Sunday, March 25, 2012

Up The Creek With A Paddle!

The plan for today was to meet up with John and Louise (Kayak Yak) at the Victoria Canoe & Kayak Club (VCKC) beach and explore the Gorge Waterway and Portage Inlet which Robyn and I have been wanting to do for some time. The weather couldn't have been better as once again, like yesterday afternoon, we decided not to wear our paddling jackets which let the morning sun soak into our bodies. I also was looking forward to seeking the current under the Tillicum bridge which is just around the corner from the VCKC. Today the current forecast was to reach maximum Ebb at 11:36am with a rate of 6.02 knots at the narrows which pretty well guaranteed no return if we decided to ride the rapids. (An interesting note about the rapids is that they are 1 of only 2 reversing rapids in Canada, with the other being in the Bay of Fundy). More about the rapids can be read HERE and HERE.

L to R: John, Robyn and Louise.... what a day to be on the water!!!

Heading north against the noticeable current we explored the shoreline and some of the interesting cottage like homes along he way. Many of these homes have been here for decades and by the looks of it so have some of the inhabitants of the area. LOL

This trip would also be our first experience in exploring some of the rivers and creeks that empty into the shallow basin of Portage Inlet. The first transit was into Craigflower Creek which is a thriving salmon spawning stream each fall. John & Louise commented that even seals come this far into the waterway when the salmon are present and spring is a great time to see the different types of ducklings.

The end of the creek (5km mark) for us as a wind fall has blocked the access beyond.

After making our way across Portage Inlet we entered the Colquitz River waterway which makes its way through much of Saanich. This little creek was one of my favourite playgrounds when I was a kid and it is neat to be returning to it in a kayak. Kinda like a big salmon coming home huh?  LOL

Working our way back to the VCKC it was our chance to get the photo that we needed at the narrows for completing an Earthcache as noted earlier in the blog. John was kind enough to follow us as far as we thought safe enough to do and when I made my turn for the photo I was bucking a pretty good current. One day..... we will run the rapids! :-)

The Tillicum Narrows near maximum Ebb of 6 knots. If you look closely behind us you can see the change
in the elevation of the rapids. At this location we were being pulled pretty good towards the rapids so there
was only a few seconds for John to snap some photos for our Geocaching Earthcache credit.

The perfect ending to such a great experience shared with loved ones and friends ......... Namaste :-)


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Arrives in Pat Bay

WOW! Got up this morning and it seems that finally Spring has officially come to the West Coast. So after helping Robyn cutting the moss (LOL) for the first time, I decided to give the truck its annual bath before loading the kayaks in hopes of taking to the waves later in the day. But first we celebrated Robyn's step father's 80th birthday and her step sister's 54th birthday today with a nice luncheon at her mom's house. It was nice to see the extended family as we don't usually get to see each other throughout the rest of the year.

Planning ahead we took our kayak gear with us so after the festivities were over we could change into our water duds and scout North Saanich for a put in location. With the winds coming from the NE we figured the Brentwood side of the peninsula would be our best solution so we made our way to Patricia Bay. Not to be disappointed the winds were calm and the warm sun was unbelievable for the soul. Prepping the yaks we decided that this was the perfect day to shed some of the winter wear that we have become accustomed to.

Heading north looking towards Cowichan Bay on the left and Saltspring Island on the right.

The last time we paddled in Pat Bay we noticed that there was a good number of seals present around the Canadian Coast Guard docks but this time they seemed to be pretty much everywhere we looked. It would be safe to say that there was at least a couple dozen and they were really curious about us. Paddling our way north they started following us occasionally making a big splash right behind our kayaks. Maybe they thought we had treats for them but that would be wrong feeding them. I can only imagine what would happen if we offered one of the critters something and only to have another couple dozen trying to get some from us. 

While enjoying the antics of the seals we spotted some pretty aggressive splashing just ahead of us and as we slowly  paddled on a large pod of porpoise crossed our path. Coming to a stop we watched in amazement at our first interaction with porpoise while in a kayak. From a safe distance I managed to capture the special moment on my GoPro Hero 2. Note: If you want to experience the video in HD click on the YouTube button where it can be viewed in different levels of quality. 

We made our way to Deep Cove and at around 5:00pm we decided to head back to the put in location as the sun was slowly descending in the west. It was sure nice to be paddling this late into the day and if this is what good weather paddling is all about then count us in!! As expected, our seal friends joined up with us on the way back so we came to gentle stop and just watched them for a few minutes as some of the larger ones snorted and splashed around us. 

A curious seal approaches Robyn in the setting sun. What an afternoon on the water!

It wasn't a long paddle in terms of time on the water but the warm sun and marine life re-energized us. Tomorrow we are heading to the Gorge Waterway to explore with Kayak Yak. It promises to be another great Spring day.......... Happy Paddling where ever you are!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Meandering The Weekend Away

The much anticipated Ocean River Gear Up took place on over the weekend and we headed down bright and early Saturday morning in hopes of getting a few bargains. One of the things we were looking for was a back up paddle and I figured it was time to upgrade my primary propulsion unit to a Werner at the same time.  

At 10am sharp the entrance to the outdoor sales area opened and I meandered my way to the Werner display rack to check what might be available. Speaking with a Werner factory rep it confirmed my decision to change to a high angle, carbon mid size blade paddle that would assist me in reaching some of my future paddling goals. Although there were a number of great deals on the selection of paddles, in terms of available lengths they didn't meet my sizing requirements. That seems to be the case when you are looking for a deal on sales items.

Meandering into the main storefront I checked out the available Werner's and found a couple (210cm Cyrpus and a 210cm Ikelos) that were both the same price but only discounted 10%. So after meandering back and forth from the outside area and into the storefront a few times to hold the Werner's, it just wasn't in the stars that one would be coming home with us. However we did pick up a few items that we also wanted and in particular I was looking for a paddling helmet that I could mount my GoPro Hero2 on. Bingo!! A great deal on a Pro Tec Paddling Helmet and I loved the color as well.

Since we would be on site during the morning we also volunteered our services to man the SISKA information tent for an hour. Although the Gear Up wasn't overly busy we did have a few people stop by but for the most part it was pretty quiet. We bumped into John and Louise of Kayak Yak and John managed to get a photo of us doing our part.

Sunday morning we woke to overcast skies and calm wind conditions so after checking the marine forecasts along with the tides and current conditions we decided to launch out of  Gyro Park and spend sometime meandering the rock gardens towards the Oak Bay Marina. Along the way I explained to Robyn how to "edge" her kayak and before I knew it she was making it happen.

Our first exploration was some of the causalities of last week's wind storm that hit the West Coast. This sail boat was one of the lucky ones as some were completely capsized. The power of the wind is amazing when it unleashes its fury.

Sad to see someone's pride and joy in this condition.

Navigating our way through the Victoria Yacht Club I had to be careful when we went under the gangways. It was a great opportunity to use my yoga forward folds so that the GoPro Hero 2 didn't get knocked off the helmet that I bought on Saturday. From a picture / video capturing perspective having the camera mounted this way enables me to simply turn my head instead of turning the kayak. This could be very beneficial in inclement weather conditions when you really don't want to be broadside to waves trying to get a picture with the camera deck mounted.

Today was a good day to explore the many islets close to the shoreline that are a stones throw from the many mansions lining the shore line heading into Oak Bay. As much as the houses are amazing, I find it hard to understand why people need such large dwellings with rooms they probably never use. This property even had a anchor, chain and the hand winch like on sailing ships of the late 1800's. The rusted remains blend right into the surround rock work and this is the first time that I have noticed it.

Meandering our way to Cattle Point we took a look at the conditions on the west side where the wind was blowing pretty good with whitecaps breaking regularly. We decided this would be our turn around point and the perfect opportunity to land at a secluded beach not exposed to the wind. The sun was amazing as it soaked into our bodies as we enjoyed a hot lunch while watching sail boats racing by.

Check out the pool noodle that I scavenged off a public beach. Ya can never have enough noodles!!  LOL 

Sometimes just being on the water having a really relaxed paddle while meandering into every rock garden and just enjoying the moment is a great way to spend the day. That's the great thing about kayaking .... so many ways to experience meandering on the sea.

Meandering 101 near the end of winter 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Playing Towards Race Rocks

Bad weather forecasted for the weekend........ go RV'ing with kayaks. Simple!

All week we have been watching the "doom and gloom" forecast that the weatherman has been promising so we figured that it was time to take the RV and go camping ..... sorry :-), RV'ing but with the kayaks in tow. Arriving at our favourite local hitching post (Pedder Bay RV Resort) on Friday it looked like Mark Madryga might be right as it did nothing but pour rain all night. However ........ every day has a chance of a new beginning and we awoke to Saturday with calm winds and a mix of sun and cloud.

A totally confused Red-Breasted Sapsucker (woodpecker) looking for directions in the RV park. 

After a walk down to the office to pay our camping fees (SORRY ..... RV site fees) LOL, I checked the marine conditions on the VHF radio since the Shaw internet service was down.  We loaded the yaks and launched at 10:00am and with winds predicted at 0-15 knots from the west, and a mix of sun and cloud it was the perfect opportunity to leave the bay and head towards Race Rocks.  

Every time we venture onto the water we encourage ourselves to to stretch our comfort zone and today was no exception. Heading towards Race Rocks would mean leaving the sheltered waters of Pedder Bay and skirting the open waters of the Juan De Fuca and playing with the currents a little bit. Our plan was to work our way towards Race in a counter clockwise direction so that we would have the wind and currents at our back when heading back towards camp.

A mother and her young watch us closely in Eemdyk Pass

Spring has definitely made it's way onto the west coast and a sure sign was the abundance and variety of birds that we came across. The large number of mature bald eagles and their young were the most we have seen over the past six months in total.

Race Rocks in the distance.

One of the goals for this paddle was to view Race Rocks and while being aware what was happening with the start of the flood tide and breeze from the west we paddled to the east side of Bentinck Island. Here the lighthouse on Race Rocks became visible but exploring it closer would have to wait for another day. We explored the islets of Eemdyk Pass riding the gentle currents while watching seals basking in the sun, sea otters rolling in front us. One in particular made a big splash right behind me and I think it was his way of saying it was time for us to move on.

On our way back towards camp we crossed Pedder Bay over to William Head covering a distance of about 1.5 km. Taking note of the time, the crossing was made in around 9 minutes and from our track below you can see we reached a speed of around 8 km/h or about 4.32 knots. It was good to see that we could pick up the pace and maintain it easily. This "pacing" will come in handy when we head to Portland Island next month.

Our last stop was to visit a couple of swans that we saw close to the RV Resort Marina this morning. Using our rudders we simply let the breeze slide us past the happy couple as they preened themselves. They are such a majestic bird and don't seem to mind very quite kayakers.

Tomorrow daylight savings time comes into effect so spring must be here. I think today we got to see a lot of spring making it's way onto the west coast and just while we were getting used to paddling in the winter. :-)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2001, 2010, 2012??

In our lifetime mankind has ventured into space and many great motion pictures have graced the silver screen trying to give us land dwellers a perspective as to what it might be like. One that comes to mind as being the leader of its time and still relevant today is 2001: a space odyssey

For those of you who have had the opportunity to venture beneath the waters of our planet can attest to the alien like environment that exists in its space. During my years of scuba diving I always got a sense of being in a space that made me feel somewhat like a astronaut depending on my equipment and training for survival. I only wish that the GoPro technology existed back then as the only images that I have are stored within my personal memory banks.

This past weekend while on the SISKA Relaxed Paddle I took a number of video clips and last night I found one with images that reminded me of 2001 and my days under the surface. Although the visibility under water wasn't the greatest I was still amazed at what I saw on the clip and just had to have a little editing fun with it.

I can see that my GoPro Hero 2 is going to get a lot of use in the future while we explore the space we ride on. :-)

Happy Paddling

Saturday, March 3, 2012

SISKA Relaxed Paddle - Brentwood Bay to Coles Bay 3/3/12

Preparing to head out for the day from the beach next to the Brentwood Bay ferry dock

This morning we headed to Brentwood Bay to participate in the SISKA Relaxed Paddle to Coles Bay. The marine weather forecast was for cloudy conditions with temperatures of 9°C and wind predicted around 10 knots from the SW. A good size group of 19 paddlers took advantage of the spring weather conditions with the goal of making our way to Coles Bay to stop for lunch. While preparing our rides the westerly winds started making their presence known with the occasional gusts that had the ferry wind sock blowing straight out at times. Our paddler leader Lynn Baier reviewed the plan for the day, made sure that we all had immersion gear and once the introductions were done we headed out for a great day on the water.

Heading north out of Brentwood we approached the Tsartlip First Nations lands and we could hear drums beating and song from the long house just off the beach. Many times we have passed these lands on the highway but you cannot see the long house from the road so it was special to see the smoke rise from the fires within and exit through the roof vents. I would have loved to paddle to the shore, ask for permission to land from the chief and take in the ceremony within the long house. Maybe one day.

Continuing our paddle along the shoreline towards Coles Bay the presence of white caps off Henderson Point  changed our plans as the conditions were such that it exceeded the Relaxed Paddle guidelines. Lynn paddled beyond the point to check the conditions and when she returned the decision was made to turn around and head south through the Brentwood Bay Marina and into Tod Inlet.

Making our way back I took some more video with my deck bag mounted GoPro Hero 2 and playing around with my editing software at home I added a little intro to the beginning of the clip using Sony's Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 11 software.  I'm starting to understand the editing software the more I use it (makes sense) and it won't be long until I have full Hollywood quality movies produced. LOL

After a quick stop for lunch at a beach by the government dock in Brentwood Bay we headed towards the majestic Tod Inlet. This was our second venture into the inlet but first with our own kayaks and it is such a neat place to paddle with it's steep forested  valley walls. This is also one of the marine access points to the world famous Butchart Gardens.

Heading into Tod Inlet and out of the influence of the winds

Paddling to end of the inlet we turned and started our trek back towards our launch point. Recent rolling student graduate Kari Challenger decided it was time to christen her new Kokatat Dry Suit and try her first ocean roll. So we all gathered around in support of her quest while I let the GoPro do it's thing as she completed not only one but two perfect rolls under the watchful eye of our group leader! Great job Kari!!

After this great demonstration of recently gained paddling skills by Kari, we continued our trek back to the beach to end our day. By this time the sun was out, spring was trying its best to say "I'm here" and ..... the winds really started to blow from the west. Today was a great assortment of paddling and with a paddle time of just over 4 hours we covered 13.70 km. When you are with 19 others who have the same passion it just makes it that much better.  Thanks SISKA members and special thanks to our group leader for making it all possible. 

Next Up ...... let's see what tomorrow or this week brings.

Happy Paddling

Friday, March 2, 2012

Getting To Know Our Backyard

Knowledge is a wonderful thing to acquire and most of the time we take it for granted without giving thought or credit of how, who or where it came from. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest most of my life I have to say that I have been somewhat “blind” to some of the opportunities and issues that are basically in my backyard. While developing our kayaking skills Robyn and I have also been very interested in gaining knowledge of our playground and the past couple of weeks we gained so much from a couple of amazing organizations. 

The first took place at the February SISKA meeting with a presentation of the BC Marine Trail Network Association (BCMTN) by president Stephanie Meinke. The BCMTN is a series of interconnecting marine trails along the entire BC coastline designed with frequent access points, stopovers and campsites for users of small, beachable watercraft. The BCMTN volunteers working closely with BC First Nations, private land owners and the Government partners secure the continued rights of public marine recreationists to travel the BC coast and to land and camp along the way. Very recently the BCMTN launched their new website and I was very surprised to see the work that has been accomplished by this group of passionate kayakers. Even if you don’t play on the water, take the time to visit the BCMTN website as I think you will be pleasantly surprised as well.

The second “gain” came a few nights ago when we attended a Secrets of Clayoquot Sound presentation at UVIC. Now… once again I have to admit that I have been blind to what has happened in our backyard over the past 33 years. Sure I have heard about Mears Island and the logging protests but I simply had no idea of the majestic beauty of the area and what it means to the First Nations and local residents. There are very passionate people working hard to save this special oasis and sea kayakers Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck of  Tofino presented a very informative lecture on behalf of The Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS). They woke me up to not just a great place to kayak but also an area at great risk to destructive logging and mining practices.

If you were to ask Robyn or I when we first started kayaking what we expect to experience in our new passion, I think the answer wouldn't have been gaining knowledge of our backyard. So I ask you ...... do you really know what is in your backyard or just over the fence??

Happy Paddling!