Archive for category HOW-TO

Tips for Camping in the Rain

Held in camp for a week in Clayoquot Sound in between heavy rains and high winds. At least we didn't run out of fresh water to drink. Photo by Dave Barnes

Held in camp for a week in Clayoquot Sound in between heavy rains and high winds. At least we didn’t run out of fresh water to drink.
Photo by Dave Barnes

The first thing you will notice about any summer day on the west ‘wet’ coast is that it is most likely to be raining. All you can do is weather the storm, (pun intended) with the dread realization that what Mark Twain said about the city of San Francisco counts here as well, that being “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Now it is not all bad news. During all the kayaking trips I have done to the outer coast of Vancouver Island in the summer months I can count on the fingers of both my hands how many clear, sunny and perfectly windless days there were. It keeps things simple that way. More rain than sunshine makes preparing for a trip a lot simpler. Check lists begin with rain gear, coats, rainpants, tarps before PFD’s, paddles, and even food. Preparing for the worst and being pleasantly surprised when the worst does not happen is my kayaking motto, that and bring more coffee! And holding onto a cup of rainwater coffee under a tarp beside your tent while sitting on a damp log breathing in the humidity is pure joy.

So, onto the tips section now that I have you feeling dreary at the prospects of your summer paddling adventure being one of sogginess. It is not that bad and by no means do you have to spend all of your time on rainy days sulking inside your tent. There is too much to do, even if the conditions don’t allow you to get off the beach for a rainy day paddle. I advise those by the way, as once you are wet, you will not get any wetter. Often times the rainy weather will accompany a calm on the water. Low clouds and drizzle drumming in a hush on your deck while you paddle through an environment of muted colours and your paddle swishes through the raindrop dappled seas. See, that sounds good, huh. Okay, so not for every one, but it is meant to be an adventure, right?

Tip number one is to get your outdoorsy skills de-rusted and dusted off during dry good weather days at home. Go camping in your backyard and practice, practice, practice. The first thing to do is set up your home in the outdoors. When landing your kayak at your desired camp have your wet weather stuff packed in such a way that it is the first thing you grab out of the boat. Starting with a tarp. Speed will be at the essence here as you will be well insulated from the chill when paddling in the kayak, but as soon as you are out in the open air it is easy to get cold fast. Get a shelter up as quickly as you can. Find a suitable spot for your tent, but string up your tarp(s) first in such a way as to create a wind break as well as a roof over your head. The tarp will create a place for you to set up your tent, or hammock and stay dry doing so. Consider a shelter for your tent area, and another farther away for your kitchen space. Occasionally tighten up the tarp to avoid puddling and that unintentional dumping of a tarp-load of rain water on your head.

Now it is time to get that tent set up. Go for high ground so you don’t end up in a puddle. If your tent comes with a ground sheet, use it, or a spare tarp to help create a barrier between you and the wet ground. Once the tent is up toss in your camp clothing bags and set out your sleeping pad and bag. Do this inside your tent to avoid your sleeping bag getting wet. Now get that stove going to brew up a cup. Your camp should be shaping up by now and while you are waiting for your coffee to brew take the moment to change out of your wet paddling gear and into dry camp clothing. It is important to maintain a dressing regime of separating paddle clothes and camp clothing. The mistake is wearing your camp clothing outside of camp, getting them wet and now you have nothing dry as back up. Rain gear over top will do nicely and you will be comfortable while enjoying the reward of that tea or coffee, or soup.

Settling in, there is still much to do to prepare for a stretch of rainy weather. More practice at home is in building a campfire. It seems a simple enough task doesn’t it, but in a rainfall day with any wind coming in to shore this can become a daunting job. There are several methods for making fire starters. Do some experiments at home to find the way you prefer. The fire is something good to have while killing rainy hours. Firstly, it sets a tone in camp and gives you or members of your group the occupation of scouting out best bits of wood to use. Wet driftwood is a pain to ignite and so I bring with me a small stuff sack filled with dry wood, twigs and kindling pieces crucial to getting that infant set of embers glowing. Nurse that little fire until it is working well and set up your wet wood as a surround to help protect the fire from winds as well as aiding in the drying process. This activity alone has kept me occupied an entire afternoon as the rain tap-tapped on the tarp overhead. Secondly, that campfire will be your TV for the evening. It will keep you warm, entertain you and mesmerize you with its flickering flames with no commercial interruption.

Make sure beforehand that your basic camp supplies are where you want them and packed in the order of need. Clothing is something we take for granted but having the right stuff to wear is important. Most of you will know already the dangers of using cotton. It gets wet, and it stays wet which draws heat from your body and can lead to hypothermia. Synthetics for all-weather, and woollens are great because even if they get wet, you stay warm. Ever see a shivering sheep, noop.

Other things to have on hand inside your tent and always in waterproof bags are toiletries, a butane lighter or strike anywhere matches, headlamp, lantern, and a good book. I bring my cell phone which is in a waterproof case but as an extra bit of insurance I put it in a ZipLoc bag as well. As for footwear I have a pair of shoes to wear around camp. Most often I stick to sandals unless it is colder. These come in the tent with me at night and my water shoes hang out in the vestibule.

For any trip into the outdoors, and for times when the weather is not great it is important to know for certain that your stove works! The last thing you will want to discover is a stove failure. Sure, you can always cook on that campfire but what if you can’t get that going? That stove is your safety net. Make sure that your fuel is new and that you have an ample supply. Going OCD at this point is perfectly acceptable. Give the stove a few starts to make sure all burners are working.

With your camp set up, and the firewood stacked, and the rain pouring down it is time to go sulk in your tent. But wait one minute! Did you notice the trails near your camp, or maybe there is a big beach to comb. It is time to wander about and a little rain should not stop you from exploring your surroundings.

The final tip is this, go anyway. Rain or shine it is an adventure you are after and the real meaning of adventure is that they don’t always go as planned, and that is the point. But with a little forethought and planning you can hit the camp running and be warm, dry-ish and comfortable until the weather gods smile upon you with some clear blue skies and sunshine.





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Wooden Kayak Makeovers

If I ever forget where I parked the car it is easy to find due to two things, one my wooden kayak is resting on the roof racks, and two there will most likely be one, two, three or more middle-aged guys circling. I once had to ask a fellow to get off the front of my car as he was trying to get a better photograph of the deck of my kayak, by standing on my car. When I helped him back to firmer ground the questions begin and usually with, “Is it more fragile than a fibreglass kayak?” and the next question is, “Must take a lot of work to maintain, I wouldn’t want to do all that extra work all the time…”

The kayak makeover of the 'Raven'. Photo by Dave Barnes

The kayak makeover of the ‘Raven’.
Photo by Dave Barnes

As a matter of fact, other than one collision that left a nasty dent in the side of my kayak, the woodie has held up for nearly a decade of hardcore use, rough landings and wintering on the backyard rack without much maintenance other than an annual scrubbing and perhaps a new coat of varnish. A recent makeover and some brand new deck rigging has given her a ‘looking like new’ appearance and another decade of life at sea. This leads more to the second question of does a wooden kayak require more upkeep than any other kayak on the market? Usually, as with my own boat the answer is no, but as with any kayak, a good going over from stem to stern once a year is a smart practice to get into. The wooden kayak does need attention. A new coat of marine varnish once a year will protect it from damaging UV and bring new life to the wood tones. However, I don’t do much other than that.

Left on her side on the ground for some time this wooden kayak needed some drastic measures during restoration. Photo by Dave Barnes

Left on her side on the ground for some time this wooden kayak needed some drastic measures during restoration.
Photo by Dave Barnes

Not all wooden kayaks that have been in my backyard have fared as well. The second wooden kayak I built was for a friend who didn’t want to tackle the project herself. I was happy to put it together and gave it some personalized touches. Alas, the kayak got little used and was left directly on the ground on one side for a year and a half. The results were almost unrecoverable. It came back to me in a state and I took a few drastic measures to restore the kayak, not to its original beauty but with an entirely new look to mask the damage.

Thinking that I could get my wife out on the water with me, I built her a kayak. Initially, she used it often but found kayaking to be challenging. Her kayak sat on the rack for the next couple of years and neglected due to time, and energy. No excuses really, and the results are a kayak that looks older than my ten-year-old boat. With some time on my hands and the idea of possibly selling it to add to our ‘tandem kayak’ fund jar (I have permission to build a double) her kayak is my next makeover project! The task begins with a wash and then a few hours going over every inch of the hull with an orbital sander, then the deck as well. The hatch covers have always leaked so they will get a rethinking as well as an upgrade on the artwork.

A lot of sanding ahead before the fun part of refinishing the kayak begins. Photo by Dave Barnes

A lot of sanding ahead before the fun part of refinishing the kayak begins.
Photo by Dave Barnes

Does owning wooden kayaks take more effort. Yes, and no. In the end, you are working and paddling in something made of organic living material that adds greatly to the enjoyment and feel of gliding through the water. That being said, no lunch is ever entirely free. It is time like these, covered in dust and contemplating the costs of refitting the kayak that I remember the words from the Wind in the Willows. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

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Stretching to Ease Tendonitis and CTS

Last spring I was well on the way to a great year of kayaking. I set out at least once a week for a good 25 km paddle leading up to one epic day circumnavigating my home island of Salt Spring.  (I am aiming to beat my best time this spring). I was feeling better and better with each paddle stroke until I made the grand mistake of bagging a full time job and within a couple of weeks I was side-lined with numbness and pain in both my forearms and wrists. With years of paddling I had not succumbed to the kayaker’s complaint of tendonitis, it took an 8-hour shift five days a week doing something repetitive and apparently stressful that caused such an extreme flare-up. I was gobsmacked by this turn of events as I have worked with my hands all my life and this was the first time it had become an issue. Coupled with being staggeringly pooped at the end of the day the idea of getting out on the water in the evenings, or on the weekends was a struggle of time and pain management. Reluctantly, I hung up the paddle for the season and tended to earning a few bucks while dealing with a certain amount of chronic pain. The result being that too much time on land has made me crazy.

Not this year! I am off work for the winter and looking for something less taxing on the old joints than the old job. Options open I am spending the time reacquainting myself with my lovely wooden kayak, which currently resides in the workshop while getting a fresh new look. I am also looking into exercises to use for kayaking now that the specter of tendonitis and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome CTS are looming over my head. I accept that this will alter my paddling, then again, maybe not. I feel the arms healing already and eager to get back in the seat of my kayak. But, a new regime of preparation and daily stretching is in order to help prevent or at least dull the lingering affects.

While investigating various ways of easing the pain and suffering I may now achieve with each paddle stroke I found this short but informative video on youtube. Very simple exercises to add to my regular paddling stretching before and after a day on the water. I thought I would share this as I know there are paddlers out there popping anti inflammatory tablets as I speak.

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Spice, A Kayak Cooking Tip

A random find on Pinterest and a great idea for my kayak kitchen is born. Looks like I will have very fresh breath for the next while as I build up a collection of these containers for my essential spices.

A great idea for the kayak camp kitchen.

A great idea for the kayak camp kitchen.


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Kayak Make-Over

After nearly a decade of wonderful paddling experiences with the best waterfront view any boy, or in my case ‘Paddlingboy” could ask for it is time to give back. My kayak, Dragonfly named partly due to the pair of chinese dragons etched into the wood with a soldering iron and later reinforced by the rather large dragonfly that landed on the bow and dried its iridescent wings for almost a half hour as I paddled the scenic shores of Desolation Sound. My kayak, Dragonfly needs some love. Her many rough landings on abrasive beaches, collisions with partly submerged rocks, logs and all manner of other abuses has left some permanent marks upon her slender sleek body. After so many years on the water like most of us, the years leave some damage, and some that just cannot be ignored any longer. Scars so deep her fibreglass was showing!

An evening of sanding the hull of my wooden kayak. Photo by Dave Barnes

An evening of sanding the hull of my wooden kayak.
Photo by Dave Barnes

A few weeks ago the make-over began with a full-kayak sand down. Scratched and chipped gelcoat and layers of varnish all came off with my new sander and some elbow grease. Now, it is time to get down to the really scary stuff. What to do about the hull? The answer was given to me by a paddling buddy of mine who in the past year os so has built three, count em’ three cedar strip kayaks. One for his paddling and the other two smaller versions of the original for his kids. I had the awesome fortune of test paddling one of those beauties last spring and the answer to my issues were the bottom of those kayaks. He had treated them with layers of jet black buffed to a shine gelcoat. The combination of the wooden deck and black hull was sexy. I was not too sure when he first told me of his plans to do so, but the end result was convincing to say the least. The cure for all my dings and dents was to cover over the wood panel bottom of my kayak, a kit-build Coho from Pygmy Boats in Port Townsend, Wa.

The keel needed a touch up so I taped out that section of the hull first and gave it a roll over of black gelcoat. The subsequent layers will overlap and give that more vulnerable part extra thickness. That was a breeze. What came next took an ounce of courage and a pound of commitment. Blacking out the wooden hull fully. I took one deep breath and let the roller roll over the first panel of wood. Yikes, I have done it now. No going back…I fretted and spent the rest of the afternoon a little freaked-out by what I had done to my baby. I could always sand her down again I told myself, but I knew better.

This morning a second full coat went on and the blotchy base coat slowly melted away to a more deep coating of black. I feel relieved again and hope she likes the fact that I will be spending many hours with her in the next few weeks hand sanding her to a smooth finish.

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Blog to Book, the New Travel Writer?

From a blog a book is born and arrives on the local bookstore shelf. But is it worth the read?

The other evening I clicked ‘download’ from the BC Library online site and in a flash an ebook arrived on my hardrive and then bought a ticket to ride on my Kobo for three weeks. The entire transaction took less than a minute (after the Kobo desktop wasted a few minute doing updates) and I settled in with a book that caught my eye about two young women who drove a Tuk Tuk, one of those three-wheeled carts that clog the streets of India and most of Asia. They were doing this adventure to raise money and awareness for mental health issues and a group in the UK called MIND. A worthy cause as one of the participants suffered from depression and had long-term association with institutions and hospitals.

As I ‘tukked’ in for the evening it started to become clear that the book was based on the blog they kept during the journey. Each of them contributing the daily events. This would have been fine if the two had done some basic co-ordination of who would say what, about what and when. Each entry was echoed soon after by the other person to the point that I found myself leap-frogging through the virtual pages skipping sentences and passages with familiar theme. If one told the story of the rain and potholes for 125 miles and stopping for a beer in Laos, the next person would detail it as well. A wonderful trip log became a short read. Only on a few occasions did each divert from telling the same story of the same day. One voice please!

This is one of the dangers of the latest trends open to us all through online book publishing sites such as My Publisher and Thier book was done through other means, however these sites and others offer template allowing simple transfer of your blog to book format. Now anyone can self-publish! I am a self-published author and heartily approve, but editing, proofreading and all the rest of the process must happen too. In the case of this book, worth a read but be prepared for a constant echo two people telling the same story might have been smooth if they had differing views. Chose sections of the trip to speak about or have chosen one person to do the writing. For the most part that did not happen. It was a book made up of short sound bite bursts of one paragraph post card posts on a blog. It read like a blog, sounded like a blog and essentially was only a blog. I needed more. I enjoyed the journey, but not the reading of it.

On the other side of this new way of selling your story is a book that came to my hands via a kayaker who approached me in the local coffee shop with a copy of my recent book, The Hungry Kayaker under his arm. I signed it for him and we chatted about kayaking. A half hour later on the ferry we met again, and it was then that he let slip that he too had a book out. It was available on and was a photo/blog of a trip he and another paddler had done around Vancouver Island. One hand shakes the other so when I got home I ordered a copy of his book. 910206-e734e2b39384ce0907ebc8a884f9f31c

On the arrival in my mailbox I sat down and browsed it. Blurb is good, I have used it too but for photos it is not so great. To get a rich colour plate from the restriction of uploading jpg quality images makes it challenging, however they kept the image size smaller and the crispness was still there. Stunning images. The text was another issue. In this book two travellers telling the same story but had the forethought to break it up between them. Each taking sections of the journey which deleted much of the perils of overlap and repetition. The information was great, the story telling clear, though neither was a writer, it didn’t dull the experience of wandering through the pages.

I don’t write my blog with book in mind. It is a place to talk about my passions for cooking and camping and kayaking, period. A place where i vent, rant and go on. In my world a blog is a blog and a book is a book. To mash one into the other can work. If you are in the process of  doing it right now, great, cool! Go For IT! Just keep the reader in mind especially if you are more than one person telling the same story.

From my own experiences using online publishing sites as with traditional self-publishing, you do get what you put into it. Take your time, polish the book and its pages. Read, edit, read and re-edit. Find form and function and make it work. Tell your story. But, with these online sites while you do have the relative ease of simple to use templates, the cost per book is slightly more than packaged deals from an outfit such as the one I use, Friesenpress in Victoria BC. Colour photos cost more to print no matter what the quality and the online bookstore pricing is tight when you are looking to make a profit. In fact, it will take a lot to make a profit. Self-publishing is tough, it is tough to sell your book without the giant engines of a so called ‘mainstream publisher’. Use your blog to sell your book, get creative, you’ll need to. However, a straight text blog to book is actually comparable to commercial pricing on these sites. If you are looking to publish your blog do some reasearch before transferring data from one place to the next.

As I said before, I doubt I will ever turn this blog into a book. But for those adventerous travellers out there updating followers daily on the trials and joys of taking a wild journey on their blogs it is a way to expand your readership by creating a book about your trip, or passions later on. The world of travel writing is changing. But after sampling two distinctly different approaches to blog to book publishing all I can ask is  that you please resist the urge to copy and paste your life to the pages of a book, unless you are willing to put in the hard work of turning that blog into a readable book.

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Geocaching by Kayak

Geocaching by Kayak

Old truck found on Wallace Island, BC while Geocaching by kayak.Photo courtesy Jennifer Barnes

Old truck found on Wallace Island, BC while Geocaching by kayak.
Photo courtesy Jennifer Barnes

A couple of years ago my wife Jen and I found out about the game of geocaching. For those not in the know, Geocaching is an activity where the use of hand-held GPS units and Tupperware combine. Using pre-set co-ordinates found on we set out around Salt Spring Island and places elsewhere in search of sometimes tough to find small containers of goodies left hidden by others. I have found caches as close to my house as a five-minute walk and as far north as Dawson City, Yukon. In fact, it is world-wide. Simply go to the website, click on the hide and seek section and type in virtually any location on the planet and you will find at least one cache hidden there.

But it is not just on foot that you can go geocaching. Being a kayaker I immediately searched for potential treasure around my own paddling backyard and voila, there are loads! The nearest other than the one is under a rock on a nearby trail, the next one is my excuse for an afternoon paddle over to Wallace Island.

Wallace is my usual paddle. From a launch close by it is a leisurely two hours on the water to cross part of Trincomali Channel and then round the long island of Wallace. There is treasure to be found there. Several hides appeared on the Google map on the website. All along the wonderful hiking trail that runs the entire length of the island. The first cache is one of three at Chivers Point where there is available camping so a weekend of kayaking and treasure hunting can be easily done.

My mission was to find a cache on Wallace, and with my Garmen Legend GPS in hand I loaded up the kayak for an afternoon adventure. And I brought along the video camera as well.

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