Monday, November 09, 2015

Sarah Outen Around the World!

Kudos to Sarah Outen for completing her circumnavigation of the world! She rowed across oceans and kayaked many waters, and cycled across North America on her four-and-a-half-year journey. Check out her website (where we borrowed this excellent photo) and read about her inspiring trip, which began and ended in London, England.
Celebratory photo by Jim Shannon

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Canoe paintings by Winslow Homer

I've been wanting to do some visual art that connects with what it feels like to go out in small boats and explore the waters around me. Recently I learned of a celebrated watercolour artist called Winslow Homer (1836-1910), whose work was strongly inspired by canoeing.

This painting, from a private collection, is called Canoes in the Rapids, Saguenay River.

Check out the website for Winslow Homer's art, where you'll find over 500 images of his paintings. There are small boats of many kinds to admire here, from sloops to adirondack flat-bottom boats and many canoes..

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Messing About in Boats

"Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats…In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not. Look here! If you've really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?"
~ from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, illustration by E.H. Shepard. Click here for a link to Project Gutenberg's free download of the classic book!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Under the Bridge -- a canoe trip on CBC Radio

Check out this link to the CBC Radio website, to see an article about a terrific piece of radio programming: a documentary on a canoe trip from Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan to Baker Lake, Manitoba -- and the people who have never forgotten their trip even  28 years later.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Heroic rescues at Tofino whale watching accident

There's more news from Tofino about the accident that saw the sinking of Leviathan II, a 20-metre -long vessel used for whale watching. At least five people have been confirmed dead, and the search continues for a sixth who is presumed dead in the cold waters off Vancouver Island.
The only boat to see a signal flare from the accident site was a fishing boat with Ken Brown and Clarence Smith. These Ahousaht fishermen rushed to the scene and put out the call for help on their radio. CBC has an article here about the rescue.

updated later:

CTV's 11:00pm report on Tuesday pointed out that with the closure of Uclulet's Coast Guard base, the Coast Guard base at Powell River is responsible for the whole west coast. The rock where passengers were clinging is known locally to fishermen as "Bare Rock" but it's not labelled that on official charts. Only someone with local knowledge would know where that little islet actually was. Luckily, some of the Tofino Coast Guard were able to receive the radio call from Clarence Smith, CTV reported.

Or were they? An in-depth article from Ha-Shilth-Sa website has even more to say about the rescue. When Clarence Smith couldn't make himself understood to Tofino Coast Guard on Channel 16, he switched over to the radio frequency used by Ahousaht First Nation. Reception was good, and boats were there in minutes.

This incident is a real reminder to all small boat users to be prepared with your own boat's safety gear. It's easy to feel strong and capable and in control of my boat, but no one controls the weather or a rogue wave. It's been a while since our paddle group did safety practise, towing each other and practising wet re-entries and more. We'll have to at least do knot practise while watching a video, and learn more about search-and-rescue procedure.

The incident is also a reminder for paddlers to write to their newly-elected MPs (no postage stamp needed!) to call for support and restoring of Coast Guard services that have been closed or under-supplied.

Woodstock on the Water -- in Rolling Stone

Apparently there's a paddling race called Paddlequest that's also a live action role-playing game taking place over a couple of days in August for the last 14 years. Check out the article in Rolling Stone's website to understand a little more about this odd water event.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tofino Whale Watching Accident

The CBC has news from Tofino today (Sunday Oct 25) that a whale watching boat sank off Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Four people are reported dead, others are in hospital. Click here for a link to the story on CBC's website.
Here's another link to the story on CTV, which reports many people in the community were quick to respond to the tragedy with help as it was needed -- Ahousaht First Nations people in boats, other whale-watching boats, and also local residents opening their homes to shelter those who were hurt or chilled in the cold water.
Global News had a breaking report on the news late Sunday afternoon.

Update on Monday:
The CBC has an update confirming the deaths of five British people during the sinking of MV Leviathan II about four pm on Sunday October 25. The local boat users searched long after darkness fell, because another person is still missing. You can read their article here, including some short video clips and statements from people in Tofino.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Kayaking Helmet

Whitewater kayakers wear helmets to protect their heads from collisions with river rocks. I hadn't realized until recently that Aleut sea kayakers in the Aleutian islands of what is now Alaska would traditionally wear a kind of helmet. Their style of helmet was more for protecting their eyes from glare and spray.

Here's a photo from the British Museum's website of an 18th-century Aleut hunting helmet worn while kayaking. The style was far more practical than it might seem at first glance. The description on the web page explains something of how the materials could have cultural significance as well as usefulness.
I don't like the thought of the cultural imperialism shown by the 'collectors' who brought this helmet and other cultural artifacts around the world to the British Museum... but I do find the online resources are at least making images of these items available for people to see and learn.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Paddlers alert -- Public forum Oct 29 on the future of Elk and Beaver Lake

We at Kayak Yak have had a press release forwarded to us from the Capital Regional District, the Gorge Waterway Initiative, and the Victoria Golden Rods and Reel Society.

Mark your calendars for the evening of Thursday October 29! Paddlers of all kinds who use local lakes will be interested in this upcoming free public forum on the health and future of Elk/Beaver Lake. Details below:

Elk/Beaver Lake “A Tale of Two Lakes”— Can aging lakes be rejuvenated?
Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, 7 pm – 9 pm  Law Lecture Theatre 159, Fraser Building, University of Victoria
- Dr. Rick Nordin, BC Lake Stewardship Society: What’s Going On Inside Elk/Beaver Lake?
- Erin Gray, JD, Articled Student, Environmental Law Centre: Best Case Practices in Lakes Management
- Michelle Hawryluk, BSc. ES, BC Ministry of Environment: Progress Report on Remediation Options

Here's a map of the UVic campus with the Fraser building marked in red.

What will the evening look like?

1/ people encouraged to park in Parking Lot 8 from 6pm when the evening rate of $2.50 starts.
      ( Carpool, friends! Or take any of several buses to UVic. There's a bike rack at the building.)
2/ people visit at the stakeholders booths from 6pm to 7pm
3/ from 7pm to 9pm there are three speakers and question and answer periods.

The following organizations have confirmed their booth spaces to date:

  • Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC
  • Habitat Acquisition Trust 
  •  Camosun College Environmental Technology Program
  • Peninsula Streams Society
  • Victoria Rowing Society
  • Victoria Golden Rods and Reels Society
  •  Gorge Waterway Initiative

Reminder: The CRD Regional Parks Committee has included Elk/Beaver Lake as a strategic priority in its Service Plan for 2016-2019.
Subject to CRD Board approval, a half time co-ordinator for Elk/ Beaver Lake remediation  will be included in the Service Plan for 2016 to 2019 renewable annually. The Committee also voted to purchase a new weed harvester.

Dr. Rick Nordin’s June 2015 water quality report can be accessed through this link and is hosted at the Gorge Waterway Initiative website.

If you have any questions please contact either of the names below. Your assistance in helping to publicize this event is greatly appreciated.

Mick Collins
Co-chair, Elk/Beaver Lake Initiative, Victoria Golden Rods & Reels Society 
Phone 250-598-3294    
Kitty Lloyd
Gorge Waterway initiative Coordinator

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Canoeing In Ontario -- 1930s Style

Here's an old film by Reg Blomfield dating back to the mid-1930s. Shot on Stoney Lake, Ontario, Reg, aholder of International, Canadian and American Championships demonstrates some of the things that can be done in a canoe. He paddles about the lake, and does some seriously cool tricks. All in glorious fuzzy black and white.

If you like, here's a shorter version with just the tricks:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kayaking Mitts

When kayaking in the winter, it's good to have a pair of mitts or pogies to cover your hands. Pogies are big enough to fasten around the paddle, and let the paddler wear paddling gloves as well. That's particularly nice since my paddling gloves have just short fingers in a cut-off style. They were a gift from my daughter Lila and have been worn for 5 winters, while the pogies were used twice and have been put away for the next time Lila is paddling here. Her hands get chilled even more easily than Louise's hands! It's important to keep warm while paddling, since the ocean is cold here year-round.
Here's a traditional style of kayaking mitts from Greenland which are called aaqqatit. I found a photo from the British Museum website, with a description of these sealskin mitts in their collection. The mitts are distinct in that they have two thumbs. No, Greenlanders do NOT have two-thumbed hands! This design allows a padder to turn a mitt around if it becomes too slippery.

This photo is from the British Museum website

This two-thumbed style of mitt is well-suited to cold water paddlesports, and to fishermen on the North Sea, who traditionally wore a version knitted of wool. The style also makes a lot of sense to anyone who has ever worn mitts or gloves while working outdoors. For one thing, the mitt on your dominant hand wears out much more quickly than the other mitt. For another, it's far too easy to lose one of a pair. And when you live out in the boonies there is no handy store like Ocean River Sports or Capitol Iron just around the corner for picking up a new pair. The upshot is, any outdoor worker ends up with a few odd gloves or mitts.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

New Book from Jennifer Kingsley

A year ago, we carried a book review here on Kayak Yak -- a review of Jennifer Kingsley's wonderful book Paddlenorth: Adventure, Resilience, and Renewal in the Arctic Wild. Sure, her paddling adventures on the Back River in Canada's far north were amazing, but what's she been doing lately? Why, another book on paddling in the far north.
Here's a guest post today on Kayak Yak, written by Helaine Becker for Sci/Why, a blog by Canadian writers of science books for children. She's graciously allowed us to borrow this post!

Meet The North 
posted by Helaine Becker

Paddling North
I recently had the good fortune to meet author Jennifer Kingsley at the Lakefield Literary Festival. I was completely taken with her, and with her story of her current project: circumnavigating the Arctic via word of mouth. She'd talk to someone, who would tell her about someone else in the north she should meet, go see that person, talk to them and get another recommendation, and so on. How fabulous, I thought! How brilliant a demo of the science of communication, in action!

Jennifer Kingsley
I asked Jennifer if she'd talk to Sci-Why, and she very graciously agreed. She sent me her answers to my questions from Greenland, where she is now deep in her project.

Here is the interview:

1. Tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do and how you get started on the Meet the North Project.
I'm a Canadian who loves the outdoors, and I express that in two different ways. One: I'm a guide and naturalist, and I work on sailboats and ships in different parts of the world, primarily the Arctic. Two: I'm a writer and radio producer always looking for ways to bring stories and sounds out of remote regions and into the imaginations of my audience.
My first book is called Paddlenorth: Adventure, Resilience, and Renewal in the Arctic Wild, and it's about a 54-day canoe expedition across the Canadian Arctic.
2. Paddlenorth  is terrific. I was so intrigued by your presentation at the Lakefield Festival, I got the book right away! It's full of adventure, of course. But also heart. And there's some serious drama and mystery too. Heart-thumping, page-turning mystery.

Now, you've embarked on a new adventure! Can you describe the Meet the North project for our readers?
Meet the North is my personal journey from WHAT is the Arctic to WHO is the Arctic. It's a project I created, and it's sponsored by Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic.
Here's the skinny about Meet the North from the project web site

#meetthenorth is a project about the lives of northerners from
Svalbard to Greenland, Iceland, the Canadian Arctic, and beyond.
These are among the most remarkable places on Earth, and the
best way to understand them is to ask those who know them best.
This project gets its direction from the people of the north.
Their ideas set our path; we listen, and we follow their lead.
By meeting one person at a time, and by asking that person to
introduce us to someone new, we are getting to know the
Arctic community, and we are sharing our journey with you.

Join the adventure on Instagram at #meetthenorth 

and by following @meetthenorth. Follow the
stories on this website too.

3. Sooooo coool! To my mind, your project is science in action, in that through your project, you are demonstrating and investigating human communication. Do you agree? Can you elaborate?
Meet the North is absolutely about human communication. It's about having a strong vision . . . but not much of a plan. I let the people that I meet set my path, so it's not until they introduce me to someone new that I know where I am going next. I think you could call it social science; it's similar to Snowball Sampling, which is used by some anthropologists.
I think what makes this project valuable and different is that it values the contribution of each individual. It's not about mapping the entire fabric; it's about finding one true thread.
4. It seems to me your project will provide valuable scientific data for use in other fields. Can you elaborate on that?
I believe that this project, and it's method, will help to uncover ideas and topics that would not be discovered otherwise. If I really want to know what is important to someone, I have to be very open. It doesn't serve me to come in with preconceived ideas, nor can I open with directive questions.
In this way, I think Meet the North could help fill out the picture painted by other work in other fields. It gives a human face to the data others are collecting. 
5. Can you describe one encounter you have already had, and what it revealed/meant to you?
I just got home from Iceland, and at the beginning of my time there, I had one meeting set up. That one meeting led me, through a series of introductions, to the far east corner of the country which has been, perhaps, the least impacted by the recent tourism boom. By making personal connections to a very out of the way place, I discovered a project I would never have heard about otherwise.

Way out there, in a municipality of 500 people, there is a movement afoot to turn a fjord into a container port. This will only make sense more than a decade from now, if sea ice melts in a certain way and if global politics take a certain turn. It's an attempt to involve Iceland in the evolving Arctic economy, when many Icelanders are opening guest houses and selling souvenirs. It was a whiff of the change in the air - still faint but indicative of big changes ahead. So we interviewed the man spearheading this initiative, out in the middle of the heath. Who knows what will be there 10 years from now.

 Thanks, Jennifer! Good luck with your project, and please keep us posted!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Good Bait

I went to Kemp Lake today. It was a good day for commando kayaking: good weather and lots of room on the little community bus. There was someone out on the water in a canoe when I got there.  I began setting up my little inflatable kayak, as the canoeist turned toward shore. As he grounded, the canoeist put aside his fishing rod and began throwing stones onshore. Big stones, head-sized, that were in the bow of his canoe. He had like five of them.
"Nice day for fishing," I said.
"Yup!" he said cheerfully. "I had lots of action."
Dunno what bait he was using to get rocks that size, but it sure worked.
He dragged his canoe up to his truck, tied it down quickly, and drove away as a little car arrived. Out popped a mother and two little boys, who stared bright-eyed at my inflated kayak. Yes, it looks really cool, and has go-faster stripes. "Would you like to float in my boat while I hold the rope so it stays close to shore?" I asked.
Of course they would! And their mother was pleased. One boy popped in to the kayak and I took hold of the painter, which is a line about 15 feet long. I walked along a little dock as he paddled gently, thrilled to be in a real kayak. Then his little brother took a turn. During the summer I saw a trout here, but today we didn't see any fish around the dock, what with all the paddling and talking.
Dunno what I was trollng for, but I had good bait.
We waved cheerful goodbyes as I finally got into my boat and set off to circle the lake. Here's a link showing my location part-way 'round. It's not too big. I took about an hour to make a leisurely circuit complete with pauses to eat a snack and drift peacefully.
As I came ashore, a couple was arriving for their turn at the lake. If I'd known there'd be this much traffic on a Thursday in October, I'd have made a reservation. They pulled two Pelican kayaks out of their van and set up their fishing gear. The couple had many good things to say about their Pelicans, as very stable and practical boats. I am not convinced, as without bulkheads or flotation devices these are not ideal for safety. "No, they're stable and safe, we've had 'em out in waves this high," insisted the husband, but he admitted: "Once you get water in 'em, you can't empty it out. They don't really sink, they just stay there under the surface."
Yeah. I let it go, didn't take the bait, and packed up my boat. Time for a commando departure as I headed to the bus stop. There I ate another snack, while keeping an eye out for bears. I have no interest in bringing a bear out of the forest to find my smoked cheese or candy. There have been fifty bear sightings a month since summer in this area, and that's not an unusual number. Funny, how kayakers have to think about bears AND car traffic on the same day trip. And so, home for a lovely dinner made by my spouse. All in all, caught a good day.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Charles Lindbergh in a Kayak

Did you ever want to see a clip of Charles Lindbergh in a kayak? If you did, you've come to the right place.
He and his wife were surveying air routes in the Arctic in 1933, six years after his record-making solo flight across the Atlantic. Stopping in Greenland, they are greeted by some locals, then try their hand at kayaking. Lucky Lindy's technique needs some work at first, but it does improve over time. Check out the clip below:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An English Paddling Opportunity

Wouldn't a paddling holiday in England be nice? One day I'd like to paddle the Thames. Or this lovely canal nearl Leeds and Liverpool.

There's a new route just opening up to paddlers:  east coast to west coast across England via rivers and canals. Check it out here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Paddle to Quinault video

The other day I came across some striking videos of the Paddle to Quinault gathering in Washington State, on the Olympic Peninsula. In August 2013 there were several First Nations groups paddling traditional-style wooden canoes to this gathering.

Here's one of the videos I found on YouTube. If you click on this link, you can see the above video there where it's posted. There are other videos leading up to the gathering, and the arrival of boats on the beach. Nice for armchair paddling!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Czech Out This Kayaking Clip

Here's a vintage clip of some crazy kayak action in the former Czechoslovkia from 1961. Check it out embedded below:

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Kayak Wrestling

Because what's the point of being in a kayak with your sister if you both can't get drunk and try to beat the crap out of each other, right?
Check out the video below:

Monday, October 05, 2015

News from Sarah Outen

Sarah Outen has been on the road and in her boats most of the last four years in a human-powered circumnavigation of the world. Her journey has been suspended for now, as a hurricane has halted her progress across the North Atlantic ocean. Read more about her amazing journey at this link!