Thursday, April 26, 2012

News from the Georgia Strait Alliance

Georgia Strait Alliance is not primarily a kayaking group -- but it's an organization of great interest to kayakers and other small boat users living near the Salish Sea. Check out the latest issue of their newsletter here for news on:
     • Salmon expansion plans - the tricky way!
     • Kinder Morgan's plan for expansion - more oil tankers to come
     • AGM coming up in Sidney
     • Other fun events happening around the Strait!
     • Welcome to our new Clean Marine BC Program Coordinator

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Iceberg, dead ahead!

Not, however, in our home waters. Iceberg was filmed just off the Kamchatka peninsula off the eastern coast of Russia.

Iceberg is thought to be about 16 years old and is believed to be the first adult albino orca that's been sighted. Albinism  is often linked with a weakened immune system, and it is rare for orcas to make it to adulthood with the condition.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Kayaker Tips

If you read the glossy magazines about kayaking, it's easy to get a couple of wrong impressions. Kayaking isn't just for hardcore hardbodies who work as river guides, and who pack their 4x4 vehicles to the roof with every conceivable kind of expensive gear. There are plenty of people who enjoy kayaking who get on the water only once in a while, and who have just enough gear to do it right.
Because of requests from a couple of frequent readers, here are some tips for kayakers with less experience. Doesn't matter whether you're going for your first time in a kayak, or if your summers always include a day messing around at the lake with friends or family. Here are some ideas that can help you have more fun in a kayak -- and some errors that are easy to avoid!

-The best kayak isn't necessarily the longest or the biggest. It's the one you're in and having fun.
-You don't have to buy a kayak. Rent one for an afternoon or a day.
-Rent a kayak when you're travelling -- it's usually way cheaper than hauling one a long way or buying one once you get there.
-Before you get in a kayak, do some stretches. You don't want to pull a muscle just getting in!
-Adjust the foot pedals to suit you before getting in. You may have to do this on shore, then put the boat in the water and get in. It's especially important if you are very short or very tall.
-When you grip your paddle, your hands should be about shoulder width apart. Hold the paddle in an easy grip, not too tight.
-The paddle should enter the water at an angle, not straight up and down. It doesn't have to dig deep like a canoe paddle.
-How to tell if you are holding the paddle upside-down or backwards: If your paddle has labels on the blade, you should be able to read the words. The paddle will work better if it's right side up.
-Have a small dunk bag ready. If you don't have a dry bag, it can be a plastic bag that seals. It should hold a spare t-shirt and sweatpants, snack bars, big kerchief, headache pills, Band-aids, and coins for parking meters. Bring a bottle of water too. It can stay in a car until it's needed. If somebody gets dunked you are going to be a hero.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

This is The Roll

Having heard that Justine Curgenven's latest film was to be titled This is the Roll, I was looking forward to what I assumed was the first in a series of films about baked goods, and I eagerly thought of possible follow-ups: This is the Bun, This is the Croissant, This is the Baguette and, my personal favourite, This is the Gluten-Free Pizza Crust.
Culinary jokes aside, there is probably no one better at making sea kayaking films right now than Justine, and her first foray into the realm of kayak coaching DVDs features well-known Greenland-style paddlers Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson. There's almost three hours of material on the DVD, all of it well presented. The DVD focuses on three rolls: the standard Greenland roll, the reverse sweep and the storm roll. Cheri and Turner are excellent presenters and they cover the material in great depth. Having watched a few "how to roll" DVDs over the years, this is certainly the most in-depth one I've ever seen. Heck, it was more in-depth that most rolling lessons I've had. Of course, there is no substitute to having an instructor right there in the water telling you what you're doing right (and wrong), but this may be as close to that as one may come with a DVD. It's dense; there's a lot of material here and repeated viewings will be required. For instance, the number of rolls shown during the film must be in the hundreds, and I'd swear that none of them are repeated during the course of the film.
All the members of our little viewing party were impressed and think it's probably the best instructional video any of us have seen.
Will it make you a better roller? I imagine it will, along with lots of practice, of course. Despite an absence of breads and pastries, This is the Roll is an excellent DVD.

Swan Lake Paddle Pedal

Despite it being a gorgeous day today, Louise and I couldn't agree on a place to kayak this morning, so we compromised and took our land kayaks out of storage for a paddle, er, pedal.
We haven't had our bikes out in a while -- Louise hasn't had hers out for years -- but they're both freshly tuned up and we're going to try to do more riding this summer, so we decided to take them out for a short post-tune up shake down cruise along the Galloping Goose Trail. From there, we transferred over to the Lochside Trail and rode the short distance to Swan Lake.
Here, we discovered that Swan Lake apparently has natural Feng Shui properties. Who knew?

2012 Vancouver Island Outdoor Adventure Expo

Louise and I checked out this weekend's Vancouver Island Outdoor Adventure Expo at the nearby Pearkes Arena. I have to say that we were both a little underwhelmed by the number of exhibitors, and were really disappointed that there were no camping trailers on display this year. A number of mini-trailers were on display last year, but there weren't any this year. There was this....
...a tent designed to look like a 1965 VW camper van. It's the same size as the original van, looks pretty cool, sleeps four, but is a bit pricey.
There were a few things on interest to kayakers. Local kayak manufacturer Lightspeed Kayaks had a booth set up....
...and so did Ocean River Sports.

We also lusted after this set up from Hobie.

Ultimately, the most interesting thing was the photo-booth. I thought having our picture taken in it was a great idea. Louise, not so much.

Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chocolate Beach

Louise and I enjoyed a couple of days away on nearby Salt Spring Island, one of the southern Gulf Islands, earlier this week. A short half-hour hop on the ferry Skeena Queen...
...took us to the hamlet of Fulford Harbour, where we disembarked and began our exploration of the island.

Our first stop was Mount Maxwell, the highest point on Salt Spring and one of the highest in the whole southern Gulf Islands at a height of about 660 metres.
You can see forever from up here, or at least it seems that way. The road up is a twisty and windy dirt road -- make sure your vehicle can handle it before proceeding -- but the trip is worth it. What a view.
One thing we saw --and heard-- was a thundercloud roll by overhead. By the time we got to our hotel in the island's hotspot of Ganges, we were in the midst of a ranging rain and hail storm...
...a storm which knocked out power to 150,000 customers back home in Victoria. Fixing the clocks would be on the agenda when we returned home.

We found a tasty lunch at Barb's Buns. Louise had tomato lentil soup and I had a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.
And any café that is playing Queen's Death on Two Legs on their stereo gets a thumbs up from me.

We explored Ganges for a couple of hours, then settled into our room at the Harbour House.
The Harbour House has a a great view of the harbour, but that would be expected given the name. Our room had an excellent view of the parking lot in back. We found Dagwood's Diner for dinner. Louise had an excellent Cajun Chicken Burger, while I had a Bacon Cheeseburger. Yum!
We settled in for the night in our room, interrupted for a while after midnight by a bunch of yahoos who'd obviously imbibed too much at a local watering hole and mistook the hotel hallway as their room and thought that shouting things like "Paging Doctor Faggot!" was the height of wit. Well, they were half right.

We breakfasted in the hotel. I had the yumcious blueberry pancakes and Louise had hazelnut and cranberry porridge. Thursday's unsettled weather had blown through and we were facing a gorgeously sunny Friday.
We booked a tour with Salt Spring Adventures. We've never kayaked on Salt Spring, so we decided to take a tour and let an expert show us the lay of the land, er, water. And we were just too damn lazy to bring our boats over.
Salt Spring Adventures was located across the road from our hotel, so Louise and I changed into our neoprene in our room and walked over. We thought we might have been the only people to ever parade around the hotel like that, but we saw others also wearing neoprene wandering the hallways. Either there were a number of paddlers staying there, or we were thankfully innocent regarding what kind of hotel we were staying at.
Louise was clearly ready to go.

Our guide, Yvonne, got us and two other clients from France loaded into our boats and we headed out.

Louise was in a plastic Necky Eliza, while I was in a plastic Necky Looksha 17. I don't recall ever paddling a Looksha before but Louise has paddled Paula's Eliza before, and we both enjoyed our rides today.

I love the erosions formations in the rock. I was reminded of our paddles around Ladysmith where we've seen the same kind of wearing in the rock.

Yvonne was a terrific guide, pointing out various flora and fauna, local history, as well as passing out paddling pointers. She was a lot of fun as well as knowledgeable, and we really enjoyed her company.

Our destination was Chocolate Beach on a small island call Second Sister Island. Of course, when I heard that our destination was a chocolate beach, I immediately thought of this, so I was somewhat disappointed that there was no chocolate at Chocolate Beach. But Yvonne did bring tea and snacks.
Besides, who needs chocolate when you're in a piece of heaven like this? Especially, a piece of heaven with a cute outhouse:

Too soon, we had to head back.

A lone seal pointed the way back.

Back on shore, we spent our last few hours on the island browsing the shops. I bought too many books (what a surprise!) and Louise found the latest in kayaking chic.

Trip Length: 7.68 km
YTD: 44.64 km
More pictures are here.
2012-04-13 Saltspring

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Boppin' 'Bout the Bay


It was of those kinds of paddles, where frequently changing forecasts caused plans to change daily almost up until the time that Louise, Paula and I hit the beach this morning at Cadboro Bay. We knew we were going to get a bit of a breeze today, and we decided to stick close to the south shore of the bay while we checked out the conditions.
We quickly determined that this direction was more work than fun. I love my kayak, but sometimes it is a pig to turn when facing into the wind, and today was one of those days when the wind was blowing in whatever direction was most inconvenient at any particular moment.
So after checking out some of the wrecked boats on the beach from the winter storms (like this one that has been sitting here since last November)....
...and we crossed back to hug the Northern shore and hopefully get some shelter from the breeze.

Here, we gained a respite from the wind and we travelled along the shore, admiring the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.

Louise spotted a pair of otters cavorting near the shore.
We floated by and watched them frolic. Finally, they noticed us and headed up onto shore.

A heron distracted us.

Then it was back to the beach. And warm drinks!

Trip Length: 5.10 km
YTD: 36.96 km
More pictures are here.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Johnson Street Bridge Deathwatch

I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, Spring may might be here. Or perhaps I should say that instead of the Spring we had last year that lasted until October, perhaps this year we're having a Spring that may actually at some point soon morph into Summer.

This morning Louise and I headed downtown for a paddle through the Inner Harbour and up the lower Gorge. After all, any Friday in a kayak is a good Friday.

After putting on the beach at the Songhees, pretty much the first thing you see is the Johnson Street Bridge which, as sharp-eyed readers may note, as undergone some modification since the last time we paddled here. The venerable old Blue Bridge, built in 1924, is slowly being torn down so that its replacement can be built. The rail portion of the bridge has already been removed.

Past the bridge a cormorant watched over us....

...and then we saw the rail portion of the bridge, high and dry and ready to be disassembled for scrap.

We passed under the Bay Street Bridge....
...and while we're talking about historical bridges, the original bridge on this site, the Port Ellice bridge collapsed in 1896 when an overloaded street car broke through and crashed into the waters beneath.The street car was made to hold only 60 people, yet contained 153 when it hit the water. 55 people died in what is still to this day the worst street car accident in North American history.

And on that happy note, we continued up the Gorge, then returned, but as we approached the Blue Bridge a second time....
...we saw the car ferry MV Coho preparing the leave the harbour. The ferry leaves the dock and backs down the harbour towards the bridge until it has enough room to swing itself around and transit out the harbour entrance. It's a heck of a manoeuvre, says the man who can barely parallel park his car, and we enjoyed watching it, although it's a bit disconcerting watching something that big with propellers coming towards you. :)

Trip Length: 6.67 km
YTD: 31.86 km
More pictures are here.