Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sea Kayaking "Iceberg Alley"

This beautiful Iceberg was grounded off of Ferryland Head in late June two years ago...just less than an hours drive south of St. John's.

This is a very interesting time of the year in this part of the world. This part of the world being where the cold Labrador current runs along our east coast. Over the winter, ice forms in the sea off of Labrador. The current from the north continually pushes this forming ice further south, helping to contribute to what ice has formed off the northern part of the island of Newfoundland.
Depending on the year, many factors dictate how much ice will form, and how far south it will reach, as well as whether that ice will lie onshore, or be pushed offshore. As for Icebergs, some have been breaking off of glaciers in parts of northern Canada, but over 90% of them come from Greenland. Once broken off from Greenland, these Icebergs usually travel this northern sea for up to three years. Many over winter in northern Labrador, but eventually get pushed south by the Labrador current, some coming with these ice flows, as yet others will come later in the season being released as the pack ice breaks up in late spring. This usually leads to Icebergs being along our coast from now until late May, but in some years of heavy ice, we may see Icebergs along our shore line until mid July...sometimes even later. Whether we will have a year with lots, or little Iceberg activity, is determined by to many factors to accurately predict. Factors include the amount of calving from Greenland in preceding years, ice formation in Labrador, currents, on or offshore well as air temperature and sunshine, which will all contribute to the rate of an iceberg's melt. How big was the iceberg to start with, as well as how many pieces it has broken up into, to form even more smaller icebergs.

As for photographing or even sea kayaking around these huge beautiful sculptures of nature....the ideal year would be one that brings large Icebergs into shore, just to have them ground fast to the ocean bottom in a bay or cove. That would leave them handy to reach by seakayak, as well as view from a hike along the shore. Best thing then would be to have the winds turn around from the west to give us warm weather and sunshine to view these gorgeous spectacles, as they continue to melt and change shape daily. Mother nature at her finest. While we usually always get Icebergs each year, I have only seen a few years that were as perfect as just described. We'll just have to wait and see what this season brings.

Some years before I finally took up sea kayaking, I photographed this paddler in late March, off of St. Phillip's, with pack ice and Bell Island off in the background. This is only minutes from home in downtown St. John's.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Some friends and I went skiing and snow-boarding this last weekend. We brought along my ten year old niece for her first try at snow-boarding. Actually, she had never been near a downhill in her life, so skiing and snow-boarding were all new to her. I soon realized that something was familiar about all of this. She had to remember clothing, a pack, and food. Then questions about which foot she felt she should put forward. Shoe size. Her height and weight for the best size board. She had to learn about board parts and foot straps. Then finally, simply technique, from how to stand, to moving forward, hints of a turn...oh, and the important one, how to land a, stopping. And all this on a hill, where gravity is not your friend...yet.

It brought back the memory from some years ago when I first stretched on a spray skirt. Before we headed out on that first guided sea kayaking tour on the north atlantic. I was excited, but more than a little nervous too. All those things to remember, will I look foolish, will I tip this thing over...and that water is very cold. Well, of course, an hour later, I thought this was the greatest thing in the world.

Did my niece think many of the same things snow-boarding?....I'm sure she did, but she pushed though anyway...and at the end of the day, she was all smiles and thanking us for taking her. She said something about next time...and trying the skiing I was doing...Yes, girl, try it all. The main thing is that I'm certain that she now has another winter activity for fun, adventure and health. Maybe the best thing we can do for children...and adults introduce them to all manner of new things and let them see which they really take to. Oh, and it's nice to be reminded of the trepidation and excitement we all felt of first discovering something new...If we stay patient and remember that excitement...chances are, they'll of had a great day too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Swellies in the mail!

For sea kayaking, I had these in mind since last season. They come with a rand (or cuff) that keeps over flowing water out. They float. They will protect the lower legs of your dry suit, as well as the socks. And they are warm. Yes, to test, I wore them around the house once I opened the package earlier this morning. Don't you do this too?... when you get new gear?

These are from Mountain Equipment Co-op(MEC) here in Canada. On inspection, they seem exactly like the Chota Mukluk, even the sole...but surprisingly affordable, at under half the price.

Only cons, are that the full shape of the sole that extends well up and over the toe and heel are very I found that this lead to the heel and toe "sticking" to the inside of the kayak. With my size ten, I have just enough room...but I think it's best to just head down to the shoe repair shop over on the next block and have them grind down the toe and heel cap. Believe me, the thick rubber will still be there for protection of the heel and toes...just less the aggressive tread.

As for pulling these things on and off...I found you just had to roll the top down a bit to allow the air to flow in. Then step on the heel as normal....Oh, and this I like; once one is off, you take that naked drysuit sock we are always worrying about nicking,..and you step on the thick neoprene swellie that's on the rough ground next to you. You heel step out of the last one, then stand on both as you go about your business dressing, all as if you had a protective and warm carpet below you. It works.

Douglas had a review of many different types of sea kayak footwear last month... strangely, Cailean mentions footwear today as I'm walking around the house in mine...small world. Tread softly.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ski, not Sea

Sea kayaking has illuded me this past month. It seemed like storm after storm. I was hoping to get out sometime in February so that I could finally claim to have been sea kayaking every month of the year. The last day of February was actually very calm...but work kept me from the ocean at the very end. Skiing on the other hand is another story. Snow?...we have lots of I enjoyed my time in the woods cross country skiing the other day. The only thing is the shoveling...never was such a thing so terrible for the body as shoveling. To stay healthy I run and try to eat well, but as for the exercise of would be better for one's body if you just sat on the couch and watched movies.
Maybe these particular home owners were lucky enough to be off south...but if they return before spring, they'll have some shoveling to do, as their large modern two story bungalow is covered in the white stuff...yes, the first floor is completely surrounded by snow. Harder still on the pedestrian traffic....not quite enough room for two cars to pass, but for the walkers, the sidewalks are in there somewhere. Oh, and as for my running...I actually broke down and finally joined a gym for a few months.

If I can make it onto the ocean this month....the first thing I may do is turn my back to the land, gaze out over the open sea, and just for a moment, forget about snow...