Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Polar Bear Swim Moved to Thetis Lake!

If you're planning to indulge in the chilly New Year's Day ritual tomorrow of the Annual Polar Bear Swim, be warned. Though it's not as cold this year as it has been in the past, Elk and Beaver Lake has a toxic blue-green algae bloom. The cyanobacteria can give swimmers skin rashes and irritated eyes, while swallowing water with this algae can cause symptoms like the 'flu. There's plenty you can find on-line about algae blooms, like this page from the Alberta government. Understandably, this year the Polar Bear Swim will take place at Thetis Lake instead on January 1. It's been written about in the local newspaper.

This photo appeared on the website Victoria Pet Adoption Society
For anyone thinking that winter weather = a little privacy on the busy lake that is called Elk Lake on its northern parts and Beaver Lake on its southern parts, well, not this winter. The algae bloom won't harm boats or kayaks, but it can still get on a paddler's feet and hands when launching.

Until a couple of windstorms have stirred the lake and broken up the algae bloom, it's best to keep off this lake. And keep dogs out of the water! It's best to learn how to live around algae blooms, because there might be more algae blooms than expected in the future due to global warming.
And a Happy New Year to all...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

DIY Pickle Barrel Boat

Okay, so I like making boats. So Bernie's made boats. But we're not the oddest boat makers around. Here's the work of the guy who I nominate for the oddest boat maker award: the do-it-yourself Pickle Barrel Boat.

Note that the fella has carefully donned his life jacket before launching! He's also willing to wear sun protection. This is one safe boater, even in a home-made assemblage that doesn't quite float at the surface. May all experimental boaters take at least as much care testing their creations!

I admit freely that when I come across various plastic containers the thought does cross my mind "How well would this float? Could I make some kind of boat or raft out of this?" But that thought never came to mind when looking at pickle barrels.
Check out the video of his upgrade with the tiny trolling motor attached...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Origami Boats

Sometimes I'd like an origami boat.
I'd like to make my own little paper toy folded out of paper, and float it with all my thoughts and wishes going out to my late father, whose ashes were scattered at sea. Maybe I'll look through this origami website or a YouTube video and find something to make.

I'd like to make my own origami real kayak, a little rec kayak, and ride it on a calm day in a quiet place like Spectacle Lake. I had a little simple one that flattened out into an 8-foot-long shape which could fit into many kinds of passenger van. It didn't make the triage when we moved away from the Beach House. I'll make a better one instead!
I'd like to try the Oru Kayak, which seems to be an interesting form of kayak origami. It's also a useful design for commando kayaking or transporting kayaks by bike and bus and on foot. Sure wish someone would bring one to a local Paddlefest so I could try it.
For origami fans, there are other scientific discoveries about this art of folding. One recent invention is a sheet of plastic that can fold itself into two different forms -- check out this article from Scientific American magazine! Another article in Scientific American notes that other kinds of plastic origami might be useful for shaping cells into tiny containers for future medical uses. Plastic that folds itself when an electric current runs through it? Sounds like an idea for a self-folding kayak: plug it in or turn on the battery, and bip-bend-bop the slim flat box unfolds itself and refolds itself into a kayak.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Making Good News Happen

There are lots of ways we can make good news happen, for ourselves and for our communities (including the natural world). One of the ways is by going out into the natural world as simply as possible: on foot, in our little boats, on bicycles. And yes, take the bus or even a car to get somewhere if you have to -- but carpool and do another errand, eh? -- then walk or paddle under the wide sky. That's personal good news, right there.

Another way is by being observant of the natural world, and putting those observations to use. Now that it's winter, cold clear water makes it easier for sea kayakers to spot sea stars and other marine invertebrates along the shore. Anyone along Canada's west coast who sees starfish that are apparently suffering from wasting syndrome should report their sightings to the Vancouver aquarium -- and post your photos at that link. Their website shows that reports have been posted from Cadboro Point. As the blog the Marine Detective notes on this topic, it's not enough just to feel sad -- let's make our observations into data points for researchers.

And a third way to make good news happen is to join community events. These can be simple or elaborate events, from the Carol Sing that just happened in Cadboro Bay Village to the Groundswell community conference in Powell River in January 2014. If there isn't an event set up in your community, fer cryin' out loud, set one up! If nothing needs fixing locally, just have a block party.

Sharing in a community is always good news (especially now that I've had a 'flu shot and won't be sharing that unhappy germ). It's sharing in the kayaking community that has helped our kayak group know of interesting local places to paddle, and reasonable equipment to use. And if there isn't any good news to share, I resolve to make some good news happen.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Snow Kayaking

Mix snow and kayaks and what do you get?
For me, an evening wasted surfing the 'net. For you, a bunch of snow kayaking embedded below for your enjoyment!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Camera I - Christmas at The Ledge

Last Christmas Eve, Louise and I spent a little time taking pictures around the BC Legislature buildings on Victoria's Inner Harbour. Known locally as The Ledge, the Baroque-styled building's construction was completed in 1898 and designed by local architect Francis Rattenbury, who designed many of the buildings and structures in the downtown area. His career suffered a major setback in 1935 when he was murdered by his second wife's lover. But I digress.
The Ledge is normally lit up at night by the white lights, but for the holiday season, more traditional colours are added to the display.

The tree in front has lights hung on it, and the fountain is lit by red and green spotlights.
IMG_5623 copy



The Ledge also has one little known ability...it can jump into hyperspace!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Santa News from Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue!

Check out the news from Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue -- it seems that Santa needed some help to save Christmas!

Click here for the link to their Facebook page with the full story... and three photos!

Happy Solstice -- and all the holidays to come.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Brooks Point Regional Park success!

Good news for those who like to paddle and hike in the Gulf Islands! Brooks Point Regional Park on South Pender Island has expanded its borders and now is contiguous between Brooks Point and Gowlland Point. The fund-raising has been successful to buy small parcels of land to complete the park. This project is a joint effort by several groups, including Habitat Acquisition Trust, the Capital Regional District and the Pender Island Conservancy Association.

Read the good news here at the Times-Colonist, and start planning your own Gulf Islands paddling days! There are more articles about this fund-raiser and other Island Conservation stories at Islands Trust Fund's website.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kayak on a Skateboard

I stumbled upon this cartoon today....
....which got me to thinking. Has anyone ever attached a kayak to a skateboard for real?
Naturally, I turned to The Fount Of All Knowledge, or Google, to find the answer. However, I hit a roadblock. It turns out that there's a skateboard riding hedgehog out there with the name of, you guessed it, Kayak, and you can just imagine how many hits that turns up when you enter "skateboard kayak" into a search engine. Check out the video below:

Okay, so he ain't Tony Hawk.
But a little more Internet sleuthing turned up this video, demonstrating that real life is never as exciting as a comic strip.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fishing Columnist Speaks Out About Cohen Commission

Oi, paddlers along BC's coast! Check out D.C. Reid's column On Fishing in today's Times-Colonist, published today. He's titled it "Make your voice heard in the fight to save B.C. salmon."

Y'see, it's time to do more than just feel sad about how human activities are affecting the salmon runs in BC rivers. Standing up at demonstrations does let us count the number of people who are concerned, but it's only one small step. Keeping our kayaks out of streams when salmon are spawning is a personal action that we take. Now D.C. Reid has outlined two simple ways to make our concerns known to our elected officials who can take effective action.

The first is to contact Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans at min@dfo.mpo.ca , and ask for her response to the Cohen Report. Her department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has not yet responded to the Cohen Report or its 75 recommendations made in October 2012. It's been 15 months, and a response is needed!
The second is to get a pdf from the Auditor General for Canada showing how to make a request through its environmental petition process. Then send your request to its director Roger B. Hillier at roger.hillier@oag-bvg.gc.ca . Perhaps you too would like to know the DFO's plans and funding for resolving the 75 recommendations of the Cohen Report.

If there are enough requests of this kind, the Auditor General can launch an audit into this issue. I attended local hearings in 2011 of the Cohen Commission on the salmon fisheries. The Cohen Report has had no official response at all.

If you've never contacted a government office before, don't hesitate. These offices exist to serve us as citizens and answer these kinds of questions. Write a polite, brief note.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


It's always a special thing to see seals when I'm out in a kayak. So many sea animals are small, like the crabs and mussels and sea stars that are pretty common around here. One day we even saw a sea cucumber in the Chain Islands. The bigger animals can be problematic -- a whale up close needs plenty of room, and a sea lion is not to be approached! But harbour seals are different.

For one thing, harbour seals are about the size of a nice big dog... well, the females are. The males can get up to the size of a human. For another thing, harbour seals come up near our kayaks and look around to see what's happening. John has dozens of photos of seals checking us out. And for a third thing, harbour seals are pretty calm about the whole "humans nearby in a boat" thing.

Seal image from http://i.imgur.com/8rDeuAI.jpg I like how it's smiling!

Unless it's June when the mother seals are protecting their pups, a harbour seal will look over from a rock where it is basking in the sun and you can just see that it's thinking: "Human. In a kayak. Wannabe. You just wanna be like me, goofing around in the water and rocks. Hah. Poor things with those wiggly arms and all. No wonder you made nice sleek boats so you can glide around like me. Hah."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stand-Up Kayaking

Forget stand-up paddling...how about stand-up kayaking? Need a quick lesson? Check out the embedded video with Leon Sommé from Boat Body Blade and maybe soon you, too, will stand out from the kayaking crowd.

My West Coast Fantasy Novel!

Good News! The publisher of my fantasy novel, Tower in the Crooked Wood, is making the e-book version (and all their other titles) available at a discount! For $1.49, get an e-book copy of Tower for a Christmas present, and support this Canadian publisher. Heck, at that price, get everyone on your list a copy of my novel, or one of Bundoran Press Publishing House's terrific backlist titles.

There isn't any actual kayaking in my novel -- but there are canoes and small boats! And there is the vivid depiction of life on a coastal island, which puts this novel firmly in the genre of "West Coast Fantasy" or (as they call it in the English Department at UVic) "Literature of the West Coast."

Virtual Kayaking

Wah! It's been two weeks since I last went kayaking. (Hello. My name is Paula, and I am a kayaker. It's been two weeks since I last went kayaking...)
All my kayaks are currently parked elsewhere from where I am sleeping. This arrangement will have to be improved. The little inflatable, at least, will have to be picked up from Marlena's place and taken out for a quick paddle around a little bay, and then stuffed into my mother's storage room in the basement of her condo building. It's no longer enough to admire my life jacket and remember.
The other kayaks will have to be visited and petted and wiped down and covered... maybe a quick roll down to the Gorge is in the near future. Meanwhile, I look out the window wistfully whenever the bus is crossing a bridge or following the shoreline.
And I get virtual kayak thrills online. Today I read Baffin Paddler's post on turtles, about the kayaking day where Peggy described watching a nest of baby snapping turtles hatch, before paddling Big Moose Lake. Turtles! Kayaks! What a day.

This photo is from the Advanced Elements website!
The other big thrill was learning that my favourite inflatable kayak makers, Advanced Elements, have a brand-new model being released in the new year. Their Packlite is an ultralight inflatable suited for backpacking and recreational paddling. It weighs in at an unbelievable 4 pounds (under 2 kilograms) and fits into its own deckbag. Want want want! Stay tuned for more info on this smallest of kayaks.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Once Seen, It Can't Be Unseen!

Finally, after years of painstaking research, the crack team of Internet sleuths here at Kayak Yak have finally discovered an Internet meme that combines cats and kayaks.
Oh, please. There's no need to thank us.

This just in -- we've found a second meme involving kayaks and cats. Now you can double your feline fun!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Panama Flat Skating Where We Paddled

At Panama Flats, there's Colquitz Creek running through a seasonally-flooding field, where some of us have paddled our kayaks. Karl and Stephanie have paddled there most often, and taken photos to boot. You can read some of our posts about Panama Flats here.
Today the cold snap has frozen the flooded field to a point where the ice is very nearly thick enough for Karl (a big man) to walk on. By late afternoon, some smaller people were carefully skating near shore.

Karl posted a video of his ice exploration today on YouTube and Facebook.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Book Review -- The Salmon Recipes

This week, I've been reading the best cookbook to come my way in years: The Salmon Recipes. This is a recipe book for anyone wanting to get a West Coast taste into their meals. More than just a list of recipes, this book has short notes from the contributors on their experiences living on the north coast of British Columbia, as well as their memories.

As it says on the back cover: "In this book the people of the north coast reach out in celebration of our rich culture of food in a bountiful region that has supported the gathering and sharing of sea resources since the beginning of time."

The recipes include many ways to prepare salmon as well as other kinds of seafood. But that's only one part of this book's appeal. Taken in series, the paragraphs and stories on pages facing the recipes are a heartfelt invitation to understand more about the lives of people living on the coast. The many colourful and informal photographs alone are worth the cover price!

Many of the stories involve beachcombing or going out in small boats. I particularly liked the story "One of his eight arms" by Luanne Roth:
Once in our prawn trap there was a small octopus holding a prawn. He was a bit scared and disoriented, but the whole time we had him out of the water, tipping the trap to have a better look as he pulled himself around, he kept one of his eight arms outstretched with the end carefully holding his prawn.

The Salmon Recipes: Stories of Our Endangered North Coast Cuisine
by the Prince Rupert Environmental Society
New Society Publishers

Check here on Facebook for news about their book launch and possibly more news in future.

Monday, December 02, 2013


Turns out pirates aren't just in the past, or desperate Somalis. There's a news report from Seattle about a man who appears to have stolen one of the Victoria Clippers. These high-speed ships shuttle people between Seattle and Victoria.
The incident seems to have ended with no boats sunk or people lost at sea. But there's a point to advise any would-be pirates on the Salish Sea: Just because a vessel has a joystick control does NOT mean that you can expect to use your Xbox expertise successfully!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

A hard truth about kayaking

This enthusiastic kayaker has re-learned a hard truth about kayaking. It's a lot easier to keep up the average number of times on the water per week when one lives a short walk from the launch point!
I was able to enjoy between two and three paddle outings a week for over five years while living at the Beach House, right next to Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park. But now that the landlady is selling the house, Bernie and I have emptied out our room and kitchen supplies. Kayaks and gear alone took two trips. With most of the kayaks and gear at one friend's house, and the rest in another friend's basement, I am suffering kayak withdrawal in our temporary digs.
But I am applying what I have learned about kayak location and its relationship to kayaking frequency. The kayaks are located a short walk from one of our popular launches. This could lead to using that launch site this winter, so here's hoping. The rest of the gear includes my little inflatable, which I miss most of all. So one day soon, when we've recovered from move-itis (symptoms, sore arms, dusty clothes, and severe lassitude about making more clothes accessible) I'll go hang out with that friend and bring the little kayak here on the bus.
Meanwhile, my former neighbour Mike Jackson just completed his 1000th km of the year. And he can roll like a champion. Shall wave at him again the next time I see him at the beach, but for now, I'm zen kayaking in memory.