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.
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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.

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