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!!

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