Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday again.

And so, another paddle. This was unexpected, as our truck has broken down which makes travel to anywhere pretty much impossible--especially with the kayaks. But Catherine asked if we were planning to paddle Cadboro Bay, so of course we said yes.
It was a quiet, slow paddle out past Flower Is. and over toward Cadboro Point. The tide was moving a lot of water through Baynes, kicking up some waves, and there were regular large swells coming in past the point. At this point we decided to turn around, as there was coffee waiting at Olive Olio's in the village. After the brutal noise levels last night at the Prism gig in Sooke, it was nice to be out on the water again, where the loudest sound is the paddle in the water and your paddle jacket brushing against itself.
Wildlife today included visits from a cormorant, heron, and a seal off Cadboro Point. And Catherine also spotted a lovely orange sea star by Flower. All in all a good day afloat.

Monday, February 18, 2008

13 and 14 out of 100

Two short days; Saturday and Sunday paddles this weekend. Saturday was basically from Cadboro Bay to Willows and back. The trip across Baynes to Chatham Island was pulled because the rising current in Baynes/Plumper would have made the return a bit hairy with Paula having a low-grade migraine and with Richard still learning how to handle currents. Not to mention my recent propensity for flipping while crossing eddy lines…
Richard brought his GPS along on the trip and was kind enough to post this track to Flickr. Basically the four of us ran out to Jemmy Jones, south to the lighthouse and then over to Mary Tod and back along the shore to Gyro Park. The trip took a little over two hours, and proved to be interesting for the varying current condition, and the number of birds we saw. There was one seal, but the rest seem to be off making little seals–and good for them.
Sunday was to be a day for newbies, but there were several bailouts before the weekend, so it ended up with being John, Louise, Paula and myself, and Pebbles and her mom Marlene. I rented a double kayak, the Eddyline Whisper CL, for a couple of hours and Marlene and I paddled it while Pebbles paddled the Pamlico. We toured the middle harbour from Ocean River to the Selkirk trestle and back. Which worked out well, as Marlene managed to hang in physically the whole way–but not much farther. The rest of the gang, including Pebbles, continued up to the Gorge-Tillicum bridge and then came back to the launch at Songhees. The sun kept coming out and warming us, but the steady wind stole most of the heat away. A slow day, but a generally enjoyable one.
The double, the Eddyline Whisper CL, is not a boat I would buy. Made too small for touring, the boat is unsuitable for the kind of paddling that I do. Even for taking a new paddler out, like I did today, I was frustrated by the footpegs/rudder controls. I’m not fond of the rotating peg rudder controls at the best of times, and these did nothing to change my mind.
So between the two paddles, that puts me at 14/100 for the year. Still pretty much on track!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bluster on the Harbour

Once again, the weather forecast was somewhat misleading. It was forcast to be sunny and clear, but it was cloudy and windy instead. But we were planning to go up the harbour into The Gorge, so we would not be going out into open water.

It was Pebbles, Louise, Paula and myself today.

We headed into the wind...

...and towards Ocean River Sports where Bernie and Marlene were joining us in a rented double.

We headed under the Bay Street Bridge and carried on up The Gorge...
Under the Bay Street Bridge

...and under the Trestle Bridge.
Selkirk Trestle

We didn't see much in the way of wildlife today, but we did see something that you don't see on the water every day: a floating leather sofa. The tide was ebbing and the current carried it away, perhaps even out to sea. (Kids, remember that when you're encountering sofas in the wild that they are generally scared of humans and won't bite. In fact, they're just as scared of you as you are of them.)
Sofa, Ahoy!

We paddled up Cecelia Ravine, a small creek that runs into The Gorge that we've never explored before. At low tide, this is mostly a mudflat and a good place to spot herons and other birds, but we were here at high tide and there weren't many around.
The Gorge

We tried, but we couldn't go up very far. It dead-ended under Gorge Road.
Cecelia Ravine

Marlene was having a good time. She very quickly figured the secret to paddling in a double: relax and let Bernie do all the work.
The Gorge

As I said, not much in the way of wildlife today. But we did see this really gnarly tree.
Gnarly Tree, Dude

The wind died down and it was time to head back.

John's pictures are here.

Mystery A Foot

As we noted on this blog last August, two sneaker-clad right feet mysteriously washed ashore in the Gulf Islands. No one knew who the feet belonged to, and no had reported their right foot had suddenly gone missing.
This past week, a third right foot has been found washed ashore.
Let's hope the authorities put their best foot forward and solve this mystery.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Paddlin' 'Bout the Bay

Saturday was supposed to be a decent day for paddling, so we decided for a little paddle off of the home port at Cadboro Bay.

It was Richard, Paula....

...and Bernie and myself.

We put in at Gyro Park and headed out down the south side of Ten Mile Point towards Flower Island. It was forecast to be reasonably sunny, but there was the occasional dark cloud around above us and what looked like a front passing south of us, so we were wondering if we would get some squalls coming through.
We decided to head on out and the let weather come. But we were going to stick reasonably close to shore just in case.

The clouds broke up and we ended up with a mostly sunny paddle. We went out to Flower and Jemmy Jones Islands. Then we headed south off of Cattle Point and ended up at one of the lighthouses off Willows Beach. We debated heading out to the Chain Islands, but we knew that the "freight train" would be running and picking up speed, so we stayed close in.

We put in briefly at Mary Tod Island as Bernie needed to make an equipment adjustment. Then he struck a heroic pose. Go west, young kayaker.
Vogue... Strike a pose...

After the brief stop, we headed back around Cattle Point and here we saw some cormorants enjoying their perches.


We spent some time noodling in between the rocks and islets. The tide was fairly high (although ebbing) so this gave us a chance to play between some rocks that we don't often get to. That's when Bernie spotted this eagle.



All in all a lovely day on the water.

Flippity Doo Dah Part 2

So, on Sunday Jan 27th, we decided to kayak the middle harbour–from the Johnson St. Bridge to the Gorge-Tillicum Bridge. It was a gorgeous day, with a rather unexpected blue sky over the city.
It was cold–only about +3°C, but once in the sun, things seemed to warm up pretty good.
This was just a Middle harbour tour, the one you take newbies on, the one we do every so often because it is so unexpectedly pretty. It’s hard to believe that a working harbour (well, not as busy as it used to be, but still…) can host the collection of wildlife we’ve spotted there over the last year or two, and can be a beautiful as it this on a sunny mid-winter day. We’ve spotted harbour seals cruising the waters of Portage Inlet (the Upper Harbour, above the Gorge-Tillicum bridge), otters in the Middle Harbour, and herons and a dozen types of waterfowl spread out over the length of the inlet.
There were five of us on the day’s outing. and we launched from the tiny scrap of public beach left in the Songhees neighbourhood.
That’s about 60% of the beach that the public has access to in the photo. Apparently a good 25% or more of the condos in the neighbourhood aren’t even occupied. They’ve been purchased for investment reasons–frankly, that the city allowed this to happen is a criminal act in my opinion. Particularly with the 1200+ homeless on our streets.
But the water was glassy, the weather perfect (And not just for a winter’s day. The conditions mean you can paddle without sweating or feeling cold. Perfect.). I didn’t bother to load my dunk bag in my rear hatch, because, after all, we were just going on a beginner paddle up the Gorge. I tossed my sneakers in the cockpit, hopped in, and took off.
My biggest concern was the weather; the forecast had not been promising–suggesting a combination of wind and snow–and there was clearly a front building off the east coast.

This front did later hit the city–although not where we live in Cadboro Bay. But it did drop quite a bit of snow and freezing rain west of us, starting about 2 or 3 kilometres down the road.
We paddled under the bridge and up the Middle Harbour, checking out the sailboats and trimarans docked below Ocean River Sports, the tugs and fishing boats on the other side of the harbour, and the Dragon boats zipping out past us.

John caught this terrific shot of me in the Middle Harbour from his deck-cam. You can see the hellish conditions we were dealing with. And yes, I’m using my Greenland paddle. It is almost as powerful as a NA paddle, weighs almost nothing (being made of spruce) and is so much easier on the shoulders–especially over the long haul. I expect it, or a paddle very similar to it, to be my primary paddle on the various multi-day expeditions scheduled over the next few months. I also love how it is so easy to paddle silently with this paddle; the tip enters the water like it was meant to be there, and exits the same way. You can see in the photo how little it disturbs the water with its passage.
The trip up the Gorge was intended to end at the Gorge-Tillicum Bridge, where the waterway narrows dramatically over what was formerly a reversing falls (dynamited out back in the day by an idiot who wanted to be able to take his yacht further up the Gorge).
This is the best shot I have on hand at the moment. It shows the bridge and where the Gorge narrows. There is a dock at the side of the narrows because of the difficulty you can have in overcoming the current and getting through the narrows. On the left of the shot above, the light blue colour is showing a strong current running through the small opening.
After making a run directly into the current just for the heck of it, I ended up on the right hand side of the current, tucked into a small notch in the rock wall, Just on the other side of Paula’s stern (she’s the pink boat to the left). It looked kind of like this:

The direction of movement is my movement coming off the rock wall.In order to cross an eddy line properly, you need to minimize the effect of the current on the cross-sectional shape of your hull. This is accomplished both by the orientation of your boat when you cross the line and by the vertical orientation of the boat. If I was crossing the eddy line above, the orientation of my boat would be correct if the current was running in the opposite direction. That way I would be joining the current direction, minimizing its effect on my boat. When crossing closer to a right angle, you can reduce the pressure of the current on your hull by changing your vertical orientation.

This, quite roughly, is a normal, vertical cross section of a kayak hull.The scale and angles aren’t anywhere near accurate, but you can get the idea.
If this hull is crossing an eddy line, the arrows show the impact of the current on the hull; here the hull is going to cant strongly to the left. To counteract this pressure on the hull, you enter the eddy line strongly edged, looking more like this:
This reduces the surface area the current can contact. It also gives you some wiggle room when it comes to balancing during your entry into the current. The combination of the angle when you’re crossing the eddy line and the edging of your boat make crossing into a current possible.
When I crossed into the current at the bridge, I was a full one hundred and eighty degrees off what I should have been for an optimal crossing of the eddy line. To compensate, I edged strongly as the nose of my kayak came into the current. The move into the current from the almost still water next to the rock wall seemed to be going well for the first quarter or third of the length of my kayak. But the combination of the rocker (the curve of the boat that lifts both the bow and stern from the cockpit) and the displacement (underloaded as I was, my kayak sits quite high in the water, emphasizing the rocker), meant that the portion of my boat that had crossed over the eddy line into the fast water was riding very high, minimizing the amount of my hull that was actually in the water–and thus minimizing the effect the current was having on it.
As my knees crossed the eddy line, I allowed the boat to come back down off the edge to a more neutral position. Of course, this meant that I was not edging as the major part of the hull was coming into the influence of the current. And so:

At this point I began to tip. And the more I tipped, the more surface area came into contact with the current, the more pressure, the quicker the tip, and firmly and inevitably, I turned upside down.
After that, everything was fairly simple. I did a wet exit, grabbed my boat–which I passed off to Paula, and I paddled myself (laying on my back supported by my PFD) over toward the dock. Alison came up and offered me a bow to grab, and she discovered just how difficult it is to paddle with someone hanging on the front of your boat. Eventually I got back into my boat and into the water (okay, with a failed seal launch off the dock I flipped again) and we made our way back to the beach.
Because it was a nice day and I was a bit overdressed for the weather, I was properly dressed for the water temperature, but I had the neck of my paddle jacket open, so I did get the occasional cold line of water down my neck. When I got out on the dock, I found that I had a “spare tire” of water around my middle. Had I done a self-recovery and been pumping out my boat, this water would have added a few strokes to the pumping. Of course I destroyed another camera–making two lost to the water in the last four months or so. thankfully I’ve been buying really cheap ones….
The recovery went well; nobody panicked or got flustered and John was somewhere else photographing at the time. My new microfibre base-layer worked well, keeping me very warm while I was in the water and once I was back in my boat.And I didn’t lose the sneakers I’d just shoved into the foot of the cockpit when we’d launched.
It served as a good reminder that I’m most likely to get in trouble (well, however much trouble an unexpected flip can be, which is not really very much) when I’m in water that I consider safe or familiar: Baynes Channel or the Middle Harbour. In unfamiliar waters I’m much more alert than when I’m paddling my boring old home waters.

Cold and Warn Water Paddling

Sunday (10 February) was meant to be a paddling day and we met John and Louise at the Songhees beach to paddle the Inner Harbour. But with the wind up and getting stronger, John and Louise encouraged us to put off the tour of the harbour–which we did, choosing instead to wander down the waterside trail toward Esquimalt and then head over to Chinatown for coffee and shopping.
After a quick browse through MEC, we ended up in Ocean river Sports, where I was delighted to discover that the hat I’ve lusted after since last May was on sale for 50% off.
Modelled on the Asian “coolie hat” you can see the internal band that fastens around your head. Above this is netting to encourage ventilation, and the conic shape of the hat sheds both rain and sun well off your face and out to your shoulders. What this photo lies about is that the hat is black, not the green seen above.
So there was no morning paddle, but Sunday evening we met Richard H at the Crystal Pool for paddle practice. Now I’m pretty confident in my ability to handle emergencies; every time I’ve been confronted with one, I’ve managed to deal. I can manage a recovery pretty well, and last year at Paddlefest I brushed up on practice and techniques with strangers (which I think is a good idea–especially when the stranger is a BCA instructor). And with the paddle group, we remember to practice our wet exits and recoveries a couple of times a year. This makes me more confident of how others will react in an unexpected situation or even a real emergency. So it was a great opportunity to get some experience with Richard and to ensure that should an unexpected situation arise, we will all be on the same page of the response manual.
So we did the tiring work of falling out of our boats and getting back in again and again and again. One wet exit and recovery is tiring–particularly in cold water (as I was reminded a couple of weeks back)– but doing it a dozen times in different ways is very tiring. Paddling for four hours is a breeze in comparison.
So we did bow step recoveries and multiple “T” recoveries and finally remembered to practice the scoop recovery. The latter made it clear that this is not going to be fun with people as big as Richard and John. On the other hand, it may be the recovery of choice for Paula.
It was also one of the few times I’ve tried solo recoveries in my now-less-new boat. And a paddle-float re-entry is dead easy; the boat and Greenland paddle are very co-operative together, making my re-entry a breeze.
Tally: still 11/100

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

12 0f 100

Just a short paddle today; the sun finally broke through the clouds and intermittent rain about 2:30 this afternoon. So Paula grabbed her inflatable and headed out into the bay, followed by me about a half hour later. By then Paula had come back in–the intensity of the wind wasn’t immediately evident from the house. The wind made for a steady physical paddle out to where the bay opens into Baynes channel. Then I turned back and took my time coming back in–checking out the sailboats along the way.
The hour long paddle also gave me the chance to try out my new Kavu Chillba hat. I’m not sure how suitable it is for the winter–any breeze whips up under the brim and cools your head. But the combination of the headband and chinstrap did keep the lid on. So a short paddle but an enjoyable one for a February day.

New toy to covet

Oh wow... this gearhead has found another piece of gear to covet. And this one I can't knit or whittle.
Check out the Spot satellite messenger at West Marine stores.
It's a device that you carry around when out in the boonies where there's no cell phone coverage. It communicates with the GPS satellites. It's better than a Personal Locator Beacon because it's not just for emergencies.
There are only four buttons, and each has an LED to show you've pushed a button. You should be able to operate this device in the dark. Turn this puppy on, and you can send your choice of three automatic messages to up to ten e-mail @ddresses or cell phones that you have programmed in: I'm OK, Help, or 911.
Press the OK button, and your contact list gets the note I'm OK and your GPS location.
Press the Help button, and they get the note HELP and your GPS location.
Press the 911 button, and your note & GPS location also go to 911 search and rescue.
If that ain't enough, they have the Survivorman star doing an ad for them. Even though we just watched him kayaking in Alaska and the man's paddling technique is all wrong. He does know survival.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Saturday Morning

Ah, just another lovely day on the Middle Harbour. Today there was Paula, myself, and Pebbles having a lovely low-key paddle up the Middle Harbour from Songhees to the far side of the Selkirk Trestle.
Mostly it was about getting newbie Pebbles out on the water. As is typical with the younger people I take out, none of them are enamoured of the fashion statement of fleece, neoprene and a mango or yellow paddle jacket. But once out on the water, she seemed to be having a very good time.
Paddling the Pamlico went pretty well also; both Catherine and Pebbles seem to be able to handle the Pam better than I did at first. Perhaps its because I have a stronger stroke–less power in the stroke seems to keep the bow pointing where you want it to go, and my drive to go further faster may have been what was making the boat twist under me.
The water was flat, the weather was good (and just kept getting better) and the company was convivial. Can you ask for a better day?

Monday, February 11, 2008

One more thing to do with your plastic water bottle

Paula showed me on the weekend Ocean River's list of what to do with your plastic water bottle. Ocean River decided to provide a list to those of us who are switching from plastic water bottles to stainless steel and to ensure the plastic water bottles didn't migrate to the landfill. If Paula has the list hopefully she will post it here.

While searching on Mountain Equipment Co-op' s site for a stainless steel water bottle, after purchasing one over the weekend which now resides as work, and wishing to find one to fit my plastic assecories, I found this interesting gadget. Now here's a really innovative idea and a great way to use your plastic bottle once you switch to stainless steel. I want one!

Guyot Designs Firefly Lid
This unique water bottle lid contains an integrated LED light which spreads a warm glow throughout your bottle. You can use your bottle as a light right-side-up, upside down, or hanging from your tent.
Variable light levels.
Electronics are housed in a sealed compartment. No risk of water or juice contaminating the light.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy New Year!

The idea today was a paddle from the Songhees out towards the Outer Harbour, down by the Coast Guard Docks, Fishermans' Wharf and such. It was going to be Louise, Paula, Bernie and myself today.

The forecast was for only for winds up to 15 kmh, but we were clearly getting much higher winds than that when we got the Harbour. The wind wasn't too strong for the seaplanes, but it was too strong for us.

We walked along the shore, and eventually Paula found something that she could steer around the harbour.

So instead we hit the kayak stores, then wandered through Chinatown, which was getting ready for the Chinese New Year celebrations later today.

Bernie even bought a new hat to honour the occasion.
Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saturday morning

Ah, just another lovely day on the Middle Harbour. Today there was Paula, myself, and Pebbles having a lovely low-key paddle up the Middle Harbour from Songhees to the far side of the Selkirk Trestle.
Mostly it was about getting newbie Pebbles out on the water. As is typical with the younger people i take out, none of them are enamoured of the fashion statement of fleece, neoprene and mango or yellow paddle jacket. But once out on the water, she seemed to be having a very good time.
Paddling the Pamlico went pretty well also; both Catherine and Pebbles seem to be able to handle the Pam better than I did at first. Perhaps its because I have a stronger stroke--less power in the stroke seems to keep the bow pointing where you want it to go, and my drive to go further faster may have been what was making the boat twist under me.
The water was flat, the weather was good (and just kept getting better) and the company was convivial. Can you ask for a better day?

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The Century - Update 1

So how’s the quest to paddle a hundred days this year going? Well, in January I paddled seven times, and so far in February I’ve paddled four. So eleven paddle days in forty days in 2008. That puts me almost exactly on track to paddle one hundred days this year. Weather hasn’t been as big a factor as I had thought–so far–and it’s been far outweighed by crap motivation. I could easily be four or five paddles further along by this point, as there have been a number of nice days upon which I didn’t paddle. But with better weather coming on–and with things warming up into spring encouraging me to overnight –there should be more weeks with three or four paddle days in them. But it’s been a relief to check back over the last six weeks and see that I am on track.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Sunday

It's SuperBowl Sunday, so what are a bunch of kayakers to do? That's an easy choice...who cares about the big game when we've got kayaking to do!
Today we're putting in at Cooper's Cove in Sooke. It's cool and cloudy this morning, and there's also a forecast for a bit of a breeze. We were worried it might be too rough to go out of the cove into the Sooke Basin proper because of the breeze, but the winds simply never materialized. The water was flat and inviting, and we took up its offer.
The tide was right in, as we were launching at high tide. We didn't realize that we have so little beach to launch from. So we took it in turns to launch and headed out one at a time. Today we had Jason, Richard, Paula, Bernie, and Louise paddling.
Getting Ready

And yours truly, of course.

So our little fleet headed out into the cool but otherwise perfect paddling conditions.
Starting Out

Bernie, Louise and Paula set the early pace.

Richard loves his new kayak.

We left the Cove and entered the Sooke Basin. We decided to head west towards where Sooke River enters the basin. None of us had gone this way before, so it would be a new experience. With the tide changing just as we were launching, we would be paddling into the out-going current on our return, but it shouldn't be too bad.
Always remember kids -- practice safe boating.
Remember kids...always practise safe boating.

Many people have accused Bernie of losing his marbles. Well, give him some credit -- here he is looking for them.
I Think I Dropped Something

Here's a fishing boat tied up for the winter. You can see just how glassy smooth the water was. It was just about perfect for paddling.
Fishing Boat

We made it around the point and into the mouth of the Sooke River. There's a highway bridge that you cross over just as you enter the town. While the rest of the gang went to the bridge, I went to check out something that caught my eye.
This seagull had found a gnarled tree branch to perch on. And even though I was a fair bit offshore, it was pretty shallow here which surprised me.
Seagull on a Log

The other seagulls were giving me The Evil Eye. Since I was vastly outnumbered, I thought it best that I retreat. I was barely gliding over the bottom, and this was at high tide.
This stump begged me to take its picture. So I did.

As we turned to head back, we could see all the chimney smoke trapped by thermoclines. There wasn't a hint of breeze today, which is unusual for these parts, so for the moment the smoke wasn't going anywhere.
It was a super paddle on a super Sunday.
Heading Home

John's pictures are here.