it's Québec based and seems to be quite ambitious. They have two models out so far, a 17'4" boat and a 16'6" boat both based on "British" design ideas. The chosen name for their boats is 'Vaåg' and the company is called Maelstrom Kayaks.

Their web site is only in French at the moment, but as you click around, it's clear they intend to offer a full service, boats, lessons and even organized expedition style outings. I'll pass along more information as I find it out. So far it looks exciting! Let's wish them luck.

Update! Maelstromekayaks will hold a launching of their 174 and 166 boats at the Aquadome in LaSalle, Quebec on April 6th between 5 and 8 PM. Bring your gear and tryout one of their new boats! See their website to signup and for more details...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ice Walk

While the rest of northeastern North America got tons of beautiful white, powdery snow to play in, I got ice. What can you do with ice? Not much. I strapped on the snow-shoes, the new kind with the bear claw grippers underneath, grabbed a couple of antsy dogs, and headed for the hills...

The pines were sugar coated with ice...

The woods were quietly tingling in the slight breeze...

The dogs and I got home without mishap...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Iditarod Memories

Susan Butcher - Part 1

If you live in northern climes and find yourself unable to get out hunting in your qajatuinaq, then what about hitching up the old kimupsik and heading out on the trail. Which trail, you ask? Why the Iditarod trail, of course! The race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska is running right now with many of the old hands still contenders. Much like kayaking, once a person gets involved, the passion grips tight and people stay with the sport seemingly forever.

One person who raced for years and won on four different years was Susan Butcher. Unfortunately Susan died from leukemia during the summer of 2006, but up until then she was the most incredible lady. Warm and caring for both her dogs and fellow racers, she was the spirit of the Iditarod. I followed her adventure every year with my classroom of kids. We cheered her on and tried to make her spirit ours for as long as we could. With International Women's Day just behind us, it's good to know there were - and still are - women like Susan challenging all of us to make a more exciting and interesting world out there!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

RV Salon in Montreal

I suppose every kayaker eventually wants to tavel beyond his or her home waters. There are several ways to do this. To date, I have traveled by car and camped near the put-in or along the route paddled and really enjoyed it. Still, the idea of having a small motor-home to travel with and carry all one's gear means that one can go farther and stay away longer, yet still enjoy many of the benefits of being 'at home'.

At the RV Show in Montreal yesterday I had a chance to actually get inside some of the vehicles I've seen only in magazines over the past few years. Above is the Safari Condo van. It's much like the VW vans which have been popular for many years. Slightly larger, these Safari vans come with all sorts of options including full solar power options while camped and an interesting kayak roof rack which lowers off the rear for easier loading/off-loading.

Another interesting option is the Go-Camp tear-drop trailor in the above picture. This tiny 'home' can even be pulled behind a motorcycle. There are various models available including one with a flat roof equiped with kayak racks and solar panels. While really just a solid walled tent on wheels, it does allow one some additional security and weather protection in the wilds as well as freeing up space in the car.

Will I be buying? Probably not. I still enjoy the idea of camping, keeping the carbon footprint low and besides, all the banks around here have already been robbed...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Speaking of Winters...

If, like me, you paddle a QCC kayak the name John Winters will ring a bell. He designed the various models as well as numerous other small boats. He has recently completed a new ebook entitled, A Hydrodynamic Study of Skin Kayaks, which sounds like a fascinating look into just what happens as we paddle our boats through the water. This book follows The Shape of the Canoe - Designing Canoes and Kayaks, his companion ebook. He writes about this latest volume:

"The intention was to determine if any hydrodynamic similarities or trends could be detected as opposed to comparing kayaks on a qualitative basis (although I suspect people will want to use the data that way). A range of form coefficients, stability and resistance was analyzed and from the data graphical trends and differences, if any, were examined."

In all he used data from 21 skin kayaks, four hypothetical kayaks, and two modern kayaks to get an idea of what was going on as these boats moved through the water. Most of us paddle for the fun and pleasure of it, but knowing some of the science that occurs as we move along can only provide a deeper appreciation of our sport. If you like designing and building your own boats then this book ought to be a goldmine of information about getting the boat characteristics you're looking for.

John can be reached at his home in Liverpool, Nova Scotia by sending him an email at jdwinters at Both books are available on CD format for $25 Cdn each, slightly more elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Weather 401 - The Ontario Road Course

After several days dodging around the wild and wooly weather in Ontario, I've made it home safe and sound. The main highway into Ontario, the 401, is always an adventure in driving. In summer, it tries to kill you with boredom. In winter, it's the blowing snow, ice and pirouetting cars that do you in.

Like here in Québec, they have little useful open water, but the off-road snow worked well and there was plenty of it! We went sliding and skiing, two perfect winter activities for all ages. In the photo, my daughter wipes out her cousin who seems to have lost his sled, poor devil...