Saturday, October 29, 2011

Get a Kayak..... Go Paddling!

I have to admit that I didn't sleep too well last night in anticipation of the busy day ahead. However, we woke up to perfect fall conditions with the warm sun shinning and calm winds. The perfect day to go pick up our new Delta 15.5 Expeditions kayaks and take them out for a test paddle!

Right on time we were at Ocean River Sports as soon as the doors opened at 09:30 met up with Jordan who has been handling the details of our purchase. A word of note, right from our first experience of walking into Ocean River and signing up for our first course the staff we have talked to at the store, emailed with, been taught from have been simply amazing. Brian, you should be really proud of the people who represent you and your company!

After finalizing our equipment choices we headed down to the storage area and unwrapped our new "toys".  It was neat to see them emerge from their padded packaging (I should have taken a photo DOH) and we completed a quick and perfect PDI before getting them loaded onto the truck. We had decided earlier that our test paddle would be at Elk / Beaver Lake Regional Park so off we went.

The perfect fit!

We have walked around the 10km shoreline trail of Elk / Beaver Lakes many times before and know of all the beach launching areas so we chose Hamsterly Beach as the portage from the truck to the shoreline is short and the beach is sandy. I have also seen kayakers launch from this area before and the parking area is good too.  We got to work adjusting our seats and rudder peddles when a lady walking the trail stopped by and said she also has a Delta kayak and loves using it on the west coast of the island. It was great to hear that comment prior to our first trip out!

Suited up and ready to go!

After some final adjustments of our PFD's, skirts, paddles our kayaks we were ready to go. We had noticed the winds had come up a bit from the west and on Elk Lake typically really strong westerlies can create good chop and whitecaps so we planned our departure direction and return if the winds increased. Our first beach entry was uneventful (we didn't go splash LOL) and we completed a few final  equipment adjustments and headed out. About 15 minutes after launching the winds dropped off to a slight breeze.....perfect!!!

Robyn "I love my kayak"
The first thing that both of us realized was that WOW! we sure made the right decision in our selection. When we first used Delta's several weeks back we really like the cockpit comfort factor and with the boats being new the feel is so "crisp". After a few minutes I started working on some edge turns doing circles around Robyn as she paddled and it felt like I could just keep leaning the kayak further and further without it wanting to finally roll. At one point in my circle I stopped paddling and took a picture of Robyn who had the smile of happiness on her face as she paddled.

Continuing on our clockwise direction we passed the Elk Lake Rowing Center which was bustling with activity on the docks. Boats were being ready to head out onto the lake and it sure is a different perspective seeing the impressive facility from the water. As we passed the docks we came across lily pads and reeds in the shallows that were home to various birds. I was surprised by the number of Blue Herons that we spotted and also surprised when I paddled up on top of a submerged stump that stopped me dead in the water. "Full reverse captain" and I backed off the stump. LOL

We continued south towards Beaver Lake by-passing the customs agents (LOL) but paddled past one of the small islands separating the two main lake bodies. Here we found Cormorants warming themselves in the sun as well as a Western Painted Turtle resting on a log. I was surprised how large the turtle was and figured it was at least 6 to 8 inches long! Pretty cool!


 It's funny how you don't see all of the islands in the middle of the lakes when you walk the trails but they are there and I can only imagine what it would be like to explore them closer. Rumor has it that there is a Geocache on at least one of them so we might have to see if there is a good landing location to visit the site. There are lots of stumps (hidden) and above the waterline especially in Beaver Lake which probably is a result of the system being dammed many years ago to supply Victoria with water. Many are marked with orange buoys so that boaters don't happen to hit some of the larger ones.

Gecko Paddler and his new kayak

Remember what I said about the westerly winds??? Well after making it around 3/4's of the lake system the winds started to come up from the south east and we got to experience a pretty good chop and stiff breeze (5-10 knots?) into our face. This was our first real wind challenge since taking on kayaking but the Delta's were very stable and we had no difficulty making our way back to Hamsterly Beach. 

Robyn leads the way back to Hamsterly cutting through the slight chop and breeze.

After 2 1/2 hours we landed back at our starting point with smiles on our faces from ear to ear. It was a great
maiden voyage of our new Delta 15.5 Expedition's and everything worked flawlessly.

The "twins" ready to be striped down and loaded back onto the truck after a great first paddle.

Yes, we are going to have so much fun exploring and challenging ourselves with this new pastime.  Want to go paddling with us??? Send us an email or post a comment.....see you on the water soon!

Mark & Robyn

Friday, October 28, 2011

Almost Like Christmas Eve

It was the night before kayaks, when all through the house
Not much was stirring, just my cat Tom with his toy mouse.
The Farmer Johns were hung drying with care,
In hopes that our Delta's soon would be there.

Robyn was nestled all snug ready for bed,
While visions of calm seas danced in her head.
And papa in his ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long fall nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen leaves;
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects under the trees.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a big delivery truck, and a robust fellow with big ears.

That little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it mustn't be a trick.
More rapid than white horses his calls they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Kokatat! now, Scotty! now, Yakima and Aqua-Bound!
On, PFD's! On, Paddles! On, Whistles and maps for all around!
To the front of the drive! To the front of the door!
Now go and play in the water! Go play in waves some more!"

And then, in a twinkling, I heard in the shop.
The movement and shuffling of each of our mops.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
In comes the driver, he came with a bound.

He was dressed in rain slickers, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with truck oil and smoke soot.
A bundle of safety gear he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like apples, his nose like a cherry!
His little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And his grey beard looked like it took long to grow.

The stump of a stogie he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a big round belly,
That wiggled when he moved, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, kinda like an old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And unloaded our Delta's, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his head,
And giving a nod, the shipping list he read!

He sprang to his truck seat, to his horn gave a toot,
And away he went as he gave her the boot.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Have fun with your Delta's, the decision was right!"

Yeah...... We're excited ;-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kayak's...check, PFD's...check, Paddles...check!

Great news arrived yesterday when Jordan at Ocean River called Robyn to let her know that our new Delta 15.5 Expeditions have arrived! Yipeee!!!  But since we are so busy with work (thank goodness) this week that we have arranged to pick them up this Saturday at 09:30.  I still can't believe we are doing this!!!

The past 7 weeks have given us a lot of time to research, try on and play with the things that will make our paddling adventures safe and fun. We have acquired our Scotty Paddle Sports Accessory Kit that includes a 21" Hand Pump, Throw Bag and Life Saver Whistle. Our other Scotty items include Sea Lights, Paddle Leash, Paddle Clip, extra whistles and various Snap Hooks. We have used Scotty products while fishing for many years and it is great to be adding their products to our Kayak equipment inventory.

Next up on our list was to check out a number of PFD's and we were very pleased to select the Kokatat OutFIT Tour and MsFit Tour models. We like the fact that they have lots of gadget pockets, are fully adjustable to fit our middle age bodies :-), offer a great range of motion and they look great and feel great as well. We also choose the Kokatat Gore-Tex Deluxe Sea Skirt for a few reasons. As new paddlers rolling our kayaks is pretty much out of the question at this time so if we capsize it will be a wet exit anyway. The Kokatat skirt is light weight, has an antipooling bar, adjustable Smoothskin neoprene waist closure, pile lined hand warmer, zippered mesh deck pocket and other features.

Although not 100% positive yet, we are looking at a Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Hybrid paddle for Robyn and I am leaning towards the Eagle Ray Carbon version. We are both low to mid angle paddlers and I feel that I need a fairly stiff blade. Although a really nice fiberglass or carbon fiber blade would be sweet we need paddles that can get beat up a bit and the higher end price range at this point doesn't make sense.

This past weekend we test fit the Kokatat skirt as well as Delta's cockpit cover and they fit perfect! It's going to be a busy, fun morning this coming Saturday and hopefully the weather Gods will allow us a test run possibly on Elk Lake in the afternoon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hook, Line and Kayaks!

Well its' been only just over a month since we first tried (the Hook) and immediately became (the Line) obsessed?, passionate?,  can't stop thinking about it day or night? or is it just being amazed of what have experienced and what the future possibilities could be?

During this time we taken a couple of courses through Ocean River Sports, been out on the water 5 weekends out of 7 and have paddled in polyethylene, thermoformed ABS and composite fiberglass kayaks ranging from 14 feet all the way up to 18 feet. Some have been recreational and some have been touring sea kayaks but all have had the same effect on us to the point that we simply had to get our own sooner than later (and Kayaks).
As we experienced, there are a lot of good, well made kayaks and each have their pros and cons. We factored a number of items in our decision making process but it came down to the feel of the kayak on the water and the cockpit comfort. Of course they also had to look good to us as well and the Delta 15.5 just fit the bill (and the wallet) perfectly.

The folks at Ocean River Sports have been great in assisting us through the purchase process and today we finalized our order. The great news is that Delta have the kayaks in stock which means that we should have them by the middle of next week. In the meantime we are completing the purchase of our personal safety equipment and will figure out what paddles we want.  Excited??? Nah............  LOL

"I'm the Navigator....I Have The Right To Know Where I'm Going"

I love that line from an episode of From The Earth to The Moon, when Apollo 7 Commander Wally Schirra quotes Command Module Pilot Donn Eisele being the person responsible of navigating the spacecraft..... so do we when we are paddling our kayaks!

So last night Robyn and I took the Introductory Navigation and Marine Weather course presented by Ocean River Sports. It was a small class of just us three students, myself, Robyn and Trish who has been kayaking for about five years but her husband does all the navigation so she decided that she wanted to learn how to do it herself. Our instructor for the session was Gary Allen who was also one of our instructors at the Introduction to Kayaking Skills course a few weeks back. It great to see him again.

Having my pleasure craft operators license I felt that understanding basic navigation skills, weather, tides and currents in relation to being in a kayak was so important in comparison to a powered pleasure craft. I have to admit that I take the conditions that I will be in while kayaking way more seriously and I want to know when, who, why and how come before heading out. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that you are on your own in terms of staying out of the water and don't have all the fancy safety amenities that are found on many power boats. Nothing like having a little bit of nerves, anxiety or what ever you want to call it to nudge you to plan properly for the conditions you might be going out in.

Although you can't learn all the navigation and marine weather skills in one evening we found the course to be very informative. We both took away from the course a number of useful topics such as reading tide and current tables and how they relate to each other especially in a kayak. It was Robyn's first experience of really looking at a marine chart and she liked how to determine the time it would take to transit to a particular position using known distance and paddling speed.

Anyway.... the course was a good start in how to properly plan a safe paddle and the things to watch out for. The waters around Victoria are amazing but so are some of the other factors like wind, tides, currents etc. that can really mess up your day. Time now to do a little bit more research to expand our navigation skills and get out there practicing but we need kayaks first!   BIG SMILE......... guess what's arriving next week :-)

Next Up: We Are Expecting

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Alternate Destination...Brentwood Bay & Tod Inlet

Robyn and I headed down to Ocean River this morning looking forward to spending the afternoon paddling around the Victoria Inner Harbor but were surprised to find our that there was some sort of kayak race happening. Funny, we called OR yesterday and there was no mention of the race weekend but Dan at OR today was very apologetic and offered to get us into boats if we didn't mind the congestion at the dock. After taking a walk down to see the action on the dock we decided to take a pass on the Inner Harbor today and look for an alternate paddling site to rent our equipment.

Robyn suggested that we head out to Brentwood Bay so after searching the internet for the local "yak" shop and stopping off for a Starbucks recharge we were on our way. The day was shaping up to be spectacular with the warm autumn sun working hard to take the morning chill out of the air. After parking close by the Mill Bay ferry ramp we followed the signs to Pacifica Paddle Sports where Sandra  set us up for a couple of hours of paddling. It was another opportunity to try out a couple different designs and I got my hands on 18'.3" Nimbus Telkwa and Robyn got a 16' Necky Arluk IV. Getting to be pros at setting the cockpit and safety gear up, we were on our way in a short amount of time after testing the boats for feel and turning capabilities. 

Robyn paddles by the BC Ferries Klitsa. For many years this ferry serviced the Chemainus to Thetis Island route where Robyn's Dad lived. Many times we traveled on the Klitsa and it was nice to see her once again after so many years.

It's been years since I was last on the waters of Brentwood Bay and boy it has developed a lot with condos looking like they run all the way down to the water line and pleasure craft of all shapes and sizes. Right in the heart of the bay,  BC Ferries operates the Klitsa between Brentwood Bay and Mill Bay. This has been a much debated service over the years but it's what makes this part of Vancouver Island lifestyle what it is.

We paddled our way clockwise from Pacifica to check out the busy marina and some of the vessels moored at the docks or in the bay itself. One of the largest ships in the marina is the MV Sea Lion that was built in 1905 to tow huge log booms down the BC Coastline. Her massive 33-metre keel was carved out of a single old-growth Douglas fir and 10 cm planks were cut from forests that no longer exist around Vancouver today.
In later years she served as floating hotel for kayakers and Eco-tourism operators and certainly is showing the wear and tear of 106 years on the rugged BC Coast.

Gecko Paddler nestles up to the MV Sea Lion..... she's an amazing piece of  the BC maritime history.

No sooner had we past the last jetty than we were paddling into a special place known as Tod Inlet. Robyn was being watched closely on the rocky shoreline by a mother raccoon and her two young cubs and even from where I was about 100 feet away I could see their "bandit" masks in the sunshine. We paddled into a small cove that is home to the world famous Butchart Gardens which backs onto Tod Inlet and where boaters can view the magical fireworks show every Saturday night in July and August. It is such a peaceful place to visit by water and you can even visit the gardens by paddling up to their private dock. The thought of Robyn and I walking up to the Tea Room in our wet suits would be a sight to see for the tourists. LOL

The Bucthart Gardens dock with the Eco-friendly electric tour boats. I just love the sign for different types of water craft.

We continued our way deeper into the inlet and came to the old cement factory dock and pilings that are now home to the Purple Martin nesting boxes. We came across a number of kayakers near the end of the inlet including a group of students from Ocean River Paddlesports learning basic paddling strokes.

Purple Martin nesting boxes, Ocean River Paddlesports training and me (Gecko Paddler) near the cement factory piles.

Robyn passes a couple of paddle tourists from Scotland
A tandem Necky heading out of Tod Inlet

At this point we had been on the water for just over an hour and we were thoroughly enjoying trying out these kayaks. Both had features that we liked and some that we didn't but I really think that to get the perfect kayak you would have to build it yourself. One thing I did notice was the plastic blade paddle that I had seemed to flex during my stroke and even Robyn noticed it too when she tried it. Maybe we were spoiled last weekend using a composite blade that seem more efficient. Things you learn trying different equipment go a long way in getting the right equipment when it comes time to purchase your own stuff.

We completed our paddle back to Pacifica by going straight across Brentwood Bay with a slight breeze in our face. A few powered pleasure craft crossed our paths and we waived hello back and forth respecting each others place on the water. During our transit we discussed the possibility of moving our kayak acquisition date up if the opportunity came around so we will see...... maybe Santa will come early this year!

Next up: Navigation 101 Course at Ocean River Paddlesports

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Up The Creek Without Paddles...... or Kayaks

Well, the past month of kayaking has been an amazing adventure so far for Robyn and I. Starting this new recreational pastime is taking on it's own Otaku (Thanks Brett) in our lives. Both of us can't stop thinking about getting out there to work on skills and explore the jewel in our backyard (Vancouver Island & The Pacific Northwest) but of course one needs a kayak to do this. We have been fortunate to try out a few different types of kayaks and we have decided after many hours of internet research / reviews as well as first hand test paddling to order a couple of Delta Fifteen 5 Expeditions from Ocean River Paddlesports

We based our decision on stability, durability, comfort, cost and of course.... like anything it has to be pleasing to look at. The Delta kayaks just simply met all our our criteria and the Fifteen5 is perfect for day trips or a few nights camping on the beach. Delta offers a few top deck colors to choose from and I have selected red and Robyn will get a yellow one and no doubt we will swap the hatch covers to accent our boats a bit.

Delta 15.5 Sport's that we used a few weeks back.

With winter setting in we are going to order the kayaks for delivery in mid February and this will give us time to check out different paddle types and other equipment that we might (LOL) want. We have already acquired a number of Scotty Paddlesports safety items and only have a few more items to pick up as well as our PFD's. Christmas is coming and I think there might be a bunch of Ocean River gift certificates for both of us under the tree this year.

In the meantime, we are taking a Introductory Navigation & Marine Weather course next week at Ocean River Adventures to get a better understanding of these skills in relation to kayaking. I have my pleasure craft operators license but being in a kayak needs a whole different knowledge base. So..... now we wait, dream, kayak the internet for about 4 months until the "twins" arrive. :-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Going Deeper Into Pedder Bay

After a successful day of kayaking with Dave & Kelly, yesterday we had planned to do a little more kayaking exploring Pedder Bay but the winds came up pretty good. Instead we explored the Sooke Basin by vehicle looking for possible launch locations for future day trips. I kinda like pre-planning anyway so we climbed into the Reaville's truck and checked out Anderson Cove, Roche Cove, Cooper Cove and Billings Point where coho salmon were being caught right off the beach. After picking up a few groceries we headed back to camp and spent the rest of the day nibbling on bacon wrapped oysters and appetizers while watching HNIC at the sports bar around the campfires. is tough enjoying the outdoors!  LOL

This morning we woke to calm winds and sunny skies so Robyn and I started planning our day of kayaking when we heard a knock that the RV door. Dave and Kelly came in ready to give kayaking a try again so we suited up and were on the water just after 10:30am. We decided to head out of the bay counterclockwise and since the conditions were perfect we made it all the way up to the DND dock exploring the shoreline and sea life.

Cormorants basking in the early morning sun
Heading south out of Pedder Bay

Being this far out of the bay gave us the opportunity to experience the wash of fishing boats as they came out of Pedder Bay.  It also gradually expanded our comfort zone as rollers from Juan De Fuca were present as well.  Our paddling group followed the rocky shoreline all the way up to the DND jetty and we took a few minutes to relax and stretch the legs out a bit.

Since the conditions were so favorable, we back tracked towards the narrowest point of the bay and assessed to opportunity to cross over towards William Head. After grouping up and checking for any pleasure craft that we might come cross our path we made the transit in less than 10 minutes. Although we could have made the crossing directly from the DND jetty, I felt it was better to take the shortest distance in open water and leave our group a safety margin just in case of a wet exit.  

Robyn has really taken to kayaking and is even getting style points with her personal gear. The kayak that she used for this weekend is a little narrow for her liking and was a bit "tippy" but she had no issues in keeping upright or maneuvering it around. I was really proud how she adapted to the kayak and was able to take away from the experience the pro & cons of a different form and length of boat.

After crossing over to the east side of the bay we paddled south to the William Head Prison checking out the small coves and secluded passages. Many of the "hidy holes" needed to be backed into to get a good photo so it gave the group good practice backing up into a tight wedge while working against the wave surge.

Gecko Paddler and RVTraveller raft up in a small cove

Dave & Kelly sharing a laugh ;-)
By the time we arrived back at the marina we had been on the water for 2 1/2 hours and were ready for a hearty brunch. It was time to wash down our borrowed kayaks and get them loaded back onto the truck for the trip home tomorrow. A special thanks to Robin and Liz for letting us use their Current Design Solstice GT & GTS and to Dave and Kelly for joining us on the water for the weekend.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Oct 7th Pedder Paddling

Yesterday afternoon we arrived at the Pedder Bay RV Resort with our good friends Dave and Kelly Reaville ready for a fun and relaxing weekend. This was a great opportunity to check out the kayak / racks with the RV in tow to make sure we have a enough pivot clearance from the rudders and the front of the RV. 

Does it get any better than this???  LOL

After a night of rain showers we woke up to clearing skies and the winds were calm so Robyn and I decided it was a good opportunity to try our borrowed Current Designs Solstice yaks. We suited up in our new Farmer John wet suits and booties and headed over to see what Dave and Kelly's plans were for the day. Dave and Kelly were all over the idea of trying out a couple of kayaks so while Robyn and I set up our kayaks they got their rental gear sorted out. After an orientation of the safety gear they were on the water paddling out in the harbor. Robyn and I used our newly learned entry skills and headed out to see where the "newbies" were and it wasn't long before we found them exploring the mud flats while getting used to the kayaks.
Dave captain's  his kayak
Kelly is all smiles as she catches up with the group!

Right away I noticed that Dave and Kelly were having a great time and in particular Kelly felt totally in control of this new experience. We headed up the east side of the bay and I passed on a few paddling techniques that would assist them maneuvering their kayaks and it wasn't long before they could easily turn, stop and back up as required. The first navigation test that I suggested to the group was to raft together for our first group photo opportunity.

(L to R)  Robyn , Dave and Kelly form a raft

We then headed into a small sheltered cove as I needed to adjust my seat back and rudder peddles a bit more to get a better feel for my kayak. Robyn took the opportunity to get my picture after my first successful beach landing with out ending up in the water. Once again.... skills learned last week sure helped!

My first beach exit without ending up in the water! LOL

Kelly focusing on the rock gardens and keeping paddling form.

It was time to head across the bay so we made the transit as a group in no time at all and started to explore further south towards the DND jetty. We came across numerous seals, the odd sea otter and schools of fish which the seals were feeding on. Heading back towards the marina we navigated our way through the rock gardens and kelp beds absorbing the warm sun and calm winds. It was a great day to expose Dave and Kelly to the joy of kayaking.

A bunch of happy kayakers celebrate our first paddle together! 

It's amazing how fast the time flows by when you are out on the water. It felt like we were only out for a short amount of time but in fact our little Pedder Paddle was 2 hours long and it was time to head back to base camp and enjoy lunch in the warm sunshine and relax the rest of the afternoon away.

I turned to see where Robyn was and she had her camera out busily snapping pictures of me while I approached her. Nice picture honey!!

NEXT UP: Exploring the Sooke Basin

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

First Haul

Heading into the coming long weekend Robyn and I got the opportunity to borrow (thanks Robin & Liz) a couple of Current Designs 17' Solstice GT & GTS kayaks to try out at Pedder Bay or in the Sooke Basin. So tonight we picked them up and it gave us an opportunity to try out our new Yakima Rack system.

Other than a few minor adjustments the kayaks easily rolled up on the Hullyrollers and because I have the Mako Saddles mounted quite a bit forward, the kayak only required a little assistance to reach them. I knew that having the racks mounted on top of my canopy that I would need a small step ladder to reach the racks or kayaks. Our 2 step ladder worked OK but we will invest in a 3 step model and it will become part of our standard kayaking gear that will reside in the truck.

The tie down straps are self locking and very easy to put on and just as easy to remove and because of the distance between the towers Robin and I decided that I didn't need the bow and stern straps. For long hauls or highway speed I think I will use the bow and stern straps just for that extra little bit of safety factor and the increased warm and fuzzy feeling. LOL  My Robyn :-) and I had no issues unloading the kayaks for safe keeping in the garage and the complete Yakima Rack system performed awesome!! Can't wait for the weekend!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Introduction to Kayaking Skills

What better way to really understand fundamental kayaking techniques than to learn from respected members of the local kayak community. There is something said about getting it right from the start so Robyn and I registered for the Oct.1st Introduction to Kayaking Skills course presented by Ocean River Sports in Victoria.

We met today at noon at the registration area in Ocean River Sports and after completing some final paperwork and receiving our course package we were ready to get things rolling. The packages included 28 page course notes, Transport Canada Sea Kayaking Safety Guide, Port of Victoria Traffic Scheme which clearly shows the proper areas of transit for pleasure craft under 65 feet, over 65 feet including float planes and the areas that paddlers can access. Also included in the package is a complimentary copy of Coast & Kayak and some rental information from Ocean River Sports.

There were 2 other couples also in the course and 2 instructors were assigned to our group which made for great one on one ratio teaching for the day. The first thing we did was head down to the dock located on the east side of the Johnson Street bridge and got to know each other a bit better by forming a circle. We then tossed a Throw Bag around to each other while saying the target's name and it wasn't long before we knew the other students, Pam and Jake, Charlotte and Lydia as well as Gary Doran (head instructor) and Gary "A" his assistant.

The view from the Ocean River Sports dock looking towards the inner harbor and the Johnson Street bridge

Gary Doran has the highest level of Paddle Canada Sea Kayaking certification known as a Level 3 Instructor Trainer which took him approximately 10 years to accomplish, while Gary "A" holds a Level 3 Instructor rating. So our group was in great hands with years of experience between the two Gary's. For the rest of this blog I'll refer to Gary Doran just as "Gary" and the other Gary as "Gary "A" for simplicity. LOL

So we talked a bit about the mandatory safety equipment required by Transport Canada for kayaks as well as some of the personal gear that we would be using for the day. This is where we got into our Farmer John wets suits (very stylish I must say), PFD or personal floatation device and headed down to the dock for kayak assignments. Robyn and I had requested the use of a couple of Delta Fifteen 5 kayaks from their rental fleet as these are the same kayaks that we are thinking of buying in the spring and they were ready for us even in the same colors that we like. Now that is service!

Delta Kayaks Fifteen 5 Sport

Since we would be using kayaks with retractable rudders the first step was to properly set the rudder peddles so that our knees where slightly bent providing addition support. Gary demonstrated this in my boat for the group and then we got the opportunity to set our boats up for our own preference. This first thing I noticed was that to make the rudder move you only use the toes of your foot to pivot the peddle. By pushing the flat of your foot did nothing at all and this is only for bracing your foot. the peddles are much like those in an aircraft when you apply the brakes by pushing your toes.

Gary demonstrates proper knee and toe position to use the rudder peddles.

Gary "A" then demonstrated the proper entry technique when launching from a raised dock and everyone managed to get into their boats into the water and then themselves without any issues. Once we got the feel of the kayaks by rocking our hips back and forth it became obvious to the group that yes they are stable and you weren't going to capsize. Gary then started demonstrating the paddling techniques which included Forward, Maneuvering, Stopping and Reversing Strokes. It wasn't long before we played follow the leader with Gary as he selected different strokes to practice on as we made our way around the Point Hope Shipyard.

Heading towards Point Hope Shipyards

Every so often we "rafted" together which let us practice our draw strokes to bring our kayaks along side our course buddies. It wasn't long before we were able to do this at a moments notice and it gave us a chance to rest as the kayaks stabilized each other. I can imagine doing this in the future with Robyn or larger groups while enjoying a snack and a refreshing drink.

Pam, Lydia, Jake, Robyn and Charlotte raft together while I "draw" myself closer to the group.

Before we knew it our afternoon in the harbor was coming to an end so we transited under the "Blue Bridge" and crossed over to the opposite bank and made our way back to our starting point. I think everyone at this point we could have stayed on the water a bit longer but we had to keep the course moving and get ready for our evening session at the Crystal Pool. Once back at the dock and out of our gear, Gary explained some of the safety gear that we might consider such as a navigation light for night kayaking, safety flares and orange smoke pots. We also talked a little bit about currents and winds and where to get information on the internet prior to setting out for a day of paddling. It was then time to portage our kayaks up the dock to the parking lot to be loaded onto the trailer for the evening session at the Crystal Pool.

Gary gets ready for a discussion about safety while on the water

After breaking for dinner we all met up at the rear of the Crystal Pool located on Quadra Street where our kayaks were waiting for us.

Kayaks inside the Crystal Pool

We teamed up and got all of the equipment inside and got ready to get wet. A few exercises to get the Synovial fluid moving in our joints and it was into the pool to get accustomed to the water. Here we practiced a few somersaults to experience the sensation of water entering the nose which can be avoided if you had nose plugs but I found that I simply held my breath it wasn't a problem.

Now the real fun began with us learning how to wet exit (capsizing intentionally) the kayak in various configurations gradually leading up to a full wet exit with spray skirt and paddle in hand. Robyn was the first in the group to do a wet exit and I was very happy how she adapted to each step that became more involved. In fact the whole group had no issues in the exits and I found that once I had the spray skirt on I simply waited until I was perfectly horizontal but....upside down and started my exit.

Here's the key...relax! As I started to capsize I tucked my paddle under my arm in the direction of the roll, ran my hands along the cockpit forward to the "Holy Crap Handle", grab and push forward, pull back to release the skirt, run my hands back along the cockpit to my hips and pushed like I was taking a pair or well fitting pants off. At the same time I bent forward and as I exited the kayak performed a forward somersault and reached the surface right next to my boat with my paddle under my arm. Easy Peasy right??

So you are out of the kayak and gotta get back in and here's where paddling with a buddy comes in as they play a key role to getting out of the water as fast as you can to avoid hypothermia setting in. So in our case, Robyn righted my kayak and stabilized it by reaching over and transferred her weight to my kayak I was able to swim up and onto the rear deck with my head towards the stern. This enable me to get my legs back inside my kayak and then do a 180 roll of my body to face forward towards my bow. Once I reinstalled my skirt and used the bilge pump to empty my kayak I was ready to start paddling again. I didn't take notice of how long I was in the water but Robyn and I figured probably less than 2 minutes depending on which version of this rescue that was used.

The rest of the evening session we practiced other techniques such as "edging" which is flexing your hips to allow the kayak to sit at an angle in the water while keeping your torso perfectly vertical. While doing this in conjunction to a wide sweep stroke enabled the kayak to turn very fast and in fact it could be used in a backwards stroke as well at the same time to turn your kayak around 180 degrees very quickly.

Getting into the kayak unassisted.... yes this one was difficult but started to get better after a few tries.

Another technique we learned was to enter the kayak unassisted from a dock or shore which actually I think was the most difficult thing to do all night. By using your paddle as a brace it was an art to transfer your weight and body into the kayak without doing a capsize at the dock which I figure would be pretty embarrassing. LOL

As they say...time flies when you are having fun and it was time to exit the pool and end our first day of official kayak training. Looking back to our Pedder Bay experience it made me realize that a) we didn't have any idea as the proper safety equipment required, b) our paddling strokes were probably more like beating the heck out of the water and c) kayaking is so much more rewarding knowing some basic kayaking navigation skills.

It was great to share our Introduction To Kayaking Skills with our fellow paddlers and a special thanks to Gary Doran and Gary "A" for the personal touch they put on the course. We came away with a greater understanding, respect and passion for our new hobby and hope to see them on the water in the future.

Next Up: Pedder Bay with Current Design kayaks Oct 6-10th

What Comes First... The Rack or The Kayak?

After reflecting for a couple of weeks of our Pedder Bay kayaking experience, Robyn and I decided that we are going push forward and make kayaking one of our new hobbies for the future. We spent a considerable amount of time researching on the internet on different types of kayaks, personal gear etc but one decision that we made first was to get our truck fitted with a rack system to transport kayaks. Since expressing our interest in kayaking, many of our friends have offered us the use of their boats to try out and since the fall weather is coming we really don't need to purchase our own kayaks at this time. So in our case...the rack came first! LOL

Last weekend we checked out the Ocean River Sports"Gear Sale" and also the number of vehicles in the parking lots with rack systems. There are primarily two keys manufactures of systems (Thule and Yakima Racks) and both companies offer similar products and options. We also stopped by All Seasons Auto Racks on Gorge Road and Rick demonstrated the the various mounting systems that could be used on our fiberglass truck canopy. 

We settled on a Yakima Rack system that included the cross bars and removable locking towers, 2 sets of Mako Saddles and Hullyrollers which will make loading and unloading kayaks easy. The rear mounted Hullyrollers seem to be very popular in the kayaking community and one feature that I really like is that they have a locking tab for when the kayak is on the rack. The front saddles come with felt backing which also helps in loading the kayak as well protecting the hull.

Installation was only an hour and the Mako Saddles and Hullyrollers come complete with adjustable kayak straps and bow/stern tie downs as well! The perfect kayak system for our truck all for $940 plus tax, which will enable us to transport our kayaks with our RV in tow! Just in time too as we have been offered the use of a couple of Current Designs glass boats for next weekend at Pedder Bay where we can put to use the paddling skills that we learned yesterday at the Ocean River Introduction to Kayaking Skills course.