Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 Paddling Weather Stats

60 paddles were documented on the blog this year. The weather stats break down like this:

47% of our paddles were on sunny days;
34% were on cloudy days;
6% were on rainy days;
3% were on foggy days;
and 10% were cancelled due to bad weather.

Made it to Chatham!

I've been looking out from Cadboro Bay to Chatham and Discovery islands for years. On a bright day, you can see trees silhouetted against the sky, where the low islands stand only a little way above the waterline. On the northern end, the arbutus and fir trees look like palm trees swaying in the almost constant wind.
These islands aren't very far off-shore. Lots of people boat over to them. Pretty much every day of the week, you can see a sailboat wander round them, or a couple of kayaks dart out when the water is calm. Bernie's been there -- even alone, in a 10 foot Pamlico -- and has been bugging me to get over there, it's beautiful, nice islands to visit.
But between Chatham and Ten Mile Point runs Baynes Channel, with currents of up to 5 knots. And between Discovery and the Chain islets runs another channel with similar currents.
Yup, Bernie, Dennis and John have crossed Baynes when the current ran like a river and Louise and I turned back to wait in Cadboro Bay. Other times, we would get to Jemmy Jones Island or only to Flower Island and the currents would make me turn back.
But today the slack tide lasted for hours. When we set out from Cadboro Bay, Bernie and I went right out to Jemmy Jones on waters as calm as a bathtub.
And this time when Bernie begged me to please make this be the day I paddled over to Chatham and Discovery, I had to agree that the water had never been so quiet, and for once this December there wasn't even any wind.
It took twenty minutes. It was easier than crossing Saanich Inlet to get to Bamberton, and easier than crossing currents near Sidney to get to the little islets we've been visiting a couple of times. We only stayed about twenty minutes, till a seal splashed behind us as a reminder that this wasn't a place to linger. The return took about half an hour, with a slight current pulling us a little to one side of Jemmy Jones before we came back to Flower and into Cadboro Bay. All told, we were on the water for about two hours.

And yes, the little islands that make up Chatham are beautiful. I will be back, with a camera, and after studying the currents charts to find another day with so long a slack tide... or maybe we'll camp overnight on the south half of Discovery, in the park.
So, the first time was easy -- everything was very gentle and I was already wet.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Big Ouch: What Happened Part Two

The one nice thing about being seriously injured is that you go to the front of the queue at Emergency. This was probably a good thing, as by the time the ambulance got me to VGH, my arm was really hurting and I could feel myself getting more uncomfortable. I was probably going into shock, perhaps not deeply, but going there.
As I was waiting to be admitted, one paramedic noted my discomfort and offered me a blanket. Being a stoic male, I declined the offer.
"Let me give you some advice," said the paramedic. "When a paramedic offers you a warm blanket, you should take it."
"Golly," I said, "maybe I'll take that blanket after all!"
It was now about 6:00, about an hour after I fell off my bike.
Soon, I was wheeled into a cubicle, where they quickly started me on an IV. A doctor came in, took a quick look and very quickly determined that at the very least my shoulder was dislocated. He asked if I had any numb patches and I indicated I did, on the side of arm. This could mean nerve damage.
Then he uttered the one word that I was longing to hear: morphine!
But soon I was left alone, and I reflected on my situation. I would need help tending to my sick cat. Someone was going to have to call work and let them know I was going to be off for a few days.
I looked at my arm. Man, I really wrecked it.
By this time, more of my guardians began arriving. First, my sister Brenda arrived, followed by my girlfriend Louise. Each time, the nurse mistook them for my wife.
My memory of events during this period is somewhat fluid, but somewhere between the blood tests and the IV drips, they took me to X-ray.
This was not an experience I'd like to repeat.
The x-rays taken while I was standing up weren't so bad, but I had to lie flat on my back for a set and this really hurt. I never saw any of the "before" X-rays until much later, but lying flat was excrutiating and I could clearly feel bones floating around in there. That was 20 minutes that I never want to repeat.
But interestingly, the numb patch in my arm regained feeling after the x-ray ordeal. I surmise that something moved just enough to take pressure off the nerve, and there were (and are) no more concerns about nerve damage.
I was taken back to my room to await judgement. Brenda and Louise both commented about how cold my hands were.
Soon, a young woman appeared, the orthopedic intern. She'd looked at x-ray, and reported that my arm was broken in three places and my shoulder dislocted. Worse, I had broken ay arm at the ball joint, making repairs all the more troublesome.
Here's the x-ray:

Now, I'm no doctor, but clearly you can see that the shoulder is out of the socket, and the ball is broken, and not in the correct shape.
She said there were two courses of action. I was going to need surgery on the arm, no question. But do we fix the dislocation with surgery at the same time, or do we fix the disocation manually, then do surgery on the arm later?
This didn't seem like much of a choice to me. If I'm going to go under the knife anyway, must as well do it all in one go.
But she wanted to call in some experts, so who am I to argue?
Somewhere along the way, the paramedic's gear was removed from my arm and replaced with a sling which I am still wearing. (I'm typing this one-handed, so please read this at half your usual reading speed to get the full effect.)
The intern returned with the verdict.
"When I suggested we fix the dislocation first, everyone laughed at me."
There were two problems with her plan. First, the ball was broken off. It was not attched to the rest of the arm. There was no way to re-insert the ball into the socket. It probably would have caused more damage. Secondly, even if it was safe to proceed, she probably couldn't have done it.
I'm a big guy, and she was not a big girl. (She made Chantelle at work look like Shaq.) She physically could not have done it and the last thing my broken arm needed was someone heaving and hauling on my shoulder.
She said she would start on the paperwork and took a felt pen and initialed my injured left shoulder.
So it was surgery, a one-stop fix everything chop. Sort of like Midas Mufflers.
Surgery was set fot 7:45 the next morning, not at VGH, but at Royal Jubilee Hospital. The only question was, could they find a bed for me there? An ambulance was ordered anyway to transfer me. Louise and Brenda said their goodbyes and headed out to spread the word that I would, in fact, live. They noted before they left that my hands were warming up.
A nurse returned with the paperwork for me to sign, but stopped herself before handing it over. It seems that the intern, despite having examined and marked my injured left shoulder, put down on the forms that it was my right shoulder that was to be operated on.
Once the paperwork was fixed, I signed. Good thing I'm right-handed.
So there it was. I was facing my first surgery since having my tonsils out when I was 5.
The orthopedic surgeon, my newest guardian, drove over from the Jubilee to examine me. He explained that the surgery would take about two and a half hours. I've heard since that he is the best "shoulder man" on the Island. So far, I'd have to agree.
Around about 11:30, an ambulance arrived to transport me to the Jubilee, they found a bed for me, so we were all set. They loaded me up, and away we went. It was a quiet night for emergencies, the paramedics said. The quietest night they'd ever seen. They'd been on duty for six hours, and I was their first call. And I was just a glorified taxi ride.
By 12:30, I was safely tucked in my bed in Jubilee. Surgery was mere hours away.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The New Normal?

So there’s been two more storms this week, both with high winds blowing in from the east–which has meant some amazing waves in Cadboro Bay. It also means that two more boats have torn loose of their moorings and washed up on the beach. One, a 4 metre powerboat is almost directly in front of Sinclair Road. It is thrashed–big chunks broken out of the side and back. The other is a five or six metre sailboat that has washed up a ways down the beach–where the other group of three ended up. I haven’t been down to look at it, but it seems to be in okay shape, and just waiting to be hauled off and re-moored.
But somehow I suspect that this new ferocity and frequency of storms is just the new normal for the Island. The general feeling is that our winters are to become wetter and stormier while the summers become hotter and drier. Last summer we went four months without measurable rain which certainly put a significant dent in our water supply (and Tofino, for various reasons, ran out of water). But according to our Prime Minister and our Environment Minister (Rona Ambrose), there is no reason that Canada should cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Big Ouch: What Happened Part One

It's an odd sensation, realizing that your bicycle has suddenly stopped but you haven't. That your handlebar has suddenly snapped to the right and stopped your bike cold while momentum is still carrying you forward. That not only are you flying over your handlebar but that you are twisting in mid-air to the right and are now travelling sideways, a change of direction that will probably save your life, but in this moment only adds to the disorientation.
Then you realize that the ground is getting closer. You barely have time to register that this is going to be bad. And that it's going to hurt.
It is bad. And it hurts.

Two and a half weeks ago I was riding my bike home following the path I do everyday. Part of the journey is a short trail connecting Burnside Road with the back of Tillicum Mall. On this day, dusk, 5:00 pm, water had washed out a pothole that had been filled by gravel back in the summer. Was the washout caused by all the rain we had received in November? Or was it run-off from the watermain that had burst in Tillicum Mall an hour previously? I don't know. All I do know is that as I went down the path, my front wheel caught the pothole and I flipped off my bike. There was a small culvert ahead of me with a concrete pad over top of it. I landed on the concrete pad with all my weight on my left shoulder.

The air rushed out of my lungs on impact. I bounced off my shoulder and onto my back (my backpack, actually). My legs swung up beside me and ended up in some bushes just off the trail. I'm not sure what happened to my bike. At least it didn't run over me.

I knew right away something was wrong with my left arm. It didn't feel "attached" properly. Still, I tried to gently move it, but the pain toldme that I had probably broken it. There was also the disquieting sensation of things rubbing together that should not be rubbing together.

Okay, so the left arm was clearly an issue. What else was broken? I hadn't hit my head (and yes, I always wear my helmet). I wiggled my toes, they seemed okay. My right arm seemed fine. It felt like I might have a scrarch on my left leg, but this was minor. Everything seemed up and running save my left arm.

I needed my cell phone which was in my backpack, and was now underneath me. Okay. This was gonna hurt, but there wasn't much else to do. Cradlling my left arm as best I could, I swivelled on my butt, getting my legs out of the bushes. Then I sat up.
Yes, it hurt.
I rested a moment, then cradled my left hand in my lap, then slowly unbuckled and removed my backpack.
I somehow managed to get my left arm out of the straps, then I opened it up and fished out my phone. I turned it on, hoping that it still had some juice. It did, I dialed 911. The operator was cool and professional and able to figure out what trail I was on. He asked if I was bleeding; I said I didn't so. He asked if I could get up and walk along the trail. I said I probably could, but I'd just as soon sit where I was.
I hung up and started to call family members to alert them to my plight. I told my mother that Louise would call soon. (I was supposed to help Louise move some furniture that evening -- clearly, I would do anything to get out of that.)
Just as I finished calling my mother, my first guardian of the evening arrived. A gentleman named Ollie rode down the trail and stopped to assist me. He picked up my bike from across the path and offered to wait the ambulance came.
When the ambulance arrived, Ollie, who as it turned out lives just a couple of blocks from me, offered to take my back home.
The bike was fine. Of course.
The paramedics checked me out. They cut away my bike jacket and jersey from my arm. I'm no doctor, but I could see that my shoulder looked wrong. Instead of curving down, it suddenly dropped off, and there was a large bump where there shouldn't be a bump. This was the ball joint at the end of arm sitting in a place where it shouldn't be. They checked my arm for numbness and I had a big numb spot on the outside of left arm. This indicated possible nerve damage.
They immobolized my arm by wrapping what looked like a life preserver around me, they got me to feet and we walked down the path. I climbed into the ambulance and sat down. They moved me over to the stretcher later as they tried to put in an IV line in my right hand. The paramedic kept failing to find a vein and apologised profously for continually poking my right hand in vein, er, vain. We went to Victoria General Hospital.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lazing on a Wednesday Afternoon

Well, the morning was sunny and I was stuck inside as usual. But by the time I got home at about 1:00, the sun was still out and I decided on a quick trip out.
I had a rough plan.
Plan A was to paddle out of Cadboro Bay and then, depending on which way the current was heading in Baynes Channel, I'd head either south or north and circumnavigate Chatham and Discover Islands. This is something I'd never done before. I had been out as far as Discovery some months ago, but never all the way around.
Of course, I did have a Plan B.
Pretty simple, really. Just take the channel between Discovery and Chatham. I've never been the whole way though there either, so it seemed like an excellent second choice.
Things did get off to a bit of a slow start; there were two women walking on the beach who decided to come over and talk to me. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I love to talk, and more, I love to talk to women, and worst of all, I love to talk to women about kayaking--particularly when they seem to think that my going out on the water is fairly cool. So by the time I finally did get out on the water, the sun was pretty much gone.
Minor setback. I knew that the forecast called for increasing cloud in the afternoon, possibly even showers. But I was dressed for the weather, so no worries, eh? I finally got underway and fifteen minutes later, I was exiting the bay.
It was still a gorgeous afternoon. There was only a light offshore breeze, and to the southeast , the Olympic mountains loomed over the bank of clouds moving through. I came further out of the bay, approaching Jemmy Jones, and Mount Baker came into view. And what a view! There were no clouds in the northeast, and the sun was reflecting off of last week's snow, making for a picture perfect moment.
But as I passed Jemmy Jones--noting that the current was still running strongly northwards, it quickly became apparent that I had misjudged the winds on departure. Once I had passed out of the shelter of the bay and Ten Mile Point, the winds proved to be a fair bit stronger and blowing southwards: against the northering current. By the time I was halfway across Baynes, there were some fairly significant waves building up.
The waves weren't bad--nothing I haven't paddled before--but looking south, there was what looked like a low pressure system coming in (remember that rain in the forecast?). Low pressure to the south, high to the north, north flowing current, well the signs did not point to conditions getting any better. More of the same, possibly worsening, is more like it.
So it turned out that I devolved to Plan C.
Which means that my hoped-for circumnavigation turned into a truncated paddle. Still, a terrific 6km paddle with seals in the middle of Cadboro Bay, another out by Jemmy Jones, tonnes of birds, and beautiful views. Just not yet around the islands.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Cadboro Bay

Ah, Cadboro Bay. The Bay is a gorgeous place, very protected, and looking out on a view that takes a backseat to no other.

I took this shot of the Bay back in late September, trying to catch the morning light coming over Ten Mile Point. The Chain Islets are visible in the middle distance, as are the Olympic Mountains over in Washington State (I find it amusing that while the border is officially the 49th parallel, only four of eleven provincial capitals lie north of the 49th. Here on the Island, you don’t hit the border until Ladysmith).
Cadboro Bay is nestled on the east side of the lower tip of Vancouver Island, making it one of the safest and most sheltered bays around. Victoria itself is in a rain shadow from the Olympic Mountains, and then Cadboro is further sheltered by hills to the south and Ten Mile Point to the north.
But as the last month has proven (over and over again), even Cadboro Bay isn’t always as placid as it appears in the photo. We’ve been hit by a month-long series of storms that have lead to record or near record amounts of precipitation, power outages, and more than a million people under a week-long boil-water advisory.
Locally, the phenomenon is referred to as the “Pineapple Express”, which happens when warm, moisture-heavy air from the south Pacific meets an Arctic cold front running down the coast before heading over the mountains into Alberta. The result is amazing amounts of precipitation usually over a very short period of time. This time it was a sequence of storms slamming into the coast, bringing rain, winds over 100 kph, and this last week, snow. And then snow again.
While we went without power for several hours, people living near us went without for over two days. With temperatures below zero and windchill adding another -10C, this situation was nothing to be laughed at.
The first storm of the month saw this:

From all appearances, this boat had been in use right up until the storm. But it hadn’t been moored in Caddy Bay–this is just where it washed up. Locals were very polite; they waited two full weeks before stripping everything of value out of the hull. By that point, what had been a damaged but repairable hull, had become a serious mess. The sequence of storms, high tides, and storm-driven tide surge had shoved the hull up and into the stacks of driftwood on the beach. Then the new driftwood–logs ranging from 30 cm across and three metres long up to, well, the drowned tree resting next to the boat in the picture–had broken out the stern and punched new holes in the side of the hull. By the 20th of November, city workers had come by and hauled the hull off the beach.
But this wasn’t all….

Three more boats had been torn loose from their moorings and tossed up on the beach. By the time I took this photo, the power boat and day-sailer had been filled with driftwood to keep them planted. But the big hull, the 10 metre one, well, that was another story.
The damage this boat had taken was extraordinary. It too seems to have been in use up until the storm that tore it apart. I walked down the beach to it the other day–less than three weeks after it washed up–and the hull is now in two pieces and shredded. The blue day-sailer was hauled back out to its mooring in the bay (of the three boats, this is the only one I’ve seen moored in the bay), but has since been pulled loose again and is nearly back on the beach for a second go-round. The power-boat has since disappeared–I suspect that Saanich hauled it away as well.
Even further down the beach was this:

This was one of the boats moored in the bay. It had simply torn loose and been beached. Fairly soon after taking this photo, this boat had been taken off the beach and re-moored–hopefully more securely.
So, in total there were five boats washed ashore during the first two storms of the month. Since then there has been a third storm and the snow. Quite the month. But, it appears, not unique. Under the tree near this last boat, is this hull. Obviously it’s been there a while. :)