Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Paddling Weather Statistics

61 paddles were documented on the blog in 2009. The weather stats break down like this:
60% of our paddles were on sunny days;
20% were on cloudy days;
12% were on rainy/stormy days;
3% were on foggy days;
and 5% were canceled due to bad weather.

Here's how this year compares to past years (in percentage of paddling days):

Some things to note:
- It was a sunnier year, up 15% from last year and double the sunshine of the crappy weather year we had in 2007.
- Interestingly, days that are just cloudy show a decidedly downward trend. Of course, that shouldn't be a surprise this year with all the sunshine, but interestingly this trend occurred doing years when sunshine was down.
- Weather-related cancellations were down this year probably for a couple of reasons. First, as we have gained experience we have ventured out into weather conditions that we might not have before, and we've been become a little more adept at planning safer Plan B paddles when the weather forecasts aren't looking so good. Second, my definition of a weather-related cancellation for this chart is if we'd made plans to paddle, and on the day of the paddle we've decided the conditions weren't acceptable. This year we changed tactics slightly and didn't even bother making plans some weekends based on the forecast. So those occasions wouldn't have counted as cancellations and that may have skewed the figures a bit. (The decision to cancel a paddle can be made at the launch site, or in while still in bed under the blankets and listening to the radio. Many a paddle has been cancelled this way. Especially in December. But I digress.)

None of this is terribly scientific of course, but it is interesting to see long term trends, even if they are as subjective as this.

I hit the water 38 times this year. Not as much as I would have liked, as I was held off the water by eye surgery at the start of the year, and some minor back issues at the end of the year, as well as the van blowing up, essentially leaving us vehicle-less for kayaking purposes. Still, not a bad total as some unlucky people never get on the water.
image (3)

You may well be asking yourself just how far I've paddled over my short paddling career. Or you may well be asking yourself if you want a cheese sandwich. Actually, I really don't know what you're asking yourself -- what am I, a mind reader?
The answer to how far I've paddled is 1162 km. You can see the yearly breakdown on this handy dandy chart:
image (2)

Now it's time to see about getting some wheels so we can get those kayaks back in the water. However you are on your own for that cheese sandwich.

Who was that zooming paddler?

Augh, technology sometimes hiccups. And yesterday this note got posted with just a title and the text deleted.
As it turns out, the person who commented was, in fact, the zooming paddler, Mike Jackson.
Y'see, Wednesday 9:00 am saw me out on the water with Richard, both of us setting a nice modest pace on the very gradual swells. There was a breeze as we set out from Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park towards Willows Beach, but it didn't pick up while we were out.
The swells did pick up a bit around Cattle Point, but that's always a place where the water moves in funny ways. It evened out on Oak Bay, and roughed up a little on the outside of Mary Tod Island, but still nothing much. That's where we saw half a dozen paddlers setting out towards the Chain Islets.
On our way back across Oak Bay is when Rich noticed the kayaker heading out from Cadboro Bay at a good speed. Gotta say, nice cadence, nice form, and though he didn't look like he was sprinting he kept up a speed more like MY sprinting speed than what I was doing then... Who was that zooming paddler? Rich kept looking for the hidden motor.
We figured it might be Mike Jackson, and sure enough, it was. Later that evening I checked Mike's blog (one of many listed over on the right hand column of our blog) and it turns out that was him. His GPS tracking says he was doing only about 5 km/hr between the Uplands and the Chains, but I think it was more like 7.
But that was later. Rich and I kept up our leisurely pace, enjoying the swells, and talked our way through solving several of the world's problems. Back on shore, we went for coffee with Bernie, talked about family and the Christmas season. Then it was time for the library.
Gotta say, this was a good winter day. Hope the new year holds many good days for all!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


It's always nice to get out on the water during a cold winter day. For one thing, if it's sunny and bright the day doesn't feel clammy and chill. For another, odds are it's been cold and rainy for the last while, so getting out is a nice change. And the bottom line is, paddling is a nice change from trying to bake Christmas cookies that just haven't been working out right this year.
The other day, sometime before Christmas, I looked out the window and saw there was little or no breeze disturbing the big willow tree in the front yard. Moments later, I was in my wetsuit and paddle jacket, pumping up my Dragonfly inflatable kayak.
Once down on Cadboro Bay beach, I looked out at the Chain Islets... or tried to. The horizon looked a little funny. Though the tide was not all the way in, the little islets were invisible, something that shouldn't happen when I'm standing on the shore. Great Chain didn't appear as big as it usually does. I squinted at the horizon, launched my kayak, and squinted at the horizon again from this new angle, eyes only about two feet above the water. It must have been a mirage! Usually when a mirage happens around here, on a bright day, the effect makes little rocks and islands on the horizon look taller, not shorter. Sometimes the horizon stretches to absurd amounts, or there are upside-down images of sailboats merrily sailing along on top of the real ones. But not this day; objects along the horizon were compressed and obscured instead.
I paddled along the shore past the little rock garden, Sheep Cove and Stein Island and out to Flower. Through the channel I could feel a breeze that had been blocked by the long bulk of the point, and I could see the light at Cadboro Point. The freight train was running, as the tide was coming in.
Hoo doggies, was the freight train running! There were standing waves visible here, four or five hundred metres away. I could see the waves curling and frothing, and it looked like they were about half a meter high. But wait a minute... that couldn't be right. Standing waves wouldn't normally be that high unless there was a much stronger wind than this breeze, blowing against the current.
It took a minute to remember the odd mirage I'd seen at the shoreline. This was another mirage! But now, it was acting more like the usual mirage, stretching an image at the horizon so the standing waves looked much higher than they actually were.
Probably. I wasn't about to paddle over there and have a good look from close up, not in my 8 1/2 foot inflatable when I was out on my own, no matter how good the weather. That was enough of an outing for one day, so I went back to shore. Made another batch of cookies that just didn't work right -- dry and hard -- but heck, it was still the holiday season, even so. Peace on Earth, goodwill to all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day

Nothing puts me in the holiday spirit more than snow kayaking videos! Okay, too much turkey and my sister's mysterious potato dish also help.
Enjoy these crazy snow paddlers!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sea Lion Rescue

A stellar sea lion got an early Christmas present last week as it was rescued after being entangled in a rope at Race Rocks south of Victoria.
The seal's flipper was somehow entangled in the rope which was anchored to the rocks. The seal was able to get in the water, but could only swim in a very small area and was unable to feed. Martin Haulena, a veterinarian with the Vancouver Aquarium said, “The really great part here for us — not for the animal, obviously — was the animal was tethered to the rock. We thought it was one of the best chances we’ve had in a long time for disentangling a large Steller sea lion.” The sea lion had to be tranquilized, and obviously the great danger in tranquilizing an animal in the matter in that they will stop swimming and drown, but in this case the sea lion was able to keep its head above water while the rope was cut free from its flipper. The sea lion swam away, a little dopey from the drugs, but with an excellent chance to recover.
The Department of Fisheries shot some video of the sea lion struggling before the rescue:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Nations traditional names for places we paddle

Ever notice that on a map or a chart, there are some places that have a different name for every cove and point of land along a shore? Those are the maps that show where people live and use those places in lots of ways. For a while now, I've been wondering what the traditional names are for the places that our paddle group has been kayaking. The Salish people have lived in this area for some 4000 years, and they have lots of names for local bays and points and islands of interest to kayakers. If you look around at a good beach for launching or landing, or an estuary with birds and fish, well, since the glaciers retreated it's been a good place to paddle in a small boat.

Sometimes the traditional name, or an attempt to pronounce or spell it in English, is the one on the map. Sometimes the traditional name is way more colourful and interesting and appropriate than any English name. Well, it's hard to beat Quick's Bottom, but it can be done.

Check out this page from a website for the Songhees Nation, and scroll down to a list of fourteen interesting names for places that have all been mentioned on the Kayakyak blog. Cool!

And take some time to read this page from a website on First Nations: Land Rights and Environmentalism in British Columbia. I did an internet search for camas, the blue flowers that bloom on Flower Island where I love to paddle, and this website came up. It's not an easy read.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Northwest Pasage By Kayak

Sometime next year, The Inukshuk Expedition will set out in an attempt to become the first kayakers to paddle the 4000 km Northwest Passage in one season.
They plan to start at Inuvik and arrive 85 days later on Pond Inlet on Baffin Island, and according to the website the expedition will "contribute to the state of knowledge regarding the amount, timing, and salinity of fresh water that fluxes from the Arctic Ocean through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago towards the North Atlantic...This is a topical subject and the data collected during the expedition will help marine scientists gauge the effects of the ongoing change in the ocean/sea-ice/atmosphere system, its impact on the global climate and Arctic indigenous peoples who depend on the ecosystem for subsistence."
Indeed, it is because of climate change and the warming of the Arctic regions that the Passage will be ice-free long enough to attempt the voyage in one season.
Their website is here, and their Facebook page is here.
And below is a video of them checking out their new kayaks:

Freya Has Earned Her Christmas Vacation

As reported here, here, here, here and here, Freya Hoffmeister became the first woman and only the second person ever to kayak around Australia. She did it in 332 days, beating Paul Caffyn's mark of 361 days set in 1982. Congratulations, Freya!

A Degree of Commitment

I've enjoyed sea kayaking over the last couple of years. I've pushed unsuitable boats out to their limits, built my own boat and paddled it on expeditions, and generally had a pretty good time on the water. I still think that paddling twenty kilometres in a day is a pretty good day. What I have not done is paddle sixty kilometres in a day, and done that for 332 days, completing a 13,790 kilometre trip. But Freya Hoffmeister has.
Some women are remarkable. Some are extraordinary. Freya seems to be in a class by herself. She's a former gymnast, bodybuilder, and skydiver, who started kayaking in 1997.  Over the years, this 45 year old has had a kid, built an chain of seven franchise ice cream cafes, a salad bistro and a Christmas shop, circumnavigated Iceland by kayak, done a solo around New Zealand's South Island, and now has completed the circumnavigation of Australia. Not only has she now completed the trip around Australia in 332 days, she's done it 28 days faster than the only other person to have completed the trip (New Zealander Paul Caffyn made the first circumnavigation in 1982).
Freya hauled between 50 and 100 kilos of gear along with her most of the way, until, a couple of months ago, she met Geoffrey Bethune, who has paralleled her on shore, hauling much of her gear in a van.
The coast of Australia offers some pretty extreme paddling, with a number of different challenges.  Peter Costello, president of the Victoria sea kayakers club, points out;"There are hundreds of kilometres of sheer cliffs without any landing zones, massive surf, exposed crossings, cyclones and tropical heat that take their toll on the body.''
Freya's trip was not without a few moments of startlement. One night in "murky water" off Broome, a shark took a bite out of her kayak, leaving her taking on water and paddling quickly to shore. Once she saw the bite marks, she made the rare to her decision to stay off the water the rest of the night. Thankfully, the attack occurred at a place where there was a landing site.
Freya made it off the water December 15th, looking for a hot meal and a chance to get out of her swimsuit and into dry clothes. An amazing woman, making the extraordinary look, well, ordinary. I'm waiting to see what she decides to do next.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

You're Going to Need a Bigger Kayak

Paul Spathopoulos, of Mentone, Australia, was fishing from his kayak and he was sure that he had hooked a snapper. But after 20 minutes of fighting, the fish jumped out of the water, and he'd realized that he'd hooked a 2.4m thresher shark. After a 90 minutes battle, he finally landed his prize, which apparently made quite a few tasty dinners.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Haida Gwaii -- It's Official

In recent years, there's been a bit of a controversy as to what to call the Queen Charlotte Islands in BC. The name of Haida Gwaii which reflects the islands' Haida heritage has grown more popular in recent years, and using two different names for the islands could result in some confusion. To Gwaii or not to Gwaii?
But today British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell announced that the name of the islands has been officially changed to Haida Gwaii. This change will be applied to maps and other official documents.
The name of Queen Charlotte Islands was originally bestowed upon the islands by Captain George Dixon in 1787, named after one of his ships (the Queen Charlotte), which in turn was named after the wife of King George III. The original Haida name was Xhaaidlagha Gwaayaai ("islands on the boundry between the worlds"), while Haida Gwaii means "islands of the people."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tilt Shift

I played with a Tilt Shift software, and here's some examples. I think the three kayaks on the beach works the best.




Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Two Volcano Day

Here in Victoria we live within sight of not one, but two volcanoes. Well, on a clear day, that is.
Paddling out from Cadboro Bay gives great viewing opportunitites. There was a bright winter afternoon, and the cone of Mount Rainier popped up out of the mists that usually hide it on the far side of Puget Sound. Ya kind of had to know where to look, and what you were seeing, but it was there.
I took the little inflatable kayak out just past Flower Island, just shy of Evans Rock, and there was Mount Baker, no longer obscured by the big bulk of the peninsula that ends in Cadboro Point's tiny light. Fabulous -- a two volcano day!
But it was time to turn around, for in that cold breeze we've been having it isn't wise when I'm paddling alone to take short inflatable rec boats out any further than I'd be willing to swim. Turned out to be good timing anyway, because in Sheep Cove the stream was filling its little basin and washing in & out as the high tide made the basin's opening a reversing falls. I drifted in on the wave and out on the ebb, looking up the tumbling stream past the first bridge to the red Japanese bridge above.
Then on to do figure eights around the little rock garden, and my timing was still good! The otter family was fishing over by the Buddha, flicking eight long, wet tails.
Back to shore with a great feeling of satisfaction, and my feet weren't even cold when Marlene and Glenda Lee pulled into my driveway as I was walking up with the kayak. I changed into fuzzy warm-up clothes in about three minutes. Off for hot chocolate and hummus at Olive Olio's!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Want to Win A Kayak?

Seaward Kayaks has a Name the New Kayak Model Contest going. If they pick your name suggestion for
their new 14.5' kayak, they'll give you one!
Contest info and entry form is here.
I've always thought Bob was a good name for a kayak.... know, Bob. In the water. Bobbing in the water...
....sheeeshh, tough room....

Copenhagen climate change conference: 'Fourteen days to seal history's judgment on this generation'

Editorial logo

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.
Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.
Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.
The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.
Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.
But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."
At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.
Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.
Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.
Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than "old Europe", must not suffer more than their richer partners.
The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.
Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.
But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.
Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.
Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".
It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.
The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.
This editorial will be published tomorrow by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like the Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page.

This editorial is free to reproduce under Creative Commons

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(please note this Creative Commons license is valid until 18 December 2009)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Full Moon Fever

Tried taking some pictures of the full moon tonight.
Things went well until my tripod broke. :(
PC011121 copy

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thank your paddle

There's paddling information everywhere!

I've been reading a book called Transporters: Contemporary Salish Art. It's published by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. This is a terrific read, with strong and beautiful images. If you're living in Victoria, you can go read the copy at the Greater Victoria Public Library. If you live somewhere else, go ask your local public library to get a copy. Hey, get yourself a copy online or at your local bookstore.

It's hard to imagine a book on Salish Art that wouldn't mention boats and paddling on the local waters. And this book has some brilliant moments. Among these moments are names for four different kinds of canoes, in the version of the Salish language spoken on the Saanich Peninsula, SENĆOŦEN (pronounced Sen-chah-then). It's hard to type SENĆOŦEN words on a standard English keyboard, because some of the characters are different.

There are two words defined in the text of the book Transporters that are very appropriate for paddlers to know. I'll quote them directly from the book, using the glossary written by STOLC/EL-, John Elliot. The first word is:
This word has a very big meaning and refers to wherever you go in your canoe to hunt, fish, and sustain your life. This is where beliefs, knowledge, and environmental laws are passed on. This is related to cultural survival and maintaining relationships to ancestral lands and sacred responsibilities.

Now that's a word I needed.
And the second word is:
The moon of December. This is the time to thank your paddle and put it away. Talking to it like a reliable friend, thank your paddle for taking you where you needed to go for your life. Tell it that you will return soon to pick it back up for travelling back to sea, to your S,IST

As December begins, both of these words are in my thoughts and on my mind.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Accident on The Gorge

Two people were pulled from The Gorge Waterway last night, and taken to hospital in critical condition suffering from hypothermia. A third person's body was recovered hours later. They appear to have been in a 10-foot fibreglass dinghy that overturned, and police suggest alcohol might also have played a factor. (Photo from the Victoria Times-Colonist.)
The Gorge is a terrific place to paddle, and we've kayaked here numerous times, including the area where this accident occurred. Being a long inlet, it's easy to forget that this is ocean water that can be brutally cold in the winter when the sun goes down.
Another tragic reminder to dress appropriately when you're out on the water. Dress to get wet. And cold.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Duck Day

Wednesday wasn't a great day for weather, but it was way better than weather had been lately. It's been November weather with rain and wind most days lately. So when we saw at seven am while dog-walking that it was going to be a mild morning, that meant a chance to spend some time on the water. Bernie and I walked along the beach, checking out the boats that had washed up on shore. We looked for an animal carcass that was mentioned on the Saanich News website, but couldn't find it.

Then I picked up my little inflatable kayak and went back to the beach. It was so good to be on the water, after days of wind. There was Mount Rainier, that tall volcano, visible across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with a couple of lenticular clouds floating beside it like UFOs. It was a treat to see these clouds, and remember the UFO sightings that regularly occur around Mount Rainier.

I tried to paddle out far enough to see if Mount Baker could be seen also. It's always nice to have a day with two volcanoes. But as I came by Flower Island, there were waves washing up on Evan's Rock just beyond it. Funny, there weren't waves washing up anywhere inside the bay. Sure enough, there was a stiff breeze blowing just outside the point, and the peninsula was sheltering the bay. Time to turn around, and paddle some figure eights around in the little rock garden along the shoreline.

Maybe a seal poked its head up to look at me, or maybe not... there were a couple of crab trap floats bobbing. But there were ducks here and there in the bay, mallards with their feathers whistling as they flew in little flocks, the ruddy heads of mergansers looking almost pink, and the funny round heads of buffleheads bobbing up from diving for fish. So nice to see the neighbours out and about.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Victoria Council Asks For Marina Public Hearing

The developers proposing a mega-yacht marina for Victoria's harbour have hit a few more snags.
Monday Magazine reports the Save Our Harbour group has "produced a legal opinion concerning who holds riparian rights (the right of landowners to reasonably access adjacent bodies of water) to portions of the waterfront at the Royal Quays condominiums where Evan wants to build his marina. And contrary to what events so far might suggest, it isn’t just Evans’ company Community Marine Concepts."
The opinion concludes "....we are of the view that the owners of Strata Plan VIS3900 and VIS1889 hold certain riparian rights to portions of the water in front of those developments. Those rights should not be ignored by the Provincial Crown, the City of Victoria or the developer of the marina.”
The Save Our Harbour group has turned the opinion over to the two strata corporations involved. Whether they chose to persue the matter is up to them, but up until now the developers and the province's Integrated Lands Management Bureau have considered the riparian rights question a non-issue.
Monday also reports that the City of Victoria is finally speaking out on the proposed marina. Quoting a letter from City of Victoria corporate administrator Rob Woodland to the province's Integrated Lands Management Bureau, Monday reports that "In the City’s view: a) a marina in this location would significantly diminish the natural marine area fronting Lime Bay Park; and b) would significantly diminish the public’s enjoyment of Lime Bay Park, including but not limited to, the views enjoyed by the public across the water surface.”
The letter also brings up the issue of the City's own riparian rights in the matter, and concludes that "[a]s far as the City is aware, the riparian rights issue has not been resolved, and certainly the City has not provided its consent to the proposed grant of any tenure directly in front of Lime Bay Park."
This is not the only front in which Victoria city council is finally speaking out of this issue. It has joined local sea kayakers and other groups in asking the Ministry of Environment that an independent review panel hold a full public hearing into the proposed mega-yacht project in Victoria's harbour. Local kayakers fear that this large-scale project will make it impossible for kayakers and rowers to use the harbour.
The city itself has no authority to reject or approve the marina application as the proposed marina is deemed to be on federal property, but it can make requests of the federal government. Currently, the application is under review by the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kayak Instructor Dies in UK River Accident

This is republished from The Guardian (UK):

The canoeist who died in Devon after becoming trapped in a swollen river was an extremely experienced kayak instructor, it has emerged.

Two friends desperately tried to keep Chris Wheeler's head above the water when he became pinned against a tree in the river Dart, but he had died by the time rescuers got there.

In Brecon, mid Wales, the emergency services continued to search today for a 21-year-old woman who fell into the river Usk. Police were still trying to establish how the accident happened but said the banks were slippy and dangerous.

Wheeler, 46, a chartered surveyor and kayak instructor from Reading, got into difficulty after 30mm of rain fell in just three hours last night. The part of the river he died in is popular with canoeists but hazardous when in spate. His two colleagues were pulled from the water and airlifted to hospital suffering from the effects of hypothermia but were later discharged.

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset fire and rescue service said: "The spot was a five-mile walk from any road and it took fire crews around two hours to find them."

Wheeler, nicknamed Magic Knees after he dislocated both knees in an accident at a waterfall, had been canoeing for 25 years and regularly contributed articles to the Canoe and Kayak UK magazine. In the last few years, he had canoed in Bolivia, India, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Canada, USA and Norway.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wondering About White Bears

I dunno what comes to your mind when you're out paddling, but I was wondering the other day about bears. Most of the bears I'm likely to run across are black bears, here on Vancouver Island. They like a lot of the places I like: forested margins of lakes and streams, or beaches.

Up the coast on some of the islands along the Inside Passage are white black bears. Yeah, that sounds like a contradiction in terms. They're a white version of the little brownish or blackish bears we call "black bears." And little is a relative term, by the way. Compared to a big grizzly bear in the Rocky Mountains, or a big Kodiak bear up in Alaska, a black bear is pretty much a half-sized omnivore who eats mostly plants. But if your usual animal that you interact with is a dog, well, a black bear is usually way bigger than most Newfoundland dogs.

While I haven't seen any bears when I'm out paddling, my partner Bernie and I have seen several when we were driving on the Yellowhead Highway, and he saw one when he was riding on the bike trail called the Galloping Goose. And my friend Linda has seen bears when she was on canoe trips -- she says it was wonderful to drift down a river past a bear on one bank, until they saw the bear's cub on the other shore. Augh! The canoe was between the mother bear and cub! Paddle faster!

I wondered how the kermode bears, these white bears, got to be white. They're not albinos, which is an absence of the colour pigment melanin, a genetic quirk that affects a small percentage of all warm-blooded animals. They're not related to polar bears. These kermode bears are white for a different reason: they inherit a recessive gene. Some bears are partly white and partly black, or cream-coloured, and people have seen black mother bears with white or partly white cubs.

It turns out that white bears are a little bit better at catching salmon than dark-coloured bears... seems that the salmon are more able to see a black bear looming over the water. The University of Victoria has an article about it posted here.

Out on a November afternoon

It's November all over, here.
Here on southern Vancouver Island, we may be in what's called the Banana Belt of Canada, but it's also the rain belt. This time of year, we can expect a series of rainstorms to move in off the Pacific every couple of days.
So when the sky blew itself out and was quiet yesterday, that was my opportunity to get on the water. It wasn't sunny and warm -- heck, it was barely not raining -- but the absence of howling wind and rain was enough to ensure the presence of me and my little kayak on the water.
It's more work to get out of the Beach House when there's a moat of rainwater standing around it on the lawn, but I waded past in my sandals. Soon the little Dragonfly was on the water in Cadboro Bay and I was enjoying big lungfuls of clean, cool air.
I kept the outing short -- just about an hour -- because the clouds were threatening and the breeze picking up and the light was fading pretty fast. Walking back through the park with my kayak on my shoulder, I was stopped by a passer-by. (This happens almost every time, by the way.)
"Aren't your feet cold?" asked a sweet, white-haired lady from the driver's seat of her car.
I looked down at my bare legs and feet in Teva sandals. "Um, not much," I told her. "I'm wearing a wet suit."
"But not on your feet!" She shuddered.
"I have booties for cold days," I said. "When I'm not out for very long, I don't need them."
"This isn't a cold day? I can't believe it. I'd be freezing. You be careful." She rolled up her window and drove off with her nodding friend oblivious in the passenger seat.
Just another reminder that good gear (wetsuit and merino wool sweater) really does keep me warm, but metabolism and activity and general health make all the difference. I'm a white-haired lady too, but there was more difference between us than just the ten years' difference in our ages.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Finding Kayaking Gear in Odd Places

It's pretty surprising where I can find gear that's useful for paddling. There's an assortment of things that are really useful to have when kayaking, at least some of the time. And some of these items are in the oddest of places.
Grocery stores have granola bars, fruit bars and energy bars... but then, apples or nectarines are so much more affordable than fruit bars, even if they're more juicy and squishable. And most of the other bars are just fancy cookies in a watertight wrapper! If the watertight wrapper isn't a problem, homemade energy bars or granola bars or even muffins and cookies are good, too. Gotta admit, it's nice to have a couple of the commercial bars of one kind or another in my dunk bag. So far, raccoons haven't figured out that my dunk bag contains food-like substances and found it necessary to chew their way through to the goodies.
I knew that drugstores have handy things like liquid-gel capsules of ibuprofen (hits the bloodstream much faster than the hard pills do!) or Pepto-Bismol tablets for indigestion, or liquid Benadryl for allergy relief. Hey, I know that not everyone considers over-the-counter medications to be paddling gear. But I sometimes get bad headaches, or seasick, and I know a couple of people who have been stung by bees while out on the water, so these medicines make sensible paddle gear for people who are familiar with their effects. Other stores have useful gear, too.
I was in Office Depot the other day, and saw that they carry not only underwater cameras but Pelican cases for cameras... very handy for those who like taking photos while kayaking. There are other stationery stores that carry notebooks with water-resistant paper, which are useful when boating and camping.
The day's shopping took Bernie and me to Lee Valley Tools. This is a chain of stores with several locations across Canada and a website to promote their woodworking and gardening supplies. Don't just pop in with a pocketful of money and credit cards if you don't want to come home with all sorts of neat things that are really useful. One of my friends used to work at a Lee Valley store. She said that it was a good month when there was any paycheck left to take home, but wow, did she ever have the best tools and presents and garden and... you get the picture.
Lee Valley has useful gear for the discerning gear-head paddler. There are two kinds of little screw-sealed containers to attach to your PFD, for instance. The littler size is all brass, and good for holding a waterproofed slip of paper with your name and who to contact if you are found. The larger size is still tiny, about half the size of a fat golf pencil, and has a gasket so it's probably waterproof. This little gizmo could also hold a couple of pills of medicine, something that's essential for some people to carry at all times.
The other kind of paddling gear I found are Bogs Boots and Bogs Ankle Shoes (you can find them on their website in the Garden Catalog on page 186). These are neoprene shoes or boots with natural rubber soles, much stiffer than the usual paddle booties which have flexible soles. I handled a couple of pairs and believe that they're well-made, though not cheap. As soon as I can come up with the price, I'll buy a pair and let you know how they feel. Because I get so vexed at the flexible soles of paddle shoes/boots which let my feet hurt and toes go to sleep, I'm hoping that these more rigid soles will feel better. Lee Valley has good warranties for all its products, so I'm really looking forward to trying these Bogs Ankle Shoes.
So, though I wasn't on the water yesterday, it wasn't a total loss as far as kayaking goes. Paddlers who keep alert can find gear on the most eclectic of shopping expeditions. If you're ever in a store that carries wheelchairs, look for the big square gel pads! While these aren't cheap, they may be just the thing to cushion your sit-upon bones. There is paddling gear everywhere!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Orcas Bounce Back This Year

Last year at this time we were lamenting the slow decline in the population of the endangered resident orca pods, however this year has seen a veritable orca baby boom.
This little fella, probably only a couple of days or even hours old, was photographed (by Mark Malleson, a contract marine mammal observer for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Center for Whale Research) off Victoria on Wednesday. He is J46, next to what is thought to be its mother, 16 year-old J28, also known as Polaris.
J46 is the fifth whale born to the local pods this year, and brings the resident population to 87. There were seven deaths in the pods last year, prompting fears for the mammels' chances of survival. Historicially, the number of local resident orcas has been about 120. The mortality rate for orca calves is about 50%, but a larger than normal return of their favourite food, chinook salmon, means that the fear of starvation that was threatening the local pods last year should not be an issue at least for this winter.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Raccoon Tracks On My Kayak

There are raccoon tracks on my kayak!
All right. I know that it's just lazy of me to stuff my inflatable kayak on top of my big upright tricycle in the porch, instead of drying it out and folding it up each time I use it. But hey, I like needing only 1 minute to puff it from 85% inflated to full. That saves me nearly ten minutes of preparation time! When I'm getting on the water two or three times a week in it, that adds up. Well, with the 'flu sidelining me this fall, I've only been on the water three times in the past five weeks. So the inflatable had been tucked away for a while, and now I've pulled it out again, used it and stuffed it back in the porch. That means it's ready to go!
It also means that the kayak spends time where various aspects of Nature have an influence on it. Sunshine can fall on one end unless I stuff the boat pretty far into the hedge. Dew falls on the kayak, but if it's lying upside down that keeps some of the dew off my trike. Leaves blow into the porch, and on a rainy day the leaves stick to the kayak.
I'll get to the raccoon tracks in a minute. In the meantime, take note: Don't leave leaves on your kayak. They leave stains. Especially if the leaves are wet with rain. There are leafy stains on most of my kayaks.
Now, I'm not really complaining. No one who can use the phrase "most of my kayaks" in any capacity at all should ever be complaining about little things like having brown-coloured stains on any number of the kayaks, or even most of them. The willow and maple leaves that are most likely to fall on my kayaks or get tangled in the tarps don't seem to make permanent stains on the hardshell kayaks if the leaves stay on the boat surface only a week or two. A little sunshine seems to bleach the stain out of the rotomolded plastic, or the yellow marine paint. The inflatables are more likely to hang onto a stain. But well, these aren't museum exhibits -- they're kayaks for using and enjoying out in the wide world, and a few scratches or leaf stains are features, not flaws.
That's what I thought I saw on the grey rubbery underside of the kayak hull, when I went to take the boat out on the water: leaf stains. Looking a little closer, I saw that the brown marks were not random little curving stains, but regular muddy smudges. Little hand-prints with long finger shapes. Somebody with four neat little hand-paws had been walking across my kayak!
I dunno what kind of neighbours YOU have where you live. But our neighbours are an assortment of mink, squirrels, river otters in the bay, and a raccoon on the prowl. That darned raccoon has been walking through the porch every couple of days. He's looking to see if we put any cat food outside the door for the fluffy cat who seems to have adopted the house. I sent up an earnest hope that the raccoon wouldn't take to chewing on my paddle gear for the salt, and went paddling. The footprints were still there when I took the boat out of the water... even hosing down the kayak didn't get rid of them. It took real rubbing with a cloth to remove the marks. The fluffy cat (Bernie calls her H. R. Flufnstuf) wandered over to take a look. Here's a photo that John took of the cat the other day, with some kayaks behind her.
This looked like a good opportunity to dry the kayak well, inside and out, before folding it up in its bag so maybe I could take it on the bus some day soon. Bernie brought the inflatable inside for me, and stood it up inside the back door in the laundry/furnace room. The boat was drying out nicely in that warm room, when our landlady's new rescued dog stopped on his way to the back yard and... grrr... peed all over the stern. Grr! First the raccoon and now the dog. I'd better watch out in case the fluffy cat takes a notion to poke the inflatable with those sharp claws...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vicarious Kayaking

Today, Paula, Bernie Louise, Richard and I got together to watch some kayaking vids. Having just seen a lecture by Shawna Franklin and Leon Sommé about their Haida Gwaii expedition with Justine Curgenven, we started with Justine's Haida Gwaii film from This is The Sea 4 (as opposed to This is The C4 which sounds more like a Mythbusters episode). From there, we bounced around some of the other This is the Sea videos, and a good chunk of Pacific Horizons, finishing up the day with Crossing the Ditch, the story of the two Aussies who kayaked the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand.
It was a treat to go back and visit those videos we haven't watched in a while, as well as watch the Ditch video for the first time. I'm feeling a bit frustrated that since the van died we don't have adequate transport for our kayaks at the moment which leaves launching choices drastically limited to, well, only one place. But it is the stormy season and the holiday season so kayaking chances get reduced this time of year anyway, so it's not so bad. The new year will be better. In the meantime, we'll just enjoy whatever paddling we do.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's November All Over!

Okay, so it's nearly half-past November, and I've been out in a kayak only a few times since September. It's not enough that the 'flu has kept me home, napping. The weather has done its usual "autumn" thing around here... chill and rainy days don't normally keep me off the water when I don't have the 'flu, but wind definitely does.
That's why it was so nice yesterday when the wind and rain stopped. I took the little Dragonfly inflatable down to Cadboro Bay beach and paddled out to Flower Island. The clouds blew away from time to time, and the sunlight had at moments that amazing clarity it gets. On little Stein Island there were a dozen colours of lichen and microbes staining the waterline... so many colours that one day we'll have to get knitting designer Kaffe Fassett out here in a kayak.
That idea may make sense only to Louise and Alison, who have also read his books Glorious Colour and Glorious Knitting. Fassett has designed many sweaters using plain knitting and purling in two-colour rows, and the resulting sweaters often have a dozen or more shades. He has been known to pick colours based on the peeling paint on a wall, or the lichen on a wall, as well as Muslim tile murals. That's why Alison and Louise and I would like to see what designs he'd make after seeing the colours on the trees and rocks and water in several of the places where we go kayaking.
You can see some of Fassett's fabric and needlepoint designs at his website. You can get some idea of how yesterday's sunlight on rain-wet trees and stone took my breath away if you look back through the Kayak Yak website at some of the photos taken of our trips along the Cadboro Bay shoreline. I didn't take a camera along. Just being there was enough, surfing a few waves at Stein Island, and realizing once again that this place, this whole grand assortment of islands, is so fine and beautiful.
The waves broke over and into my boat as I launched and landed. No problem. My boat wasn't like the yacht that washed up onshore during the storm that lasted all night. Good luck to that boat's owner!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Latest foot identified

Well, there's more news about the series of feet being discovered on shorelines around the Salish Sea. The most recently-discovered foot has been identified as belonging to a person who was reported missing by his family in January of 2008. The Globe and Mail newspaper has an article about it on their website here.
This is the second foot to be identified, out of seven. It's good to know that the investigations are ongoing into the discoveries of these feet, and that there are some results.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Careening Down the Congo

The National Geographic show Explorers featured a recent episode called Monster Fish of the Congo. A Nat Geo crew of kayakers journeyed down the river and ran the Congo's rapids which are, at 1.25 million cubic feet per second, the highest volume rapids in the world.
It's totally insane! There's a high quality clip here, and a lower-quality embedded video below:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Born Salesman

I found this at Part of Life is Having a Good Ponytail, but it originally comes from craigslist.
Apparently, craigslist has a "best of" section where they archive old but well-written listings, and this terrific listing invites us to Buy My Stupid Cousin's Awesome Kayak!

My cousin is a grown up child man with all the best toys and here's your chance to own one of them!
Whilst between jobs - though both the one before and the one to come were both long out of sight - he needed a place to stay so he lived with me for a while. He paid rent for a while too, though one while was a lot shorter than the other while. He moved out to live with some buddies and left a bunch of his junk here. Sometimes he comes back to pick something up but somehow it always seems to coincide with needing to borrow money, though he doesn't seem to need to borrow it to pay me any rent.
One of the things he left - one of the largest things he left - is a kayak. A red kayak. It looks an awful lot like this, except it's red:

I asked him to tell me about it and this is what he typed:

Good Condition
River running playboat
excellent for surfing ocean waves
Frankly, I was underwhelmed by his effort, but somehow, not terribly surprised. On top of that, the name sounds dangerously close to "prison love" but that's not really a selling point, so forget I said that.
I did my own research, being a citizen of the Information Age, and discovered that according to the World Wide Web, the specs are as follows:
length    width        vol.             weight
8 ft 1     25.50 in   52.00 gal     33.00 lbs
The most important part is this though:

Main use: playboat
Dude, how could you not buy your own watercraft whose main use is "playboat"? I don't have any idea what that means, but just reading it feels kinda bitchin! In point of fact, here's what the manufacturer would have you believe:
This Liquid-Utility-Vehicle is the ultimate in whitewater performance, maximum comfort and rad lines. This lightweight play hound has great stability on the flats and awesome control in the vertical world. Custom tailored features like the chine groove, planning hull width and bow & stern keels for play hogs like you. Engage the low volume ends for hesitation-free wheels and spark up the flat bottom for spin-mania. Bow and stern keel lines provide great tracking when moving from one play spot to the next. Superior comfort and an ergonomic fit for medium to large sized paddlers with large. It comes with super groovy, custom foam outfitting. Of course the LUV is made with HTP, which spins faster, rock wheels without grindage and reacts at your command. Stiff, durable, it rules.

Awesome control in the vertical world? Spin-mania? Rock wheels without grindage?? How can you pass this up??? I don't actually know if this one comes with the hesitation-free wheels because I don't see any wheels. Come to think of it, I've never seen a kayak with wheels, but if you get the right wheels for it, they will apparently be hesitation-free and how hard would that rock, dude? I'm a little frightened to know what the "large sized paddlers with large" are going to do with this boat, so I'm not gonna ask. What happens in the Prijon stays in the Prijon, as far as I'm concerned. Any which way, shoot the rapids, sit in it in the middle of your living room floor, or just drive around with it on the roof of your Volkswagen to make people think you're cool but get on over here and buy this dumb thing for three hundred bucks. It's totally awesome!

I sure hope he got the full $300! :)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Why Goldstream Estuary is Closed to Kayakers

Here's an excerpt from the Goldstream Park website, which talks about why the Goldstream River estuary at the south end of Saanich Inlet has been closed to kayaks and boats of all kinds for several years now.

Eagle Eatery at Goldstream

The Goldstream estuary has become a favourite winter dining spot for Bald Eagles. They flock to these feeding grounds to feast on the high-protein Chum Salmon carcasses - all that remains of the salmon run. Have a look at the graph; notice the recent rise in Bald Eagle numbers? This is because the estuary is now closed to public access. A little bit of history...

In the winter of 1990-1991, a quiet zone was created on the lower stretch of the Goldstream River. This Quiet Zone resulted in increasing numbers of Bald Eagles. Four years later, in the fall of 1994, a Black Bear entered the estuary to feed on the salmon. Rather than removing the Black Bear, the estuary was closed off to the public for the duration of the salmon run.

The absence of people in the area also provided eagles with a place to feed; free from human interruption. Since closing off the estuary, the number of eagles feeding on the salmon carcasses has risen from a yearly high of 12 to one of 276. More recently, the estuary has been closed all year round, a conservation strategy which has encouraged a pair of eagles to nest here as well. Even a single hiker or kayaker can cause the eagles to fly to safety and miss one of their daily meals.

Please help us ensure that eagles continue to return to Goldstream by respecting the signs around the estuary. It is possible to get a better look at the eagles through the video camera or spotting scope. Please ask one of the staff to operate the video camera.

I dunno about other paddlers, but I find this news motivates me to accept not being able to take my kayak into the estuary. There are plenty of beaches and inlets and lakes and shores for me to explore... if this place is one I have to look at from the Nature Centre through a scope, I am very willing to give the eagles and salmon the room they need!

The Basics of Life - Sex and Death

We skipped kayaking yesterday and instead we drove just out of town to Goldstream Provincial Park to watch the final act in one of nature's most amazing migrations.

These are Chum salmon in the last few days of their short six or seven year lives heading upstream to spawn, and then die. While some salmon swim upstream upwards of 3200 km as in the Yukon River, these fish only have to swim a few kilometers from the river's mouth on Saanich Inlet (where we've kayaked a few times) up the river to their spawning grounds.
In places the river was so thick with salmon you could almost imagine being able to walk across on their backs. About 30,000 chum made into the river last year and their numbers are slowly increasing, although other species are in decline. One species had only 3 salmon make into the river last year.

The run has just started, so there aren't too many dead fish around yet and the birds and other wildlife haven't started their feast.
PB010691 copy

No, this is not a rainbow trout. At the Goldstream Park Nature House, this salmon was being used to make fish prints. Paint the fish, wrap it in paper, and violà -- instant art!
Rainbow Trout. Er, Salmon.

We ended our visit with a short hike to Little Niagara Falls.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

When all else fails, your kayak paddle can make a great weapon against zombies!
Found this a little while ago on David K. Johnston's Paddling Instructor site and thought I'd save it for a Halloween post. In the game Dead Rising 2, you can use a kayak paddle with chainsaws attached on the blades as a zombie-slicing weapon. David's original post is pretty funny and you can read it here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

More Mega-Yacht Marina Mysteries

A reader over at Wavelength Magazine's blog created this picture that shows the proposed mega-yacht marina and all the traffic lanes in the harbour. The mystery here is where do kayaks go. Do you see any room for kayakers or other paddlers? As noted on the Wavelength blog, "the marina sits squarely on the only through way for non-motorized craft" which is along the north shore, effectively cutting paddlers in the Inner Habour off from the Outer Harbour, the Middle Harbour and the ocean and vice versa.
The mysteries continue over at Focus Online in their November issue which, in a story by Sam Williams, examines the mysterious and complicated question of who actually owns the land, the foreshore and water lots involved, and also dispels a belief by some patronizing members of the local media that the developer has a Supreme Court ruling allowing him to build the marina. It makes for some interesting reading (opens as a pdf).
To help stop this project, click here for Save Victoria Harbour.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pedal Powered Plans

Greg Kolodziejzyk who, along with Jordan Hanssen, failed in an attempt to pedal around Vancouver Island beginning last week, has taken his stricken craft to Okanagan Lake where he "MacGyver-ed" a fix and put his craft back in the water. A pin had sheared off the drive gear when they paddled backwards to avoid a ferry on the first day of their circumnavigation attempt last week. On the way back to Calgary, Greg's team stuck a drill bit into the gear to replace the pin, and they decided to stop in Penticton for a few days to get some paddling on the lake.
Greg reports on his blog that once he pedaled out of the protected marina, he was facing four-foot breaking waves, but the craft handled them fine. He plans to return to Calgary for further testing before he pedals from Victoria to Hawaii next year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another Foot Found

I just can't make this stuff up. There's been another discovery of a human foot on a beach in the Georgia Strait. You can read about it here.
That makes six of these sad discoveries that have occurred in this general area since August 2007. There was also one foot discovered just south of the border on an American beach, and two hoaxes. Yep, twice someone thought it funny to set up a fake foot in a shoe for someone else to find.
We've written about the discoveries of these feet before on the Kayak Yak blog... it seems that all of them are found in sneakers because this type of shoe floats. The feet all appear to be naturally disarticulated through decay. One foot belonged to a woman. And only one foot has been identified, belonging to a man who went missing in 2007. The police and coroners are frankly baffled why so many feet have been turning up lately. The investigation continues.
In the meantime, since bodies and body parts like these feet do turn up from time to time in the paddling waters around here, it's worthwhile to remind kayakers to be prepared.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pedal Plan Doesn't Go Far

Greg Kolodziejzyk and Jordan Hanssen's plan to circumnavigate Vancouver Island in a pedal-powered craft came to a quick end after launching on Saturday. Within hours their gear box had failed twice, the second time terminally. They are now talking the vehicle back to shop for repairs and to consider their future plans.
How this will affect Greg's plan to pedal solo from Victoria to Hawaii next year remains to be seen. You can follow his expedition here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Leon and Shawna Rock! Part Two!

2009-10-23 Haida Gwaii 005
Paula beat me to the punch about last night's lecture by Shawna Franklin and Leon Sommé on their trip around Haida Gwaii. And since there aren't many more superlatives other than what Paula has already used to describe their engaging story and a great evening's worth of entertainment, I'll just post some pictures, starting with Leon and Shawna talking to Maureen, who ran the Queen Charlotte Islands Visitor Centre when they did their trip.
2009-10-23 Haida Gwaii 007

This is the kayak that they lent Justine Curgenven for the trip. It had already been around Iceland.
Don't let the empty seats fool you. By the time they started, the auditorium was nearly full, about 200 people we figure.
2009-10-23 Haida Gwaii 002

Leon and Shawna again, getting a little token from the president of SISKA, who organized the event.
2009-10-23 Haida Gwaii 014

And Paula won a door prize!
2009-10-23 Haida Gwaii 009

Leon and Shawna Rock!

What a great kayaking event! Friday night Oct 23 saw a lecture theatre at UVic crowded with what looked like over 200 paddlers, for an event sponsored by SISKA. This was an evening discussing the circumnavigation of Haida Gwaii by Shawna Franklin, Leon Sommé, and Justine Curgenven in 2007. Front and centre onstage was a kayak that had circumnavigated Iceland, and was loaned to Curgenven for this expedition.
Anyone who has seen any of Curgenven's videos such as This Is The Sea would be glad to see this discussion of the trip that was shown on her fourth This Is The Sea dvd. It was great to hear about this trip from the viewpoint of the other participants. Last year, my partner Bernie and I got to hear Shawna and Leon talking about their circumnavigation of Iceland. There was no way I was going to miss this story!
And they didn't disappoint. Shawna and Leon seem to have multiple talents -- they are kayakers who go out for practice into stormy weather that keeps me off the water, they run a kayaking business on Orcas Island, WA, called Body Boat Blade, and they do public lectures with grace and enthusiasm.
The evening opened with an introduction by Maureen Weddell, who ran the Queen Charlotte Islands Visitor Centre for two years. She had a lot of useful advice for people who want to visit the islands, whether kayaking or vacationing. After her talk and slideshow, SISKA drew door prizes including ball caps, t-shirts, and PFDs donated by local businesses. Then, a detailed talk and slideshow by Leon and Shawna, followed by a parade across Ring Road to the Faculty Club's Fireside Lounge.
They carried the kayak, in the dark at a dimly-lit portion of Ring Road. It's not enough for drivers on that road to acknowledge that pedestrians really must have the right of way, or that students all seem to major in Wearing Black Clothes with a minor in Jaywalking At Night. Now there are black kayaks to look out for, as well!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Insider Influence on the Mega-Yacht Marine Proposal?

The Tyee sure thinks so. They're reporting that 3000 pages of documents were obtained using freedom of information requests by the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and Save Victoria Harbour. The papers show correspondence between well-known Liberal party supports (including a local defeated Liberal MLA) acting as unregistered lobbyists for the proposal, and provincial Liberal cabinet ministers long before plans were released to the public.
There was so much correspondence that one ministry staffer asked, possibly rhetorically, "Is it normal for proponents to 'shop around' their project to Ministers during an ILMB process?" Sadly, no answer appears in the documents, but the documents also show that despite Transport Canada's public position that there are no safety concerns, behind the scenes it is a different matter. One Transport Canada official wrote to provincial officials back in 2006 that, "[w]e are very concerned about the marina proposal. From what we can tell it will completely block the access for recreational vessels along the north shore of the Middle Harbour. It could also potential [sic] interfere with our traffic management scheme that has been established in the last several years."
It's a good thing that our provincial government is the most open and transparent in history. Or so they keep telling us.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Spawning on Sunday

Yesterday, after a couple of weeks off, we returned to kayak the waters of The Gorge.
Gorge Pano 1
We are deep into autumn now. Many of the tress on the We(s)t Coast are evergreens so we don't see the dramatic changes in leave colours that occurs further east in Ontario and Quebec, but if you look carefully you see some shades of yellow and a splash of red here and there.

Richard returned after a summer of sailing, bike riding, and scootering. Something had to give and it turned out to be kayaking, but he's here today under a cool but sunny sky, putting his boat in the water and about to discover if he remembers how to do any of this kayaking stuff.
While Louise and Paula got ready, Richard and I took a quick paddle down to Tillicum Bridge to check out the current.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 061

We rejoined Paula and Louise and started down towards Portage Inlet. It wasn't long until Paula spotted....
2009-10-18 The Gorge 024
...a deer on the shore. Louise and I saw a deer in our backyard a couple of days ago, and now there's this one across The Gorge on the edge of a house construction site. I'm not sure if it's the same one; this one seems to have a bigger rack on it. Although there are lots of trees, shrubs and green space in this area, it is an urban area so I hope these deer are able to find their way back to a more suitable area before they become someone's hood ornament. And I hope we leave enough land undeveloped so they don't have to come wandering into urban areas looking for food.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 018

And soon after that we saw cormorants in a tree. One was posing in a very seasonal Hallowe'en style. Was he trying on his bat costume? Maybe he thought he should go as a cat this year and was trying his best to make himself look big.
Most likely he was just drying his wings. But they must have been very wet because he kept them outstretched like that for the entire time it took us to paddle by him.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 025

As we moved into Portage Inlet from The Gorge, we noticed how high the water was. We were on a flood tide, plus we'd just had a couple of days of monsoon rain. So conditions were right to try to paddle up Colquitz Creek.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 078
Richard and I pulled a little further ahead, but soon the way was blocked with brambles and bushes...
2009-10-18 The Gorge 086
...and since none of us had machetes handy, we headed back.
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Back in Portage Inlet, we found the swan family, two adults and three juveniles, enjoying the lovely morning.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 056 copy

With the water high, we decided to head to Craigflower Creek and see if we could get around the tree trunk and into the tunnel. We had tried a couple of months ago, but our big boats couldn't sneak through the narrow channel between the tree trunk and the shore. But it appeared that since then part of the bank collapsed just enough that we poke our way through. Richard made it through...
2009-10-18 The Gorge 109 did Louise.
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Then the tunnel awaited.
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It goes under the Trans Canada Highway just east of Helmcken Road. The highway is about six or seven lanes wide at this point.
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We made it through to the other side....
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...when Paula said that she saw a fish swim by. Louise saw one, too. I saw a splash. Oh crap, it's a salmon stream! Coho salmon were taking a break here before heading further upstream to spawn. We quickly turned around...
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....and headed back down the tunnel.
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As we paddled back towards the inlet, the surprise discovery of salmon in this stream (and it is a surprise -- 40 years ago The Gorge was so polluted you would rarely find any fish in it, let alone salmon) also solved another mystery we were seeing -- harbour seals. We'd seen four or five seals in The Gorge heading into Portage Inlet. Seeing the occasional seal in The Gorge is not unheard of, but Sunday it was almost like rush hour. We realized that they were chasing the salmon. In fact we saw a couple of seals splashing around hunting down some salmon on the far side of the inlet. No pictures, alas.
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2009-10-18 The Gorge
Trip Length: 16.11 km
YTD: 336.25
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.