"What does it take to keep you guys off the water?" one of our friends asked. "You go kayaking on weekends and weekdays. You paddle when it's raining. You paddle in the dark. You paddle in the fog now that you all have compasses. You paddle year-round. You go out in January in a shortie wetsuit and bare feet, for heaven's sake. You guys have been out in wind, snow, ice, and red tides. I've seen some of you out in kayaks even when you have a cold. What does it take to keep you from kayaking?"
Our friend does exaggerate a little. We don't like being out in the wind. And we didn't know about the red tides before we blundered into them (yuck!). In truth, it doesn't take more than 15 km winds to keep us either off the water or retreating to Thetis Lake and the shelter of its forest park. In 2006, November and December had nine windstorms that kept us off the water before Christmas. And this year, we've taken a bit of a break in December 2008, due to a couple of factors.
The first (and most crucial) factor is wind. There has been more wind than we like, on many of the weekends. The second factor is temperature. It has been snowing and frosty as well. That's not enough in itself to keep us on land, but with enough wind as well, we've been calculating wind chills often as low as -9 or -18, which is way more than most Islanders usually face.
These two factors even combined are still not enough to keep us on land without the third factor: at least four of us have aches and pains from a mild version of the 'flu. We do NOT want to have the 'flu get any worse!
There are indeed kayakers out in this weather, as I've seen a few convoys of cars with kayaks on top go past me into and out of Cadboro Bay. But I'm guessing those hardcore enthusiasts do not have the 'flu.
It's also worth observing that my partner Bernie and I have at last reliably determined what it takes to reduce the numbers of people using Gyro Park in Cadboro Bay at all hours of the day or night. We've noticed that a steady stream of people walk in and out of the park all day long, and all night long as well. More people use the park and beach on warm, sunny days, of course. But rain doesn't stop a few people from leaving tracks on the sand. And snow leaves clear traces of just how many people have walked past with a child or dog or little grocery wheeler.
As Bernie puts it, for the park to be empty at night, it takes a temperature below -5 Celsius, with a windchill factor taking it down to -10 or lower, with snow falling on icy roads. Oh, and dark, of course. If it's daylight, there will be at least one hardy soul grimly staring out into the snowfall from the little promenade above the beach.