Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Non-paddle

Welcome to the first Sunday paddle day of Fall. You can tell it's a Fall paddle day because it's so windy and rainy that we didn't actually paddle. Sort of like much of this year's summer. In fact, it feels like December out there after the first storm of winter blew through last night.

So without any further ado, here's a kitty in a kayak!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal in the Human Breast

As Bernie and I were headed up the Island Highway, we passed a young guy walking along the shoulder. With one hand he was pulling along an orange kayak that looked like a good one for playing in the surf, on a set of wheels, with a bag of gear in the cockpit. In the other hand, he held up a piece of cardboard with the word "Tofino" written in large, friendly letters.
Now that's an optimist.
I would bet just about anything he got his ride before many minutes passed.
Heck, if we'd had enough room under the truck's canopy for his boat (there's a loom and a CPU in the back of the truck, don't ask why) we'd have taken him to Tofino. We had our kayaks strapped to the roof, and our gear loaded. Who needs more luggage than a drybag, really? This guy didn't.
I have so much to learn.

Sunday to Newcastle Island

The day started with everyone meeting up for breakfast at ToHo's. It was a nice, relaxed breakfast with conversation and a chance to read the Saturday Globe and Mail over coffee and a couple of those still-some-ways-from-good breakfast sandwiches they sell.
The idea of a long-ish drive up to Nanaimo and then a paddle was discussed and finally rejected in favour of the far better idea of a return to the lovely community of Cowichan Bay. As this would be Bernie's fifth trip to Cow Bay in the last ten weeks, he was selected to lead the convoy over the Malahat.
It turned out to be a most beautiful morning in CB, the tide was ebbing, the water glass-flat. The sun was out, the temperature about 15°, and while the boat ramp was in use, it was by no means busy.
Before even begining to unload the boats, there was much delight in watching the local harbour seal fishing in the shallow waters; he (or she) cruised about near the dock, plainly visible even while fully submerged. Once the boats were in the water, there was the added bonus of seeing a large number of Dunganess crabs, various jelly fish, multiple sea stars, and at least three moonsnails. With the water so clear and the sun out, it was also possible to do a lot of fish watching, with several species of fish being observed.

The group headed across Cowichan Bay to Genoa Bay(?), where there was a very busy marina. After paddling across the channel in front of the marina, we pulled into a midden beach where people have been eating clams and oysters since about six minutes after the glaciers retreated. We perched ourselves on the top of the small bluff overlooking the channel--really, the most obvious place to sit--where we saw that the practice of eating oysters and tossing the shells back towards the water continued right into the present day (probably less than two hours before we arrived, actually).
After a brief lunch, the group continued down the north(ish) side of the bay out to the light on the point. Here it was not much more than spitting distance across to Saltspring Island. So, after taking turns spitting, we decided not to paddle across (the people on the other shore waving their fists and yelling about having been spit at was only one reason for the decision).
Across the mouth of Cowichan Bay to the south shore and then back along that shore to the boat ramp completed the eleven kilometres or so of paddling for the day. By this time, the parking lot at the boat ramp was full and over-full, as everyone had decided that it was a good afternoon to be on the water, and once again we'd already had the best part of the day on the water before the rest of the world showed up.
Then it was into town for coffee and dark chocolate buns (Mmmmm, Callebeaut chocolate....) from the artisanal bakery and a refreshing wander through the cheese shop, and then it was regretfully time to come home.
Once again, Bernie and Paula led the convoy of one back over the Malahat and into the comforting confines of Cadboro Bay, having finally paddled both their new boats together for the first time.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

So where was Bernie?

Spent last weekend testing out the new boat. 5 metres is supposed to be long enough for expeditioning, so how better to test out the proof of concept than a long trip? Okay, maybe not so long, but we'll get to that.

I had planned to set out back on tuesday the 11th, but fog got in the way. As it did wednesday. As it seemed ready to do thursday (but finally did not). So friday, once it became clear that the fog probably wouldn't re-develop, Paula and I set off to Island View Beach to check on conditions there. Clear! And looking to stay that way! Woohoo!

Straight ahead paddle to D'Arcy. The outflow current from Sidney Channel met the wind, creating some rather large-ish waves (say, 3/4ths of a metre or so), but the new boat (no, it still hasn't told me it's name) handled them well. Even when there was two sets of waves at 90° to each other, I found that 5 metres tended to deal quite handily with the action of the water. And the curve on the forward part of the kayak shed water very well--even when the bow plowed through a wave, the water would break off well before reaching the cockpit. Very nice indeed.
Not so nice, it turns out, was my attempt at hatch covers. There was enough leakage that they are up for a complete re-design.

D'Arcy was interesting. First off was the old caretaker's cabin on the western side of the island.

For much of the 20th century, D'Arcy was a leper colony--most specifically, a leper colony for immigrant workers diagnosed with the disease.
The campground on D'Arcy is located on the opposite side of the island--pretty much where the housing for the inhabitants was located. That's a very strange feeling, sleeping with the dead.

I was woken up the next morning by a deer bouncing through my campsite at 4:30 am. Eventually I got up and was on the water at about 8:00am, headed for the south end of Sidney Island.

I travelled up the outside/Haro Strait edge of Sidney, finally stopping at Sidney Spit. An hour later, I headed out towards the Little Group, stopping on Dock Island.
Dock has what I thought was a built inlet:

But I found several other of these straght-sided square inlets on Coal Island as well. I have no idea how they formed or why they took this shape.
Carried on up the side of Coal Island--I was getting kind of tired at this point, as all my paddling had been in opposition to the current, and I was pushing 135 kilos with every paddle stroke. So when I made the long(ish) jump across from Coal to Portland, I was looking forward to finding the campsite quickly.
And I did; the capsite in Portland was right at the tip of the island where I arrived. There was one small problem though; two dozen double kayaks that had been filled with teenagers. Tents had been set up everywhere and the kids were in highly excited high drama mode. Thankfully a passing group of kayakers mentioned that there was still room at the Arbutus Point campsite, another twenty minutes or so ahead. Well, twenty minutes at the rate my tired body was paddling.

Nice campground, and thankfully peopled only with adults. I wasn't the only one who needed the services of the sun. The day had been overcast and damp, with humidity at or above 100%, so nothing had dried in the least during the day. And with the amount of moisture I'd generated paddling, everything needed to be hung out to dry.

Everyone had a laundry line hung with all their paddling gear.
Portland Island also had toilet facilities. Now, normally I wouldn't mention them, except that this was different; a composting toilet (the first one installed, according to a sign) was tucked off in the bush.

Oh my, what a difference. No smell, no flies, and no nasty moisture build-up in the outhouse. The sooner these go into every park, the better!
I could barely wait for dark before crawling into my bivvy. But dark also brought out the monsters. Well, the growling, snapping, screeching raccoons, anyway. At least five of them, fighting and scavenging around the campsite, waking everyone. Nasty words were hurled (along with the occasional stick) but they did leave my site pretty much alone. Guess I was clean enough that they went looking elsewhere.
When I got up at 6:00am (yeah, really slept in!), I spotted the last of the raccoons headed up a tree for the day. By 8:00 am the rain had arrived, so I put off plans to head over to Cowichan bay, and instead headed back to Sidney for pick-up.

But before I left Portland Island, I was gifted with this sight over Saltspring:

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Broken Island photos

I've been ambushed by assorted imaginary people, expecting completion of their novel/story, so I haven't finished my writeup from the Broken Islands yet, but here's the Flickr set, and here are the panoramas.

Thetis Lake Raw Bacon Practice Extravaganza

Well, where to start.
The idea was to have a practice session as Paula wanted to try getting in and out of her new boat, and I wanted more self-rescue practice to try a few new rescue techniques out, and to practice some new assisted rescues that Bernie had learned. We were also going to enjoy our new tradition of cooking breakfast on the beach before heading into the water.
As it turned out, it was just Louise, Paula and myself today. As for breakfast, Bernie decided to do an over-nighter on Portland Island. Why he felt he needed all three stoves for a two-day trip is something that is puzzling. One thing for sure - my breakfast of raw bacon was sure yummy.
Louise was suffering from contact lens trouble and had forgotten her paddle jacket, so she ended up not paddling.
But Paula and I were still keen to practice, so already wet from the rainy day, and hungry from no breakfast we set out.

Paula steeled herself.....

...and in she went!

Oh, yeah. We're having fun now.

We tried a couple of rescues. First, I helped Paula in an assisted rescue, then Paula did a solo paddle float rescue.

She had a wee bit of trouble figuring out how to get in...
IMGP1235 her new kayak has a smaller cockpit than her old one.

But she did it! Then I took a couple of turns getting dunked and did a couple of solo paddle float rescues.

Enough playing in the water... time to get warm!

John's pictures are here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why I'm Not On Darcy...

Mostly because, contrary to popular opinion, I'm not an idiot.

This is what the beach looked like halfway out of the bay a little after 3:00pm. Looks kinda foggy, doesn't it? Looking the other way--out towards Baynes Channel and Haro Strait, there's Paula headed out into a wall of fog.

After we rounded the point by Flower Island, things got worse.

And worse.

Visibility was pretty bad--we couldn't see Jemmy Jones from Flower, for example--so I decided that Darcy wasn't in the cards today. It had been sunny and clear when I carried the boat to the beach, and fogged in by the time I got three days of gear loaded. It didn't clear until we got back to the beach [Hey, Frankie! Hi, Annette!]. The weather had made it clear; no trips today.
On the plus side, we did see this heron at the rock garden!

yeah, he's there. That stick with the spot of colour at the top. That's a heron, trust me....

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Egg Sac Hunt and Tillicum Road Portage

Last year at this time, we paddled into Portage Inlet and found these strange little sacs in the ground in the far arm of the Inlet.
More Strange Things 3

We were quite puzzled by them (some sort of egg sacs were our guess), and Paula and Louise did some investigating. Eventually they ended up in contact with Dr. Kelly Sendall of the Royal British Columbia Museum (free plug: go see their Titanic exhibit!)
Dr. Sendall expressed an interest in joining us for a paddle to look for more egg sacs and today he joined us far a paddle in the Inlet.

It was, finally, a beautiful summer day. Too bad there's only 12 days left in this summer.
Launch on The Gorge

Paula is the proud parent of a new Eliza kayak. She likes it a lot. And I won't make any jokes about the colour.
None at all.
It sure is pink, though.

As we headed out, this seagull was munching on an early Sunday brunch.

And away we go into Portage Inlet! It was Paula, Alison, Louise, Dennis and myself joining Kelly who was borrowing Bernie's boat as he skipped the science part of the paddle.

Soon we were out at the first point where we found some of those sac thingies. They were few and far between compared to the prime spot last year which was at the far end on the inlet, and the floor was also very thick with algae or muck, so they were tough to see, much less photograph.

I took about 100 pictures of people leaning over their kayaks looking down.

We headed down to the far end of the Inlet but just as we were getting near to where we found fields of these egg sacs last year, we discovered that the tide was too far out. We all grounded and couldn't proceed any further. We might have gotten out and walked, except that the bottom was really squooshy and that probably wouldn't have worked. So if you've ever had a desire to see a panorama picture of five kayaks stuck in the mud, your wish has just come true.
Five Kayaks Stuck in the Mud

So with mission not quite accomplished, we headed back.

We bid goodbye to Kelly, and Bernie joined us to continue down The Gorge.

The game of musical kayaks continued as Paula and Louise swapped boats, giving Louise a chance to try Paula's new ride. Louise likes it a lot, too. Will the fleet pick up another Eliza? Stay tuned next year!

No paddle would be complete without a picture of a heron. Today's paddle was no exception.

We approached Tillicum Bridge. This would usually be the turn-around point, as most times going under the bridge is problematic due to fast currents and a large rock. You can get through easily during a slack high tide, but that's a rare moment in the tide cycle.

Today it wasn't at it's worst, but we could see there was some whitewater, so we turned around. Well, some of us turned around. Bernie and Dennis decided to run the rapids.
No pictures exist of this event, but we watched as first Bernie then Dennis went under the bridge. We heard no Crazy Bernie Laughter™ or shouts for help, so we assumed they made it okay. But we weren't totally sure as the rapids washed them out of our sight.
Paula put her feet up and relaxed -- she's had years of experience dealing with Bernie.
And they did turn up eventually. After they went through to the other side, Dennis and Bernie realized that the current was strong enough that they wouldn't be able to paddle back against it so they would have to put-in and portage back. The problem was that there isn't much in the way of pull-outs on either side. Both sides of the channel on either side of the bridge are rocky and steep. Eventually, they found a spot and then carried their boats back through a park, up the hill to the top of Tillicum Bridge, and across four lanes of traffic.
Then they realized that there was no place to put-in. They had to walk a long block to the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club and there they re-entered the Gorge after completing our first official portage.
It was a great day for a fun, relaxing paddle. Even the seagulls were relaxing.

John's pictures are here.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Broken Islands 2007, the trailer

While I sort out my photographs and notes (though not nearly as many as I thought I'd have, but I had hands to the paddle much of the time we were out) ...

Humpback whale, offshore from the campsite. The only day we did not see at least one humpback was the the Friday. Two days running, they came past the campsite first thing in the morning. The third day, we saw five.

Panorama view from the campsite, early Tuesday evening. On the left you see Marchant Island and with one or two of the Tiny Group Islands, then Brabant Island(s). In the distance are the Stopper Islands. On the right are Jarvis and Jacques. Behind everything is the Mainland. We paddled in from Toquart Bay, beyond the Stopper Islands, and then down the shores to Jarvis and Jaques, to the Batstar campsite on Keith Island, which we occupied by special arrangement - Keith is native reserve land, and the beach a midden beach with a canoe channel.

Bringing Eliza Home

Picked up Paula's new Eliza (well, new to her, anyway) today.

Yes, it's very pink--Barbie® pink in point of fact. Notice how Paula just can't keep her eyes off of it? Paula's pretty pleased with the Eliza--here she is after getting the backband and rudder pedals fitted to her:

She says that it's not because its a pink girly boat, but because its a new, better, faster, hotter boat, but somehow I think she might be protesting too much....

Paula got the boat launched, got comfortable, and then...

headed out for a good long paddle. The boat performed well, and she found it very fast--particularly using the wing paddle.
Eventually, of course, she was forced to come back to the beach

and she was very happy with how the boat performed. Now she needs a new skirt (the Ocean River Gear Grab is coming soon!), and she'll be fully equipped.
This guy was also enjoying the perfect weather today

but it's not really the same thing, is it?
I wasn't entirely bored, however, while Paula was paddling.

There was plenty to watch on the beach.

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