Sunday, October 28, 2007

Like Water Off a Buck's Back

A cloudy but mild (for late October) morning greets us on the shore of Esquimalt Lagoon.

It's just Louise, Paula and myself. We're not planning to paddle the lagoon today, but we're launching from here to explore a spot that we've never paddled before, Esquimalt Harbour. We had the choice of launching in the lagoon and heading out of it, or just launching directly into the ocean. We decided on the ocean launch because there was a bit of a current coming into the lagoon, and why should we fight against it? On our return, we thought we might ride the current in.

But that's later. First we head out into the morning sun, er, cloud.

We noticed that there were some sandbars offshore creating some breaking waves. Nothing too big, but we thought we'd head out around them to be safe.

To get into the Harbour, first we had to swing around the historic Fort Rodd Hill lighthouse. It's part of a base built in the late 19th century to defend Victoria and is now a national historic site.

What's that on the rocks? Could that be...?
Fort Rodd Hill Lighthouse

Yes, it is. Ol' eagle-eyes has done gone and spotted hisself an eagle.
Eagle on the Rock

Now we're in the Harbour proper. In the background is Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, one of the large naval bases here on the south end of Vancouver Island. There's also the Esquimalt shipyards here, and yes, that is a BC Ferry that's getting some repair work done on it. There's also some naval facilities on the other side of the harbour so we are in fact paddling between two naval bases. I took a lot of pictures today; I wonder how many were taken of us.

Anyway, we continued on. After we passed the base, we crossed over to the right side. Louise was looking for a park she sometimes walked in along here....

...but Paula suddenly saw something and pointed. "What's that swimming in the water?" she called.

We looked over and there was something swimming. Our first thought, of course, was that it was a duck or a seagull, but it was moving too fast. Our brains were trying were trying to match shapes we were familiar with to this totally unfamiliar shape. Dog? Cat? Ocelot? Hippopotamus? Finally, it became a recognizable shape. "Deer!" I shouted.
Deer Coming Out of the Water 1
Deer Coming Out of the Water 2
Deer Coming Out of the Water 3

It was a deer, alright. A big buck with a big rack.
If you've ever wanted to see a big buck shake himself dry after a swim, here's your chance.

I'm no good for estimating the size of this guy, but he was big. And fast. If we had been racing in the water, him swimming and me in my kayak, I'd be hard-pressed to think that I might win.
Just when you start thinking that this kayaking business is getting ho-hum...oh yeah, more seals and, I'm so booored of that scene....nature gives you another gift.

We carried on and found these old buildings on an island at the end of the harbour.
Old Buildings on the Shore

At first glance I thought that they might be old boat houses, but clearly they're not. But they have some sort of cranes in the top, presumably some sort of loading equipment.
[Addendum: Long-time reader Scott The Hoople believes that these building may be old munitions warehouses.]

We turned around at the top of the island and found some geese. They didn't seem at all frightened of us. As you can see, Paula paddled right by them. In fact, a lot of the waterfowl were pretty fearless today. Earlier, a seagull had come down and landed right beside me. He swam along with us for a while before he got bored and left. Later, as we neared the end of the paddle, a small bird like a kingfisher suddenly popped up out of the water right in front of Paula's pink kayak. He dove right away, otherwise Paula might have run it over. We both started laughing, although Paula was apologizing to it even though it was long gone. I was thinking that the bird would have quite a story to tell when it got home.
"Hey man! I almost got swallowed by a pink whale today!" it would say.
"What are you talking about?" its mother would say. "There's no such thing as a pink whale!"
"But I saw it! I did!"
"There's no such thing as a pink whale! You young birds and your crazy stories! You wait until your father gets home with some salmon fins! He'll spank you so hard that you'll wish you were back in the egg!!"
But I digress. Back to the geese.

They let me get close, too.

We found another old building on the island.

We headed back. We approached the lighthouse again as we headed to the open sea.

But once again, Paula spotted something on the causeway...

....another deer.

We swung around the lighthouse and Paula decided to run the current into the lagoon. She headed for the sandbars where the waves were breaking. She caught one, surfed it for a bit, then followed the current into the lagoon.

Louise and I watched her go. Louise was ahead of me and I called out and asked her if she was going to do the same thing. "I'm not sure," she shouted back. I saw that she was drifting into the area where the sandbars were. "Make up your mind quickly," I shouted back, "or the waves will make it for you." And no sooner had I finished than a wave came up and broke behind her, carrying her towards the shore.

She was heading in whether she wanted to or not!

But all's well that ends well. And we put into the beach after another fine paddle.

John's photos are here.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pseudo Paddle

There was no paddle this weekend, as most of us were partying down at VCon 32. Heck, the weather was so rainy that we wouldn't have paddled even if we were around.
Some of us have always wanted to go on a nighttime paddle. Here's what it might look like using a night scope camera.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Life, In Abundance

A beautiful morning greets us as we put in at Albert Head Lagoon Park. It's sunny, an increasingly rare thing these days. Last year we didn't even get in the water at all in November, so we're going to enjoy these days when we get them.
Albert Head Lagoon is the small body of water to the right, while Albert Head itself is the piece of land jutting off to the left. We'll be launching into the mist to go around Albert Head and to the entrance to Witty's Lagoon and hopefully into Witty's itself.

It was just Paula, Alison, Louise and myself today. In this picture, Alison has just helped Paula recover after Paula almost dumped herself in the water before she even left the beach. She was totally embarrassed by it, and I promised not to mention it in the blog.

But recover she did, and we headed out into a sunny day.
Towards the Shore

Almost right away, we ended up beside a family of otters enjoying a morning swim. They swam parallel to us for a while, then put ashore. I got a picture of them, not a great one mind you, but you can see them anyway. They'd be the brown lumps on the rocks at the bottom of the frame.

Louise set the pace as we headed around the point.

As we paddled around the point, we saw a sea lion lazing on the rock. In one way, it wasn't very exciting as he wasn't doing very much except lying there, but it was still very cool to see. We gave him plenty of room. A cranky sea lion charging at us could have ruined a nice paddle.

We carried on and a little further we saw a heron and an eagle in a fight. I thought at first that the eagle was harassing the heron, but as I watched the eagle fly back into a tree, I started thinking that it might be the other way around. The eagle may have been warning the heron off because, as you can see in this photo, the eagle and its mate were hovering around their nest. Perhaps there were some little eagles around and they didn't want the heron to get any ideas.

We made it to the entrance to Witty's Lagoon. We had timed our arrival to coincide with a high tide as this was the only time we could paddle into the lagoon. We were a little ahead of the high tide, but it close enough to give it a try.

Down the channel we went (here's a tip: stick to the right).

And we made it in. It was still very shallow and we were grounding all over the place. I had a devil of a time getting out....

...but it was a very quiet and peaceful place.

We decided not to stay long. Our sunshine had been replaced by clouds. We knew that the weather was going to change with rain due in the evening, so after a quick stop for a stretch, we headed for home.

Just outside Witty's Lagoon there is a small cove with a lot of islets and rocks. Last year they were covered with seals, but this year there was hardly a one. But it looks like there's something in that tree....

...yep, that be an eagle.

I was so busy checking out the eagle that I didn't notice that someone else was checking me out. A seal was circling my boat not more than a dozen feet away (that's 365 cm for those of you who are Imperial-measurement-challenged). I put my camera away and looked up and saw this guy swimming by. "Aw, hi guy, you sure are cute," I said as he went by. Then I said, "Holy $%#&! My camera!" I fumbled for my camera, but I was too late, he was already behind me. So I did something that usually never works -- I pointed my camera blindly over my shoulder hoping I might catch him. But this time it worked, and I got him.
You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, You Seal

The pair of eagles that we had seen earlier were gone, but this heron was out fishing in the seaweed at the same spot so I wonder if he was the same one who was annoying them.
Heron Looking for Breakfast

We took the shortcut home, going through a small channel that cuts off the end of the point.

We did find some seals out on the rocks.
More seals

As we neared the put-in back at Albert Head, we decided to see if we could make it into Albert Head Lagoon. Stephanie had tried it the first time we came here and she got part-way in. Maybe we would have more luck.
It was a nice little paddle down the channel....

...that at times seemed like an obstacle course....

...but we soon grounded out again and had to turn back.

But we had a great paddle on a beautiful day.

John's pictures are here.