Friday, November 29, 2013

Rescued Kayaker Says "Thank You!"

There's a follow-up to the news of the kayaker who was rescued on November 5. John posted a note here on Kayak Yak about this story. There's an article about the rescue here at the Times-Colonist newspaper. It's always good to hear more about an incident of this kind, so we paddlers can understand what happened. What went wrong? What went right?
Here's a map showing Cattle Point where the kayaker launched.
Jim Cliffe is alive and well today for several reasons, two of which were Leaving A Float Plan With Ground Crew, and the Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society coming to his rescue. Once he was ashore, he was taken to hospital and treated for hypothermia. (Being cold isn't just uncomfortable -- it leads to being unable to move or think well, and that's even more dangerous when on the water!) Let's give a big cheer for emergency services people and for hospitals!
It's a big thing, being able to depend on other people to save our lives. But we paddlers have to depend on ourselves first and foremost. When Jim Cliffe put on his clothes for immersion, he made it possible to stay alive for about three hours in the water until he was overdue and his ground crew sent the OBSR people to find him.
We know Jim Cliffe's name now, because this rescued kayaker has come out of anonymity and publicly thanked his rescuers in a letter to the editor that was published in the Times-Colonist newspaper. It's worth taking the time to read his letter, so here's a link.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shark Kissing

Here's what not to do when you've hooked a shark while kayak fishing. Fortunately, all seems to end well, but it was close! Check out the video below:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Zero to Paddling in 12 Seconds

Can you go from standing on a dock to being in your kayak and paddling in 12 seconds? Yes, you can, if you can master the launch technique displayed by Leon Sommé of Boat Body Blade in the embedded video below. Dubbed the Speed Launch, it will get you on the water quickly and is also a good opportunity to practice your scramble re-entry.
It goes without saying that men should be extra careful when practicing this maneuver.

Who's that chit-chattering behind the Nature House?

The latest time I went to the Nature House at Elk/Beaver Lake this fall, I expected to use my science talents, but I never expected to meet a new neighbour. A small neighbour, and new to me but a long-time resident of the area.

First sign of the little neighbour was a loud, repeated "CHIK!" sound from outside and behind the Nature House. I put down my gear -- a folding inflatable kayak in its bag, and a small drybag holding my wallet and spare dry shirt -- and walked round to the back of the Nature House. Up in a poplar tree was a small animal running from branch to branch, occasionally pausing to declare "CHIK!" in indignant tones.
Eventually I saw glimpses of it through the branches. It wasn't a bird as I'd thought; it was a furry four-footed animal. It wasn't a squirrel, either a red squirrel or a grey squirrel. Squirrels have long bushy tails. It wasn't a rat, either -- this animal's tail was shorter and furry, not long and bald. This little animal had a neat small head, and its furry coat was dark on the back with a white underside. I watched it scurry high in the branches, scolding another animal that was unseen; perhaps it was scolding a crow or raven.
Then I went into the Nature House, curious to figure out what I had seen. It was time for a little simple science research. But with no computer access to the internet, it was time to hit the books.
This photo is from - check out their website!
First book I found on the Nature House shelves was Mammals of British Columbia. It's a great resource, with photos as well as descriptions of the animals and their habitats. The second book I opened was Carnivores of British Columbia. I had an idea what kind of animal this might be.
The sound this animal made reminded me of the sound I'd heard a baby river otter making on a seashore one day, and otters are carnivores. I wondered what kind of animals are related to otters, and are found in trees? Was this animal a pine marten, or maybe a fisher? It wasn't anywhere near big enough for either.
The little animal turned out to be the smallest member of the mustelidae family: a least weasel.
How wonderful it was to see this neat, bright little animal in the photos, and match it to the little fellow scrambling quickly through the trees. Small books like the ones in the Nature House or the public library are so useful for understanding more about our animal neighbours. I'm so glad that when I heard the sound of the weasel in the tree, I didn't just assume it was one more crow among many.
Later at home, I was able to find all sorts of interesting websites that can help us figure out what animals we're seeing in the woods, or traces that animals leave behind. One of them is the Canadian Museum of Nature website, which has lots of resources for learning a little or a lot. And it's bilingual!
The University of British Columbia has posted a list of animals. Canadian Geographic magazine has a website listing animal fact sheets for free download in English or French. And the Ministry of the Environment has an Identification Manual to the Small Mammals of British Columbia, with a link so that you can download and print it if you like. This manual is really detailed, right down to five drawings detailing key differences among chipmunk genital bones. That's a little more detail than I needed to identify my neighbour, the least weasel.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Coastal interests shown on websites

Y'know, I really love being part of Kayak Yak. It's not only the kayaking, which is terrific. It's not only the people, who are great. It's not even the after-paddling snacks like hot chocolate at Olive Olio's (mmmm) or the 2for1 Pizza in Mill Bay (yum!). It's being part of one of many websites reflecting the interests of people who live on and near the water.

Just found a new website called Northwest Coast Energy News, done by Robin Rowland in Kitimat. If you're wanting to know more about how the proposed new pipelines and tankers could affect the west coast -- both people and shoreline resources -- check this site out. It's hard to kayak through an oil slick, eh?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blue Drinks - Canadian Water Network event

Do you work on the water? (Lucky you, except during winter storms!) Do you have life experiences, challenges, or do research on the water? (Hey... I'm a kayaker. I have life experiences and challenges on the water! I even do research for my writing there.) Got some good news, then...
There's a regular series of meetings going on at the University of Victoria's Halpern Centre for graduate students, also known as Grad House with a great little restaurant. This building is at the corner of Finnerty and Sinclair Road, at the new roundabout.
You don't have to be a graduate student to attend these Water Network events. You don't even have to be connected to UVic. Read about these meetings at this link, or below:

Blue Drinks is an informal opportunity to talk water-related work, life experience, research, challenges, fun-facts...
The next session is November 19 from 5:30 to 7:30 @ UVic Grad House
also on December 17, January 21 (3rd Tuesday every month) same time same place

For more information:


Can some other local kayaker please attend? I'm a tutor for the Uni101 program on most Tuesdays at that time, or I'd be there!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kayak Across the Atlantic

In June of 2000, Pete Bray launched from St. John's. Newfoundland in an attempt to be the first person to kayak solo and unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean. Within a few hours, his kayak cabin was flooding, the cockpit was leaking, all his electronics including his communications gear was wrecked, and he was forced to take to his life raft, whose bottom was ripped and also leaking. And that's just the first eight pages of his book.
Fortunately, [SPOILER ALERT] Pete was quickly rescued and tried a second and [SPOILER ALERT] more successful attempt in 2001. His memoir of his crossing is a short but enjoyable read, describing the preparations for both attempts, as well as the lessons learned from the aborted first attempt. He tells the tale of his 76-day crossing in a breezy and relaxed fashion, from the solar-powered gear that had trouble recharging because the sun never shined, to the publicist who had a strange aversion to seeking publicity. His tome is light and slim, but if you enjoy expedition stories, this is worth checking out.

Demonstrations Saturday!

A reminder for all us paddlers -- make Saturday morning's time on the water really quick, because November 16 is a day of peaceful demonstrations across the country! It's time to assemble at public gatherings and state our interest in taking care of this beautiful country and its natural resources.

In Victoria, the local demonstration takes place at 1:00 pm at Clover Point, seen above in a stunning photo from a local photography company. (Check here to see where your local gathering takes place, or here to read about the history of Clover Point.) If there's no big demonstration planned for your community, that's your opportunity to be the small demonstration that does take place.

Speak out in favour of maintaining pipelines and cleaning up after the spills that are taking place. Speak out for no new pipelines and tankers because we humans are still not managing the existing ones responsibly. And most specifically, speak out to our elected representatives to make careful decisions that reflect our concerns for the environment, resource management, and climate change! Here's the open letter to Premier Christy Clark written by MLA Andrew Weaver, who is an oceanographer. Weaver's Facebook page can be found here. It didn't escape our notice that during two weeks while many Canadians found their attention absorbed by Senate controversies and Toronto's mayor, the premiers of British Columbia and Alberta discussed their pipeline plans.

Need to think more about pipelines and oil tankers? MLA Andrew Weaver writes about these matters as an ocean scientist. Meanwhile, check out these maps from the Wilderness Committee's website. Click on this link to find their website of pipeline route maps which you can see in an interactive format that lets you zoom in to see satellite images. These are our home waters, where we paddle. These are the waters we drink. These are the rivers we cross to go to work, or our camping places, or to see family.

If you need to know more about the Tar Sands development in Alberta, click here to read about the Beaver Lake Cree and how First Nations communities are being affected, or check out their page on Facebook. Where are you paddling next summer? How will that place be affected?

Let's all be good citizens, leading by our good example. I know one person who plans to hold a "teach-in" at her local demonstration. Two other friends are taking the bus to the demonstration so as not to fill up one of the few parking places. I'm bringing some trash bags to pick up litter on the shore at Clover Point.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where to report sea star illness

There's been a renewed call for kayakers in the Salish Sea to report any sightings of sea stars that are ill or decayed, as we reported in an earlier post. There's a website to contact with information that you can share -- the website for Vancouver Aquarium.
Click here to see a description of the problem facing sea stars, and photos of affected animals. Apparently the starfish that are being affected by Sea Star Wasting Syndrome include several species, and no longer only sunflower stars. I know that looking for starfish, healthy or otherwise, is going to be on my mind when I'm on the water.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sea Kayaker Magazine to Cease Publication

Just as the latest issue arrives in my mailbox, word is coming out that venerable Sea Kayaker Magazine will cease publication with its next issue early in the new year.
In a note posted on its website, the magazine announced "with great regret and sadness that the next issue of Sea Kayaker magazine will be our last. In the course of our many years of service to kayakers around the world, we've seen many changes in sea kayaking, the industry it supports, and the business of print and web media. For our first two decades the changes generally worked in our favor, but over this past decade, the tide slowly turned. Though the magazine and the website continue to draw nearly universal praise from our readers, we recently recognized that we've been paddling against an overwhelming current and it’s time to come ashore."
This is just me speculating, but reading between the lines I'm guessing that the magazine was facing two issues: the decline of physical publications as we transition to a digital environment, and the changes in kayaker demographics.
Always an enjoyable read, particularly the always interesting and sometimes controversial safety segment which presented true life kayaking accidents and analysis, the magazine will be sorely missed by many.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ben was in town, or Elvis Has Left The Building

Ben on the Rosedale footbridge over the Red Deer River
Ben was in town this fall for a couple of weeks. It's a bit like having Elvis on tour, if Elvis ever walked 5km just to loosen up or climbs Mount Tolmie to unwind in the evenings. And if Elvis had a beard or went kayaking. This is the third (or more?) time that Ben has made his way out from Edmonton via unconventional means, from bicycling to hitch-hiking to walking.

All photos are from Ben's trip blog
Yep, walking. This summer, Ben rode shank's mare a substantial portion of the way, including an off-highway ramble between Revelstoke and Golden. He's seen so many rivers, lakes and tarns up high in the Rockies that sometimes it surprises him to see running water that's not cloudy with glacial silt.

Ben has promised to write us some posts for Kayak Yak about his times on the water in a variety of jury-rigged boats. He's also become a fan of the many ferries in BC, including this free car ferry on Kootenay Lake!

While he was here, Ben pulled on a wetsuit and borrowed one of my inflatable kayaks, the Expedition that I took down the Red Deer River last summer. (Yes, I'm still talking about that trip. When you paddle down a river solo, even a class 1 river, you get to talk about your trip too. And of course I'm still talking about the kayak cuz it's an incredible and portable boat!) I got into the littler inflatable and we went along the shoreline, around Flower Island and back. Shall have to write more about that day and the mink & otters we saw... And now he's back on the road again. Elvis has left the building.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 3

Film-maker and podcaster Simon Willis and kayaking coach Gordon Brown round out their trilogy of kayaking coaching films with their latest offering, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 3. This third chapter differs from the previous two which consisted of an expedition film intertwined with coaching segments. This third volume does away with the expedition segment, and instead presents three films and and a rolling coaching segment.
The first film is on Emergency Situations, and presents two scenarios where emergency personnel have to be called to perform a rescue. Much of this film is presented from the point of view of rescue personnel and I've never seen anything quite like this in a kayaking video. This is a terrific segment, with lots of important tips and information presented. This segment alone is worth the price of admission. For those of us who have been lucky enough to not have needed rescue, it was certainly eye-opening to hear the thoughts of rescue personnel, many of them also kayakers, of what kayakers can do to assist rescuers in emergency situations. Equally informative was a short scene near the end when the rescue personnel displayed their own emergency kayaking kits.
A shorter but related film has a member of the Wilderness Emergency Medical Services Institute display the first aid gear he carries, as well as a couple of demonstrations of first aid situations. Some of the gear displayed is intended only for trained personnel, and a DVD is not going to replace actual first aid certification, but it is interesting to see what gear other people carry and the techniques they use. I'm certainly going to add some electrical tape to our first aid kit after watching this.
In the third film Gordon is joined by Franco Ferrero for a segment on navigation. A DVD is not going to replace a proper sea kayak navigation course, but the information regarding navigation concepts and tides are well-presented here.
Finally, the rolling segment is structured very differently. After a few exercises and roll demonstrations, the premise behind this segment is that the viewer will practice rolling with a spotter, as well as someone with a video-camera who will record the practice session. The viewer will then compare his own videos to the videos on the the DVD, using the troubleshooting section to identify mistakes, and then try to incorporate the fixes suggested. For instance, your roll might be failing, but why? Comparing your video to the common mistakes illustrated on the DVD, you may discover that your paddle is not at the correct angle and is diving down into the water instead of the staying at the service. You move to the fixes section and some tips are provided for you to try on keeping your paddle at surface level. At the risk of repeating myself, no DVD will ever replace having a certified instructor coaching you live and in the flesh, but the approach taken here is unique. Is it effective? We have yet to try it as designed by filming ourselves, but it seems like it should be a benefit to troubleshooting your roll (or lack of it).
This is another winning DVD from Gordon and Simon and, taken as a set, the three Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVDs are as comprehensive a set of kayaking video tutorials as you are ever likely to find.

Here's a behind the scenes interview with Simon and Gordon.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Paddlers and Pipelines

Even before I paddled over pipelines on my way down the Red Deer river last summer, the idea of how frequently pipelines leak fossil fuels worried me. The thought of new pipelines being built is upsetting because the existing pipelines aren't being well maintained or repaired. And as for the tankers that would carry away fossil fuels from the end of the pipeline to deliver to China -- well, we've written on Kayak Yak before about tankers.

Kayakers and other small boat users have responsibilities to make careful use of water resources, and also to ensure that these resources are protected. It's important to give our opinions to our government officials and agencies. The opportunity is coming up on November 16 for many paddlers and our friends across Canada to stand together peacefully as citizens and make our opinions known. In Victoria, we'll be gathering on Clover Point at 1:00 pm -- check here to see where the demonstrations are planned for your community!

For getting to the local demonstration on Clover Point, parking is limited, so be prepared to arrive by bike or bus (BC Transit route #3) or carpool and walk a few blocks.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kayaker Saves Owl

We've had pictures of lots of different animals on kayaks here on the blog, but we've never seen one like this before.
Pentti Taskinen, kayaking on Lake Tuusula in Finland, discovered a water-logged owl in trouble. "At first I thought it was an otter," Taskinen said. "But then I paddled closer and lo and behold, found the owl in the middle of the lake, around 500m from shore."
How the owl ended up in the middle of the lake is a mystery, and it probably would have died had not Taskinen happened along.
He transported the owl back to shore, and after it dried off it was able to fly away.

And This Is Why We Practice...

In light of the recent incident here where a kayaker was rescued after five hours in the water because he couldn't re-enter his kayak, today I re-stumbled onto this video (embedded below). Both the incident, and the video are a good reminder of why we need to practice.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Kayaker Rescued off Discovery Island - Update

More details are emerging from Monday's incident involving the rescue of a kayaker off Discovery Island (as we previously report here.) The 56 year-old local man (who ironically teaches marine safety with the local Power Squadron) rented a sit-on-top kayak from Ocean River Sports, and launched from Cattle Point planning to kayak around Discovery Island. According to the Victoria Times-Colonist:
“I was timing it so the incoming current would carry me back up to Cattle Point. I miscalculated the level of turbulence and tidal eddies that come around that corner.”
At about 3:30 p.m., he was trying to paddle through rough water when a wave tossed him into the sea. He had a good life jacket on and was wearing clothing made of wet-suit material.
He tried to get back into the kayak. But, “it was like trying to climb onto a cork. It flipped over on top of me two or three times.”
He was within a few hundred metres of Discovery Island and tried for a while to push the kayak toward shore. “I kept running into kelp beds. I tied myself off to the boat so I wouldn’t get separated from it. I found I could get a leg and an arm onto the kayak.”
The light faded and he got concerned.
“I knew it was a life-threatening situation and I knew all the possibilities. I teach with the Power Squadron and that’s one of the things we always stress — safety and what happens if you go in the water.”
Fortunately, he had filed a float plan with both his wife and Ocean River. Authorites were alerted when he did not return and he was found tied to his kayak and pulled from the water about five hours later. He remains in hospital recovering from mild hypothermia, and is expected to fully recover.
I sure wouldn't want to take a sit-on-top around Discovery Island, but the kayaker in question has had pervious experience in this type of boat. He did have a cell phone and a VHS radio, but both were lost or rendered inoperative when he overturned. But he was wearing some sort of immersion gear, and that probably saved his life. That, and his float plan.
As a spokesman for Oak Bay Marine Search and Rescue said, “It’s a reminder that what looks like a short, easy paddle can go very wrong, and it’s important to have some means of signalling distress if you get into trouble.”

Right Whale Sighted!

Astonishing news! Not only has there been a group of over 1000 dolphins sighted from a BC Ferry (and reported by John here on Kayak Yak), but this weekend there have been sightings of a Right Whale reported in local media at Juan de Fuca Strait!
This whale is the second Right Whale spotted in the last four months. Dare we hope that there could be more sightings in the future?

No Right Whales have been seen near Vancouver Island since 1951... and the last one was killed by whalers. There are few of this species of whale left, with perhaps only 30 individuals living in the North Pacific Ocean. You can click on this link to read more about Right Whales.

Just a quick reminder for all small boat users who are lucky enough to see a whale: Give Whales Plenty Of Room! The Department of Fisheries and Oceans rule is to leave at least 100 metres of space between the whale and your boat, and at least 200 metres of space in the direction the whale is travelling. This rule covers all marine mammals, for their protection and yours, even in the far north where hunting is carefully regulated! If a whale appears close to you suddenly, knock on your boat and be careful to get out of the way of the whale. People are being fined for harrassing wildlife, particularly whales.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Kayaker Rescued off Discovery Island

Details are few, but local media is reporting that a kayaker was rescued from the waters south of Discovery Island yesterday. He tied himself to the kayak, and was in the water about three hours before he was rescued. The search was initiated when he was reported overdue. My guess from the sketchy reports is that the man overturned and couldn't get back into his kayak.
We've paddled this area many times and it's a gorgeous destination just off of Cadboro Bay. But if you catch it at the wrong time and in the wrong conditons, you'll have your hands full. A canoeist drowned in the same area last year. With such little information available, I wouldn't want to speculate on what the kayaker may have or may not have done wrong, but I will note at least one thing he did right -- someone on shore knew what his float plan was, and knew when he was overdue and alerted authorities. And here's a shout out to the Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society for a job well done!