Monday, April 17, 2017

Puttin' another day on ice

Roy and I couldn't get further than Portugal Cove where the ice was packed too tight to get through so we turned and headed back.  Where we followed the shoreline north paddling by bits of ice, on the return we paddled out into the bay to paddle ...

... through the ice field filled with various size chunks of ice and ...

... and ice pans.

Eventually the ice tailed off towards the southwest and we were in open water.

I suggested heading over to a couple of larger bits of ice on our way back to shore where ...

... there was still ice floating in the water.

Back in the cove I wrestled a good chunk of ice board to take home for refreshments.

So, the fourth day paddling around the sea ice came to an end.  Its been an absolute fantastic last four paddles.  I won't mind if the ice blows off shore; I'm ready now to change focus to icebergs.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pinch me - one more time

The ice in Conception Bay is still in but starting to melt and drift apart or away.  Today was cool but sunny and absolutely no wind.  It was Roy and myself enjoying what remains of the ice.

The sun made the ice seem whiter than white and brighter than bright, except where the colour was indigo blue.

When we first left the bits of ice were scattered and separated by stretches of open water without a ripple.

We began to see more ice as we made our way north and it was bigger.  We paddled between the ice pans and the shore and in no particular hurry.

The past wave action of the past few days nibbled away at the ice above the waterline making interesting formations of white and indigo.

Paddling between bits of ice doing bow rudders and other close boat control strokes.  And, otherwise avoiding collisions with bits of ice floating in the water.

Just as we came to Portugal Cove we hit a dead end.  There was ...

... no way through this closely packed ice.  At least, not without taking some risk to get cut off from a return to the put-in.

This was my fourth time paddling around the ice in the past eight days.  The ice has stuck around for an unusual amount of time this year and I'm taking advantage of it while it lasts.  It makes for great fun paddling but its also, in some ways, an indescribable scene.  Everything seems so pristine, crystal clear and sharp in blue and white.  Yes, that's the key word - pristine.

From here we turned south for the return, picking our way through the ice pack further off shore.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wednesdays begin

Every Wednesday each year for the last eight years an informal group has met mid-week to practice kayaking skills.  Last evening was the first for 2017.  It was cold and damp but four of us showed up for a paddle.

Usually we'll practice rescues, paddle strokes or just blast into the wind and waves to catch surf rides.  As there wasn't much in terms of conditions we just went for a paddle up the shore.

The last almost two weeks Conception Bay has been chocked with ice; as it was Tuesday when Brian, Sue and I paddled.  A day later and there was mostly open water but along the shoreline ...

... a good bit of the ice remained.

Most of the ice is one year frozen sea ice that has drifted in our direction from the northeast coast.  Its pan ice that normally is a meter plus thick but some of it was substantially thicker; kayakers for scale, though ...

... some of it must have bits of iceberg in it?

Shane takes possession of an ice floe.

In warmer weather we'll do a bit of rock hopping but this evening it was ice hopping, looking for ways through or over the ice.

We went as far as Beachy Cove before turning around to head back.

It was a small turnout for the first Wednesday evening but it was admittedly rather inclement.  Thanks to Brian, Shane and Terry for sharing the evening.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Great Escape

Tuesday was another calm, bright day and the ice was still in Conception Bay.  It was a day too good to not be paddling so I called Brian to see if he was interested.  The answer was yes so he, sue and I met at St. Philips to spend a couple of hours paddling around the ice.

The ice was scattered as we made our way out of the cove ...

... at first sticking close to the shore.

Before long we were in among the floating ice pans.  Everything was either bright white or blue or shades of blue.

We wondered whether this was an iceberg.  When we got closer it was apparent it was probably just a jumble of ice pans that were thrown together and on top of each other.  In front of the thing it was open water but behind our progress came to an end as the ice was tightly packed.

We had to turn around.  We noticed the bigger mass stood relatively still compared to the rest of the ice pack which was slipping past at a good clip.  I didn't immediately appreciate the implications of that until we ...

... began to have trouble finding a way through.  At times the pans were only the width of a kayak apart allowing us to squeeze through.

We wove back and forth through the ice craning our necks to find open water and the way forward.

It was slow progress picking our way along.  Often we had to be patient waiting for the pans of ice to move opening up to allow us through until ...

... we were stymied and held like trapped animals.

It was like "What do we do now"?

We waited to see if the pans would move.  They did.  I was between two large ones comfortable enough until they started to drift together threatening to crush me.  As the space contracted I put my hand on the large pan on my left waiting for the crunch but as the right one came in I got my hand on it pushed down on both and lifted the kayak above the disappearing gap.  Next I was on top of the ice and out of danger.  Phew!!!

Here's what I mean.  Brian got this shot of me pushing myself up from between the impending crunch and sitting on top of the pan.

I got out and pulled Sue and Brian up also by the toggles, pushed the kayaks across and ...

... seal launched into open water and freedom on the other side.

The ice we had seen moving, probably without realizing the implications at the time, had almost closed the avenue of escape.  When we got back in the cove Sue said it was The Great Escape.  I thought to myself "That would be a good title for a blog post".

What looked like an innocuous day paddling in the ice turned out to be an adventure.  We were never in danger because at the worst we would have had to keep pulling the kayaks over the ice pans until we were clear.  But, it did add a little spice to our paddle.  It sure was a change from the same old, same old.  Years from now we'll say "Remember the day we almost got caught in the ice"?  If its memorable it has to be good.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ice, ice baby! (Part 2)

After picking my way north along the ice pack it was time to head back.

The roots of some of the ice extended well below the surface or ...

... stuck out like a sore thumb.

There were unusual ice carvings.

On my way north there weren't many openings along the edge of the pack but on my return it seemed to have loosened up a bit and I was able to find more open water and passages into the pack.  I was doing a lot of paddling but didn't seem to make much progress south.  I spotted a large pan and ran the kayak up onto it to stretch my legs.

I wasn't paddling but I was moving as I found out from my GPS track ...

... that showed I floated north on the pan some 160 meters.

Afloat a kilometer from shore made for a sweet shot.  I left a yellow stain *lol* before ...

... setting out again.  It was a spectacular day and I made a conscious decision to take my time and drink it all in.  Days like I was having don't come long everyday,  I mean, the calm wind, sunshine with a few clouds and white ice to match the clouds.

My watch beeped the passage of another hour which brought me back to reality.  The day was getting on so I got going.  As I did I noticed that the ice pack had drifted since I left and I was in danger of getting cut off from the take out.  All I could do was follow the front and as I did it became apparent my only possible escape would be ...

... at the shoreline.  But, it was tight.  Just ahead there was an opening only wide enough to get the kayak through and then only fleeting as the pans crunched together drifting open and then closing.  Timing myself I got through and into open water back into the cove.

One last feature got my attention.  I called it the "Ice Sphinx".

That was one totally awesome day and I'd be hard pressed to pick one that I've enjoyed more.  It wasn't just the relaxed pace and the conditions but also the joy of being on the water after a month where I could not paddle.  Happiness is indeed an inside job.

Here are the breadcrumbs for the day.  The blue line was my paddle north.  A distance of 4 kms along the shore turned out to be 6.1 and the yellow return was 8.6 proving the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line.  A paddle that would normally take 80 minutes turned out to be 3.5 hours.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Ice, ice baby! (Part 1)

The last time I paddled was March 8th.  A few days after that I was stricken with shingles.  Anyone who knows anything about shingles knows I've had a good reason not to paddle.

Being mostly over that now, on Thursday I got out to check the ice condition in Conception Bay.  The bay was chocker blocked with ice at Topsail Beach.  Three days later a southerly wind loosened up the ice and ...

... there was open water to paddle in.

As I exited the harbour there were bits and pieces of ice at the leading edge of the ice pack.

I paddled on and was soon into the main field.  There were large pans and bits and pieces and narrow leads to paddle through.

The narrow leads and channels through the ice pack were fun and good practice for close boat control.  After some time I ran the kayak up onto a larger pan and got out for a break.  That was pretty cool to be able to get out of the kayak in the middle of the bay.

The ice moved constantly so I had to be aware not to get trapped where I couldn't find open water.  Some escapes were through the narrowest of passages.

It was a beautiful sunny day with net to no wind.  I took my time paddling along the edge of the ice pack doing bow rudders around free floating ice pans.

In places the wind that had driven the ice into the bay piled up ice pans on top of each other creating a jumble of ice.  Here I'm right in the thick of things.

Making my way along the edge of the ice I paddled into open "coves" and "bays" as I would if it were solid land.

Not quite 100% yet, I passed on other plans the guys had because I didn't know how comfortable I'd be and I didn't want to cramp their style.  So, all the pictures I took were shots of the ice except this lone paddler.

The last time the ice pack came in was in 2012 and before that it was 2009.  It doesn't come in every year being dependent on northerly winds to drive it into shore.  When it does come I like to take advantage of the unusual opportunity.  This was by far the most enjoyable day among the ice pans and I often stopped to drift and marvel at the different formations around me.

 I arrived at Portugal Cove.  Following the edge of the ice pack had me well offshore.

At Portugal Cove I floated for a while hoping to catch the ferry going to Bell Island making its way through the ice pack.  After a while I decided to paddle to shore for a closer look where some ice was lodged up on ...

... the rocks.  Driven up onto the rocks by the wind there were left high and dry when the main field got blown offshore.

But enough of the shoreline.  On this day it was all about the ice so I paddled back out to the ice pack to make my return to where I'd put in.  There was still more exploring to do.