Saturday, May 31, 2008

Double Trouble

While Richard was out paddling around Portland Island, Louise and I were playing host to her nephew Matt and his girlfriend Kaitlyn up here visiting from Salt Lake City. We rented a pair of doubles and took them around the Inner Harbour and the Gorge. They had never kayaked before, and any chance for us to send someone over to the dark side....
We rented these from Ocean River. We had the Delta TwentyT in white on the left, and the Eddyline Whisper in yellow on the right.

Louise headed out with Matt in the Delta. Already you can see that Matt has mastered the fine art of paddling tandem -- let the person in front do all the work.

Kaitlyn and I headed out in the Whisper. It's 18' long, so it's shorter than the Delta and we kept banging our paddles together, but it had a nice roomy cockpit which made getting in and out of it pretty easy. Kaitlyn picked up the paddling technique very quickly. The only drawback was that I took a lot of pictures of the back of Kaitlyn's head.

It was a busy and beautiful day on the water. There were some rowing races on The Gorge, and the Harbour Ferries were doing brisk business as well.

But not all the wildlife was chased away by the boats.

We passed the power rowers and went up The Gorge past the Selkirk Trestle...

...and up to Tillicum Bridge. In fact, the tide conditions were right for us to be able to scoot under it before heading back to the harbour.

On the way back, a pair of herons flew past us. I managed to get a shot of one of them. He looks like he's walking on the tips of his wings, but he's flying. Really! I swear!

There are some winos who sometimes pass the time in the bushes along here. This guy must be their mascot.

We continued into the harbour, past the seaplanes and towards The Legislature. You can see that Louise decided it was her turn to rest and she has changed places with Matt. That's a trick they don't teach you in kayaking courses!

Speaking of seaplanes, we had to make sure that they didn't come in on top of us.

We continued toward Fisherman's Wharf and the houseboats...

...finally ending with a look out at the great big sea.

Gorge-Inner Harbour Paddle

Trip length: 11.5 km
John's pictures are here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Humber River in Etobicoke

The third time's the charm! Taking a kayak out for a single paddle might have been just a whim, but taking it on a plane trip and using it three times apparently makes me a hardcore kayaker. At least, my sister-in-law thinks I am. And that's really what counts.
This outing, I had the kayak in downtown Toronto after a gorgeous day paddling in the Toronto Islands (three hours and fourteen GLORIOUS nights). I had taken it back to the mainland on the ferry, then on the streetcar to the Merril Collection of Science Fiction in the Lillian Smith branch of Toronto Public Library. Lorna Toolis, librarian, let me leave the kayak in her office overnight, so I could go to a reading and a friend's house without schlepping it around.
In the morning, I returned to her office and traded my little daypack & walking stick for the kayak, then trundled it onto the streetcar and the Bloor-Yonge subway. Off at Old Mill station, up a *very* long flight of stairs.
A few days earlier, I had noticed this river valley under the station looked like a park and checked out some online listings that said it was a good paddling destination. The Humber River is indeed a good flatwater paddle, through King's Mill Park to Lake Ontario, by all reports.
It's only a block or two to the water from Old Mill station, all downhill. I found sufficient trees at the riverbank to let me change into merino wool paddling gear (the weather was much too warm for neoprene!). This time I strapped all my gear onto the front deck and put the roller inside under my legs and it felt more balanced than the day before, when some gear was on the back deck.
The river was calm, and just as grey-green as the New Credit. I drifted downstream past the Humber River Yacht club, and made friends with a large swan who contested with several Canada geese for bread being scattered by a regular park visitor. So good to be the boat on the water, as cars went by on the bridge overhead, and subway trains roared past on their own bridge.
It wasn't a challenging paddle. But it was a relaxing one, with kingfishers and swallows swooping around, and just enough rain sprinkling to keep the whole outing quiet and private. Going upstream was no effort, and it was nice to see the houses on the high bluffs from the opposite angle now, and to follow the bends back to the old mill and the pedestrian stone bridge.
Went ashore, got changed and packed up with a family of geese staring at me warily.
I even towed the kayak uphill to the station without any problems, though I did make two cars swerve around me on the quiet residential street. A total of five people that day pointed at the kayak bag, and said, "Golfing?"
Nice to take a break from the big city skyscrapers, and just drift like that.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Return to 15 Minute Island...and Beyond

This Sunday we decided to return to Brentwood Bay and paddle into Saanich Inlet, but instead of our usual southerly route past Tod Inlet and towards Squally Reach, we decided to head north towards what we call 15 Minute Island.
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It was Alison, Louise, Richard and myself today. Alison arrived a few minutes early and went for a little solo jaunt towards Tod Inlet before the rest of us arrived. As we all headed out later, we tried to pay her a dollar if she would paddle under this sailboat.
She declined.
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We paddled past this seagull on a buoy. We were making a lot of comments about how fat the seagull must be to make the buoy tip like that. Then the seagull took off, and we realized that the buoy was actually stuck in that position.
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This was Richard's first trip to 15 Minute Island. It's actually part of a nearby First Nations reserve and called Senanus Island, but we call it 15 Minute Island because on a previous paddle south from Coles Bay, Bernie suggested that we paddle to it.
"It looks only 15 minutes away," he kept saying. The problem was that after every 15 minutes of paddling, it still looked 15 minutes away.
The first time we decided to make it a paddle destination, it took us a lot longer than 15 minutes to get to it. Today, it took about 15 minutes. Either we are improving at this kayaking thing, or we had a helluva current pushing us today.
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Richard is trying out his latest gadget. It gives him the windspeed and tracks the barometric pressure. It's funny how now I suddenly covet something that I had no idea existed before today.
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As we went around the far side of the island, we saw some oystercatchers. Presumably they were catching oysters.
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We passed the lighthouse on the northern point of the island and crossed back to the shore, continuing north. We watched a seaplane practise some "touch 'n' gos," and the occasional seal popped up and followed us for a moment or two. We were passed by a large pleasure boat and we all turned to charge the wake. It was a little higher than we expected and we each caught some air. That was fun!
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We passed Coles Bay and went as far as the entrance to Patricia Bay. The jets were coming in over Saanich Inlet today, as evidenced by this WestJet 737 on final approach.
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We turned around and headed back. Richard is the fastest of the group, and Alison and I decided to see if we could draft off him. I'm not sure how well this worked with three kayaks, but I've tried with two, and when I'm the second kayak it sure feels to me like it's less work paddling.
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However, Louise set her sights on some divers. We heard her laughing maniacally. "Finally, we get to run over something! Who's the fricking speedbump now?"
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As we approached Brentwood Bay, we watched eagles flying along the shore. Finally one settled into a tree.
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And the paddle comes to an end.
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Saanich Inlet
Trip length: 15.7 km.
John's pictures are here.
Richard's pictures are here.
Richard's blog report is here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

19/100 May 3, 2008

Woo, been a month+ since I’ve been paddling. But Richard said he wanted to paddle over to Discovery and Chatham today, and when I heard that, I decided to pull the Pamlico out and join him.
So there I was, ready to go by 7:40 am–not bad, considering I’d only heard that Richard was planning to paddle at about 7:10 am–waiting for Richard. And waiting. When I finally called him, well, he’d changed his mind (claiming a change in the weather). Meh. So I set out, crisscrossing the bay, checking out the boats moored at the buoys and winding up at Jemmy Jones. And then crisscrossing the bay back. Nice paddle, lovely morning; clouded over, very light intermittent rain, light wind. Great for paddling.

Toronto Islands

On my second outing of commando kayaking in Metro Toronto, I wrestled my inflatable kayak into my sister-in-law's car trunk. She dropped me at Square One in Mississauga, and I hopped onto the GO bus to Union Station, downtown Toronto.
Once there, I trundled the kayak into the station, down stairs, and onto a streetcar to the waterfront. It was a four-block walk, with Bay Street to cross, so the streetcar was a good alternative. Then onto the little ferry to the Toronto Islands.
When Bernie was here, he rented a plastic kayak from a place on Harbourfront. I was paddling the Dragonfly model inflatable and there was a lot of traffic in the harbour that morning, so the ferry seemed sensible. Sure enough, there were several sailboats out for their first bright day of the summer.
It was a bright day, from time to time, and just a little breeze to start that picked up as the day went on. I hopped off the ferry at Hanlan's Island, changed in the restroom, and puffed up the boat. Strapping everything on the deck was a little tricky, as it raised the centre of gravity, but the Dragonfly is a pretty stable ride. Putting anything under my seat was NOT on, as it raised MY centre of gravity high enough to mess with my muscle sense of balance.
Hanlan's Island is a nice place, less crowded than the rest of the islands. I saw many birds during the day, including a scarlet tanager and a kingfisher and something like a great blue heron with a short neck.
Five different tour boats cruised past me at intervals during the day. Lots of little power boats at marinas in these islands, and many houses on Ward's Island or Algonquin Island have boats and decks at the shoreline.
I made my way slowly around Centre Island to Ward's Island and got out at the ferry terminal there. note to self: launch and land on the east side of the terminal, not the west side as I did.
All in all, it was three and a half hours of paddling in quiet, sheltered waters (except when I rounded two islands, and that was still on the harbour side). I'll do it again someday, and hope to have friends along.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

On the SPOT

We've previously mentioned the SPOT Satellite Messenger, a handheld device that can send an emergency signal over satellite to rescue services. It's a nifty gadget and should be considered as part of your gear, especially if you're doing a lot of distance paddling. Paula's considering getting one for her Red River trip in August.
According to an article in the latest issue of Adventure Kayak magazine, the first sea kayaker (and first Canadian) to use the device in an emergency was Derek Crook of Nanaimo, BC, while he was kayaking in Australia. Crook, a well-known and highly experienced kayaker, was solo paddling around Tasmania when he was slammed by huge waves and tossed out of his kayak. He tried to re-enter his kayak for three hours, but to no avail. And since Crook invented the paddle float counterbalance, you know that the conditions must have been insane if he could not re-enter his kayak. He got out his SPOT and pressed 911.
The article continues:
"While Crook clung to his boat, Globalstar's Texas based dispatchers scrambled. They phoned his wife in Nanaimo, the Canadian Embassy in Australia...SAR crews were on scene an hour and a half later."

Crook was released from hospital two days later after treatment for hypothermia. His kayak washed up in pieces 24km away.

This is Getting Ridiculous

As previously noted, severed human feet keep turning up on BC's west coast. Three so far, all of them right feet in sneakers.
Today, police confirmed that a fourth foot has washed up, this time on an island at the mouth of the Fraser River.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Tale of Mystery and Imagination

Louise and I enjoyed a great paddle today. We put in at Albert Head, and saw a bunch of baby seals on a rock, a playful otter that swam by us for a visit, a pair of swans nesting, and a seagull take dead aim for Louise's boat (and miss it by that much, Chief). And this was just the first five minutes.
As we rounded Albert Head, we saw a dead seal up on a rock. (I thought he was dead, Louise thought that it might have farted.)
We saw an eagle snatch up some brunch, possibly a seagull chick or egg by the way the seagulls were chasing it. As we approached Witty's, we saw tons more seals, and they weren't shy about swimming up to our kayaks.
On the way back, we saw another eagle sitting on a rock. It wasn't going to move and we paddled close by him. We also saw the dead seal again who was valiantly succeeding in his struggle to remain dead.
Then as we loaded our boats for the drive home we saw a red-breasted tit-warbler sapsucker... or something like that. I don't know, it looked a crow but with red shoulder patches. (I got arrested once for tit-warbling, but that's another story.)
No doubt you are asking yourself, "That's all well and good, John, but where are your usually fantastic pictures of these wonderful scenes?"
And a good question it is.
And the answer is that somehow John forgot all three of his cameras at home.

John's pictures are not here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Swanlings, Gooselings and Cats, Oh My!

A beautiful Sunday morning dawned. Finally, some sunny spring weather arrived to chase away the winter blues, even if only briefly as the rain is due back tomorrow.
The only drawback was that the winds were forecast to pick up over the morning. It was only Louise and myself today and we had originally planned to go back to the Coal Island area near Sidney, but since it was just us and the wind was due to come up, we opted for Plan B: a trip into Portage Inlet.
The Gorge

We put in and and paddled under the Admirals Road Bridge.
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There were lots of geese about today, and many of them spent their time honking.
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We paddled around the point into the far arm of the Inlet. We were hoping that we'd be able to paddle up the two creeks that empty into the Inlet, but the was tide was very low and we discovered that we would ground before we entered the creeks.
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But before we tested that theory, I looked behind Louise and across the Inlet. Two swans were at the far shoreline. This was a good sign, as the three swans that had called this area home (and we saw on this previous paddle and this one) were electrocuted last year when they landed on some power lines over the Admirals Road Bridge. But another family of swans has apparently taken up residence. I pointed them out to Louise and we slowly crossed towards them. Then I noticed that there was something small with them....
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.... six little baby swan chicks! We drifted slowly until our boats quietly beached and watched the family. Those swanlings sure are cute!
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They didn't seem to mind us being there at all. They just played in the water, oblivious to our presence.
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Finally we tore ourselves away and continued down the Inlet. We finally grounded in the area where we've seen those strange egg sacks the last two autumns, but we didn't see any today. We did discover some shells that appear to be walking -- you can see the trails they are leaving behind them. The area was covered with them.
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As we returned, we saw that the swans had hit the water for a swim.
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The swans were being watched by this eagle. He eventually made a half-heartened attempt to score a little lunch, but the swans saw him diving and they honked and flapped their wings, and the eagle returned to his tree for watch for easier pickings.
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He began watching with interest this family of geese swimming up. With only one gosling in tow, we wondered if the eagle had already introduced himself to this family.
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In the end, everyone reached where they were going safely. Interestingly, after the eagle made his attempt on the swans, they regrouped and changed course right for us. We figured that the swans thought that we seemed friendly, and being much bigger than the eagle might dissaude him from another attack.
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And finally as we headed back, I totally blew this cat's mind. I spotted him on the rock wall, and turned towards him to get a picture. His eyes widened -- there's a person out there! And...he can see me!
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The poor cat didn't know what to do! I imagined the little feline wheels turning in its head! I've been spotted! What should I do? There's only one thing left! I better make myself small!
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Portage Inlet 2008-05-18
Trip length: 6.4 km.
John's pictures are here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Give me Credit

Time to post a trip report! Well, a trip report in progress at least. I'm in the Toronto area for two weeks, doing a pair of readings for the Toronto Public Library's Heritage Reading Series. (Sorry, I haven't put a hot link here. But google Toronto Public Library and Heritage Reading Series and go check out their great website! A page for each reading, including location of the library branch it's in, and transit info for how to get there.)
This is a welcome visit to the metro Toronto region, as I haven't seen Bernie's niece and nephew for almost three years. They got bigger for some reason...
I brought my Dragonfly kayak on the plane, which got me only a few comments from the other passengers when I put it in the overhead compartment. No, really, I checked it as baggage and it travelled fine, even with a two-part paddle sticking out of one end of the zipper.
Today I trundled it onto the bus with a small dolly and transferred twice on my way to the Credit River where it empties into Lake Ontario. Other paddlers on the quiet river today reminded me not to go out into the Great Lake, as a breeze on the river can pick up some big waves out on the open water. I think they had no idea what I've paddled in, but they meant the advice well, and as it happens I stayed on the river.
I caught the #8 S bus to the Don Rowing Club and the Mississauga Canoe & Kayak Club. Three ol' boys at the rowing club let me change clothes in the ladies' room, and I set up my inflatable behind the canoe club. Though I'd e-mailed ahead, there was no one there at 10:30 am on a Friday morning. I launched from their steep ramp and set out on the quiet flatwater. It felt a lot like any river estuary, but there was no salt in the spray or wind, of course!
The river is only about 200 metres across at its mouth, between a recreation centre and a dolled-up lighthouse. There's a yacht club outside the mouth, and the two small boating clubs just upriver from the bridge for Lakeshore Drive and downriver from the trestle for the GO train to Toronto.
I paddled under the low trestle, passing Canada geese, a swan, mallard ducks, swallows, red-wing blackbirds, some black-and-white woodpeckers and a kingfisher, as well as something that looked like a Caspian tern but was probably more common. Some large bird soared overhead but I couldn't tell if it was an eagle or something else.
The river at this point is a muddy, grey-green khaki colour, but there are no industrial buildings on either side, just a lot of *very expensive* houses. The variety of steps down to the water from the houses on the bluffs is really interesting... some are obviously homestyle constructions, most are rather well-made and look like they'd be good for backyard/beach parties. The trees on either side are almost all deciduous and had just dressed themselves in new leaves. Very fresh looking and smelling! The river didn't stink, but it certainly wasn't pristine wilderness.
I made easy headway upriver, as there was very little current (maybe 1/2 knot) and the breeze was blowing upstream. It only took about half an hour to pass under the bridge for the Queen Elizabeth Parkway.
At one point I found another inflatable kayaker, who proudly announced he'd just camped the night on the sandbar island he'd just left. There were a lot of low bushes and scrubby willow trees on the sandbar islands, so it was easy to see how he could hide a small tent or something. That's where I also saw a turtle basking on a log, neck and legs extended in the thin sunshine. It looked like a red-eared slider, grown big enough not to have a red patch any more.
At some points, there were no houses visible from the water; at others, very few and only partly visible through trees. All in all, a pleasant urban waterway, very park-like even when not actually parkland.
Above the QE there's a golf course, and there the current picked up as the river became more shallow. I worked my way upstream for a while, but eventually turned round and let the little current (about 2 knots) carry me back down to quieter waters.
There yet another inflatable kayaker praised the merits of a boat that he can store in his condo, and pointed out a muskrat swimming across the river.
I was on the water for over two hours in a slow, easy flatwater paddle, and wished I'd been able to go farther upstream. Another time, I'll try to borrow a kayak from someone at the club and go up by the golf courses.
Next week -- the Toronto Islands! And I get to fulfil my fantasy of portaging my boat on a Toronto subway.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vancouver Island Paddlefest 2008

Bright and early Saturday morning, we headed up island towards Ladysmith for Vancouver Island Paddlefest 2008.
Actually, it was only early -- bright was not on the horizon, as the weatherman was predicting clouds and showers. Still, there were going to be so many kayaks on the beach that you wouldn't be able to spit without hitting one. Why you want to do that, I don't know.
Transfer Beach, Ladysmith

Richard, Paula, Bernie, Marlene, Louise and I arrived just after registration opened and we quickly readied ourselves to try out boats.

But before we got on the water, others were already test driving. This fellow was out in a wave paddler. It looked like a lot of fun, but it's clearly a flat water ride.

Louise didn't waste any time trying this new 16' Delta kayak. We really dug the black colour. The 16' is still a prototype - there's only two in the world and they were both here.

Louise tried the other 16' (a blue one) just to be safe. She really liked this model. She also tried a 17' as well -- she liked them both, but preferred the 16'. I tried them both, but they weren't for me. I can't say anything bad about them, just not right for me. (I prefer the Delta 18' which I tried later.)
Mark, if you're reading this, you need to get those 16' models into stores ASAP -- you have a sale just begging to be made!

Here, Louise is trying a Current Design Kitsilano. Louise thought this boat was okay, but wasn't really impressed. I tried a Current Design Solstice Titan LV. It has a huge cockpit -- I was swimming in it! And this was the low volume version! I tried sitting in a regular Soltice, but found the cockpit a bit cramped. I may give it another shot at MEC Paddlefest next month.

Richard is trying an Atlantis Titan. He didn't care much for this boat, but I liked it a lot. The only problem was that I couldn't get out of it. Getting out of a kayak is the only difficulty I have left over from my shoulder injury, so ease of entry and exit is important to me. This was the sweetest ride of the day for me, but sadly it failed the exit test.

Louise tried this Necky Eliza composite...

...then she and Richard took out a couple of Seaward boats: Louise a Chinook, and Richard an Infiniti. Richard liked the Infiniti, saying that it was a very playful and edgy boat, but Louise also tried it and thought it was way too tippy. She much preferred the Chinook, but thought that it was too big for her. I tried the Chinook and thought it was a nice solid ride.

Sail and outrigger kayaks seemed to be popular this year.

There was also this Velomobile that Nimbus kayaks is working on. This looks pretty cool.

After all that paddling, there was hardly any time for mini-donuts!

John's photos are here.
Richard's blog report is here.
Richard's photos are here.