I’m not sure what the rules are for lifejacket use because I’m pretty sure somebody could argue that they are really just swimming.

The real thing to sort out is to figure out how to teach people to kayak from this baby. I'm positive my effectiveness as an instructor would go way up.

Depending on your options, the HotTug ranges in price from €8,950 ($11,700US) for the basic model to €16,450 ($21,500US) for the top-of-the-line version which comes with a stove and electronic motor.

The HutTug

According to the website, you can cruise around your favourite lake for about 3 hours that is, after waiting 2.5 hours for the wood stove to heat the water.

Note to HotTug: I’m totally happy to do a review of this if you can ship one to Toronto. Call me.

Over the past two weekends I had the pleasure of attending both the Gales Storm Gathering in Wawa, Ontario as well as organizing the Georgian Bay Storm Gathering in Parry Sound, Ontario.

Gales Storm Gathering
This was the second year for the Gales Storm Gathering and since it rotates around Lake Superior from year to year this was the first time that it has run in Canada. That made for a bit of a challenge for organizers as it also happened to take place over Canadian Thanksgiving so sadly there were not a lot of Canadians registered. That was ok, the enthusiasm and excitement from gang who was there more then made up for the lack of Canucks.

The Gales had an absolutely stunning set of instructors brought in for the event including Nick Cunlife (from the UK), Shawna Franklin & Leon Somme (from Washington state, Christopher Lockyer (from Nova Scotia), Keith Wikle, Ryan Rushton, Sam Crowley, Erik Ogaard and well, the list is to long you should go to the website to see everybody.

Gales Storm Gathering at Naturally Superior Adventures

Anybody who says that the Great Lakes don’t get ocean conditions has clearly never been to Lake Superior in October or November. Throughout the weekend we were under a gale wind warning with winds around 25-35 knots and surf coming in around 4-8 feet for almost the entire weekend.

Because of the extra large surf at the mouth of the Michipicoten River on the door steps of Naturally Superior Adventures, we were able to make use of the several neighbouring beaches where the surf was a more manageable height of around 2-3 feet.

A couple of highlights for me included co-instructing a beginner surf clinic with Shawna as well as tagging along for an ACA Level 4 instructor assessment with Ryan Rushton and Sam Crowley. For the assessment we went on a downwind run south from Wawa to Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park which was about 22km (13 miles) long. While out on the trip we experienced almost every type of weather condition including 25 knot winds, sunshine, clouds, rain, and sleet and finally snow.

As soon as I got home after driving 12 hours, I threw all my laundry in the wash with just enough time to pack it up again and head out on the road again. This time it was north to Parry Sound to the event that I run, the Georgian Bay Storm Gathering. Now in its fifth year the Gathering has become a southern Ontario tradition for intermediate kayakers.

Georgian Bay Storm Gathering
Now I’m totally biased but I always look forward to the Gathering as one of my favourite events of the year. This year we had instructors from across Canada and the US including Gary Doran (from Victoria, BC), Kelly Blades (from Michigan), Ray Boucher and Dave Wells (both from Wawa, Ontario). We also had a huge pile of other amazing instructors so check out the website for the full list.

The annual dock launch.

Weather wise, we had pretty good winds throughout the weekend but because the direction was from the NE, we didn’t have the largest conditions (not like the Gales that’s for sure). That being said, there was more than enough lumpy water to run clinics on surfing, rocks, rough water rescues, etc. Though I would have liked slightly larger conditions, it was ok as we know how to make our own fun. Highlights included the annual dock launch, paddling in pea-soup fog and a serious match of pumpkin polo. If you haven’t seen pumpkin polo before, picture a large group of kayakers driving over each other while tossing around a medicine ball. It got pretty heated at times.

So for me that ends the organized paddling season for 2012. We still have plans to get out and do a lot of paddling in November and December but I can finally take off my teaching hat and paddle for myself for a change.

See you out there.

Top photo credit: Karine Boucher
Middle photo credit: Meg Garnett

Tuesday, 16 October 2012 16:21

Look Who’s Canoeing Now: Amber Tamblyn

Actress, Amber Tamblyn (of House, M.D. fame) got married a couple off weekends back to David Cross (Arrested Development) in a non-traditional wedding that involved a yellow-dress and canoes for both her and the wedding party.

I would have been quite happy to have been invited to the wedding since Yo La Tengo performed during the reception and Questlove served as the deejay.

Photo credit: Questlove

The sea kayaking community lost one of its true legends today.

Derek Hutchinson has often been called the father of the modern sea kayak as he one of the first to bring sea kayaking to the masses with is many books and DVD’s. I remember when I was young being fascinated with his book, Derek Hutchinson’s Guide to Sea Kayaking and for me was one the key books that got me interested in paddling.

Derek was also a prolific designer and over the years designed several kayaks including the famous Gulfstream and its little sister, the Slipstream for Current Designs. At the time (early to mid-1990’s) both boats were years ahead of the market curve compared to what the other North American manufacturers were putting out. The Slipstream was the first kayak I ever owned and still look back in fondness to the many adventurers (and mishaps) we had together.

Earlier today Wayne Horodowich from University of Sea Kayaking posted this note on Facebook:

At 4:12 PM GDT I said my final farewell to my adventure partner, my mentor and dearest friend Derek Charles Hutchinson. Derek passed peacefully in his bed. His adventure on this earth started June 30, 1933 and ended Oct 10, 2012. He has now launched for his next adventure.

I wish to thank all of you who have sent your comments to Derek. It meant so much to him, his family and his friends. It is typical to wonder if you have made a difference during your time on earth. The comments you have sent are just a fraction of the number of people Derek has touched. There is no doubt he made a huge impact during his life.

Derek was an innovator, a thinker, a designer, a teacher, a writer and was never shy to share his opinion on any topic related to paddling. He will be missed indeed. Paddle on brother, paddle on.

I was pretty excited to open an email this morning from Aquapac and Sigma telling me that I was the grand prize winner for their annual photo contest.

Here were the judge’s comments:

Wilderness to me is about wide open spaces and our sense of scale in relation to that space. This image captures that wonderfully, you feel in awe of what the rower is doing and also slightly afraid for him as he looks so small against the menacing water.

This photo is of my kayaking buddy, Erik Ogaard on Lake Ontario on a cold December day a couple of years ago. I remember it being a pretty cold day that day with the temperature just above the freezing mark. The conditions that day were great for paddling with rolling south east swells and really good surfing closer to shore.

For the camera nerds out there, the photo was taken with my trusty Canon Rebel Xti and shot using the Aquapac SLR submersible bag. For me, the waterproof bag one of the key pieces of gear for shooting on the water and it’s always with me. The original purchase was the deal I made with my wife so I could take it paddling!

Here is the full list of winners on Facebook.

Expedition leader, H. G. Watkins climbing on floe from kayak.

Back in 1930 UK explorer, H.G. Watkins (the guy in the photo above) gathered a team together to see if a new air route between Britain and Canada could be established rather then flying across the dangerous ocean. The proposed route was to cross the Arctic via the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Baffin Island and Hudson Bay before reaching Winnipeg.

Along with figuring out the route, the 14-man team had a goal to map the very poorly understood Greenland shoreline as well as gather climate data of the icecap of Greenland during the polar winter.

All in all the year-long expedition was quite a success and it have some slow times allowing the team to take some kayak lessons from the local people living in Greenland.

The footage below was captured in the summer of 1930 and shows members of the expedition in the last half.

Two interesting observations from the film; first, it’s clear towards the end of the footage, it’s team members rolling and playing around in the boats so they must have had enough time (and willingness to get wet) to actually learn how to roll. Could these be one of UK’s first people to learn how to roll a kayak? Not sure.

The second thing I realized that even 82 years later, as soon as a group of kayakers who can roll get together somebody always wants to organize some sort of synchronised rolling demonstration.

Of course not everything on the expedition went smooth. During the winter of 1931, Augustine Courtauld volunteered to live solo at the weather station in the interior of Greenland for five months and take weather measurements.

Freeze Frame has a better description of his adventure then I could ever make up:

Having left his spade outside [the station], Courtauld had struggled with the snow, it had filled both the exit and the openings into the snow house and stores. He had also been troubled by the loss of paraffin from two slightly punctured tins, this resulted in a shortage of fuel and as he also ran out of candles he had to spend some time in the dark. He also ate his meals uncooked so that the limited supply of fuel could be conserved to melt drinking water.

More info and fantastic photos can be found here.

Update: Upon further investigation, I found out that expedition leader, G.H. Watkins went back to Greenland in 1932 on a second expedition which would sadly end in tragedy for him.

During both the 1930 and 1932 trips to Greenland he spent a lot of time with the local people becoming quite proficient at kayaking. In fact he fell in love with the activity and people so much that the expedition was one of the first to make use of indigenous techniques and methods. He and his men were so at hunting seals from a kayak that they planned on not bringing any food for their 1932 expedition but rather live off the land completely. At the time this was completely unheard of especially by citizens of British society who looked down at the people of Greenland as savages.

Sadly the method of travel for the expedition wasn’t to come about as Watkins drowned in his kayak while he was out hunting on his own one day.

G.H. Watkins legacy to polar exploration was a real shift in mindset in how future expeditions are carried out; as well he planted the seeds of respect for the local people. It’s best described on the very fascinating site, Freeze Frame:

This expedition marked a real shift in the way explorers viewed indigenous technologies. Apart from following in Nansen’s footsteps in adopting the sledge and snowshoe designs [Watkins] adapted from Inuit versions during the periods in which he overwintered with them, few explorers had wholeheartedly examined and embraced Inuit survival techniques. Watkins’ final expedition, for which the food source was based entirely upon Inuit hunting methods, marks the start of changing views with regard to the Inuit and their techniques.

It’s been a bad week for kayak thefts.

The Seaward Kayaks storage compound in Chemainus, British Columbia was broken into over the weekend and had six thermoform kayaks stolen.

This was posted on their facebook page:

Well, Seaward kayaks was broken into & robbed at the weekend. We have two separate fences, outer & inner, with barbed wire on them. Our compound is not easily accessed & is highly visible.

5 kayaks were stolen - all new thermoform kayaks:

Intrigue - Mango - QKN03465 I 212
Intrigue - Red - QKN03466 I 212
Halo 130 - Yellow - QKN03420 G 212
Compass 140 - Mango - QKN03461 I 212
Compass 140 - Mango - QKN03405 G 212

So, if you are offered a new thermoform Seaward Kayak, please let us know - we'd appreciated it!

Helen Wilson and Mark Tozer's stolen kayaks.

Just as heartbreaking is news that Helen Wilson and Mark Tozer just had their Tahe Marine Greenland kayaks stolen from the roof of their car.

Mark posted this today:

Please be aware that two Tahe Marine Greenland kayaks have been stolen from the roof of Helen's car. One is the distinctive all black one featured in the DVD. The other is white decked and black hulled. The theft occurred on the Canadian side of the Peace Arch Border. Please spread the word!!!

I feel terrible about these thefts. If you live in the British Columbia/Washington State area keep an eye out on your local used gear bulletin boards as they are sure to end up there. It’s not like these are easy to stash somewhere...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012 09:35

Introspective Bears [Nature Photography]

introspective bears

I’m pretty sure this is what happens every September once all the people drives back to the big city at summers end.

Photo credit: imgur.com

The European Union has just launched the second of three weather satellites which should greatly increase the accuracy of weather forecasts.

The 3.2 billion Euro project called MetOp is a joint venture between the European Space Agency and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and involves a total of three satellites. MetOp-A launched back in 2006 and MetOp-C is scheduled to launch sometime in 2016-2018.

The sensors on MetOp-B is considerably more accurate than before:

The [satellite] measurements slice the atmosphere into air columns measuring a single horizontal kilometre wide. Scanners measure the temperature and humidity to within 1-degree C and relative 10 percent, respectively. "These crucial instruments will be used for weather forecasting and to help us all gain a better understanding of the Earth's systems," stated Gene Martin, POES Project instrument manager.

With the massive increase in near real-time atmosphere data you can bet that the lonely weather forecasters in the Netherlands will be breathing a sigh of relief. Especially if local councillors get their way and pass a law fining them for every wrong forecast made...

More info: gizmodo.com & wikipedia.org

Isaac Levinson

Kokatat is proud to announce that professional whitewater kayaker and  2012 Canoe and Kayak Male Paddler of the Year, Isaac Levinson, has officially joined its team of elite athletes.

The twenty-three year-old Atlanta native began his paddling career as a whitewater slalom racer.  Levinson’s strong foundation of slalom skills has brought success on the extreme racing circuit, where he has been a fixture on podiums over the last several years.

“Everyday on the river is an adventure for me; I’ve been able to kayak in some amazing places and push my personal limits on challenging whitewater,” Levinson said. “I’ve always been a big fan of Kokatat gear, and I’m excited to be joining their team and representing the company.”

Most recently, Levinson was given the coveted Canoe and Kayak Male Paddler of the Year Award at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012.

He was the 2011 Green Race champion and North America’s top finisher in the inaugural AWP Whitewater World Series.  Keeping close to his slalom roots, Levinson competed in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials and finished ninth in the highly competitive K-1 class.

Levinson will be wearing and providing feedback on various Kokatat products including the new Kokatat Maximus Prime.  The Prime is the Type 5 rescue version of Kokatat’s latest and most advance PFD platform.

Levinson joins Kokatat’s distinguished group of paddle sport athlete ambassadors that includes among others such luminaries in the sport as Dane and Eric Jackson, Jesse Coombs, Paul Kuthe, and Adriene Levknecht the Canoe and Kayak Female Paddler of the Year.

For the full roster of Kokatat athletes and ambassador team members visit http://www.kokatat.com/team.

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