Friday, June 29, 2012

Four Seasons

Last Sunday there was a change in our paddling plans so Robyn and I slept in for the first time in a while and when we managed to get out of bed we decided that it would be a great day to launch out of Island View Beach and paddle to James Island. 

Heading north we made our way to Cordova Spit where there was a rip tide of currents and opposing winds on the other side. We were taking photos of the town of Sidney in the distance and noticed that were being pulled into the rip from the back eddy on the south side of the spit. At this point we decided to back track a bit before entering the main ebb flow currents of Cordova Channel and head over to James Island.

The ebb flow was fairly noticeble on the crossing as we ferried our way to the lagoon and sneaked a look at the yacht named C4 at the dock. It is pretty evident that the island is private just by some of the signs posted above the high tide line. 

James Island is privately owned by Craig McCaw who was a pioneer in the cellular phone industry in the 1980's and he bought the island for 19 million in 1994. Boasting a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, airstrip, and many other luxuries the island is now up for sale. Price tag?? 75 million!

From the lagoon we headed south to get a close up view of the bluff that can be seen from any high vista lookouts around Victoria. Formed during the last ice age it is an impressive sight close up and a great example of how many of the islands around Vancouver Island were formed. It reminded me much of Denman Island that we recently visited.

Being exposed to the SE winds we started to notice that the water was beginning to get darker indicating that the winds were picking up a little bit. We decided to then visit fellow kayakers Peter and Wendy who are staying at the Beachcomber RV Resort south of Island View Beach. From James Island this was a 4 km crossing (our longest yet) and with the ebb flow and opposing SE winds the water got a "little" choppy in the middle of the channel. We did have bail out options to divert direct to our put in location if needed but the ebb flow carried us at a pretty good clip at around 8 km/h right in the direction of the RV park.

We spotted the paddle up bar (Arctic Fox RV) on the far right and Peter welcome us ashore while Wendy was picking up refreshments for our arrival. It was then that I took my Sony Cybershot camera out of it's open zip lock bag that I keep in my spray skirt only to discover that it was "wet from taking a few waves on the crossing. Sure enough it wouldn't work any more so that just confirmed that I really need a waterproof digital camera.

After a refreshing beer on the beach (thanks Wendy), Peter decided to head onto the water and paddle back to Island View Beach with us before he headed over to James Island for a little work out. It was great to see Peter and Wendy again.

Oh yeah ...... the Four Seasons thing. Well we started paddling last Fall, continued through Winter, played some more in the Spring and this weekend paddles were our first in the Summer. Sort of a full circle thing and during this time we have been on the water 40 times. Not bad for newbies!

Heads for blog posts this weekend ..... new "Gear Head" arrivals and the Victoria MEC Paddlefest. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

SISKA Energizer Paddle #1

Our recent Paddle Canada Level 1 certification has perks so to speak and one of those is taking part in the SISKA Energizer Paddles. An Energizer Paddle typically is longer in length than a casual SISKA Relaxed Paddle and can also include a crossing. Each paddler is also expected to be able to keep up with the pack for the duration of the trip.

This past Saturday we participated in the Energizer taking us from the tip of the Saanich Peninsula (Moses Point) over to Saltspring Island and up to Musgrave Rock. The forecast on Friday night was looking pretty miserable with 60% chance of rain during the morning and high winds developing late in the afternoon. Early Saturday morning we prepared ourselves accordingly with the probability of getting wet as the low cloud and fog was a good indicator how the day might be. Funny how things can change so fast though as we arrived at the put in location the low ceiling lifted revealing broken clouds and the sun starting to shine through.

The group arrives at Moses Point and gets ready for the paddle.

Joanne Nicolson was our trip leader for this paddle and she lead the 14 paddlers through the pre trip briefing making sure that we all knew what the plan for the day was. A pretty straight forward plan that involved crossing Satellite Channel then hugging the shoreline of Saltspring Island until we reached Musgrave Landing which would be our lunch break. Total length of the trip would be around 18 km.

Launching just after 10:00am and with a very slight breeze at our back which made for almost perfect conditions, the group crossed Satellite Channel continuing at a steady pace up to Musgrave Rock. Using a free iPhone App called Marine Traffic I was able to determine the name, size, destination and pretty well what the captain was eating for breakfast (not really :-) of the cargo freighters anchored in the distance.

Passing Musgrave Rock we were greeted by an eagle almost like standing guard over his island. It amazes me how many bald eagles we see once we leave the populated areas and this trip was no different.

For the trip out I mounted my GoPro Hero 2 on the bow and let the video run until we landed for lunch. Hopefully
soon I will get the new WiFi module which will allow me to remotely control the camera no matter where it is mounted.


Lunch was just inside Musgrave Landing and the group made their way onto the rocky outcrop like a bunch of castaways to enjoy the sun. Not too far away were our rides lined up resting for the trip back.

After lunch we prepared for the trip back and this is where I got to speak with new paddler (Jackie) and recent PC Level 1 graduate who signed up for the paddle as a visitor. Jackie recently moved from Australia and has got the kayaking bug managing to borrow gear for the trip. Seeing my GoPro mounted on my helmet in true "Gear Head" fashion she was curious how I operated it.

Working our way back along the shoreline allowed the group to interact with each other and I think that is what makes these SISKA paddles rewarding. Getting know people who share your passion for the water is amazing and we have met a lot of new friends over the past 6 months since joining the club.

The crossing of Satellite Channel back to our put in location was almost like the calm before the storm. In fact you can see in the distance the massive wind storm that hit the area about 30 minutes after we landed and were loading up to head to our debrief location. The weather forecast was for 25 km/h winds from the west around 4:00pm and right on time it hit. In fact when we drove out we got a quick glance of Satellite Channel and Pat Bay they were a fury of white caps and high seas. Checking the airport winds they were recording 38 km/h with 53 km/h gusts!! Talk about great timing and planning to get back to our put in location......THANKS Jo for looking after the group. :-)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Power Bank Update

For the past couple of weekends I have been putting my ProLine Universal Portable Power Bank through some testing to see what devices it will charge and what it's the overall performance is like. I am happy to report that the devices that I charged or powered up worked great on the Power Bank with only one exception which is my Sony E-Reader.

During my testing I was able to power up and charge my iPhone 4, Sansa Mp3 Player, iHome Speaker, GoPro Hero 2 / Battery Backpack, Garmin GPS and a friends Kobo Reader. Because my Garmin E-trex Vista C doesn't have the capability of charging the removable batteries while in the GPS, the Power Bank did perform as an external power source like when the GPS is connected to my laptop. Charging times for each device varied depending on the state of discharge. For example I was able to charge my iPhone from 50% state of discharge 4 times with the Power Bank only dropping to around 80% of capacity remaining.

My Sony E-Reader for some reason only allows the Power Bank to power it up but it won't actually start charging the internal battery. This puzzles me because all of my other devices including the E-Reader can be charged off a computer USB port (5V). For the most part, my Sony E-Reader keeps a good charge so it really isn't a concern but it would be nice to top it up with the Power Bank if on an extended kayak camping trip.  

The Power Bank instructions indicate that it gets charged via a USB port on a computer but I decided to see if I could charge it from a 110V adapter. Using my obsolete Blackberry charger which has 5V 700 mA output capability the Power Bank charged up without any issues. The Blackberry charger did get a little warm which I expected but nothing that concerned me.

So my conclusion is that the Proline Universal Portable Power Bank will make a great emergency power source while out on extended kayaking trips or any other outdoor adventure. At a retail price of $49.99 it's a great addition to my "Gear Head" collection.

For more technical specifications please refer my previous blog titled Thanks For Reading. If you have any other experience with a device like this or other charging options please comment below or email me at 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

SISKA 2012 Campout

This past weekend we went kayaking but not the typical day trip that we have been doing recently. Instead we participated in the 3rd Annual South Island Sea Kayaking Association (SISKA) 2012 Campout that was held at the Sooke River Campground.

Being the new kids on the block so to speak we didn't know what to expect so we decided to make a long weekend of it by arriving on Thursday afternoon. We pretty well had the whole campground to ourselves that evening and it was great to unwind from the week of work. On Friday morning we went for a short paddle down the river but the tide was really getting low and we couldn't pass the last set of babbling rapids unless we wanted to portage the yaks. Heck .... it's the weekend and no portaging was gonna happen on this expedition ( LOL ) so we just paddled upstream until we once again ran out of water.

Along the way we watched a number of birds with their young scooting up and down the shoreline. One of our favourites was this female Common Merganser and her eight little ones.

For the rest of the day while the other kayakers started to arrive, Robyn and I walked to find Geocaches nearby and visited the Sooke Museum located at the tourist information center. Tucked in behind the lighthouse seen on the highway, the museum has an amazing collection of memorabilia that is a must to see if you are in the area.

Saturday morning was the official start of the campout so the camp organizers who also happened to be Paddle Canada Instructors put together morning and afternoon on the water clinics for the participants. Wayne Horodowich of University of Sea Kayaking made the trip from the U.S.and conducted morning and afternoon bracing clinics. Robyn and I joined the paddle strokes clinic lead by Sheila Foehn-Wind Porteous and Joanne Nicolson. The clinic was amazing and we learned a lot of new strokes and fine tuned the ones we have been using for the past eight months. The perfect clinic for any level or experience of kayaker!

Sheila lead a Rescues clinic in the afternoon which Robyn and I promptly signed up for as we needed to complete our on the water rescues to get certified as Paddle Canada Level 1 Sea Kayakers. Joanna Runnells also joined us to refresh her Level 1 skills.  Sheila uses visual teaching methods and by demonstrating the self rescue using a paddle float while we were out of our kayaks standing in waist deep water was the first step. We followed along and simply got back into our kayak cockpit knowing that if for some reason we couldn't do this procedure we wouldn't be in the water too long. From there we did the complete self rescue in deeper water and three of us had no issues at all.

I asked Sheila if she would mind me using my GoPro Hero 2 during the clinic and record some of the rescues. For me personally, I like to get permission from an instructor prior to using the GoPro so that they feel comfortable with being recorded and also more importantly that the camera will not interfere with any activity we will be doing. So I mounted the camera on my helmet and recorded some of the activities. The YouTube video below is (in order of performing) Robyn, myself and Joanna completing the self rescue with the paddle float.

During the rest of the clinic we also completed a number of assisted and "T" rescues and I even tried out a cowboy or scramble rescue near the end of the session. It was a  great day on the water focusing on skill development rather than our typical sightseeing day tripping. SISKA hosted a BBQ for dinner then we gathered around the camp fire to share stories and Sheila told us all about the Atlantic Paddle Symposium that she recently attended. A great way to end day one.

On Sunday morning we woke up to warm sunny skies and Sheila recommended that we sign up for Wayne Horodowich's Bracing clinic. Wayne also uses step by step teaching methods and we started to learn what bracing with our paddle would feel like by simply sitting on the ground and performing low and high bracing. The next step was to sit in the waters edge and perform the same bracing techniques that we did on land and only after that was completed we got into our kayaks and began the on water training. I have to admit that bracing was probably one of my weakest skills prior to Wayne's clinic but how he progressed us from land to the water clarified key components like hand, elbow, shoulder positions to avoid injury.

Moving through a series of different techniques such as sculling, emergency stops, bracing turns, sweep bracing Wayne then demonstrated an assisted rescue and he selected myself as the student to go into the water. As it happened, I was wearing my GoPro (with Wayne's permission) and recorded the rescue which turned out pretty good. You can hear Wayne explaining to the group the process he uses once he reached me in the water.

The Bracing clinic ran for about 3 hours and both Robyn and I learned so many new skills and our confidence in edging the kayaks increased tremendously. It really was amazing to learn how important our paddle is other than for typical forward and reverse propulsion. We are looking forward to using the skills that we have learned during the SISKA Campout on future expeditions on the water. By the way ..... we also completed our Paddle Canada Level 1 Sea Kayak certification during the weekend and are in the process of learning rolling and our Level 2 skills. One of my goals is to become a Paddle Canada Level 1 Sea Kayak Instructor as I really enjoy paddling with new kayakers and passing the knowledge that I have learned from such a great hobby.

Oh yeah ..... Robyn was loaned a dry suit for the weekend (thanks Sheila) and we are now in the process of buying our own suits since we plan to spend a lot of time in the water in the future. Are we hooked as sea kayakers???? I think those of you who know us know that answer. :-)

On last thing .... the battery charging system that I tested last week worked great. I'm using it again this weekend and will blog some more info this week after charging a few more items in my gear head collection.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thanks For Reading!

Heading into this weekend’s South Island Sea Kayaking Association (SISKA)  3rd Annual Campout we received great news via Paddling Otaku. It turns out that our blog has made's top 13 list of along with fellow Vancouver Island bloggers OCEANPAX paddle / run and John‘s Kayak Adventures.

Receiving recognition for our blog is greatly appreciated but it is something we never have sought out nor was it our goal when we started writing. Our blog was simply created to record our kayaking experience from the day we started this amazing adventure 8 months ago. Knowing that we are reaching many people around the world gives us great pleasure. Thank you for following our journey.

On another note, a few months ago I started toying with the idea of some sort of battery “back pack” for recharging our electronics devices while on extended paddles. The need to ensure our iPhone, GoPro Hero 2, Sony E Reader or anything capable of USB charging has been lingering in my mind for some time now.

Well it turns out that when we purchased our iPhone 4’s this past weekend at Future Shop we qualified for a free electronic accessory each. Looking though what was available we noticed something called a Universal Portable Power Bank. Immediately my “Gear Head” antenna went crazy because what I had in my hand was exactly what I was trying to create from parts from my R/C flying days.

Made by a company called LEI Electronics Inc. the Proline Universal High Power Portable Power Bank is one slick compact unit that can charge (2) hand held devices via USB ports. It can also be used as a power source for continuous playback while connected to your favourite tech gadgets.

Although at the time of writing this blog I have only recharged our iPhone(s) I was impressed with it’s performance. Here are some of the specs and features

Storage Capacity: 6600 mAh Li-Polymer
Input: 5VDC USB 500 mA
Output: 5VDC USB1: 1 Amp / USB2: 2.1 Amp
Dimensions: 4.96 x 2.59 x .78 (inches)
Weight: 4.58 oz
Retail Price: $49.99

Auto shut off if no load is detected (charging is complete)
Blue LED (1-4) for charge status
Talk Time: (3G) Up to 23 Hours
Internet Use: (3G) Up to 19 hours, Wi-Fi Up to 32 Hours
Audio Play Back: Up to 182 hours
Video Play Back: Up to 32 hours

* Of course charging and usage times will vary depending on the device’s power consumption.

We’ll give the Proline Power Bank a work out this weekend and see how it performs. Oh yeah ….. We took two of them since they were free accessories!  LOL

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Passing On Our Passion

Today we had the opportunity to paddle with a couple of fresh kayaking newbies that we met through our yoga studio. The great thing about helping new kayakers is hearing how much they enjoyed themselves after a relaxing safe day on the water. The bonus is when they say "any time you want to go paddling we would love to come too". It wasn't long ago ( October 2011) that we were fresh newbies but after eight months, forty or so paddles we still remember or first time out in unfamiliar waters.

Lynn Shaw and her husband Dave Holland just picked up their used kayak gear and dove right into the world of kayaking by taking a Paddle Canada Level 1 course last weekend at Active Sea Kayaking. So including the course their total days on the water was a grand total of ......... 2!

Dave has had some experience in a canoe and watching his paddling techniques it was obvious that he could handle a paddle pretty well. For Lynn, being on the water in a kayak is a totally new experience but as she explained to me there were lots of rescue opportunities last weekend in the course. I thought she handled herself quiet well on our paddle into Tod Inlet and to Willis Point to look down Finlayson Arm.

Dave, Lynn and Robyn raft up for a picture in Tod Inlet

Launching out of the beach next to the ferry dock we paddled through the Brentwood Bay harbour following the shoreline towards Tod Inlet so that Dave and Lynn could focus on increasing their confidence without worrying about the water conditions too much. As the time on the water went by they experimented with the skills that they were taught last week and it was fun to watch them "feel" out their rides.

Dave "sweeping" his way past Robyn

Lynn and myself catching up with Robyn and Dave

Heading back out of Tod Inlet we decided to make our way up to Willis Point and "peek" down Finlayson Arm. There was a little bit of a chop from some of the pleasure craft coming into Brentwood Bay and once again our new kayakers did a fantastic job managing the conditions. Crossing back to our put in location we meandered through the shallows of the marina, ducking under the gang planks heading down to the docks and landed on the beach that we left 3 hours earlier. Robyn and I were proud of our newest paddling buddies!