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 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


Open Canoe Slalom National Championships
Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm in Wausau ( pronounced like Warsaw in Poland) but this one is in Wisconsin, America! There is a good artificial whitewater course here and it's hosting the ACA open canoe national championships. I've been here for 2 days of practice and the 3 day event kicks off tomorrow. It's a totally new thing for me but I find it fascinating. Some of these guys are really precise, and it's different for them in an open boat from a kayak as they have to take drier lines to prevent their canoes filling up with water.

I have mainly been filming John Kaz, who has won over 90 national titles ( mostly in Slalom but also in marathon and downriver canoeing). He's really good to watch as he makes it look effortless and easy - not surprising really with that track record. i've been able to try out my new camera mounts and they work pretty well on the canoes and i've got some good shots.

I've also been filming Ely Helbert, two times world play boating champion for OC1 ( open canoe). I was very nervous when my camera was on the front of his kayak as he pirouetted and rolled in a shallow hole, but both Ely and camera came up unscathed!

I also filmed Carolyn Peterson, many times US National Champion in various canoe disciplines.

I got to have a go at the lower half of the course with John Kaz in a tandem canoe which was great fun. We only hit rocks twice and we made most of the gates which I thought was quite good considering I am almost a complete beginner at this!! I really enjoyed it and would have liked to have a few more gos but he was saving himself for tomorrow ( or perhaps he was concerned for the canoe!!)

I'll try and post some photos soon!

over and out from wisconsin!

The Mountain River
Friday, July 24, 2009

In August 2009, I have the chance to canoe down the remote and beautiful Mountain River in northern Canada. I will film this amazing journey for a forthcoming canoeing DVD. I hope to make a 30minute documentary about the trip.

The trip is a 2-week adventure organised by Blackfeather – the wilderness adventure company. For over 30 years, Black Feather adventurers have paddled untamed rivers, hiked amidst glacier-capped mountains and sea kayaked through sparkling ice fjords. The director of Blackfeather, Wendy Grater is one of the guides on Justine’s trip. Wendy has been canoeing and guiding for decades. Easygoing, yet committed to excellence, her energy and enthusiasm for sharing her love of the wild is contagious.

The Mountain River is visited by less than 150 canoeists every year. It's considered Canada's best wilderness river by the Blackfeather guides. To get there is an adventure in itself – from Edmonton we fly with Canadian North Airlines to Yellowknife, which I always thought was very remote, but that is just the start! From there, Canadian North takes us even further north to Norman Wells, a small town with no road access. In Norman Wells, we meet the group, and take another plane – a Northwright Air float plane this time – to Willow Handle Lake at the start of the Mountain River. Northwright will land the float plane on this beautiful lake – surrounded by mountain peaks.

For the next 12 days, we’ll canoe 370km down the fast flowing Mountain River to where it empties into the Mackenzie river about 80km north of Norman Wells. The river drops over 1200metres in elevation, with large volume rapids, fast currents and five beautiful canyons. We start in the MacKenzie mountains, a northern extension of the Rocky Mountains which reach heights of 2700metres. They dominate the background with rock colours of bluff, grey, cinnamon, green and maroon. They are home to many types of big game, including caribou, moose, Dall’s sheep, wolves, wolverine and grizzly bears. The river flows in constant meanders with grade 2 and 3 rapids that can change drastically due to often rising or falling water levels. With spraydecks on our canoes, we should be able to run them all. We’ll take some time out to explore and hike. It’s possible to ascend rocky slopes and ridges to get great vistas of the surrounding wilderness.

Lower down, the Mountain river runs quickly through sandstone and limestone mountains, with interesting tufa formations and even a natural spring. The canyons offer some challenging paddling – third canyon requires some tricky manoeuvering as there’s a ledge in some water levels and big standing waves. By now we have dropped 1000 metres in height and the vegetation is lusher with thick stands of black spruce and aspen crowding the banks. In a couple more days we burst into the wide Mackenzie Valley lowlands and continue to the confluence with the Mackenzie river. A chartered boat takes up upstream up the wide river, back to Norman Wells.

I should just mention the food!! I have a copy of Blackfeathers camp cook book
Even looking at the pages made my mouth water and I know I’m not going to be losing any weight on this trip!!


Thank you very much to the sponsors who have made this trip possible. Blackfeather have given me a reduced price trip & Wendy has helped greatly with logistics. Canadian North has donated my airfare from Edmonton to Norman wells and Northwright Air have sponsored my float plane journey to the start of the river. Sanoodi have provided a high tech rechargable battery and solar panel so I can recharge my camera batteries and record a GPS route of our journey, which I'll upload to the internet once I get back.

I'm really excited about this trip.... now I just have to pack!

Filming Evolution
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Technology is moving so quickly these days with high quality video cameras becoming smaller and cheaper. I've been spending quite a lot of time lately trying to adapt my filming techniques to make the most of these advances and to create a camera mount which will sit on a canoe, as opposed to a seakayak. My canoeing DVD, and future DVDs will all be shot entirely in widescreen High Definition which means that the minicam system I was using with a pencil-cam on a pole is OUT! That system is 4x3 and standard definition. Plus I can't use the suction mount that has been fantastic for me on my seakayak because there isn't a suitable flat surface on most canoes.

So I've bought a couple of new cameras and I've been working with Barry and a local whizz, Clive Hartfall to make a mount. The results can be seen in the pictures. We have 1 mount which can hold 3 different camcorders, depending on which is the most suitable for what I'm trying to film. The largest is the Sony HC3 which sits in the big clear waterproof housing. With a wide angle lens, this is the best quality footage, but it's also heavy and bulky! The yellow camera is a waterproof and High Definition camera from Sanyo. Its not full HD but the picture quality is very impressive. I can check what I'm filming by looking in the screen and delete clips that I don't want, but the downside is that the camera is not very wideangle. The tiny black camera is designed as a helmet-mounted camera, the Contour HD camera - this is full high definition and very widescreen but the camera isn't waterproof which could be a bit of an issue!! And you can't check the image before you start recording or play back your footage to check you haven't just filmed 10 minutes of the sky! So all 3 cameras have plus points, but none are perfect!! The challenge now is to get good at playing to their strengths & getting some fantastic canoeing shots!! I fly to America and then Canada next Tuesday for 3 weeks of filming and canoeing.


RIver Dee canoeing


Yesterday Jim and I went back to the river Dee to run a longer section by canoe. We paddled up the canal from the shop/ cafe to the Chain Bridge and then carried the boat to the river and paddled back with the aid of gravity!

I am really enjoying learning something new, and I'm finding that tandem canoeing is really good fun. We spent a couple of hours dropping just a couple of miles down the river, practicing ferry gliding, reverse ferry gliding, maneuvering and breaking in and out. We also ran the most fun rapids several times, usually picking different lines each time. Our route can be seen here on the Sanoodi website.

I now feel much more ready to go on a 2 week remote canoeing trip in the far Canadian north!!


PS. To the mint tea drinker who asked where Barrington Shaw was - he's busy working - one of us has to earn a living! But he'll be out playing at the weekend!

Bardsey and Tudwel islands
Monday, July 20, 2009

We spent the weekend at the tip on the Llyn Peninsula visiting various wonderful islands! On Saturday, Barry, Tara and I paddled into the wind to Bardsey island where we caught up with our friends the farmers, Steve, Joanne, Rachel and Ben Porter. It was a choppy, quite challenging paddle which we all enjoyed. We saw lots of birds, including a dozen or so puffins.

After a refreshing cup of tea and a chat, we headed back against the last of the flood, with the wind at our backs. The wind had dropped a bit but still gave us a bit of a push home. The current was still flooding out of Abadaron bay quite quickly with 1-2 metre waves forming a race off the headland. After one last exhilarating surf we were back in the bay and heading for fish and chips! That evening we joined Jim Krawiecki and Pete Astles on the beach as they camped overnight nearby. The rain drove us back to the van for the night and we even managed to sleep in!

On Sunday, John Dommony joined us and we headed to the Tudwel islands - the first time I've ever paddled there! We had a great day, exploring both islands, poking our noses into caves, listening to all the birds squawking and watching the seals. The was an exciting swell on the exposed sides of the islands. We even saw Bear Grylls bear bum.... but that's another story!

Last stop was Porth Ceriad for lunch and enjoyed a bit of fun catching a few waves in the warm water. What a lovely weekend!

One bladed fun
Thursday, July 16, 2009

As the sun went behind a cloud and the cloud started leaking, Jim Bradley and I braved the grey afternoon and launched our canoe onto the Menai Straits. We had great fun for a couple of hours, breaking in and out of the tide which was flooding under Menai Bridge & practicing maneuvering the canoe in currents. Jim claims that open boating is his weakest paddlesport but he made me feel very comfortable in the boat as he steered it from the stern and gave me a tip or two. We even had a go at poling. At the end of the day, we paddled down to the white house on the island and tried to have a surf on a standing wave there. We didn't get much of a ride, but we did stay upright, which was a victory as far as i was concerned!

The days paddle was training for a big canoeing trip I'm going on in August and that I'm very excited about. It's a trip in the far north of Canada with Blackfeather. I'm filming the 2 week journey for the canoeing DVD I'm making. I'll write about it all very soon!

Arctic Kayaking - keeping tradition alive
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I recently received an email from Douglas Mcnaughton in Hudson Bay in the Arctic. He is a local pastor who is trying to re-introduce a paddling life-style to the Inuit and native youth. He was emailing me because he recently showed one of my DVDs to the Inuit youth and, according to Douglas, it came as a total surprise to them that non-Inuit people are using kayaks all over the world. It also surprised them that we like kayaking!

Douglas was emailing me to ask my permission to show some parts of my DVDs to some of the villages in the Arctic, as part of their Paddling For Life Program, which is a program to help them reclaim a part of themselves. Of course, I said I'd be honored.

I also asked Douglapermission to share some of the things he emailed me about on my blog as I was touched by the work he is doing out there and fascinated by the situation in the Canadian Arctic which I knew very little about. So the rest of this blog is Douglas words.

The average age in the Eastern Arctic is only 15 years. It is not like Greenland; there are no traditional style kayaks except for those that are made for museums or collectors. We have been trying to re-introduce kayaking as a life-style. We have also been using kayaking as part of an anti-suicide program. The suicide rate is over 10% right now. Most youth would love to be able to go out of the ghetto like villages that the Government put them into in the 1970s; but they cannot buy gas for a motor boat or even for a snow mobile. In short, you can only go as far as you can walk and the next village is ussually 120 mile away along the coast.

I want to show your DVDs to the youth so they will dream, hope and maybe even try and kayak the routes that Inuit used for thousands of years. Their grand-parents routinely paddled 70-100 miles a day across some of the worst water on the planet. I am not asking that they start with those routes. I want them to see that other people, even non-Inuit, can and do travel long distances and enjoy this most amazing Inuit watercraft.

The villages where we would be viewing parts of your DVDs would be on the Eastern Hudson Bay and the Hudson Straits. (much better kayaking on this side of the Hudson Bay and more wild.) Right now everything is ice for the first time in June for maybe 10-15 years. There is some open water in the Northern Hudson Straits but the rest is still all ice today. Everything is upside down.

Until the 1960s the Inuit here had hundreds of very long kayaks (about 22 ft) and known to be fast even by Inuit standards. (Hudson Bay records and missionary journals routinely report them sustaining 6 knots.) The last kayaks of the 1960s were all sold to museums and the men and women who made them and travelled in them have mostly passed away since then. Since then some efforts have been attempted to make new kayaks, but the traditional cultural knowledge and life-style is all but totally gone. So we are trying to transition to modern kayaks with all of the modern clothings etc. (However they do not like european paddles at all.) Not everyone agrees with using modern kayaks designed by non-Inuit. Modern production kayaks are much smaller and slower according to the elders and "not as safe." They even say my traditional style paddle is too short for the "fourth gear" level of paddling they would have with a 10-12 ft paddles. They also say they never rolled their kayaks; and they were 100% against teaching rolling, until I told them it is now a sport and a competition in Greenland. (Instead of rolling they always tied the kayaks like a catamaran or trimaran or whatever for bad weather or for sailing in stronger winds or for training young people. There is documentation that supports these methods.) I am working to learn exactly how this was done at sea. They always say, very easy.

Your DVDs will also help the few remaining elders who kayaked 40 some years ago, because your movies will get the youth talking and asking question about kayaking that the elders can answer. (They know things about kayaking that I have never read in any books. ) My hope is that then the youth will be supported in the effort to reclaim this part of their culture and a healthier life-style. When I first proposed this idea the elders did not like it because modern kayaks do not paddle like traditional kayaks and they did not think todays youth could paddle safely. Since then Inuit youth programs have taken a handful of inexperienced youth from various villages and travelled from the eastern Hudson Bay and travelled hundreds of miles with them to the top of the Hudson Bay in six weeks. Then the following year, the program gathered a new group of inexperienced youth and traveled from Ivujivik to Quaqtaq, basically the length of the very worst part of the Hudson Straits. Then the next year another inexperienced Inuit youth group did the whole of Ungava Bay and every village. When I tell people in the south that inexperienced youth did these incredible trips as their first kayak exerience most say they don't believe it. Most non-Inuit people don't believe the Inuit youth either. Maybe that is why the Inuit youth here seemed to identified with the young Russian who was with you in the Kamchatka adventure. So that is one part of your DVD that we will be viewing in the villages. (The Inuit young women also were excited that two women where stronger kayakers than the Russian man. They say now they understand that women can kayak too!)

The Inuit also like it that you try new things in your DVDs and new places to kayak around the world. It will encourage them and already has encouraged the few that have seen your DVD at my home. They say you opened their eyes.

In other places, where you show some of the traditional skills you frequently refer to these as "Greenland style". The Inuit elders here do not like it when non-Inuit refer to traditional paddles and kayaks as Greenland kayaks. (So I won't translate those words exactly) You probably know that the Greenland Inuit also once completely lost the knowledge of kayaking. This is common knowledge in the Arctic and a story passed on for generations now. It was a determined group of Inuit from what is now Arctic Canada who brought the knowledge and skills of kayaking back to the Greenlanders in the early to mid-19th century. The Greenlanders had been without Kayaks or even the knowledge of them by 1810 when the Ross expidition arrived (European historical confirmation). Some epidemic had killed off so many Greenland Inuit after the 16th or 17th century that the cultural knowledge was lost and so they only hunted seals from the ice. A famous Inuit shaman in the Eastern Arctic, whose name is still well known, had a vision in which he saw the Greenland Inuit as lost people (inuit means people). But he did not know they were in Greenland or where these lost people were living. He just knew from the vision that they were real and needed to be found so that the Inuit could be connected again. He and maybe 30 Inuit families began a long wandering trek through the Arctic over many many years. They eventually crossed over into Northern Greenland and found the remains of old dwellings but no Inuit, so they travelled south down Greenland until they met the Greenlanders. There they stayed and taught many Inuit cultural skills like the knowledge of kayaks and other things. The descendents of some of these Inuit are still in Greenland today (although others returned to the area around Pond Inlet and Northern Baffin Island in modern Nunavut.

Ironically, the situation is reversed today. Greenlanders Kayak and the eastern Arctic Inuit youth know almost nothing about it. Maybe we should bring you and the Greenland Inuit here now to reintroduce kayaking to this generation.

I will start showing parts of your DVDs at two villages: Ivujivik at the northern most tip of the Hudson Bay and the Hudson Straits; and also Chisasibi near the top of the eastern James Bay/Hudson Bay region. Chisasibi is Cree and Inuit and I am letting them compete with kayaking trips and hopefully games. It is also the location best situated for bring more kayaks in from the south. Two or three youth in both villages have already taken part in the long trips I mentioned above, but I am hoping to increase that number to dozens per village.

The Inuit youth will certainly want you to come and kayak with them someday. We are talking about re-tracing the traditional route between the Belcher Islands (in the middle of Hudson Bay) and the mainland. No-one has ever attempted this in modern kayaks and no-one has done it by kayak in maybe 60 years. According to the Inuit elders, It can only be done while there is still some ice on the Hudson Bay. I will keep you posted.


It might also be good, I think, if kayaking people outside the Arctic knew that the vast majority of Inuit and Inuit Kayak designs in the world are not in Greenland; and that an enormous amount of knowledge about kayaking and paddling over hundreds if not thousands of years is about to be lost with this last generation of Inuit elders in the eastern Arctic. Only tiny amounts have been recorded about the hundreds of kayaks and techniques used, and most of what has been written has been by people who never (or barely) kayaked and did not speak Inuititut. The special techniques and methods for a life of kayaking have not been recorded.

For example, the Elders of the Hudson Straits and Eastern Hudson Bay used a very different paddling method than anything used in Greenland and they had much larger and faster kayaks here. Take a look at the Cape Wolstenholme kayak of 1910. A swede- form speedster of over 22ft, designed for the extreme current, high winds, and big seas. Justine if you had a kayak like that you could fly on your adventures; just like they did. Across the Hudson Straits for a day trip with 10 knot cross current! No problem.

One of the unrecorded secrets seems to be that the wooden hoop around the Inuit kayak cockpit opening was designed for paddling purposes. (I thought it was to keep water out or to attach the tuliq. I was Wrong.) So far, I have not found anyone who has written how this is actually designed for paddling purposes. I found out by accident when I listened to the Inuit elders complain about the Inuit youth using modern kayaks. Apparently, there are several traditional stages in the traditional forward stroke besides those known or used in Greenland. The cockpit hoop was used almost fulcum-like for paddling purposes after the more vertical strokes (at two levels) were used to start, accelerate, increase to 5-6 knots; then then go to a horizontal stroke pivoting the paddle midway against the front of the vertical cockpit hoop. (A mat of polar bear fur was used to keep this silent.) In my mind it seems the traditional paddle then functions almost as a sweep (this is were they say I also need the longer traditional paddle of 10-12 ft.) They told me this in detail only after I had paddled a 70 mile day along one of their traditional routes. They say this method allowed them to travel very fast all day without sweating (which can be deadly in the Arctic as it can result in hypothermia quickly).

This Inuit paddling technique might be something that modern sea-kayakers could learn for long distance crossings with heavy loads.

I have asked a few manufacturers if they could install this hoop idea so the Inuit elders could teach this paddling method before they are all dead, but so far no one is developing even a proto-type on a modern kayak. You probably know lots of folks who would be interested.

You have my permission to put some of my Arctic ramblings on your Blog; My hope would also be that some experienced kayakers would consider helping the Inuit youth recall the traditions of a paddling life style through kayaking in the Arctic.


If you’d like to contact Douglas and offer any help then write a comment on this blog

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