Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rolling Troubleshooting Video

Embedded below is a rolling troubleshooting video put together by the folks at H20 Dreams. While the focus is on whitewater kayaks, some of the material is applicable to sea kayaks.

I should mention that we've begun collecting instructional kayaking videos as we come across them while searching youtube for cute kitty videos. Click on the Video Kayak Tips link under the pages section at the upper right of the blog.

Friday, March 28, 2014

More weekend plans

There are more great activities for this weekend, especially if you're a fan of the shoreline along Cattle Point near Willows Beach. The parkland at the point is Uplands Park, and on Saturday March 29 there will be an opportunity for volunteers to pull ivy off the Garry oak trees that are being choked by this invasive plant.

Read all about the "Ivy Off The Oaks" party here at the website of the Friends of Uplands Park. The park is a great place to launch small boats, and part of the charm of this park is the presence of Garry oak trees in all their scrubby glory.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Not One Drop More Will Land on Our Shore

Weekend plans

Making plans for the weekend usually means figuring out where to put my kayak in the water. Could be time to check out our local map with info on kayaking places...
There's another option for the coming weekend that won't interfere with that noble goal. Anyone looking for some training in how to stop the pipelines can check out this link for spring training at the University of Victoria and Norway House.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Ready to Launch

Check out the video of this seal launch off a causeway embedded below. It goes unexpectedly sideways, but all's well that ends well. A good reminder to expect the unexpected.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Someone Ring the Dinner Bell?

Last Wednesday, a group out on a small pleasure boat near Prince Rupert found themselves being chased by some sea lions. And the sea lions were being chased by orcas. Check out the video below:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Inner Harbour

The forecast was for fog, not cloud. Fog burns off, cloud not so much sometimes. But not this morning. Cool and cloudy. Despite that, Louise and I headed down to the harbour to kayak from downtown up The Gorge.
Louise looks thrilled, don't she?

As we were readying to launch, the nearby Johnson Street Bridge went up.
Venerable old "Big Blue" is being replaced late next year and part of the rail portion of the bridge has already been removed (as we reported here.)
Here on the southern side, construction is not obvious....
...but once we go under the bridge and look at the north side...
G0030399 is well under way.
IMGP0315 copy
Not being a bridge construction engineer, I'm not sure what we're looking out, but I'm guessing this is a temporary construction platform that's being used to sink the pilings.

The Inner Harbour is a working harbour. As we paddled past a tied-up fishing boat...
...a pair of eyes studied us carefully.
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As we paddled by the Point Hope Shipyard....
....we saw the remains of the Undersea Gardens.
The Undersea Gardens was a long-time tourist attraction in the harbour. It's a 150-foot purpose built vessel where, according to Wikipedia, visitors "....descended 15 feet (4.6 m) beneath the ocean surface to look through the many viewing windows of the aquariums that surrounded the vessel and see the various marine life of coastal British Columbia, in their natural and protected environment." It was originally opened at the Oak Bay Marina in 1964, then it was towed to the Inner Harbour in 1969.
My dad took the picture below in 1971, showing the Undersea Gardens in its prime. I love that sign!
1971 Inner Harbour Victoria
The Gardens closed late last year and was towed here where it waits to be scrapped or sold.

Under the Bay Street Bridge...
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...then under the Selkirk Bridge...
...and we were paddling up The Gorge.

Suddenly to the left, a splash!
The culprit? An otter, that sought cover under a dock after being surprised by a pair of kayakers on his morning swim.

We spotted something in the water ahead of us.
Anybody want a slightly used Zodiac?
I did my best to push onto the shore. Hopefully someone will come and collect it.

After that, it was time to head back.
The cormorant pointed the way.
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Trip length: 6.66 km
YTD: 12.71 km
More pictures are here.
2014-03-23 Inner Harbour

Engineers On Tanker Traffic

I'd rather talk about kayaking -- heck, I'd rather BE kayaking. But here's another blog post about the possibility of increased oil tanker traffic (yes, one among many posts we've written about how fuel spills affect kayakers) and how it could affect small boat users. Found a website talking about the risks of increased oil tanker traffic in the narrow waterways along BC's coast. I'm not an engineer, but these guys are.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Puffin Thinking

Puffin on my mind... a couple of kinds of puffin. Mostly the bird kind, of course; the plump little waterbirds that are the nearest thing around here to a penguin. There are a few puffins to be found here in my home waters, and elsewhere up-Island along wilder shorelines. I've only ever seen one puffin, and that was from my kayak.
Borrowed from Wikipedia, this puffin with a capelin looks like the one I saw.

It's inspiring just to mention them, though. Turns out the word has wandered into a few blog posts here. Guess I'm a sucker for the cute little things.
I'm also a big fan of my mother, who is a puffin' away on her e-cigarette instead of smoking. It's a big thing to change from smoking to puffing vapour, but if she wants to try I'm on her team. She's always done what she set her mind to. Mom used to go kayaking when she was a girl, in Cadboro Bay and The Gorge, in little kayaks shaped like bananas or lithe little riverboats with no raised coaming around the cockpit. She learned to do what they called an Eskimo roll with no skirt or tuiliq, just over and twist and up, whooping with laughter. In those days, a paddle was simple, just two ovals of plywood nailed to a broom handle. That would be about 1950, when her brother's friends lived a stone's throw away from the beach at Cadboro Bay. Mom remembers going kayaking with her brother and friends, and the friends' mother warning them not to go too far from shore or Cadborosaurus would get them. No sea monsters ever came around their noisy chatter, as far as Mom can remember. And these days the water seems to be cleaner than it was then, for there are otters and herons and sea anemones in the bay but she says she never saw any when she was a teenager.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Memorial Sørbråten

An interesting memorial is being planned for the sites of the mass shooting in Norway that we wrote about in a blog post from 2011. The Memorial Sørbråten will incorporate a striking change to the shoreline of the island in a lake where the second shooting event occurred.
Image by artist Jonas Dalhberg
Here's a link to a website discussing the memorial construction plans, and another page of discussion as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Park for Quadra Island!

Spring has sprung officially, and there's official good news to celebrate on this first day of spring. The BC government has finally signed an agreement to create a new provincial park on Quadra Island! Read about it here in the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

This new park is terrific news for kayakers and yachters and ecotourists and others who love Waiatt Bay. For almost 20 years, a partnership of groups (including the Pacific Marine Heritage Trust, the Quadra Island Conservancy Stewardship Society, the Save the Heart of Quadra Parks committee, the BC Marine Parks Forever Society, VanCity credit union and BC Parks) has been working on this project.

A new park will be created, linking Octopus Islands Marine Provincial Park (click here for maps and description) and Small Inlet Marine Provincial Park (click here for maps and description) across the narrow isthmus joining the northern end of Quadra to the main part of the island. And it's not a little park, either -- the province has accquired 395 hectares of waterfront property!
Of course, these 395 hectares have been bought for $5.85 million from a forest company, Merrill & Ring. The province traded some cash and timber rights on nearby East Thurlow Island, as reported in this BC government news release which has several quotes from officials and associations, and there were large contributions from the other partners. And alas, near as I could tell from my visit to Waiatt Bay, much of this ecologically sensitive land is covered with second-growth forest rather than un-logged first growth. Heck, the shoreline where my group stayed is even noted on the charts as "Log Dump" because it was the place where logs were slid into the water to be transported in log booms and Davis rafts.

We at Kayak Yak have written several blog posts about kayaking at Quadra Island and related issues of interest, and my post about helping intertidal biologist Amy Groesbeck with her clam garden research. The land and shores within the new marine park includes areas of great historical and ongoing significance to First Nations people, from middens at village sites to clam gardens and a traditional portage route between Small Inlet and Waiatt Bay. It would be nice to see ecotourism projects being done by local First Nations people ...

Still wanting to know more about the clam gardens protected within this new marine park? Check out this article from a science website, and this article at the Vancouver Sun, and the video.
There are plenty of articles online to read about the new park at Waiatt Bay. Check here for another article, and scroll down for more stories of interest to paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Print Your Own Kayak

Here's something exploding across the interwebs in the last couple of days (I first spotted it at Paddling Headquarters). Jim Smith at Grassroots Engineering has made what he believes to be the world's first 3D printed kayak. It cost about $500 to make, and is composed of 28 printed 3D sections, plus some screws and caulking, and weighs in at about 65 pounds.
Check out the video embedded below:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seashore Instruments

Louise spotted this interesting website with photos and videos of large seashore instruments played by the ocean waves... lovely! Reminds me of hearing the waves suck and splash at the narrow shortcut we take at Albert Head...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dolphins in Vancouver

Residents of Vancouver enjoyed a rare sight on Sunday. A couple of pods of Pacific white-sided dolphins made their way into English Bay and False Creek. Strollers along the seawall were able to enjoy the spectacle. The photo at left was taken by Theresa Shaw from the False Creek ferry. Check out the embedded video below, as well as a CBC report here.

The dolphins started the weekend swimming around Squamish at the end of Howe Sound where they were being hunted by orcas. Check out these three vidoes below.

Caleb Jamieson took some spectacular photos of the hunt, like this one below.

Review of Arctic Twilight

Another great book for armchair boating! This one focuses on Labrador and the Arctic instead of my own home waters. The book Arctic Twilight is subtitled Leonard Budgell and Canada's Changing North. Editor Claudia Coutu Radmore has edited many letters sent by her longtime correspondent Leonard Budgell. Born in a small outport community, Budgell was a Hudson's Bay Company man when that still meant something different from working at the notions counter in an urban mall. Budgell's letters show that his storytelling skills were honed by a childhood without television and a long maturity where talking to people was an important social grace. 
"Where I grew up the hills are high and the water frightfully deep. It used to be a scary feeling when I was little to push off in my boat and let a line and jigger down and watch hundreds of feet of line run out and never reach the bottom, to think that I was perched on top of a tower of black water, that I would sink for a long time before reaching the bottom and what moved and lived in the black depth. I thought of a lot of things like that while I wandered around fishing and sailing, not only when I was small either. When I was at Hebron I once sat under the black face of Cape Mugford, an unclimbable wall of granite that rises sheer from the water for four thousand feet and continues down into the depths for who knows how many more feet. Even in a ship one feels so very small there. In a kayak as I was, it was possible to see how small one is in the general scale. I was a paddle's length from the rocks and there was an unfathomable amount of water under me. Easy to feel humble there, Claudia, very easy. But as you will notice, I have recovered. Perhaps it's the Newfie in me. Ever see a humble Newfie? Me neither. There isn't one. Well, maybe Joe Smallwood."

Time and again while reading this book, I'd find small mentions of the power that boats had in Leonard Budgell's life during his boyhood in Labrador and on Fogo Island, or his youth in the military, or his maturity in the Arctic. There are a few candid and natural photographs as well that illustrate the text appropriately. The reviews of this book praise it thoroughly.

"Claudia, that first time you slide a canoe into the water and climb in and watch that black element that has been solidified for months swirl beautifully around the paddle is special.That first time can never again be duplicated, you think. But it can, again and again, and some people were never born to sit behind fences or ride in cars along narrow little paths. ...The water disturbed by the paddle has a comforting sound. The whisper of the keel on the sand as you touch shore is a poignant little punctuation that ends a paragraph of a day's delight. Your muscles ache pleasantly, and your knees feel creaky from kneeling and the slat of the cross bar seems to be permanently engraved on your seat."

At another point, Budgell describes the tradition of the throwing-up rock -- a place where small offerings of tobacco or candles or rifle cartridges are thrown up into a hollow on the top of huge rock in a river. Such places "were evidently pretty common before the missionaries banned the practise. ...I hadn't felt it was wrong," he writes. His own faith was compatible with both churches and nature.

"When I die, where will they lay me? In a quiet cemetery with flowers and green grass? When my soul wants to be where the wildest winds can tear at my cover till it is gone and what is left is again mingled with the land. The mountain above Tororak will do. When I will die, Tororak will do." 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Clam Garden Researcher Publishes Paper!

Terrific news from our friend on the water, biologist Amy Groesbeck! We met her studying clam gardens on Quadra Island. Quoted here from her Facebook announcement:

Do you want to know what the heck I've been working on the last 3 years??
Our Paper Came out in PLOS ONE Today! Congratulations to my mentors and co-authors Dana, Kirsten Rowell, Anne! and thank you to everyone who helped make this project possible (there are so many!)
The paper's title is: "Ancient Clam Gardens Increased Shellfish Production: Adaptive Strategies from the Past Can Inform Food Security Today." That's a great title. I love it when academic papers have titles that actually say something in plain language like "clam gardens increased shellfish production."
Here's the link to the article:

The article includes photos, maps, and diagrams. It's also pretty easy to understand for us ordinary paddlers who aren't official university-trained biologists. Go Amy!
And what the heck, because she said I could, here's the abstract, with an important sentence highlighted in green:

Maintaining food production while sustaining productive ecosystems is among the central challenges of our time, yet, it has been for millennia. Ancient clam gardens, intertidal rock-walled terraces constructed by humans during the late Holocene, are thought to have improved the growing conditions for clams. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the beach slope, intertidal height, and biomass and density of bivalves at replicate clam garden and non-walled clam beaches in British Columbia, Canada. We also quantified the variation in growth and survival rates of littleneck clams (Leukoma staminea) we experimentally transplanted across these two beach types. We found that clam gardens had significantly shallower slopes than non-walled beaches and greater densities of L. staminea and Saxidomus giganteus, particularly at smaller size classes. Overall, clam gardens contained 4 times as many butter clams and over twice as many littleneck clams relative to non-walled beaches. As predicted, this relationship varied as a function of intertidal height, whereby clam density and biomass tended to be greater in clam gardens compared to non-walled beaches at relatively higher intertidal heights. Transplanted juvenile L. staminea grew 1.7 times faster and smaller size classes were more likely to survive in clam gardens than non-walled beaches, specifically at the top and bottom of beaches. Consequently, we provide strong evidence that ancient clam gardens likely increased clam productivity by altering the slope of soft-sediment beaches, expanding optimal intertidal clam habitat, thereby enhancing growing conditions for clams. These results reveal how ancient shellfish aquaculture practices may have supported food security strategies in the past and provide insight into tools for the conservation, management, and governance of intertidal seascapes today.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Province Adding To Shoreline Parks

Good news from the Legislature! (And I'm so glad to be able to say that...) On Thursday March 13, a bill was introduced by Environment Minister Mary Polak that will add 55,000 hectares to parks in British Columbia. I haven't had a chance to read the text of the bill yet, but the parts quoted in the Times-Colonist newspaper look pretty darned good, so check them out!

Map showing three of the new parks additions -- from the Times-Colonist newspaper article.

Some of the additions are to marine parks along the waters between Vancouver Island and the mainland. One change at Campbell River loses ten hectares so that city can redevelop its water system. Other changes take into consideration First Nations needs for water access and traditional use. It's a start, though as the NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert says, the budget for BC Parks has gone down so they'll have to do more maintenance with less money.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lost Rivers: film and discussion

Just received a press release from the University of Victoria Graduate Students Society, with a general invitation to attend a film and panel discussion on rivers lost to urban development. This is an important issue. As a child, I enjoyed dabbling in Bowker Creek which is now mostly culverted. Some of our Kayak Yak paddlers have enjoyed paddling on urban rivers in the metropolitan Toronto area and in Montreal. Check out this event and let us know all about it:


DATE: Tuesday, March 18th

TIME: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: University of Victoria, Harry Hickman Building, Room 105

COST: Free

Join us this Canada Water Week for a film screening and panel discussion exploring the long history and interactions between natural waterways and our urban environments. Lost Rivers (CatBird Films) will take us across the globe, retracing the history of lost urban rivers by plunging into archival maps and going underground with clandestine urban explorers. We’ll search for the disappeared Petite Rivière St-Pierre in Montreal, the River Tyburn in London, England, the Saw Mill River in New York, and the Bova-Celato River in Bresica, Italy. Could we see these rivers again? To find the answer, we’ll meet visionary urban thinkers, activists and artists from around the world.
Following the film, we will turn our thinking to local water priorities in the Victoria region--including green infrastructure, stormwater utilities, and collaborative restoration efforts--through a moderated panel discussion with local experts:
  • Scott Murdoch, Registered Landscape Architect, Murdoch de Greeff Inc.
  • Ed Robertson, Assistant Director of Public Works, City of Victoria
  • Nikki Curnow, Coordinator, Bowker Creek Initiative
  • Kirk Stinchcombe, Sustainability Specialist, Econics & Strategic Advisor, POLIS Water Sustainability Project (moderator)
This event is being hosted by the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies, the Capital Regional District, and the University of Victoria Department of Geography, with support from the RBC Blue Water Project.

For more information please contact Laura Brandes at or 250-721-8189.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Had a note from one of the many Bens I know, sent along with an animated gif which makes for an interesting guest post on riversurfing. Do NOT try this at home... just don't. Any of this.

This image is borrowed from

ben: this is "free-run" riversurfing, like i told you about. i usually do "tied-run" with a tetherline to a shore tree and a boogieboard
me:  aha! yes, there are surfers who love this! and river kayakers too
ben: i like doing it in threefoot deep narrows where there are submerged sandrises rather than rocks, but the most intense is where a waterfall pool narrows back into those short stretches of fast whitewater, so long as you dredge the area for branches and debris first
me:  it's those underwater branches etc. that are killers. Sweepers at the surface can at least be seen if not avoided. But underwater?

ben: i always work with a buddy, and we string lines of parachute cord across the stretch then trace along it with a pole sweeping for obstructions
me: worth the time

 ben: Plus I usually wear a bike helmet in case of wipeouts and impacts. Plus they help buoyantly keep your head above water if you get stunned.

me:  Was looking at rock climbing helmets and kayaking helmets in MEC yesterday. Those helmets are good for more than one knock, unlike bike helmets
ben:  Yeah a lot of engineering goes into climbers' helmets. My last one was excellent for over a year of use then some critter gnawed it up for the sweatsalt when I left it at camp.
me:  ah. salt-loving critters!
 ben:  yeah same trip i found out otters will eat though a knapsack to get at coffee grounds
 me:  bears I'd expect. But otters?
 ben:  well, that and how good otter tastes
 me:  ravens ate a bag of dried apricots out of my knapsack on Long Beach once
ah, otter tastes? Not fishy?
 ben:  fishy, and oily. sort of like tuna and squirrel with a nutty aftertaste. good with worshtershire sause
 me:  Every kind of meat is better with worchestershire sauce!
 ben:  Especially when it's cooked on an open beach in a dried seaweed lined dugout.
  me:  hunger is the best sauce
 ben:  well that and "what are you doing in my bag, no don't try to bite me, snap, well i guess i had better cook you thoroughly now"
 me:  thorough cooking to get all the bejeebers out of the meat
ben:  Actually otter is like rabbit and gopher. Most of their parasites are either not easily transferred to people, obvious, or easily destroyed by basic cooking. Just avoid organs and nervous system areas if you are not sure and thoroughly dissect the area around the thigh. Parasitic worms always leave tissue markings most obviously there since there is so much of one type of tissue to compare samples of and easy access to both endocrine and circulatory systems. I took a course in pacific northwest bushmeat from a reservation instructor years back. Most of it is pretty basic but he was great for being able to demonstrate old wound versus disease with varnished samples he made in university.
 me:  Three Cheers For Continuing Education/ Community Extension Classes!
 ben:  Three cheers for native fellowship grants that give extra if you agree to teach cultural immersion classes for the community
 me:  This class sounds more practical than either of the ones I'm doing on Whidbey Island next month.
ben: It is amazing the small accessible and inexpensive classes you can find when you read posting boards while lurking in university libraries to get out of the rain.
 me:  amen

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SUP Instructional Video

Louise and I are discussing trying SUPing. I'm not sure if this instructional video will help. Probably not.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On-line Event on Right to Water

Just got a note from the Canadian Water Network about an online event happening today at 2pm in the Eastern time zone. Here's their press release:

CWN Virtual Event: Protecting the Human Right to Water
Published: Feb 26, 2014
Protecting the Human Right to Water
Emma Lui - Council of Canadians
March 11, 2014, 2pm EST
All Virtual Events are free. Join the conversation!
RSVP by email to
Canadian and indigenous communities are facing increasing threats to their water sources including the threat of fracking, water privatization, oil shipments on the Great Lakes and the lack of clean drinking water in First Nation communities. Learn what communities are doing to protect the human right to water and how they’re turning their municipalities into Blue Communities. A Blue Community is a municipality that recognizes the human right to water, promotes public water and wastewater services and bans bottled water at municipal facilities and at municipal events. Emma Lui, National Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians, will lead a discussion on current threats to our water sources and how community members are taking up the challenge to protect their drinking water.
Watch previous virtual events:

Caren Kusel
MSc Candidate - University of Victoria
CWN SYPC Pacific Rep 2012-2014
(250) 891 3929 -

Kimantas in the news

It's always a pleasure to find the names of fellow kayakers in the local newspapers. It turns out that one of the highest-profile paddlers has been raising his profile quite a bit over the last while. John Kimantas is not only the editor of Coast & Kayak Magazine (formerly Wavelength Magazine), he's also the author of The Wild Coast series of books and editor of other terrific resources for small boat users along this coast. And his name has been found lately in the letters to the editor section of the local daily paper.

This is one of Kimantas' books -- an essential read for boating in this area!

From his offer to replace Canada's damaged warships with his fleet of kayaks to his interpretation and translation of an article on raw-log exports, Kimantas writes on issues of interest to west coast dwellers, and he does so with good humour. Letters detailing his perspective on flushables and tidal turbines show that environmentalism isn't just empty words to him, it's action.

Now his latest letter to the editor points out that the BC Ferries change in service to Bella Bella will affect the "wet launch" capability for this run. Rather than just quote from his letter, I suggest reading it in full. He does have an informed perspective!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Lost Whale

To some, he was an annoyance or a nusciance. To others he was a spirit or a touchstone between worlds, while to others he was a lost and lonely orca looking for nothing more than some friendship. He was known by many names -- Bruno, Patch, Tsu'xiit, L-98 -- but to most of the world, he was known as Luna.
Luna (L-98) was a member of one of the endangered local southern resident pods. He was born to Splash (L-67) in the fall of 1999. Although the southern residents summer along the coast of British Columbia and Washington State, no one is sure where they go in the winter, and when L-Pod returned in the spring of 2001, Luna was not with them and presumed deceased. However, in July a solitary young whale turned up hundreds of kilometres away from his family in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, an area that he rarely left for the rest of his life. Indentified as Luna, the little whale was in remarkably good shape for being alone so young, and although officials tried to keep people from interacting with him, Luna didn't follow human rules, and insisted upon trying to get the one thing he craved -- companionship -- and he touched the hearts of many people in the sound and beyond. Luna's story ended tragically eight years ago today when he was killed by a tug's propeller.
In their book, The Lost Whale, authors Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm become part of the story as what started as a short magazine assignment stretched into years of following the struggle to decide Luna's fate. Should Luna be caught and relocated, or left alone? Were relocation plans merely a front for shipping Luna to an aquarium? Do you leave alone a wild animal that is social, sensitive, intelligent, and clearly demanding attention? Should humans interact with him, despite the fact interaction in such cases can lead to exactly the same sorry fate that ultimately befell him? What was the right answer? Was there even a right answer?
The authors clearly struggle with these issues in their book and don't provide any easy answers, which is fitting in a way as there are no easy answers to these questions. And the only character in the story who knew the answers is no longer with us, and he spoke in a language that we are still too unsophisticated enough to understand to any great degree.
Where the authors do succeed is in telling the stories of the people who shared in the gift that was Luna's presence for those few short years, and the amazing encounters Luna shared with the residents of the sound. As one person who was fined for petting him said, "It was the best $100 I ever spent."
Even those of us who followed Luna's story only from a distance cannot help but be moved by this telling of the story.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Winter Kayaking, Lithuanian Style

Earlier this month the annual snow kayaking race in Druskininkai, Lithuania was held. I should point out that there's no points for style, so someone should tell #036 there's no bonus points for going down the course backwards. For those who think that this isn't "real" kayaking, the race ends in a pool of water. Check out more pictures here and here. At about 1:30 in the video below, a couple of people take a practice run down the course.

BC Marine Highway rallies planned

The ferry system along British Columbia's coast is a marine highway system that supports many communities. A blog has started up with commentary on the recent changes to the ferry system -- click this link to check out what these coastal residents are saying. They have peaceful rallies planned for March, including Tuesday March 11 11:30-1:30 at the Legislature in Victoria and Saturday March 15 on Bowen Island. Consider attending rallies and writing letters to your MLAs on this important issue!

Island Tides newspaper article on Trains, Grain, and Pipelines

Just found an interesting article in the current issue of Island Tides newspaper, quoted on the website for Elizabeth May, the MP for Saanich and the Islands riding. Heck, May's article is not the only piece of interest in this paper! Click here for their online version of the current issue March 6-19 2014 of Island Tides, with thoughtful articles, thoughtful letters to the editor, and local events of interest. 
I recommend that you check in again from time to time, to see what's happening in these islands and in this excellent local newspaper. Doesn't matter whether the Salish Sea is your homewaters or you're just wishing you were here with your own boat.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Ocean River Gear Up Sale

Louise and I trundled down to Ocean River Sports for their annual spring Gear Up Sale. While much of the continent has been dealing with polar vortices this winter, this weekend The We(s)t Coast was living up to its reputation as we were dealing with a dreaded Pineapple Express. So despite the weather pouring down and Louise feeling under the weather, we headed down for a quick look-see.
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This is the 9th Ocean River Spring sale we've gone to a row, and it was probably the worst weather. This was one of the few years that they've gone to Plan B and only put the kayaks outside in the parking lot across the street from the store, and left the sale merchandise either inside the store or in the covered alcove beside it. We bumped into Paula, looking resplendent in her red rain jacket.

We had a nice chat with Ben Garrett, bumped into Mark "Gecko Paddler" Byrne, and met up with Mark Hall of Kayak Distribution.
We caught him eating his breakfast. Not that I noticed because I was too busy salivating over the yellow Boréal Design Epsilon in front of him.

We managed to escape with our savings account intact, not always an easy thing to do at Ocean River.
And we had a nice discussion with Graham Henry who, with his brother Russell, has just completed a 7,000 km kayak expedition from Brazil to Florida. (He gave no hints on where he may paddle next.)
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Workshop on Whidbey in April

In April, I'll be teaching a game-writing workshop on Whidbey Island! and doing a library visit with my folding inflatable kayak. Here's some of the promo material. Meanwhile, I'm looking for a billet for that weekend...

Author Paula Johanson
Will Visit Whidbey Island in April 2014

Write Your Own Games
This one-day session shows ways to create your own games – science games, funny jokes, role-playing adventures – that you can use once, or play for years. Includes samples and a handout to get you inspired. Ask questions based on your own needs and goals as well as on the ideas presented.
Saturday April 19 9:00am til noon
To register for this workshop, contact:
Whidbey Island Community Education Center, located at Old Bayview School
Bayview Rd Langley, WA 98260 phone 360.221.5020
Paula Johanson has worked as a writer and editor for over twenty years, teaching writing workshops for community colleges, libraries, and recreation centers. As well as making games for her own family's use, Paula has written game materials for d20-compatible game publishers.

Green Paddler
People who like kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding are people who care about the environment. Kayaker Paula Johanson, writer for the blog Kayak Yak, will be visiting Langley Library to show us how to be Green Paddlers. Did you ever carry a kayak on a bus? Or a train? Or an airplane? Paula has.
Come handle the folding inflatable kayak and gear used in the Gulf Islands, Ladysmith BC, Toronto Ontario, and the Red Deer River in Alberta. Join us and share ways to reduce your carbon footprint while getting out on the water.
Friday, April 18 at 3:00pm
To attend this free talk, visit Langley Library at 104 2nd Street Langley WA 360-221-4383

Friday, March 07, 2014


Today we have a guest post from Kathy, who has long been planning to tell us all about her kayaking trip in Desolation Sound a few years ago. Instead, she's telling us about the time her father was fishing in a small boat when a sporty little sedan drove past him...

This Amphicar was launched from a boat ramp at Halls Boathouse (now called Goldstream Marina) at the south end of Saanich Inlet. My Dad was out fishing in his boat when it floated by with a fishing rod out the driver window!

The Amphicar is an amphibious automobile, the first such vehicle mass-produced for sale to the public starting in 1961. The German vehicle was designed by Hanns Trippel and manufactured by the Quandt Group at Lübeck and at Berlin-Borsigwalde. Its name is a portmanteau of "amphibious" and "car". The Amphicar was designed to be marketed and sold in the USA. Compared to most boats or cars, its performance was modest, and only 4000 were produced by 1965.

Photos by Brian Peddlesden 1967 Saanich Inlet

Our friend Alison posted to Kayak Yak about an Amphicar that she saw while kayaking in Montreal in 2009. Check out her post here.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Protecting the Urban Forest

What does the Urban Forest have to do with kayaking? Plenty, for paddlers who live in a city. Most of the time we get to spend on the water is at the edges of our city -- or right in the middle, when we're on the Gorge! 
When it's hot in town, the neighbourhoods with trees are shaded and cool. When it's raining, the trees drink up much of the damp from the ground underfoot. And for purely visual enjoyment, a bit of Urban Forest is pleasant. I've paddled on urban waterways, and the ones with trees & brush along the banks were the best places to paddle. Give me a stretch of working harbour bracketed and broken up with tiny park-lets of green (road allowances and shoreline access points) any day over a shoreline of condominiums! What comes back to me, over and over, from my time on the Red Deer River is the breeze blowing me great gusts of pine and fir scent from a clump of trees on one shore... then I'd go round a bend and get gusts of sage and dust from the next riverbank.
Well then -- trees are good. And the municipality of Saanich is proposing amendments to their Tree Protection Bylaw. These amendments are intended to protect and enhance the Urban Forest. Here's a press release sent by Saanich for residents to consider:

A report from the Director of Parks and Recreation dated February 25, 2014 regarding the proposed amendments to the Tree Preservation Bylaw will be considered by Saanich Council at a Committee of the Whole meeting to be held on Monday, March 10, 2014, from 7:30 pm in the Council Chambers, Saanich Municipal Hall, 770 Vernon Avenue.
The details of the proposal are outlined in the report which is available at:
You are invited to attend the meeting and make representation to Council on the matter if you so choose. Correspondence may be submitted for inclusion in the meeting agenda via mail to the address noted above, or by email, and should be received no later than 4:00 pm on the day of the meeting. All correspondence submitted to the District of Saanich in response to this notice will form part of the public record and will be published in a meeting agenda.
If you have any questions or require additional information with respect to the proposed amendments, please contact Saanich Parks at 250-475-5522. If you have any questions with respect to meeting procedures, please contact Legislative Services at 250-475-1775 or by email

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Kayak Rescue on Video

Three men from Wirral (that's in north west England for us colonialists) were pulled from the frigid waters off the Welsh coast at Anglesey after their kayaks overturned on Saturday. All three were suffering from hypothermia, but have since recovered and were released from hospital. The kayakers were rescued by lifeboat, then winched aboard helicopters for transport to hospital, and the whole thing was captured on video by the lifeboat crew. Check out the embedded video below:

Scallop Farm

Shellfish farms are the sort of thing that kayakers paddle near, shrug, and paddle away from. They're not very interesting to look at from shore or a small boat. Now a local shellfish farm is in the news. Turns out that a scallop farm near Qualicum Beach has lost all its shellfish, due to the seawater being more acidic than the scallops can tolerate, according to an article in the Times-Colonist.
Maybe shellfish farming is something better done by traditional methods, like the clam gardens built all along the coast by First Nations people long ago. Research on these human-modified beaches has been done by Judith Williams (check out her book at bookstores or the public library) and in formal research projects as well. There are clam gardens found locally, near Victoria. I got to see several of these traditional shellfish farms up-Coast at Waiatt Bay on Quadra Island, with biologist Amy Groesbeck. That investigation of clam gardens was all done with the assistance of a couple of old canoes and my little inflatable kayak... a wonderful exploration of the Waiatt Bay shoreline! And a marvel to see at low tide from my kayak the old rock walls that have supported the gardens for thousands of years.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Henry Brothers are Back in Town

Russell and Graham Henry (sons of Ocean River Sports big kahuna Brian Henry) have returned to Victoria after completing a 7,000km kayaking expedition from northern Brazil to Florida. After their seven month-long paddle, they believe they they are the first people to have kayaked the northeast coast of South America from the Amazon to the Caribbean Sea. They often had to paddle 27 hours straight on the water.
Graham told The National Post, “You’ve been in your boat for 15 hours and you’ve got another 12 hours to go. You just do everything in your power to not think about how much you don’t want to be paddling.”
Russell added, "“You can see the storms coming. It would be blue skies. Then the wind and rain comes and you’re in the middle of this massive, dark, brutal thunder storm. And our paddles are carbon fibre, so they’re conductive. We’re just hoping we don’t get hit [by lightning].”
Back in Victoria and ready to return to "normal" life, they did discover on their trip that Canadians have a bit of a reputation for adventure. As noted in the Victoria Times-Colonist:
Graham said he and Russell are aware of the tradition of adventurers from Canada’s West Coast. People they talked to during their trip would often have no trouble guessing they were Canadians — and even West Coasters — because of the audacity of their venture.
“They’d say: ‘Only a Canadian would do this.’ ”
(photo by Adrian Lam, Victoria Times-Colonist.)

MISSA Writing Workshop at Pearson College!

From time to time on the Kayak Yak blog, I've mentioned being a writer. Most of my books are for Young Adult readers -- books on science or health or literature, for school libraries from educational publishers. Writing is mind-expanding work, and for me it integrates well with kayaking. Best way to clear the cobwebs out of my head after writing is to head out on the water in my kayak! And often while I'm on the water, things happen that make me resolve to write about this as soon as I get back to shore! Now I've got a writing workshop to teach in June that will give me a chance to paddle in a bay new to me. Writing and paddle on the same weekend -- yay!

Jo-Ann Richards' photo shows the dock at Pearson College - borrowed from Facebook
This summer, I'll be teaching a two-day writing workshop for Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts at Pearson College of the Pacific! MISSA is hosting my class Writing Non-Fiction for Young Readers, on June 28-29 2014. This workshop immerses you in the process of writing non-fiction, starting with generating ideas and query letters and then preparing outlines and book proposals. There are reasons I have twenty-eight books published by educational presses, and I'll be sharing and showing some of those reasons. Young readers need books and stories of many kinds, suited to their ages and interests.

Looking forward to bunking at the college and paddling Pedder Bay before my class...

MISSA is a terrific program for arts -- consider making your summer learning my class, maybe followed by a week-long workshop by another instructor! Look at these photos of the fabulous location for MISSA, which takes place at Pearson College of the Pacific right on the shore of Pedder Bay.

From their website, this is the MISSA Mission Statement
      Our Mandate:
     To foster the arts in British Columbia by bringing together, in a 
     fiscally responsible manner, in an environment rich in natural and 
     artistic stimulation, acclaimed practicing artists to share their 
     knowledge and inspire serious students and professionals to explore 
     and develop their artistic fields in a multi-disciplinary milieu.
     Aims and Objectives:
     To provide the maximum benefit to the individual student through an 

     inspired analytical teaching approach with small class size.

Dunno if anyone else has such a combined interest in writing and paddling, but I'm intending to paddle before and after both days of teaching my workshop! Hope to see some writing and paddling friends there.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Beacon Hill?

Somehow I always understood that the park called Beacon Hill in Victoria was named for a beacon at the top of its hill, not for somebody whose name was Beacon. Stand at the top of that hill, and you can see to the west along the Metchosin shore to East Sooke Park, or across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Penninsula in Washington State. It's easy to see that any ship entering Victoria Harbour or Esquimalt Harbour could have a good view of this hill.

There's a terrific map from 1860 in the BC Archives showing a chart of Victoria Harbour with numerous soundings right up to the Gorge Narrows. Check it out at this website written by some students from the University of Victoria. One particular difference from the present harbour in 2014 is that the Causeway was not yet built in 1860 -- the present site of the Empress Hotel is shown as a muddy tidal flat. Another difference from the present harbour is the working shoreline in the Upper Harbour and Selkirk Water has changed, what with docks and fill; but the 1860 survey stayed out of shallow water where kayakers like to noodle around the shorelines. Frankly, it looks like the surveyors stayed out of James Bay, Rock Bay, West Bay, and Lime Bay entirely!

What I didn't know before looking at this chart is that there were TWO beacons on the hill: not so much lights as visible markers. The one on the crest of the hill was a green square, and the other to the west near the shore was a blue triangle. As the website authors note: "If the sailor could see the square through the triangle he was on Brotchie Ledge- which meant trouble!"

Charts and maps are terrific aids to navigation. I'm still learning how to use the beacons and charts in my own home waters.