Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cadboro Bay 2 Willows Beach

I'm cautiously optimistic that summer weather might actually be here. A warm and sunny morning washed over our launch point at Cadboro Bay, but before our official paddle, Paula quickly gave the small kayak she won a couple of weeks ago its inaugural paddle.
2011-05-29 Cadboro to Willows_0002

There was a lot of action of the beach today. A large group from the South Island Sea Kayaking Association had gathered for a clinic with Wayne Horodowitch of the University of Sea Kayaking, and later in the day Nick Castro of Active Sea Kayaking gave a lesson to a smaller group. And there were the occasional free-lancers like Louise, Paula and myself.

Perhaps the most unusual event that occurred today is that I got on the water first for once! No, really! I have photographic evidence to prove it:
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I had done a ton of work in our yard the day before, and I just didn't feel like I had a long paddle in me, so we decided to meander along the coast from Cadboro Bay to Willows Beach and back. As we paddled along the southern edge of the bay, we saw the result of a recent landslide.
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Paula believed that the slide is fairly new, perhaps only a month or two old. She was surprised to see it, as she assumed that the cliff was rocky as opposed to its obviously sandy composition. It looked as if the top of the slide was right up against the back deck of the house, something that I'm sure is giving the owner some worry with the rainy season just a few months away.

Someone not worried about another slide is this heron, who was blissfully unaware of the situation above him as he hunted for his breakfast.
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We decided to sneak through the yacht club...
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...but things got a little narrower than we expected.
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As we neared Cattle Point, we passed some geese.
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We figured that there would be lots of eagles about, considering that its baby bird season. But we really didn't see any until this one alighted in a tree.
"The eagle has landed!" I shouted.
Paula and Louise groaned.
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(Despite the rumour, I can assure you that the picture of the eagle landing was not faked on a Hollywood sound stage.)

We turned around at Mary Tod Island and passed some seals enjoying the morning....
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...and then we returned to our put in, another paddle done.

Trip Length: 8.52 km
YTD: 88.56 km
More pictures are here.
2011-05-29 Cadboro to Willows

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Gorge

Louise and I have been under the weather for a few days, some sort of miserable Spring cold that just won't let up. Which is ironic considering that weather-wise we've had a miserably cold Spring that just won't let up. This morning was actually clear and sunny, but still a few degrees cooler than normal.
We weren't feeling up to a long paddle today, so a quick trip around our home waters of The Gorge seemed like exactly the thing to do. We headed over to look at the sculpture we've dubbed The Iron Man...
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...but these days he's starting to look a little like the The Rust Man.
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From there we paddled slowly against the current, up to a tree I call Cormorant Tree because there's always cormorants in it. Except for today, apparently. I was wondering if we'd hit the water too early today as there did not seem to be any birds about. But I was so busy looking up for the cormorants, that I wasn't looking down and almost missed this heron.
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Continuing on, we soon found plenty of birds as this flock of geese went by. There were eight adults, so I'm assuming four families were travelling together. We've seen this sort of behaviour before, so it seems that geese don't mind travelling in large groups with other families. 18 goslings by my count.
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Under the bridge and into Portage Inlet, and we started looking for the local swans. We spotted them near their nest and we cruised in a little closer to see if their were any swanlings this year.
There appeared to be only one...
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...unless there were still some in her nest. But that didn't seem likely.

Still, we felt like drinking a toast to all the new life we were seeing, and it was just our good fortune that a bottle of red wine floated past us.
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It was empty, alas.

The forecast cool southerly breeze that was supposed to kick in during the afternoon arrived a little earlier than forecast, so we headed back...
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...and saw that the swans had hunkered down in their nest against front that was coming in.
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We passed by the geese again as well. They'd landed to enjoy a meal of fresh grass and plants.
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And soon, we also landed, just as the wind and clouds moved in. Perfect timing..
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Trip Length: 7.67 km
YTD: 80.04 km
More pictures are here.
2011-05-23 The Gorge

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post-Rapture Coffee

I was underwhelmed with all the May 21 is the end of the world business. I woke up to discover that apparently Heaven looks just like the inside of his house, and that god bears a striking resemblance to one of my cats. And has the same lousy attitude.
Heaven to me is being on the water, but the closest we could manage today was a quick trip for Louise and I over to Paula and Bernie's to see the kayak they won last weekend at the 2011 Vancouver Island Paddlefest.
Paula was beaming with joy!
It's strictly a kid's kayak -- heck, even Paula has trouble fitting in it -- and a good home will be found for it. After chatting with Paula, Louise and I joined her for a coffee. Strangely, Bernie was nowhere to be found. It was just like he had disappeared. I wonder if I should take this rapture business a little more seriously, although obviously if Bernie had made it into Heaven, a serious clerical error must have taken place.

And we bid farewell to our kayaking buddy Richard who is moving across the water to Vancouver. He's been a fun companion on the water and we will miss his goofy sense of humour, and his colourful metaphors. Hope Vancouver is ready for you! :)
2008-05-25 Saanich Inlet 188

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Life in the Arctic

I came across a couple of old photos from Life magazine. I don't know much more about them other than that they were from 1936.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Vancouver Island Paddlefest - Day Two

Paddlefest 2011 in Ladysmith was great. Once again, several members of our paddling group insisted on attending. Well, we’re not sure if Rich made it up on his own on Saturday. And Marlene had a bad case of “it’s eight o’clock Sunday morning!” when it was time to head out. But John and Louise drove up on Saturday and had a great time. You can read about it in the post John wrote yesterday, and see his great photos.
Bernie and I drove up-Island to Ladysmith on Sunday. We missed the crowds and good weather on Saturday, because there was a geology tour offered to the volunteer naturalists by CRD Parks. There were still good times on Sunday at Paddlefest, though the intermittent rain thinned the crowd to true believers.
As Brian Henry of Ocean River said, most of the people attending on Sunday were confirmed kayakers. We need to find a way to encourage people who are new to the sport to give it a try! It would be great to see more families at Paddlefest, for example, and more people trying a kayak or canoe for the first time.
Well, we didn’t bring a new paddler with us this time, but we certainly had a good time anyway. I enjoyed looking at the maps of the Salish Sea, especially the map for the Georgia Strait Community Alliance with annotations useful for small boaters. There were a couple of raffles to enter. It’s good policy to enter raffles, especially when they’re fundraising for good causes.
We made a tour of all the booths, even though several were closed, and checked out the kayaks on display. I got my hands on a Greenland paddle that had been made for someone about my size – small grip, short stature. (There don’t seem to be any paddles meant for plump and slow people, though, darn it.)
So far, every time we attend Paddlefest, someone from our paddle group wins a door prize or other great swag. This year Bernie won a bag with a t-shirt, a ball cap, small stuff sack and a travel mug!
And when we got back to the Beach House after touring some other neat-o places, we got a phone call from Cheryl of Sealegs Kayaking Adventures. Turns out, we won the raffle’s first prize – a Mini Tripper kids kayak from Jackson Kayak!
So, we’re heading back up to Ladysmith someday soon to pick it up… oh boy!
And now, go to yesterday's post and look at John's photos again. They're terrific.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2011 Vancouver Island Paddlefest - Day One

It's not like I want to whine about the weather in every blog post I write, but this spring sucks. Seriously. The growing season is about four weeks behind normal, temperatures are also below normal and rain was due in today, the first of four or five days of it. Yay.
Today was also the first day of the 2011 Vancouver Island Paddlefest in Ladysmith. Louise and I headed up island watching the clouds which looked like they were going to start dumping on us at any moment.
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Almost immediately on our arrival, we bumped into Mark from Delta Kayaks. After years of whining and cajoling he finally came through and got us each a Delta Kayak baseball cap, and we'd just like to take this opportunity to publicly...thank wearing?
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That's a Delta Kayaks t-shirt! Aw, man! Now we have to start whining again! How many years is this gonna take?

Louise wasted no time in taking a Delta Sixteen for a whirl.
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She loves this boat, and she seemed quite fond of this new green colour, too.

After that, we headed up the beach and tried the Boreal Design Epsilon. Louise went out in the C200, while I was in the larger C300.
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We both liked these boats, and quickly noticed how, well, quickly these boats can accelerate. They look as if they could be a lot of fun and we have them on our lists of boats to thoroughly test when the day comes for new boats. You know, when our lottery retirement plan kicks in.

Next, I took a Current Design Solstice GT out for a spin.
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Like all Current Design boats, it's a well-made and kitted-out craft. Out of the three boats I tired, I liked this one the least, but they were all very close in comparison.

Finally, we tried a couple of Wilderness Systems boats.
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Louise took a Tsunami 165, while I was in was in a Tempest 180.

After that we changed into our street duds, and checked out some of the kayaking goodies on offer. First up, we found the Wind Paddle sail. This looked really cool.
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I particularly like how it comes with its own wind.

Next we checked out some custom-built kayaks from 8 Dragon Kayaks.
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These boats are gorgeous and pictures don't do them justice at all.

While we were exploring on the land, a fleet was assembling on the water....
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...for the official opening of the BC Marine Trails Network. When completed, the trail will comprise 22,000 km of BC coastline.
Michael Pardy led the flotilla in to shore....
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...where he ceremonially asked Stz’uminus First Nation Chief John Elliot for permission to visit their ancestral lands.
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With that, the Trail was declared open, and celebratory rolls were performed.
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Finally it was time to leave. After all, people were waiting for us at home.
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Trip Length: 1.47 km
YTD: 72.37 km
More pictures are here.
And check out some local media coverage by the Ladysmith Chronicle.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Marine Mammal Thoughts

Yep, when I'm not on the water, I'm thinking about the times I've BEEN on the water, and how soon I can go back again. Lucky for me, I can go to the beach anytime I can pry myself away from the computer. Even if there's too much wind to take out my kayak, I can LOOK at the water.
While looking out the kitchen window at the water this morning (neener neener to those not lucky enough to live in a home with a waterfront view) I turned on CBC Radio One (entertainment and the news for those of us with a minimalist and affordable lifestyle in someone else's waterfront view house). The local news is all abuzz with reports of four dead harbour porpoises that have washed up along the Victoria shoreline during the past week, in Beacon Hill park actually. There have been some eight dead porpoises found this month.
That sounds dreadful. Porpoises are marvelous animals. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of dolphins and porpoises when we're out kayaking, but they don't hang around.
The CBC's morning show had a guest speaker, a biologist who is also active with the Prince of Whales whale-watching company. According to her, the number of dead porpoises found recently is not unusual for this time of year. April through October is the breeding season, and the local population of porpoises goes up to about a thousand. It's not unusual this time of year to find a couple of these animals dead for any of several reasons. These dead porpoises are being tested, but seem to have died from natural causes rather than anything sinister.
Glad to know we don't have to panic about these marine mammal deaths. And on a more cheerful marine mammal note, Bernie found this video of a rehabilitated baby seal being released back into the wild. Inspiring!
As for what to do if you see a baby seal that might be abandoned -- well, we've written on Kayak Yak about what to do, so read about it here. Short form: don't touch any marine mammal. Call DFO. And check out the website for animal rescues on the Island.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Golden Spruce

To the natives of Haida Gwaii it was a mythical symbol that had stood on their homeland for hundreds of years. To loggers and environmentalists it was symbol of what was being lost in the rain forests of BC to axe and machine. To all, it was a wonder -- a unique golden Sitka spruce tree, surrounded by a stand of its green brethren until a winter night in 1997 when it was cut down in a bizarre environmental protest.
John Vaillant's award-winning book The Golden Spruce recounts the tale of Grant Hadwin, a long-time forester and expert outdoorsman, who came to hate the destruction being waged in the forests and fought against it, while at the same time apparently descending into madness and psychosis. Struggling to find a way to protest the destruction of the forests, he made his way to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), took a chainsaw to the golden spruce, and escaped back to the mainland. He was quickly arrested, but possibly believing that his life would be in danger should he use public transportation to return to Haida Gwaii for the trial, he chose instead to kayak solo from Prince Rupert on the mainland to the islands across Hecate Strait which at times can be one of the nastiest pieces of water on the BC coast. Although he was an experienced outdoorsman, he was at best a novice kayaker, and he paddled out into the winter's fury and was never seen again.
But Vaillant's book is about more than just Hadwin's collapse into depression. Vaillant recounts the history of the Haida, their encounters with European explorers and the near destruction of their native culture that those encounters wrought, and the significance of the golden spruce to Haida culture. He also explores the history of logging in British Columbia, and the all-too human dichotomy that many loggers feel -- that the destruction and raping of the forests is awful and regrettful, but hey, it's a living.
Although Hadwin's kayak was found smashed up months later on a small island in Alaska, some believe that he staged the wreck and simply disappeared into the wild he loved so much and knew so well. Some think that if anyone could have pulled off a disappearing act in the middle of absolutely nowhere with little or no supplies, it was Hadwin. He'd done it before.
The Golden Spruce is a terrific book that I can't recommend highly enough.
2012 Addendum: The Vancouver Sun updated the Golden Spruce story here.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Jellyfish Jellyfest

On this moderately sunny Sunday, Louise and I headed up to Brentwood Bay for paddle.
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We hadn't been out this way since the fall of 2009, but there's been little change. The one thing we did notice was the work being done on the ferry dock beside where we put in.
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That's because the long-serving MV Mill Bay, which has serviced this route since being built in 1956, was retired at the beginning of this month to be replaced by the larger MV Klitsa, necessitating renovations to the dock. (And from the Useless Movie Trivia File, the Mill Bay terminal was used for a scene during the filming of the 1970 movie Five Easy Pieces that starred Jack Nicholson and Karen Black.) So with the ferry out of service for the moment, that's one less bit of marine traffic we needed to look out for.
Clearly this heron wasn't worried about other traffic as he groomed himself.
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We crossed over to 15 Minute Island. It's actually called Senanus Island, but we refer to is as 15 Minute Island because the first time we approached the island from the north, Bernie kept saying it looked only 15 minutes away. And after we'd paddled for an hour, his opinion had not changed -- it still looked 15 minutes away.
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Today we were approaching from the south, and for the record it was a 20 minute crossing.

Once at the island, we found a lot of geese honking up a storm...
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...probably because eagles were around and undoubtedly hunting for goslings.
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Fortunately for this guy, oysercatchers didn't seem to be on the eagles' menu.
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After we paddled around the island, we crossed back to the shore went into Tod Inlet, and Gowlland Tod Provincial Park.
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Tod Inlet is a gorgeous place to paddle, very sheltered and usually brimming with aquatic life, and today was no exception, although we were a bit surprised to find the inlet full of jellyfish.
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It was a jellyfish jellyfest! Although the heron didn't seem particularly impressed.
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Trip Length: 10.67 km
YTD: 70.90 km
More pictures are here.
2011-05-08 Brentwood Bay