Saturday, May 30, 2009


Have you ever paddled away from the put-in full of energy and then within a few minutes started to feel your energy suddenly dropping off? You then push yourself to keep going and after a while your energy level seems to return. I don't pretend to know the physiology of why this effect occurs, but I do know if I have done some prior training, then it's effect is lessened or even disappears. For years, I have done a series of exercises which Chris G. Hardenbrook put up on the 'Wavelength' list. Here's what Chris calls "Twenty-Ones"...

"First, a word on general form. Make all movements in the exercise slowly and evenly. Do not jerk or bounce the movements at either end. Do not stop the movement when you change movement direction. Keep good posture; knees slightly bent, back straight, face forward and , if possible, do this exercise in front of a mirror; good form is essential. Here goes:

"1) Use between 1 to 10 lbs per hand (it doesn’t matter if you use dumbbells or fishing weights as long as it’s comfortable in your grip), the weight is determined by your strength. Don’t use more than 10 lbs even if you are a big macho/macha kinda guy/gal.

"2) First movement is to raise both hands straight out in front of the body (at the same time), palms facing down, to a height parallel to the floor. Then lower them to the sides of your body. The elbows are straight, but not locked; stay loose. At your sides, the backs of your hands are facing forwards (in other words, don’t twist your arms as you lift or lower the weights). Repeat this movement slowly seven times, and remember, no pause at the top or bounce off the bottom.

"3) Without pause from the completion of your seventh repeition in front of your body, now start the second phase: face the backs of your hands out to your sides and lift the weights straight out to your sides until paraellel with the floor, then return to your sides. As you raise the weights give a little twist movement, tipping the front of the weight down, like you are pouring water from a glass. At the top (no higher than your shoulders), your thumbs face down at about 45° - 60°. Do seven repetitions in a good, steady, slow form without stopping or bouncing.

"4) The final movement is to take a wider stance, feet about shoulder width apart. Bend at the waist until your torso is nearly parallel with the floor. Bend you knees. Usually the torso ends up at about a 15° upward tilt just to keep your balance. Look up and hang the weights below your body, wrists facing out, then lift the weights out and up to ear level. Your elbows will bend in this part of the exercise, but the wrists will not twist. It is like picking up the laundry. Keep your body stationary, lift to ear level, do not let your lifts go to the rear of your ears or in front of your head. This is the hardest part of the *Twenty-Ones*; keeping good form when ‘picking up the laundry’. Of course, the whole exercise should be like one continuous motion. Do not pause between the three phases. When complete with the three phases, each with seven repetitions, rest for 15 - 20 seconds and do it again, twice more! So you will do the 21 movements three times. You will know why you are using light weights that seemed so simple the first time around. By the third set, you will feel it. Trust me!"

Photo from Imageenvision

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Goodbye Phil Bolger!

Nearly 25 years ago I was told that to live well, it was important to raise a child, plant a tree and build a boat. So I did. I was into sailing back then and turned to a sailboat design of Phil Bolger as the boat to build. A man named 'Dynamite' Payson offered plans and I started to build. The design is called the 'Surf' and in the photo above I sailed her for the first time.

I had such fun in this little boat, I began looking at more of Bolger's designs. I bought plans for his folding schooner and considered buying a Dovekie sharpie sailboat for a while.

Phil was a guy who delighted in looking at new ways of doing things. Some of his hundreds of designs would leave you with your head shaking, but most of them worked and were easy to build. I will miss him, knowing he's gone and no longer producing quirky, intriguing designs for those of us who like to live on the water. More information about this interesting man can be found here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

100 Day Paddle Slideshow

A collection of photos taken during my 100 consecutive days of paddling from August to December a few years ago mostly on Lake Massawippi, Québec. A couple of shots were taken at the Delmarva Paddler's Retreat in Delaware. Enjoy!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Paddle Like Your Ocean Depended On You!

Margo Pellegrino set off to paddle from Ft Pierce, Fl to New Orleans 45 days ago. Right on schedule, she completed her journey paddling her Fuze outrigger canoe. Her mission has been to increase awareness of the deteriorating state of our oceans. It seems like nearly every day we hear another gloom and doom statement about what we've done with our oceans, so it's good to hear that people like Margo are out there trying to gently make us get to work to change things. Of course she's not alone among the paddling community. Reducing our carbon output is one solution that interests me. I know other paddlers are involved in beach clean-up programs. No matter where you paddle, there's something you can do for your ocean.

Thanks Margo, great journey, even greater message!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

But I Thought It Was Forever...

You know how it is. You begin a new relationship, everything is so wonderful and you just know it will last forever. How could it not? Well, as you can tell from the photo above, things can go bad. Suddenly. Sadly. Emotionally.

My Blundstone 500's, my wonderful Australian boots I've owned and worn through thick and thin for over 10 years, have come down with serious sole problems. Deep down in the sole's soul kind of problems. I noticed it walking in the wet grass in Palmer Rapids a few weeks ago, but like most males I tried to ignore it. A more detailed examination once I got home reveal the problem was more serious than I thought.

I've emailed the company hoping something can be done. I've yet to hear back, but I fear there will be another little marker out next to poor Razzy who passed away a few years ago. Oh I hope this isn't the end... Life was so good in those boots!

I must say however, that I did like the looks of some of the new 500's on the Australian Boot site. And they sell Icebreaker clothing too. Everything the northern kayaker needs to keep going through the ice-fields! And did you know that Eric Shiller's partner Tony Brown worn his Blundstones on their Australian circumnavigation attempt? There's no better endorsement!

Update! They're toast! Gone. Finished. No more. They can't be re-soled. It's over...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tow Bag Troubles

One of the clinic sessions I took while at the Palmer Rapids kayak weekend was 'Rescues'. I wanted to practice using my North Water tow line, so the instructor agreed. We'd all practice a few tows and then we'd get rescued.

At first all went well, but then problems began to surface. My boat has a rudder. The rudder is operated via cables which attach by bolts secured with split-pins. One of these split-pins snagged the tow line rope... Now in a class, this is an easy thing to remedy, but out in a real tow situation, maybe it wouldn't be. Maybe the only solution would be to attempt to retrieve the down-stream end of the rope and try pulling it loose, or, in the worse case, I'd have to wet exit and free it by hand. No amount of paddle prodding would loosen the thing from the cockpit.

My next practice tow went well until I released the tow line using the quick-release. The bag with the extra tow line slipped off my waist as I paddled ahead and dragged along the rear deck where it then got caught in the rudder mechanism! Once again, I was unable to unfasten the bag and had to be 'rescued' by my tow person. Next time, when I undid the tow belt, I tossed the bag off to the side insuring it was free of my boat.

Another paddler used the bag before stuffing all the line back into the bag. After hooking on to her tow and paddling forward, she discovered the line had somehow managed to wrap itself around her boat making it impossible to tow anyone. Once again, the line had to be untangled by the towed boat, not something you'd want to do in a real-life situation.

It pays to practice with the so-called safety equipment we buy. The purchase alone does not guarantee you'll be safer with it on board. Knowing how best to use the stuff can be critical! Get out and play. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Inuit Nunaat

At the end of last April, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) published an interesting document declaring to the world their sovereignty to the circumpolar territory they inhabit. The statement was made jointly by Inuit living in Russia, Greenland, Canada and Alaska, which is to say all Inuit on the planet!

While declaring sovereignty these days may seem a bit late in the game, what the Inuit are saying is both modern and enriching. The rest of us can learn from their initiative!

Here is an exerpt...

"Tromsø, Norway – 28 April 2009 – Inuit leaders from Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Russia today launched a Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Arctic Sovereignty.

In developing this declaration, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) worked with Inuit across the circumpolar Arctic over the past six months to address the increasing focus by outsiders on the Inuit homeland known as Inuit Nunaat. Climate change and the subsequent race for Arctic resources have forced Inuit to address questions such as ‘who owns the Arctic?’, ‘who can traverse the Arctic?’, and ‘who has rights to develop Arctic resources?’
“Our declaration,” said ICC Chair, Patricia Cochran, “addresses some of these questions from the position of a people who know the Arctic intimately. We have lived here for thousands and thousands of years and by making this declaration, we are saying to those who want to use Inuit Nunaat for their own purposes, you must talk to us and respect our rights.”

The Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Arctic Sovereignty emphasizes the unity of Inuit as one people across four countries, and also addresses the unique relationships Inuit have within each respective state. The declaration makes a strong pitch that internationally-accepted human rights standards, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other international legal instruments must be respected. It also calls for close cooperation among Arctic states and Inuit on all matters of Arctic sovereignty."

The document goes on to mention various hopes and desires of the Inuit and is well worth reading. The entire declaration can be found here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cottage Country, Part 2

As the week progressed, the winds on Georgian Bay continued to build and the interest in being wind-bound on a tiny piece of rock watching the churning lake waters swirl by declined to near zero. Finally, when the forecast promised to add driving rain and freezing nights to the mix, I decided that returning to the chores waiting at home wasn't such a bad option after all! I returned back into the labyrinth of narrow channels that led back to Honey Harbour where I could momentarily escape the nastier aspects of the weather.

Some of these channels would sneak through the landscape for hours, often only a boat length in width and lined with a mix of virgin forest and cottages. Some people built 'camps', small getaways without power or other facilities, the idea being to return themselves to a simpler existence in the wilderness where they could recharge their batteries from Nature's storehouse...

Other folks felt if they were going to the wilds, then it would be with everything they had back home in the city. Now and then the shorelines were lined with mega-cottages, more suited to the city than cottage country. For me, it begged the question, why bother coming to the country only to end up arriving back at much the same home you left in the city?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cottage Country in Georgian Bay

Having done some exploring in the Killarney area of Georgian Bay last spring, I wanted to keep at it. Years ago I had sailed out of Honey Harbour to Killarney (and beyond) so it seemed natural to return and see what had changed over the years in the southern end of the Bay.

To begin with, I didn't recognize Honey Harbour at all. I even put in at the wrong place and once out in the water I found myself lost and disorientated on the map! The GPS put me in a totally different place than I thought I was (The public dock I thought I was at was actually another mile or so down the road from the little park I chose to launch from...). A great start to a multi-day paddle. To make matters worse, the wind continued to build all morning until my pace slowed to a a crawl. I decided to start over!

Turning around and surfing back towards Honey Harbour gave me the time to sort out my position and reach less turbulent waters. I entered serious cottage country, the summer playground of Toronto's fashionable folk. I found a maze of channels and slowly began to recall sailing in the area. It had been my first experience navigating narrow channels, ticking off buoy numbers on the chart as we made out way westward.

One new item was this Inuksuit beach. It looks as if a building class had been held to teach people the art. This business of putting up little stone men comes from the Inuit and in recent years seems to have captured the imaginations of southern Canadians. I suppose by now this class of builders has spread through cottage country to erect their very own stone men next to their cottages and boat-houses.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rendezvous à Piopolis

For several years now, Québeçois paddlers have met at the campground in Piopolis on the shores of Lac Mégantic east of Montréal to kick off the summer paddling season. I went up there yesterday to see what was going on. As usual, there was lots to see and a windy lake to paddle on.

Maelstrom kayaks were there with both of their models. Doesn't the Vitäl look stunning in black and yellow? I'm getting more and more excited about my Vaag being delivered. The keel has been laid at the factory so it won't be long now. With the new partnership between Boréal Designs and Maelstrom, it's going to be easy to try out the Vaag and Vitäl by looking up your local Boréal dealer!

Another activity was to build a Greenland style skin-on-frame frame over the weekend and raffle it off. Work was well under way and when I left mid afternoon, cross-beams were going in, mortises for the ribs were done and the new owner was being measured for final fit!

Of course, a new boat requires a paddle, so several were being made.

Some finished sof boats were hanging around waiting for their owners to get out on the water.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Paddling Fun in Palmer Rapids

Many of you have picked up Adventure Kayak, the Canadian kayaking magazine. This same company does more than publish kayaking magazines, they host kayaking events as well. For several years this event has been mostly aimed at the white-water crowd, the reason being that in the town of Palmer Rapids, Ontario there are a number of drops which provide ideal sites to learn the skills required to white-water kayak. Within easy reach of the camping area are three rapids I would label 'easy', 'moderate' and 'advanced'. It's a perfect site.

This year seakayakers were invited to come and learn their set of skills in the same area, yes, even including the white-water sections. A good crowd turned up and played all weekend in spite of the chilly, rainy weather. The main camping area was crammed with tents and assorted gear. I chose to stay up-river where I could park my micro-trailer on level ground next to the upper rapids. It turned out to be an excellent choice where I enjoyed meeting an interesting group of fellow paddlers, and where the sounds of tumbling water lulled us all to sleep. Sure beat the sound of pounding rain!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Life On The Road

It's always good to be "on the road again". as Willie Nelson sings it. No matter where one travels, interesting people and places show up. This trip proved that true once again, at least, until the winds began to blow... Returning home yesterday the winds were fierce. I spent the whole trip watching my kayak jerk about in the cross-wind. I fully expected it to take flight at any moment. Fortunately the worse that happened was the cockpit cover came loose and flailed about until I could safely stop and remove it (I keep it tethered to the decklines...).

This truck was less fortunate. It was one of three semi-trailers that got turned over by the winds along this stretch of road. Not a happy sight.

In fact the strong winds were one of the factors which brought my road trip to an end. Georgian Bay, where I'd been paddling, had turned into a churning cauldron the day before and I figured it was not the place to be any longer!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Do Not Stop... my grave and weep...
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am with the thousand winds that blow.
I am with the diamond glints on waves.
I am with the sunlight on ripening horizons...

I've gone paddling!

See you when I get back...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Say It Ain't So

I bought myself a new waterproof camera last week. My older camera, a Pentax Optio 43WR is now five years old and going strong, but I just know, I'll be screaming you know what when it suddenly decides to let me down. The new camera, a Panasonic DMC-TS1 has almost three times as many pixels and shoots video in AVCHD format which I like. The picture above is one of the first shots. 'Blue Jay at Rest'... LOL

But that's not today's subject. Yesterday I finally remembered to take my GPS device out for a paddle. The day was chilly with a light breeze, so I decided to have the GPS give me an idea of how fast I paddle using various strokes (I use a homemade Greenland style stick). It turns out my everyday cruising stroke moves me along at 6.0km/h. If I turn into the wind, my speed was reduced to around 5.8km/h. Turning down wind, it bumped up to around 7.4km/h. This was about what I had anticipated given what I know from past experience. So far, so good.

When paddling around Manitoulin Island a few years ago, we encountered days when we'd paddle into large waves and steady headwinds. After several hours using the same stroke, muscles screamed for a break, but being far from shore, stopping wasn't an option. I began experimenting with a variety of strokes which used slightly different muscle groups in different ways and found one stroke which I particularly liked as it seemed to relax my muscles and move the boat ahead with less effort. Yesterday I had the GPS examine it. I was shocked! My speed dropped to 5.7km/h consistently! I played with getting everything right, but the speed seldom reached 6km/h and never went above it as I thought it would. Not so good, but I still like the stroke a lot and use it when the going gets tough. The way the paddle cuts into the water feels so right, it's hard to think it isn't faster!

Putting more torso rotation and stomach muscle into my strokes would bring the speed up slightly above 6.0km/h, and using the 'canted' stroke with more emphasis into pushing down on the paddle with the upper arm, would move the kayak along at up to 6.8km/h consistently and up to 7.1km/h for spurts. This is clearly the fastest stoke I have in my arsenal.

It was an interesting day on the water!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Paddling Clothes

I saw another paddler on my lake today. Up until now I've either been alone or in the company of a few fishermen trolling quietly along. My fellow paddler was noticed some distance away going in the opposite direction from me so I didn't get a chance to meet up. His or her boat appeared to be a rec boat and the only article of clothing I could positively identify was what seemed to be a straw hat...

I'm still wearing my neoprene gloves and drysuit, the water is that cold and today's air temperature was a chilly 15°C. I'm hoping the straw hat was covering up something warmer. There wasn't much wind on the lake, but I knew a front was expected during the day and that often brings in sudden wind shifts and unexpected gusts.

In the end, I paddled back up the lake to try and locate the person. I wanted to make sure they were properly outfitted and would be able to get home safely. While driving home, I saw the boat making it's way down the lake. I guess the person made it, but I don't like it when I see people out in conditions which could lead into trouble. We kayakers need all the good press we can get!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Where To Paddle...

Recently a fellow named Peter Bailey from Alberta, Canada was wondering where he might get his dinghy out for a little row, or perhaps, even a sail. Like a lot of people he went and looked up some local tourist information and found a picture much like the one above. A lovely beach, complete with dunes and only a few miles from home in his home province of Alberta.

But wait a minute... Alberta doesn't have a seacoast, he recalled. So where was this place? It turns out it was Beadnell Bay, Northumberland, in the British Isles, 8000 kms away! When he contacted the tourist people about the use of a non-Albertan photo in their ads, he was told, "Albertans are a worldly people...". Another comment was, "It wasn't an attempt to mislead. The picture used just fitted the mood and tone of what we were trying to do." This last statement came from Prime Minister Stephan Harper's office... Am I surprised by that statement?

When asked to explain why they felt the need to use foreign photographs to advertise Alberta, the Edmonton ad agency which had stolen the picture off the net and used it falsely, commented that they couldn't say, "because of the terms of the government contract".

By the way, I stole the photo from here. I'm sure it's a lovely place to take a dinghy and maybe even a kayak! Sure beats Alberta's Tar Sands project!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Great Time of the Year

One of the benefits of being out on the lake at this time of the year is the incredible number of bargains strewn along the beaches. This year I was on the water within hours of the ice leaving and even now share the lake with only a few fishermen. They tend to troll along and don't get to examine the beach litter, but that's where a kayak comes in handy.

Just look at this item stranded on the beach. At first glance it seems to be a down aircraft, but it's really one of those pull toys people ride on once the water warms up. With Mother's Day just around the corner, naturally I realised I was looking at the perfect gift for my 93 year old Mother. She'd just love an excuse for getting back on the water and having some summer fun! Like an idiot, I didn't bring my tow-line with me yesterday when I discovered this item. I'm sure it will still be there today when I go paddling...

Even if it's gone, I saw lots of other stuff. There was a big purple ball (pilates, anyone?), a canoe in need of only a few repairs, some 2 inch lumber (do I see another SOF in my boathouse, one made from genuine driftwood?), in short, all sorts of goods have been left out there visible now that the winter's snow has disappeared. I just can't wait to get out exploring again so see what else I can bring home!