Sunday, February 27, 2011
Even so -- wouldn't it be nice to imagine boating on Titan? In a proper boat suited to the conditions, of course.
Turns out that other people think so, too. NASA's looking into the idea. They won't be sending paddlers, though. Their plan is to send a robot ship.
Talk about accessible kayaking... imagine getting the daily report on Titan's paddling conditions, just as Viking 1 and 2 and Sojourner Truth used to send the daily weather report from Mars.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Right, then. Anyone who has ever paddled in Cadboro Bay, listen up!
The Cadboro Bay Residents' Association has announced that there will be an Open House on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 from 5:00pm to 8:00p, at the Gymnasium of Frank Hobbs Elementary School, 3875 Haro Road.
There will be a display of the proposed Master Plan that Saanich Municipality is developing, for changing Gyro Park over the next twenty years. There will be two brief presentations at 5:30 and 7:00 pm.
If you use Gyro Park at all, you will be interested in looking at the proposed Master Plan. You don't have to stay for the whole time -- just come and fill out a comments form.
If you can't fit visiting this Open House into your busy schedule, there are a couple of options for you. First, read about the proposed Master Plan on Saanich's website. Some of the proposed changes are good. Others are less good.
Second, go to Saanich's feedback form and make some comments. This is a good way to give Saanich more information about how people are using Gyro Park and Cadboro Bay! And it gets results. Already, the Master Plan has been changed to include an access trail to allow boat users to bring small boats to the boat launch ramp -- a trail that will allow access by emergency vehicles as well. This access trail was NOT part of the proposed Master Plan until kayakers and sailboat users pointed out their need for access.
At a time when demonstrations are being done by people looking for a greater say in the workings of their governments, this Open House is a small but definitely positive opportunity to participate in our local municipal government. This is what democracy looks like! Sometimes political activisim is not a thousand people chanting, it's fifty people every half hour, filing through a school gymnasium and filling out a feedback form before going home to make dinner half-an-hour later than usual.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
The Royal British Columbia Museum Handbook Sea Stars of British Columbia, Southeast Alaska, and Puget Sound, told me a lot about the anatomy, hunting and mating behaviour, but does not account for the colours: P ochraceus is the most common intertidal sea star, with territory from Prince William Sound, Alaska, to Cedros Island, Baja California (lucky it!), and from the intertidal zone to nearly 100 m undersea. It likes rocky shores, waves and currents. I’ve seen plenty in the Broken Islands, the Gulf Islands, and around Saanich Penninsula. P ochraceus eats mussels, barnacles, limpets, and snails. It is the paradigm of a “keystone species” in that its presence and predation significantly affect the numbers and distribution of other species, especially the California mussel, Mytilus californianus; in the absence of P ochraceus, M californianus takes over the beach. Pisaster spawn in May to July, releasing millions of eggs, which turn into larvae, first floating free in the plankton and then (those that survive) attaching themselves and turning into juvenile sea stars. Juveniles grow to adult size and maturity over about 5 years. Larval P ochraceus have a chemical defense that induces filter-feeders to spit them out (got to look that up). The only known predators of adult sea stars are seagulls and sea otters.
Harley et al, 2006 (full text available ) looking at the colour variation, note in their introduction that “at least two caroteinoid pigments mytiloxantin and astaxanthin, sequestered in the aboral surface, produce these colors in Pisaster and other asteroids.” Aboral is the upper side side of the sea star, and starfish belong to the Class Asteroidea, under the Phylum Echinodermata. Caroteinoids as a chemical class are named after their best known member, the yellow pigment in carrots, and have in common a long carbon backbone with many concatenated double bonds which generally absorb light at the blue end of the spectrum, hence the orange colour. Mytiloxanthin was named after M californianus, part of P ochraceous’ preferred diet, from which it was first isolated, so it was assumed to be dietary in origin. Astaxanthin arises through “several distinct metabolic pathways”, and is orange. I’m still not sure from my reading what the pigment behind the purple is, though reading descriptions of 1940s-style chromatography makes me oddly nostalgic for undergraduate chemistry.
However, knowing the pigments doesn’t explain why individual starfish should be orange, ochre, brown, or purple, or why starfish on an exposed, wave-beaten rocky coast like the west coast of Vancouver Island should be predominately orange (6-28%) and brown (68-90%), while those in the sheltered waters of the South St Georgia strait should be almost entirely that brilliant purple so familiar on our paddles (95% in the samples collected by Harley). The answer is apparently not genetic: DNA studies don’t suggest that the populations sampled (from Alaska to California, with lots of attention to Puget Sound) are isolated from each other, and conversely do suggest that there is flow of genetic material between them. It's not apparently to do with wave action, inasmuch as scientists have been able to reproduce in the lab the difference between turbulent water and calm. It may be dietary, in that the distribution of colours correlated with the pattern of prey: in the more exposed waters (where purple starfish are in the minority), P ochraceus preferentially eat M californianus, the big California mussel, whereas M calfornianus is uncommon to absent in interior waters (where purple starfish are in the majority), and the Pisaster there tend to prey on barnacles and bay mussels. So, eats purple mussels -> orange; doesn't eat purple mussels -> purple. Hmm. And that still doesn’t explain why purple and orange starfish could be found within yards of each other. Another paper by Raymondi et al, 2007 (only abstract) found that the frequency of orange in a population was constant with latitude, but tends to increase with the size of the individuals in that population. So all is not quite explained.
- Harley CDG, Pankey MS, Wares JP, Grosberg RK, Wonham MJ. Color Polymorphism and Genetic Structure in the Sea Star Pisaster ochraceus. Biol Bull. 2006 Dec 1;211(3):248-262. And here’s marine biologist Christopher Mah (full name from his Twitter feed), on the Echinoblog, with a crisp and colourful synopsis, complete with photos and diagrams; if I hadn’t written a chunk of this entry while back before I found his entry, I'd just have said, go there!
- Lambert P. Sea Stars of British Columbia, Southeast Alaska, and Puget Sound. 2nd ed. UBC Press; 2000.
- Raimondi PT, Sagarin RD, Ambrose RF, Bell C, George M, Lee SF, et al. Consistent Frequency of Color Morphs in the Sea Star Pisaster ochraceus (Echinodermata:Asteriidae) across Open-Coast Habitats in the Northeastern Pacific. Pacific Science. 2007 4;61(2):201-210.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
As they reached the beach, we walked over to say hi. The boats became recognizable at about the same time as the paddlers -- it was Judy and Mike, who live next door to the Beach House!
Mike has a sweet and simple sea kayak, and Judy was out in her little green Pelican that usually leans up against the side wall of their house (on the other side of the hedge from Bernie and my kayaks).
"We call these 'drowning boats'," I teased her. "They haven't got any flotation and when a Pelican fills up, it sinks."
"Not this one!" Judy laughed. "I've got some flotation in the stern, and some pool noodles in the bow."
We checked, and I gotta say, this is the safest Pelican I've ever seen. Judy rigged it out with rope and a homemade paddle float on the deck, a big styrofoam float fastened behind the seat, and the pool noodles up in the bow. John got a picture of her improvised flotation innovation.
Pool noodles! Is there anything they can't do?
(And while we're at it... Oi! Anyone who is paddling an empty shell of a little recreation kayak with no bulkheads or flotation devices, listen up. You have no excuses now! Get some pool noodles if nothing else is available, and fasten them into your boat.)
Now I want to make a paddle float like the one Judy made!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
VHF Radio – Licensing Course
This course is a joint offering by the South Island Sea Kayaking Association (SISKA) and the Victoria Canoe & Kayak Club (VCKC). You don’t need to have a radio to take this course.
Do you want to learn how to use a VHF radio when out paddling? If so, you should take this course. Not only is it very useful, it leads to getting your Restricted Operator’s Certificate (Marine) - aka ROC – which is a legal requirement if you use a radio on the water.
WHAT: A 3-evening course leading to the Restricted Operator’s Certificate (Maritime).
WHEN: The course will be held on Thursday evenings – March 3rd, 10th 17th, starting at 7.15pm.
WHERE: The VCKC Clubhouse, 355 Gorge Road West
FOR WHOM?: Anyone who has a VHF radio but does not hold a licence. Anyone holding a pre-digital licence (i.e. no Digital selective Calling [DSC] endorsement on their licence). Anyone who does not have a radio but may want/need to use one in an emergency. Anyone who has a boat with a radio and wants to learn how to use it properly
BY WHOM?: The course will be taught by Greg Diemert and Phil Miles of the Canadian Power Squadron.
HOW MUCH? The cost of the course is $65. This includes the course manual, a CD of notes and test questions, the registration and the certificate itself.
REGISTRATION: It will help if you let me know ahead of the course that you are interested (Alan Thomson, firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-592-4170), but you can register and pay on the first night of the course. Cash or cheques only.
The course consists of 2 nights of classes and one night for the exam. If you want to study the manual ahead of the course, you can get the manual from Greg Diemert at Ensign Chrysler, 1061 Yates Street. Pick up from Greg at Ensign Monday/Tuesday 8.30 to 3.30 pm: Wed 12:30 to 6:30: Thursday/Friday 8:30 to 3:30. Or phone 250 386 2411.
If you already have a Restricted Operator’s licence but without the Digital Selective Calling endorsement, it is recommended that you take the full course.
If you have the full licence already, but would like a refresher, it may be possible for you to sit in on the first two nights of the course – it will depend on student numbers. If there isn’t room on the course, an additional night (March 24th) has been reserved for a stand-alone refresher course.
This time it was a couple in a canoe who flipped under Tillicum Bridge. The Times-Colonist newspaper wrote about the incident. The paddlers were caught in an eddy in the current. Apparently several 911 calls came in from people who saw a man and a woman clinging to their overturned canoe. Luckily for the soaked paddlers, the police marine unit was working nearby and rescued them in a few minutes. The reason the police marine unit were nearby was an unlucky one; they had two boats and some divers searching for a missing man.
A boat flip doesn't have to be an emergency from which one needs to be rescued. It's a good thing for small boat users to try to be able to get themselves out of a tricky moment, especially when paddling in sheltered water, with a dock and shoreline for landing. Our paddle group has had a boat flip in the same place the rescued couple did, right under Tillicum Bridge. You can read Bernie's account here, John's post about it here, on January 27 2008, or my post about it here. John's post has photos. Mine has more arch comments (so there), and Bernie's has cool drawings to reconstruct the accident.
Bernie's flip was not an emergency. Unlike the couple just rescued, he was wearing a PFD, farmer john wetsuit, and a paddle jacket. He has done enough wet exits -- even in cold water -- that he didn't panic when his kayak turned upside-down. And he was with friends who escorted his swim to the dock. It was a good chance to practise our "rescue skills" even though he did not need to be rescued.
The big difference between the experience of that couple in the canoe and our paddle group was preparation and practise. Anyone can flip a boat. Some places, like the Tillicum narrows, make it easy to flip. In just the past three years, there have been several people needing rescue there, or after getting themselves to shore the damp boaters have knocked on at the door of a nearby house to ask for help getting warm and dry. It's worth remembering that anyone could end up in an upside-down canoe or kayak on any outing, even in sheltered places.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Locals believe that Lake Windermere in Cumbria could be home to a lake monster similar to Scotland's Loch Ness monster, or Okanagan Lake's Ogopogo, or Cadborosaurus, long rumoured to haunt our home waters of Cadboro Bay.
Last week a British couple managed to snap off this photo as the "monster" swam near them as they were out kayaking in the lake. They describe the encounter as "...petrifying and we paddled back to the shore straight away. At first I thought it was a dog and then saw it was much bigger and moving really quickly at about 10 mph. Each hump was moving in a rippling motion and it was swimming fast. Its skin was like a seal's but its shape was completely abnormal—it's not like any animal I've ever seen before."
One British ecologist thinks that what they actually saw was a really big catfish.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
C'mon, Alison -- it's your turn now!
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Some are easy to identify, like kingfishers and bald eagles. Others are pretty much "little black waterfowl" with maybe a white patch or a bent feather. Was that a coot or a surf scoter? Sometimes it's hard to tell. Ducks can be hard to tell apart, especially in the dim morning light when they all look like black forms silhouetted against shiny water.
One time in Oak Bay, a puffin surfaced right next to my bow. Yes, a puffin! The beak was very clearly that odd shape and bright colour, even if the bird was holding what looked like a little grey squid. I squealed with delight, the bird ducked down, and I haven't seen one since. I looked it up in the bird books at the Elk/Beaver Lake Nature Centre: tufted puffin. For real, in Oak Bay right by the Uplands, without going way up-coast or off-shore to the birds' isolated nesting grounds.
(I found a great photo taken by Dave Walsh of a similar sighting which you can find at his website. Look him up -- he's got some terrific photos. There's also a page by Joe and Mary-Ann McDonald with action shots that point out these pudgy little birds are active predators like hawks and eagles!)
But it's always great to glide in our kayaks close enough to see the ripples around birds, or have them fly past and swoop low right by our heads. John takes some awesome photos from his kayak!
At any rate, there's a beginner birdwatching course starting soon at Swan Lake Nature Centre. The Capital Regional District sent out a promo poster by e-mail today, promoting the course. It's not free, but it is taught by an expert.
SWAN LAKE NATURE SANCTUARY
an introductory course for adults
Birdwatching is the fastest growing activity in North America and Victoria is a great year-round birding location - join in the fun and discover the birds in your neighbourhood.
Taught by local ornithologist, James Clowater, this course includes 4 Wednesday evening classes and three Sunday morning ﬁeld-trips.
Classes: 7 to 9 pm, Wednesday April 13, 20, 27, May 4
Field trips: 9 to 10:30 am, Sunday April 24, May 1 & 8
$80 for Swan Lake members - $95 for non-members
Please call to register - 250.479.0211
3873 Swan Lake Road, Victoria, BC, 250.479.0211
Sunday, February 13, 2011
First, I went out for a short loop around the little rock garden. Well, yeah, it's my favourite place to be on the water. Lucky for me it's within sight of the Beach House. Sure, there are more beautiful/challenging/interesting/awesome places to paddle. This one's right here, and it's only my fault if I don't go here every day.
And when the sky got bright before 8:00 am, and the weather was cool and calm without any wind or rain, it didn't even seem like winter. No excuses! How many days in February dawn like this? It might not be a nice day by afternoon, but it was nice in the morning. Opportunity was knocking, so I went out in my little inflatable kayak.
I didn't stay long today, though I'd planned to do figure eights around and around several of the rocks. The tide was high, after all. But during my first figure eight, I came around a rock and saw four little heads swimming toward the little rock graden. It was an otter family, probably the one I saw Friday, bobbing and ducking their sleek way towards my playground.
Yeah, I get to play in lots of places. So do the otters, but this was where they wanted to play today. And I had to be somewhere else in a little more than an hour.
I ducked out of the otters' sightline, and paddled away. A homeowner on the bluff above the water leaned out from his balcony to tell me there were otters just on the other side of the rock. We chatted about them for a minute, then waved goodbye.
Back to the shore, running the gauntlet of dog-walkers, and I got ready to go somewhere else.
That somewhere was the mall, where some of us kayakers spread out charts and talked about places to go during the spring and summer. Man, if we go everywhere we want to go, we'll be busy every weekend and several weekdays too! Familiar places to revisit. New places to try. Challenging crossings, as well as easy day paddles out from a campsite.
So that was a long kayaking time, if you count all the imaginary trips we laid out on those charts. I'm psyched. I'm ready. Bring it on!
-later, the next morning-
The very next morning began with heavy grey cloud, a steady onshore wind, and big fat raindrops spattering on the duck feeding in the puddle in front of the Beach House. Yep, good idea to get on the water yesterday, cuz it aint happening today! Happy St Valentine's day to all paddling friends.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
In a flash I knew I could still shoehorn a kayak outing into this day. Marlene arranged to come by the Beach house in an hour and a quarter. So I got into my wetsuit and PFD and yanked out my little inflatable from its carry-bag.
Once again, can't say enough praise about the Advanced Elements inflatables. From packed bag to on the water in under ten minutes! That's including the leisurely stroll a couple hundred yards to the beach with the little kayak on my shoulder.
The tide was out and the day was bright for February. I headed out past the little rock garden, startling a heron, to look at Sheep Cove. There was the heron again, fixing the gaze of one beady eye on me and daring me to make him move again. And there were four gamboling river otters, eating something they'd found in the kelp at the cove. It was really their turn to enjoy the cove.
I turned around into the slight breeze, and found my head blowing clear and all my thoughts clean and straight. So much easier to write on days when I've been out in a kayak!
Back onshore, I zig-zagged around various people visiting Gyro Park with kids or dogs or lunch close at hand. They all look so wary when they arrive, and less fussy by the time they leave...
I let about 25% of the air out of the inflatable before stuffing it into the porch and going indoors. Talk about instant kayaking -- one hour total, starting when I stood up from my computer till I was re-dressed in clothes for going to the coffee shop. Another hour in Olive Olio's. And that evening I taught the writing workshop I'm teaching at Oak Bay Rec this winter. Not a bad day overall, especially with the interval on the water.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Plus I've been nursing a foot injury the last few weeks, suffering from plantar fasciitis in my right foot, but stretching, icing, and an orthotic insert in my shoes has helped quite a bit. Not quite back to normal yet, but at least the sharp pain every time I take a step is gone, so that's a plus. We're hoping to be on the water this weekend, but it looks like a front is moving in on Sunday bringing some high winds. So we'll see.
But a lack of recent paddling doesn't mean there's been a lack of paddling activities.
Last night we attended the "Kayaking With Those Who Know" event at Ocean River Sports.
To begin the event, a representative of the BC Marine Trails Network spoke. This group is spearheading a campaign to protect areas used as kayaking campsites along the many thousands of kilometres of BC coastline. The group will officially open the first four trails of the network this May at the Vancouver Island Paddlefest in Ladysmith.
Then kayak tour operators from other parts of the island took the stage. First, Brian from Ocean River recounted a tour he organized with Pender Island Kayak Adventures last year, a three-day extravaganza including visits to the Fall Fair, a winery, and a hotspring. That's my kind of kayaking! :)
Next up, a rep from Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures showed a slideshow of pictures taken on their tours through Johnstone Straight and the Broughton Archipelago on the east coast of Vancouver Island. This is prime orca country and they had some amazing shots, especially of a run last year when they found themselves surrounded by about a thousand dolphins!
Then Mothership Adventures presented their slideshow. As the name implies, they use a mothership as the base for their kayaking tours, also in the same Johnstone Strait and Broughtons area, but they also have tours up to the Great Bear Rainforest.
Finally, another slide and short film was presented by West Coast Expeditions. They specialize (as you might be able to tell form the name) in kayak tours on the west coast of the island, specifically around Kyuquot, the Bunsby Islands and the Brooks Penninsula. Kyoquot looks like a gorgeous place to paddle. Now I need a second job to afford all these tours!
Sunday, February 06, 2011
It was a mild winter day, so I paddled in regular clothes... well, if River Pants from MEC and an Icebreaker merino shirt qualify as "regular" then I was in civvy clothes. Actually, I wear them a lot in the winter, so there! I also took the small inflatable kayak rather than my lovely sea kayak, because I wanted to be able to take the bus home. The Necky kayak doesn't fit on the bike rack on the front of the bus, alas.
Out on the water, I noticed a flock of over a hundred coots sitting on the water. It was easy to give them lots of room, and on my way back from admiring some birds' nests and a cormorant perch at the mouth of Elk Lake, I saw the coots again. Now they were splashing with their wings, one or two birds at a time and usually at the edges of their big flotilla.
What were they up to?
After a few minutes of drifting and observing their ducking heads and splashing wings, it seemed clear that the coots were following a school of little fish and chasing the fish into the centre of their group. As the coots milled around, everybody got a chance to dip in and take a fish. I couldn't tell what kind of fish were being caught, just that they were small fingerlings.
What a day to forget my camera!
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
As always, the highlights are the expeditions films, in this case it's a feature segment on Justine and two other paddlers kayaking around Tasmania. It's a wonderfully shot adventure, with gorgeous scenery.
It's a must-see for kayaking fans.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
This is the JetLev, a water-powered jet pack. Basically, it's the same as strapping a couple of fire hoses to your back, but unlike other jet-powered back packs, the engine and fuel tank stay on the ground (or in the water in this case), reducing the weight of the pack and the thrust required to maintain flight.
You can hit speeds of 30 kmh and a height of about 10 metres. All this can be yours for only $100,000. Come on, Lotto Max!
Check out these videos: