Friday, April 30, 2010

Mega-Yacht Marina Passes First Hurdle

The giant mega-yacht marina propsed for Victoria's Inner Harbour passed its first hurdle yesterday as a Transport Canada spokesman announced that "Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have concluded that with the proposed mitigation measures, the project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects and that the impact on navigation can be mitigated."
According to the Victoria Times-Colonist "the proposal has run into opposition from a range of groups, including paddlers, environmentalists, owners of high-end condos and others. A 7,000-name petition against the development was sent to various levels of governments. Marina critics argue the development would compromise safety, views, the environmental and attractiveness of the city’s harbour." There were over 400,000 movements in the harbour in 2007 and some worry that adding large mega-yachts trying to enter the proposed 2.63-hectare marina will congest an already small and complicated harbour.
With the environmental report out of the way, the next decision on the Navigable Waters Protection Act approval and the Fisheries Act authorization will be made shortly.
After that, the next step in the unpopular development will be whether the province decides to grant the developer a license to use the provincial water lots (and the provincial government does have a habit of forcing unpopular items down peoples' throats. See the HST.) The devloper will then have to seek a development permit from the city for the marina's on-shore facilities, which may prove to be a struggle as Victoria's mayor has already publicly spoken against this proposal.
Meanwhile, some opponents, such as Victoria MP Denise Savoie, are already talking legal action against the development. The Times-Colonist also reports:
"We are going to be looking at all our options, including legal," said [anti-marina] coalition member Diane Carr.
Carr is not surprised by the decision coming from Transport Canada, the lead federal agency examining the proposal. "But of course one always hopes for a result in the public interest," she said.
The process used to determine whether the marina belongs in the harbour has been a major issue for opponents, who say it is not transparent, comprehensive and did not take public concerns into account. "A poor process yields a poor result," Carr said.
Click here to help save Victoria's harbour.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cadboro Bay To Willows Beach. And Back As Well.

Yesterday, we headed to Cadboro Bay beach for a quickie as Paula had some other plans for later in the day. Louise and I geared up...
2010-04-25 Cadboro Bay 004
...while as usual Paula hit the water first.
2010-04-25 Cadboro Bay 001

Not many pictures today as I forgot my waterproof camera at home, and just had my big camera that I was hauling in and out of my camera bag. And there just wasn't much out to take pictures of as most of the ocean critters seemed to be sleeping in on this cloudy Sunday morning.
2010-04-25 Cadboro Bay 017

We headed down towards Willows Beach and around Mary Tod Island.
2010-04-25 Cadboro Bay 013

Our course took us past the expensive mansions of the Uplands district of Oak Bay. Here we discovered the secret of how families were able to afford these multi-million dollar homes. They keep their children locked in cages in their back yards where they perform clandestine anti-gravity experiments on them.
2010-04-25 Cadboro Bay 027 copy

Trip length: 8.89 km
YTD: 48.73
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.
2010-04-25 Cadboro Bay

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pulsejet Kayak

Until about 24 minutes ago, I'd never heard of a pulsejet. Or ever thought of putting one on a kayak. Fortunately, New Zealand has crazy people who can think of insane things like this all on their own so that I don't have to -- all I need to do is just sit back and watch all the fun on YouTube.
It was built by Bruce Simpson, who also built his own home-made Cruise missile.
The video is embedded below in two parts. In Part Two, the pulsejet kayak races against an Olympic kayaker.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mega-Yacht Marina Protest - Dénouement

We mentioned in our coverage of last week's protest rally against the mega-yacht marina proposed for Victoria Harbour that the developer, Bob Evans, kicked a reporter from local news weekly Monday Magazine out from a pro-marina press conference he held the day before the rally. We cheekily speculated that this action would no doubt prompt Monday to change the tone of its coverage.
Or, you know, not.
This week, Monday reports:
We arrived sans invitation, assuming—incorrectly it would seem—that a press conference would actually be open to the press, so while we don’t know much about what was said concerning the marina (presumably, that it is a really, really good idea), we did obtain a transcript of what Evans had to say about us after our ejection.
Among other things, Evans said, “I witnessed Monday Magazine criticizing most of the rest of the press because of the way they cover our project. I looked at the representative and thought, ‘I could buy him a bottle of gin or give him a trip around the planet or give him a house and it wouldn’t make any difference.’ No matter what we said today it would still come out negative. It didn’t matter whether he was here or not.”
Was Evans giving Monday a back-handed compliment by suggesting that Monday would stand by its priniples no matter how much he might try to bribe them? No, probably not. But it sure reads that way.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Splish Splash, Camera's Taking a Bath

Yesterday, Louise and I rolled our kayaks down the hill to the Gorge for a paddle with Paula and Marlene....
gorge pano1
...but they were looking like no-shows, so we launched without them and headed towards Portage Inlet.
2010-04-18 The Gorge 003

I was loaded up with camera gear, including a camera mounted high on my rear deck shooting interval shots. I set it to take a picture every ten seconds, and come back home with a few hundred dull pictures and a few interesting ones.
2010-04-18 The Gorge 143

We saw some cormorants drying their wings in a tree.
2010-04-18 The Gorge 046

We also watched this swan chasing geese away from his nesting mate. He's not actually doing any chasing in this shot, but this is what he looked like when he was, head lowered like a battering ram.
2010-04-18 The Gorge 055
These geese were nesting just a few metres away from the swans. For some reason the swan left this couple alone.
2010-04-18 The Gorge 056

We entered Craigflower Creek. We were facing an ebbing tide, but I was hoping to get up to the tunnel at the end of the creek, thinking that I might get some interesting shots with the deck cam. But it all depended on the water level. Too low, and we would not get around the fallen tree.
2010-04-18 The Gorge 426
And that was the case. If the water level is high enough, you can sneak around this tree on the right. But no luck today.
So I began paddling backwards and the deck cam hit some branches...
2010-04-18 The Gorge 499
...and off it came.
2010-04-18 The Gorge 502
I heard a splash, looked down, and saw my home-made camera mount and my camera slowly sinking into the muddy waters. Before they disappeared out of sight, I reached down and grabbed it...
2010-04-18 The Gorge 503
...and as I fished it out of the water it took my picture. I'm not sure why the mount failed, but I suspect it was loose and then got caught in a branch and torqued.
2010-04-18 The Gorge 017
The Pentax Optio W60 -- take's a licking and keeps on clicking (although it would be nice if the batteries lasted longer).

We headed back and found that Paula and Marlene had indeed shown up and had their own paddling adventure.
2010-04-18 The Gorge 028

Trip length: 10.13 km
YTD: 39.84
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.
2010-04-18 The Gorge

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Attending the Rally On The Water

The rally against the Monster Yacht Marina was a blast!
Hopped on the #11 bus with Bernie carrying my Dragonfly inflatable. He also carried it from Douglas & Yates across the Johnson Street Bridge to our usual harbour launch site at Songhees. Easiest portage I've ever had, thanks to Bernie.
Weather cooperated splendidly, with little breeze and a nice bright overcast with only a little mist, no real rain after 9 am. SISKA paddlers got there early before everyone else, and set out some buoys to show the size and shape the Marina would take. I got there just after eleven am, and there were loudspeakers going mwa-mwah-mwa (picture bassoon music from the old Peanuts cartoon shows, eh?). I think that's when John got this great shot of me, in which I appear to be The Happiest Kayaker On The Water Today.
The turnout was great, with about 200 kayaks milling about the area where the Marina is proposed. Gee whillikers, that would be one honking big marina if it ever did get built!
If you check out the Times-Colonist's report on the rally, you can see a fine aerial photo of the gathering. See the two little kayaks beyond most of the boats, close to shore over towards the little dock? That's Mike Jackson in his black Tahe and me in the Dragonfly, at one of the marker buoys. With me to mark that perimeter spot, he headed out to move through the crowd, making sure that less-experienced paddlers were having no problems.
Meanwhile, there were a series of boaters coming over to me, each of whom expressed admiration for the little inflatable. Two of the harbour patrol boats and a little harbour ferry all snuck close, and the captains leaned out to get a good look. I told them all to go to Advanced Elements and learn about the boat and its big brothers.
The rally broke up like most demonstrations in Victoria... everybody looked at their watches, picked up their litter and headed away peaceably. By the time I got back to the Songhees park launch, there were Bernie, John and Louise, and Marlene. Great to have such a big crowd crew!

Yacht Marina Protest Rally

Yesterday, the marina developers held an invitation-only press conference to present their side of the story and head off the publicity from today's protest rally. But the press conference didn't go so well. After a number of business supporters spoke in favour of the project, citing the usual mantras that Victoria is doomed if the harbour doesn't remain a working harbour, and that the project will create jobs for the region, the first question was from a news editor from Monday magazine. Developer Bob Evans has not liked Monday's coverage of the marina debate and asked the Monday reporter to leave. He did, and at that point most of the other press reportedly walked out as well. (No doubt this will encourage Monday to follow the developer's line from now on in its coverage. Not.)
Evans declared during his presentation that "kayakers are not bad people." Well, that's a relief.

Today's protest rally against the marina went off a little better. About 500 people on land and about 200 kayakers in the water met at the 6.5 acre site of the proposed marina that will house about 60 so-called mega-yachts.
Here, some paddlers gather at Ocean River's dock to paddle around to the protest site.

They're hard to see, but there's 5 orange markers on the water. They represent the footprint of the marina. The developer wants to be given a huge swath of public space and turn it into a private marina for the super-rich, taking away a public resource and no longer allowing the public to have access to it. He wants to take away the beauty of the harbour that everyone can share so that a private few can enjoy it. And make some money while he's doing it, of course. The public, who are being asked to give away this resource, will, of course, gain nothing.

The harbour is small -- there's not a lot of room. In addition to float planes, harbour taxis, whale-watching boats, as well as scores of both powered and unpowered recreational craft, there's also three ferry lines, including the Coho below. Is there even room for more traffic the harbour? A lot of people think there isn't.

A large flotilla gathered at the site of the proposed marina....
...and listened to some local politicians and others speak out against the proposal. (Noticeably absent, as usual, was Gary Lunn, local federal MP and federal Minister of State for Sport. Funny, I guess he just doesn't want to be seen with a few hundred local amateur sportspeople. Let Gary know how you feel about that: 250-656-2320 locally, or 613-996-1119 in Ottawa.)
By the way, the yellow balloons represent the height off the water of the marina.

It was a large and well-behaved crowd, and if nothing else it was great for kayak-watching.

Click here for information on the campaign to help stop the marina. Local media covered the event here, here and here. Local online B Channel News also covered the event, and asked to use some of my pictures to boot. Their story is here.

And I shot some video that's embedded below:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Marina Vigil Tomorrow!

The best part of the last two weeks was the time spent on the water! Well, that's pretty much always true. But it's especially true with the unexpected death of my partner's young cousin. It's hardly worth talking about the landlady's cats getting older and odder and one not eating.
But paddling puts all of that away for a while, blows every thought out of a crowded head. It's good to be out in my Eliza or the little inflatable, whether I'm on Cadboro Bay or noodling around Beaver Lake.
Eagles seem to love this time of year. There's at least one pair on Ten Mile Point, and I see them circling in updrafts. Maybe people with black roofs on their houses don't know it, but there's an updraft of warm air rising from each of those black roofs. On a day with little or no breeze, an eagle turning in small circles can ride that updraft for a few hundred feet... I'm used to seeing migrating geese use a big updraft from a plowed field in Alberta, so it's quite charming to see that little updrafts work pretty well, too.
Making plans for kayak outings is hard when plans change, but it's good to be flexible. I like looking forward to Paddlefest in Ladysmith next month. I don't like the proposed marina in Victoria's Inner Harbour, so I'm looking forward to the vigil tomorrow at Lime Bay Park at 11:00 am. Be there if you care! It should be fun to paddle in a crowd and wave at the crowd onshore.
Paddling is always the best part of the week, even with the surprise assignment of a new book to write with a short deadline. If you don't see me hanging around coffee shops for the next couple weeks, I'll either be busy writing or out in the bay clearing my head of cobwebs.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Wind

Regular readers of this blog may remember my cursing of the weather gods a couple of weeks ago. As Louise and I were approaching a period of ten days off work starting with Good Friday, the weather forecast at the time looked rather bleak. Eight days of rain, followed by a day of rain and snow. The only decent day in the forecast was April 11, tomorrow, which unfortunately was no good for us as we had already planned some inside activities for that day. So much for kayaking plans.
The weather didn't quite follow through on this prediction. It did start with the Good Friday wind storm, a once-a-decade kind of storm, but afterwards not every day was a rainy day. Just most of them. The rest were windy. And the snow came one day early. There wasn't much, and it didn't stay long. But it snowed just the same.

Today was looking like another windy day. A gusty 20 knot breeze was coming down from the north east as we met Paula at Cadboro Bay, and so despite the fact the currents were with us, for us wimpy paddlers it was looking like maybe we weren't going to cross over to Chatham Island after all as per our plan.
Cadboro Bay Pano

But even a short paddle would give me a chance to try some new gear -- my new Werner Kalliste 230 paddle...
... and my new Sanyo Xacti HD waterproof camcorder (although in the video below I misspeak and call it a Sony. Nope, it's a Sanyo).

We went along the south side of Ten Mile Point...
...but when we got to Flower Island the wind was getting worse, so we decided to move around to the light at the end of the point. There we could see that Baynes Channel was roiling and rocking. No doubt it would be fun for some kayakers (and we saw some heading out) but we followed the advice of another kayaker we met on the beach while we were gearing up who said, "I want to come home at the end of the day."

So we turned and headed back. A short paddle is better than no paddle.

How'd the new gear work? I like the new paddle a lot. I didn't feel the usual shoulder strain or fatigue out there. This paddle is slightly shorter than my other paddle, a straight shaft Aqua-Bound 240cm and after today I think that it may have been too long for me. The new Werner at 230cm just seemed to allow me to have an easier and more natural rhythm. I did notice that sometimes when I was starting off it would stutter or shudder. I'm not sure what was happening...was the wind shaking the paddle? Or did I have the paddle at too high an angle? I suspect I might be digging it in too steeply when I begin paddling from a stationary position. No big deal, it only happened a couple of times, but I've not felt that with my other paddles.
And the video camera? Another case of so far so good. For close in work and medium shots, it seems to be pretty nice. For longer zooms, well, not sure yet. Needs a little more experimentation. Check out the video below.

Trip length: 5.91 km
YTD: 29.71
More pictures are here.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Vancouver Island Outdoor Adventure Expo

Louise and I spent a couple of hours wandering around the first day of the Vancouver Island Outdoor Adventure Expo, taking place this weekend at the always lovely George R. Pearkes Community Centre just a few blocks from our house.

We checked out the Atlantis Kayaks booth. These sweet boats are made up in Ladysmith and we always demo some when we go to Paddlefest.
That's their new Spartan model in front in black, but I'm partial to their Titan at the back in red/yellow.

We stopped by the Wavelength Magazine booth, and picked up their new Gulf Islands kayaking map. Their maps series, as well as their guide books, are terrific and very informative, a must-have for anyone who kayaks these waters. And their website has just been redesigned -- check it out.

Then Louise got mauled by a bear. (Which is different from the time she was bared in a mall. But that's another story.)

Then we wandered by the Ocean River Sports booth. You know, just in case. You never can tell when you might suddenly need to buy more kayaking gear.

There were over 100 booths and displays, everything from boating to diving to hotels to guides and tour operators. Anyone who likes being outdoors would probably find something of interest here.
The Expo continues tomorrow and Sunday.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Not So Good Friday

Toronto Forecast
What is wrong with this picture? Normally, Good Friday is a great day to go kayaking. We're a few weeks into Spring, the sun usually shines, and that famous April weather warms us up as we slowly crawl out from our winter hibernation. Not so this year!
Check out these forecasts! Somehow Toronto got our weather! Look at that -- a forecast high of 25? In the first weekend in April? WTF? There's something wrong here!
Meanwhile, we on the We(s)t Coast were given a (hopefully) final blast on winter weather as a vicious winter storm rolled through. Yes, I said winter storm even though it's spring. Look at our Good Friday forecast -- below zero wind chills, high winds. In fact the storm topped out at 50 kmh sustained winds and gusts over 90 kmh. So needless to say no kayaking.
Victoria Forecast
So instead of hitting the water, Louise and I hit the gym. Our gym overlooks the upper harbour around the Bay Street bridge, where we watched what is normally flat water roil and twist. I even saw breakers under the Bay Street Bridge. Okay, so they weren't very big, but locals will know how unusual that is.
From there we headed down to the Ogden Point breakwater, which kindly agreed to pose in black and white for a few shots.
2010-04-02 WInd Storm 008 copy
We saw the MV Coho coming in from Port Angeles, Washington. Port Angeles is almost directly south of Victoria, so normally the Coho comes straight into the harbour from the south, but today she was coming from the east along Victoria's southern shore, clearly having had to alter course in the storm.
2010-04-02 WInd Storm 034 copy
From there, we headed to the bluff atop Clover Point overlooking Ross Bay. Here the winds were just insane. I stepped out of the car and could not move. Down along the shore, I could see people walking, but on the top of the bluff where I was, the wind was winning. It was the first time in my life I felt like the wind was going to knock me over. It was all I could do to hold onto the camera. I couldn't help but think of all those tv reporters who do stand ups in hurricanes. Louise said she'd never seen my hair getting blown straight back before.
2010-04-02 WInd Storm 057 copy

From there, the wind blew us to King George Terrace, where I snapped this shot looking back at Gonzales Bay.
2010-04-02 WInd Storm 080

Then we headed to Willows Beach, which normally looks like this:
2008-08-03 Chain Islands 464
but today looked like this:
2010-04-02 WInd Storm 101 copy
But here's where we found one person who knew how to enjoy himself on a windy day.
2010-04-02 WInd Storm 111 copy

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Never-Ending Marina Story Continues

With a major anti-marina rally coming up in two weeks, the rhetoric on both sides of the Mega-Yacht marina proposed for Victoria is heating up.
“We certainly will be protecting our riparian rights as the landowner,” Victoria mayor Dean Fortin said yesterday, referring to city-owned Lime Bay Park, at the foot of Catherine Street and Cooperage Place. Victoria maintains it holds riparian rights, which refer to the right to access its land from the water. “We also think, in the larger sense, that the size and scope of the current marina will block views, [and] diminish both the esthetic and functional values of the park. And we believe the public has an expectation of unencumbered views from parks, especially on the waterfront.”
The city is calling on the federal government to conduct such a risk assessment to ensure any potential risks are identified and strategies are in place to address those risks. He told CFAX 1070 radio that the City has serious concerns about the movement of large yachts in and out of a marina seeing that the harbour is already busy with commercial marina and air traffic.
What does the developer think of all this? Bob Evans, partners with WAM Development Group in the Victoria International Marina project, is threatening to sue the city if he doesn't get his way. “We knew that the city was going to try and come up with something and I think that they are putting the taxpayers very much at risk here.”
Many local kayakers are against this project. And according to this admittedly unscientific CFAX online poll, most everyone agress with the City's position.

Click here to help stop the marina.