Monday, June 23, 2008

Level 1 Course

This past week, the Newfoundland Kayak Company put on a Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Level 1 Skills course. I helped out Richard Alexander with the instruction, along with Craig Burden and Jon Walsh. We spent Tuesday night in the pool learning rescues, Friday evening on the pond learning the first few strokes, and all day Saturday on the pond learning more strokes, practicing rescues and learning about gear, weather and navigation.

And a little fooling around with balance!

Then a day trip on the ocean on Sunday to put it all into practice on salt water. We launched in Cupids on Conception Bay. The sun was out for the first time in two weeks and the wind was light. It was perfect for a Level 1 paddle!!
A few kilometres east of Cupid, we came to the Arches, which is a spectacular archway to paddle through. There was less than one metre of swell but it was noisily crashing on the surrounding rocks, so this was an exercise in trust and confidence-building. But the smiles afterwards were worth the anxiety. Craig took the photo below.

We stopped for lunch and Richard put his pastey white legs on display! We managed to keep our lunch down, while he told tall tales and did funny things with rope.

We got back on the water and paddled around the Brigus lighthouse and into Brigus harbour.

Eventually Craig caught up with the class (boy, is he slow!!!) and I took this photo while he caught his breath.
Seriously, it was a great course and a lot of fun to instruct. We had a super bunch of students and they all progressed significantly during the course. It was very enjoyable teaching with Richard, Jon and Craig! Looking forward to teaching the Level 2 course with Craig next week in Gros Morne!!!

Safety Lessons

After the capsizes on the KNL Cape Broyle paddle, several of the trip leaders met with the KNL Safety Committee to de-brief the proceedings. We gathered descriptions of what happened from most of those involved. Seeing the situation from different points of view is enlightening. There is always something to learn from rescue situations. We'll apply the lessons to future club paddles. This way the club works to promote safety on our paddles and our trip leaders gain valuable insights for next time.

KNL Father's Day Paddle in Cape Broyle

Every year Alex McGruer leads a club paddle on Father's Day to Cape Broyle. This year we had a good turnout and a great day for an adventure. Greg Stamer had a arrived in St. John's a couple of days before and was getting ready to circumnavigate the island. He decided to come out and join KNL members for the day. Above is Greg in the waterfall near the start.

Here's Isabelle wearing a big smile next to the falls.

This iceberg was just off Lance Cove, so Greg and a bunch of us went out for a look. Below is Kam who was visiting from New York and came along for the fun. He loved the icebergs.

We landed at Lance Cove for lunch. Below is Greg wondering if it's safe to join the lunatics by the damp fire?!

You couldn't find a better crowd of paddlers anywhere. The smiles tell the story. Well ... almost...

After the lunch stop, the group split in two. The more experienced crowd headed out to Church Cove and found big swells and excitement. There was no wind, so it was a perfect learning environment for those with less big-water experience. Despite a bout of sea-sickness by one paddler, there were big smiles all-round once we got back to calmer water and the adrenaline subsided. Stretching your comfort zone in a safe situation with capable mentors provides long-term benefits in terms of paddling experience and self-confidence.
The other half of the group headed straight back for the launch site. On the way, a couple of paddlers capsized and were quickly rescued. One swimmer was wet, cold and unable to continue. Alex took him ashore in Freshwater Cove and got him into dry clothes. Alex called the Coast Guard as a precaution, and they dispatched a power boat from Cape Broyle. The Ocean Predator was on the scene in a very short time and took the mildly hypothermic swimmer back to the wharf. A happy ending to the incident. Honour is due to Alex, Malcolm and Peter for their leadership and sound decision-making. And a big thank-you to the Coast Guard Auxillary Boat Ocean Predator and its crew.
With water temperatures here around 5 degrees Celsius now, even a brief swim in a wetsuit and paddling top can seriously chill a paddler. Rapid response by rescuers ensures a rapid recovery.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Atlantic Paddling Professionals Symposium

On Friday, I'm off to the Atlantic Paddling Professionals Symposium in Port Mouton, Nova Scotia. It is the first regional event aimed at paddling instructors and guides from all three disciplines: canoeing, sea kayaking and river kayaking. The symposium is bringing in instructor trainers from across Canada. It should be a great learning experience. And a great chance to paddle with a super group from all parts of Atlantic Canada. Paddle Canada and the provincial paddling associations are major sponsors.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Placentia Sound

Last Sunday, seven of us headed out for a paddle from Argentia Harbour into Placentia Sound. Argentia is where the longer ferry to Nova Scotia begins its journey in the summer. The photo above shows us getting ready to go. The former US Naval Air Station is in the background. No longer an airport, it is now an industrial site.

Paddling around Broad Cove head and turning east into Placentia Sound, we left the industrial Argentia behind. But not all traces of the American presence. The photo above shows Alison Dyer and an old American property sign. Nationalist sentiments reared their ugly head, and I felt compelled to remove the offending sign.

Entering Shalloway Cove, we found this beautiful brook cascading down into the sea.

Here's Stan MacKenzie with a headland in the background. The high hills along the shoreline of the Sound reminded me of the fiords in Gros Morne Park on the west coast of Newfoundland. We stopped for lunch at the ruin of an old cabin across from Witless Head. Then we fought our way out of the Sound against southwest winds towards Fox Harbour.

We finished up the paddle in picturesque Fox Harbour. Above is Peter Armitage passing by a fisherman and his family unloaded nets and gear from their speedboat. This paddle was my first contribution to KNL's Circle the Avalon Challenge for 2008. We're hoping to complete the Challenge this year. For better photos from this paddle, check out the link to Stan MacKenzie's blog at the right.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Iceberg Paddle

This spectacular iceberg was the goal of our paddle on Saturday (photo credit: Dave MacDonald). Fifteen KNL members launched from Turks Gut, just south of Brigus in Conception Bay.

Paddling north we found the archway above, which Paul Benson is paddling through with a big grin.

Here's the pinnacle iceberg with my partner Isabelle.

The other side of the iceberg with Dave Dobbin and Laura ?

From the iceberg, we paddled north into Brigus Bay, where we stopped for lunch. Then we headed north towards Cupids. Coming around around the headland we passed through The Arch above.
Where else but Newfoundland could you have such a great paddle, just an hour's drive from St. John's.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

It's May and it's snowing!

You just have to love the weather here in the so-called spring. Today is May 11 and it's snowing out! I was out to Gull Island in Witless Bay for work today with two other Canadian Wildlife Service biologists. It was a bumpy ride out in the Zodiac. Lots of icebergs about. Just when we started our seabird work on the island, the snow started. It was cold and windy but we finished the work quickly and headed back in the Zodiac. It was snowing so hard, we could not see the shore. It was good to get the work done today, since there are big winds and seas forecast for tomorrow and another storm coming up from New England later this week.

I sure hope all this cold weather is gone for next weekend's Retreat in Terra Nova!!!!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Greg Stamer returning to Newfoundland

Greg Stamer has announced that he is coming back to Newfoundland in June 2008 to paddle around the island solo. Check out Greg's plans on his website at

Greg and Freya Hoffmeister were guests at the KNL Kayakers Retreat in May 2007. Their Greenland paddling and rolling clinics were an inspiration. After the Retreat, Greg and Freya did an 8-day trip from St. John's to St. Bride's around the southern Avalon peninsula. I took the photo above of Greg when they started their trip at Quidi Vidi Gut. You can check out Greg and Freya's photos from their trip at

Later in June & July 2007, Greg and Freya paddled around Iceland in record time. That trip included a 110-kilometre day that lasted 22 hours on the water. Amazing endurance!

I am looking forward to Greg's return with a big smile. Greg is a fantastic paddler, mentor and down-to-earth guy. I'm looking forward to paddling with him again in 2008.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Going Political

Every once in a while, I am jarred out of my kayaking daydream by reality. Let me explain ... St. John's is "blessed" with a mayor known best for his bombast and bullying. His name is Andy Wells. Mr. Wells has accepted a new full-time job as head of the provincial Public Utilities Board (PUB), starting in March 2008. Unbelievably, Mr. Wells has indicated that he is debating when to step down as full-time mayor of St. John's. He is seriously considering staying on as mayor until late September 2008. During that period he would receive his PUB salary (reported to be almost $180,000 per year) and his mayor's salary (more than $90,000 per year). The mind boggles at the arrogance of this greed!

Anyway, I was compelled to send a Letter to the Editor to the St. John's daily newspaper, the Telegram. You can read my letter here:

The Editorial in the paper the same day explored the same topic:

And now back to kayaking ...