Monday, July 23, 2012

For love of boat!

Maelstrom Vital 166 sea kayak on the Riviere Rouge, Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada
 Isn't it nice to stop everything and take a moment, or lots of moments for love of boat?

I mean your beautiful sea kayak. The one you love! It's awesome to love a sea kayak. If you don't . . . yet, I hope you find one you love! Keep searching. It's worth your time.

A kayak is a great way to distract yourself from all the other stuff you could be wasting your time with!

Happy paddles and lots of sand in my shoes from a great paddle on the Riviere Rouge (the Red River) in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada.

The BaffinPaddler

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dawn at Upper Brewers Lock on the Rideau Canal

I think this is when I like the camping neighborhood best . . . at dawn!

Everyone is tucked into their beds. The eerie morning mist is rising. It's the best time to sleep or the best time to get up. Take your pick. It's a hard choice sometimes.

The party ended at midnight . . . I think.
But, the motor boats gurgled all night. Could someone please just burp them and get it over with . . . ?!

You always remember to bring your ear plugs on camping trips, right? No? Me too. Why do I keep forgetting to bring the most important gear item of all.

Even the scout camp is quiet at this early morning hour.
The kayaks are still there. What a beautiful sight to wake up to.
Mango coloured Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 sea kayak
Dew alert! Everything is wet.
Upper Brewers lock is our first night's camp on a 3-day kayak camping trip from Kingston Mills to Narrows lock.

Upper Brewers lock station is a pretty nice, kayak friendly camping spot on the Rideau Canal route in Ontario, Canada. There are picnic tables, restrooms, drinkable water, garbage cans and recycling bins. Entertainment is free - the fireflies dance at dinner time and into the night.

When dawn breaks, and the sun dries the morning dew, it's off to beautiful Jones Falls for lunch, and getting through its series of four big 15-foot tall locks (the second biggest in the Rideau Canal system - Smith's Falls is King) and then pushing on to Davis locks for the second night's camp.

Day two will be a long haul in heat wave conditions! About 24 kilometres. (See Rideau Canal Paddling Maps 3, 4, and 5 to see the Day 2 route we'll follow.)

What's this all about:

See: Kayak camping the Rideau Canal and testing the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 sea kayak

 Happy tripping!
The BaffinPaddler

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What it's like going through a lock in a sea kayak on the Rideau Canal

Holding on to a drop cable inside a lock
Pretty glamorous, eh? Well, here goes. I'll be going through a lock on the Rideau Canal for my very first time, gulp! We're kayak camping for 3 days, launching from Kingston Mills and heading for the Narrows.

It's a bit intimidating looking at a big lock from a kayak. My stomach is nervous, my heart is speeding up. I don't know if I'm going to like this. But once I'm in the lock, I'm stuck and there's no going back.

The water boils a bit and gets a little turbulent before the lock door opens. Gee, that sure makes me feel better! You feel like you're going into the belly of a beast.
Paddle buddies go in first. They've done this many times before and lucky for me, explain what to do and what to expect beforehand. Having them in front of me and watching what they do is a big help. It's obvious that I'm nervous as a cat, but they chuckle when they see me pull my camera out of my life jacket pocket with my one free gloved-hand and take a few pics before the flow gets stronger and I need to put it away.
 Tips for going through a lock
  • Stay clear of the lock door and boat channel. When the lock opens, there may be motor boats coming out or going in ahead of you. Paddle in when lock staff indicate it's safe to do so.
  • Listen to any instructions from lock staff. 
  • Grab onto a drop cable (also called a "mooring cable").
  • Try to position yourself further back in the lock as the current and turbulence is stronger in the front as the lock fills (depending on the direction you are going on the canal, the lock may be filling or emptying. I haven't been in a lock that is emptying . . . yet.)
  • Keep the nose of the kayak from drifting too far away from the wall.
  • Watch the nose (bow) and tail (stern) of the kayak to make sure it doesn't get caught in between the wall and the drop cable as you bounce around in the flow.
And the most important thing?

RELAX! Unless you're in the front and have to manage more than your fair share of turbulence. Then you'll really have to hang on.

Lock staff watch and monitor the progress of the lock filling and how you're doing in there. They can slow down the flow and fill (or empty) the lock more slowly if you're having trouble. Usually it's the kayak closer to the front of the lock who gets the bumpiest ride. But even further back in the lock, you can get a little pushed around at times.

Paddlers with whitewater experience don't seem to mind it as much! But I prefer the softer, safer, easier ride in the back - thanks!

The flow usually starts slow and easy, mid-flow seems to be the most turbulent, then slows as the lock is almost full.

Being inside the lock can be a social experience too. Sometimes we chat with each other, lock staff, and other boaters. Enjoy!

When it's all over, the lock opens and you're free!
What a great feeling - to get out of there!

How to stay cool in a lock

In the heat and summer sun you can really cook inside a lock or a series of locks and get overheated and sunburned. Be prepared before you enter the lock.

Positioning: There is a shady and sunny side in a lock. If you can, position yourself on the shady side.

Gloves: I wear light neo gloves. They stay wet, keeping my hands cool and protect my knuckles from getting banged around on the cement wall of the lock as I hang on. Gloves also protect your hands from sunburn!

Hat: I wear my lightweight, white, OR UPF 30 Lawrence of Arabia style hat! It has a good size beak in the front and the light flowing fabric sides protect the side of my face and neck in the front and back from the sun.

Clothing: I wear a lightweight, white long-sleeve rash guard top. I rinse it in water before paddling and put it on wet. It keeps me cool and fresh for two hours - then dries. I can re-wet the arms if they dry. It keeps me cool all day and keeps the sun off. I don't need sunscreen and I don't sweat. Sweating cools you but you also dehydrate faster. Sunscreen can block skin pores, feels sticky and the sun still hits and heats up your skin. You can still burn with sunscreen. I prefer to cover up with light, breathable clothing with UV protection. You can burn through some light and loosely woven knit summer clothing. So be careful.

Water and snacks: Keep a water bottle handy on the front deck of your kayak. Maybe also an energy snack. You'll be spending lots of time in and around the locks if you're locking through. Expect delays in busy summer months.

  • Spray skirt - Your legs can get really hot and sunburned in a kayak if you're not wearing a spray skirt. I attached my neo spray skirt only at the front and the back and left the sides open to let air in and keep the sun off. Lighter nylon skirts and half skirts work well too.
  • Stable kayak: It helps to be in a stable kayak you trust when trying something new. I was testing a big, plastic, mango-coloured Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 sea kayak on this 3-day kayak camping trip on the Rideau Canal. Even though I felt pretty nervous going into all the 9 locks we went through on this trip, I always felt very secure in the Tsunami 165. It is very stable and comfortable. I was happy it was my kayak camping partner on this trip. You spend a lot of time sitting in a lock waiting for it to fill (or empty, depending on which direction you are travelling on the Rideau Canal.) Going in and out of the locks, I used the rudder to make steering easier. Inside the lock, I pulled the rudder up to prevent damage as the kayak can get a little banged up against the cement wall inside a lock with the water flow and turbulence.
This post shows just kayaks inside the lock. Further on in this story, we'll lock through another lock with five big motor boats and see what that's like! 

It was my biggest worry. I'll let you know how it went.
I'll show you the camping neighborhood at Upper Brewers lock station.

What's this all about?
See: Kayak camping the Rideau Canal and testing the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 sea kayak

Happy tripping!
The BaffinPaddler

More Resources:
  • Thanks to experienced paddle buddies who explained how to get through a lock, and who took the positions closer to the front so I could hang on in the gentler, rear section of the lock. Much appreciated!
  • Thanks to Ottawa Paddle Shack for letting me test the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 sea kayak on this trip.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Approaching Lower Brewers Lock: Rideau Canal kayak camping trip - Day 1

Here we are, approaching Lower Brewers Lock 45 on day one of a 3-day kayak camping trip on the Rideau Canal, in Ontario Canada in July with heat wave temperatures in the 30's Celsius (80's Fahrenheit).

We launched from Kingston Mills lock in the morning.

Our destination for our first night's sleep is Upper Brewers locks (we'll go through 44 and 43).

But Lower Brewers Lock 45 is the first lock I have to go through on this trip. I've never been in a lock before. And we're going to lock through all the locks on this trip from Kingston Mills to Narrows Lock.

It's a little daunting. I have to get through three locks on the first day.

"How about you go first and I'll see how it's done."
Tomorrow, inside the lock.

What's this all about?
See: Kayak Camping the Rideau Canal and Testing the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 sea kayak

Rideau Canal Paddling Map 3 - River Styx to Lower and Upper Brewers Locks, Cranberry Lake to Brass Point Bridge

Happy tripping!
The BaffinPaddler

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Green Island Cormorant colony - Rideau Canal kayak camping trip - Day 1

On Day 1 of our Rideau Canal kayak camping trip in Ontario, Canada, we launched from Kingston Mills lock in the morning, paddled across Colonel By Lake with a lunch stop at Green Island on River Styx.

Green Island is a bird sanctuary and Cormorants rule. A bird sanctuary is not necessarily a pretty place with welcome scents for lunch. And they have no house-keeping skills. But we are kayakers. We enjoyed the break.

Cormorants don't make pretty sounds. They aren't song birds. But I enjoyed their company. I was very surprised how social they are with each other. I didn't know they nested so close to each other in the same tree. They live in colonies. There are 4 nests in this tree.
There aren't many places to stop on River Styx. Paddle this part of the Rideau Canal as fast as you can to get to the good stuff further along the route!

I'm testing a big, plastic, mango-coloured Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 sea kayak on this trip and started the day paddling with my trusty "made in Maine, USA" Greenland paddle. It was given to me as a gift from awesome paddle buddies PenobscotPaddles last August during a trip to Stonington, Maine, USA.

With my Greenland paddle, I was struggling to move this 62 lb kayak, all my 65 lbs of gear and me, and keep up with three guy paddle buddies, all using Euro blades, paddling lighter kayaks, and with less gear than me.

Something had to change.

After lunch on Green Island, I'll park my GP on the front deck of my kayak and grab my fibreglass power spoons. The Werner Cyprus.

Let's see if I can keep up with the guys after lunch and make my way through the first lock on this trip at Lower Brewers. I've never been through a lock before.

What's this all about? 

See: Kayak camping the Rideau Canal and testing the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 sea kayak


Paddling from Kingston Mills, Colonel By Lake and River Styx - Rideau Paddling Map 2

The trip continues tomorrow.

Happy tripping!
The BaffinPaddler

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Cowboy Scramble up a kayak with a rudder

Here it is. A short and sweet video that shows how I Cowboy Scramble up a kayak with a rudder without hurting myself on the blade or rudder mechanism in the back.

A small family of Canadian geese swam into the scene while we were shooting the video to see what was up and seemed to wonder if I needed help. How awesome is that!

Just remember to always secure the front tab of your spray skirt before you scramble up the back of the kayak or it will get caught between your legs and make it more difficult to get your spray skirt back on quickly once you make it into the cockpit.

You'll see in the video that I hold on to my spray skirt tab with my teeth (in a clean lake), or secure it with a quick release clip on the shoulder of my PFD.

Come on. You can do it! It's not that difficult.

I Cowboy Scrambled 10 times up the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 sea kayak because the camera guy kept saying, "Could you do that again. We need lots of takes to make sure we get a good one."

For more Cowboy Scrambling up different sea kayak models see:
Enjoy your Cowboy Scrambles and playing with your kayak!
The BaffinPaddler


Monday, July 9, 2012

Testing the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 Sea Kayak

I'll be off this week kayak camping parts of the Rideau Canal in Ontario, Canada and testing a big plastic sea kayak, a mango Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165. It can hold a lot of gear! It's 16'6" long, 23.75 inches wide, and weighs 62 lbs!

It's a good fit for a mid to large size paddler.

I'm a smaller paddler at 125 lbs., and 5'6" tall, but I was easily able to adjust the seat and thigh braces inside the cockpit to suit my preferences.

We'll see how I do touring it 20-24 kilometers a day for a few days, loaded to the gills!

For multi-day kayak camping trips, I want more space for gear than my Boreal Baffin or Maelstrom Vital 166 can provide.

I'm just starting to test larger volume kayaks for camping trips.

I'll also be doing a Cowboy Scramble up the back deck of this ruddered boat and follow up with more news and stories at a later date.

Happy paddles!
The BaffinPaddler


Thanks to Ottawa Paddle Shack for letting me test this kayak.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cycling the St. Lawrence River's Waterfront Trail in Cornwall, Ontario

Tree pose in Lamoureux Park, along Cornwall, Ontario's Waterfront Trail on the St. Lawrence River
Now's a good time to cycle waterfront trails. It's summer. It's hot. You'll pick up a breeze on your bike. The water is warm enough to swim in and the beaches are inviting.

The best part of cycling is where the bike takes you and where you take it. It's a partnership. 

Notice the spots that make you want to stop, get off the bike, climb a tree, strike a yoga pose in a gazebo, go for a swim, have a picnic, take a nap, play Frisbee, enjoy some wide open spaces away from all that urban sprawl, camp, or take a pic! When you get back on the bike, you can travel from city-to-city, participate in a cycling event, or go as many miles as you wish. It's pretty sweet when you can do it all and more on one great Waterfront Trail!
Awesome gazebo along Cornwall's Waterfront Trail in Lamoureux Park
I like to mix up kayaking with cycling along waterways in spring, summer, and fall. This seems to be a great way to keep every part of you in shape and enjoy the water in more ways than one. Canada has lots of great waterways and places to cycle!

Cycling Cornwall's historic canal on the Waterfront Trail along the St. Lawrence Seaway
To find out more about the Great Waterfront Trail in Ontario, you can read my next story on The Great Waterway. A cool Ontario Tourism website where I'm a regular blogger.

A sweet cycle on the Waterfront Trail from Gray's Creek to Guindon Park in Cornwall, Ontario.
(The images were shot in May)

Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler