Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pacific Horizons

Long-time reader Richard H. passed on the link for this trailer for Pacific Horizons, a DVD about kayaking in the Pacific Northwest and the west coast of BC.

Pacific Horizons has a blog (with some great pictures) and the DVD can be ordered there, too.

Prairie Kayaking

Got this photo from Rick, who usually paddles an inflatable at Alberta Beach west of Edmonton. The caption, if you can't read it, says "Garth Hobden paddles Tuesday on the North Saskatchewan River, which prompted motorists to call the fire department. Hobden says it's his favourite time of the year, because he likes facing the icy obstacles along the water."
I just want to say "Go Garth!" It looks like fun and is a whole lot cheaper than a flight to Tuk. But what I really love is the motorists calling the fire department--he doesn't look like he's on fire.....
Plus, it kind of puts our Sunday paddle in perspective, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

111 and Counting...

Normally, I'm not the kind of guy who would spend an evening hunched over his computer counting posts in one of his blogs, but I did discover that we have posted 111 paddle reports on this blog in slightly over two years.
And that doesn't count boat demo posts, Paddlefest reports or even the occasional fake paddle reports that we have snuck in here.
We must really like this kayaking jazz!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Breaking the Ice

It's a cold Sunday morning, maybe only a degree or so above zero, but we're here on The Gorge for a paddle into Portage Inlet.

Toques and gloves are in order today as we get ourselves ready. It's a large crew today: Karl, Stephanie, Bernie, Paula, Louise and myself.

We're launching at the the top end of The Gorge (#1) and paddling in Portage Inlet. At the far end of the Inlet (#2), we're going to head up Craigflower Creek. We've heard that the creek can be paddled up under the Trans-Canada Highway and up in behind Victoria General Hospital (#3). We're going to find out for ourselves.

No sooner did we start than we saw something cool. This homeowener has recently installed a bank of photovoltaic solar cells. That's the way of the future, we've got to get off the grid.

As we rounded the first point, Paula was ahead of us. Suddenly, she started whooping and shouting. "Ice!" she cried. Ahead of us, the Inlet had a thin sheen of ice on top. Paula had barrelled into it and soon the rest of us were into the icefield. Six little ice breakers.
Paddling Through the Ice 3

The ice was very thin, maybe 5mm if that, although there seemed to be the occasional section that was a little thicker. What an odd sensation to paddle through ice. We often joke about the water getting thicker when we paddle, but this water was solid! One expects to hear a splash when one's paddle hits the water, but all we heard was a crunch.
Stroke. Crunch. Stroke. Crunch.
We were also scaring all the birds away. Our six kayaks plowing through ice were making quite a racket as we cracked the ice around us, sending flocks of birds hundreds of metres away into frenzied flight. No doubt they thought the demons of hell were almost upon them.
Paddling through the Ice 2

We knew it was cold, but we never thought we'd be out breaking the ice. Karl figured that there must be a small layer of fresh water on top of the saltier Inlet water.

We found a lot of ice fields in the Inlet, and I'd guess that we spent about a third of our time in the Inlet paddling through ice.

We turned into Craigflower Creek and headed up. As you can see, we found some ice here. too.

We crossed under Helmcken Road.

This was a beautiful and quiet little river. Although we were sneaking through subdivisions, it was very easy to imagine that we were in the backwoods somewhere. There was one tricky spot, as a fallen tree had blocked most of the river. But there was a small channel, and Karl gave it a try.

It was tricky, but he made it.

Louise made it through, too.

Soon, we reached the Trans-Canada Highway. Here, the creek entered a tunnel.
Into the Tunnel

Ooooh, it's pretty scary, eh kids?

The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. As we left the tunnel, we discovered that there were a lot of rocks in the water here, so we had to be careful. We made it through, but it took a little maneuvering.

The navigable portion of the creek ended just beyond the tunnel and the rocks. Bernie got out to see if we could go any further, but this was pretty much the end of the line.

So there was nothing to do but turn around and head back through the tunnel. There was a bit of a bottle-neck as we entered....
In The Tunnel

...but it was a perfect time to practice some doo-wop.
Head For the Light

We ended up singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." The Tokens have nothing to worry about.
In The Tunnel
In The Tunnel

Back in the light of day, we had to get past that fallen log again.

Karl and I were lagging behind the others when he pointed to his right. "Hey, is that a hawk in the tree?"

And there he was, a small hawk that didn't seem the least bit worried about or interested in us.

Then we were back in the Inlet and paddling though the ice.

And eventually, all good things must come to an end.

John's pictures are here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Loop De Loops

If you ever thought that you were just going around in circles, check these guys out:

This guy probably didn't want to do a loop:

And this guy probably didn't know how lucky he was until he saw the video later:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Long Recovery - Week 52

A year ago on this day, I fell off my bike. I dislocated my left arm, fractured it in three places, broke another bone in my left shoulder, and suffered associated muscle and soft tissue damage. The next day, I had four hours of surgery as a plate and ten pins were inserted to repair my arm which was then re-located into the shoulder and held in place by a strip of muscle that was sown across the socket. Damaged muscle was also reattached. This was followed by five months of physiotherapy.

Today, the arm feels okay. It is not 100%, and likely never will be. However, it does what I need it to do. I can ride my bike, I can paddle my kayak. I remember sitting in Emergency, doped to the gills on morphine and looking down at my busted shoulder, resigned to the fact that I might never kayak again. I thought that that was a cruel move by fate to let me discover a new sport that I love, only to take it away from me.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. It doesn’t seem to hinder my kayaking at all. In fact, strength and mobility seems quite normal if I keep my arm below shoulder level. It is only when I lift it above shoulder level that mobility issues arise. I can’t lift it straight up over my head anymore. I can only get it to about 75 degrees. I can cheat it, of course, and twist my torso a bit so it looks like I can get full range, but I know I can’t actually achieve it. It doesn’t hurt or anything, it just simply stops and won’t rotate in that direction anymore. My strength has not yet returned to normal. Lifting heavy boxes over my head is an adventure.

Occasionally, I can go for a few hours and forget about it, but most days the shoulder consistently reminds me that it ain’t quite right anymore. It almost constantly feels tight. And it is. It doesn’t sit right in the socket the way it used to and the strip of muscle that was sown across pulls it in hard. If you look carefully, my left shoulder is slightly narrower than my right shoulder. One of the chronic conditions left behind is that I get some slight chafing in my left armpit because the arm is held in so tight. I have to remember to let the arm hang away from my side so the armpit can dry out.

My shoulder gets sore and gets stiff. The muscles, particularly the muscles at the front of my shoulder, are fighting a battle with the stronger muscles of my back. The front muscles, which have all been tightened due to the accident, want to pull my shoulder forward and in, a folded-in slouch in other words, while my back is trying to keep things straight and upright. The front muscles ache fairly regularly, not enough to be painful or debilitating, but enough to remind me that major trauma occurred here. The same is true of the stiffness, which is mostly like a dull background noise, a persistent irritant like a buzzing bee that remains just out of swatting range.

I shouldn’t complain considering that at this time last year my left arm was in four pieces. And I’m not. But sometimes I feel like an alcoholic who faces his recovery every day. I was hoping that after a year I wouldn’t be constantly reminded of my injury, but it looks not to be the case.

But time heals all wounds, and hopefully my shoulder and I still have plenty of time together.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Winter Is Here

Today we are getting pummelled by the second big winter storm of the year. High winds and rain. The ferries aren't running today and nearly 200,000 people are without power. It's starting to sound just like last winter.
Yesterday, before the storm blew in, we'd thought we'd put in for a practice session at Cadboro Bay. Do some rescue practice, towing practice, and try out any tricks new we've read about.
So we were dressed for a dunking which was a good thing, because the winds preceding today's storm arrived at the beach before we did.
Rough Morning

So with one-foot waves lapping on the shore, we altered the plan and decided to use the occasion to gain more confidence paddling in rougher water. Bernie was so excited to go that he wouldn't even stop to get his picture taken.
To the Beach

Here's what the well-dressed kayaking couples are wearing these days....
What The Well-Dressed Kayaking Couples are Wearing This Season

...and their photographer is equally well-groomed.
Ready for Action

It was just Paula, Bernie and myself today (everyone else was either wimpier or smarter than us. I'll let you decide which.) Here they are launching....
Off We Go

....which didn't go exactly as planned.
A Failed Launch

If we were doing an "actual" paddle today, we probably wouldn't have gone out. But we decided that we were only going to go out a hundred metres or so. We set the moored boat as out limit. That way if something happened and one of us ended up in the water, we could probably walk back in if we had to. Also, both the wind and current were pushing into shore so we felt reasonable assured that we would be okay should some disaster strike.

And in fact once we got out a bit, it wasn't too bad at all. The wind seemed a little less than it was on shore, and the water was a little flatter than it was near the beach. Still, the wind and the waves were pushing us around a bit, so we had to keep our wits about us.
I Could Use Some Hot Chocolate

Bernie is hooked on his homemade Greenland paddle.....
Rough Water Bernie

...and Paula continues to sing the praises of her pink Eliza.
Paddlin' Paula

Any day on the water is a good day.

John's photos are here.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Paddling on Glass. Or, Paula and Alison's Big Expedition

Paula and I (Alison), had been discussing the possibility of doing a single, one-way paddle from Cadboro Bay to Island View Beach since at least August. I wanted to do a sustained paddle, build up some endurance. With the paddlers dropping like leaves this last weekend, and the spectre of last winter's prolonged rains behind us, we decided to seize the sunny day. It seemed the gods of wind, wave, and water approved our idea, because this is what it was like:

Really. And this ... The first panorama is the view from our lunch stop, on the south side of Mount Douglas Park, and the second was taken from the kayak, rocking on some slow, lazy swells in the middle of Cordova Bay).

I'm including two photographs taken a couple of years ago in summer, from a seaplane flying over the coast: the first one is just north of Cadboro Bay, where we started from, and the second looks up the coast.

We'd originally talked about starting at Island View Beach, but the tide was incoming and the forecast wind was from the south, so we started from Cadboro Bay. Which involved some shuffling of vehicles, with my picking up Paula from Island View Beach first thing, where she'd left the truck, and driving her down to Cadboro Bay, where we launched, detouring around what seemed to be a sailing class, working hard to make the most of the very little wind. They spilled out of the bay behind us, in slow motion, but we, having paddles, left them behind.

We paddled north out of Cadboro Bay, caught a breath of breeze out of the north, which hadn't been predicted, but was more than offset by a steady current flowing northwards, just as the books said, with all the kelp lying down and spreading out its banners in the water. The most challenge we had was a few 10 cm or so standing waves going around 10 mile point or thereabouts, and avoiding the occasional submarine rock.

We spotted an eagle, on one of the rocks, but as far as photos were concerned, with my little compact it would have been "see that white pixel there". Speaking of white dots, the big mountain was out. Not the greatest contrast on the shot, I'm afraid.

We stopped for lunch about midway, on the near side of Mount Douglas Park, and I experimented with the camera's video setting and when I can figure out the export formats I will post a fascinating slow and wobbly pan of the view ...

Cordova Bay was calm, calm (the first photo was taken in Cordova Bay), with a rhythmic rise and fall of small, slow swells. We cut almost directly across the Bay, with a brief discussion as to whether that constituted cheating or not. By the time we were on the north side, the kelp was drooping straight down in the water, indicating the tide was on the turn.

After the obligatory eagle sighting, we had the obligatory heron sighting, in amongst a bed of kelp.

As we started north from Cordova bay I distinctly heard something sound off to the right, turned my head, and right below Mt Baker saw a black fin and back break the water. I still don't know what it was, whether it was one or two, but it had two fins, and a long back, wrong shape and sound for a sea-lion, maybe a dolphin, maybe an orca. Not a humpback whale, since the back/fin configuration was all wrong, and the humpback has a deep, deep sound. We floated and watched it sound and dive, five or six times, before it sounded and dived for what seemed to be a final time, showing much more back but no tail. It was down for a minute or two, and then was up, sounding and diving again, heading up the channel between James and Sidney Island. That gave us a second wind, which was as well because by then the kelp were streaming in the opposite direction and in places the current was quite visibly running against us.

Despite our best efforts, we'd been scattering waterfowl all the way up, and while we were level with the sandy buffs south of Island View Beach, alarmed a loon off-shore. Its cry pinged an echo off the bluffs - its pitch sharp compared to the original note. I wasn't concentrating well enough to tune: on Christopher Lake in north Saskatchewan, the interval between the call and the echo off the surrounding forest is approximately a fourth. (Something else to look up).

We were beginning to wonder who had moved the beach when we spotted the green roofs of the toilets and barbeque hut on Island View Beach.

We'd launched around 0915, and when I looked at my cellphone clock at the other end, it was 1456. Looking back down the coast, we could see all the way to 10 mile point.