Monday, March 26, 2012

Learning Experience

Saturday was my day to volunteer at the Nature House in Elk/Beaver Lake Park. The Nature House is down at the Beaver Lake end of the big, figure-eight-shaped lake that was the drinking resevoir for Victoria about a hundred years ago.
Like most days when I'm the volunteer naturalist, I took an inflatable kayak along for the day. Usually I get to the park in the morning, set up my kayak, and get an hour or two on the water before opening the nature centre to visitors. This time was a little different.
The difference came when I lowered my Expedition, folded up in its bag and bungee-ed to a luggage roller, out of the bus. (Yup, I can take a kayak on a bus. Don't boggle. If you've been reading Kayak Yak for a while, you've seen photos of me trundling a kayak along as what looks like a big suitcase.) As I lowered it to the ground... well, maybe it fell a bit... that big puppy weighs 42 pounds, and with paddle/PFD/pump & the luggage roller it must have been over 45 oounds (call it 20+ kilos for those who think metric) and it's hard to hold it up from above. Next time I'm getting off the bus FIRST and then lowering the kayak & roller.
To get back to the point, a wheel broke off the luggage roller.
This was not a honking big problem. Of all the places I've taken a kayak on a roller, this was not a horrible place for the roller to break. I was able to get the kayak to the Nature House, and even take it home later in the day. And even as I did so, I was acutely aware that if the break had happened in some of the other places this kayak has been, I would have been up the proverbial creek without a proverbial paddle.
Not to gloss over the process of what it's like being up a moderately proverbial creek, I dragged my dear kayak on one wheel and a corner of the frame for the better part of a kilometre. (Note to self: the kayak that is too heavy for me to carry for more than a few steps is very nearly too heavy to drag unless it's rolling properly on two wheels.) The walk from the bus stop to the Nature House, which usually takes about eight minutes with the kayak&roller, took closer to forty minutes. I passed the time, plodding or resting, with mental additions to my List Of Rules For Kayak Carpools.
The new rules include:
-When carpooling in someone else's vehicle:
-never stink more than your driver, even after a hard day paddling
-never smoke anything that your driver didn't pass to you, lit
-always offer snacks to your driver
-always have a couple of loonies and quarters ready for parking meters, and put the coins in the change holder on the dashboard as you say, "Good! These were rattling around in my pocket."

I'm still re-phrasing what I'd like to say about the three drivers with vans and the two with pick-up trucks who passed me on that narrow lane to the parking lot by the Nature House. The drivers of tiny sedans I forgave. They all looked old and doddering, which is about what I must have looked like cresting the rise in the lane. I guess the drivers of one van and one pick-up truck will get a pass from me, because they had Handicapped symbols hanging from the rear-view mirrors and their vehicles were full.

At any rate, by the time I got to the Nature House, I had had my upper-body workout for the day, particularly because I was trying unsuccessfully to tip the frame a bit to take most of the weight on the lone wheel. This day has to be classified as my least successful commando kayaking expedition so far.

I could have been extremely grumpy, but for a spot of good luck. The lake was full of model sailboats having a tournament. Ya know, it's really really hard to be grumpy when you're looking at dozens of three-foot-high sails, particularly when they're on brightly-painted tiny yachts. I'm just sayin'.

And the last potential grumpiness evaporated when I got a phone call on my cell from Marlene, who cheerfully agreed to come meet me at the lake when my volunteer time was up. She brought her Smart Car. We have now conclusively proved that a fourtwo Smart Car can carry two adults, two small backpacks, and my Expedition kayak in its bag without crowding the driver or passenger and with PLENTY of room left over.

We plan to put TWO kayaks and gear into her Smart Car and go to SaltSpring for one day this summer.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

Well, hello there.
The picture above was taken with my GoPro camera. I'm sure many of you are wondering just how many pictures your GoPro will take before the battery dies if you've forgetten to turn off the optional monitor before you head out. Thanks to my stupidity well-planned experiment, I can now tell you it's about 90 pictures. And 45 of them will probably be taken before you actually get in the water.
So you might get a couple of nice ones like this before the power craps out. Sigh.
As it happened, I had set up my GoPro and turned it on but got distracted as I had a moment of trouble getting it to work. After a moment it started to work fine, but I neglected to shut off the monitor, and it quickly chewed up the battery power. Ah well, live and learn.

Today, Louise and I were joined by Robyn and Mark of Gecko Paddler. This was their first time paddling in The Gorge and Portage Inlet area, so we gave them the grand tour.

First, we introduced them to what we call the Iron Man.

Further up The Gorge we found a victim from the winter's wind storms. We call it Cormorant Tree because almost every time we paddle here it's usually full of cormorants, but top of the tree is now lying in the mud after having been broken off, probably by the wild storms we've had over the last few weeks.

Next, we passed under the Craigflower Bridge into Portage Inlet.
Enjoy looking at this bridge while you can. Starting July 1, it's coming down. The replacement should be open by Christmas and look like this:
It also means that our paddling options in this area for the summer may be limited as we probably won't be able to get into the inlet due to the bridge construction.

We passed by the swans in their usual nesting spot. I'm guessing we'll see little baby swans playing here in a few weeks.

We headed up Craigflower creek...
...but we found the end is still plugged by a fallen tree, keeping the really cool tunnel 100 metres beyond out of reach, probably for a long time.

The duck and the seagull didn't seem to care about the fallen tree one way or the other.

From Craigflower Creek in the south west corner of the inlet, we headed towards Colquitz Creek at the north east corner, and on the way we passed...
...whatever these are. Centaurs? Avatar people? I don't remember seeing these here before so I'm guessing they're fairly new.

We paddled up the tranquil Colquitz creek, then let the creek's slow easy current pass us back to the inlet.

We headed back down The Gorge to our put in at Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club. Judging by their smiles, I'm guessing Robyn and Mark had a good time. You can read their paddle report here.

Trip Length: 14.62 km
YTD: 25.19 km
More pictures are here.
2012-03-25 The Gorge

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Camera I: Glass and Light

So what were you doing before breakfast this morning? I was downtown taking pictures of a building. I'd noticed the funny reflection on its side while riding the bus earlier in the week, and decided to forgo sleeping in and drag my gear down to get some shots.


The sun is rising behind the building to camera left and the reflection took about half an hour to dance across the building's face. Behind me and to my right are more glass-faced office buildings, one of which was tossing this reflection onto the back side of this building. I never determined exactly where the reflection was coming from, but it didn't matter -- it was fascinating to watch the gold light twist and turn across the façade.
This was may favourite moment as the reflection resembled some sort of hieroglyphics or strange alien script, like an ad for Slurm.
But the next time I get up this early in the morning, I'm going kayaking. Who knows... maybe tomorrow...? (Foreshadowing -- your clue to quality blogging.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Did The Canadian Navy Blow Up an Endangered Local Resident Orca?

Five weeks ago, the body of an orca belonging to one to one of the local and endangered resident pods washed up on a Washington State beach. An examination of three year-old L-112, known as Sooke, showed she died of massive internal trauma, with one witness describing by saying, “One half of this poor little whale’s brain was just soup.”
The CBC reported:
"The entire body showed evidence of massive blunt trauma, some sort of pressure wave that was very blunt in nature not the pointed bow of a ship or anything," said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist at the Center for Whale Research at Friday Harbour, Wash., about 15 kilometres east of Victoria.
Balcomb suspects the animal was killed by an explosive device, one of 96 the U.S. Navy deployed in the area in 2011.
"I suspect she died in U.S. waters. And probably from an explosion,” Balcomb said. “We're seeking information about what explosions at least the navy would be aware of."
Balcomb suspects that more orcas may have been killed in the explosion as orcas often travel in close proximity to each other, although this won't be known until L-Pod returns to the Juan de Fuca straight this summer. The CBC report continues:
The scientist said he hopes an investigation by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service will get access to the Navy's classified documents on its activities.
However, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy denies it conducted any exercises using explosives in the area in February.
The Royal Canadian Navy told CBC News it did use sonar in the Strait of Juan de Fuca Feb. 6, but that no marine mammals were in the area at that time.
But some environmentalists are not satisfied.
“We'd like the navy to release the data on what they were doing,” said Jay Ritchlin, of the David Suzuki Foundation.
“We'd also, basically, just like them to understand and acknowledge that this is a critical habitat for these whales and should be designated as off limits for this kind of sonar training."
While American military officials denied using explosives during the February exercises, Canadian naval spokespeople have admitted that the Canadian Navy did use explosives during exercises during the same time, releasing this statement: “On Feb. 6, HMCS Ottawa was operating in Juan de Fuca Strait, specifically in Constance Bank, conducting workups training, including a period of sonar use and two small underwater charges as part of an anti-submarine warfare exercise.” The statement goes on to say, "HMCS Ottawa followed the Marine Mammal Mitigation Policy prior to and during the period when they were using the ship's sonar. There were no reports, nor indications of marine mammals in the area."
Several environmental groups are calling for an end to military exercises in the area, saying in a statement, "This population of killer whales is listed as endangered under Canada's Species at Risk Act and the legal obligation to protect their critical habitat was recently reinforced by the courts."
Will the federal government, now obligated to protect the critical habitat of B.C.'s southern resident killer whales, instruct the Canadian Navy to no longer hold exercises in local waters that are critically important to orca habitat? It seems ridiculous that sonar and explosives are still allowed to be used in waters used by the local resident orca pods. Sadly, our government does not have a good record as a custodian of the ocean's biodiversity.
The three resident pods held 87 orcas at last count.

Monday, March 19, 2012


There was a crab trap float next to the trash can at the beach this morning. The landlady's dog needs a walk every morning, and it's a good way to start the day first thing, walking through the park and getting close to the beach to see the water. We have to keep the dog from seeing the water, or he'll expect to go leaping into the waves. So that's how I got to see the crab trap float onshore this Sunday morning.
It was a numbered float too, and I recognised it as one belonging to a commercial fishing/crabbing boat that comes through the Bay every two weeks and picks up crabs. A flock of seagulls follows the boat everywhere, expecting tasty snacks tossed overboard.
I was more frustrated than the seagulls, imagining the crab trap sitting on the bottom of the bay, collecting crabs but never being pulled up by the fishermen. Drat! It was a frustrating start to a morning, with a weather forecast for snow and wind that just didn't materialize. We hadn't made plans to take advantage of the long slack tide and cross to the Chathams in our kayaks, because of the weather forecast. The closest our paddle group came to the beach was looking mournfully at it as we plodded off to the coffee shop for a quick cuppa.
We commiserated over the recent news of yet another home heating oil spill into the Colquitz River watershed. That's three this winter. There have been ten home heating oil spills on the Island this year. For heaven's sake, people! Go inspect your fuel tank and pipes. You don't have to be a technician to know what an oily stain is or a big greasy spill. There's no excuse. grr.
John and Louise went off to do a photo shoot. I stumbled into the computer lab on campus and began practising website design for my assignment due next month. grrr argh. And Five Hours Later, I had one page kinda done as a template. Every step had to be done twice. And four separate kinds of things I had to do did all have their step-by-step instructions in the professor's assignment -- but EACH of them had one step that said blithely "Put hotspots in various positions on the image" without defining how to do hotspots (or whatever the middle step was for that task).
I understand the deep appeal of Blogspot websites as compared to Dreamweaver. *sigh*
There was still sunlight in the sky, so I stomped down the hill to the Beach House, snarled at my partner and stuffed myself into my old shortie wetsuit. And yes, it was the little inflatable that I took down to the shore.
I'm tired of justifying the frequent use of this sporty little boat to other paddlers. I notice that those who've spoken to me recommending that I take my sea kayak out instead are all very tall, very broad-shouldered, and cheerfully load their sea kayaks onto the roofs of vans with their arms at full extension overhead (that is, when they go out on the water at all). What do they expect from me? grr argh. I am short and can carry my sea kayak only on days without any wind. This was a breezy afternoon.
It was a great day to ride the ripples and swells in the supple little inflatable, which is much like a playboat for riding waves, but also like a rec kayak for paddling a kilometre or two along shores. I plodded out to the beach with the inflatable on my shoulder and a toque on my head, even though it made me hot.
Why the toque? Well, I'm tired of getting double-takes and frank stares and a few of the people people pointing as I go by in my wetsuit with my inflatable kayak... and my mop of grey hair. Yes, passer-by, I am going sea kayaking in winter on a breezy day. Yes, I am as old as your grandmother, or your canasta partner (depending on whether the passer-by is young or old). Get over it. This is Victoria, where the average age of members of the sea kayaking clubs is 67 -- and rising. The second time I was offered a senior's discount, I was wearing a wetsuit. I still have fifteen years more to live before qualifying for a senior's discount; I just have grey hair. So sometimes I wear a toque or my cold water cap to eliminate that particular source of attention.
Unfortunately, the toque doesn't cover the rest of me, so my pudgy little form plods down to the boat ramp, and every bulge is outlined in neoprene and tight merino. Well, if ya can't look kinda naked at the beach, where can you? Yes, passer-by, I am not a lean hardbody. Yes, you thought most sea kayakers were big husky guys. But I've worn out two short wetsuits in six years without getting much slimmer. I don't see you wading barefoot in the ocean, now, do I?
It was a relief to ride the ripples and swells around to Flower Island and back. The ducks bobbed and turned, and the oystercatchers showed off their colourful beaks and legs next to crows. Black is the colour this season, it seems -- but oystercatchers know how to accessorize.
It took me over an hour, paddling on the treadmill with my paddle feathered, but it felt good to do the circuit. It's a much nicer workout, paddling in Cadboro Bay than sweating in a gym. Windsurfing in this little inflatable is fun. And my speed in it isn't that much slower than Freya's long days slogging through rough weather around Australia. I don't expect to paddle like she does.
At any rate, by the time I was done for the day, the landlady's dog was ready for another walk. And it was time to go find the spouse and let him know it was safe to come home.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gearing Up at Ocean River


Louise and I headed down for the yearly ritual of the Ocean River Gear Up Sale. We weren't looking for anything particular to buy this year, so we just browsed and visited with fellow paddlers. But Louise did buy a hat.

Actually, we did a bit more shopping than just Louise's new hat. We were looking for paddling jackets as our old jackets are wearing out. We didn't settle on anything but checked out a few good prospects. I stocked up on Icebreaker and we bought a pair of Tajo kayak wall-mounts by Swagman. Maybe hanging these will be the motivation to clean up our basement. No doubt it will make an interesting blog post. Oh, the things we do for the blog.
We also bumped into Robyn and Mark as they manned the SISKA table. Mark was hoping to get a new Werner paddle today, and I offered my tips on how to score a paddle at the Gear Up sale.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate a little better soon and can get on the water more. Enough with the 80 kmh wind storms already!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ocean Currents Video

A terrific video from NASA, showing satellite imagery of ocean currents. Amazing how different the currents are around the world, and at different times of year!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Youth in Parks Initiative

I've only been on the water a few times the last two weeks, and in good ol' Caddy Bay, so there's not much to say about kayaking right now except that the beach is soooo much more private on cold days!
But an e-mail press release came to me from the Capital Regional District's parks program. There's a new program starting up, and the CRD wants their press release spread around to a lot of young people, so here goes:

Youth In Parks

Do you know youth who love parks?

The CRD, BC Parks and the Boys and Girls Club have teamed up for an exciting youth project in Southern Vancouver Island – the Youth in Parks Team!

We are looking for passionate young people (ages 13-18) in the Capital Regional District who want to share their love of parks and the outdoors with other youth and their community.

Joining the team will provide the opportunity to meet other like-minded youth, gain leadership skills and contribute to parks in your community! And of course . . . have lots of fun too!

All the details of the Youth in Parks Team can be found here:

First: The program starts off with a full day Youth Leadership Summit held at the Metchosin Outdoor Centre on April 22, 2012. Here, you and 40 other youth will spend the day doing outdoor activities, learning how to share your love of the outdoors, and maximizing your leadership abilities – all while meeting awesome like-minded people from all over the region!

Second: Between May and September, the Youth in Parks Team will meet monthly to learn more skills, continue to share your passion for parks, and work together to plan a fun youth-led outdoor event to be hosted in September. There will also be an opportunity for some members of the Team to become part of the Youth in Parks Advisory Council!

Third: Help host the Youth in Parks event in September! Invite your friends, siblings and other youth in the community to attend!

Interested? We’d love to have you participate! All you need to do is fill out the application form and provide an answer to the question “Why are parks important to you and your community?” in any creative way you’d like.

Submit a short essay, video, poem, art piece, song, anything really! It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, we just want to see (or hear, or experience) your enthusiasm and commitment to becoming part of the Youth in Parks Team!

Applications are due March 25th at 9pm!

And join us on March 14th at 7 pm at the Boys and Girls Club (1240 Yates St., wheelchair accessible) for an information night to find out more!

Please forward this email to any young people who might be interested.


Karen Preston

Coordinator of Partnership Development

Capital Regional District - Regional Parks

490 Atkins Avenue Victoria BC V9B 2Z8

T: 250.360.3330

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Camera I: Chinatown Night Shoot

So we haven't had much in the way of kayaking in the blog lately -- some kayaking blog this is! It's the way it goes sometimes, paddling plans and the real world just don't intersect. But Spring is in the air, at least some mornings, and with clocks moving forward an hour tonight to Daylight Savings time (except in most of Saskatchewan, and bits of BC, Ontario, Quebec, and Nunavut), it's just a matter of time before we really start hitting the waves in earnest this year.

In the meantime, here's some photos I took for my photography course on a night shoot in Victoria's Chinatown this past week.
The lion at The Gates of Harmonious Interest welcomes you to the second-oldest Chinatown in North America.

At one time deep in the city's past one could find brothels, gambling dens and opium clubs on these streets, although now the most one is likely to find is Dim Sum, and souvenir trinkets.


Needless to say, I had a lot of fun playing with the neon lights.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

People of a Feather --- WOW!

Just saw a wonderful Canadian film today -- People of a Feather, by Joel Heath and the community of Sanikiluaq. The opening sequences show you the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay where the film was made. Most of the rest of the images show the islands and the surrounding sea ice in winter so close you're barely aware of the low, flat horizon and the miles & miles of open water or nearly-level ice.

The ice only looks level at a distance. For the animals and people at the edge of an island, or out on the ice, there are ever so many kinds of textures and kinds of ice. It breaks and is pushed along by currents and wind. Most of the scenes showed one or another open place in the ice, called a polynya (po-lin-yah). That's where eider ducks come, to dive down to the sea bottom for mussels and urchins to eat. This winter, I've been watching ducks again, but the local ducks are different from these eider ducks in Hudson Bay. These photos are from the website promoting the film. Click here to see the short video trailer. There are underwater and aerial images as well as candid hand-held shots and simple tripod work.

The film is a marvelous combination of scenes of the eider ducks and other scenes of the people who live in Sanikiluaq. The co-operation between science and residence works very well in this film; the community called for help when the eider ducks were dying and the scientist who came had respect for their observations. The scientist is not the narrator for the film. The story presented isn't from his point of view, it's told by the people who live in the islands. They've got a great website at that's informative and loads quickly.

One of the things that really impressed me was the people of Sanikiluaq decided to make traditional clothes and tools for several scenes. There's even a traditional kayak featured!

Thursday, March 01, 2012


Wouldn't it be cool if you could ride a whale? Some dolphins around Hawaii think the same thing and have been hitching rides on humpbacks. Check out the video:

Speaking of whales, in an historic decision the Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the federal minister of fisheries has no discretion when it comes to protecting the critical habitat of B.C.'s southern resident killer whales.
2011-06-21 J-Pod_0170 copy2
According to a report by the CBC, "The case stems from the plight of southern B.C.'s iconic marine mammal. At last count, there were 87 animals left in the southern orca population that lives in and around Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands. The group was listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act in 2003. Fisheries and Oceans came up with a plan to protect the whales and their critical habitat, but left certain elements up to the discretion of the minister. The court said all elements of the plan must be enshrined in law. That would mean protecting chinook salmon, the whales' main food source, reducing underwater noise from boat, industrial and military activity and cleaning up toxic contamination in the whales' home ecosystem."
Unfortunately, the current federal regime has shown an alarming lack of respect for judicial decisions (or parliamentary rulings for that matter) that don't align with its narrow conservative ideology, so we shall see if the government embraces or ignores this decision. While I'm hopeful, past evidence suggests that that hope is misplaced as this report suggests that the Canadian government has failed to protect our country's marine biodiversity and has failed to meet national and international commitments to sustain marine biodiversity over many years.