Friday, August 31, 2007

Kayakers, Beware! Someone's Stealing Feet!

What could be more disturbing than a human right foot washing up on a deserted Gulf Island? How about a second human right foot washing up on a different Gulf Island barely a week later?
Needless to say, police are, ahem, stumped.
Clearly, something very strange is happening. So kayakers beware! Always count your feet when you have finished a paddle on the ocean and make sure that you have at least two! If you have only your left foot, contact the RCMP right away. They're looking after a couple of spares. Perhaps they could lend you one.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Moonlight paddle on Sooke Basin

Note to self: the time to work out the night settings on one's camera is before one is in the middle of the water, trying to take a photograph of kayaks in the moonlight. Which on a night like Tuesday night, was something to see, if not photograph.

Courtesy of Saanich Recreation and Rush Adventures, I achieved another ambition: paddling by the moonlight. I signed up for a 3 hour moonlight paddle out of Cooper's Cove on Sooke Basin, on a night that couldn't have been more perfect. There were 8 kayaks in total, seven doubles and one single; three guides and 12 guests. We assembled, gradually, for around about 8:30 pm, several of our number having first eaten lunch at the adjacent restaurant and emerged hilarious. By the last light of the sun and by the light of our guides' headlights, we kitted up, were assigned our boats, first by colour and then by number, trooped down to the dock, and one by one, launched. The night was dark and glassy-still, and as we paddled slowly out of Cooper's Cove we could dip fingers and paddles into the water and see a wake of ghostly bioluminescence caused by dinoflagellates in the water. A hand trailed in the water would brush the bodies and tendrils of multiple unseen moon jellyfish (non-stinging); a torch shone in the water showed their dim clustered bodies. When we paddled clear of Cooper's Cove it was into moonlight that was like a headlight, almost painful to look at with dark-adapted eyes, and bright enough for me to make out the other seven boats without effort. To the left were the lights of East Sooke, and all around the edge of the darkned cove, scattered lights. We paddled across the basin to the Goodrich Islands, a former Native Canadian burial ground. The entire vista was shades of black with a patina of silver on damp and pale surfaces, and the occasional sharp reflection of moonlight from a wet, turning paddle. Kayaks to the moonward side were dark shadows against moonlit water, and kayaks to the other side were picked out in light grey against the darker water, and fading to a mere suggestion in the distance. We then paddled towards Roche cove, more or less, looking for dark water and more bioluminescence, but the moon was well up, although a thin layer of cirrus cloud had come up over it, giving it a halo; our guide predicted a change in weather, both from that, and the distinct and persistent contrails still visible in the moonlight. We started some ducks or geese from night's peace, an indistinct, pale fluttering. And then back around the shore, into Cooper's cove, gliding past the moored yachts, come in one by one and climb out of the kayaks onto to the dock, return gear, gather up stuff, say thank you to Steve, Glen and Galia [sic], and climb in the car to drive back the winding Sooke road in the pale moonlight.

Before we started and before the light went, I had a crack at a pan shot around the basin. Fixing exposure so it doesn't change from frame to frame is something else I need to learn how to do, but here it is -

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Feeling Inspired Yet...?

Louise was surfing and found one of those "Inspiration" posters with a kayaking theme. I surfed for a bit and found another one.
Personally, I think they are the most depressing things you can put in a working environment. But that's me.
Anyway, here they are, if for no other reason than the great kayak photography.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brentwood Bay

We expected a sunny but windy day according to the weather forecasts, but we got neither. Instead we got a partly overcast but relatively calm day.
At lease it wasn't raining.
It was a big crowd today: Dennis, Alison, Paula, Patricia, Louise, Greg...

...and myself, of course.
Paula brought her little inflatable today -- she's hoping her new Eliza will be in next week.

We put in at The Usual Spot beside the Brentwood Bay Ferry terminal and headed out.
Kayaking Brentwood Bay I

We decided on a nice quiet paddle into Tod Inlet. After the rough waters on our last couple of paddles, a calm paddle seemed like a nice change of pace.
We made our way across the Bay towards the Inlet and past this big boat.

We meandered down the Inlet...

...past some old pilings...

...past the moored yachts...
IMGP5718 the end of the Inlet.

I found a heron enjoying a late brunch.

I took a bunch of pictures of this fella. I can't wait to take in the film from my film camera to see what developed. (See? I told you there would be more bad jokes.)

We crossed back to Brentwood Bay, and we caught a little wake from something. This was a few seconds of fun!

We didn't feel like quitting yet, so we went north of Brentwood Bay for a bit.

As we were paddling an otter popped up right in front of me. He was so intent on eating something that he didn't notice me at first. But he suddenly gave a start and slipped under the waves.

Dennis gets a piece of the rock.

I followed Dennis around the rocks and came across the biggest heron I've seen. This guy seemed like he was six feet tall (that's two metres if you're using that new-fangled metric system).
He didn't hang around long so I didn't get many pictures of him.

Dennis is much too relaxed.

Before we headed back, we heard drumming and singing. A local First Nations band seemed to be having some sort of ceremony. We couldn't see anything -- we weren't even sure if they were inside or outside. But the sounds were carrying across the water. The drumming built up very loudly at some points. It was pretty cool to listen to.
Louise cut me off as we headed back.

And another great paddle ends.

John's pictures are here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Alison's two pics' worth

Now John has done all the hard work of writing the trip report, I can chip in with a couple of pictures.

Waiting for the green light ..

John and Paula - see, there really is a John on these trips. He is not a virtual avatar or a figment of our imaginations.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ménage à Cinq

It was one of those kinds of paddles. Cloudy and a little windy. The water was choppy and thick like a thick soup. The currents weren't overly strong, but combined with the wind they made for an adventurous paddle.
Because it was a cloudy and gloomy day, my bow cameras took a lot of pictures that look like this:

We put in at Ardwell Road in Sidney. The tide was quite a way out, and Louise had a little trouble getting going.

The beach was quite "squooshy." Alison found a different approach to launching.

We weren't the only ones having trouble in the bay.

It was Tracy, Alison, Louise, Paula and myself today. (Bernie was off formulating his plans for world domination.) You can see that we were in chop and waves for most of the paddle.

We were going to go to The Sphinx...

...but when we got into open water the currents that way looked a little strong, so instead we crossed over to Coal Island....

...where we found a local group of seals. There were lots of baby seals around so we gave them a wide berth.

On the return crossing, we waited for this boat to pass. As Tracy noted, "The one with the money has the right-of-way."

It was another bumpy crossing.

We made it across safely. But once we returned to the calm waters in the bay where we had launched from, my fellow kayakers almost had a big pile-up! But what did you expect -- women drivers!

Well, that's all for this week! Hopefully, I'll be back next week with another exciting paddle report, assuming that I'm allowed out of the doghouse!

John's pictures are here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Discovery Island panoramas

I messed up slightly, in that I missed one of the overlaps, therefore this panorama is in two pieces (click on the large thumbnails to see them in their full splendor). They're taken from the lookout above the lighthouse at Discovery island on August 5, and it looks at ... (help me out here, fellow paddlers!) ...

Kayaking in the Snow

Sure, it's the middle of August.... but wouldn't you rather be playing in the snow?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Magnificent Seven

Finally, a bright sunny day for a paddle! We decided to make another try for Discovery Island.

We launched avoiding this angry-looking jellyfish.

It was a big group today: Louise, Tracey, Paula, Bernie, Dennis, Alison and myself. Seven of us on a magnificent day. To the south there was a off-shore fog bank that we wearily watched for a while, but it dissipated quickly and we had nothing but sunny skies.
We paddled towards the Chain Islands where we would turn and head towards Discovery Island. It was a flattish calm to begin with, but soon we were into some light chop,
Off We Go

One thing we discovered is that with a lot of paddlers we easily broke up into two groups: the Slow-Pokes and the Speed-Demons. And when the Speed-Demons stopped for a rest, they took off as soon as the Slow-Pokes caught up! Hey, Slow-Pokes need a break, too!
Oops. Someone forgot to tell Bernie that it was not bump-to-pass.
Bump to Pass

When we got to the Chains, the Speed-Demons burned on through, leaving little chance for me to take many pictures. But I did get a few.

Off in the distance, big freighters were passing. As we neared Discovery, a wake from one of these ships came roaring onto us. I could tell that there was danger because Bernie had turned out and was heading straight for it. I could see a large breaker rolling in and knew this could be fun.

And fun it was. By the time it reached us it was a series of long deep swells. I had my hands full keeping my boat straight but I decided to try and snap off a shot of Alison who was on my left. It's not a great shot -- I really wasn't aiming, just pointing and praying -- but you will notice Alison's head and paddle just disappearing behind the wave's crest.

We put in at Discovery for some munchies.

This was Alison's first time to Discovery. Here's her hero shot.

We decided to go around Discovery and shoved off again. This guy wasn't sorry to see us go.

Tracy leads the way.

Dennis slips between some rocks.

We paddled down the passage between Discovery on the left and Chatham Island on the right.
Discovery Island

This guy was hanging out enjoying the day.

When we cleared the passage and began the return crossing towards the Chains Islands, we were into some unexpectedly bumpy water. When we got to the Chains, we saw that the current between the Chains and the small lighthouse was worse.
But we pressed on. We didn't have a choice really.
In the lee of the lighthouse, we saw that the final crossing was even worse: large breaking waves and fast currents. Lots of rough and confused water. Our comfort levels were being challenged. These currents were a real surprise and a puzzle -- the tide chart indicated a slow incoming tide, yet we were facing strong outflow currents! The good news was that the section we needed to cross was perhaps only a few hundred yards wide, but it was going to be an interesting few hundred yards! Then Bernie started cackling and headed off into the current. We knew from past experience that if Bernie was cackling, we were in trouble.
Rough Crossing
Paula and I were the last in line. As Bernie went by, laughing like the mad man he is, we entered the current. No pictures exist of the final crossing. My bow camera was swept off my deck (I did recover it), and my hands were too busy to take any pictures with my other cameras. Even though Paula and I were together when we entered the current, we were quickly separated, a sober fact to consider if someone had gone over -- how would anyone have gotten close enough to help?
It was rough, and my kayak was getting pushed around a little. I tried to keep it pointed into the waves but it didn't always work. At one point I rode up a wave broadside and it broke over my deck. That was A Moment.
We all got through. I was at the end of the line and did a quick head count - seven paddlers up.
But we weren't totally unscathed. Louise's stomach got the better of her after we got out of the really rough stuff and she blew her whistle. Our first whistle emergency. Paula, Alison and I hustled over. She was okay, just a little woozey, and she made it back to shore under her own power. Everyone beached safely.
So what happened? The biggest mistake we made today was that we were relying solely on the tide charts to forecast the currents. At the time of our return crossing, they indicated a slow incoming tide, almost slack. Had we consulted the current tables, we would have seen a forecast for exactly what we experienced -- a 2 and a half knot outflowing current. A strong outflow current on an incoming tide seems counter-intuitive, but the currents can play nasty tricks on paddlers on the West Coast. Because of the many islands in the straits, you can end up with a current exactly opposite from the tide tables would indicate. That's how the currents work around here. We forgot.
Thus endeth the lesson.

John's photos are here.