Thursday, July 29, 2010

Urban Adventure - Toronto Islands Paddle

I had brought my Cedar Canvas canoe down to the city last month, but the two paddling events I wanted to attend (MEC Paddlefest & National Canoe Day) were affected by bad weather. I was getting bummed out that I couldn't get the canoe in the water, but fortunately was able to get some time to paddle around the Toronto Islands today. Here's a map image for those unfamiliar with this paddling hot spot in the city.

Toronto Islands & Cherry Beach Launch (Marked "A")

Parked at Cherry Beach and made the short paddle over to the Eastern Gap. The winds were gusty from the North today which made the island entrance with its concrete breakwater walls like a furious wind tunnel. Without the bow loaded with gear, I wasn't making much headway against the wind until I remembered a trick mentioned in this article (PDF format) about Omer Stringer paddling upwind solo. The trick being to get bow heavy by kneeling ahead of the centre thwart so the lighter end of the canoe points downwind. The fastest and most stable way for me to do this in the choppy conditions was to simply spin my body position around in the canoe 180 degree so that I faced the "stern" and was now kneeling ahead of the centre point of the canoe. Felt strange, but this tip works and I was able to paddle upwind solo with less effort fighting the wind. Once safely in the small archipelago, the wind was effectively blocked for some nice flatwater paddling and I was back to the usual paddling position.

One of the main canals

Came across a summer camp of kids that were goofing around on their camp canoes. Quite a fun sight to see while the kids chanted "Gunnel Bob! Gunnel Bob"

Lucky Kids Camp

Gunnel Bobbing competition

Also came across plenty of Fiberglass North Canoes meant for groups to tour the islands.

North Canoes moored on shore

The islands are a strange place to fully realize that you're in an urban environment complete with airplanes landing at the airport, power boats zipping by, tour boats blasting music for day trippers, and the wailing ecstatic cries of children riding the Center Island Roller Coaster. But there are also very secluded areas only accessible by canoe or kayak that offer a nice relief and even some urbanized wildlife. Not included in these shots were sightings of a Great Blue Heron, numerous swallows, a pair of kingfishers, and even the elusive Black Crowned Night Heron.

Secluded naturalized canals

Mallard with chicks

Waterlillies everywhere

Painted Turtle on the log

Family of Mute Swans

The city's landmark, the CN Tower was nearly always in view and provided a nice reference point to the easy navigating. Also came across another island landmark, the historic (and possibly haunted) Gibraltar Point Lighthouse.

CN Tower peeking through; Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

In my haste to get onto the water, I didn't pack a lunch. No problem though, I just paddled up the steps of the Carousel Cafe and ordered a juicy burger to go. Paddled to a shady spot under some willow trees for a canoe picnic! If any of my nutrition students are reading this and gasping...screw you...I'm on vacation!

Lunch Break

After more exploring, it was time to head back. Came across this location which seems to be used for a lot of the city's promotional photos. Certainly a nice spot for a city line view.

City Skyline

Back at Cherry beach, the protected shoreline was calm and virtually deserted. Great way to spend a summer day in the city.

Back at Cherry Beach

1 comment:

Mike said...

Great report on paddling Toronto Islands....thanks for sharing....have to try myself this summer....maybe we'll see you out on water....and next year you have to join us out paddling on National Canoe Day in ended up being a great afternoon of paddling, especially through the liftlocks

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