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.


  1. Fabulous that the photos turned out so well! The water looks as glassy calm as it was. What a great day.

  2. Great photos, Alison! I wish I'd been there with you guys!

  3. Great post Alison. Too bad I had to miss this paddle. My landlord has been hexed by Paula.

  4. That shot of the pink kayak on the flat, flat water is really well done. I can't believe it behaved all the way up the coast like that - must have been awesome. Sunday was a beautiful day for November - I don't think we're usually gifted with such nice weather this far in. Hope there's a few more nice weekends in the bag.

  5. I'm so happy with that new kayak, even if it is pink. And the smooth water made for a truly awesome day.