Monday, May 29, 2006

The Alternate Paddle

With eight people paddling this sunday, it looked pretty interesting on the beach. I was trying out my new camera (a Minolta Weathermatic Dual 35), which didn't go exactly as planned. For some reason only four out of 26 shots came out in focus.
However, this shot of the launch preparations wasn't too bad...

The decision was made to paddle a circumnavigation of James Island, a fairly straighforward proposition. The tide was on the ebb flow until about 11:55 am, creating a fairly strong current where the channel narrows on the west side of James. It was about here that Dennis and I decided to head off across to James and paddle around the south side of the island.

Our route wasn't really planned;there is a strong current running west to east along the beach on the south side of James Island, so once we made our way across, it was very simple to keep going. All you had to do was not paddle for a while and you were halfway down the beach without noticing it.

The silt/sand cliff is pretty impressive--not so much for being there, but for still being there. It looks like it should take about one rainstorm for the whole thing to end up at the bottom of Haro Strait.
Once we had let the current push us down to the east side of the island, it was a simple jump across to Sidney Island. We put in briefly at the south end of Sidney for a stretch--turned out that this was the same time that the rest of the paddle group had put in on the east side of James for the same reason. South end of Sidney Island

It was very tempting to make the trip over to Darcy Island--former site of B.C.'s leper colony. But right on cue (as Maureen had mentioned), the wind came up. Not that it was bad--a moderate offshore blow, but there was no telling how strong it would become, and it meant that we would be paddling back directly into it.

As we paddled slightly south to the Sallas Rocks, we noted that the distance to Darcy was a bit deceptive--like the approach to Sidney island, it looked as though the more we paddled, the farther it would be to our goal. Very very frustrating....

But as we passed the first of the rocks--and fairly large they are too at low tide--our paddling and talking startled a number of seals basking. On the chart above, they would have been on the rock next to the (2) under the "S" in Sallas. And not one or two seals, but a couple of dozen. Some stayed put, but most hit the water and then these large heads popped up to check us out. They watched us, we watched them, and finally we blinked, and headed back to the launch point.
The paddle back was about 7 km (about 4 miles) and took us roughly one hour and forty-five minutes. We kept looking for the other six paddlers--who, it turned out, made it back to the beach about ten minutes ahead of us--and although we had a clear view of the south end of James Island all the way back, we never saw the rest of the group. This, I think, was an important lesson about visibility on the water....

Sunday, May 28, 2006

James Island Circumnavigation

Today, we headed out to Island View Beach. South of Sidney, it's a rocky launch point, especially at low tide. And that's what we were facing: an ebbing tide, with a strong breeze forecasted. On arriving, the wind was absent, and we decided on a long paddle.

This was our largest group yet. After a couple of weeks away, Alison came out of hiding to paddle, and Dennis, now recovered from his West Coast trek also came along, joining The Usual Suspects, Paula, Louise, Bernie and myself. Also along for the trip were Louise's friend Tracy and her friend Maureen. We decided on a circumnavigation of James Island.
Our large fleet heads out!

Tracy and Maureen took an early lead in their longer and faster boats...
...but the rest of us kept up (nearly)!
Me First!

Bernie's back was a little sore so he and Dennis decided to go to the south tip of James Island and beach so Bernie could stretch it out. They planned to meet us on the other side of the island, but they ended up having quite an adventure of their own. (But whatever happens on Brokeback Island stays on Brokeback Island.)

The Obligatory Self-Portrait.

We continued on to the north. We were going against the tide, hoping that when we went around the island we'd catch a break with the currents coming back.

We finally reached the northern tip of the island and swung around. (That's a Washington State ferry in the background.)
Turning Point

The north side had some nice sandy beaches and shoreline. What it didn't have was a cooperative current. The tide turned around just as we did. Lucky us. So we spent the return trip also fighting against the current. And the wind came up, too. Yay.
It was turning into the longest paddle ever for some of us. A stretching stop was in order.

The yellow plant all over this cliff is called broom. It spreads like crazy and chokes up anything else that tries to grow. Broom was imported and is not native to this area. (When I was a kid, my mom used to say the same thing about broom not being native to my bedroom).

Now's here's something interesting... there's a wonderful but steep beach on the backside of James. You can see the flow patterns that the water running off the beach. These patterns are similar to patterns found on Mars and lead scientists to believe water once flowed over its surface.
James Island:

Oh, look! More geology! Check out the layering in this cliff at the south end! (You just thought this was a plain old Kayaking blog, didn't you? You didn't think you'd actually be learning stuff!)

After a long four hours, the last hour a tough slog against wind and currents, we made it back to shore.

Bernie was especially pleased that I didn't take any pictures of him doing something goofy.
Oh my god! It was THIS FREAKIN' BIG!

My pictures are here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Back To Brentwood Bay

Many trips to Brentwood Bay this past six months. Brentwood Bay is located in Saanich Inlet, and is one of the most protected salt water paddles one can do--and is less than forty minutes from downtown Victoria. There are two kayak rental places on the Bay: Brentwood Bay Lodge, which hosts dives and offers both single and double kayaks, and Seahorse Kayaks across the street (no-one in our paddle group has ever rented from Seahorse, so I don't have a lot of info about them).
The only real concern in launching or paddling the Bay —other than the usual safety concerns, that is— is the Mill Bay ferry. The MB ferry provides a short-cut around the Malahat for vehicles, and is a very pretty ride.

The ferry doesn't generally kick up a big wake, but you don't want to become a speed-bump in its path either. But the public access beach is right next to the ferry dock on the Brentwood Bay side. Brentwood Bay offers access to Todd Inlet, Finlayson Arm, and Saanich Inlet (including Coles Bay—one of our previous trips launched from there). Todd Inlet is gorgeous; particularly if you are looking for water- and wild- life. Finlayson Arm down to Goldstream Park is really a day trip, but the upper reaches of the Arm are quite accessible on a two to four hour paddle. And north takes you around a number of bays and coves until finally you are north of Sidney and headed for Saltspring Island.
Today's trip finally took us around Senanus Island--part of First Nations territory . We've thought about crossing to the island before, come close on our trip south from Coles Bay, but today the excursion was directly across the bay to Senanus.
The water immediately around Senanus is quite rich in wildlife; on arrival we were greeted by a number of loud Canada geese, two turkey vultures, what appeared to be an eagle (BIG bird!), and many seagulls, crows, oystercatchers, and the like. But it was under the water that caught our interest.

Sea stars ranged from very small and red, through mid-sized and purple, and into large and orange. The orange stars were running close on 400-450 mm across, with anywhere from five to well, however many arms.

There were also a lot of crabs visible today. The little yellow one looking very spider-like with all his legs extended,and the red ones with their legs tucked in and looking much more conventional. There were also, once you spotted them, a number of small white jellyfish, nearly invisible except for the white edge around their lower fringe.

There was also a basking harbour seal—check John's pictures to see him. I gave the seal quite wide berth, but Louise managed to pass very close to him without disturbing him in the least.
Taking photos underwater from the kayak is a lot more difficult than you would think. The kayak drifts, you spot things and try to stop/change course/manoeuvre and you lose sight of whatever it was. I can't get my eye on the eyepiece, so it's hard to tell if I'm even shooting the picture I want. Quite frustrating. Later this summer I'll take along my snorkeling equipment and try shooting with all of me under water, rather than just my forearm and camera, and that should improve things tenfold. But right now, it's still all about staying warm and dry.

Brentwood Bay -- 15 Minute Island

A coolish kind of day that threatened rain that never came.
We ventured out to Brentwood Bay to do some splashing.
After our trip to Paddlefest a couple of weeks ago and the recent opening of MEC in town, many of us are outfitted with new stuff. Here Louise models the latest in kayaking attire.
What the Well Dressed Paddlers Are Wearing This Year

Bernie headed out quickly but the ferry cut him off.

Paula was eager to go paddling, too.
Paddling Paula

I, of course, remained calm and dignified.

We decided to head out to what we call "15 Minute Island." In our previous visits here we've often considered crossing to it. In an earlier paddle from Coles Bay, we approached it from the north. Bernie said we could make it to the island. "It's only 15 minutes away!" After a further half-hour of paddling, it was still 15 minutes away. But today, we decided it was time for this island to enjoy its 15 minutes of fame.

15 minutes later....

Finally, we get close.

Bernie gets really close.
Boatin' Bernie

We decided to go around the island to see what we could see.

The first thing we saw were some birds: a heron and a pair of turkey vultures.

We continued forward and around the first point...
At Rest

...where we found a seal lazing on the rocks.

We carried on around.

On the northern shore, we found lots of sea life in the water: fish, crabs, sea stars, jelly fish, and rhinos. Well, just one rhino. A small one. With a little horn. Okay, okay, there was no rhino.
15 Minute Island

There were lots of geese around, and most of the geese were very loud today. They were really honking us off! This one just would not shut up!

Here are some sea stars along with some things that Paula called "jelly goobies." We don't believe that that is the correct technical term.
Purple Gooblely Things

Bernie finally made landfall. He went ashore and proudly uttered the traditional phrase that generations of kayakers have said when making landfall on a new shore for the first time: "I claim this planet in the name of Mars!"

We heard a loud splash behind. I thought, "Oh, I guess Bernie's fallen out of his boat again. That seems normal." But it wasn't Bernie. We were being followed around the island by a pair of seals. Here's one of them.

Bernie found a new way to sit in his boat.

Time to head back! A great day paddling!

My pictures are here.