Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brooks Point Regional Park

Hey, another press release came my way today from the Capital Regional District. Kayakers who are looking for park beaches on South Pender Island will be glad to hear about Brooks Point Regional Park! Here's the press release:

Media Release
For Immediate Release November 30, 2010
Victoria, BC - The Capital Regional District and The Land Conservancy of British Columbia are pleased to announce a land acquisition of 1.17 hectares to complete Brooks Point Regional Park on South Pender Island.
“This parcel of land has been high on the CR Regional Parks’ priority list for a decade,” said CRD Board Chair Geoff Young. “Purchasing the parcel takes advantage of a prime opportunity to join two park segments that were separated by private property.”
CRD and TLC have partnered to purchase the parcel. Under the agreement, the CRD will borrow $1,650,000 and pay the principal back over five years. TLC will pay the interest costs estimated to be $2166,525 and are currently looking for conservation donors, buyers or investors to help cover the price. The CRD will need to borrow funds because financial resources in theLand Acquisition Fund were committed to the $15.8 million purchase of the Western Forest Products land in Jordan River and the Sooke Hills in March 2010.
“With this acquisition we are adding some of the most spectacular and beautiful waterfront in the Gulf Islands to the Regional Park system. The park provides beach access, amazing marine views, and an abundance of wildflowers,” said TLC Executive Director Bill Turner.
In approving the acquisition the CRD Board indicated that its intent, if possible, is to recover all or a portion of the purchase price by selling a portion of the property after the Regional Parks’ goal of linking the two existing parcels is secured. CRD and TLC will work with the Pender Island community to explore options to raise funds to cover the net purchase cost of the property.
Brooks Point Regional Park is an oceanfront park featuring an intertidal rocky shore and beach, meadows and commanding views of Boundary Pass and the San Juan Islands. The CRD, TLC, Pender community and other partners raised funds to purchase the original 4.8 hectares, including Gowlland Point, in 1998 and 2000.


For further information, please contact:
Laurie Sthamann,
Communications Coordinator CRD Regional Parks
Tel: 250.360.3332 cell: 250.889.8030
Bill Turner Executive Director,
The Land Conservancy of British Columbia
Tel: 250.479.8053 cell:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Make Kayaking Affordable

It's come to mind that a lot of what we talk about on Kayak Yak -- our boats -- can be described as expensive toys. Well, compared to a basketball or to a baseball glove, yeah, a kayak is a pretty expensive piece of sports equipment.
I'm not talking about the ultra-high quality kayaks that are meant for professionals and specialty paddlers. Of course those are expensive, and cost more than three times the price of the kayaks we paddle. I'm also not talking about the little short rec kayaks sold in Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart for $100 -- the ones we call "drowning boats" because they have no flotation or bulkheads. (There are some in the Christmas flyers this week... Please, please do NOT buy a cheap plastic bubble and let your kids play in it unsupervised. Those cheap things are just enough like a boat to get a beginner into trouble REAL fast. You should always get a beginner lesson when you buy a kayak! Safety means wearing life jackets or PFDs, having ropes and pumps, and practicing wet exits and recoveries with friends in safe conditions. End of rant.)
Nope, the high-end and low-end prices aren't what I'm talking about. An ordinary kayak sells for somewhere between $500 and $2500. You can buy a lot of Frisbee throwing disks or soccer balls or running shoes for that kind of money.
But it might be more fair to compare the cost of a kayak to a year's gym membership. Or maybe to the cost of hockey equipment (pads, stick, skates, helmet) and the fees for playing in a league. Don't forget to add in the cost of getting to the gym or arena, by car or bus! Now, the price of a kayak seems more like the cost of many athletic activities.
There are ways of bringing the cost of kayaking into the affordable range. We use several of these alternatives. Maybe one will work for you.
1. Buy a second-hand boat.
This is a sensible alternative to buying a new boat. Of course you'll need to inspect the boat first. Many people sell a used kayak for half or two-thirds the price originally paid. My Necky Eliza was used for a summer by Ocean River as a rental boat, then sold at a discount after only four months -- and it was in terrific condition. Check with local kayak & canoe stores to see what price they put on rental boats.
2. Carpool.
There's a reason for buying good roof racks -- they can hold two boats instead of one. (The person always getting the ride should remember it's good manners to give the driver gas money or snacks or useful gear like a good Thermos flask.)
3. Keep a boat at the beach or within a short walk of the beach, maybe at a friend's house.
This works, but is usually good only for launching at one beach. I'm lucky that there are two beaches within a short walk of my place. I also keep an inflatable at my friends' house, for paddling on The Gorge.
4. Make your own boat.
There are many designs available! Making a kayak can be simple, or complicated. It can be a way to afford owning a beautiful, hand-made and specialized design. It can also be a way to afford owning a simple, hand-made recreational kayak to use in quiet, safe conditions.
Bernie made a terrific kayak. If you look back through Kayak Yak photos, when you see him with a yellow kayak, that's his 17' Chesapeake Light Craft.
There are simple and cheap alternatives, too. I love to go looking for them online. Look at this link to see a kayak made from green willow branches and a blue tarp. It cost about $25 and took four hours to make. There's lots of twigs that blew out of the big willow tree this week and are laying all over the front yard... I think I'll make a little model kayak, like the designer suggests, to try this method.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ice Ice Baby

Yeah, it's been a while since we hit the water, not counting our pool session a couple of weeks ago. I blame the weather. The weather was actually quite nice in October, milder and drier than normal, at least anecdotally. But we actually believed the weatherman when he said that most paddling days would have bad weather. And that was a mistake, of course, because generally the weather was good when the weatherman was calling for bad, but we, trusting souls that we are, had already made other plans for those days that were forecast to have sucky weather. You see where this is going, right?
This past week brought us our first real dose of winter this year, three snowstorms in five days. The snow might be mostly gone now, but it was still darn cold this morning. Despite this, Louise and I rolled our kayaks down the hill to go for a paddle on The Gorge.

It was cool, maybe about 1 degree when we started out, but it was forecast to be a sunny day and we were sure hoping the sun was going to poke through the clouds quickly and start warming things up. There was still a bit of snow left on the ground from the past week's snowfalls.

We paddled over to Gorge-Kinsmen Park hoping to spot the two swans that have been hanging around there the last few days, but they weren't there this morning. We were starting to wonder if all we were going to see was a few cormorants up a tree.
But after we passed under the bridge and into Portage Inlet....
...and passed the phalanx of geese....
...we spotted the swans. Or rather, they spotted us and headed right for us.
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They showed no fear of us. Clearly this pair have had plenty of contact with humans.
Finally after a few minutes of swimming around us, they went on their way....
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...and we went on ours.

I was hoping that we'd be able to get into the Western arm of Portage Inlet and up to the tunnel on Craigflower Creek, but as we approached the entrance to the arm Louise and I both had the sensation that paddling suddenly became a little harder as if the water had become thicker. And as I looked ahead I could see that the water had not only become thick, it had become solid. The way was blocked by ice.
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We'd encountered ice here once before, but that was really just a thin layer on the surface. This time, we were dealing with some solid ice, maybe a half inch thick or more.
At first we thought we could break the ice but we were finding spots that were so thick that the kayaks weren't sinking through it, nor could we break it with our paddles. Flipping over in this could really ruin your day. We tried sneaking around through the thin ice near shore, but that proved to be futile as there wasn't nearly enough of it for us to pass. The whole western arm was frozen up as well as the northern shore, so we decided to head east and follow the outline of the ice.
Which didn't mean that we didn't occasionally try to be an ice breaker....

As we paddled along three or four seals kept up with us and checked us out. Here's one sizing up Louise....
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...and I was so busy taking that picture of Louise and the seal that I didn't notice until I checked my pictures later that another seal that had popped up right in front of me.

As we followed the ice, we noticed a strange line in the water. You can see it just to the left of my kayak.
It followed the contours of the ice. Was it some sort of boundary layer either between temperature zones, or between salinity zones? The Gorge at one end of Portage Inlet is ocean salt water, but the Inlet is also fed by fresh water creeks, so they've got to meet somewhere.

We got as far as Colquitz Creek, then decided to head back because the sun never did come out for more than a couple of minutes and suddenly a cup of hot chocolate seemed like a really good idea.

Trip Length: 8.02 km
YTD: 228.10 km
More pictures are here.
2010-11-28 The Gorge

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why I Don't Usually Carry a Camera

Everyone who freaked out at the actual winter weather this week woke up this morning and looked out the window with relief. Most of the snow was gone -- certainly here in Cadboro Bay it was. The weather was great for walking from the library back to the bay... I stopped at St George's Christmas Fair and saw Steph's family trooping out from the tearoom.
Down to the beach then with my little inflatable. This time I brought along the waterproof camera John handed down a couple months ago. I got some shots while paddling my usual route along the shore to Flower Island.
Well, I tried to get some shots. You might notice that there are no photos displayed on this post. That's because so far all the photos I take are kind of tippy, with interesting things in the distance or just flying out of frame. Like the photo I took on the far side of Flower of a beautiful Great Blue Heron.
Sure, the heron was beautifully posed as I came around the little island. But by the time I back-paddled, pulled out the camera, found and pushed the ON button (which chimes MUCH LOUDER on the water than it does onshore) the heron startled, glared at my yellow-and-blue inflatable, and started flapping its wings. Eventually I pushed the shutter hard enough not just to make the picture freeze, but to take a photo. I think it may show one heron foot dangling down into view.
I'm not anti-camera. Lord knows, I like the photos that other people take and post on Kayak Yak. I may even take photos while paddling and post some someday. But not today!
Even with some sucky quality photos, the real focus of the time on the water was the weather. Nicely chill, slight breeze. As long as I kept paddling, I didn't feel cold. There were several little sailboats out for lessons again, but many more birds.
Birds! The Canada geese were sitting on rocks looking like they were reconsidering the decision not to migrate. Sure, this week's snow had melted, but would there be any more snow? There were floating gangs of bufflehead ducks, and some loons, and little black coots, and pipers checking out the shoreline rocks.
Best of all (I thought) were the oystercatchers. Bright bright red beaks and eyes, standing out sharply against their black feathers. Drab little legs poking out like pallid sticks. Loud squeaking clearly audible as I paddled away. Not as loud, though, as the two birds that were even more striking -- two kingfishers darting and scolding each other.
I like paddling in winter. The water's so clear, even though it's cold. And the beach is less crowded. Bring on winter! And soon in December, we'll have an evening paddle on the Gorge to look at Christmas lights.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Without a Paddle

Journalist Warren Richey, newly divorced and having a mid-life crisis, decided almost on a whim to enter a kayak race circumnavigating Florida. This would require Richey to paddle at least 65 km a day for 30 straight days, as well as endure a gruelling 100 km portage.
It’s not just a race around Florida, it’s a tour through Richey’s life as he faces the unexpected turns in both the coastline and his life. He begins the journey with an injured shoulder and the ghosts of his failed marriage, and travels almost 2000 km around the state, reliving the highs and low of both his career and his personal life, and as he keeps up a punishing paddling rate of 18 to 20 hours of paddling a day.
Not only does Richey gives us a descriptive and interesting narrative of his race around Florida, he also offers up engaging vignettes from his life as he recalls his adventures in the Middle East and his journalistic career. When he's not thoroughly confused from lack of sleep, he reflects on his life's choices, and a debates another life-altering choice he's considering making when the race is over. Entertaining and heartfelt, Richey's is a journey that is well worth taking with him.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Celtic Tides

In 1996, Chris Duff kayaked around Ireland. On Celtic Tides is a terrific account of his twelve-hundred mile journey around the Emerald Isle. Duff documents with rich prose the sweeping cliffs and snarling waters he encountered, as well as his encounters with various folk who invariably ask when told that Duff is planning to paddle around Ireland, “In that little boat? Are you mad?”
He may not have been mad, but the idea of kayaking solo around Ireland in three months is a daunting one, and Duff’s narrative takes us into the quaint villages along the coast, the ancient ruins and castles that dot the shore, and the blistering storms and waves that batter the western shore.
It’s a wonderful read, taking us from moments of quiet introspection as Duff visits ancient pagan ruins, to moments of exhilaration and terror as Duff battles surging tides and waves along the battered open coastline. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rolling a Triple Kayak

According to the info on youtube, "Agustin, Macana y Maxi (yo), roleando un triple en Tigre, Argentina." In other words, three guys from Argentina roll a triple kayak. A cool little clip:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Crab Dream

Sunday was a great, grey morning. I got up and made breakfast, thinking about the lingering images from my dream: a big crab scrabbling around the floor and somehow losing its long legs and claws. It rolled on its tummy and scuttled away on little legs like my fingers. Odd dream.
A quick hour in the little Dragonfly inflatable took me to see the familiar places along the east shore. The kingfisher was calling again, there were harlequin ducks and mallards and coots drifting along the glassy water.
Maybe I should have been practising speed over distance, but when a family of otters climbed half-way up a rocky slope, that was my cue to drift for a while and watch them gambol and tumble. One of them was gnawing on a mussel shell, and prying at it to get the meat out.
Coming back, I passed the little rock garden and saw some splashing to my left. It looked a little as if several small fishes about the size of my fingers were struggling at the surface. I paddled a little closer and saw it wasn't a fish.
It was a crab, lying on its back on the surface and thrashing its legs wildly. A second later it rolled onto its tummy and sank, moving its legs as if it were swimming down. "Wait a minute," I said, looking down into the winter-clear water as the crab sank to the bottom ten feet down. "Crabs don't swim UP at the surface. How did you get up here, Brother Crab?" And as it scuttled away, I saw that it was missing a claw. Maybe both.
Did an otter bring the crab up and struggle with it before swimming away? Odd, but as the crab scuttled away it looked like the one in my dream.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Gray Zone

The Gray Zone. And no, we don't mean some sort of X-Files spin-off where Mulder finally finds out what happened to his long-lost sister while he investigates a conspiracy involving secret government organizations and an extraterrestrial invasion. Instead, we mean the gray zone in a kayak, the space between being upside right, and rightside down.
Louise and I headed to the pool for The Gray Zone course put on by the fine folks at Ocean River Sports.
2010-11-13 The Gray Zone_0002

During the course we brushed up on our edging, and our low and high braces, and our sculling (that's sculling, not Scully). Here, Louise practices her braces while the instructor stands behind her trying to flip her.
2010-11-13 The Gray Zone_0010

Then we tried the balance brace (that's when you and your kayak lie on the side and float, also called a static brace in some circles) and sculling for support, which is when you scull to support yourself in the balance brace position. This will take further practice as accomplishing this move requires you to turn body into a pretzel, and my body is more like a cupcake. Mmmmm, cupcake. Sorry, where were we?
We also practiced our sculling brace, and used it in a simulated situation when you may need to rescue someone by carrying them on the back of your kayak. I always thought that when someone was climbing onto your kayak, the proper procedure was to either whack them on the head with your paddle while laughing maniacally, or to attempt to bargain with them: "Throw me the idol, I'll throw you the tow rope! No time to argue!"
But it turns out that by using the sculling brace you can support your kayak while the rescuee scrambles onto to and off of the stern of your kayak, a technique known as the seal carry. Here's Louise trying to carry a fellow student.
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We had a great time, but the thing we learned the most is that we need to practice more!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Virtual Edging

Over at the Canoe and Kayak website, Shawna Franklin and Leon Sommé of Body Boat Blade star in a series of quick instructional videos on edging kayaks produced by Bryan Smith of Pacific Horizons fame. Check them out below:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Crossing the Ditch

Imagine that two young Aussie blokes have decided to kayak across one of the roughest stretches of ocean in the world, The Tasman Sea. Imagine that when they begin planning their quest that, although they are adventurers, they have only limited experience in kayaks, yet they plan to paddle an ocean that regularly kicks up two-story waves. Imagine that they will be taking refuge from the frequent and violent storms in a tiny cabin on their specially-built kayak, and that one of them is the claustrophobic while the other is chronically seasick. And imagine that the last person to attempt this crossing was lost at sea.
It sounds pretty crazy and no doubt some will argue that it is, but in January 2008, James Castrission and Justin Jones became the first people to successfully kayak from Australia to New Zealand. Castrission's book, Crossing the Ditch, is a terrifically good read chronicling the two mates' adventure.
From some brief family history, through their decision to undertake the expedition and their many months of preparation, Castrission takes us through the story of design and out-fitting their kayak (named Lot 41), and how it almost sank on their first sea trial. He leads us through his search for a cure to his chronic seasickness, a malady which could have halted the expedition before it even began, and he describes his ever-changing and complex feelings towards Andrew McAuley, who beat them across the Tasman, but was lost within sight of New Zealand.
Castrission's description of the crossing itself is terrific. They reached the halfway point on Day 17; little did they realize that the second half would take them 45 more days as weather and currents forced them to paddle an extra 1100 km on top of the planned distance of 2200 km.
There's also a detailed appendix with stats and info about their kayak, food supply, training regime, and equipment.
A great book, seek it out.
Or if you like to watch moving pictures instead of reading words, watch the companion DVD with the eerily similar title, Crossing the Ditch. James and Justin have assembled a remarkable collection of footage from their crossing and you feel like you are sharing in their adventure, from the cramped quarters of their boat and the fatigue and desperation that set in as the currents held them in a relentless grip, to their relief and joy at completing the voyage.

Canadian Emergency Paddle Roll, Eh?

A couple of years ago, we posted about Paula's attempt to paddle with the quintesstial Canadian-styled paddle blade, more commonly known as a hockey stick.

Of course it was only a matter of time until someone took it to the next level. Cate posted an amusing video of herself rolling using a hockey stick over at Woman on Water.

Cate also reports that the Olympic Kayak Club have done this roll before and dubbed it the Canadian Emergency Paddle Roll. Here's their vid.

Of course, real Canadians can do the Canadian Emergency Paddle Roll while decked in full hockey gear (including goalie pads and mask) while drinking a Tim Horton's double-double. So take off, eh?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Kayak mentioned on adult cartoon!

Turned out it was a good idea leaving the TV on last night when Big Bang Theory ended. There was a mention of kayaks on, of all things, the odd cartoon show called American Dad.

Two of the characters were discussing a third character, Roger, when one said: "A little tough love turned out to be just what he needed."
"We should do something nice for him," said the other character. "Let's get him a kayak."
"That's a great idea!" said the first. "Where is Roger? Let's go tell him we're thinking about getting him a kayak."

It was an unexpected moment, to say the least! You can read a version of the script at http://www.americandadscripts.com/S03E09_Frannie-911.php

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

If You Suck at Kayaking, You're Not Alone

Let's face it, lots of us suck at kayaking but we don't want to admit it. Here's a video of a few brave paddlers taking that first step of acknowledging that they suck:

Monday, November 01, 2010

Seasons Change

Autumn is a time of year when things change around here. There are a lot more windstorms in October and November than in the late summer and early fall. The wind tends to pick up earlier in the day, too. Add in the chill, and it's understandable that there will be several days where sea kayaking just doesn't happen around here!
But it's still on my mind. If I do a little surfing on the internet, up pops an article in the current issue of SeaKayaker magazine. When I pull on a ball cap, there's a kayaker embroidered on the front. And out at Beaver Lake, there's a nice sheltered lake to paddle and a kettle in the Nature House where I can make hot chocolate. (mmm... hot chocolate...)
And I do get out on the ocean, too. There was a sunny break in the middle of Hallowe'en day, so I got out in the inflatable. There was a visible weather front approaching, so I didn't stay long. But no complaints about weather, since the trick-or-treaters had dry weather until about 8pm when a howling storm blew in.
This week, I'll keep an eye on the sky and get out when I can. Sunday is Tree-Planting Day from 10:00am to 1:00pm in two Saanich municipal parks, at Mount Douglas Park and Cuthbert Holmes Park. That's a good reason not to be on the water. And there'll be hot chocolate after, when I get back to the Beach House.

Beyond the Horizon

Colin Angus is a local fella, but his books and articles go world-wide. One of his books is Beyond the Horizon: the great race to finish the first human-powered circumnavigation of the planet. You can read about it here, on the website set up by Angus and his wife to promote their adventures. Though no kayaks were used in this circumnavigation, two rowboats were used, and that satisfies my interest in small boat adventures.
I have to admit that I'm a real fan of these extreme adventure stories, and this book did not disappoint. There was plenty of insight into the experience, some character development, and I liked the way Angus shows the country through which he moved. It was told in a kind of a rush, though, and made for a quick reading experience. I could have enjoyed reading more about the travel, and would have liked more maps in the book. But it's staying in my memory, and now I'm going to look up all the other books written by Colin and Julie Angus.

Rowboat in a Hurricane

There’s enough adventure in Colin Angus’s human-powered trip around the world for a second book. And lo, it has appeared in the form of Julie Angus’s memoir of the Atlantic rowboat crossing, Rowboat in a Hurricane. While perhaps a bit of a repetition for someone who has already read Colin’s account, Julie’s version of the story is no less exciting and engaging, and it’s always interesting to get a different perspective on events. If your interest lies with just the rowboat crossing then Julie’s book more than covers that adventure, but for the full story of the circumnavigation adventure, you should read both.