Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Fog

We planned for a paddle over to Chatham/Discovery Islands this morning. The tides and currents looked favourable, and even the weather looked like it would cooperate. Yes, last night's weather forecast called for clouds this morning, but it still promised to be decent paddle weather on a flat sea.
Come morning however, the clouds appeared as promised, but brought their children, their in-laws and their neighbors with them.
Foggy Pano 1

We were absolutely socked in. We've paddled in fog here before, but this was the thickest we'd seen it here on a paddle day.
2008-11-30 The Fog 026

It was just Paula, Louise and myself today. We were well-equipped for the fog, each of us with a compass as well as my GPS, so a paddle out to the islands would probably have been technically feasible, but it really was thick fog and showing no sign that it was ever going to burn off anytime soon. (And it didn't burn off all day.) So we decided to stick close to shore and paddle south down to Willows Beach and explore the rock gardens along the way. No sooner had we launched than we saw Mike Jackson and some friends assessing the conditions. Paula never misses a chance to talk kayaks.
2008-11-30 The Fog 027

We passed by the Yacht Club...
2008-11-30 The Fog 030
...and discovered that the fog was so thick that even the herons were grounded.
2008-11-30 The Fog 071

In fact, many birds weren't flying today. Many of them were asleep! We passed by a number of small islands covered with oystercatchers that were sleeping. I wonder if the thick fog was confusing them, as if they hadn't realized that the sun had come up.
2008-11-30 The Fog 042
And what's with this sleeping on one foot thing? That does not look comfortable!
2008-11-30 The Fog 096

While I was checking out the oystercatchers, I saw this colourful head pop up.
2008-11-30 The Fog 089
I drifted around the little island and saw him again.
2008-11-30 The Fog 098

We paddled down down to Mary Tod Island, then turned around to head back. Here's Paula and Louise just off Willows Beach (trust me -- there's a beach there)...
2008-11-30 The Fog 051 Mike Jackson's group came out of the fog. They were headed down to Trial Island (and you can read about their paddle here).
2008-11-30 The Fog 052

The fog was getting thicker on the return trip. We had to keep our eyes open as other boats were out playing in the mist.
2008-11-30 The Fog 059

Soon, we approached our launch point on the beach at Cadboro Bay. (Once again, you'll have to trust me.)
2008-11-30 The Fog 049

A happy landing!
2008-11-30 The Fog 069


Trip Length: 8.47 km.
My photos are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Even Better Than The Real Thing

Took some time this Sunday morning to go kayaking with John and Louise, into a fogbank thick as pea soup. We went from Cadboro Bay past Cattle Point to Mary Tod Island and back, a trip we've done a dozen times before. In the fog, it was a trip into mystery. I don't think we got more than a hundred yards offshore, except for a few minutes in Oak Bay when we took compass bearings and turned round at Mary Tod to face into the mist and away from the dimly-seen shore.
Shall have to put that sense of "anything could be in that fog" into my next fantasy novel. (Meanwhile, my first has just been launched! SF Canada Members' News: Bundoran Press launches Paula Johanson young adult novel Tower in the Crooked Wood.) And after launching our boats, and the short journey, we returned to shore, safe in our home waters with our little compasses pointing the way. Some people dream of going out on the water like this, and we're lucky enough to do it over and over.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Walk the Waves

Here's a new-fangled contraption I found while surfing the net. It's a Wavewalk. While some (notably Bernie) might debate over whether or not it even is a kayak, the manufacturer markets it as a fishing kayak you can stand in. Or you can sit in it if you really want to.
You can even go tandem and have two people sitting in the cockpit. And it's good in the surf, at least according to the website, but I have to think you'd wouldn't want to be standing too high going over the waves.
Or you can pimp it out and go fishing. Here someone has tricked it up with a small outboard engine, a fishing tackle box, and fishing pole holders. Or are those photon torpedo launchers and a phaser bank? It's hard to tell.

With a strong enough motor, you can even use it as an icebreaker.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Llyn Brianne Under Guard

According to this BBC report, extra security patrols are in place to discourage kayakers making the almost 100 metre plunge down the spillway at Llyn Brianne reservoir after all the publicity of the last couple of weeks.
Security officers have turned away at least three groups of kayakers and dam officials have reduced the flow of water down the spillway hoping to make it unusable for kayaking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kayak Humour

Two kayakers are sitting in a kayak, but the wind is blowing and they are very cold. So they light a fire in the kayak but this burns a hole in their kayak and it sinks, thus proving that you can't have your kayak and heat it too! :)

Eastern Horizons Trailer Is Out

The trailer for Bryan Smith's new kayaking DVD is now online here.
The release date is set for March 14, pre-orders start February 14.
Check out the website here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Telegraph Cove

Today's paddle had a late start, 11:00 am, not only because of tides/currents but because the night before we'd been in the pool making fools of ourselves. Wet exits and scramble re-entries are worth practising even though they are way more exhausting than just paddling. Out of consideration for creaky older paddlers, Rich suggested a later start. I was the only one who took him up on it today. And I wheeled my kayak over the hill between Cadboro Bay and Telegraph Cove, so it was a good workout.
The 5 knot breeze was no problem as we launched, but it did increase to 9 or so knots by the end of the trip, two hours later. It was a good day to cruise past Queen Alexandra's Hospital for kids, and to look at insanely big mansions all along the shoreline. We went as far as Arbutus Cove before the chop and swell got a little too big for a day when I was still tired from the pool workout. Turned around, and surfed most of the way back on the swells. Neat! Thought I saw porpoises at one point, but it turned out to be cormorants.
Wheeled my Eliza back to the Beach House and then Bernie and I met Rich at Starbucks for coffee and chat. All in all, a good November paddling weekend. Any time I'm in a kayak three times in a weekend, that's good.

Pool It!

It's dark out, it's cold, it's windy. It may even rain. A perfect time to go kayaking -- in a pool!
Richard, Louise, Paula and I spent yesterday evening practising at Crystal Pool.

Richard was the first in the pool, and the first to go over.
2008-11-22 Pool It 001

Paula soon joined him....
2008-11-22 Pool It 004

...and so did Louise.
2008-11-22 Pool It 006

We practised our sculls, bracing, wet exits and rescues. I worked on hip flicks on the side of the pool, while Paula concentrated on doing scoop rescues. Richard worked on scrambles, while Louise practised her paddle float self-rescue.
2008-11-22 Pool It 011

And we all got too much chlorinated water up our noses! But it was a fun evening!
2008-11-22 Pool It 010

My pictures are here.

What's The Connection?

I know, this seems to have nothing to do with....well, anything, really. But at about 37 seconds in you'll see that there is a connection. Tenuous, some might say. Vanishingly small, others might claim. But there is a connection! Besides, I think its a laugh!

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Make Seals, Not Bombs!

Usually we find only seals and eagles when we paddle in the local waters, but earlier today some local kayakers found what appeared to be unexploded military ordinace floating in the water off Trial Island. Did their paddle end in a bang? Read about it here.

Discovery Island In a Gale

Regular readers of this blog will recall reading about our paddles to Discovery Island, paddles that we like to do in flat water because we're such wimpy paddlers. :)
Here's a clip of some paddlers who tried it when it was not so flat.

Props to Richard for finding this....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Even More on the Spillway Kayakers

Here's another article on kayaking Llyn Brianne, this one courtesy of the Daily Mail.
This one interviews Shaun Baker, one of the first people to ever kayak down it. He says:

I can't believe how stupid I was and I would urge anyone else not to go near it. If you don't hit the bottom dead straight and fly over the wall, you can either break your back on impact, break your neck on the steel sill or just drown. The boat just went ballistic. I spun 360 degrees clinging on to my paddles for dear life. I must have worn three inches off the blades and if I'd lost them, I'd have worn my fingers down to the first joint just trying to steer. If you don't steer and you hit that sill, you'll just shear your head off. I managed to get it right just as I hit the bottom.
Suddenly, I was being forced under and thrown around like a pair of socks in a washing machine. I must have been stuck under for about 40 seconds before I surfaced on the edge. The whole episode was just very scary. I just look back on it and think: "I shouldn't have got out of that."

The article also has a short interview with Gary Connery who bicycled down it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Definitely NOT the Opera

Well, on Saturday Nov 22, I'm on CBC Radio One's show called Definitely NOT the Opera. DNTO's been around for a while, and they've done a few of my pieces on food and sports. Since then, I've written a book on food, called Processed Food from Rosen Publishing's series What's in Your Food? Recipe for Disaster. (Consider it the entry-level version of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, or the Hundred Mile Diet. It's available on
And I've got a contract to write six short books on sports before August. So if in the new year, you see me surfing, skateboarding, rock climbing, snowboarding, inline skating, or kayaking (of course) you know I'm doing research.
Now I'm on DNTO again... this time talking about the best thing my sibling ever did for me. Their theory was that too many of us dwell on the worst thing our sibs ever did to us. Guess they didn't expect me to say that the best thing my brother ever did was tie me up with a rope. Twice.
No, wait, it wasn't for anything bad. He was making a film.
No, wait, that sounds worse. But it was an amateur science fiction film, and it was a lot of fun to be one of the gang of friends that made Dawn of the Living Socks. The film was only ever circulated at an SF convention, and among friends. But if people really wanted to see it, they could post a comment here and we'd find a way to send them a DVD copy at cost.

The Long Recovery - Year Two

Why I'm Not Kayaking Very Much These Days
Two years ago today I fell off my bicycle, and inflicted significant damage to my left arm and shoulder. To recap, I dislocated my arm, broke it in three places, broke a bone in my shoulder and suffered assorted muscle and ligament damage. My two and a half hour surgery stretched to four hours as the doctor found more damage to repair as he implanted a permanent plate and ten pins. I was off work for almost three months and in physio for six. I was out of my kayak for 161 days.
My arm and shoulder continue to recover slowly. Last year, it was still prone to bouts of stiffness and soreness. This continues to be the case; however, these bouts of aching tightness are much less common. Last year, a day did not go by that my shoulder would not remind me through a twinge or an ache or just general stiffness that it had been brutally traumatized. This year, my arm and shoulder often go for days without reminding me.
The mobility in my left arm is still not normal, and likely will never completely recover fully. For the most part it's pretty good, except when I have to reach up over my head, and that occasionally makes loading kayaks onto my van an interesting proposition. It's still not as strong as it used to be as there was a lot of scar tissue and muscle damage, and some muscle had to be used to stabilize my shoulder and arm to repair my shoulder with an Open Bankart repair.
But all in all, after two years, the shoulder works pretty well. I've been back kayaking and bicycling for 18 months now, and my shoulder rarely interferes with either activity.
The irony is that the day before my accident, I took my first kayak rolling lesson, and my instructor was keen to remind us to be careful as rolling improperly could result in a dislocated shoulder. And less than 24 hours later, I did exactly that...and then some. Now I feel secure enough in my shoulder's capabilities to try rolling again. Time to book more pool time!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More on the Spillway Kayakers

Further to Bernie's post re the kayakers at Llyn Brianne spillway, Wales Online also has a story on kayakers zipping down the 1:3 gradiant at 70 kmh.

These pictures were taken by James Davies as he passed by on Sunday afternoon. An onlooker is quoted as saying, “They zipped down at incredible speeds then disappeared into a mass of white water only to surface seconds later, apparently unharmed. I just could not believe people would have the nerve to paddle to the top of the spillway then calmly shoot over and downwards towards a virtual sheer drop.”
The article qutoes the power company which of course forbids this sort of activity at their facility.
But the article also quotes Richard Harvey, the chief executive of the Welsh Canoeing Association, who, while acknowledging the risk of extreme kayaking, says, "We are not policemen and we are not some kind of nanny state. If no-one else is going to be harmed and the environment does not suffer, people can make their own choices. Some people just want thrills and when it comes to being in a canoe going down such steep gradients it is hard to draw the line between canoeing and sledging."
While this looks really fun, it also looks really dangerous. These people are taking quite an impact at the bottom of the run.
But you can't outlaw stupidity and/or adventurism, and there's often a very fine line between the two. It's usually an adventure only up until the point that someone breaks a neck. Then it becomes stupid.
Still looks like fun, though.
A quick search on Youtube reveals some videos of kayaking Llyn Brianne, including this short clip of a run filmed with a helmet cam.
And while we're debating the merits of adventure and stupidity, I came across an article with some great pictures of Pat Keller going over the 40m drop at La Paz in Costa Rica ealier this year. There's some amazing pictures of it here.

Kayakers' 300ft dam drop attacked

Okay, not a pure vertical, but still this looks like fun--fun like bobsledding or luge.

A high-speed run down the slope of a spillway and then into the standing waves at the bottom.

It doesn't look particularly brilliant or even scary really--as long as you're facing forward, you're good.
That the dam owners have condemned the attack, well, that what they have to do, innit? You can't just open your doors to anyone, 'cause then you've got a lawsuit on your hands.
Anyway, footage and article are here at the BBC. The photos are by James Davies, Swansea, and are posted in a sequence over at the Beeb.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Quick One

We loaded up the kayaks for the drive to Cadboro Bay in early morning fog. Not pea soup-thick fog or a London fog, but thick enough to debate the merits of a crossing to Chatham Island. But as we drove to the launch point the fog thinned out to the point that it looked like it wouldn't be a problem. It was still an issue over land, but offshore the fog gave way to high clouds and the occasional bit of blue sky.

So Louise, Paula and I headed out for a crossing to Chatham Island.
2008-11-16 Chatham 010

Sailboats were out from the yacht club. There was only a slight breeze, but enough to get them going.
2008-11-16 Chatham 007

We crossed first to Jemmy Jones Island. While I tried (and failed) to get a picture of an eagle, Paula went in close to shore to examine some tidal pools, and got caught on a rock. "I just left behind a big pink smear," she said.
2008-11-16 Chatham 015

From there, we enjoyed a calm and flat crossing to Chatham. There wasn't much in the way of wildlife today. I guess all the seals and eagles took the day off. We puttered around and then turned to head back through a channel that I didn't remember having ever gone through. Then it narrowed up and the current picked up. And then I realized it was the little channel where I went over a couple of years ago. No mishaps to report today, though.
2008-11-16 Chatham 019

As we made the return crossing, we could see the fog was still hanging over the city.
2008-11-16 Chatham 030

We also saw these little birds. We couldn't remember seeing them before. They were fishing in groups and we wondered if they were migratory and just making a pit stop.
2008-11-16 Chatham 031

We made a small diversion to Sheep Cove. You can tell, because it says "Sheep Cove" on the rock wall. And, no we didn't see any sheep.
2008-11-16 Chatham 033

As we paddled through the islets near our landing spot, we saw this heron.
2008-11-16 Chatham 054

The crows demanded that I pay attention to them, too.
2008-11-16 Chatham 056


Trip length: 11.2 km
My pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

If Microsoft Made Kayaks

I found this over at No Guarantees: The Life of Scott.
The author is unknown, but probably owns a Mac.

The Top Ten Ways The Sport Would Be Different If Microsoft Built Kayaks:
10. A particular model year of kayak wouldn’t be available until AFTER that year, instead of before.
9. Every time you wanted to try a new paddle, you would have to buy a new kayak.
8. Occasionally your kayak would stop dead in the water for no apparent cause. No amount of paddling would budge it. You would have to tow it back to the launch site and restart your kayak. For some strange reason, you would simply just accept this.
7. Two people could not both paddle your kayak unless you paid extra for a ‘95 kayak or NT kayak in which case you would also have to buy an extra seat and expensive new charts.
6. A sophisticated marketing blitz would make you feel like a second-rate tasteless slacker for failing to upgrade your kayak. OOPS — wait a minute — that’s ALREADY happening.
5. Sun Microsystem would make a kayak with 70% less hull drag, half the weight, watertight in all conditions and twice as stable. Unfortunately, it could be used on only 5% of the existing rivers.
4. Your Microsoft kayak’s compass, weather radio, and sump pump would be replaced with a single “General Kayak Fault” warning light.
3. The enthusiast press would get people excited about the “new” features of Microsoft kayaks, forgetting completely that they had been available in other brands for years.
2. Microsoft’s inconsiderable owners manual would spawn a whole cottage industry of outsiders who would write hundreds of books explaining how to paddle your Microsoft kayak. Amazingly, we would buy all they printed.
1. If you wanted to go kayaking in a group with your club members or friends (known as Network Kayaking), EVERYONE in the group will have BUY special group kayaking accessories; however, only one member of the group (known as the kaysysop) would have the foggiest notion of exactly what they did and no one else would be permitted to operate them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More On The Census of Marine Life

This is by Stephen Leahy and comes from the Inter Press Service website--though you'd think at least one Canadian news service would carry the story....

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 11 (IPS) - A thousand points of light are being shone into the dark ocean depths as scientists from 82 countries work to complete the decade-long global research effort calledthe Census of Marine Life.
"It's been a remarkable time of exciting new discoveries and frightening revelations of how quickly the oceans are changing," said Canadian deep-sea biologist Paul Snelgrove, a leader of a team integrating findings from all 17 census projects.
"We were startled to discover small crustaceans never seen by scientists before completely blanketing the seafloor at 500 metres in the Gulf of Mexico," Snelgrove told IPS.
And during the eight years the census has run so far, scientists have documented that more than 90 percent of the oceans' top predators -- large sharks, tunas, swordfish, cod and others -- are now gone and those remaining are in serious trouble. "We're also seeing evidence of climate change with the shifting distribution of species," he said.

I recommend reading the rest of the article.

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Breath Samples From Whales

BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | How do you breathalyse a whale?

Gotta say, this is kinda cool. How do you get a breath sample from a whale? Well, you use a helicopter. The Beeb's new series Oceans has the gang on board a ship in the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) taking what seem to be non-invasive breath samples from sperm whales. Overall, they manage to get samples from about 60 whales--and additional samples from another 40 whales of various species off Gibraltar. The most telling moment in the excerpt, for me, is when the presenter says that some of the microbes captured in the spray may have been transmitted to the whales from humans--likely whale-watching humans.

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Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back in the Water....

It's been a while but another foot has washed up in the mouth of the Fraser River. This makes 7 detached feet that have washed ashore in the South Coast/Georgia Basin in the last 16 months.
This latest foot, encased in a sneaker like all the others, was found in Finn Slough in the south arm of the Fraser. The sneaker in this case is a New Balance sneaker which is leading to speculation that it might be a match for a woman's foot found last May, also in a New Balance sneaker.
To date, only one foot has been identified.
I'm guessing that with seven feet found so far, odds are good that there's at least one more foot out there....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Good weather!

After watching This Is The Sea 4, only some of us paddlers felt ambitious about an outing in the morning. It was just Richard and myself Sunday morning at Cadboro Bay.
What a great idea, kayaking that morning! Unlike the day before, which had dawned windy with rain howling down, this was a quiet and calm grey morning. The clouds thinned as the day went on.
Richard and I darted out of the Bay (how can ya "dart" out of a half-mile deep bay? dunno, but we did) and realized that the whole basin of Oak Bay bounded by the islands was calm. The flooding current ran about 1knot, not even 2. There was the faintest breeze. We headed over to the Chains, crossing currents like decorative ribbons on the surface instead of rivers ripping past.
That faint breeze, though, was coming from the east, so we knew we'd only be out a couple of hours instead of all day. Weird weather comes from the east.
Weird enough. Clouds gradually boiled up from the west, and a fogbank from the east. We felt a little better about not planning to go round Discovery today.
Coming back from the Chains toward Jemmy Jones Island, the slight current carried us sideways over near the Chathams. We could see the freight train running in Baynes Channel.
Funny how only 1 knot of current is enough to make standing waves, if the wind is opposing... and this time we figured out that there's one set at the light on Cadboro Point, and another set of standing waves heading north from Strongtide Island/Chatham.
Now Richard wants to go play with the freight train.
Fun to come close and look at it, for sure.
Going past Flower back to the beach, the sun was out and warm on our backs. Awesome weather for November. Just a three-hour paddle, as the fog and clouds were closing in around a bubble of clear sky. But a good one.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Looking at TITS

This week we're suffering through our first winter storms here on the We(s)t Coast, and it's been raining cats and dogs for three days. The rain lightened up a little today -- it only rained kittens and puppies.
But despite the rain and wind, our little band of kayakers got together tonight to watch This is the Sea 4.
The verdict? Looks like thumbs up from everyone!

And the food wasn't bad, either....

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bryan Smith is a Busy Fellow

Bryan Smith, the fellow behind the excellent Pacific Horizons DVD, has a couple of new projects in the works.
First, he's joining a kayak expedition to Kamchatka next year. The website is here, and the blog is here.
He's also announced the release date for the follow-up to Pacific Horizons. It's called Eastern Horizons, and will be out March 14th of next year. The trailer should be ready a couple of weeks before Christmas.
The cover will look something like this:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Kayak vs. Tree

We had gale warnings up into Sunday morning, and off-and-on rain as well, so no paddling today. We are into the winter weather season and for the next couple of months there will probably be more weather cancellations than actual paddles. I have a four-day weekend coming up and the long range forecast is looking pretty bleak. But that may change by the time the weekend rolls around.
In the meantime, may I present Kayak vs. Tree.
The tree wins.