lundi 21 juillet 2014

#3 Ivy Lea

I got to my dive instructor’s house at around 09:00hrs on Saturday. As he had moved, lets say I got there just a little over 9. He tossed me my brand new dry suit and we got it prepped up for its first dive. After we loaded the kit and carefully planned out our dives for that day, we set out for that day’s diving spot. (picture taken off of google images)
The quarry is located in Chelsea ON, just about half an hour from Gatineau/Ottawa. This is a very popular spot as it also has the highest bungee jumping in Canada.

Under water, there is a small cargo plane, (picture taken off of google images)
a two-man submarine, a sunken car, and a piano. The max depth is at around 135 feet. We suited up and got in the water. As it was my very first dive in a dry suit, my techniques needed a few adjustments to compensate. After the first dive, we came out, made a thorough debrief/adjustments, had lunch and then got back in for the next part. This dive went a lot better than the first. I felt more stable and was able to relax and take my time more. We eventually got out of the water, picked up and packed our kit and made our way to my instructors house for the debrief and to watch the videos he had taken while under water. After analyzing the videos and modifying some kit, we called it a day. We went in “Le vieux Hull” for diner. We stopped at a Thai restaurant called “Chez le Thai”, situated just in front of the 4 jeudis. I recommend this restaurant to anyone travelling in le Vieux Hull.

Our second day of diving was supposed to be a real divers treat. We got up nice and early to pack up and get what we needed for the dive. We had fresh tanks and we were good to go. We drove just a little over an hour to get to 1000 islands (picture taken off of google images),
located just about 45 minutes from Kingston ON. As you can see, it was quite the scenery just getting there. Once we got to our spot at the Ivy Lea campground beach, we finished our dive planning and got ready. We went in for our dive and everything went well on the way down, except. Everything was good except my shoulder dump valve on my BC. It broke as we were starting to descend. There wasn’t much to see other than small fishes and some types of seaweed. We were following the marker rope and at some point, the current shifted. We drifted a little in an underwater current and kept going as it was planned. Coming back up, we had a few stages of decompression to do. On our way up, we crossed the current once again. Up to this point everything was going fine. Just as I was getting passed and out of the current, my feet got elevated just a tad too much. The consequence of this was bigger than anticipated. The air from the top of my dry suit found itself in the bottom part of the suit. Because of this, my two legs were now two lift bags and wanted as much as possible to bring me back up to the surface. My first reaction was to empty the air out of my vest and try to bring the air from my legs back up to the upper part of the suit. One problem, my shoulder dump valve cord was broken. Not being able to dump my air fast enough, I grabbed on to some rocks so I wouldn’t bust my decompression stage. No matter how hard I tried to bring my legs back down or to try and bring my knees to my chest, my calves kept getting cramps. I was finally able to get the air to the top part of the suit and dump the air of my BC from another valve. We got up to 20 feet for our last deco stage finally got out of the water after what seemed forever. Being inverted while on a deco stage is not a pleasant experience.
After getting out of the water, we had our usual debrief and planned for our next dive.
(Picture of entry/exit point taken off of google images)

In the hour and a half we were out to relax and get ready, we fixed the dump valve cord that had broken, and we cut the bottom part of a pair of old wool socks I had in my bag. The point of this was to put them over the suit and around my calves so the air could not expand there and create the lift effect once again. For the second dive, we did almost the same thing. We went down again and everything went fine. Coming up, we started our deco and so on. Finally, that dive went perfectly compared to the first one. The deco stages went well and a lot of lessons were learned. We got out, proceeded with the same after action drills, packed and went home. 

The drive home was long but it gave me the time to really analyze the dives, what went wrong, what I will do better next time and how I can fix the problems. I also took note of good things that happened. All in all, “incidents” like this are what make us grow as divers and permit us to learn how we react under these circumstances. The importance is to keep calm and remedy to the situation without busting the deco stages.

All being said, I would still suggest this place for all divers and anyone who likes to go camping. Ivy Lea is definitely on my Go to list for our next camping trips!


jeudi 17 juillet 2014

#2 Tadoussac

We left home a little later than anticipated but this turned out for the best. Along the way, we were not on the scenic route but had amazing scenery on the drive over regardless. When I say it worked out for the best it's because it permitted us to stop at a small place in Tadoussac called "Bistro de la Baie" and to discover the very best fish and chips that Canada has to offer.
Now I say this because I have been all over Canada and I take fish and chips at every reputable restaurant in the regions we visit. From east coast to west coast and even from inland, these are the best yet for my personal taste. So I guess it would be safer to say, "Best fish and chip ever yet!” Along with us for the trip were our very close friends. They had sleeper over the night before so we could leave as early as possible. Just like us, they could not believe how the Fjord was stunning and offered one of the most impressive views we had seen yet on the trip. We also had the chance to see cottages on stunning lakes, we took the ferry across the St-Laurent and saw the sunset over the Fjord and Sarah even got to see a Loon on one of the lakes.
Arriving a little late at our campgrounds, we checked in and made our way to the sites. Tent set up was fast and effective as usual and the fire was going in no time. The stars were shining bright, the wind was in our favor and the waves were calming as we were set up at about ten feet from the river. We all sat around the fire with our lawn chairs, and on the picnic table, and we roasted our famous golden marshmallows and opened a bottle of Sortilege. The only downfall of being so close to the water was that one of the only things we could hear other than the fire and waves were the hundreds of seagulls signing the song of their people...all night long. The fire finally died down, we could slowly start to see the bottom of the bottle and we noticed that we were the only ones still up in our vicinity. When we realized it was 01:30am, we took the executive decision that going to bed would be the responsible choice in our case. As we were planning to get up at 05:00am to see the whales jump from our camping sites.

Shortly after going to bed, 05:00am came around to let us know that it was indeed time to see the whales jumping from our own temporary back yards. Oh how wrong 05:00am was. We stayed up, stared at the horizon and gave our ears to the sea but no whales were spotted. 
After a good hour or so, we decided that it would be wise to go back to bed for at least another hour. So we did. But then again, the seagulls tuned in on us pretty quickly also. At 07:00am, we got up and made our way to breakfast at "Down town Tadoussac" after packing and erasing our footprints from camp spots. As usual, Sarah picked a spot to eat that had a beautiful ambiance and amazing food. I had the duck for breakfast. The name of this place was called "Café Boheme". At the time it was rated one of the top for breakfast in the region. This started of the day perfectly. Was it ever beautiful outside! After paying e bills, we made our way to the charter shop to get fitted and geared up. The process was fairly quick and before we knew it, we were mounting the big yellow twenty-five people Zodiac to go whale watching on the St-Laurent River. The initial plan was to go 45 minutes out to see the whales. On our way, we stopped to see Harbor Porpoises.
A very common mammal in these types of places. Then, we were fortunate enough to see a Beluga with what we think was her baby. We then set out for our original destination. On our way we stopped again. This time we could see Finbacks and a Mink whale. Hearing on the radio that other boats spotted humpback whales, the driver told us to hang on and brought us up to our destination. There were two of them. They were not jumping out of the water but were not shy in showing their tail patters to us.
In total, the whale-watching trip went on for 3 hours. On our way back we were able to see a few of the whales we had seen before. Luckily, we had turned back when we did because bad temperature was rolling in as we were returning to the dock. After we brought our warm wet gear back to the hut, we found another little quaint local restaurant for lunch. And we were not disappointed. That was my second time that day having duck. "The Pick up" it was called. On our way back home, we took the scenic route to enjoy every last bit of the trip. We stopped along the way at a look out that rested on top of a mountain facing the river. A few twists, turns, ups and downs and we were home a few hours later.

All is well that ends well. We had gone whale watching in the past. Last time they were Orca whales. But this story is for another time. Just to say that I had forgotten how impressive these mammals are to see in action and how gentle they can be. And might I add, the score is Loon: 2, Frank: 0

Until next time,


samedi 12 juillet 2014

#1 Le Castor

Le Castor is a little cabin on Lac Hayes, in the training sectors of CFB Valcartier in Quebec city, fits 4 with 4 single beds, bathroom with shower (cold water) flushing toilet and running water for the sinks. Propane stove, with two propane lights, all hooked on one system, a barbecue and aluminum fishing boats with ores. No electricity and no Wi-Fi, thank goodness for the small propane fridge.

On our first day, a little friend Raccoon visited us after we were done cooing our diner on the BBQ. He wandered around a bit and finally took off after realizing that no matter how cute he was, we were simply not going to feet it. We debated on naming it just in case it came back. But as you probably noticed, I call it “IT” because we had no idea if it was a male or female, and for that same reason, we decided not to name it after all. As the sun came down and as we finished settling in and unpacking, we decided to put the fire pit to good use along with those nice little foldable camping chairs we had brought and I made a fire. I say I because Sarah was busy already. As we roasted marshmallows to a perfect golden brown on the fire and looked out at the clouds in the beautiful mirrored lake, we enjoyed all the sounds that nature had to offer us. And little that we knew that the next day would be a wet one. We finished the night by putting our little budgie to bed, preparing our next day and playing a round of Queen of spades. I would love to brag about how severe my victory was, but it's not the case this time. Finally going to bed only to fall asleep to the sounds of bullfrogs, crickets and the starting rain.

The sky was grey, the wind was up and the lake was wavy. No fishing today, I told myself. But the fresh smell of coffee and French toast was comforting. As I sat down at the table in pyjamas to eat, I was reminded by myself that this would be a good day to catch up on my readings and start writing the paper I had due for the coming Sunday. Needless to say that it did not happen.
This was in fact our first full day and it began with a aggressively thick slice of beacon and French-toast. After the wind and the waves settled down a little, we went for a boat ride on the lake. We had a little electric motor for the boat, which was hooked on a car battery. But the waves were a little too strong for it so we decided to paddle it out. We didn't see much on our little trip although we could hear a huge diversity of birds chirping deep in the forest. The rain started to poor while we were on the lake still and for this reason my skipper and I turned back towards the cottage. After lunch we sat around hoping that tomorrow would be a better day. We read, talked with Pretty Bird (our budgie), and the rain eventually stopped after diner. We decided to go sit outside to enjoy the beautiful sounds of the bullfrogs, the everlasting chirping birds and we made a fire. After the fire was out, we went inside and played queen of spades before going to bed. Needless to say that I got owned again.

Third day was a charm. We woke up earlier for our big day. Waking up to a big "BABE LOOK!!!" I was wondering what was going on. After my heart started to beat again, Sarah was in the room pointing out the little window: "A HUGE rabbit you missed it" she said excited, only to discover later that day that is was in fact a very average sized rabbit. This was the day we were allowed to go fishing on the lake. After breakfast, and coffee, we packed our fishing gear, dressed accordingly as it was still quite chilly and windy, put on our PFD's, got in one of the little fishing boats and headed out. We had stopped at what looked like a good fishing spot and we soon realized that there wasn't going to be any good fishing spots on that day! This being said, there was a bite. And then there was pulling and the fishing rod was tugging and the water was splashing. Even though I was trying to keep my cool on the outside, the little boy inside of me was jumping and yelling of joy because he had caught his first fish of the day. As I was taking it out of the water I couldn't resist letting Sarah know that it was in fact a very nice rainbow trout of about 10 inches long. Its colors were vibrant and it looked very healthy. And then it fell off of the fly and into the water it went, never to be seen again. And that was the day when I almost caught a fish! But there was more to that day than not catching fish. Although we still hadn't seen any, the bull frogs were as active as always and the bird were doing what they do best. After a whole morning of not catching fish and venturing around the lake to peep at the other cottages, we slowly returned to ours.  Diner was made and I finally started reading my chapters for that paper I had forgotten to write. Chapters passed and it was now time to head back on the water. Getting the rods and the boat ready, I could see something gliding under the water close to the dock. It was an enormous leech! Apparently this lake was infested with them but this was only the second I've seen. By this time, the fish were jumping and I was feeling pretty confident about my fishing skills. How wrong was I. All of a sudden, Sarah spotted a silhouette on the horizon. It was a beautiful loon. I had never seen a loon in real life before this. I was quite amazed at how majestic it looked. I wanted to get a closer look. And boy did I regret not having brought my camera with me for this boat ride! Every time we would start to get closer, it would dive down and resurface a hundred meters farther. But with a little persistence, it finally noticed that we were just curious. And I think that got it curious too. We were able to get at about 10 feet from it and it's dive pattern seemed to fit right in where we were stopping to fish. Although the fish were jumping where we would stop to try our luck, we would only get a few nibbles. Nothing too serious. We finally decided, the hell with fishing and enjoyed what we had left of the day! Luckily for us, the wind had died down and the lake was at its mirror state.

Suddenly, I spotted a big pile of branches and told myself that it did not look at all like it was man made. It was in fact what seemed to be an abandoned beaver hut from a far. As we got closer, we could in deed see that it was preserved and something was living there. And out of nowhere, there was a big semi ear-piercing splash! We were both startled and I almost slipped off the bench. It was momma beaver heading in the hut to protect her babies. We made sure that we were at what we thought was a respectable distance, we dropped anchor and tried to stay as perfectly silent as we could. The beavers apparently thought differently. After a few minutes, poppa beaver swam by. Sarah excitedly semi-whispered, to get my attention. But she got poppa beaver's attention also. At less that 10 feet away from out floating fort, it dove under and made the biggest tail splash it could to scare us off.
The water almost made it to us. Boy was that impressive. How I wished I had brought my camera! We decided to stay for another 5-10 minutes in case they decided to come out again. Well, poppa came back out alright! He was going around the hut and making the biggest splashes a beaver could make all around the hut to fend us off. The splashes were at an about 2 minute interval and seemed to be done in a specific pattern. As the splashes got more aggressive, we took the initiative to move away and keep going with our little adventure on the lake. The loon was always present and curious. It was still floating and diving not too far from us. Grooming itself after the dives and shaking off the remaining water, it made a gorgeous sight for our sore eyes. We could sometimes see its underwater trajectory as it let a little bubble trail behind it. The fish were still jumping and the sun was starting to slowly lower. We were on our way back to the cottage and realized that our friend had made it there before us. Getting out of the boat, my first reaction was to run inside to get the camera so I could capture this beautiful moment forever. As I was speed walking to the cabin, I saw something on the corner of my eye. My first reaction was to think of a deer or at worst a bear. So I decided to stop, turn my head to the bush line and see if I could figure out what it was. It was no deer or bear. It was that bunny that Sarah had seen earlier in the morning.
After coming back to my senses and realizing it was a small rabbit, I got the camera, came back out, took a few pictures of the bunny while it was striking a pose and went back to the dock to catch the majestic loon. By then it was too far and my zoom was not able to get that distance. So we lit a fire in the fire pit, roasted perfect golden marshmallows and stared at the almost full moon. It was about half and hour after that we realized that our loon was being quite curious and was observing us from not too far off shore. By then it was starting to get dark and we could barely see it. And off into the darkness it went. We were really hoping to hear the creature's singing but were not blessed with it. After going inside and cleaning a little, we sat down to play our routine game of queen of spades. It is needless to say how it finished. After the game, we decided it would be wise to go back towards civilization until we would get cellular connectivity. On our way out the driveway trail, there was a baby bunny trying to run away from the very slow moving vehicle. I stopped and Sarah got out to move it from the road. She was almost able to pick the little thing up. Once we had connectivity, we stopped so we could make sure that there were no emergencies. And that's when we notices a pair of eyes down the little hill we were on. A baby fox approached to investigate. Was it ever so cute. Sarah would tap on the passenger side window and it would come around to see as it was curious to see what the noise was. 
After we were done with business, we headed back to the cottage, which was about a kilometer away. On our way down the driveway trail, we saw momma bunny looking for her little one. We put the bird to bed and called it a day. 

We woke up to the most beautiful morning yet. The temperature was very nice, there was a small fog in the distance on the lake and the water was as still as it could be. Pretty Bird was chirping away with the other birds as she always does in the mornings and breakfast was served. And something finally had to happen. When Sarah got up to bring her plate to the sink, she also grabbed the bottle of Maple Syrup to bring with her. Or at least she thought she had grabbed it. The bottle quickly found itself in free fall and hit the ground like a flying turkey. It smashed open and the remains were all over the cottage floor. It is safe to say that this was a sticky situation to clean up. On the water we were again and no luck with the fish. By this time, the battery-powered motor was getting weaker. We had stopped to visit our friend beavers as this time I have brought the camera. We had a very slow and quiet approach. We did not see the beavers, but we heard the baby beavers that were inside the hut babbling on and on. That's when I realized that we were maybe too close this time. As there was no visual activity, we went off to finish our tour of the lake and head back to camp. Thanks to the dead calm waters, we were able to see a lot of turtles poking their heads out of the water to enjoy the beautiful sun. Shortly after we got back, we noticed CF-18 fighter jets practicing maneuvers not too far from us. 
They were impressive to see. There was two of them to be more precise. We were sitting outside taking pictures of dragonflies and the F-18's were doing nosedives and barrel rolls. We could hear machine guns on the firing ranges at a distance and then, the F-18 were doing firing practices also. They would do flyby's to get the proper angle of approach for their firing range and shoot the targets with their Gatling guns. The two eventually went away possibly to go fuel up or bomb up on ammo. Regardless, they were back about half hour after but in a group on four this time. It was on and off all day. It's not enough that I have the attention span of a kindergartener, let's say that the jets added a little distraction challenge to reading my chapters. Looking at what Mother Nature had to offer us, we sat and watched as diner was cooking on the grill. The wind was up a bit and the lake was wavy. We could see a hawk flying in circles and using the winds to get lifted. After diner was over, we set sail to see if our luck with the fish was going to be any better. I was finally able to get the
beaver in action with a camera! Not so lucky with the loon...or the fish. Coming back empty handed, we packed what we would not be using that night or the next morning as it was indeed our last. We light our usual fire in the pit and enjoyed what we had left of the night in the good company of the many types of birds chirping, our bull frogs, jumping fish...and this time we had turtles bobbing in the lake at about 15 feet away. The marshmallows were golden as usual and we even had the privilege of a swim-by of momma duck and her 5 little ducklings under a full moon. That was enough to call it a night. We went in, played our card games and put the bird to bed for the night. Right before turning off the lights, we saw Mr. Raccoon sitting on the outside table. He was up against the window and watching us as if he wanted to say good night. I tried taking a picture of him but he disagreed and went off into the night.

Morning came and our friendly neighborhood bunny showed up again, it was pouncing around and eating all the grass and flowers it could. The lake was mirror, the birds chirping and the usual morning activities were happening with Mother Nature. Sadly, after breakfast we packed the remaining and tidied up the cottage. It was time to go.

Great few days on the lake, great memories and I'm glad that everything turned out the way it did. Except for the fish and not catching the loon on camera ;)

Until next time,