Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sometimes They Just Don't Get It

Curiously enough, about the same time that wild turkeys began showing up in our area, another similar breed also made its presence felt. Just as the turkeys don't seem to care if they scare our horses and panic them into charging through their fences, this other breed has little care for boundaries or the environment. The turkeys came on their own, completely uninvited. The other group Canadians collectively voted for - or at least a small percentage of those who bothered to vote did. What were they thinking, if anything?

The turkeys, I can deal with. The horses will soon learn to accept them and will settle down. The others? Well, they frankly scare me. You see, they don't get it. The world's economy and the planet's environment is under serious attack. What do they do? For the former crisis, they diddle. They wait and see. They had to be threatened with defeat in the House before they threw together a sort of plan to meet the crisis banging at the door.

At the same time, they secretly work away at plans to trash our environment by gutting Canada's Navigable Waters Protection Act Doing this will allow all the so-called "minor" rivers in Canada to be dammed, bridged, and otherwise made useless for boating without any review or assessment from interested parties. After all we have learned about gutting the rules for behaving properly in the public's good in our economy and environment, you'd think these people - did I say people? - would get it. But they don't.

I urge Canadians to visit this web site and help fight turkeys...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snow Birds Terrorize The Neighbourhood

The dogs started charging around the house going from window to window then back again yesterday morning. Given it was snowing heavily I wondered what they could be seeing that got them so excited. Here's part of their view in the video above. A small flock of wild turkeys had decided to do a sweep through the yard, enraging the dogs and, even worse, terrifying the horses. Ya, horses seem to go totally nuts when a turkey comes into view (or smell). I have no idea why this should be, but I was fully prepared to drop the camera and head out to retrieve horses lost in the storm. Happily, they stayed put and hid behind the barn... safely out of sight!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Paddling Sardinia!

Last evening I was in Montreal to once again attend a presentation by Soirées Aventures, a group which puts on a film or slide show for fellow adventurers. The bias is decidedly on the side of kayaking and last night was no exception.

Nathalie Dyke gave a slide-show presentation of her recent trip to the northeastern coast of Sardinia. I was blown away with her photos! What a wonderful place to explore by kayak. It had gorgeous sandy beaches, white cliffs dotted with green pines, caves and grottos, goats clinging to rocky ledges high about an azure sea. All with water that looked to die for, warm and so swimmable!

If you've been wondering where to paddle next, put Sardinia on your list. I understand there are a number of outfitters now in place on the island to get your dream underway. They're just a google-click away...

Photo by Nathalie Dyke. Used with permission.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Winter Visitor

We all know that birds migrate - or at least they are supposed to migrate. Canada geese seem a little forgetful of this fact and tend to linger until all the corn is eaten on the farmers' fields and the lakes totally are frozen over, but most other birds get the message and get themselves on the migration trail in due course.

This little fellow in the above picture somehow missed the call. He's a white crowned sparrow and, needless to say, ought to many miles away from my front yard. Instead, he has hung around since December and is still acting like this was his normal abode. We've become quite fond of him and daily check into his whereabouts. With the temperatures dropping down into the low -20°C at night, we've decided to leave up the Christmas lights so he can warm up if the need arises. When a heated bird bath was suggested, I put my foot down. He'll have to take his bath in the spring like all the other feathered winter residents.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Somehow it's hard to believe we've come so far from this cute little box of a computer to a World Wide Web of place we live in today, yet only 25 years ago the first Macintosh computer was revealed in an ad during the Super Bowl game. A few years after this Mac SE/30 appeared we saw the first portable computers, suitcase sized then and tiny 'netbooks' now. Memory was tiny, way less than a 'meg' and now our phones have far more computing power.

I've been a fan since the late 1980's when I bought my first Mac "for the kid's education" was the family selling point... Since then I've had several more including a couple of laptops and as many desktop machines. They've all been great machines, although one got stolen right out of my classroom one morning when I stepped out for a minute, leaving it unattended. I wasn't the only one to fall in love with the Mac!

So I'm happy to celebrate the Mac's birthday today. I can't wait to see what the next 25 years will bring to the computing world! Oh, and if you're celebrating your birthday as well today, know that you're in good company. Get on the web and say hello to your friends!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Going In Circles

One of the wonderful things about living in a winter climate is the wonderful light at certain times of the day. The low sun angle pours out the pinks and purples making everything rosy and somehow warm.

I remember years ago going clothes shopping with an Inuk girl friend in Ottawa and being bothered that she kept picking out pink and purple clothes to try on. I didn't think those were her colours, but later after spending time living in the arctic, I came to understand her choices. She wasn't choosing those colours because she looked good. She was choosing fond memories and fighting off homesickness. She was tending to her feelings of being far from home, living in a foreign culture, and speaking a language not her own. Today I look at those colours in the landscape and I miss the arctic light, the people and the sound of a language far away. Our memories come full circle.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter Video Fun

For a while now, I've been experimenting with various video sharing sites other than Youtube. While I have shamelessly used YouTube for all my videos, I continue to be disappointed with how severely the site compresses videos when switching them into the Flash format we view when we download the videos. I have recently begun using Vimeo. These people use a bit lighter approach when converting video to Flash and they also allow HD video formating, although I have yet to use it. To make matters even more useful, it is easy to share videos on other sites like FaceBook and so on with a single mouse click. I love simplicity like that!

This video shows off the latest family activity, yet another winter sport to keep away the winter blues. I have no intention of getting into it, but it's certainly fun to watch both people and dogs enjoying themselves!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Winter Reading

Given the state of the water around here these days, it's time to read and plan and dream. I recently started reading Robert Miller's Kayaking the Inside Passage, not because I'm actually dreaming about paddling this route, and not because I'm planning anything that ambitious. Am I?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Skiing With Dogs

Lots of people kayak with their dogs. I've even seen videos of people rolling their kayak while their dog calmly walks around the hull and back up on the deck as the boat turns in the water. Skiing with your dog isn't new either, but ski-joring with our dog is new to me so I thought I'd share pictures taken in the last few days.

The really low temperatures we've had recently had made getting out there a bit of a trial - it's been -20°C and colder with some wind - but having dogs that demand exercise gets one out cold or not. I'm not about to strap myself to a dog so I can be flailed about, but I must admit that those who do get to ski a lot faster than I do. And I know, the dog ought to be on the trail, but hey, she's new at this and actually doing very well! She's often on trail, on task and pulling like a real trooper.

I might try seeing if our dogs would like to pull the kayak this summer. I know they like to swim. Maybe I'll start a whole new sport: kayak-joring...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Paddling Dreaming

The put-in, Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario, June 2008

I've been sorting through my 2008 photos trying to put some sort of organization to them before I burn them onto CD's and store them away with the other years of similar photos. That way I'll be able to find something on the off chance I need to. It doesn't happen often, but going through the mess of arctic photos a few years ago uncovered a few gems. This lot might provide the same thrill when I'm in my doterage at the old folks home (although I intend to cheat the home and perish in my kayak...).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dancing With My New Partner: GPS

The picture above, yesterday's cross-country ski trail, is my first attempt at using a GPS track and layering it onto a Google Earth map. Yes, the rumours are true, I've decided to modernize and get a GPS unit to assist in my navigation when out kayaking. I've always been comfortable using map and compass and probably would have stayed with that system alone, but last spring I discovered when paddling among the thousands of islands in Georgian Bay, there was a disconnect between the maps and the reality. I first discovered these map errors when paddling around Manitoulin Island a few years ago, but this time the lower water levels in the Great Lakes served to alter the map to the point where, at times, I could recogize nothing. I was 'lost' or so it would seem for short periods of time until I paddled on to a point on the map I could recognize again.

I have discovered there is a learning curve in order to use the GPS unit. It isn't totally intuitive. For example, it took a while for me to realise that in order to see the latest recorded track, I had to 'clear' the previous track otherwise all previous tracks would simple be tacked together into one long track. Another discovery was that no Mac software was available from the manufacturer to allow track management to be done on the computer. Anyway, I'm having fun slowly learning and finding software out there on the Web which has got me to the point seen in the picture. Now I have to figure out how to remove all those pesky 'active log' letters and numbers from the track. They are nice, but I don't need that sort of detail just to post my track.

There's lots to do for the paddler frozen off the lakes until the spring thaw comes. By then I ought to have got this GPS stuff all figured out!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hunting Walrus With Small Boats

This is an interesting question because generally speaking dead walrus sink making it difficult if not impossible to tow back to camp after the kill. So what did the Inuit do? There are probably a number of options. One would be to carry a number of floats, usually hollowed out seal-skins which are then filled with air. These avataq could be attached to the carcass to keep it afloat during the return trip. Another option would be to cut the walrus into smaller pieces which could be transported either in the kayak in the case of the larger Canadian style kayaks or on the decks of lower volume boats.

When hunting with large freighter canoes in the Canadian eastern arctic, hunters tended to look for walrus either lying on ice pans or close to ice pans. Having a platform to make the butchering easier was important as we'll see in this sequence of photos. This was likely the case in the old days when kayaks were used to hunt.

Here a walrus was killed while on a rather high pan of older ice. The hunters were about to secure the carcass on the ice when suddenly it slipped off into the water. At that point, it was decided to pull it over to another lower ice pan before it sank.

Walrus weigh at least a ton, so pulling one onto an ice pan is often difficult. In this case there was only one pan available and it wasn't very large. To make matters worse the wind was rising.

We began butchering the carcass as best we could and loading the two canoes with the meat. I can picture something like this being done had we been using kayaks.

With the rising wind came waves and the small ice pan began breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces... We struggled to get as much meat as possible cut and into the canoes.

Finally, there was nothing left of the ice pan and we were forced into our canoes. I can easily imagine tying the slabs of meat onto the decks of kayaks, or storing them inside the hulls of the larger Canadian style kayaks.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Standing Room In The Deer World

It was another busy day on the ski trail yesterday... One of the reasons why kayaking is so popular: no trails and no wildlife blocking the route!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Curious Kayak Solutions

Many of you have FaceBook accounts, so you already know the vast amount of curious things that can pop up on that part of the World Wide Web. I recently saw some 'Curious Kayak' photos posted by a fellow named Marc Setó. I must say he has collected some interesting approaches to the sport. Here are a few examples stolen from his collection...

I liked this one for it's simplicity. A man, his bike and his kayak. Oh if it only were so simple! I've toyed with the idea, but living about 10 km from the nearest water and seemingly up hill both ways, I fear I'd seldom get to paddle very far. Still it's a good option for those who live in a water-side venue.

Now this camper is a serious answer to the kayak/car/camper dilemma. I'd seen the little roof-top popup campers, but didn't go for one because I hated the idea of climbing a ladder to the rooftop of the car (or heading down it at night for a pee...). This guy has neatly solved that situation by mounting the camper on a small trailer. He gets his tent with the bonus of some useful storage room underneath for his gear. I think I would have mounted the camper directly on top of the trailer for a bit more security...

Finally, for those of you interested in the Tundra phone mentioned in the yesterday's post, here is your transport vehicle. Tough, rugged, very macho looking, the perfect solution to those into 'commando kayaking' (sorry Dubside, I know it's not your style...) in the wilder parts of the world.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pop Bottle Phone

In keeping with my goal of looking for items which help improve the way we use our planet, which reduce our impact and make life a bit more sustainable, here's an interesting idea. A phone whose casing is made from recycled pop bottles - load knows there are enough of them around to await recycling!

Here's what Motorola has to say about their new device...

Motorola said it was the world's first carbon neutral phone. As well as using recycled materials for the plastic casing, the company also pledged to offset the carbon dioxide used in manufacturing, distribution and operation of the phone through investments in renewable energy sources and reforestation.

I know I sometimes take a phone with me when I paddle and while this one lacks all the games and video cams and built-in hair salon features of many phones, I'd look at it if all you need is a phone.

Motorola is also producing the Tundra phone. This one is not so eco-friendly, but is made tundra tough and includes walkie-talkie functions for the macho types out there. I'm passing on both cell phones. I already have one I seldom use!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Interesting Upgrade

A couple of years ago I bought one of Oregon Scientific's little helmet cams to use while kayaking. Several of the videos I subsequently posted on YouTube were made using the handy waterproof camera. Since that time there have been a couple of upgrades, specifically enabling the use of larger capacity SD memory cards and now comes another improvement.

The original cameras did not have very good sound capture nor did they have a view-finder of any kind. I'm not sure if the sound problem has been solved with the more recent versions, but now there is a view-finder of sorts to help when aiming the camera. I also note in the specifications, that the field-of-view has been widened to 53° which can be useful on a kayak where seeing more of the action taking place in the near distance is helpful. Another feature of the new camera is a remote control. There is no detail on how this works, but I see lots of neat things to do with this feature!

Having moved on to other more versatile cameras, I probably won't be getting this one, but with a price just over $200 US, it would appear to be a painless way to enter the business of making kayak videos and remote control does looks interesting.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Winter Kayaking?

Lots of ice-bound northern kayakers are bemoaning the lack of liquid to paddle on these days. Let's not forget that the Inuit originally developed our qajait for summer use! In the wintertime when all was frozen it was time to turn to other interests.

For example, if you're a woman, there was throat singing as shown in this video on the Canadian Geographic site recently. Recently more men have been giving the technique a try and why not. It's a great way to get your breathing under fine control and perhaps even help with the 'gasp reflex' when rolling in cold water...

Visit the site to see the video and a bunch of other Nunavut related stuff on the 10th anniversary of the territory!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sustaining Ourselves

One of the things I'll be looking at in the new year are hints that we are moving to a more sustainable life-style here on the planet. Certainly here in Canada there is much work to do, especially in moving the powers-that-be into the realization that we are doing great harm to ourselves and our collective future by living in climatic denial any longer. The nest is fouled. It's time to clean up our mess and live differently.

One little hint that change is out there, is the kayak in the photo above. While it seems to be just another kayak, it was built in Australia by Nadgee Kayaks, a company operating in a solar powered factory. If you think that might mean the boats are less than top quality products, you might be interested to learn that they have been used in a number of well known expeditions including the crossing of the Bass Strait viewed in This is the Sea 4.

This is a great example of where we need to go in the coming years. A place where "less is more"!

Photo from Nadgee Kayaks Australia

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Paddling Year

I don't pretend to be a religious person, but I recognize that religious beliefs can serve now and then to produce beautiful things from people. Years ago a priest named Father Fournier lived in Igloolik. Originally from France or Belgium - I don't recall exactly which - he joined the Oblate Fathers and was assigned to be a missionary to the Iglulingmiut.

When he first arrived most people lived in small hunting camps, but during his stay tremendous changes began, the most significant of which was the migration to the new village of Igloolik. With a growing congregation, Father Fournier felt the need for a proper church and he set about building one. Constructed of local stone and cement, he and a group of volunteers built the building seen in the picture above.

The church was full of Inuit expressions of Christianity, everything from the altar to the windows depicted Inuit versions of the well known stories and rituals. When I was last in Igloolik about ten years ago, the old church was abandoned. It had always been impossible to heat and the changing permafrost beneath it was producing dangerous cracks in the supporting arches. I remember first entering the building and discovering a quiet place of stunning beauty where the old and familiar things of two vastly different cultures had come together to produce something new and quite wonderful. It seemed to be a place of hope and imagination, something we all need as we move into a new year where the horizon can look grey and ominous. So no matter what motivates you or what your beliefs, let's all think about new and better vistas as we paddle our way into the future.