Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Paddling Weather Stats


62 paddles were documented on the blog in 2010. The weather stats break down like this:
36% of our paddles were on sunny days;
17% were on cloudy days;
17% were on rainy/stormy days;
and 10% were canceled due to bad weather

As we can see, sunny days were down, and thus cloudy and stormy paddling days were up. Or was it the other way around? Either way, the weather took a bit of a dip this year, let's hope it's better in 2011.
Happy paddlin'!

Hope Your Year Went Better Than It Did For These Kayakers....

Let's end the year with some videos of kayakers who ought to make retiring from the sport their New Year's Resolution:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Remembering "Paddle To The Sea"

Today a tickling cough kept me off the water. I don't want this symptom to progress to a bad cold or 'flu. Even so, I wrapped up warmly in a sweater and parka and twice walked down through Gyro Park to look at the shoreline, once in the morning, once in the afternoon. There was beautiful clear light, for much of the day.
Holed up with my computer in the middle of the day, I missed the sounds of heavy equipment in the parking lot. Saanich workers spread a couple of yards of gravel over the entrance to the parking lot. The potholes that had been showing in the morning were covered smoothly by 3:30 pm. It takes a lot of maintenance to keep these high-traffic areas in good repair, or moderately good repair. That's worth remembering, for those of us who aren't kayaking in a trackless wilderness.
I also found myself remembering "Paddle To The Sea" -- a short film made by the National Film Board in 1966. Maybe I'm just nostalgic for this and many NFB short films. I like remembering this little film, and I like knowing that many schoolkids across Canada saw it in their classrooms as I did in mine.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sea Monster?

The weather was great today, especially for December! Early this afternoon, I got out in my little inflatable and went out to Flower Island and Evans Rock. A good time on the water, even if it was much like any of several dozen times I've been out in a kayak. Same old same old is more than good enough.
But hey, it's not good enough for writing. And it doesn't do justice to how nice today was, even if it was the same kind of nice that I enjoy many days. And having nice days is worth celebrating with more than a flippant note.
So, to start again: Here on the south end of Vancouver Island, we're leading a charmed life. The same weather fronts that bring heaps of snow or inches of rain to nearby places bring us showers, or pass us by. While the rest of Canada is labouring to clear snow or re-direct the runoff from abundant rain, we've had some nice mild days this holiday season. And today, the sky was bright and blue, with enough clouds at the horizon to show the next weather front advancing past the Olympic Mountains, and the previous front still blowing away from the Coast Range. It was so bright, there were mirages making the Chain Islets look like they were floating above the water.
Cold weather is no problem if you're wearing the right gear, as Brian Henry of Ocean River has been heard to say. This was the first day this winter that I had to put on my cold weather cap. Boy, is this cap a handy thing! Most of the year it's buckled around the strap of my PFD and tucked inside, to wear if I get dunked and chilled. Today it kept my head warm, even if the chin strap meant that the cap covered my ears as well.
I meant to go around Flower in a clockwise direction today, but as I approached the channel between the point and the island, there were otters bobbing in the channel. They really have the right-of-way, y'know. So for today, I avoided the channel and went 'round in the island widdershins, till I got to the end with Evans Rock offshore.
It was great to be there today. For anyone who doesn't believe we lead a charmed life here on the Saanich Peninsula, the sight of San Juan Island just across Haro Strait was a bright sign of local weather variations. San Juan Island was dusted with snow, and the big sandy cliff was all white. So bright on this sunny day! It was cold here last night, but no snow fell for us.
Whenever I go to Evans Rock, I always remember the sea monsters that I've seen here. So far, Cadborosaurus has not been photographed and identified by one of the Kayak Yak paddlers. But as well as the otters and harbour seals that may have been mis-identified by some people as a Cadborosaurus, there are other great beasts. There were elephant seals in the area on the day that I was floating here, fish-watching in my Eliza, and got chased away. There was a gray whale that hung around the Victoria shoreline for weeks, and one day I hid among the wet rocks and watched it pass back and forth. If you see big animals like this, particularly if they look injured, or any sea turtle, there's a place to report them with the Department of Fisheries.
Most days, the sea monsters that are all over Cadboro Bay are humans, as I've noted before. We humans do some pretty monstrous things: noise, smell, pollution in the air and water. I realized today that though I was in a boat that was almost silent, trailing no oil or grease or exhaust in the air and water, I was the monster today.
Yup, I looked pretty much like a monster. Shiny sunglasses made my eyes into glaring bug-eyes that I had to turn away from the herons I passed. Anything that has ever been chased by a predator knows what it means when two eyes on the front of a face are both pointed in their direction. When looking at shorebirds like herons, or oystercatchers, I sneak sidelong peeks at them without turning my face towards them.
Inside my wetsuit and PFD, my human shape was padded and bulging. My fingertips looked like pale claws sticking out of my short-fingered gloves. But it wasn't those things that were scaring my animal neighbours -- bufflehead ducks and plovers and otters -- it was the fact that I was there at all. To the shoreline animals, the presence of any human is something to be feared.
Realizing that I was feared by them was sobering. I made my way back to the beach, avoiding otters and birds.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Quote For the Day

"If a man is to be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most."
-- E. B. White

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Season's greetings to all!
I was one of the lucky ones who had time to go out in a kayak on Christmas Day. It was a good moment of peace, between the rush of Christmas morning and the over-eating of Christmas dinner. There was a short window of opportunity, and I was glad to take advantage. The weather hasn't allowed for much paddling for the last couple of weeks. My time has been occupied, too. But I did get on the water twice this week. It took threading my way through a new tangle of logs on the shore at Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park. The winter storms often toss logs across the sandy boat ramp at one end of the park. This year, it looks like waves and logs have been beating on the little seawalls for the houses along the shoreline.
People walking along the beach in winter always stop to watch me launch, and shudder when I wade out to stand ankle-deep next to my boat. Piffle. The water isn't much colder in December than it is in August. Well, the air is colder. On mild winter days, it's hard to tell that it's actually winter. It could be almost any month of the year, when I look at the shoreline of trees that are mostly Douglas fir and pine... it would be a very cold August, but the weather on Christmas Day was nothing to complain about.
Reading the weather is something that gets easier to do with practise. And the practise gives me more chances to learn what generally works when reading the weather. When the trees are dancing in the wind outside my windows, I know that the breeze out on the bay is too stiff for a relaxed solo paddle in my little inflatable. But in winter, the trees have no leaves to catch the wind. They may be deceptively still. In winter, it's better to go outside and feel the breeze than try to guess by looking through the window.
Rain means less than it might when I'm trying to decide whether a day is good weather for paddling. It's less fun to go kayaking in the rain -- it's no fun when the rain is slanted sideways by a strong, cold wind! There are enough times that the rain starts when we're already on the water, or launching at a beach we don't often visit. I paddle in the rain often enough that I don't need to launch at my home beach on a day that rain is pounding down.
I read the weather by looking down at the bay when coming back from somewhere else. Both of the major roads leading back home from downtown or the University are steeply slanted, downhill to the bay. Blue water is a cheerful reminder that there's plenty of daylight left to get on the water. Grey water might still be worth paddling -- or there might be a storm coming.
I know all the shores of the bay, so the sight of waves breaking against rocks tells me the direction of the wind, and its intensity. Whitecaps in the middle of the bay are something else that catches my attention, too!
After a series of days with so much wind that there were whitecaps even on the water that rises around the concrete octopus in Gyro Park, it was great to get out on Thursday and again on Christmas Day. Got to see the neighbours again: people walking dogs and grandchildren, ducks quacking quietly to each other in mellow conversations about how they really didn't need to migrate any farther south this winter, and otters tumbling in Sheep Cove. The ducks were many and various, from buffleheads to ruddy ducks and I think mergansers as well. The herons don't mind me paddling past, but whenever I've stopped to take a photo of one, it has squawked and flown away. So I let them be for a while.
I let the otters be, too, when I came on them feeding in Sheep Cove. The otters aren't usually out & about at high tide -- usually it's low tide when they are ducking down and coming up with something to eat. It's possible they were waiting out a windstorm, and glad for some calm weather to look for food in peace. They didn't need me hanging around to cramp their style.
Instead, I went back to the beach, and ran into Mike Jackson. He was out in the sweet handmade kayak he owns, the one that looks like canvas sewed over a thin wooden frame. With his Greenland paddle, this is a very Inuit look! By contrast, my multi-coloured inflatable and old round-bladed paddle have a very commercial look. Still, we were both enjoying the day as we should.
The day ended well, with a family dinner complete with all the trimmings. And with good wishes for a new year, with many more paddle outings, in familiar places and the new ones we've dreamed of visiting.

Happy Boxing Day

It's Boxing Day again! And time for our annual round-up of snow kayaking clips!
But first, a word from our sponsor:

And now back to our regularly scheduled snow kayaking mayhem:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sorry... Where's the Brake on This Thing Again...?

Louise got this Christmas card from a co-worker and it's a heckuva nice shot!
It's called "James Fredericks, First Descent, Tumalo Creek, Oregon" and taken by Mark Gamba.
You can order copies from Palm Press should you feel inclined.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More Information Than You Could Ever Possibly Require

Google launched its latest gadget a while ago, the Google Ngram Viewer. Using the viewer, you can compare the frequency of word usage on Google Books. For instance, want to see how often the word "kayak" was in used in books during the time from 1900 to present? Just stick in the word "kayak" and ta-da!
We can see that usage of the word kayak has gone up over the last 20 years or so, not a surprise since the usage of actual kayaks has increased over that time. Interestingly, there's quite a big spike in usage in the mid-1930s as well. And if we go back another century as per the graph below...
...we can see large spikes in usage around 1870 and 1895.
The first usage seems to be around 1817. My guess is the first usage was either a typo or was a writer trying to describe the sound a cat makes when it coughs up a hairball.
How does "kayak" compare with other phrases or words? I chose another word and phrase at random, and the results are below.

Not surprisingly "kayak" rated higher than "aardvark," but interestingly "kayak" rated much higher than "Captain Kirk." Perhaps most shocking of all, it took "Captain Kirk" until the mid-1980s to pass "aardvark" in usage.
And I know what you're all wondering so here it is. Wonder no more.

Son of Mega-Yacht Marina Proposed for Victoria Harbour Episode Two: Attack of the Zones (as in Zoning Bylaws... okay, yeah, an unwiedly post title, I admit it...)

....but we couldn't end the year without having another post about the mega-yacht marina proposed for Victoria's Inner Harbour, could we?
The new marina proposal is now before Transport Canada and the deadline for submitting comments to them is December 27, 2010. While the new design is signicantly smaller than the previous version, the Save Victoria Harbour coalition stills finds much at fault. Their website says, "Although the footprint of the marina has been reduced, other than viewscapes, none of the serious safety and operational issues associated with the marina have been eliminated. The meagre information provided so far indicates that the layout may not conform to the zoning restrictions. The layout violates the intent, if not the letter of the new zoning...The profile shown raises even more safety worries for paddlers and, in fact, the plans do not appear to satisfy the conditions of the Navigable Waters Act permit which was granted earlier this year."
After a year of protests by kayakers, other paddlers, and other interested groups, Victoria city council to voted to amend zoning bylaws regarding the proposed site earlier this year. However, the developer has vowed to carry forward with his plan, despite the pollution and congestion it will cause in the harbour.
Help stop the marina, click here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Logging to Begin Next Year on Flores Island? WTF??

Spotted this post today over at Active Sea Kayaking concerning the jewel of the old-growth forest of Clayoquot Sound. Nick at Active Sea Kayaking rightly says of Flores Island,  "If you are a paddler on Vancouver Island and you have not been there yet, trust me you will. And that day will be one of the most beautiful of your life…. "
But according to the Friends of Clayquot Sound, logging companies are doing some prep work in advance of possible logging operations in the pristine forests of Flores Island beginning next year. According to their website:
"One or more intact (unlogged) old-growth valleys on Flores Island are being surveyed, and road-building and logging could begin early next year. Flores is Clayoquot Sound's largest island and is 96% intact.
"This is a hugely significant development. For the first time Iisaak Forest Resources is deliberately breaking its 1999 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a coalition of conservation groups. The MOU states that the unlogged watersheds of Clayoquot Sound, including Flores Island, would be off limits to logging. At the time, the MOU was billed as a peace treaty in the "war in the woods" — a peace that has held for 11 years.
"With the world climate and biodiversity crises, every untouched valley is increasingly precious. Write or email the minister now and ask that no road or cut permits be issued for any intact areas in Clayoquot Sound's globally rare, ancient temperate rainforest."
Want to take some action to help stop this? Sign an online petition, or send an email to the provincial and federal ministers responsible.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quick March of the Penguins

An aquiantence recently returned from a tour of Antarctica. And to answer your question, no, she was not on that cruise ship that ran into trouble, but she was on the cruise ship that responded to the mayday, so she's got quite a story to tell. In addition to that, she went kayaking with penguins and she's promised to provide some pictures and do a write-up for the blog, and there's nothing like making a promise public to put the pressure on to make sure it gets done.
To whet your appetite in the meantime, here's a video I found on youtube showing what happenes when kayaking in Antarctica when a giant glacier calves right in front of you. Here's a hint: If the penguins are running away, you run faster!
Check it out:

(And a shout out to Blair for passing this along!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kayak Ball

We had some heavy rain over the weekend, causing a lot of flooded basements and a few closed roads. Paula and Bernie's house right beside Cadboro Bay is in danger of floating out to sea. Well, no, not really. But it is surrounded by standing water and if it did float out to sea that wouldn't be a good thing, especially since the sewer outfalls flooded out during the weekend and local beaches including Cadboro Bay have raised pollution counts at the moment.
The rain was so bad on Sunday that even my backyard had some standing water pooled in it, which is something I've never seen before.
Our friends Karl and Stephanie live across from a farm whose field floods every winter. This weekend, it got really flooded! I'll let Karl continue the story:
There was some very heavy rain here. In addition to a partially flooded
basement, there was a well flooded field across the street. Happy for a
kayaking adventure that didn't involve the car's roof racks and tie downs,
we grabbed our kayaks and headed over. In addition to encountering geese,
ducks, gulls and a large blue heron, we found a large ball. This lead to an
impromptu game of Kayak Ball. I expect this will be an Olympic sport for the
Fall 2017 Olympics.
And here's their video:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Best Kayaking Trip Story

The best story I can tell about a kayaking trip is the one about our trip to Horne Lake. For those of you who have never been there, I can advise you that the gravel road from the Island Highway was actually pretty good for the first several miles. The last mile to the campground, however, was awful. And the final half-mile of road to Horne Lake Provincial Park was truly dreadful, with deep ruts and potholes full of rainwater.
So it was a relief to set up our two tents and get out my Advanced Elements inflatable. My daughter got out her photography equipment, and my husband unloaded the newspaper, a book, and a pound of red licorice. We booked a tour in the Horne Lake Caves for the next morning. I paddled on Horne Lake that afternoon with great pleasure, going around the point from the campground.
It was a good day for paddling. I sent several OK messages with my SPOT device. I looked up at the great cliff above the lake, with bent layers of rock in big streaks. I checked out Little Qualicum River, where it was choked with fallen trees. Later in the day, the wind picked up a little, as could be expected. There was a long fetch along the biggest part of the lake. But I only had to work across the wind for part of the way back, and when I got back around the point the wind blew me along and back to the beach where I had launched.
Dinner was more than just red licorice. The best thing about camping on a kayaking trip is that you can bring a lot of tasty, nutritious, heavy food. We ate till we were stuffed, then put the rest of the food back in the car so that raccoons wouldn’t come looking for it. We were all tired, and got into our sleeping bags early that evening.
We’d only been asleep for an hour when we learned the second best thing about camping on a kayaking trip – you can bring your camping gear in your kayak and camp out far away from other people. But we didn’t do that this time: I was paddling out and back each day from the campground. We learned the worst thing about camping – it’s when there are unwanted neighbours. These neighbours had been no problem all afternoon and evening. But at eleven o’clock that night, in a nearby campsite, someone’s car alarm went off. Beep, went the horn. Beep. Beep.
We lay in our sleeping bags, waiting for the owner to turn off the alarm. After a while, my husband whispered, “Who the hell sets their car alarm on a camping trip?”
Beep. Beep. “Someone who doesn’t want the raccoons to break in and steal their food?” I suggested, after several beeps. “Or someone who put something valuable in the car? Like our daughter put her camera equipment in the car.”
“I locked the car,” he said. “What good is a car alarm going to do?”
Beep. Beep. “Must have everybody in the campground awake,” I guessed. “Ooo, somebody’s going to be unpopular.”
“Why the hell haven’t they turned off the alarm?” he whispered.
Beep. Beep. “They’re taking a long time to turn that alarm off,” I said. “Maybe they can’t find the keys.”
“Don’t need keys,” he said. “Give me your pocket knife and a rock.”
Beep. Beep. “Sh. You can’t just break into someone’s car and cut the wires,” I said. Beep. Beep. “Not yet, anyway.” Beep. Beep. “Maybe in a while.” Beep. Beep. “We’d do it together, and talk so the neighbours know we’re not stealing the car.”
“All the neighbours are certainly awake,” he agreed. Beep. Beep.
“Maybe the car owner is in Qualicum Beach, having a beer,” I suggested. “Drove there with a friend.” Beep. Beep. “Won’t be back till later.”
“He’d better be in town, having a beer,” whispered my husband. “If he’s sitting in his campsite listening to this racket, I’d kill him.”
Beep. Beep. “I think you’d have a dozen witnesses to swear that he was hit by a meteor.” Beep. Beep.
“And I’d have help throwing the body into the river,” he whispered. Beep. Beep. Somehow the idea of stuffing the car’s owner into one of the caves never got suggested aloud. Doing such a nasty thing to the perfectly nice caves seemed really wrong.
“Of course, you and the angry mob might run into a handyman with a toolbox and a cooler head, older and wiser, coming to cut the car’s wires,” I pointed out. Beep. Beep.
“A guy like that, he’d know what was going on,” my husband said. Beep. Beep. “He’d figure it out at a glance.” Beep. Beep. “He’d say, You’re gonna want to make it look like an accident.”
“He’d say, I've got a broken kayak paddle you can put with him. But no, they'll never believe the guy was kayaking in those clothes. I’ll go get a fishing rod and some tackle and meet you lot by the river canyon.” Beep. Beep.
“You know, I can hear you,” our daughter said from inside her own little tent next to ours. “Don’t say any more. I need some deniability. How am I supposed to be a plausible alibi for you?” Beep. Beep.
At that point we heard the sound of an ancient Datsun hatchback approaching, making its way along the potholed road. The evening chorus now went: Beep. Rrmmm. Sploosh! Beep. RrRmMmm. Sploosh! Beep. The car eventually came to a halt at a nearby campsite. We could clearly hear three big goons get out of the car, like clowns at a circus. They bumbled around for a few minutes, dropping things and running into each other, before managing to turn off the car alarm.
Blessed silence returned. Well, nearly silence. There was plenty of drunken shushing and giggling for a while. But we were already asleep.
Next morning, I was up and carrying my kayak to the water first thing. On the way, I could see a campsite with an ancient Datsun hatchback parked next to an SUV with three kayaks on the roof, and the hood up, and wires trailing from the engine.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This Is The Sea

What a treat it was to re-acquaint myself with this DVD, the first in Justine Curgenven’s This is the Sea series. After a slightly cheeky introduction, she introduces us to a championship paddler from Greenland, and that’s quickly followed by profiles of well-known paddlers such as Nigel Foster, Chris Duff, Shawna Franklin and Leon Sommé, and Greg Stamer.
Then we travel the world for brief tours of exciting paddling locations from the craggy caves and arches off Sonoma, California, to paddling with manatees with Florida, and to Greenland and paddling with icebergs. Also included are stops in at the San Juan islands and Deception Pass in Washington state, and some crazy playtime at Penryn Mawr tidal race in Wales.
Some of the segments are very brief, but the highlight is a longer segment detailing a kayaking expedition by Justine and a friend in Kamchatka, Russia. They must bring a Russian guide with them into what is formidable paddling country, but the problem is that their guide has never kayaked before. Hilarity ensues, especially when the Russian Army gets involved. I've always enjoyed the longer expedition segments of the This is the Sea series the most and this segment is no exception. Alternating between breathtaking scenery and crazy surf launches and landings, you really get the sense that you were part of the expedition. If I hadn’t been warm, dry and eating popcorn in a big comfy chair, I’d swear I was right there with them.
If you’ve never checked out this great series of DVDs, you should. And this first one is great place to start.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Amazon Extreme

It’s sounds like a disaster waiting to happen: three young men, thousands of miles of the Amazon River, and one rubber raft. And in Amazon Extreme, Colin Angus’s telling of the tale, many times it nearly was.
Colin and two buddies, Ben Kozel and Scott Borthwick, embarked on an adventure to paddle down the entire length of the Amazon, but to do this they must hike (with all their gear) through the Peruvian Andes mountains to the source of the Amazon. From there, facing mosquitoes, gunmen, and some of the most dangerous rapids on earth, this trio of adventurers embark on a five journey down the mightiest river on earth. Did I mention the rapids?
Angus relates this rollicking tale with wit and enthusiasm. Fans of adventure writing will enjoy this story.

Monday, December 06, 2010

It's not the (lack of) heat, it's the wind!

The forecast for Sunday morning was a cold and windy day, so the planned outing to the Chathams was postponed. Still, during breakfast as I looked out the windows in the kitchen and front room (yes, the Beach House has an ocean view even if the room we rent in it doesn't) the morning looked pretty good. Not good enough for a trip across Baynes Channel, but good enough for noodling around in the bay. The big willow tree was waving its fronds only a little.
It took only a few minutes to get into my gear. I spent more time looking for my neoprene cold water cap, in fact. This time, I made sure to tell Bernie (my ground crew) that I would go along the shore to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, instead of the opposite shore along the point where I usually paddle. Wrapped up warmly, I puffed up my little inflatable and carried it to the beach.
The light breeze was a bit stronger now. It blew me over to the Yacht Club in less time than I expected, where I made a quick inspection of a large square barge with a crane on it. I'd thought of going into little Loon Bay on the other side of all the yachts, but the breeze was stiff enough not to be fun.
I turned back, feathered my paddle, and worked out on "the treadmill" for a while, making my way back. It's especially important to watch weather changing, and learn how it feels, so that maybe it won't catch me unprepared one day. The weather can change in less than half an hour here, and today I could watch gusts of wind approaching me across the bay.
Eventually I made it back to the boat launch at Gyro Park and got out. Wearing paddle shoes and doing careful launch and landing meant I had dry feet the whole time! That was very nice for the walk back to the Beach House.
So, it was a short time on the water, but still worth it. And there was plenty of time to work on some writing projects before meeting several paddlers for coffee. Hours of talking later, I took a horizontal break wrapped up in a winter-weight sleeping bag before hanging out at the Cadboro Bay carol singing. Hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, and a cheerful crowd. Cold isn't a problem when you have the right gear -- parkas and toques on the people, and canopies set up in case of rain like last year. I don't put the big portable propane heaters in the same category of "right gear" even though they felt nice to stand under. Heating the great outdoors is one of the ways we are wasting resources. Climate change is happening because of a whole bunch of wasteful choices like outdoor heaters!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Quiz Time!

Okay, it's quiz time. Here's a picture of a guy standing beside a couple of kayak hulls. Can you guess what kind of kayaks they are?

Give up? Well, I'm not surprised that you didn't get that one -- it's a trick question. They're not kayak hulls at all, it's the skull of a blue whale.
And as they said over at boing-boing where I found this, enjoy a moment of "woah."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Sea Kayaker: Deep Trouble

I received this book as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and I knew right away it would be an interesting read. During the evening’s celebrations, I randomly flipped open the book and the first sentence I read was, “Mike watches as a huge great white shark lunges up through the surface, latches it jaws around the kayak, just behind me, and then blasts more than half of its giant bulk out of the water.” Clearly, this is my kind of book!
But seriously, this book by Matt Broze and George Gronseth is based on the accident report feature in Sea Kayaker magazine. Each chapter of the book is organized similarly to the feature in the magazine: an incident report, followed by a “lesson learned” conclusion. This is my favourite section of the magazine -- informative, educational, and even entertaining if your tastes include a touch of schadenfreude -- and the stories culled for the book fit also that description. Apart from the above-mention shark attack, there’s a number of similar themes that run through the stories: weather that unexpectedly turned bad, novice kayakers that get in over their heads in rough conditions (some of them literally), and experienced kayakers underestimating calm conditions and forgetting their usual safety routines and equipment. And not all the stories end happily.
The book also features a large section on kayak safety and numerous sidebars discussing skills, gear and techniques. Highly entertaining and highly recommended. (You can read it along with the folks at Paddler's Book Club who are currently dissecting it chapter by chapter.)