Thursday, October 08, 2015

Go Vote!

Here is a post I made earlier this morning on facebook expressing my opinion regarding the current political party leading and shaping the Canadian government.

I have a strong negative opinion about the current governing political party. Here are a few of my top reasons:
  • Gutting of the sciences (AAFC, NRC, EC, etc.) and muzzling scientists is high on my list.
  • Lack of environmental stewardship and leadership.
  • Cronyism and corruption.
  • Turning our prisons and treatment centres into warehouses of criminals and diminishing treatment.
  • Removal of the Navigable Waters Protection Act (in a budget bill, no less).
  • Cuts to Parks Canada.
  • The treatment of anyone who expresses environmental concern as a terrorist.
  • Abuse of our parliamentary system, from proroguing Parliament to giant omnibus bills.
  • A general refusal to speak with or answer to the media, a media that is a venue for communication with the people who Harper is supposed to answer to, us.
  • The general degradation of what I love about being Canadian, I feel this country has become more mean spirited and taken a general turn for the worse over the last decade.

I have a strong negative opinion about the current governing political party. Here are a few of my top reasons:...
Posted by Bryan Sarauer on Thursday, 8 October 2015

Regardless of whether you agree with me or disagree, please 
vote on October 19th. Your vote matters!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Vinessa Currie, One Helluva Woman

A good friend of mine died on Friday night. She was driving to Saskatoon with her family to take part in the Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium the next day. Vinessa was a founding member of the Common Currents Paddling Association and part of our small organizing committee. The following is an extended version of what I wrote for the Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium website.  

Vinessa speaking at the 2014 Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium that she instigated. Here she displays her ever-present smile in one of it's more subdued forms.  

Passion. Vitality. Energy. Excitement. Enthusiasm. Laughter. Rather busy at times. But above all, passion. These are some of the words and phrases that come to mind as we remember Vinessa Currie-Foster.

On Friday, April 24th, 2015, the night before the Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium, Vinessa was en route to Saskatoon for the symposium with her young family. Tragically, she never made it to her destination and the paddling world, her family, friends, and all who knew her, are left to mourn her passing. Vinessa’s death hung heavy over our hearts throughout the symposium, yet she would have loved to see so many people together, celebrating paddling, and being brought closer as a paddling community, reaching out to embrace new members in that community.

Without Vinessa, there likely would not be a Common Currents Paddling Association or a Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium. It was her bright vision which lit the spark that brought the 2014 Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium into being, and it was the success of that initial event that brought Vinessa and the rest of us together in its wake to create the Common Currents Paddling Association as a vessel to continue to bring the paddling community together. This was just one of her pursuits. She was also involved in Nature Saskatchewan (Education Director), Canoe Kayak Saskatchewan (Vice President), Leave No Trace Canada (Master Educator course provider), Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association, Tourism Saskatchewan, Canada Nature Escapes and more, not to mention running Clearwater Canoeing full time.

Just 35 years old, Vinessa was a force to be reckoned with. She was passionate about paddling, the north, wilderness, Saskatchewan, history, and passionate about her family. Not only was Vinessa a rising pillar in the paddling and tourism community, she was also a mother, wife, friend and sister. She will have a legacy in the people she has inspired to do great things, and her legacy will be reflected through her children and family. Those of us who have met her twin boys know that they, too, have a fair share of their mother’s energy.

Over $3800 plus the donation of a canoe was raised during the paddling symposium, money that will go to helping Vinessa’s family in the aftermath of her death. If you wish to contribute to helping her family, there is a GoFundMe campaign started and there is a trust account in memory of Vinessa set up at the CIBC in Maidstone, donations to that account can be made at any CIBC branch with the transit/account #00378/72-70933.

We also hope to be able to create something in Vinessa’s memory that will endure for the long term, but what shape that takes has yet to be determined. If this is something you wish to contribute towards through ideas, work or a donation, please contact us at

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium, April 25th

Hi folks, the Saskatchewan Paddling Symposium is less than three weeks away! April 25th is going to come very, very fast. But, everything IS coming together very nicely, albeit a tad hectically. I am super excited.

Check it out at and see you on April 25th!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Pogies vs. Gloves for Coldwater Paddling

I've had some discussion (argument) recently with a knowledgeable fellow about wearing pogies versus gloves while cold-water paddling. The other fellow dismissed pogies as not adequate and argued that gloves are better because they keep your hands warm if you end up in the water, a valid point. Pogies are attached to the paddle shaft and if I swim, I'll have to take my hands out to perform the rescue and now have bare hands. The argument goes that you should always have something on your hands. 

Here's the thing, for me at least, gloves don't work. I have thick neoprene gloves and I'd much rather wear the pogies (mine are NRS Mambas). In the gloves, my hands get wet and cold. Once cold they will stay cold. Further, have you ever tried to do anything wearing thick neoprene gloves? It's hard. Grabbing deck lines is hard. Performing any sort of task is difficult, even when the hands are warm. Once you have cold hands in cold neoprene, they become practically useless for hanging onto anything smaller than a paddle shaft. 

By contrast the pogies act like a good set of warm mitts. My hands are toasty warm even when wet. I can pull the pogies off, perform some task with bare hands, and get them back in the pogies fairly quickly to re-warm or perhaps before they get cold. And my hands do re-warm in the pogies. In a rescue situation I now start out with warm dexterous hands, can get myself back in the kayak with a minimum of trouble, and get my hands back on the paddle shaft and back into the pogies. Gloves slow my rescues and keep me in the water longer. 

For me & my large hands, pogies + thin gloves does not work well since my pogies fit snug enough to make getting them on with gloves tough - and they do need to fit properly. However this may be a good option for some people. 

I should note that I do bring gloves with me when I cold-water paddle, and I keep them accessible. 

Whatever you do there is one major point that I would like to make - MAKE SURE IT WORKS FOR YOU. Try different combinations. Practice your rescues in the conditions you paddle. It's one thing to conclude that something works, but you have to ensure it still works when the sh!t hits the fan. Go for a swim then make sure you can still use your hands.

Going for an icy swim close to shore is a good way to verify that your clothing system actually works, without getting in over your head. If it passes this test with a few minutes in the water, move on to rescues to ensure that you can still help yourself. 

I enjoy paddling in conditions that many call "crazy", but I won't do it with the deck stacked against me. I paddle what might be considered dangerous conditions, in a very safe manner. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Paddle - And a Visit From The Water Rescue Team

I finally managed to take advantage of the warm weather and get out for a paddle on the South Saskatchewan River yesterday afternoon. The air temperature was a high of 11°C (cooler on the water I expect) and there was a fair south breeze as a headwind for the first half of the distance I paddled. The water was ice cold, literally since I was paddling among chunks of ice. Most of the river was ice-free (excepting many small bits and occasional larger chunks) in the section that I paddled since the weir breaks up the ice.

View upriver shortly after launching.

As I set out, I was passed on the river by a fellow in a kayak (Dagger Alchemy 14) wearing only a tank top & combat pants - no PFD, no wet suit, no protection from the water of any sort. He had launched a few hundred metres farther downriver from me. I launched at the north end of the city and paddled upriver towards the weir.

Fellow paddler visible along the on-shore ice across the river. 

View upriver while underway.

It is still March, after all.

As I approached the area downriver of the railroad bridge and the weir, there were suddenly a huge number of sirens all around. I was across the river and noticed firetrucks at the weir on the west side, then driving slowly along the road on that side of the river (Spadina). I paddled across to see what the fuss was and was hailed by fire-folk in drysuits. They told me they had a report of a kayaker in the water in distress and asked if I'd seen a blue-green kayak or paddler - someone spotted something as they were driving over a bridge and called 911.

The only person I'd seen was the fellow who went past me in the blue kayak - but he was still in his kayak since I could see him just upriver a couple hundred meters from me. They launched their water-rescue boat just upriver from where I was and roared off downriver to look for the person in distress. Meanwhile I hailed the other paddler and asked if he'd seen anyone else in or on the water (he hadn't). We then paddled together back toward the place I had launched, and I also gently advised him on more appropriate paddling attire. I told him that if nothing else please wear a PFD to make the body recovery much easier for the rescue folks. As we paddled back the rescue team pulled up on their return upriver to again ask us if we'd "seen any bodies". We hadn't.

My theory is that someone saw a floating chunk of ice in the river which could have had a blue-green look and could have been kayak shaped. Maybe they linked that with the fellow in the blue kayak and thought that he ended up in the water. It's not a very good theory, but I'm not sure what else might have happened.

At the end of my paddle I did a roll and even went for a swim. I can confirm that the water is very cold, and the drysuit works very well. Drysuits cost a fair bit, but they are a great investment in comfort and safety. A used or clearance drysuit can be a great way to greatly enhance your safety on the water and to extend your safe paddling season.

Nice day for a swim, as long as you are wearing a drysuit and plenty of insulating layers. 
By the way, here is what I wore for my paddle. I was warm above the water (not hot) and comfortable in the water for several minutes.

Here is a Google Earth estimation of my paddle. 6.5 km paddled. The weir is marked at the south end (bottom) of the image. You can see where I looped back to chat with the firefighters hailing me from shore, and where I paddled back to join up with the fellow in the blue kayak.

Fairly approximate representation of my paddle path. The blue dots represent the very approximate path of the fellow in the blue kayak. 

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!