Sunday, August 31, 2008

Au Revoir

It's with heavy hearts that we say au revoir to Alison who, just like in this picture, is paddling off to the mysterious East...
...well, Montréal... not so mysterious, I guess. And she's not paddling, but flying.
The point is that we have enjoyed her kayaking companionship, and we will surely miss it.
The good news is that her kayak will remain here in Victoria and she plans to visit it. And we hear that she's investigating the locations of folding kayak shops in Montréal, so maybe we'll see a paddle report or two from la belle province on the blog one of these days....

Into the Sun
Bonne chance, Alison!

Monday, August 18, 2008

And another one is hooked.

I'm busting with pride to report here that Bernie's niece Erica has now gone kayaking. At eight years old and 52 pounds, she's a sporty little kid who enjoys gymnastics and hockey. She has great balance and good strength.
We were out at Cadboro Bay for a picnic and beach play. My partner and I put the niece in a kid's PFD that fitted well, and she did great sitting up front of Bernie in our hardshell Pamlico 100 kayak with a big coaming. He even took her out to see a moored sailboat some 50 yards offshore. We popped the four-year-old nephew John into another PFD and took him out, first in the Dragonfly, but there was room for only one, so I towed him around in the shallows. He did NOT like this as he wanted to Be In Charge. He liked riding with Unca Bernie much better, when Erica came back to shore.
So I tossed Erica into my Dragonfly solo, and tied the cord I use for a paddle leash to the rear handle. Off she went!
I waded in the shallows holding the leash, she paddled off in all directions, and nobody got too far from shore the first time. The four-year-old tried it but just wasn't big enough and wanted to Do It Alone. (Hide the car keys when he turns ten and can reach the pedals.)
After another try, Erica was paddling the Dragonfly solo from me to Bernie and back. Now that's family loyalty, when a man not only takes his niece and nephew to the beach but stands up to his nads in the 42 F (5 C) ocean water for half an hour, zooming an inflatable boat back and forth.
After that, Bernie's sister Susie took a turn in the Dragonfly, and I shadowed her in the Pamlico. We ended up scooting over to salute the Buddha and circle the rock garden, and coming back to the beach by the playground. Susie's experience dragonboating was a big help to her, but it seemed like just getting out on the water herself was the best part of the outing.
Meanwhile, back on the beach by the playground, both of her kids had their PFDs off and were building sandcastles etc. at the water's edge. Someone else's little guy was sharing his beach toys with four-year-old John, then climbed onto a log and floated on it, causing his Very Pregnant Mother some audible worry. At this point, Bernie brought John's PFD over, buckled it onto the kid, and once again stood up to his etc. etc., making the VPM less worried.
By the time Susie and I got back to shore, so did that kid and Bernie, blue with cold, retreated to bask in the hot sun and try to warm up a little. Erica put her PFD back on and asked for another turn in the kayak.
Guess the niece knows how to take coaching, both at gymnastics class and at the beach. She wanted to go farther, so I got in the Pamlico and we toddled off together to visit the Buddha statue a neighbour keeps by her dock. All along the shore, she paddled with frequent rests, and a seal popping up to inspect us. Success! And we did it again the very next day, when she carried the stern end of the Dragonfly all the way from the Beach House to the water's edge.
I don't want to give the impression that any little kid can paddle a kayak safely. This outing worked with a kid who knows how to swim and also works well with her gymnastics coach. Other kids (like her little brother) wouldn't have this kind of success. Safety first, always -- it's more fun that way, eh?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Test For Echo

With everyone else busy on this August morning, Louise decided to demo some boats. We've been suffering through a mini-heatwave the last few days, and although it seemed like it could have been a good day for a "real" paddle with a few hours of sunshine in the middle of the day, the weather pattern was breaking down as the early morning was cloudy and cool, and unexpected thunderheads drifted through our area in the afternoon, announcing their arrival with the occasional rolling thunderclap. (In fact, one is driftung through right now, with more than just the occasional thunderclap, so I better finish this quick!)

With the help of the fine folks at Ocean River, Louise is trying out a Current Design Solstice GTS.

She went about 30m, turned around, and came back. She didn't like. It's no reflection on the boat, as it's a good, solid boat. She just didn't feel comfortable in it.

Next she got into a Delta Seventeen...

...and promptly took off like a rocket.
"Well," the clerk said to me as we watched Louise aim for the horizon, "this looks like an easy decision between these two boats."
"Yeah," I said. "Just look at her smile."
"And her body language," the clerk said. "She's like totally relaxed in that boat, totally different from the other one where she was all tensed up."

Has Louise found her next boat? Tune in again next time for another thrilling chapter of As the Kayak Rolls.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

L-Pod Welcomes a Baby

L-pod, one of the three local groups of orcas, welcomed a new addition this week, L111. The mother, 34 year-old L47, and baby appear to be doing fine, but due to high infant mortality rates among local orcas, the newcomer won't be officially counted until it survives for a year. The current estimate is that the three local pods have 87 members of the endangered species.
The picture was taken by Dave Ellifrit and shows the baby just hours old. More of Dave's pictures can be seen at The Center for Whale Research.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Roll the Bones

Our paddle began on a sunny Sunday.
Really. It did. I have photographic proof.
But what seemed like a sure thing for a paddle became an almost constant 50/50 proposition.
The weather called for clearing skies and maybe a slight breeze. At Cadboro Bay, we found the slight breeze alright, and then some. The wind was blowing, not a gale or anything, but certainly stronger than we had been expecting. Paula, Alison, Louise, Richard and myself were hoping for a paddle out to Discovery Island, but the weatherman looked like he might be playing his usual tricks on us today. As we looked out into the bay we saw Discovery Island disappear behind a fog bank. So much for the clearing skies.
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We decided to take a chance and launch anyway. We stayed along the north side of the bay, heading for Flower Island where we would reassess what the weather was doing. But we didn't get far before the fog bank rolled right over us.
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By the time we got to Flower Island the fog had pretty much burned itself off. Now our only real concern was the wind and the currents. If the Baynes Channel freight train was running, a crossing might not be possible.
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We paddled around Flower and saw the local eagle sitting in his tree. We also saw a family of three otters scamper up the rock.
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On the other side of Flower, we saw more otters. There's at least four here, maybe five, so we think this might be a second family of otters, different from the first. We were still dubious about our planned crossing to Discovery, so I jokingly said after I snapped some pictures that I could go home now, I had otter pictures. Little did I realize that a few minutes later, we would almost go home.
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We decided to roll the bones and head further out to Jemmy Jones Island. Here we could get a good look at the currents between there and Discovery. But Discovery had disappeared again. Another fog bank had rolled over it.
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We pressed on towards Jemmy Jones and soon the fog bank rolled over us. Again.
Halfway between Flower and Jemmy Jones, we couldn't see a thing in front of or behind us. We saw no visable landmarks. We were blind.
I had taken a compass heading before we started crossing (as had Paula) and it's not a long crossing by any means, but it was a little disconcerting to be paddling about blindly for a few minutes.
Despite the fog, we reached Jemmy and stared out at where Discovery should be. We couldn't see anything.
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At that point, our paddle seemed over for the day, and we decided to go around Jemmy and follow our compasses and noses back to Cadboro Bay. We had started back, when I took one last look behind me. The fog had rolled off Discovery and suddenly we were in (relatively) clear skies again.
The currents had us a little worried; they seemed to be running a little strong, and certainly the weather was not behaving as forecast at all. Richard didn't wait and pressed on ahead. The rest of us hesitated for a moment, then got caught as we waited for some powered craft to pass. By then, the currents (as the current charts predicted) had died down a fair bit and the rest of us headed out too.
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It's actually a group of islands, the major ones named Strongtide, Vantright, Griffin, Alpha, Chatham and Discovery. Chatham and Discovery are the largest, and that's the shorthand name the local kayakers use for this destination. Let's face it: as a kayaker, do you really want to jinx your paddle by saying that you're going to Strongtide Island? That's just asking for fate to get involved....and probably not in a good way. And after all, that's where I went upside down.
Anyway, here Richard is going between Strongtide and Chatham.
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We decided to split up here. Richard had been around Chatham but not Discovery, and Louise and I had been around Discovery but not Chatham. So Alison and Richard decided to go around Discovery, while Paula, Louise and I would go around Chatham.
We ducked into Puget Cove on the north end of Chatham. On a good high tide you can get quite a long way in. No such luck today but I did see a heron. We also saw our third different family of otters of the day here.
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There were lots of seals about today, but we kept a respectful distance.
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It's a beautiful place to paddle.
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We went around Chatham, then down the channel between Discovery and Chatham. Here we met a couple we saw launching their kayaks off a beach. They looked as though they may have been camping, but I'm not sure. They were in short poly playboats they had rented and only had a vague notion of the tides and currents in the area. They were obviously novices; the woman was using her paddle backwards. I knew we were in a period of slack and suggested that if they were going to go somewhere, now would be a good time. The currents can play nasty tricks on unsuspecting paddlers, and even on suspecting paddlers. And it didn't help matters today that we now saw storm clouds over our launch point as we headed back. Storm clouds! It's supposed to be sunny!
The rookies headed off in the general direction the Chain Islands back towards Willows Beach.
Chatham Pano 2

We headed back to Cadboro Bay, glancing over our shoulders for signs of Alison and Richard. What we didn't realize was that after going around Discovery, they had doubled back between Vantright and Strongtide so they were going to be crossing to the north of us. We assumed that they would come around Discovery and keep going down the same channel that we had. So we were always looking in the wrong spot for them. We came out the south side of Chatham, and they came out the north side.
As we headed back, we encountered some big wake from a small pleasure craft. Afterwards, Paula said it felt she was going up three feet. I said it felt like I was falling five.
As the waves approached, I rested my paddle on my kayak and held my camera in front of me, determined to get a good shot Louise and Paula in the waves. Whenever we've encountered wave action, I've never been able to get a good picture that really looks like what it feels like on the water.
Anyway, the first couple of waves hit and they were big, but not so bad. Then I saw a big one coming and realized that I can't paddle very well with my digital camera! I dropped it in my PFD pocket and grabbed my paddle and --oh man, it felt like climbing a wall! I swear I got five feet of air! In reality, it probably wasn't nearly as exciting as I thought it was. But it was fun! We whooped and hollered!
As usual, the pictures don't do the waves justice. But you can see the pink stern of Paula's kayak pointing up in the air as she heads down into the trough.
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We paddled around Flower Island again, and the eagle had given up its spot in the tree to this heron.
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These oystercatchers went about their business as we drifted by.
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It turns out that Alison and Richard were only about ten minutes behind us and beached just after we did. Just as we never saw them, they never saw us. Although they could have sworn they heard some whooping and hollering ahead of them...
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Chatham Island
Trip length: 13.28 km
John's pictures are here.
Download the GoogleEarth kmz here.

Richard's blog report is here.
Richard's pictures are here.

Chatham or Discovery...

4 pictures for you
Richard, Alison, Paula, John and I had decided we'd go to Discovery Island this Sunday. Here's Richard heading out from Cadboro Bay in the first fog bank that rolled in. We figured this would blow away very quickly.

4 pictures for you
Paula was having fun in the fog and with some wind there was some rather interesting wave motion.

7 pictures for you
The first fog bank blew away, only to be followed by another one. This one closed around us, blocking Alison and Richard who'd headed out already while Paula and I waited for John to capture photos of the otters. My own otter photos did not turn out, I was too far away.

a picture for you
Richard and Alison were also getting photos of the fog bank, while Paula took the opportunity to do some kayak exercising. At least I think she is, could be she's practicing kayak emergency signalling.

4 pictures for you
Yup, Paula's definately doing kayak emergency signalling!

Alas, I forgot to follow the photographer's rule...remember to charge your battery before going kayaking. Anyone reading this will have to check out the rest of our paddle adventures from John's post and photos.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

K7 - 1910?-2008

K7, the matriarch of the local population of orcas, is believed to have died at an estimated age of 98.
K7, also known as Lummi, has not been seen since last December. Orcas are generally not declared dead unless they haven't been seen for a year so there is still hope; however, all indications are that K7 did not survive the winter.
K7 outlived most of her offspring, but her daughter K11, born in 1933, still travels with the pod. The final tally won't be known until later this year, but the current estimate is that the three local resident pods have 87 whales.

(Yes, YouTube does indeed have every video ever made.)

Floating Foot Flap Flabbergasts Flatfoots

We're digging in our heels on this story.
Another foot was found off BC's coast this past weekend, this time in Port Angles, Washington, across Juan de Fuca Strait from Victoria. This is the sixth human foot found floating in a sneaker in local waters in the last year.
This latest one was floating in a size 11 men's right sneaker. RCMP and American officials believe it is possible that the foot could have floated down from the general area where the other feet have been found, namely the Georgia Strait and Fraser delta.
Only one foot has been identified, belonging to a depressed man who disappeared early last year.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Natural Science

No doubt you are asking yourself, "Hey, this is a kayaking blog. Why the EXPLETIVE DELETED is there a picture of a Victoria Transit bus on here?"
This is a NovaBus, built in Québec and the latest addition to the local fleet, and has been in service about two years.
And what has this got to do with kayaking? It happens to be a little known fact that you can transport your kayak on a bus.
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To offer proof of this notion, may I present Exhibit One: Paula and her kayak in a bag. She caught the bus a block from her house on the other side of town and rode directly to today's kayaking put-in on The Gorge.
2008-08-03 Portage Inlet 002

In about fifteen minutes, she's on the water. She's following in the footsteps of well-known commando kayaker Dubside. (We thought of calling her Paulaside, but that just sounded like a crime. And DubPaula is the name she's saving for her spoken-word/reggae CD.)
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She's joining Louise and myself for a paddle from The Gorge into Portage Inlet on another wonderful and hot summer day. Paula's interested to see if we can find anymore of those glooby egg sack things that we've seen in past fall paddles. We're looking for them a little earlier than usual, so it will be interesting to see if we spot any.
Gorge Pano

I'm more interested in swans. As we crossed under the Admirals Road bridge, we could see the bird deflectors added to the power wires. These were added last year after the local family of swans (which we've photographed here and here) were electrocuted and died. However, earlier this year a new family of swans moved into the area and on May 18, Louise and I saw them and their six little swan chicks. We were curious to see how they were making out and were hoping to spot them. Between the glooby egg sack and the swans, we were starting to feel like amateur biology scientists.
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I never seem to get many pictures of ducks, so here's one for all you duck lovers out there.
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We didn't have to wait long to see the swans.
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It looks like only three babies survived, but they seemed to be in good shape. They sure are a lot bigger than they were three months ago. The family was quite relaxed as we drifted by.
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Louise is enjoying the beautiful day on the water.
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We made it to the farside of the Inlet and headed up Craigflower Creek. The tide was low (and getting lower) so we were a little surprised that we could make it in. We hoped to go as far as the tunnel under the Trans-Canada highway as we've done before, but the water level was simply too low and we had to turn around at the Helmcken Road bridge. This is a beautiful little creek.
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We had seen a few egg sacks in the Inlet, but we also found some in the Creek. We were a little surprised, figuring that the water would be fresher in the creek as opposed to the saltier water of the inlet, but Paula tried the creek water and pronounced it "brackish."
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We had to hustle out of the creek because we realized that the tide was still heading out and we didn't want to get trapped. Back in the inlet, I was only able to get one picture of a heron the whole day. This is it.
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As we returned to our launching point, the swans were swimming nearby. This is how to spend a summer day -- playing on the beach!
2008-08-03 Portage Inlet 114

Trip Length: 5.8 km
John's pictures are here.
Download the GoogleEarth kmz here.


Stephanie sent out word about an article she saw in the Victoria Times-Colonist. It appears that Vancouver Island's only native turtle species is having a bit of a hard time. Kayakers and recreational boaters can help. These painted turtles are very shy, so if you come around a corner in a lake and think you might see a few turtles sunning themselves on a log at the water's edge, for pity's sake don't crowd them! John took some photos of turtles with a good lens when we were at Thetis Lake, and posted them here on the blog. You're not gonna get close enough to any turtle in the wild to get a better picture, so try to get some satisfaction instead from not scaring an endangered species.
Here's the article, quoted with permission, or you can go to the newspaper's website at -- the copyright is still held by the Times-Colonist newspaper:

Island turtles’ habitat under threat

Development puts endangered species at risk: biologist
Vancouver Island’s only native freshwater turtle is in trouble and hikers and homeowners are being asked to help.
The Pacific coast population of western painted turtles, is listed as endangered, with estimates of only 250 adult turtles remaining and the Habitat Acquisition Trust is asking anyone who sees one to make a report and, preferably, take a photograph.
“It’s not just the turtles which are endangered, it’s their habitat,” said HAT land care co-ordinator Todd Carnahan. “Over 90 per cent of the wetlands have been drained in this area of southern Vancouver Island.”
Development is a major threat, but it is possible to have development and protect turtle habitat, so HAT wants to identify where turtles are hanging out and then help protect that area.
Western painted turtles are fussy about their living accommodation and like weedy ponds, with logs or rocks for sunning themselves, and a nearby open area with a southern exposure for laying eggs.
The females dig nests with their hind feet, sometimes up to 300 metres from their ponds.
That is where some of the problems arise, said Carnahan, a biologist.
Eggs laid on beaches, trails, lawns and roads are being trampled, run over and eaten.
HAT herpetologist Christian Engelstoft said landowners who have found turtles on their property have helped contribute to a better understanding of the population distribution and the type of habitat they prefer.
“But we still need to learn more about their movements over land, particularly in the summer nesting season,” he said.
Nesting season will continue for about another three weeks.
Painted turtles are known to live in Elk and Beaver lakes, Langford Lake and Great Central Lake near Port Alberni.
If the turtles are on private property, the information will be kept confidential, and HAT will advise on how best to protect the habitat, Carnahan said, acknowledging that some people don’t want to know an endangered turtle is living on their property.
“But many people are thrilled to find a rare species on their land,” he said.
Simple habitat protection measures include keeping natural shoreline vegetation, avoiding pesticide use and protecting nesting areas from disturbance.
Painted turtles have a smooth, dark green upper shell and brilliant orange and red patterns on the lower shell.
“They are so beautiful,” Carnahan said.
Hatchlings are no larger than a loonie, but adults can grow up to 30 centimetres. “That’s really big. A turtle that big may be over 100 years old,” Carnahan said.
The usual lifespan on Vancouver Island is about 30 years, but, with rapid urbanization and isolation of small populations, that is shrinking, he said.
Another threat is released turtle pets, such as red-eared sliders and peninsula cooters, which can transmit diseases and compete for food and habitat.
To make a turtle report e-mail or call 250-995-2428.

2 Aug 2008
Times Colonist

A Poopy Paddle

A rare Tuesday on the water in the month of August. This was the end of a scorching week of hot weather, and the August long weekend. An extra loooonnng one for us working folk. We decided to paddle on the Gorge Waterway into Portage Inlet. With all the bird traffic in the Gorge and the hot weather this turned into a rather poopy paddle.
5 pictures for you
Here's Paula in her inflatable which is brought with her on the bus!

5 pictures for you
John paddles under the Craigflower Bridge. Note his coordinated outfit of different shades of yellow, matching his yellow gear and accenting his blue kayak. Very chic!!
5 pictures for you
We paddled up the Craigflower Creek to Helmcken Bridge. This is John and Paula heading back to Portage Inlet.

Another fun day on the water as we head back under the Craigflower Bridge to our parked vehicle.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Time Stand Still

Telegragh Bay Pano

Paula, Alison, Louise and I put in for a paddle at Telegraph Bay. We couldn't ask for a better day weather-wise. The early morning clouds were just burning off, and the promise of sunshine made us eager to start.
2008-08-03 Chain Islands 009

Paula is trying to catch up to Alison way off in the distance. Perhaps the weight of her handy-dandy home-made wheels was slowing her down. Actually, she put together quite the nice little rig for walking her boat to the beach.
2008-08-03 Chain Islands 007

The issue we were facing was one of currents. We were hoping that we could ride the outflowing current from Telegraph Bay around Ten Mile Point towards Willows Beach. We were expecting a brief period of slack tide that we hoped we might exploit to make a quick dash out to the Chain Islands. Then we would have the current with us again as the tide turned for the paddle back. But as we rounded Ten Mile Point, we could see that the "freight train" through Baynes channel was running and showing no sign of slowing. We ventured out a bit to check it out, but we could see whitecaps and swiftly moving water, so we decided to stick close to shore and head towards Cattle Point and reassess whether we would cross to the Chains or not.
2008-08-03 Chain Islands 081

But as we paddled along the shore, we could see the current die off. The slack had come, just as predicted. We changed course and headed out for the Chains.
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We encountered little current or trouble heading out and soon we were at the Chains watching the seals basking in the sun. Usually we see some eagles out here, but not a one today. However, the number of seals more than made up for it. If you like seals, this is your place. It even smelled like seals!
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We felt like we could've stayed out there all day, but we knew that we only had a short slack, so we didn't dawdle and were soon heading back. And we hit a patch of rough water but we made it through with no problem.
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We paddled past a small group of islets that were also covered with seals. We just couldn't get away from them.
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I like this picture. The seal's head pops up, and it looks like he's saying, "Uh guys, there's some humans over there...."
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We tried to keep our distance from the seals as some of them were clearly very young, but they were all over the place and we kept stumbling upon them.
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We could have kept paddling all day. As it was, we were out for nearly four hours, but we felt like we could have gone for hours more. As we approached Telegraph Bay, we could see James Island beckoning us. But Louise, like the rest of us, reluctantly turned back to shore and the end of our paddle.
2008-08-03 Chain Islands 502


Trip Length: 15.2 km
John's pictures are here.
Download the GoogleEarth kmz here.