Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Good News for Paddling in Haida Gwaii

There's good news reported at website. The federal government has actually come through on another of its promises -- this one to protect the marine ecosystems around Haida Gwaii. You can read about the new National Marine Conservation Area Reserve here.
The island chain that was known as the Queen Charlotte Islands for a while is now formally on the map under the name Haida Gwaii. Another step in the right direction.

Kayak For A Cure

There's going to be another fundraising paddle for the Canadian Cancer Society this summer on August 22nd -- the third annual Kayak For A Cure event. Last year's event in Brentwood Bay raised over $10,000.
Check out their website here.
There's plenty of good projects to support, and it's nice to know this particular good project seems to be going strong.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Failed at Finding a Whale?

"The water is like glass this morning. You should really go out in your kayak," my partner said Monday morning, after he returned from walking our landlady's dogs. I accepted the advice, got into my wetsuit and stacked gear in my Eliza. After all, someone saw a grey whale out by Ten Mile Point on Sunday... maybe I'd be lucky and see it too!

Rolling down to the beach was fine. Gyro Park on Cadboro Bay is a great place to launch, whether you're rolling a kayak on wheels or unloading a canoe from a car roof, or hauling a rowing dinghy on a little trailer. Any changes that Saanich Parks ever makes to this park should take small boats into consideration, and make it easier rather than harder to bring a boat to the shore. (Saanich has a survey online here until July 15. Be sure to tell them what you want for the park as future renovations are planned!)

The tide was low and still receding. Though the water wasn't quite glassy, it was a calm day. Before long I was out at Evan's Rock and looking about optimistically for a grey whale. Nope! none to be seen. Maybe it was still hanging around, but if so, it was hiding well off-shore. It would be smart not to come close to shore with the tide so low. I went along the Smuggler's Cove area over to Cadboro Point, looking at all the rocks which are normally just visible under the water.

It was a good time on the water. And even if I completely failed at seeing a whale, there were plenty of other things to see. A big eagle flew overhead. There were at least three ravens, too, and along the rocks a couple of oystercatchers were scrambling. The seal that hangs out around Flower Island seems to have a new baby this year... at least, there was a little seal head bobbing up near her head as she watched me paddle past the island. And otters! I saw three separate groups of otters out and about. Low tide is the time when the coastal buffet opens for them, and they scramble all around the rocks and through the shallow water. At one rock I saw a big white starfish among the seaweed, and a big jellyfish the colour of a poached egg.

So, no whale, but lots of other animals. That more than made up for pulling a muscle tugging my kayak up the steep ramp of soft, dry sand.

Oh, and the next morning Bernie and I walked the dogs over to Telegraph Bay and found another animal on the beach of little stones. A polychaete! In English, that's a bristly marine worm. This one looked like a big gray earthworm, like a night crawler about fourteen inches long. I found a drawing online of a polychaete. The Arenicolidae are common intertidal sandworms that look much like this one did.

The website had a page with taxonomic questions so that it was possible to figure out which particular bristly marine worm we might have found. Some of them are more bristly, others more wormy... and a few of them are freaky weird. Now, most people have less interest in marine worms than kayaks, I know. But since members of our paddle group have at different times found tube worms, fire worms, and the egg sacs of an unidentified marine worm, well, I found it interesting to look through this website. There were sketches of many families of marine worms, from the feather-duster-style tube worms to sea mice and things that are like stinging centipedes. Most of the drawings came from a book by J.H.Day, Polychaeta of Southern Africa, published in 1967 by the British Museum Natural History.

It would be nice to see a whale from my kayak, at a proper distance, but it's ok with me to see all these other animals that come out to play on a mild summer morning.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Here's Our Excuse For Not Kayaking Today

Louise and I did not go kayaking today. Which was rotten luck because a commenter on the blog pointed out this afternoon that the grey whale that's been hanging around town this last week was swimming at our usual spot off Ten Mile Point and the whale came over and kept them company while they were kayaking there.
Instead, we welcomed two members to our little family today, Parker and Indiana.

Parker, like his namesake Peter Parker, has an affinity for climbing up walls, while it's become very clear that life with Indiana will be a series of adventures!

Sam is very annoyed that she was never consulted on this decision....
DSC04638 it's going to take her a little time to adjust. But how could you look at these two and not go awwwwww!

Planning Two Beaver Lake outings

Hey, friends who like quiet lake paddle outings -- on two days this July I'll be hitting the water at Beaver Lake no later than 10:00 am to do a couple of hours of paddling before volunteering at the Nature Centre.
The first day is coming right up: Saturday July 3. The second day is Sunday (my usual day for volunteer naturalist time) July 25.
The idea is to have a relaxing lake paddle before opening the Elk/Beaver Lake Nature Centre, located at the Beaver Lake parking lot off Elk Lake Drive near the highway. With any luck, some turtles or eagles or herons will be seen, and I can check on the new blooming plants along the shoreline. Last month, there were big 20-pound carp splashing in all the prime fishing areas.

If you think you'll join me for a short quiet paddle, send me an e-mail or post a reply comment here, eh? I'll see you on the lakeshore about 9:30 to 9:45 am as I inflate my kayak. After kayking, at 11:45 am I unlock the Nature Centre. There I can make hot cocoa, tea, or instant coffee for anyone who paddles with me. The public restrooms and changerooms are now open for the summer and should be tidy enough to use... that's one of the things I report on as a volunteer naturalist.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fulford Harbour Again

On Thursday, a last-minute opportunity to visit Salt Spring Island saw me putting my little inflatable kayak into Karen's van and tagging along for the ride. She was headed to Salt Spring for work, Bernie was going to visit a goat cheese dairy, and I was off to go noodling in Fulford Harbour.

This is a good place to paddle when there's little or no wind. Today there was just a slight breeze and patchy clouds as I walked off the ferry, rolling the Dragonfly on its luggage roller behind me. The tide was way out (waaaaayy out). When I looked at the little path down three metres of bluff to the beach below the public dock, there was way more beach than I needed for launching. There was not only muddy shingle, but lots of gooey mud before the water line. Maybe in an hour or two the tide would come in enough that I'd be able to land here, but launching right now would just get me muddy to the knees. This photo is one Bernie took back in October, at a moment when the tide was optimal for launching or landing.
So I went off Morningside Road to find the path to the little shell beach the locals had told me about last time I was kayaking here. Yup, it's still there of course, about a klick or two hills along the road. If you get to a big stream under the road, you've gone a little too far. There's a clump of bushes pretty much hiding a trail made for hobbits. It was way easier to pull the Dragonfly in its bag along the narrow footpath than the bigger Expedition kayak. (You can click on this link to see the new model Dragonfly, called a Lagoon, or click on this link and scroll down to see the bigger models including the Expedition.) At the shore I lowered the wheeled bag down the two-metre rocky bluff to the shell beach. The band of shell fragments was completely exposed at this low tide, and rocky shingle, but not really any mud. Score!
This beach is a really nice place, out of sight of any houses, with a great view of much of Fulford Harbour south of the ferry dock. I got the kayak inflated and stuffed my waterproof dunk bag and water bottle into it, then fastened the big pump in the rolled-up kayak bag on the back deck. On the front deck went the folded luggage roller and all the safety gear. I can tuck some of the gear inside the Dragonfly, but I've found that if someone stops to talk with me they usually don't ask things like "Don't you have any safety gear?!" if they can see my pump and throw bag on deck. It's just easier that way.

As soon as I launched, I saw a great blue heron fishing about fifty feet away. I carefully tried not to splash and scare it. The breeze had another idea though, but luckily the heron just stared at me as the waves smacked against my boat. There was a little more breeze than I liked, especially with gear strapped onto the decks of the Dragonfly. Reluctantly, I gave up the idea of following the shoreline along the First Nations land as I had done back in the fall. I just went straight around the little headland to the ferry dock.

In the harbour itself there was plenty of shelter from the wind. I noodled the little kayak around between the BC Ferry dock and the shore where I'd never have gone if the ferry were still in dock. The public dock was even more sheltered. It was nice to see the big tarred pilings holding up the dock and its ramp, and the purple seastars that were clinging to the poles. The tide was out far enough to show white and brown sea anemones at the bases of some of the poles. I tried to take photos with my cell phone but haven't got the knack that Lila has for this simple phone camera.

It was good to spend a long, slow hour or more just noodling around the marinas. The tide was too far out to let me go across the flats to Drummond Park and the petroglyph, so I just looked at the stone church on this shore instead. A boat owner chatted with me a little about how practical kayaks are because they don't need to burn fuel. "Fifty dollars an hour to take my fishing boat out!" he admitted. And he added, "See you've got your safety gear right there." Then he told me low tide was a good time to see starfish and anemones along the rocks. I wandered off to look for them, and found two more small shell beaches, one only three or four metres from side to side between the rocks. There were several little jellyfish, too -- the clear moon jellies with tiny blue insides. When the ferry came in, I carefully stayed out of its way... they've got enough on their minds without hotdogging kayakers playing in their wake.
Eventually I wandered back to the shore by the public dock and was pleased to see most of the mud was now under the tide that had risen a bit. Took my time wading to shore, lifting the Dragonfly. Folded everything up, put the re-loaded bag bag on its luggage roller, and then looked thoughtfully at the three-metre bluff. It's an easy climb, and I should be able to do it with the Dragonfly. But just then, the boat owner who'd been chatting with me earlier came up the steep ramp of the public dock, and offered to help with my kayak in its bag. He carried it up the bluff for me, no problem. Nice person!

And now for the post-paddling portion of the pleasant day, there was the expensive snack at a tiny coffee shop... next time, I'll just eat the granola bar in my dunk bag instead. Bernie found me sitting in the sunshine, letting my sandals dry out. Karen came back from her errands in plenty of time for the ferry. A little bit of window-shopping in the pleasant stores of Fulford Harbour, and then onto the ferry and back to Victoria.

It's always a good thing riding the ferries, even on a rainy day. This breezy day was warm and dry, and well worth taking the opportunity for just getting out and about. I know we have adventures in our kayaks some days, and someday soon we'll head out from Fulford Harbour to nearby Russell Island or Portland Island, but for today this was a good quiet time on the water.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chatham Island Deer Crossing

Paula joined Louise and I for a paddle this morning from Cadboro Bay out to Chatham Island.
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 001
Once we got ourselves squeezed into our kayaks, we headed out under cloudy skies. The weather was generally calm, but winds were forecast to pick up in the afternoon, so we wanted to make an early start and make our crossing quickly just in case the weatherman turned out to be right for once.
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 006

As we made our way down Cadboro Bay, we paddled through an area with a light sheen of oil on the water. It gave us pause to reflect on the terrible disaster going on in the Gulf of Mexico, and how lucky we are it hasn't happened here.
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 010

At Jemmy Jones Island, we paused to asses the Chatham Crossing. Conditions looked good, so we quickly skedaddled on our way....
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 017
...letting this seal take the lead.
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 019
He pretty much followed us the whole way across, and hung around as we did a quick exploration of a small bay on Chatham.
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 023 copy
He popped up for a quick good-bye, and then he was off...
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 027 copy
...and so were we. Mind you, we had to wait for the geese to cross the passage at Flower Island.
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 033

And another paddling day is done!
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 039

Of course, it was after the paddle that we saw the most wildlife. Driving back through the University of Victoria, we saw a pair of deer happily munching away on whatever greenery the rabbits haven't eaten yet.
2010-06-20 Chatham Island 059

2010-06-20 Chatham Island
Trip Length: 9.54 km
YTD: 102.37 km
More pictures are here (including more deer pictures).

Prospect Lake's Whitehead Park

Saanich Parks has plans that kayakers will like! They're making a few changes in the little park at the north end of Prospect Lake, where Tod Creek exits the lake and begins its run down to Tod Inlet at Brentwood Bay on Saanich Inlet. This little park was previously called Lakeshore Park, but in 1997 Saanich Parks accepted the recommendation of local residents to name it Whitehead Park after the Whitehead family, who sold the land to Saanich in 1960 to be used as a park.
This little park, 2.99 acres or 1.21 hectares, used to be a popular picnic and swimming beach. The plans for the park have some very sensible elements that will be of particular interest to kayakers and other users of small boats.
Scroll down to the map of the park and check it out – there are two areas to park along Goward Road and Prospect Lake Road, and a bike rack! And from each of the wide road shoulder parking areas, there are footpaths down to the water. At the lake shore, there’s a “multipurpose floating boardwalk/dock” shown on the map.
I haven’t paddled at Prospect Lake in three years. But this little dock is good reason for me to set up a kayak outing there! This lake is just big enough for a nice time on the water, and it's pretty sheltered when the ocean is subject to windstorms.

It would be a particularly nice place for a combination bike and kayak day... a group of people could bike out to Prospect Lake and be met by someone with a vehicle carrying the kayaks. Or perhaps, if my friends and I drive there, there might be a bike or two on car racks, for riding in a loop around the lake. The golf course at the south end of the lake is worth checking out also>

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Plans for Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park

Had a surprisingly good time Thursday night at the meeting hall at St George's church on Maynard. There was an Open House to share information about Saanich Parks' plans for changes over the next twenty or thirty years to the marvelous park on Cadboro Bay called Cadboro Gyro Park.

It was a lot of fun to see the room fill up with local residents. Most couldn't interpret what the maps on display were supposed to convey. Many couldn't see well to read the tiny lettering. Many couldn't hear the speakers. The first speaker began reading from Saanich Parks' factsheet about the history of the park, saying that the Gyro Club purchased the original 4.37 acres of park land from the Goward estate in 1953 and donated the land to Saanich. In 1961, Saanich began acquiring adjacent parcels, bringing the park up to 14.88 acres (6.022 hectares) in size. He was interrupted.
"They didn't acquire that land," a woman said hotly. "They EXPROPRIATED it."
"And we're off," I murmured to Bernie.

Turns out Saanich has a "Master Plan" that has taken ideas into consideration from a number of community stakeholders. Not everybody, though... particularly, not people who bring their small boats into the park and take them away after a day on the water. Some parts of this Master Plan are pretty good. Other parts need more input from the people who USE the park. It would be terrific, for example, if the boat compounds currently used by the UVic Sailing Club and the Cadboro Bay Sailing Association could also have an area to store kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and windsurfing boards. But that ain't gonna happen unless people bring this idea to the attention of Saanich Parks.
It would also be great if people who need handicap-accessible parking had convenient parking close to the public restrooms and promenade. But since there are four bus stops right by the two entrances to Gyro Park, I think that people should be encouraged whenever possible to take the bus to the park instead of driving there. And as for bike racks -- well, one bike rack by the public restrooms is just not enough. People are locking their bikes to trees and to benches and the chain link fences.
More bike racks and maybe even a Bike Kitchen! Handicap-accessible parking! Signs at bus stops saying "Welcome to Cadboro Gyro Park!" Kayak storage!

This is important, y'know. Saanich Parks is not trying to be a draconian government institution, they're trying to operate the parks people need and use. If you use this park at all, especially if you use small boats such as kayaks, canoes, rowboats, or sailboats, be sure to go to the Saanich Parks website on plans for Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park . Look at the Fact Sheet and Master Plan, which in spite of the name is actually a tentative suggestion from the landscaping architects hired to outline possible renovation ideas for Gyro Park. Then fill out the comment sheet, either by downloading the form & printing it out or completing it online. Saanich is collecting input using this comment sheet until July 15, 2010. Even after that, the process of changing the park should be pretty gradual. And it'll only get better if people participate in the process.

In Spring the voice of the Turtle is heard in our Land

Okay, so this kayaking blog seems at times to be turning into Turtle Yak... but there is a new turtle video posted on the HAT website. Taken by turtle conservationist Todd Carnahan, this video shows a little three-way action between two male Western Painted Turtles and a female.
Isn't nature wonderful?

Stand-Up Paddleboard...with a Jet Engine

In the past, we've brought you a few stories about jet-power kayaks, but how about a jet-propelled surf board?
Surfango Powerboard, a Quebec company, offers a range of jet-powered kayaks from 2.6 to 3.4 metres in length (and from about $3600 to over $4000).
In addition, they also offer a jet-powered surf board that's totally rad. And so's the price at $3700.
Check out their video here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Press Release About TIXEN

I like to put kayaking into perspective with water and waterfront use. This is a good opportunity to quote another press release sent to me by the CRD Parks, government officials working in the Greater Victoria area to promote the fine parks in our area. Our paddle group has taken our kayaks many time to Island View beach and Cordova Bay, the area mentioned in this press release.
And because of this note from the Habitat Acquisition Trust, which acquires and protects new park lands, Kayak Yak has now learned a new name for the Cordova Shore: TIXEN. This name is a word from the First Nations Saanich language, Sencoten. We've had some other words from Sencoten posted on the Kayak Yak blog before -- one way to recognize them is they're spelled using Capital Letters.

TIXEN is the shoreline where Alison and I saw two whales when we were paddling from Cadboro Bay around Ten Mile Point, and past Gordon Head and Cordova Bay to Island View Beach. You can read Alison's post about this glorious day and see her photos here, or read my post here. Meanwhile, here's the press release:

Habitat Acquisition Trust
Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) is a regional land trust established by the Victoria Natural History Society in 1996. HAT’s mission is to enhance the protection and stewardship of regionally significant lands on southern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands. We do this through:
•community projects promoting environmental education and stewardship;
•conservation covenants and other legal mechanisms; and,
•acquisition of ecologically significant habitats.
Habitat Acquisition Trust is committed to creating a conservation legacy for current and future generations.
Since 2002, HAT’s award-winning Good Neighbours project has assisted hundreds of property owners to protect and enhance wildlife habitat on their land. To learn more about HAT and the Good Neighbours Stewardship Strategy, visit our website at

News release from HAT
On the Dunes at Cordova Shore
Connecting Good Neighbours and Families with Ecosystem Conservation
June 7, 2010
Victoria – It’s time to talk about survival in some of British Columbia’s rarest ecosystems. The endangered sand dunes of Island View Beach along the TIXEN/Cordova Shore are an
exceptionally beautiful part of the Saanich Peninsula. Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) has
partnered with the Tsawout First Nation and CRD Parks to host community events in July and August. The Cordova Shore Good Neighbours Project will engage landowners and park visitors in stewardship of sensitive natural areas along the Shore. Our region’s last remaining habitats are disappearing under rapid development and population growth: the unique dune, marsh, and eelgrass ecosystems need help from our community to survive.
HAT’s award-winning Good Neighbours Project provides local landowners the tools and
information needed to protect the valuable natural features of their land. HAT staff can help
landowners to identify and manage rare habitats to protect against threats like water
contamination, invasive weeds, and soil erosion. This summer HAT will provide over forty free and confidential property assessments for landowners in the Cordova Shore neighbourhoods.
"We invite local residents to get our free information package with practical ideas on maintaining the natural features of their land and parks,” says HAT Land Care Coordinator Todd Carnahan. “Through the efforts of many concerned citizens, our goal is to protect and enhance the unique rare dune and marsh habitats which are the only home to several endangered species."
Members of the Tsawout Band have been restoring the local Tetayut (Sandhill) Creek for years, hoping to recover their culturally significant but contaminated clam beds in Saanichton Bay. Dan Claxton, Fisheries Coordinator, and Gwen Underwood, Tsawout Lands Officer are strong advocates of this project: "We are always looking for private partners upstream to help us to realize our vision of a renewed harvest," Gwen states. "We hope that through cooperation with our neighbours, this goal will become a success."
To date, HAT hosted a beach clean-up event at Island View Beach on May 29 with local
volunteers, and helped the 10th Garry Oak Cub Pack to plant native trees at the new Island View Campgrounds that opened on May 15.

Good Neighbours Project events at Island View Beach Regional Park include:
July 11- Eelgrass mapping with Nikki Wright (SeaChange) with intertidal touch tank;
July 25- Birding at Low Tide (featuring the ScallyWags Dog Agility Training Group
August 14- Super Dog Day (featuring Wonder Dogs training company show).
HAT encourages interested individuals, families, and other groups to join our fun family events on the beach this summer. Landowners in the area are invited to book their free and confidential land care visit by telephone or email.

For more information contact:
Todd Carnahan at 250-995-2428,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mega-Yacht Marina -- Enter The Lawyers

There's been a lot of action over the last few days concerning the proposed mega-yacht marina in Victoria's Inner Harbour. This development, if it goes through, will see a large portion of the harbour turned over to huge yachts of 50m or more in length and access for paddles from the harbour to the ocean curtailed if not eliminated outright. Needless to say local paddling groups and others have rallied against this proposal.
Although some Federal regulatory hurdles have been passed, the proposal still needs provincial and civic approvals before it can proceed. Although Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell claims to be getting mixed signals from Victoria's city council, it seems it is the Province who is giving mixed signals. He recently told the Victoria Times-Colonist, “It’s now up to the City of Victoria to rezone the property slated for the mega-yacht marina if it doesn’t want the development to go ahead.” That's the exact opposite of what the province told Victoria in 2008 when the province's Integrated Land Management Bureau sent the city a letter saying the province did not support rezoning part of the water lot as park until the marina proposal went through.
Minister Bell seems to feel that the province has no wherewithal to interfere with the proposal. Let me quote Monday magazine:
Despite Bell’s protestation that the decision to lease the Crown water lot is purely bureaucratic and technical in nature, section 11 (1) of the British Columbia Land Act states, “… the minister may dispose of surveyed or unsurveyed Crown land by any of the following means, as the minister considers advisable in the public interest, to a person entitled under this Act.”
It’s the “public interest” part of that paragraph that has given opponents of the plan fresh reason to question the grounds on which the forthcoming lease decision will be made.
Then the Victoria Chamber of Commerce got in on the act by saying that the City could be on the hook for millions in damages if they don't approve the marina. Let me again quote Monday magazine:
Esquimalt-Royal Roads NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis this week likened the marina debacle to that of 28,000 hectares of land released by then-forest minister Rich Coleman from the provincial tree farm license inventory in 2007. CRD residents are now on the hook for almost $19 million to ensure some of those waterfront stretches are kept under public ownership. With the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce estimating a $23 million payout to the marina developers if the City should rezone the proposed Songhees marina site, Karagianis thinks it strange the public should be forced, once again, to buy back an asset currently under public control.
To me, this is the ultimate crime -- that The People may have to pay damages because The Peoples' Representatives decided that land owned by The People should remain in the hands of The People for the use and enjoyment of All The People, and not squandered away so a small private special interest group can make a few dollars.
And it's not just the current mayor that is opposed to the project. In an unprecedented action, Victoria's five previous mayors issued a joint statement opposing the project (including the current mayor, that's 34 years worth of mayoralty experience). Their statement asks, “At what point will commercial exploitation and congestion destroy the delicate balance of this tiny jewel of a harbour, and the attractive ambiance for tourists and citizens alike be lost forever?”
And now, the lawyers have entered the fray. First, the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations have filed an application with federal courts asking for a judicial review of a decision to issue a navigable waters permit for the marina. According to the Victoria Times-Colonist:
"The Victoria International Marina is project is unacceptable to us in its proposed form," Songhees Chief Robert Sam said in a statement... The Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations hold treaty and aboriginal rights as well as title interests in the area of the project, said the statement, which adds "their rights will be adversely impacted by the proposed marina."
The federal government failed to adequately consult with First Nations, who also have concerns about the environmental assessment process and with the decision to grant the navigable waters permit, the statement said.
"Our rights have been ignored in the review process of the Victoria International Marina," said Chief Andy Thomas of the Esquimalt Nation.
The Dogwood Initiative, an environmental lobby group, has also filed an application in Federal court, claiming that "the transportation minister erred in granting the navigable waters approval, saying stakeholders were not given adequate notice of the project or the chance to be heard. There was a lack of consultation and a failure to consider that the navigable rights of others would be extinguished and interfered with." Arguing that the federal govenment had should have carried out an aeronautical study, as required by the Aeronautics Act, and by Transport Canada, the application further stated that "[f]or all practical purposes the marina will eliminate the only safe passageway through the middle harbour for non-powered vessels, eliminating the ability to paddle from the Inner Harbour to the Outer Harbour and the open ocean."
The Dogwood Initiative also claimed that construction and dredging operations could release toxic sediments. A spokesman told C-FAX news that people in an area have a right to control that area and to say how it's used and developed, and the people aren't being listened to in this manner.
What does the developer have to say about this latest developments? ""We are still taking it all in and trying to figure out what it means," a spokesperson said.

Click here for our previous coverage of this issue.
Click here to help save Victoria's harbour.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Following Up On Turtles

Last week's blog post concerning our turtle sightings at Thetis Lake prompted some email from Todd of the Habitat Acquisition Trust. Not being a turtle expert, I misidentified the turtles as the local (and endangered) Western Painted turtles, and Todd was kind enough to correct my mistake (and I've corrected the original post).
2010-06-07 Thetis Lake 080
The Habitat Acquisition Trust is a local non-profit regional land trust dedicated to helping people understand and care for natural environments in the Victoria area through land acquistion, and local lobbying efforts.
One of their projects is the monitoring of the Western Painted Turtle. Todd said, "We are asking for reports on the Endangered Western Painted Turtle from anywhere on Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley, and the Sunshine Coast as part of our work through the federal Habitat Stewardship Program (Environment Canada). Our public outreach and research is designed to create more knowledge of the species' population distribution, behaviour, and other characteristics so that we can help to protect the remaining populations here."
In previous years, the Habitat Acquistion Trust has surveyed local inland waters looking for the painted turtle, and just last month reported that two new painted turtle habitats may have been found.
So what species of turtle did we see? Todd identified them as red sliders (with maybe a pennisula cooter thrown in for good measure). The turtles we saw were most likely released pet turtles, and releasing pets into the wild is usually a definite no-no. (Just ask UVic with their current rabbit issues.)
I asked Todd if released pet turtles could pose environmental concerns. "We are studying the interactions among native and introduced turtles," he replied, "but we don't have a clear understanding of actual consequences. It seems apparent that sliders can outcompete the natives for basking space which is often a limiting factor. Pet turtles could also introduce parasites or disease to our native amphibians, turtles, and reptiles."
If you spot a turtle in local waters, the HAT would love to hear fom you. Email Not sure what kind of turtle you've seen? They've thought of that, too. Here's a local turtle indentification chart (opens as a .pdf).
2010-06-07 Thetis Lake 052

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Paddle Stroke Course

I have no way of checking this for sure (actually, I do have a way -- it's called the Internet. Maybe you've heard of it? The awful truth is that I'm too lazy to check), but it seems like this is the first day in three months when the high temperature for the day has been above normal. Gorgeous and sunny for a change.
And so on this sunny day, Louise and I made our way to Cadboro Bay for a course called Maneuverability and Agility, put on by the fine folks from Ocean River Sports.
2010-06-12 Ocean River Strokes Course 005

It was a small class; the students were just myself, Louise and a young lady named Alex. She was paddling this beautiful skin-on-frame boat that she had just finished building a few days ago.
2010-06-12 Ocean River Strokes Course 001
What a sweet looking boat. Out on the water, she quickly discovered that her boat could, as Bernie would say, turn on a dime and give seven cents change.
There was also an instructor -- that goes without saying -- but also an instructor-in-training, so basically we had two instructors for three students which means we all got a lot of attention.

We weren't the only paddlers in the water -- an outrigger race was taking place...
2010-06-12 Ocean River Strokes Course 016
...and there was a slight breeze, so some sailboaters headed out as well.
2010-06-12 Ocean River Strokes Course 007

The course involved tuning up our sweeps, edging and low brace turns, and moving onto high brace turns, stern draws, bow rudders, and then putting them altogether. I've never had my boat as far on edge as I had it today. I mean apart from when I've tipped over.
Speaking of tipping over, we were encouraged by the instructors to really let it all hang out when we were edging. Push it to the edge, as it were. And Louise did...
2010-06-12 Ocean River Strokes Course 009
...and over she went. We were in shallow water, so not really a rescue issue (although I do recall shouting "Don't save her yet -- I need to get a picture!" at some point).
But after a moment to regroup, she was back in her boat and back at it.
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We had a great time and learned lots. One of the things the instructor said as we practiced our strokes was not to think of the paddle moving around the kayak, but the kayak moving around the paddle. That was a very inspiring (and inspired) visualization that really helped me. That's why he's the teacher and I'm just the student!

2010-06-12 Ocean River Strokes Course
The red track is the morning session, the green the afternoon session. Note how far the tide came in during the day. It was an exceptionally low tide when we started in the morning.
Trip Length: 4.75 km
YTD: 92.83 km
More pictures are here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Why I Like Launching Kayaks Better Than Motor Boats

Got a note from our pal Rick in Alberta Beach. (Don't boggle, it's a beach on Lac St Anne, the holy lake for pilgrimages by prairie Cree people.)

Seems there was this guy who bought his first boat, and for some reason picked a motor boat instead of a kayak. He got a little advice about how to launch his new boat from a ramp -- "Don't let the trailer get too deep when you are launching."

Should have got a little more advice, I guess.

This is why I like launching kayaks better than launching motor boats!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Shell Games

2010-06-07 Thetis Lake 001
Okay, forget what I said Saturday about the fact that maybe Summer was finally here. It isn't. Maybe soon, but not yet anyway. Yesterday, we were hoping to possibly head to Sidney for a paddle, but, no, we had rain instead. And today, it was blowing a stiff breeze. So Louise and I decided to head to the shelter of Thetis Lake. As least we'd get some paddling in this weekend!
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Sheltered on the lake, we didn't feel the wind very much, although occasionally it swept little ripples along the water. I was hoping to see an eagle or two today, but wasn't having luck. But quickly it became obvious that I should be looking down instead of up.
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As we paddled down one of the arms of the lake, a saw a lump on a log. As I moved closer, the lump turned out to be a turtle, most likely a Slider and probably a former pet turtle released into the wild. (And if you're a hardcore turtle fan, you can click here and find a survey prepared for local municipal governments on the Western Painted Turtles habitats in local parks.)
The turtle was camera shy and disappeared, but these otters weren't the least bit put off by my camera.
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With one turtle spotted, we wondered if we might find some more. They're fairly rare in this area. We've only seen turtles in the lake a couple of times before, but both times they were on an old fallen tree we call Turtle Log.
The lake's water level was higher than normal, so Turtle Log was under water, but on another fallen tree across from it, we saw another turtle. (That's #2 for those of you counting at home.)
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This turtle quickly fell into the water, but as I had my video camera out just panning around the trees, Louise called out to me:

The turtle had climbed back on the log, and he was posing.
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Wow, two turtles, and some otters! We could have gone home at that point and be satisfied with a great paddle. But the turtles had other ideas. We continued down the lake's arm and turtles starting popping up everywhere. (They were popping up slowly, mind you. They are turtles, after all.)
Number three...
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Number four...
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Number five...
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We finally exited the arm, and headed back into the main body of the lake. The sun had come out and the day began to warm.
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But even here, the turtles were about.
Numbers six and seven...
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...okay, you'll have to trust me about number seven. He jumped off the rock he was sharing with number six before I got the picture.

These turtles were really fuzzy for some reason.
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The reason is that they were actually goslings, not turtles. Mom and Dad gathered them up and took them on their way.
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You think we didn't have a good paddle? Check out that smile!
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2010-06-07 Thetis Lake
Trip Length: 6.80 km
YTD: 88.08 km
More pictures are here.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

2010 MEC Victoria Paddlefest

This time last year, a record-smashing heat-wave had just broken; this year, we've been waiting for Spring to start. We're into our third month of unseasonable cool temperatures. Yes, there's been the odd day when temperatures have climbed into high double digits and a mysterious burning yellow ball has been spotted in the sky, but the last few days, like many before them, ain't been anything special.
But today turned into a bright sunny and warm day. Often in this part of the world it seems like Spring only lasts a couple of weeks and we jump straight from Winter into Summer. This year, we seem to have skipped even that meager portion of Spring altogether, as today -- finally! -- felt like a summer's day. And that made it perfect for Louise and I to go to Cadboro Bay to check out the 2010 edition of the MEC Victoria Paddlefest.
2010-06-05 MEC Paddlefest 002

After we checked out some of the information tents, including the fine folks at Ocean River, Straitwatch, SISKA, and Wavelength Magazine, we pulled on the neoprene and climbed into some demo boats.
After my rolling lesson last week, I couldn't help but notice that my instructor (as well as some of the instructors with SISKA who were sharing the pool with us) were using Valley kayaks. Hey, if they're good enough for the pros, they must be good enough for us pudknockers, eh? I headed out in an Aquanaut HV...
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...while Louise tried a Nordkapp LV.
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We found these boats to pretty well made and a decent ride. We both noticed that they had less initial stability then our much stabler (and wider) Deltas, something which Louise wasn't fond of but I didn't mind too much. I found it to be a bit of a tight fit, but I certainly wouldn't mind giving these boats another try. Louise, not so much.

Next, Louise tried the Delta Sixteen.
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She currently paddles a Delta Seventeen which she really likes, but often feels a twinge of buyer's remorse and wishes she had waited until the Sixteen was available, often saying the the Seventeen is just slightly too big, while the Sixteen fits her like a glove.
Yeah, I know. How often do you hear of a kayaker who wants to trade down?

Then Louise gave the Necky Chatham 16 a whirl.
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She liked it a lot and had it out on the water for a good while. She found it a little snug to get in, "...but once you're in, you're in." She liked it so much she almost flipped it. It's definitely been added to her wish list.

Next we tried the Seaward Infinti. I went out in the 175TX, Louise tried the shorter 155TX.
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No question, this is a fun boat. It carves edges like a knife through low-fat margarine with no Trans Fats. There's no question you could get a lot of play out of this boat.
We tried a few more Seaward boats but with a little less success. I tried to get in to an Ascenté but I got stuck and then my legs started cramping. That wasn't any fun! And too bad, because it's a sweet looking ride.
Louise got into a Legend...
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...and after about 10 seconds on the beach said, "No. I need to get out." Sometimes you just know right away.
But Seaward redeemed itself when Louise and I took out the Passat G3 tandem for a spin.
2010-06-05 MEC Paddlefest 034
This kayak can motor! And fairly responsive for a boat of its size as well. I've never really given much thought to tandems, but this one certainly opened my eyes to the possibilities. Now if I could just stop Louise from splashing me in the face all the time....

2010-06-05 MEC Paddlefest 025
2010-06-05 MEC Paddlefest 012

Trip Length: 1.42 km
YTD: 81.28 km
More pictures are here.