boats · camping · canoe · paddling

Sam and Sarah went canoe tripping and weren’t eaten by bears

My Facebook status from Sunday night reads, “Driving home, with a heart full of memories of a special place, canoe strapped to roof of the car, listening to Tragically Hip. #PeakCanadian #Killarney

There’s something special about back country camping in the autumn. Yes, it can be cold. And it’s dark early and that restricts how much you can paddle. But the colours are spectacular. The parks are less crowded. I also find there’s something extra special (and maybe I confess, just a little bit sad) about that last gasp of outdoors holidays. Though I am trying to tell new stories these days, I’m a person who finds the fall just a little bit sad. Paddling helps, so too does sleeping in a tent under the stars.

I went canoe camping thirteen years ago in the fall with my friend Laura: Camp Dragon with Laura 2006 . That was even later in the season, mid October, definitely cold and dark but bright with the orange, yellow, and red leaves.

I got my own canoe for back country exploring and camping four years ago. But lately other boats have been taking up my time. I know “too many boats” isn’t really a thing to complain about but I have been missing my canoe. Last year I didn’t get out canoe camping at all. We had booked a Killarney trip but that fell through for complicated reasons. See Jeff’s series of posts on running aground. We got a day trip in but that was it. I was worried this year was going to be the same. This year we’ve been racing the Snipe on Guelph lake. And I’ve also been visiting the big sailboat some weekends too. But no canoe trips in June, July or August.

All summer I’ve been looking forward to getting out in the canoe and it finally happened this past weekend. It was a quick trip but that’s okay. It was beautiful and restful and I’d go back in a heart beat. I mentioned the fall colours, right? So beautiful. Bright red leaves against the white rocks look extra special.

What else to tell you? I got to try my very first lift-over. That’s when you run into a beaver dam with your canoe, get out, lift the canoe over the dam, and get back in again. I was nervous about it because of my bad knee and was worried about getting out the canoe in those circumstances. This was an ideal time to try since there was an alternative on the map, an extra long portage. But we did it. My knee behaved just fine. Thanks knee!

We also tried out some new lightweight gear which made it possible for us to do the portages in one trip. Sarah took one pack and the canoe. I carried the other, heavier pack that contained our food, as well as the PFDs and the paddles. We declared the new tent and sleeping pad a success and it gave us hope for longer trips even with more food. By the end we were feeling ready for bigger adventures even with my misbehaving left knee.

I was amused at all the bear signage in the park. I’m always surprised that people need reminding that there are bears in Canada. There were even signs warning us that the bears were back for the fall. I didn’t even know they went anywhere for the summer. In the end, we didn’t see any bears–phew!–but we did have a trio of trash pandas (aka, raccoons) hop up on the bench besides us and grab our food bag. They made off with all the food (except snacks) for the weekend. I screamed but Sarah, more sensibly, took off after them and got our food back. My hero!

Our trip involved three lakes–George, Killarney, and OSA–one pond, three portages, and one liftover, lots and lots of paddling. We were lucky with warm days and nights, highs in the low 20s and overnight lows still well in the double digits. The day we paddled out was very rainy and windy but we were just very happy that there was no thunder and lightening and we didn’t have to hunker down and stay put.

Here’s a lot of photos from our trip. Sarah brought a real camera so we took lots of pictures.

boats · competition · fitness · racing · sailing

Serious sailing, serious fun: Sam and Sarah race the GCBC Commodore’s Cup

Sarah and I raced our first weekend race today on the Snipe. We’ve done a couple of evenings of short course races at the club but this was our first longer event.

“Serious sailing, serious fun” is the motto of the Snipe class. The Snipe is described as a tactical, racing dinghy. It’s 15.5 feet and it’s raced by two people. Today Sarah was skipper and I was crew.

The good news? We had fun and no one drowned. We finished the course and didn’t crash into any other boats. Our peak speed was 7 knots. We had a good amount of wind. Also, thanks to us an 8 year old racing a laser is very happy he wasn’t last! We’re a pretty good team and we’re getting better at communicating on the boat.

Also it’s a great community. People were very happy to have us out there and recognize that we’re beginners and have lots to learn. We’ve been attending Thursday night race training where an experienced sailor follows us in a motorboat offering tips and advice. Thanks Harri!

The bad news? We lost Sarah’s hat overboard, attempted to rescue it but didn’t succeed. The line for our pole which allows us to fly the jib like a spinnaker came undone and we had to do some fixing underway. We were very much dead last.

But we’re learning lots.

Our experience reminded me of a conversation I had on our Newfoundland trip about the advantages of racing, both bikes and boats. I like riding in a community of cyclists where everyone races because there are skills you only only acquire in that context. It’s true for boats and sailing too. Everyone learns to race as part of learning to sail.

Our day ended with a moving ceremony to remember Mark Parkinson, former Commodore for Life of Guelph Community Boating Club. His grandchildren were there to raise the colours and a bench overlooking the race course has been named after him. We also awarded the Commodore’s Cup to the winning boat. At GCBC it’s filled with jujubes not beer or champagne. Congrats Julian!

Oh, and a friend asked recently about sailing as a fitness activity. I guess it depends. There’s always work getting the boat in and out of the water, even on a trailer. It weighs 380 lbs. There’s moving about the boat as we tack and jibe across the lake. Today we did lots of hiking, getting our body weight out over the edge of the boat to keep the boat flat. That’s a pretty good ab workout.

boats · fitness · Guest Post · sailing

Vulnerability, Sailing, and Naked Yoga, Part 1 (Guest Post)

                                                 

by Ellen Burgess

Vulnerability

I recently watched a Netflix special by a woman named Brene Brown on the topic of vulnerability and courage.  She defined vulnerability as “the courage to show up and letting ourselves be truly seen” (weaknesses and all), when you can’t control the outcome (or reactions of others). She was talking primarily about emotional vulnerability but as I discovered this week, that can show up in all areas of life including in sport and fitness.

So this two part blog is all about two new activities I tried this week, which required two distinctly different types of vulnerability: 1) learning how to sail which involved a willingness to make mistakes in front of my loving, but sarcastic cousin Dale with 60 years of sailing experience and 2) participating in a naked yoga class! Yep, that’s right folks, nothing but my birthday suit…aka: totally STARKERS! However this week’s blog will only address the sailing component. You will have to follow up on next week’s post to hear all about the Naked Yoga!

Sailing

My cousin Dale had invited me to sail with him several times in the past but I had declined. This year he told me he was selling the boat by the end of June, so this was my last chance. 

So off to Michigan and Lake St. Claire I went.  Prior to this week, I had planned to do an online sailing course, which I proudly announced to my veteran sailing cousin 6 weeks ago.  Sadly, I bit off more than I could chew and only finished chapter 1!  So, when I got on the boat, all I could do was name basic boat features including: the main sail, jib, boom, port, starboard, bow, and stern.  In fact, that was about all I knew. Dale was duly unimpressed since I was one of only 2 crew for his 30 foot boat and we were racing that night and the next.  He mumbled that it was “a good thing we have 2 hours before the race gets started!”

He then began giving me directions to rig the boat on my own instead of enlisting me as a helper which would have been easier for both of us.  This was a great strategy for me to learn quickly, albeit somewhat embarrassing at times, as I was prone to confusing port with starboard and right with left!

Shortly after I finished rigging the boat, it started pouring rain and there was zippo wind. Things continued that way until we got off the water at 9:30 pm. I was hoping the race would be cancelled since I was tired after all that learning and rigging, but no such luck, so off we went.  And we sat… for a long time… in the boat… in the rain…with no wind. 

After 30 minutes of 2-4 knots per hour, I started engaging in some idle chit chat with my cousin, because really, what else was there to do?  I was quickly informed that “this is no time for chatting, we are in a race, not on a pleasure cruise!” Okay, so this sailing thing can be really serious business I guess. On the bright side, since there was practically no wind the entire evening, Dale was able to teach me to tack and steer without any serious safety risk.

The next night the weather was much better and I was happy to demonstrate my new found ability to rig a boat on my own with minimal direction.  This time I was able practice some more tacking of the jib.  I learned that the combination of tacking and steering at an angle as close to the wind’s direction as possible, can get me to just about any destination that I choose (although I can’t say I personally experienced this!).

All in all this was a great experience and I look forward to trying it again in Guelph sometime, maybe with Sam and Sarah one night.

So what does this have to do with vulnerability? Well at the age of 55, I do not learn as quickly as I used to, so I had to be willing to make mistakes without personalizing my cousin’s sarcastic and sometimes impatient remarks.  10 years ago, I would not have been emotionally strong enough for this type of situation. At that time, I had a thin skin and took myself way too seriously, so I probably would have wound up crying and feeling sorry for myself at the end of it all.   Instead, I felt proud of myself for trying something new and was really happy to have the opportunity to bond with my cousin. 

Overall, I would say there was both personal growth and learning in my sailing adventure. I am learning a new sport and stretching my limits physically and mentally as I attempt to learn something new. I was also able to vulnerable by “showing up and being seen” when I am not feeling strong and confident…  first by trying with no success, trying again with some luck, and then finally, trying and succeeding…all in a day’s work on a sailboat!

Ellen on her cousin Dale’s boat

Ellen Burgess is from Guelph, Ontario and is a runner, yoga practitioner, meditator, and cycling enthusiast.  She is currently fulfilling her career dream working as a mental health RN within the greater Wellington community. 

boats · fitness

Seasons change: Putting the snipe away and hello ice boating?!

Sarah and me, with boats behind us, wearing glasses, toques, and hoodies. Looking cold. Brrrr!

Sunday was a big day for Sarah and me. “Big” not just in terms of how much we packed in, though that was certainly true, also big in terms of it feeling like the end of one season and the beginning of another. The day began with brunch with the members of the feminist fitness challenge group that Tracy, Cate, and Christine run on Facebook. I don’t have time to really participate but I’m loving the community that’s developing there. So great to meet everyone!

Sunday ended with lasagne with friends. In the middle it snowed.

Last week it was 27 degrees. Sunday it snowed and we moved some boats around.

I put my summer clothes into basement storage. Sarah found my hats, mitts, and scarves.

More dramatically we braved the cold and the wind and put away our small sailboat. Bye bye Snipe! We had help from our friends Harri and Molly who somehow talked us into trying ice boating this winter. Don’t worry. We’ll blog about it!

Snipe mast on the roof of the car, view from the passenger’s seat

Red flag at the end of the mast, as the law requires

Boats, car, and trees losing their leaves. Some yellow leaves remain.

Picnic table at the boat club. Surrounded by leaves. Almost none remain on the trees..

Trees, no leaves, in front of Guelph Lake

Snipe, with blue cover, ready to be towed to its winter spot in the yard

Mast on the roof of Sarah’s car

boats · canoe · Dancing · nature

Mallory Goes Thanksgiving Canoeing (Guest Post)

Several weeks ago for (Canadian) Thanksgiving I spent the weekend in Algonquin with the Western Outdoors Club. This is an annual trip which I have gone on several times. This year was the largest group I’ve been part of: 62 university students in 21 canoes!

Approximately 12 green canoes sitting on a hill on a island in Algonquin

A bunch (too many to count) of tents and people with a campfire nearby

There are several things I love about this trip (and about Western Outdoors Club in general):

  • the variety in skill level and equipment
  • the number of international students
  • how accessible the club makes trips like this
  • the cost
  • beautiful scenery

Scenic shot of a lake with fall coloured trees on islands on either side. It is raining quite heavily.

However, this year there was one thing I DIDN’T ENJOY and that was the weather: cold and wet. Weather forecast was for highs of 8 and lows of 2 with rain on and off most of the weekend. I’ve camped in much colder weather (-27 winter camping!) but I find fall weather much colder. I’m not sure why, possibly the damp but also possibly because I’m not mentally prepared for it and/or never seem to pack enough warm gear. That being said, I was not cold at night even though I was sleeping in my hammock tent.

Despite the cold it was a fun trip! If you don’t believe me, watch a video here

boats · fitness · motivation

Tried anything new lately? I vote for SUP

In our Fit Feminist Challenge Group we have a thing every Tuesday called “Try This Tuesday.” It’s a way of encouraging people to try new things, using the “Try This” entries in Fit at Mid-Life as prompts.

This week when I posted I realized I haven’t actually tried anything new myself in ages. When Sam and I did our challenge in the run up to 50 a few years ago, one reason I got excited was that I discovered triathlon. It was new and a bit scary and super challenging. It involved a learning curve and pushed me in a different direction. And I haven’t felt that way about anything workout and training wise since.

Enter Stand-Up Paddle-boarding. As regular blog readers may know, among other things I’m a sailor. My partner lives on our boat, Guinevere, and I visit him from time to time (yes it’s a slightly unconventional arrangement and it works well for us!). I’m visiting at the moment and he surprised me with an SUP. This was a huge surprise because we have been talking about it for a few years.

I always say, “wow that looks like a good workout.” He always says “I can’t see why anyone would want to do that. And where in the heck will we store it?!” (Space on a boat is at a premium). But at the boat show in Annapolis this weekend (I wasn’t even here yet) he found a great deal and texted me that he got a SUP!

I couldn’t wait to try it. So this morning I took it out for a spin in Spa Creek, where we are at anchor. I worried that I might fall in (it’s lovely on the water but not as nice here in the water, which is briney and dark). I’ve seen people struggle. Often they start on their knees.

I read a “ten tips” primer on the internet and watched a short YouTube video about paddling style. You’re supposed to bend your knees, use your core, keep your paddle vertical and your bottom arm straight, and turn the contoured paddle to face the opposite of what you think it should (you don’t want to scoop the water).

So I started on my knees to get used to the paddle. Then after a couple of strokes I went for it and stood up. Luckily it was a flat day on the water, no waves at all. The board is solid and though I did lose my balance a couple of times I didn’t actually fall in.

I paddled around for about 20 minutes or so and even stayed upright without difficulty when a couple of people went by (slowly) in small boats that produced a bit of wake. I followed the directions from the video. It’s quite the workout. I need to work on technique still, but I did get into a good rhythm and I know I’m going to love using the SUP.

But it’s actually a lot more stable than I expected it to be. Loads of fun. I’m glad I got out yesterday because the edge of Michael is rolling our way and it’s probably my last chance until the Bahamas at Christmas time.

So that’s my new thing. What’s yours?

boats

Sam’s Birthday Adventures

54 is just fine so far. I turned 54 last Friday and spent the weekend celebrating. See Happy 54! Celebrate Sam’s Birthday Season. There was a lot of cake but also a lot of friends and family and adventures. Thanks to everyone who took part and helped organize!

On Sunday fifteen friends and family members went rafting on the Grand River with me. Here’s a review of the activity, note though that we were on the shorter, faster section, from Edon Mills to Paris. So much fun. I’d definitely do it again. You can hang with people or go off on your own. Definitely though bring lots of snacks, sunscreen, and things to drink. It wasn’t all about floating leisurely down river. We had a headwind and in some sections if you didn’t paddle you went backwards. My sub-group didn’t paddle much. We were committed mostly to not paddling. It took us the full 5 hours.

Often we rafted up and appointed the people at the edges the chore of paddling.

At one point I landed up in super shallow water and could neither paddle nor float. I got up out of the boat and tried to walk it downstream but nearly lost my boat, paddles, and pfd in the water. Luckily Sarah rescued me! Thanks Sarah!

You can rent kayaks, canoes, large rafts for groups of people, or individual rafts like the one below. Despite the paddles they aren’t actually that maneuverable. And they’re definitely not speed machines.

But they are a lot of fun, especially through the fast sections.

Here’s Jeff’s account of the day.

On Saturday, a group of us rode our bikes 54 km to celebrate my 54th birthday. We chose the country roads east and south of the university being careful to avoid campus because it was move in day. In the end it turned out to be 52 km due to detours but I pedaled around the block a few times to make it an even 54.

Kim didn’t join us for the ride but came along for cake.

Best of all, my former PhD student Mark stopped by with his daughter who is starting university at Guelph and his son who was along for the ride. The teenagers gave us flossing lessons. No video though!

All in all, a happy birthday weekend full of friends, family, cake, and birthday adventures.