Saturday, September 8, 2012

Race Rocks

It really is quite amazing thinking back to a year ago when we were only dreaming of paddling out to the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Yesterday that dream came true as we headed out to the landmark that can be seen from almost anywhere while on the water around Greater Victoria. For kayakers planning excursions around the south coast, Race Rocks is also a primary current station that is used to determine the amount of current that can be expected while on the water. With currents ebbing and flowing around 7 knots at various times of the year, Race Rocks offers lots of opportunities and conditions to visit the group of islands depending on your skill level. The last quarter moon was upon us and the maximum ebb current for our paddle only reached -2.3 knots with pretty lazy tides for the day. 

Race Rocks Lighthouse in the distance
Our good kayaking friends (Sheila & Neil) decided to join us on the paddle so we launched out of our base camp at Pedder Bay RV Resort around 10:00am.  Checking the marine forecast we had a good window of  opportunity to make the trip before the westerly winds picked up later in the day (and boy did they). With a slack tide around noon we made our way past the DND dock, Bentinck Island and made the crossing out to Race Rocks in a slight chop. The slight westerly breeze also allowed us to hear the noisy sea lions before we got sight of the lighthouse on the way out of Pedder Bay.

There were lots of whale watching boats in the area and I was getting excited about possibly seeing a killer whale for the first time by kayak. In fact at one point as we got closer to the small western islets I spotted a couple of black objects (dorsal fins?) moving across the surface of the water about a mile from us. The objects moved behind a small islet and as our distance to them reduced our excitement increased until ...... the objects appeared from behind the islet and then I realized that they were a couple of kayakers! RATS!!!!

Approaching the lighthouse from the west we played in the increasing rip tide and started
taking pictures of the sea lions that were sunning themselves on the rocky islets.

Keeping a close eye on the approaching cold front we worked our way through the islets and in view of the massive Steller and California sea lions. We were totally surprised at the number and the size of some of the bull Steller Sea Lions and they were just as curious about us. Keeping our distance not to cause them to seek protection of the water, they let us pass by without displaying any aggressive signs. The pictures don't really do their size justice but in the picture below you can see a seagull in relation to the Steller Sea Lions. We were quite happy they stayed were they were.

Many of the smaller California Sea Lions were playing in the water around us and they seemed to like the developing rip tide that we had just paddled through. Somewhat like a seal they seemed more interested in playing with each other than bothering us. Only the occasional Steller Sea Lion approached making a big splash before heading away from us.

Not worrying about the lighthouse keepers, the sea lions camp out in their back yard behind the house. One of the keepers was busily working around some of the buildings and the sea lions didn't pay much attention to him. I guess over time they get to know each other and coexist but one has to wonder how the keepers put up with the constant barking of the sea lions.

One last picture opportunity before heading back to the islets around Bentinck Island for lunch. As expected those westerly winds started coming up pretty good which made the crossing back a little chunky until we got into the wind shadow of Beachy Head.

After a well deserved lunch we played in some of the rock gardens heading back into Pedder Bay. Seeing the abandoned half submerged floating dock Sheila and I decided to see if we could "seal" our way up on top of  it. Shelia showed her pro form even though there was a slight creaking of composite  from her kayak. Me on the other hand did pretty well everything wrong and it's a wonder how I didn't end up rolling off the dock.

Back at camp we fired up the BBQ and celebrated with Sheila and Neil until the sun started to set in the windy west. Another great day on the water and the start of our second year of kayaking. If the second year is anything like the first year it should be a great experience and we look forward to sharing it with our readers.

1 comment:

  1. wow sounds like you had an awesome day. looking at your map that was quite the paddle glad the currents were cooperating with your well planned trip. thanks for sharing your story and pictures.