Friday, November 25, 2011

Tail Of The Gecko Paddler

The navigator..........Gecko Paddler

Gecko Paddler?? Why, you ask? It's pretty simple really...... I like Geckos and they have been part of my outdoors adventures for the past several years. So naturally it makes sense that Gecko Paddler is me and I am him. Confused yet?

Ok....if you have been reading my previous posts I have mentioned Geocaching a few times which Robyn and I started playing back in 2005. Joining the Geocaching community requires a unique username and mine is Gecko Cacher which came about after Robyn and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in the Caribbean. This was also my first exposure to the amazing live Gecko and ever since he has been me and I him. 

What is Geocaching you ask? In a nutshell.... it's hunting for Tupperware in the woods  LOL. No seriously, Geocaching is a game where you use a GPS to hide and search for containers called caches and then share the experience on line. It's a world wide game with over 1.5 million active caches and over 5 million users in play and some are accessed only by water. So what do you get when you merge a Gecko Cacher with a paddler? Gecko Paddler... see quite simple no?

Cooper's Cove on an amazing sunny and calm November day

Today Robyn (a.k.a. RVTraveller) and I went paddling at Cooper's Cove and like always Robyn had the caches in the area loaded on her Garmin Oregon GPS. As we headed out towards the Sooke Basin Robyn said that there was a cache a few hundred feet directly ahead on a small island. So we found a suitable location that I could dry exit my boat and I spotted the round container under a small fir tree. As customary, I  opened the container and checked the trinkets inside to see if there was anything I wanted to trade for (there wasn't) and then signed the log book for both Gecko Cacher and RVTraveller. This was our first Geocache find by water and we were pretty happy as there are lots of them to be found on the west coast.

Back in the boat after finding the Geocache

After yesterday's crazy west coast storm it was amazing to see how calm and warm it was and we took advantage of it by crossing the Basin and headed towards Roche Cove. The tides were perfect for entering the cove with only about a 1 knot current that we had to paddle through under the trestle.
Robyn cuts through the "glassy" water of the Sooke Basin

Exiting Roche Cove

The Sooke Basin has so many paddling areas that you could spend several days exploring the all the nooks and cranny's. We will be back for sure..... to enjoy the great paddling and find some of the other water accessible Geocaches.

If you are wondering where I got the Gecko decal on my kayak, I made it myself by using artwork from a local Geocache supplier known as Landsharkz (with permission). It is a trackable item which can be discovered by other Geocachers and I can log it as visiting caches like the one we found today so it will gain miles traveled while Geocaching.

The next storm is coming ashore tonight and the forecast doesn't look great for getting on the water again until next weekend. Oh well..... today was perfect!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Capturing Our Adventure

Winter is starting to make its presence here on the west coast as our second storm of the season came ashore earlier today dumping lots of rain and winds howling. Even so, Robyn and I are committed to paddle through the winter months as long as we can keep warm, relatively dry and the winds are in our favour. This coming weekend we hope to get onto the water to check out a GoPro Hero camera (thanks Kris) and see what we capture on.... I was going to say film but...... SD Memory LOL.

When I first started researching this great hobby of kayaking I was memorized by the video clips of instruction (thanks Brett), tidal race euphoria, narrows surfing, expedition travels or what ever I could find on the internet. GoPro has certainly made this easy and affordable with a complete line of of accessories developed to work around the same camera platform. How many companies do you know that start with a great product and make it adaptable to so many different needs?

This past weekend I tested the GoPro at an indoor R/C session flying one of my 5.5 oz electric airplanes to see how it would work. I was amazed at the field of view that was captured when I reviewed the video. After doing a little research on the net about conversion software I chose the freeware Square 5 MPEG Streamclip to edit and convert the GoPro HD file to an AVI file and then used MS Movie Maker to add a title. I then finished everything off with conversion back into an MP4 file with Leawo MP4 Converter. Since this is just a test to see how everything worked I didn't add music but if you listen carefully you can hear my little outrunner motor as the plane flies by. 

After posting the video it's not as clear as the original video so I will have to work on the conversion process as well as using a video window that will allow HD presentation. More research, more research :-)

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Time To Remember

With the Remembrance Day long weekend upon us it is time to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have paid so dearly. I wondered silently if there will come a time when this will be all forgotten but it seems that conflicts will continue and more sacrifices will be made by those who serve. Today we attended the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Saanich Municipal Hall where Kelly was playing with the Victoria Police Pipe Band. It's been a long time since I attended a November 11th. service and I was happy that we took this one in.

Kelly, 2nd from the left pipes the band into the ceremony 

Our friends Pat & Hartley came over from Sechelt for a long weekend of Geocaching, good food and laughs and we are using the Reaville grotto as home base for a couple of days. After a great lunch at the Bard & Banker in down town Victoria we headed over to Ogden Point to search for a few "caches" and to experience forces of nature making a presence on the breakwater.

This was not a day that we would take to the water with our trusty rides. I have grown to appreciate the power of the ocean and she further gained my respect today. However, I know she will once again become calm and I will paddle her surface once more.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Venturing Out to Little Shell Island

This morning we decided to give Sidney another try since the southwest winds were light and the sun was warming the morning. Heading to the Ardwell Drive launch site we drove along the water front on Lochside Drive and sure enough there was a slight ripple present. This was going to be a great day!!!

After getting our rides ready, I checked my watch and noted the 10:30 departure time as we paddled out of Roberts Bay and headed south to the Sidney Harbour. We paddled around Roberts Point and an armada of sailboats were hoisting their sails off the Sidney Pier ready to race but the winds weren't in favor of them today. However.... it was a great day for a paddle!

Warm sun, calm seas, slight breeze and a beautiful fall day!

We continued south past the pier and I had a little chat with the people looking down at us before continuing towards the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. The ferry hadn't arrived yet so we turned around and headed back towards the Little Group of  islands where we made a quick assessment of the conditions and pleasure craft traffic present. The tide was running with us so we picked a spot on the nearest island which happened to be Little Shell Island and started out into open water for the first time. The crossing was about 1 nautical mile and as we paddled through a tide line a big salmon (10 -15lbs) swam right up to the cockpit of Robyn's kayak before splashing back under the surface..... what an amazing thing to experience!

It didn't take long to make the crossing and we slowly navigated around Little Shell Island and found a beautiful little cove on the north side out of the current influence. Paddling in the clear turquoise water with a beach that was covered with broken white shells reminded us of the Caribbean except there were no palm trees and it wasn't 29 degrees. A great place to stop and have our lunch.

All along I had been keeping an eye on the conditions and there wasn't the slightest hint that winds were about to change so after checking our maps we decided to press on towards Coal Island. As we arrived at Killer Whale Point (there were no killer whales here LOL) we saw about 25 seals sunning themselves on the small reefs just before the point. Giving them a wide berth we paddled slowly by and I heard splashing behind me and was amazed to see about 10 seals playing in my wake. They seemed to be very curious of us and were doing dolphin leaps and chasing each other. 

The seal reefs...... and they wanted to play with us!

We then entered John Passage on the west side of Coal Island and saw a family of sea otters playing in the kelp beds close to the shoreline. When they finally saw us they headed to the safety of their den of logs in a crevice. They are very cute little critters and remind me much of cats but they live in the water. As I glided by I managed to capture their "who's that?" look on a couple of them.

The day just couldn't be any better and we could have stayed out here longer but with the time change and the sun starting to settle down low in the south east and it was time to make our way back to the launch point. We crossed by Fernie Island over to Curtesis Point and Robyn pointed out the house she did bookkeeping work in up to last week. I think she is going to miss the kayakers passing by at the new location in Central Saanich :-)

A quick transit into Tsehum Harbour to check out the incoming pleasure craft ( boy some of them are big and expensive) and around Armstrong Point back to the beach where we started from 4 hours earlier. Along the way we stopped to talk to a local resident who was prepping his crab traps on his small poly kayak in hopes of a crab dinner tomorrow night. Honey......we need a crab trap for these outings!!!

Edited 11/7/11 - I added our route that we followed heading south out of Roberts Bay

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Robyn's 1st Blog Entry - Pat Bay

Apparently it's my turn to blog!  And since we had such a great day today I don't mind. We decided that it wasn't going to rain so we thought we'd go for a paddle in the new Delta's.  We loaded up and drove out to Ardwell Rd. in Sidney.  It was pretty choppy so we headed over to the other side of the peninsula, Pat Bay.  The waters here were flat calm so we pulled up at the launch site, geared up and carted the kayaks down the stairs to the beach.  We headed out towards the float plane dock and watched a Salt Spring Air float plane touch down and dock.  We paddled over and took a few photos.  Mark chatted with the pilot and told him those were ‘his’ windows in the plane.  (I’m not sure if the pilot believed him).
There was a raft of logs nearby covered in seals basking in the sunshine so we took a few photos.   Although a few of them took to the water, most of them didn’t seem to care that we were nearby and posed quite nicely, even with the noisy float plane taking off close by.  A few seals swam near us and did some spy hopping.  I think they were hoping for a hand-out.

The Coast Guard had two ships docked nearby so got up close and checked them out.  They certainly seem a lot bigger when you’re next to them in the kayak rather than viewing them from a dock.
We hugged the coastline and continued past the Institute of Ocean Sciences property.  The houses in this area are pretty spectacular, especially the one that looks like a castle.  The water was crystal clear so we spent lots of time staring down at the bottom.  Personally I was looking for a crab for dinner.  I’m not sure what would have happened if I’d seen one.  I certainly wasn’t going in for it and probably Mark wouldn’t either.

We paddled around the point and in the Ardmore area we saw a nice beach, so we pulled up and had our lunch.  We did a few seat and pedal adjustments (as we’re still finding that perfect fit with our boats) and just relaxed.  We looked across at Mill Bay and decided we definitely had to get over there one day and explore.
After finishing off our thermos of hot tea we were back into the kayaks and heading to the truck.  Approaching our launch site we realized our little beach had disappeared!!!  Darn tide.  All in all a very nice day, about 3 hours of relaxation.  And best of all .  .  .  I’m looking forward to going out again tomorrow.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Options...... When It's Windy In Victoria

I got thinking about this past Sunday and thought I really should put this in our blog because it was a great learning experience for us. Ya see, it kinda goes like this.......

After our great first day in our new Delta's last Saturday we were excited about getting out there again on Sunday but... the forecast was for winds coming out of the south west blowing 25 knots. Sure enough it was blowing pretty good when we got up so the yaks stayed nice and dry on their racks in the garage. However, I said to Robyn that we should take a drive around the waterfront to see what was happening in different areas to get a better understanding of how the winds effect our diverse ocean shores here in Victoria.

The smile of a Geocache found!
We started out near the end of Portage Inlet and made our way down the Gorge waterway stopping at different points to check what was happening with the water. Since we were out of the car we took advantage of finding a Geocache or two along the way so all wasn't lost and besides we were getting outdoors! To our surprise the Gorge was only experiencing a slight ripple as the fetch ( I learned that in the navigation course :-) )  is too small for waves to be generated by the winds. A canoe with two paddlers came by and I thought.....Yes..... we could have paddled here today!

Next stop was the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club just north of the Tillicum narrows to check out the facilities and water access  for the future. The was a slight chop on the water and we watched as a kayaker prepared her ride for a leisurely paddle north to Portage Inlet. Once again I thought...... Yes we could have paddled here today! 

Since the Tillicum Narrows is also an Earthcache we crossed over to the west side of the Gorge and made our way down to the viewpoint to gather information to log the cache. Part of the challenge is to get a picture of yourself at the narrows which was just coming up to max flood and I thought.... Yes we could could have paddled here today! (Note: our earthcache picture will be in our kayaks...... when we paddle there)

Next stop was the Inner Harbor which was getting the effects of the winds and there was a fair chop present. Maybe with more experience we could paddle here...... but not today. We continued onto Dallas Road where the winds were kicking up some pretty good waves (because the fetch is bigger LOL ) and white caps could be seen a little off shore. There would be........ no paddling here today!

We continued on our way towards Cadboro Bay checking out the Oak Bay Marina and Willows Beach where the waters were displaying a slight wind ripple....... we could have paddled here today!  We checked out Cattle Point and saw a group of small sailboats playing in the slight breeze and once again....... we could have paddled here today!  

At this point we needed a caffeine fix so we stopped at the Cadboro Bay Starbucks (got a Geocache too) and headed for Gyro Park to check out the popular kayaking location. Although there were no kayakers on the waters today the small sail boats arrived at the boat compound in the park. Once again...... there was only a slight breeze present and ......... we could have paddled here today!  LOL

Our intentions were to head to Sidney and Brentwood Bay but having figured out that south west winds were probably not going to effect those areas like the Victoria waterfront it was time to call it a day and lick our wounds. So our lesson learned?....... Unless it is blowing one of our crazy west coast storms that makes recreational paddling out of the question, all you just need to know where to go!