Thursday, December 25, 2008

Some Frosty Pictures

On Tuesday evening when I arrived home from work my wife was outsided taking the dog for a (very short) walk. She took a couple of pictures of me in the -30C temperatures.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nice Day for a Ride

I rode my bike to work this morning. Here's the weather stats pasted from Environment Canada at about the time I was on the road early this morning:

It turns out that with the windchill Saskatoon is apparently the coldest spot in Saskatchewan right now.

The ride itself wasn't bad, albeit quite slow. My goggles started to fog up after a kilometer or so, and I took them off for the last 1 km (6 km ride). My outfit included polypro liner socks, merino wool socks, long underwear, cotton pants, army surplus wool pants, rain pants (as a windproof shell), two fleece sweaters, Helly Hansen parka, winter boots, polypro liner gloves, army surplus mitts with wool liners, Carhartt helmet liner balaclava, fleece scarf, toque, ski goggles and, finally, a helmet. With all that stuff on my upper body was a bit too warm (I could have stopped to open up my zippers, including the pit zippers, but didn't), my legs were just right, my head & face were warm, and certain other parts were a tad cool (I need to find fur-lined boxers!). At -35C the bearings and rubber are stiff and the extra clothes help to slow the pace. Add to this the fact that I don't want to push too hard & overheat and it means the ride that takes 15 minutes in the summer, takes half an hour or more. It also takes a considerable amount of time to get dressed up.

It's too bad nobody was here to take some pictures of the frost which covered my head quite completely by the time I got to work.

Now I'm at work toasty warm while my grizzly bear samples incubate in a labelling reaction (hence the reason I had time to post).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Getting Ready for Snow!

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about snowshoeing and winter camping. In fact, I'm quite anxious for a good dump of snow. The perfect winter is one that transfers quickly from paddling season to winter with some cold weather to sart (to yield thick ice), then lots of snow and mild temperatures of -10 to -20C. Temperatures of higher than -10C are not good for cycling as the packed snow surface gets soft and turns to a loose but dense mess that is bad for biking through. To get a good base for skiing, a couple of decent snows is required, so the sooner that occurs after the lakes have frozen, the better (from a recreational point of view).

I haven't gone winter camping in quite a few years, but I want to get out there again this year. In the past I have traveled by ski and snowshoe. My experience snowshoeing with a load (sled or backpack) has not gone all that well. The worst experience was on rented shoes of the "modern" style, small but light with crampons underneath. The sales pitch for these snowshoes is that the solid decking gives more surface area to support you on the snow than the open weave webbing "babiche" of a traditional pair of snowshoes. That is a load of hooey. It's not the immediate surface area that counts, it's how far across the snowbank your weight is dispersed. I weigh 200 pounds, a snowshoe that is 8" x 25" is not going to support me on anything softer than a well-traveled skidoo trail. I had gone into Prince Albert National Park in order to travel the "Freight Trail". The snow was about 3 feet deep and covered in a crust. The crust would not support my full weight and I would crash through the crust with each step. I recall the icy crust beating against my shins and thighs. Then, as I stepped forward, I had to pull my foot and the snowshoe back up through that same crust. It made for a frustrating experience. Traveling on a moderately wide ski was a bit better. Then on a later trip, I borrowed a pair of "Sherpa Snow Claw" snowshoes. These were still of a design using a vinyl deck and aluminum frame, but were much larger. I don't recall the exact dimensions, but they were probably 10" x 36" or so. On that trip I headed again to Prince Albert National Park, but into the Fish Lake region. That time, my success with the snowshoes was better, but still not ideal.

Based on these experiences, and other experiences with aluminum-framed snowshoes, I decided I wanted to go to a much larger shoe, probably a traditional wood framed design. I had considered purchasing traditional or "hybrid" snowshoes from a variety of sources (GV, Faber, Country Ways, Snowshoe Sales & Repairs), and had settled on a long and narrow design like the "Ojibwa", "yukon", or "elongated bearpaw" styles (as opposed to the more familiar wide "huron" style). I was also seriously considering building my own snowshoes, a process that involves first building a jig to form the steam-bent wood, then after the frame has been built, lacing the webbing with babiche, nylon cord, or heavy fishing line. I even ordered the highly recommended book by Gil Gilpatrick, Building Snowshoes and Snowshoe Furniture, and while I was at it I got his book Building Outdoor Gear too.

I had been looking for used snowshoes, but did not think I was going to find them in good shape for a good price. Then, this week I came across someone selling 5 pair of snowshoes in the local kijiji advertisements. I called the fellow up and a couple hours later I was the proud owner of not one, but two pair of ash-frame and babiche laced snow shoes! Other than needing a coat of varnish, both pair appear to be in great shape.

The big ones are Ojibwa style which has the frame pointed on each end and quite a long toe. The overall length is just shy of 60", they are 12" wide, and they are marked as being the brand "Kabir Kouba." Of this general style of snowshoe, Dave Hadfield (canoeist, snowshoer, pilot, and brother of Chris Hadfield) says:
If you're hiking all day, going the distance, in unpacked snow, the longest, skinniest ones you can find are the best -- paticularly if you're punching through brush or crusty snow. You want something shaped more like a ski than anything. And a pointed tip helps a lot. I use a set like these for breaking trail.... But for campwork, like when you're setting up the tent in 3 ft of soft snow, or cutting poles, or getting firewood, a set of roundish bearpaws is best because it is so easy to turn around in them.... On a trip where I feel I can afford the weight of 2 sets, or if there are several people in the party and a spare pair is judged a good idea, I take along the first 2 types mentioned above. It's very nice to use the shoe that best does the job.
So here are my new 12" x 60" Ojibwa snowshoes.

The babiche (rawhide) lacing of both pair appears to be in good shape, with a bit of wear evident on the bottoms.

Here are the 10" x 35" elongated bearpaw snowshoes.
Again, they appear to be in decent shape with a bit of wear, but no manufacturer's mark is evident. This pair appears to have been more recently varnished. In the picture below you can see the profile of the snowshoe. It is not simply flat with an upturned toe but has a bit of curvature under the heel.

Both pair have simple leather bindings. From what I have read so far online, the bindings seem to be the main disadvantage of traditional snowshoes in that they don't prevent lateral movement as well as the bindings found on more modern snowshoes (which also often incorporate crampons). I may consider replacing a pair of the bindings. The Faber "Work" binding has been recommended, and my local retailer will have them in stock in November for around $50. However, the GV Snowshoes "3R" binding looks ideal. In the latter case, I'm not sure where to purchase them or how much they would cost (MEC was provided as my local dealer).

These two pair of snowshoes allow both my wife & I to go out at the same time, or for me to pick and choose my shoes based on the conditions. For camping, I could use the big Ojibwa shoes to break trail and haul the sled to camp, and the more maneuverable elongated bearpaws could be used around camp for setting up, collecting firewood, etc. I actually also have a third pair of snowshoes, one given to me by a friend several years ago. That pair is of a traditional racket-shaped Huron style, 12" x 45" including the tail, but they are youth's (teenager?) snowshoes and as such are too small for my overweight bulk. However, in a few more years they'll probably work well for my kids.

Friend and fellow canoeist and canoe builder, Mark Lafontaine started the Saskatoon Snowshoe Club last winter. Now that I officially own three pair of snowshoes, I guess I better join.

As I write, there is a 40% chance of flurries overnight, and a 30% chance for tomorrow. We're getting closer!
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Friday, October 24, 2008

Scrawny Wolf, Mangy Coyote or Ferrel Dog?

My wife & I spent the Thanksgiving weekend in and around Prince Albert National Park, staying at Elkridge Resort (but that's another story). On Sunday, while driving the scenic route south of Waskesiu on our way to the Spruce River Highlands hiking trail, we saw this sorry creature loping down the road.
I was certain at first that it was a wolf, albeit a young and scrawny one. Despite our approaching vehicle, it remained on the road, paying little heed to us as it casually trotted or walked down the center of the road. Occasionally it would stop to gaze around, or wander from one side of the road to the other before it continued it's meandering course.
We followed the animal in the car at a very slow pace. Even the passing of an oncoming vehicle completely failed to faze the animal. The closest we approached in the car was probably 20 feet.

Eventually, it wandered off into the bush, but still trotted along parallel with the car, just a few yards in from the ditch. After 100 yards or so through the bush it returned to the ditch where we shot a bit of video of the animal.

As I mentioned above, my immediate thought was that it was a wolf. The legs are long and it is lean, not like the typical pet dog. I thought it was too tall and large to be a coyote, but now I'm second-guessing myself and am not certain. Maybe it is a coyote after all, I don't think it's big enough to be an adult wolf. But then again, if the animal is starving or sick, and suffering mange (hence, the very thin coat) it would look much smaller than it's healthy relatives. I've never seen a coyote that light in colour and it's nose wasn't pointy like a coyote either. There was feces or mud stuck to it's rear end. Maybe it could be a ferrel dog? That would explain it's lack of concern over vehicles. Whatever it was, it doesn't appear healthy (though I'm not a vet nor a wildlife biologist; my real ability to determine animal health is limited to the lab). I still think sick young wolf seems the most likely.

I have a few buddies that will certainly know one way or the other. I'll direct them to his post and get their input.

Update 28/10/08 - I've heard back from 2 people that know better than I do, one who works for PANP, and another that is a wildlife biologist & veterinarian. Both agreed that I was correct, this is a wolf with mange. Dave in PANP says that a mangy wolf like this is not uncommon in the park. Bryan, a colleague in my lab, mentioned that when animals have mange, they can become so distracted by the itching from the mites that they are oblivious to everything around them, such as humans & traffic. Bryan also added that mange and canine distemper can be associated (hence the feces on the fur & the generally poor condition).
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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New Brunswick Boat Building

While on vacation this summer on Canada's East Coast, I heard a bit of a radio article regarding a kayak builder. I missed almost everything from the piece, but I did hear the reporter's name. Marc Genuist was a CBC reporter in Saskatchewan a number of years ago, and he is also a canoeist so I recognised and remembered the name when I heard it. Some time after our return home I contacted Marc regarding the article. He was kind enough to e-mail me the mp3 file of the article that aired in July. He agreed that I could share it via my blog, as long as I credited CBC New Brunswick with the piece. The piece features Don Rittwage, owner of Moncton's Kayak Exchange. Don runs boat building workshops during the winter.

To hear the full interview, click here.
(The link is to an mp3 file, you can either click it to play it, or right click to save it to your computer.)

The mp3 file was provided by Marc Genuist and is courtesy of CBC New Brunswick

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Speak For Canadian Rivers

The following is excerpted from
Transport Canada is in the process of rewriting the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) to eliminate a developer’s obligation to consider impacts on navigation when building dams, bridges, causeways or other invasive structures on thousands of waterways across Canada.

Transport Canada Minister Lawrence Cannon and his allies in government and industry hope to achieve this by exempting "minor waters" and "minor works" from the NWPA, and by re-defining "navigation" under the act in a way that will strip all legal protection from recreational navigation.

The new law will ignore all whitewater rivers, all seasonal waterways and all vessels with less than a one-metre draft. This is a direct assault on Canada’s tradition of river travel and the future health of our waterways by the same people who are supposed to protect both. It is a fundamental breach of public trust.

For more information, please visit the I Speak For Canadian Rivers website. While there, register and sign the online petition if you agree. Get one of their signs too and display it to show your support. Also, send a letter to your MP to express your concerns and cc the letter to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the federal and provincial Environment Ministers, and anyone else you can think of.

Spread the word. Contact your local environmental organisations and get them on board. E-mail or write your friends and any contacts you have that you think might get behind this movement.

Paul Mason thinks it's important. Check out his latest cartoon which suggests his thoughts on the matter.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stapleless Boat Building

Today Glen posted on the Kayak Building Bulletin Board a link to photos from the recent joint WCHA reunion and Bear Mountain Rendezvous 2008. Going through a few of those photos, something caught my eye (aside from many beautiful wooden boats). It was a series of photos that depicted a novel method of securing strips for stapleless building. Building with wood strips requires that the strips be held tightly to adjacent strips while the glue dries, and to the station mold for the duration of the stripping. Typically, staples are used to achieve this. Staples are fast and effective, but they do leave behind a row of little holes at each station. Many builders use clamps, jigs, tape and bungee cord (or all of the above) to hold the strips in place while building. I tried this initially while building the Guillemot, but I decided to revert to staples in the name of speed and efficiency. The method shown in Glen's photos from the BM Rendezvous uses a wire device attached to bungee to hold the strips down against the previous strips, the bungee is tightened using a chain that can be hooked to the right length to the strongback. Meanwhile, a strap which goes around each form keeps the strips tight to the forms. This latter component seems to solve one of the perpetual problems of some stapleless methods which would allow the joined strips to move away from the forms. In areas such as at the bow of the Guillemot kayak which have a concave curve, wedges would probably be needed to maintain the pressure to hold the strips tightly to the forms.

The straps and jigs are being assembled and sold as a kit by Ron Frenette of Canadian Canoes. The kits are pricey ($375) but seem like a pretty slick system for building a fine piece of woodcraft.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Another Rant: How to Merge

Here is another driving-related rant from my old web site, posted in a slightly edited form.

First posted: August 4th, 2005.

Why do so few Saskatoon drivers understand what a friggin' "free flow lane" or "lane added" sign like thisor a merge sign like thismeans. Whenever I drive somewhere and am using an exit lane to the right that joins another road as an added lane, I end up behind some idiot who STOPS in the middle of the bloody road thinking they've got to merge with and yield to the traffic when what they should be doing is getting up to speed and then moving left into the adjacent lanes if they so wish. Many folks are just as confused regarding how to merge. Again, they STOP and wait for an huge opening in the traffic before they enter the lane and continue on their merry way oblivious of the frustration and danger they cause. If any car should appear on the horizon in any lane, they must wait for all traffic to pass before they too can enter the roadway. Often it seems that the problem is due to the person wanting to go directly over to the left lane. Here's an idea: get up to speed and do a couple of lane changes in quick succession after properly shoulder checking. Occasionally they're just going to have to resign themselves to NOT doing a left turn 100 feet after the botched merge, and just taking the next road. Rarely would this add more than a minute to the drive, it would be safer and quicker for everyone, and I'm less likely to blow my top when I'm stuck in peak traffic behind this goof and we'd all get home sooner.

I think I'm just going to go for a bike ride and avoid these idiots altogether.

You can find the
Saskatchewan Driver's Handbook here, including a section on signage here. It is disappointing that SGI does not include a section on the type of merging and driving discussed above in the guide, though they do discuss highway merging which is relevant. You can read the "Drive Right with Tim Felzak" column or watch the video clip

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Another Rant: Hold Up Your Right Hand

Another rant, copied from my old web site which will eventually either move or die.

First posted: May 10th, 2005.

Hold up your left hand. OK, now hold up your right hand. Good. So now why do so many drivers & cyclists out there not know their left from their right? The rule in this province is at an "uncontrolled" intersection you must yield to the vehicle on the right. Seems simple enough right? So why is it then that so many people seem confused by this? In Saskatoon we have many uncontrolled intersections, especially, it seems, on my normal cycling route to work. It has nothing to do with how wide the street is, or how fast you're going, or how big your SUV is, or how important you think you are, or whether your heading North-South or East-West, or whether it's a bike or a truck. About every other day I yield to a vehicle on my right, performing a precariously balanced track-stand and hoping they will hurry up and get through the intersection so that I can get on my bloody way, while they also come to a complete stop, look at me questioningly, then try to wave me on wondering why I'm stopped in the middle of the road where that truck behind me is surely going to run me down. Of course on the other days, someone else tries to run me down by blazing through an intersection, often at speeds way too fast for a residential neighbourhood, without heed to anything that may be coming, whether it's me on my bike or some other unlucky soul. I see so many near misses every week that it really makes me wonder why these people haven't weeded themselves out of the driving population yet. Too bad they're also quite likely to weed several other innocent folks out of the breathing population in the process. The cyclists I meet on the road are often no better in this regard than those operating motorized vehicles, but at least they are less likely to cause serious damage to anyone other than themselves.

So, please remember, if you are approaching an intersection and you don't see signage to indicate right-of-way, yield to the vehicle on your right [even at a t-intersection]. Of course, you must also keep a sharp eye out for the fool who skipped that day in driver's ed, or that day in kindergarten, when these lessons were taught in the first place.

To review the local rules, see page 45 in the linked pdf, a section of the Saskatchewan Driver's Handbook.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Rant About Traffic vs Bikes

While I'm away, a rant from the past. In other words, I'm making use of the delayed posting feature on blogger to move material from my old out of date web site to my blog while I'm on vacation.

First posted: March, 2005.

Why do I as a cyclist on the road feel I have to apologise to automotive traffic for taking up road space? I am not contributing to increasing fuel prices, I am not contributing to congested traffic (or do so only slightly), I am saving the healthcare system and in turn the taxpayer money by getting off my ass, I am not contributing to deterioration of the roadway and soaring infrastructure costs, I am not contributing to a myriad of environmental problems (CO2, CO, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, rubber, plastic, junk), I am not going to kill anyone if I fall asleep, I'm not going to kill anyone if I drink, I'm not going to kill anyone if I don't know how to proceed through an uncontrolled intersection. But I'm in THEIR way? Go figure. OK, so not everyone is capable of cycling/walking/taking a bus everywhere but imagine if 30% of the population biked to work or the store three seasons of the year in reasonable weather (seems pretty reasonable to me, especially in a small city like Saskatoon where most things are within a 30 minute ride). Suddenly the roads would be less congested allowing goods and commerce to proceed more smoothly, parking would be possible for those that need it, civic infrastructure costs would drop, we'd be physically & mentally healthier, the world would be safer. We'd be happier.

OK, tone down the rhetoric, I'll finish with a simple question.
When was the last time you had fun driving to work?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Song of the Fortnight

I have now disabled the player, but click on the picture and it should take you to the CBC Radio 3 web site and play the song.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Slow Bicycle Movement

I seem to be in a bicycle frame of mind lately so why fight it? The Slow Bicycle Movement has been launched & I herewith resolve to slow down. Not much I can do about style though.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two Wheeled Trucks

The other day I saw a bike leaned against the tree outside of Boomtown that caught my eye. The bike was a bright orange single speed "Mondo Utility Bike" made by Yuba and it was unlike any bike I'd seen. Constructed of some serious steel, this long wheel-base bike had a sticker that said "maximum load 440 lbs." That's a lot of lumber on a bike. I talked to the fellow that owned the bike and he turns out to be an owner of nearby Escape Sports which is the local dealer for these heavy haulers. The spokes are heavy gauge to take the load and are at least twice as thick as any spoke I'd seen before. Available in the single speed version he was riding, or a 6 speed, these bikes are being sold for about $1000. My interest was certainly piqued, but I doubt if I can convince my wife that I can drop that kind of money on another bike.

I've been quite interested in another option for a while now, a few years at least. It's a conversion kit which turns any standard bike into a load hauler. The Xtracycle Sport Utility Bike is also sold by Escape Sports and I though he told me they cost a couple of hundred dollars, but the conversion kit is listed on the Xtracycle web site for $399. I've seen these around town a couple of times and it seems likely that it was probably the same fellow from Escape Sports, or his brother. The Xtracycle kits come with the bags shown, and numerous accessories are available, including a wide load carrier, and a $350 blender. All this reminded me that I saw this week that Surly is now making a frame for (with?) Xtracycle (after having a look at Surlyville after seeing Ryan's Surly Karate Monkey, and Tim's Surly Crosscheck - I hadn't been to the Surly web site to drool in a couple of years).
The Big Dummy is a "cargo long-bike" frame that uses the Xtracycle components. The Surly blog has some interesting comments about the handling of a long wheel-base bike. The frame is listed at Xtracycle for $900 (US) and the complete bike at $1800.

Finally, today while waiting for a car tire to be repaired I walked over to the local bike shop, Doug's Spoke n' Sport. Right beside the entrance they had a Kona UTE "utility bike," yet another bike that I didn't know existed until this week.My daughter was sleeping in the stroller so I took it for a ride around the parking lot. It rides like, well, a solid bike that's a bit too small for me. I didn't raise the seat (it wasn't quick release) and I should have to better evaluate it. At $800, I'm very interested in this bike. Perhaps I could get rid of my beater mountain bike that I ride in the winter, and the 1978 road bike that is my rain bike/all-round commuter (it's officially for sale so let me know if you want it, or want more information!).

Looking at these options, they each have some advantages. The Xtracycle option is the least expensive, makes use of a bike I already own, and they come with some really good (large) bags for hauling the groceries, etc. The other bikes have the advantage of being purpose-built with a higher bottom bracket, tougher wheels and stronger frame (than my beater winter bike). That seems especially true of the Mundo as it seems to be far and away the toughest, and therefore heaviest, of the set. If I were to haul bricks on a bike, this would be the one I'd pick. The Big Dummy comes with a truckload of Surly coolness, but that's the only advantage I really see with that option. The UTE is a reasonably priced complete bike and has 700c wheels which ought to improve the ride a bit. The Kona also comes with a pair of panniers, similar to but maybe somewhat larger than the Nashbar townie basket. However, these saddle bags really under utilize the UTE's load bearing capacity. It would be nice to see this bike in a larger size (I'm 6' 3" so a big bike is good), with bigger saddle bags. As soon as they get those two things, I'll be snapping it up, err... if my wife lets me, someday, maybe.

For more on utility bikes, here are some additional links I have found:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Congratulations Kisseynew!

Well Martin Bernardin has yet another Yukon River Quest in the bag. Based on the unofficial results, Martin's team has set a new record in the voyageur class as well as a new course record.

You can see the race results as they come in here.

They left Whitehorse at 6/25/08 12:30 and finished in Dawson at 6/27/08 14:02 for a total time of 49 hours, 32 minutes. There was a mandatory 7 hour layover at Carmacks, and a mandatory 3 hour Layover at Kirkman Creek, for 10 hours total to be subtracted, giving a 39:32 finish time.

The previous course record was set in 2006 by Brandon Nelson and David Kelly with a time of 40:37:05 in a tandem kayak. The Voyageur record set last year (breaking the record Martin et al set in 2006) was 41:15 by team Coureur des Bayou. That team is 5/8 the same as this year's 2nd place team, the Texans. Martin will be very happy to have beaten them. He told me he thought that he could have beaten them last year, as they were closing the gap prior to the end of the race but fell a bit short (if I recall correctly). I don't doubt that there would have been some interesting dynamics on the river as these two teams chased each other. I look forward to hearing Martin's stories.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Launch of the Sea Flea

We launched the kid's Yost Sea Flea 11 a couple of weekends ago at Pike Lake, a small oxbow lake in a local provincial park. The launch was a bit hurried due to some incoming weather and the start of a rain shower (I had just finished a day of kayak lessons), but within a few minutes our older daughter had figured out how to make her kayak go forward, backward, and turn.The outriggers are very similar to that described in the Chris Cunningham book, Building the Greenland Kayak. In my version the boat bumpers (the floats) are held onto the crosspiece by a bungee and a webbing strap. It seemed to work quite well and breaks down easily for transport or storage. The outrigger is secured to the kayak using a deck rigging slider which works quite well. Mom heads out too.
My wife is paddling her guillemot kayak, launched exactly one year earlier (the Saturday prior to Father's Day).
Our younger daughter gets her turn too, just as the rain started.
The next day (Father's Day Sunday) we took another tour. This time we had beautiful sunny skies and warm weather. We launched at the main beach and paddled through the lily pads and visited one of the large beaver lodges. The younger girl & I paddled the canoe while Mom and our other daughter were in the kayaks. After a while, my wife gave a tow. She reported that the Sea Flea towed very easily, offering little resistance (until our daugther learned to use her paddle to increase the drag!). While being towed, she made a game of paddling hard to overtake and pass Mom.
Unfortunately, we never did try the kayak without the outriggers. I wish we had at least tried it without them while we were playing at the beach.
Our little girl played in Mom's kayak by the beach. For more posts about the Sea Flea and the build, click here or click on the label "kid kayak."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mark In The News

Mark's now well underway on his journey from La Ronge to Hudson Bay, paddling 1400 km in his solo canoe. He is about 9 days into the trip and should now be nearing the eastern border of the province.

Mark has gotten a fair bit of media coverage this time around. Over the course of his trip, Mark will be phoning in to CBC Radio every two weeks for an interview with the local Saskatchewan program, Blue Sky. The week before leaving, Mark did a radio interview with Blue Sky. That interview was aired last Tuesday (June 17th) and you can listen to the interview here (Real Audio file). His next interview will air tomorrow, Tuesday, June 24th between 12 and 1 pm. If I'm lucky, I'll remember to turn on CBC radio and listen this time. If not, hopefully it shows up in their archive. You can hear the interview for yourself at 540 am anywhere within about 500 km of Watrous, 94.1 FM in Saskatoon, and many other local frequencies. For those of you outside of Saskatchewan, or for those who, like me, don't have a functioning radio, you can listen online.

Here is a schedule of his CBC radio interviews as pasted from his blog:
Tuesday June 24th Between 12 - 1 pm
Tuesday July 8th Between 12 - 1 pm
Tuesday July 24th Between 12 - 1 pm
Tuesday August 5th Between 12 - 1 pm
Tuesday August 19th Between 12 - 1 pm

His June 24th interview is now available online. Find it here.

Mark also did an interview with the Saskatoon Sun which appeared in my mailbox this weekend. It was a full page article with a picture of Mark in his canoe sitting alongside the boathouse dock. I'd like to provide a link to an online version but it doesn't appear to be available anywhere. Mark also did an interview with the PA Herald which appeared a week and a half ago. You can read it here. He was also planning on doing an interview with the La Ronge Northerner prior to launching.

You can learn more about Mark Lafontaine and his epic journey from his website (, including a map of the route. Mark has also been keeping a blog where he detailed some of the construction of his custom-designed expedition canoe and other aspects of preparation for the trip (

By the way, I got a chance to paddle his new canoe for a couple of minutes two weeks ago. Although I was only in it briefly, it felt very nice. I had just come out of the canoe club's Swift Osprey (mentioned in a previous post), so Mark's canoe felt rock solid in terms of stability. It was tougher to turn, but not bad. The narrow beam at the gunwales made paddling very easy. Of course, it had no load in it so it wasn't a real good test. I expect that upon Mark's return he'll have a clearly defined set of goals to achieve in the next canoe he builds, characteristics he likes and others he wants to improve upon.

Update: Mark ended up suffering physical and equipment problems. These issues (I'm not clear on what problems he encountered), forced him to turn around when he was well into Manitoba and retrace part of his route in order to get himself out. I believe area forest fires were also a concern and could have prevented rapid egress had he proceeded farther.

Bike Blogs

I've mentioned before that an interesting blog I like is Copenhagen Cycle Chic (be sure to check out the sister blog, Today I found a couple of local bike blogs I look forward to following.

A search for reviews on the "iFlasher" battery-less bike light made by Reelight led me to Bicycle Smile. Bicycle Smile is a blog, created by Ryan Warkentin, featuring reviews of cycling gear. Although they have a link to Reelight, they don't actually have a review up (yet?). I covet his Surly!

From Ryan's web site, I found the blog of Tim Brown, aka Tim's Bike Blog. I've known Tim for a few years now. We once competed in a cyclocross race together where I beat him. ;) This was my one and only race (cyclocross or any other bike race) and it nearly killed me, or at least that's how it felt. It was fun though and I wish I had the fitness to do it again (I haven't been riding with Horizon 100 in a few years). One of the things I admire about Tim is his mobility with two kids by bike. I occasionally see him around town hauling his young kids around in the bike trailer demonstrating what can be done. I take my kids year-round and through the occasional blizzard in the bike trailer to school, day care, and sometimes shopping, but Tim takes it up to another level.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Shaman Kayaks & Durability

The perception is that wood kayaks are fragile, skin-on-frame kayaks doubly so. Watch the video at the link below and see what you think.

Video: Shaman Kayaks by John Petersen

After watching the video, browse the site to see his kayaks & paddles.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Northstar Expeditions Meets Kingston Kayak Instruction

NorthStar Expeditions is the official name for a group of 4 guys (including myself) that I canoe trip with every year. This spring, as a Father's Day gift, our wives signed us up for kayak lessons through Viki at Kingston Kayak Instruction. Some of our group had a bit of experience but mostly we're fairly novice paddlers when it comes to kayaks so we signed up for the Flatwater Skills course. The course included a session discussing various aspects of boats and paddling, a pool session, and most of last Saturday was spent on the water at Pike Lake. Getting the opportunity to practice rescues in a pool was a great way to get comfortable in the water where tipping over in the kayak becomes play. The highlight of the pool session was jumping off of the 5 meter platform - that's a long way down and a lot of time spent falling to think about regrets. Jay jumped off of the 7 meter platform and he said it was a big step up from 5 m. Thankfully, the 10 m platform was closed.

Saturday at Pike Lake the day started off pretty nice with warm and sunny skies, but eventually thunderstorms and rain rolled in (as previously posted). The rain really didn't matter too much since we were spending the afternoon largely in the water anyway. A bit warmer might have been nice but it was OK. My outfit for the afternoon while we were wet and practicing rescue techniques was a "shorty" wet suit, a polyester t-shirt, cycling sleeves (arm warmers), PFD, paddling gloves, with my light cycling jacket thrown over top of everything (I didn't realise how odd the jacket over everything made me look until I saw the pictures later - think red beach ball with a head on top). I tried goggles for about 30 seconds but they immediately filled with water.

After getting pretty confident with our "eskimo rescues" (aka T-rescue) I decided it was time for an impromptu test. While paddling fast alongside Jay, I called over to him and asked "Jay, are you paying attention?" He looked over and said "yeah" or perhaps it was "nah" or maybe "huh?" I promptly flipped over (while still under steam) and began banging on my kayak hull, the signal that I need assistance. My thought was that Jay would just paddle right over and present his bow for me to grab onto allowing me to right myself without leaving the cockpit of the kayak. Only problem is that Jay was paddling fast in the slowest turning kayak in the group. By the time he even realised what was going on, I was under water, banging on my boat and moving my hands back and forth waiting for the sudden appearance of his bow in my hand. Everything also seems to go a little slower while your are hanging upside down under water. I quickly ran out of breath and had to wet exit. By the time I came up in the water alongside my kayak, Jay was rounding the turn in his kayak and just about on his way over to me. Well I guess it ended up being a good practice of assisted re-entry techniques.

At the end of the class our families found us and took some photos. Unfortunately the batteries on our camera were dying so the videos that my wife took didn't turn out.

In the photo below the class is grouped around Viki who is wrapping things up.
Viki and the others head back while the 4 guys paddle over to the families.
NorthStar Expeditions

Using the water pumps to spray the kids.
After the class we launched my daughters' new kayak. I still have to crop & upload the photos so that post will be added in the next couple of days.

Paddle for a Flea, Part 2

I posted about the girls painting the blades for their new paddle a little while ago but I didn't show the completed paddle. I finished the paddle last week so here are a few pictures of that process, though I still need to give it a final sanding and a coat of varnish.

With blades painted, I epoxied them onto the shaft of the paddle, cut and shaped from cedar left over from the Sea Flea stringers. The shaft has a curved profile at the point of attachment of the blades. A fillet of thickened epoxy was added to the blade/shaft joint, and the back of the shaft shaped such that it becomes quite thin near it's extremities and gradually increases to full thickness. The shaft at the back of the blade also has a curved profile. Once the blades were attached and the shaft backing the blades shaped, a 14 gauge copper wire was added to the edge of the blade in order to protect the blade in use. Getting the copper wire attached to a blade edge that was less than 1/8" thick was a bit of a challenge. In order to provide some backing to the wire to keep it in the right spot, I clamped some additional 1/8" plywood to the blade with wax paper to keep glue from sticking to it. I then used Krazy Glue (cyanoacrylate glue) to tack the wire in place.

I worked progressively around the blade, starting at the tips and tacking the wire in place as I went. I would hold and/or clamp the wire in place then tack it in a couple of spots with glue then after a fwe seconds for the glue to take hold I could let go. I would give it a further few minutes for the glue to set before moving the clamps to tack the next series of spots. I only glued my fingers to the paddle a few times.

With the wire in place, the backing piece of plywood was removed and the glue residue seen below was cleaned up.

After a bit more shaping of the shaft on the back of the blade, it was ready for fiberglass. I used 6 ounce cloth left over from the guillemot kayak. I could have used 4 ounce, but it wasn't quite as close at hand as this stuff. The photo below shows both blades with cloth pieces and ready for epoxy.

The silvery sheen of woven glass fibers turns clear as it wets out with epoxy.
Below, the blade nearly fully wet-out.

The back of the blade after a coat of epoxy.
After the epoxy was partially cured to a green stage (somewhat rubbery, stiff but still flexible), the excess glass was trimmed with a sharp blade. The blades then received a fill coat of epoxy which was allowed to mostly cure before sanding and a third coat of epoxy was applied. The shaft also received a coat of epoxy along it's length.

The next photos I have of the paddle are of it in use during the launch of the girls' new kayak so stay tuned for the "launch" post. Later I will have to update this post with a weight and length (it's about 155 cm I believe).