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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Paddling on Lake Ontario: When Lakes Attack

I went for a paddle on Lake Ontario on Sunday.

It was a windy day, but the wind was from the North, so when I arrived to launch my boat Lake Ontario was completely placid.

I launched around the red dot.  When the wind is from the north, our side of the lake is calm.

I started paddling, and all was wonderful.  I had a slight headwind, but nothing to really bother me too much.

As I got closer to the far end of my intended trip, I noticed the wind had changed slightly.  It was now more from the West, and the waves were starting to pick up a bit.  Nothing too bad, so I kept going.

Big Mistake.

I swear not more than 5 minutes later I was rocking and rolling.  I decided it was best to turn around, short of my destination, but I was getting worried.

Now the wind was at my back, I was fast... but the waves were faster, and building!  Soon they were up to 2-3 foot swells.  I would feel the back of the boat rise, the wave would get under me and I would almost surf the crest for a moment... then woosh, front comes up.

Several times the boat twisted entirely sideways, I was incredibly lucky to stay dry.  Still not sure how a wave didn't manage to wash right over the boat!  I was just very dainty, tried not to make any sudden moves.

Finally - mercifully - I made it back to shore...

What Went Wrong?

This is what the wind actually looked like.  The top arrows show the direction.

North... North... Northwest... Northwest... Northwest...

WEST!  WEST!  Surprise!!!


It's just amazing to me how quickly the lake went from completely calm to ferocious. had predicted a slight shift to Northwest.  In hindsight I should have paid more attention to that... but really when the wind is that strong, it's best to avoid Lake Ontario.  It's such a large body of water that it can really bring a strong lick.

Lesson learned!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My New Boat: Wenonah Wilderness Kevlar

I was trolling around for awhile looking for a solo canoe, but wasn't having much luck.  Thankfully I stumbled on an end of season sale and found this baby!

It looks even better in the water than on my van...

Why a Solo Canoe?

A tandem canoe is great when there are two people.  When there aren't it's not so great... especially our boat, at 18 feet long!

I thought briefly about a kayak, but I want to use this as training for my regular canoe activities, so really wanted to paddle canoe-style with as close of a set-up as possible.

Why the Wenonah Wilderness?

I looked at a few other options, but in the end I already own a Wehnonah, and this one ticked all the boxes.  Just 32lbs, nice adjustable seat, foot brace.  Price was right!  I combed over reviews and everyone seemed quite happy with their Wilderness, at least the Kevlar version.

When I hit the water I was grateful I didn't go any narrower (as I had been tempted to do).  30.5" is plenty narrow and it feels quite a bit tippier that our Jensen 18.  I got used to it pretty quickly, though.

It has a bit of rocker, and without the second person it wants to turn quite a lot, especially in wind.  That will take some getting used to, and I definitely need to learn a proper "J" stroke!  I was switching sides as often as every 3 strokes at times, especially into wind or current.

I can't believe how light it is.  I can throw the thing around so easily, pop it up on the roof, no problem.  I ordered a yoke (regular wood one) to make a removable yoke out of for portaging and such.

This boat had me grinning like an idiot - it was just so much fun.  Very happy I bought it and can't wait to paddle it again!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Race Report: The Great Muskoka Paddling Experience 2014

Muskoka River (2013 pic)
The Race

The Great Muskoka Paddling Experience is a 18km (or 10km) race in Bracebridge, mostly on the beautiful Muskoka River.

The river is nice and wide, calm, tree-lined with cottages and homes all along.  It's just a very nice slice of Ontario Muskoka.

If you aren't that much of a "racer" but would like to do it - do it!  Lots of people of all abilities out there, especially on the 10km.  Canoes, kayaks, even stand-up paddle boards.  Everyone is so nice, the setting is amazing, it's one of my favourite events of the year.

Our Race

We did the 18km race last year and managed to finish dead last in our category... so this year the goal was to not finish dead last in our category.

Our start was really strong, we stuck with some boats we knew we wouldn't stay with to the end but it was nice not to get destroyed 5 strokes in.

For some reason they started the kayaks after the canoes... so about 5 minutes in, the speedy kayaks came through.  We got splashed by the scoopy paddles they use, which was slightly un-fun... maybe next year they can switch the order up!

After that we found a pretty good rhythm.  There was one other canoe we were behind most of the day, always just out of reach...

 The start time is meant to avoid the Lady Muskoka's trip down river... but unfortunately we got going a little late, and surprise, she caught up to us!  This boat is big, we moved to the side to avoid her, and mostly managed not to lose pace - until the wake got us.  My buddy was trying to steer into the waves, I thought they weren't too bad, he was right and I was wrong... they were bad!  But we stayed upright and kept given 'er.

The 18km goes out into Lake Muskoka, which was surprisingly calm.  We took the straightest line to the first island of all the boats, but still didn't manage to catch them... just couldn't quite find that extra gear.

We picked up a few tips on going up-river (against the current), the most important being to stay away from the middle.  This really helped, we had some decent speed even as we were fatiguing.

Weather was interesting - single digits and little bits of rain now and then.  The rain didn't bother me too much, we were warm from paddling and it never really turned into a downpour.  I was happy with the general lack of wind, that was more important.

With about 5km to go, the 18km joins the 10km folks, and it gets a little busy.  This was mostly OK, a few little moments though.  Stand-up paddle boards especially seemed to do some crazy back-and-forth, they need a lot of room... we tried our best to give them space, but one guy near the end managed to swing alllll the way over and hit us anyway (and then cussed us out, go figure!).  Thankfully he was the only blemish in an otherwise wonderful day full of wonderful people being wonderful.

In the end, we accomplished our mission - we didn't finish dead last.  I haven't seen the results, but we know two boats started behind us and never passed us, maybe more.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fake Bike Trip Report #16...

September was a tough month for my fake bike trip.   I had a knee injury that niggled for weeks after Ironman, only in the last couple of weeks have I managed to snap out of it and feel normal again.

Total to date: 5459km.  Somewhere near Canyon, Yukon.

The goal of 6148km is still 689km away...  I have until December 20th to finish up, so just under 3 months.  The weather is starting to turn away from road riding toward mountain biking weather (read: less mileage!).

We'll see!