Monday, March 28, 2011

Look Down!

Here's a quick little video that's been around that's been making its way around the Interweb during the last few days. In Florida, a kayaker had a very close encounter with a basking shark. Check it out:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Five Years in a Little Boat

It's the first day of spring!
The calendar says it's spring, and the weather does, too. There are robins and other birds making themselves seen and heard all over the city. But today I saw the thing that confirms spring around here: somebody brought a boat to the water.
Somebody who wasn't a hardcore paddler out several times during the winter. Yup, it looked like a dad and two kids carrying a boat through Gyro Park to launch by the storm drain. I wandered down to the shore to see them worm their long boat through the small rock garden and around into Sheep Cove.
This was after my own time on the water. The wind blew my inflatable kayak out to Flower Island in record time. I rounded it and came back, feathering the paddle because of the breeze. Not a bad day for seeing birds, either. There were at least two herons fishing along the shore, and a cormorant resting on Evans Rock, several waterfowl I haven't learned to recognize yet, and best of all, a large Golden Eagle. She was practising flying into the wind, and I got a good look at this eagle as she passed slowly overhead. This may have been the eagle that Richard photographed one day at nearby Jemmy Jones Island.
Today I looked at old posts on the blog and realized something important. My inflatable kayak from AdvancedElements is five years old! It's a Dragonfly, an older version of the Lagoon. The colours were chosen by West Marine, the store that sells these kayaks under the name Skedaddle.
That's not a "sit in the closet all winter" inflatable kayak, either. When I'm not paddling it or taking it on the bus, most of the time the kayak sits 3/4 inflated in the porch so it's ready to go. Rain, snow, and racoon footprints have caused no problem for the tough deck and hull. Neither have stony beaches, barnacled rocks, and tarry docks.
Once a year I give the kayak a good coat of 303 sun protectant. The bright deck colours have faded just a little. There's a grubby stain where the deck rubbed against a dock green with algae, but most of that mark came off with a wet facecloth and a bit of dish soap. And there is a small rust stain where the kayak leaned against a rust mark on my bike.
This kayak has been on the water at least fifty times a year, in all kinds of weather. In the summer, I take it out on the bay two or three times a week. In winter, this kayak has faced air temperatures below freezing, breezy days, and snowfalls. It's been deflated, folded into its bag, transported and reinflated well over a hundred times. It's a wonderful boat, and the new version (the Lagoon) is even better.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Look, a Bird! Must be Spring!

This bird showed up in the backyard this afternoon. I guess that makes it officially Spring.


Due to a social engagement later in the day, we didn't have time for a paddle this morning, so Louise and I walked down to the bottom of our hill and for a quick walk on the path alongside our local kayaking spot, The Gorge. As we walked along this calm salt-water inlet, it was difficult to imagine a raging wall of water storming up these banks, or to come up with words other than astonishing, terrifying and heartbreaking for what has transpired in Japan over the last ten days.
I can't imagine waves like that washing over my city, and yet my city lives with the reality that that very thing may happen here on any given day.
Most scientists believe that Victoria, Vancouver and the Georgia Basin are not in danger from a trans-ocean tsunami caused by an earthquake across the sea, but they also believe that this area is also overdue for a major subduction quake similar to the one that struck Japan. A major subduction quake occurred along a 1000 kilometre section of the fault on January 26, 1700 from mid-Vancouver Island to California, producing an earthquake similar in magnitude to the Japanese quake with slippage in some places of 20 metres or more, and creating a large tsunami that washed away native villages along the west coast of North America from California to Alaska.
This was on my mind as we walked on the Gorge this morning, not just from the spectre of the images from Japan, but because if a tsunami was to strike, it would roll right up here. And here is where I live.
Well, not right here in the middle of the water obviously, but about halfway up this hill.
Local disaster planners believe that the surrounding geography would limit the height of any tsunami striking Victoria to about 4 metres. That means that it would enter the harbour downtown and funnel into The Gorge waterway at its far end, and roll right up the waterway at the foot of the small hill we live on. At 4 metres height, it would take out the roadway and maybe the first row of houses along it.
But if it were the size of the recent Japanese tsunami, 10 metres high or more, then I would have to think that the survival of my house is a questionable proposition. I never seriously thought that it would be in danger from a tsunami, I never thought it would be so high, but after watching the hypnotizing video of the wave rolling kilometres inland over villages and farmland, I am shaken in that belief. The topic of tsunami heights has been the talk of the neighbourhood since the quake.

We paused for a moment to stare at the water, and some of the water in The Gorge today, even a small amount, would have travelled across the ocean from Japan and made landfall here.
We forget that power at our peril.

This is the Sea 3

The third in Justine Curgenven's series of sea kayaking DVDs, the aptly named This is the Sea 3, continues the fine tradition of excellence of the previous volumes, and features segments ranging from some short light-hearted segments of kayaking in crazy surf, to longer segments exploring expedition paddling. In between, Justine offers up profiles of well-known kayakers, and in an interesting coincidence, not only does this DVD feature a profile of Paul Caffyn, the first person to kayak around Australia, it has a segment on Freya Hoffmeister who would later become the second person to kayak around Australia, and another segment features Stuart Trueman who is currently vying to be the third person to kayak around the same continent. But I digress.
Although the shorter segments are worthy of your attention, I'm always drawn to the longer expedition films, and this DVD is no exception. In one, Justine and her partner make a crossing in the Shetland Islands during a thunderstorm, while another is a lovely travelogue through the Faroe Islands. The jewel of the DVD is a 40-minute film following Trueman, Laurie Geoghegan and Andrew McAuley on an extensive kayaking expedition to Antarctica. It's occasionally difficult to watch knowing the fate that would befall McAuley only a year after this expedition, but clearly the three paddlers were enjoying their thrilling (and chilling) trip where few have ever been...well, maybe Laurie not so much when he got ill. Their love of life and adventure shines through.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ocean River Gear Grab 2011

It's the first sure sign of a new Spring, or the last sign of an old Winter -- the annual Ocean River Gear Grab sale.
Louise and I headed down to see just what we could spend our money on. She found a new kayaking top, while I stocked up on some Icebreaker underwear.
We bumped into Mark from Delta Kayaks...
...who, after years of us asking, cajoling, and just plain whining finally came through with a pair of Delta Kayak hats!
After all the free publicity we've given them on this blog, it's the least they could do! :) Thanks, Mark!
Speaking of free publicity, we noticed a picture of Delta's new boat...
And we bumped into Richard on his annual wardrobe shopping expedition.
See you next spring!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kayakers in Art

It's always a pleasure to find a kayak in works of art. Paddlers moving through nature make a beautiful part of a painting or photograph.

I got this image from a fascinating article at Environmental Graffiti website. This image is one of the works by artist Allan Teger. You can read all about his art at his own website, Bodyscapes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Park Planning

Well, it looks like one of the local municipal governments, Saanich, has been glad to get public feedback about their plans for some local parks. There was an article in the Saanich News lately that says more Open Houses are planned for this April.

These public hearings are an opportunity for people to learn what long-term strategies are being proposed for the future – not just next year in one park, but over the next ten, twenty or more years. The master plan for the entire Parks and Recreation department is being developed, so go to the Saanich website and read about it. The results of a survey will be discussed as well at the Open Houses.

Hearings and surveys like these are excellent opportunities for kayakers and other small boat users to thank the Parks and Recreation workers for their dedicated maintenance of the parks and facilities at many of the places where we launch our boats. I can't count how many times my friends and I have used the public restrooms at Gyro Park (right next to the parking lot and near our launch spot). At least once a year the Saanich workers bring a tractor down to the boat ramp to haul aside the big driftwood logs tossed in our way by winter storms. We move the little chunks of driftwood, and the UVic Sailing Association gets some of their husky guys to move a few of the logs, but it takes a tractor to move the big, heavy logs.

Going to an Open House is also a good chance to let the planners know how we use these parks and beaches -- for instance, the proposed changes for Gyro Park now include a path to the beach to be used by small boat users or by emergency vehicles. That path was not on the first proposal, but was added in a revision after input from people in surveys and at the Open House in the Cadboro Bay neighbourhood.

All the Open Houses take place from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at Saanich Recreation Centres. Pop in for a few minutes to see the proposed plan and fill out a survey!
Pearkes Centre April 4
Gordon Head Centre April 5
Cedar Hill Centre April 6
Commonwealth Place April 7
For more information, contact consultant Bob Yates at 250-598-3525.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mental Floss

The wind is howling a gale this morning, and I don't feel like paddling, but my memory is turning to recent events.
We had a good time in Cadboro Bay late in March. What a great day that was to be on the water! Cool enough that we didn't overheat, warm enough that Louise didn't have to put on the pogies she had ready on her kayak's deck. We didn't have to set a new speed record, or go any farther from shore than Jemmy Jones. It was a treat to slip out there and then cross to the big rock garden along the Uplands shore. Every rock we passed had a memory, out to Mary Tod Island and back.
I thought about that trip while watching the news reports from Japan after the earthquake and during the tsunami. We're so familiar with waves from our times on the water that it's too easy to see a tidal wave as simply another wave. But the shape of that wave is different. It just seems wrong to see a wave that piles so high and then keeps pushing, farther and farther inland, and then gradually draining away, pulling smashed objects with it.
The smashed shoreline in Japan, and the damaged shoreline in parts of Hawaii and California, brought home the damage a tsunami can do. Along the coast of BC, there were tsunami warnings and in some areas, like Victoria, a tsunami watch.
The community of Port Alberni took the tsunami warning seriously -- they're at the end of a long, narrow fjord. There's been damage in the past at this and other communities in similar locations. This warning turned out to be a dry run and a good test of the evacuation plans. If you go to Port Alberni, you can see roadside signs in areas that would be at risk during a tsunami, and signs that show where to go to be on high ground. Planning isn't enough, as people in Japan learned during their great earthquake and tsunami. But it can help us avoid obvious mistakes.

Naturalist's Talks in Victoria

The Victoria Natural History Society has three events planned for the next week; at least two of these events are likely to bring out a few local kayakers who take an interest in the study of local water conditions and protected areas. We don’t paddle only in swimming pools, after all, but out in the wide world with a host of plants and animals around us! Here’s the notice of their events, from the Saanich News:

March 15 – Victoria Natural History Society presentation,
Protected areas, climate change and the path forward.
7:30 pm at Swan Lake Nature House. Free; all welcome.

March 23 – Victoria Natural History Society presentation,
Cache Only – The Feeding Habits and Ecology of the Gray Jay, Canada’s Bird for All Seasons,
7:30 pm, room 159 of the Fraser Building, UVic. Free; all welcome.

March 28 – Victoria Natural History Society presentation,
UVic’s Marine Protected Area Research Group: From Whale Sharks To Clam Gardens, What Are They Doing?
7:30 pm, room 159 of the Fraser Building, UVic. Free; all welcome.

For more information on any Victoria Natural History Society events, go to their website at

Thursday, March 10, 2011


To this day, Andrew McAuley remains something of a controversial figure to some in the kayaking community. Some would consider his risk-taking adventures as acts of foolhardiness and selfishness, especially in light of his young family that he left behind. Others would say that he lived the life that we wanted to live on his own terms, fully knowing and weighing the risks that his adventure-seeking lifestyle demanded.
And it’s this issue that we adventure sports participants wrestle with every time we take part in the sports we love so much, whether we feel at home in 10 metre waves, or scurry to shore at the first sign of a ripple in the water. Is it worth staying out when the weather looks dodgy, or the wind picks up, or the waves get gnarly? We want to challenge ourselves, to do something few have done, to have an “experience,” but what of the cost? Do we play it safe? Or do we, literally, get in over our heads? At the end of the day, no matter our skill level or desire for adventure, we all want to go home.
In many ways, this is the central dilemma in Vicki McAuley’s new book Solo, the tragic story of her husband’s ill-fated solo kayak crossing of the Tasman Sea in 2007. Andrew, whose draft text for his own now-uncompleted book about the crossing is quoted extensively, describes his wish to be the first to paddle across the 1600 km sea as a dangerous and selfish quest, yet he is driven to accomplish his dream, believing his life would remain unfulfilled should he never attempt it. He seems torn, understanding the anguish he is putting his family through by taking on this risky venture, and it seems at times that the right word from Vicki would halt the expedition planning and he would let his dream go, yet she can’t bring herself to show any weakness that she feels may undermine her husband’s confidence.
The book describes Andrew’s career in mountain-climbing until a near-fatal fall ended it, and his growing interest in extreme expedition kayaking, then moves up to his preparations for his Tasman crossing, his aborted first attempt, then the crossing itself, and its sad conclusion, and Vicki’s battle with grief and depression afterwards. And it leaves questions that will never be answered. Did Andrew truly appreciate the magnitude of the endeavour he was undertaking? Did he rush his preparations and planning fearing that another expedition might make the crossing first?
It’s a gripping story and told well, with Vicki’s heartbreak dripping off almost every page. He was an extraordinary individual, and she's written an extraordinary book.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Soldiering On

A group of local disabled Canadian militray personnel got their first taste of kayaking last weekend thanks to the Candian Forces Soldier On program. Seven soldiers hit the waters of west Bay in Esquimalt as part of the program that encourages ans assists injured soldiers to keep active in new ways.
As noted in this Victoria News article:
“The Solider On motto is ‘no limits,’ so no matter what your injury is there’s a way around it,’” said Tim Felbel, B.C. Soldier On representative and regional adapted fitness specialist.
The adaptive exercise program, which also provides military members with access to specialized equipment, is funded through donations from Canadians, corporations and other organizations.
“A lot are injured during the call of duty or doing something locally,” Felbel explained. “We’re supporting those who support our country.”

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Not As Advertised

The weatherman promised sunshine. He did. I swear he did. But a rainbow in the sky...
2011-03-06 Caddy to Willows_0012 copy
...means it's raining somewhere, that somewhere being on the road to the launch point at Cadboro Bay. Louise and I drove through a quick rainfall as we motored down McKenzie Avenue towards Sinclair Hill, cursing the weatherman and another of his broken promises. Sometimes I think that being a weatherman is an excellent training ground for becoming a politician.
So with big rainclouds being pushed around us by a north breeze...
2011-03-06 Caddy to Willows_0011
...we joined Paula to paddle out of the bay.

The sun was poking through the clouds in places...
2011-03-06 Caddy Bay to Willows_0151 copy
...and we were catching the currents just before the slack on an ebb, but once we were out of the bay and out by Jemmy Jones Island we decided not to cross to Chatham today. Louise has a nagging shoulder problem, I'm still dealing with a minor foot injury that won't go away, and the dark clouds and cool breeze all helped us decide on caution today.

We crossed back to the mainland, preparing to meander south along the coast down to Willows Beach, but as we finished the crossing, we heard a strange sound from one of the multi-million dollar houses along the shore. A terrible cry. Was a cat being strangled? No, it was someone playing the bagpipes. We couldn't see whomever was playing, but now we've been serenaded on the ocean by native drummers and a bagpiper. (And no, not at the same time.)
2011-03-06 Caddy Bay to Willows_0153 copy
The sailboats were out enjoying the breeze.
2011-03-06 Caddy Bay to Willows_0157 copy

At Willows, we went around Mary Tod Island and explored some of the nearby islets. We saw a few ducks and and a lot of noisy geese today, but the only wildlife I could really get a good photo of was of this seal. He doesn't look particularly impressed with my photographic abilities.
2011-03-06 Caddy to Willows_0021 copy

From there, we headed back to the beach where I heard a hot chocolate calling me from a nearby coffee shop!
2011-03-06 Caddy Bay to Willows_0163

Trip Length: 11.21 km
YTD: 33.41 km
More pictures are here.
2011-03-06 Caddy To Willows

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Kayak Theme Issue

If you enjoy reading magazines about kayaking, look up the Summer 2010 issue of Canadian Geographic Travel Magazine. That's the issue with TRAVEL written across the front in large friendly letters. It's also the one with two kayakers off the coast of Prince Edward Island, marvelling at the red rock cliff. (You can tell they're marvelling because their paddles are horizontal, eh?)
This issue has a series of articles on paddling in various parts of Canada. If you live anywhere in Canada, there's an article about somewhere you should be able to reach! There's even a discussion of hopping among the Gulf Islands on the BC Ferries, visiting several local places for good food as we have done for the apple festival and puttering in Cowichan Bay.
Check out the website for Canadian Geographic Magazine. The current issue of Canadian Geographic Travel Magazine is here, but they don't seem to have the Summer 2010 issue listed among their online issues. Maybe your local public library has that issue on its shelf -- the Greater Victoria Public Library certainly does!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Plans for Island View Beach Regional Park

The Capital Regional District has sent out another press release about a local park, one used by many kayakers. Here it is:

Media Release
For Immediate Release March 1, 2011
CRD Seeks Community Input to Set Future Direction for Island View Beach Regional Park

Victoria, BC – The Capital Regional District is updating the management plan for Island View Beach Regional Park, a 51 hectare park and campground in Central Saanich.
“Island View Beach is the third most popular regional park in the district, with an estimated 330,133 visits in 2010,” said Christopher Causton, CRD Regional Parks Committee Chair. “We want to hear the public’s ideas and comments to help set the future management direction for this treasured park. Our goal is to provide a framework for exception parkland stewardship and outstanding visit experiences.”
The management plan addresses ecological conservation, cultural heritage conservation, visitor experience and activvities, and park development. It was originally developed in 1998. Since that time, additional parkland has been purchased which includes a seasonal camppground operated by Regional Parks.
Regional Parks want to hear from the public to:
•Develop a vision and set out park management goals to protect the natural environment and cultural features of the park
•Define specific actions to achieve the vision and goals
•Identify the types of outdoor recreational activities
•Identify the types and locations of park facilities and services

Staff will offer a guided interpretive walk around the park prior to the public meeting, which includes a formal presentation and discussion.

Public Meeting - Wednesday, March 16
Island View Beach Regional Park
5-5:45pm Guided nature walk in the park (meet at Island View Beach picnic shelter)
At Saanich Historical Artefacts Society, 7321 Lochside Drive
6-7pm Open House
7-9pm Presentation and Discussion

The public may also submit ideas and comments through an online response form at until March 25, 2011.
For further information please contact:
Laurie Sthamann, Communication Coordinator, Regional Parks Capital Regional District
Tel: 250.360.3332
Cell: 2500.889.8030

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Invisible Boat

I don't know about you, but when I'm heading out in my kayak, I feel pretty darned noticeable. Well, noticed, anyway. People notice me walking past them on the beach. It's pretty much simple self-preservation to notice someone with a kayak balanced on her shoulder, even when it's my little inflatable. If I turn without looking first (and who can look through the kayak to see someone standing on the blind side?) someone near me can end up walloped with one end of a kayak or a paddle.

Heck, people tend to notice me anyway, whether I'm barefoot on the beach in January or wearing a bright orange paddle jacket. Some busy days on the shore I'm stared at like some rare bird... look, dear, it's a blue-footed booby!

So I'm not used to thinking of myself as an invisible kayaker. Everything I've been told about larger boats running over kayaks that were simply not visible makes sense, but it's not part of my own experience. Even a story from local sailor Michael Koster about rescuing a kayaker from a rock near Flower Island didn't sink in. Since he was standing in a large Zodiac boat, Michael could see the kayaker who was invisible to someone sitting in a smaller Zodiac.

Then one day this January John and I went out for an hour's paddle on a chilly day. Everything went well, and I realized just how invisible a kayak can be. Here's what I was paddling that day, in a photo taken by Louise:
Pretty noticeable, eh? Certainly there's enough bright colours here to shame a puffin's beak!

And here's a picture taken by John, showing his bow and the shoreline along Cadboro Bay's eastern shore. What's remarkable in this photo is what doesn't show -- me and my kayak. I'm there, but you can't see me. Five minutes before it was taken, I set off from the Gyro Park beach at a slow pace, expecting John to catch up. By the time I reached that eastern shore, he couldn't see me. I was maybe 700 metres away, on a clear, sunny, calm day. Look how blue the water is and how bright the light is in these pictures! And that gaudy little kayak and paddler is completely invisible in this photograph.

Breakin' It Old Skool

From a 1952 issue of Life, Desire Herr hits the rapids and looks like he's about to hit the rocks as he gets tossed from his kayak. Or is he actually getting tossed? Maybe he's just popped his leg out to brace himself against the rock. Either way, I'll bet his heart is pounding!
Haven't these guys heard of neoprene? Or PFDs? Or helmets?

From the same issue, Philippe Martin is seen testing his bracing skills.

Here, a gallant competitor helps an injured Caroline Van Landschoot to shore.

Here's Life's coverage of the event, the Kayak Club of France running a Class 3 river with some Class 4 obstacles.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Dear Kayak Yak: Tides Everywhere?

Dear Kayak Yak:
There's high tide twice a day here in Victoria, and the difference between low tide and high tide is easy to see on local beaches. The difference between high and low tide is even more in the Bay of Fundy and along the shores of Ungava in Northern Quebec. What I'm wondering is -- is there anywhere in the world that there's no real difference between high tide and low tide? Would those be nice calm places for a quiet recreational paddle outing?
Looking For a Constant Sea Level

Dear Looking:
There are indeed several places around the world where there's little if no difference between high tide and low tide! And no, these aren't places on land. Ha ha.
A place where the tidal range is almost zero is called an amphidromic point. You can read an interesting article about these places on Wikipedia. The nearest one is half-way between Hawaii and Mexico.
At these amphidromic points, there's almost no difference in tidal height, even though the tidal current may be whipping along at a good clip. So an amphidromic point wouldn't be really be a calm place for a quiet time on the water.
That page also has this image made by NASA, showing the amphidromic points around the world. We're able to use the image here, because it like most NASA material is not copyrighted. Thank you, NASA experts!