Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Survey Says.....

Just how (un)popular is the mega-yacht marina proposed for Victoria's Inner Harbour? I haven't seen any actual polling data, but over the weekend a local radio station ran an online poll on the issue on their website. The results? 77% of CFAX radio listeners who could be roused away from their radios and were inclined to find a computer, log on, go to the website and actually bother to vote were against the marina.
Of course this was a totally unscientific poll, which may explain my slight facetiousness, but one would think it ought to give a general indication of the poll subject's popularity, which in the case of the marina looks somewhere between slim and none.
Click here to join the fight against the marina, and click here for info on the April 17 Harbour vigil.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sisters Find That Drying Out Electronics Is Their Bag

Received in the latest Sweetspot e-newsletter I found this item and was intrigued. Two sisters invented this bag to dry out electronics, such as cell phones and cameras.  Their full story is found at the website: Sisters Find That Drying Out Electronics Is Their Bag  Might be something to throw in the dry bag.

Cursing the Weather Gods

So every year, Louise and I generally take a week off around Easter. No particular reason except that as a four-day long weekend, those two statutory holidays over Easter give you some extra bang for your vacation hours buck, and generally Spring has sprung by this time and we can get a few days of kayaking in. So this year, we're taking April 2 - April 11 off work.
Check out the forecast.
Yes, that's right.
Rain is forecast for every day.
Every day.
Except for the 10th when it might snow.
The smarty-pants among you may have noticed that the forecast for the 11th isn't looking too bad, and I know that you're thinking Quit being a whiner, John. At least you'll get one decent day for paddling. Except of course, that we have already made plans for the 11th. And they are indoor plans. No doubt this is why the weather gods are planning to make that the first day with sunshine in over a week. No doubt they're having a good chuckle about it, too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Otter Talk

Another press release just came my way from the Capital Regional District. I think local kayakers and small boat enthusiasts will be interested in this talk on river otters. Here's the word:

Gorge Waterway Initiative Sponsors
Free River Otters on the Gorge Talk
Victoria, BC –
Join Cait Nelson, a UBC graduate student, who will speak about the ecology, home range, habitat use and contaminant exposure in otters of the Gorge and Victoria area. This presentation is part of the Speakers Series sponsored by the Gorge Waterway Initiative (GWI). Residents can learn more about the life of river otters and how we can strive to make their lives safer in our local communities.
“River Otters on the Gorge,” a free public talk
Date: Wednesday, March 31
Time: 7:30 - 9:00 pm
Place: Burnside Gorge Community Centre, 471 Cecelia Road.
Refreshments will be served.
GWI is working to create and promote education, stewardship and awareness of programs, while encouraging wise use of land and water resources. GWI is a collaboration of community and local government organizations with an active interest in the Gorge Waterway, Portage Inlet and surrounding watersheds.
- 30 -
For further information please contact:
Jody Watson, Gorge Waterway Initiative

Monday, March 22, 2010

Save Our Harbour Vigil - April 17th

Happy Equinox to all!
The latest word on the debate over the proposed marina in Victoria's Harbour has come to my e-mail inbox from SISKA, the South Island Sea Kayaking Association. I'll copy here the notice that Glynis Newman sent out to her mailing list:

** Save Our Harbour Vigil- April 17th**
Come join other kayakers, paddlers on the water and landlubbers on shore at the Songhees on April 17th!
We are having a rally to show the Federal and Provincial ministers and the Mayor and Council of the City of Victoria making the decisions about the proposed Mega Yacht marina on the north shore of Victoria Harbour that we have concerns.
This event is being organized by a coalition of concerned groups, businesses, paddling and kayak clubs as well as individuals concerned about the lack of transparency around the decision making on this issue. SISKA has concerns around safety, access to public waters as well as some potential environmental issues.
Join us in your kayak or on land. Bring family and friends, workmates and neighbours...anyone with concerns around this proposed marina. The land people will meet in front of the Songhees.
Meet OTW at 10:00 am at the bottom of Jutland Parade or OTW at 10:30 am at Ocean River Sports docks. The “procession”of non-powered vessels, with the larger boats (Dragon, OC6's, canoes) leading the way around to the proposed marina site, leaves ORS at 10:45 am. These big boats will form a perimeter at buoys outlining the proposed marina footprint. The smaller craft will follow and fill inside that footprint.
There are plans for lots of land people, politicians and media.
Plan B if too windy...the marker buoys will go out. The large boats will not go, but any smaller craft can go if deemed safe. Otherwise some smaller boats can paddle to the totem pole beach as done last year at the Paddlers Rally. It is just as important to have people on land, so if too windy to kayak, wear your PFD and bring your paddle to the land part of the Vigil.
If you have any questions or if you wish to volunteer on the day please contact Jennie Sutton, Chair of Save Our Harbour Vigil at 250-592-6434 or email at jls50@shaw.ca
Watch the SISKA website for more details!

I Want to Kayak Here

And where's here exactly?
This is a radar image of a coastline on a sea of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The image covers an area of about 160 km by 270 km and was taken by NASA's Cassini probe that has been orbiting Saturn since 2004.
Look at the coastline -- the islands, the channels, the fjords! What a great-looking kayaking destination!
Mind you, you'll be paddling on a sea of liquid methane and ethane, so dress really warmly.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Very Fast Morning

Paula and I were out on the Sooke River this morning, finding it very fast and very full. Water was cold, but it was a gorgeous morning. Really, all you need to know is in the video--I filmed it standing next to a dead-fall in the rapids, trying not to fall over. It may not look like it, but Paula was having a blast. We both ran this stretch using her Advanced Elements Dragonfly, and had no troubles with the water at all.

I Have A Cunning Plan

Yes, it's that time of the year, when we graciously open up our hearts and our wallets -- mostly our wallets -- and attend the twice yearly ritual that is the Ocean River Gear Up Sale, held as always in the luxurious Tent In The Parking Lot Across The Street.

Louise and I were the very first people in line.
This year, I was determined to get a new paddle. I had a cunning plan. I would enter first, head right towards the Delta Kayaks tent, feint left towards the Current Design kayaks, roll under the Icebreaker table and would then be well-placed for an assault on the Werner Paddles. Louise would follow right behind me. She would create a distraction by falling down and shouting, "Oh my leg! It's broken! Is there a lawyer here?" This would allow me enough time to have the paddles to myself for a few moments to find a good one.
Did my plan work?
From the grin on my face, I think you can tell.

After that initial rush, we picked over the Icebreaker table at a slightly more relaxed pace, then hung out a bit with Mark from Delta Kayaks.

Richard was here today as well, and he did his yearly clothes shopping.
Paula and Bernie were planning to go kayaking down the Sooke River this morning, so hopefully they'll post some pictures later today (hint, hint).

Now it's time to start saving money. After all, the Ocean River Fall Sale is only six months away!

Friday, March 19, 2010


Sure, we've all seen this before. The combination of two sports into one more exciting/crazier/stupider one. But what I like here is the lake landing at the end of it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

While Others Were At Work

Tuesday morning was a good time around here -- Bernie and I pulled out a couple of kayaks and went out on the water with our neighbour Curtis. His little Loon 100 was well-matched to Bernie's Pamlico 100, and I wasn't trying to set any speed records with my Eliza.
The forecast was for 25 knot winds coming from the southeast, but there was no breeze until we left Cadboro Bay just past Loon Bay. We crossed from the Uplands side over to Flower Island, then hopped out to Jemmy Jones Island.
It was close to low tide slack, but we still found a little bit of current playing round Jemmy Jones. There was almost no kelp visible... well, come June there should be lots of it there! I hear the stuff grows like a foot or more a day in June. Gonna get some kelp then for Bernie to make more pickles and relish.
But this morning, under grey overcast, we simply enjoyed the slight flow current as we went towards Cadboro Point. The breeze suddenly came up to about 10 knots, and Bernie was abruptly reminded that he wasn't wearing neoprene. Time to turn around!
A cheerful conversation all the way out and all the way back to the beach at Gyro Park, where Curtis took my Eliza out for a quick loop. Now he's planning to try out several kayaks at the MEC Paddlefest in June at Cadboro Bay, to see which he likes best.

addendum: he came by Tuesday evening to say that his family is travelling for a few days, and to ask if we could baby-sit his daughter's new ant farm. So now we're ant-sitting. The little plastic container is sitting on a dresser in the other room, and I'm carefully not thinking about earthquakes and escaping ants.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stepping Stones of Ungava and Labrador

So here's something that I didn't know. The only place in North America where the Nazis landed in WWII was Hutton Peninsula in Labrador. Here, on October 22, 1943, a crew from U-537, a German submarine, landed and constructed a secret automated weather station. Since weather generally moves west to east across the Atlantic, the British received accurate weather forecasts from their Allies in Canada and the United States. Germany wanted the same weather reports and planned to place a series of clandestine automated weather stations along the Labrador coast. (Another was scheduled to by built in 1944, but that U-boat was sunk in the mid-Atlantic en route.) After the war, the station lay undiscovered until 1981 when a German engineer researching a book on the German weather service contacted Canadian authorities who investigated the site and found it undisturbed. The German sailors had even left behind American cigarette packs scattered about to divert suspicion.
All of this has nothing to do with kayaking, but historical anecdotes like this are part of the charm of Nigel Foster's new book Stepping Stones of Ungava and Labrador.
Foster first paddled the area in 1981. He paddled south out of Baffin Island to Resolution Island, hoping to from there to cross Hudson Strait to Labrador and continue south down the east coast, but the trip did not start out well, as traveling delays put him two weeks behind schedule, and at Resolution he decided to cross the strait instead of returning to Baffin. He had a harrowing crossing in rain, wind and fog, and he was forced to abandon his trip soon after. In 2004, he returned with Kristin to complete his voyage along the coast of Labrador.
The fact that bad weather prevented Foster and his paddling partner Kristin Nelson from landing and making the short trek to visit the ancient Nazi curiosity doesn't detract from Foster's engaging storytelling. While going into detail about the planning and the logistics of the trip, he also goes into some historical detail about the terrain he is travelling and the people he is meeting, and tells of encounters with polar bears and breathtaking scenery. A terrific read, and well worth checking out.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sea Trial Video

With his first sea trial out of the way, Greg Kolodziejzyk moves closer to his objective of pedaling from Tofino to Hawaii this summer. In the meantime, he's posted a great video of last month's trip from Nanaimo to Port McNeil (embedded below):

And a local Victoria TV station filed a report:

Marina Press Coverage Continues

Yesterday's Victoria Times-Colonist ran a number of stories on the mega-yacht marina proposed for Victoria's Inner Harbour. Here they give an overview of the project, here the developer and others comment on the supposed economic benefits the marina will be to the region, while here the current status of the project is explored. The marina clearly doesn't have a lot of traction at City Hall as Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said, "Council has always envisioned a wharf there -- a community wharf for people in kayaks and boats. The mega-yacht concept is much bigger and beyond the scale ever envisioned and really doesn't fit within the community plan."
Many local paddling groups are against this project as among other things it will limit kayak and canoe access to the middle and outer harbours, truncating out of the great urban paddles in the world. Click here to help stop the marina project.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some relaxing Sunday plans!

Got some plans for Sunday April 4, May 9, and June 6. Those are the Sundays that I'll be busy as a volunteer naturalist at the Elk/Beaver Lake Nature Centre from noon to 4:00 pm. On those days, I'll be showing up at 9:00 am to take my kayak out on Beaver and Elk lakes. I've written these days onto the calendar that shows on the right hand column of the Kayak Yak website.
If anyone would like to join me for a pretty relaxed paddle on any of those three days, that'd be great. My plan if alone is to bus to Beaver Lake and roll my inflatable in its suitcase down through the parking lot to the south end of the lake. If anyone would rather launch from the north end at Elk Lake's Hamsterly Beach, that's possible too.
It's possible to have a quick bite and hot drink at the restaurant with the odd roof (address about 5413 Hamsterley Road, I think) especially if someone can carpool me to the other end of the lake by 11:45 am. (Me and my inflatable fit into any size car.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gone With the Wind

Whoooeee, did we have fun! We knew we were running a bit of a risk with the weather by planning a paddle for today. As much as the last few weeks have felt like summer, the last week has not, and it even snowed Friday morning, although it didn't stick in town. And although Saturday was sandwiched between two fronts, we really wanted to paddle today as the currents were perfect for a jaunt out of Cadboro Bay and over to Chatham and Discovery Islands -- a slight ebb, almost slack. Last evening's check of the weather reports looked good, too -- the system that had brought the snow had moved on, leaving a clear and calm evening that looked like it might hold through the morning.
But the weather report this morning looked a little less promising. Winds were up higher than forecast, but there were no warnings up and the wind was expected to not be too bad. Also, it was due from the southwest, so we should be somewhat protected in the south-east facing Cadboro Bay.
Ha! Those would be what you call Famous Last Words!
The wind was blowing in from the south-east -- what the hell? No report was predicting south-east winds! Louise and I arrived at the beach to survey the scene. A crossing to Chatham seemed doubtful today. We were wondering what Paula would think of the conditions but just then she hit the beach pulling her kayak with a big grin. No, actually she was pulling her kayak with a pair of wheels, but she was wearing a big grin. Well, you know what I mean. She'd already checked out the waves and was raring to go have some fun.
Richard pulled up and said no, this wasn't for him. He doesn't like to paddle in conditions like this on purpose. He prefers to have them sneak up on him unexpectedly. He figured the winds were blowing 20 knots. But he did shoot this little clip of us as we launched:

But the rest of us were game to go. A sheltered bay like this is the perfect place to play in rough conditions and expand your comfort zone.
2010-03-13 Cadboro Bay 011
We headed out the south side of Ten Mile Point. Our idea was to head out to the end of the Point to visually check just what the conditions were really like out there between us and Chatham. But progress was slow. The wind was straight in our faces. We gamely pressed on.

I can't tell if my companions are enjoying themselves or cursing. They may be doing both. I'll let you be the judge.
2010-03-13 Cadboro Bay 009 copy
2010-03-13 Cadboro Bay 013

We finally decided enough was enough, and we swung around a small island near Sheep Cove to head back. There were some great surfing waves here, then a brief and calm reprieve before the wind pushed us back out in to the bigger waves.
2010-03-13 Cadboro Bay 016 copy

We headed back to the beach, and a lot faster than we headed out! As we approached the beach, we knew we were having too much fun to quit yet, so we headed out again, this time along the Yacht Club side of the bay.
2010-03-13 Cadboro Bay 020
We took a little break by paddling inside the small breakwater, then we turned and headed back to the beach.
2010-03-13 Cadboro Bay 022
The wind had picked a bit and the waves were a little higher. (Checking the weather reports later, it looks we were getting 30 kmh winds from the south-east, right at our backs at this point, the height of the wind storm).
2010-03-13 Cadboro Bay 025 copy

Louise had moved off to the left and become a little separated from Paula and I. Still, everything seemed to be going well. But as Louise neared the beach, I looked over towards her and saw nothing but the white bottom of her kayak. Louise had Maytaged in the surf! I'll let her continue the story:
"Paddling back from Yacht Club, John was being sweep keeping behind Paula and I. It was hard to keep an eye on Paula and know where John was as well while battling the waves which to me seemed much higher than when we had ridden them back from the other side of the bay earlier. I kept paddling but noticed that I was quickly getting separated from Paula and John. It was just best to head back to shore rather than paddle across the waves to meet up with Paula and John. As I came closer to shore, using the skeg to keep as straight as possible, my speed accelerated and it was time to get the skeg up. I think that's when everything happened in a rapid sequence of events: pull cord to get skeg up, wave hits from behind, kayak starts to surf, come closer into shore, surf is now more powerful, kayak turns on side and dumps me out. It wasn't deep water at all -- I pulled my skirt pull tab, floated out of the kayak and didn't get wet below my waist. Everything stayed on the deck, only my gear bag unclipped and started to float away. My paddle leash got twisted around my ankle causing me to almost trip. The kayak on the other hand was upside down. By this time Paula and John arrived, and we turned the kayak over and dumped out a ton of water. No injuries, just one cold wet person and some soaked gear."
Okay, so her Maytag may have only been set on slow rinse rather than spin, but still she pulled through with flying colours. Paula and I quickly beached and made sure she and her boat were okay. Then we packed up and headed out for a much deserved, and much needed, warm drink.
2010-03-13 Cadboro Bay 027

2010-03-13 Cadboro Bay
Trip length: 4.36 km
YTD: 23.80
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Indignation Trumps Trepidation

Saturday morning looked beautiful, but the stiff breeze blowing into Cadboro Bay had us all looking doubtfully out at the water. There would be no crossing Baynes Channel to the Chathams and Discovery Island this morning!
It was still a good enough day to get out on the water, so we did. Well, three of us. Bernie skipped off to some philosophy conference up at the University. Alison is in Montreal, Tracey is busy this winter, Marlene paddles only in doubles on warm summer days, but we had three regulars.
Louise and I launched through the surf. (hah! Surf... knee-high waves, but it was enough like surf that I fitted my skirt in place and shuffled the kayak across a little sandbar that kept the water shallow for a couple yards.) John was still setting up his camera when Rich arrived, and the two chatted on the beach for a few minutes. Rich wanted to see if we were going paddling today.
It's understandable that Rich assessed the wind as something that would have the rest of us coming back to shore in twenty minutes... so he headed off to Brentwood Bay to do a long paddle in Saanich Inlet instead. (Turns out he ended up paddling from the breakwater through the Harbour into the Gorge.) We ended up taking over an hour and a half to do two simple loops in the bay that would normally have taken us about half an hour.
The first loop took us out to Stein Island through the steady progression of waves rolling into the bay. It was fun to face them, with our boats rising up or ploughing through the crests. We kept talking all the way -- that's why this blog is called Kayak Yak, eh? cuz we're always yakking.
At one point, John spluttered to Louise, "Your bow just disappeared completely under that wave, and you didn't miss a syllable!" Of course she didn't stop talking. She was telling me a story about an annoying person from work. She wasn't going to let a little rough water give her the willies and stop that story from being told. Everyone knows that indignation trumps trepidation any day.
Then we turned round and surfed back towards the middle of the bay and the shore. There was a brief stretch onshore, while once again a passerby asked us about our boats. This time it was a fellow paddler who is eagerly anticipating the new Delta kayaks that he ordered through John and Louise's friend Mark.
Then we headed out again, wet from spray and surf, with a couple of gallons of water in the Deltas. I pulled on my cold water paddling cap from MEC, a nifty neoprene cap that I keep tucked inside my pfd at all times, ready to wear if I get wet or chilled. Hey, Bernie and I have three of these caps between us, as they make good winter wear inside a parka hood.
The second loop took us over to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and behind their breakwater to Loon Bay, an oasis of calm on that breezy morning. As we left the shelter of Loon Bay we headed out to ride the wind and waves back towards the beach. This is where the wind blew us apart!
Louise scooted on ahead, with the fastest boat and her usual response to wind (which is to paddle faster!). John held back a little to paddle sweep, as both Louise or I seem more likely than he to flip. I darned near went over twice, turning to see him smoothly riding waves a few yards behind me.
And ahead, just as Louise got to shore, the white hull of her boat rolled up, parallel to the shore and waves. She scrambled to her feet and pulled her boat and gear out of the water as John and I zoomed up to join her. A surf landing that ended up being a wet exit! not a bad thing at all.
There was time for a hot cup and snack at Olive Olio's before picking out a couple of books at the rummage sale at St George's... I'm starting to look forward to that church's Strawberry Tea. In the meantime, hope that Richard went farther and had at least as good a time in Brentwood Bay as we had. Twenty minutes, my ass. We were all soaked with spray before Louise's wet landing, and it was a marvelous time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Information Exchange

I recently spent some time up at UVic considering information exchange in a graphic format: mapping.  Ken Josephson is one of the sparkplugs behind the UVic-lead Community Mapping Initiative--an attempt to harness the power of crowd-sourcing in a mapping environment (check out the links page!).
The classes were intriguing, and lead me to think about the mass of information available in our blog. We've been paddling, and writing about, local waters for several years now, and I thought perhaps I could link our information into Google maps. So I've started the process, and this is what it looks like (depressingly few kayaking related icons available, though):

View Kayakyak Info Map in a larger map

Hayley's Shephard's South Georgia Solo Circumnavigation Called Off

Hayley Shehpard is abandoning her attempt to kayak solo around South Georgia Island. Beset by a host of unexpected problems, she set off 20 days behind schedule and simply ran out of time. A serious injury to a member of her support crew, a primary kayak smashed-up during transit and lousy weather conspired against her. Even the recent Chilean earthquake worked against her, making her efforts to change her airplane departure date due to her late start almost impossible.
But as she said on her blog, "A moment in Paradise is a moment well-lived and I am forever grateful for this opportunity despite the changes and unexpected outcome. That is a true adventure after all and it can be nothing less."
Let's hope the trip back is a little less challenging than the trip down.

Press Release About New CRD Land Purchase

Just got a media release from the Capital Regional District about their new land purchases, as reported earlier on Kayak Yak. The statement includes a call for assistance in funding -- if by any chance you're looking for a good investment to make for noble reasons, you could pay for a piece of this land for a CRD park or conservation. I'm just sayin'.
Here's the statement as sent to me by Anne Marie Marchi, an administrative clerk for the CRD:

Media Release
For Immediate Release March 4, 2010
Agreement in Principle for CRD Purchase of Regional Parks and Watershed Lands
Victoria, BC –
The Capital Regional District (CRD), The Land Conservancy (TLC) and Western Forest Products (WFP) have reached an agreement in principle for the CRD to acquire 2350 hectares of lands in the Jordan River, Sooke Potholes and Weeks Lake areas for recreation, conservation and watershed protection. The agreement, which includes over 3.5 km of shoreline from Jordan River to Sandcut Beach, will require the assistance of partners to help fund the acquisition.

The lands in question are being sold by Western Forest Products and lie within CRD boundaries. “The WFP lands are a subject of great interest to the Board and the agreement in principle generated significant discussion and support at the March 3 Special Board meeting.” said Geoff Young, CRD Board Chair. “I would like to acknowledge the hard work that JDF Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks has played in moving this process forward. Acquisition of these lands will help to further the CRD’s strategic priorities, protect our water supply in the Leech Watershed, conserve sensitive ecosystems and support recreation.”

“We recognize the public interest in these particular parcels, and we’re pleased to be making headway with the CRD towards keeping them available for public enjoyment” said Steve Frasher, President and Chief Executive Officer of Western Forest Products. “Our goal has been to make this a win-win for ourselves and for the CRD. We’re happy to see this taking shape.”

One of the CRD’s major land acquisition partners on this project is The Land Conservancy, which has stepped up with a strong commitment to raise the necessary funds to make this acquisition happen. “With this purchase we are going to add one of the last remaining pieces to the Sea to Sea Greenbelt,” said TLC Executive Director, Bill Turner. “To match the CRD Parks levy, TLC will reach out to its members and others in the community who understand how important it is to help make this purchase a reality.”

“The lands in both the Jordan River and Sooke Potholes areas have high recreation and conservation values,” said Regional Parks Chair Christopher Causton. “We are very interested in keeping them in public hands so that everyone both today and in the future can enjoy them.”

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For further information please contact:
Gary Ley, Western Forest Products Tel: 604.685.5485 Cell: 604.787.5467 email
Bill Turner, Executive Director The Land Conservancy of BC Tel: 250.589.8024 email
Sheila Taylor, Manager, Community Relations Corporate Communications Tel: 250.360.3308 Cell: 250.216.4427 email

Rick Mercer Gets Wet

Rick Mercer (host of the appropriately named Rick Mercer Report) recently filmed a segment in Toronto where he learned how to kayak. To quote the Adventure Kayak website:
"Canadian TV star Rick Mercer filmed an upcoming episode at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure show, hopping into the paddling demo tank for a wet-exit lesson from instructor James Roberts of Learntokayak.ca. “It’s like adventure water boarding,” said Mercer after coming up for air and blowing his nose."
The brief kayak section was part of a larger report from the Toronto Outdoor Adventure show where he also did some stand-up paddling, scuba dived (scuba dove?) for the first time, and attempted to elude the Mantracker (yeah, like that could ever happen).

That clip is embedded here:

Another segment from the same episode which might be of interest to our readers was a segment on river ice rescues featuring the Toronto Police Marine Unit. That video is embedded here:

Odd Tips About Various Launch Places

Well, it was blowing a gale Tuesday afternoon when I got home after work and cleaning a vehicle for the Carshare Co-op. In keeping with my standard belief that when it's too windy to carry my kayak solo it's too windy to go paddling solo, I knew this wasn't the afternoon to go on the water. Heck, a full city block from the beach I could hear the waves pounding on the sand (even with my bum ears).
Instead of getting into my gear, I thought of how that beach is good for launching, but there's a tip that makes it even better: the best place to launch kayaks is at the boat ramp. There's no beach logs to trip over at that sandy ramp. I twisted my ankles on the logs many times before figuring that out.
There are other tips about local launch places that are worth sharing, and that strikes me as a good thought for a day when I'm not on the water. I'll think of a few more.
-Launching at Willows Beach at low tide means a long walk out to the water, but in summer there's the blue Kiwanis tearoom for a hot cuppa after the outing.
-Cordova Bay has a nice park with room to leave a few cars while you're on the water, but it's a steep climb from the beach up a paved path to the road. Motivate yourself for the climb with thoughts of going to Mattick's Farm, a mile or so north, for fresh vegetables.
-For restrooms, Island View Beach has great pit toilets (yes, that's not an oxymoron, there is such a thing). So does Coles Bay. These ones are well-made, and large enough to make it easy to change into or out of paddling gear.
-Telegraph Bay is in a call shadow and most cell phones can't get a signal from any tower here. You have to go over the hill to Arbutus Road, or out on the water outside the bay.
-When paddling at Elk Lake, be sure to bring a couple of bucks and go afterwards to the little restaurant at Hamsterly Beach, the building with the odd roof by the highway. Great place for a hot drink after practising rolling, wet exits, and rescues.
-When carrying boats from the parking lot at Beaver Lake down to the water, walk along the paved footpath instead of across the grass. In spring, the grassy slope is soggy and your feet will tear it to muddy shreds. In summer, the grassy slope is absolutely covered with picnic blankets and frisbees in motion.
-Esquimalt Lagoon is a good place to launch for a paddle into Esquimalt Harbour, but the bridge at one end of the peninsula is closed to vehicle traffic, and open only to bikes and pedestrians.
-There's a good little beach on Songhees land at the Inner Harbour. The developers were told by City Hall to keep public access to this beach open. Parking is free at this beach on Sundays. Use it or lose it! And while you're at it, go to the right along the shore and look at the place where there's talk of putting in a marina for 85-foot long yachts. Then send another note to City Hall.
That's enough for now. I'll think of some more soon.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

We're Number One! No, Really!

Adventure Kayak magazine's blog recently published a list they describe as "a completely arbitrary, shamelessly biased and utterly made-up list of the 10 best places to live for sea kayaking." You can't get more definitive than that.
It mentions a number of places like Portland, San Fransisco and San Diego on the west coast, and Halifax and New York on the east coast as well as some inland spots like Parry Sound, Ontario, hometown of Bobby Orr, the greatest hockey player ever! Now I have two reasons to visit there! But I digress.
Which city did Adventure Kayak list as number one? Our hometown Victoria, BC, which they describe as "...infamously home to the 'newly wed and nearly dead,' Victoria residents happily spend their in-between years sea kayaking. If you can get over the skyrocketing real estate prices this pocket-sized city may have the highest per capita coastline and beauty quotient in Canada if not the world."
Couldn't agree more. Now if only they'd stop telling everyone else about us....
2009-08-17 Cadboro Bay 002

Sunday, March 07, 2010

a little after a long time

Well, it felt like a long time to me! I just spent ten days without kayaking in Edmonton, visiting family and friends. My father-in-law's 80th birthday went very well indeed, as did several visits with my grown children, both fine young people. The visit was also a chance to meet with friends and do some networking.
Contrary to John's urging, there was no opportunity to kayak locally. The North Saskatchewan river was frozen over, with a narrow band of open water that suggested anyone foolhardy enough to try kayaking would soon drown under the ice. The steep ravines down the big riverbanks were not yet running with meltwater for the few wildcat river kayakers who scoot down the wet ice.
So I spent ten loooooong days not kayaking, even if the weather was really good for late winter on the Prairies. It's understandable then, that upon my return I took the first chance available to go paddling. Today, Sunday, was my first day as a volunteer naturalist at the Nature Centre in Elk/Beaver Lake Park -- so my paddle opportunity was in Beaver Lake.
Bernie tossed my inflatable Dragonfly into my mom's car, and when we got to Beaver Lake he carried the kayak to the water for me. It was a short outing, only about 45 minutes, not counting the time spent answering questions about Advanced Elements kayaks and how great they are. Then Bernie drove away to take my gear back to the Beach House and get the car back to my mom.
It was so good to feel the breeze over fresh water, and see the signs of spring along the lakeshore. Willow trees are golden with new leaf buds. Branches of wild rose bushes are all ruddy with new bark. There's grey moss and lichen on the bare branches of birch, silhouetted against the green dark Douglas fir trees that are so thick you could almost believe there was a real, big forest here instead of a thin strip of woods around the lake.
Paddling was good, the Nature Centre was a good place to be today, and the highlight of the afternoon was the appearance of the Victoria Model Shipbuilding Society. They had nearly enough wind for their lovely little ships! Check out their website here.
All in all, a good day at the lake -- and the bus picked me up ten minutes after I finished my shift.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Summer In March

2010-03-06 Cadboro Pano - Copy
It's summer in March. By the time we hit the water it was already 8C, despite the fact there had been frost on the car in the morning. Officially the temp today would reach 12C but it must have been warmer -- people were out in shorts and t-shirts.
Louise, Richard and I were dressed a little more warmly as we took the gorgeous weather to mean only one thing -- time to hit the water!

We put in at Cadboro Bay, but we weren't sure what to expect. The tide charts were suggesting the ebb current would be quite strong today and the weather reports indicated a slight breeze from the north, with no wind warnings posted. But on the beach it was clear that the northerlies were more than a slight breeze. It wasn't blowing a gale or anything like that, but it was stronger than we had been expecting. We decided to head along Ten Mile Point and noodle through the rocks and see what conditions were like at the point.
2010-03-06 Cadboro-Willows 047

Near the point, the breeze was still blowing and we could see that the water out in the channel was bumpy but no overly so. Where was the current?
Richard and I amused ourselves by taking pictures of each other. (The other side of the equations is here.)
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At the point, we could see that Baynes Channel was pretty rough. We sneaked a look around the point and could see small breakers off Telegraph Bay, another put-in in this area. So clearly the current was running in Baynes, but it really wasn't coming down where we were. I quickly grabbed a few snaps of Mount Baker.
2010-03-06 Cadboro-Willows 007 - Copy copy

From there we turned and headed south. Richard wanted to ride the current down to the Chain Islands, but Louise declined. Her stomach was doing the heebie jeebies and she didn't feel like venturing too far from shore. So Richard headed off and Louise and I headed along shore, with plans to meet Richard near Willows Beach.
Richard made it to the Chains, but all he got pictures of were seagulls. He missed the eagle on Jemmy Jones Island.
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This is my first time out with my new Olympus e510 that I picked up used over the winter. I was using a 140-600mm zoom lens on it, and I have to say that I wasn't sure about it. It was a big lens and hard to hold, especially in the bobbing kayak. I took about eight pictures of the eagle and I was sure that most of them would be blurred because of the motion of the kayak and the extreme magnification. But I was amazed how well the eagle shots turned out. If nothing else the Olympus has insanely good image stabilization. I'm still not sure about taking it out on rough water days -- I'll think I'll stick to my smaller Sony DSC-H9 for that -- but on a lake or a flat sea, the Olympus may become my weapon of choice.

We met up with Richard and started back. We weren't the only kayakers out today, as we spotted two other groups on the water.
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And who could blame them? What a gorgeous day it was. Even the herons were enjoying it!
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2010-03-06 Cadboro-Willows
Trip length: 11.22 km
YTD: 19.44 km
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Friday, March 05, 2010

What A Difference A Day Makes

Yesterday morning, we noted the controversial pending sale by Western Forest Products of huge tracts of land that were removed by governmental fiat from their tree farm licence without requiring WFP to pay compensation or donate parkland. No local citizens, First Nations bands or other local governments were consulted. Wide swaths of pristine forest lands could wind up in the hands of developers with free reign to do as they wish.
But last night we learned that the Capital Regional District has bought about 20% of the lands with the intent to keep the majority of it as parkland. It includes 3.5 km of shoreline near Jordan River and land near the Sooke Potholes. The downside is the CRD could not afford all the land it wanted and has tapped out its park-purchasing funds for the next five years. However, there is talk that the University of British Columbia may buy another large chunk of the property. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Lazy Post

I'm feeling too lazy to generate any original content today, so to commemorate Post #700 on this blog I'm going to steal from the best and bring you up to date on a number of things.

First off, Hayley Shephard's expedition around South Georgia Island is finally underway. She's had a rough start. An injury to a member of her support boat's crew almost scuttled the mission. Then she discovered that her kayak had been smashed up in transit. These delays required Hayley to change the date of her return flight, and that almost became another expedition ending issue. But the good news is that she has arrived at South Georgia and is five days into her journey. At last report she is making slow progress against strong winds. Check out her blog here.

Meanwhile Jake Stachovak is into day 88 of his Portage to Portage paddle along the entire east coast of the US. He's spent the last few days kayaking with manatees, and has some great pictures on his blog.

Helen Skelton, host of the BBC's children show Blue Peter, recently completed her 2,010 mile down the Amazon River from Natau, Peru to Almerim, Brazil, the first woman to make the journey. She set two world records on this trip -- the longest distance in a kayak in 24 hours by a woman, and the longest solo journey by kayak. This second record seems rather dubious as others (Freya Hoffmeister and Paul Caffyn who each went around Australia come to mind right away) have paddled solo much longer distances, and the previous official record for the longest journey by canoe or kayak was apparently only 326.98 miles.
What isn't dubious is that it is still a great achievement and done for a good cause. Check out the BBC's coverage.

DSC01202Locally, a lot of press coverage has been given to the on-going debate concerning the Mega-Yacht Marina proposed for Victoria's Inner Harbour (our latest coverage is here), but there's another big land-use issue brewing on the west coast of the Vancouver Island in the area between Sooke and Jordan River. A couple of years ago Western Forest Products asked the BC Liberal government, through the office of then Forests Minister Rich Coleman, to allow it to remove land from three Vancouver Island Tree Farm Licences so that it could sell it for development. The Minister approved the request, no doubt delighting his brother who is an executive with Western Forests Products which will reap a windfall of $150 million on the sale of the land.
Some however weren't delighted, namely local residents, First Nations councils, local town councils and other stakeholders, none of whom were ever consulted. A 2008 Auditor General's report on the matter slammed the decision, saying, "Based on this evidence, I concluded that the removal of private land from TFLs 6, 19 and 25 was approved without sufficient regard for the public interest...I expect that such decisions will be thoroughly informed and that stakeholders will be consulted. In this case, the minister's decision was based on an incomplete analysis." Our pro-business provincial government continues to not give a damn on this issue and has refused to revisit the decision. And now it's getting down to crunch time as WFP finalizes its plans to sell the land.
Last night, Richard (Adventures on the Blue) attended a public information session on the matter and wrote a fine piece about it here. These are huge tracts of land whose development will drastically alter the Island's west coast. The Dogwood Initiative has more info here.

And finally, Sarah Palin is shopping around a reality TV show idea starring her family. Oh, is that the sound of the last of the four seals being cracked open I hear? You betcha!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

You Got Questions? We Got Answers!

Digging into the Kayak Yak mailbag, I see that our readers have been asking a lot of technical bloggy questions this week, and what better way to artificially inflate the number of blog posts then to answer a few of your queries.

First, if you scan down the right side of our blog, you'll notice lists of blog links. What's cool is that the list updates the last post on a particular blog in realtime (or close enough). For instance, as I type this I can see that Mike Jackson posted 1 day ago regarding his February 28th paddle. One reader asked how to generate these blog link lists, and as much as I would like to lay claim to phenomenal programming skills, these lists are actually generated by a Bloggger gadget called Blog Lists. Under the Layout tab, click on Page Elements, then add a Gadget, and pick Blog Lists. Blog Lists automatically follows and updates the RSS feed of a blog you've selected, and you can configure how much of that blog's current post to display. And you can have more than one list; we have two, one for local kayaking blogs, and one for blogs from other areas. (I would assume something similar is availble with Wordpress and other blogging services.)

Another reader was inquiring about how I made the new blog header.
Microsoft Word has a feature called WordArt. In Word 2007, you'll find it under the Insert Tab (and it exists in earlier versions, I just can't remember where off the top of my head. Look for something that says Insert in the dropdowns. And I assume a similar feature exists in other programs).
WordArt allows you to treat a piece of Text as an image, so you can stretch it, twist it, and resize it almost any way you want. You can also colour it and apply a fill. Here's where the fun begins. Once you have created your text, right click on it and select Format Word Art. Under Color and Lines, select Fill Effects, then select Picture. Here you can upload a photo or artwork to use as the fill in your text.
The caveat here is that you cannot move the picture around "behind" the text. WordArt plops the picture down where it wants and that's that, so some judicious cropping of your picture may be required before you get the result you want, and it goes without saying that a picture with a horizontal subject will probably work better than one with a vertical subject. Or not -- depends on what you're trying to do or your personal preference, of course. Also, you'll probably want a font with some heft to it. I used Impact on the new header, but Monotone would be another example. You probably don't want to use a thin font like Script.
Once you've got your WordArt text looking the way you want it, you'll still need to do some tweaking in PhotoShop or a similar program (I used Microsoft Digital Image Suite 10). In Word, right click on your WordArt text and copy it, open a new project in your photo program and paste in your text.
You'll need to add a background that's the same colour as the background on your blog (or, you know, not, if you want to get all artsy-fartsy). You'll also probably need to resize your new header as well. I set mine to be 1000 pixels wide. Save it as a jpeg.
Under the Layout tab in Blogger, choose Page Elements, click to edit your Header and load up your fancy new title graphic. (Again, I assume something similar is available with Wordpress etc.)

Another reader question: How do we create these GPS Track maps?
2009-08-30 Cadboro to Willows
Once you've downloaded your track from your GPS (I use a Garmin eTrex Legend HCx) to your computer, you can upload it to GPS Visualizer. Here you can select various outputs: Google Maps, Google Earth, jpegs or others.
What I do is use GPS Visualizer to convert my GPS track to a Google Earth file, then in Google Earth I load it up, and use Google Earth's save image function to generate the picture.

Have fun!