Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012
In 1980, Don and his two sons began a 20,000 km canoe trip from Winnipeg to Brazil. One son would leave the expedition and journey took almost two years, but when finished Don and his other son Dana would enter the Guinness Book of World Records for longest canoe journey.
In 1990, Starkell began his 5,000 km kayak expedition to trace the Northwest Passage. He nearly died, losing the tips of almost all his fingers and some toes. His two expeditions led to his writing two best-selling books and co-starring in a third, all reviewed on Kayak Yak here.
Starkell is believed to have paddled more than 120,000 km over his paddling career, which also included taking part in the 1967 trans-Canada Centennial Paddle.
Starkell was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 2006.
More coverage can found at Canoe and Kayak, The Winnipeg Free Press, the CBC, The Mundane Adventures of Bryan, The National Post, The Winnipeg Sun and Paddling Instructor.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Hopefully, Paddlefest returns next year as it's always a welcome part of the paddling calendar here on the island.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Here's the standard postcard shot of the harbour (winter version).
And yes, that's a skim on ice on the harbour's surface. We don't see that very often.
If I took this shot of Government Street in July, there might be a few hundred people in it, but Wednesday there was only a half-dozen or so pedestrians and one car.
The deep freeze continued until a warm front finally broke through early Saturday morning, but the rising temperatures also brought rising winds, culminating in a rip-roaring wind storm that started early this morning and continues this evening.
Winds were clocked at over 50 kmh, with gusts recorded at over 110 kmh in places.
The MV Coho was caught in the blast on its daily trip from Port Angeles.
Needless to say, we did not go kayaking today...
...but we still got wet.
Now sure, that kind of weather might see the likes of Leon and Shawna of Body Boat Blade heading out to practice their rough water paddling. They've done it before, when visiting Victoria and a windstorm struck. But then, they're the kind of professional sea kayaking guides who take time to paddle a circumnavigation of Iceland -- and another of Haida Gwaii -- during the peak summer seasons for their business. Oi.
The wind may have kept us off the water, but it didn't keep Bernie from walking the landlady's dogs in Gyro Park. And it didn't keep us off the promenade along the shore of Cadboro Bay, in the spray of the pounding waves. Funny, this morning the usual weekend walkers were sparse. There were only a few die-hards out getting salt and sand in our teeth.
The big rollers coming in pounded driftwood logs along the shore. It was great to watch the birds in the wind and waves! Cormorants and seagulls faced into the wind and waves, wings cupped to ride air currents up over a crest and then down, darting to the water. Maybe they were snatching little fish once in a while, though there was more rising and bobbing than snatching. It looked like surfing, honestly.
A few little round ducks rode the surface, tucking their wings and heads in till they looked like black footballs. There's no telling what their webbed feet were doing under the surface, paddling frantically, but the ducks rode up and over big swells and kept heading out to the break, not pushed in to the shore.
There were a couple of deadhead logs bobbing in the water, turning in the waves so that a branch would look for a moment like an arm. We had to look carefully to be sure that yep, it was a log bobbing vertically. And as we came close to the storm drain outfall, there was a river otter tumbling in the surf.
Honestly! He was out in a howling gale, with pounding surf all along the bay. I thought the otters who live around the bay would be holed up in the shrubbery along the rocky part of the shore or maybe in the thick bushes on Flower Island. But no, here was an otter, gamboling in waves that rose higher than his length from nose to tail-tip.
And just as Bernie was saying, "Where did you see it? Are you sure?" a new wave crashed. Three otters tumbled in the foam. They didn't come out of the water, just turned in those liquid moves they do and dove back under the thrashing surface.
Maybe they were catching fish driven into the shallows near shore by the waves. Maybe they were playing a little, too, letting the waves push them under water.
I hope the pictures turned out. If you want to see some photos of otters that are even clearer than the great ones that John has put here on Kayak Yak, check out The Marine Detective blog for some images of otters on docks.
Oh, and just to make it clear -- there are no cars in the parking lot with kayak racks this morning, and no kayaks visible in the bay. So it's not just me staying off the water, eh? And some of the sailboats in the Cadboro Bay Sailing Association yard are rocking. One of the catamarans in the UVic sailing club yard almost flipped in a gust of wind as we walked past.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Here he performs the synchronised kayak with a team mate:
He's not the only player to do the kayak. Here's a different player trying out the move:
Hockey isn't the only sport with a kayak tie-in. Lacrosse has a check called the "kayak check." Check out the video:
Of course, all this pales in comparison to the total awesomeness of the "soccer kayak":
Thursday, January 19, 2012
One of the joys of Roach's writing is that she is easily distracted from her main thought and often strays from her topic to follow an obscure notion or fact down a rabbit hole to see where it leads. And thus on page 67, while discussing the phenomenon of "the rapture of the deep," a feeling of calm and invulnerability that can impair a diver, and the possibility of a similar impairment affecting astronauts, she adds the following footnote:
Every mode of travel has its signature mental aberration. Eskimo hunters travelling alone on still, glassy waters are sometimes stricken by "kayak angst" -- delusions that their boat is flooding of that the front end is either sinking or rising out of the water.Kayak angst! Who knew? Well, Google Books did -- here's a whole bunch of references to it. And so did Paula when she wrote this blog post two years ago describing how she found the term in a book she was reading. And since I've read the same book and don't remember coming across the term at all, I'm getting a little angsty about my memory and comprehension skills right now.
Kayak angst apparently occurs in calm conditions, but a strong wind, a quick current, and big waves, that's what gives me kayak angst! It makes total sense, of course. It's the same reason why pilots sometime slowly and calmly fly their planes into the oceans on clear sunny days. Staring at the same unchanging horizon for hours can create vertigo and cause the mind to think you're falling when you're not. Sort of the same feeling I have when I'm on a ladder.
You can buy Kayak Angst t-shirts if you want to, although the reason why anyone would want to advertise that they suffer from a niche psychotic malady eludes me.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
I couldn't resist a quick paddle this morning and wheeled my kayak down the hill. It's not often you see a guy in a Santa hat walking his kayaking in the snow. Even one of Victoria's finest was distracted from the traffic ticket she was writing.
Louise would normally accompany me, but she stayed on shore and walked along beside me, the idea being that she could take a few shots of me and the snow for a Christmas card for next winter. She took some nice shots, but they'll have to wait until the holidays roll around again.
I put in at the bottom of my hill....
....and paddled into the quiet morning. Even the small amount of snow on the ground was enough to dampen the sound of the neighbourhood.
But I was quickly joined by a duck that landed right beside me.
While the ducks and other fowl are fairly tame in this area, it's still a bit unusual for them to approach this close unless it's obvious that you have food. I suspect that they're feeling a bit hungry this time of year, although they certainly aren't suffering. When it became obvious that I was wasn't going to feed him, he went on his way.
Enjoying the crisp and cool air, I continued on, past the (barely) snow covered trees...
...while three swans swam towards me.
The swans had also drawn the attention of a photographer on shore who asked if he could take a few pictures of "Santa" in his kayak, even though "Santa" never brought him the bicycle he wanted. Turns out he's a local professional photographer named Jason, and he snapped quite a few shots. I was starting to feel like Cindy Crawford.
Check out his website,there's some nice stuff there.
I turned around at Craigflower bridge. Clouds were building to the east and there had been some wicked squalls blow through the last copy of days.
In the end, the clouds never amounted to anything, but on the way back I encountered the swans again at the same spot, only now we were both going the opposite directions.
A heron was bundled up against the cold...
...while Cormorant Tree was draped in its namesakes.
Meanwhile Louise kept pace with me, taking pictures as I drifted along in our temporary winter wonderland.
I landed and began organizing myself for the always fun uphill trek with the kayak.
Trip Length: 3.38 km
YTD: 3.38 km
More pictures are here.
It's okay if a few people are around. As I carried my little inflatable past the parking lot in Gyro Park, two young people boggled at me walking past. Of course, they were properly bundled up for January weather with a little snow and frost. "Isn't it cold for going on the water?" one asked.
"Sure, it's cold," I answered. "But it's not windy, rainy, snowing, or stormy!" Understanding dawned, and they laughed & waved me on.
On the frozen puddles by the boat ramp, three little girls were learning about ice. They slid around in their rubber boots, squealing and shrieking with delight. "That was great!" said one. "We can do that on other ones," said another. "Look! There's more over there!" squealed the third. And they clomped off to find another patch of frozen puddles. It reminded me so much of the school field trips when my kids were growing up in a pretty flat area of Alberta. Every winter, the teachers would walk all the kids over to a nearby farm, so they could learn what a hill was like, especially for sliding. Kids around Victoria don't get much chance to play on icy puddles, so it's good to see them having fun while they can.
The sun was out, and it was a perfect winter day for playing outdoors. I paddled over to the little rock garden. All along the shoreline and the rocks I could see frost and icy places where rainwater seeps down from above. It hasn't rained for days, but water is still seeping down.
Going past Sheep Cove, I saw the little seal who hangs around the bay and shoreline. There were ducks again, too: mallards and pintails so timid, wood ducks and harlequins and mergansers a little more bold. And surf scoters and buffleheads, all tidy black-and-white.
Best of all were two oystercatchers, nibbling at things in the kelp revealed by the tide partly out. For black birds, these are such bright things, too. Today I saw not only their bright red beaks and pink legs & feet, but their bright eyes looking at me paddling past the shore. There's a local artist who does many paintings of these charming birds -- check out Anne Hansen's website with images of her work.
These were the best of all the birds I saw, even the bald eagle, because they let me look at them as I went by. The eagle was perching on a stone at Flower Island, and when I was crossing the little channel he took to the air and flew away along the shore. I think it was a he because we've seen bigger eagles here, and from what the books tell me it's the female eagles who are the biggest.
Just past Flower is Evans Rock, where I've seen sea monsters of entirely ordinary kinds -- a whale and an elephant seal -- but no official Cadborosaurus yet. I say yet because I have a sneaking suspicion that paddling around in places where they've been seen is going to pay off eventually. It might not be any more fun than getting bawled out by an elephant seal. But if I actually carried the camera John handed down to me, a picture would be possible.
No Cadborosaurus today, though a couple of harbour seals did pop up to look at me as if to say, "Um, you're not really going to hang around for a long time, are you?" I sent a SPOT ok message and went on around Flower and started back.
Out at Cadboro Point by the light, I could see that the freight train was running. Not too much current. And what I thought at first were whitecaps turned out to be floating seabirds, occasionally spreading their wings. Ah! There must have been a school of fish there, just off the point, and the birds were reaching down, one by one, to snag a fish.
Back along the shore with my bow into the wind and my paddle feathered. Sunshine kept the day feeling plenty warm enough, even as a bank of cloud towered over from the American side of the strait. Weather can change here in half-an-hour. We always have to remember.
Thought a bit about two short pieces to write for the blog. One will compare various hats I've worn on the water this year. The other will be about what kayaking has taught me about envy -- what is useful about envy, and what isn't. I'll write them later. When I got back to the house I wrapped up warm, made tea, and put a casserole in the oven to bake. Winter paddling sometimes works out just fine.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Sunday, January 08, 2012
But some people did get out on the water today. We briefly met Paula and Bernie for a quick coffee at Cadboro Bay before we did some necessary errands, and we saw that the sail boaters were out early.
We also saw SISKA members getting organized for their first paddle of the season.
Mike Jackson reported that 28 boats hit the water for their paddle around the bay. One of these days we'll get our 2012 paddling season started.
On the plus side, we did find an interesting face or two at the coffee shop.
Saturday, January 07, 2012
Today's SPOT OK message was sent from the beach at Gyro Park. I did go farther than that, honestly. But as I walked down the boat ramp, a sweet old lady engaged me in conversation. She seemed really concerned that I had a proper grasp of safety.
As regularly happens, my tow rope, throw bag of floating rope, waterpump, and PFD were all inspected. (My paddle float was with the other set of safety gear for my darling Eliza sea kayak -- no need for a paddle float with this little rec kayak.) The design and merits of the kayak were discussed and compared with other boats; not, I hasten to add, because my inspector had any expertise in the matter, but because she wished to be reassured about my own experience and competence.
The last thing I want during these outings is to have fussing shorewalkers panicking and calling 911. Well, okay, the last thing I want is to drown a hundred feet offshore while five dogwalkers try to call 911 on their cellphones (and cuss if there's no signal) and a couple of horrified ancient onlookers have heart attacks or strokes watching me. A close second is not drowning, but flailing my way ashore only to press the Emergency button on my SPOT for the heart attack victims. So I guess not wanting people to make an unneeded emergency call comes third on my list of Things I Really Don't Want To Happen While Kayaking.
The first item that Bernie expected would be on that list -- No Spiders Crawling On Me! -- already happened once, between Flower Island and Jemmy Jones Island. Louise reported that she was wondering why I'd popped my skirt and was scrabbling around inside the Eliza, until she hear me babbling, "Out! Everybody out! You are not my spider friend! You can swim for all I care!" At least, that's the babble that's repeatable in polite company.
All the other spiders are my spider friends, as far as I'm concerned, like the big one who rode along with Bernie and me on my first crossing of Baynes Channel to the Chathams, on a cold January morning. It wasn't until the kayaks were back in the yard and I was tidying the gear that this particular spider crawled out from under my kayak seat, shivering, and asked "Are we done yet?" I was so grateful that the big hairy spider had not crawled on me when we were half-way across the channel, that I carefully picked it up with two sticks (BIG spider, eh?) and put it in the garden. Good spider. My spider friend. *shudder*
As for this morning, it took some conversation to show the concerned passer-by that she didn't have to engage the help of a couple of joggers to save me from a reckless expedition. When she asked if I had a way to contact people, I showed her the SPOT device and pressed the OK button.
Eventually she went on her way, much less concerned. I paddled along to the little rock garden and began doing a figure eight around the rocks. Just then, a river otter popped up and down several times. Then he swam to the largest rock and climbed ashore with something in his mouth, maybe a fish or a crab. Clearly it was something tasty, as he began tearing off mouthfuls. He looked in my direction after a few moments, so I quickly averted my face. (I think animals feel more threatened when we look directly at them. Sometimes they don't mind if I peek once in a while with a sidelong glance out of the corner of my eye.)
Apparently it was breakfast time for the otter here, and not my turn in the rock garden. I kept rocks between us and beat a hasty retreat back to the shore. The breeze was just starting to pick up.
A few raindrops fell as I put the kayak away. Some teenagers on a bottle drive came up the driveway and asked if we had any empty bottles. So I plodded across the wet yard with some of ours. The puddle in the front yard is colder than the ocean this time of year. But at least it washed the sand out of my sandals.
It's a rainy, breezy morning now, just right for using my computer. I'm tucked under my years-old sleeping bag, editing the page proofs of my next book. Look for it from Rosen Publishing in the summer of 2012 -- Fish: From The Catch To Your Table, part of the series The Truth About The Food Supply. You can find lots of my other books from Rosen there.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Finally, there's a birdwatching course suited for kayakers! It's taking place through Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. The lake itself is a little gem next to the Lochside Trail, the northern spur of the terrific bike trail that runs through Greater Victoria. We're not allowed to paddle there, alas, but it is a good park to take kids or visitors. You can tramp around the trails and floating boardwalks.
Here's the listing for the Marine Birds course, copied from the Nature Sanctuary's website.
Marine Birds – an course for naturalists and nature enthusiasts
Thursdays, March 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Field-trip Sundays March 18, 25, 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.
Learn where to find and how to identify marine birds and discover fascinating secrets about how they feed and live with local ornithologist, James Clowater. Cost: $80 for Swan Lake members - $100 for non-members. Please register by calling 250-479-0211.
Now I'm wondering if that was a puffin or a marbled murrelet that surfaced beside my kayak out in Oak Bay, with a grey squid in its beak...
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
The second disc contains an assortment of more interviews with Derek, and more of his tall tales of kayak expeditions. (There’s even a few humorous outtakes from a previous DVD.)
If you want to see a terrific kayaking storyteller at his finest, check it out.
And while we're on the topic, we understand that Derek is facing a health issue at the moment. We at Kayak Yak send Derek our best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Monday, January 02, 2012
Frequently, of course, the answer is "First Nations paddlers in traditional boats, a long, looooooong time before the Europeans came." But there are other answers as well, particularly when one leaves the "first" aspect behind and asks instead how many people have paddled a particular Canadian river in recent times -- such as the last hundred years or so. Or we could ask, which Canadian rivers did a certain person paddle between 1960 and 1975?
Frequently, of course, the answer for the southern rivers is, "Lots!" But for the northern rivers, there's a managable number of paddling trips that have been recorded. There's a dandy reference book listing paddling trips taken into the rivers of the Canadian North. At the Greater Victoria Public Library, we've got a copy of Canoeing North into the Unknown - A Record of River Travel: 1874 to 1974.
The authors are Bruce Willard Hodgins and Gwyneth Hoyle, and their large paperback book was released by Natural Heritage/Natural History Press in 1994, I believe.
This is one humdinger of a reference book for Canadian paddlers! It is a recommended read for anyone planning a trip into the Canadian North. I've even found it useful when planning a trip on the Red Deer River, which is too far south to be listed. You can look through the listings by area and river and date. There are terrific line maps by Dale Dompseler in each section, which have a great appeal for map fans or anyone bewildered by four-coloured atlases with contour lines. There are several excellent photographs. The bibliography is very useful. There are also separate indexes for people, river and lake names and even organizations, as other reviewers have noted.
It is very Euro-Canadian-centric, if that composite word makes any sense -- the use that First Nations people made of these rivers from 1874 to 1974 for their own purposes is largely unrecorded. But I am pleased to note that the authors of the book have an acknowledgement page giving respect to the First Nations people who still use these rivers and who between 1874 and 1974 were usually the unnamed guides and paddlers enabling the "explorers" to travel in the north. Wherever possible, the authors have listed any of these First Nations guides and paddlers by name. The authors acknowledged their debt as Canadian paddlers to the First Nations paddlers whose names were rarely recorded in the past.
If you're looking for a list of who has made a recreational trip on all the navigable parts of (say) the Porcupine River, this is a good place to start. And it's easy to end up reading the entire book. I'll quote from a review written by Michael Peake for Che-Mun and published on-line by All About Canoes website at this link:
The year 1874 was chosen as a staring point since that marked the first year of northern travel by the Geological Survey of Canada which gave us many northern pioneers, such as the Tyrrells and A.P. Low. Their closing year marked another kind of northern audit - The Wild Rivers Survey, which produced those rectangular booklets now out of print and often replete with errors.
If you can't get to a copy at your local public library, ask them to add one to the collection. If you can get a copy of your own, even better!
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Bernie wasn't on for the walk, so I put my little inflatable kayak on a roller and went by myself. The day was mild and calm for January, but as I rolled down the hill into Telegraph Cove there was a bit of a breeze coming out of the east. Rollers were coming in from Haro Strait into the little round cove. Just little rollers, though!
Both coming and going, I had to deal with getting caught in a Cadboro Bay Holiday Traffic Jam. These aren't like traffic jams in other places nearby. On McKenzie Avenue, a traffic jam is bumper-to-bumper car traffic that extends for blocks or miles. Out in the Chain Islands, a traffic jam is a couple of kayakers trying to get out of the way of two dozen bobbing heads of harbour seals.
But in the Cadboro Bay neighbourhood, a Holiday Traffic Jam consists of at least one honkin' big vehicle with kayak racks on top and at least one small sedan with two or more goggling people with swivelling heads. That's about it for cars. The rest of the traffic is people on foot. There's at least one wrestling a kayak, like me with the roller or the two guys who were unloading from their vehicle's roof racks. There are several people walking their dogs. (Note that the size of the dog is in no way correlated to the size of the person: big dogs may be walking with big or small people, and the same goes for small dogs.) And there are people out for their Holiday Walk, which is clearly the only time all year when they walk any farther than from their front doors to their cars. You can tell by their faces that they know it should be an enjoyable walk, and by their paces that they're really not sure how much farther they want to go -- sure, there are two terrific coffee shops in the Village, but...
So, at the cove I talked with the two guys heading out, and reassured them that I was going to keep my little inflatable inside the cove. A river otter scrambled out of the brush and down the beach, and stared at one guy loading his kayak, then slipped into the water.
An old man walking by stopped to marvel at the Dragonfly and to scold me about not wearing a hat. He picked up my toque and held it out to me until I actually put it on. Then he hung around and pushed me off-shore, and stared out from the beach for a while. I think he was reassured that I was indeed staying inside the little cove.
It was great to be out in the Dragonfly again after using the Mini-Tripper so many times lately. I'd never take the Mini-Tripper out in this uneven water. But the inflatable has more rocker, and the bow rises higher, and there's an actual front deck. It's way less tippy, too. I rode the rollers out for a while, and surfed a bit coming back. It was terrific to go out and back several times. There were a couple of harlequin ducks sitting on the rocks, regally observing me as I carefully avoided a couple of boomers near their rocks. This winter does seem to be shaping up to be the Winter Of The Ducks.
With all the rollers, I still wasn't splashed until I came ashore. The last wave soaked me from the elbows down, but that was okay. I was plenty warm packing up and walking back through the Holiday Traffic Jam.
Got back, and played around with the computer for a while, doing some reading for one of the courses I'm taking in the new year. Found my SPOT ok message and put the link here. Now I'm putting together some dinner -- roast chicken glazed with medlar jelly. What a great day!