Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kayaking in Venice, Italy

In mid-April, Ysabelle and I travelled to Venice for a holiday. Luckily for us, Rene Seindal had just opened his kayak tour business for the summer and he took us on a magical day paddle. Rene took the photo above of the two of us in front of Piazza San Marco.

Rene is from Denmark but he speaks Italian and English well. He knows Venice's history, its canals and the rules of the road for the many types of boats. Lucky for us!

Piazza San Marco with the Doge's Palace on the right and the Campanile or bell tower on the left, and gondolas everywhere.

We paddled down the smaller canals with the gondolas, passing many homes, palaces, churches, towers and more.

The beauty of Venice was hard to miss. To be honest, so was the smell. Sewage from some of the older buildings still goes directly into the canals, so kayaking is not for those with delicate sensibilities. I was just glad we visited in April and not August! In any case, the aroma did not detract from our appreciation of the amazing surroundings.

Here is Ysabelle near the Rialto bridge on the Grand Canal. The boat traffic on the Grand Canal was intimidating at first. It felt like trying to cross highway 401 on a motor scooter ... at rush hour! But Rene was an excellent guide and boldly led the way.

The variety of different boats was astonishing. Everything is done by boat in Venice: garbage collection, fire fighting, ambulance, delivery, taxis, and weddings! The multi-person gondola above is from a local rowing club.

Like I said, lots of traffic on the Grand Canal but what a view!

And paddling in Venice is very civilized when you can just pull over and stop at a canal-side cafe.
I highly recommend paddling with Rene if you get to Venice. You will have the trip of a lifetime. Check out his website at http://www.venicekayak.com/

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Kayaking in Sea Ice

After watching the wind take the sea ice in and out of Flatrock Harbour all week, Isabelle and I finally got the kayaks in the water on Saturday to have a closer look. The shot above shows Isabelle at the Flatrock wharf with chunks of sea ice.

We paddled along the shoreline, which was lined with big blocks of ice.

Here is the view looking out the harbour towards Redhead, which is obscured in the fog. The sea ice was out beyond Redhead today.

We stopped by Murdering Gulch to check out the waterfall, which is running strong with all the spring run-off.

We paddled out around Redhead through some mild clapotis and rounded the corner into Redhead Cove. And there was the sea ice! Check out the ice on the cliffs behind Isabelle, too. There were also several thousand eider ducks and some long-tailed ducks, too. Unfortunately, I didn't get any good photos of them.

In the background of this photo, the sea ice is solid to the horizon.

We headed south in a stiffening breeze towards the Beamer. Here is Isabelle checking out the northwest side.

Paddling back along the Beamer to the wharf, we saw a group of purple sandpipers on the rocks. These little guys are tough to survive the winter here.

We were very lucky today. The air temperature was 8C and the ocean temperature was OC. Off to the pool tonight to help coach a rolling clinic. Should be a little warmer there, I hope!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sun & Ice

Nice sunny day, so we're going for a walk along the sea cliffs.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sea Ice Arrives in Flatrock

Every winter, sea ice forms in the Atlantic Ocean off Labrador. Each spring it drifts south towards Newfoundland. It brings with it breeding seals, fog and for those who see it, a reminder of the annual cycle of the ocean. This week the sea ice arrived in Flatrock and Torbay. It is great to see!

If we are lucky, the icebergs will start showing up in a short while.

Bringing Kayaking Courses to Labrador Inuit

At the beginning of September 2008, Richard Alexander (the president of Paddle Canada) and I flew to Nain, Labrador to teach a Level 1 sea kayaking course. This course was special because we were going to be teaching Inuit youth. The course was a partnership between us and Heather Angnatok, who is the youth program coordinator for the Nunatsiavut Government in Labrador.

There are many reasons why a sea kayaking program is wonderful for teenagers: it develops physical skills and fitness, presents a mental challenge, promotes self-confidence and teamwork. For Inuit youth, it has added dimensions like connecting them with their cultural heritage and giving them a new way to explore their homeland, wildlife and coastline.

We had a great group of youth, adults and one elder. We covered all the Level 1 paddling skills and added an overnight trip. Three of the participants even learned how to roll their kayaks!

It was a wonderful weekend for everyone. Richard and I had an absolute blast and we look froward to getting back to Nain in 2009.

For more information on the course, check out the article I wrote for the winter/spring 2009 issue of Kanawa magazine called "Full Circle: bringing sea kayaking back to the northern coast of Labrador." www.paddlingcanada.com/kanawa.asp