Saturday, March 07, 2009

Rally at Songhees

Well, the weather blew, it shone and it snowed. And that was before Bernie and I went on the water.
We turned up this afternoon at Ocean River's dock on the Upper Harbour for the rally against the proposed marina for mega-yachts in the Inner Harbour. Yes, Victoria's harbour has a confusing series of names, starting with the Outer Harbour, the Inner Harbour, the Upper Harbour and on through the Selkirk Water and the Gorge to Portage Inlet (which is an odd thing to call a tidal salt-water lake). But I digress.
When Ocean River put out the call to their e-mailing list about the rally, the note included a promise that rental kayaks would be available at no charge for those attending the rally. This was a terrific offer -- I'd recommend that anyone planning to rent a kayak consider renting from Ocean River as a "thank you!" for these free rentals. I booked a double right away, figuring Bernie and Lila would use it and I'd follow along in an inflatable.
But as Bernie and I hopped off the bus and trudged along with two knapsacks full of paddle gear for us and Lila (and the Dragonfly trundling along as well) we felt a distinct chill and a stiff breeze. "Let's go down this way, close to the bridge" Bernie said, "and get a look at the water before we get to Ocean River." We could see whitecaps off our launch beach at Songhees.
Lila doesn't paddle often, and was allowed to back out of paddling this windy day. She became our ground crew instead, guarding the packs and inflatable at a Chinatown restaurant. "No, Mom, you can't take your little boat out there," she insisted. "It will be a balloon." It's so nice when kids grow up and start looking after you...
The Upper Harbour was pretty well sheltered, behind Songhees Point, but it was still choppy. Bernie said the wind was gusting to 40 klicks. We geared up and launched the big Libra XT double, which we'd never tried before. That made today a boat demo as well. It's always interesting to try a new model, and this one had never been rented before.
I don't know if we'll try it again, either. Maybe on a calm day. But it sure wasn't the boat for us on this windy day -- it felt like we were trying to paddle one of the container ships we see going through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Libra XT has a big deck humped high between the paddlers. It felt like it caught every gust of wind.
We couldn't turn that barge for love nor money till the wind faltered for a moment. The Libra came around slowly and reluctantly. It was all we could do to keep from being blown onto the rocky shoreline. When the Libra returned to its dock below Ocean River, we took that as a sign and got out.
So, out of the two dozen or so kayaks we saw gathering for the rally, our part was an abbreviated one, taking in about two hundred yards of conditions we would have enjoyed in our own boats but just couldn't take in this one. I feel like such a jam tart, when others were sporting in the waves and all; but I did hear one paddler in a surf ski comment to her friend about how careful she was being in these conditions.
We weren't the only paddlers who had a brief participation in the water part of the rally. One of the people launching flipped his rental kayak about ten feet off the dock and wet exited. His dignity was harmed more than anything else. Of course it was the only guy wearing blue jeans! But he scrambled onto the dock and was helped into the boatshed immediately, out of the wind.
Mike Jackson has written about the rally as well, on his blog so go there and see the viewpoint of a paddler who actually showed up in his boat as planned.
What a day for a rally scheduled to be on the water! And what better way to celebrate International Women's Day as well, than at a rally speaking out for the environmentally-sustainable use of our Inner Harbour?

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