Monday, December 15, 2008

Roy's Garden

[Photo: Roy's Garden, Alison Dyer 2007]

On guard for thee

Toe positioned in westward stance
Heel toward the eastern trench
A lone rubber boot, upturned on staff, presides
in centre field. A quiet commandant
rallying the troops.

All flanks armoured with bits of fencing,
metal, plastic and noisemaking:
a cadre of rusty cans, an infantry of laundry bottles,
an ambush-ready bedspring
in its deep grass position.

Scraps of onion bags, shredded tarps, a regal blue overall
arms and legs stuffed and tied with a pink silk scarf,
a cracked orange bucket and, past kitchen duty but with three good legs left for battle,
a wooden kitchen chair.
All enrolled for nocturnal combat.

In Roy’s garden Major Boot,
with a commanding view up the valley,
enlists this band of the crooked, the lost, the rejected
in the twilight war of
vegetables versus ungulates.
(Alison Dyer, 2008)
Roy sets a wonderful vegetable garden near me in Caplin Cove. Only he is hounded by moose. Or just one who loves to tease and eat tender beet greens. We are toying with the idea getting a moose license (um, thoughts of tasty roasts). If only that moose knew that I gave up being a vegetarian of 16 years for moose stew!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

a poem for december

Mid-december and pewter-coloured water, burning to the touch, kills most thoughts of paddling. But it's a time to remember, plan and read poems about this crazy magnificent coastline.


and a thin green

cover. like

dinosaurs crouching under a rug. then

through the rowdy narrows

a sunlit bay: spits, shoals and islands, white

birds lifting out of the blue. no

centre. no shadows here. no lines

leading anywhere. waves

capes scrub-tufts shift, shuffle

under the open sky

(John Steffler in "The Grey Islands, Brick Books. 2000. John Steffler was the former Canadian poet laureate).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bay Bulls - out past Long Harry and Spoon Island

Bay Bulls, on Newfoundland's Southern Shore, and just 35 minutes from St. John's, is home to two expanding whale watching tours. Apart from an aborted night paddle several years ago, I admit I've taken the bay for granted and tend to paddle much farther away. But on a recent November trip, with shortening days grabbing our paddle leashes, we headed out to explore its southern side. The wind was blowing: 30km with gusts of 50km from the sw. That provided a good tailwind for the trip out. We found and explored several caves and, near the headland, a rather lovely section of sea stacks: from Maggoty Cove, past Spoon Island, and beyond Cheese Point. [the map above is lifted from a real estate website... as you can see, land is quickly being bought & sold here.]

The name Bay Bulls is somewhat of a mystery. The name first appears on a 1592 map. Perhaps it was Bay Boulle named by Jersey fishermen. Or perhaps it derives from the common Dovekie Bull-Bird found in the area.

Still looking for a beach (gravel or boulders would do), we kept going outside until only a faint glimpse of Ireland could be seen. Okay, Ireland was beyond the horizon, but one of the islands of the seabird sanctuary was nearby. But no beach.

Never mind. A brisk headwind paddle back to near the put-in and we found a spot for lunch. Sardines and tea tastes delightful outside.

Friday, November 07, 2008

a gift in november

For some it was a time to haul up the boats. Not for us. A perfect November day, warm (17C), sunny - never mind its midweek, or winds were blowing - this gift of a day was celebrated on the water.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bay Bulls East Coast Trail

[Photos: East Coast Trail, Bay Bulls, NL 2008 A.Dyer]
Today the woods beckoned. A hike with family and friends on the East Coast Trail - Mickeleens Path - from Bay Bulls on Newfoundland's southern shore. A boardwalk questioned and we answered with pitter-patters, thuds and mud-caked soles. Whispers from every type of green. And nearby, below, a shoreline sucked and smacked by salty lips.
See: for a splendid view from this trail.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Colinet Island

[Photo: Peter A explores Regina(ville), Great Colinet Island, Oct. 2008, Alison Dyer]
[Photo: Paddling west side of Great Colinet Island, Oct.2008, Lev Tarasov]

Having a devil of a time posting to & editing the blog - some html ghost keeps popping up and making away with text and photos.

For archival photos of former community of Regina(ville), see:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Circumnavigating Great Colinet Island

[photos: alison dyer, oct.2008]
It so reminded me of Monty Python's Holy Grail. You know, where buddy is running up to the castle and each time the guards look at him, he's back in the distance, starting all over again. Well, that was the headland at the end of Colinet Island: an elusive target, an illusory landscape. So it was better to just pummel the bit of wind of waves, enjoy the late autumn rays, and forget about an actual destination.
We started from Admiral's Beach, an end-of-the-road community in St. Mary's Bay, and paddled the short (<2km)across to Great Colinet Island. A cursory exploration of Regina and lunch on beach at NW tip. Smoke train clouds across a blue sky. Forecast 20km wind gusts to 40km. So, with heads down we punched into straight wind and waves for 2 hours. Rewarded with a following sea as we cruised through some nice chop at the southern headland. By this time, our initial group had splintered into 3 distinct parties.
Our group of 3 continued on to explore the resettled community of Mosquito which, in late afternoon provided a particularly pleasant backdrop, with a nearby family of seals playing dolphin. A very satisfying 20km circumnavigation.
Photos above:
1. Lev in part of community formerly known as Regina and, prior to the 1900s known as Mother IXX's (also Mother Rex). Population, peaking in 1945 to 104, was of course dependent on the cod fishery and first settled by Irish-born fisherman named Dalton. "The broad cove at Regina offered a good beach for drying fish and was likely used by migratory fishing crews prior to settlement.."[Encyclopedia of NF, vo.4]. Resettlement occurred in 1960-62: ~ 70 families moved to Admiral's Beach.
2. Looking north from beach at Regina, Great Colinet Island.
3. Pete N enjoys a beverage and cigar at lunch - only indulging in such on special paddles.
4. Lots of great rock formations on both sides of island
5. Trio of erstwhile spruce, still clinging.
6. The sedimentary rocks on the east side of the island had a particularly 'temple of doom' type appearance: as though pressing on one might set in motion all kinds of locks, levers and uncover secret vaults.
7. & 8. On the east side of island is the resettled community of Mosquito. Each community (M&R) had a church but shared a school halfway between communities. We didn't have time to explore the carttrack between the communities, but Peter A believes he found the foundation of Mosquito's church.
"Occasionally there was a shipwreck from which the Colinet Island inhabitants salvaged hardware, furniture and sometimes livestock." [The settlement pattern of the McEvoy Family on Colinet Island, by Ted Tremblett]. Mosquito was first recorded separately in census in 1845 with 24 people - probably taking advantage, says Newfoundland Encyclopedia, of rich fishing grounds, dense forests and fertile soil. Population peaked at 62 in 1901.
"By 1881 a school was operating in Mosquito. In the early 1900s, however, children walked 4 km to a schoolhouse in Regina...A two-room building was opened halfway between the communities around 1917...The oldest headstone standing in the cemetery in 1990 was that of John Doody, who died in 1845." We didn't find the cemetary which means another trip.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Woody Island in fall colours

[photos by Alison Dyer, 2008]

Paddling buddy Peter A has to have an annual pilgrimage to Woody Island and Rattling Brook Falls (and pool) in Placentia Bay. Which sits perfectly well with me. Last weekend, with larch and maple showing off particularly nice shades of ochre and amber, and winds all but ceasing on the Avalon, 5 of us launched from Garden Cove for the 22km or less return paddle.

We headed around the eastern side of Sound Island, once home to a community of a few hundred people, now dotted with a few cabins in coves. No sightings of otters but out in the Bay a dory, with two fisherman jigging on the last day this year's recreational cod fishery, was backdropped by a gargantuan oil tanker parked and smoking near Merasheen Island.

We grabbed lunch on a tiny sun-split beach - Peter and Liz snoozed on shale while Janaki and Lev scrounged for smokey ripe partridgeberries on the spongy ground above.

A quick paddle to Woody Island to nod to Loyola's 'Woody Island Resort', then on and over to Rattling Brook. At this time of year a mere trickle. Still, the deep pool above enticed the dry-suited members of the party (note: heads and hands are above the frigid waters).

No caribou sightings either this time, just a few eagles. Still, the perfect paddling conditions and fall colours made the day simply memorable.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Go Jack Go

In a landslide election, Jack Harris (former provincial NDP leader and one-time MP) has been elected by 3/4 of voters in St. John's East as their MP in Ottawa. Go Jack Go!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fortune Bay

(Paddling near Rencontre East, Fortune Bay: photo by Alison Dyer, Aug.2008)

Last week spent nearly six days paddling and exploring Fortune Bay. Rare finds, magnificent vistas, glorious and terrifying geology. Details and photos forthcoming.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Greg Rocks

"Following are my trip statistics. I’ll also put a gear list together, along with a list of what gear worked and what gear didn’t make the grade.
Total distance paddled: 2102K (1306 miles)

Daily average: 60.05K (37.3 miles)
Longest day: 93K (57.8 miles)
Shortest day (aborted crossing of Trinity Bay): 27K (16.7 miles)
Total days: 44Paddling days: 35Weather/Rest days: 9
Many hundreds of whales, dolphins and blowspouts! Two sharks and two sunfish. And of course, and most important, too many life-changing memories to list…"

Posted by Greg Stamer, world-record-holder for paddling around island of Newfoundland, completed this past week. Way to go Greg.

check out his site for simply gorgeous photos etc.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Caplin Roll in Caplin Cove

Carpet of iridescent green, writhing. A thin fog half-heartedly obscuring cliffs, solemn, battle ship grey with their longitudinal lines. Impressive, but the veil of mystery soon lifting, peeling back to show true blue.

This past wednesday, the caplin rolled onto the beach. Almost to the day they did last year (a month behind from years ago). Son Ezra first out at 6am to net a few. The ritual cooking up of a few on the Regal woodstove. Then such a fine day, I launched and paddled over to Hant's Harbour to let some friends know 'the caplin are in'.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Run River Run

(photos of Exploits River/Grand Falls Canyon River, A. Dyer July 2008)

Sometimes you just have a try something new. I believe. And so two weekends ago, although the forecast temperatures were below seasonable, and drizzle drizzled, a few of us headed out to central Newfoundland and the grand Exploits River for KNL's Badger Run. Posted especially for sea kayakers with little WW experience, it was a fun weekend. We camped at Paul & Joy Roses' place (who run the wonderful Rafting Newfoundland trips).
Exceptional hospitality on their part added to the weekend. Me, being the only novice (a single 2-day course on the Ottawa River in 2005 my only previous WW), I impressed myself that I never swam on this trip. Following sat. night's steaks, beer, and campfire, we scouted the Canyon section on Sunday. Class 3. I waved the flag and said "next year," (hold me to it).
My compadres and more experienced river rats Brian, Pete, and Dick ran it no problem - although it wasn't without excitement. The amazing Paul Rose (with a hole in his boat taped with duct tape) and youngsters Andrew and Breen strutted their stuff for some time on the Virgin Wave. While the waves look almost grandmotherly here, I can attest to their testy and toothsome nature. Know your stuff or be eaten!
Meanwhile, back at the camp--where Paul & Joy are building 4 1/2 star chalets with jacuzzis and hot tub--the huskies are simply adorable. An all around great weekend.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Discover your passions, respect the Earth

[Photo: Ezra near the top of the world 2007]

"Live your dreams, discover your passions, adventure safely with care, consideration and respect for planet Earth. Create a connection with the natural environment to encourage yourself and others to protect our world and all living things, discovering the true and natural essence of humanity."

This is the philosophy of Hayley Shepard. From New Zealand, Hayley is visiting and kayaking part of Newfoundland. Welcome. Enjoy.

Monday, May 26, 2008

8th Annual KNL Retreat

It was great. Terrific guests Bryan Smith and Fergus (forgive me but it's on the KNL website). However, I reneged again on any river stuff but did 3 new paddles: around Swale Island (finding a fantastic cave behind a waterfall - five kayaks inside and still more room); up Bloody Reach (didn't look for Beothuk artifacts, but lots of Osprey); out from Wild Cove around Cow Head (impressive headland with a nice sea running) near Salvage. Lunched on Sailor's Island - another resettled community and gorgeous spot for camping. Bloody big bits of ice (think small mountain) out in the bay--we figured about 1 1/2hrs one way paddle so gave it a miss. Eagles, seals, yada yada. Oh yes, and we partied hard at night too.

No camera, no photos. But check out Stan's website for some. (And Neil's on yesterday's trip in Placentia Bay.)

First pond practice tonight. Bob G smiling into hand rolls and I'm grimacing at the thought of 6 degree water--though that's appreciably more than the 1 or 2 degrees paddled in Bonavista Bay. Finally grin and bear it and roll. Not so bad. Thank you Kokatat!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Kayak Retreat - from bears

[Photo: Jamie Lewis spies a black bear, Terra Nova, 2008 by Alex McGruer]

I collect bear scat. Photos that is. One of several photo projects: this one is about developing a field guide to scat of NL animals. Well, someone has to do it.

Meanwhile, on a scouting trip this past weekend, paddling friends Alex McGruer and Jamie Lewis saw the real McCoy. They drove out to Terra Nova National Park to paddle a beginner's day route for the upcoming annual Kayakers Retreat. And they were rewarded with a black bear close by on shore. Seems Terra Nova has an increasing population of these bears. They just about always scamper off when people show up. (Unless tourists feed them... please don't!) Still, this has reinforced my conviction about staying in a cabin again instead of tenting this year. Cold and damp is one thing... but having some great clawed, hairy and hungry animal looking at a few mms of cloth is, well, a definite deterrent.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Linda Bartlett - Newfoundland's Woman of the Paddle

Below is a version of an article of mine on paddling friend Linda Bartlett in a recent issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine (on Wild Women). Above Linda wears a particularly fetching rain hat (although I don't think MEC carries them) on our 4-night trip to Exploits Island in '05.

Name: Linda Bartlett
Occupation/Role: Outdoor Enthusiast/Outgoing Chair of MEC
Hometown/Province: St. John’s, Newfoundland

“There’s an old Chinese saying ‘you’ve never lived ‘til you’ve run a raging rapid and ridden a wild horse’,” says Linda Bartlett. “Well, I’ve had horses that have been difficult to handle and I’ve run the canyon of [Newfoundland’s] Main River.” A woman of lean build, extraordinary stamina and sheer love of the outdoors, Bartlett’s roster of adventures (like sitting behind the blowhole of a humpback whale during a rescue mission, or speed skate skiing smack into the face of a bull moose) could well rank her as the female Indiana Jones.

Bartlett probably has more paddling experience under her PFD than any other female in the province. She started canoeing about 20 years ago, completing most of the major rivers of the island – some with her then 165lb Newfoundland dog Bear - and twice running the Churchill River of Labrador lure which she paddled in a solo canoe in 2006. She switched strokes about 10 years ago. “I found a lot of skills used in canoeing I could use in kayaking and I love the sea.”

Driven by physical challenge (the former Captain of the McGill Woodswomen team took gold in a snowshoe race, practicing hard “for fear I’d come in last”), Bartlett spent the Millennium whitewater kayaking in Nepal, “…sitting on a bag of rice paddling with a head of cabbage between my knees.”
What others are saying:
Paddle Canada President and a Level 2 instructor trainer, Richard Alexander is quick to recognize Bartlett as a role model. “Her high level of competency is complimented by her enthusiasm to share her knowledge and passion with others. She is, in every sense, a leader in the paddling community.”
From the bay to the boardroom:
For the past four years, Bartlett has brought her enthusiasm for the outdoors and knowledge about gear to the boardroom as chair of Canada’s leading retailer of outdoor gear. “I was drawn to the values of Mountain Equipment Co-op, and it’s become a vehicle for change,” says Bartlett, adding “I’m motivated to make a difference.”
Fast forward:
Her day job in Tourism with the provincial government, and involvement with MEC have carved into her time on the water. Next year she intends to change that by paddling more in her home province. “I’m not a fair weather paddler who explores the coast in calm conditions. I enjoy wind and waves. I’m looking forward to challenging myself in the elements.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Witless Bay Line Barrens

[Photos: top & bottom by Alison Dyer; group shot by Graham Openshaw; 2 skiers by Peter Armitage, April 2008]

"What time of day do you call this," says Graham, as daughter Ella and I, stunned by a glazing sun, scramble with our x-country skiis. We'd left St. John's and arrived about 40 mins later - now noon - out on the Witless Bay Line - a road known for its winter white-outs, over the barrens between the Trans Canada Highway and the coastal Southern Shore Highway.

I mumble something about being at the kayak pool sessions the night before with both kids. And now we are here - where my buddy Peter Armitage has his winter camp (a canvas Innu tent). He, his partner Barb Neis, mutual friends Graham and Janaki (an Aussi) and a few others are out for the day - or weekend - camping and skiing. Ella and I decide to join them for the afternoon across a vast white terrain scattered with erratics and irregular life - like something belonging to the White Witch: a landscape bewitched by a dazzling sun, and magnificent chards of sparkling glass beneath shorn larch and grizzled spruce (a thaw following a freezing rain).

Early on - and far behind - attempting a snow plow, my left ski hits a bare patch of caribou moss, grabs onto it like a drowned man to a tossed lifejacket, and sends me caterpaulting into the albeit fresh and tasty air. I land unceremoniously like a sack of garbage. So be it... I paddle therefore I am... I ski because winter doth cover this land for 8 months (i.e. I suck at skiing but try to make the most of it).

The landscape is marvellous - we're tired, and after two plus hours head back to camp, finding it by its trail of wood smoke. Tea, Innu donuts and a ritual bowl of instant noodles are enjoyed laying on a bed of fragrant fir boughs. Sore muscles, red cheeks, and warm food usher us into a trance-like nap.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Innu Crafts Available

"I spent three weeks in Unaman-shipu (La Romaine) on the Quebec Lower North Shore in February and March 2008. My Innu Mom, Alice Bellefleur, asked me to flog a number of her craft items in St. John's upon my return. These were sold almost instantly."

So writes my long-time friend and paddling buddy, anthropologist Peter Armitage. He goes on to say that Alice Bellefleur:

"takes commissions, mostly moccasins, mittens and knitted wool socks. ..if you're interested in placing an order, send me the outline of your foot drawn on a piece of paper (in the case of moccasins and socks). Same thing for an order of mittens - send me the outline of your hand drawn on a piece of paper. Mom is 75 years old and never stops making crafts."

If you're the shopping type, I can't imagine a better gift - or reason to buy - than a pair of these exquisite hand-made items. And you'd be supporting an important local, sustainable and aboriginal economy.

See Peter's site for full details and more photos of crafts.