Sunday, December 23, 2012

As I do each year, the office of 'Canadian Ckayaker' is closed for the Holiday. The staff have been sent home to be with their families, the fires turned down, the lights dimmed for the Season, and I've got a story for you.

We'll all be back in the New Year with more paddling stories from here and there. Best Wishes, Everyone!

Many years ago along the shores of Hudson's Bay people were accustomed now and then to seeing some strange things when they were out on the land hunting. This story is about one of those times. It happened not too many years after the traders first came to live among the Inuit and brought many of their strange ways to the people who lived in this region.

Men would usually hunt in groups of at least two and so it was on this occasion. Two close friends went walking along the coast looking for a way out onto the new sea ice where they might catch some seals. It was not many days away from Christmas, the winter celebration at the trader’s place. Both men were looking forward to being at the traders again this year. Last year, the first year they had gone to the post, they got several presents and both were hoping to get a gun this year, although both knew it wasn’t going to happen. To get a gun they would have to have things to trade and neither had much to offer the trader.

Coming to a long point of land leading out into the sea, they noticed that the bay formed in its leeward side had frozen over nearly completely. Using their harpoons to tap on the new ice as they walked, they cautiously headed out towards the open water. About half way out, they heard a moaning sound coming from the land along the point. At first they assumed it was just the sea ice moving in the tide that had caused the sounds, but the more it continued, the more human it sounded. Breaking off from their hunt, they turned towards the sound and went to see what it was.

Nearing the land, they could see something alive, trying to flop along the ice. Neither could tell what it was, but the closer they got, the more odd it seemed. Finally reaching within a few meters of the creature, they saw it was human in form from the waist up and fish-like below. It’s long hair was once black and shiny, but its struggles on the sea ice had filled it with snow and ice crystals now all tangled and twisted about its upper body. The lower fish body on the other gleamed and sparkled in the sunlight as it flapped and spun around.

Both men were terrified and began to back away having never seen or heard of such a creature before. Suddenly the moaning stopped and the creature turned and faced the men. “Don’t leave me!” it cried. “Help me back to the sea! I will reward you if you help me...”

The men looked at each other, amazed that the fish creature could speak. “How can we help you. We’re afraid of you.” The fish creature spoke again, telling them that she was afraid of them as well. They mustn't touch her. She told then to go find a piece of driftwood and to use that to push her to the floe edge. If they did so, she would reward them with whatever they wanted.

The men began looking along the shore for something to push the creature over the ice towards the open water. As they searched, one said, “I’m going to ask for a gun!” The other man laughed. “That’s crazy talk, but you know what? I’ll ask her for a sewing machine like the trader’s wife has. My wife really wants one.” Both men continued walking about the beach laughing to themselves about their choices. At the least, we’ll have a good story to tell the others at the Christmas party they agreed.

Once a strong enough piece of wood had been found, the two men returned to the fish creature and set to work pushing her towards the water. She was heavier than they realized and the work took them some time. Finally with a big plop, the creature slipped over the ice edge and fell into the water. Turning to the two hunters, the creature asked what the hunters wanted as gifts for saving her. “A gun”, said one. “A sewing machine”, said the other. “I’ll bring you something for your children as well. You have saved my life! Come here tomorrow and I will give you your gifts.” With that the creature dove below the sea and was gone.

The men decided to return home as the light had already turned to dusk and finding seals was no longer possible in the growing darkness. On the way home, both talked about the strange experience and wondered whether it would be wise to mention what had happened to their families. Perhaps not, they agreed.

The next day was Christmas. The Inuit from all around gathered at the trader’s place and waited for their gifts. As had happened the previous year, there was hot chocolate, some candies and little bells for the children. Afterwards there was a dance with accordion music played by the new trader’s assistant. No one got a gun that year. The two men didn’t mention finding the sea creature.

It had been disappointing, but what did they expect? The next day, both men met as usual and headed out to the flow edge to again hunt for seals. As they neared the bay ice they had been on the day before Christmas, they could see something dark basking on the ice. They headed towards it hoping a large bearded seal might have chosen to haul out, but the closer they got, the more confused they became. Lying on the ice some distance in from the gradually freezing ice was a gun, a sewing machine and a gramophone.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crow Lake, Ontario

Taking advantage of a few warm days before the arrival of the mega-storm Sandy coming in off the Atlantic last week, I went paddling in Ontario for a few days. The trip out on Crow Lake was interesting as the winds were beginning to be felt although the clouds and their rain still held back for another day.

I launched at the east end of the lake and headed out into the waves. I actually enjoy paddling to windward and so tried to adjust my strokes to the wave interval to take advantage of whatever down-slope they could offer. In fact, there wasn't much this time around as the waves were newly formed and not really large enough for me to gain much advantage. It takes more fetch and sustained winds that the lake offered.

I landed on a small island about half way down the lake knowing that there was a geocache hidden on it somewhere. I didn't have its coordinates, but knew it was located near a "circle of stones, not far from a picnic table". That was all I needed to get me going on a search. It didn't take long before the picnic table and the circle of stones was found and then a short search revealed the hidden container with it's log book and the selection of trinkets common to many geocaches. There was nothing in it to write with and I didn't have a pen with me, so I took some photos instead, one of them seen above. The cache owner will know I was there.

I decided rather than continue to the end of the lake, it was time to head back, so I circled the island and let the wind blow me back to the car. By this time there were streams of wind-drift bubbles to follow and small waves to try surfing on. A gaggle of Black Scoters calmly swam out of my way. I guess they also like a windy day on the water. They are not common where I live so it was a treat to see them.

The landing beach appeared in no time and I was soon in the car heading home from another fun few hours on the water.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Long Lake, Ontario

There must be millions of 'long lakes' out there and this one near Sharbot Lake, Ontario is another one. Given it's about 6 kms long it probably falls into the 'little' long lake category, but nonetheless it made for a cheery paddle on an otherwise dull, overcast and chilly day.

There is a great launch area right off the main road although there are signs posting No Parking which naturally I failed to see until exiting at the end of the day. I have no idea where one is supposed to park. Surely not on the road above...

The lake is dark and clear at this time of year. Not a soul to be seen other than a few workmen cutting trees or closing in houses for the winter.

I paddled to the far end and got out on a lovely granite outcrop amid tall pines. The perfect lunch spot. All was quiet, no birds, no bugs not even a squirrel.

I returned following the opposite shore. Once again a mix of closed cottages and wilderness. The only other visitor on the lake was a distant loon. It was a pleasant day on the water for both of us.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod Touch

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mene or Minik was a seven year old Greenlander when arctic explorer Robert Peary brought him and five other Inuit to the United States in 1897. None of the group realised why Peary had brought them to America, but on arrival it was clear they were part of an exhibition of things Greenlandic. In a short period of time, Minik's father and the other adult Greenlanders fell ill with tuberculosis and died before they were able to return to their homes in northern Greenland. Minik was adopted, in a fashion, by Wallace, one of the curators at the American Museum of Natural History. He eventually returned home to Greenland, but by this time he had forgotten much of his language and was unable to hunt to survive. He was forced to return to the United States where he worked in several jobs. He ended up working in a lumber camp in northern New Hampshire where he died along with many others from an influenza outbreak in 1918.

In 1993, the bones of Minik's father and the other adults were taken out of storage at the Museum finally returned to Qaanaaq in northern Greenland where they were properly buried. Only Minik remained in the United States. As the photos tell, he is buried in a beautiful setting among the hills in the Tabor Cemetary just south of Pittsburg, New Hampshire. I was happy to see that I was not alone visiting his grave. Someone has placed a small carving, a seashell and a bead necklace on his grave marker. He may be a long way from his home, but happily, he is not forgotten.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Camping Arrangements

When out paddling on an over-nighter, finding that perfect campsite is all important and often leads to extending one's paddle further than expected. Once the site has been chosen then it's a matter of setting up your accommodations and getting some good prepared.

One modification I've been using recently is the 'bivi-sac' seen in the photo above. It stores nicely up in the bow of the kayak even with my sleeping bag and air-mattress inside. Setting up is a simple matter of pulling it out and rolling it out. A few puffs of air in the mattress and I'm ready to start cooking. Quick and easy!

If it looks like rain overnight I set a light rain fly over the entrance using my paddles if no trees are handy. So far I've stayed warm and dry. In fact, with so little inside space to warm up, I've found the bivi warmer than my tent, especially as we get into the cooler fall weather!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod Touch

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lake Memphremagog is an international lake straddling the Canada/USA border between Quebec and Vermont. A small part of the lake just north of the border is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. This interesting water path makes its way from the central Adirondacks in New York state all the way to the New Brunswick border in northern Maine following a series of lakes and rivers. Visit their site to see the exact route and other details.

In the photo above, one can almost see where the trail enters Lake Memphremagog on the western shore near the center of the shot. From there one paddles southward to the border.

This photo was taken at the Canadian border check-in wharf. Paddlers working their way south need not stop at this point and will clear American customs at the town of Newport at the head of the lake. However those entering Canada must stop and call in their information.

We thought we would try the system, but found it not very well suited to paddlers! The phone at the end of the red suspension system was out of reach. Only by waiting for a wave high enough to pass under our hulls were we able to grab the handset cord and pull. Not the best of methods and sure to eventually wreck the phone. Once we made the call, all we heard was static and various ringing sounds, but no one answered...

We paddled on and enjoyed exploring the trail. Highly recommended!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I recently made a day paddle on Eagle Lake near the town of Sharbot Lake, Ontario. This whole area is riddled with small lakes, many of them interconnected. If one wished, it's possible to paddle from one to another and camp on 'crown land', places which are still in the public domain and available to all. The photo above is one such parcel of land and was actually a designated camp site at some point in the past complete with a 'human waste management device' locally known as a 'thunderbox'.

While the lovely campsite still remains, the 'device' has sadly rotted away. It's a pity as the lake made for a delightful paddling venue complete with intriguing bays and mysterious islands. While it's cottage country, we found the natives friendly and twice we were asked in for a coffee!

There are two geocaches within easy reach for paddlers so inclined to look for. What's not to like on Eagle Lake?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Paddling Variations

While visiting Gloucester, MA recently I was treated to how varied even a simple kayak outing can be. I visited Milk Island, a bird rookery. It's really more of a pebble and small stone bar reaching perhaps an elevation of 25 meters or so. It's clear that storms frequently rearrange the place on a regular basis. Even the highest parts of the island had mangled lobster traps strewn about. Vegetation was minimal at best.

Along the way, following the shore, I passed several sandy beaches, some over a mile in length. Other nearby beaches were composed of small pebbles. Why they didn't share the same sand as adjacent beaches was a mystery to me. Between the beaches were rocky outcrops which you can see in the photos above and below (Both taken by Katherine Richmond).

The photo below is Good Harbor Beach, a favourite sandy stretch perfect for families wishing the spend the day at the beach doing all the normal things families do at the beach. I was happy to try my beginner surf skills once again in the mild surf, something I don't ever get to do in my home waters...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I love paddling out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. There is the working harbour with all it's fishing boats, old time schooners and fancy yachts. There are tidal marshes and gushing channels where the tide streams in and out. There are glorious sandy beaches where you can work on your surf launches and landings. There are sea cliffs where waves have been known to knock down houses perched high above the water.

A few days ago, I tried something else just out of Gloucester. I paddled a nearly calm sea out to Milk Island to see the birds. I had a lunch, admired the lighthouses on another island and then paddled back. It was a wonderful day on the water in a wonderful town of the east coast. For dinner that evening I visited a retired lobsterman and his family, who regaled us with past stories. We then chose seven frisky ones from his homeside tank to take home for supper. Delicious!
Thank you, Gloucester!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Recently paddled out to Gordon Island in Ontario's 1000 Island Park with some friends. The island has until recently been off limits due to an infestation of insects which hollowed out the numerous large oak trees on the island leaving them in danger of suddenly falling on visitors. The trees were mostly cut down and burned and then the island left to regenerate. The winds were up on the crossing making the paddle rather interesting...

Recently the island has been opened to visitors again, docks for power-boaters put in and a new composting toilet installed. At first glance it all seemed quite fancy, especially when one came across relics like the 1907 gazebo above while walking the trail around the island. One got the impression that no expense was spared back then when it came to the care and comfort of water travelers.

Much has changed however. While the island was clean, the campsites were in need of attention. With the near total defunding of Canada's national park system, I fear Gordon Island and many others will be open to vandals and others with little better to do than ruin our beautiful parks.

Another sad feature much in evidence was the effects of the long drought in the area. Grass was beginning to turn brown here and there and many plants were limp and drooping over. Hopefully rain fell after we left this gorgeous area...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

As many are now aware, Canada has become the victim of election fraud. An illegitimate government now sits in Ottawa. If this wasn't tragic enough, this government is now proceeding to undo years of careful nation building, environmental protection and the creation of a caring society. Many Canadians are now working hard to return to the Canada we all love and want to return to.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Today marked the first day since installing the new larger rudder on the Hobie Rev 11 that I got out with all three methods of propulsion installed and ready to go. I left the dock under peddle power, then once out in the fairway, the sail took over. When the wind died or slackened too much for my liking, I peddled in the desired direction until the wind took over again.

This went on for the remainder of my two hour outing. Very pleasant way to pass the time and get a bit of exercise as well. The wind got rather gusty towards the end of the day and several times I had to sharply round up into the wind to avoid spilling into the water. I suspect she doesn't roll all that well with the sail up...! The new rudder provides that extra control needed to avoid sudden swims, which I don't really need as the water is still chilly in places.

I didn't use the paddle at all in the end. It was more of a security backup than a means of propulsion today. Besides, I have 'real' kayaks for paddling. Which reminds me I'd better get back into them before I lose my skills! But this Hobie is just too much fun...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I took the Hobie Revolution 11 out for a spin on my local lake yesterday with the hopes of sailing her now that I have the optional larger rudder. The original equipment rudder is too small to prevent the kayak from rounding into the wind each time a puff of wind hits the sail. Downwind, control pretty much disappears and she tends to broach risking a knock-down. Not pleasant...!

There was lots of wind on the lake yesterday, but I decided it was more than I needed and far too gusty to experiment properly. So as the above photo reveals, I went for a peddle! This is the kayak's strong point. She responds well and moves eagerly through the water, even facing the wind. As well the peddle action is comfortable and leaves the hands free to film, sip water, eat lunch, whatever.

Going downwind, I was hoping she would surf the waves, but try as I might it was difficult to grab a crest and ride. She just isn't fast enough, although it's also likely the fin drive provides too much underwater drag. I'll have to try it next time with the fins removed and the hole plug installed.

Finally, I used my Greenland style paddle yesterday instead of the Hobie one. I'm much more accustomed to the Greenland stick and found it much easier paddling. Oddly, the Hobie paddle felt 'sticky' in the water, especially when releasing it. Strange feeling, but true. Other's will probably not have the same experience.

I'm still waiting to try the sail rig. Hopefully the winds will be in my favour soon!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Capt Nemo's Residence...

Paddling the inner harbour of Cape May produced a surprise the other day. The high winds and extreme tidal currents in the area kept me off the open water for the day, so harbour exploration became the route of the day. Passing the lines of docked yachts and their adjoining condos, I suddenly found this surprise...

Surely an innovative house like this one, nearly all of glass panels some opaque, some not, with large doors permitting the entrance of one's submarine, a wind-mill for self-sufficiency and a cheeky little yellow submarine hanging in plain view from the rafters, has to belong to Capt Nemo or his alter ego!

Not all kayaking thrills are found in the tide rips!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On a recent paddling trip to southern climes, I was again reminded of how birds can make our paddling outings more varied and interesting, just by their very presence. In the above shot, an Osprey enjoys a recently caught fish all the while keep an eye on me as I paddle past.
This Brown Pelican seemed to have other things on its mind than me paddling by. Was it an itch, a parasite, or just a feather or two out of place?
While taking a little break from paddling I came across this Great Blue heron strolling along in the surf looking for something to eat. The bird was totally unconcerned that people were sharing its beach. Instead, it gamely walked along, pausing now and then when a food item could be seen rolling in the surf.
So, watch the birds as you paddle. They have lots to say!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Changing Times

While on a trip to Florida recently, I happened to put-in at a outfitter who sold Hobie Cat boats. One was a kayak called a Revolution 11. What attracted my attention was the interesting combination of propulsion options available using this craft. It could be paddled, sailed and peddled!

I took a demo ride and was instantly hooked. Since bringing it home I been able to paddle, peddle and sail this fun little kayak. I love it!

That said, I won't be selling any of my other kayaks anytime soon. They are still my true loves, but times are a'changing and I'm happy to see where they take me...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod Touch-

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I've been waiting for an 'app' in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit of northern Canada. It's taken a while, but this spring children, and grown-ups as well, will be able to quickly learn to use the syllablic symbols used in Canada's eastern Arctic to write in Inuktitut.

For those wishing to learn a bit more about how this 'app' came into being, there's a news item online to read. For people dying to try the 'app' for themselves, there's a demo as well. I couldn't get the demo to work completely, but the image above comes from it and gives an idea of what it will be like. Perhaps you'll have better luck with the demo! Soon everyone paddling in the arctic will be able to read and write in the local language when dropping into the local hunting or fishing camp!

Update! Update!

'Tusaalanga' the new Inuktitut app is now available on iTunes. Check it out here!