Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tierra Del Fuego Expedition Ends

Marcus Demuth and Biff Wruszek have cancelled their attempt to sea kayak around Tierra del Fuego.
Pinned down by high winds and rough seas for nearly two weeks and worried that they would run out of supplies, and facing horrendous sea conditions, they decided to end their expedition. Fortunately, they encountered "two (extremely rich) Irish fly fishermen in a privately charted helicopter" who flew them and most for their gear 100 miles to the nearest road. Their kayaks were left behind.
Check out their blog here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Words!

I was just re-reading Fatal Tide, the book by local writer David Leach on circumstances surrounding a kayaker's death in a sporting event. There's a striking moment in the book, where Leach describes a distress that is sometimes felt by Greenland kayakers when they are alone and out of sight of land. Sensory deprivation may be a factor in a sudden, awful feeling of doom. The person in the kayak may panic, flail, or wail, and it is possible that many people may have drowned at moments like this. when paddling alone. The panic and disorientation of this distress usually fades on seeing another paddler or shore, but it may return.
This upsetting event has been named kayakangst by Danish paddlers. The Inuit call this distress nangiarnaq -- to be afraid in dangerous places. It's clearly a feeling that can be related to panic attacks and anxiety disorders, or to some kinds of Meniere's syndrome and other conditions that affect the sense of balance. The closest I've come to this feeling has been over quickly: the spins and drop attacks that come from time to time since my hearing loss. Not something I'd wish on anybody!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Most Amazing Video You'll See Today

Courtesy of Adventure Kayak magazine, here's a video that reminds us that although many of nature's wild creatures can look small and cute and friendly and tame, they are indeed wild. In this clip, a kayaker gets taken a goose.
The goose takes him out of his boat and under the water. In four seconds. No, really.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rich, you dip

It was great when you called at the last minute for a paddle in Cadboro Bay on Saturday morning, Rich -- bright, warm weather with about 5 klicks of breeze made the day feel more like April than January. I was glad to have some time to practise my figure 8s when I got to the Gyro Park beach first. Thanks for putting my roller in your van, so I didn't have to take it apart and strap the frame onto the back deck of my Eliza. But next time, I'm going to put the wheels in my hatch and the frame on my deck because I ended up hanging around for over an hour and a half waiting for you to come back from wherever the current carried you!

We found that ebb current flowing mild but steady from Cadboro Point. It was a good day to head over there, look at Baynes Channel and decide instead to go to Jemmy Jones Island, where the current carried us at no more than about one klick. And when we came round Jemmy through the kelp bed, it was okay when you found the current and headed off with it while I headed back towards Flower Island and the shore.

Really, it was okay. I could see you riding down-current, you could see me, and the conditions were so good that either of us would have to have been hit by a meteor to be at any risk. And when I got to Flower, I watched your tiny figure disappear behind the light at Carolina Reef (where the current always picks up speed) and realized that you weren't coming back any time soon. Still, I hung around for half an hour before going back to the beach and landing.

The only time I didn't really feel okay about you heading off on the current was when I had to carry my kayak over the gravel... but I dragged it on the grass the rest of the way to the Beach House and got there just as Bernie was coming out to look for us on the shore. And I had plenty of time during another hour of putting my boat away, cleaning up and walking back to the shore twice, to remind myself that the weather conditions were great and you were probably okay just like the other times you've zipped off for half an hour or so.

I also had plenty of time to decide not to take your van engine's distributor cap off for a little trip to the coffee shop. In fact, I had just decided to go to Olive Olio's when I found Bernie at the shore during HIS second time of checking for you, and he said you were back & would meet us for coffee.

So my plan for future kayak outings is to carry my own damned roller even if it does stick up on my back deck, and not to call the Marine Rescue unless you are -- ooooh, about two hours overdue from your last sighting or message. And in the unhappy event that you ever do end up flipping in Enterprise Channel (something that I know you feel is very unlikely), let me express the earnest wish that you would, of course, survive in chilly good health after swimming to Harling Point or Foul Bay, but that your kayak would drift away to become a beach toy for the young elephant seals on Race Rocks.

Addendum on Feb 1st: Rich writes about his part of paddling on this bright winter day, at his own blog.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Freya In Victoria

I don't think she'll be paddling to get here, but Freya Hoffmeister, fresh off her one year long kayaking trip around Australia, will be here in Victoria as part of her West Coast speaking tour.
She'll be speaking at Ocean River Sports on February 12. Doors open at 7:00 pm, slideshow starts at 7:30. The event is hosted by the South Island Sea Kayaking Association. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

New paddle friends

It's always great getting out on the water on odd days. I may not go out to as many daring places as some people, but I do get a boat in the water some mornings or afternoons that aren't on the weekends! It's terrific and feels a bit wicked to be out in the wide world while so many people are stuck at responsibilities like jobs and so on. Well, I have a responsibility, too -- if I don't haul my kayak down to the water and paddle it around the bay, I'll end up too fat to fit in it and not fit enough to have any fun paddling.
Ran into Mike Jackson and his friend Dennis when they were launching, a hundred yards down the beach from the boat launch at Gyro Park. Ever so nice to cruise on along the shore and out past Flower Island to the point with some new company! The guys went on to cross Baynes Channel and go round the Chathams, while I turned back into the bay and went back to the beach.
Landing was a more crowded event than launching had been -- the new members of the University of Victoria Sailing Association were there. It was apparently time for a sailing lesson. Four of them were trundling out their zodiac and others were getting their small sailboats. As they rolled down the sandy launch ramp, the young fellows discovered that last night's storm had piled some small logs across their path. And now I was coming ashore.
"No problem," I said. "I'll be out of your way in a minute. Maybe one of you could help me carry my kayak up onto the grass, out of your way?"
And of course, one of the young men DID help me. He took the bow end, and started walking. But it seemed like a lot of strong people willing to help out, he didn't know what was going on behind him. Namely me, struggling over the driftwood.
"Hold on!" I called. "First lesson of carrying a boat with two people: the guy in front walks slowly, especially on uneven ground."
"Yeah," he said. "All this stuff is in our way for our rollers. Do the waves wash this stuff in every night?"
"Sometimes. Especially when there's a storm."
"It's hard for us to roll the boats over the logs!"
"Try it with a kayak on your shoulder!"
He laughed, and joined his friends clearing the small logs to make a path on the sandy slope. The waves will move the logs again and again in the future, and the sailors will have to learn how to move the logs without hurting themselves or tearing up the beach. But clearly, there's a willingness to learn here, which is good to see.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 Expeditions

Later this week, Hayley Shephard will be on her way south to get ready for her solo circumnavigation around South Georgia Island, hoping to become the first sea kayaker to complete the trip, as well as raising awareness of the plight of the albatross, one of the largest sea birds on the planet, whose numbers are dwindling and may soon become extinct. The paddle is about 500km long and in a very isolated place. South Georgia is in the very south Atlantic Ocean, sort of between the Falklands, Antarctica, and the middle of nowhere. Although born in New Zealand, she now calls Vancouver Island home and has lots of experience kayaking the BC west coast and in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. You can follow her progress on her main blog, and she's also got a gear blog.

Hayley's is not the only expedition that piqued my interest. In December of 2009, Jake Stachovak put in to the cold waters of the icy Wisconsin river and began his Portage to Portage Paddle, an 8000km paddle around the eastern United States via the Mississippi, the Gulf Coast, the eastern seaboard, the canals of New York and the Great Lakes.
He's had some good days (like the day he paddled 150 km), and some bad days (like New Year's Day when he was maced by teenagers), and it makes for great reading. And pictures.
Follow his blog here.

Another expedition that is under way is an expedition around Tierra Del Fuego in South America. They're on the water now, so their blog is not being updated very often at the moment, but you can follow their progress on their SPOT map.
Also passing through the same area is another expedition of three Argentine paddlers who hope to be the first kayakers to paddle the entire coast of Argentina. Check out their blog here.

Returning closer to home, Greg Kolodziejzyk continues to prepare for his July 1st launch from Tofino in a solo attempt to pedal his craft 4300 km from Vancouver Island to Hawaii. He's spending the winter at his home base in Calgary outfitting his boat and practicing simulations. Follow along on his blog, or on Facebook.

Later this 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.

Another Canadian expedition is Mathieu Jean's plan to paddle and portage 10,000 km around Québec and Labrador. He's planning to start from Trois-Rivières around April 1, depending when the ice melts in the St. Lawrence river. He believes he can cover about 6000 km this year as far as Ungava Bay in northern Québec before he gets hemmed in by ice. Next year, he'll return north to complete his trip. And as the western part of Québec does not have a coastline, the last leg of his journey will involve paddling rivers and portaging. I'm sure he's looking forward to that.
His blog is here, and Adventure Kayak magazine has an interview with him  here on their spiffy new website. Bonne chance, Mathieu!

And even closer to home, Joe O'Blenis continues his preperations for his Vancouver Island circumnavigation speed record attempt later this year. He hopes to paddle the 1150 km in under 17 days, and is planning a June 15 launch date. Follow his blog here.

Finally, there's the Kamchatka Project. This summer, seven whitewater kayakers are heading to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia not only to run the rivers, but also explore and this ecologically fragile and diverse area.
One of the paddlers is Bryan Smith, maker of the Eastern Horizons and Pacific Horizons kayaking DVDs. He hasn't been twiddling his thumbs waiting waiting for the Kamchatka expedition to start. He spent last year working on a new project called The Season. It's a 22 episode web-based show that follows five athletes -- a climber, a boulderer, a snow boarder, a mountain biker, and a kayaker -- through the course of a season. The trailer (embedded below) features some astonishing camera work and I'm looking forward to the finished series.
David Johnston over at Paddling Instructor has been covering The Season as well. Here is some more great footage from the project, as well as an interview with Bryan Smith.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

... getting about the ocean

If you'd like to see some serious mileage (kilometrege?) the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) project involves electronic tracking of sharks, tuna, turtles, albatrosses, etc, 23 species in all, as they roam up and down the west coast and the width of the Pacific ocean. Eg, a black-footed albatross tagged in July 2007 has logged 12073 miles since; a leatherback turtle has traveled 5366 miles in 13 months; a bluefin tuna has swum upwards of 45 000 miles since it was tagged around August 2002. The papers coming out of the project are being collected at Public Library of Science (PLoS).

No boat, no problem

Photos from last summer. I was innocently paddling up Lachine Canal on a sunny summer evening when I heard what I thought was a motor-boat coming up behind me on the other side of the canal. I shoulder-checked and ... Here is the photographic evidence to prove that some people won't let a minor detail like the lack of a boat stop them from getting out on the water ...

(I'm just sorry I didn't catch that second photo a couple of seconds before, at the moment of emergence.)

Cool Running

Our paddling friend Tracey passed these along, pictures of a li'l deuce coupe snowmobile. It was a viral email, so I can't pass on much more information, except that apparently "this is how WE snowmobile in the Peace country" (which is north-eastern British Columbia).
Now if only Current Design would offer those treads as an option....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sea Kayak With Gordon Brown

Lost in the holiday chaos of late December was the arrival of my copy of Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown. We invited some kayaking friends over just before Christmas for a viewing.
The film is really two films in one; Gordon taking a small expedition around some Scottish Islands is interspersed with Gordon giving some paddling lessons and explaining some of his technique. You can also watch the expedition and the lesson section separately as independent features.
Overall we enjoyed the film, particularly the travelogue portion. We found the lesson portion to be quite informative as well, perhaps a bit advanced for an absolute beginner but all paddlers should get something from the very cleanly filmed lesson segments. If there's any fault to be had it's that by splitting the focus of the film in two halves (the expedition and the lessons), neither half really seems to get the length and detail it deserves. We wanted more of each portion, and perhaps this could have been accomplished by intergrating some of the techniquewhich  was learned into the group paddle. On the other hand, if the audience is indeed wanting more, then it's a sure sign that the filmmakers have created a DVD that's worth revisiting again and again.
Besides, it does say Volume One on the perhaps a Volume Two at some point....?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Towing Workshop

Mike Jackson taught a SISKA workshop on Saturday, and gave us all some great practise in towing. Gear, knots, and techniques were all discussed for an hour on shore, then we hit the water in our kayaks for two hours.
Gotta say, a good coach, a good practice, and good paddle partners towing each other around!
And I learned something important. VERY important.
The next time I buy a commerically-made bit of rope gear -- such as the spare throw bag I picked up at deep discount in a (forgive me) Wal-Mart months ago and just started using this week after realizing my usual throw bag was worn threadbare and torn -- I solemnly resolve to pull the whole rope out of the thing and stuff it back in MYSELF before ever ever taking it on the water. And twice as solemnly, I resolve to check my rope gear again before going to a towing practice.
Why? Cuz I hadn't checked my rope, except to peek in the open end and see that there was, in fact, a rope in the throw bag. And when I pulled it out to start using it, the first twenty feet of the fifty feet of rope was fine. And so was the last thirty feet. And in the middle were several big slip knots and other knots. It took ages to untangle while people floated around nearby and wondered what was taking so long. AaaaAAaagh.
Y'see, my throw bag was sewn overseas, not made by North Water or another Canadian kayak gear company. I'm guessing that whoever sewed it together was really really bored. Serves me right for not checking.

Free Gratuitous Plug

Here's a free gratutous plug to our very own Paula whose interview is in today's Times-Colonist. She was not interviewed about kayaking but about her writing career. She published more books last year than any other UVic employee. Congrats, Paula!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Two and a half Volcanoes and more

What a clear morning Thursday the sixth was! Bernie was out before sunrise for a walk and came back to tell me that not only was Mount Rainier visible as the sky got bright, but a smaller cone beside it. It didn't take long to get into my gear and pump the rainwater out of my Eliza. There was the mountain that we can only see on really clear mornings or evenings, next to the end of the jagged line of the Olympics across the strait. And there was a smaller cone beside it, like a shoulder of the mountain. Neat!
Soon I was out by Evans Rock, where Mount Baker is visible, and looking back and forth from one volcano to the other. There was a bonus, too -- the whole line of the Cascades was visible too, in the gap between Ten Mile Point and the Chathams. What a jagged line of mountaintops that was, and one that's usually lost in the misty distance.
The good viewing made for an interesting morning's paddle, even as the breeze came up and I turned around. Bernie was walking along the shore, looking for me, as I came back to the beach.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

But Can You Fit It In Your Kayak?

Found on eBay: a Canon 5.2 metre lens.
Canon says: This is the only ultra-telephoto lens in the world capable of taking photographs of objects 18 to 32 miles away (30km to 52kms away). Having a focal length of 5200mm, Canon Mirror Lens 5200mm can obtain one hundred times as large an object image as that of a 50mm lens.
The asking price on eBay was apparently $45K, but it didn't sell. No wonder. You'd have to buy a new camera gear bag as well. The lens cap must be the size of a manhole cover. Can you imagine lugging this around...and a tripod??
Check out the video below to see what it can do.

Props to Bernie for passing this on!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

New Year's Baby

The morning of January 3 brought news of the largest New Year's baby in this area -- an orca calf  born to J Pod, one of the local resident groups of killer whales. (J Pod is also the name of a great Douglas Coupland novel that has nothing to do with whales. But I digress.)
The mother, J35, also known as Tahlequah, is young for an orca mother, only 12 years old. This makes six killer whales born to the three endangered southern resident pods in the last year, bringing the number of whales  up to 88, assuming all survived the winter. The mortality rate for killer whale calves is about 50%. The number of resident whales has been as low as 71 in the 1970s and as high as 97 in 1996, but is believed to normally have been around 120 historically.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


British photographer Duncan Merell shoots humpback whales off the coast of Alaska from his kayak.

The Guardian has a lovely little collection of his work.

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For the Trekkie Who Has Everything and Can Hold His Breath A Long Time....

One thing that escaped my notice over the holidays (but not the notice of David Johnston's Paddling Instructor blog or TrekToday) are these Star Trek-styled wet suits for the Trekkie who has everything and can hold his breath a really long time. These are the real McCoy (pardon the pun), actual working custom made wet suits available in 3mm, 5mm or 7mm thicknesses, and also available in the gold command colour, blue science colour, or the red engineering colour. They're made by JMJ Wetsuits and available to order at No word on whether water-proof pointed-ears are available.
If the Trekkie on your shopping list can't hold his breath for long, how about these scuba tank covers? Turn your tank into the secondary hull of your favourite starship! Also available at
This got me to wondering if there were any Star Trek connections to kayaking. Memory Alpha supplied the answer. It turns out that Miles O'Brien, Chief of Operations at Deep Space Nine, liked to relax by whitewater kayaking in Quark's holosuites. He dislocated his shoulder a number of times and Quark eventually told him that the kayaking program had "gone missing" to prevent further injuries. I guess no more paddling where no one has paddled before for him.