Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Paddling Weather Stats

60 paddles were documented on the blog this year. The weather stats break down like this:
45% of our paddles were on sunny days;
31% were on cloudy days;
8% were on rainy/stormy days;
4% were on foggy days;
2% were on snowy days;
and 10% were canceled due to bad weather.

image (1)

The weather was much improved with more sunny day paddles this year over last year. Most forms of inclement weather went down this year, including cloudy days, rainy days and foggy days. Snowy days did rise slightly, but even though most of December turned into a near total wash out due to very unusual cold and snowy conditions, we still had fewer bad weather cancellations than last year. (And what crazy weather it was. On December 23, Victoria had more snow on the ground than any any other urban centre in Canada. And more than the North Pole. Santa felt right at home here as we enjoyed only our fifth white Christmas since 1965. I shoveled snow for 90 minutes on Christmas Day. Bing Crosby has been moved to the top of my "list." But I digress.)
Next year will be the fifth year I've tracked paddling weather stats, and that should be a large enough sample (even if it is mostly subjective) to track averages.
So tune in next year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shark Stalks Kayakers Down Under

Oh, boy. Here's a story from Australia (complete with video) of a group of kayakers being harassed by a 5m great white shark. One kayaker was knocked into the water by the shark, but was able to scramble back into his boat. After circling the group for about ten minutes, the shark finally moved on.
This is the latest in a series of shark incidents in Australia; a shark killed a snorkeler in another part of Australia at the same time that this incident occurred.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Good News Out of Bad News

The CBC carried frustrating news back in November. In a bay near Bylot Island and Pond Inlet, on Baffin Island in Canada's North, hundreds of narwhals were trapped by sea ice. The elders from the local Inuit communities advised that these whales were doomed to drown as their breathing holes of open water froze over. The whales would be unable to swim far enough under the ice to reach open water.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada realized that the nearest icebreaker was many days' travel away, and there was no other reason to divert it to Pond Inlet. Reluctantly, the DFO agreed with the elders' call. Local Inuit hunters would be permitted to harvest the doomed whales, and tag each whale killed, as is done in the annual permitted harvest. Narwhals are not rare in those waters, and the DFO believes that an Inuit whale hunting quota will support the community and its traditions. (See

There were hundreds of whales killed in this hunt, which is bad news if you're a whale lover. For example, Paul Watson (of the Sea Shepherd Society) called this culling one of the most savage and disgraceful crimes against nature imaginable. He was condemned by Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the MP for Nunavut, who said that Watson "crossed the line beyond reasonable dissent."

But there is good news as well because of this hunt, well worth reading about as reported at
Because the hunters shared the whale meat among this community of 1300 people, for the next month no one has put a call over the radio asking for food because they are hungry. As well, the nursing station and the RCMP report fewer injuries and crimes.
It's worth noting that it took 600 whale carcasses to supply these people with sufficient food to give them the benefit of abundance that is expected in my own seashore community in Canada's southern waters. People in Victoria BC have food banks and social programs and for those of us who have an embarrassment of wealth there are gyms as well as miles of hilly roads for jogging off our unwanted pounds of flesh.
It's not my place to condemn the hunters, or my fat suburban neighbours, or even Watson as a whale defender. Lord knows, whales around the world sure need defending. I'd sure like to see some harsh words from an activist about how people actually live in the North, and how much their lives are improved when the DFO approves the application of hundreds of pounds of food and hours & hours of good hard work which supports the Inuit culture and traditions.
It is indeed disgraceful in this day and age for humans to kill whales in these numbers largely because Canada is not maintaining sufficient icebreakers to serve the needs of Northern communities. And it is unacceptable that any Canadian community could be in such need that a whale slaughter is good news.

The First Rule of Snow Kayaking... make sure that there is enough snow.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Snow Kayaking

Happy Holidays!
Here's some holiday hijinks: snow kayaking videos I stumbled across.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa arrives on the Island

With the snow piling up one would think that Santa would get his sleigh to the Island, at least the south Island. I was priviledged to see a preview of his preferred mode of travel courtesy of newsletter. Impressive!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sno' Canada!

You'll excuse me if I bitch about the weather for a moment, but I'm Canadian -- bitching about the weather is what we do.
Normally, December is the month we kayak the least, what with the holidays, and winter storms and all that. Still, we often can get out at least once or twice. But for some of us this December is looking like a wash-out. Or should I say white-out.
No-one from our group went paddling again this Sunday (not unless Paula spotted another derelict kayak adrift on the bay) as for the fifth time in a week we were dumped on by snow. (The latest big dump started as soon as I finished shoveling my walk from the last big dump. Go figure.) We aren't alone; there's three major storms dumping snow across the 7000 km wide breadth of the country. Starting at 4:00 PM Saturday afternoon, Victoria received its fourth largest snowfall in a 24 period since they started keeping records. 31cm fell, and a lot more came down Sunday night on top of that. This is my street at 6:00 this morning.
The problem with the snow is that the Victoria area only gets any sort of measurable snowfall only every couple of years and has limited snow removal capabilities. Rumor has it that the city's snowplow has been slowed down because the hamster got too cold. (Usually after a snowfall here, my lawn resembles my scalp: a few small tufts poking through a dusting of flakes. But I digress.)
So while Paula can kayak in snowy weather because she lives on the beach (not literally, of course), the snow makes the side roads treacherous and road access to beach area can be problematic at best for the rest if us.
But the snow isn't the only issue. Over the weekend we had 35 knot winds which means blowing snow and nasty wind chills. We're well into our second week of this deep freeze and strong cold winds, which has resulted in near record low temperatures. It's probably been 20 years since we've had such a prolonged and deep cold snap. And winter only officially started yesterday!

Are we done yet? No, not by a long shot. More snow on Tuesday is expected, and the outlook for Christmas is iffy at best. In fact, Environment Canada is predicting that it might be the first country-wide white Christmas in Canada since 1971.
It looks a little better after Christmas, at least temperature-wise, but there's a lot of rain and snow still expected. But there's time to possibly get a quick paddle in before the clock runs out on this month.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What Does it Take?

"What does it take to keep you guys off the water?" one of our friends asked. "You go kayaking on weekends and weekdays. You paddle when it's raining. You paddle in the dark. You paddle in the fog now that you all have compasses. You paddle year-round. You go out in January in a shortie wetsuit and bare feet, for heaven's sake. You guys have been out in wind, snow, ice, and red tides. I've seen some of you out in kayaks even when you have a cold. What does it take to keep you from kayaking?"
Our friend does exaggerate a little. We don't like being out in the wind. And we didn't know about the red tides before we blundered into them (yuck!). In truth, it doesn't take more than 15 km winds to keep us either off the water or retreating to Thetis Lake and the shelter of its forest park. In 2006, November and December had nine windstorms that kept us off the water before Christmas. And this year, we've taken a bit of a break in December 2008, due to a couple of factors.
The first (and most crucial) factor is wind. There has been more wind than we like, on many of the weekends. The second factor is temperature. It has been snowing and frosty as well. That's not enough in itself to keep us on land, but with enough wind as well, we've been calculating wind chills often as low as -9 or -18, which is way more than most Islanders usually face.
These two factors even combined are still not enough to keep us on land without the third factor: at least four of us have aches and pains from a mild version of the 'flu. We do NOT want to have the 'flu get any worse!
There are indeed kayakers out in this weather, as I've seen a few convoys of cars with kayaks on top go past me into and out of Cadboro Bay. But I'm guessing those hardcore enthusiasts do not have the 'flu.
It's also worth observing that my partner Bernie and I have at last reliably determined what it takes to reduce the numbers of people using Gyro Park in Cadboro Bay at all hours of the day or night. We've noticed that a steady stream of people walk in and out of the park all day long, and all night long as well. More people use the park and beach on warm, sunny days, of course. But rain doesn't stop a few people from leaving tracks on the sand. And snow leaves clear traces of just how many people have walked past with a child or dog or little grocery wheeler.
As Bernie puts it, for the park to be empty at night, it takes a temperature below -5 Celsius, with a windchill factor taking it down to -10 or lower, with snow falling on icy roads. Oh, and dark, of course. If it's daylight, there will be at least one hardy soul grimly staring out into the snowfall from the little promenade above the beach.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Paula's Busy Weekend

Oh sure, other people may go kayaking, but for Paula, things always take a different turn. Yesterday (Saturday 13 Dec), she decided to go out for a quick refreshing spin around Cadboro Bay in her Dragonfly. And while she's out in the bay, she spots a canoe dinged up and sunk to the gun'els. Pulling out her throw line, she ties on and hauls the canoe to the beach, where she meets Mona Lisa (who lives in the house fronting the beach) and, long story short, gifts Mona and her significant other with a salvaged canoe.
Today (Sunday 14 Dec) we went out on the beach looking for a stairway. Someone had overfilled the ocean, leaving us with very little beach. While we were walking through the uncharacteristic snow and below zero temperatures, we spot something in the water.

Yup, that's a kayak. Didn't look like one at first, but once we saw the red of the upper deck, it was pretty clear. This was a kayak in trouble. And, if you know us, that's just going to be the beginning of the story.

It was late, getting dark, and cold. The fastest way to get this kayak salvaged was for Paula to go out in her Dragonfly. She got changed, and I carried her boat down to the water through the (very cold, very strong) wind, and she prepped her lines. I don't fit in the Dragonfly (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!), so it would be up to Paula to get a line onto the bow of the sunken boat.

After some struggles with the wind and line, Paula got attached and hauled the other end back to me on the shore (it's true, I'm the muscle, she's the brains). It took a little while, and the sky kept getting darker while the wind kept a-blowin'. Thankfully it wasn't kicking up too much chop--the wind was coming more from the north, which doesn't let it get too frisky with the water in Cadboro Bay. Eventually, I got my hands on the line and slowly dragged the sunken kayak into shore.

Brutally heavy, filled with water, it took quite a while to get it up on the beach. It didn't help that once the water was out, I was still trying to move a boat with 20 kilos of wet sand in it.
We tied the boat off to a log--hoping the wind doesn't shift while the tide is still in--so it doesn't get pulled back out. I wasn't in a real hurry to haul it back to the house, and there's a reason for that.

Yeah, the bottom is badly damaged in at least three places. Once the cold weather settles down (probably not tomorrow), I'll head back down to it and see if I want to repair it. Or maybe just salvage the skeg setup out of it. I wouldn't complain about another kayak in the quiver, but I have to guard against having for the sake of having--after all, that's how I got our latest kayak....

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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like a $#&*ing Cold Christmas

There's no group paddle today, as Victoria is on the receiving end of its first real blast of winter in a couple of years. Right now, the temperature is -3C with 10 centimeters of snow on the ground, with more on the way. (And before all you Easterners start laughing at us, we normally have highs of plus 7C this time of year, so this is quite unusual for us. Also, we here on the We(s)t Coast consider anyone who lives east of Chilliwack to be an Easterner. This includes you, Albertans. But I digress.)

We are experiencing what weatherdudes call an "Arctic Outflow." The jet stream has moved south of us and a big low pressure cell is dragging down cold arctic air. The cold air funnels through the Rocky Mountains creating strong winds. Our forecast for winds today is 50kmh, with gusts of 70kmh or higher. So it's not the cold air per se that's hitting us hard on the Island, it's the wind chill that's sucking every iota of heat out of everything and chilling us to our bones. And it's going to get worse as the highs in the last half of this week are forecast to be as low as -7C. With the windchill, it's going to be nasty. And it doesn't look like it's going to warm up much until Christmas Day. The good news is that we may get a white Christmas this year, which normally only has odds of 1-in-20 of occurring in these parts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Tidal Generator Present!

Hey, we got an early Christmas present! We being the Islanders taking an interest in proposed tidal generators near Quadra Island. Yesterday, Simone Engel the Land Officer sent me another e-mail message, quoted here:

I would like to inform you that I have recommended disallowing both applications based on significant concerns that were raised by government agencies, First Nations and the public. The cancellation went through our system today.
Wishing you a merry Christmas.
This means that the two applications to install tidal power generators near Quadra Island have been turned down, instead of being rubber-stamped.
As I said in reply to her: It's great news to know that alternative energy is being seriously considered in BC. It's even better news to know that the government agencies considering these alternatives are taking very seriously the input that comes from our citizens and First Nations.
It may not be tidings of comfort and joy, but it is good news.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Waiting For No Man

Yeah, Thursday through Sunday (11 Dec through to 15 Dec) see major tides this week. Tonight, Thursday, is a zero tide, with a high tide of 3.2 metres, the next two days see tides of -0.2m to 3.2m and Sunday runs 0.0 to 3.1 metres. In Imperial, that means tidal cycles of 10.5 to 11.2 feet. Or, in practical terms, when we walked the dogs tonight, it was a long way to the water.... Under Tillicum Bridge at 18:59 the current was maxing out at 11.8 knots and tomorrow (Friday) it maxes out at 12.4 knots (14.2 mph/22.9 kph). Hee--wack! Far freakin' out! (to quote Zonker Harris).

Odds 'n' Sods

Here's some odds 'n' sods.
First up, here's a story about a kayak store owner who took a new model kayak out for a quick trial paddle. Since it was to be a quick and spontaneous paddle, he neglected to bring along the usual full compliment of safety gear. (Now don't get ahead of me.) All was fine until he flipped in a wave, and for some reason couldn't roll the boat. Only after he wet-exited did he discover that his paddle float and bilge pump were still back at his house. Oops. All ended fine, but it's a good reminder.
And here is a great site called Cape Falcon Kayak. This is a company that builds kayaks and also offers classes in kayak building, but there's also a lot of great articles. Here is a series of photos about building a kayak from driftwood. Here he takes a jigsaw to an old Vulcan surf boat and turns it into a crazy stealth wave rider. There's tons of great pictures on this site. If you like Greenland kayaks, check it out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2009 Vancouver Island Paddlefest Dates

The dates for the 2009 Vancouver Island Paddlefest in Ladysmith are May 9 and 10.
Mark your calendars accordingly.

Kayaker 1, US Army 0

Last July, Heather Wylie, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist in Los Angeles, decided to protest a proposal by the Corps that could have weakened clean water protections for the Los Angles River. She received a 30-day suspension for “off-duty kayaking” and “circulating a news article via e-mail documenting Clean Water Act enforcement problems.” Her 51 mile trip was intended to prove to the Corps that the Los Angeles River is a navigable waterway because the Corps refused to declare the entire river navigable and therefore not subject the watershed to the protections entitled to it under the Clean Water Act.
Her supervisors found out and threatened her with the suspension, but today it was announced that the case was settled. Under the settlement, no side admits fault and Wylie will leave the Corps -- to become an environmental lawyer.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wind on the Water

Here's a cool site I found over at Kayak Succor. It's and will give constantly updated reports of the wind speeds in your area.
Here's what the wind in our local area is doing this evening:

Monday, December 08, 2008

One of Those Days

There was no group paddle yesterday (although rumour has it that Paula was going to go for a quickie solo jaunt around Caddy Bay). The weather was cool and breezy but not overly so, but Louise and I both had achy shoulders that were nagging us so we decided that giving kayaking a miss this week might be beneficial. In my case, my bad shoulder/arm had been bugging me for a couple of days when suddenly on Thursday, it just gave out on me. I couldn't lift my arm past my shoulder and it felt just about as useless as it did when I was in therapy after my accident. Weird, man.
I thought that I might have slept on it funny for a couple of nights, so Thursday night I carefully arranged my pillows under my arm as my physio therapist first showed many months ago, and had a very restful sleep, and my arm felt much better. Today, it's pretty much back to normal, or whatever passes for normal for my shoulder these days.
But it wasn't a completely kayak-free weekend, as Louise, Paula and I met up with Mike Jackson on Saturday for coffee, chatting and kayak yakking.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

More on the Proposed Tidal Generators at Quadra Island

Good news so far! I've had one reply already from Simone Engels of the Integrated Land Management Bureau. (Well, two replies... seems the @ddress for the environment minister is no longer active.)
Simone Engels replied, and I quote with permission:

Thank you for your email and comments.

Orca Power has applied for an Ocean Energy Investigative Permit for a period of 2 years in order to collect data and to determine the suitability of Okisollo Channel and Surge Narrows for tidal power generation. Under the Investigative Permit, no stationary, permanent or semi-permanent measuring devices or any other equipment or development would be authorized. Additionally, the tenure holder would have to permit public access to the area without interference. Oftentimes, proponents collect data from existing marine charts and if they feel the need to collect data at the actual site, they sometimes use the option to tow a measuring device behind a barge.

Before any tidal power project at the investigative stage could proceed to the development stage, it would have to pass rigorous reviews by provincial and federal agencies of the potential environmental, economic and social impacts. The adjudication process would also include consultation with affected First Nations as well as the public. Comments such as yours would be considered as part of this process.

Please note that these particular applications are currently being adjudicated and we have not made a decision to issue an Investigative Permit yet. The comments you have submitted will be considered and I will inform you of any decision on these two applications.

Thank you again for forwarding your concerns to us. Please feel free to contact me [phone # deleted] if you have any questions or if you would like to discuss this further.

Yours truly,

Simone Engels, M.Sc., A.Ag.
Land Officer
Operations Division, Coast
Integrated Land Management Bureau
Ministry of Agriculture and Lands

Her reply seems to suggest that the next few months are a good opportunity for concerned citizens to express their opinions about this proposed project, before a decision is made. Heck, it's *always* a good idea for concerned citizens to express their opinions about proposed projects that would affect natural resource use and management.

more fog

I haven't done a post on our day in the fog. Anyone reading this blog will see John has done a fine job posting our adventure. However, I did wish to post this photo I captured of John on that day.
a picture for you

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Proposed Tidal Power Sites near Quadra Island, BC

Ocean River Sports just posted an interesting link on their newsletter. It seems like there's a new gold rush going on these days -- private claims being staked to sites in tidal channels near Quadra Island, for the possible installation of tidal power generators.

Read more
View a video

If you're reading our blog Kayak Yak, you're probably interested in this matter. You might want to drop a note to Patricia Eng, Manager of Crown Lands and Resources at, or Duncan Williams, Executive Director of Regional Operations at, or Land Officer Integrated Land Management Bureau at, or the Honourable Barry Penner, Minister of the Environment at -- I sure wanted to talk with them, and wrote the following:

Dear Ms Eng, Mr Williams, Ms Engels and Mr Penner:
I have learned that there are proposals for tidal-powered electric generators to be installed near Quadra Island in BC waters.

Any such generators must be installed only in the most safe and low-impact ways possible, there and anywhere in Canadian waters. It's not just that the installation and presence of more than a very few generators will ruin a channel for marine mammals, frightening and killing them. It's not just that too many generators in a channel will ruin its use for fishing and boating, or as access to other areas. My concern is that the there can and very probably would be lasting environmental damage and restricted access to wilderness areas and parks because of these proposed generators and their associated shoreline infrastructure, transmission lines, and clearcut forests around the lines.

Please ensure that great care is taken to minimize the numbers and especially the impact of any tidal generators -- and "minimize" in real & effective ways, not as a token pretense. I have poured concrete and worked in construction and in our provincial parks; I have seen that ordinary building materials can have profound and unexpected effects on a variety of locations. I am a kayaker, and have spoken out in favour of the idea of careful installation of a few tidal generators in my home waters near Cadboro Bay and Chatham and Discovery Islands. This week, I am proofreading the galleys of my latest book, Making Good Choices About Nonrenewable Resources for the series Green Matters from Rosen Publishing. This advice is not coming from an idealist ignorant of the issues that must be managed responsibly.

I am seriously alarmed that profiteers may benefit personally from ruining natural resources, instead of our province generating a modest amount of power for local community use without spoiling those natural resources. The use of these channels for fishing and boating has a value that is harder to count in dollars than the private claims staked there for tidal power sites, but it is a real and lasting value. The use of these channels by marine mammals is even harder to count in dollars -- unless perhaps one considers that European ships came to this coastline expressly because of the profit that could be gained from the marine mammals.

Please keep me informed about the proposed tidal power sites and the proposed legislation concerning this issue.
Thank you,
Paula Johanson.

Monday, December 01, 2008

But I Digress

Okay, so this has nothing to do with kayaking except that I took this yesterday during the post-kayaking coffee at Olive Olio's.
The owner left her dog at her table for a moment, and he clearly decided that it was time for a drink of his own.
2008-11-30 The Fog 103

And this is post number 400 on the blog. Woo hoo!

Killer Whale vs Penguin

Sometimes the penguin wins.

Props to Bernie for finding this....