Saturday, September 27, 2008

What Next?

Looks like just another ball cap getting a little wet, doesn't it? Well, it is, but there's more. This cap has a solar panel on the brim - that's the clear looking bit - and it's got a series of LED lights along the brim. Now isn't that just what everyone's been looking for since we began living in caves way back when? Of course it is!

No more fumbling your way to the washroom in the dark, no more searching for the tent zipper to check on whether the bears have eaten your boat, no more feeling about for that lost flashlight or whether your bed partner's snuk off with someone else in the dark... They're all right there just a light beam away thanks to the cap you're wearing on your head!

This item will make its inventor a millionaire faster than you just read this. Why, or why, didn't I think of it first?

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Other Side of Alaska

PhD candidate Stacey Fritz (University of Alaska Fairbanks, Cultural Anthropology) and her traveling partner, Ryan Tinsley took a boat trip along the northern coast of Alaska last summer. Their web site tells a marvelous story as they encountered one adventure after another on their voyage, everything from bear encounters to the effects of rampant global warming. I recommend you follow their voyage via their pictures and text descriptions. It's well worth the visit!

What fascinated me most was the DEW line (Distant Early Warning) sites they visited as part of Stacey's PhD study. These sites were built during the Cold War days when Americans feared the sudden arrival of Soviet war planes coming over the pole to bomb their cities. When I lived in the Canadian arctic in the 1960's I sometimes dropped in on the local DEW line facility looking for a free meal. As I was with Inuit hunters, I would pretend to be one as well and like them, I 'couldn't' speak English. We'd point to the food items we wanted and generally joked and laughed our way through the meal and then left with fuller bellies than we'd had for days. Payment was usually in the form of walrus penis bones which the residents would send home to their buddies all decorated and prettied up.

Today the DEW line is closed and the contaminated sites are slowly being cleaned up whenever a big enough howl is raised. In Alaska, many of the sites are now lorded over by oil companies. Sadly, the fun loving days of the Cold War have been replaced by industrial security and big business rudeness, which is a pity. Visit the site!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


There's an excellent review on the SeaKayak Photo site of a neat pocket-sized internet device called the 'PocketSurfer'. This item uses cell phone technology to surf the internet. Being battery powered it's useful for keeping in touch with friends and the local weather service while out paddling. Best of all, the cost in Europe is very reasonable, roughly $300 cdn to buy which includes 20 free browsing hours per month for the first year. After that, monthly 20 hour browsing costs are less than $100 cdn a year. Best of all, it works throughout Europe and Great Britain!

I'm looking for such a device and when I discovered it was made in Canada, I contacted the company, Datawind, Inc. Here's what they had to say...

"Unfortunately the Pocketsurfer is not yet available here. The primary impediment being the high cost of data calls due to lack of competition in the wireless industry. The device works just fine on the Rogers network but we have, as of yet, not been able to negotiate reasonable rates with them."

This is the same problem the iphone ran into here in Canada. High data costs. Canada is rapidly becoming a third world country for its lack of decently priced services. Gas companies in my area were recently cited for jointly rigging prices, yet the gouging continues unabated. Phone companies control all the communication media and obviously rig prices among themselves. No one has dared step outside the box and offer truly competitive services. We have a national election in full swing, but none of this is mentioned as an issue.

In the meantime, I plod along with beat-up roads, high gas prices, increasingly tightened international border controls when traveling, dial-up internet, fuzzy television, no cell phone and, now, no PocketSurfer. It seems that Europe, where one surfs and travels with fewer and fewer hindrances, people are moving rapidly ahead of us North Americans in so many ways.

Thankfully I paddle. It makes all the annoyances I suffer under disappear!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Slalom Course

Indian Summer, those warm fall days that suddenly appear just when you've resigned yourself to the end of summer and the slow descent into winter, have arrived! They make perfect paddling weather. Not too hot. Not too cold. Perfectly clear, crispy air and the water's still warm as well. I headed down the 'wild side' of my lake. It was covered with bubbles for some reason. A kingfisher led me on, around the point, into the next bay and then toward the farther point.

Crossing over to the eastern shore, I spotted a line of white buoys. A perfect slalom course. I normally paddle with the rudder down, but for greater nimbleness in the corners, I pulled it up and charged the line. There's lots of fun to be had here, edging corners, making quick adjustments with bow and stern ruddering with the paddle, whatever it takes to get the boat around the buoys without touching or missing one all the whole pushing for the greatest speed possible.

Great fun on a fall day!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Trapping Season Again!

Any good kayaker knows that no one lives from their efforts on the water. There just aren't enough resources for all of us out there and there are too many conflicting issues keeping us off the water. Thus we all look for alternative things to do.

In the fall, animals are looking for their winter homes after a long summer frolicking in the fields and forests. Where do they often find their winter abodes? They move in with us, naturally. We work hard to make ourselves comfortable, a fact not lost on our animal friends.

This leads me to my present acitivity. Setting out my fall trapline. It runs from the basement to the attic. Once it's laid out, I'll be making the trapline run most mornings to harvest the night's catch. Then it's sorting by species, size, pelt quality and so on before heading down to the local fur trader. That reminds me, I'm right out of stretching frames for field mouse pelts. If I want furlined neoprene paddling mitts this year, I'd better pick up a few frames right away!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Walrus Days of Summer

Nearly four weeks to the day that I left home for Georgia, I finally put my kayak back in the water and went for a paddle. It felt so good to be back in the saddle. There was enough wind that the waves rocked the hull and soon I was making all those unconscious checks and balances that an experienced paddler does so automatically to avoid a capsize. Leaving the beach and heading out, I had to think about what I was doing. Interesting. I didn't realize I'd lose the 'touch' so quickly, but it all came back fairly quickly.

I was aware as well that yesterday was the second to last day of summer, today being the end. There is definitely a nip in the air. The trees are losing their green chlorophyll, revealing the colours in the leaves which has been masked all summer. We'll be getting a hard frost any day now.

It reminds me of walrus hunting. For some reason, I have this image in my mind of being on an ice pan in Northern Foxe Basin years ago, cutting up two animals we'd caught for winter dog food. It was close to mid-night and the sun, for the first time that summer, had dipped for a moment below the horizon before rising again to continue on its circular journey through the sky. I reflected, at the time, that the brief arctic summer was quickly coming to an end. It was August 6th...

We get a bit more summer here at the 45th parallel, but once it begins to fade, it goes quickly. Before long I'll be skiing and thinking about where to go paddling this winter...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't Stop Paddling!

A year ago, I was out there paddling every day. I was attempting to paddle for at least an hour every day for 100 days without a break. I did have to skip a few days because of ice and things, but on Dec 27th, I went out on my 100th paddle. During that time I never felt better. No aches, no pains, nothing but good healthy fun.

This year I have not paddled since August, nearly a month on dry land. I have a runny nose, my right elbow aches and for a few days, my lower back gave me nothing but trouble. The answer is clear. Don't stop paddling!

I've been looking at this beautiful lake in northern Georgia during these past few weeks. It's a fun lake to paddle on, but I need more. I need to get home to my boats, my paddles and gear! I need to find some salty water, some big waves and I intend to find some. I'll be heading down to Maine at the end of September to do some Greenland style paddling with fellow 'skinny stick' fans. I can't wait and neither can my body!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Arctic Books!

Here's a small part of what Donat Savoie has to say about Tivi's new book on his life in northern Quebec (Nunavik):

This book of Tivi Etok's interviews and stonecuts is a valuable source of wisdom and teachings, worth of close examination. NON-INUIT will find in these pages the story of a courageous and artistic life, and a model for us all. Various photographs that I had taken during my stay in the community are also included in the book (these photographs are now part of Avataq archives).

Sounds like an interesting addition to anyone's library if they have an interest in this part of the world. Years ago I had the chance to visit Tivi's home town and meet some of the great people there. I'm going to try and get a copy of his book and catch up on the area. Contact the Avataq Cultural Institute for information.

The second new book out is Among Inuit and Whalers on Baffin Land, 1883-1884, the collected diaries of Wilhelm Weike who was with the whalers in the late 1800's. He wrote his accounts at the suggestion of Frans Boas, the famous anthropologist who was also in the Baffin area at the same time. There is a large section following the actual diaries of explanations and additional descriptions including his relationship with Boas. Again, another interesting book for the arctic historian. The diary is available from Mindener Geschichtsverein (Minden Historical Society) in a translation by William Barr.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Widen Your News Sources

We like to think of ourselves as kayakers, but are we really keeping up? Here's your chance to read Sermitsiak, Greenland's daily newspaper. Find out what's really going on - if anything - in the qajaqing world! The hardcore among you can flip to the news in Greenlandic... I'm sticking with the English version for a while, until my Greenlandic skills improve. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Did I Mention?

I paddled this Boreal Design Narval kayak to Igloolik in the late 1990's. It was the first seakayak I'd ever bought and it turned out to be a perfect fit for a beginning paddler interested in pushing his limits into new and potentially adventurous regions. I flew the boat to Hall Beach and then followed the coastline for a week or so to Igloolik. My first foray into adventure paddling. When I hit the beach in Igloolik I couldn't have been a happier paddler.

I'd fulfilled a dream and discovered a whole new world of independence and adventure. When asked if I'd sell the kayak rather than return home with it, I declined. I was in love. How could I sell a kayak that had changed my life forever? Well, we all know that times change, things come and go and we move in unforseen directions. I'm ready to sell my Narval. In fact, it's been listed in a few places for the past several months and I've had a few 'bites', but no money has yet exchanged hands. That's okay. I'm a patient person. If someone really wants a good kayak to start their dream, then they'll find this boat. It has a proven record of success and has been well maintained. I'll even leave the polar bear decal on the boat. Proof it has been paddled in the arctic, tested in the ice, so to speak.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wheels To Go

Having a tough time putting that new set of wheels together each time you head to the put-in? Or even worse, have you arrived back to find the tide has left you stranded a mile from shore and your wheels are back at the car? Did you even remember to bring your wheels?

Well there's an answer to all these troubles and it can be found in the picture above. I won't spoil the search, but check the photo carefully and you'll have the answer. Then it's only a question of heading into your home workshop and removing the wheel from your spouse's garden wheelbarrow and forging a suitable bracket to receive it on the stern of your kayak. You'll never be caught without your wheels again!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Paddling Baie Fine

Baie Fine, a name which probably goes back to fur trading days when large 30 foot birch bark freighter canoes passed by the entrance as they plied the waters of the Great Lakes. It's another of the many jewels of Killarney Provincial Park. It was also another destination I'd wanted to sail into during my sailing days, but it being narrow and a bit off the usual route, I could never convince my crew to enter its narrow mouth. So much for being captain...

This short video was taken last June when I finally got to see the bay in its entirety. Somewhat fjord-like and sparcely inhabited, it's a great place to paddle both for the clarity of its waters and the quiet natural surroundings. Right at the head of the bay is a narrow dog-leg channel, almost hidden from view. This deep water arm leads to an opening called 'The Pool' which is a favourite anchorage for yachts during the summer sailing season. In early June, I had the place all to myself although some cottages were open and a few folks were enjoying the same peace and quiet I discovered.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Moraito and Cameron, Guitarists

Youtube can be an ever flowing source of interesting videos, especially for those with hi-speed internet. something I lack at home where each byte of data is brought in by dog sled. Now that I am traveling in the land of easy access to hi-speed, I've been editing and uploading some of my paddling videos to YouTube.

While at the YouTube site, I've been watching new flamenco videos posted in recent months. Today I came across a really interesting one posted by 'titosiroco' in which Cameron, the famous singer, plays guitar with a very young looking Moraito Chico and another person who I don't recognize. I've embeded the video above so those interested in things flamenco can have a look. To me, this is a really fun video. To see these two heros of mine together in a very 'flamenco setting and especially to see Cameron both singing and playing guitar at the same time is amazing. I knew he could play guitar and that he knew Moraito, but to see it all together is special.