Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Neighbours

This is an interesting neighbourhood for kayaking and small boats in general. The Cadboro Bay area has some houses over a hundred years old, and there are several places where roads give access to small coves or the big beach. That's in addition to all the waterfront property.
(At this point, I simply must observe that it just doesn't seem like a practical expense, paying the premium price for a piece of land on the waterfront. Especially when there are other properties next door and across the street, for example, which may have a lower price. Maybe if one had the only access to a particular lake, or the only access to a private beach or bit of shoreline, or a unique viewpoint... but most of the waterfront properties I paddle past in a kayak look to me like the "waterfront" nature is really not used and enjoyed by the owners. My feeling is that around Victoria, we're lucky enough to have plenty of public access to beaches and many lakes. It's not necessary to own the shoreline in order to access it.)
That access to shorelines is part of what makes this area an interesting one for kayaking. While my partner likes the idea of pulling away from shore and getting out into the Wide Open Waters when he can, I've been enjoying the places where one can get a boat to water.
There were three of us launching at Telegraph Bay last weekend -- four, if you count Bernie who pulled my kayak on its wheels over the hump of the peninsula. That's a cool, pleasant stony beach looking out across the San Juans toward Vancouver. That day's outing was a very different trip from a launch at Gyro Park. Don't look for a solitary experience if you launch at Gyro Park... at every hour of the day or night, there's usually at least one person keeping an eye on the weather and the water. And the parking lot has a steady stream of car traffic, foot traffic, and bike traffic in daylight hours. Contrast that with Smuggler's Cove out at the end of the point, where the only traffic is a few local dog-walkers and maybe some necking teenagers.
From the bus and shoreline, I can see at least eight launch sites meant for public access around Ten Mile Point, Cadboro Bay, and the Uplands. It can take a little scrambling over rocks to get down where the otters play, but people are doing it. At least, they leave footprints behind. And at least one access path has two rowboat/dinghies stashed in the brushy trees above the high tide line. Along the Cadboro Bay shore below the bluff, another rowboat is tied up, and there the only security is a sailor's knot and a small hand-lettered sign reading "don't fuck with the boat" -- it seems to work so far.
I like these public access points. There's one on Portage Inlet that a developer wanted to minimize, but Saanich council maintained the public access to water at that point. Good for them! Not everyone can afford to own waterfront property. And people can get pretty possessive about what they own. It's good for all of us to remind ourselves and each other about having access to this wide world, making use of resources that are best defined as ours to share and maintain. I like that launching my kayak and paddling it is a lower-impact form of recreational use than, say, a sailboat with a motor and a big trailer that gets pulled around by a big truck. I like that the otters and seals come up, have a look at me, and take their time about ducking down calmly as I go by.
Not everyone likes having otters and raccoons for neighbours. I'm reminded that at a meeting of the Gorge Waterway Restoration Society, there were two questions for the biologists studying river otters in this area. How can I make my waterfront property attractive to support river otters? was one, followed immediately by its corollary: And how can I get the river otters out of my house's crawl space? Nobody wanted to trap or kill the pretty beasts, they just wanted the smelly den to be under a shed or garage or thicket instead of the house.
...There's another annoyance here on the Bay this weekend. Gyro Park was full of a display of vehicles and the attendant gawking crowds. This in itself is not cause for alarm, but the resulting departure of the parking lot full of people brings home a sad statistic. Among all the neighbourly community of people driving to and from Gyro Park are several ratbastard maniacs howling out of the parking lot at insanely noisy speeds, only to stop at the end of the block for the four-way red light. I have to go now and arm myself with a long stick, and shake it at the ratbastards as they roar past.

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