Monday, June 23, 2008

Watching the Whale Watchers

Hey folks! Part of the reason there was no official paddle this weekend was that Bernie and I volunteered with Straitwatch on Saturday.
This is an organization that collects data for the federal government on the whale watching so popular in this area. Bernie and I met Kathy at 8:30 am and got back to shore at 5:40 pm.
Kathy gave us an orientation spiel and then fired up their 18-foot Zodiac. We zoomed over to Discovery Island and hung out for a while, listening to radio reports.
When her counterparts at Soundwatch (the Puget Sound organization that collects data also) reported whale sightings near San Juan Island, we headed off in that direction. It turned out to be more than one whale, or pod. The superpod of J, K and L pods had gotten together for a big family barbecue equivalent. There were eighty to ninety whales, according to Kathy, and we saw several groups of three or more. Some even approached the Zodiac to within 50 metres!
All day, we enjoyed seeing whales and some seals near San Juan Island and Lopez Island. There were usually eight to twelve small vessels nearby, watching whales, and most of the time the international rules about Not Approaching Whales were observed. Good!
I enjoyed seeing unfamiliar beaches, and the opposite side of a very familiar two-humped hill on San Juan Island. The islands looked like the ones we paddle among in Canadian waters... makes me remember that border is an intellectual line, not a physical one. We hadn't expected to cross the border, but the day went well and a good time was had by all as Bernie and I figured out what we were supposed to be doing as volunteers. Bernie did most of the data recording; I mostly grinned and had a good time. It was like having a personal whale watching tour!
The most confusing moment of all was when a small steel-coloured boat came by, flying an American flag. "That's Homeland Security," said Kathy. We tried not to look like terrorists... but I'm not really sure what they were looking for. Frankly, if whale watching or gathering data on whale watchers is making Homeland Security suspicious, well, we've all got to have some more communication that eases those suspicions.
It took an hour of high-speed travel -- much faster than a kayak, the Zodiac has two four-stroke engines that howled their way through over 80 litres of fuel -- to get us back to the Oak Bay Marina. Bernie and I saw a hummingbird, and hopped on a bus, then transfered to the bus to the Beach House. Next time we'll bike instead of bussing to the Marina for a great day on the water.
Note to self: sunscreen doesn't stop windburn when roaring along in a Zodiac. Still, no regrets.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Getting An Eyeful

At nine thirty this morning, I went to the hospital for my eye surgery.
After getting admitted, I was ushered into pre-op. There,I was under the careful ministrations of a nurse named Ann who put a series of drops in my eye to dilate it.
After about five minutes, they froze my eye. To do this, the nurse applied a gel under each eyelid, then taped it shut. Again, we waited about another five minutes, then I was escorted into the operating room. I lay down on the bad, and another drop was administered.
Then the doctor told me to open my eye wide. He put what looked like a sheet over my eye and stated unfolding it. It was actually like MacTac, with a sticky side that stuck to my face. This covered my good eye and shielded my face from the (I presume) saline that was washed across the other eye during surgery. But the sheet covered my whole face; the doctor still needed to expose my bad eye for the surgery. So he stuck blade through the covering and cut a hole for my eye.
Let me tell ya -- that was the most disconcerting part, being able to only see a knife blade as it wavered in the air seemingly millimetres above my eye, an eye whose eyelids were now fastened down and unable to blink!
A moment later, the surgery began. I didn't feel an incision, and there was a bright light shining in my eye so I couldn't see anything. But I soon felt a pressure in my eye and could feel something moving around in there. A machine had been inserted and it was grinding up my lens and sucking it out. There was an uncomfortable pressure; it didn't hurt per se, but I sure didn't like it any. It was a very bizarre sensation.
After a few minutes, the doctor pulled out the machine and had a look in my eye. He said that most of the lens was out, and he would go after the final scraps, which he did. Then he removed that tool and inserted another which inserted and unrolled my new lens. I could see it slide across in front of the lights and I could see it moving around and he adjusted it.
He removed that tool, and did something to close the small incision in my eye and then shut off the light.
"We're done," he said.
It took, I dunno, ten minutes?
It was almost instantly obvious that my vision was vastly improved. The view out of my right eye was no longer cloudy, but clear. It's unbelievable. What took my father 4 hours of surgery and weeks of recovery four decades ago, took me less than an hour in the hospital.
Afterwards, I stopped at a book store (a natural first stop after eye surgery). The eye was sore and somewhat uncomfortable, and as I type this 10 hours later, these symptoms occasionally return but only momentarily. The only disconcerting thing at this point is that my eye is still dilated, as I would have thought that it would have been back to normal or at least closer to normal at this point.

The big question now is exactly what sort of vision will I end up with, and clearly with my pupil so large, it's hard to make any judgements. Perhaps tomorrow I can give a better guess. I can say that colours are brighter, and details are sharper. I do see some halos, though, and I'm not sure yet if these are a result of the lens or the dilation of the pupil. That result will have to wait.
In the meantime, I can't get my eye wet, I can't lift heavy objects, I have to wear a an eye patch at night, and I have lots of eye drops to take.
But I can see. That's the main thing.

I'd Like to Get a Second Opinion

Now it goes totally off the wall. It turns out that yesterday's foot find was a hoax. Someone with a sense of humour even crueler than mine planted some parts of a dead animal in a shoe on a beach.
So we're back to five floating feet found floundering as flotsam.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Feet: 6 -- RCMP: 0

Fresh on the, er, heels of Monday's discovery, today a sixth foot was found near Campbell River on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Today's find is a right foot in a sneaker, to go along with the four right feet and one left found in Georgia Straight over the last year.
This is getting more bizarre by the day.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Coincidence? I'm Starting to Think Not

This is getting downright strange.
A fifth foot has been found floating in coastal BC waters. It was found this morning in the mouth of the Fraser River.
Like all the others, it was encased in a running shoe; however, this is a left foot. All the previous ones have been right feet and were found over the last year.
Needless to say, police are baffled, but are putting their best foot forward in their efforts to find the heels behind this crime and tie up any loose laces. Er, I mean ends.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

MEC Victoria Paddlefest 2008

A bright and warm sun heated up the sea and sand as hundreds of kayakers hit the beach at Cadboro Bay for MEC Paddlefest 2008.
Our day started out with a stop at Paula and Bernie's place nearby, where they showed off their new kayak. It's a Lazer, about eleven feet long. They found it abandoned on the beach. They've put up "Found" notices around the neighbourhood, but so far no one has claimed it. Because Bernie can only fit one leg in, it's now Paula's fourth kayak. Once she gets one for every day of the week, she may stop.
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As mentioned, Louise and I stopped by Paula and Bernie's to start the day with a quick nosh at Starbucks, then we headed down to the beach. The rest of the regulars are out of town; Alison is on a course in Montréal, and Richard is at a scooter rally in Idaho. (That's what he says, anyway. We think he's here.)
It was just a gorgeous day for paddling, the only complaint was that the breeze was a little chilly, but that is just a minor quibble. It was beautiful.
Cadboro Bay

There were some on-water courses and some on-land courses, but we just wanted to demo boats. Louise hit the water first in this Point 65°N kayak. They seem like good boats at a good price. I can't say that Louise was overly impressed with it, but she didn't mind it at all.
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Then she tried this Current Design Gulfstream. She found it a little tippy and not her thing. I tried it and it fit like a glove that was two sizes too small.
It's too bad -- I like the look of Current Design boats and they seem really solidly built and excellent kayaks, but I just can't find one that suits me.
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We couldn't come here and not try the Deltas. Here, Louise gets ready to head out in the Sixteen. This model is not in production yet, but we hear that they may hit the stores in August. Louise loves this boat. She'd've bought one on the spot if there were any for sale.
Paula took it out and was impressed, too, but she still prefers her Necky Eliza.
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I took out the Delta Eighteen5. And I liked it!
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It was a fun and picturesque day on the water, a perfect last paddle day before I take a short medical leave. Let's hope the weather is still good in July when I'm back on the water!
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John's pictures are here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

20/100 June 10th 2008

Not really much of a paddle; Marlene was mentioning that she had signed up for three on-water clinics at the MEC Paddlefest being held here at Cadboro bay this Sunday (the 15th of June). I warned her that it meant dressing for immersion, and to check out that she had appropriate gear, she should come over and get wet.
So the three of us (Paula, Marlene, and myself) headed down to the beach to get Mar used to the bay. It was also a chance for me to try out what is looking more and more to be the next addition to our quiver; a Lazer playboat.
I found this to be an interesting ride. The Lazer is an old style creekboat or wave boat with a lot of rocker both fore and aft as well as side to side. I can just fit into the cockpit, and I have to say that I was concerned with ever having to try a wet exit. The boat spins on a dime, but felt a lot more tippy than the modern playboat I tried a couple of months back at the pool practice night. That boat felt like I was sitting in a saucer, while this one felt more like a kayak, but at 3.35 metres (about 11 feet) long, it is shorter than anything I’ve paddled except the Pamlico–and that is much wider at the beam. I wasn’t really happy with the way I felt in it, but it turns out that it fits Paula like a glove and she is much happier with the ride. Partly, I think, because her centre of gravity is quite a bit lower than mine. So it looks like she’s found a new boat for riding rapids in, while I will still be relegated to the Pamlico for now.
After boat testing, I spent the next hour up to my chest in the bay working with Marlene on low braces and slowly getting her into the water. She was wearing two wetsuits, but with her thin frame, the wrist openings were too big and let a stream of cold water in to run down under her arms and into her suit. Paula lent her her cold water paddling cap (from MEC and quite nice too), which actually helps keep the head warm–but after immersion, it keeps a puddle of water in each ear. Or at least it does if you have a bunch of hair stuffed under it like Marlene had. So when Marlene finally went fully into the water, that was it for her: water in the ears, water running down her side, and her skull attempting to contract from the cold. So no practice at wet exits, but she did make progress on her low brace. And we’ll see how it goes on Sunday….

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Trouble in Brentwood Bay

According to the Victoria Times-Colonist, a canoeist got into trouble halfway between Mill Bay and Brentwood Bay yesterday, an area that we often kayak.
The weather was very stormy and wind warnings were posted yesterday evening when passengers on the Mill Bay ferry noticed that a man in what appeared to be a small canoe was making a bailing motion and waving. Alerted by the passengers, the ferry's crew swung into action and the captain pulled the ferry as close to the man as he could. That's when a wave knocked the man (who didn't seem to be wearing a PFD or any cold water gear) into the bay.
He and his canoe were pulled from the water by the crew a few moments later, but some passengers believe that without the ferry crew's intervention he might have died out there. The water was very cold.
He was taken to hospital, and he and his canoe are fine.
He said the weather was fine when he started his paddle, one he does regularly, but the weather quickly turned nasty once he was in open water.
A good reminder to check those weather reports and dress for a dunking!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Coal Island Again

Today, Louise and I returned for a another paddle around Coal Island, this time bringing Paula who missed our first paddle there.
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Do you think that I have enough gear on my deck?
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We decided to follow the same route that we took last time, and explore some of the islands before crossing to Coal.
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We didn't see a lot in the way of wildlife today, although I did mange to annoy this heron....
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...and Paula kept watch on a seal. Or was it the other way around?
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The winds were coming up and the tides were ebbing, and we discovered that the currents between the islands were running a little too much for our liking. There were a few whorls and eddies, some standing waves, and even a few small standing breakers. We decided to change our route and stick to the first channel near the mainland and cross the more open water of Swartz Bay to go to Coal Island.
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This left us a little more exposed to ferry traffic, but we knew when to expect them and I figured we would pass one as we passed Coal Island. As we approached Coal, we could see one coming the other way. We ducked into the lee of the island to wait for it to pass.
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Paula was further out than I was and she let a out a big "Whoop!" as it passed us.
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In fact, she paddled out very close to it.
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Well, no, not really. The foreshortening of the zoom lens makes it look as if she was closer than she was.
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The winds were not subsiding, and as we went around the point of Coal Island and began to head back, we were into some chop. And then I heard the Coast Guard on my radio announcing that a gale warning had just been posted, just at the half-way point of out paddle. This paddle might turn very interesting indeed!
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We continued around Coal -- what else could we do? In the end, we did fine. We avoided the nastiest looking currents, and easily handled most of the chop. Only on the last crossing of the paddle when the winds came up again and the waves were a little choppier and coming across us sideways were some of our stomachs starting to feel it. No one felt nauseous or anything, but some of us agreed that a long paddle in such waves could have been a real adventure, especially once the puking started.
But today's paddle had no such issues, and was great fun!
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Coal Island
John's pictures are here.