Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kayaking For A Cure

This year, Louise and I will again be taking part in the Kayak For A Cure to raise money to help fight the scourge of cancer. We've lost two family members to cancer in the last couple of years; we paddle to honour their memory.
You can honour their memory, and the memory of your lost loved ones, by sponsoring the Kayak Yak Team at this link. Donations received from the Victoria event go towards the local InspireHealth Integrated Cancer Care centre.
This year's event takes place at Willows Beach on September 8, starting at 8:30 AM. Come down and paddle, come down and support the cause. And support those who need our support.

Monday, July 29, 2013

More Whales, More Tales

Last week, two divers in southern California almost became lunch when two humpback whales surfaced right beside them while hunting sardines.
Shawn Stamback and his diving partner, Francis Antigua, were swimming near their boat on hoping to hear the whales sing when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by sardines. Stamback said, as quoted by CTV News, "Before we know it, there’s all these bait fish just coming straight up in your face. The first thing that came to mind was, ‘Oh, there's a predator down there chasing them.' All of a sudden (the sardines) just rushed all to the surface and two humpback whales go right behind them, chasing them all the way to the surface."
The two divers barely escaped being swallowed.

And if you think that was spectacular, check out this series of photos by Christopher Swann. After a two-hour battle in the waters of Mexico, an orca jumps high into the air to deliver the final blow to a dolphin. Spolier Warning: it doesn't end well for the dolphin.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

News from the Georgia Strait Alliance

Summer is a good time to see lots of people on the beaches and in small boats. Many of these people only go to the shores in summertime. Sometimes I don't mind sharing the beach with all these extra people, so I paddle in the afternoon. Sometimes I want my beach to be quiet and private like it is in winter, so I paddle early in the morning. Crowds and quiet both make for good times on the water.
I've been enjoying the e-mail notices that come from various groups supported by local small boat users. The latest update came from the Georgia Strait Alliance -- you can click on this link to read their latest note.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cougar Seen From A Boat

If you've ever wondered how cougars get to small islands, well, the answer is: they swim. Rather well, too, as a few people fishing near Tahsis, BC can testify.

Check out the article on the CBC's website about their close encounter. Oh, and here's a safety tip for those kayakers who see large animals swimming -- it would be inconvenient if a swimming cougar tried to climb up onto the deck of your kayak, or a deer like we saw in Esquimalt Harbour, or even a raccoon like Louise saw at Portland Island. Give swimming animals lots of room. Lots!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Parking Overnight at Island View!

Good news for kayakers launching at Island View Beach!

This photo of Island View Beach is from the CRD Parks website at the link above.
It's now possible to buy an overnight parking pass from Central Saanich municipal hall for $10. This parking option will be convenient for kayakers planning to camp on nearby islands in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, such as Isle de Lis Marine Park, Portland Island, and D'Arcy Island where the ruins of the old leper colony can still be seen in photos that Bernie took when he camped there. Check out the Times-Colonist newspaper's article on this overnight parking news!

Getting a parking pass is also a good idea for kayakers who intend to do only a long day's trip but are prepared in case they might have to stay out overnight. And, of course, many park rangers recommend that people leaving their vehicles at a trailhead or boat launch should also leave a note on the dashboard explaining their planned route and estimated time of return.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wear Your PFD

Yes, it's summer. Yes, many people find a life jacket or a personal flotation device (PFD) to be hot or uncomfortable. Tough noogies. I'm going to repeat the advice that is frequently given to kayakers and to people out in canoes, rowboats, dinghies, and other small boats: a life jacket can't do you much good when you are not wearing it.
Oh, sure, a PFD can make a good cushion under your butt. The answer to that is to make a proper cushion for your butt, or to carry a second PFD to use as a cushion. It is darned nice when floating beside an overturned boat, collecting one's sense of aplomb, to have a cushion or spare PFD to hang onto -- but it's even nicer to be WEARING a PFD and holding onto that floating cushion.
Oh, sure, a PFD can make a person feel hot on a sunny day, or it can restrict some people's feeling of free movement. That's why I wear a Kokatat Orbit -- it doesn't make me feel constricted or wrapped up tightly. Even better is the Mustang style of inflatable PFD which has no lift until inflated, or the SeaO2 which has a little lift until inflated, and then it has way more lift than an ordinary PFD.
But after all the excuses, wear your PFD to make it easier for the search party to find you. Most of the recreational fishermen who are found drowned are a few feet away from their boats, where their life jackets are stuffed behind the seat along with a mickey or a six-pack.
I like the news that the Canadian regulations for stand-up-paddleboards are considering allowing paddlers not to wear a PFD if they are wearing a leash attaching them to the board. Regulations aren't just arbitrary rules -- they are rules meant to reflect what people are doing and how they can be safer.
Nobody plans to add a fatal accident to a fun outing on the water. Nobody wants to be part of a search party dragging a lake. And nobody wants to be hiring this couple with an underwater robot, even if it is pretty darned cool and is put to good use.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Moment of Zen

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Harbours Survey -- Tell What You Think

I just received a survey from Kitty Lloyd, the Assistant Coordinator for Harbours and Watersheds at the CRD. Attention, paddlers in the Greater Victoria area who take an interest in Victoria Harbour, or the Gorge Waterway, or Esquimalt Harbour and Lagoon! You're going to want to take the survey and give the CRD some data to crunch from a paddling perspective.

Kitty Lloyd writes:

The GWI, CRD and community partners have developed a survey to gain public input regarding issues, concerns and visions regarding the 5 CRD core area harbours (see details and map below). The survey will be available on-line until 20 September 2013.
Please forward to anyone else you think might be interested. Everyone who fills out a survey will be entered in a draw to win a rain barrel!
Thank you for your interest.
Kitty Lloyd
Assistant Harbours and Watersheds Coordinator
Parks & Environmental Services
Capital Regional District

CRD Harbours Survey
We want to hear from you!
Our harbours are the gateways to our region, where we live, work and play. Each of the core area harbours - Victoria Harbour, Gorge Waterway, Portage Inlet, Esquimalt Lagoon and Esquimalt Harbour - has a unique past, present and future.

The CRD Harbours Environmental Action Program is consulting with the public on a community vision for these harbours. Let us know your thoughts about the future of the harbours, how you use them, what you value, what concerns you have.
Your name will be entered to win a RAIN BARREL!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

CRD Parks Nature Programs -- and Canoeing!

There are loads of summer activities planned in parks throughout the Capital Regional District (that's the area in and around Victoria, eh?). If you're looking for beach-related Nature Walks with a naturalist or parks interpreter, check out the schedule for summer programs posted on the CRD website at this link.

Small boat users take note: there are several canoeing activities scheduled on the list. As the event schedule says:
Paddle in the lake searching for eagles, herons, turtles and other lake life with CRD Regional Parks’ naturalists. Canoe equipment and instruction are provided and no experience is necessary.  You must pre–register: $20+GST (15 yrs+); $10+GST (5–14 years). Phone 250.478.3344. 
This is an excellent way for a paddler who is a parent, or aunt/uncle, or big brother/sister to take out a young person for a ride in a canoe. If you've been wondering what kind of wildlife makes those rustling sounds as you walk around a lake or paddle on it, this is a good activity to try. It's also an affordable way for a beginner to get some time in a canoe -- but without having to buy a canoe, transport it on top of a car, and carry it to water! You don't even need a vehicle, as most of the canoeing takes place on Beaver Lake which is accessed by the #70 or #72 bus.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Testing A Rowboat

Got a chance to help a friend with her first test paddle of a new boat! It wasn't a kayak, though -- it was an inflatable rowboat.
Some inflatable rowboats are simply nothing more than pool toys for little kids to play with in shallow water while being watched by attentive lifeguards. Others are darned near as tough as a Zodiac and cost nearly as much. My friend likes to find something better than a pool toy and more affordable than a Zodiac, and it looks like her newest boat has the qualities she needs.
It takes only a few minutes to unpack this rowboat and inflate it. Behold! Intex's new model, the Seahawk 2. It's a nice enough boat to deserve a proper set of oars and a big doublestroke air pump. Looks about nine feet long and big enough to hold two people. Here it is, sitting on the lawn next to my little inflatable, an older version of an Advanced Elements Lagoon.
We carried our boats down to the shore and launched. My friend does a floating launch to avoid wear-and-tear on the rubber boat, but I wasn't able to get a video of the launch technique.
What a good day for a test paddle! The sun was bright without being too hot, the beach had several people yet wasn't over-crowded, and there were just a few ruffled wavelets as the breeze picked up. Over the next hour and a half we paddled along the bay shore and drifted, relaxing and letting the boats drift.
Test subject confirms the boat is large enough to recline with either head or feet elevated!
The verdict? This model is a reasonable choice of rowboat, very affordable, and it packs up small enough to carry on a bus or tuck easily into a car's trunk. Plus, if there's only one person in it, there's plenty of room for fishing gear and maybe a cooler full of a picnic. Must make plans for the future!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

2013 MEC Victoria Paddlefest

You couldn't ask for a better day for a Paddlefest. Well, you could, but that would be greedy.
In the midst of an incredible run of sunny weather, Louise, Paula, Bernie (yes, even Bernie!) and I arrived at Willows Beach for the 2013 version of the MEC Victoria Paddlefest.
And it was a picture-perfect day, unlike last year's "Fog-fest."
But bright sunny skies made for a big turn-out this year, as we bumped into old friends and paddling buddies.

There were already a lot of kayaks in the water when we arrived....
...so we headed up the beach to check displays and boats. Here Louise and Paula watch as a potential customer checks out a boat.

Paula chatted up the Necky rep for a bit....
...then headed out on Ocean River's Discovery Island tour....
...so Louise and I tried out some boats.

Louise headed out in a Sterling Reflection on loan for the day from one of The Hurricane Riders.
No sooner had Louise got in the kayak, then our friend Mark rolled up onto the beach in another Reflection. He and Louise traded notes while I continued to practice the art of taking unflattering photos of kayakers.
While Louise was out in the Reflection, I took a Sterling Grand Illusion out. These are nicely outfitted and sturdy boats. And insanely light to carry.

Next, Louise took out a Tahe Marine boat. I didn't catch which model it was, but I think it's a Reval.
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Louise wasn't as keen on it, and didn't like the seat very much. I took a Boréal Design Epsilon C300 out for a spin and quite enjoyed it.

All in all, a gorgeous day at the beach.
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Trip length: .42 km
YTD: 29.03 km
More pictures are here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer News from BC Marine Trails, Georgia Strait Alliance, and MEC Paddlefest!

The latest news from BC Marine Trails sounds pretty darned good. There's a "leave no trace" campsite at Musgrave Point on SaltSpring Island, and the Alert Bay 360 is coming up. Check out the update at BC Marine Trails, or go to their websit at bcmarinetrails.org.

Then there's the latest word from the Georgia Strait Alliance. They have a new program called Save the Salish Sea!  You can also check out their website at http://www.georgiastrait.org/ to see what they're up to lately.

But this weekend in Victoria? The happening place on Saturday is Mountain Equipment Co-op's Paddlefest on Willows Beach. From 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Saturday, there'll be boats on the beach and booths on the shore! Take the #2 bus to Willows Beach, or lock up your bike at the extra bike racks... and there'll be some street parking for cars as well.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Paddlers and Float Planes: Do Not Mix

Rick Gonder, a senior patroller with the Victoria Harbour Patrol, is reaching out to the Victoria paddling community regarding concerns that many recreational and rental paddlers are paddling under the wings of aircraft moored at the float plane terminals, and passing too closely to the terminals, especially the main float plane terminal at Harbor Air. He writes:

As a result of our observations and periodic enforcement we have decided to take a proactive approach in dealing with this concern. With that in mind, we are advising you that today Harbor Patrol initiated a project that will educate our friends in the paddling community. Our project will run until the end of July with the following mandate:

1: We are asking for your support in informing club members, pro/am paddlers and commercial clients that all paddlers are requested to keep a minimum distance of approx three wing widths between their vessels and aircraft moored at float plane terminals at all times, including when the terminals are not in operation.
2: Harbor Patrol will 'educate' paddlers transiting in the area of the floatplane terminals by telling them that they are to stay approx 3 wing widths away from aircraft moored at the terminals.
3: Floatplane terminal dock staff will support us by warning off paddlers who transit under wings or in close proximity to aircraft moored at the terminals.

The Harbormaster supports this initiative. It is not his intention to impose any restrictions on the paddling community unless it is absolutely necessary. It is our desire to work with you in an effort to keep the harbor safe for all users. We are asking for your support by getting this message out to your club members, pro/am rowers and commercial clients.
If you have any comments or concerns please forward them in writing to the Victoria Harbormaster at david.featherby@tc.gc.ca.

There's no question that the harbour is a cramped space to travel in, what with float planes, whale watching boats, yachts, harbour ferries and paddlers of all sorts travelling in every direction. Just ask the captain of the Coho ferry which yesterday ran over an old float plane dock and almost ran into a hotel. So always keep your eyes peeled and wits about you when plying the harbour, and give those float planes the respect, and clearance, they need.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Things Kayak Guides Probably Shouldn't Do

If I was a little more unscrupulous, I would steal this blog post about kayaking and claim each and every word as my own. It's a list by a kayak guide in Maine of things kayak guides shouldn't do. A few are actually helpful; most are just are just hysterical. So I won't steal any lines, but I will borrow a couple to give you a glimpse of the flavour:

2) Yelling “Shark! Shark!” is an inappropriate way to speed up your group
12) “That’s what they said about the Titanic” is no longer to follow any questions regarding a kayak’s ability to stay afloat
30) “You do not talk about sea kayaking” is not the first rule of sea kayaking
41) Telling clients “sure, see how far you can lean without capsizing” is not an acceptable way to teach them how to perform a wet exit
42) Stupid questions are not the reason you didn’t see wildlife and it’s not nice to tell your clients such

Sadly, the unnamed blogger doesn't seem to post much about kayaking on his blog at all, which is a shame because this post is a real gem. Go check it out.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

More Canadian Flooding!

There's been more urban flooding in Canadian cities! Yesterday, a thunderstorm dropped a month's worth of rain in a couple of hours on the Toronto area. Storm drains filled to overflowing, and if there was an underpass, it was likely flooded.
Even the subway trains and stations were affected.
Check out The Guardian for a few excellent photos of police and emergency personnel in small boats, rescuing stranded passengers from the Go Train. That's the train I rode a few times with my kayak and gear in a bag... would have been useful! Was that the Toronto Police Marine Unit, carrying commuters to safety? And farther on in the slideshow of images, is someone in a red canoe paddling past a bicycle being ridden half-way to its hubs in flood water. Alternate transportation works.

Along the Shore

It's interesting to compare summer paddling with winter paddling. The biggest difference? To me, it's not the temperature, even though our mild winters are still cool enough that the few shivering people walking along the promenade or beach at Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park are staring at me in a shortie wetsuit with bare feet, tucking my sandals into my little inflatable kayak. The summer temperatures are usually mild, too, though we've had some days already which were hot enough that friends left their dry suits at home and joined me by paddling in light clothes (shorts & shirt suitable for swimming if we tipped over in sheltered water).
So, it's not the temperature or how it changes our gear. The big difference is the number of people! It's almost as if there were some kind of announcement that said "It's summer! You're supposed to go to the beach!" The beach visitors don't stay long... not all of them. Many of them look so winter-pale that this might be the first time in months that they've been outside for longer than the time it takes to walk from door to car or bus. (I will acknowledge here that I look similarly pale; it takes moving a bracelet I wear every day to show that sonufagun, I do have a tan.)
The increased shoreline population affects our kayaking in a couple of ways. The first way is the portage across a crowded beach, or a beach that seems crowded when one is trying not to slap a sunbathing stranger with the stern of my kayak. Dogwalking strangers are usually able to dodge.
The second way is the brief conversation with somebody or other at the water's edge about the kayak, gear, clothes, weather, destinations, or boats in general. If you ever feel lonely for someone to talk with, get a kayak -- because then strangers will feel inclined to stop beside your boat and say all kinds of things until you wave and paddle away for a few minutes of quiet on the water. If the strangers comment on the currents just past the end of the point, it's clear that they have actually been out here in a boat themselves, and so the conversation is more fun. But I can't really complain about kayaks attracting strangers, not when I paddle distinctive boats. All small boats are worthy of attention, but my inflatables inspire covetous comments and my sea kayak is bright pink and locally designed for smaller paddlers, so there!
The third way that the increased shoreline population affects our kayaking is the number of interactions goes way up -- and not just interactions with people, but with other living things! There are migrating birds lounging about in their summer homes, bringing out newly-fledged babies. There are thousands of little fish visible, darting in the shallows under the boat or splashing ahead and making little rings on the water. Mink and otter scrabble along the rocks or swim with their dark heads looking like the floats of bullwhip kelp. It's hard to imagine how many other living things are barely visible, like the sea stars wedging themselves into cracks, or the sea anemones ten feet down and visible only when curtains of seaweed billow aside. If the tide and sunlight are right, it's possible in some places to see red rock crabs stalking sideways across sandy bottoms where a few vent holes show that there's something living in the muck, maybe big geoduck clams or some kind of bristly marine worm.
The two biggest differences this week? That's easy. One day I saw seven humans along the rocky shoreline where nice houses tower over the water. It's a rare day when there's more than one person out in those waterfront properties. What was especially rare was that I don't think any of the seven were hired gardeners; these were actual residents and their guests enjoying these homes and yards.
And the other difference was a new boat. New to me anyway, and it also looked new. It was a Whitehall Spirit rowing scull, their Solo 14 model. It was anchored off Stein Island. The name written on the stern was The Crimson, a terrifically appropriate name, as the scull was brilliantly red. Awesome.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Ninety years of rain

And some Novembers, that's just the way it feels. Inspired by this graphic, I have been playing around with the Canadian Daily Climate Data, available from Environment Canada National Climate Data and Information Archive. I'll leave all the delightful geeky details of Python script and R code for another place and another time, but I wanted to show off my version of the plot, for the weather station at Gonzalez Heights (1898 to beginning of 1988). The area of the coloured circles are proportional to the rainfall, plotted per day along the horizontal and by year on the vertical (the San Francisco plot goes from mid-year to mid-year; mine currently uses the calendar year). On the right, the bars represent the total yearly precipitation. Rainfall is turquoise, snowfall is purple; snowfall is its liquid equivalent, not its snowy depth. During this period, the snowiest year was 1916 (199.4 mm by my calculation), with a one-day maximum of 53.3 mm (also in 1916). The rainiest year was 1933 (923.5 mm), although the maximum rainfall was 83.3 mm in 1979. Victoria International Airport has data from 1940 to 2004. None of these years (even 1996) was snowier, although the maximum snowfall, in 1996 (we know when that was!) was 64.5 mm. However the rainiest year was 1997, with 1159 mm, and the rainiest single day was in 2003, with 136 mm.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Need a Spare?

Here's something that might come in handy for someone looking for a spare cell phone. It's called a SpareOne, an AA battery powered cell phone. You can use it to make to make an emergency cell call, or if you pop your cell phone's SIM card into it, you can use it like a regular cell phone. The battery will last forever, well, ten hours of talk time. There are some drawbacks -- although it comes in a waterproof bag, the phone itself is not waterproof, and it is only a cell phone, not a satellite phone. If you're out of cell coverage, you're out of luck. And you should check if it will work on your cell network. One online reviewer noted that it is a 2G phone and one of our local cell networks no longer supports 2G, so the phone didn't work on it.
This won't beat a sat phone, SPOT, or EPIRB if you're far off the beaten path and not in range of a cell network in an emergency, but it might be a good additional piece of communications gear if you're considering a backup for your cell phone.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Improvised Kayak Rack

Out for a walk during the long weekend, we passed by Mike Jackson's place and saw that he'd made a kayak rack out of something unexpected:

Not a bad idea!
I've used a couple of resin lawn chairs -- right side up -- when maintaining my inflatable kayaks, but those are lighter than Mike's sea kayak. The chairs hold the  inflatable up at a reasonable height for cleaning or spraying with 303 Protectant. An inflatable can be balanced across the backs of two chairs if the backs aren't too round, or the bow and stern of the light little Lagoon will fit on the seats.
There are a lot of these resin lawn chairs around. When one gets a crack or breaks, there's no way to repair it reliably. Nice to have another way to use them, before eventually recycling them.

I do like when things can be repaired, and continue to be used... like the big concrete animals at Gyro Park. The Saanich work crew have sandblasted all three big animals, repaired the cracked concrete, and re-painted them. The Cadborosaurus is looking pretty good now!

Here's Louise looking it over. We can see this big beast from the water when we're paddling, but the giant red octopus shows up better from a distance.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Flying the Flag on Canada Day

Many of our North American readers may have noticed that there is a heat wave going on. Here on the southern tip of Vancouver Island we may not be melting under the insane temperatures the southern U.S. is getting, but we are suffering under abnormally high temps here, too. Okay, I am suffering, not we. Apparently some people like record-breaking heat. I don't. Give me snow over a heatwave any day.
Yesterday's high of 30.8C was not a record breaker, but it was very close, and today's 29.8C temp was a new record, and the humidex means it felt like 32C. That's official "I-feel-like-I'm-dying-weather."
But it's Canada Day, and a little hot weather isn't going to stop us from flying the flag during our annual Canada Day paddle down The Gorge.

Louise and I rolled the kayaks down the hill to our local put in on The Gorge. Paula was going to join us but was running late, so we watched to local Canada Day parade pass by.

Yes, the Saanich Police Department employs the latest in modern crime-fighting technology.

Just as the parade ended, Paula appeared and set to work inflating her kayaking. Louise and I went for a little paddle as Paula got ready. Louise did some stroke practice and enjoyed a quiet moment of tranquility having a little float...
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...while I watched a heron in its favourite fishing spot.
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I figured that I might as well get as many pictures of the heron as I could as this would probably be the only wildlife we would see today. Most of the birds in the area don't like the huge crowd we get in this area on Canada Day and seem to either hide or just go somewhere else.

Faster than you can say "Pierre Poutine," Paula was ready and we headed out. Even though we were out early, we could already feel the heat rising. Even the cool breeze we were picking up on the water was slowly being overpowered by the rising temperature.
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We made it to the new Craigflower bridge construction site before deciding to turn around. We still wanted to visit the 1.5 kilometer-long Gorge Canada Day Block Party before it got so hot that we melted into puddles.
And something was attracting me onto shore....
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First, we checked out some classic cars. Anyone remember this one?
It's not the original...but it's a darn fine copy.

If you wanted to experience some more cultured fare, there were dancers...
...and rockers.
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If communing with nature was more your style, you could hang out with a marmot instead.
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Or you could take your best friend kayaking.
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And what could be more Canadian than a giant game of road hockey? On course, if you're going to play goal on the hottest Canada Day on record, you better dress the part, right?

Trip length: 4.20 km
YTD: 28.62 km
More pictures are here.

The Railrodder

In honour of Canada Day, embedded below is The Railrodder, a short film made by the National Film Board of Canada in 1965. It stars the great Buster Keaton in his last silent movie, and one of his final on-screen performances. He plays a British tourist who decides to see Canada and embarks on an unorthodox cross-country sightseeing trip. Full of Keaton's classic slapstick, it's a wonderful travelogue of our beautiful country, and how it looked nearly 50 year ago.
Happy Canada Day!

The Railrodder by Gerald Potterton, National Film Board of Canada