Sunday, December 21, 2008

The solstice

Winter arrived with a thud this weekend in eastern Ontario, where I was housesitting for a family member. The Peterborough area got whacked much harder than Toronto did, and the blizzard, which came and went over the past couple days, left a good twenty centimetres of fluffy powder in its wake.

I snapped this frozen lake, on the doorstep of Emily Provincial Park, earlier today. To me, the inherent peacefulness of the scene says, quite literally, "get back inside and throw another log on the fire."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Last call

On their last survey run of the season, shipwreck hunters Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville made another intriguing find in Lake Ontario, according to Friday's Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The ship, which remains unidentified, certainly ranks among the oldest wrecks on the Great Lakes, dating back to the period of the War of 1812. According to the story, Kennard and Scoville think it may have drifted away from its dock and out into the middle of the lake, or perhaps had been under tow, when it went down.

The ship is a rare "dagger-board schooner," a type of vessel that was only used for a short time on the Great Lakes. Apparently, the dagger-board was a wooden plank that acted like a keel, and could be dropped to provide additional stability while under sail. Conversely, when the ship made port, the board could be raised in order to clear the bottom.

You can read the full Rochester Democrat and Chronicle story (which includes an amazingly clear photo of the bow section) here.

Shipwreckworld.com also has a number of photos, more information, and an informative YouTube video, here.

Finds by Kennard and Scoville have been mentioned on this blog before. They have a long history of tracking down shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, including that of the HMS Ontario, thought to be the Lakes' oldest identified wreck, which went down in a storm way back in 1780. You can read about that historic vessel here.

Shoulder injury update: Thanks so much for the kind notes about the state of my now-reattached shoulder joint. It seems to be coming along well, though I must admit the sling is taking some getting used to. I had to be gently reminded today that, no, I can't ride my bike to go out and run errands tomorrow. Oh, well. At least the next paddling season is still a long way off.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Icebreaker

The first weekend of December is a time I always look forward to in Toronto. For here, in the midst of the metropolis, we are blessed with a superb network of parks, many of which feature free outdoor rinks. And this weekend is when they open for the season, sending the locals, skates in hand, dashing out into the winter gloom.

The rinks themselves tend to rise and fall in correlation with how much the surrounding neighbourhood takes ownership of them. Some have lovely homebaked food available, and a range of scheduled family-friendly activities. Mine is a bit of a rough-and-tumble affair, rarely given the love of a good zamboni, and often the staff simply leave a shovel out so you can, as you possibly did as a child in your own backyard rink, shovel yourself an area and skate away.

One of the neat things about the city rinks is that there is often scheduled shinny, which is essentially a bare-bones version of hockey. There are three rules: no contact (no one is wearing full pads), no rising shots (again, due to the lack of pads), and, as there almost always no goalies, you can only score from in close to the opposition's net.

With these things in mind, I grabbed my stick, helmet, and puck, and set off into the cold, clear day yesterday. When I arrived at the rink, there was only one other guy -- a teenager idly batting a puck against the boards. Quickly, I laced up and joined him.

It was only moments later that it happened.

An aside: when the city rinks are first opened, the ice is not yet fully formed, and in some places can be quite thin.

Forgetting this, on about my eight circuit of the rink, I glided into one of the corners only to hit on a tiny, nearly invisible bare patch of the underlying cement. Before I knew it, I was down, and when I tried to get up, my shoulder let out a nearly audible scream. I collapsed in a heap. Unable to raise my arm at all, I plotted my next move. "Gotta get off the ice and put my shoes back on," I thought. "Then maybe I can walk all or part of the way home."

After managing to somehow skate to the bench and gather my stuff, I commenced my journey. Predictably, it ended only about 100 metres on. (Walking like this, hunched over with one arm stuck in the forward position, is something akin to swinging a throbbing elephant's trunk before you.) Moments later, salvation arrived in the form of a passing stranger who heard my whimpering and offered a cell phone and some friendly company until my wife Amy arrived with the car.

After being given a lot of drugs, a couple X-rays (I heard the technician actually chortle out loud when she saw the pictures), and a procedure that I care not to think about, I was slinged up and sent packing.

I didn't get a chance to see the X-rays themselves, but Amy did, and nicely summed up the sorry state of things later in the evening:

"There was a socket, and there was a ball. The ball was a long, long way from the socket."