Saturday, February 28, 2009

Kayaks for Review!

Two kayaks have just arrived for review, and I'm so excited to be trying them out. Advanced Elements makes the best inflatable kayaks I've seen. You can see them at advancedelements.com and decide for yourself. Try them out at Paddlefest in Ladysmith this May or Victoria this June and see what you think. They've got three different lines of products, and with these two samples I've got one from each line.
The Dragonfly that can be seen in several photos on the Kayakyak site is one of their most popular boats. With a few changes, the new model is called the Lagoon. It's a bit like an inflatable dinghy in a rec kayak-shaped bag, 8'4" long, very manoeuvrable and easy to handle.
The AdvancedFrame line is different. This is more like a folding kayak with inflation chambers instead of wood or metal rods. Our friend Dennis paddles the 10.5 foot version. I've just received the 13 foot Expedition version, and am itching to see how it handles for various sizes of paddler. Our group has one of just about every size of person, so we'll each take a turn.
The second kayak that arrived for review is the StraitEdge2, a sit-on-top that adjusts for one or two paddlers. This is the first sit-on-top in our paddle group's fleet, and it rides very differently from what we're used to handling. If sitting in my Eliza feels like wearing a well-fitted hiking boot, the first outing in this felt like borrowing my husband's shoes. Notes are being made!
There will be photos as well. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Just Around the Corner

Yep, it's February all over. Even the sunny days are pretty chill. So on Saturday the 21st, when Richard and I went paddling, I just had a short trip while he did a second, longer loop before going back to shore.
Launching at Gyro Park is easy for me, with the wheels to roll my Eliza from the house down to the water. Lucky for me, Rich was willing to meet me there instead of at a new beach, and lately, he's been ready at a moment's notice to go kayaking because he's been keeping his boat on the roof of his van.
The tide was just ebbing from high, so there was no current to speak of. Out we went, past Flower and over to look at Cadboro Point. There was a bit of a breeze over the calm water that picked up as we got closer to the point, and through the gaps in the rock we could see chop and whitecaps on the other side. Amazing how one side of a point will have such different conditions from the other side...
Turning around, we went towards Jemmy Jones Island until the chop got me unsettled. Back towards Flower Island, then, no seals or otters in sight, though I saw both earlier that week. That's where we split up, so I could get back to shore before getting chilled and Richard could do another loop and get a good workout.
It was a good moment to get back to the beach, by the way -- saw my neighbour who gets on the water 200 days a year, in his kayak or on his paddleboard. The evening before, Friday, he'd been on the paddleboard out by the Chathams and surprised a male Stellar's sea lion. "Yep, the heart monitor was showing my heart rate at a steady 120 beats per minute until I saw him," he reported. "Then it spiked up to 170." No kidding -- bull sea lions are 18 to 20 feet long! Now he was on his way in his kayak with a camera to see if he could get a picture. What a man, what a man...
After Rich got back to shore, there was coffee, there was hot cocoa and hommous at Olive Olio's, there was sundry scanning of Volume one of the BC Atlas for Coastal Recreation Kayaking and Small Boats and various plans for attending Ladysmith's Paddlefest and doing some day trips around Nanaimo, but that was all after the fact. Getting on the water was what mattered, out under the bright blue-and-white bowl of the sky.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Babies

After losing 7 members last year, the local orca pods have two new babies this spring. One was born to J Pod, the other to L Pod and they bring the population of the endangered local resident group to 85. However, one adult male, 31 year-old L57, hasn't been spotted yet this year and is missing.
The new orca calves were first spotted off Victoria on February 6, then off Nanaimo a few days later, and were probably born sometime in January. It's unusual for the resident pods to be in the local waters at this time of year. Also unusual is that all three pods J, K and L are wintering together.  Usually they winter independently off California, so their early return suggests to some researchers that they are following a food source, probably chinook salmon. Salmon stocks are dropping, raising fears that the local resident orcas, already endangered, could be facing starvation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Marina Follow-Up Follow-Up

The Victoria Times-Colonist has a story today about the proposed marina for mega-yachts in the harbour and tonight's public hearing here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Paddling to be Banned From Esquimalt Lagoon?

According to this story by the Victoria Times-Colonist, The Canadian Wildlife Service in co-operation with Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative is considering banning paddlers from Esquimalt Lagoon. While officials are saying they won't ban all paddling in the lagoon, they want to restrict paddling in the north and south ends of the lagoon. Since the entrance into the lagoon is at south end, this will result in canoes and kayaks not being able to paddle into and out of the lagoon, although presumably one would still be able to launch from the shore as long as one avoids the "off limits" areas.
The Esquimalt Lagoon Migratory Bird Sanctuary has been in existence since the 1930s. Check out some of our paddles at the Lagoon here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Marina Follow-Up

As noted earlier today by Paula, a large marina for luxury mega-yachts has been proposed for Victoria's harbour. According to an article in Monday magazine, it will moor up to 50 yachts anywhere in length from 65 to 135 feet, and will cover an area of 6.4 acres.(You can view plans for the marina at their website here.)
The South Island Sea Kayaking Association has already spoken out against the project with this letter to Transport Canada, and the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club will be sending a delegation to Tuesday's Public Meeting. Brian Henry of Ocean River Sports has also sent a letter opposing the mega-yacht marina.
To me, this proposal seems wrong-headed for a number of reasons. First, as a kayaker an increase in marine traffic makes it harder for kayakers and other paddlers to enjoy the harbour. It takes a large chunk of what is now public waterfront and makes it private.
As a business plan, it doesn't make any sense to me. We are past peak oil. Surely the price of oil is only going to go up as worldwide demand increases and supply falls, and any tourism-based enterprise that depends on the use of gasoline as its only source of getting tourists to come (and therefore to earn revenue) is going to struggle in the future.
And thirdly, mega-yachts have large carbon footprints. We can't continue to embrace projects that will speed up the process of climate change.
This is a bad idea. See you at the public hearing on Tuesday.

New Large Marina Proposed

Hey, kayakers and boaters in the Greater Victoria area!
Have you heard about the proposed new Marina in Victoria's Outer Harbour, near West Bay Marina? There's been very little buzz about it except rumours that it would be *very* large. There's a public meeting happening Tuesday evening at City Hall, so That's The Place To Be. Also, this week's Monday Magazine carries an article, available at www.mondaymag.com.

Denise Savoie MP and the Victoria West Community Association invite you to attend a PUBLIC MEETING to review and comment on a MEGA-YACHT MARINA proposed for Victoria Harbour
Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 7:00 p.m.
Victoria City Hall
information (250) 382-3378

Eastern Horizons Available for Pre-Order

Bryan Smith's new sea kayaking DVD Eastern Horizons is now available for pre-order here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My New Ride

I'm thinking that I need a new vehicle to transport my kayak to launching sites. This looks like it may fit the bill as it does have a long roof line to support my Delta 18.5....

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Kayaking Rivers Affected by Regulation Changes

Dunno where YOU paddle, but many of the places I go in my kayak are shallow enough that big yachts can't fit, but a boat with a three foot draft can go there. That's a basic definition for "navigable waters" in Canada. There are regulations governing what kind of works can be built affecting these waters: bridges, watergates, etc.

The regulations are being re-written by the Canadian conservative government. The news is not good. Small rivers where boats with three foot draft can go are to be considered "minor" and exempt from protection from random construction of "minor works" like bridges.

I learned of this from Jim Miller, of Werner Paddles at wernerpaddlesblog.com/ -- he wrote:

I was alerted about this through our good friend, David Johnson, who blogs at paddlinginstructor.com. Navigation rights are under attack in Canada. Read on and then take action...

Here is a broadcast email:

Hello:

This is a broadcast email from the Canadian Rivers Network.

We remain concerned about the Harper government's intentions to gut the Navigable Waters Protection Act and exempt thousands of waters from the provisions of the act by calling them "minor waters" and by exempting "minor works" from the provisions of the act.

Our position is:

- there is no such thing as a minor water in Canada
- there is no such thing as a minor work on a waterway in Canada
- you cannot save the economy by gutting Canada's environmental laws


Please review this material and help any way you can:

1) Distribute this information through your networks.

2) Encourage your contacts to visit our website, sign the petition we have posted there, and review the information we have available on this issue.

3) Act and encourage others to act by initiating efforts to inform politicians at every level that navigation rights and environmental laws in Canada should not be tinkered with under the guise of helping the economy.

4) If you are a member of an organization that wants to be publicly listed as a supporter of the Canadian Rivers Network, let us know by sending us an email with the name of your organization, and contact information for a designated representative.

5) Speak the media about the NWPA issue at whatever level you can, local, regional, proviincial or national.

6) Let us know if you have the name of anyone who is qualified and willing to speak to the national media on behalf of the Canadian Rivers Network.

Please let us know if you require any additional information or assistance.

_______________________________
Canadian Rivers Network
www.ispeakforcanadianrivers.ca

Check out I Speak for Canadian Rivers to learn more and take action.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Big, Fat, Hairy Seal

Yes, as the Times-Colonist newspaper and John reported, there is an elephant seal on the beach at Gyro Park, Cadboro Bay. Yes, it is moulting and shedding its fur and outer skin.
There are a lot of people looking at it, and coming rather too near. If you do go see it, the seal is near the big concrete storm drain outfall. Don't get closer than a couple of yards, and tell anyone you see getting too close that they should NOT scare the elephant seal. And for pity's sake, keep your dog on a leash and away from the seal!!
The National Geographic website has some information on elephant seals at http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/elephant-seal.html
I'm sure glad that elephant seals seem to ignore kayaks most of the time when they're in the water near a kayak... and when they're on shore, they're pretty easy to see around here if they move. You'd be surprised how hard they can be to see, though. Check out John's photos here on Kayak Yak of harbour seals -- they can appear many different colours from white through russet to black when wet or dry. The sea lion he photographed near Albert Head was hard to tell from a beach log till it raised its head.
This fella yawned and showed a nice, wolf-like set of teeth. But it was just a yawn. Gotta say, nice to look at him. (The newspaper said it was a male, but if so he's pretty young, not a big 4-metre galoot like the one that washed up in Nanaimo Harbour recently.)
So the beach has a new sunbather lolling and dozing, a bit bigger than most sunbathers usually seen here, and WAY bigger than the harbour seals that cruise along the beach in the early morning. As my brother Karl said of another elephant seal that moulted at the Kinsmen Gorge beach a few years ago, it looks like it would really like to have its tummy scratched. But we're not supposed to touch it, and luckily the people watching it stayed at least a metre back.
I took several photos on my cell phone, but they don't seem any better than the one John found in the Times-Colonist.
I keep saying that Cadboro Bay is a terrific place to take a kayak, and see some wildlife. Sure enough, even elephant seals pop in to visit now and then.

Speaking of Seals....

Following up on Sunday's story of the baby elephant seal being born at Race Rocks, today's Times-Colonist reports that another seal has beached itself to moult, this time at our prime kayaking launching spot at Cadboro Bay.
This is the third seal to come ashore and moult in the city this month, which is highly unusual for this area, as seals usually moult further south.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Baby Seal Born at Race Rocks

A baby elephant seal was born a few days ago at the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve near Victoria. It has been dubbed Ninene by workers at the reserve and is believed to be the first elephant seal born there. It may even be the most northerly birth of an elephant seal ever recorded. According to the Victoria Times-Colonist:
“This area has long been a place where elephant seals come but we’ve never seen anything like this,” said Garry Fletcher, a volunteer warden who also manages racerocks.com. “The babies are usually born in Baja, California, not this far north.”
This isn't the first elephant seal to make the news in these parts recently. In early January, a young elephant seal settled in a roadside ditch to moult in an upscale Oak Bay neighbourhood, and in November the body of an enormous elephant seal washed ashore near Nanaimo. It weighed 2700 kilograms and was over four metres long, and this particular species had never been seen in the Georgia Strait basin before.