Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kayak Football

Who's up for a game of kayak football? In 1966, some paddles in France were in this embedded British Pathé clip:

Vancouver Island Circumnavigation Speed Record Attempt Begins Friday

Russell Henry will begin his attempt to break the Vancouver Island Circumnavigation speed record in a kayak on Friday. He posted the following note yesterday: "I will be leaving from Willows Beach, or more specifically Willows Park which is right at the Willows Beach Tea Room. I am setting off at 12:30 on the button. If you want to come out and see me off come down a little early as I can't be late! Everyone's welcome! Hope to see you there!"
Russell will have to average about 70 km of paddling a day to break the record om his 1,100 km trip. Currently, the record for fastest circumnavigation is held by Colin Angus who completed the trip in a rowboat in 15 days, 11 hours, and 47 minutes. The quickest circumnavigation by a kayak was by Joe O'Blenis in 16 days, 12 hours, 14 minutes.
You can follow Russell's progress on his website, or his Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Newest Trend in Paddling Sports

Combining sit-on-top kayaking and stand-up-paddling, presenting the newest trend in paddle sports, Sit Down Stand Up Paddling!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Kayaking From Victoria to Alaska

A group of recent retirees from Victoria are heading North to Alaska by kayak. Alan Campbell, David Maxwell, and Rob Zacharias left Willows Beach in Victoria a couple of weeks ago for a planned three-paddle north. Other local paddlers are joining them for various parts of the journey. They aren't novices -- Zacharias kayaked around Vancouver Island in 2004 -- but this is the longest trip for all of them.
You can hear a CBC interview with them here, and you can follow their adventure on their website.

Friday, May 23, 2014

New Olympic Sport - Kayak Jumping

You know you've always wondered about this, right? The ultimate kayak launch: going off a ski jump ramp.
Well, wonder no more. A group of crazy people extreme sports fans sent a kayak off a ski jump and filmed it for our entertainment.
The take-off goes well, but the landing is a little rough. It looks horrible, but I'm pretty the sure the passenger is actually a dummy. Then again, I guess either way, he'd be a dummy, right? And the landing brings a whole new meaning to kayak rolling.
Check out the video below:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

First (Montreal) paddle of 2014: Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, May 19, 2014

(Note: I am linking rather than embedding photographs until I have time to come to terms with Flickr's new embed structure. Cross post to Incidental Findings.)

All through this long winter, I have consoled myself with the idea that there would be plenty of water in the river when the thaw finally came. There was indeed: I have never seen the river so high.

The cherry blossom at the location d'embarcation has not passed its peak; indeed, it was still in the form of tight little pink buds, not even as advanced as during the late spring of 2011, although the trees themselves were in full leaf. Give them a few days. (Why do so many flowers, including cherry blossom, have 5-fold symmetry, and how does that work developmentally?)

The usual launch was well underwater, the mooring for the floating pier submerged, such that the Parc attendants had had to lay a narrow bridge between the land and the rising hinged section of the pier. The river had spilled over the lip of the beach onto the grass, the trees were river-bound, the boat storage racks themselves were parked in mud and puddles, and the lower part of the grass had been taped off. There's usually a middle ridge in the lagoon at the launch site, but it was inundated except for the trees and bare spiky shrubs of the branches. The lookout float was still at its winter mooring in the lagoon and had not been moved out to its location on the marsh. The river was the colour of milky tea, perhaps a hint more yellow than red.

The Kaskos I had used for the past 5 years have been retired: they are up for sale, piled on the grass before the location d'embarcation. With Boreal Kayaks having gone bankrupt, the Parc can no longer get parts to repair them. I was paddling a blue Pelican Elite, a nice, tough composite boat. But, hip stretches need to be a thing in my life.

From the location d'embarcations, I paddled upstream in the lagoon to the tunnel under the bridge to Île Gagnon. The water under the bridge was high and the current looked brisk, and I decided I did not have the clearance I would need for vigorous paddling, so I drifted downstream in the direction of the Pont Marius-Dufresne and out the east entrance of the lagoon, where I shot my first panorama of the season, looking west. Several powered fishing boats were already standing off the north of Île Gagnon. More than I have seen on previous occasions.

The leaves were half out, not fully masking the dark straight lines of trunk and branches, creating a beautiful effect of pen-and-ink drawing or fine nineteenth century engraving (photo does not do it justice at all). In a week, the foliage will be confluent. There was a peculiarly autumnal warmth to the foliage, created by the early leaves of the maples with their bronze blush. The pigment is acanthocyanin, responsible for the autumn reds, and there are various hypotheses as to its usefulness to young leaves, ranging from protection of the growing leaf from UV damage to camouflaging it or rendering it unappealing to pests and herbivores.

I paddled up to the left of Île Kennedy, keeping out of any of the narrower channels. The downstream current was noticeable and noticeably uneven, with eddies and eddy-lines and irregular rips that kept checking my progress, or nudging me off in unintended directions (hence, no mid-channel photos). Before the tunnel under the south end of the de Laurentides highway bridge, I took a detour up the culvert on the east side of the bridge, probably a hundred yards further than I'd ever made it before, until stopped by a snag of branches. Constant thrum of traffic to the left, while I could see the roofs of square-topped buildings - stores and warehouses - on the right. A pair of red-winged blackbirds perched in the bare twigs. Wrestled briefly with my camera, which was giving me long silent pauses, before figuring out it was on the rapid-frame sports setting. Resolved once again to read that manual.

Paddled through the tunnel against the current, which was work but doable; there was plenty of room to swing a paddle. Noted that a new kayak rental operation has set up on the water's edge just west of the bridge, at the end of Rue Joinville.

Multiple fisherpersons off the embankments to either side of the bridge between the bank and Île Locas were treated to the sight of me powering into the jet of current from under the bridge and then going swiftly sideways. Fortunately no-one seemed to be fishing off the centre of the bridge itself, so I could sort myself out and line up between the two eddy-lines and slog through underneath. That was work.

The eastern end of Île Lacroix is largely underwater, with confluent inundation of the north and south edges, and only a dome of bright green ferns preserved in the middle. The trees were mature and widely enough spaced for easy paddling. Broken light and shadow from passing clouds. Bright green foliage and reflections. Very still. I must have spent half an hour just mooching amongst the trees.

The low-lying portion of the opposite bank is also extensively flooded. I worked my way deep into the forest and along parallel to the river - no current to fight here - for at least a couple of hundred yards, hoping to connect with the marsh area, before I ran out of flood. The trees here were younger and closer together, so after a few paddle-snags, I settled on handing myself from trunk to trunk, particularly since the wildlife ruled the main channel: first turtles sunning themselves on fallen logs, and then a great blue heron, perched supreme on a branch. Even saplings appeared to be able to sprout leaves with no apparent inhibition, despite their waterlogged roots. I did run out of flood before I reached the marsh and had to work my way back, again without disturbing the wildlife. The light in the photographs I took was much duller: a bank of cloud - cirrostratus, at a guess - had been gradually moving and was now covering much of the sky. There was no forecast of a change in the weather, so I hoped it was transient and pressed on.

There were no biting flies. Something nipped my foot at a midpoint on a crossing, and it is itching a little, but not the mad consuming can-think-of-nothing-else, gnaw-my-foot-off-to-escape itch I remember so well. This will not last; I need to get bug screen.

The marsh area was again disconcertingly wide open, so that I had difficulty getting my bearings for my traditional panorama shot. The bird-life was much more subdued than at the equivalent time in May 2011; either I had just missed the full explosion, or I was still too early for it. I could hear the distinctive calls of red-winged blackbirds.

I decided to have lunch while waiting for the sun to come out, and paddled over the steps at Île Chabon. Or step, since the water was level with the topmost platform. What a contrast to Thanksgiving 2011! I considered mooring and scrambling out onto the steps, but the banisters made that look a little hazardous, and then had the bright idea of paddling around to the lookout on the west side of the island and pulling out onto the beach there. Beach? What beach? The water was almost up to the level of the platform itself. The bench, formerly across the path, was surrounded by water. The footpath was a channel. I paddled into the channel and worked my way back along the course of the path until I met dry land, dismounted ankle deep in wood chips that had once cushioned the path, and pulled the kayak up onto the path. There was a convenient rock, where I sat and ate my samosas. I had brought a small carton of yoghurt and no spoon; since no-one was around, I had a rare chance to eat like a kid.

I tried to make my way in the opposite direction to the toilet on the far side of the island, thinking that the opposite direction might be less flooded. Every dozen yards or so, there's a sign saying herbe a puce, with a distinctive three-leafed profile, so ploughing through the new ground-cover in sandals did not seem a particularly good idea. By the time I was mid-shin deep in cold water and wood-chips, I decided that 'less flooded' was relative, not absolute. I waded back to the kayak, turned it around, climbed in, and paddled back along the course of the path. Past the lookout, I met shallows again and ran aground in reddish-tan dirt and sand. I clambered out and towed the less burdened kayak up the path, scattering schools of tiddlers, and parked it on a patch of violets while I walked the handful of additional yards to the sign that said 'toilet'. The water was within a few inches of the level of the path at that point, and I probably could have dismounted there. It was only on the bus home that it occurred to me to wonder how dead herbe a puce had to be before it was non-toxic, since I had almost certainly been wading shin-deep in its litter. Google search induced an immediate psychosomatic itch: it seems herbe a puce can never be dead enough. And you shouldn't burn it, either. But so far so good.

By the time I finished lunch, the cloudbank had cleared. I consulted my shoulders and we decided that trying to circumvent Île de Mai in either direction in this current would be no pleasure, so I would paddle around the marsh and then go back into the flooded forest. The marsh was wide open except for an isolated stand of trees in the middle, and islands of bare sticks and shrubs. I caught sight of two more herons, one already aloft, startled by a canoe, and another one that was fishing but took wing as I tried to work the camera with the zoom lens out of its waterproof bag. Around the edges, the remains of last year's reeds formed broad floating mats.

I headed back the way I came, detouring into Île Lacroix again for a look (and some photographs) of the flooded forest with sunlight on it, back under the bridge to Île Locas, which again had fisherpersons on either side, but fortunately not in the middle, because with that current behind me, I was going. My final port of call had to be the channel between Île des Jiufs and Île aux Fraises, which is usually blocked by a branch and rock bar. Not so this outing.

Then I ferried the channel in my best Gulf Islands style, constantly looking around for power skis - because it was mid afternoon and those were out - to the upper end of Île Gagnon, past my favourite house with the red roof (photo from a previous visit), and prepared myself to go under the bridge, which involved making sure the cameras were in their waterproofing, carabiners were attached, and my legs were clear. Just in case, you know. But I scooted under the bridge like a pea rolling under a table, with easily enough clearance to steer, and that landed me back at the location d'embarcations in time for the 1541 73 de Laurentides bus. First paddle of the year, accomplished.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

That's Going to Leave a Mark

A woman from Nova Scotia got a little too close for comfort when whale watching in Mexico recently. They encountered pod of Grey whales that came so close to the whale watching vessel that passengers were petting them. The whales got so close that the woman was beaned in the head by a Grey's tail. Check out the video below:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Always Be Prepared

Embedded below is a 1936 British Pathé clip showing the Blyth Sea Scouts making their own wooden framed canvas canoes. Interestingly, it starts off with some shots from Kayak Men.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My God, It's Full of Starlings....

And with apologies to the late Arthur C. Clarke for mangling what might be his most famous line of dialogue in the post title, here's an amazing piece of video of two young women canoeing under a murmuration. And what's that, you ask? You've probably seen hundreds of them, but you've never seen one like you will in this video embedded below:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Another Vancouver Island Circumnavigation Record Attempt Coming Soon

Plans are afoot for Russell Henry, son of Ocean River Sports' big kahuna Brian Henry, to try to break the Vancouver Island Circumnavigation speed record in a few weeks. Currently, the record for fastest circumnavigation is held by Colin Angus who completed the trip in a rowboat in 15 days, 11 hours, and 47 minutes. The quickest circumnavigation by a kayak was by Joe O'Blenis in 16 days, 12 hours, 14 minutes. Joe commented on the Kayak Yak Facebook page, "Oh, this is awesome! I hope he does it, I'd love to see my time for the kayak circumnavigation get broke! I'll be cheering him on big time. I know Colin will as well!"
Russell is no stranger to epic kayak trips -- he recently completed a 7,000 km kayak trip from Brazil to Florida with his brother Graham. To break the record, he will have to average 70km in his kayak everyday for two weeks. Follow his preparations on his website.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

First Nation bans non-Native boat access in traditional territory

Hot news on the Salish Sea -- paddlers take note!
The Stz'uminus (Chemainus) First Nation has issued notice that it is banning non-Native boat access to their traditional territory, as reported in the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial. The newspaper's article reads: “Until further notice, Stz’uminus First Nation will prohibit access to its core territory in the Salish Sea by all vessels, including but not limited to, commercial fishing vessels, Fisheries and Oceans Canada vessels, and any non-Native civilians and government officials,” John Elliott, chief of the Ladysmith-area band said in a statement released Friday.

The affected area is shown in the image below -- it runs along the Vancouver Island shoreline from Sansum Narrows to Dodd Narrows, along the shoreline of Gabriola Island, and south-west to Active Pass.

image credit: courtesy Stz’uminus First Nation

While this action will affect kayakers and other recreational boat users, the primary intent of this ban is to draw the attention of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to the need to obey the federal laws for management of fisheries in this traditional First Nations territory.
The press release says:

“The ongoing actions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have failed to follow federal Aboriginal consultation and accommodation laws, failed to appropriately manage or allow for co-management of fisheries within our territory and, ultimately, have failed to recognize Aboriginal Rights and Title,” Elliott writes.
“The DFO continues to favour existing commercial monopolies and continues to inadequately consult with Aboriginal groups when enacting policy,” he wrote. “Due to its gross mismanagement and failure to follow government mandates, we can no longer allow the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to manage fisheries within our territory. We cannot stand by while fish stocks within our territory continue to be depleted and our rights ignored.”

The entire article is short and to the point. It's well worth reading, at this link or another similar article in the Cowichan Valley Citizen is here. So far, this ban is a peaceful, non-violent demonstration with goals of protecting the harvest of fish and geoduck clams and maintaining the natural resources of the area.

It's not certain at this moment how this ban will affect small boat users. But if you're wondering where you've heard the name John Elliott before, readers of Kayak Yak have seen him mentioned here on our blog. Our John Herbert took a photo of Elliott at the 2011 Paddlefest in Ladysmith, where Michael Pardy led a flotilla of kayakers ashore to ceremonially ask this First Nations chief for permission to visit these ancestral lands.

Elliott's presence at 2011 Paddlefest is a good indication that kayakers and other small boat users can hope to continue to be recognized as a small part of the larger community with interests and responsibilities in these waters.

Running the Rapids Old School

Embedded below is a 1955 clip from British Pathé from an international kayak contest in 1955. Where and when this took place is unknown, but the short clip features some old school skin-on-frame kayaks shooting some rapids somewhere.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Latest Trend In Paddlesports: Basket Kayak Ball...on an Escalator!

Over The Edge

Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi once asked, "Who's the more foolish, the fool, or the fool who follows him?" If he was a kayaker, he may have been thinking of this video. Who is crazier, the kayaker who goes over the 75-foot falls, or the guy who jumps in after him?
Ben Marr and skier Rory Bushfield tried to answer that question in this piece of video craziness filmed near Squamish, BC, and embedded below:

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Kayak Men

Embedded below is a 1932 British Pathé newsreel entitled Kayak Men. It features a group of German kayakers practicing their rolling technique, but it begins with some shots of Inuit paddlers.