Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wednesdays done for this year

Since 2008 an informal group has been meeting at St. Philips to practice rescues, paddle strokes or just go for an evening paddle.  Last evening was the last time we'll do it for this year as the evenings are getting to short.

The evening started like the first evening of the year, sparcely  attended.  It was Paul, Shane, Terry and myself.  There were good size waves.  It was the first time Paul was in his new NDK Explorer.  I felt it wise to stay close.

I've more or less kept things going since 2009.  Its a worthwhile initiative as it gives novice paddlers a chance to practice skills and paddle in challenging conditions with a supportive cast around them.  One of the guys who has grown tremendously since he first attended is Shane, here powering along the coast.

We made our way down the coast in sizeable waves with Paul, a newer paddler who has been coming out this year.  I knew he was in near the top end of his comfort zone so I stayed close and suggested the same to the other two guys.

Paul was doing well until one wave did him in.  We put him back in his boat and we continued for a bit but it was clear to me he wasn't comfortable.  There was still a bit of water in his kayak.  He asked me to raft up so he could pump the last of the water out.  I suggested we turn around to go back.

Paddling into the waves you see what's coming.  Paddling with the waves is a different proposition.  I could see he was very nervous.  We stayed close together.  He went over again and after we got him back in his boat I suggested we do a tow back to the harbour.  Terry rafted up to stabilize while Shane and I did the towing.

We arrived back in the harbour none the worse for wear.

It was an all around productive evening.  Paul got some experience in challenging conditions and we practiced a rescue and tow.  Exactly what these evening hope to achieve.

The primary lesson to take from the evening is a tow is not a blow to pride.  No one wants to have to take a tow but sometimes it is necessary for safety sake.  Its up to the more experienced paddlers to recognize when a tow is called for and take charge.

Paul took a tow but a time will come when he will be the more experienced and be doing the towing himself.

All's well that ends well and we ended the evening with a coffee and a discussion about how things went.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Looking for my mojo

2017 has been a slow year for paddling.  Not only for me but it seems for all of my paddle buddies.  I'm wondering if I've lost my mojo.  I've seen it before.  People like Tony, Neil and Derrick have effectively stopped kayaking after years being avid paddlers.

In 2016 I had a good excuse when I didn't paddle much because of time I spent working on house projects.  But this year it seems as though a general malaise has crept in.  Previously weather didn't matter.  I didn't care if there was wind and rain, in fact, I welcomed it.  Not so much this year.

What I found most disappointing was it seemed like most of my paddle mates weren't as gung-ho either.  Sometimes it takes someone with some enthusiasm to get the ball rolling.  That is to say, if I'm apathetic about getting out then I usually get energized by feeding off of the go-for-it vibe of someone else.  I didn't get that feeling very often.

Finally, after what seemed like forever I got out for a paddle last evening.  It was a small turnout, just four of us.  The evenings are getting shorter and it was especially short last evening because there was no sunlight to keep things bright.  Cathy, Sharon, Terry and I left in daylight for a short paddle and returned in darkness finding our way back by the lights shimmering on the water.

It felt great back in the boat.  I think its time to get my mojo working again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Food for thought

My usual fare on kayak camp trips is store bought food ready to heat.  Its getting a bit old.  In addition to that, I'm going to start doing a bit of backpacking.  There, weight is a more pertinent issue.  

A couple of years go I bought a food dehydrator (I've been thinking about backpacking for a while *lol*).  It sat in the box since then until today when I got it out to try drying some food.  Nothing too adventurous to start; just two packs of Uncle Ben's Bistro Express and some mixed frozen vegetables.

I was going to put the rice packs on some parchment paper and just spread the vegetables on the tray.  Well, the frozen vegetables went through the tray.  So, remembering I got some old window screens from a neighbour, I cut three liners to put the food on.  Ca-ching!

I didn't know what to expect so I was surprised to see what the end of the process was.  Trays that were covered with food looked like some spirit had consumed a good part of it while I wasn't looking.  I don't have a weigh scale yet so I can't quantify the reduction but a rough guess is it was reduced by about 2/3.

The conclusion I came to was this has some promise.  Not only for backpacking but also for kayak camping.  Saving weight is not so much the bonus n that case but the saving in space is, especially for longer trips.

Next I need to see what rehydration involves, that is to say, the most efficient time-wise.  I mean, I don't want to wait for long before being able to eat after getting out of the kayak or reaching camp for the night at the end of a hike.  If I'm happy with that I'll purchase a weigh scale and a vacuum sealer.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Let it rain

The forecast for Saturday was no wind but it would be raining cats and dogs.  I checked the precipitation forecast which showed the heaviest rain would come in around 2:00 pm.  So, I suggested a paddle in the rain for that time.

When we arrived it was wet but no downpour.

We got on the water and the rain stopped.

In fact it was the most pleasant of conditions which ...

... I found disappointing.  I was hoping for sheets of rain so hard that the drops bounce off of the water.

It turns out we missed the heaviest rain that came down in the morning.  No matter; we still enjoyed a leisurely paddle.

Clyde and I hugged the shore for the most part while Dave, Hazen and Paul spent some time further offshore but ...

... not all the time.

When we got back to the take-out Paul said he wanted to do a self rescue with the paddle float.  I suggested a back deck scramble on but he was adamant.  It was totally calm as he jumped out of the kayak but let go of it.  I suggested he put his leg in the cockpit even though it was calm because in windy conditions the kayak would blow away an he'd never be able to swim fast enough to catch it.  So he did.

The rest of the self-rescue went well after which we got into our street clothes and went for a coffee.  We all agreed that we all enjoyed the paddle.  Though, the rain would have been welcomed.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The young Turk

September 6th and I hadn't had a day paddle since August 2nd when we did a cut-short paddle of 12.3 kms to Great Island.  Its been a strange summer paddle wise.

I checked ships log for the past 7 years and I've averaged 600 kms up to the end of August each year except 2012 when I had a shoulder issue and only paddled 460.  So far this year its been an anemic 390.  Its been a combination of things.  I hope to set it right this fall.

One bright spot is Shane.  As a newer, but accomplished paddler, Shane brings fresh energy and pumps me up when I'm less enthused.

I haven't been as regular at Wednesday evening kayak sessions this year but since early August its the only paddling I've done.

Shane and I paddled ahead of the other six staying close to the rocks trying to take in as much of the wave action as we could.  At one point we looked back and the group was well back having stopped to do some rescue practice.

I looked over at Shane and he was getting out of his boat.  He jumped out, clipped onto the bow of his kayak and started to swim towards the rocks, kayak in tow.

Once he got there he climbed out and pulled the kayak up onto the rocks beside himself.  Assessing that exercise worked out fine he got back in the water, I dumped the water out of the kayak (as pumping is so much fun) and we paddled back to the rest of the group.

Back in the cove at St. Philips, Shane does a bit of instruction leading Craig through an assisted rescue and the right way to dump water out of a kayak.

As the sun went down the small waves died and another Wednesday was in the books.

There are a few regulars and a handful of us pushing the envelope.  Sometimes someone new comes along with the same outlook as Brian, Dean and myself and brings fresh, youthful enthusiasm that I, for one, have fed off of.  Sometimes I need that.  So, thanks Shane, you young Turk.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

In memory of Brian

This morning the Newfoundland and Labrador Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association held their Tickle Swim for Mental Health.  The event is a 5 km swim in ocean water between Portugal Cove and Bell Island.

The call went out to the kayaking community to provide on water support for the swimmers.  I believe the swimmers numbered 21 and 24 kayakers attended.  One kayaker for each swimmer and three to act as floaters.  We arrived at Portugal Cove in the early morning hours before the sun had fully risen.

The swimmers huddled on the beach waiting to commence the swim; supporters stood on the breakwater while ...

we were ready to match up with individual swimmers.

Brian was a friend of mine who took his own life on 29 November 2003.  I met Brian while training in the gym.

And they were off at 7:15.

Brian was the type of person everyone takes an immediate liking to.  He was the life of the gym when he was there; always cracking a joke and laughing.

The wind started off calm but there was still  bit of chop to get through.

On my 50th birthday party he came with a custom baked cake, some oddball gifts and a bottle of Lambs rum.  He was the type of person who'd take a few drinks and leave the rest of the bottle.  Kind beyond words.

Five kms and two hours later the tail end of the fastest swimmers reached the beach on Bell Island and the end of his swim with cheers and applause.

Brian was the last person anyone would think would take his own life.  I can still see him on the last Friday I saw him.  He shouted out and waved as he left the gym.  Saturday I got a call he was gone. 

There were still swimmers in the water so I paddled back to see if I could help with them.  Roy has in support of this girl that was finding the swim was taking forever.  We paddled on either side to offer encouragement.

I'm not saying Brian suffered from a mental illness because up to 98% of persons with a mental illness do not commit suicide.

Almost three hours after setting out her swim came to an end as she was greeted with cheers, applause and her supporters.  I know she suffered the last kilometer and to not give in deserves so much respect.

But more than 90% of people who commit suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

The swimmers took the ferry back to Portugal Cove while almost all the kaykers paddled back.

I was glad I helped out but most of all, I developed a great deal of respect for those in the water.

Brian used to raise Cornish hens.  He wouldn't have them slaughtered when they were, you know, Cornish hen size.  He'd grow them as large as he could before getting them processed.  One day when I came out of the gym I found one on the seat of my vehicle.  I found it tragic that he would do that but not be able to ask me, or anyone, for help.

What can we do?  We could learn about signs of mental health issues and maybe, just maybe, find a way to reach someone who is having trouble.  Here's a link to to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

I think of Brian often, never more so than this morning.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A tale of two humpbacks

Its been a while since I attended Wednesday evening practice at St. Philips.  Early in the year the turnout had been very thin and I honestly lost interest.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find two newcomers last evening.  Wednesday evenings for me are all about a safe environment for newer paddlers to build on their skills.  As such then, if there is even one new paddler showing up its an incentive to keep it going.

As it was flat calm we decided to go for a relaxed paddle.

I really like the colour scheme on Jenns kayak, after the orange of mine *lol*.

Paul, one of the newer paddlers.  He spent a lot of time in the pool last winter which indicates to me he wants to learn.

I generally want to paddle with people with good kayak skills, especially when conditions dictate.  But, I also want to give people who want to learn an avenue to paddle.  I'm certain Paul will get invites when the conditions are right.

Also new to the Wednesday evening group is Mark.  Another reason to keep these sessions going.

And then we got the surprise of the evening.  Paddling slowly along the shore we spotted two humpbacks out in the bay.  We paddled out to where they were feeding and waited or them to surface which ...

... they did with regular frequency.  I hoped for a tail shot but they were too busy feeding near the surface so this is pretty much all we saw of them except the occasional spout.

After sending some time with the whales we paddled back to St. Philips as the sun was setting totally thrilled with the close, unexpected encounter with the two humpbacks.

So, I'm reinvigorated for Wednesday evening practices.  They will continue into October.

Jenn sent me a couple of video clips she recorded of the whales surfacing: