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.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Kate Weekes Kickstarter Campaign

A few years ago we hosted Kate Weekes for a house concert. We loved meeting Kate and loved her music. Now she's ready to put together the next album and in order to do so running a kickstarter campaign to fund the recording session.

Kate lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, and writes music that appeals to me as a paddler and outdoorsperson.

If you read this blog, then you probably have an interest in the north, paddling, the outdoors. If you enjoy this blog, odds are good you'll enjoy Kate's music, too. Give her project a boost and contribute $20 or more and get yourself some great music in the process. Win - win.

Maybe it's time we host another house concert!

Photo from  Photo credit: John Quinsey

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Paddling As A Workout

The following is a guest post from Joseph at  Austin Canoe & Kayak. By the way, Austin is having their own taste of winter right now. 

It is common knowledge that getting a good workout is important for a healthy lifestyle and well-being. As most of you know, paddling can be quite the workout depending on your activity and water conditions. However, these different types of conditions can give you different types of workouts. Let’s dig deeper into what they can be…

Paddling for Exercise
Though we are currently in the depth of winter, spring will soon be upon us and fitness enthusiasts have more of an opportunity to emerge from the gyms and return to the outdoors (though many of us have been out all winter). This could mean getting off the treadmill and hitting a real running trail or hopping off the stationary bike and getting on a real one. However, for those of you who just can’t stay off the water consider integrating paddling into your daily workout regime.

Many people think paddling is a great way to connect with nature and water, and it is! But what many people tend to forget is that paddling can actually provide quite the unique workout, especially for your upper body. Paddling can also offer great aerobic and cardio benefits, depending on how intense you get. Paddling can help round out your workout regimen by pairing it with something like running or cycling, which focuses on lower body strength.

Some of the Many Benefits
One of the best benefits of paddling as a workout is that it provides an incredible core workout. The core of your body is made up of upper and lower ab muscles and is strengthened through the turning and shifting of the kayak and paddles. Each turn of the kayak results in the use of these ab muscles, which over time builds them into a strong core. A strong core is important for everyone. It gives you better stability, balance, and support for your back, hips, and joints.

But of course, the paddling motion does more than strengthen your core. Each stroke of the paddle uses the shoulder and arm muscles, which over time increases your muscle mass and muscle tone. The repetitive stroke motion also can turn paddling into an aerobic workout, depending on how much you are exerting yourself. Calorie burn, of course, varies by paddler and is dependent on how hard and long you paddle, and what types of water and wind conditions you are paddling in. Continuous paddling can be compared to swimming at a moderate pace or a slow jog. Lastly, this continuous movement of the paddle raises heart rate and helps better your cardiovascular health. There aren’t many sports out there that offer such a great combination of strength training, cardio, and aerobics all while enjoying the great outdoors!

For those looking to build your anaerobic capacity, interval training can be a great way to achieve this. This entails paddling hard for one minute, relaxing for two or three and then going hard again. Interval training is very commonly done by kayak specific athletes but can be useful for anyone looking for additional anaerobic workouts.

Balancing Your Workout

Paddling offers a great alternative to more conventional workout routines. It can help break up just about any exercise program, which is great for strength, endurance, and overall fitness. Conventional workouts tend to focus mainly on the lower body, so paddling supplements these activities very well. Paddling is easy to jump right into, but over time skill and technique will improve to make for more effective workouts. We encourage you to investigate further into all of the things that will increase the benefits of paddling workout. Learning proper stroke technique and posture are both key to ensuring a good workout.

About the Author:
Joseph is an avid kayaker based out of the central Texas area. He has paddled many of central Texas’ waterways and has attended and/or participated in many kayak fishing tournaments, races and paddling festivals. He’s currently employed at Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK) and loves that he gets to spend time working with his favorite toys.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Warm Winter Paddling, Part 3

An unusual weather pattern settled over the prairies last week. In the wake of the much-hyped "polar vortex" that brought very cold temperatures to much of the USA (i.e. the jet stream pushed cold northern air southward - sounds like "winter"), we had a week of unseasonably warm weather. With the warm winter air, comes the wind. Mid week we even had winds of up to 110 km/hr here in Saskatoon. As a result, although I had wanted to take advantage of the warmth and get out on the water earlier, I was unable to do so until the dying hours of the system (work and family life were also major factors). So, with the wind blowing about 30 km/hr from the west, I went down to the river on Sunday morning to check the conditions. Happily, the river bank created a lee blocking the wind, the conditions on the west bank of the river were calm and beautiful. Home I went to grab my kayak and paddling gear and returned to the river to get out for a short paddle.

Ready to go & dressed for immersion: NRS neoprene hood, long underwear top & bottom, Level Six hot fuzz unisuit (one-piece long undies), fleece sweater, double layer of warm socks, Level Six Emperor drysuit, Chota mukluks, thick neoprene pogies, PFD, spray skirt. 
The paddle was indeed short - my GPS tells me that I was moving for just over 45 minutes - as we had other family activities happening that day and my wife needed the car. But, a short paddle is much nicer than no paddle at all.

It was 1.6°C at launch according to Environment Canada. I launched from the west side of the South Saskatchewan River at the boathouse in Victoria Park because it afforded me good access to the river and parking. Transporting the kayak to the water had never been easier, simply sliding the boat along in the snow. Launching was OK, the docks are out at this time of year (though a piece remains this winter) and the river bottom here is muddy due to the silt that the water treatment plant just upriver dumps back into the river (an iron-rich clay that the plant filters out of our river). I chose not to launch at the piece of dock due to a large tree branch caught up under and beyond the dock. However, I was able to get in from the bank easy enough without bringing a bunch of the orange clay mud on board.
Taking a break  in the eddy to get a couple of  photos.

Looks like I really need to stretch the neck gasket on the drysuit!

With the low angle sun, the snow and water, it was REALLY bright. I must remember to bring sunglasses next time.

The open channel in the river sticks to the west shore and that shore was ice free meaning egress was possible to the west bank anywhere that I paddled. The open channel is fairly narrow from the boathouse and upriver to beyond the water treatment plant, so the current was relatively strong through this stretch. I was able to paddle upriver at about 3 - 4 km/hr. I paddled upriver about 35 minutes until my allotted time was nearly up, then turned with the river and headed downstream. Now going at speeds of up to 13 km/hr, I was back at the boathouse in just a few minutes, so continued downstream toward downtown Saskatoon, before once again turning back toward the boathouse.

The ice pushed up this large chunk, 1.5 m or so tall.

Heading downriver toward the city centre.

Happy paddler!

Strange tracks in the snow.
It was a short paddle and a beautiful day on the river. Clearly, it was so short that any sensible person wouldn't even have bothered. I'm glad I did.

GPS track overlayed on Google Earth satellite imagery. I have drawn in the approximate ice cover as a translucent white shape (I only drew it as far as the Idylwyld Bridge, though it does continue downriver to the weir). Upriver on this map is toward the bottom left corner. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter Paddling, Part 2

I posted recently about our family's trip to Florida and getting out for a paddle on the ocean while there (see Winter Paddling, Part 1 here). The next day, I got out on the water again, this time with the rest of the family.

Based on a recommendation on LinkedIn, I booked a tour for my family through A Day Away Kayak Tours operating out of Titusville. We chose the "Mondo Combo Refuge tour", a tour in Indian River Lagoon at the Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge that starts off in the afternoon and goes into the evening. The tour promises wildlife & bioluminescence. Offering a sampling of a few items, it sounded like a good fit for the family.

It took us longer to get to the launch than I anticipated, due to being more accustomed to open prairie driving, finding a giant geocache(store), a protracted pee break at McDonald's, and a stop to allow a sailboat pass under a draw bridge. When we arrived at the launch we were a bit late but our guide didn't seem too bothered (we had touched base via phone en route). It turns out we were the only ones on the tour - we were getting a private tour!

Almost to the launch, waiting for a sailboat to pass under the draw bridge. 

At our launch near Haulover Canal. We paddled tandem open-cockpit kayaks, one adult and one kid per kayak. I usually prefer something a little more sleek. 

Pre-paddle family portrait. The boat behind would just have come through Haulover Canal and under the drawbridge pictured earlier.

Kid 1

Kid 2

Strange plant life (mangroves) growing out of the brackish water.

A fellow on shore was throwing a net to catch bait fish.

Hauling in his catch.

My wife was VERY cool to the idea of encountering alligators while paddling. She got used to it pretty quickly with the reassurance of our guide, Tim. Kid 2, however, was not so happy. 

Checking out an alligator from a few feet away.


Woodpecker holes in the palm tree stumps.

You can see me on the right taking advantage of the high performance characteristics of the Pamlico 135T by carving a beautiful edged turn. Of course that's a joke. The thing doesn't really carve an edged turn at all. 

This must be where our herons come to spend their winter. Like all the birds we saw in Florida, they were much less afraid of us than they seem to be at home. 

Sunset approaching in the lagoon and watching for manatees.

We saw the ripples and nostrils that were the evidence of a couple of very large beasts below us. Two manatees swam below our kayaks then surfaced some about 30' away. Although we couldn't see much of them due to the murky water of the lagoon, it was a very neat experience.

Another heron.

Sunset over Indian River Lagoon.

Tim certainly had a relaxed approach.

Family portrait on Indian River Lagoon.

Just after sunset we saw two dolphins, a mother and calf. The light is too poor to get a good photo, but we really enjoyed seeing the pair swimming nearby. The adult seemed to be shepherding the calf. 

Just a sliver of a moon. My wife noted that it seems the wrong way 'round down here. 

Soon to be heading in search of glowing jellyfish.

Waiting for it to become dark enough for the bioluminescent comb jellyfish to appear. There are no photos of that because, like my previous attempts to photograph bioluminescence with a point & shoot camera, it didn't work.

Highlights of the paddle were definitely seeing the wildlife while on the water. We saw an alligator up close, heard wild pigs in the bush, saw the nostrils and upwelling from the tails of a couple of manatees, saw the dorsal fins and backs of a couple of dolphins, saw osprey, vultures, herons, and kingfishers, saw many jumping fish, heard the strange sounds of red drum fish in the dark, and  held glowing comb jellyfish with their undulating lights.

Partial GPS track of our paddle. In total, we paddled only about 7 km during 3 hours or so on the water. The straight line is where I had the GPS off for a while. 

Close up look at a part of the paddle that Tim referred to as "the Maze", where we saw the alligator and the manatees. From the water level, things seem quite natural. From the satellite views it seems clear that the area is heavily modified by humans.

A broader look at the area we paddled (purple squiggles at center). Cape Canaveral is at the lower right, Titusville is to the left, Cocoa Beach would be farther south. 

Our guide, Tim Raley happens to have an online persona as "Primitive Tim". Check out his blog at and his youtube channel at Here's a video he posted a few days after our tour; I wonder if it's the same 'gator? (I'm sure it isn't.)

Also check out his related blog post: