Sunday, April 10, 2011

First Spring Paddle with the Boreal Baffin: Paddling on Clouds and Testing the Gul 4mm Flexor Gloves

Camera Failure - What a way to start an epic first spring paddle!

The absolute bane of the blogger has to be camera failure when you set out for your first spring paddle on an epic weather day with exceptional environmental conditions that offer rare photo ops that won't be there tomorrow or maybe ever again.

When I set my Boreal Baffin down on a nice solid ice ledge near a big rock on a sunny spring afternoon with a perfect view down the Ottawa River's mirror reflection of both the azure blue sky lightly dusted with soft white clouds and the surrounding landscape, I knew I had a perfect shot! You couldn't tell what was sky and what was water or which way was up. They both looked the same at that moment in time. But my orange Olympus Stylus Tough camera had other ideas!

It had a dead battery and no spare was on hand. You can relate, yes? Even though I'm a girl, that didn't stop the barrage of four letter words that escaped me for a good long while. I had to give up on pressing the "GO ON YOU #@&* CAMERA!' button and resign myself to just paddling the kayak and enjoying what I can't share with you in a photographic moment.

Paddling on Clouds

I'll try to describe the incredible effect that certain water and weather conditions can have on your paddling and wonder if you've ever experienced it yourself - because it's a rare moment when the mirror like reflection of the sky on a big stretch of perfectly flat water gives you an out of the world feeling that your kayak is no longer on the water. You feel like you are paddling above the water in the clouds that you see both above and below you. You don't even feel your paddle moving through the cold dense water. It's a mind game played with you by the optical illusion of the environmental conditions, and it's offered to you, if you want to go there.  

Been there yet?

When I looked to my right, all I could see was the muddy brown colour of the Ottawa River in its full spring glory. When I looked to my left, the water was the sky. It was the same beautiful blue, the clouds and the sun were there. It was a perfect and surreal reflection of the sky gleaming on the water. Wow!

When you are surrounded in this odd effect, it is an amazing experience. You could call it an "Out of this World" feeling. You don't want to stay there too long as it gets eerie, yet at the same time, you want to stay in it for a while longer, as it is only a temporary experience brought on by those rare moments when there is nothing disturbing the water: no wind, no boats, no big current, or any debris floating on the water, the sun is just right, and so is your position on the water. And you still wish your camera battery had juice!

The Blackberry 

Later down river, my patient paddle mate offered to take a pic from his Blackberry to appease me a bit. "OK, it's better than nothing," I pouted. And this blog post pic is from a Blackberry taken in the glaring sunlight so bright that I could not even see without my sunglasses. Pretty amazing for a cell phone pic I think! Two thumbs up for Blackberry.

The ice shelf I'm leaning on in the pic in this little bay to show off what I think is the best side of the Boreal Baffin. The ice shelf was still about five inches thick in spots. A bit scary. It's April in Canada. We still have snow and ice here in the woods and along some shorelines.  

Rules not to forget

I broke a bunch of my own paddle rules today that I won't do again. But the first paddle of the season always sees me forgetting or neglecting something important. 

One year it was the paddles! I arrived at the launch, unloaded all the boats and gear - and no paddles! That only happened once. Now I check! Are the paddles in the car? 

Today I didn't check everything in my gear bag. I just assumed everything I needed was in there from last year's paddling season - my neo skirt wasn't. That's an important item but not a deal breaker on a calm day in flat water. I didn't check the camera battery - it was dead. No harm done, I'll just kick myself forever for that one. I didn't bring an energy bar and later wished I did. I needed it. I didn't throw my paddle jacket or any other warm gear into a hatch to put on when the sun dropped and the beautiful day fell into something about 10 degrees colder as I paddled back in what was "way too warm neoprene" when I started. 

No harm came for any of my broken rules today and it was still a great day, but I need to remember to pack and plan better for those short two hour paddles close to home, especially in the spring. The distance I normally breeze through in the warmer summer, was more effort than I expected to paddle through in the colder denser water of spring thaw. Surprise, surprise! How easily some of us, like me, forget things over the long winter.

Gear Testing - Gul 4mm Flexor Liquidseam Neoprene Gloves

Spring is my favorite time of year to test gear. Especially gloves. My fingers freeze easily and this keeps me off the water - especially in winter, and sometimes in the fall, and usually in the early spring.

Every pair of gloves I've tested over the past 4 years have failed in late fall and early spring. They were either too thin, leaky, and cold, or too big and bulky that you couldn't feel the paddle. Why bother?

But this year success! I paddled for two hours in spring conditions with new gloves that I love and can recommend: Gul 4mm Flexor Liquidseam Neoprene Gloves.

I found the Gul 4mm Flexor Liquidseam Gloves very comfortable, finger and hand flexibility is excellent, no slip on my skinny Greenland paddle, the seams really are waterproof and don't leak or rub, they were warm but not hot, and fit just long enough past my wrists to prevent water from running down in to my hand while padding. When my fingers or hand glanced the water on some paddle strokes, I didn't feel the icy cold. I bought them big enough so that I could add an insulating layer if needed on colder days.

After two hours of paddling spring water with very happy hands and fingers I asked my paddle mate, "How are your hands in YOUR gloves?" They were a different Gul model: His response, "Terrible, wet, and cold!"

So, if you're not happy with your fall or spring paddling gloves, you may want to give the Gul 4mm Flexor Liquidseam Gloves a try. I love them!

Happy spring paddles.
Stay warm and safe.
The BaffinPaddler


  1. Hi BaffinPaddler! So, what is worst? Leaning over the water and taking a photo with your Olympus Style Tough camera or a Blackberry? Risk lose of a $300 camera or $500 phone? For me, I've done both! Not dropping them, but using them! I use a Cannon SD780 IS digital camera that does a fair job and use my Blackberry as a back-up... like when my youngest son took the camera on a school trip and I HAD to use my Blackberry camera or have no photos of my paddle adventure. BB's are both good phones and have a lot of useful "stuff" packed into them - one being a pretty darn good camera for a phone! ;-) On a more serious note, I am very glad you did not forget any essential safety gear on your first Spring paddle! Based on the photo, an unprepared or ill equipped paddler would be in a world of trouble if he/she flipped out of their kayak into the Ottawa River in April!

  2. Hi Mike,

    My Olympus Stylus Tough is waterproof and shockproof, and can go for a swim and shoot underwater anytime - not the Blackberry - two of which have gone for a swim in the Ottawa River and did not survive. They are hard to hang on to when wet. But luckily, I'm not the one who dropped them in to the river, and they were not mine! This is BB number 3! Blackberries do rock and can really save the day.

    I do have a little float for the Olympus though, thanks for the reminder to put it back on! I took it off over the winter for the ski season pics. The Olympus is waterproof, but would sink without the float.

    It's amazing how much stuff we need to remember on the water!


  3. I made myself a list: not to forget anything, in spring, it is pretty easy paddling in Belgium, but here, kayaking season is winter (white water), and there is only water when there is snow melting.
    so, if you forget something worse then a knife or saw, you can stay on the river side and gard the cars for the rest of the day.

  4. I have forgot the memory card a time or two. Makes me so mad too! Never droped my camera in the water though, I have been paddling with a canon rebel since they came out in 2001. It's too bad you forgot a battery change...I would have liked to see the mirror reflection.

  5. You have an excellent glove review on your site My Life Outdoors! Glacier Gloves. I'll have to give those a try too. Having that velcro band at the wrist is an added plus that the Gul Flexors don't have.