Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dory Racing in Gloucester

While these dories were designed for fishing on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, for the past 50 years and more they have also been used in international rowing competitions between the towns of Gloucester, Mass and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. This is a proud tradition which lives almost in obscurity except to those who love the sport and regularly take part. There are two sets of races each year. Teams will re-assemble in Lunenburg in September to have another go at each other.

The photo above is a shot of the winning ladies team, sisters from Nova Scotia. Most of the races are over a half mile course with a 180° turn in the middle. Below is the winning men's team from the USA. This particular race is open to all and stretches to a mile in length, again with a 180° turn at the half mile mark.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Grand Banks Dories

This past weekend a little piece of history was brought up to date once again when the two towns of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and Gloucester, Massachusetts went out racing in Grand Banks dories.

The dories rowed in the races use a traditional design originating from Lunenburg. These boats were designed primarily for fishing on the Grand Banks off off Newfoundland back in the days when schooners were used to transport the catch back to port. Weighing around 400 pounds, dry, they are still built in the old way with flat bottoms and copper nails and painted in traditional colours.

Today an international committee oversees the races which are held twice a year, once in Gloucester in June and then in Lunenburg in September. It was a pleasure to see people still rowing these remarkable boats today, following in a tradition of racing which goes back over 50 years. Sadly, the remaining schooners no longer race, but they still can be seen in the two ports and visitors can get to sail on them during the summer months.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Arches and Caves!

We all dream of paddling wild shores where the seas rage and roar and create all sorts of wonderful places for us to hone our skills and create our stories. One of the most impressive sights is to come across a sea cave or an arch, blasted out of the shear rock by eons of wave action. Alas, these treasures are few, especially in inland waters. In fact, until today, I'd never seen such a feature on my local lake. But that has all changed!

Look at the top photo! An arch! Massive looking and just the sort of thing to photograph and run home with to tell all your friends. So there it is. Look upon my works and weep, my fellow paddlers!

Okay, you're right. There is something a bit odd with the photo, isn't there? The lower photo tells the truth. It's a tiny opening, barely large enough for one's foot, let alone a kayak and paddler. On closer inspection, it isn't even an arch, but only appears like one due to the recent high water levels. The piece of rock on the right doesn't actually reach the bottom, but only dips into the water a few inches.

So no arches, no caves. I'll have to travel to find one of these. But that's alright. I love to travel!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Before Tomorrow

If you saw Isuma's film Atanarjuat several years ago you may remember there is a kayak scene in it. It was interesting to see that kayak as it's design was quite different from the more commonly seen kayaks of Greenland on which modern glass and plastic kayak designs are often based.

In the more recent film Before Tomorrow, a Greenlandic story is told, produced by Inuit from Igloolik and filmed in Nunavik, in the Puvurnituq area. Of interests to kayakers is the presence of several traditionally built boats as well as a larger umiaq. The kayaks seem to be a mix of traditions, flat bottomed and long as seen in northern Quebec, yet using a bent rib construction method more common in Igloolik and Greenland. It would be interesting to learn more about these craft and who made them. They remind me of a kayak I saw years ago in Igloolik and certainly the dialect of the actors was north Baffin Inuktitut. Interesting...!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Springtime In The Arctic

The other night I finally had a look at Isuma's feature film The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. From what I could tell, most of the filming was done in the springtime, which is probably the best time to be in the arctic. The light is wonderful, the snow conditions perfect for travel and generally people are happy to be out on the land after a long, cold winter.

That was the upside to watching the film. The downside was knowing I wasn't in Igloolik where the film was made. It's been over ten years now since I've visited this special place. Some old friends have passed on, particularly Nathan Qumaniq whose name appeared in the credits of the film. He was listed as an elder. I knew him long before he reached that status, but to me he was always a wise elder and a wonderful teacher with the patience to teach me and others his way of life.

I wish we could all return to those days...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Crotch Lake Guest Post

The last time I was "here" I wrote about a truly Canadian thing to do: make bannock. With that in mind I think it is fitting for me to, again, write about something else that is truly Canadian and what else is more Canadian then to go camping on the "MAY 24" weekend?

This past Victoria Day long weekend, Michael joined us for a weekend of paddling and camping on Crotch Lake. Crotch Lake is located West of Ottawa, it is a pretty big lake surrounded almost completely by Crown Land, most of is undeveloped, making it, in my opinion, a wonderful place to camp and paddle. The area is managed by the North Frontenac Parklands, there is a small fee charged to access the crown roads and camp on one of the 77 plus designated campsites. The benefit to the area being maintained is that the campsites are resolvable and there are privy's and fire pits on most sites.

Anyhow, back to the trip. This was our 3rd kayak camping trip together and as in the past a good time was had by all. It seems to me that each trip is better then the last. Our goal is always to find a nice place to paddle and a comfortable spot to camp. The idea is to paddle out to a back country site, with nothing in the way of facilities (I.e a simple box is the privy) and really rough it. But, to be honest, if you joined us, you would soon realize that we don't really rough it at all. First we set up a base camp, which is more like a little village (several colourful tents for sleeping and bug protection and a kitchen area). Meals are particularly important to us (well me anyhow)! Our menu this weekend consisted of things like French toast with fresh fruit and real maple syrup for breakfast, a lunch buffet of pita, hummus, cheeses, pate, olives accompanied by salad and fresh fruit. Dinner was marinated grilled flank steak with foil baked veggies and potatoes on Friday and a peanut chicken curry over basmati rice with a side salad on Saturday. Aside from all that eating we also occupied ourselves by napping in a hammock, reading a novel or writing in journals, searching for forgotten shoes (that is another story in itself) swimming or chatting around the camp fire while sipping on a glass (or two) of wine. On this trip we even found time to create and hide a Geocache of our very own. Of course we also paddled, I think we logged over 10 hours between Sat and Sun just exploring the water around us. The weather this weekend was particularly amazing! Sunny days and warm nights and for some inexplicable reason our little island campsite was almost bug free. What more can you ask for? I really think we are lucky group of people to have met each other and formed such a nice friendship where we all share an interest in getting away from it all to relax, paddle and laugh.

- Mairi Watson

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Wilderness Home

There's wilderness camping and then there's wilderness camping. On Crotch Lake, wilderness camping means staying at numbered sites around the lake. There's none of the 'pitch your tent anywhere you like' stuff. For that kind of wilderness, you have to get a bit more wild, so to speak.

So what's it like to camp at Crotch? Let's have a look at site 25, probably the most favoured location on the lake, but somewhat typical of the rest. This place has it all, or at least past visitors have seen that it comes equipped with lots of amenities.

Uniquely, it has a small sandy beach to land and launch for your boat. It isn't large, but compared to the usual rocky shore line, it's easier and less rough on the gelcoat than most other sites.

Walk up the short path to the site itself and you arrive at the vast 'kitchen and dining' area. This year some kind soul cut and stored lots of driftwood for the woodstove/campfire facility just adjacent. See the photo below…

There are a couple of nice bedrooms… err, tenting areas.

I pitched my tent in the upper one to take advantage of the lake breezes, but the lower one also has a good view, albeit, with slightly less breeze and probably more flying six-leggers.

The 'nature' facilities are situated a short walk away and conveniently private. While not as comfortably screened in as some sites, I found the ambiance pleasant enough, although lingering over a newspaper and coffee didn't seem like a good idea given the other residents busy flying about.

So there you have it. Wilderness and the comforts of home, all wrapped into a tidy campsite for the weekend paddler.