Sunday, July 31, 2011

Brief Note About One Response to the Norway Shooter

After a week camping on Quadra Island, studying clam gardens, I have a pile of notes to use for posting here. But it's gotten late after checking my e-mail and answering the priority stuff and especially the friend stuff. So I'll just make time to post here the link to something a friend sent. During the recent awful events in and near Oslo, Norway, there was one response to the shooter that sounds particularly brave. Apparently two women who were near the camp heard the shooting and cries. They got into their boat and went toward the island, and pulled as many of the teenagers as they could into their boat. They took them to the lakeshore and went back three more times, saving forty teenagers in all, while the shooter put holes right through their boat.

A Quickie on The Gorge

Although it was a warm and mostly sunny morning, the currents in our favourite local paddle spots didn't look like they were going to cooperate today, and the weather forecast changed overnight to include some offshore breezes, so Louise and I opted for a quick paddle in our home waters, The Gorge. We rolled the kayaks down the hill, and hit the water early.
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We crossed to check out a piece of sculpture on a dock that we call The Iron Man, although we're starting to think that its first name might be Rusty. As we paddled up, we could see that it had attracted the attention of a heron as well.
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After a few moments the heron wandered off, apparently not impressed with The Iron Man. Everyone's a critic.
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A few minutes later, we spotted a raccoon along the shore.
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Raccoons are famous for their cleaning habits, spending hours a day cleaning themselves and their food, and this one was no exception. He was definitely cleaning then taking a bite out of something he had in the water. I never could make out what it was, although I think it may have a clam or an oyster.
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Obviously, it was Raccoon Week around here, as three baby raccoons had visited our yard earlier in the week.

Next up, we saw a dogfish.
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Sorry. I just couldn't resist that one.
Actually, he was a friendly dog who was very curious about us to the point that he nearly started swimming after us. I don't know how we would have explained that to its owner.

As we rounded the point into Portage Inlet, we realized that the low tide was just a little too low and we wouldn't be able to get all the down before we'd get stuck in the mud and silt. With the tide still on the ebb, the water was going to get shallower still, and we wouldn't get a chance to do a lot of exploring today.
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The breeze was picking up a bit, and behind us we saw a front rolling by. We didn't see a whole lot of birds today, and that's generally meant a change in the weather around here.
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The clouds took interesting shapes and patterns today.
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We spotted an eagle, but he took off quickly. There just wasn't much around here to eat today...
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...although this heron was willing to try his luck at some fishing.
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Then we headed for home.
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Trip Length: 7.88 km
YTD: 161.85 km
More pictures are here.
2011-07-31 The Gorge

Monday, July 25, 2011

Litter Story

This summer, Ben is off on another road trip. Ben is my and Bernie's son, and you can see him in photos Bernie took back in 2006! The trip is on a bike Ben assembled out of various parts. He and his buddy J.P. are en route from Edmonton to somewhere in the Okanagan where they can pick fruit. Last summer, they picked fruit at a rate that astounded farmers and earned them a list of phone numbers and addresses of farmers eager to hire them again.
But they're not yet in fruit country. You can read about their travels at their website, with the stories about bike repairs and the barb-wire fences and various animals and rainstorms along the way. Today Ben's new post included among many details the following story, about camping out and waking up near a lake, and tidying up someone else's litter. He wrote:
The day following was clear and warm, resulting in the decision to go swimming and get to watch a pair of yuppies knot their booze up in a plastic bag and drop in overboard into the lake. Of course a single can or bottle floats, but the weight of a bundle sank it to the bottom resulting in cursing and motoring off in a huff. The two of them had probably had enough anyway as they were stumbling around onboard and didn’t seem to notice the water was only 8 feet deep. Of course this litter was recovered easily and disposed of in the most appropriate manner, with sandwiches.

G-L-O-R-I-OUS Paddle to Discovery Island

G-L-O-R-I-OUS.... Glorious! (with apologies to Van Morrison...)
Readers of the blog this summer (or this non-summer as the case may be) may recall a common theme running through many past posts, mainly me bitching about the weather and The. Summer. That. Never. Arrived. However, summer swept in this weekend in full bloom. A high of 26 yesterday and nary a cloud in the sky. Tomorrow is forecast to be 10 degrees cooler, but that's like a whole day away, so let's not worry about that, and instead bask in the glory of today's weather! (Because we all know it's ain't gonna last!)

Louise and I joined Paula yesterday for what looked like a perfect day to paddle to Chatham Island. Not only was the weather cooperating, but the currents were expected to be about as favourable as they could possibly be, a long slow flood that would give us enough time to reach our destination and noodle about for a bit.
I didn't get off to a good start as a little scenic detour down a small channel among the islets near our starting point in Cadboro Bay tuned out to be a little shallower than I was expecting. Oops. Love that grinding sound. Not.
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So much for my short cut. After I caught up, we pressed on across the small straight to Chatham Island.
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Once there....
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.... the conditions were idyllic and we decided to take advantage of them and go around both Chatham and Discovery Island. We saw a fair number of seals today, and they seemed extra curious about us. We were constantly shadowed by dark little pairs of eyes that gently rose out of the water then slunk stealthily beneath the surface. We tried to give them their distance as there a lot of momma and baby seals out together, and we didn't want to become the subject of an angry mother's wrath.
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We headed around the northern shore of Chatham. We'd already seen the occasional eagle flying around, and we'd spotted one upon our arrival at Chatham flying with something in its talons but it was too far away to make out what. Whatever it was, it was clearly not going to have as good a day as we were having.
We spotted another bald eagle landing ahead of us behind some rocks, As we approached, we realized there were two eagles and the younger one on the left was eating something. Could the older eagle have been doing some hunting for the younger one? It never took a bit of lunch, at least not that we saw.
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As we scooted around the rocks, the older eagle took off but the younger one remained behind and enjoyed its meal.
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At the time we were guessing it was eating a fish, but after looking at the pictures its obviously something else. What, I'm not sure, but the eagle was sure enjoying it.

From there we headed into the bay at the north end of Chatham.
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If you time it right at a high tide, the small channel in the end of the bay fills up and a small island named Cactus Island can be circumnavigated, but the tide wasn't high enough yet. We jumped out for a quick stretch and some snacks.
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On our way again, we made our way out of the bay and down the eastern shore of Chatham towards Discovery.
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It's very important to make sure to roll over when you're tanning to get that "all-over" tan.
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Paula found this round formation in the rocks on the far side of Discovery, probably erosion caused by wave action. Upon further investigation, it was not as deep as it looked only 30cm or so, but still quite interesting.
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As we headed back, the breeze picked up a bit. We were treated to mirror-flat waters on the east side of Discovery, but the water was a little bumpier as we headed back along its southern shore.
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After we crossed back to Flower Island near the mainland, we saw an otter playing in the water. It paid no attention to us as it did some fishing. Why should the eagles have all the fun and get all the eats?
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And finally, one last surprise. As we sat down for coffee after the paddle, our kayaking buddy Richard suddenly appeared, his appearance all the more surprising because he moved to Vancouver a number of months ago. He was in town for the day and by happenstance was in the area as he saw us drive by with our kayaks. A perfect capper to a great day!
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Trip Length: 16.96 km
YTD: 153.97 km
More pictures are here.
2011-07-24 Discovery Island

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Great Day With Mink and Eagles!

A fabulous day on the water, once again. We seem to have a lot of them. But then, get on the water in small boats on a bunch of days and odds are, some of the days will be fabulous.

This day the tide and currents conspired to make possible a crossing to the Chathams and Discovery Island. The weather was on our side, too! Sunny without being too hot, a slight breeze but not enough to keep us from going.

We set out at nine this morning, and kept closer to the shore of Cadboro Bay than we might have. The middle of the bay had several little sail boats, and it's good to give them lots of room. Yacht owners and power boaters have a special nickname for kayaks: speedbumps. There's even an approved safety tip for what to do when being run over by a powerboat or yacht... as it's about to hit your kayak, roll over, away from the approaching boat. The bigger, faster boat will strike your hull instead of your head. Possibly it will cut your kayak in half, but at least it's apparently less likely to hurt you. I'm not anxious to try the technique. We try to stay out of the way of bigger boats.

Along the shore, John spotted an animal running along the rocks. It was too quick to be photographed, and too small for a river otter. It looked like a mink to me... or maybe a very young otter. Quick as a wink!

The crossing went well. At Chatham and Strongtide, there was just a bit of swirling eddy from the slight flood tide. We wandered around Chatham and checked out the long inlet to see if we could reach the little islet that Rich and Mike Jackson call Cactus Island.

Nope! There wasn't enough water to get in to the basin still surrounding the islet. We landed and walked up the gravel, past the trickle of water still flowing out, to look around. Crossing the trickle of water was a row of rocks like a little dam about ankle-high, reminding me of the rock walls made in the past by First Nations as a fish weir or clam bed. This one could have been just a little dam made by someone playing, but still, nice to see.

Out the little inlet, past kingfishers. around rocks and viewing eagles. John got some terrific photos! I'll leave the great story of the eagle meal to him to tell.

We ended up going around Discovery -- the mild weather made this a great day. At the campground we took a moment to check out a boat that brought a load of tourists to the park. Looks like a fun idea, but we were very glad to be able to take our own boats out under our own power on this wonderful day.

On the way back, we passed Jemmy Jones Island and Flower. Otters were out again, diving near Flower. Just one more beautiful thing to see! A great trip and still great when we got back to shore. I got back to the Beach House just in time for the lunch Bernie made, and then to Olive Olio's to meet John & Louise, who had found Rich and his Mom. They had come to the Cadboro Bay Village on their Vespa-style scooters to meet us after paddling. (Yes, Victoria is the kind of place where a guy just might go zooming around on a scooter with his mom!) Great day, great friends.

Parc nationale des îles-de-Boucherville (Sunday July 24)

Although Parc nationale des Îles-de-Boucherville has year-round auto-access (by tunnel and autoroute, no less), getting there by public transit is more challenging. Last year I missed the 3-or-so month season of the navettes (ferries) to and from the park. This year I was determined to make it over at least once. A couple of weeks ago, I'd looked at the temperature and wilted. This weekend, newly hardened by our "heat dome", I didn't look; I made my plans, packed my bag, and set out.
The navette from the Montreal side leaves from Parc Bellerive on the east island. With Sunday bus service, I figured I was going to miss the first ferry at 10 am, but it was still there when I trotted up to the dock about 5 minutes past. I paid my $8.00, clambered aboard. Brisk zip with a certain bounce along the St Laurence to the dock on Île Charron (that's the incoming dotted line to the upper left of the island-mass on the map), past a formidable looking radar monitoring station and into a rectangular bay of calm stale water, with a slight whiff of anaerobic mud.
This did not put me into the Parc proper; rather disconcertingly, I climbed up the short path from the dock and I found myself plunk beside a roaring highway, rising up from underground. However, a dozen or so yards away, a cinder track turned off to the left and I left it all behind. All the other ferry passengers had bicycles, so I shortly found myself alone, tramping across Ile Charron; the map said 3.5 km to the Centre de Locations, about half way down the channel between Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Jean. I'll compress the land-bits, save that the temperature was already heading for the high-whatever and I was feeling the lack of shade because of the well-cleared zone around the path, I gave one of the local lifeforms a flying fright, catching only a glimpse of reddish flank and a great thrashing wave retreating through the tall grasses (I was put in mind of Sheri Tepper's Grass, though obviously it was not a foxen). I crossed over a road-access, and walked by two parking lots, something that seemed mildly surprising and ever so slightly indecent. At the entrance I paused to puzzle over whether or not I needed to put a bit of my ticket in the self-pay envelope to establish I had paid the entrance fee - which I knew was included in the ferry fare - but decided I probably needed it with me. As it turned out, I was right.
Once in sight of the rental shack, I had a gazpacho-break in the broad picnic area, and then went and snagged myself a boat ($35 for 3 hours). I did not (remiss of me) take a note of the name, save that it had 6 letters, and was Inuit. The kayak was bright red, hard glossy plastic, with a rudder, probably a 14'. Very comfortable seat with good back support. Foot-pedals on a strap, sparing me the usual contortions adjusting them as I floated offshore, having cleared the busy beach. I need to bring my sandals next time - paddling barefoot is too hard on the heels, but walking 7 km in those sandals is too hard on the feet. On the deck, waving like a tongue, was a laminated Parc map about 9 inches long, secured at one end. The man at the booth assured me the circuit on the map was doable in 3 hours, and that I should start by heading south.
However, in not looking at the temperature, I also missed taking note of the wind. I have no photos of the initial paddle down Chenal Grande Riviere. The paddle I had was fixed, not feathered, and felt shorter than I was used to, and I needed to hold my course between the reeds and various pleasure-boats, against the wind. Later I read it was 15 kph N with gusts up to 30 kph, per environment Canada, but even by Montréal's idiosyncratic definition of directions, that wasn't a north wind. I hugged the reeds along the right shore until the debouchment into the Fleuve Saint-Laurent, checked for oncomings, and slogged across the choppy water to start along the south shore of Île de la Commune. There are no photos of this section, either, because I still had the headwind, and in addition, had wakes kicked up by the assorted pleasures boats' more energetic cousins, all the way to the turn-in to Chenal la Passe. I also had company, a couple in a red rented double, a family of three in a canoe who could not all paddle in the direction at the same time, and a couple probably in their own boats, bold enough to swing out clear of the shallows and the worst of the chop. I think they all had more ambitious plans than I, because when I turned into the Chenal la Passe, none of them followed me.
Something else did. I was admiring the wooden bridge which carries the foot/bike path over the Chenal, when I heard a clatter of outboard behind me. It refused to be willed away, and further asserted itself with a puff of diesel flatulence, before parking in the middle of the channel. I can haz torpedoz, I darkly muttered, and scooted past before the fishhooks came out. I met the breeze again coming down, making that five points of the compass it covered, though it was much lessened. And when I got to the top of the Chenal and turned west, putting the wind more or less at my back, and hitched myself around (flexibility exercises! must do!) and discovered that although I had not checked that the rudder was unhooked, it was unhooked, and I could flip it down - suddenly my Sunday workout became a Sunday cruise. On both sides I had reeds and what seemed a thin line of low trees. Straight ahead, I could just see civilization in the form of a pylon. The omnipresent city hum was almost inaudible. On the way up the Chenal, I caught sight of a kingfisher, glimpse of blue and pale, dashing past, a little mustard-coloured finch-like bird, dotting from leaf to leaf, the ubiquitous red-winged blackbird, and the hovering black-winged seagulls. Though the map suggested one hugged the shore, I needed to steer wide around mats of frothy spew of yellow-green weed (the only way to describe it). In amongst the reeds, I could see water-lilies. There was the occasional white one, open, and faintly luminous, with the peppering of tiny insects in the base of the cup, but more of the closed fist-like yellow ones, pushing above the waters on their stems.
Parc de Boucherville, Chenal la Passe from the kayakParc de Boucherville, Chenal du Courant from the kayakAmong the reeds. Parc de Boucherville, Chenal du Courant.
Then the reeds closed in. Shiny, green, about 3 feet high, with the wind hissing through in a mean-girls whispering; they narrowed the passage down to a single navigable channel. The movie clip captures the motion and something of the sound, though coarsely through the little microphone. I think that sudden flight of birds is of red-winged blackbirds, and the creaking is the sound of my plying the rudder, steering. Just after I had put the camera down, two double kayaks, as red as mine, appeared before me, and we were occupied in trying not to run into each other as we maneuvered past. I heard the occasional grunt and mutter of a heron, but only saw one, when it launched to my left and floated parallel to my course for several impossibly slow wingbeats, before it settled out of sight again. It was one of those long suspended moments that are still far too short to go for a camera. Something behind me started shrieking and crying in piteous alarm, though I have no idea whether I was the provocation, or what it was. Once out of the reeds, I paused to drink yoghurt turned liquid the warmth and finish my Jamaican pastry. Then I carried on down the channel past assorted route markers and the occasional cryptic sign, thinking about the unmistakable high summer blue-green of the foliage, just before it starts to look tired.
Chenal la Passe turned into Chenal Grande Riviere, and I was very shortly back among the pleasure-boats, with the bronzed and bodacious disporting themselves. A large shaggy golden retriever on the deck of one gave the peasant in her kayak the stern retainer's eye. The circuit had taken me 2:15 hours, and though I was tempted to turn back amongst the reeds, I was tired and my eyes were dry and scratchy. So I beached, off-loaded, and, the attendants being occupied, discovered that using the trick of lifting the boat onto my thighs before shouldering it, I could heft a plastic kayak pushing 50 lb. Though I would not have wanted to load it onto a roof-rack solo, and maneuvering with only a 90 degree field of view and 7 feet of kayak sweeping fore and aft is not something I like to do with as many people around - so in future I will wait. But I returned it to its rack without injury to myself or anyone else, and my return was timely, because the line at the rental shed was getting ever longer and the supply of visible boats, dwindling.
Parc de Boucherville, cable ferryParc de Boucherville, Chenal la Passe from the bridgeParc de Boucherville, path on île de la commune
Back on land, I'd the choice of walking back to Île Charron and taking the navette back to Bellerive, or continuing on to the other dock, walking along the shore I'd just paddled beside, crossing over Chenal la Passe and getting a shuttle over to Boucherville itself. The distance, walking, was about the same, and I wanted to scout out the second route, which seemed to me the most feasible way of bringing the Dragonfly over. So I got to see a quite different aspect of the island, because although from the water it looked wildish, inland, it had been cleared and put to the plough and looked not unlike parts of central Saanich. I crossed the Chenal Grande Riviere on the cable-ferry, and the Chenal la Passe on the bridge I had admired. On foot, ducking down the grassed footpath which ran parallel to the track, I was in a minority, most everyone else being on bicycles. This time I knew I'd miss the ferry, which according to the schedule left on the half hour, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, whatever the schedule said, the ferry was only pausing to off- and on-load passengers. My ticket turned out to be a return, and I hopped aboard, bound for Boucherville. The young man at the helm took off with brio, including some wide swishing turns that kicked up white spray and were - fun. Yes, indeed, maybe I can understand the appeal of going really fast over the water. (But I didn't squeal.) My luck held at the other side, because after a short, pleasant wait, the hourly bus (81) hove into view, and I had even had the foresight not to spend all my change. The one downside of the southern route is the Boucherville bus is a separate fare from the Montreal one; on the other hand the ferry is cheaper. And so to the Metro station and back into town.
Here's the first selection of photos; there may be more.
Parc de Boucherville, Chenal la Passe from the kayakParc de Boucherville, Chenal du Courant from the kayakAmong the reeds. Parc de Boucherville, Chenal du Courant.Parc de Boucherville, Turning into Chenal Grande RiviereParc de Boucherville, cable ferryParc de Boucherville, Chenal la Passe from the bridgeParc de Boucherville, , Chenal la Passe from the bridgeParc de Boucherville, thistlesParc de Boucherville, path on île de la communeParc de Boucherville, BridgeParc de Boucherville, meadow on île de la CommuneParc de Boucherville, navette departing Boucherville