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 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


Newfoundland and the Great Lakes
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

hello from Chicago - a pit stop between kayaking and filming on the Great Lakes and Newfoundland. It's really exciting to be 'on the road' meeting fun people and kayaking in new places. Just over a week ago I was the guest speaker at the Newfoundland and Labrador Kayak Club's 'retreat', an annual gathering of sea kayakers and river paddlers. Alun and I were very well looked after by the locals, and we were given a 'screeching ceremony', where we were made to eat and drink all sorts of funny things, kiss a cod & speak in a funny language.... all wearing a bright yellow so-wester hat. I gave a presentation about 'my adventures' and gave a few classes and presentations and on the last day we had a real treat and were taken down "Pipers Hole", a grade 3 river by Geoff, Betsy, Louise, Ryan, Dave & Gary. I was petrified at the start because I haven't done that many rivers but I loved it - the scenery was wonderful, there were a few fun waves to surf on and my river sense isn't quite as bad as I thought it was! To top it off, on the drive back we saw 2 moose on the road.

After that we flew to Chicago and some of the local Lake Michigan paddlers took us on a 3 day trip out to the Manitou islands. That was a lot of fun - it was beautifully flat calm on the first day with tropical looking turcoise water (and I stress tropical LOOKING water as the temperature brought you back to reality!). The shore of the lake there is dramatic , with massive sand dunes several hundred metres high and lots of trees on the top of them. The sand is glacial till from the last ice age and there isn't a rock in sight. The islands are hilly dunes aswell and no-one lives there so we had them pretty much to ourselves. The 2nd and 3rd days were windier and we contended with a head wind, a following sea and a side wind as we explored South Manitou island's stand of virgin cedar trees, and an impressive looking shipwreck that has been colonised by cormorants. The sight of it is only overshadowed by the smell of it! We met lots of interesting people and did some filming for the sequel to 'This is the Sea', which is due out this Autumn (or Fall). I also filmed a feature on Doug Vandoren who is a traditional 'Greenland style' kayaker who is a great advocate of the traditional blade and boat in all conditions - he believes that several thousand years of evolution of kayaking in Greenland can't be wrong and thinks we can learn a lot from trying to understand their style. When I saw him surfing waves I had to agree that he could perform easily as well as someone in a modern fibreglass boat and 'Euro' blades. We mounted my minicamera system on his kayak and he did a range of rolls. You can see the motion of his body and paddle under the water so I'm excited to put that in the next DVD.

We've just returned from the 3day West Michigan Coastal Kayakers Association Symposium where I was the guest speaker, and where we met some more lovely people. The event is held on a sheltered lake near Muskegon and about 200 beginners and intermediate paddlers attended. It was a great location for teaching skills and everyone seemed to get a lot out of it. I instructed in a few classes on the first day without telling people I was the guest speaker. In a women's clinic I went through the theory of how I pee from a kayak and one lady asked me if I had ever used the technique. "A few times" I said. The next day after my talk about some of the expeditions that I have done she was laughing about asking me that question.

Tomorrow we are going back to Newfoundland for 9 days to do some filming of some of the hotspots and to enjoy the scenery. We hope to go out to a massive gannet colony and go up to Quirpoon lighthouse on the Northern peninsula where our fingers are crossed for some iceberg sightings.

Tara rwan

New Tasmania Footage on the website
Friday, May 13, 2005

I've decided to give everyone a sneak preview of footage from the first all-female circumnavigation of Tasmania by seakayak. The whole 850mile journey will be featured in the sequel to 'This is the Sea' but so far I've just edited a few snipets for slide presentations. This is one of them and shows how constant headwinds persuaded us to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to try to be on the water at first light and make the most of a short weather window between about 5.30am and 7 or 8 o'clock.This day, once the wind picks up we cross the mouth of the large river that comes out of Launceston. The wind was against the current and kicked up some fun waves.

Trys, Gemma and I succesfully completed the circumnavigation 4 months ago, but in some ways it feels like a previous life. It's quite nice to be starting to edit the trip and bring back memories of good ( and a few bad) times.

The link above takes you to a page with a choice of quicktime movie or WMV file. (or click here)

Leave a comment and let me know what you think?

Seakayaking in big waves
Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Last weekend was the seakayaking symposium in Anglesey, North Wales. There was rain, wind, sea mist and mud, but everyone was smiling because there were also big waves which is what most people come to Anglesey for. Yesterday afternoon was the highlight for me, when I went to my favourite tidal race play spot with Ginni Callahan, Axel Schoevers, Steve and Pete. As we left Porthdafarch Beach our kayaks rose and crashed down over 7 or 8 lines of small surf - enough to give you a face full of water a couple of times. When there is surf on Porthdafarch, you know that Penrhyn Mawr will be exciting, and I it was with a mixture of excitement and apprehension that I rounded the corner where the tidal race comes into view. Even from 500 metres away we could see the lines of white horses crashing down - the waves would be BIG. We paddled through the main race with the tide and our kayaks went up and down, up and down on perhaps 6 metre high waves curling towards us. We tried to break out to the right behind a rock where there is usually a flat eddy, but today the sea was all over the place, and it was hard to make out where the eddy started. Everywhere was a rollercoaster. The biggest waves were in the middle of the main channel and looked pretty scary.

I hesitated and watched them for a while - were they just big or were they crashing down powerfully? I was searching for big waves without the big impact! Steve was already in there, pointing upstream and paddling hard to catch a ride. His 3metre long kayak looked pretty small, but if he was in there then I wasn't going to sit and watch any longer! I had my deck-mounted camera on the front of the kayak and I pointed it forwards as I tried to catch a wave. I don't think I look behind me very often when I'm surfing, I feel the waves coming as the back of my kayak lifts underneath me and if it feels like a steep wave then I paddle hard to try to drop down the face for a good ride. The back of my kayak was lifting and I dug in with my paddle and leant forward as I accelerated downhill onto the wave. The kayak was at an intimidatingly steep angle and I was looking down at the trough waiting for the impact. It didn't come for a while as the wave pulled me back up the face almost as quickly as I shot down it - the ride lasted for an exhilarating few seconds and then suddenly my bow sunk into the trough right up to the cockpit. I half expected to be unbalanced and maybe even capsize but I was lucky and my bow easily slid back out from under the water. Now I really was grinning! Ginni, Axel and Steve were all surfing happily and I tried to follow them for a while with the camera on to capture that feeling of being in a big tidal race. I haven't checked the footage yet but I think I got Ginni being turned 180 degrees by a wave. Pete had a brief swim but Ginni rescued him quickly. Steve tried to tow Ginni and Pete into the eddy, but first of all his towline clip came off and the second time it broke altogether! I was really usefully filming it all! A bit later, I got out onto the rocks and got some good shots of the others surfing. You can see the results when the sequel to 'This is the Sea' is out - hopefully in September.

I've already written more than I intended to... over all it was a fun weekend and great to see old friends like Hadas Feldman, who was giving a talk about her circumnavigation of Japan with Jeff Allen, and meet new people like Sean Morley, who paddled around Great Britain, Ireland and all the outlying islands last year ( including a 40 mile crossing to St Kilda). Sean is a very skilful paddler who paddled in the junior racing world championships, and can do impressive tricks in a wave ski. Alun and I did some filming with him rockhopping in parliament house cave in a racing boat with a rudder!! That will be in the next DVD as well.

Enough typing...... I have to give a talk about my Tasmania expedition tonight at Anglesey Sea and Surf Centre, so I better go and prepare it!

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