Friday, July 31, 2009

Plan R

The plan was to put in at Patricia Bay Park and kayak towards the north end of Saanich Peninsula. That was the plan.
But we had never put in here before and when we arrived we found that the tide was waaaaaay out further than we'd anticipated, and the path to the beach, though paved, was not particularly kayaker friendly.
Now, a lesson on the difference between theoretical and practical. Yes, theoretically it was possible for us to carry our kayaks down the couple of hundred metres of path to the steep and rocky stairs, carry our kayaks down those stairs, and then carry our kayaks over more hundreds of metres of squooshy tidal flats to get the ocean and launch. But practically, we're pretty lazy.
Thus endeth the lesson.
2009-07-31 Sidney 050
Louise, Alison and I all shared the same lack of enthusiasm for launching here, so we huddled to form Plan B. (Actually, it was more like Plan R by the time we agreed, but why bore you with the details of the negotiations.)
2009-07-31 Sidney 049
One good thing about this spot is that we were right under the landing approach for the main runway at Victoria airport. So if you like jet planes whizzing over your head, this is the place to be.
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2009-07-31 Sidney 044

On to Plan R, er, Plan B. We decided to launch from Tulista Park in Sidney. From there, we would head south down the coast and explore an area we hadn't kayaked before.
Sidny pano

We headed out under another sunny and warm day. The monster heat wave we've suffered through over the last week has eased off some, and the temperatures are down to more normal levels. (However, if you've grown accustomed to my complaints about the heat and worry that they might be gone for good, there is hope for you. The current long-range forecast shows the heat returning in about 12 days.)
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The usual assortment of critters were out: herons...
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...more herons...
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and the occasional eagle.
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We paddled against the flooding tide and the wind, but the wind would disappear for extended periods which allowed us to enjoy a few moments on an almost flat sea.
2009-07-31 Sidney 012

Eventually we had to turn around and the trip back turned into a bit of fun. With the current and wind behind us, our speed picked up and as we approached our landing site back at the park, we got into some really bouncy water.
2009-07-31 Sidney 016

It was a great paddle, the kind that would put a smile on anyone's face!
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2009-07-31 Sidney

Trip Length: 9.63 km
YTD: 201.73 km
More pics are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Whale Watching Rule Changes Proposed

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is proposing new rules for whale watching in Puget Sound. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans is also considering the same rule changes for Canadian waters.
Under consideration are proposals that would prohibit boats from getting closer than (180 metres) from endangered southern resident killer whales, and institute an 800 metre "no-go zone" for most boats along the west side of San Juan Island during the summer from May to September. Currently, boats must stay 100 metres away from whales, and boats should not be within 260 metres of the west side of San Juan Island if whales are in the area.
A spokesman for NOAA said said the idea behind the rule change is to protect the 85 southern resident killer whales from underwater noise.
According to the Victoria Times-Colonist, some whale-watching tour operators are shocked by news of the proposed changes. The paper quotes Shane Aggargaard, president of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, who said, "A lot of people are pretty shocked. It doubles the global standard for whale watching. It would be like doubling the speed limit on the freeway or cutting it in half." He added that the half-mile no-boat zone off San Juan Island would eliminate "six square miles of prime sports fishing and eliminate the kayaking industry."

A change of plans

The plan was to paddle Patricia Bay, and it was a good idea and we'd checked out possible launching places. Only when we arrived early this morning at 8am the water hadn't cooperated and it was a long long walk to get it. We decided to go to Sidney and the boat launch instead, but at $8.00 just to launch we parked at Tulista Park and rolled the kayaks to the launch, while Alison carried hers.


It was a beautiful day with some chop and some calm water too.


As we paddled along we spotted a few herons. This one stayed still, but we missed photographing one that flew right over John.


I spotted the eagle in the tree this time! This is the first time I've captured a few eagle shots as I normally can't zoom in close enough with my camera. John can and gets much better photographs of course.



The goal was to go to the spit but it never seemed to get closer. Reminding us of 15 minute island. Instead we decided to keep paddling until John told us we'd reached 5km on the GPS and then we would turn around. So we paddled into the sun.


Here's John checking the GPS as we now had to reach our 5km goal.


Just before we headed back I got these great photographs of Alison and John.

Alison up close

While taking this one of John I noted a neat reflection in his sunglasses.

John up close

A little zoom in....and I'm in the photograph too.

paddle in the glasses

Coming back we got to surf and going into the boat launch the waves were a bit choppy but all in all a really nice paddle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Alison's Great Idea

We are burning up.
Well, not quite. But we are in what some weather-watchers believe is the worst heat wave in these parts since records started being kept. It is brutally hot for BC. A high of 35c, but the humidity is making it feel like 40c here in Victoria. This is our fourth record-setting day in a row. Today was the hottest day ever recorded in Vancouver. I'm past melting; I've gone straight to sublimating.
It's strange that last December we had one of the worst cold snaps here in memory, and now we're having the worst heat wave in recent memory. Are these weather extremes a sign of things to come? Or worse, a sign of things that are already here?
With Alison's visit lasting just a few more days, we had wanted to do more kayaking this week but the extreme heat had thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the plans. We were planning to go to Saltspring Island today but the idea of driving in hot cars and taking a ferry only to end up somewhere hotter than here had only limited appeal even to the masochists among us. Then Alison said, "Why don't we go to Thetis Lake for a quick paddle, then spend some time practicing wet exits?" That's why we like Alison; she's so smart!

Of course, we weren't the only people who thought that a quick dip in the lake would help cool things off. The smaller beach at Thetis is a favourite spot for dogs to get a brief dip and drink while they hike around the park with their people. Today, the quicks dips were long cooling swims.
2009-07-29-Thetis Lake 001

Louise and I headed out while Alison and Paula, who arrived a few minutes later, geared up. Even though it was still early morning, we quickly found ourselves sticking to the shady potions of the lake as already the sun was bearing down on us and warming us up noticeably.
2009-07-29-Thetis Lake 003

We also did our bit to help clean up the lake. Someone enjoyed their new inflatable raft but threw the box behind some rocks....
2009-07-29-Thetis Lake 005
...while Paula either pulled a bottle of cider and a Heineken can out the lake, or was starting her daily drinking binge early and wasn't ashamed about it at all.
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We saw a heron basking in the sun...
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...while this eagle seemed to be enjoying the shade.
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Then the fun began. After all, the real point today was to get in the lake and cool off. We have not practiced enough lately, so it was good to get in the water to try our rescues, and we were all quite pleased that they went so well. First, Alison did a paddle float rescue. The only causality was a lost sponge. (I thought it was Scottish slang for when someone does something daft. "Ach! Have you lost your sponge?" If it isn't, it ought to be. I'm starting a campaign to see that this phrase enters common usage.)
2009-07-29-Thetis Lake 043

Louise has had trouble re-entering her boat in the past using the paddle float rescue, so she bought herself a stirrup and gave it a try today. That worked well for her and she was able to get back in no problem. Then she tried a cowboy re-entry.
2009-07-29-Thetis Lake 040
She started too far back, and the paddle float was in the way, so the first attempt didn't work so well. But this is why we practice, right? A couple of adjustments to her technique and she was in!

Then Alison decided to stand up and applaud Louise's efforts. And she did!
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Then it was my turn, and I went for a few dunks and re-entries.
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But even after all the dunking, we still needed to cool off. Off to the Quik-E-Mart for Squishies!
2009-07-29-Thetis Lake 059

Trip length: 5.01 km
YTD: 192.10
More photos are here.

Meet the New SPOT

Later this year, the folks behind the SPOT GPS Messenger will release a new version. The new model is expected to be 30% smaller and lighter, will offer more custom message modes and updated transmission and tracking performance.
It will also feature a protective cover over the "Help" and "SOS" buttons to prevent accidental signalling (which makes me wonder just how many inadvertent rescue missions have been launched).
Perhaps most important of all, it will now come in two colours: orange and silver.
But seriously folks, the SPOT is a great piece of gear to have. We have two in our group and use them all the time -- they work great!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Evolution in Action

We've posted clips of sea kayaking, snow kayaking, bungee kayaking, sky-diving kayaking and even stair kayaking. Now the latest: stair kayaking in a building. Darwin would be proud.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's Déjà Vu All Over Again

It's official. Environment Canada's definition of a heatwave apparently is five days in a row of heat above 30C, and we are smack dab in the middle of one. It's blisteringly hot today. I'm building up a sweat just typing this blog. And it's very humid.
We decided for a quick paddle up the Gorge today. Louise and I were bushed after hosting a yard sale yesterday in the baking heat. We did pretty well though, got rid of some old paddles and PFDs and some other gear. After the sale, we stayed out too late watching Star Trek at the IMAX. So we were pretty beat. I don't do well in the heat, so we just wanted to do a quickie paddle today before it became unbearable out there.
2009-07-26-The Gorge 028

We were joined by Paula and her paddling neighbour Khaled. It's an eclectic group of kayaks today. Louise and I were in our Deltas, while Paula took her Advanced Elements Expedition on the bus to join us, while Khaled was in his Pelican rec boat.
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This home-made canoe caught my eye.
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After we passed under the Admirals Road bridge....
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...we caught up with the swans.
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This person came out of their dock to feed them. If this pictures looks familiar, it's because we saw him feed last years crop of baby swans off the same dock.
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We found some more of those gelatinous egg-sack things we often see....
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...and a flock of one-legged geese.
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We're hoping for a few more paddles this week, it all depends on the heat.
2009-07-26 The Gorge

Trip Length: 8.67 km
YTD: 187.09
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

This Is Really Cool

Earth Pub, the Discovery Channel's Global Science Blog, has a great little story by Kieran Mulvaney about a recent expedition to the Petermann Glacier in Greenland. Scientists, worried that the glacier might be on the verge of breaking up, wanted to deploy a special ice-penetrating radar to examine the glacier's interior.
The scientists brought along everything they could think of to drag the radar across the ice -- including snowmobiles and kites -- however the ice was in much worse shape than they'd imagined. Pitted and worn, the melting ice had formed melt lakes and whirlpools, and large cracks had filled with water to form long rivers of crystal-clear ice water.
So then the kayaks came out. Stringing out the radar between them, three kayaks made a 25km trek down the glacier gathering data, the initial results of which seem to indicate that the ice is thinner than the scientists were expecting.
And that's bad news. But if you're going to get bad news, you might as well do something fun to get it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


We've had another stretch of hot lawn-baking sunshine. Brown: it's the new green. Although it cooled off a bit today and is expected to cool further over the coming week, the current forecast high for next Sunday is 34c, about 11c above the normal high temperature. We'll be cooking, if we can trust the weather guru's often dubious prognostications.
This hot weather marks the temporary return of our kayaking comrade Alison, here visiting family, friends and her kayak from her current home (and the city where I was born) Montréal. [insert shameless plug here: buy her new novel!]
We put in this morning at Telegraph Bay.
Telegraph Bay

Before we removed our kayaks from our vehicles, we watched a pair of otters scrambling over the low tide rocks...
2009-07-19-Telegraph Bay 016
...while on the other side of the small bay, this heron kept watch on the proceedings.
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It was Alison, Louise, Paula and myself today. I mentioned that the cool people were all paddling red kayaks this year. Reds are in this year, said Alison. Paula argued that she was almost a red with her pink kayak.
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As we made our way north-ish from Telegraph Bay, we saw quite a variety of animal life. This is the third deer we saw up on the bluffs. We saw two others earlier, both being tailed by a small black cat. No pictures, alas.
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We turned around and headed back at Mount Douglas Park, where we saw this eagle.
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Just south of the park, our curiosity was raised by this concrete wall. Paula said it was a salt water swimming pool. The pool fills up at high tide, allowing people to take a swim in it. She said she remembered walking to this pool from Mount Douglas Park and swimming in it as a child. She offered that if we were to put in, she'd jump into it for a quick dip for a picture.
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We put in and clambered over to rocks to find that the pool was indeed full of water.
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It was also full of green stuff and algae. Paula quickly reconsidered her offer to swim in it, much to Alison's amusement. Continuing our paddle, we noticed two or three other salt water pools like this one, although none were as big.
2009-07-19-Telegraph Bay 067

We also noticed this small room built into the side of a cliff. Paula and Alison immdiately said it would make a great writing room, and they're so right. It's how I imagine a writing room to be: a small private and secluded space, with a great view and a cat in the window....
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....although generally I imagine the cat to be inside the window.
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We saw a little bit of everything today: two eagles, two otters, a heron, jumping fish, three deer, a few seals, two air force jets and two pussy cats. It just doesn't get much better.
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2009-07-19 Telegraph Bay

Trip length: 11.61 km
YTD: 178.42 km
My pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

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