Sunday, January 27, 2008

Flippity Doo Dah

It's a been a long winter, as some of us haven't been on a paddle in a couple of months, what with bad weather, Christmas, the flu season and the invasion of the aliens from Tralfamadore (I was starting to think that we were never going to get rid of those guys). Anyway, we finally had a sunny Sunday when most of us weren't sick, busy or kicking alien butt, so Bernie, Paula, Alison, Louise and myself headed down to the harbour and put in for a paddle up The Gorge.

You can see that we started under an almost clear blue sky. This was a bit of a surprise, as rain or even mixed rain and snow were called for in the morning with some clearing later in the day, but it was looking like the clearing was going to come early. We headed towards the Johnson Street Bridge.....
To The Bridge

...and here's something you don't get to do in a kayak everyday -- go under the bridge while it's going up!
The Bridge Goes Up
Johnson Street Bridge

Since the train was stuck waiting for the bridge, Bernie decided to wait as well. Solidarity forever.
Train or Kayak... Who Will Win?

Soon however, we were past the bridge and paddling up The Gorge.
Bernie in the Lead

This area has become quite built-up over the last couple of years. A lot of money is getting poured into this part of town....

...but you can still find some wildlife if you look.

Alison paddled under the docks at the Selkirk development....
Alison Paddles Near Selkirk

...and Bernie checked out the dock at Point Ellice House.
Bernie's Boat

It was perfect weather, a bit chilly, but it was bright and sunny, although there were some clouds building up behind us, but they seemed to be passing us to the south-east. The water was flat and glassy.
The Three Amigos

Bernie spotted this plastic deer....

....but then he spotted this heron on a branch.

I lagged behind to photograph the heron, and them I spotted another heron in a tree. The second one was a frustrating subject as every time I pointed my camera, he just sat there like a blob, but I when I would put my camera down, he would crane his neck or hop from branch to branch. He was much more interesting when I wasn't pointing the camera at him. What I didn't realize was that the rest of the group, who were now ahead of me around the next point, were also having an interesting time.

I left the heron and paddled around the point. The group was huddled around the small dock set aback from Tillicum Narrows, a very tricky piece of water where The Gorge narrows considerably and the water shallows and a strong current can run through depending on the tides. We've been here when it's been a dead calm, and other times when it's been raging whitewater. This seemed like a cross between the two; the current was clearly running, but it wasn't really kicking up a froth. Still, from the fact that Bernie had his boat on the dock and his PFD off, clearly I had missed something.

What I had missed was Bernie trying his hand at paddling in the current. He said later that he came at the current from the wrong angle and he didn't get enough edge on his boat. The current just grabbed him and rolled him. It seemed there was no panic by anyone and Bernie and his boat were recovered easily enough. What's interesting is that no-one used their to whistle to call me. Louise said she shouted for me, but I didn't hear anything even though I wasn't that far away. That's something to bear in mind when the distance between group members starts growing during a paddle. Bernie was fine, if a little bedraggled, and he still had enough energy to practice his Highland dancing.
Bernie Practises His Highland Dancing

I suggested to Bernie that he dunk himself again for the camera, and he jokingly replied, "Sure, John, anything for the blog." Little did we know that he was about to take up my offer. He readied himself to relaunch, and was going to try a so-called "seal launch," where basically you scuttle in your kayak across the dock and slide into the water off the edge much like a seal would. I'm frankly not sure if this is a recommended procedure for a sea kayak, but Bernie gave it a shot.
Oh. Wait... I Need to be IN the Water

It did not go well.

Bernie regrouped after his second dunking and tried a more traditional launch off side of the dock. Even this was tricky I'm sure, because even though here we were out of the main line of the current, it was still strong here with eddies and small whirlpools pulling us every which way. We were constantly getting pushed about and in danger of banging into each other as we waited to get organized again.

And since Tillicum Narrows was the end of the line for our paddle, we turned around and headed home, and saw that the weather has turned...

...and so we quickly headed back.
Cloudy Day

The wind came up a bit, not too strong, but a couple of hours later these clouds started dropping hail in the area and later in the evening they would dump snow up the Fraser Valley on the mainland.
Bay Street Bridge

But it was good to back on the water, and we had a great time, and great stories to tell!
Bay Street Bridge


  1. Great stories from both of you guys! Wish I could have been there. Great shots of the heron and sea life! That little pentax takes some pretty sweet pics. I'm dying laughing at the "it did not go well" caption. That phrase pretty much sums up my attempt at tillicum narrows, too. The current was running pretty much exactly the same speed just on a flood instead of an ebb when I taste-tested the sea under the bridge. How "seal lauch" made the decision matrix, I'll never know. Nice seeing everyone had a good time. I'll see y'all next week at Sooke unless the karma from laughing maniacally at Bernie's expense catches up to me. ;)

  2. What I love is that two other guys flipped in the Gorge narrows the same day, and it made the news on Global.
    Well, they were in a canoe, and when they got out, their jeans and sweaters were soaked! So they recovered their boat and gear and went right up to a house and asked if they could please come in, dry off and warm up.
    The bemused waterfront dwellers were happy to oblige.
    It must have been a slow news day, as the camera crew turned up to film the two young guys (about 22) saying, whoa. Makes ya think, eh? Not what I'd consider a life-threatening experience, but then, Bernie was dressed properly and occasionally dunks himself in winter waters for practise. It was still a worthwhile news story, if it makes people thinking about a short, fun paddle get prepared and plan what they would do if they dunk.