Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium

I am on the organizing committee for the second annual Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium happening on April 25th in Saskatoon at Prairieland Park. . It's shaping up to be a great event with some great presentations, demos and speakers lined up. I happen to be in charge of booking the exhibitors so if you want to show support for the Saskatchewan paddling community and show of your wares, let me know!

p.s. That's my daughter on the poster for this year's event. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Wild Canada

I suppose I should have posted this beforehand to help spread the word, but I guess I'm not quite that on the ball. This afternoon I had the opportunity to guest-host a My Wild Canada Twitter Chat. It was a lot of fun and my topic that I chose was a focus on paddling safety.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

EcoFriendly Sask: Saskatchewan Nature Books

I contributed the paddling section to the list of books that EcoFriendly Saskatchewan compiled. Check it out on their blog. It looks like I still have a few naturalist books to add to the list.

EcoFriendly Sask: Saskatchewan Nature Books: Birds Atlas of Saskatchewan Birds , Alan R. Smith Birds of the Elbow, Frank J. Roy Birds of the Saskatoon Area , Anna L. Leighton, Hi...

My list of Saskatchewan paddling-related books is actually somewhat longer than the EcoFriendly Sask version. I'll post that list at a later date because I think it's worth sharing.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Surviving After a Paddling Accident

Last week while packing for a canoe trip I was contacted by Global Saskatoon to comment on how to survive after a mishap on a paddling trip. In addition to being a paddling instructor, I am the Paddle Canada representative for Saskatchewan, and am a co-author of the AdventureSmart paddling safety awareness program called PaddleSmart.

The interview follows on the recent tragic death of David Dice along the Churchill River, a section that I paddled in 2010. I do not know the details of what happened, but according to news reports David was found below Needle Falls on Kinosaskaw Lake. Shortly after David was found by fishermen, his wife Enid Dice was found upriver somewhere along Needle Rapids. She had been there without supplies for 8 days. The reports don't offer much for details, though they do mention she had a fire going (it will make your life easier to have some reliable means of starting a fire on your life jacket or in a pocket, and redundancy is good!). The Dices are very experienced outdoorspeople and paddlers, and David's early death is a loss to the paddling community. My condolences go out to all of those grieving David's death.

A few more details were reported via CBC:
One of the first people to speak to Enid after the ordeal was Ric Driediger, owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, who was also one of the last people to see the couple before they set out on their trip.
He says he learned, from Enid, that the couple's canoe capsized as they were navigating a set of rapids on the lake known as Needle Falls*.
They were separated and Enid swam to shore with her husband's backpack that had a sleeping bag and an emergency fire-starting kit. There was no food, however.
*I wonder if this statement as reported is correct. It seems more likely that they were running Needle Rapids (C2+ to C3), about 2.25 km above the falls, or the outlet from Sandfly lake (C3), a further 1 km above Needle Rapids. It seems unlikely that they would have been running the falls (C5), but the earlier sets of rapids are manageable for the canoeist with skills in rapids. This also makes sense since Enid had no gear other than what she swam to shore with and was separated from her husband who was reportedly found on Kinosaskaw Lake in the eddy below the falls. Were the capsize to actually have occurred at the falls, she would have been mere meters from her late husband, the overturned canoe and much of the gear including the SPOT. 

A map of the region:

Open this map full screen.

Aerial view of the rapids at the outlet of Sandfly Lake. We portaged these.

Class 3 rapids at the outlet of Sandfly Lake.

Uppermost portion of Needle Rapids from the spot where we scouted the set. This is the river left channel. 

Jay & Rod scouting Needle Rapids. 

David & Enid's Blog: David and Enid's Travels

Here are some items you should consider having with you, or on you, whenever you head out paddling. Most of these items can be fit into a small pouch that can be attached to the life jacket or contained in a pocket. These items are described as "The Essentials Plus" in the PaddleSmart program:
  • Transport Canada Required Items:
    1. Life jacket
    2. Whistle
    3. Throw bag
    4. Bailer
    5. Waterproof flashlight
  • Other Essential Items:
    1. Fire making kit
    2. Signalling device (e.g. whistle, signal mirror)
    3. Extra food and water
    4. Extra clothing
    5. Navigation & communication devices
    6. First aid
    7. Emergency blanket or shelter
    8. Knife
    9. Sun protection
In the pocket of my PFD I have a small pouch that in the video linked above has had the contents spread out. The contents include a signal mirror, granola bar, fishing line, snare wire, ~20' of thin cord, orange bandana, emergency blanket, lighter, & fire starter. In the canoe or kayak I also almost always have extra clothing, rain gear, some form of shelter (tarp &/or a bothy bag), extra food, water (though we can usually drink our water from the lake), first aid kit, more lighters, matches and fire starting stuff. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kayak Asshole

This is pretty hilarious. Enjoy! Thanks to the Kayak Yak blog for sharing!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Lack of Wilderness Skills

This was an interview on CBC that Keving Callan recently did. It's a great piece and raises the concern over a diminishing lack of wilderness skills that seems to be occurring across Canada. It seems that if you camp without a trailer with attached deck and gazebo, you are really roughing it. I would also say there is an ever-increasing reliance on "stuff", and the skills seem to come a distant second. Kevin mentions getting training, and while I wholeheartedly support that notion, I do think that people just need to make the effort to get out there and "do it".

Monday, April 21, 2014

Near Real-Time Satellite Imagery

I had a hard time finding this today while trying to check on ice conditions. It's a link to near real-time satellite imagery that is updated daily and it can be used for monitoring snow cover, ice-out, forest fires, and more. I've linked to it several times on my blog but the old links don't work anymore. So, here is the latest url for your (and my) enjoyment:

For Saskatchewan, select the "North America" link, then hover over the map to select the 'Waskesiu' image set. 

I was trying to see if the South Saskatchewan River has broken up at all outside of Saskatoon but it's too cloudy to tell in the most recent image (from yesterday). I'm pretty sure that if I could see the river, I would see a white line indicating ice, not a black line indicating water.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Photos of My New Chestnut Pal

I promised in my last post that I'd get some photos up so here they are. (Here is the original post:

Still loaded after bringing it home last night. Yes, it's snowing again.

Cracks in the canvas.

It will need to be re-canvassed. 

It looks great from this angle! Importantly, the hull is fair and true and there is a minimum of damage to the wood of the hull itself. 

There is some damage to a rib up toward the stem. The glass and epoxy will need to come out and the rib likely replaced.

The bow deck plate with the Chestnut logo. Add new deck plates to the list of repairs.

The gunwales are pretty soft in some spots. A result of outdoor storage.

Yup, it needs a bit of work.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Bought a New Canoe!

Well, OK, it's not a "new" canoe, not by any stretch of the imagination. But, it's new to me. I am now the proud owner of a 1973 Chestnut Pal 16' canoe, and a significant restoration project.

When this canoe came up in the local classifieds, I was only tentatively interested. However the longer I thought about it, the more the idea of owning a classic cedar canvas canoe got under my skin. The Pal was atop my list of models that I was interested in - at 16' long it's small enough for me to paddle solo, yet can accommodate two paddlers on day trips - it's likely use in my hands. It's a classic and versatile prospector design that should handle a load well and be manoeuvrable in moving water. It also happens to be the same age as me (who is also in need of some restoration work).

It's in decent shape but with a fair bit of work needed - the varnish looks fairly good on the inside but with many cracks (from drying out of the wood?), and the paint is bright on the outside. However, the canvas has cracked so it will need to be recanvassed and then the canvas filled and painted. Before I get to the canvas though, there is a broken rib that should be replaced that has been repaired with fiberglass and epoxy. I am hoping the ends of the ribs are in good shape and will not need to be trimmed and scarfed. The stems look OK at first inspection, but I'll need to get in there for a closer look. I also hope that the planking checks out OK. The varnish will either need to be chemically stripped or (hopefully) cleaned and scuffed prior to a new application. The gunwales have rotted after years of outdoor storage so I'll not waste any time there with any salvage attempts.

I have already signed up to be a member of the oft-cited forums of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, and I am pretty sure that this blog will be my new best friend:

Once I have the canoe in my hands, I can better asses the damage and what needs to be done. I then have an important decision to make:

  • Restore to original, or customize to suit?

The purist in me says that it must be restored to preserve the original, but the practical side of me says to make it the way I want. Keep the heritage, but customize the canoe to suit my needs - a concept that's likely sacrilege to some. Not adhering to the original opens up some options, but on the other hand this is a classic canoe and no matter what I do will never be light and fast so I might as well just stick to the original. If I restore to original the decisions are pretty simple - just repair everything to factory specs. However, if I want to customize it, there are some decisions I'll need to make:

  • Colour? Green & red were the factory colours, and it's currently a beautiful green. Blue is nice, yellow too, but red is fastest. 
  • Keel? A shoe keel 3/8" thick & 2 1/4" wide is currently present as per the original. But it's not strictly needed and Mike makes a some good arguments for leaving it off here.
  • Yoke? The original has only a flat thwart. A contoured yoke would make the portage more comfortable.
  • Seats? The original has cane seats and the seats in this canoe are due for repair or replacement. They have quite a small caned area, and if replacing I could enlarge the seat for more comfort when paddling heeled over.
  • Gunwales? There may be potential to pare down the gunwales to save some weight. 
I'd love to hear from you on what approach you think is best, and why. I am only just starting to learn about cedar canvas canoe restoration, so if you have any resources (books, websites, etc.) for me, please send them my way. Of course I'll document the restoration here on the blog, though I probably won't get into the project until the fall or winter.

A couple of initial pictures:

The rest of the photos can be found at

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Saskatchewan Canoe Symposium

Mark your calendars! On April 25th we are having a fantastic event to celebrate all forms of paddling in Saskatchewan. In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of one of Canada's oldest and foremost caone outfitters, Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, we are gathering as many folks as we can from far and wide to get together and share campfire stories and tales of adventure. We'll be looking at the history of paddling in Saskatchewan, the current state of paddling in our region, and take a look forward to an exciting future!

Paul Mason (accomplished paddler, author, creator of Bubble Street cartoons, and son of famed paddler, Bill Mason) will be visiting from the Ottawa Valley along with many other paddlers young and old. Ric Driediger of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters will be giving the keynote address.

In addition to a fantastic supper at TCU Place in Saskatoon, there will be exhibitor displays (including Coldspring Paddling, of course) and a "Show & Shine" for paddle-craft of various sorts that folks want to show off (I better put a fresh coat of varnish on the cedar-strip kayak!). Have a canoe, kayak or other non-motorized craft that you want to show off? Then sign up to put it on display!

Some of the vendors & organizations involved in supporting this event or attending as exhibitors (so far, and not necessarily complete):
~We'd love to have more exhibitors join us so if you're interested in a table or booth at the show, give them a shout: - see the "Be an Exhibitor" tab.