Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ready For Our Close-Up

This morning, we arrived at the beach at Cadboro Bay and discovered that Bernie thinks he's the next Bryan Smith. Or maybe the next Michael Moore. Either way, Bernie had his video camera out and wanted to shoot footage of us unloading and getting our kayaks ready for launch. Brian's here too, despite having come down with Swine-Avian-Martian Flu. Or maybe just a bad cold. Brian, the crazy guy with the inflatable kayak/recumbent trike combo from our recent Gorge paddle, was going to paddle with us, but is skipping the paddle due to his cold; however, he is going to see us off and join us for coffee later.
2009-08-30 Cadboro to Willows 030

After watching us haul our kayaks to the beach (talk about exciting cinema!), Bernie positioned himself in the water and wanted us to paddle by him a few times. We kayaked past and he panned and tracked us.
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As we took up our positions for another run, I said, "I'm going to see how close I can get to Bernie's head." Tracy replied, "I thought the whole idea was to hit Bernie in the head." And she took off, taking dead aim. None of us actually hit Bernie, but I got as close as I could. Either Bernie is a very trusting cameraman, or he had no idea just how close I was planning to pass by him. Anyway, he lived, passed me the camera, and got out of the water and headed off for a coffee with Brian. I took some more shots as we paddled, and now Bernie has all the footage which he will no doubt use for some sort of nefarious purpose.

Finally we began the paddle proper. Louise, Tracy, Paula and I headed out under near calm conditions and sunny skies, although there was a large fog bank offshore obscuring Chatham and Discovery Islands, and that was just as well as none of us were feeling up to a crossing today anyway. We just wanted a nice noodle along the shore.
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There wasn't much to see at first, just a few seagulls and the occasional oystercatcher.
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Two weeks ago we were here and we couldn't paddle a metre without running over an otter (okay, that's a slight exaggeration), but today there's not an otter to be found. It is funny how one day you'll see a whole bunch of one animal and the next time you kayak in the same spot, there's none. It's like they all packed their bags and left to go to the next cove over or something. Did the the rent go up? Do otters pay rent? Did they get evicted for having too many late night parties? They otter have known better! (har har har)
The horizon was almost invisible at times....
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...but in close to shore the conditions were perfect.
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We paddled towards Willows Beach and Mary Tod Island, not seeing much of anything, expect for this determined-looking heron off Cattle Point. At Mary Tod, we headed out a bit towards the first bunch of small islands.
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And that's where the seals were hanging out. Big, fat, happy-looking seals.
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We drifted through the rocks and the seals seemed quite at ease with our passing armada. They must be quite used to humans in small boats. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
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We left the seals and headed back...
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...passing this person out enjoying his Hobie and talking on his cell phone. Aren't there laws against paddling and talking on your cell phone? Well, as long as he's calling someone back east and bragging about the glorious weather we've had this summer, I guess it'll be okay.
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2009-08-30 Cadboro to Willows
Trip length: 9.78 km
YTD: 279.03 km
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here

The Fat Paddler in Alaska

The Fat Paddler, currently kayaking up in Alaska, just posted a nice video of paddling around small bergs in a glacial inlet.
Check it out:

Follow his vids on YouTube here.

Art You Can Paddle

It's not everyday that Wired magazine runs a kayak review, but they recently posted a positive review of this Guillemot Petral kayak, noting that this hand-made old school wood and epoxy boat will probably last longer than its composite cousins.
And for a list price of over $20,000, it had better!

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

An Ordinary Day

Another ordinary day in Cadboro Bay today... I carried the Dragonfly inflatable down to the beach. Passed a family getting their kayaks ready by the parking lot.
Their son was young, about eight years old, and he had all his own gear: wetsuit, safety gear, and a kayak made for small people. It's great when the boat fits, eh?
I did my usual time on the water (out to Flower Island and back), seeing a couple seals but no otters today. Saw the family in the bay on my way back, near Stein Island. Looking good! Nice talking with you, Gary. And Nathaniel, wish your mother well on her Guide exam for me.

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Friday, August 28, 2009


I've been paddling the Advanced Elements Expedition for a couple months now. I've been trying it in different conditions and making notes for review. What a ride! It's been interesting getting people of different sizes to try this inflatable and talk about how it handles for them. Reading what other people write about their experiences is interesting, too, especially Lee Johnson's reports of paddling his Expedition 15 km or so at a time on various lakes. (Check out the forum at for Lee's posts!)
Lee took the time the other day to tell me that it's really not enough to review the Expedition in its stock condition. There's a modification that he thinks is well worth installing and writing about: the Backbone.
Advanced Elements sells these handy devices to provide a bit of a keel for a couple models of their inflatable kayaks. The Backbone has a shovel shape on each end, attached to take-apart rods rather like a take-apart paddle. There are different Backbones to fit the AdvancedFrame, the Expedition, the Convertible, and the Lagoon2.
I've been planning to buy a Backbone, but Lee said not to wait. He bought one for me (Thanks, Lee!) and had it sent.
So far, I gotta say it's worth it. Adding two pounds or so to the weight isn't a big problem for me when hauling around the Expedition in its bag with a pump and my PFD & safety gear. And having a keel does make this flat-bottomed inflatable ride with more glide. I'll be writing more about it soon, but first I gotta get hold of Lee and say thanks again.
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Scuba Kayaks

BARE Sportswear has come out with a kayak especially designed for scuba divers.
The rear of this 11'4" inflatable kayak features a tank cradle to hold your air tank as you paddle to your diving spot, and the bottom and rear decks are made from heavy-duty tarpaulin material to help withstand the abuse from equipment and nature.
It'll set you back about $500.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kelp Reef Adventures

My coworker and friend, Matt Stiegemeyer, is in this video this video made for Kelp Reef Adventures, operating on Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria, BC. It's always nice to put in a word for our fellow kayakers and local kayaking businesses, and it shows off our local paddling areas very well.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Mill Bay

Yesterday we headed to Mill Bay. This is new territory for Louise and I, but Paula and Bernie had a quick little paddle here at the beginning of the year. We put in under a sunny sky beside the handy boat ramp at the end of the aptly named Handy Road.
Mill Bay

Usually when someone says the beach is a minefield, they're are referring to piles of dog poop. (Unless they're talking about real minefields. And just why haven't the world's major powers signed onto the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines anyway? Shame on them. But I digress.)
The launch beach was a minefield of large red jellyfish. This fellow was about 30cm across, and probably would not have liked being stepped on.
We saw a lot of jellyfish in the water after we got going, mostly clear ones, and Louise found a nice red and got all the great jellyfish shots today.
2009-08-23 Mill Bay 002

It was just Louise, Paula and I today. Paula is trying a backbone in her Advanced Elements kayak that helps stiffen it to improve performance (insert your own dirty joke here). She said she felt a little faster and also sat higher out of the water, but she wasn't necessarially sure that the cost is equal to the benefit. More testing is required.
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Bernie unexpectedly lent me his video camera and it took a little while for me to get hang of it. For some reason it seems that I took a lot of footage of the inside of the camera bag. (I'll work on it this week and see if there's enough usable stuff to make a quick video out of it.) As I fiddled with the camcorder, we paddled through some of the clearest water we've seen in our local area.
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I love how the trees grow out over the water, making a canopy over the beach. Look how clear that water is.
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We were able to do something George Bush could never do: we found the remains of Saddam Hussein's nuclear arsenal. What it was doing here in Mill Bay is anyone's guess (although I'm sure Cheney and Rumsfled will say they knew the weapons were here the whole time).
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We didn't see much in the way of wildlife today. Just the occasional seal popping up. And this guy followed us for almost our entire paddle.
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Just a gorgeous day.
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Of course, as soon as we turned around to head back, the winds picked up and our flat calm became a little less flat.
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But we made it back to the beach.
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2009-08-23 Mill Bay
Trip Length: 10.31 km
YTD: 269.25 km
More photos are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

As mentioned, Bernie unexpectedly lent me his video camera. Justine Curgenven I ain't (which is probably just as well because I don't think any of her clothes will fit me), but I did put some of the pieces together and came up with this little video. Not bad for a first attempt by a total amateur!

When in Mill Bay, guests of Kayak Yak eat at Mill Bay 2-for-1 Pizza. Good food, good service, good price. Stop in for a slice.
2009-08-23 Mill Bay 030

Sunday, August 23, 2009

11 Photos taken at Mill Bay

Paula, John and I went up island today to Mill Bay to paddle. John and I have never kayaked in this area before but we had good reviews from Paula and Bernie who paddled here last January.

We launched from a rock beach just next to the boat launch and paddled along the shore commenting on the incredibly clear water.


As we headed around the point we viewed some nice houses. I though this one had a great name.

Wits  End

As soon as we went around the point, Paula started to look down into the water, seeing crabs, which I saw too but were gone before I could get a photo,


and clear jellyfish


After spotting the clear jellyfish and seeing a lot of them, Paula spotted a school of fish

Paula looking at jellyfish

and I spotted another jellyfish, much larger than the clear ones and more colourful.

red jellyfish

It was interesting watching this jellyfish move in the water. Rolling over and under.

red jellyfish

red jellyfish

It was almost as if it was posing for me.

red jellyfish

red jellyfish

We paddled on and one it was such a beautiful day and the water was calm.

Paula & John

At the approximately 5km mark on John's GPS we turned around and headed back. By this time pleasure boats were out and it was a bit choppy. My camera neck strap broke two weekends ago and I've noticed I'm not taking as many photographs. The camera is waterproof but I just don't have easy access to it anymore, especially in choppy water when I'm trying to paddle.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

George Monbiot Goes Kayaking

George Monbiot, author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning (which I can't recommend highly enough), has turned to kayaking in his latest column in The Guardian. It opens:
Kayaking saved me. Living in Oxford without a car, I felt throttled by the ring road, the city's concrete necklace. I was heartsick, dried up, deprived of nature. At weekends I'd explore the city's green spaces or cycle into the countryside, but I found only sterility: pasteurised parks, perfect rows of rape and wheat, woods picked clean by pheasants. Walking by a stream one day, I realised that the land might be dead but the water was alive. I bought an old kayak for a tenner and dragged it down to the Thames. As soon as I sat in it, I felt I belonged there.
And haven't we all felt like that?
Check out his column here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Kayak....

This past weekend, a pair of kayakers near Cape Cod got a more exciting paddle than they bargained for when they had an encounter with a great white shark.
A mortally wounded seal, bleeding heavily, broke the surface and headed straight towards them, trailed by a large black fin. At one point, the seal surfaced as close as five feet to their kayaks. They followed their pre-arranged shark plan and rafted up to make themselves look bigger, then paddled quickly away when the shark disappeared.
So all's well that ends all. Except for the seal, I suppose.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Most. Otters. Ever.

Monday morning, and Louise, Paula and I headed out for a quick jaunt around Cadboro Bay. A slightly overcast sky looked down on us, but the weatherman promised it would burn off over the course of the morning. Although calm here in the bay, the current was running through the channel and we only had a limited time to kayak today, so we were going to forgo a crossing to Chatham.
2009-08-17 Cadboro Bay 002

Why is it that some paddling days you see nothing but one certain kind of animal, let's say herons, and the next time it's nothing but seals? Not a complaint of course, variety is the spice of life. And nature-watching. At the start of our paddle, it looked like it was going to be a heron day.
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Then again, when we arrived at Flower Island, it looked like it might be an eagle day.
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We decided to go out to Jemmy Jones Island. As we arrived, we could feel the current pick up and see it racing on the far side between Jemmy Jones and Chatham. From there, we were going to head back to the mainland at Cattle Point. But before we headed back, I saw something splashing in the water ahead of me. Four little brown heads were bobbing up and down and staring at me with great interest. We'd found some otters.
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We've seen a lot of otters this year. In past years, we've barely caught a glimpse of any, but this year they are doing well and are everywhere. Today was looking more and more like an otter day.
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We crossed over to Cattle Point...
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...where I suggested that as we returned up the coast that we should hug the shoreline. It was a very low tide, and with all those fresh tidal pools and more rocky shoreline exposed than usual, I had a hunch that we might see more otters. Instead Paula and Louise drifted off-shore a bit, while I stayed in close. (They otter have known better.) Soon, I spotted another otter family enjoying the morning.
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As I paddled along, I also saw a couple of solo otters racing over the rocks. I watched one as it left the beach and climbed up a bluff and into a backyard. The heron looked on disapprovingly.
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I caught up to Louise and Paula and they decided to paddle with me along the shore. They weren't disappointed as soon we saw another otter family swimming. This group was leaving the water and scampering over rocks as we paddled by. We lost sight of them for a moment, but spotted them a moment later running up the large concrete backsteps of a multi-million dollar mansion. From there they disappeared somewhere on the patio. As we rounded the point near the entrance to Loon Bay, the otters scurried down the rocks on the other side of the property and back into the water. We watched them frolic from a safe distance.
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I didn't notice until I looked at my pictures later but they may have been doing more than just playing. I'm not sure what's going on here exactly, but one otter clearly has something in its mouth. My best guess is that he's got part of a crab shell. It's hard to tell what it is, but it looks like he was munching on something.
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A row boat paddled through the channel and the otters scattered, taking shelter in the rocky breakwater. We could hear them hiding in the rocks, and they knew all the channels through the breakwater. I saw them looking out on one side, and Louise saw them (and got some photos) on the other side.
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2009-08-17 Cadboro Bay

Trip Length: 7.92 km
YTD: 258.94
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

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