Monday, November 28, 2011

Cola cove: A weekend in Mount Eagle bay

It's been a rough week. With my kayak transporter still in the shop, I was grounded. Friday marked the longest time I had been off the brine in two years; and it was really getting me down. Rental companies don't hand out cars with kayak roof racks unfortunately. A whole week without my passion, I was beyond ready to relinquish suburbia and get back to real life.

Coffee steaming early Saturday morning.  Strong smell of burning wood and slight smell of oil in my fathers garage. My Avocet would be a good surrogate for my Legend. A worthy catalysis for relaxation.

Mermaid purses covered the beach. Ensconced in beds of kelp torn from the ocean from the relentless gale force winds and surf we've had over the past month. All however showed signs of the skates exit from it;s cocoon; a welcomed sign of a healthy population. The winds and my overall exhaustion from a formitable week contained me to Mount Eagle bay. I took pleasure in the warm containment of exhaustion and mother nature as I launched from Gilbert's beach.

  A simple thing like walking on a beach many people take for granted. For the past 2 years walking has been a challenge to me. Following my oldest son and my father to the beach last year; my ankle blew out twice before I sat on the beach letting them carry on. It was beyond  frustrating. 29 years old and I couldn't even manage to walk. With the use of a brace I've gained a lot of mobility back. I no longer cringe every step and no longer have to pop my ankle back in place while puking. While still watching my step I now enjoy every second. One injury had taken this amazing ability away from me before; I wouldn't take something so wonderful for granted again.

Bottles unfortunately covered the small coves as I paddled along. Soon spotting and removing the bottles became a game. Every cove held a multitude among the driftwood. The high tide reach decorated in a twisted collage of seaweed, bleached twisted wood, and trash. I stopped at each cove and scowered the beach slowly. Relaxing, enjoying life and giving back; by packing the garbage out.

A bottle jammed among a rocky shoreline....what better place to practice!!  Spotting each bottle I jumped out of my kayak and swam ashore; kayak in tow. Bottles providing an obtainable goal; a spot to attempt to land. Practice in rough landings at unknown intervals to keep me honest; where I would normally pick the "best"area to practice swimming ashore I now had something to simulate a "no decision but to land " location. The water cold even through my thermal layers as I swam, practiced and collected.

Exhausted from multiple swims and cold; the "beach clean up" turned into a challenge to look closely and focus on the moment. Catching my breath and drinking warm gatoraide to stave off the cold I took time to appreciate the jewels of fragile life around me. Small glimpses of beauty washed upon the shore. A symbol of everything I love among signs of everything I despise.

5 coves, 8 swims to rocky outcrops.....and a little swell to play in. Re balanced I headed home landing just after sunset. Lifting my kayak full to the brim with plastic bottles upon my shoulder; to a soundtrack of crashing waves. -5 celcius my breath trailed my slow walk up the beach.

Finally a good exhaustion to sleep in.

Sunday brought the idea to involve my family in the clean up; and make it fun. My oldest decided he would bring his little Arctic Cat to help haul the garbage off the beach in front of our house. One large garbage bag quickly filled from an unfortunately abundant supply of discarded drink containers. We decided to head to another beach in our bay to do what else we could.

Every boulder became a mountain to climb. My oldest scouted for bottles from each large rock he found. A quick addition of Newfoundland language turned into a cultural addition to boot. I posed the question of Arn? (Newfoundlander for "do you have any") as he scouted ahead. Responses carried on the strong wind was a resounding "Narn" ("No I got nothing") or "YES OVEEEERRR DEEEEEAAAAARRRRR DADDYYY!!" Little legs moving as fast as they could over the bolder strewn beach. Many times distracted by a stick or a trip and tumble. Another full garbage bag we returned home climbing any cliff or large boulder we could find.

 A couple km's under our belt and a great day outside. Fresh awake from his nap my youngest even found employment in our operations washing center. As enthusiastic as his older brother had been in his part....and maybe a little more wet!

While cleaning our bottles mom found something we had overlooked in our fun. Another message in a bottle! My son was ecstatic! With a little encouragement from me he was flat out over hyper and over the moon! Tomorrow Caleb will contact Josh to discuss where the bottle was found. What a excellent find for a 5 year old to cap off a great day!

A simple plastic bottle. A kayak training tool, a free currency, a vessel for a message. And most importantly a way to instill a love for the outdoor in my boys. 4 bags of bottles mark two weeks of occasionally cleaning up a random beach. A small dent in the constant garbage finding it's ways to the truly wild places still left in this province. My small part may not ever amount to the saving of these places. However I hope the eyes of my two boys looking for purpose in this world we live; will remember 4 mere bags as something much bigger. 

And maybe just maybe the answers are within them.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel

(abandoned Copper mine circa 1880 Avondale) 
Tomorrow will mark 13 days of no kayaking. My car is still being repaired. Having stored two kayaks in Trinity bay we are taking the rental car; and after the longest time sans water in years...

Theres light at the end of the tunnel!!

Trinity bay here I come!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

07h30 In Kilbride

After a work week of travelling around the island and couple thousand kilometers on the road; I was very glad  to get back to my own bed in Kilbride. At Midnight I drifted off to sleep with the decision to awake early to get a long nice paddle in. To relax and get back "in sync".

07h30 my oldest awoke me. I drank my coffee and entertained him till mom woke up.  Opening the window to get a picture of light snow that was blanketing my car and kayak seemed like a good way to start a future blog post and paddle.

I noticed my car was not where it was parked the night before. In fact someone was so messed up that they drove across my neighbours lawn and into my car destroying the passenger side. A tidy 3 point turn showed their taking off before someone noticed.

My day has been filled full of very annoying people. from Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Dispatch who wouldn't even send over a car or officer...I had to bum a ride across the city to report it. To insurance adjusters and investigators who wont come till Monday-Wens. Finding a rental car has been a all day thing where local phone numbers land you in a endless cycle of please press 2, please press 6, i'm sorry that number is invalid..... Luckily I couldn't find a ride home after giving my statement so the 10km walk gave me time to cool down...and realize "crocs" were not a great idea!

All that said I hope the person who messed up my car really get's the help they need. It's too easy to look outside and see just how my life is affected. However the truck prints leading to the destruction of my car has a much sadder story than any vehicle damage. I'm sure his family deals with much more damage each day they live.

No kayaking today...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shadows and aberrations in reality

"The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human."
-Victor Hugo 

Slamming doors as feet thumped quickly down creaking stairs. The smell of fear. Dried dead branches cracked as extended arms pushed forward through the evergreens. Crunching snow barely audible over heart beats; thoughts loudly telling them to get as far away as they could. The eerie quiet as D'Iberville's french troops scanned the hill lines. Blue tunics walking among the homes; still warm and smelling of cooked fish. The settlers had escaped the slaughter. Coming weeks hunger pains and cold would hurt in ways a french volley never could. Village razed. A long spring lay ahead.

 I obtained my marine forecast by clambering over rocks and cliffs until elevation provided my required vantage point of Trinity bay. I had landed on the NE side of New Perlican harbour shortly after launch to re adjust some internal stowage that was moving about; and decided to take a peek. Things looked good "outside" from here. Grasses pointed to my easiest route of travel. I took the lands suggestion. 

I pushed off from the shoreline.

Rebounding wind waves unable to be absorbed by the granite cliffs made for an enjoyable close shore paddle.Topography suggested little in the realm of landing opportunities; and afforded no pullout spots. The strong southern wind committed me once I rounded the point. A welcomed kind of commitment after such a long work week.

I discovered a respite among the cliffs of New Perlican head. An abberation that didnt appear on my topographical map. Nothing more than a shadow on google earth; yet here lay a 75m long channel which seemed to be in constant twilight even during the midday sun. 

Black against an aqua green palate; a codfish swam atop the water. A child like need to poke things with a stick; I lightly poked it's dorsil fin with my paddle causing the fish to slowly swim to the bottom momentarly. Appearing to the surface again it was clear he was in the last moments of life. A bald eagle circled near by. A beautiful cicle.

A low tide beach pitched high as even minimal swell pushed strong waves here onto the cobblestones.Thousands of rounded rocks roaring in the tumble of water. Nostalgia doesnt exist here. The past cannot cross your mind as you climb a ancient cliff to get a differnt view of your surroundings. And nothing could be better than this moment. This is why I paddle.

Thousands of little hands grasped at the air. The huge starfish dislodged from the cliff walls and into the powerful water. Destiny tossed him upon the beach upside down next to my kayak. I placed him on my paddle to record him, to validate in some way his plight and unexpected rescue. His second lease on life; I tossed him back into the channel. I wondered if his mind could comprehend what had just occurred.

 A surf launch and my poor attempt to quickly put on my skirt... tested my gussler foot pump for the first time. Stretching my short legs that extra inch to pump gysers of water out of my kayak; bobbing in the rythm of the cove. Kayak dry again; off I went to Turks cove; just around the next point.

 Turks cove was even smaller than it appeared on the map. Two visable houses along the yellowed autumn grass. A small wharf and stage the only signs of life on the beach. Poverty had prevented the people of this tiny outport the ability to move into newer upgrades in the fishery. Up until 1972 when the fishery ended here the fishery was still being done much the same it had been since the 16th century. I landed next to a babbling brook that runs across the beach to meet the sea.

Checking my cell service I soon found I wasnt going to make a call for pick up here. While I could go bother someone in their oceanfront homes; I decided that the Sugar loaf mountain which seemed to raise up out of the sea would be a nice way to end the day. The next community over had a few stores where I could call from to get pickup. Measuring distance on my map with my thumb; raising fingers to the horision to check the lasting light... I launched.

No pictures exists of the Sugar loaf or of the paddle around this headland.

 I began singing Simon and Garfunkel as the waves grew and grew.  A different; but real nervous reaction of mine. The next leg was not a paddle as much as being pushed and thrown by the ocean. Surfing I ruddered and braced for the 5 km trip.The sky turned dark. Knocked over once by the onslaught of black waves contrasted by foaming white tops." Hello darkness my old friend". Waves broke pushed forward past my kayak as the wind dispersed the areated foam into the air. Tight grip on my paddle I was knocked over as I went to brace over a cresting wave...... and found no water. "I've come to talk to you again". "Shuuuuppppp..." the sound of the water entering my ears. A reach out to grasp a wisp of liquid had only concreted my submergence. A fast decent, slowed and stopped as I entered the brine. Back upright. Rudder, paddle hard, rudder, paddle harder. All I could concerate on was wave after wave of blackness. Half my new Werner paddle was missing. A quick look around for the black paddle proved fruitless. Material things on a sea of reality. Paddle harder; rudder.

Sheltered. The north facing harbour of Winterton was dead calm aside my my exuberant "Waaaaahhhhoooo!" as I rounded the Sugarloaf. I pulled into the government wharf and took off my drysuit (as to not look like a 3 apples tall superhero walking up the road in this tiny outport). A quick call for pick up at the gas station I walked back to my kayak picking up plastic and glass bottles as I went. I concluded my day huddled up behind a rock wall drinking coffee; watching the sun explode across the darkened sky. 

The sea may make one savage in ways.
 Is savage worse than "civilized"?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Overnight trip: Foxtrap to Topsail head Quartz Adit

Onlookers were clambering atop of fishing boats and onto dry docked vessels to discern what would happen as my kayak met the waves outside the marina. "Fine day for a paddle!" one man shouted from the Wharf side; his words broken in the wind. "Beautiful!!!!" I yelled back. Gale force winds; a big red warning that tends to hover over the island during autumn. While it didn't stop my excursion, it had altered my plans. A two day extensive trip west would have to wait as the westerly gale would make moving forward an affliction I didn't wish to partake in. After a summer and now fall without camping; I had met my end or patience in the city life. Regardless of the weather conditions I was leaving "civilized" life for a bit. 

 Not one photo exists from the short 2km paddle from the Foxtrap marina to Long pond; where I stopped to explore the aptly named body of water. A pond sandwiched between a mountainous fault line; and a beach pushed high by the relentless pounding of the ocean.

Waves had crashed over me as I smiled ear from ear out in the brine. However paddling along the placid waters of Long pond my muscles began to cool down. Winters wind had begun to chill where the skirt hugged my body. Sweat began to chill as it ran down my back in the staunch wind. I pulled into a tidy grove of tree`s to fight the battle of the chill before it became a war.

Paddling solo I tend to take less risks. Not knowing what the next cove or next crossing would be like; I decided to get warmed up. I took shelter behind a wind stunted spruce. Hot Gatoraide and high calorie chocolate filled my stomach as the calories rushed through my veins. Instant heat. Heat loss prevention. Coffee while not productive in preventing chill; prevented crankiness and improved overall will to live. =0)

A ripple rolled across the pond from the South as I reposed behind the spruce; the weather was changing. I walked up the barachois to find the waves had calmed down quite a bit; as the wind switched to and fro from West to South. I stuck my fingers lengthwise in the sky measuring from the horizon to the sun. I had an hour and a half before sunset; 2 hours of light. A late start hadn't awarded me much time to get a few kilometers behind me.

 Dark clouds and the sharp smell of fuel filled the sky as I paddled past towers of antediluvian fuel tanks that mar this lagoon. Two environmental response boats sit in the water foreshadowing. Looking at my map the new plan heading east would land me smack dab in the middle of suburbia by sundown. Camping opportunities were plentiful; however most would be upon front lawns and doorsteps of CBS. Suburban kayak camping.

 Back on Conception Bay I was faced some of the largest wind waves I've encountered solo.  As I crossed the gap between Kelly`s and Little Bell Island off to my west I was running on 2m breaking windwaves. I was at home. It's strange what we get use to in a kayak. Mere months ago these waves would be enough for me to not launch. Careful to never affront the sea; the waves had slowly become a familiar dance. 

My plans may have changed however there was one this along this coast that was on my "to do" list  Sleep in the Adit. As the sun I could just make out the glowing violet cliff reflecting a few km ahead. Setting a bearing I danced along the purple waves and red foam.

Just after sunset I made a surf landing onto the rocky yet predictable beach at the Quartz cliff. Last time I came here every 40 seconds 3 larger swells pushed in followed by a period of relatively small waves. I watched a minute or two, confirmed the pattern was the same and went for it. Surfing wave 3 in a near perfect landed. Which was totally destroyed by one slimy rock in which I slipped on as I stepped out of the kayak. Tipping my kayak cockpit into the small oncoming wave as I fell...thus filling it full of water. Not pretty as it should have been; but here I was.

I carried all my worldly posessions above the high tide mark; tying my kayak on and made the short climb up the embankment to the adit. What I had thought was fiberglass in my last visit turned out to be shedded fur of some sort and it reeked of wet dog. The whole back of the cave was covered in the coat. Grabbing some driftwood I swept my new abode out. Coyote, stray dog or whatever it was...wasnt sleeping here tonight. That was my desire anyway.

I made some shelfing for all my essentials; sprucing the place up a little. While I may enjoy living a bare existence; I don't much like mess; regardless of how humble an abode! A quick call to my wife to tell her I was in for the night my oldest required to chat as well. I explained that daddy was in a cave made entirely of those white rocks he loves. Figuring he would be amazed...he wasn't. "Is there bats?" No me by`. No bats``. 
He seemed dissapointed.

I settled into my new bivy bag for a fantastic night sleep.


Civil twilight. My breath greeted the day as it steamed out of my mouth in the cold morning air. 6am. Small swell and no wind. My head pounded. I chugged back some Gatoraide but I knew I had done the damage the night before. I didn't hydrate before bed and now my cranium was reminding me of my errors. My back and ab's didnt hurt, but felt used. It felt good. I treated some water with aquatabs chugged it back. I napped listening to various CBC and VOCM programs; cranking the radio over every commercial break for power. A CBC reporter discussed his chilly night at Occupy St. Johns. The 99% and that other 1%. Percentages that didn't mean a whole lot to me out here to be honest. I had no desire to hear it. Realizing how much of the news actually made no impact on life at this moment; I switched to music.. . I awaited the weather and maybe the time. Really that's all that mattered. 

It was morning in the Quartz adit.

I charged up my camera battery on my Burton battery pack as I slept. I drained the rest of the barely charged battery on my morning radio entertainment once I discovered the radio had a plug in. Now instead of cranking the radio every 10 minutes; I drifted in and out of lucid dreams to K-ROCK. One dream was in french which I'm sure was due to me using it Sunday for the first time in over a year. An Inuit lady was instructing me how to find my way back home on the tundra. A short video played of a crack in my fiberglass along the bow of my boat. Another I was living in an dingy apartment building where it was normal for everyone to come over and get water in garbage bags. 

That`s what happens in my brain.

I awoke at 10h00 and spent 2 hours sipping coffee, drinking water and eating breakfast. A seagull glided by on  the slowly building wind; ironically as a airplane approached just out of site. I laughed out loud at the seagull as it roared past my cave on it's approach to an unseen airport.. 

No four leg visitors had come in the night that I knew of. None had knawed on my leg anyway. Spiders dangled down as the sun warmed them enough to continue their hunt for food. Maybe their last day of existence as winter sets in. I called my wife for a pick up at topsail beach; a km or so the quartz cave. My headache wasnt getting any better. I cursed myself for ignoring hydration. As I packed up my kit I strolled the beach. Shirt off enjoying the last glimpses of the warm sun. 10 degrees felt warm as it heated my shoulders and back.


 I began to pick up and throw the plastic bottles towards my kayak as I strolled the beach looking for rock samples to bring home. I attempted to get them into my open front hatch as I poked around in the tangle of garbage and driftwood along the high tide mark. 

A game for the greater good.

While only a  mere 15km paddle I had accomplished my goal of sleeping in the old mine, returned here to fix a wrong and pick up some of the mess, and had a great day in the biggest waves I`d paddled solo yet.

Home. Happy. Healthy. And with a spark to get out camping again. 

West this time.

******Authors note******

For those interested I have begun recording my past trips via google earth. My end goal being to Paddle the Avalon bay by bay. Cove by cove. Here`s my progress thus far:

Hope you enjoyed!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wet socks and Guy Fawkes

 After the longest workday in a long time my wife came and picked me up. Pulling my half windsor knot off my neck my head pounding. I had been talking since 06h00 near non stop and my voice was almost gone. I wanted to go home and sleep. " Daddy it's bonfire night tonight" came from my oldest.

We drove out home where Pop had everything ready to go.

Arriving to St.Johns late tonight with another full work day tomorrow....

Well worth it.

The first snow appeared on our door mat tonight. Wet sock season has begun!

All that stands between me and paddling is one more long meeting...and maybe a little sleep.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Clubs and 50 foot mutton's

Wednesday was KNL's annual general meeting held at the Guv'nors pub.  The pub was alive with laughter and the dull roar of hundreds of quiet conversations in the dim light. Huddled around dark wooden tables; blurred sea of faces illuminated with the glow of tea candles.  I had been debating joining the local kayak club for a while. Over the past 4 months I had attempted try to get in on a few paddles to even offering to help with their magazine. Zero such luck on either. It seemed like I didn't own the special decoder ring or know the handshake password combo. I was missing my old club!! I did get one message back from the clubs message board after all my posts there. It was one "suggesting" that I didn't paddle on the southern shore solo..."On behalf of KNL we would like to..."

I decided to go to this AGM at a local pub for one last attempt. A kayak meeting in a pub with trip reports. Sounded good to me. I imagined something similar to the Reel paddle festival in Pembroke last year. Having a good time with a ton of great like minded people. 

A friendly smiling waitress directed me upstairs for "the kayakers meeting". Maybe there was a separate pub upstairs? With a second hand jacket, a jovial shirt (about giraffes and ceiling fans) and some tore up khakis; I found myself slightly under dressed. Very under dressed in fact....and in a board room. Tables adorned with minute sheets from some past meeting. I dropped a joke about not taking a pen to a pub to fill out the 20 dollar registration to see if anyone had one....nothing. Looking at the club registration sheet all I could see was bureaucratic" internal use only" type stuff.....looked a lot like my 7-5 job. I stood there for a minute waiting for someone to come try and sell me a timeshare. Not my scene.

Within 6 minutes I had arrived made my final decision.and was back on the road. Clubs are great for many people; yet this club was defiantly not for me. 

On my way home I got a text from my buddy Rob who was heading out to the garage to work on his boat.  We've had little time to get out on the water together over the past few months. So I was more than willing to drop over.

So we glued pieces on his guillemot and caught up (guy got way more patience and talent at this boat building stuff than I). It turned out to be a much better way to pass a night. After being at Rob's I felt more concrete about my decision to just keep paddling with the few I always paddle with. No registration, no decoder rings, no money, no cliques, just kayaking.

Having a busy upcoming weekend at work (boardroom stuff); I had one last opportunity Thursday to get out before a busy few days. I hurried home from work,changed as I walked through the house, and headed strait to Petty Harbour. As I descended down the hills into Petty Hr I was immersed in a cold blue haze as the winter sun hid behind the hills.

3-4m Swells slammed into the shore outside the protected hr. The sheer size of these rolling and breaking waves had me hesitant about venturing out at this time of day.

 Walls of  "mutton's" spraying 50 feet into the air all down the coastline. With darkness near I decided I didn't want to risk trying to enter back into the small channel after dark. The waves broke in unpredictable ways; sending rolling waves in all directions at the harbours mouth. Fun in the light; not so much in the dark.

Listening to my gut feeling I pulled back into the harbour . The last glimmer of sun pointed out where the realms of land and sky meet.

After this week in my paddling life I've decided two things for certain.

Mon, Tues ,I'm heading off somewhere kayaking.

And most importantly; I think I'm doing just fine solo.