2004-05-24

2004 Kayakers' Retreat Weekend Report

I checked in and confirmed my attendance on Friday evening before going to find a place to stay. Wound up at White Sails Cabins in Eastport. It was close to 20 minutes drive from the center of activity, but much cheaper.

0845 Saturday morning we gathered at Pinetree Lodge and got the lowdown on the day's events. It was about 1100 before we got on the water, launching from a beach at Burnside. There were close to 50 kayaks travelling from there to the place we stopped for lunch. At that time we split up, with the "advanced" paddlers heading out first to their more distant destination, and the remaining "intermediate" kayakers breaking into two groups.

John Knight's bunch took the counter-clockwise direction around the islands, and we went clockwise under the leadership of Ian Fong. Our heading was more protected from the wind, which was higher and from a different direction than forecasted, so we only had a couple rough passages. We stayed on the sheltered sides and returned the same route we had travelled out. The other groups experienced a bit tougher time of it. Around 1800, people began landing back at Burnside, and I was one of the first half dozen in. I was surprised by my speed compared to most others all day, especially since I have a relatively short, wide and heavy, and thus slow, kayak. Now I need some skills to go with that.

Saturday night we had a social at Pinetree Lodge. There were kayaking videos and photographs on a screen, plus some live entertainment by a paddling guitar player of great talent, Eric West. The bar was open, and snacks filled the tables, but many people, including us, were heading to bed by 2230.

I arrived at the Sunday morning meeting only to be told that winds were going to be too high, and the official paddle was cancelled. At this point, smaller groups of people got together and did their own thing. Not knowing many there, or the area, I hung out until I heard that St. Chad's was the place to go. This was close to where we were were staying, so I went back to the cabin to let Roxanne know what was up, and changed into my wetsuit. I managed to find the beach, with 5 kayaks already in the water, and 4 more arriving while I was setting up.

This whole section of coast was well protected from the winds by the high hills, and there were no significant waves until a couple hundered meters out. This gave us lots of room to play. There were several NDKs, two wooden kayaks, and one Sea Knife, with plastics being in the minority. During lunch, both of the women practiced rolling, which they made look very easy in the NDKs. While paddlers came and went, I stayed and practiced in the shallow waters for over 4 hours.

Sunday night we gathered for the big meal, door prize draws, and presentions. Gift certificates from The Outfitters and MEC were what I most wanted, but alas, my number was not drawn. Following the turkey dinner, the tables were removed and Ruth Gordon, of the Canadian Freestyle Kayak team, showed photos and gave a talk about some of the interesting places they have visited in the world. She and fellow teammate, Tyler Curtis, received the honor of being screeched in as well.

Monday morning started with packing and loading up the car. This took longer than I hoped, and it was after 0930 by the time I arrived at breakfast. The KNL executive were put to work cooking up a fine meal of pancakes, and other goodies for the hungry paddlers. This was the best social time of the weekend, and I got to talk to a few people I had only met in passing previously. Once again I passed up a chance to buy an autographed copy of Ken Campbell's book, Around The Rock.

At 1030 Ruth and Tyler put on a short demonstration of freestyle whitewater kayaking skills at The Ruins in Glovertown. This was very interesting, but I think I will stick with sea kayaking for a while yet. By 1130 we were heading back home having experienced a full and interesting few days, and hopefully, having started some new friendships.