Feeding Time

I’m up early and on the dock with two cups of coffee and it’s a sunny clear morning with a light south west breeze. After some reading and just sitting enjoying the view I’ve decided to take the kayak and get a closer look at the 7am feeding.

Most days during the summer a small aluminum boat comes out of Smith’s Camp at the end of our bay at around 7am. One of the staff is responsible for disposing of the fish remains from the filleting shack from the previous day’s catch. They have a plastic garbage pail on board that is dumped on an rock out cropping around the corner from the camp.

Prior to this at about 6:30am a flock of pelicans congregate at this spot awaiting their breakfast delivery. They are joined by dozens of seagulls that circle overhead in anticipation. Bald eagles are also perched high in the trees awaiting this event. Today I spot 5-6 of them. Some are easily spotted, others are tucked away in the branches and others fly back and forth along the shore line.

All of a sudden all the pecans take off and fly around the corner to Smith’s. Sitting in my kayak I can bairly hear the faint sound of the outboard motor of the “delivery” boat. Sure enough, a few moments later the boat rounds the corner and comes into view with all the pelicans following in formation.

As the staffer pulls ashore and dumps out the fish guts the pelicans eagerly land and then edge ever closer to their breakfast. They can hardly wait until the staffer gets back in the boat and backs away before they attack the fish remains.

Today, the eagles remain in the trees for some reason, perhaps it’s because I’m there. On other days I’ve seen them swoop in and the pelicans and seagulls scatter as they take over at the top of the pecking order.

After watching for a while it’s time to paddle back and rejoin the family for breakfast.

Project of the Day

Kayak Stacker
Originally uploaded by Big Dadoo

I’ve been thinking about how to store the kayaks without having them on the dock for some time now. The original idea was to have two “J” shaped brackets with webbing strung between to cradle the kayak, but I was worried about the stability of the top “J” being only supported by the vertical outside post, which in turn is supported by a 2×4 bolted to the bottom of the dock. The weigh shouldn’t be a problem as I can stand on either support arm and each kayak is approximately 50lbs, so with both on the rack each end only needs to carry that weigh.

After staring at the problem for several days, I came up with this idea. The top cradle is hinged so after the top boat is removed the cradle can be flipped back to gain full access to the lower boat. This method allows for better support on the dock-side uprights and improved stability.

It was a wonderful sunny morning with a strong west wind blowing across the point, so while it is relatively calm water in front of the cottage, there is a nice breeze to keep things from getting too hot. Even so, after a while of working with my shirt off, I could feel the potential of a nice sunburn coming on, so on with a shirt and hat. Gee, is that wisdom or old age? A hat, since when…?

As I’m warping up the job and doing a little dock repair I hear Shirley scream from outside the lower door of the cottage, “Garry! Come quickly, there is something in the cottage!”. We’ll after the recent attack of the Squirrel Army, we’re a little on edge so I came flying up the stairs. Sure enough, as I go in the door I can hear a clatter, but soon determine that it’s just something thunking around in the dryer. Crisis averted. The Fortress is still secure from intruders.

Early morning

Early morning
Originally uploaded by Big Dadoo

I was up sort of early this morning, not quite early enough to catch the sunrise, but definitely some nice calm quiet time to do some reading down a the dock. I’m currently reading Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive by John Eldredge and enjoying the book very much.

After some reading I’m feeling the need, the need for speed, on the bike that is. So, after attaching a second water bottle cage and loading up, I’m off for a run into Kenora. The route is about a 40km return trip with the usual hill climbs to get from our branch road out to the highway. After that, it’s paved shoulders all the way, but with some longer, less steep grades. In preparation for the upcoming mountain hike of Mt. Thompson, I’m climbing every hill out of the saddle to work the legs more and hopefully simulate more of a climbing exercise that will pay off when we’re hiking.

Garry & the Bike
Garry and the Bike
Originally uploaded by Big Dadoo

Just after starting the ride, it started to rain, and then it rained harder, but hey it’s warm and it’s only water so I push on to Kenora. It rains the entire way for about one hour, and I’m fully soaked. After a little crusing around town, it’s back to the cottage. This part of the ride is rain-free, but there are still puddles and spray from cars. When I’m back I notice a gritty feeling in my mouth were I’ve apparently inhaled some road debris. Yummy!

Shirley in the Kayak
Shirley in the Kayak
Originally uploaded by Big Dadoo

After making a post-ride breakfast of bacon and eggs, it’s down to the dock, where it’s now hot and sunny with very few clouds. Shirley and I head out for a paddle in the kayaks down to the bottom of the bay and I’m starting to think that a shirt would have been a good idea as the hot sun is frying my back. However, things change quickly and as we’re paddling back a thunder clap is heard and we’re caught in a downpour and get totally soaked by the time we’re back at the dock. An hour later as I write this, it’s clear and sunny again. It’s been quite a weather day!

Tonight, nobody cooks as we’re going out to the Plaza Restaurant to celebrate a birthday.

Early morning paddle

Originally uploaded by Big Dadoo

I’m at the lake this weekend with Eric & Scott for “guys” weekend. While they were sleeping I was up shortly after sunrise. After brewing some coffee to go, I headed out in the kayak for a paddle. How convenient that even the kayak has a cup holder. After a leisurely cruise around the bay I returned to the cottage to find out it was 8am and I’ve been gone for 2hrs. Time flies when you’re having fun. I captured some great pictures down in the small marsh at the end of our bay

New kayak at the Lake

Shirley in the Sky
Originally uploaded by Big Dadoo

The May long weekend is the traditional cottage opening weekend for us. “Opening” a cottage for those not familiar with the process is primarily about starting up the water system and other lesser tasks to get the place up and running after being shutdown for the winter. If friends invite you to the lake for either May long weekend or Thanksgiving, it’s best to decline unless you’re into working a lot.

Starting up the water system was relatively easy. There were no “surprise” breaks in any of the lines and the pump prime kicked in on the third time lucky. It would have started on the first try, but I couldn’t get the screen off the foot valve to let all the air out of the line. After opening the valve to the cottage a fast look around confirmed that there were no floods taking place. However, a little dripping sound in the shop area where the washing machine is located indicated a small problem. One of the connection hoses wouldn’t seat correctly and will need to be replaced. Well, I guess after 25 years some things will need to be replaced from time to time.

The new lake “toy” for this year is a second kayak. We enjoyed the first one last year and decided that two would be even more fun. While I like solo paddling, company can be great too! So, after getting the basics tended to around the cottage Shirley and I headed out for our first paddle with both the boats. Things went well for the first few minutes until Shirley’s new boat has a minor breakdown at sea. One of the rudder cables where it’s attached to the rudder decides to let go. It’s a stainless steel cable crimp that must have been defective. We manage to carry on with out the rudder, the way all good pro paddlers paddle anyway.

After a short loop around the bay, the clouds are rolling in and it’s not too warm in the first place, so it’s back to the dock. All in all a great first outing.

Oh yeah, I took the pictures with my Olympus SW790 waterproof camera. I’m looking forward to may more great shots from water level. While it may be waterproof, dropping it in 70′ of water could be a problem. I think I’ll hook up a tether to my PFD for subsequent trips. (More kayak photos).

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Leaving the Lake

The weather was good today, sunny, warm for the time of year and light breezes. I slept until the sun poked through the clouds and into my room. It seemed like I’d slept in quite late, but it was only 9am. After a few cups of blender grind coffee and some scrambled eggs and toast I was off to take in the last kayak paddle of the ’07 season.

Getting the 17′ Necky out of the cottage and down the stairs single handed was a littel challenging, but not too bad. Locating the paddles that were tucked away in the back corner of the shed behind the sailboat centerboard took longer. After a little boat prep, I’m off for a tour of the bay. What a difference this time of year, very quiet, very few people around, virtually no boats and virtually no wildlife. As I enter the shallow bay just north of our cottage I’m struck with the lack of wildlife. Normally, the bay/swamp is teaming with life but today it’s very quiet. No birds, no ducks, no eagles, no beavers, no otters; very quiet and very still, you feel quite alone.

As I paddle around the bay, most folks have packed up for the season and have put away docks and boats. One cottage has some interesting activity at the dock. A barge, with a bobcat is working. Using some chains hooked to the bucket of the bobcat and around some dock segments, they are lifting the dock out of the water for the winter. Up at the top of our point a crew is busy putting in a new dock with a big deck, which looks very nice.

I took a walk out to the point along the trail and sat in the chair for a few minutes, just enjoying the view and remembering the summer. After that it seemed to be time to pack up and go as the sun is starting to dip, seemingly prematurely at 4:30 in the afternoon and you can feel the chill building as the sun’s warm rays begin to fade away. Washing the dishes from the weekend and re-setting the fireplace seems to take a long time, or is it that I’m making it take a long time, drawing out the last few moments of enjoyment and soaking up that last little but if lake life before heading back to the city. The sun is setting over the lake as I arrive in Kenora. The lake has it’s hold on me as I stop in at HoJo’s for a chai latte and a little internet fix before the drive.

It’s getting dark and the road home is calling. Time to go.

Harbourfest and more

Dispro #1 – Putt Putt
Originally uploaded by Big Dadoo

This weekend it’s Harbourfest in Kenora, Ontario an there are lots of activities all weekend long. Today, I took in a couple of my favorites, the Wooden Boat Parade and the Car Show.

This little boat has to be one of my favorites. It’s a Dispro, short for Disappearing Propeller, a true Canadian masterpiece. You can read about the boat and the company here, and about a guy building a “new” Dispro from scratch as well as restoring the Lindsay Dispro and the Water-Ford Dispro. My photo essay this year is well, focused mainly on the stern of the boat an what people are naming their floating works of art. Take a look.

After getting back to the cottage and doing some miscellaneous cleanup stuff, I took the kayak out to experience some serious wave and wind action. Today there is a strong wing out of the west and once you paddle up past the tip of our point you get the full force of the breeze as there is a good 5km of open water for the waves to pick up some good size. I estimated that the typical wave was 1.5 – 2 feet with some in the 3-3.5 foot range. Paddling into the wind was not too hard but you didn’t make a lot of headway per stroke. For the first pass out beyond the protection of the point I kept the bow into the waves and wind. It was quite an experience to have the waves wash over the entire front deck and onto my lower chest. This is where the spray skirt was really earning it’s keep. A quick 180 between large waves and I ran with the wind back behind the shelter of the point. I was able to “surf” the boat on the waves. Wow, was it fast and exhilarating!  After another couple of forays into the waves I tried some sketchier moves like paddling perpendicular to the waves which worked out not too bad, but probably not recommended practice. You really need to keep an eye on what’s coming and  counter the rolling action of the waves. The  Looksha handled it all really well, so I’m very pleased with the boat.

Back at the dock I thought I’d get  familiar  with  just how far over I can lean the kayak and what a wet exit would be like and to find out if I could self rescue. It turns out that you can lean it over pretty far and in conjunction with high and low bracing maneuvers you can keep it upright most of the time. But the next thing I knew I was upside down. Good think I read a few articles on this. Number one, don’t panic you have lots of time. Grab for the sea skirt release handle, push on the cockpit edge and lift your hips out of the boat and voila, your free.

Now of course an important part of the safety & self rescue gear is in the boat house. Somebody decided that we didn’t need the paddle float nicely stowed on the back deck. OK, scramble up on the boat behind the cockpit and straddle the boat. Gee, that was easy. Opps, spoke too soon and I roll off back into the water. It turns out kayaks half full of water are even more tippier and unstable that you’d think. OK, try #2, I’m on the boat, and it’s tippy – where is my paddle? Aggg, out of reach at the back of the boat, back into the water. Try #3 is the charm and I’m in the cockpit, pumping out the water.

Note to self – always take all the safety gear. This was fun, but the water was warm and I was close to the dock in a calm area. You wouldn’t want to be making multiple attempts if the conditions were nasty!

Coffee in the Kayak

Every kind of vehicle has cup holders these days, even our new Necky Looksha V kayak!

Kayak Cockpit
Cup Holder
Originally uploaded by Big Dadoo

Normally I’m up early at the lake and having a cup of coffee on the dock and doing a little reading and enjoying the early part of the day. But today, I took my coffee in the kayak and utilized the cup holder build into the seat as I went for the first paddle around our bay. Down at the bottom of the bay I spotted a turtle sunning on a log and had a close encounter with a mother duck and 5 ducklings. It was very nice and peaceful. The kayak is great, easy to paddle and it’s such a great colour.

Kayaking at the cottage

I’m just back from the first paddle in the Orca kayak that I rented from MEC for the weekend. There was a moderate breeze so I had a little of everything on the 7.8km paddle. And this was just around our bay!

It’s very rhythmic and smooth paddling in the kayak and you’re low to the water so the wind and waves are a minor concern compared to solo canoe paddling.

The kayak setup was pretty good for a rental, but the foot pegs for the rudder control needed to be placed a little further forward. I found my legs were wedged a little too tight with the controls set for the maximum distance and my feet on the pegs. My legs were on the verge of cramping at points. This was probably due in part to the extra “tension” of getting used to being in a kayak again, it’s been a long time.

For most of the trip I had bare feet, but at one point I thought I’d put my Crocs (actually cheaper MEC knockoffs) back on. This proved to be a little exciting and I almost dumped the boat in the process just off the tip of our point with a bot full of fishermen watching. Not very cool, but I kept it upright.

I think later this afternoon it will be another outing over to Longbow lake. Right now, I think I’ll be replacing the front dérailleur on my mountain bike. I tried to take it into Gords to get fixed (I was being lazy, because I can do this work myself) but they were booked up until next Wednesday. So, once again MEC to the rescue with a XT FD-M761 and my drive train should be smooth and quiet once again.

Hmmm, I wonder how the FOG (new web site!) ride was this morning? Oh well, next Saturday I’ll be back riding with the group.

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