Wednesday, 26 June 2013

St. Mary's River

I'm pretty certain today was the hottest day of the year so far ... very humid and +30.  Seemed like a perfect opportunity to cool off and go for an after-work paddle.   I also hoped to put some of the skills I learned this past weekend to use.  I will post an account of the course I took in an upcoming blog.

I recently picked up a really cool book:  Guide to Sea Kayaking on Lakes Superior & Michigan---The Best Day Trips and Tours by Bill Newman, Sarah Ohmann and Don Dimond.  It describes a total of 49 different routes.    How fitting that the very first route is entitled "Sault Ste Marie: St. Mary's River.  I would feel silly continuing to call myself the Soo Paddler without ever paddling the river.   It is a nice 3-4 hour paddle with a unique opportunity to sea some huge ships up close. 

The launch site is Bellvue Park marina on the Canadian side of the river.  I headed south downstream to the east dock of the Sugar Island Ferry on Island 1.  South along the island, crossed over and past three more islands.  I then  hugged the USA shore to stay out of the shipping lane and towards the locks.  I crossed back over to the Canadian side and then paddled with the current returning to the launch site.

You can park very close to the launch site and avoid the boat traffic in the marina:

Aim for the strip of pilings when crossing south from the Canadian side to the USA.

Watch out for the Sugar Islander II:

As I popped out of the islands into the shipping channel I just missed a freighter by a few minutes:

Playing chicken with a sail boat tacking his way back upwind:

Edison Sault Electric Co.:

US Locks:

Canadian Locks:

Riding the current downstream towards Roberta Bondar Pavillion:

Never new how pretty the civic center looked from the water:

Fountain in front of Clergue Park and the Art Gallery:

While I was paddling around the locks on the US side there were no boats in sight, however 20 minutes later two freighters passed each other:

Sailing into the sunset?

Bushplane Museum:

International Bridge at sunset:


Friday, 21 June 2013

A couple of Lakes - Part II

The next lake I tackled was actually a combination of three different lakes which are linked together:  McCarrel Lake, Diamond Lake and Cloudy Lake.  The lakes are about 40 minutes East of Sault Ste Marie and the drive through Sylvan Valley is very scenic.  This area is also excellent for cycling.

Drive to Echo Bay and then take Hwy 638.  Make a right onto Gordon Lake Rd.  Another right onto Diamond Lake Rd, drive about 3 km and the boat launch will be on your left.  It is well marked and designated as a public boat launch and picnic area.

A leisurely paddle of the perimeter of all three lakes took almost 4 hours and covered a distance of almost 20 km.

Keep your eye out for a really neat rock face on the East side of Cloudy Lake (this is the lake in the middle which is not labelled on the above map.)  Makes for a nice spot to do some rock jumping!  In the summer on hot days it is not uncommon to see kids hanging out here.

There is a dam at the western tip of McCarrel Lake where you can get out of your kayak and stretch your legs.  The north shore of McCarrel lake and East shore of Cloudy lake had appeared to have some interesting underwater rock ledges and looked like they would be a cool place to snorkel.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A couple of Lakes - Part 1

Before venturing into the North Channel and Great Lakes I built my confidence by first paddling in some small local inland lakes.

Trout Lake is only 15 km north of Sault Ste Marie and there is a small public beach suitable for launching a kayak.  The lake is not overly populated with cottages/homes and makes for a nice after-work paddle.  I paddled the perimeter of the lake in approx. 2 hours.

Make a right hand turn off of Highway 17 onto Trout Lake Rd.  Just prior to reaching a sign that says, "Trout Lake Association Private Road" there will be a small public access on your left:

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Time to Paddle!

After getting hooked up with an Aqua-bound Sting Ray Carbon paddle  and a PFD I was ready for my first paddle.  I headed to Lake Laurentian Conservation area.

Sting Ray Carbon Touring Kayak Paddle

There is no motorized boat traffic allowed on the lake and it is located only 10 minutes from downtown Sudbury.  There is a nice beach to launch your kayak.

The boat was nowhere near as tippy as I was expecting.  I was really comfortable in the boat and I was able to tour the circumferance of the lake in about 3 hours.  A lot of questions were raised in my mind:

  • Where should my hands be placed on the paddle?
  • How far should the paddle blade extend into the water?
  • What angle should I paddle at?
  • Why do I always seem to glide to the left when I stop paddling?
  • How should I adjust the seat and thigh braces for optimum comfort?

Irregardless I immediately loved the sport.  There was just something so serene and peaceful about being by myself out on the lake.  No traffic and no noise except for the wildlife.  

Monday, 17 June 2013

Buying a Sea Kayak

Rudder or skeg.  Fiberglass or plastic.  Recreational, day touring, touring, speed, capacity, length, initial stability, secondary stability, balance, chine ... aaaaaahh!   Who knew kayaks were so complicated?

I tend to over analyze every significant purchase and buying my first sea kayak was no different.  After countless hours of googling the best advice I can offer is to talk to other people who kayak in the area where you intend on paddling.

Shout-out to Brad and Lance at Ramakko's Outdoor Adventure Store in Sudbury, ON.  The service was excellent and I was able to "test-drive" a few kayaks prior to buying.  At the end of the day I picked up a last year's model Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 at a discounted price and paid no tax.  Very happy with the boat so far ... and I must say it looks pretty sharp on top of my car.

Friday, 14 June 2013

The journey begins!

Welcome to my blog!  I have lived in the fantastic city of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada which is dead-smack in the middle of the Great Lakes ---well OK three of the them at least--- for seven years. 

It is a "paddler's paradise" and I decided it was about time I took advantage of it. 

Let the journey begin ...