Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Day Of Discovery

The past week and half of routine life took a serious blow with the passing of Robyn's step father early yesterday morning from a massive stroke that happened over a week ago. It was only a few days before we were celebrating his 80th birthday and it reconfirmed to me how precious life is and how fast it can all change in a moment. 

Although time heals, the past several days the family was able to come to terms of what was happening and sadness slowly started to change to sharing laughs in celebrating a wonderful life that Bill experienced. When the news came that Bill decided to tee it up on the greatest golf course of all, :-) the next step in the healing process began for each of us. Rest In Peace Bill Page 

Although it may sound callous, I headed to the water (with family urging) on the warmest day of the year to stretch my kayaking skills the most I have ever done in one day. With predicted 10 knot winds, up to 5 knot currents, blue skies with billowing white clouds it was such a perfect day to experience an open water crossing, rock gardens and currents. My mentors for the day were Sheila Foehn-Wind Porteous who is soon to be a Paddle Canada Level 2 Instructor and Roy Scully who although is not formally an instructor has an extreme wealth of knowledge and amazing group awareness. 

We launched out of Cadboro Bay around 10am with both Sheila and I testing out our recent Werner paddle acquisitions. As soon as I dipped those big blades of my Ikelos into the water it felt so good to have such a high performance paddle in my hands. The paddle was so effective I noticed the difference in the blade stiffness and how easy it was to get up to speed compared to my entry level Aqua-Bound. 

My Ikelos, Sheila and Roy blasting out of Cadboro Bay (Gyro Park)

Knowing that I was going to be experiencing some currents today I had some natural apprehension but I also was confident in my skills to this point and my ability to adapt so far on the water. Being in the company of Sheila and Roy also helped as they made it very clear that if I didn't feel comfortable at any time we could turn back or find an alternate route.

The crossing (Baynes Channel) to the Chatham Islands went a lot quicker than I thought it would take and it wasn't long before we started exploring the shoreline to the north with the purpose to circumnavigate Discovery Island with a lunch stop at the Marine Provincial Park on the south end of Discovery.

Entering the channel between Strongtide Islet on the right and main Chatham Island on the left.
The water is shallow but you still need to be aware that in certain wind and current conditions it can get
pretty gnarly in these long channels with standing waves. Great place for advance training!

Working our way south  past Griffin Island we rounded Discovery's Sea Bird Point passing the lighthouse on Pandora Hill. I was amazed at the size of the fog horn building in the fore ground of the picture below. Right on the top of the nearest corner to us was a huge juvenile eagle which kinda puts the building's size into perspective.

Heading towards Rudlin Bay which is home to the Provincial Marine Park camp area and our lunch stop we navigated through my first real rock garden with current. Here I got a lesson in using the hips to make sure the current is allowed to flow under the kayak and not over the kayak. How? By edging the kayak to the opposite side of where the current is making contact with the kayak. This allows the kayak to ride on top of the current and reduces the possibility of getting really wet! 

Relax, read the current, edge the kayak, keep paddling and focus
on the point you are trying to get to and not the rolling water

Paradise? Relaxing having lunch on such an amazing beach just made me want to pitch a tent and stay the night.... but no tent in my yak. :-(  A couple of other kayaks (furthest in the picture below) also arrived and it turned out to be Peter from Ocean River who was scouting out the location for a youth group paddle coming up. Peter is the sales rep who sold Robyn and I our dry boots so it great to meet a familiar face again.

Sheila and Roy enjoying the warm sun talking about the pros and cons of the many kayaks on the market. It was a pleasure to be with both of them as they really explained every situation (currents & eddies etc.) that we came across. Being the new kid on the block I felt very comfortable and in good hands. Thanks guys!!!

At this point in the trip it would have been the perfect opportunity to swap out the GoPro battery or put in a fresh SD card. But since I left the battery at home and the spare SD card hasn't arrived in the mail yet I missed a great opportunity to capture my first real rapids runs (swirlies I'm told) LOL and ferrying to the back eddies behind every islet. So ..... I'll just have to explain it the best that I can.

From a distance after leaving the beach after lunch I could see what I thought was just waves at Commodore Point. As we got closer I saw that it was actually changes in water elevation as the current rushed between the many islets and we were on the bottom step so to speak. Two choices.... press on or go back so after another lesson on what to expect as I entered the main channel of the current. Roy lead the way show me how it is done and then it was my turn.  Making my way into the current the process clicked into gear....relax, focus on the eddy I am trying to get to, edge opposite to the current, keep paddling and BOOOYA!!! Success! A few more of these and it was into Plumper Passage with the current where it reached almost 10kph without even paddling.

Another quick transit through the main channel between the Chatham Islands and it was back into Baynes Channel where we ferried across picking a spot way up current (left Oak Bay Marina) and angled our way back towards Cadboro Bay. Without using this technique we surely would have ended up around 10 Mile Point and getting back to Gyro Beach would have been a slog. You can actually see on the track below how our course bends to the right (with the current) from about 12.5km and the 14km point.

Passing Jemmy Jones Island my last lesson of the day was how to leave a back eddy and enter and run with the current and all this without getting wet (paddling upside down). Once again Sheila and Roy explained and demonstrated the process and after a few circuits of entering and exiting the current I felt exhilarated (again).

The final push to our starting location and after the hands-on 2 on 1 mentoring I received today, my body was starting to tell me that it had a great work out. Sheila demonstrated a few rolls and you would never know that she had double knee surgery a few weeks back. In fact this was her first solo kayak trip since the reconstruction and at almost 17km in distance I was impressed with her stamina.

Thanks Sheila and Roy for such a great experience that I will never forget.


  1. Mark and Robyn, Please know that we send good thoughts your way. Such occasions of loss are difficult but, as you say, there is always reason for celebration and the sharing of fond and heartfelt memories at such times. My mother died, somewhat unexpectedly, when we were working in Scotland last summer. We did what we knew she would have wanted (and expected!) us to do. That very day, we headed out into the Highlands, and climbed to the top of the first mountain we could find. It was there that we felt comfort and healing. She would have smiled. I'm glad you went paddling, Mark - and had such a great time. Such activities are therapeutic. Warm wishes to you both. D & J

    1. Thanks Duncan and Joan. Toady I managed to get Robyn to take a break and we headed out on the water with friends for a nice relaxed paddle. It's amazing what being on the water can do for the soul.