Friday, January 31, 2014

Secret Coastline Author

This winter I've been taking shelter a little farther away from shore than I've been for over six years... so I indulge in a little armchair kayaking with the help of books. One of them was a terrific thick book of place names along the BC coast that I've mentioned before. Fun to learn so many bits and pieces of history and stories along with the names! So I looked up the author Andrew Scott at the library, and found several books he's written.


Prominent among them are Secret Coastline (2000) and Secret Coastline II (2005), both subtitled "Journeys and Discoveries Along BC's Shores." These are chatty discussions of places and people along the coast, with many photos and other images. If you're looking for stories of the water and animals and the people who live here, both of these books make for good reading. I like to read about places that I've been, and where I'd like to go... but it's the people who really shine here. And there are small boats all through both books! Kayaks and ferries and freighters and the old mission boats... and cover art that looks like photos taken by John for Kayak Yak.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Dance With Dragons

The folks from Seaward Kayaks made their appearance on CBC's Dragons' Den last night, making a pitch to the Dragons, a group of venture capitalists, for an investment in the company.
How well did they do? I don't want to spoil it, but they did better than the guys who had the bacon beer, which I thought would have been a sure-fire no-brainer. And that probably explains why I am not a successful businessman.
You can watch Seaward Kayaks make their pitch here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Close Encounter

Ever wonder what it would be like for a humpback whale to surface under your kayak? Berthold Hinrichs can tell you. He was kayaking in northern Norway when he saw a pod of humpback whales breaching in the water nearby. One breached a little too close for comfort. Check out the video below:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An Interesting Link

Just saw an interesting link on the Georgia Strait Alliance website:

Guide to Green BoatingGeorgia Strait Alliance's Guide to Green Boating is a comprehensive, practical guide for recreational boaters on how to minimize our impact while enjoying our cruising waters.
* NEW * Boaters will also benefit from our newest green boating publication, Think Before You Float: 10 tips for saving fuel, money and Georgia Strait.
Click here to go to their website and download for free a pdf of either or both of these helpful booklets!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Gorge in the Fog

Louise and I decided to get the paddling season started this morning with a quick little jaunt down in The Gorge. We didn't want to do a long paddle; this was more of a "work out the kinks" paddle, both in our gear and ourselves. We've been off the water for a few months, and have had a pretty lazy winter so far, so we wanted to go slow and easy the first time out.
And besides, who doesn't like to go paddling in the fog?
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We've been socked in the past couple of days, sometimes about as thick as it ever gets around here. It looked like it had backed off a bit as we were getting ready to launch, but then it suddenly rolled in like thick pea soup. I tried to take a picture of Louise a couple of metres away from me on the shore but as you can see, it was so thick the camera couldn't make anything out.
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Which is too bad, because as Louise was standing there a Sasquatch ran by, almost knocking down Brad Pitt and Robert Downey Jr. as they signed autographs for Elvis who was piloting a flying saucer. Jeez, I wish that that picture had turned out!

Yes, I'm kidding. But if you didn't like that joke, don't worry the rest aren't any worse than that one.
In reality, the foggy shroud was starting to back off as we put in.
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Either a small piece of Esquimalt was ceded to Italy over the winter, or someone is starting his World Cup cheering early.
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We kayaked by the local pair of swans....
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....as they practiced for the new Olympic Sport, Synchronized Underwater Grazing. I think they're going to do quite well.
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Long-time readers will recall that the demolition and rebuilding of the Craigflower Bridge on Admirals Road began last year. It was supposed to be finished by Christmas, however a steel shortage delayed the project, as drivers in the area have no doubt noticed.
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The latest estimate is that the bridge should be done by the end of March.
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The fog began to burn off, but the temperature remained cool. Warm drinks began to call us from our kitchen, and we responded to their siren call.
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The first paddle of the year is in the books!

Trip length: 6.05 km
YTD: 6.05 km
More pictures are here.
2014-01-26

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rock Garden or The Naze?

Got on the water today after too long and am soooooo glad the weather was good. These days I'm having more sympathy for paddlers who do not live close enough to a beach that only a short and simple portage is needed.
Today the water was clear and cold as I checked out the little rock garden and looked across the bay to the Uplands shore. There was the big rock garden, dark along the shore as the sun lowered in the west. If you look on a chart of Oak Bay you can see that big rock garden marked as The Naze.
And a fine one it is, too. (Naze? What the heck is a naze?)

Turns out, this bit of shoreline was named for a place in England. Well, that makes sense... sort of. Funny that it wasn't named for a place in Scotland, since there were so many Scots among the Hudson's Bay Company men. Andrew Scott wrote about The Naze in his book The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names:

"This point was named after a headland on the E[ast] coast of Essex, an important area for migrating birds. ...The Naze was not officially adopted as a BC name until 1981, though it appears on TN Hibben & Co's 1913 map of Victoria. The name derives from ness, the Old English word for a headland. Several other promontories in the Cadboro Bay area commemorate English E coast landforms."

Now I'm going to have to check all the other promontories to see what they're named. Let's see, there's Spurn Head and what else... It's not kayaking, but it's what I think about sometimes when messing about in boats and sometimes when I wish that I were. And I have to get that copy of Andrew Scott's encyclopedia back to the library before it's overdue.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kayaking With Dragons

Next Wednesday evening, representatives from Seaward Kayaks will appear on an episode of the CBC tv show, Dragons' Den. The show is based on the original Japanese show entitled マネーの虎 (Tiger of Money) in which an entrepreneur makes a pitch for investment to a group of venture capitalists who may (or may not) choose to invest in the company. The American version of the show is called Shark Tank.
The segment involving Seaward Kayaks was filmed in Toronto last April, and they've been mum on the results since then. All shall be revealed next week.
The show airs next Wednesday at 8:00. And of course, 8:30 in Newfoundland.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Long Distance Kayak Planning

It's fun to plan kayak trips. One day I'll go to this place on the map, and paddle there. It was fun in Toronto. It was fun in Edmonton and Red Deer. It'll be fun in other places.
Long distance planning for kayaking can be cautionary instead of enabling, too. Like the note that Ben sent me the other day, saying:
a total nut i associate with wants me to try using his two man kayak as an ice skimmer on the river if he can sort out a plan. if it happens i'll try to send you pictures.
The thought of Ben ice skimming under the High Level Bridge on the North Saskatchewan River is enough to set off alarm bells for both the kayaker and the mother in me. The mother in me has noted that after several emergency room trips, teenaged Ben made a solemn promise for no more escapades resulting in a hospital visit; this promise has been kept only because at age 28 Ben no longer lives with his parents and so we're not his ride to the emergency room.
The kayaker in me sent an immediate response to Ben:
oi, the total nut with the tandem kayak is definitely a total nut. Tell him that a single kayak is better for ice skimming because it's easier to roll when the ice breaks... let him learn how to roll, eh?
and I sent another note after I quit hyperventilating:
Tell your nutbar of a friend that ice skimming is better on a lake (no current) or a slow and narrow canal (you're always close to shore) than on a big river. On the North Saskatchewan, the ice is always patchy and thin in places even when it's thick in most places. The current keeps moving too. When someone breaks through the ice (not if, when) the current pulls him downstream from the hole in the ice. Funny how ice that's thin enough in places to fall through is surprisingly hard to break when swimming underneath...
Kayaks are better for toboggans on land than skimming on river ice.
I'm going to shake off those thoughts of Ben or his nutbar friend in a tandem kayak on the iced-over North Saskatchewan river, and think instead of going to Milk River this August with Lila and Sapphira. They're the best ground crew of all.
Besides, we don't seem to ever get pictures of Ben's escapades... just the aftermath.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Endangered Species!

Thanks for that thought, Tim Gill. Let's do our part as paddlers to keep from being an extinct species!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Tip for Urban Kayakers

This tip we owe to four-time Olympic athlete Simon Whitfield. It's a kayaking tip for paddlers in urban settings -- and it's not necessary to be an Olympian to make use of this tip, but if you are then you probably should... if that makes sense. I'll explain the tip in due course.

This photo is borrowed from Whitfield's twitter and the CBC!
Y'see, Whitfield takes advantage of the mild winters here in Victoria to paddle year-round, as many of us do. Now, "mild" is a relative term. Weather here is mild when compared with, say, Winnipeg -- which has had weather reports so far this January including daily high temperatures lower than the weather reports from the Curiosity rover on Mars (as you can read here and here). Winter in Victoria can and does mean that there are many days above freezing in temperature, with little wind and even some sunshine. But let's face it: If you're a winter paddler in Victoria, you take your kayak out in the rain and even some wind.

Yes, I know whereof I speak. The nice thing about paddling in cool weather and rain is that I don't feel hot inside my shortie wetsuit like I do in summer. Oh, and the beach is less crowded, as the only people along the shore are willing to cope with a little drizzle. But it's those people who are behind the New Tip for Urban Kayakers.

And that tip is: keep some of your attention on whoever is watching you. Now, for one thing, that means having a ground crew who knows you are on the water and where and when to expect you back. But that part of the tip isn't new. The new part is being aware that other people can see you.
Can you see Whitfield? He's a black dot in his friend's photo, borrowed from Twitter.
Being seen is a great thing! It means that our kayaks or paddleboards or canoes are less likely to be run down by someone in a powerboat zooming along. It also means that people onshore can participate vicariously in our enjoyment of the water, and that's a great thing for an admiring child or a 98-year-old with a hip replacement. And another positive result of being seen is that if a paddler is seen in trouble, a concerned citizen can call for help.

Concerned citizens can also call for help even when a paddler isn't in trouble, as Simon Whitfield learned on Monday afternoon. You can read the local paper's article about the rescue that wasn't needed, and another article is here on the CBC's website. Whitfield had a visit from the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue station 33 which scrambled from Oak Bay Marina to find him on his paddleboard near Trial Island.

The photo above of Whitfield on his paddleboard was a selfie, taken on Monday afternoon. You can see part of Trial Island behind him, and the fact that he's wearing a proper drysuit. What you can't see is the Search and Rescue zodiac boat coming up on him at that moment for a friendly meeting on the waves. After confirming that Whitfield had a life jacket and was tethered to his paddleboard, the rescue crew suggested that he should also carry a VHF radio with the Marine band. That way, next time someone calls for him to be rescued (and it looks like it could indeed happen again because this is his usual place to paddle) Whitfield can respond to the broadcast to confirm whether he needs rescue.

The photo also shows part of why Whitfield didn't know anyone was worried about him: he's wearing earbuds. Yup, this Olympian triathlete was out in gale force winds playing in the waves of Enterprise Channel, and needed something to occupy his attention. So he was listening to an audiobook.

If you're not a local paddler, I'll put those terms into perspective. You can read about gale force winds here. Now, I routinely go on the water during a small craft warning, but only inside Cadboro Bay and I stick close to the beach in case I tumble. The only time I'm on the water during gale force winds is when a gale blows in while I'm paddling back to the beach... happens about once a year. By the way, looking at the photo taken on Monday afternoon by Whitfield's friend, it wasn't blowing a gale, just breezy as the waves aren't much bigger than he is.

You can read about Enterprise Channel between the Trial Islands and the Victoria city shoreline here, on our blog's post about John and Louise having a lesson on Navigating Currents. The current gets pretty strong here on both a flood tide and an ebb tide. Let's just say that the First Nations name for this channel in Leukwengen dialect of Coast Salish translates roughly as "Nobody talk now while we're paddling through this channel!"

As for the earbuds and audiobook, well... As a half-deaf paddler, I can report that it can be hard to hear exactly what someone on shore might be shouting. But it is worth looking over at the shore from time to time when a random shout carries across the water. So our New Tip for Urban Kayakers is finally: put away the earbuds and recorded music or audiobooks, unless you've got plenty of attention to keep scanning the shoreline for distressed onlookers waving at you.

I'm all in favour of audiobooks. There are loads of 'em at the public library that you can borrow!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Seashore Puttering

Just as I love puttering along the seashore in my kayak, other people and animals putter along, too. There's an old saying among the Tlingit people here on the West Coast -- and other folk -- that "When the tide is out, the table is set." That expression of wonder in all the edible things revealed at low tide can be found on the East Coast, too. There's a wonderful little folk song with that line in the chorus, written by Brian Richardson. (You can find other nautical songs at the website of the Victoria Nautical Song Circle.)
My brother used to joke about going clam shooting at the beach, and named some holiday trips "Clam Shoots" -- even writing about it in his and John's award-winning zine Under the Ozone Hole. There are photos galore in Stephanie's albums, with only one clam and nary a gun to be seen. Maybe Karl overheard somebody calling a shovel a "clam gun" as Virginia Kraft does here when describing clamming for geoduck clams.

There are good seashore cooking comments here at Valerie Segrest's blog. Right now she's got a very short video showing how seaweed changes colour to bright green when dipped in hot water! Cooking is a pleasant thought when my kayaks are all tucked away, so for now I'm cooking and puttering on the computer, instead of puttering along the shore in a kayak.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

History of London Watermen

For fun and wonder today, the paddling we're exploring is... the history of London's oldest Pub! Um. Pubs don't sound like they have much to do with small boats. (For those who haven't heard the word, a pub is a British or Canadian bar that's one genteel step nicer than an ordinary bar.) But this pub is on the south bank of the Thames. For the better part of 600 years, if you didn't walk across London Bridge through the crowds, you took a small boat to get to the George Inn.
The history of this particular pub from 1476 to the present was investigated thoroughly in archives of records, in old maps, and in old books of fiction and non-fiction. That kind of investigation involves the serious use of library science by an expert. So, instead of a paddler telling us a trip story, the expert telling our story is... Pete Brown. A writer. So dedicated to his research that he spent hour after hour in pubs and libraries all over London. And Brown really is an expert on writing about pubs, based on his earlier books titled Hops And Glory, Three Sheets To The Wind, and Man Walks Into A Pub: A Sociable History of Beer. That kind of experience makes Brown well-suited to write Shakespeare's Pub: A Barstool History of London as Seen Through the Windows of Its Oldest Pub – The George Inn.
This photo of the George's innyard appeared at a British website's review of the book.
Putting aside any joking about paddlers making beer runs, this book is actually an interesting read. Brown shows us the architecture of the George's old building changing through the centuries of fires and rebuilding. His sociological description of the Inn's location at one end of London Bridge has the reader seeing the heads of traitors impaled on spikes, and a steady traffic of small boats crossing the Thames river loaded with goods and people. And the people are the real story: fascinating people who owned and managed the George Inn or popped round for a pint of beer and a bite to eat, and the highwaymen who robbed them. “So before we get to the pistols, paintwork and heaving bosoms, I need to attempt something I don't think anyone has done before,” writes Brown on page 182. “I need to try to make the history of road transport sound interesting to a mainstream, balanced audience.” Luckily, Brown was able to make the watermen appeal to any reader.
 
It's the London watermen who take over the middle of the book, even more than the highwaymen. The hard-working cargo movers, the rascals who conveyed people while re-negotiating the rate in mid-stream, and the smugglers are all described in detail. I particularly liked the tale of the Water Poet, who gave himself that epithet and self-published his way to modest success as a writer for the watermen.
If watermen, highwaymen, and publicans aren't to your taste, you might not read this book from cover to cover as I did, including the Timeline and Bibliography. I found it a rollicking good read! The photographs and illustrations are appealing, with useful captions. Anyone writing a history paper on London watermen or planning a trip down the Thames by small boat would do well to read a chapter or two of Shakespeare's Pub – or if you're writing about English pubs or British history or the writers Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, and of course, William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's Pub
A Barstool History of London as Seen Through the Windows of Its Oldest Pub – The George Inn
Pete Brown
St Martin's Press, New York 2013 
352 pages

Friday, January 03, 2014

Get Yer Heart Rate Up!

Great news from our paddling friend Mike Jackson -- he's the happy user of a heart rate monitor. On his latest blog post, he wrote about hooking up the monitor and taking off in his kayak with a buddy. Together they circled Discovery & Chatham islands, then sprinted back to the shore at Cadboro Bay.
I'm glad to report that Mike didn't forget about the monitor and try practising some kayak rolls. It also appears that he wasn't panicked by learning what his heart rate gets up to while he's on the water.
This is good news. There's a story making the rounds about a cardiologist who enjoyed playing hockey in an Oldtimers league. At least, he enjoyed it until the day he wondered exactly what his heart rate was while on the ice. For his next game, he hooked up a heart rate monitor and checked it after his first shift playing. Horrors! Quickly he turned off the monitor, put it away and did his best not to think of what that "pounding heart" feeling actually meant in numbers. He did also apply himself in future to some heart-healthy lifestyle changes... but he continued playing hockey.
And it sounds like Mike is continuing kayaking. He must be having fun -- his numbers are good!