Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Paddling, Part 1

Our part of the world is frozen pretty solid right now but I still got out for some paddling in December. Never mind that it was in Florida where their winter temperatures (water and air) were nearly as warm as it ever gets here in the summer. On Thursday I paddled an afternoon in the ocean to have fun and hone my skills, and on Friday our family went on a tour on protected waters to see some Floridian wildlife. I'll cover that tour in a separate post.

First, since I don't often get a lot of coastal paddling in and I wanted to work on those skills, I hired Michael Shugg to do an afternoon session of coastal kayak skills with me. Mostly, I wanted to learn to play and tour in surf conditions. Michael is an American Canoe Association instructor from Orlando and he recently started the company Adventure Spirit Kayaking. We started out at a Port Canaveral boat launch, not far from a number of cruise ships, then headed out around the point to the beach at Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach.
Palm trees and cruise ships at the launch - things you just don't see much of in Saskatchewan.
Once out of the port area and clear of the boat traffic, I tried a couple of rolls on both sides to get rid of any rust that might have built up from a couple of months off of the water. We then took advantage of the bit of swell (1.5 feet?) to catch some waves coming in to the beach, working first on coming in slower than the waves and in control, as you would do with a load while touring. That was easy enough so then we spent most of the afternoon working on catching and surfing the waves. On my very first attempt to surf some waves in toward shore I was broached (the following wave pushed my stern sideways until I was parallel to the wave) and I quickly capsized since I hadn't yet learned to lean into the wave. I rolled back up quite nicely so it was great to see my roll working in the real world conditions.

A pretty calm day out there but there was some swell, I swear it!
 It was also remarkable how warm the water was. I was pretty comfortable in just a rash guard and shorts over neoprene shorts. Just guessing, I'd say the water was pretty close to 20°C and the air was close to 25°C. Like I said, warm summer conditions (if we're lucky).

That's probably one of the waves I should have been surfing, rather than trying to catch on the camera.
I did have difficulties with a couple of aspects. First, it was hard for this prairie guy to time the waves - I often seemed to pick a little one that didn't surf me well, then I'd get halfway to the beach and end up getting the larger wave(s) that were following the one I picked. These waves would be steeper by the time I was trying to catch them and I wouldn't get a good ride before being broached. I also had some trouble picking the right spot as they always seemed to be bigger, 'just over there.'

On shore for a snack. Bryan's little tip: don't toss a water bottle and open bag of crackers into the day hatch loose together when you expect to be rolling over and over in the surf. The water bottle will smash your crackers to bits and make quite the mess in the day hatch, especially when that hatch cover comes off later during rescue practice. 

Myself after handing the camera to Michael for a while. It looks too calm for a helmet, but it did come in handy a couple of times when I approached the beach helmet-side-down.

A successful surf into the beach.
Another thing that I did wrong at first but which quickly got better (until the end again when I seemed to be losing it), was that I leaned the wrong direction while broaching and the wave would dump me upside down pretty quickly. I learned (thanks to Michael) that I needed to keep the hull toward the beach while bracing on the wave. When I did that well, the wave couldn't capsize me.

Ready to head back out again for another try.

Low bracing as the wave spills away underneath me.

Finally, I had troubles controlling my angle on the wave. Most of my paddling is forward (or backward) and I can easily control the direction with correction strokes. Surfing a wave, you use a stern rudder which although I know how to do it in general, it's not totally intuitive or natural for me yet. I have to think about it and by the time I think about it, it's too late and I'm starting to broach on the wave.

I surfed backwards (on purpose) once or twice and in some respects that was easier for me since I could see what waves were coming. Heading out through the waves was interesting - that's the first time I've been smacked in the chest by a (short) wall of water. It was easy though to reach past the wave, plant my paddle, and power through. That's relatively small stuff though - I can see how that would be a challenge in some bigger surf.
On shore, ready to head out for another run.
By the time we were done I had salt water in every orifice in my body and had been more or less pummelled by the breaking waves (usually right at shore where it was very shallow). I did get Michael to take a video of me - unfortunately he captured my surf that ended in my one and only wet exit (I later practiced some rescues, but those were intentional wet exits). Looking at this video (below), it looks like I was bailing and setting up for a capsize and roll long before the surf actually dumped me. By this time it was getting toward the end of the afternoon and the surf had rolled me rather a lot of times. I guess I was maybe starting to anticipate what seemed inevitable?

We finished up the afternoon with some rescue practice - more rolling on each side, then re-enter & roll, then cowboy re-entry (which went very well other than popping my day hatch cover loose and getting my crackers soggy), then bow rescue, then a t-rescue. After that, we paddled back to the launch, a trip I'm certain was much longer than it was on the way out. Paddling back through the port entrance, we passed two cruise ships on their way out to the ocean, including a Disney ship which was just as loud as the theme parks my family had just visited in the first 2/3 of our trip to Florida. At the same time that one of the cruise ships was passing us, we paddled past a moored gambling cruise ship (much smaller than the other 2 ships, but a large ship nonetheless). We were no more than 60' from each of these massive building-sized boats in our tiny watercraft.

All in all it was a great afternoon on the water. I was glad to have made a new paddling acquaintance in Michael, I learned a lot, and I have lots to practice on Lake Diefenbaker or Lac La Ronge when the water warms up a bit.

Tons of fun.
If you find yourself in Florida and itching to get out kayaking and learn some skills, I highly recommend Michael Shugg and Adventure Spirit Kayaking.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Spirits?

This is the strangest thing I've seen all day.

REI Ugly Performance Sweater

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Painting & Traditional Canoe Tripping

Here's another video you might enjoy, I know I did. (Very "Mason-esque".)

I'm more nervous releasing this video than any paintings I've done. It may be because this little video hasn't been produced in a professional manner - I am not a videographer, but a painter. But videos are fun to do!

Although my first language is French, the video is in English so that I could reach a wider audience. And I just didn't want to subtitle everything. 

The video is a bit comtemplative, but it will give an idea to the fans of my work how I get inspired. So take a few relaxing minutes, and let me bring you on a little canoe trip in the wilderness.

Music: "Coast Through Life" by Kelly Bryarly, "Sentomentos" by Marie Ève Clairmont, "This Life" by Ryan Huston. "Coast Through Life" and "This Life" licences has been acquired through Vimeo Music Store. "Sentomentos has been composed and played by a good friend of mine. 

Time: 6min 44sec

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Instructional Video: Canoeing by Reg Blomfield

This is a fantastic video from the mid-1930's demonstrating some amazing paddling skills. Toward the end there is a shot that is hard to imagine being taken with the technology that pre-dated GoPros by about  70 years. Whoever paddles near me when I'm solo in an empty canoe better be ready to duck because I'm going to be trying out the "technique" demonstrated at 10 minutes in!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

You Best Stay Away From The Churchill River

From the folks at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Near-Real Time Satellite Imagery

I love this site:
From there, I can keep an eye on fun things like ice-out & freeze up, monitor forest fires, check snow cover, and more. All with images that are as little as a couple of hours old.

To find the images relevant for my area (central Saskatchewan), I choose the North America subset, then roll my mouse over the images to find the ones I want, usually "Waskesiu" (covers from Lake Diefenbaker in the south to north of the Churchill River, and extending well into Manitoba to the east and Alberta to the west) or "Bratts Lake" if I'm interested in areas to the south, or "Thompson" if I'm interested in areas to the north.

From there you can choose the resolution you want, and the type of image you want. They offer several types of images which are probably very meaningful to those that know how to interpret them, but I normally stick to the True Colour images. You can also turn on layers to show fires, borders, and coasts. This is helpful to position the image with points of reference you are familiar with. You can also download the image into Google Earth which makes pinpointing less-obvious locations very easy.

Due to those pesky clouds, you may not be able to see a given area on the specific date, but you can scroll through the days to find a nice clear view.

For those who paddle the far north, this is a great way to keep an eye on whether your float plane will be able to land or not. For the rest of us, it's fun to check it out and dream of trips.

The image from yesterday, a warm day with lots of cumulonimbus, is shown below (head to the website for much better resolution, but don't expect to be able to peer into anyone's back yard).

Less than hour after I posted the above, I find another way to view the same thing, and it's pretty awesome:

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Codette Lake Ice Surge

This was filmed by the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (formerly Sask Watershed Authority) on Codette Lake, about 250 km northeast of here. Unbelievable.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Chris Hadfield & Music Monday

I'm a science guy and I love music, so this is pretty awesome.
(p.s. Chris Hadfield is a paddler, and it was his brother's stove plans that I used when we built ours a few years ago. Chris & Dave have been referred to in this blog a few times over the years.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Strange Micro-Climate Around Fort Mac?

I was having a look at satellite photos to check on the snow melt in the prairies and wondering if the Saskatchewan Rivers were opening up. Indeed, the North Saskatchewan River seems to be opening up. All of the prairies are covered in snow with the exception of southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. Then I noticed a peculiar dark patch surrounding Fort McMurray. It seems that this one spot in northern Alberta has also had it's snow melted, or the snow is dark in colour. It just happens that the area closely corresponds to the bitumen sands (aka tar sands) and the oil processing facilities there. Go figure.

Daily satellite image from 24/04/2013 viewed as a Google Earth overlay. The dark region is in stark contrast to the white of the remainder of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The image above is a cropped view of the satellite image (find the original at from yesterday viewed via Google Earth. The river heading south to north is the Athabasca River and the Clearwater River joins at Fort McMurray flowing west out of Saskatchewan. The brown area amounts to about 90 km north and south, and about 35 km east and west.

By the way, the above effect is not simply due to urbanization. The larger cities of Edmonton & Saskatoon look much more white than the area around Fort Mac.

Monday, April 15, 2013

11 Year Old Rolling Her Kayak

This video is from the fellow Paddle Canada sea kayak instructors at SKILS, Sea Kayak Leadership Instruction, a great company out of BC (Michael of SKILS was my co-instructor-trainer for my instructor course). Since the kid in the video is nearly the same age as my older daughter, I find this video pretty awesome. Time to rent some pool time for the family!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Summer Dreaming

Here's a summer photo for a wintry morning. I love this photo of my daughters, it captures their characters well (one in a pretty little dress while fishing, the other in practical camping clothes).
The kids, fishing on Echo Island, Amisk Lake, Saskatchewan.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Parapalegic Kayaking

This is pretty cool in my books...

Friday, February 01, 2013

"Running" Otter Rapids

Today over on our Northstar Expeditions blog I posted a series of photos showing myself and +Jay running Otter Rapids (Churchill River, northern Saskatchewan) in 2007. It's an awesome series of photos taken from shore and really shows the fun to be had in Otter.

No, we haven't sunk in this photo (yet), we're merely in the trough between waves. Head to the full post to see the rest of the photos and learn the outcome of these brave adventurers.