Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kayak Kandy

An interesting observation I have stumbled across recently is that kayakers like their candy. Not only that, but licorice is widely regarded as the kayaker's choice. I'm not sure why that should be, but given I happen to love licorice, I'm not going to fight the facts!

My present favourite is Walker's Licorice Toffee, seen in the photo above. Until recently, I only knew of one source where it was available: in Nova Scotia, home to many very competent paddlers and licorice lovers. They even like salted licorice which is a variant all to its own.

American kayakers enjoy the stuff as well. The above photo is one favoured brand. Notice the red and white colours. I suspect it might also come in blue...

Over in Europe, Holland is king of the candy makers and lots of different types of licorice is made and eaten there, no doubt by good paddlers. I like the little tin that Potter's use. It isn't waterproof, but handy nonetheless.

The French produce this roll-up licorice for their paddlers...

... while the Finish go for bars of Panda brand licorice.

Naturally, the Italians like to dress up their licorice a bit more than others and wrap each piece individually.

Down under paddlers have several excellent licorice choices both in Australia and New Zealand. The licorice log in the picture above is from New Zealand. The yummy stuff below is Australian.

See you at the candy store, errr.... beach!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Last Days of Fall

Yesterday, a warm, sunny calm day, came out of a cold, rainy weekend. I wasn't the only person to take advantage of it to squeeze one more day out of a season of generally poor weather. Three other kayakers were on the lake as well as this boat with the surrey top. Everyone was bundled up to keep warm, but there was no need. Even the 9°C temperature seemed warm in the sun.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

350 And No More

If you happen to live either in the far north or the far south, then the news that the climate is gradually changing isn't really news any more. The bear in the photo certainly has been experiencing change for some time. Change that isn't good for his well-being! Change that may well be the end of him and his kind.

World leaders have made a number of attempts to address the issue of high carbon dioxide levels beginning in Rio, thence to Kyoto and in December, in Copenhagen. Nothing has changed. We continue to produce more carbon than the planet can absorb and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now exceeds 350 parts per million, the level above which we ought not to go for fear of causing uncontrolled change to our way of life on the planet. It's in the vicinity of 387 at the moment.

Sadly, Canada's leaders are still in denial over this issue and do nothing to help either here at home or around the world. Fortunately many individual Canadians do understand the issue and are making changes, but so much more needs to be done, especially now that we must not just slow down carbon production, but reverse the trend we have started. Today is a good day to begin...

Friday, October 23, 2009


It's not news to remark that cultures tend to borrow from one another around the world. Just think what our food would be like without all the 'borrowed' spices we add in to make things interesting! Most people reading this blog have 'borrowed' the idea of a qajaq to make their lives more interesting and fun. When paddling Crotch Lake recently, I was reminded of another borrowed item that seems to be popping up with more and more frequency: The inkshuk!

I won't pretend to be an expert on the subject, but I do recall being on a small island in northern Foxe Basin years ago with a couple of Inuit hunters. We had stopped, partly because the ice was blocking our progress and partly because we were thirsty and needed to make a tea break. While we had our tea and waited for the tide to release the ice, we wandered around the island. It was covered with inuksuit, built over the years for no apparent purpose. Or so I thought...

With little to do while we waited, we began fooling about, piling one rock on top of another, building inuksuit! We went on to add to some of the others, making them more elaborate and higher. It turns out that people had been stopping on this little island for years and they did exactly what we were doing. They passed the time using the resources at hand: flat rocks.

Today, paddlers and others continue this fine traditional activity all over the place. Crotch Lake had dozens of inuksuit built from the abundant supply of stones by visitors over the years. So here is yet another cultural attribute that's been passed on by the Inuit to to rest of us!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Putting On The Gloves

I tried to take advantage of the rare sunshine yesterday, but as you can see from the photo my paddle was over-taken by a cold front moving in from the south. Rain began over night and continues on and off this morning. Not far to the north, I understand snow is falling. Winter is slowly coming our way.

The air and lake water are colder now, and I've begun wearing neoprene gloves to stay comfortable. I don't care for the loss of feel on my paddle that brings, but I care even less for freezing cold hands. In another month, I'll switch again this time into mitts and by December I'll have gloves on inside the mitts. It's all part of the routine for this ever changing time of year.

On the bright side, the lake is empty. Even the fishermen have given up and put their gear away for another year. They'll return when the ice thickens enough to allow them out with their snow-mobiles and ATVs. Meanwhile, I paddle in peace and quiet with the loons, the ducks and the geese. It's one of the best times of the year to be out paddling!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bannock In The Wild

For the very first time in the history of this blog, I'm hosting a 'Guest Writer'! Mairi Watson, who lives just outside of Ottawa, was a fellow paddler on the geocaching and kayaking trip to Crotch Lake last weekend. She kindly sent me this piece about the bannock I made for the group on Saturday night. Here is her post:

Bannock is a truly Canadian food. It is traditionally cooked over an open fire either in a pan or twisted it on a stick. If you haven’t experienced making bannock you should give it a try or do what I did and get someone else make it for you.

During a recent kayak camping trip on Crotch Lake in Ontario where night time temperatures dipped to chilling lows of -8, a member of the group, our very own “ckayaker”, treated us to bannock which he expertly prepared on site. The cooking method he chose was to twist it on a stick and bake it over the campfire, so after the dough was prepared it required kneading and shaping. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I am very disappointed that I missed the photo opportunity that presented itself when our pastry chef was shaping the bannock into a long “rope” in preparation to twist it on the stick (try and visualize this and you will understand my regret at not getting a picture).

Cooking the bannock was the next step. This is done by holding the stick over an open fire, turning it occasionally, to evenly bake the bannock. I imagine in warmer temperatures this does not take very long, however, be warned that when temperatures are below zero this process proved to take a long time especially when continuously being asked, “Is it ready yet”?

In the end I must say it was worth the wait. There is something special about eating bannock that has been traditionally prepared fresh before your eyes.

Thanks for the experience!!

And thank-you Mairi for submitting this post!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Geocache Kayaking

A few weeks ago I read a trip report by a canoe paddler about his trip to Crotch Lake, Ontario. He mentioned there were 'geocaches' on the lake. This perked my interest and last weekend a group of us went kayak-camping on the lake to see if we could locate the caches. Here is a photo essay of our adventure.

First we did some team bonding to prepare ourselves for the grueling tasks ahead. Notice the clever way we took advantage of each other's boat wake to reduce our paddling fatigue in the chilly Fall weather...

Once we were warmed up and had established a base camp, we headed out for the first geocache. Shocked to discover the site was not located where the canoe paddler had said it was, we then followed the GPS track which eventually led us to this lonely beach where the land search began in ernest...

Our eyes were glued to the GPS screen as we made our way through the camp site's heavy brush, up cliff faces and through fire pits, as the ever elusive geocache slowly came within our grasp. Suddenly one of our party was yelling and screaming and jumping around in glee. The geocache prize was ours! We painstakingly open it to reveal it's mysterious contents. An incredible find, but wait! There was no writing implement to record our visit... Then, like a bolt from the blue, a pen was discovered some distance from the cache site itself! How wild can this adventure get?

Staggered by the thrill of it all, we took a moment to sit down and listen to our leader's calming words, "It's just a silly geocache, people. Get a grip on yourselves. We're here to paddle, after all..." We returned to our senses, grateful for these wise comments from our leader.

We placed the geocache back in it's hiding place and then quietly returned to our kayaks. He was right. This was a paddling trip. It was late Fall. We had to remain stable and cautious out here in the wilds of rural Ontario.

But, wait a second... Isn't there another geocache around here somewhere...? In the end, we found all three lakeside caches and set about hiding one of our own. It will be spring before anyone returns to Crotch Lake to dig them up again. meanwhile we're hooked on mixing kayaking and geocaching as a way to enjoy being out on the water.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Climate Change

Just when you think you have a clear view of things, something gets in the way and you seem stuck. What to do? For a lot of people, it seems the answer is to just ignore the view and focus instead on the ground beneath their feet.

Sadly for us on this planet, we can pretend all we like, but the view at our feet isn't going to help us move ahead. That tree and it's kind are going to change us and block our view of the future forever unless we change our focus and look to the scene beyond...

In the late 1960's I collected seal blubber samples in the Canadian arctic. The samples were sent south to be examined for various substances including mercury. In most cases, mercury was present along with a variety of other harmful chemicals. Suddenly it was clear that a seal hunting culture was being threatened by activities far, far away. Suddenly the future for a whole culture of people was in doubt and clouded by the unknown.

Today the threat is even bigger, extending not just to an isolated group of arctic hunters, but to everyone's well-being and that of our children. We have contributed to the changes our planet is undergoing, perhaps to the point of no return. We must change our ways. We must ignore whatever it is that's blocking our view of the future. We must move beyond our self-interests and together act.

Don't be that tree in the photo. Be the view beyond!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Early Snow

I know it happens every year, but to wake up to snow in the air and the beginnings of accumulation on the ground always comes with a bit of a shock. October snow happens around here and it doesn't usually stay past mid-morning, still... It is one of the those little reminders that there are things that need doing and soon. Paddling is nearly done for another year.

I'll be heading over to the boathouse later today and packing up all the gear I want to have at home for winter paddling. I'll have to decide whether to bring the kayak home or not. What if I go south to paddle during the winter months? What boat will I want to take with me? What paddle?

It's fun to think ahead to where I might end up paddling, but at the same time, it's sad to think another year of paddling is coming to a close locally. I'm often the only boat on the lake these days. In another month ice will be forming in the bays forcing us all of the lake until spring.

In the meantime, I'm going kayak/camping this weekend so I'm going through all my cold weather gear looking for warm stuff. Over the years I've accumulated a host of ideas and equipment for staying warm when it isn't. It will be fun getting into that world again!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

And Then There Were Five

Long time readers of this blog will recall my fascination for the Corvidae family: crows and ravens especially. These clever birds are said to be smarter than dogs which strikes me as odd, but there you are.

For years we have had a pair of crows which often sit in trees near the house and keep an eye on our behaviour. They are usually accompanied by a third crow which we believe to be an offspring. This year there are two addition birds in the group suggesting they've raised two young this year.

The whole family was out enjoying the beautiful October day we had yesterday, but I only managed to catch the two adults with the camera. Like the young everywhere, the 'kids' were busy fooling around and wouldn't pose for their annual family photo.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In The Boat Again...

It's a bit like the song, 'On the Road Again' by Willie Nelson. After a paddling dry spell with too much rain and too many days of being forced indoors, I had to get out and, as they say, 'get the smell of the house out of my clothes'. I finally got back in the cockpit and pushed off from shore. I was paddling again.

It was a glorious day, crisp air, sunny skies and just enough wind to put some back into the strokes. I began by heading towards town...

Then I headed upwind for a bit...

And finally I went around the point...

All in wonderful colour. Heaven better be this good or I'm not interested!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rings of Stone

Part of the pleasure one takes from reading kayaking blogs comes from the fascinating places the bloggers write about. They're not always about places near the water, but interesting nonetheless. Here's an example close to where I live.

The town of Stanstead lies right up against the Vermont border and has been famous for its granite quarries and stone cutting and polishing facilities for many years. Recently the town has been commissioning stone sculptures which are appearing around the town. The picture above is the latest - and biggest - creation: a ring of stone in the manner of those erected in ancient times in parts of Europe.

The stones are massive, many of them reaching up two or three times my height. I'm not sure if care was taken to place them in celestial alignments, but the site does make an interesting place to visit when you're in the area. I suppose the stones will be taken over by closet Druids saving them the trouble and expense of trans-Atlantic travel during their various annual festivals. The radiating plants are buck-wheat planted in the spring to add an additional effect, especially from the hillsides above the site.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kayak Geocaching

When kayaking in Newfoundland this past July, I took some time out to visit the lookout between St Chads and Burnside. I'd been there before, but some fellow kayakers from Alberta were visiting the area, so a scenic overlook was in order. While there I discovered a Geocache, a small container holding several items and a log book. It had been left there several years ago by a mysterious geocacher named 'YQX52'and originally held the little bug figure in the picture above.

I knew very little about geocaching, but have since become interested. In fact, I'll be taking my first geocaching kayak trip in about ten days and hope to locate a number of cache sites while I'm gone. All but one can be reached by kayak. One is on an island and the last one will require a short hike after paddling to the nearest point on the water.

I'd never considered this idea before, but I'm look forward to seeing how it meshes with my kayaking interests. I suspect it will enhance it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Goodbye To The 'Good Olde Days'

Remember those days when you could finally swim all the way to the raft? You could get to play with the big kids, jump off the tower, do back-flips into the deep water, kiss your girl-friend under the raft where the adults couldn't see you? Ah, those were the days!

Well, it's a bit different today. Of course, the summer has gone, but as the photo suggests, there's a new gang out at the raft. They're not particularly interested in whether you can swim out there. In fact, they'd rather you didn't. They aren't really into games or girl-friends. And they certainly have no idea about cleanliness!

There have been no end of attempts to get the new flock to play elsewhere, but these days, without any competition, they've taken over. The 'Good Olde Days' have gone, at least for another year.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rocker On!

Of course it is a clear sign of indulgence owning more than one kayak. I confess to owning several, but, in my partial defense, I did make two of them from scratch, even getting the rib material from nearby woods.

While changing today I happened to glance at my newest boat and thought, 'Wow, that boat has some serious camber!' Of course that was one of the attributes that prompted me to buy it. This Maelström 'Vaag' is a play boat. It is designed with lots of rocker to enable it to turn quickly in tight quarters and it does, thanks to the rocker.

Compare this boat to my QCC 600, lying in about the same position on the dock. There's some rocker, but it isn't nearly as pronounced. Predictably, the QCC isn't as quick in the corners. It's more of a fast touring boat, which is exactly why I bought it some years ago. I didn't want to be the last boat going around Manitoulin Island, hitting the beach long after supper had been devoured! Thanks to QCC, I got to make supper most nights!

Two boats, two very different situations where each one shines. I feel they complement my paddling interests very well.