Thursday, November 19, 2009

St. Nora - Sherbourne Lake Loop

Trying to pack in the pitch black shores of St. Nora Lake
Photo: Dimitry Sapon

Our group of guys from the Romaine River trip wanted to end the paddling season with a final trip together. After some discussion and our first failed attempt in October, we finally agreed on a weekend in November. Everything was set to go until Rob had to bail out at the last minute due to the requirements of a new job. After some quick calls we salvaged the outing by finding a replacement partner in Ben's dog Igloo so that no one would actually paddle "solo"! We weren't going to stay home, especially considering how nice the weather was recently.

Our most trusted guard dog and protector of our
canoe gear and (usually) food, - Igloo!

The short weekend trip was up in the Leslie Frost area, so immediately after work Friday we headed north out of the city with the rest of the traffic. Our only issue was that we were going to be paddling in the dark due to the shorter daylight hours and the recent change in time. Good fortune had it that when we got there the water was calm, the stars were out and it wasn't really all that cold! We purposely planned to travel only a short distance to the first campsite due to the lack of light, but since it was so amazing paddling under the stars, we opted to continue further on down the lake. It really was a cool way to start the trip!

The boys portaging back to Sherbourne Lake after finding
out Orley Lake was a dead end

It was great to get back out paddling with the boys again. We enjoyed the spectacular scenery, the mild temperatures and just hanging out together. As ideal as it all sounds, there still was some hiccups along the way. Like Dimitry's headlamp dying before heading out in the dark, (he "apparently" checked it at home, - yeah right!), Igloo rolling in some crap (she's not sleeping beside me!), finding out we ended up in a dead end lake (who's idea was this?!!) and then there's Ben. Where do I start? He apparently forgot all his batteries for his dSLR so we ended up lugging his Pelican case during the whole trip for nothing, he brought a grand total of 7-8 stale Ringolo's that Dimitry and I couldn't stomach (so that's why he didn't have any!), and more importantly he forgot to bring implements for obtaining firewood! (saw and a real axe) Ben, always known as the "Axeman" on our canoe trips let Dimitry and I down when he pulled out a pathetic Canadian Tire hatchet as a replacement for the real stuff! Especially considering the time the year when we hope to have a blazing fire to keep us warm! Well, all was not lost as we managed under the trying circumstances. We honed the art of collecting small pieces of firewood, practiced the "martial art" skill of breaking wood with our hands and feet, and kept warm from constantly feeding the fire! Dimitry and I forgave him but decided we would let him come on our next canoe trip only with conditions!

Dimitry wondering what this hatchet could be
used for? Hmmm,...maybe pounding
pegs into the ground?!

Well, the weather certainly didn't feel like November and getting out to paddle was motivation to speculate about another. This time of year, you just never know what you will be hit with in terms of snow, cold temperatures and the water freezing up, but let's see. I don't know for certain if this trip was "it", but the thought is already depressing! I might as well hope and dream a bit and you just never know where I'll end up! (crossing my fingers!)


Ben quietly solo paddling down Sherbourne Lake (and
wondering why Igloo doesn't stop whining!)

FYI: We were unexpectedly surprised to find out at the end of the trip that we breaking a new bylaw(?!). The HHWT staff were nice enough not to give us tickets for apparently camping without permits! Only weeks ago, they changed the bylaws which now require permits from Jan 2 to Dec 18 (basically all year round!) Oops! Previously no permits were needed after Oct 31, so I just assumed the same but not anymore! If you decide to head up to that area, just be aware!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Romaine River Trip - Sailing

The vast expanse of Lac Brule lay in front of us -
40 kms to be exact!

Yes, that's correct, the subject is sailing. I know we went on a trip with canoes, but that's the versatility of this craft. It can be utilized in other ways to effect travel! The experienced paddlers out there know when to harness the wind under the ideal circumstances to move the boat without paddling. Why not? Its an opportunity to have fun, relax, enjoy the scenery and still get from point A to B. What's not to love about that?

Ben lashing the spruce poles to the canoes to hold them
apart as well as forcing them to move together

We had just entered Lac Brule on day 2, a huge lake stretching 40 kms southward. We knew it was going to be a long paddle, but luckily a steady tailwind gently nudged our boats along. After a shoreline lunch, we noted the winds picking up and small whitecaps appearing. Once back out in the open, a light bulb immediately went off in my head and all I could think of was sailing. We certainly weren't exerting much effort as the wind and fairly large swells pushed us along, but I figured sailing would be even better! The only problem was either shoreline was quite a distance from where we were for us to get set up. However, looking at the map a prime opportunity presented itself. We would be passing through a few islands soon and that's where I wanted to stage our build. I relayed my intentions to the rest of the guys and we headed directly for the leeward side of the island.

For a quick and easy set-up, a tarp was lashed between
2 semi-flexible poles for the bowmen to hold

Once on shore, a couple guys proceeded to obtain 2 long spruce poles to lash the canoes together into a catamaran, while the other two got poles for the tarp-sail. After the prep work and build was done, we discussed execution/safety issues before heading off. Barely pushing the "sailboat" off from shore, the wind immediately caught the sail and pulled at the canoes like wild horses! Ben could barely hold on! After a few quick snapshots, I jumped into the other stern seat and off we went!

Once the wind caught the sail, the catamaran was rearing
to go!, with Ben barely hanging on!

We were all thrilled and amazed at how well our "sailboat" worked. We were even happier to be speeding down the big lake effortlessly! Occasionally we wondered about the integrity of the tarp fabric straining against the wind or the adjoining poles creaking and groaning under pressure, but they both held up superbly. We even worried a bit about filling with water as the swells that got compressed between the canoes easily spilled over the gunwales, but it never got too serious. We were so hooked on sailing at the moment that nothing else mattered, other than the fact that we also instantly became speed adrenaline-junkies!We couldn't determine exactly how fast we were moving, but we figured based on time and distance from the island, we covered 9 kms in the first hour! That's blazing fast for canoe travel on flat water!

Rob and Dimitry give their approval as we flew down the lake!
They were sporting "perma-smiles"!

Of course in time, all good things including tailwinds end. We luxuriated in the setting sun, admired the scenery and enjoyed each other's company on account of the wind, but "she" ran out of breath and we all eventually had to pull out the paddles when the sail finally flopped. We paddled our catamaran as a foursome the last 2-3 kms to the waiting beach campsite at the end of Lac Brule. We certainly couldn't complain, as we were most lucky and fortunate to have experienced sailing this way. In the end it was a great day, covering 40 kms total and having the wind look after a third of that distance. We had just started the trip and by all accounts, if this was a sign of things to come, we were looking forward with more anticipation than ever!

What an awesome experience; sailing down a huge lake
on a beautiful day barely breaking a sweat!! Who
says you can't paddle and sail at the
same time!