Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Pacific Paddling Symposium Was Open for Registration

Well, that was fast. If you wanted a membership for this year's Pacific Paddling Symposium and you didn't get one...too late! This year, it has sold out in 26 hours! Better plan ahead now for the 2015 version. Somehow, I think there will be another one next year.

2014 Pacific Paddling Symposium Is Open For Registration

The 2014 Pacific Paddling Symposium will take place May 30 - June 1, and is open for registration. Registration opened only 24 hours ago, but already the symposium is almost half sold out.
Coaches attending include Nigel Foster, Dan Henderson, Wayne Horodowich, David Johnston, Gary Allen, Gary Doran, Kate Hives, Alex Matthews and many more.
Alas, Louise and I will not be able to attend this year, but we will keep an eye out and post links to any Symposium coverage we can find. Last year's symposium sold out in 12 days, so don't dawdle!

A Not So Gentle Reminder

Yesterday, a man fell into The Gorge not far from our usual launching point. He was pulled from the water, but did not survive. How the man fell into the water is a bit of a mystery at this point, but it is suggested that a group of people were drinking on a dock when the incident occured.
We've paddled that very spot dozens of times, and during one paddle Bernie twice went over into the water at the exact same spot as this incident and at the same time of year. Bernie, of course, was dressed to get wet: wet suit, gloves, boots and paddling jacket. So let this be a not-so-gentle reminder to be aware of conditions, remember to consider the water temperature in your planning, and dress for immersion.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Humpback Ahoy!

Last fall, tourists in a whale-watching boat out in local waters got more than they paid for when a humpback whale spent an hour swimming alongside the boat. We've paddled this area dozens of times, and never seen anything like this. Wow.
Check out the video below:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Expand and Understand Your Nautical Vocabulary

There's an interesting little list of nautical words to be found at where he not only lists nautical turns of phrase that have entered everyday vocabulary, but defines them in colourful terms. Charming! Boat users will find there's food for thought here, and even a definition of "Crossing The Line" which agrees with my father's memory of his Navy experience on crossing the Equator.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


A few days ago, someone on the Internet said words to the effect that most people spend their lives looking for something to love as much as Canadians love hockey. That's so true, eh?
Congrats to our Men's and Women's hockey teams, who are golden again, and congrats to our Canadian Olympians, and the Olympians of all flags, who put on a heck of a show.
We now to return to our regularly scheduled kayak blogging.


Just reading in the New York Times about a man who paddled 2,500 miles around Florida. Left his job, planned for a year building strength and social media skills, and got on his paddleboard. By the end of 2013 he paddled the entire Florida coastline! Along the way he hosted 60 shore cleanups and won a boatload of environmental awards. Click here to read the article about his epic journey.
He says "I'm just a regular guy who changed his life to do something big." Rock on, Justin Riney!

Friday, February 21, 2014

What We Pass By Every Day

There are everyday miracles and wonders all around us much of the time. There are wonders to be found even in cities where the marks of feet trampling the ground tend to obscure the unique elements of a place until it seems that everything is the colour and shape of footprints. One of the ways we see these wonders is to get into our kayaks and visit urban waterways. Some of these places have made us crow with delight. I'm thinking in particular of days spent paddling on the Humber River in Toronto (read about my trip here) and the New Credit River in Mississauga (read here) and Toronto Islands (here are links to Bernie's and my blog posts on paddling here) where one is never really out of sight of the city.
Bernie took this photo of a swan in June 2006 while paddling Toronto Harbour!
Then there are also days we paddle on the Gorge, along the suburban shores and up the little streams where in some places the parkland is so lush that it's hard to remember we're right in the middle of a city, not on its edges. Or days we paddle at Discovery and Chatham Islands, where in places it's impossible to believe we're not in a wondrously isolated wilderness, but really only a mile from Oak Bay's tearooms.
Now I'm reminded that there are everyday miracles and wonders to be found in most places. Take Drumheller, Alberta, for example. It was the end point for my kayaking trip on the Red Deer River. I've walked through much of Drumheller on a few visits, and can report that there's a layer of amber-coloured dust over almost everything in town. The marks of footprints are everywhere that isn't paved. And in one well-trampled part of town, what looked like a bumpy rock turned out to be a dinosaur skull.
To be fair, after fossilization it was also a bumpy rock. How many dinosaur fossil fans have trodden on this big ol' fossil in recent years? No one knows. I figure this is a lesson to us all, to be aware of wonders and miracles underfoot and all around us. Instead of dividing the world into "Exciting Places" and "Oh Well -- Dull Old Home" let's be ready to keep urban paddling part of our expeditions, and practise our rockhound skills at home as well as in the field in distant places.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Where's the Sheep?

Continuing on with the latest entry in what is turning into a whole new sub-genre of kayak animal rescue videos, here's the story of a father and son team who rescue a sheep with their kayaks on the Shetland Islands. Check out the video below:

Mars' Lost Oceans

Oh man. NASA still rocks. And the way they make so many photos from space exploration available for free is wonderful. I love to check out Astronomy Picture of the Day because every day has different photos: some pictures taken of space, some from space ships, and many from our own Earth.
Now Chris Hadfield has posted a link to NASA's page on photos from Mars orbiters that strongly suggest the presence of water, not only long ago but now.

It's not the spring runoff in seasonal streams for creekboating, but it looks beautiful.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bored With All the Rain? Try Kayaking on the Roads

The current flooding in England is no laughing matter, but on the other hand sometimes you just have to roll with whatever nature throws at you. And some buddies in Essex decided to do that by having a little fun in their kayaks on some flooded roads. Check out the embedded video below:

Kayaking on flooded Essex Roads from UncleAlbert on Vimeo.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Correct Way to Transport Your Kayak. Not.

Every time we've bought a kayak, before we've closed the deal the clerks have always discussed with us how we're going to get the kayak(s) home. It turns out that some people do purchase kayaks at kayaking shops without giving a second thought as to how to get their new boats home. All of which makes me wonder if this is not exactly what we're seeing here. According to the media report, someone in southern Florida thought this was an acceptable method of transporting a kayak down a highway.
Kids, don't try this at home.
Or anywhere.

Secret Beaches review

There's another series of books that make for great armchair kayaking! These ones also are good for planning your trips to the beach. All kinds of weather -- doesn't matter. These books outline what the beaches are like in various kinds of weather or levels of the tide, when appropriate. You're golden.

Well, you are if you're on Vancouver Island. Canada's Big Island has so many pocket beaches along its east shore, or road access points to the shoreline, that there's not one but three guides in the Secret Beaches series by Theo Dombrowski, from Heritage House Books. There's Secret Beaches of Central Vancouver Island: Campbell River to Qualicum, which I have been poring over for the last week. I have the public library's copy, and you can't get it till I'm done with it in a couple more days! There's Secret Beaches of Southern Vancouver Island: Qualicum to the Malahat. Residents of Victoria will make more use of Secret Beaches of Greater Victoria: View Royal to Sidney, for many of these profiled beaches can be reached by transit bus... no driving required, unless you're bringing kayaks!

I won't rave too much here -- I'll leave that to another reviewer's gushing. For every beach, there's not only a sketch map of access roads, but a photograph taken at the site and usually one of the author's evocative paintings as well. These books are impressive.
Look here for tips on where to set up your easel for a little painting en plein air, where to take toddlers or children who'll want to wade and run, and where to impress visiting relatives, or a dozen other suggested activities. And best of all: Dombrowski understands the needs of kayakers for a good launch! He notes the best beaches for kayaks and canoes.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pool Noodles Rule!

We've written here on the blog before about pool noodles, and the many ways that paddlers can use them. My most recent use of a pool noodle was to cut it into four pieces and slit 'em from the outside into the hollow centre: this made pads for the bars in my outdoor kayak rack, that I assembled out of scrap wood from a construction site. Alas, this rack did not make the move away from the Beach House... but I have been assured by Bernie that he will construct another rack in the future.
Another use for pool noodles has surfaced in Winnipeg. Turns out that an artist is using them to make big poofy warming huts... check out the photos here. Nice to see that the streams of summer get so much use in winter that warming huts are being built!

Friday, February 14, 2014

The End

Last-Issue-banner-adThe last issue of Sea Kayaker magazine arrived in the mailbox today.
So long, old friend. You shall be missed.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Deer Rescue

A man in the BC interior put a kayak to a novel use a few days ago by using it to help rescue a small deer trapped out on a frozen lake. Check out the embedded video below:

A local conservation officer, assisted from shore by members of the Vernon Fire Department, went out on the ice on North Okanagon Lake with the kayak and was able to tie-up the deer and placed him in the kayak, which was then pulled onto shore. The deer was released safe and uninjured in the mountains far away from the lake.

Okay, so rescuing a deer from a frozen lake with a kayak is cool...but not as cool as rescuing deer with a hovercraft! This father and son hovercraft team saved three deer stuck on a frozen lake in Minnesota. Check out this video:

What's in the hatches?

An interesting piece of news popped up in the newscrawl... complete with a photo of a simple blue sit-on-top kayak. It appears that a shipment of kayaks was sent from China to Australia, and arrived with a boatload of dope stuffed in many of the hatches. I guess the smugglers knew the customs officials wouldn't have any idea about how heavy a kayak ought to be.
This story is making the idea of a transparent or translucent boat seem even more smart. I can picture myself in the San Juan Islands just south of here, shining a flashlight through my kayak to show a customs official that the hatches are indeed empty...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Dump

From the folks at Boat Body Blade comes this interesting way to empty your kayak of water once you've scrambled in or re-entered and rolled after you've gone swimming. Mind you, you do need a willing partner, but it is a quick way to empty your boat. And I wonder if it might be a good way to help teach rolling...?
Check out the video below:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sula Sgeir

It's always a pleasure to look into the past and the homeland of some of my ancestors in Scotland. One of the websites listed along Kayak Yak's right-hand column is by a paddler based in Scotland, who paddles among the islands there. I've been reading other websites and books about the islands around Scotland and the long history there of working at sea in small boats. There's also a folksong with the verse:
     I am a man upon dry land
     I am a selkie on the sea
     And when I'm far and far frae land
     My home it is in Sule Skerrie

It's a beautiful tune, and a haunting story. And the other day I found Sule Skerrie on a map, in Wikipedia of all places. It's also called Sula Sgeir. It's a small, rocky islet in the Atlantic forty miles north of the island of Lewis in Scotland -- one of the most isolated of the British Isles.

A skerry or sgeir is a small rocky island or reef, usually barren of trees and too small for people to live. There are variations of the word throughout Scandinavian countries, and examples of skerries around the world's shorelines from parts of Russia and South America to the Pacific Northwest's Inland Passage. Sula is the old Norse word for a gannet, a kind of seabird that looks a little like a gull.

Thanks to Wikipedia for this photo of a Northern gannet!

The hunting of sea birds was outlawed in the British Isles in 1954, but a limited harvest of young gannets is still allowed, under strict rules. Only ten men may go from the district of Ness on the island of Lewis by boat to Sula Sgeir for two weeks each summer, and they may take no more than 2000 gannets, using traditional methods to hunt, clean, and salt their catch. The valued meat of these birds, called guga in Gaelic, is shared out among the Ness islanders on their return.
In 2009, a new film director received permission from the Ness islanders to film their traditional hunt for the first time. The result was Mike Day's first film: The Guga Hunters of Ness. Here's a link to the website for this film, where you can see some photographs and watch a trailer for the film.

There's a marvelous article by Mike Day here on the BBC website about the making of this film; the article includes several short videos taken during the filming, and interviews with the people involved. It's an excellent chance to see small boats in action during a traditional harvest!

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Dance With Dragons - update

Local media have reported on Seaward Kayaks' appearance on the Dragons' Den in late January. In a brief interview with the Cowichan News Leader last week, Seaward's owners reported that they were mulling over the details of the offer. Their report continues:
“The due diligence is in place, and we look forward to a follow-up,” Jacquie Ree told the News Leader Pictorial Thursday. “The pitch was to expand our product line of lower-end kayaks.”
Seaward Kayaks planned to use the investment to manufacture a line of rotomolded kayaks, something they currently don't offer, but a product line that they believed would be a big seller for them.
Now comes word that Seaward has rejected the Dragon's offer. Market conditions have changed since the show was filmed last April. "We've changed direction a lot since then and decided against moving forward with our concept for the rotomolded plastic kayaks," co-owner Jacquie Ree told the Nanaimo Daily News. "It seems that all kayak manufacturers are into plastic kayaks these days and the market is being flooded. Besides, we've been in this business for 25 years now and if we wanted money to expand, we'd go to the bank and get a loan without having to exchange a part of the company for the money." All was not lost, as she added, "Appearing on the show wasn't a waste of our time because our email has been going crazy ever since it appeared in January. The experience gave us much more than we wanted or expected."
Jacquie told Adventure Kayak magazine:
"You have a five-minute window at the show to review everything and make a decision...after we got home and went through the due diligence period with Dave Chilton, we decided we didn’t want to bring him in as a partner... We decided to go back to our roots, staying with higher end fiberglass and Kevlar boats. The low end rotomolded market is already so flooded. With all the challenges of building boats in Canada, we did more research and decided we didn’t want to get into it."
You can watch Seaward Kayaks make their pitch to the Dragons here.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Another folding boat!

It's not just me who likes folding boats -- even outrigger paddlers like them. Look at the new design that an Australian company has for their latest OC6!

Photo is borrowed from Outrigger Connection website

The point of folding this long boat? Why, to transport it, of course. Half of all the problems with kayaks, canoes, and various other small boats is the issue of how to move them from storage to the water. Portages are tricky!
The other half of the problems with small boats is storage. It looks like folding boats are designed to try to solve at least one of those problems. Not everyone is lucky enough to keep their boats at the water's edge in a handy shed big enough to air out the life jackets and store the paddles as well...

Thursday, February 06, 2014


It's difficult to watch Blackfish, the recent film concerning the continued captvity of orcas, and of one orca in particular, Tilikum, whose life in captivity, and the tragedies that have occured since, began here in Victoria. As noted in my review of the book Death at SeaWorld, Tilikum was involved in the first death of an orca trainer, which occured at the local Sealand of the Pacific attraction in 1991. When Sealand closed the next year, Tilikum and the other orcas were sold to SeaWorld. In 1999, a dead man was found sprawled across Tilikum's back -- apparently the man snuck into SeaWorld after hours and climbed into Tilikum's pool -- and in 2010 Tilikum dragged a trainer into water and killed her.
Using interviews with former SeaWorld trainers, orca experts and others, as well as footage of SeaWorld performances -- some that went well, others not -- the film traces the history of capturing orcas for display and performance with particular attention to Tilikum, and explores whether it is even possible to safely keep orcas in captivity and whether we should even try.
Blackfish is a sad and mesmerizing film with no easy answers, but is well worth your time and attention.

Planning for the Rideau Canal

Y'know, it really is fun to plan kayaking trips... ahead of time and far away. And it works so well!
Well, it worked really well planning my Red Deer River trip. And also paddling in and around Toronto and Mississauga, for both Bernie and me on our trips there. I'm always an adventurous paddler in my planning and my imagination. So why not do some long-distance planning for a kayaking trip on the Rideau Canal?

This image is from a website all about the Rideau Canal!

Apparently I'm not the only one who has looked at the canal where it runs through Ottawa and thought about paddling there. The one time I visited, my friend Dom showed me her yacht club on the river and said that the canal was good for skating in winter. Since the canal was originally built for small and moderate-sized boats, I reasoned that there had to be people still using it for canoeing and kayaking. Sure enough, there are. Many people, it would seem, like to paddle here for fishing and to see the old locks. Maybe I'll do a Rideau Canal paddling expedition the next time I go to Ontario. There are plenty of day trips to do along parts of the canal, but what really appeals to me is the idea of kayaking and camping for several days along this route.

Check out the website Friends of the Rideau for lots of info on the history of the area and the Rideau Canal. This volunteer organisation has won awards for their service promoting and conserving the canal; and their website is terrific. That's where I got these two images for this post. And if, like me, you're thinking about paddling there, be sure to download some paddling guides that the Friends of the Rideau have made available. These guides and maps are available as "donationware" -- that means you can download 'em for free. It's good manners to send a donation via PayPal or a cheque or money order as thanks.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Orcas 2, Dolphins 0

Nature put on a show yesterday at Departure Bay in Nanaimo, a spot where we have kayaked before. A school of about 100 Pacific white-sided dolphins swam through the bay, putting on a show for those on shore and on a BC Ferry. The encore was the pod of orcas that were chasing them.
The orcas were transients which feed on other mammals rather than the local residents which eat salmon. Most of the dolphins got away, but at least two didn't and became a snack for the orcas. Neither dolphins or orcas generally swim this close to shore in Departure Bay so this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Needless to say, a lot of cameras recorded the events, as evidenced by the embedded videos below:

And finally, here's a report by CTV News, and another from Global TV.

Got Maps? Info on oil spills

I'm writing just a quick note today, on how to learn more about oil spills on land along the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline, along BC's coastline, and at the terminal where tanker traffic would double in the Salish Sea. Check out the website for their new page, with maps detailing what we need to know as paddlers and people living in affected areas. They also have a hot link to the place to sign up online for a turn speaking at the public hearings -- can't attend if you haven't signed up before the February 12 deadline!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Kayak Painter

It turns out that author Andrew Scott has written other west coast books as well as the Secret Coastlines stories and his encyclopedia -- he's the author of Painter, Paddler: the Art and Adventures of Stewart Marshall.

This is more than a terrific armchair kayaking read. It's also an art book showcasing many paintings and other artworks by Marshall. This artist has paddled all along the BC coast and the Alaskan panhandle, and designed his own kayaks. The third kayak he made is no little rec boat --  it's seven metres long and a metre wide. (That's about 39 inches wide, if you're still a feet & inches thinker.) Marshall "wanted the extra size for two main reasons" wrote Scott: "to cary full sheets of watercolour paper and to have enough space to stretch out completely and sleep."

Scott pointed out that "an advantage of being able to sleep in the kayak is that it reduces conflicts with bears." Bears are an uncomfortable thought! He went on to quote from an interview with Marshall:

I've had quite a few uncomfortable run-ins with grizzlies up the inlets. That's their beach you're always landing on. I like the option of being able to stay just offshore instead of having unwelcome visitors at five or six in the morning or just as you're about to nod off to sleep. I've had enough of that.
The book kept me fascinated for days! Now I feel like a kayaking wimp. We've had raccoons come through our campsite at Horne Lake, and when on Quadra Island I camped in bear and cougar territory but didn't see any. Neither did Louise and John when on their kayaking tour there. And the only time I've slept in my kayak was on Quadra -- but the inflatable was being put to use as a lounge chair at that time, not as transport.