Well I'm off to Lake Superior for the next two weeks to guide a sea kayak trip with Naturally Superior Adventures.
We are going to be circumnavigating Michipicoten Island then making the 18 kilometre crossing to the north shore before working our way back to Wawa. If you want more details, I wrote about the trip earlier.
The whole adventure should take eight days if everything goes well.
I'm really excited as inReach Canada sent me their new inReach SE to test while we are out there. The inReach SE is a two-way satellite messenger with a built-in keyboard to easily send and receive custom messages. It's a nice improvement from the older model as it doesn't require me to pair with a smart phone.
Have a great couple of weeks!
Over the past two weekends I had the pleasure of attending both the Gales Storm Gathering in
Gales Storm Gathering
This was the second year for the Gales Storm Gathering and since it rotates around Lake
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.
Anybody who says that the Great Lakes don’t get ocean conditions has clearly never been to
Because of the extra large surf at the mouth of the
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
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
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
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
Last week I had the pleasre of attending the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium which took place in Grand Marais,
A couple of highlights for me included helping to lead a day-trip to the fabled Picture Rocks on the south
As a paddler, you would like the pictured rocks due to the numerous sea caves and arches scattered throughout. Some were only big enough for one person while others could handle 30 or more kayaks no problem. The weather was on our side that day and with little wind we were able to get in really close to the rocks.
Friday, Saturday were typical classes that you would find at symposiums and they were all really fun to teach. Friday I got to help out with an all-day rough water kayaking clinic with Danny Mongo from Werner Paddles, Mark Pecot from 41° North Kayak Adventures and Ray Boucher from Naturally Superior Adventures. Even though there was absolutely no wind we decided to make our own fun and with a lot of imagination, the water was really rough...
Saturday I had the absolute joy to teach with my new found friend, Andrea Knepper who runs an at-risk youth program in the
Here is a quick slideshow from Flickr highlighting some of the shenanigans that we got up to this year.
Bing just rolled out a huge stockpile of new high resolution imagery for their mapping software so I decided to click and zoom around to see what new areas I can see.
They rolled out updates along the north shore of Lake Superior which is nice because the old images used to be pretty low quality. Not sure when it was taken but looks like earlier this spring just as the ice was breaking up. At least with the lakes frozen they really stand out and it’s easier to follow the rivers.
The particular map area above is False Dog Harbour where I got wind bound once during a trip. Good memories.
Feel free to explore yourself and take a tour of all the new areas just added.
I’m really shaken up. This morning I got this email from my good friend and teaching partner-in-crime, Bonnie Perry:
Is the paddler who died just the other day [on Lake Superior] the same fellow from Madison who was in our Paddle Canada Level 2/3 and BCU 3 star [last August]?
I clicked through to Dave Olson’s always entertaining blog, The Lake is the Boss where I confirmed what I had been fearing; that Robert (Bob) Weitzel was a student on the advanced kayaking course that Bonnie, Erik Ogaard and I taught at Naturally Superior Adventures last August (2011).
The news hit me like a sack of bricks. This wasn’t some yahoo paddler out in a short, fat recreational kayak in jeans; this guy knew what he was doing. He was prepared.
I have been reading regular drowning and accident reports in the press since this site went online six years ago and I have probably read what seems like 200+. I feel bad for people but it has never really hit me like this one did as I taught him some of the skills to get out there.
It’s not that I have survivor’s guilt or that I’m second guessing our teaching by asking myself, “Did we do everything we could for him?” In this case I believe we did. The course went really well and we worked through all the required skills for the certification.
But still, I’m shaken by the news in two different ways.
Firstly, Bob was a good paddler. I remember when he first came on the course he was in a very twitchy Greenlander Pro. That’s a crazy boat that only 3 people in the world can paddle with confidence so it’s no wonder he looked nervous on that first day. Once we got him in a different boat Bob’s confidence increased and his skills quickly developed over the week which was great to see.
All day today I have been asking myself, “If it could happen to Bob, could it happen to me?” Of course it could. As we move up the ladder of paddling competence, we sometimes feel that we are more invincible. The problem is, as we get better, to keep things interesting, we push the envelop and go out in bigger conditions or take different risks. There is nothing wrong with that of course. Paddling (and life) would get boring but we need to remember that risk management is just as important to you today as it was on the first day of your paddling career.
In Bob’s case we will likely never know exactly what happened. We do know the reported weather conditions which were roughly 30mph wind, 42F water and waves around 2-4'. The conditions were up there for sure but he had also good skills. It’s impossible to say what was going though his head when he was standing on the beach that morning deciding to go out or not.
The other part that has had me shaken today is the realization that as an instructor, it’s critical to make sure that you teach the skills to the highest possible standard. You owe it to them to teach the paddling skills for their level but even more importantly show them how to critically evaluate their skills as well as the conditions they can paddle in.
If you have a student on your course that just isn’t getting it (but maybe just enough to pass the certification), you owe it to tell them that they passed but they still have a long way to go before going out in slightly rougher water. Your students don’t know what they don’t know and it’s our job to show them the way as well as set proper expectations for when they are on their own.
I just feel terrible for Bob and his family and I want to express my deepest sympathies for their loss. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
PS - Bryan over at Paddling Light also wrote a very good article on risks in the outdoors that you also need to read. It's very good.
It’s been a very, very busy couple of weeks and I realized that I never got a chance to write about my must recent adventure teaching onLake Superiora couple of weeks ago.
For the second year in a row, I had the pleasure of being invited up to Naturally Superior Adventures to teach a Paddle Canada Level 2/BCU 3* course.
My good friend, Erik Ogaard was also teaching a Paddle Canada level 3 course that same week so I hitched a ride with him. The journey north from Toronto to Wawa is no small trip across town. The 12 hour adventure requires CD playlist ground rules and it was quickly established that we would only listen to greatest hits CD’s by artists from the 70’s and 80’s. With that in mind we made the trip rocking to Bruce, The Zeppelin, The U2’s and Mr. Bowie. Needless to say there was a solid amount of both air guitar and drumming to keep the cars passing us entertained.
The original plan was for Naturally Superior Adventures to offer the two courses during the same week. The level 2/3* was going to be taught by Bonnie Perry, myself and assisted by Ray Boucher and the level 3 by Erik but due to some last minute participant drop-outs, we decided to combine both levels and teach everything as a level 3/3* course.
Combining courses always has potential pitfalls. There is the potential for level 2 students to be overwhelmed by the level 3 material and level 3 students to be underwhelmed by the paddling conditions. Since we had four instructors we decided to work as a group and split up into smaller groups if necessary to deliver the material at the different group’s skill levels. With very careful planning, it was a working model that ended up being quite successful.
Anyways, I had an absolutely fantastic time teaching with my fellow partners in crime, Bonnie, Erik and Ray and I pretty much spent the whole time laughing at and with them. They are both awesome people to hang out and teach with.
For teaching environments you can’t ask for a much better location then at Naturally Superior Adventures. The base is located right at the mouth of the Michipicoten River where flows into Lake Superior. If you are looking for rough water you just paddle out on the lake. The whole time we were there it was blowing an average of three foot wind waves. If you the waves get too big (as they did on day 1 with 7 footers rolling in) then just paddle up the river and find some shelter. Finally if you are looking for surf then all you need to do is get out and paddle in the river mouth. When the current is flowing and the wind is blowing against it, the surf gets absolutely huge. By huge, I mean screaming girl huge.
For me, I pretty much gauge the success of any advanced course on how much gear I lose and the number of new scratches I get on my boat. It must have been successful asLake Superiorstole both my hat and sponge as well she gave me a hole in my boat as a parting gift. I can’t blame her; I was the idiot with the brilliant idea to go rock hopping in swells with a fully loaded boat.
Here are a bunch of photos from the week:
I’m off for a week teaching in
See you soon!
I just received an email from my friend Conor Mihell to let us know that along with his paddling partner Craig Zimmerman; they finally completed a substantial 8-day paddle on Lake Superior out from Wawa to Michipicoten Island then due south to Caribou Island and home again.
Though the total distance of roughly 300 kilometres isn’t that huge; what’s impressive is that approximately 110 km of it was over open water. You see, to get out to
If you haven’t heard of
View the Caribou Island Expedition Route in a larger map.
The one I’m talking about on the eastern end of the lake is about 35km (22 miles) due south of
With that amazing(ish) sales pitch, it’s amazing that only two other groups have kayaked out to the island in the past. From what Conor and Craig can tell; a gentlemen made the crossing solo in the mid 80’s and another team of Americans did it as part of a three-night trip across
Conditions of the major crossing south were near perfect (flat, cool and little wind) but it wasn’t long before thunderclouds started building to add some stress to an already stressful day. Luckily the storm passed over head uneventfully.
After briefly exploring
I have wanted to make this same trip for a long time. About 3-4 years ago, a friend and I planned and came very close making a stab at it but sadly discovered I didn’t have enough vacation time when taking into account potential wind-bound days. I think we are going to need to pull the charts and start planning again.
Photo Credit: Conor Mihell
Congratulations are in order for lightweight paddler and friend of the site, Bryan Hansel for completing his 800-mile, 99% solo, 45-day expedition covering two of the Great Lakes.
The massive trip started in
View Port Huron to Home in a larger map
As many people know
The actual reason for the location blackout was because he had to be incognito while paddling along the West
I’m glad that
I’m sure he is feeling much better coming home from this trip then the last big one.
Photo credits: Bryan Hansel
Browsing around on Flickr, I found these really cool series of photos from Naturally Superior Adventures. They are mainly known for their sea kayak courses and guided adventures but they also offer trips along the north shore of Lake Superior in their 36 foot Voyageur Canoe.
Photo credits: Naturally Superior Adventures