Thursday, May 29, 2008

The New Look

Camping is different these days. No more rushing about trying to set the tent up in the pouring rain. No more huddling under soaking fabric walls wondering whether they will leak and where.

Here's the new look. I'm getting so decadent, it occurred to me I could plug in an electric blanket should it get chilly... How quickly one adapts to new realities! I will, of course, be facing Nature in her rough 'n raw state once the paddling begins, but the road to the put-in has taken on more civilized surroundings.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Letting Go. Moving On

The first sea kayak I bought was purchased to fulfill a dream and a promise I'd made to myself when I was 25 years old. I told myself I would return one day to Igloolik, a community in Nunavut, Canada where I'd lived for the better part of two years. It had been a wonderful period of learning and growing up among the best of all environments, the arctic and with the best of people, the Inuit.

Walking into a kayak shop one day 30 years later and seeing some kayaks on the wall, I knew I had the means to return to Igloolik, to work that dream. A year later, I paddled into the community under the mid-night sun with many of my old friends waiting for me on the beach.

I am selling that kayak. I have put up ads here and there and will have to let go if a purchaser appears with the cash. Life is about collecting and letting go of our collected goods. I will be sad, but I've moved past that particular boat. It really is time to move on. With a smile.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Challenges of Spring

Who among us does not enjoy a challenge? If you're one of those who lives in a northern clime, then the spring is a time of rapid renewal and growth in the natural world and by extension in our lives as well. The urge to head out on an adventure which grows our souls is nearly irresistible.

Two Québeçois have made it to the top of Mount Everest this past week. There's news of some kayakers about to head out to paddle a nearly uninhabited section of the Greenland coast and another will go around Iceland. Yet another is going around Nova Scotia. I'm itching to leave as well...

A friend of mine from London, Ontario has taken yet another route. She is walking the pilgrim's way through northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. She left St Jean Pied de Port about 10 days ago and has been emailing about 30 of us regular reports from along her route. Now about 220 kms into the pilgrimage, her life has already been full of adventure and drama, tears and joy. How I wish I was there to share the experience...

My own route to adventure will first lead me west in the next couple of weeks and then east to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia in July where I hope to paddle with friends both met and yet unknown. I can't wait! First, though, there's the matter of the crack in my basement wall. The backhoe arrives at the beginning of next week...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Old Times, Changing Times

My revised Greenland style kayak seen here lying on the beach, is no longer alone...

How long ago was it that one never saw a Greenland skin-on-frame boat (SOF) or a Greenland style paddle? I remember in the late 1990's when Maligiaq was in Montreal preparing for the 'Traversée' across the St Lawrence river people made fun of his 'skinny stick' wooden paddle. They didn't laugh after the race was over. Many must have wondered what had happened, how had he got so far ahead of them?

Last weekend not only were at least half the paddlers using Greenland sticks, there were several other SOF kayaks present. It's a good sign of changing times and how the sport of kayaking is open to old ideas and new, interested in exploring every facet of itself. I like that feeling!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Paddling in a Maelström

It isn't every day when you get to take out a brand new kayak design and then return to the beach and chat with the designer and other company officers! This happy opportunity occurred at the Grand Rassemblement 2008 last weekend. A number of the Maelström personnel had brought several examples of their company's new boats, the Vaåg and the Vitäl for people to demo on the waters of Lac Megantic.

In this short video seqment, you can readily see the distinctive 'pectoral' stripes which grace each boat. I liked the way it distinquished the boats from the multitude of other designs on the water. The hull shape is also very 'English' in the modern sense and has much in common with the Rockpool and Tiderace boats which have become quite popular overseas.

Paddling either the Vaåg and Vitäl was a pleasure. Both track very well regardless of the wind direction and while we didn't have much in the way of wind or waves, both boats seemed little affected by sudden side gusts, even with their skegs up. Edged turns were easy to make, the boat having lots of secondary stability. It was even possible to spin the boat 180° with a single paddle stroke as the ends lift well clear of the water on a lean! Rolling and balance bracing was a snap, especially with the low rear deck and comfortable layback position.

Putting the skeg down and cranking on the paddle produced good acceleration and an easily obtained cruising speed. The boats seem to run on rails yet have a light feel and seem to want to play when you do. I would guess these boats would make the perfect companion out on the ocean and skirting through a rock garden.

Which boat did I like best? Perhaps the Vaåg, but only because I liked its slightly longer length of 17'4" compared to the Vitäl's 16'6". Both boats are serious contenders in the world of high end, high quality kayaks. If you're looking for something in that range, you owe it to yourself to look closely at a Maeström! As for myself, I'm begging you to send in your pocket change. I really want one of these boats...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kayaks, Kayaks And More Kayaks!

My SOF seen here down at the water's edge was in excellent company last weekend! One of the fun things about attending a kayaking event is the chance it provide of trying out a variety of boats which are new to you. The Rassemblement provided a wealth of boats, some familiar, but never paddled, and some totally new to me.

Among the boats were Boreal's new Baffin, a plastic kayak with a nice, flat rear deck which I liked.

There were several of Valley's new plastic boats as well, specifically a Nordkapp and an Avocet. They seemed well made and nicely laid out and equiped. A couple of older Anas Acutas were also present. There were some Swedish boats in attendance including this blue plastic Point 65° seen here next to the red Avocet on the right.

I went out for a brief paddle in this CLC Shearwater 16, the original narrower version. I'd thought about building one of these kit boats earlier in the spring and was happy to try it out before taking on the task.

It was a big surprise to see one of the new Skim's, a beautifully made composite boat which I took out for a spin. My first impression was it's amazing length. Looking over the foredeck gave me a real sense of being in a powerful craft that really wanted to travel! I'd just paddled one of the new Maelstrom boats, so was a bit intimated with the Skim's size, but once underway I was pleasantly taken with it's speed and easy manoeuvrability. Lay-backs were easy as well as balance braces. The quality of finish and the brilliant yellow and red striped finish was an awesome sight both on and off the water.

Tomorrow I'll give my impressions paddling the new Maelstöm kayaks!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Grand Rassemblement 2008!

Ever wonder where you could go for a few nights of lakeside camping with a couple hundred friends, paddle all you like, take part in workshops, listen to information sessions, trip accounts and try out lots of new kayaks all for only $25? This year I spent my money at Québec's Grand Rassemblement 2008 kayaking event in Piopolis. To make the event even a bit more interesting, I took my brand new (to me) Go-Camp mini-trailer. I picked it up north of Montreal last Friday afternoon and was on the road ready to paddle on Saturday morning. I am extremely pleased with how well the Go-Camp tows behind my light car. The gas mileage seems to be no worse that when car-topping my kayak alone! It is comfortable, airy and pleasant to be in. Not at all what one might think of life in a small box on wheels!

Here is the view of the beach and waterfront from the municipal camp-grounds. Over the next few days I'll post more information on the event and some of the boats I got to paddle. Some of them are brand spanking new boats from new companies, and others were very rare examples, seldomly seen in North America. It made for a very interesting weekend!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Teardrop Trailer!

Okay, it isn't exactly a Teardrop trailer, but it's close. Most of the traditional Teardrops have a kitchen arrangement which is accessed via a rear hatch. This Go-Camp does not. Instead it has more useable room inside and in a trailer this small, more room means a lot! Just look at all that cupboard space! The floorplan is roughly 4' by 8'. I plan to set up a portable kitchen unit in the hatch of my car. The advantage being it can be used when tenting as well as when pulling the trailer. Clever, eh?

Because the exterior shape does not follow the 'tear' shape I get other bonuses. This trailer had a previous owner who took advantage of the flatter roof and installed a set of roof bars. At the moment, these have a bike holder installed and I will probably put a set of kayak holders on the bars so I can transport a second boat easily.

I will miss camping in the rain, I suppose and this will increase my carbon footprint a bit, but older bones know best. A warm cozy place to camp will be welcome, especially when I feel like entertaining!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Want A Paddling Soul-mate?

Every now and then I hear someone mention how much better their life would be if only their spouse or one of their friends was closer to being their 'soul-mate'. Most of us have heard that term applied to paddling couples. Perhaps we even think we know some soul-mate paddling couples. Personally, I believe the paddling soul-mate idea is a bit of a fantasy, a phantom relationship, which can lure us away from what we really want in life. Here are my thoughts on the subject...

A healthy relationship is one in which each party is devoted to supporting the well-being of the other. A mature relationship is one in which each party assumes responsibility for his or her individuation, and supports others in their efforts. Sounds easy on paper, but we all know, it is often difficult to carry out in practice. The level of maturity it demands of both parties often asks a great deal of each of us. However, if I can reasonably assume my companion is not here to make my life work for me, but intends instead to support my own efforts at life-building, then I will have made a huge stride towards cleaning up the debris which hampers and impairs our relationship. In turn, I am not in a relationship for the role purpose of seeing that my companion enjoys my idea of a full, rewarding life. That's their business. Instead, my role is to support the life that individual creates and to celebrate whatever it becomes.

To set out on a soul-mate quest as if I was missing some critical component of my life is thus a false endeavour. Far better, to try to become who you really want to be independently, asking for help when you need it. When you encounter others on the same path, support their similar efforts. Don't try to direct or control them. Don't try to grab on to them in an effort to complete yourself. Let them be. If it happens your paths become parallel ones, then enjoy that relationship. Call it 'soul-mating', if you like, but be prepared for the storms and calms as they appear. Learn to weather them. Remember you will always be two individuals, perhaps even paddling similar routes side by side. You'll never become one.

Perhaps that's why we love dogs. They support us, but don't try to change us or control us and ask impossible things of us. They love to walk along side of us. Such healthy, mature beasts! Soul-mates!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Screaming Children & Fainting Grannies

You know the scene. You're in the parking lot at the put-in changing into your drysuit or whatever, you're trying to be discreet and all of a sudden, you wish you had a better place to change.

Well, if you have a hatch at the rear of your car, then here's my idea for an almost instant, private changing room. Step one is to pick up a light weight tarp. Mine is 5' x 8'. You'll have to measure your hatch door to see what size is best for you. If you're really handy you could custom make the tarp to fit the hatch opening. Next step is to acquire some 'super magnets', the tiny silvery things stacked together in the picture above. Sew them into the tarp's long hem in places where it makes sense to hang the tarp from the opened hatch. I also sewed a couple of magnets into the two short hems so the tarp sides could clip onto the car's sides. This prevents the wind from suddenly opening the door, as it were. Using magnets allows the tarp to be put up and taken down very almost instantly.

By keeping my gear in the rear of my car along with a little piece of carpet to sit on, I now change in peace, in private and in comfort. No children have screamed in horror and no grannies have fainted from fright that I'm aware of... Another bonus is staying dry when changing in the rain!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Iglulik to Arctic Bay by Dog Sled

Each year about this time the Inuit of the Eastern Arctic stage a dog sled race from one village to another. The sleds used are traditional kamotik, not the basket style sleds seen in races in the western arctic. Prize money is $10,000 so lots of time and effort go into preparing a team for the race.

This year the race went from Iglulik northwards 500 kms or more to Arctic Bay on northwestern Baffin Island. A great place to see some photos and read about the arrival is on Clare's blog. I won't steal one of his photos. You'll just have to go and see them yourself!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Got My Sticker

Like most of the local lakes, Lake Massawippi's various municipalities require people using the lake to purchase an annual sticker to attach to one's boat. The rationale for this, clearly stated on the sticker, is to pay for the fight against a possible invasion of the dreaded invasive zebra mussel. I gather the dreadful colours of the stickers somehow scare away the mussel spawn... The cost of the sticker gradually rose to $25 for the first boat and $10 for additional ones. I have always bought my sticker under protest claiming it was a tax grab by the municipalities who used poor science in their fight against the zebra, not to mention their slack approach to washing and checking incoming boats at launch sites. Motors and bait wells are never rinsed out and so on. Aircraft from all over the place freely land on the lake, carrying the mussel spawn from place to place. Of course they never get checked...

Yesterday I drudged down to buy my stickers and got a little surprise. The price had changed! Now people using non-powered boats only pay $5. Well, I applaud the price drop - anything to encourage non-motorized boating - but it does prove my point that the stickers are a tax. With the cost of checking boats for spawn rising, how could the sticker price drop? My mussel tax sticker is now on my kayak, but I wonder if I have blundered by putting them on the back deck. Will the mussels die of fright if they can't see the stickers? Perhaps I should practice rolling more often. That will scare the little buggers!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Aaaaa... to paddle!

Spring weather is always flip-flopping back and forth like an indecisive child, but today was wonderfully warm and slightly breezy. A good day to paddle, to get out on the water, to warm up the muscles and exercise the brain. There's always lots to think about when paddling!

I thought about people I know, one leaving to walk the Camino, the pilgrim's way in Spain, another taking photos of bear scats in Newfoundland, another strangely quiet these days. Then there was where to go paddling this summer. As usual, my search for companions to go around PEI has drawn a blank. Not even Cape Breton brought them out. Lower North Shore, anyone? Going once... twice...?

Time to head back to the put-in, four hours is enough for today. Enough paddle/thinking for one day!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Water's Not Fine

Nice spring we're having. Summer birds in wintery trees. Sunny days on freezing cold waters.

I got out for a paddle yesterday on Lake Massawippi. Some fishers were out on the sun drenched surface, but not a soul was prepared to go for a swim. Good thing too, because the water was freezing, it's icy cover only having disappeared on April 22nd.

I was dressed for a swim, but the calm conditions meant it wouldn't be likely. My hands were frozen by the drips running down my Greenland style paddle. I'd forgotten just how cold water can get and still be liquid!

Hopefully others will not be seduced by the sun's heat into an early swim without wearing proper gear. In their favour however, one of the progressive steps to freezing to death is the sensation of burning up with heat. An interesting 'serves-you-right' reaction I suppose. One of the body's little ironic tricks.

I'm still staying in my kayak. For now.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Zach Kunnuk Interview

IsumaTV translates into English as 'ThinkTV', almost an oxymoron these days, but Igloolik's multifacited production team has really made us TV viewers think. They've recently posted an interview with the head of Isuma, Zach Kunnuk. Here's how it begins...

I was nine when I came into Igloolik. I was on Baffin Island, living on the land, and I saw the last of that era - my family living in a sod house, my father getting ready to go dog-teaming early in the morning, mother waking me up saying, "Go get your dog," because nobody else could catch my dog. (In those days all dogs were loose, outside). I would go out and the dog would come to me, and I'd give it to my father. He harnessed it, and I would go back to sleep. I was just about old enough to go out with the men dog-teaming, and then I had to go to school; so I just saw a little bit of that life.

I recommend reading the rest. The man behind the film 'Atanarjuat' and the 'Journals of Knud Rasmussen' has much to say. Enjoy!