Monday, September 1, 2014

The easiest way to find mindfulness - Paddling?

Yes?  No!  Maybe . . . I guess your paddle state-of-mind depends on many internal and external influences.

Internal influences may be your own health --- how you are feeling mentally and physically. You come to the water with a good attitude or with pent up stress from daily life and issues you just can't let go of. You may have a sore knee, a tummy ache, or a fit body that feels good all-over.

External influences may be the weather and conditions that you consider awful or totally perfect. A shoreline you'd like to land on is too rocky, or is very welcoming with a sandy beach.

Many things can affect our paddle state-of-mind and influence our ability to be mindful and enjoy our paddle.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness involves being in the present moment and paying attention with openness, interest, receptivity and without judgement.

Practising mindfulness on land can help us be more relaxed paddlers when we hit the water.

My next story is up on the Wanderlust Journal. 

It's about mindfulness. I enjoyed 4 days of yoga classes and events at the awesome Wanderlust Tremblant yoga festival from August 21-24 in Quebec, Canada. On the first day of the festival I took a mindful meditation class in the historic St. Bernard Chapel.

Here's the link:

Mindfulness is a great thing to practice and share.
Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mountain yogis unite - 5 ways to take your yoga practice outdoors

For my outdoor friends and new visitors to this blog, you may enjoy this article. Some people just can't relate to yoga - I know, it's not easy. It can be confusing and difficult to get into, and to keep up with. It's diverse, challenging, and hopefully rewarding. Sometimes, I question myself. "Why are you doing this? Why do you keep doing this?' Yoga!

The answer is simple: It can be good for you.

I am a member of the mindset of people who believe they can shop around and integrate a yoga practice into their lifestyle. One that suits you. Mine is very flexible. I can take it anywhere. And I do.

My ears often perk up when I listen to the reasons why some people don't like yoga. They tried it once or twice. The things they didn't like are the same things I didn't like. But, I changed my perspective. I decided to explore different forms of yoga, and a variety of teachers and studios. I kept going because, even with the things I didn't like, I was seeing good results. And when I kept going, I kept finding more things I liked or that intrigued me. Along with more and more good results.

Some people just don't like indoor yoga studios.

Indoor yoga studios make some outdoor people cringe and feel uncomfortable and confined.

The good news is, many of us get out of the indoor yoga studios and do yoga in the outdoors year round. Yes, even in winter! It's called Snowga.

You can really take it to the next level, literally! when you trek up a mountain trail. It's a great cardio workout to warm up the body and open up the lungs, then do a little, or a lot of yoga in the great outdoors with beautiful views.

Inspiring outdoor views naturally touch the heart chakra. You can feel it, even if you don't know what that is. It feels good. A warm, happy feeling. So sweet! And hey, the heart chakra, the fourth chakra, is associated with the colour green and the element air.

I have found doing yoga, or even just striking or holding a few of my favourite yoga poses in the outdoors incredibly powerful. Always much more powerful and meaningful than what I ever find inside a yoga studio.

The cool thing is, more and more people are doing yoga and finding creative ways to make it interesting, engaging and fun. It's a great way to connect with all things. I love both indoor yoga studios and all those outdoor yoga spaces we find along our path. Outdoor spaces for practice are infinite and roomy!

My next story is up on the Wanderlust Journal inspired by awesome experiences during the Wanderlust Tremblant yoga festival in Quebec, Canada from August 21-24. If you'd like to have a look, here's the link.

5 ways to take your yoga practice outdoors

Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Friday, August 22, 2014

What's in the Wanderlust Tremblant Mandala

Oh cool. I'm a guest blogger at the Wanderlust Tremblant yoga festival that runs from August 21-24 (Quebec, Canada.)

You're probably wondering what the heck this is in the photo above. I didn't have a clue either. So I found out and wrote a story about it with some much appreciated help from the Wanderlust editor. I'm still just a baby in the yoga world.

My first story is up on the Wanderlust Journal if you'd like to have a look. Here's the link:

Let Art Be Your Guide

Better yet, come join us in Tremblant for a fantastic yoga festival with indoor and outdoor classes, treks and runs on mountain trails, SUP yoga on Lake Tremblant, music, food, and yoga gear for sale! The weather is perfect and so are the vibes:) I'm not sure if there are any classes still available though. You'll have to check the Wanderlust Tremblant website schedule.
Everyone loves the Tremblant resort village and surroundings. They keep telling me so.

I'll be up late again tonight working on another festival story. Yogi by day. Writer by night.

I miss my kayaks! I'll catch up with them in the fall.

Happy trails.
The BaffinPaddler

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The calm before the storm - 2014 IRONMAN North American Championship Mont-Tremblant

The 2014 IRONMAN North American Championship Mont-Tremblant (Quebec, Canada) starts early tomorrow morning at 6:36 a.m. from the beach on Lake Tremblant with the 2.4 mile swim.
It's a full Ironman.
  • 2.4 mile swim (3.86 km), athletes have 2 hours, 20 minutes to complete it
  • 112 mile cycle (180.25 km), athletes have 8 hours to complete it
  • 26.2 mile marathon run (42.2 km), athletes have 6 hours, 30 minutes to complete it.
The beauty and peace at the depart for the swim the day before the competition defies the cold front, rain, and fog that rolled in this week.
This week the nights have gone down to 9 degrees Celsius 9 (48 F). The days sometimes warmed up to 15 degrees Celsius (59 F). All this, and just last week some of us were bemoaning temperatures around 32 C (90 F), with a little humidity. 

The cold, rain and fog offers an ominous calm the day before the triathlon. The lake is quiet.
Today I felt very lucky to enjoy a few quiet moments at the Ironman swim departure site after the meeting of volunteer kayakers for swim support.
Tomorrow morning, the swim depart site will be quite the opposite when the beach and water is filled with action, athletes, and tremendous energy. 

Each swim buoy marker is 130 metres (426.5 feet) apart along the 2.4 mile swim. The 2.4 mile swim distance may not look like much on a small map that you see in a local newspaper. But, when you see the Zodiac boats hauling out, and quietly placing each numbered marker, the scale of the swim, and the distance the athletes will cover, suddenly starts to come into stark perspective. Wow! I'm happy I'll be in a kayak.
There are 13 numbered yellow buoys heading out from the swim depart at the Tremblant Beach and Tennis Club - they disappear quickly in the fog - there's a turning point - the swim is a loop - and 13 orange numbered buoys on the return stretch to Parc Plage. The distance between the yellow and orange buoys in the middle of the loop is about 400 metres (.2 miles). Swim support is inside and outside the swim loop and there are some resting platforms along the way at specified buoys.

There are many more details and lots of professional support for the athletes, but let's rest before the event and enjoy the peaceful foggy views.
It is my first experience as a volunteer for an Ironman competition. The dedication, organization, and the volunteer and professional support for the athletes at the event is incredible. Of course, the dedication and training the athletes go through, and the support from their families is another story. Why they do it is their story.

During the event, of course, we volunteer kayakers are on duty and working. No photos. The media and event photogs are onsite for that.
Best wishes to the athletes, their families, and their support teams at the 2014 Subaru IRONMAN North American Championship Mont-Tremblant on August 17.  

Happy and safe trails.
The BaffinPaddler   

Monday, August 11, 2014

Does my Ironman Tremblant T-shirt make me look fat?

Yes it does. Let's blame it on a bulky belt on the jean shorts. What the hell. This is no time for vanity. I couldn't help striking a yoga pose in from of the big red M in the Tremblant Ironman village today.

I call it the Ironman village, because the massive white tents and stages for the event are already set up at the base of the Tremblant resort village. You can already feel the Ironman mania and high energy building in town. Parking further and further away, and taking longer and longer to find a parking lot with space is your first clue! August is a busy month up here!

The full Ironman Triathlon in Tremblant, Quebec, Canada on August 17 is fast approaching. It's what I call the totally insane Ironman. The full Ironman - not the half. How this is humanly possible in one day is beyond comprehension. Yet some 2600 athletes from over 50 countries, including Quebec's elite racers, will give it a go. Preparing for a full Ironman takes several years of hard training and burns a lot of calories.

Full Ironman
  •  2.4 mile swim (3.86 km), athletes have 2 hours, 20 minutes to complete it
  • 112 mile cycle (180.25 km), athletes have 8 hours to complete it
  • 26.2 mile marathon run (42.2 km), athletes have 6 hours, 30 minutes to complete it.
Everything is raced in that order with no breaks. Athletes need a lot of support along the way to accomplish this and help insure their safety.

Tremblant is stunningly beautiful, but it is no picnic for distance cycling and running. We have mountain grades here! The swim in Lake Tremblant is the best deal unless the wind is up. The water is cool and refreshing, not cold in August and the views are awesome year round.

I'm one of the many volunteers that will help support the event and the athletes.

Today I was on one of the volunteer teams to sort and organize the T-shirts for the captains of the volunteer teams for swim, bike, run, and other athlete services. That's a lot of red T-shirts!  Close to 2500 volunteers are required to make the event a success and ensure security at the 2014 Subaru IRONMAN North American Championship Mont-Tremblant on August 17.     

On event day, I'll be on the water (beautiful Lake Tremblant) as a swim support volunteer with my 17-foot long, bright yellow Baffin sea kayak.
We have to be there at 5:00 a.m.! The Baffin is always ready to go. I'm going to need coffee and a rooster crowing to get me out of bed way earlier than that.

The first wave of athletes run to the water at 6:36 a.m. An oddly precise time. I'll peek at the exact time on my white, waterproof Ironman watch when the first feet hit the water. The watch was a Mother's Day gift many years ago, and is the only watch I've ever had that has survived all my outdoor activities and has never gotten lost or destroyed.

We have to be on the water during the event for 4-hours without a break. Now I'm really kicking myself for not bothering to learn how to roll (again this year I ignored all training camps). It would be a great way to cool off, keep myself awake, and stretch out some muscles that are sure to get cramped after sitting around for so long.

This Ironman event will be a first for me and my Baffin sea kayak. It will be an amazing experience.What an awesome thing to share with your kayak. The list can always grow. Your kayak is always there for you.

I'll try to grab a few stunning shots of the Ironman experience and the Ironman village at Trembant as the event descends and takes over the resort and the surrounding area for miles!

Many roads along the path of the event or in the path of the event will be closed or will be blocked off at 6:00 a.m. on event day and won't reopen until well after the event.

I'll have to spend the day in the Ironman village at the Tremblant resort, and will probably be found on a bench somewhere later in the afternoon sound asleep with my camera in hand, unless the sheer adrenalin of the event keeps me going all day.

My red volunteer T-shirt may be very weary and wet by day's end. I may jump into the lake or practice a Cowboy Scramble or two after my shift is over.

So far, the weather report for this Sunday looks perfect. Let's hope it stays that way.

Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I'll be a guest blogger at Wanderlust Tremblant, August 21-24, 2014

The power of the pose. You can strike a powerful yoga pose, or notice it in something else.

It can create an opening. It opens a door. You'll have to step through that door to see what's next.

This morning, I stepped outside 10 minutes before my yoga practice to have a look at the day and what it might bring.

Before we step into a new space we normally look down to see what we might be stepping onto.

I saw a toad sitting upright, enjoying a warm, dry spot on the stone patio. He was facing North.
When I came back with my camera minutes later to capture his focused, meditative sitting pose, he stood up on all fours and held this fierce, confident pose for a long time.
It reminded me of several yoga poses: Table top, Plank, and Up Dog.

Then I realized it was his Warrier pose. I was in his space.

I've never seen a toad do this before. Usually they just hop away or sit still when they realize you've spotted them.

After my own morning yoga practice, I turned on a favourite TV channel and saw a random quote flash across the television screen:

Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way. Quote by Dr. Seuss.

Today, it seems I'm being sent some strong reminders not to forget to get online and schedule the classes and events I want to attend at this year's Wanderlust Tremblant yoga festival than runs from August 21-24.

For those of you that don't know the mountain or the region, Mont Tremblant Resort (known as Tremblant) is a beautiful, world-class, year-round resort in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec, Canada. It's about 80 miles northwest of Montreal. Tremblant is best known as a fantastic ski and snowboard destination, but also has a large lake (Lake Tremblant), excellent for water sports, private resort beaches, and several outstanding golf courses. Everyone loves the brightly-colored European-style resort village where pedestrians rule, shops, pubs, restos and family activities abound, and vehicles live and travel with care on the outskirts where they belong!
The name of the mountain, Mont Tremblant, came from the local Algonquin natives, who called it the "trembling mountain". The summit is some 875 metres (2,871 feet) high, making it one of the tallest peaks in the Laurentian mountains. It's fantastic for skiing in the winter, and trekking the mountain trails along waterfalls in the summer.

Last year I missed Wanderlust Tremblant because I waited until the last minute and all the classes were sold out.

But this year, I'm happy to say that I'll be one of the guest bloggers at Wanderlust Tremblant. I'll be attending the event every day and writing a daily story.

The event organizers want us to step out of our comfort zones and be creative.

I'll provide a link on my BaffinPaddler blog to my articles on the Wanderlust website if you'd like to follow along. I've never participated in a Wanderlust event before, so it will be a new experience for me to jump in head first and share it with you.

The Wanderlust motto is Find Your True North.

Why did the toad's powerful standing pose and Dr. Seuss's quote remind me to get off the fence today?

Who knows. But I got the message! Time to schedule some classes!

If you'd like to find out more about Wanderlust Tremblant, and book your classes sooner than later, here's the link. It's an experience, it's a festival, it's a journey, it's a celebration, it's yoga and more . . .

Wanderlust Tremblant, August 21-24, 2014

Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When the wind is up - kayak surfing on Lower Beverley Lake

Here's a little kayak bite from me to contribute to the love of paddling. It's National Paddling Week in Canada from June 6-15 so it makes me think, "Do something with one of your kayaks!"

If you can't find any organized paddling events in your area, you can create your own paddling event with the wind. It's often abundant and free!

That's what we did at Lower Beverley Lake, from the Village of Delta, Ontario (Canada) when we had a forecast with a 25 km/h north wind blowing us south across the lake towards Lyndhurst Creek.

But, it was the 40 km/h wind gusts blowing behind us that gave us the surfing power.

These conditions are my maximum for my smaller girl size, strength, and skills.

It's a lot of fun to get a feel for kayak surfing on lakes in moderate conditions if you've got good surf sea kayaks, some decent paddling skills, and the proper gear. If you don't know what stern rudder is yet. . . and have no rescue or rolling skills, it's not a good idea to give this a try.

If you don't have access to ocean waves and tides to surf on, and you're looking for a fun lake to kayak surf on, Lower Beverley Lake is a good candidate when motor boat traffic is low and the wind is up.

Lower Beverley Lake is an an awesome lake for day tripping with kayaks, wind surfing, boating, and fishing, with 28 kilometers (17 miles) of diverse shoreline adorned with granite rock formations, forest, marshland, small sandy beaches, and some cottage development.

Lower Beverley Lake has open water, large and small bays to hide in on windy days, 14 islands to skirt around, and several adjoining creeks that are interesting to explore (Delta, Lyndhurst, and Morton).

It’s a fairly deep lake with an average depth of 9.1 meters (30 feet), the deepest parts are 28.7 meters (94 feet).

There are some limestone shoals to watch out for. Most are marked with small white rock buoys with reflectors and lights.

You can launch from a public boat launch on Delta Creek.
The public boat launch is only a few paddle strokes from the beautiful Old Stone Mill, in Delta, Ontario. Although, if you see the Mill from the water, turn around and paddle the other direction out to Lower Beverley Lake. You can visit and tour the inner workings of the historic grist mill, built in 1810, but not by kayak. The entrance is at the front at 46 King Street (County Rd. 42). Don't get too close to it by kayak. The Mill has a working water wheel.
Delta Creek is short, sweet, and narrow with a bit of current and lots of cottages and campers surrounding it. But the giant willow trees along the route make it worthwhile for a short visit.
Now, how long did it take us to cross Lower Beverley Lake from Delta Creek to the opening of Lyndhurst Creek with a big push of wind? Only 30 minutes.

The orange boathouse on the southeast shore of Lower Beverley Lake in Halladay Bay sits at the opening of Lyndhurst Creek. It was our marker for finding the opening of the creek from the lake with no GPS.
You can paddle down Lyndhurst Creek from Lower Beverley Lake to Lyndhurst (or vice-versa). We were much more protected from the wind once we entered the creek, and the kayak surfing was over. Lyndhurst Creek is about 4 km (3 miles) long from Lower Beverley Lake to the public boat launch at Lyndhurst. The total distance one way from Delta to Lyndhurst is about 7.5 km.

At Lyndhurst there's a public boat launch with free parking, a waterfront gazebo/picnic shelter, a few picnic tables, and a public restroom.
You can't paddle past this point, there's a small dam. But, you can enjoy the views of the historic Old Stone Bridge, the oldest bridge in Ontario, built from 1856-57.  Don't get too close, the wind and the current may push you towards it.

Lyndhurst Creek is an outlet of Lower Beverley Lake. The creek is wide enough, the current slow moving, and the water fairly deep that it feels more like a little river (with no rapids) than a creek. The shorelines have marshland and some cottages along the way, and is populated with snapping turtles if you like to catch them sunning on fallen logs.
I know what you're thinking, "Oh, yeah. It was a fun ride down in the wind, but how was the ride back to Delta!" 

On windy days, and depending on the direction of the wind and where you launch from, you may want to shuttle a car between Lyndhurst and Delta, or earn your paddling points by paddling back against the wind, curse the gusts - they are wicked, and duck into a bay or hide behind an island when they hit and wait for a break. Then paddle like mad back to your cabin or take out before another wind gust hits. This will test your best paddling hat!. Luckily mine had a neck strap. I wore my paddling hat around my neck on the way back.

On calm days with little wind, this is an enjoyable paddle without the kicks! Bring friends. This makes a great day paddle for groups.
Love your kayak . . . or keep shopping!

Happy and safe paddle trails.
The BaffinPaddler

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Good News - More campsites you can reserve in the 1000 Islands

For you kayak campers out there, here's an update on some good news in the 1000 Islands National Park (along the St. Lawrence River, Ontario, Canada).

Remember the old days when you couldn't reserve any campsites on the islands and had to paddle out to a few, cross your fingers, and hope for the best? Times are not only changing for us, but improving.

The number of campsites that can be reserved in the 1000 Islands National Park of Canada has increased to 36.

You can now reserve a campsite on Beau Rivage, Camelot, Cedar, Milton, McDonald, Gordon, Georgina, East Grenadier, Central Grenadier, Aubrey and Mulcaster Islands, with the remaining 25 campsites still available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

oTENTik accommodations on McDonald Island, Gordon Island and Mallorytown Landing (on the mainland) are also reservable, so you don't need to pack a tent!
Now, let's wish for even more great news that generators will not be allowed on any camping islands! And, that more and more motorized craft will rely on solar power. Call me greedy, or call me hopeful. But I know park staff are working on phasing out generator use on all islands bit-by-bit.

I'll be posting more kayak bites during Canada's National Paddling Week, which runs from June 6-15, 2014.

Get out there and paddle or join in some paddling festivities in your area and enjoy!

Happy paddles and safe trails.
The BaffinPaddler

Credits: Thanks to Parks Canada for providing me with information and updates about the 1000 Islands National Park.

Monday, June 2, 2014

I love it when my sea kayak takes me to the beach - Rivière Rouge

It wasn't my idea. The wind and the current of the Rivière Rouge (Red River) were pushing us towards this long, white, soft, sandy beach, so I agreed with my kayak, "Hey, let's stop here." Why resist. There are so many sandy beaches along the shores of the Rivière Rouge, I have trouble choosing which one to visit. 

My kayak picked this one. 
Seems my kayak not only has good timing, but also good taste. It picked the nicest stretch of beach along our route that day.

A few minutes after landing on the beach, a big wind gust picked up and we had a sudden 5-minute sandstorm. Say what! 

Then the wind fell quiet again. Thank you kayak. How did you know? After the surprising wind gust, we continued on our way with a little extra grit in our teeth.

We were paddling against the current, launching from La Conception, Quebec heading upriver (NW-N) towards Labelle (about 15 minutes north of Tremblant, Quebec).

There's about 20 kilometers (12 miles) of winding, twisting river with current, and no rapids along this section. Paddling some distance against the current is a great way to get in shape and test your power strokes and torso rotation.

If you want to add more distance to your paddle route, you can include the stretch of Rivière Rouge from Brébeuf further south downriver.

If you don't want to paddle against the current, you can shuttle a car at a pick-up point downriver, and launch from upriver and go longer distances with the flow. It's fun and much easier.

You can also rent basic rec kayaks or canoes from a local outfitter with a shuttle service, like Kayak Cafe in Labelle, Quebec, and they'll pick you up at several points downriver.   

With big, lightweight, fibreglass paddle spoons and two high-performance sea kayaks and relaxed power strokes, we didn't have any trouble paddling against the current the first day of June with a moderate to light wind, and a few strong, sudden gusts. 

All the people paddling downriver from Labelle in canoes and sit-on-tops seemed to look at us in surprise, as if to say, ''Aren't you going the wrong way?" 

Nope. This is good training. And, we're wearing PFDs!

You don't need a kayak compass to navigate this stretch of river. There aren't any islands or big bays to confuse you, just farmland, cottages, trees, beaches, and mountain views. You can't get lost. 

But, I find it more interesting to always know the direction I'm going, and where the wind is actually blowing. The weather report doesn't always get it right. 

My kayak compass showed the true twisting and turning of the Rivière Rouge. We went NW, N, NE, SW, S, SE, E, and W. The compass readings are not necessarily in that order, I just remember, we did them all. Upriver or downriver, you'll have views in all directions. On windy days, you can test your skills and paddle strokes with headwinds, tailwinds, and crosswinds. Enjoy! You may visit a few extra beaches. 

After 2 hours of paddling against the current came the reward. Turning around and going with the current! But the wind had other ideas! It decided to make us work a little. No free rides!

The Rivière Rouge is a beautiful, clear river to paddle, with a slight red tinge from the sandy, shallow bottom. The bottom is mostly sandy - not rocky, and very shallow in many spots along the way. In the summer months, you may need to get out and carry or drag your kayak a bit. Watch out for fallen trees and the odd deadhead. 

The Rivière Rouge always inspires me to do a little impromptu yoga in the outdoors.
Just be extra careful paddling or swimming in this river in the spring (the water is cold) or after lots of heavy rainfall. The current, or an occasional cross current can surprise you. You can't swim against the current. You can swim or float with the current or swim perpendicular to the shore to get out of the main current and seek shallow footing where you see beaches. 

And, in the true spirit of a good kayaker who loves the water, I did pick up some Budweiser along the way! Although, it was not mine . . . 
Happy paddle trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Level Six Capital Cup - Whitewater Freestyle Kayak Competition at Bate Island, Ottawa

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of the Level Six Capital Cup, a whitewater freestyle kayaking competition that showcases both men and women, amateurs and professionals.

While it's more fun to watch the competitors negotiating the excitement of the rapids, and this is what the photographers love to shoot and the kayak manufacturers love to promote, it was the irony of the baby stroller parked next to the whitewater kayaks that caught my eye. "Are you watching mommy compete?"  Go girl! 

The event is put on by Level Six with other sponsors such as Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), NRS, OWL Rafting, Madawaska Kanu Centre, Wilderness Tours, and Ottawa Kayak School.
The Level Six Capital Cup also includes a SUP race and a raft race. This is fun to watch! You can find a link to professional photos of the event on the Level Six Facebook page. Just Google it.

The event takes place each spring in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada) in the powerful Champlain Rapids from Bate Island, just off the Champlain Bridge, as long as the water levels cooperate. And this year, the Ottawa River was happy to oblige with big spring flows and fair weather. Saturday, May 3 was generous with no rain, a moderate wind, and 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit).

The water levels, rapids, and standing waves the first week of May at Bate Island are still in mint condition after April's big melt-down and powerful flows.

Look at the big, bad, cup! It was well-guarded at the event. I was lucky to get a photo of it. Adam Chapel won the Men's and Brenna Kelly won the Women's. For more information you can look up the results on the Level Six website.
If you missed the Level Six Capital Cup this year, you may want to check it out next spring. Watching the event is free and so is parking at Bate Island. It is relaxed and low key. Bring a picnic lunch. Cycle to the site. Competitors pay an entry fee.
I'm not a fan of whitewater kayaks, but those river runners and creeking kayaks keep calling me. As a sea kayaker, I like a longer kayak.
Pyranha Burn III - new in 2014
Next week, Ottawa's Tulip Festival kicks off. Let's hope the tulips will cooperate and bloom in time with our late-breaking, chilly, overcast, and soggy spring weather.

Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ça Cogne! It's spring in Canada.

What "cognes?" The ice melting, breaking up, and flowing downstream to be churned up in the rapids as they hit the whitewater kayaks playing in the big, fast, spring flows of the Ottawa River off Bate Island.

Over the weekend, I watched the melting ice flows moving downriver towards the rapids. They are almost impossible to see churning in the whitewater of the rapids. I asked a whitewater paddler at Bate Island, "What about the ice?"

He responded in French, "Ça Cogne."

In English, you can choose the verb of your choice: it bangs, knocks, hits, thumps, whacks, wallops, or clobbers.

I guess the size and speed of the ice chucks hitting your kayak would help you choose the best word.

Then I asked him, "What if you go into the water."

He responded calmly with a smile, "Cover your face."

Spring thaw usually equals big spring flows on the Ottawa River. And this year is no different.

Each year I look for the peak spring flows off Bate Island. I can usually tell by a convergence of whitewater paddlers lined up along the shore, waiting for a turn at the high flowing rapids and big standing waves.

They were there this long Easter weekend, and so much fun to watch.
It's quite a show. Especially when you're standing close to shore, the incredible speed and powerful rush of the water during spring flows is impressive and frightening, and challenging fun for the whitewater paddlers.

Spectators gather to witness the yearly spring paddle pilgrimage to this spot at Bate Island on the Ottawa River between the cities of Gatineau, Quebec, and Ottawa, Ontario in Canada.  Bate Island has a small park with picnic tables, a large picnic shelter (gazebo), free parking, and can be accessed in either direction from the Champlain Bridge.

The variety of skilled paddlers and surfers who show up to ride the big standing waves and play in the icy-cold rapids may surprise you. We expect whitewater kayaks and whitewater canoes. They are made for this.
Each year, it's the surfers and stand up paddleboarders who surprise me the most. Yes, they ride and play in waves and tides, but what about rapids with strong currents and some ice chunks thrown into the mix? My images simply can't convey how fast and furious the water is. You have to be there to fully appreciate it.
Whitewater art comes in many forms. Some forms will swim more than others.
When going into the rapids, choose your best weapon.
The whitewater kayak is king.
It's still missing from my small fleet of sea kayaks and paddleboards. But I'll get one or two for play in less intense waters and rolling practice.

I had a rolling lesson in a Jackson Zen 65 river runner, and I liked it. It's the only whitewater kayak I've ever sat in that made me think I might want one. I usually don't like the feel of them.

Stay warm and safe. If you are new to the river, beware. The very dangerous Deschenes Rapids are downriver from Bate Island.
Deschenes Rapids, Ottawa River, Aylmer, Quebec, Canada
You do not want to paddle downriver from Bate Island or run the Deschenes Rapids from upriver. The rapid along the Quebec shore races with fury through an old hydro facility that has crumbled. But you can view these impressive rapids from shore if you cycle the path along the river

Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring training for the paddler

Learning about navigation aids is especially important for the paddler. Part of my spring training for the upcoming paddling season, while waiting for the water to thaw and warm up, is hitting the books, or the websites with information I need to review and . . . try to remember.

I've found myself confused about buoy markers and marine signs more than once on a variety of waterways in Canada and the U.S.

In my early paddling years, on a large lake with several islands, I found myself kayaking towards a black and red buoy. Not knowing its meaning and thinking it was a channel marker indicating a safe passage between islands, I paddled towards it. When I got closer to it, I said, "Oh shit!", it's a buoy indicating DANGER. I could suddenly see the big shoal it was sitting on, and I was paddling right for it with an unfavourable wind when I should have been taking extra care to paddle well away from it.

Now, every spring, I make an effort to review some of the navigation aids. They can be confusing and I tend to forget things over the 6-month long winter in Canada.

The image above is a red and white FAIRWAY BUOY 

It is parked on land as it waits for the water to thaw. I took a picture of it so you can see what's in the water with you. It is heavy, solid as a rock, and comes to a nasty point at the front. You don't want to get too close to it or get pushed into, or under it by wind, waves, current, or big boat wakes.

A fairway buoy is used to mark safe water and is usually used to mark a channel entrance, the centre of a shipping channel, or a landfall. This buoy indicates that there is safe water to pass on either side but it should be kept to the port (left) side of your vessel when proceeding upstream or downstream. It is painted half in red and half in white. If it is equipped with a light, it is white in color and operates on a flash cycle (flashing Morse Code "A", which is a short, then long flash, repeated 10 times per minute).

There are good, free, online resources and navigation courses you can take. If you're going to paddle in waters with navigation aids and motorized craft, you need to know the rules of the water, or at least some of them, before heading out.

In Canada, sea kayaks are subject to small vessel regulations. 

Under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, Transport Canada is the government department responsible for pleasure boating. Sea kayaks are subject to Small Vessel Regulations under the Act.

For more information, see page 16, Regulations: Sea Kayaking Safety Guide, Transport Canada

For more information about navigation aids, and their meaning, here are a few links for pleasure craft operators in Canada. This more detailed information is also very useful for the paddler sharing the same waters with motorized craft. 

Happy and safe trails!
The BaffinPaddler