Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The magic of camping and kayaking at Bon Echo Provincial Park, Mazinaw Rock, Ontario, Canada! Get your bug suit on!

This is one of my favourite "easy to paddle" little magic spots!

Bon Echo Provincial Park is in the south central part of Ontario, Canada. It's a pretty nice place to camp! You have amenites here. Even on the back country sites - where you'll have more bugs - but more privacy. Take your pick. More people or more bugs? It's hard to choose sometimes!

Mazinaw Rock is on picturesque and easy to paddle Mazinaw Lake.
Mazinaw Rock is 100 metres high. If you call out, it echos three times - hence the name, "Bon Echo". In French it means, "good echo". I'll agree! I tried it - three times. It's true!

Mazinaw Lake is the second deepest lake in Ontario, Canada. It averages 135 feet deep, and its deepest parts are 476 feet deep. Wow! Suddenly, I feel so small.

You might want to think about a float for your camera here! If it goes overboard, you'll never find it again.
I'll admit - I love rocks. Doesn't everyone? 

Sorry for all the rock pics if that's not your thing. But Bon Echo rocks have great moods when the sun starts to set.

Bring your bug suit!
 It's summer in Canada. The bugs just love you!

Consider making breakfast at the beach instead of the woods!
Enjoy your breakfast without any bug bites!

And make it back to shore safely before that afternoon thunderstorm hits in July! Remember to bring the cockpit covers!
I'm short on words here for one reason

I know you're shopping for ideas and just want to plan a trip, get out and paddle and have fun. Me too!

For you climbers out there who may just want to climb the rock Google The Alpine Club of Canada

Note to readers and publishers: The images and content on this site are the copyright of Peggy Varner, BaffinPaddler and cannot be used for any other purpose without my permission. Contact me if you would like to purchase images. 

Happy paddle trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's HOT! Swim with your kayak!

That's my gloved hand on the tail end of my Maelstrom Vital 166.

Wow! It's way too hot around here in the National Capital Region of Canada (Ottawa/Gatineau) and lots of other places. We're in a heat wave. I would call it an oven! A sauna!

The only place to hide is in some cool water, air-conditioning, the woods, a cave, or in a friend's basement.

This isn't weather that motivates me to head out to paddle unless I can jump out often and swim with my boat.

How to Stay Cool with your Kayak!

Swim with it. It's fun
Why should your kayak have all the fun. It's in the water. You're not!
I'm swimming with my boat in a pretty little lake in Canada and loving it. But I don't want it to get away.

Come back here kayak! Wind takes it away quickly when I snap a shot from the water.
Although, when you jump overboard intentionally to cool off and start snapping shots from the water, your paddle buddy may ask . . . "What are you doing now . . . !?" People on the beach wonder if you need help. I just hope they get used to me.

Then I Cowboy Scramble back into my kayak. It's so easy for me now. I do it just about every time I paddle or five or six times per paddle if I need to hop out and cool off.
Some people roll to cool off, that's great!

Balance brace your kayak

This is something I just learned a few days ago from a local Greenland roller and kayak instructor and I love it! Here's the link to the video of me practising the balance brace in my Maelstrom Vital 166.

I find it relaxing, fun, and a great way to cool off.

When you balance brace (if you are flexible enough), it allows you to stretch out your body without getting out of the boat. You can gain tremendous confidence in yourself, your body, and your boat handling skills, especially if you are still "Rolling Challenged" like me, or if you don't like the feeling of being upside down in a kayak.

Don't worry if flexibility is an issue. Be patient with yourself and work on things slowly. Don't force what's not there. Your right side may be awesome! Your left side efforts may feel like it's not your body at all! Yes, that's me.  Even if you do yoga!

Wear rash guard, (get it wet before paddling), a hat, and lightweight paddle gloves

When it's hot and sunny, I do the opposite of most people, who paddle in swim suits and T-shirts!

I wear a white and pink long-sleeve, crew neck, UV Rash Guard and swim in the water while wearing it to get it wet before I paddle. It feels good! I do this in lakes and rivers. In the summer, I don't paddle water I don't consider clean enough to swim in. Although, I wouldn't wet my shirt in salty sea water. The salt is drying to the skin. On some river paddles with questionable water, I wet my long-sleeve rash guard with tap water or an extra bottle of drinking water before paddling.

This keeps me cool, comfortable and protected from the sun for an hour or two before the shirt dries and I need to cool off in the water again.

In this grueling heat, a paddle buddy complained about being too hot paddling in a T-shirt! And he could roll.

The next day I said, "Go to the paddle shop and get yourself some long-sleeved Rash Guard with a crew neck. I'll show you how to stay cool in this heat."

Sometimes on hot days, you are in long stretches of river water that is too shallow to swim or roll in, has too much current to dunk into, has unfriendly shorelines, or is too rocky to get out and swim or roll in.

You need another way to stay cool when paddling.

The hot sun hitting your skin or a cotton shirt is not the way to do it. And paddling in soggy, baggy cotton is not comfortable.

In the summer heat in Canada, and especially when I paddle heat I can't stand in Florida, I wear long sleeve Rash Guard with a crew neck. What's that? 

Rash Guard is great gear for paddling made out of Polyester and Spandex and has UV protection from the sun. I like the long sleeve shirts that fit like a body glove. The shirts have flatlock stitching that doesn't rub on my skin while paddling and are very comfortable and cool.

I've worn the same pink and white long-sleeved Rash Guard for 5 years. It still looks good and is performing well. I've washed it more times than I can count and it hasn't worn out or needed any mending. It dries quickly and doesn't pick up odours quickly or easily. There are several brands to choose from.

What did my paddle partner say the next hot summer paddle while wearing his new white long-sleeved Rash Guard? "Hey, this is amazing! It works."

Make sure to buy a light color for summer. The bugs are attracted to dark colors and light colors attract less sun. A light color makes for a winning combo!

I always wear a hat - it's amazing how many people don't. Sometimes it blows off and I have to retrieve it. A paddle hat that you can dunk and wet in the water can keep your head cool. I've learned to remove my sunglasses before I put the soaking wet hat back on my head though.

Paddle Gloves - I've taken the habit of wearing lightweight neoprene paddle gloves in the hot summer to keep the sun off. The gloves stay wet when I paddle, keep my hands cool, and prevent a nasty sunburn.

You can pick up a lot of sun on your hands year after year. Waterproof sunscreen only goes so far, and I don't like it on my hands when I paddle.

If I want to catch sun, I wait until I hit a beach and can get it evenly in a swim suit.
Sitting in a boat only gives you odd burn lines!

I hope you manage to stay cool and hydrated! It's way too HOT!
Yep! It's another bad hair day when your hat blows off and you practice balance bracing!

Happy paddling!
The BaffinPaddler

Monday, July 18, 2011

How not to haul your sea kayaks! Caught in the 96 km winds that brought down the Ottawa Bluesfest main stage, July 17, 2011

Can you see what's wrong with this picture? If not, read on.
On July 17 at 7:00 p.m., the summer sky went dark and I could see I was driving into the storm. It hit my red Mitsubishi Outlander with the Maelstrom Vital and Vaag sea kayaks strapped on top all at once 30 minutes later.
Of course, there's no pic of that! This is back home safe and sound.

My first thought was, "There's a tornado hitting somewhere, I hope I'm not in it!" Or, "I'm in a micro-burst! What do I do?" There was no gradual build up of wind. Just a sudden burst of 90 km or plus wind! It was like a punch in the face. "Whoa."

When you have two 17 foot long sea kayaks strapped on top of your car, you are very vulnerable to high winds, gusty winds, cross winds, and sudden storms!

Just an hour earlier while packing up and strapping down the Malestrom kayaks on a hot, calm, sunny day at a lake up in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, my paddling partner said, "I don't think these front and back tie downs are really necessary . . . "

I said, "but this time, for the first time, we're going to do it anyway. This is how we're supposed to tie down the boats . . . so let's practice."

It was the same widespread and vicious storm with 96 km winds that instantly brought down the Ottawa Bluesfest main stage like a deck of cards at about 7:30 p.m. on July 17, 2011.

The storm also caused widespread power outages in Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec - my house too!  There were a number of large trees that fell into the street. I had to dodge a few to get home.

I was an hour and half away from Ottawa/Gatineau on an open winding country highway returning from a weekend of paddling lake and river in the Mont Tremblant, Quebec area when the storm hit me. Suddenly, I was in high wind, pounding rain and lighting.

My car, even with the kayaks well battened down and not shifting on top of the car, were really catching the wind on the highway, even at a very reduced speed.

I felt I needed to get off the road, and pulled off the single lane highway into a long driveway of someone's home, turned off the engine, and waited 20 minutes for the worst of the storm to pass over before I hit the road again. I felt better and could relax a little. Your heart can't pound too hard for too long!

This also allowed all the faster moving traffic to keep going. The other people on the road were doing all kinds of crazy and dangerous things to pass me, like passing at high speed over double lines, and blind curves in driving rain and wind.

Geez people! Don't ever do this! Never pass any slower vehicle on blind curves and double yellow lines, especially under these conditions, or for any reason! At least 50 people did just that before I found a spot to get off the road. I couldn't believe it.

Talk about ending a relaxing and enjoyable trip with a BIG BANG and an adrenalin rush of fear! 

This is how I used to haul a sea kayak
With spongy foams on a car rack and straps, with no tie downs in the front or back.

"Tisk, tisk!" My beautiful and beloved Boreal Baffin is literally a "sitting duck" on my vehicle. Or rather, it would be a flying torpedo if I had to stop suddenly or worse. In a strong crosswind, the nose would quickly blow sideways.

What was I thinking?

I wasn't thinking! My kayak was not very secure. And, my plastic Boreal Baffin oil-canned where the straps held it in place every time it was hauled any kind of distance in the hot summer or fall sun. Luckily, the newer plastic boats have a "memory" and usually go back into shape unless you abuse them too much or too often.

I hate to admit this, but I hauled my kayak this way for several years on long trips from the National Capital Region in Canada (Ottawa/Gatineau) to many lakes and rivers, and ocean in places like Seal Cove, Maine, and the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin. Combine that with many short and long hauls in Canada, including a trip to the Saguenay River near Tadoussac, Quebec, and much more.

All with no problems other than oil canning. I was lucky, but luck usually runs out at one point.

I don't even want to think about what might have happened if I had been caught in the July 17, 2011 storm with sea kayaks strapped on to my car like this.  

Other kayakers who were tying down their kayaks properly started to shake their heads at me. I took notice, and took action. Sometimes, peer pressure is a good thing!

I did research, compared notes with other paddlers, and bought good quality car racks for my new red Mitsubishi Outlander, kayak saddles (I love them!), and two strong tie down ropes for each boat. I already had good, strong straps for kayaks.

Now, in addition to strapping the kayaks down on to the racks, I use rope to tie down the front and back of EACH kayak and attach it to something solid on the car frame or tow bar. I tie down using the toggles or through the well-battened down deck lines on the front or back of the kayaks. Never tie down using a bungee and never tie to a bungee. They stretch!
I also tie a knot on each buckle of the straps to prevent slippage while driving.
Luck or fate?

The first time I finally tied down our sea kayaks properly was the first time I really needed to on July 17, 2011. Luck or fate? Or rather, it was time to stop testing fate and good luck.

And I'm so happy I did! I was just taught a good lesson.

I think I just went through a pretty good test of why it's a good idea to learn how to properly haul a sea kayak. And this is why I'm sharing this story with you. Maybe you need a push, just like I did.

How do you haul your kayaks? The right way or the wrong way?
Hauling your boats properly is not just about your safety, or protecting your gear investment. It's also about the safety of others on the road with you. You wouldn't want your racks and boats suddenly ripping off the top of your car and flying off behind you. In our paddle chat community, we do hear tales of this happening.

Happy and safe travels!
I guess you could say I was just in a maelstrom (bad storm) with two Maelstroms (two terrific boats!).

The BaffinPaddler

Watch video of the Ottawa Bluesfest Main Stage going down and read more about the story:

Ottawa Sun

The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The World's Best Kayaking Recipe!

1. Pack up to the light of the moon. Any moon will do.

I'm hauling my Boreal Baffin this time. My other boat is a Maelstrom Vital 166. What a choice I've got! It's hard to decide which boat to take sometimes. A lucky problem that all sea kayakers should be afflicted with.

2. Take one of your sea kayaks somewhere.
You have more than one right?! 

3. Bring friends!
4. Enjoy!
This is a simple, no fat recipe. You can indulge and enjoy as much of it as you like, as often as you like.

What's your favourite kayaking recipe?
The BaffinPaddler

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Paddle with a puppy! How do you haul your dog?

Well, here we go. Let's take the big 50 pound puppy to the lake. Where do we put her? On the back deck of my Boreal Baffin.

Why not? It should work, eh?

All these brilliant ideas sound great when you test them out at home with your boat parked on the grass in your front yard while you train the dog to get on to the back deck of your kayak and lay still for a few minutes.
But when I get out on the water with her parked as close to the back of my cockpit as possible for stability, I quickly find out that a 50 pound doggie - this cute blue merle Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix named "Riley", can move a bit, shift her weight, turn her head, whine, and decide to suddenly sit up tall while I'm paddling instead of laying down. Plus the water doesn't sit still either, even on a calm day.

All this makes for a tippy kayak.
This is interesting! A new challenge. 

And this is something we're just having fun with on an warm, sunny day with no wind in a small warm lake we know very well, staying close to shores with mostly sandy bottoms where we launch and land, and the doggie is wearing a PFD - a doggie life jacket, even though she is an excellent and very fast swimmer! And there very few motor boats on this lake. I wouldn't want my dog jumping off and swimming with motorized craft in the area.

We had no expectations for any kind of success. I wasn't paddling alone. I had a paddle partner nearby for help and to watch what the dog was doing behind me, and take a few pics!

If you have taught your doggie to crawl on land, and she can crawl up to the back end of your kayak's cockpit - that's going to totally rock! And your boat may rock less!  
This is not an easy way to carry a dog. Trust me!  

I wouldn't go far and I don't recommend this. 

We were just having some fun for the day on a lazy summer day close to shore. And Riley is probably an exceptional dog. We managed this three times on the same day with Riley getting up on to the back deck of my Boreal Baffin, laying down quietly while I paddled, and waiting until we hit shore to jump off.

We also used encouraging voice commands along the way to keep her in place, happy, and secure. Doggie cookies help sometimes too, but not while paddling. 

I put a wet towel on the back deck of my Boreal Baffin under the bungees to make it softer and less slipperly for Riley to lay on and to allow her to get a good grip with her body. My Boreal Baffin has a flat back deck, and was wide enough to support her body - barely though.

Riley is pretty smart and independent for a one year old dog. I'm a decent paddler with some balance, but I was thinking "I may need to brace or bail out" a few times. But didn't need to.

But, this is definitely a short term thing!

I'm looking for a better boat for hauling a dog, like a stable canoe or a tandem kayak with proper seating!

Some dogs really love going to the lake with you. And I really love taking the doggie along.

Finding a safe and enjoyable way to do it is a new thing for me as a kayaker. I love sea kayaks. I don't like canoes! 
 "OK, we're going to do this again tomorrow, I promise!"
Happy paddling with your dog!
Keep them safe. They are so special!
The BaffinPaddler

Friday, July 8, 2011

City life with a kayak. . . sigh!

Take your boat (without a motor) somewhere grand!
The BaffinPaddler

Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Launching from Dows Lake, paddling on the historic Rideau Canal towards the City of Ottawa and the locks.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lazy Summer Days . . . the epitome of kayaking!

Ahhhh, the lazy days of summer. This is what kayaking and life is all about . . . sometimes! The good times!

Do you see the two little white eyes at the top of the first picture? Click on the pic to enlarge it. Cheeky bug. Not afraid of the camera either. This is not a zoomed in shot. I was taking a picture of the nose of my boat when this guy showed up and stole the shot. The camera lens focused on him instead. A nice surprise.
My feet are underwater here. Pretty nice stuff! I mean the water . . .

This one (or maybe most of them) is for love of kayak. I love this kayak so much! The Maelstrom Vital 166.

Ahhhh, the lazy days of summer. And I just learned that all those pesky big black "picnic hungry" ants can't climb up beer cans, so at least part of my lunch is safe!

So many nice spots!
Enjoy finding yours!
The BaffinPaddler