Thursday, June 29, 2006

If It's Thursday Again, It Must Be Elk Lake Again

Another Thursday practice session on Elk Lake. When we arrived, we faced the typical early evening Elk Lake breeze and chop, but once we got in the water the wind died off and the water flattened out. Even the ducks were happy with the change!

Tracy was first in the water (and first in the drink). You can see that it's still a little bumpy on the water.

Louise hit the water next. There were a couple of other kayak groups out (Peter from Pacifica had a paddle group out), as well as lots of swimmers. There were also a few people who had rented paddleboats on the water.

Tracy is either jealous of Louise's Delta and is trying to pull her out of it, or is assisting her in learning how do a roll.

Paula displays excellent form as she gets into her small inflatable-- ow! Paula-- ouch-- stop hitting me, Paula!

Karl and Stephanie head out for a paddle while the rest of us practice not drowning.

Tracy's help obviously paid off as Louise finally mastered a roll! Well, the first part, anyway. Louise tipped and had to do a wet exit. She also performed a self rescue!

In this series of award-winning photographs (2006 Buckeye Newshawk Award), Paula tries tipping then re-entering her kayak.
She found it very buoyant and hard to tip...

... but with a little effort...

... she found herself swimming.

She tipped twice. The first time, I helped her with an assisted rescue, but the second time...

... she scrambled in by herself!

She decided to celebrate by standing on her boat. (Take that, Dennis!)

Yes, even your intrepid reporter took a turn in the drink!

Meanwhile, Stephanie had discovered a new way to either rescue a swimmer or perform a vasectomy at sea.

My photos are here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

25 June 2006

Could not have asked for a better day to be on the water. The day was clear, warm and sunny, and there was only the lightest of breezes. The water off Willows beach was scarcely disturbed by swells and stretched off smooth and flat as far as the eye could see.
It turns out that we arrived at low tide, adn once again, it was a zero tide or close thereto; the edge of the water was fifty metres further out than the lowest tide we'd ever had before. Where we usually see otters feeding in the eelgrass fields was where we put in this morning. On the plus side, we were already halfway to Mary Todd Island before we even got the boats wet.
The tide was coming up on slack as we launched, and paddling out felt like paddling over silk; there was almost no effort involved. Paddles dipped in and out of the water barely getting wet, and the boats slid across the sea without discernable resistance. It seemed only minutes and we were already across Mayor Channel and into the Chain Islets. With the extremely low tide, there was a tremendous amount of rock exposed, and paddling through the Chain Islets was an act of joyous exploration. Our normal paddle group is six people, recently as high as eight, but today there were only three of us tripping on what has to be one of the most enjoyable paddles of the last year.
As we worked our way through the rocks and kelp beds, we kept coming across seals; rocks almost invisible under the harbour seals—whose colours kept them well camoflaged until we were quite close, and them suddenly thirty or forty seals would explode into motion, splashing into the water and, just as quickly, bobbing up to look at us. At one point we were completely surrounded by seals, heads popping up on all sides of us to check us out, and then abruptly disappearing back underwater. It was a terrific opportunity to simply listen to the sounds they made; the blowing when surfacing, the sound of them breathing or smelling for us, and the occasional big splash as they tried to keep us moving through their turf.
Since Dennis and I first paddled over to the Chatam Islands, I've been keeping my eyes open for sea urchins. That day we saw the shells of dozens of urchins caught and killed by, I believe, otters. But until yesterday, I haven't seen a single living urchin.
That changed as I took the time to look down with the sun piercing the water. As I floated over a stalk of bull kelp, I noticed a different colour in the leaves. Sure enough, it was an urchin that had apparently climbed on board with the slack tide and then been lifted by the slow return of a current. As Alison manouver4ed in to try and get a picture, I floated over to the nearby rocks where, sure enough, there were a dozen more urchins well displayed in the sunlight.
It would have been so easy to paddle across Plumper Passage and make landfall at Discovery Island, but we decided to turn back towards the beach and a hot cuppa that was waiting for us. As we passed what I think was Carolina Reef, we suprised a couple more seals, and as we passed, the baby began calling (quite demadingly, I thought) for his/her mom—sounding very like every human child I've ever met: “Mam! Mam!”
We made it back to the beach and the Kiwanis Tearoom, with a sudden stiff breeze blowing up for maybe the last five minutes of paddling. All in all, one of the best days on the water—with one of the smallest paddle groups of the year.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Summer Daze on Willow's Beach

Cue classic West Coast paddle shot

OK, it's a bad pun. I may be part troll, since my brain works less and less well the hotter it gets. It's 30 C at the airport, probably a touch higher here, my computer's fan is blasting and, for want of a fan, my own CPU is melting down. The best place to be today was the water, a sentiment shared by a sizable proportion of Victoria if the gathering on Willow's Beach was anything to go by. Our own party was a small but select trio of Paula, Bernie and myself (Alison), accompanied by a large chorus of seals in the middle act. The excursion started unappealingly with a long schlep across sand-flats to the distant ocean - low tide launch - wherein we realized that the tide was indeed far out, kayaks were heavy, and it was on its way to being hot. Launch, in eelgrass, was slimy, but from then on conditions were perfect. The sea was glassy and silky and our kayaks simply skimmed over it. We dodged in and out of the Chain Islands (plus, since many of the humps of rock exposed had the seaweed and dark staining that indicated they were below high tide), to the fascination and comment of about 100 assorted seals observing from the rocks and the water. Including one curious baby seal who wanted to get closer - but since mamma wasn't likely to believe it was all her offspring's fault, we opted for retreat. We had our obligatory eagle sighting (photo), saw a sea urchin enfolded in ribbons of kelp, more sea urchins (photographed) on the rocks, aforementioned seals, some very large seagulls, oystercatchers, cormorants, cranes, various exhibitionistic fish, and something very large seen only by Bernie. We made it to the far side of the Chain Islands and worked our way round and came back; by that time the current was beginning to run and a peculiar stiff hot wind picked up as we headed into the beach, blasting off Cattle Point and running parallel to the beach - gave us the only real work we did all day. We discussed art, how not to go paddling, natural selection (not unrelated to the previous), how the snow on the Olympics related to the water supply (aquifers), handbuilt wooden kayaks, how this is not the time of year to go to Toronto, and how perfect a paddling day it was.

"Man, the traffic's heavy today"(Sealjam)

Sea urchins (really), taken with one of those old fashioned dryland cameras ...

Is it possible that there are only 2 eagles, following us around??

Perfect paddling day

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Blew Lagoon

Talk about history repeating itself...
After my dunking in the Chatham Islands (see here), the wisedom of dry clothes suddenly became apparent. The next week, everyone had bought dry bags and packed spare clothes and towels.
Now, after last week's trip through the fog, everybody's got a compass! :)
On to this week's paddle!

The Infamous Esquimalt Lagoon!
Okay, so it's not very infamous. Hardly at all, really. But this morning found us on its shore, and ready to paddle. A mixed bag weather day. Sun, cloud, and an offshore breeze that kept us on our toes.

Bernie heads out in Paula's boat, as Paula was unable to attend. (Any excuse to use a bigger boat....)

Louise heads out.

Karl and Steph head out, too.

The last time we were here, we played in the lagoon then headed out for some playing in the ocean. Today we put in on the ocean side and decided to head west along the coast towards the gravel plant.

Past the plant, the shoreline had a nice beach, but the cliff made it unrealistic to use as a launching point.

Bernie is clearly excited about something. Too bad none of us can remember what it was.

Are we heading into a park?

Yes, we are! Beach access, road access, and even what looks like a small river. What a great spot! The only problem is none of us have any clue which park it is.

The river shallowed quickly, so Stephanie decided to see where the river went.

After consulting a map later, we discovered that we were at Albert Head Lagoon Park. Easy to get by road, it looks like a great place to launch from. It fact, we're planning a day-trip from here to Witty's Lagoon and back in August.

Karl takes some pictures of turkey vultures.

There was a family of geese and geeselings, er, goslings.

This looks like an old water line of some sort, perhaps an old sewer outfall.

This was really a beautiful little spot. We hung around here for about half an hour.

But finally, it was time to head home.

At least one of us had a good time! :)

My pictures are here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Way the Future Was

Check back to this page as we update the paddle schedule.

Sunday June 18, 9:00 am – Esquimalt Lagoon
We can put in, paddle around the lagoon for a bit, then head out for a splash in the waves. We'll be dealing with an ebb tide (high will be just after 6:00 am, with a low just before 3:00 pm). Right now the weather forecast looks like a high of 16 and cloudy, and winds of 10 kmh.
(click here to see how this paddle went.)

Sunday, June 25, 9:00 am – Willows Beach
We'll be hitting a very low tide just after we launch at about 9:30. (We had Witty's Lagoon penciled here - it's been delayed until later on in the summer.)
(click here and here to see how this paddle went.)

Thursday, June 29, 6:15 pm – Elk Lake
This is an evening practise session to work on edging, bracing, rescues and maybe even a roll or two. Possibly a croissant. In other words, learning how not to drown.
(click here to see how this paddle went.)

Sunday, July 2, 9:00 am – Telegraph Bay
We put in at the end of Telegraph Bay Road. Maybe we’ll see another paddle wheeler like we did the last time we were here.
A slowly ebbing tide until about 1:45.
(check out how this paddle went here.)

Sunday, July 9, 10:00 am – Sooke Basin
We'll put in at Cooper's Cove.
Low tide at 8:20. Ready to play in the waves?
(click here to see how this paddle went.)

Sunday, July 16, 9:00 am– Island View Beach
High tide at 9:30.
If we decide to circle James Island again, at least we'll have the tide with us on the way home.
(To read how this paddle went, click here.)

Sunday, July 23, 9:00 am – Lower Gorge
We’ll put in at the Songhees and head up the Gorge. We hit a low tide at 9:50 am. (If I’m reading the current charts correctly, the current under the Tillicum bridge will turn around 2:00 pm. Let’s see if that free one-hour tide-table reading course pays off.)
(Found out how this paddle went here.)

Thursday, July 27, 6:15 pm – Elk Lake
This is an evening practise session to work on edging, bracing, rescues and maybe even a roll or two. I wouldn’t mind a bagel. In other words, learning how not to drown. (Click here to see how this paddle went.)

Sunday, July 30, 9:00 am – Finlayson Arm/Tod Inlet
A high tide at 8:20 am, low tide at 2:30 pm. We’ll put in at the Brentwood Bay ferry terminal and head down Finlayson Arm or Tod Inlet, depending on our mood. Hopefully the tide will be with us on the way back. (click here to see how this paddle went.)

Sunday, Aug 6 – Cowichan Bay
Details TBD. (We never made it to Cowichan Bay, but we did have a great paddle. Check it out here.)

Sunday, Aug 13 – Cowichan Lake
Details TBD. (We never made it to Cowichan Lake, either. But we did have a pddle. Check it out here.)

Sunday, Aug 20, 9:00 am – Witty’s Lagoon Day Trip
(This paddle didn't work out at all. We'll try for Witty's Lagoon again next Sunday. But click here to see where we did go.)

Thursday, Aug 24, 6:15 pm – Elk Lake
This is an evening practise session to work on edging, bracing, rescues and maybe even a roll or two. Or a doughnut. I’m easy that way. In other words, learning how not to drown.
(This paddle didn't happen. Can't win 'em all.)

Sunday, Aug 27 9:30 am – Witty’s Lagoon Day Trip(Take Two)
Here's a great idea for a day trip. We 'll put in at Albert Head Lagoon Park. We'll paddle around Albert Head, and into Witty's Lagoon. We'll beach, have lunch, then make the return trip.
(This was a great paddle. Check it out here.)

Sunday, Sept 3, 9:00 am – Sidney Harbour and Islands

Details TBD

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Foggy Day Off Cadboro Bay

Wow, a day full of surprises! The first surprise was a pair of deer in Paula's back yard! Paula can't ever remember deer at the house. This was a little disconcerting, as Paula lives about a block away from a major street (Shelbourne Street), but the deer soon ambled on their way away from the busy traffic.

Then we got to Cadboro Bay: surprise number 2 -- a low tide. Not just an ordinary low tide, but an über low tide. This is as low as low tide gets in these parts.

And now surprise number 3 -- fog! In spite of it, Tracy, Louise and Paula gear up.
Gear Up

We couldn't miss a paddle on such a wacky day as this! We decided because of the fog to stay close together and hug the north shore of the bay, then turn north at the point and go towards the light house. If we went slow and kept in visual range of each other and the shore, we should be okay. We'd have to be careful -- maybe more surprises were coming!
The Three Amigos

This heron was grounded -- nothing was flying in this fog!

The fog made everything look a little surreal. Places that we have paddled by many times before look very different and mysterious.
Foggy Day

Adding to the strangeness was the low tide. What looks like a small gravel beach in the picture below is usually a small channel between islets that we often paddle through. It's hard to say for sure, but I'd guess that the water level was at least two metres below the usual low tide mark.

Another example of the extreme low tide. These boulders are usually totally underwater.

We continued on through the fog, eventually arriving at the lighthouse.
Paula in the Fog
Kayaks in the Fog

Hmmm. Is that something on the lighthouse?
Paula and the Lighthouse

Yep, it's an eagle. This guy must be local. He's always around when we go paddling in this area.
Eagle in the Fog

There was a real danger of being totally disoriented in the fog. Here's what looks like a snow-capped mountain in the distance. The only problem is that there is no mountain there. I'm not sure what it is. If we'd returned after the fog had lifted, I'm sure we'd never have found this spot again.

Some geese came out to play.

Then ghostly shadows surprised us in the mist.

A flotilla of sail boats from the nearby yacht club swung by us, dipping in and out of the fog.
Flotillas in the Mist

We had reached shore when Louise spotted the last surprise of the day. "Is that my old boat?" she asked.
Finally, that %$#^ing Fog is Burning Off

Yes, it was! Out of the fog came Stephanie in Louise's old plastic Dagger.

And then along came Karl in my old boat. As it turns out, they had left the beach a few minutes after us, but they went south instead of north.

Naturally, the fog lifted just as our paddle ended.
Are We Having Fun Yet?

A great paddle ends with a big smile.
Happy Paddler

My pictures are here.