Saturday, December 31, 2011

Paddling Out 2011

After another interesting night of weather at the camp we woke up to clear skies and slight winds but everything was frozen solid from the sleet that pounded down on us last night. I made the slightest suggestion to Robyn of heading out for a paddle and next thing we were suited up and on our way. We decided to launch out of Cooper's Cove as we expected there would be mirror like conditions but prepping the kayaks on the coldest day we have paddled in so far was a bit of a challenge. At least we didn't have to dump the water out of the cockpit covers since it was a frozen block of ice. Yeah..... I should have taken a picture DOH!

Trying not to get our feet wet I helped Robyn into her ride nice and dry I came up with the great plan of resting the stern of my yak on a log with the bow in the water. My theory was that I could get into the cockpit and with a nudge slide into the water. HA!!!! Butt and one foot in and the kayak decided it wanted to head to the water with me half in. Contact with the water resulted in a half roll, one leg soaked and Robyn chuckling nearby. Another DOH!

Last day of the year... you wouldn't think it is Dec 31st.

Back to more conventional loading techniques and I (we) were soon on our way out of the cove heading south towards Billings Point. Lots of Cormorants sunning themselves on the pilings on this brisk morning. They didn't seem to mind us today. We have found that Cormorants tend to be very nervous and don't hang around for their picture to be taken unless it is from a distance.

On the opposite side of the spit

We made our way along the shoreline down to the point where the ebbing current carried me past the spit to the opposite side. Checking our GPS track later I noticed that as we came closer to the spit our speed increased (dark blue) without even paddling as the ebb flow from the basin was taking us for a ride.  Robyn managed to get  a picture of me poking around the spit before I entered the current and worked my way back over to her. For the next kilometre we had a pretty good work out against the ebb current until we got out into open water on our way back to Cooper's Cove.

Crossing the Sooke Basin on a day when the water was like glass was amazing. We were visited by numerous seals that were hanging out around the crab traps. We were also taught a lesson today when the water in front of us came "alive" with a strong breeze from the east.

One second like glass....... the next here comes the wind.

In a split second the water rippled all around us and within the next 5 minutes we were slogging through a 1.5 foot chop just starting to threaten us with whitecaps. We took a few waves over the bow and it was a good workout paddling against the predicated 15-20 knot winds. A bit of everything today to make the last paddle of the year memorable.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year for 2012

Mark & Robyn

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Back In The Cockpit Again

It's been a very trying few weeks since our last paddle with all the Christmas festivities and my back taking it's time to come around to the point where I can even think about getting into a kayak again. I guess one thing I have to be thankful for is that I was well prepared for Christmas this year with all of my shopping and wrapping done two weeks early. I have no idea how I would have managed tackling the shopping crowds in the shape that I was in.

So after almost a week of  walking around like Quasimodo, suffering relentless back spasms and not getting results from over the counter medications, I cried "uncle" and asked for help from Robyn. I think she was relieved when I made that decision and her suggestion was to pay a visit to her Registered Massage Therapist since she has had great success in correcting an old running injury. Thank goodness I could hobble to the RMT as getting into our truck was an adventure and getting out just plain excruciating so driving was out of the question.

My new found RMT "Lisa" went to work on me for an hour isolating the epicenter of the spasms and relieved the tension throughout my back. I was totally amazed that after that one hour session I was able to stand up straight and the spasms had ceased although I was pretty sore. Another session 3 days later on Christmas Eve allowed me to enjoy Christmas day activities and press on with our plans of RV'ing through New Year's and maybe getting into the kayaks. Could Fairy Dust be real?? ;-)

We are now camped at Weir's Beach RV Park through New Year's and today it was time to take to the water after a real blowing storm roared on shore overnight. We awoke to overcast skies, almost no wind at all and small rollers breaking on the sandy beach. After a quick breakfast it was time to test out the back prepping and hauling the kayaks to the surf. Aahhh..... there's nothing like getting back on the water again and today was no exception other than taking a roller over the bow before I could get my skirt on. LOL

At this time of year the water is so crystal clear and we explored the coastline heading towards William Head where a tide race was visible. Robyn's keen eye spotted something off our port side and as I paddled closer to it I thought it was toy sail boat but as it grew in size I soon realized that it was the remains of a floating lantern. In Japan, the Toro Nagashi (lantern cruise) is to commemorate those lost in  events and the belief is that it guides the spirit to the other world and the lantern represents their bodies returning to the sea from where we first came from.

I decided that we would take it back to our camp with us and maybe we could light the lantern again later this week and send it back out onto the ocean currents. Where did it come from? Who sent it? We will never know but this simple act of kindness that was sent upon the waves reached us today and just for a moment in time we have become connected in a special way.

Not wanting to push the luck with my back, we headed back to camp after crossing Parry Bay getting a good look at our camp from the water. The forecast is for another storm to arrive tonight but maybe, just maybe we can get on the water on New Year's Eve. You might wonder about kayaking in the winter and the first thought is cold but if you dress and prepare properly it can be a very rewarding experience.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Wish

What would this world be like if every day we celebrated peace on earth like we do at this time of year? Even though we are all alone in space, the people of this amazing blue planet somehow manage to put differences aside and show that we care for one another.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not Waiting For A Resolution

After getting all of our Christmas shopping and chores completed earlier in the week we were looking forward to a paddle this weekend however my back decided to throw a wrench into our plans.  So I am "beached" for the next week or so while gradually getting onto my feet again and hopefully the kayak during the Christmas break.

Sometimes it takes a situation like this to refresh one's memory and take action (once again) that will improve quality of life for the future. It was only a few years back that I had similar back issues and I came to the conclusion that the excess hibernation body fat that I was carrying around above my waistline didn't help. I also came to realization that my eating habits were not good and that the short term pleasure of eating crap resulted in long term pain and suffering. Simple things like tying shoe laces became a struggle and as my center of gravity moved higher my balance while hiking or just moving around quickly was effected.  Most of all.... I just didn't feel good.

I embarked on a plan to begin exercising (running), my eating habits changed radically and the results were amazing. I lost almost 40 pounds, ran in a few 8K and 10K events and most of all I felt younger, had more energy, slept better and life was all good. However, the past year or so I kinda fell "out of my kayak" so to speak by exercising less and less while drive-through windows have became more convenient. The worst thing was that I was able to convince myself that the downward slide was OK.  Starting to kayak was only a bandaid solution and even though I feel great after a day on the water, I am only lying to myself that I am on the right track.

This time of year it is common to hear about the up and coming New Year's Resolutions and if you really think about it, it's so sad  how long one of those self promises really lasts. So in a nutshell.... why wait until midnight on December 31st to make a change? 

Is some magical fairy going to cast a spell on you that will  change you when the calender flips from 2011 to 2012??  If I had 1 cent for every New Year's Resolution broken I would be a very rich man in wealth but not in body or spirit.

So....I'm not waiting for that magical time 2 weeks away when tonight is my chance to make a change.  I have decided that I will change things now, survive through the yummy Christmas treats temptations and surge ahead into 2012.  Now all I have to do is get back on my feet again and that will happen later this week cause Santa is coming!

Robyn and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! (even if you have to wait until then to make your resolution) :-) Until then... Happy Paddling!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Time Flys By When You're Having Fun!!

Today is a time to reflect on a special journey that we have taken and be thankful for memories that we have shared together. It was a stormy weekend in Victoria back in 1983 when Robyn and I became one and began our lives together.

That special day didn't get off to great start as while my wedding "crew" were waiting at the church we saw Robyn's limo pull up, come to a stop and then bolt off! Well..... that marriage didn't last long. LOL  Turns out that Robyn's dad (our professional photographer) had forgotten his camera equipment and off they went to get the old SLR equipment. Where was iPhone to the rescue back then???  LOL

Our ceremony was uneventful except for my SLR camera with one of those big bulky flash units that my dad was using hit the ground with a smash. Was this an omen about cameras???  Not long after that we cried together as we signed the register and rode off into the sunset to start our journey together.

28 years later we embark on new adventures and we even thought about going for a paddle this morning to celebrate even on this frosty morning. However, time didn't permit as we headed into downtown Victoria this morning to spend the weekend with our "buds" Dave & Kelly. We played tourist today in our own town, wining and dining (Il Terrazo) spending the night at the Grand Pacific. This has actually become an annual event for the four of us as it gives us a chance to check out the Christmas trees at The Empress Hotel, the Teddy Bear auction at the Grand Pacific and new for this year the Ginger Bread House display at the Laurel Point.

28 years and counting. Many more years of paddling together to come!

Downtown Victoria is really an amazing to visit and during the Christmas season the lights turn the night time into a magical place. Didn't bring an old SLR camera with us but this time Dave's iPhone came to the rescue to capture our celebration tonight. Time flys by and we haven't changed one bit huh???

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Inner Harbour By Water - Updated Google Earth Map

Robyn glides in front of The Empress Hotel. Hard to believe it is December huh?

Ever since we started kayaking we have wanted to spend some time exploring the Victoria Inner Harbour as we feel it is such a special place. Where do you get to see the world famous Empress Hotel, the British Columbia Parliament Buildings, and one of the busiest float plane ports in the world all within your field of view? 

We launched from the Ocean River dock (thanks guys) at 11:15am under cloudy skies but the water was absolutely dead flat and no wind at all. One of our quests today was to visit a local Inukshuk and share some knowledge with him. I also wanted to watch the Dehavilland Twin Otters landing and taking off right next to where we were paddling as I have a special interest in these wonderful aviation workhorses.

After passing under the "Blue Bridge" our timing was perfect to see a West Coast Air 300 Series Twin Otter taxiing out for take-off. I am involved in the the Viking Air 400 Series Twin Otter build and seeing this amazing aircraft fly and my contribution to the new program made me feel proud.

The Geocache hunter tracks down Inukshuk
Our next stop was Colvile Island, home of the Inukshuk and keeper of a Geocache. Landing on the island was a bit of a challenge as there really wasn't a beach so after circumnavigating the island I picked a spot where I could get out of my boat while Robyn took pictures of my visit. To my surprise the island was almost completely covered with Canada Goose squat and my trek to the wise one was very slippery. As promised by the cache information, this Inukshuk was wearing a backpack and the cache was inside it. Very cool!

I signed the log book noting his last visit was in September. Next time you paddle by the island take a close look at the Inukshuk and what he is wearing. As I started my trek back to where my kayak "was", Robyn was gently nudging my ride back to the island as it decided to gently glide away on it's own. I kinda thought this would happen but I knew Robyn would look after her for me.

We made our way over to the West Bay Marina to check out the RV park and boat launch for future weekend adventures. Most of the waterfront sites were full and why not with such a spectacular view of the inner harbour. If you decide to stay here it is an easy 20 minute stroll to the inner harbour or you can take the water taxis when they are running.

Being a Sunday, the float plane traffic wasn't very busy neither was the pleasure craft traffic entering the harbour. We scanned the skies for any aircraft on approach and none of the white strobe lights were on so we crossed the harbour entrance over to the Coast Guard facility and paddled to Fisherman's Wharf to check out some of the house boats and floating fast food facilities. One in particular had a "Paddle Through" window which we thought was pretty neat. I can only imagine how busy it must be in the summer.

Rounding Laurel Point we made our way into James Bay and past The Undersea Gardens. Here "we" were tourist photo central but we had amazing views ourselves of The Empress. We paddled our way back to Ocean River checking out the Flying Otter Grill and one cool paint job on a Turbo Otter decked out in the Jr. "A" Victoria Royals hockey club colors.

Did I mention that I fly the blimp at the Royals hockey games???

Another great day on the water and our first time paddling on consecutive days only today....... I didn't use my rudder :-). I am continuing my self taught process of using GPS Visualizer and managed to figure out the speed colourization for our track today. Update: Dec. 6th Well, I managed to figure out some of the editing features in GPS Visual with Google Earth and you will see below our direction, distance and a few reference points that I have added.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cadboro Bay to Oak Bay Marina

All week we have been waiting to get out on the water with the forecast of cold (6C) but calm sunny skies so I loaded the kayaks on the truck while the defroster did it's magic on the windows and got the cab nice and toasty. The goal today was to be on the waters of Cadboro Bay by 10:30am and right on the money..... we paddled off into the winter sunrise.  LOL

We have been following Kayak Yak's blog and decided to invade their home paddling sea gardens and the experience didn't let us down. Our first port of call was the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and we talked to some of the sail boat captains readying their Illusions and Deceptions racing boats for the weekly Saturday regatta. These little sail boats are scale replicas of America Cup boats and I have to admit it was neat to see them all lined up on the dock.

Next up was taking a look at the new Oak Bay Beach Hotel so we paddled through some of the small islets on the way past Cattle Point to Mary Tod Island to get another Geocache on the way.

Robyn a.k.a. RVTraveller logs her Geocache find on Mary Tod Island

We paddled through the Oak Bay Marina to get a close up view of the monstrosity of a hotel being built and believe me.. it's not worth a photo at this point as it is all covered with scaffolding and tarps. Heading back we navigated our way back under the Marina Coffee House to where the tourists were feeding seals. Neither the seals nor the tourists seemed to care that we were taking their photo. The seals sure have a good "gig" going here. LOL

It was time to head back to Gyro Park and we paddled through the boats moored outside the marina. I checked out what looks like a aircraft fuselage being invaded by sea otters. It actually is some form of a hovercraft and the otters use the base to dine on after retrieving shellfish from the bottom.

After casually paddling along the shore of Willows Beach and back around Cattle Point we decided to put our increasing paddling skills to test and cross Cadboro Bay towards Jemmy Jones Island Ecological Reserve.

Caught by the Willows Beach web cam.  LOL

The tide was running against us at about 1 knot as we rounded the right side of the island and found a seagull feasting a rock fish on the shore. I wondered how a seagull would end up getting a fish like this but he had no idea that the eagle that just flew over our heads with talons and full flaps down was about to steal his catch! Talk about one angry gull as the eagle pounced on his dinner and flew off! LOL

Now... have you ever felt a bump on the bottom of your kayak and wondered what the heck was that? Well the water was so clear today that we could see what was happening and "who" was doing the bumping. Seals... yup those spotted furry little fellows with the big eyes seem to be very curious of kayaks and today one in particular liked zipping back and forth under our boats. Then to my amazement he rolled inverted and swam up to Robyn's rudder and started bumping it with nose. I scrambled to get my camera ready and I just managed to capture him checking out the rudder. Pretty cool!

Heading back along the shore we passed Flower Island and saw numerous Oyster Catchers chattering away on the shoreline. Their brilliant long red beak is such a contrast to their black feathers. We also got to see close up of some of the mansions on the north side of the bay....holy cow!! BLING!!!!!

A couple of other kayakers pass by us on their way to their house next door

Yeah.... I have some work to do on capturing the GPS file.... another day.

Back at the beach at 14:15 in what turned out to be a fantastic December day. Now..... where do we go tomorrow???? LOL