Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's About Time

A short mid week update

Thursday night Robyn and I attended our first SISKA Elk Lake Romp to work on some skills that needed work and some that (I) have never tried before. Elk Lake at this time of year is nice and warm so it makes for the perfect opportunity to spend more time in the water than in your kayak.

Relaxing in the sun before the session starts. Check out those new  Columbia Sportswear
 Powerdrain shoes that  I won at the MEC Paddlefest. They are really light even when wet and
 will be perfect with my custom drysuit that should arrive next week from Kokatat. 

There were about 10 paddlers in total and everyone was working on all types of rescues and even Cowboy Larry was showing his cowboy scrambling techniques on every square inch of the kayak decking. I actually think he is confused to where his cockpit is!  LOL

Our mentor Sheila took me through the basics of rolling and then worked with me building up to me finally attempting it on my own. Robyn came along to be the official photographer and captured some good video footage on my last attempt. I was surprised to see that I came out of the water almost 3/4 the way through the roll but I also noted lots of errors that prevented me from completing it.

Sheila and I swapped kayaks and she was really surprised how easy it was to roll my Delta even though her feet couldn't reach my rudder peddles. Now if only I can do it as easy as her.  :-) Check out the video that we put together of the SISKA group having a little wet fun.

This coming week we are heading up to Nanaimo and will be staying at Living Forest Campground for a week. Lots of day trips planned so stay tuned for our next adventures.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One Day .... Two Paddles, A Couple Of Kayak Bucket List Items Checked Off

As one our favourite paddlers says "Git 'Er Done", we certainly did that this past Saturday with two paddles so totally different but yet both on our kayaking bucket list. For those of you who have gotten to know us, it probably wouldn't surprise you one bit that we would plan a day like this.

For the past couple of weeks we have been following the shambolic kayak adventure of Rami-BamBam through the Southern Gulf Islands on Facebook. Since we will be visiting many of her exotic rest stops in our trip to the middle island in a couple weeks, we figured that it would be best to accelerate our learning curve and take a currents course to prepare ourselves better.

Last week we met Yves and Patti of Go Kayak and having the opportunity to watch them instruct at the recent MEC Paddlefest I emailed them to see about any upcoming currents courses. Yves called me in less than 10 minutes and asked "when do you want to do it?" and he explained that they are very flexible in making the courses fit  the students schedule. So one thing lead to another and we were signed up for this past Saturday morning.  The course would take place using Baynes Channel as our training area. Besides, the current would be ebbing at around 4 knots at 09:03 ...... perfect!!!

One of the things I liked about what Yves had to offer was that Go Kayak likes to work with small groups so that the students spend more time paddling than just floating around watching others in the group. For this training session it would just be Robyn, myself and Yves which I think is the perfect instructor to student ratio for the conditions we would experience.

Yves demonstrates the edging technique of entering the current flowing between the islets at 10 Mile Point.

We arrived at our launch location at 10 Mile Point (Smuggler's Cove) just after 08:00 and began our training within the small islets just outside of the cove. Here we learned to ferry across the main current by edging our kayaks or like Yves said "show your butt to the current" which in turn allows the water to pass under your kayak with the least amount of resistance. But wait ..... it isn't over yet because once you leave the main current you enter the eddy on the other side which is flowing in the opposite direction. At this point we transitioned to showing the other "butt cheek" or edge and entered the slower moving water on the other side of the current. For you none kayakers out there who are wondering why you don't lean into the current with your kayak, I'll tell you more later on. :-)

After progressing through more difficult eddy to current transitions we then entered the main ebbing current of Baynes Channel to head over to the Chatham Islands for more advanced training in the slough. I have to admit that for the previous few nights I had dreams about the Baynes Channel crossing as you really don't know what to expect. It changes so dramatically when influenced by the weather especially if the current and opposing winds are at work against each other. For example, last week we crossed over to Chatham Islands in only a 2 knot ebbing current but the 5-10 knot opposing winds created standing waves that were quite noticeable just past Strongtide Islet.

Although there was evidence of a rip tide off Strongtide today, it was nowhere near the conditions last week even though we were in a 4 knot current. The crossing to Chatham was made by ferrying our kayaks in the main current so that once we crossed into the back eddy on the other side it would allow us to enter the small channel (the slough) between Vantreight Island and the smaller of the two main Chatham Islands.

Entering the calm water leading towards the slough we came into view of the main current running through a narrow gap in the rocks. Here we would learn to use our kayaks and their ability to turn for us while on edge. At first glance we figured there was no way we could cross such a short span without running into the rocks on the other side or in the worst case rolling in which case our helmets would come in handy.

Robyn leaves the calm eddy on the opposite side and starts her edge to enter the main current of the slough

Once again Yves showed us how to do it and it wasn't long before we were edging our way back and forth from eddy through the main current and into the eddy on the other side. In fact here is the part that really blew my mind .... Yves then made his way across and further up the channel without using his paddle at all. Using his kayak as a turning tool he edged into the main current then reversed his edge into the eddy and because it is running opposite to the main current it carried him forward. He then simply returned to us using the same technique and let me have a go. Oh yeah .... remember earlier when I mentioned about leaning into the current? Well I tried it and watched the water starting to build up on the deck of my kayak before I quickly edged into the correct position. Yup, Robyn and Yves saw it and I heard the "Nice save"  :-)

The last thing we did in the slough before heading back towards Strongtide Islet was to paddle further up stream and then run the rapids back down. That was a lot of fun and even a seal was playing in the main current at the same time as us. Nice!!

As we came into view of Baynes Channel we saw a couple of familiar kayaks working in the ebb current towards us. Like most of us water dwellers we get to know each other by their ride and what they are wearing and in this case from a distance we knew it was Mike Jackson and Paulo Ouellet in their Tahe Greenland kayaks. Mike lives just a stones throw from Cadboro Bay and several times a week he circumnavigates Discovery Island in all conditions.

Paddling our way back up to furthest islet at the tip of Strongtide Islet we watched the numerous whale watching boats heading north through Baynes Channel and their wake merged with the rip tide present just inside the visible main current. At first it was a bit of an unnerving sight as we sat tucked in an eddy behind the islet but it only took Yves once to ask me if I wanted to give it a go and I was off into the snarly waters.

Yves and I playing in the Baynes Channel surf rip

The amazing thing was that once there I realized that the rip wasn't that bad at all and in fact I could paddle like crazy to get on top of a wave and ride it out until it disappeared beneath me. Robyn stayed behind in the sheltered water and took a bunch of photos of me experiencing my first Baynes Channel surfing opportunity. It wasn't long before Yves brought her out to me and we then started to make our way back across to 10 Mile Point.

You know who had a lot of fun and actually enjoyed the training session??? Robyn!! In fact on the way back through the islets it was her who said "Hey!! Let's go through there" pointing to more currents to cross. It was hard to believe that we had been on the water for only 3 hours but we sure felt it in our hips and thighs. Yves was a wonderful instructor and made the whole training session very relaxing and in doing so our learning curve climbed several notches.

You can see how the current influenced our track across Baynes Channel. If you look really close you can
almost see where the main current starts and ends with the changes in speed and track direction. Pretty cool!

A great first paddle of the day but don't go away .... there is more from the other end of the kayaking spectrum. :-)

Bucket List Item #2

Next up in this busy day was something we have been planning for some time now and another kayaking bucket list item. Simple really ..... Butchart Gardens fireworks by kayak!

Shortly after getting home from our Baynes Channel experience Rami-BamBam (OK her name is Sheila) sent me a message asking if we were still doing the fireworks and that she was thinking the same thing. Hell yeah!!!  So after a couple of text messages we agreed to meet up with her and Neil at the Brentwood Bay put in location next to the ferry dock at 7pm for a sun setting paddle before heading into Tod Inlet to see the fireworks.

It couldn't have been a more perfect evening to explore Finlayson Arm so we headed around Willis Point and checked out all of the waterfront mansions and cottages. Such an assortment of  dwellings from what looks like multi million dollar homes to boat houses worth probably a pretty penny themselves. Along the way we found Wilson floating in a little crevice which Sheila managed to retrieve.

Tag!! Your it Rami-BamBam

It was time to head into Tod Inlet where all the blingy yachts were anchored for the show. One kind yacht owner allowed us to tie up to his anchor chain so that we didn't have to keep adjusting our position in the gentle ebbing waters. Right on time the show began at 9:45pm and although you can't see all of the low ground fireworks that you would see if you were inside Butchart Gardens the big star bursts looked like they were right over our heads. Talk about loud too with the echo bouncing off Gowlland Tod Provincial Park behind us!

After the show we turned on our navigation lights and paddled back through the Brentwood Bay marina playing with the phosphorescence  as it danced off our paddles and in the bow wakes of our kayaks. It was a great way to end a very busy day on the water and by the time we got home at midnight we were totally exhausted. The sleep in on Sunday morning was wonderful!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Paddling A Fair Way To A Fairway

Yesterday was one of those afternoons while at work that I had a "calling" of sorts that I should be out in my kayak. The air was so still and sun was burning through the whispering cirrus clouds making their way over southern Vancouver Island and so I went to work putting a paddling plan together for the early evening.

Checking Big Dave Wave's site on my iPhone for the local forecasts confirmed my thoughts and it didn't take much to convince Robyn that we needed to go on our first mid week after work paddle. (another first for us) I had a pretty good idea where we would be paddling before I left work and my thoughts were confirmed when I caught view of the conditions around James Island while driving home. One word .......  Like Glass!  OK that was two words.  LOL

Mt. Baker keeping a watchful eye on us.
The plan was pretty simple and it had been on our paddle "bucket list" for a while to complete a circumnavigation of James Island. This would be our opportunity and we took full advantage of what mother nature was offering us. Launching from Island View Beach we followed a familiar course north to Cordova Spit and then angled across Cordova Channel to James Island. The last time we paddled in this area the tide was ebbing pretty good and a noticeable rip was present at the tip of the spit but today with the tide about to go slack there was not even a ripple on the surface.

Paddling along a shoreline that we had only seen from the Saanich Peninsula we made our way to the northern spit of James Island and the first thing I thought was that it would make an absolutely amazing marine park. Many of you might know that James Island is for sale for around $75 million plus change and all I could think about was how this little piece of the island could be turned over to the public for recreational use. Rumour has it that the island might be sold and if so maybe the new owners could give the land back to the province in some way. I know if I had the ability to purchase the island I would. 

Sidney Spit on the north end of Sidney Island  behind Robyn. Another paddle "bucket list" destination

Paddling across the northern end of the island we followed the long sandy beach that would make the perfect spot for day picnic use but the no trespassing signs are a stark reminder that no foot should go beyond the high tide water line. Even so at low tide there are many places that kayakers could easily stretch their legs without intruding on the owners property.

Rounding the north east tip of the island we entered the waters of Sidney Channel and the topography of James Island really came into view.  The island is know from a geology standpoint as being formed during glacial times into a Drumlin and erosion went to work to carve its current shape. Drumlins have the distinct shape of an inverted spoon. The Stoss end is the steeper slope where the private championship golf course is located and the Lee end is the more gradual slope ending up at the spit.

It wasn't long before we spotted the golf course flag sticks and one could only imagine how little the course is used. It does however get used for other purposes which we found out as a remote controlled (R/C) E-Flite Dehavilland Beaver was soon flying above us and performing touch and goes on the perfectly manicured golf course fairways.  

You know, if I lived or worked on the island I would probably do the same thing but I don't so I have to just stick to kayaking. Not a bad trade-off I think.  :-) LOL

Another thing that we have seen from the shores of the "big island" is our Canadian Navy patrolling the waters around the south coast. The HMCS Edmonton (MM 703) is a Kingston-class coastal defence vessel that is based in CFB Esquimalt and we got to see her up close as she passed between Sidney and James Island. The best part is that the flying of the R/C aircraft suddenly stopped as the Edmonton came into view of the pilots.  LOL

Making our way along the southern end of the island we were in the shadow of the sand bluffs or the "stoss" end of the island. This geological formation can be seen from almost every view point in Victoria and it is even more impressive as it looms high above you.

Rounding the last corner of the island we emerged into the full setting sun and just like when we headed out a few hours earlier the water was "Like Glass". It is during times like this it is hard to see where the bow of your paddling partner's kayak breaks the water. Most of the time around the south coast we have either wind, tides or both influencing the water we ride on. Tonight was a special occasion that we both embraced.

Robyn gliding on glass across Cordova Channel back to Island View Beach

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Discovering Discovery Island

After we spent last weekend land locked so to speak attending a Geocaching Mega event (with over 746 registered attendees) in Duncan it was time to get back on the water with a trip that has brewing in the back of my mind for a while. This past April, I had the opportunity of circumnavigating the Chatham and Discovery Islands with Roy Scully and Sheila Porteous and was mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape and the forces of the ocean currents. That day, Robyn couldn't make the trip and ever since I have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to share the experience with her.

With the recent arrival of summer on the west coast, the perfect tides and current conditions along with favourable winds they presented the opportunity to venture across Baynes Channel and explore a really special place with Robyn. Launching out of Gyro Park in Cadboro Bay at 10:30am we headed out past Flower Island and then to Jemmy Jones Island to do a final assessment of the conditions of Baynes Channel before crossing to over to Chatham Island. 

I had calculated maximum flood of 2.55 knots at 12 noon in Baynes and we could see a good rip between Ten Mile Point and Strongtide Islet so we sighted a beach on Chatham Island that would be our transit destination and free natural water turbulence. As expected, Baynes was very active with large yachts, sail boats and whale sightseeing vessels so we didn't waste any time making our way across the channel riding their wakes.

See Robyn? She is in the bottom of a wave trough and so am I creating the illusion of really big waves.

Arriving at the smaller of the two main Chatham's we started our clockwise navigation by working our way through the passage between Strongtide and Vantreight Islands and then headed south along the eastern side of the main Chatham Island towards Discovery Island. One thing we noticed were a number of picnickers on the beaches of Chatham that had arrived by small motor boats. Even though they were below the high tide water lines I was under the impression that there was no trespassing on the Indian Reserve lands of the Chatham's.

On my previous visit to the islands the tides were a lot higher and arriving today at low tide, the massive kelp beds that protect much of the eastern and southern approaches to the islands were very visible. Passing through the kelp beds not an issue for our kayaks but they sure limit the access of powered boats into areas around the Discovery Island lighthouse and Rudlin Bay which would be our lunch stop.

As we entered Rudlin Bay we spotted four kayakers coming from the south and we figured it was Yves Aquin and Patti Stevens of Go Kayak. We saw their van in the parking lot back at Gyro Park and figured that they might be heading over to Discovery Island. They were taking a day off so to speak from their regular kayak instruction routine to show some friends from Squamish our special play land.

A happy girl at our lunch stop location in Rudlin Bay. It was great to get her to this special place.

The Geocache can be found if you can solve the puzzle
After a lunch stop at the camping area we decided to complete one of our goals for coming to Discovery Island which was to find the only Geocache that is there. The Geocache is not your normal walk up to "find" but rather what is known as a Puzzle Cache that requires a little research to answer a number of questions which in turn provides information to the final coordinates. Calculating the information before we left home we were able to locate the cache in the marine park and cross off another water accessible cache from our Geocaching bucket list.

Last week word started to get around that there was a wolf on Discovery Island after whale watching tour operator Jim Zakreski took photos of it on the shoreline of Rudlin Bay. Although we didn't see any signs of the wolf there were notices posted to be cautious in any case.

Coastal Wolf photo by Jim Zakreski

Leaving Rudlin Bay we rounded Commodore Point experiencing the last of the flood tide that was hardly noticeable at all. Last April I got to experience a pretty good flood at this location and played in small water falls between the islets along the shoreline but today it was flat calm. Heading west into Plumper Passage there was only a hint of small rips as we navigated or way back through the smaller islets of the Chatham's and into Baynes Channel. With the slack about to begin, Baynes was just another open crossing with the only hazard being the pleasure craft going back and forth. Passing Jemmy Jones and Flower Islands we took our time following the shoreline back to our launch location. A perfect ending to discovering Discovery Island with Robyn.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Canada Day In The Gorge

A few weeks back John & Louise (Kayak Yak) invited us to paddle the upper Gorge and take in the Canada Day activities along the waterway. You know us .... hard to pass on a paddle opportunity so we joined them early Sunday morning to celebrate Canada's birthday from the water. 

The parking location at their house which is less than a block from the Victoria Canoe & Kayak Club (VCKC) was perfect as the Gorge Waterway was blocked off for the celebrations taking place later in the day. We simply carted our kayaks down the road from their place to the VCKC and we were on our way. 

Taking advantage of the calm shallow waters of the Gorge I worked on my edging and bracing skills in preparation for learning to roll in the coming weeks. After the paddle we loaded up the kayaks onto the truck and walked down to the waterway to check out what the vendors were selling.   

After reading John's post on Kayak Yak, I thought he did a really good job on the post (as always ;-) ) and instead of blogging about the the same trip I decided that I would share their blog link instead. John has become quite the photographer so make sure to check out the three successive pictures of the Blue Heron fishing..... Awesome! 

Happy 145th Birthday Canada!!! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Day With MEC

Saturday was the Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) Paddlefest held at Willow's Beach in Oak Bay. Robyn and I signed up for a stokes clinic a few weeks back and the only decision that we really had to make was how we were going to get there. Our options were to drive to the event with our kayaks or paddle in from another put in location.

Of course we decided that paddling into the event would be a cool thing to do so we headed to Gyro Park  (Cadboro Bay) which about a 1/2 hour paddle away from Willow's Beach. Arriving at the put in location the first thing we noticed was the misty low cloud and fog settling into the bay. Preparing our kayaks, Robyn checked the GPS and we headed out on the totally flat water and into the fog.

This was the first time that we had ever paddled in the fog and even though we could just make out the shoreline I have to admit the landscape looked totally alien and I had no idea where we were. Although we have paddled this route a number of times, only seeing a few meters of shoreline made me aware that we normally paddle using a panoramic visual references on a clear day getting the "big" picture. Today they were gone so we hugged the shoreline and followed the GPS to our destination.

At first we could just see the tents from the water then slowly movement began as people started to appear in the fog. We spotted Sheila and her kayak on the beach and made our landing close by. From our vantage point the beach was becoming "alive" as clinics were just starting to form up and head to the water.

The Ocean River Discovery Shuttle crew briefs a group of lucky people for a free tour over to Discovery Island.

We met up with John and Louise (Kayak Yak) who were searching for a new kayak for Louise as well as fellow R/C pilot Al Tamosiunas who is also a kayaker and is looking to start using a Greenland paddle. Checking out the vendors wares I took one of MEC's demo P&H Delphin's out for a spin on the water and found it not to be as stable as my Delta 15.5 but man did that little kayak turn on a dime. Now I know why they are so popular in the surf with many kayakers. Honey...... I need a rock garden surf boat. Just sayin ;-)

At around 11:30 six members of SISKA took to the water to demonstrate rolling and rescue techniques. The Oak Bay Sea Rescue teams also participated in a demo to assist a kayaker in the water. During this time I had the opportunity to be on the water with them to capture video and pictures up close. I was really impressed with how professional the OBSR volunteers were in getting the kayaker out of the water in a short period of time. It's nice to know that we have groups like the OBSR looking after pleasure craft operators and kayakers when in times of need. I managed to get lots of pictures and video of the kayakers in action along with the OBSR and I will get them posted as soon as possible.

After lunch Robyn and I participated in an Advanced Forward Stroke clinic instructed by Corina (I hope I got her name right) also assisted by Sheila. It is always good to get other instructor's perspective and although we knew much of the technical aspects of the clinic we did come away with little things that will only enhance our skill development.

As the saying goes, "time flies by when you're having fun" this was the case and so right after our clinic we stayed on the water and paddled back to Gyro Park with Sheila. The folks at MEC did a great job along with all the other vendors who participated in the Paddlefest. We look forward to future events like this as it is really catered to reaching out to those who have thought about kayaking and those like us who can't seem to get enough of such a great adventure.