Sunday, February 28, 2010

O Canada!

We interrupt this kayaking blog with a special report. At the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Canada has won more gold medals than any other country at any Winter Olympics ever. The men's hockey team won the record-setting 14th gold medal earlier this afternoon. Canadians have taken to the streets and the internet to celebrate. And after boisterous shouts, loud car horn honking, and impromptu street hockey games, most celebrants apologized for causing such a fuss. We are, after all, Canadian.
We now return to our regular broadcast.

Hear that Tsunami Warning!

Found something nifty on Rich's flicker account among his photographs -- a short video with an audio recording of the tsunami warning that he heard when he was paddling out in Oak Bay. Check it out here! Or here at his blogpost.
The earthquake in Chile seems to be well-reported. There are several news articles about it on google at this link. It looks like there will be some Canadian soldiers sent there to be part of the relief program -- Bernie's cousin Tammy is spending two more weeks in Haiti and then she may be sent to Chile.
This is one more opportunity to remind everyone on the West Coast that we're in an earthquake zone, people! Keep a small backpack full of emergency stuff at all times! Amazing how much a kayaking dunk bag is very much like an emergency kit for earthquakes and other emergencies, ya know?
And keep some food and water ready in case the power and water stop working after an earthquake or other disaster. Even if you live in a tall apartment building, be prepared. It doesn't hurt to keep a sealed box out back in a shed, too, where it's easy to find when buildings fall down. You can always use the stuff when kayak camping, and put new stuff in after your trip. I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami Warning!

Due to a massive earthquake in Chile, there was a tsunami warning all along the west coast of North America. Our paddling friends Rich and Mike each heard the warning on their marine VHF radios while paddling in waters near Victoria, and headed in to shore. Mike wrote briefly about his experience here. Rich wrote about his here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Expedition Update

While Hayley Shepard has arrived at South Georgia Island in preperation for her solo circumnavigation expedition around the remote island, Greg Kolodziejzyk has just completed a warm-up trip prior to his attempt to peddle solo from Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island to Hawaii.
That expedition starts July 1, but this past week Greg and Byron Howard peddled the craft along the east coast of Vancouver Island from Nanaimo near the central Island to Port McNeil near the northern tip. They covered the 314 km in about 2 and 1/2 days. Greg's got a terrific trip report up on his blog.
Someone on shore shot this video of their craft in action:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weird Wool

Okay, I'm into wool. Now, some people are allergic to wool, others get itchy when they get hot inside a wool sweater (y'know, really wish I'd known that before knitting my daughter that long-sleeved turtleneck sweater), but I'm lucky enough to have no trouble with merino wool sweaters. Doesn't hurt that they look cool too. Merino wool makes great kayaking gear -- really warm for its weight on a cold day, not too hot on a warm day, doesn't stink like poly.
I'm into wool for knitting and crocheting, too, which is why a friend sent me this link: it shows an image of a crocheting project called Crochet Hyperbolic Kelp.
And yup, the resulting wooly bits do look rather like kelp.
If you like that, you might as well check out the knitting projects on display at Why Would You Knit That? blog. Those projects have even less to do with paddling than the crocheted kelp, but still, they're croggling.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blowing in the Wind

The winds were up higher than forecast yesterday, and a stiff breeze was blowing right off the water into the usually sheltered Telegraph Bay and our planned launch point.
2010-02-20 Telegraph Bay Pano
So we decided to stick to the bay. Louise is not a confident paddler and abhors the wind and Paula has inner ear issues and occasional balance troubles and she abhors rough water, so it was a good chance to safely practice paddling in windier conditions than we normally do. Richard however abhors anything with the word "practice" in it and set out by himself on a quest to find calmer waters. (He eventually found a new car.)

One of the things we did was practice something I had read early in the week over at The Gnarlydog. There, he posed a question to a number of experienced kayakers: In the event that I should be caught out on the water in a group of 6-8 paddlers (too far from shore to be reached in time) what would be my best way to ride out a short storm? The post makes for an interesting read and I recommend you check it out. Nigel Foster suggested a couple of training exercises, including this one.
"Another useful practice session in similar conditions is to paddle a figure-of-eight path around two anchored floats. It gives practice in turning in every direction to the wind and shows how effectively you can control the kayak in that strength of wind. The more practice, usually the quicker and more effectively you can do it without getting blown onto the beach."
And that's exactly what we had here in the bay. There were a couple of floats out that we did some figure eights around.
2010-02-20 Telegraph Bay 022

We went to the edge of the bay and enjoyed surfing the waves back in.
2010-02-20 Telegraph Bay 009

We also saw otters (I couldn't get any pictures), 3 deer (I couldn't get any pictures), and two eagles arguing over a tree (yeah, that's right -- no pictures). But we did see some geese, and I did get a picture. (Fortunately, these geese were of the pacifist variety, unlike this one.)
2010-02-20 Telegraph Bay 026

Finally came the best part of the day, a warm drink at Olive Olio's!
2010-02-20 Telegraph Bay 035

2010-02-20 Telegraph Bay

Trip length: 2.18 km
YTD: 8.22
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Trying Not To Wear Down A Path

On the water yesterday at sunset... on the water again this morning at sunrise... so good to see the bay full of light from so many angles.
One of the side effects of being able to go kayaking so often this winter is that I have to be careful when crossing the soft, spongy front lawn. The ground is so damp that it's easy to tear up the grass with my feet. I have to be careful not to wear a path across the lawn. Oh, yeah. Those of you who have to drive your boats to the water's edge may now envy my kayaking path just a little.
Another side effect of kayaking at different times of these bright days is getting used to the changing reflections of sunlight on the water. I ran right up onto a barnacled rock in my little inflatable. No gouges on the hull, just a few light scratches. These inflatables from Advanced Elements are really made to last, out of good materials.
Maybe the sunglasses I've been wearing were part of the problem, making it hard to see through the water. Still, I like wearing them; it's one more way that I can feel like Freya. And I'll take any way I can feel that strong and capable.
And I felt strong and capable as I carried my Dragonfly past two older ladies in the park. "How was it today on the water?" they asked. Marvelous. Absolutely marvelous.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Island View Beach Campground Is Now Park!

Island View Beach is a good launch point for kayaking. There's a parking lot, a set of pit toilets that are really quite nice, and both a boat ramp & sloping gravel beach for launching conveniently. We've had several good outings from this beachfront park, which has great views looking both north and south along the Saanich Peninsula.
Today I received a press release from the Capital Regional District Parks department, and it's got great news. Not only did the CRD buy the private campground next to Island View Beach park back in October 2009, but the campground will be open in summer 2010!

The Times-Colonist newspaper wrote about this news story here. This is the CRD media release as it came to me:

February 18, 2010
Island View Beach Regional Park Campground To Re-Open This Summer
Victoria, BC -
The Island View Beach Regional Park campground in Central Saanich will be open this summer. The CRD Regional Parks Committee approved an interim plan to provide camping at Island View Beach for the 2010 and 2011 camping seasons.
In September 2009, CRD Regional Parks purchased land adjacent to Island View Beach Regional Park to complete the park boundary. The parcel included the previously privately owned RV and tenting campground.
Regional Parks is making improvements to the campground which include site cleanup, campground assessment and modification, re-naturalization of the foreshore to provide public access to the beach and containment of an infestation of carpet burweed (Soliva sessilis), an invasive plant. For safety and to prevent the spread of burweed, CRD Regional Parks is requesting the public avoid the campground area until it opens in May.
“Regional Parks will undertake a comprehensive planning review of the Island View Beach Management Plan, which will recommend long term use for the campground site,” said Christopher Causton, CRD Regional Parks Committee Chair. “This planning process will include the Cordova Shore Conservation Strategy, a business case, assessment of the campground, a public consultation process and an invasive species management plan.”
The improved campground will be designed and maintained to provide a high quality, self-contained camping experience. As well, it will connect to the day use areas to complete the parkas one contiguous area and ensure better protection of sensitive ecosystems.
For further information, please contact:
Laurie Sthamann, Communications Coordinator
CRD Regional Parks
Tel: 250.360.3332
cell: 250.889.8030

What We're Trying To Achieve

The Guardian has a beautiful photo essay of dolphins swimming in the surf off South Africa.
 Really, isn't this the feeling we're all trying to achieve out on the water? That sense of effortless power? The one-ness with the environment? Well, these guys have that in spades. They fully understand the ocean and how to move through it ( and in the interface between ocean and air). The harbour porpoise' and orcas I've seen locally seem to have the same sense of power and grace.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And it is?

Kind of pretty, isn't it? Polished wood, interesting texture and carving. But what is it?
Actually, it's a map. It's fairly small, fits inside a seal-hide glove so you can feel it while paddling. It is an Inuit carved wooden coastal chart, used by kayakers to keep track of where they are. The map extends up one side and then over the top and down the other side, detailing the gross coastline features.  The one above represents part of the Greenland coastline. I saw another one last night at a geography lecture--that one was made to represent the southern tip of Vancouver Island, up Haro Strait to Sidney, and then around and into Finlayson Arm.  These carvings are not intended to give you a highly detailed map, just the big features so you pretty much know where you are. And it makes such perfect sense; doesn't wear out, floats, and can be read in the dark or inside your glove. The one above was found in the mid-1800s and is exhibited in the Greenland National Museum.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not Entirely Unlike The Best

"This is sometimes the best time of day to paddle," said Mike Jackson, when I ran into him and his friends on the beach at 3:30 PM. They were just coming ashore as I was launching. They seem to have had a good time on the water... well, maybe. Mike and one paddler carried off two of the boats over the steps to Killarney. The other paddler said, a little sourly, "He told me he was just taking me to the point!" Then he grinned.
Ah! Understanding bloomed. Apparently good ol' Mike is not unlike some other paddlers I know, who are cheerfully willing to scoot out across Baynes channel to the Chathams at any time of day, even when the current is running.
But I was paddling alone today, except for the company of an otter out by Flower Island. It was a good day to do my usual loop out and back to the beach, a loop about four kilometres long that takes me an hour, counting a few pauses to admire the birds and the sky.
Four klicks in an hour isn't a bad speed for this little 8'4" inflatable kayak. In fact, it's not much slower than Freya's average speed in her surf-ski style kayak that she used in her recent circumnavigation of Australia. On average, she covered fifty klicks or more a day for the best part of a year. Of course, she kept paddling for eleven hours a day. I do an hour, maybe an hour and a half, on most of these solo paddles in the bay. Still, it's nice to feel even a little like Freya. Oooh, and my wetsuit is black -- does that count? Maybe I'm (in the phrasing of the late Douglas Adams) not entirely unlike the best of us kayakers.

Monday, February 15, 2010

When You Just Don't Have the Time to Get In a Full Paddle....

Embedded below is a witty little advert....

...via The Fat Paddler.

Nature photos needed!

It may not be a glorious day, but at least the wind isn't howling at gale force, so I'll be out on the water after work. In the meantime, a quick bit of news to share: I am a new volunteer naturalist for the Capital Regional District parks, at the Nature House in Elk/Beaver Lake Park. Not sure who's heard the news outside the paddle group, but it's always a good idea to share good news... after all, we all hear about every airplane crash in the world so we might as well share good news too, eh?
Those of you who know the park may remember when this little building was a snack shack run by the Kiwanis. It's a Nature House now, get over it and bring your own snacks to the park, eh? Or go to the nice little restaurant at Hamsterly Beach at the other end of this hourglass-shaped lake, and have an affordable little meal.
In the meantime, while I'm being trained, I'm making some new posters and colouring pages for the Nature House. Do any local kayakers have photos of Western Painted Turtles, shots you've taken when out in local lakes? Or Bald Eagles? Or a Great Blue Heron? These will not be reproduced, just displayed in the Nature House. Thanks, if you can share them with me! I know John and Lila have a couple good photos that I will ask to use. And Rich has one of a heron he took at Beaver Lake, showing on his website from a couple weeks ago, that he said I could use. Will show you photographers the posters I make, once the CRD people approve them for display.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thetis Lake

It was supposed to be sunny, but last night's wind and rain storm hadn't quite finished passing through and when the dawn broke, it did so behind wet grey clouds. Which was okay actually, because we hadn't really planned for a major excursion today. Today was the first time out with our new paddle wheels, so all we wanted to do was a quick jaunt somewhere to work out the bugs of loading and unloading the kayaks onto our new (to us) vehicle. Of the other regulars, Richard was also only interested in a quick paddle and Paula was spending the day helping a friend in a flower shop sell Valentine's Day flowers. Richard had suggested Thetis Lake, and after a long lay-off from the water this seemed like a fine idea to Louise and I.
We were able to work out the transportation kinks and I think this is going to turn out to be a fine kayaking vehicle.

At Thetis, we quickly put in and started paddling. There wasn't much in the way of wildlife around, just this dogfish.

The reason why the animals weren't around became plainly obvious a few minutes into our paddle as the sky ripped open and we were pelted with rain. Cold winds whipped up as well and we laughed at our lousy weather luck.
IMGP2316 copy

The windy squall was brief and a few minutes later the sun finally dealt the clouds a fatal blow. A modest beginning, but my 2010 paddling season is finally underway.

2010-02-14 Thetis Lake

Trip length: 6.04 km
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Adaptive Intelligence

Some fascinating footage (thanks, Karl) that shows Orca adapting their hunting habits--including dealing with great white sharks. I find this amazing--much like the stories of bears in Yellowstone Park--in pointing out how far adaptive intelligence can be pushed. This hunting behaviour doesn't even need higher cognitive function. Oh, and three cheers for NatGeo, eh?

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Freya Hoffmeister - Jedi Master

Last night, the 2010 Spring Olympics Games opened in Vancouver with a lavish opening ceremony under perfect weather....what's that, you say? They're the Winter Games? In Vancouver?!? Who's bright idea was that? Vancouver doesn't have winter! You're joking, right?
Well, whatever happened Olympics-wise last night, we weren't watching as we were down at Ocean River Sports listening to Freya Hoffmeister's lecture and slide show about her recent 11 month-long 15,000km kayak trip around Australia, sponsored by the South Island Sea Kayaking Association.
Freya offered up a great slide slow and a fabulous talk. She talked about her preparations and her time alone on the water. She has gave detailed explanation of how one goes to the bathroom during a ten-day crossing -- all that was missing was a set of technical illustrations. Perhaps the best example of her character and determination was she explained why she called her expedition a "race around Australia." Clearly, she wasn't racing anyone. She explained that she called it a race because she was racing herself. She said that some people online were referring to her expedition as an "attempt" and whenever she read that she would respond, "It is not an attempt. I am doing this." There's a lot of will wrapped up in that black leather.
She talked about being harassed by crocs on land and flying fish on the water, and the shark attack that holed her kayak. We had a terrific time, and if she's coming to your area it would be well worth checking out this kayaking legend.
Freya still has a few more stops on her North Amercian West Coast speaking tour.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Out in the Dark

Ever paddle at night? Was it on purpose?
I've been kayaking in the dark a few times, and it was always a fascinating thing to see dimly-guessed shapes, and plenty of reflections. It's really interesting to watch the light fade out of the sky, and even more interesting in some ways to be out before dawn and watch the sky get brighter and brighter. The sun is almost a surprise!
But it's when the sky is getting darker that I'm getting more and more alert. It's like the mop of grey hair on my head has turned into long antennae reaching out into the dark to help me try to be aware of what's going on.
Out on the water yesterday, I realized that it wasn't just getting dark because it's still winter. (Yeah, yeah, I know that most people don't consider February STILL winter. I spent fifteen years in Edmonton, where the seasons are not spring, summer, autumn and winter, but Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Construction. By Alberta standards, February is only half-past Winter. But here in Victoria, half-past February means there were two cherry trees blooming on the open shore.) It was getting dark because the clouds were coming in thick on the weather front, AND it was the end of a winter's day. I was glad to know that I'm familiar with this bay in most kinds of weather and most times of day. While I don't paddle in a howling gale or after midnight, I've been on the beach in both those kinds of weather.
It's a darned good idea to get to know your home waters at different times of day. What colours are the lights on the buoys and lighthouses, and how often do they blink? You can tell the lights apart, here, by their frequency, duration and colours. What are the lights like on the shoreline? Get to know how your home waters look at sunset and at night. Even if you don't intend to paddle in the dark, an afternoon outing can end up getting pretty dark if the current and wind pick up and delay your return. It's always good to be sure where you are.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Weather Front

The best thing about working at the University is dashing down the hill after my shift and getting home in time to get on the water while there's still light in the sky, even in winter. Now that it's over a month past Solstice, the daylight doesn't fade so quickly. But it can still get dark fast for other reasons!
At 2:00 pm when I left work, the day was a bright overcast, the kind that makes my daughter squint and reach for a visor or a baseball cap. By 2:30 pm, when I finished teetering down the hill (though others may run up and down the steep hill, using it for a giant Stairmaster, well, that's just not possible with my absence of a sense of balance) and chatting with my partner at our driveway as he went to take his class, I could tell the clouds were moving. Checking on the dogs and cats took a few moments, then I got into my wetsuit and inflated my Dragonfly kayak. At 3:00, I was at the little rock garden in Cadboro Bay, watching the breeze changing on the water.
It's amazing how the weather can change here on the West Coast in about half an hour! I went around Stein Island, and felt the breeze lift into a wind, as a weather front moseyed on in. Yep, the same weather front that today's local weather & news report suggests will be dropping a warm, snow-melting rain all over Vancouver tonight and tomorrow. Some weather fronts show themselves in a line of clouds across a clear blue sky. This one blurred its way into the bay, like tea leaves leaching colour into my new clear glass teapot.
No grief, no problem. Just nice swells about six or eight inches high where half an hour ago there had been smooth water. The breeze blew stiffer and stiffer, giving the strong impression that there would be more and more wind. I rode the wind and waves back to the beach, passing a couple pairs of harlequin ducks who were fishing here and there.
Walked back to the house with the inflatable on my shoulder turning like a weather vane. Indoors looking out, I saw the willow tree whipping as the wind came up to the force of a small craft warning. It'll be blowing a gale tonight.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More Marina Shenanigans

The developer of the proposed mega-yacht marina for Victoria's Middle Harbour has started taking deposits on berths even though the marina has not been granted a single one of the myriad approvals required for its construction to begin. According to this Victoria Times-Colonist story, developer Bob Evans said that according to his plans construction is slated to start this summer for opening next year. Six weeks ago he began taking deposits on berths, some well over 100 metres long, at $10,000 each even though Transport Canada has not approved the plan, nor has the provincial government or the City of Victoria. The city is backing the bid from the South Island Sea Kayakers Association and others for an independent environmental review of the project.
Local kayakers and other paddlers are opposed to the project as will curtail access between the Inner and Outer harbours. (The developer has proposed a small paddling path through the marina -- kayaks will be mixing in close quarters with huge mega-yachts well over 100 metres in length.) Other have argued that the marina will congest an already crowded harbour, and others worry that the harbour's ambiance and public access will be lost to a private project that caters to only super-rich tourists.
The article continues:
Marina critics complain of lack of public consultation and openness in the proposal process. Close to 7,000 signatures were collected on a petition presented to the provincial and federal governments last year citing concerns about the development.
Senior governments should take into account community interest, and the intent of the 1980s zoning at Songhees and the planning processes that went into it, said Victoria Councillor John Luton.
"As far as anybody can recollect, and certainly [from] the appearance from our planning documents, is that a small community marina for sailing ships and kayaks was envisioned, but not a parking lot for Hummers of the sea."
The issue of riparian rights -- governing land adjacent to a natural body of water -- has been raised with the province as well, Luton said. Victoria owns Lime Bay Park, at the foot of Catherine Street and Cooperage Place, and the waterlot extends past that park.
"Because Lime Bay is at one end of the waterlot, it means that they can't necessarily build the marina to impede that particular piece of the foreshore." The city must be able to access its land with a 12-metre boat, he said.
The city is asserting its legal claim to those rights to preserve the park setting and views, Luton said.
The Tyee reports that while developers acknowledges the uncertain state of the project, the home page on the marina's website seems to imply that the facility will open next year. "In 2011, the yachting world will welcome the Victoria International Marina. Early reservation and slip selection will guarantee your place and access to the spectacular cruising waterways of BC and the Pacific Northwest." And some heavy hitters are lining up on the developers side, as Monday magazine recently reported that federal Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day wrote federal Transportation Minister John Baird in support of the marina bid. Monday's report continued:
What precisely Day hopes Baird can accomplish is unclear, as the project is supposed to be undergoing impartial environmental and harbour traffic reviews to determine its suitability for the location. Critics of the project continue to wonder whether Evans' standing in the Conservative Party will enable the marina's proponents to circumvent certain regulatory requirements.
Monday also reported that:
Lawyer Bruce Hallsor has registered to lobby the provincial government on behalf of [the marina developers].
That registration was made Oct. 29, according to the provincial registry, two weeks after Hallsor told the Tyee he and a colleague in his firm did not believe his activities on [the developer]'s behalf met the provincial definition of “lobbying”. It was also more than 32 months after Hallsor met with then cabinet minister Stan Hagen about the project.
Meanwhile Victoria Member of Parliament Denise Savoie has asked the federal commissioner of lobbying to investigate allegations about the involvement of possible political insiders in the Marina proposal. (read her letter here.)

Click here to help Save Victoria's Harbour.

Google Maps Fail. Norwegian Wet Suits Win.

This has nothing to do with kayaking, but does involve people in wet suits, so I say close enough.
These two intrepid land-bound frogmen (frogpeople?) waited in Bergen, Norway for the Google car to pass, and now they are immortalized on Google Maps. They waited in lawn chairs on the sidewalk and as the car drove by, they gave chase. Here's the original story from a Norway paper translated into English, or in the original Norwegian.
(And props to boing-boing where I spotted it.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

World Solo Kayak Record Set... Er, Apparently

Helen Skelton, host of the British children's tv show Blue Peter, has just set the Guinness World Record for a solo kayaking trip. She's paddling down the Amazon river and has just passed halfway, the 1,000 mile point. (Here's a BBC clip.) She has also set a record for the longest paddle in 24 hours in flowing water by a woman: 75 miles.
According to Guinness, the previous record for the longest journey by canoe or kayak was made by Daniel Bloor who travelled 326.98 miles (526.22km) from Tewitfield, Cumbria to Little Venice, London, UK, from 9 June 2006 to 19 June 2006.
Not to take anything away from Helen's achievement, or Daniel's for that matter -- god knows they've both paddled farther than I ever have and both paddled to support charities -- but how the heck are these world records? What is the criteria that Guinness is using to determine the longest solo paddle? I'm baffled. Not that the Guinness website is any help -- apparently only a small fraction of their "records" are available in their on-line database.
Are long distance kayakers too modest to publicize their exploits? That doesn't seem likely! :) But someone needs to let the Guinness people know they are a little behind the times in this category.

West Coast Waves Getting Taller

According to this story (and picture) from the Victoria Times-Colonist, scientists from Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries using data from buoys that have been in place off the coast of Oregon since the 1970s have found that coastal wave heights are increasing at a rate of about 2.5cm a year, and storm waves by about 10cm a year. And it seems that the largest waves are showing the biggest increase; the highest waves might now reach 15 metres compared to 10 metres in 1996.
Obviously this news affects kayakers, but it also has has significant implications on design work of seawalls, breakwaters and jetties, and for homeowners along the coast.
But what about the west coast of Vancouver Island? According to the story:
Buoys off the coast of Vancouver Island have not collected such long-term data, but B.C. information was used in the study and scientists at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney also have concluded that waves are getting bigger.
Physical oceanographer Steve Mihaly said that in the northeast Pacific Ocean, wave size increases with latitude.
“The trend to slightly larger waves is stronger as you go north,” he said.
The big question, with no definitive answer, is why the waves are growing.
“While these increases are most likely due to the Earth’s changing climate, uncertainty remains as to whether they are the product of human-induced greenhouse warming or represent variations related to natural, multidecadal climate cycles,” the study says.
“And, as we go into the future and sea-level rise accelerates, this part of the country gets a double whammy,” said Peter Ruggiero, assistant professor in the university’s department of geosciences and one of the study’s authors.
Of course the good news is better kayak surfing. The bad news is my house on the hill may become beach front property in a couple of decades.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Hydrogen Power on the Water

As kayakers head out on expeditions with more and more electronic gear (cell phones, GPS, digital cameras, laptops...heck, even flashlights), the issue becomes how to power them. Up until now, you've really had only two choices -- some sort of solar-powered recharging system, or lots of spare batteries. Now there just might be a third option.
As reported over at boing-boing, Horizon Fuel Technologies is marketing a table top hydrogen power station that can extract hydrogen from water. (Check out a video from CNN here.) The Hydrofill uses electricity to produce hydrogen that can then be stored in refillable cartridges. The system can pump out 2.5 watts of power. It does require electricity to operate, but this could be provided by a solar cell. So with the proper connections and a supply of water (and water is always nearby when you kayak), another clean alternative to spare batteries could be on the horizon.
It's hoped that the system could be on store shelves later this year, with the cost rumored to be about $200.
No word if it works with salt water.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Strafing Seagulls

It was the seagulls that were doing the strafing! Saturday afternoon I'd been sidetracked all day with one thing and another, and the lovely weather was almost gone. But I managed to get into my little inflatable and go out for my usual run to Flower Island and back.
Well, nearly the usual run. This time, there were several seagulls who decided to play "chicken" with me. First one, then another and another went zoooOOOooom past my boat, close enough that I could have reached out with the paddle and swatted them. Not sure how I managed to hang out a sign that read "Strafe Me" in seagull talk, but it was definitely there from the start of the trip out to the turn-around point and back.
Bernie and I had seen a number of sailboats on the bay as we came home from errands, and a dark floating blob out near Flower Island that we couldn't identify. As I came out closer, I decided that the blob must have been a float put there and then retrieved by the people practising controlling their sailboats.
So nice that a plain ordinary everyday bit of exercise took place on a beautiful little bay and in the company of such energetic neighbours... even if they zoomed past my head a couple more times before I got back to the shore and made dinner. Squash again.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Mornings are brighter now

The sun is rising a little earlier every morning! Now it's a much nicer experience getting out on the water early in the day.
I wasn't the only one on Cadboro Bay this morning. There was a little crab boat taking in their traps, with a little train of seagulls following it around to eat the scraps. There's no way to be sure how many crabs are crawling around down there under the dark water, but one way to guess is that the crab boat comes around less frequently this winter than it did last winter.
Aside from the crab boat and my little inflatable kayak, all the other boats in the bay were tied up at the yacht club. I made it out and around Flower Island without seeing anyone else on the water. The rough line of the Cascade mountains stood out against the bright sky in the east, but I didn't quite go out far enough to see the cone of Mount Baker... the little breeze was picking up outside the shelter of the headland.
I thought about that time on the water this evening while watching some tv show about looking for lake monsters. The show made a big point of the investigators, onshore and in a zodiac, getting all excited about a splash and a moving shadow in the water. Frankly, it looked more like group hysteria than the times our paddle group has seen big animals, birds, and fish. If we made that many squeals and shouts, we would never see more than a tiny bit of something far away and going farther.
This morning I paddled quickly through the same little channel where last spring a huge sea lion or elephant seal howled at me. (No, I don't know which kind it was -- I paddled away so fast my Eliza turned into a hoverboat, while behind me the beast kept up the noise to chase me away. See the post on our blog here.)
That big beast may not have been as big as the lake monster the investigators were looking for on their tv show, but hey! I saw a lot more of it than the blurry smudge on the tv show.
While I haven't yet ever seen a bona fide Cadborosaurus sea monster here in the bay, an elephant seal or sea lion is close enough for me, especially when it's close enough TO me.

Kayak Wheels

One thing every kayaker should have is wheels to help transport their kayak around from place to place. And since my last set of wheels blowed up real good in a rather spectacular and inconvenient fashion (as noted here), Louise and I have been fairly limited in our put-in locations (namely only The Gorge).
But last Saturday, that all changed as we finally purchased a set of replacement wheels, a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe. All we have to do is add some kayak-appropriate racks and we are back in the paddle again. See you on the water soon!