Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Back at Last

It's been a very busy summer!

I took a 6-day advanced sea kayak course (Paddle Canada Level 4) with the Newfoundland Kayak Company in Gros Morne and Burgeo, Newfoundland in early July. Had an absolute blast. The conditions were perfect with high winds, rough seas, 7-knot currents and great surf on the Big Barasway near Burgeo. I managed to learn a lot and push my paddling limits. Many thanks for the great instruction I received from Richard Alexander, Ian Fong and Doug Alderson (from BC).

In mid-July, I assisted the same instructors in teaching week-long intermediate sea kayak courses at Gros Morne (Paddle Canada Level 2 and 3). We had a super bunch of students this year, who really made the course a joy. It was an intense week but watching the students develop their paddling skills, confidence and judgement was a great reward. It was a special treat to see the rapid progress of my girlfriend, Isabelle, who took the Level 2 course.

After that Isabelle and I were joined by a paddling friend from Halifax, Krista Wuerr. We set off on a 4-day paddling trip along the remote southwest coast of Newfoundland. We started our journey in Rose Blanche in late July. We paddled east, passing several small outports: Petites, La Poile and Grand Bruit. We camped out in the wilderness along the way. There are no roads in this area, so the villages are connected by a coastal ferry. We took the ferry from Grand Bruit back to Rose Blanche to finish up.

After that, I was lucky enough to get out to the Magdalen Islands (Iles de la Madeleines) in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for two weeks at the end of August. Isabelle grew up here, so I had the greatest possible guide to show me around. The Islands have miles and miles of white sand beaches that are incredible. The headlands are red sandstone (similar to PEI) that are carved into a wild variety of sea stacks, caves, tunnels and gullies by wave action. We spent incredible three days exploring by kayak, including a trip out to Entry Island and back.

Like I said, it's been a very busy summer, with some amazing paddling. I'll get some photos posted of these adventures as soon as I can. And I'll bring things up to date with reports on recent day paddles all around the Avalon.

Friday, June 23, 2006

New Kayak - Avalon Explorer

Well after a lot of hard work and many hours in the workshop, my new kayak is on the water. I've called it the Avalon Explorer. The name reflects my home paddling area, the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, and the design roots of the boat. The hull lines are adapted from the popular Nigel Dennis Kayaks Explorer made commerically in the UK. I say "adapted" from the NDK Explorer because I had to modify the lines in designing a multi-chined stitch-and-glue boat to be made out of marine plywood and fiberglass. The deck is modified even more from the original lines of the NDK Explorer, since I had to make some changes to the curves at the forward end of the cockpit.

Check out what she looks like in the photo taken on the June 2006 KNL Father's Day Paddle at Cape Broyle.

I am extremely happy with her performance, turning ability, and weight. I'll have more to say on that once I get her out in rough conditions and surfing. The differences between her and my first boat, a Pygmy Arctic Tern, are noticeable. The Avalon Explorer turns and edges much more easily. Her speed is about the same as the Arctic Tern, despite being 6 inches longer. In current, the Arctic Tern's hard chine would be grabbed by the current on the upstream side when doing eddy turns. The multi-chine Avalon Explorer is better behaved in current.

The Avalon Explorer is a dream to roll (due to the pronounced upward sweep at the bow and stern). The Arctic Tern is not an easy boat to roll in comparison (due to the flat profile of its deck). The Avalon Explorer has consistent secondary stability as you increase the degree of edging. In contrast, the Arctic Tern had increasingly strong secondary stability that made edging beyond 30 degrees real work. This was due to the strong flare in the hull below the shear. This makes the Arctic Tern a great boat for beginners and folks who aren't too worried about extreme edging. But I had outgrown this and was looking for a better boat for edging and rolling.

I'll talk a little more about designing and building the Avalon Explorer in future postings.


Catching up on things

Finally back to the blog. Things have been so busy that I haven't been posting often.

Anyway, the new sea kayak that I have been working on is nearly finished. Once I figure out how to post photos I will add a few. I've had it out on the water several times. The hatches and bulkheads are finally installed so all that is left is the finish sanding and the deck lines. I am taking all of July off work to paddle, so I will worry about adding the spar varnish in August.

I had planned to co-lead a club paddle and beach clean-up this weekend, but high winds have forced us to cancel the trip. Instead, I'll see if there is interest in getting out for some surfing south of St. John's. Stayed tuned for photos of that.

More later,

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


This blog will feature sea kayaking around the coast of Newfoundland on the Atlantic coast of Canada. It's a big island with 30,000 km of shoreline to explore. I'll post highlights from recent paddling trips. I am the President of the provincial kayaking club (Kayak Newfoundland & Labrador), so I will mention the odd KNL event (and some of them are quite odd!) Finally, I'm halfway through building my second stitch-and-glue sea kayak, so I may bore you with stories of boat building success and catastrophe.

Stay tuned.

Neil Burgess