Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Everyone, Remember Where We're Parked

You've probably seen this photo by Nancie Battaglia but you may not know the story behind it. Two years ago today, September 24, 2011, about 2,200 paddlers showed up on the shores of the central Adirondack town of Inlet, New York (population, 400) not only to set a new Guinness World Record, but to raise money for research and awareness of breast cancer prevention. They raised over $80,000. The official tally was 1,902 boats, forming the largest raft of canoes/kayaks in the world. You can read more about the kayaks and the cause here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reno-cation 2013!

Louise and I had the last few days off and used them for another renovation project. We didn't really miss a lot of potential kayaking days, what with the thunder and the lightning and the fog and the rain.
This year's project was to put new flooring and new paint in the main hall and the office. Not an entirely daunting task, not until one considers how much stuff is in the office.
The clutter in the office is why the rest of the house looks neat.

After a couple of days of packing things up, the office looked like this:

Where did all the stuff go? Well, let's just say that we weren't eating at the dining room table for a few days.

The hallway started looking like this....
...but Paula and Bernie came by for a few hours and helped us rip out the carpet the last of the carpet in the house. That ugly brown carpet. Devoid of carpet, a green linoleum was revealed. I can't believe my parents covered it up 40 years ago.
Louise really loved the old linoleum, and so did Inspector Cat. Louise began to reconsider the plan, and tried to determine if the old lino could be salvaged. But there were lots of nails and staples in it used to hold down the old carpet and underlay, and there was also this:
....an old vent that had been removed. My parents put in the carpet in the hallway and bedroom sometime in the 1970s and I remembered the old vent being there, but of course I'd totally forgotten about it. Anyway, the big hole in the lino quickly ended any thoughts Louise may have had about retaining it. There's no way we'd find anything to match it.

The old carpet came out of the office pretty easily.

Inspector Cat approved of the work in the room so far.

Then came two days of painting. We painted the hall and office on Paint Day One, and the plan was to do a second coat on Paint Day Two. After throwing on the second coat of paint in the office, we took a break. Louise had an appointment and our plan was to go to that, have lunch out, then come back and do the second coat in the hallway. I had enough time to have a quick shower, so I ducked into the bathroom. After the shower, as I gathered up my clothes, a little brown furball streaked along the floor alongside the bathtub. A little mouse.
I shrieked like a girl. But I did not jump up onto the toilet. That's just a vicious rumour.
"Where is it?" Louise asked. I didn't know. And neither did the cats. I presumed it snuck out under the bathroom door.
We continued to get ready for Louise's appointment. Then Louise shrieked. It was in the hallway, and it made a mad dash for the bedroom. By now the cats had figured out that something was up and began patrolling the house. As we were almost ready to go, Indy stared intently at a small bookcase beside my nightstand. I slowly moved the bookcase...and saw a little tail sticking out from underneath it. The mouse came out from under the bookcase and for a moment it was trapped between my bookcase and my nightstand. It was frantically looking for an escape, then squeezed between the wall and my nightstand...and disappeared.
Louise had her appointment; we had to leave. As we left, we told the cats to find the mouse, and we called out to the mouse that it was for his own best interest to leave while he could.
When we returned, there were no obvious signs of the mouse, so we prepared to begin painting again. Then we noticed that Parker was staring at Louise's nightstand. Then we heard it -- a tiny scrabbling and scratching sound from inside the top drawer of the nightstand.
I pulled open the drawer slightly. Something small was rustling in there. I quickly shut the drawer. While planning our next move, Indy walked up. He and Parker exchanged a look, and Parker turned and left, leaving Indy to keep his eye on the mouse. Were those two taking turns, spelling each other off? It seemed so.
I told Louise to clear a path through the house to the back deck. She did, and I picked up her nightstand and carried onto the back deck. On the deck I thought, now what? I opened the top drawer and...nothing. Had the little fellow got out somehow and was still in the house? We didn't think so, but the drawer was open and we couldn't see the mouse. I shut the drawer to think for a moment, but then we heard the scratching again. I pulled open the drawer, and there he was, running and jumping frantically as he looked for an escape. Then he disappeared back into the nightstand. We were getting ready to dump out the nightstand when I saw a little brown furball streak by my feet. He hurled himself off the deck, about a three-metre drop, and I saw him lope through the grass as fast as he could away from the house.
We hope that he now realized that he had stumbled into a house full of cats and, after spending a few hours in sheer terror as Indy and Parker patiently took turns waiting him out, we hope he spreads the word to all his mousey friends that ours is a house to avoid.

After painting, the hallway looked like this:
...and the office looks like this:

Inspector Cat approves...
...while Supervisor Cat oversees the entire operation.

It's hard to discern from the photos but the hallway and office have gone from a light grey/green to a slightly off-white. With its cove ceilings, the hallway is very dark and almost like a cave, so we're hoping this colour change brightens things up a bit. Here's the newly painted office walls beside the office door with the old paint on it. You can see the difference in the colour.
We didn't paint the office door, as we had an idea to brighten up the hallway by trading the office door with this windowed door from the room in the basement.
The light coming through the door windows would brighten up the room, and it's a gorgeous door that is still the original colour of the wood in the house, most of which has been painted over through the years. And the door will fit. After all, doors are fairly standard. They should all be the same size, right?
Turns out, not so much. The window door doesn't fit; it's three inches too narrow. But that struck me as odd, surely the doorway sizes are standard in the house. I took a closer look at the hallway, a hallway I've walked down a million times through the decades, and had a surprising realization. There's seven doorways off this hallway: the front outside door, the door to the living room, the door to the main bedroom, a closet door, the bathroom door, the door to the second bedroom (now the office), and the door to the kitchen. Seven doorways. Two are the same size, the other five are all different sizes. Yes, even the two bedroom doorways don't match.
So much for that plan. But now is late in the evening the day before the flooring is supposed to arrive. Which means quickly digging the paint gear out and painting that door!

The new floor was scheduled to be installed on Friday. So naturally the installers couldn't make it until Saturday. And the installer's arrival meant that the kitties had to go prison for a few hours.
Sam was annoyed, Indy was curious and Parker just laid back and chilled. They were very well behaved, considering they were locked up for about six hours while the floor was installed, and what an awesome job was done! Here's the hallway...
...and the office.

The Inspector Cats, following their release from incarceration, gave their approval.

Even the Project Supervisor seems pleased!
It seems almost a shame to remind her we have to put all that stuff back in there...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Paddling at the Truth and Reconciliation gathering

No, we didn't get to Vancouver to attend the gathering of paddlers in False Creek for the Truth and Reconciliation meetings. But our new friend Todd did, and he took some photos. While we're waiting for his report, there's a short article here about the event in general, and a photo of the paddling part in particular.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ocean River Gear Grab

Louise and I headed down to the Ocean River Gear Grab, their twice-yearly parking lot sale.

As we waited in line, Brian Henry, the Big Kahuna himself, kept the crowds entertained while waiting for the rope to drop.
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SUPs were big again this year, and the Ocean River set up a small pond for SUP demonstrations.

The idea of SUPs has crossed our minds. We could easily carry them down the hill and launch into The Gorge for a quick evening paddle. Louise quizzed a couple of employees about them.

Then she checked out the Delta Kayaks....
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...while I checked a Tahe Marine Reval with our friend Mark Hall from Kayak Distribution.
Hmmm...it seemed like a good fit for me. I wonder if we could fit another kayak in the basement...?
Okay, maybe not.

The only thing we bought today was four cans of paint. And that can mean only one thing....Renocation 2013 begins tomorrow! (Foreshadowing: the sign of a superior blog.)

Sunday, September 08, 2013

2013 Kayak for a Cure

Louise and I hit Willows Beach early this morning to join the 2013 edition of Kayak For A Cure. About 50 kayakers by my guess hit the water, some old hands at kayaking, but others were first-time newbies, and many were cancer survivors so it's a short, easy paddle to Cadboro Bay and back.

But first things first. And first I get my picture taken with Marty the Marmot, the hardest working marmot in show business.
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But when our thoughts turned to kayaking, conditions were beautiful on the beach...
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...but there were some big thick clouds of fog here and there offshore and down towards the south.

Soon, we were off. Herding cats is probably easier.
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I wasn't expecting to see much in the way of wildlife today, the wildlife generally hides when a fleet, is in the water, but a heron kept watch as we paddled by.
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We rounded Cattle Point...
...and into Cadboro Bay...
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...where Paula paddled out to briefly join us.
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A quick stop under wispy fog at Cadboro Bay beach...
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...and then we returned to Willows Beach...
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...for munchies.

Donations received from the Victoria event go towards the local InspireHealth Integrated Cancer Care centre, and today we raised over $22,000.
It's not too late to help -- you can still donate by clicking here.

In support of Bobby, Ann, and Karen.
In memory of Pauline, Jaan, and Sam.

Trip length: 6.98 km
YTD: 48.64 km
More pictures are here.

Big Fleet!

Great to see the fleet coming around the headland into The Nase, as Kayak For a Cure took place today! I paddled out from Gyro Park in my little inflatable to meet the fleet. Should have taken my Eliza, but this way I could take less time away from writing.
The weather was certainly on side. There were cormorants, oystercatchers, heaps of seagulls of various kinds, and an otter hanging out along the Uplands shoreline. Good to see so many people in kayaks. And a big wave to Kate Hives of the Hurricane Riders for their escorting so many new paddlers and others not used to kayaking together.

Island News!

Plenty of news here on the Island!
Turns out that a kayak or boat of any kind isn't all that necessary for seeing a whale. Well, sure, we knew that. A couple of years ago, a young gray whale hung around Oak Bay all summer and could be seen from shore several times. That's the one I got close to in my little inflatable.
But Thursday, a small group of transient orcas came right up to the breakwater at Ogden Point and delighted the people walking along the breakwater. No boat needed! You can read about the viewing here, and check out their photos.
And on CBC radio yesterday, there was a report of people being rescued off Long Beach up-Island, clinging to a cooler and an un-inflated life raft after their boat sank. I haven't heard what model of boat it was, but apparently it was more suited for cruising on a lake than for saltwater. Seems like a good opportunity to remind people that boats are suited to various conditions. It makes good sense to use the right boat in the right conditions, eh?
And now, off to the beach with my kayak...

Friday, September 06, 2013

Paddling with the neighbours

It's great to get out at various times of day in my kayak. I love how different the same bay looks at different times of day, or when the weather changes. Even high tide is a nice difference after weeks of usually paddling at a lower tide! I was able to scoot around the little rock garden through passages that have been too shallow most of the last month or two when I've been by... and my little inflatable bottomed out on one rock, making me teeter and come closer to tipping over by accident than I've ever been.
This time paddling was after the biggest thunder and lightning storm in recent memory! The ocean was smooth and still, and the storm drain was pumping a big stream of fresh run-off into Cadboro Bay as I paddled out from the beach.
The neighbours were a seal exploring the beach, and schools of little fish disturbing the smooth surface, and a pair of kingfishers. All the ducks were walking over the grassy field in the park, looking for earthworms and bugs in the rainwater puddles, I guess. But there were extra neighbours, too.
For wildlife neighbours, there was a series of red jellyfish moving gently in the ripples. These are lion's mane jellyfish, and they have a sting like a wasp! There's a warning about them in the local newspaper the Times-Colonist's website.
For human neighbours, I got to see a visitor out with a Trayak, catching the faintest of breezes with its sail. And the owner of the motorboat Panga was out to check his crab traps. Once again, I realized that a boat's motor can fill the entire bay and make it ring like a bell. Sometimes it's nice anyway, to see the boats being put to use and the crab traps emptied.
Up in the sky, there was a rainbow on one side, and a sundog on the other, as the setting sun turned the last of the clouds golden. Not a bad time for a late-afternoon/early-evening paddle!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Old School Surf Kayaking

Here's the secrets of surf kayaking, 1969 style, from an issue of Boating magazine.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Kookaburra Kingfisher

It's been great to get on the water more, as the weather is cooling into what promises to be a nice, mild autumn. When I was a kid, we used to call this kind of weather 'Indian summer' -- short warm rain squalls, golden bright afternoons and the feeling that winter was a million miles away. It's great to go kayaking in this weather, since there are fewer people on the beach. The water is beginning to clear and that makes it interesting to noodle along the shoreline.

It was so calm and bright a couple of times this week that when I watched a heron flying out to go fishing, I lost him in the sun and had to watch his reflection instead on the sea's surface. The belted kingfishers that live along the shore in Cadboro Bay come out to scold me along -- they swoop ahead of me and once I pass them, dart back where I've been. Check out this photo I borrowed from a bird identification website, showing a female belted kingfisher! That site also has a recording of the kingfisher's distinctive call.

This photo is from the All About Birds website by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The kingfishers remind me of photos I've seen of kookaburras in Australia. The kookaburras are larger, and their call is more like a monkey's laughter than a kingfisher's churr and chitter. So my song for this week on the water has been one we used to sing with the twins: Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, merry merry king of the bush is he... So yeah, I had to go find a video of a zookeeper talking about kookaburras.

Under my kayak, there are so many anemones of various kinds -- white, pinkish and brownish -- that I resolve to let this be the season of anemones. Just as two years ago was the summer of ducks in which I learned to tell a teal from a merganser and a widgeon, this fall and winter I will try to learn the names of various anemones. I wonder if the orange star-shapes I saw in the shallows at low tide were another kind of anemone... more happy researching to do!

When I turned round to paddle back, there was my trail left on the calm water: a series of little bubbles, any one of which or clump of which wouldn't draw attention. But a careful look would see the dot-and-dash Morse code of where my paddle had disturbed the surface. Maybe a light film of algae or plankton makes the bubbles last longer than a few moments.

The kingfisher scolded me again, then she swooped down low enough to pass through the islets of the little rock garden, skimming the water. No trail left on the water by the bird's passage!

Monday, September 02, 2013

New Ramp at Cadboro-Gyro Park!

Great news from Cadboro-Gyro Park! The Saanich municipal work crew has installed a new wheelchair ramp down from the promenade to the beach. You can read about the new ramp here at the Saanich website. There are several wide sets of concrete stairs down from the raised promenade of pounded gravel, and the crew has poured a concrete ramp over one set of stairs. There's an article about the wheelchair ramp on the Victoria News website.

John took these photos showing the mesh part of the ramp!
At the low end of the ramp, the crew has also installed a wide strip of mesh across the dry sand, down to the waterline at high tide. The mesh is quite firm, and it's easy to see sand falling through or being brushed off, leaving a good surface for wheelchairs.

But it's not just a ramp for wheelchairs -- this ramp will be useful for families with strollers, and for people who find even a small stair to be a problem. It's possible to walk off the lower end of the mesh onto firm, damp sand. This ramp will improve waterside access for anyone who can handle a little salt & sand but finds loose sand and beach logs to be an unsteady barrier underfoot.

And as an added bonus for boat users, this new wheelchair ramp will make an excellent launch ramp! I'm not the only kayaker who has trouble reaching the beach by walking over the promenade and beach logs. With a kayak on my shoulder, I'm unsteady on my feet when a breeze comes up. Even if there are two of us carrying a kayak, I've stumbled when a driftwood log shift under my feet. When I'm launching at Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park, I walk to the boat launch at the end of the promenade. That boat ramp has a little pounded gravel at the top, so the hardest part of the launch is staggering through the soft, dry sand down to the waterline.

I've already used the new wheelchair ramp a couple of times while kayaking, and it's a real treat to come back from the water's edge without kicking my sandals full of dry sand that sticks all over my wet feet. The high water mark will move higher on the shore when winter comes, and there will be storms too. We'll just have to see how well the ramp lasts when driftwood logs roll across it in a storm. Apparently the mesh is supposed to be removed during the winter, and replaced in the spring.