Sunday, July 29, 2012

Up The Gorge

Louise and I didn't have a lot of time to paddle today, and a breeze was forecast to come up early in the afternoon, so we rolled the kayaks down the hill for a quickie for in our home waters in The Gorge.

We'd barely paddled a hundred meters before we passed a heron looking for some fishy breakfast.
It was a bumper day for herons. We couldn't swing a kayak paddle without hitting a heron. Not that we'd want to do that.
A few minutes later we spotted another one fishing. No, he was not fishing for ducks.

We paddled under the Craigflower Bridge (named this despite the fact that it's Admirals Road). Long-time readers will recall that the 80 year-old bridge was slated for demolition and replacement this summer, but the project has been delayed until next year due to environmental concerns about a native species of oyster.

Oh, yes, there was a heron.

After a few futile looks earlier in the year, we finally spotted the local nesting swans. Unfortunately, no baby swans survived this year.


And there were more herons.
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Today was the first time Louise used the Columbia Sportswear Powerdrain shoes she won at the 2012 MEC Paddlefest a couple of weeks ago.
The water drains out of the shoes. Above, Louise has put her foot in the water while launching, while below she's lifted her foot out of the water and the water is draining out.
Louise says her feet seemed drier than in her neoprene boots and they were very comfortable to walk in. She liked the fact that her feet weren't wet for the duration of the paddle. And that sounds good to me -- gonna have to get my own pair!

Trip Length: 6.88 km
YTD: 84.03 km
More pictures are here.
2012-07-29 The Gorge
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kayaking From California to Hawaii

Any day now, Wave Vidmar will begin an unsupported kayak trip from California to Hawaii (see the New York Times article, also the source of the above photo, here).
If all goes well, he will kayak the 5000 kilometers in 45 to 65 days.
Why would anyone want to something so seemingly impossible? Vidmar discusses this in a Huffington Post piece here. Also, kayaking from California to Hawaii unsupported is not impossible, as it's been done once before. In 1987, Ed Gillet paddled from Monterey to Maui, a somewhat shorter distance than Vidmar will attempt. His account of his trip is here, and here's a 2003 interview with him.
Below are two video clips, the first from 1987 of Ed being interviewed on The Tonight Show by Johnny Carson, and a second more recent clip from the TV show The Survivor Series.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Whale Not Watching

Yesterday's plan for Louise and myself was to go down to the Inner Harbour and from there go out on a whale watching tour, but wind warnings were up and the whale watching tour companies cancelled all their tours for the day. So we found ourselves downtown with a few hours to kill, so we played tourist for a couple of hours instead.
We took the obligatory postcard shot of the Legislature...
...checked out some First Nations' Totem Poles at Centennial Square...
...had yummy pizzas at The Joint...
...and hung out with some of the locals.

We did see some whales....
...namely these two orcas in a flower garden at the Empress Hotel. I love how the little one is blowing!
We rebooked for August -- hopefully we'll have better weather luck then.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fishing boat hits whale in Broken Island Group

The big news on CBC radio this morning is about a couple out fishing in their new boat, who collided with a gray whale on Friday. This was not good news, but the humans are fine and they felt the whale was uninjured.
There are articles about the collision on the Vancouver Sun website, and the Victoria Times-Colonist site. The couple, Joe and Shirley Antonelli, have posted a video on YouTube, edited from the video the woman was making as the collision occurred.
Based on what Shirley Antonelli said on CBC Radio One this morning, and on her comments in the newspapers, the couple was fishing off Effingham Island near Ucluelet. They had set out Friday morning in a boat they've used six times since they bought it in June. By ten in the morning, they'd been fishing for three hours and caught three chinook salmon. "We were completely surrounded by whales," Shirley told reporter Heather Thompson. "We joked about hitting one."
And they did.
While their video is titled "Fishing adventure and whale attacks" -- it's pretty clear that this is NOT a whale attack. The articles mention that Shirley felt that their fishing gear had struck a whale. (They were using downriggers with weights called "cannon balls.") During the radio interview, Shirley said that they were surrounded by gray whales, very close to the boat.

Let's just pause here to review the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regulations for whale-watching, for the safety of marine mammals and turtles. Check out their website, but it boils down to:
-Don't come any closer than 100 metres to a whale
-Reduce speed if the whale comes within 400 metres and watch out!
-Don't follow the whale or get in its path

Bottom line: we in the boats are the humans. We must make room for the whales to feed and travel where they need to be. New boat users MUST be helped by their friends and associates to understand that these rules are for our safety as well as for the safety of the whales and other animals.

This collision was NOT a whale attack. It happened because the humans were fishing for hours in an area where the whales needed to be. The humans let their boat get far too close to whales for far too long.
As Shirley said on the radio, it felt like the whale came up to look at them and give them a shove. The Antonellis are just lucky that they were able to reel in all their gear without leaving any of it hooked in a whale. The whale in the video did not look well after the collision.

Even little kayaks and canoes can be annoying or distressing to whales and other large sea animals. Give them lots of room! We can buy food, and we can go boating in other places. Let the sea animals be where they need to be to eat and live.
And thank you, John, for buying big telephoto lenses for your camera, so you don't need to get too close to marine life to get those marvelous pictures you take for the blog.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Winning Shoes

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the 2012 MEC Paddlefest Victoria, where we checked out the Columbia Sportswear table, where we entered a draw. We usually do pretty well on draws at paddling events and our lucky streak continued as Louise won herself a pair of Columbia's Powerdrain shoes.
Next time we go out, she'll give them a test-drive...test-walk?...and we'll post the results.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


When we're out in our kayaks, we pick up bottles and bags floating in the lakes and bays.
It doesn't take much effort. And it's really worth it. Trash takes a long time to break down. Every summer there's a clean-up day here in the Gorge, and volunteers take away heaps of trash. There are kayak rental places in Toronto that give renters a price break if they come back with a bag of trash picked up during the boat rental.
If you've ever wondered why there's all the fuss about plastic trash in the ocean or lakes, here's a reason why. Plastic is shiny or colourful, attracting the attention of birds and many other kinds of animals. And they eat it.
A speck or two of plastic does no good but isn't much trouble to a large bird. But albatrosses have been found with their bellies full of plastic. It doesn't digest, and it can blog the animal's stomach, killing it.
Even a few bits of plastic cause problems to smaller animals, with BHP and other chemicals affecting the animal's health if it doesn't choke outright. It's enough to make me resolve that when my plastic kayak is finally at the end of its useful span years from now, the plastic will be recycled instead of put in a landfill.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shark Chases Kayaker, Becomes Internet Meme

Last weekend, a kayaker off a Cape Cod beach had a very close encounter with nature, namely being persued by a great white shark. According to this CBC report, "I saw the fin out of the water ... I looked down and saw the body and realized that part of the shark was underneath me, and I just proceeded to paddle," Walter Szulc Jr. said Monday, adding it all happened very fast and his response "was just instinct — paddle and head out of there."
Shark sightings are on the increase on the Cape due to an increase in the local seal population.
Jeez. You just can't look at that picture without humming the theme from Jaws, can you?

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Looking Down

This morning, I rolled my Expedition inflatable down to the beach. There weren't many people in the park before 8 am, but someone still wandered up to ask me if I knew what the planes were doing. Two big Hercules were circling over the big bay, from Discovery and Chatham Islands to the Oak Bay shore and Cadboro Bay. 
Bernie came to the shore as I was launching to say what the planes were doing. He'd heard the news, that two men had launched a canoe last night from Ten Mile Point. On their way to the Chathams, they were swamped. Neither was wearing a PFD. One was rescued -- the other man was still missing.
By this time, we could see a helicopter as well flying the search pattern, and Oak Bay Sea Rescue searching the bay in their Zodiac. I kept an eye out as I paddled, looking down into the shallows along the shoreline.
The local newspaper has written about the search for the missing man here, as does the CBC. But it's worth saying again what we've said before here at Kayak Yak:
- wear your PFD
- do safety practise in safe conditions so the first time you flip isn't during an emergency
- local knowledge makes paddling fun and less life-threatening
Accidents happen. Mistakes are things people do. Some mistakes can be avoided.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Kayaking Quadra Island

We've heard of this mythical season, seen the occasional glimpse, the teasing hint of it, but it remains elusive. For instance, as Louise and I drove up the east coast of Vancouver Island for a quick getaway last Tuesday to Quadra Island, we encountered cloud, rain and a little sunshine. Often all three at once.
Quadra Island is a short ferry ride from Campbell River. (And I do mean short, only about ten minutes. I've never taken a ferry ride this brief. It took longer to load the ferry than to make the crossing. But I digress.) On arrival in Campbell River...
...we could see band upon band of dark clouds passing by overhead, dumping their load of moisture as they passed. Soon the venerable Powell River Queen arrived and we departed, as a lone seal swam by the ferry to make sure all was ship-shape.
Arriving a few minutes later at Quathiaski Cove on Quadra Island, we headed east across the narrow lower portion of the island to the small village of Heriot Bay, where we did a bit of shopping at Works of H'Art, before heading to the southern tip at Cape Mudge, and our home for the next couple of days, The Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge.

Owned and operated by the We Wai Kai First Nation and situated on their ancestral land, the Lodge is located in a stunningly beautiful part on the world. We have a stunning view out over Discovery Passage, with the ocean at our feet, tall trees swaying, and snow-capped mountains in the distance. Well, I imagine we do -- it's still all socked in and raining and we can't see a darn thing.

The lobby of the Lodge is gorgeous and decorated with wonderful First Nations art.
And you've got to love a place that has deer wandering through the parking lot...

The next morning we returned to Heriot Bay and found the Quadra Island Kayaks shop, known locally as the Yak Shack, where we signed up for a six hour tour.
The rain from the day before had ended, and the clouds were slowly burning away with sunny skies expected in the afternoon.

We hoped down to the docks, met our guide Samara from New Zealand, and our fellow paddlers on our tour, George and Lindy from Toronto. With conditions looking to improve, we put away our paddling jackets and hoped for sun. We prepped our kayaks on the dock...
...while a nearby heron went about his business.

And we're off! Louise and I both ended up in Current Design Storms.
We launched in Drew Harbour and paddled to the point of nearby Rebecca Spit, a lovely slender finger of land sticking out into Sutil Channel. From there, a 2km crossing through calm conditions...
...brought us to the Breton Islands, where we found some seals lounging away the morning on a small islet.

From there, we crossed to No Name Island (so named because I can't find a name for it on any map). Although we'd seen a few earlier, here we started seeing a lot of eagles. There were at least a half dozen or so flying around, as well as a couple of turkey vultures. Most of them weren't too interested in posing, but this one sat down for a few moments.

Passing around No Name Island, we pulled into Moulds Bay for lunch. Samara brought out a yummy feast prepared back at the Yak Shack. It was so good that I was distracted and forgot to take a picture of it, but you can see a portion of it in this portrait of a satisfied customer.

Sadly, the sun was not winning its battle against the clouds, and by the time we were ready to shove off again, a breeze had come up and skies looked a little more threatening than when we left. The paddling jackets came out of hiding as we suited up.
We crossed the mouth of Open Bay and we were into some chop. The breeze came up a little more on the water, and Louise was a little leery, but she handled it perfectly, as did some of the others in the group who had very limited kayaking experience.

Another crossing, this time across Hyacinthe Bay, and we were out of the chop and cruising down the coast of Quadra again.

The eagle pointed the way home for us.
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We had a great paddle with George and Lindy and Samara was a terrific guide. Everyone we met on Quadra Island seemed like friendly, down to earth, just plain good folk, and this certainly is true of the folks at Quadra Island Kayak. Definitely check them out if kayaking on Quadra Island is in your future.
Of course, after six hours on the water, food was in our future, so we drove the short distance to Rebecca Spit and wolfed down cheeseburgers at The Raving Raven. Yum!

We headed back to the Lodge, and finally the clouds parted, and the view finally appeared. No, it was not still raining and I was not holding up a brochure in front the camera. It really is this beautiful...
Cape Mudge panorama
....and you never know what you're going to see out your window. Maybe something big...
IMG_4064 the Silversea Silver Shadow, or something small...
IMG_4060 a robin resting on your neighbour's balcony.

This morning, sadly our last here, we awoke to picture postcard perfection. Sunlight on the mountain snows...
IMG_4092 eagle flying past our window...
...and a deer, just below our window.
Nature calls for them too, I guess.

Clearly, someone had a good time!

Trip Length: 13.29 km
YTD: 77.15 km
More pictures are here.
2012-07-05 Quadra Island