Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Kayaking Weather Stats

And now it's our annual paddling day weather stats wrap up. This year I eliminated the "cancelled due to bad weather" category, so the weather category percentages have been tweaked a bit from previous years.
What can we glean? Well, first we can see that Google Docs makes some neat-o charts. Second, we can see that over the six years we have been paddling that the percentage of sunny days has gone up over this time, perhaps something that should not be unexpected as we enter our future of human-caused climate change, although this is clearly not a scientific study by any means as no doubt we are self-selecting which days to paddle on. Still, it's an illuminating if anecdotal look at how our planet is changing right before our eyes.


New Year's Eve paddle

What a beautiful winter day! Lately, whenever I look at a shaft of sunlight and say that, the wind blows the clouds back together and another squall of rain comes through with gusts of wind to boot. Today, when Bernie and I went out, we did some errands and took a long walk through Mystic Vale. Back at the Beach House, I scrambled into my shortie wetsuit and pulled a little kayak out. Time to get on the water.
It was a great way to finish the year and start the new year. And the first wave as I pushed off shore broke over the bow and my feet and put a gallon of water in the Mini-Tripper. Wa-hoo!
There was nobody else on the water inside the arms of the bay as I went across the shallows and over to the Buddha. Up along the rocks to Stein Island, where the wind was picking up a bit. The SPOT message shows where I lingered for a moment. The only birds I saw today were ducks of various kinds: mallards, buffleheads, mergansers.
Back at the beach I met Jacques just heading out to look for marbled murrelets in his Eliza. (Ooo, but those composite Elizas look even more sporty than my rotomolded one...)
Back to the Beach House. Roasting a local chicken with a medlar jelly glaze. Wine is chilling. Happy new year, one and all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Life Vest video

Just saw a little video with a life vest featured. The next time I put on my PFD, the thought of this video will make me smile. What goes around comes around -- not usually as quickly as in this video, but still...
Check it out

Monday, December 26, 2011

Once You've Watched Them, You Can't Unwatch Them!

So it's Boxing Day. You should be in a shopping mall doing your best to keep the economy moving rather than sitting around reading a blog about kayaking. Especially since there is precious little in this blog post about kayaking. But as long as you're here already, you might as well keep reading. Or watching the wacky videos embedded below:

Here's a news report on a water-propelled jet-pack that didn't go according to script:

So here's something that you don't see everyday: a dog biting a shark:

And finally, it's DJ Kittehs! After all, why should the dogs have all the fun?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rolling a Kayak - 1938-style

Want to learn how to roll a kayak? This is how it was done back in The Middle Ages, circa 1938.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Warm Winter Day

It was a warm winter day. Well, it felt warm for winter. When Bernie and I got back from the Rainbow Kitchen it was the middle of the day, and about as warm as it was ever going to get. 7C is pretty warm for winter, so I just pulled a paddle jacket on over my shortie wetsuit and left the merino leggings behind.
It was good not to be muffled down to the calves when the little waves started splashing over the bow of the kayak. Today I was out in the little Mini-Tripper, which is really a child's rec boat. Not one for a choppy day, but it wasn't choppy, just a few rolling waves about a foot high once I was away from the beach.
I tried leaning forward and back, to see how my balance pitched the bow down or up a little. This kayak has a very straight, level keel with no rocker.
Boy, could I ever tell the differences among my kayaks! The Eliza fits like a shoe. At three times my height it's exactly what traditional Greenland kayak makers recommend for a sea kayak. The rocker isn't as pronounced as the Romany kayaks I've tried; rather, it's what feels like exactly enough rocker for me in the kinds of choppy water I'm likely to encounter. The Eliza can surf on a following sea and it feels great doing so.
The Dragonfly inflatable fits tighter. At eight feet it's shorter than the Mini-Tripper, but wider and more stable. I'd rather put a child in the Dragonfly than the Mini-Tripper for a first paddle. And though this inflatable is more like a sit-on-top than a hardshell kayak, it's got rocker! Plus, it steers better than the Mini-Tripper. And it rides waves way, way better.
I went as far as Sheep Cove, to look at the red bridge, then came back. The waves that had been splashing spray all over my legs in the open cockpit were now coming from behind. I tried surfing a little, but thought the Mini-Trippers no longer than a surfboard, it's just not the same shape.
Back to shore and off to run an errand, getting ready for Christmas. What a day!

Friday, December 09, 2011

A Dip in the Ocean

In April 2009, Susan Outen began a four-month solo paddling odyssey across the Indian Ocean from Australia to Mauritius. Mourning the death of her father, she paddled in his honour, raising money for charity. And she wrote a pretty fine book, too.
Through her charm and self-deprecating wit, Sarah writes of her preparations, her rocky start, her customs troubles, her 500 chocolate bars, the long lonely voyage and the voyage's rocky but [SPOILER ALERT] successful conclusion. Her spirit and determination shine through the pages of her story.
So what does the first woman and youngest person to paddle across the Indian Ocean do for an encore? Currently she's making her way around the world on human power. Follow her adventure on Twitter, or at her London2London web site.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Vancouver to Alaska

Here's a video from a fellow who kayaked solo from Vancouver to Alaska. Worth your time to check out. Mind you, you'll need some time, it clocks in at 2 1/2 hours plus!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Kayaking To The Moon

Well, not all the way there, but in that direction...

A great winter day today! After being a good little helper at the Legion's Christmas party for kids (my Dad used to love being Santa, but his vision got too bad to do it) I came right back to the Beach House and worked on my seminar paper for a couple of hours.
So when *golden light* shone in the window, I answered the call and pulled on my wet suit. Out in the yard a few seconds later, I passed the landlady on the path -- me with kayak, she being tugged in two directions by her dogs. "Going kayaking?" she asked.
"Yup! Just along the shore."
"Good!" she said. "Later, I'm going to bury the crow."
Oh boy.
So, while it was a good time on the water, with just enough breeze to wrinkle the surface and some very slight, gentle swells from wakes, something was on my mind. Every bird and animal I saw reminded me that the crow has died, the one my landlady has been carrying around for about two months.
Still, I looked up into the clear sky, and pointed my bow in the direction of the rising moon. There were signs of mortality here on the water, and all positive signs, at least from the point of view of the ducks who were fishing and the otter that crept up on the rocky shore with a crab in his mouth. crunch crunch crunch His pointy teeth cracked the crab shell and pulled out bits of white meat. crunch crunch The otter didn't even flinch when I paddled past. Busy.
Out by Flower Island, there were five other otters tumbling around, so I didn't crowd them by circling the island. It's really their place, eh? I sent a SPOT message and turned back.
Such a good clean feel to the afternoon air! And once I'd put the kayak away, the landlady came by with a small garden shovel. So we buried her crow.
It wasn't a party, but it was a good moment.

The Sail-Past!

Bernie and I walked down to the beach last night, while walking the landlady's dogs, to see the lights on the water. Turns out, last night was the Christmas Sail-Past. A whole flotilla of boats decorated with lights sailed from Oak Bay Marina to Cadboro Bay.
Sailed? Well, putt-putted with their motors. Most of the rigging was decorated with strings of lights, so there were all these triangles of light in the bay.
It was terrific, seeing about two dozen boats make such a fine display. Next year, let's find out what day is set for the Sail-Past, and maybe we'll meet them with a fleet of kayaks all lit up like Christmas trees.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

News for Fuel Tank Owners About Spills

Hey, yesterday's post about a fuel spill in a local creek didn't cover everything. I may have mentioned salmon spawning in Colquitz Creek, but there's also many other fish and living things in that creek and Swan Creek year-round. When kayaking there, we've seen raccoons and many kinds of birds.
The Saanich News wrote an article about these animals and also included information of interest to homeowners with fuel tanks. Turns out that they've got advice on fuel tank maintenance and a pdf to download from the municipality. Knowledge is power. We can learn things to help us keep our neighbourhoods cleaner!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Not In My Back Yard!

The usual meaning of "Not in my back yard" seems to be "Put that inconvenient urban necessity out of sight from MY house" for many people who campaign against sewage treatment systems and jails. Now, as for me, I'm usually more of a YIMBY than a NIMBY. I want my sewage treated responsibly and I figure that as far as jails go, though we don't need as many new prisons as the current federal government is trying to push on us, what jails we do have should be clean, supervised and close enough to urban centres for... but I'm digressing.
I had a NIMBY moment today, on the water. Stephanie took this photo a couple of winters ago, showing Karl paddling on Panama Flats when Colquitz Creek was flooded.
This morning dawned so calm that after walking the dogs I got into my wetsuit. The sun was just rising as I took the little green rec kayak down to the beach. Lovely! The mist was rising off the water and blowing off-shore, the sky was so clear that I could have seen the volcano cone of Rainier if there hadn't been clouds piled up along the Olympics and in the direction of Puget Sound. The weather will probably change later this morning.
Today I took time for only a short paddle to the little rock garden and into Sheep Cove. I had to get back quickly to write this post before going to class. The kingfisher scolded me again, and perched to be admired. Other than him, the rest of the birds pretty much ignored me dabbling along. At the head of little Sheep Cove, I looked up into the bare trees along the tiny creek that pounds down the rocks in the rainy season. There it was -- the little red bridge that I love to see in winter! The tiny creek runs under it, and under another footbridge nearer the shore, and falls into a scoop of shoreline mostly circled by a low cement wall. It was a perfect moment to watch the tide swell up just a little, washing a gentle wave into the scooped pond, and then watch the water drain out. This is the only place I've found with a reversing current like that.
I paddled back over winter-clear water, enjoying the sight of the bottom fifteen and twenty feet down as the sun rose higher. The bubbles from my little kayak's wake were still there on the calm water, twenty minutes and more after I'd passed on my way out from the beach.
I passed a floating plastic bag that might have blown off a boat, and a sunken tin pie pan that was probably frisbee-ed from shore. Seeing human trash reminded me of why I had to get to my computer and write this post. There has been another fuel spill locally.
You can read about it in the Saanich News in their article appropriately titled "Oil spill stains urban miracle." It's on the front page, with a sub-heading "Catastrophe strikes Coho-laden creek."
This spill was not from a fuel truck crash. It was from a home heating oil tank that leaked a few days ago.A pipe leading from a homeowner's fuel tank sprung a leak, and over a few days released an estimated 1,000 litres of heating oil into Swan Creek, which drains into Colquitz Creek. John took this photo of Colquitz Creek. That's the salmon stream that we've written about here on the blog, the one Karl and Stephanie have paddled down from Panama Flats.
Swan Creek doesn't run through my own back yard. But it does run past my aunt's condo. I've walked in a little park along this creek that also runs past the townhouses where our friends Leslie and Darren used to live. That fuel tank wasn't mine or in my own neighbourhood, but I must have walked within a hundred yards of it several times before eating and relaxing at a nearby home.
That's it, for me. Not in my back yard. Not in my friends' and families' back yards. Accidents happen, but fuel tanks are owned by people who can look after them. There's no excuse for letting a newly-filled tank drain over several days.
No excuses. I walked back from the beach this morning, put the kayak away and looked at my landlady's fuel tank. No oily stains, no petroleum-product smell, no leaks visible from the tank or lines into the house. No fuel slick on the puddles around the Beach House. Not in my yard.
I'm putting out a call to readers of Kayak Yak. If your home is heated with fuel of any kind, go check that the fuel tank and pipes aren't leaking. I mean it. Go to the tank in your yard or the gas pipe that enters your apartment building. And while you're at it, check if the driveway near your home has any oily stains spreading into a storm drain. I'm just sayin'.
And then write a comment in reply to this post, telling me you checked that your heating fuel is not leaking. John's got some features on the right-hand column of this blog, showing our regular readers. You know who you are. We know that we can't stop all the fuel spills in the world, but we can each look after our own yards.And if you see any fuel spilled on the ground or water in BC, in town or out in the boonies, call the 24-Hour Spill Line toll-free at 1-800-663-3456.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Better Winter Weather

It's better winter weather! Yay!
I got out on the water yesterday, after kicking Bernie's boots out of my way and grousing about how this paddle jacket isn't as comfortable as my old one -- it's tight where it should be loose and the gaskets just feel wrong -- and then I snarled at him that I was taking out the little green rec boat because I could CARRY it, and not out of any dislike for my beautiful pink sea kayak. Grr.
It was great to get out on the water, and the sandy boat ramp at the beach was half-cleared of logs so I didn't have to wobble while clambering over driftwood. The cold water is so clear compared to summer-time algae blooms!
A mostly high tide meant that the otter families along the rocky shore were probably napping, waiting for low tide so they could hunt for things to eat. Instead, today was another day for seeing winter ducks of various kinds. Some coots and some mallards. I've been enjoying seeing mergansers, too.
As I went around Flower Island, there were mergansers diving between Flower and Evans Rock. These are interesting ducks: little, squat, and round like most ducks (and rec kayaks, for that matter). The big difference is the beak. In mallards, the beak is wide and rounded so that it's good for dabbling in shoreline mud for bugs and plants. But in mergansers, the beak is more narrow and pointed so that it's good for catching little fish.
Best of all, I like the tufted crests that stick out from their heads. Punk ducks.
All I saw of a seal that morning was the round head of Mama Seal peeking before she ducked down. Still, it's nice to know she's around.
I remembered to push the button to send an OK message on my SPOT. Had to feather my paddle, coming back along the rocky shore, as the breeze was picking up just a little. And there was Bernie, walking along the promenade, looking for me. He walked me back to the Beach House before heading off to the dentist. Just a nice quiet morning before we headed out into the rest of the day.


This video is an example of kayaking (and surfing) too close to whales:

This clip proves that practice makes perfect. Or, you know, not:

Kayakers in Lake Okanagan should be careful. A Kelowna man believes he's filmed the legendary lake monster Ogopogo. But if you chose to go kayaking there, be on the look-out for other mythical creatures: unicorns, Bigfoot, and Bush's brain.

And this video should be the final word on Skeg v. Rudder:

Recently, a man completed the first inner tube crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. He drifted over 3000 miles in a little over six weeks. I read it on The Onion so it must be true, right?