Monday, December 31, 2012

What A Way To Send Out 2012 .. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Facebook ….. some love it, some can’t stand it. For us, it is our #1 way of letting our friends and family know what we are up to and also a great way to share ideas such as making paddling plans like the one we did today.

Last night Kari Challenger invited us (via FB) to paddle with her and Joanne Nicolson to Race Rocks from our base camp at Weir’s Beach. Although our paddling skills are far enough advanced (we think) that making the trip to Race Rocks by ourselves is doable, we liked the opportunity to join Kari and Jo today. Safety with numbers we think.

The weather?? Same as yesterday but colder (3 degrees) with a constant rain and the forecasted 10 knot NE winds showing themselves early. The gear?? Thank god we have dry suits and for the first time I used full finger gloves and pogies.

Leaving the put in location we made our way around William Head and started to see the effects of the NE winds on the water. Although not roaring with white caps the best way to describe the sea state is simply sloppy. The currents for making the trip were in our favour as we were on the last of the ebb, which pulled us along towards Race Rocks. But there is always the trip back that I had in the back of my mind.

After crossing Pedder Bay we changed direction towards the lighthouse on Race Rocks when Jo called out “ORCA”!! Sure enough, a massive pod of Resident Orca was about ¼ mile on our port side making their way towards Victoria. Our first sighting of Orca by kayak and it sure had the WOW factor. ( Sorry No Pictures :-(  ) For us another “Kayaking Bucket List” crossed off and what better way to close out 2012.

Arriving at Race Rocks the first thing we noticed was the very low numbers of sea lions present. When we were last here in the summer every rocky islet was covered with California or Steller sea lions but today only a single islet was covered with the massive mammals. Keeping our distance we navigated around the islets before heading back towards Eemdyck Passage for our rest stop.

Leaving our rest stop we headed towards Pedder Bay and it was a bit of a slog with the wind blowing straight in our face but thankfully we were in the midst of the slack tide. Making our way around William Head it seemed that the wind had started to back off with the final push into Parry Bay put in location was very relaxing.

After 4 hours on the water we were all starting to feel the effects of the cold but it sure was a gratifying last paddle of 2012. Thanks Kari & Jo for letting us tag along. 

Paddle # 81 - 15.69 km
Total Distance (2012) 715.85 km
That's All Folks!!


Sunday, December 30, 2012

By The Numbers

One sure thing about living on the west coast is that the weather forecast can change overnight (also hour to hour) and so was the case this morning. Instead of waking up to sunny skies and little wind it was just another day of clouds (although a bit colder) and the threat of 10 – 15 knot easterlies. Why would we want a perfect December day to paddle in anyway????

We decided to watch the Canadian Jr. hockey game against U.S.A. before making a move to head out on the water. Our boys did well and so it was time to go put in some kilometres from our base camp at Weir’s Beach (Parker Bay) in hopes of reaching the 700 km mark for 2012. The easterlies were starting to show themselves which we enjoyed as we had to work a bit to maintain our speed and track towards William Head.

Playing in the rock gardens we paddled into Quarantine Cove to get a better view of William Head Federal Penitentiary. Situated on the tip of William Head the prison is pretty much surrounded by water so escape by sea would be a foolish option considering how cold the water is and the speed of which the currents run by. 

In realty I would think that there are worst places to serve time and from an outsiders view William Head has sort of a country club appearance of open expansive grounds. Still …. It’s good to be on the outside looking in.

Many times over the past year we had paddled out of Pedder Bay, which is on the opposite side of William Head from our campsite. Today we really wanted to get a view of our Pedder Bay playgrounds so we continued on towards Ned Point where we were able to see Race Rocks and the DND islands at the tip of Rocky Point. A couple of sea lions were playing close by but they were very shy about getting their pictures taken. Today we wouldn’t be making the transit across Pedder Bay as the easterlies would simply be not in our favour on the trip back. In fact the idea of landing in Pedder Bay and walking balk for our truck just didn’t work for us today but it would have made for an interesting story.

Keeping a close watch on our track distance we headed back across the front of the campsite and towards an elusive Geocache that we have been trying to get to for the past year. Although one can reach the cache location at low tide by walking a fair distance along the rocky shoreline we have been pondering a water approach every time we have paddled by. Today was “go” day and Robyn made a landing just below the step cliffs where the cache was reported to be hidden. 

Upon exiting the cockpit of her kayak I saw her franticly search for something in her deck bag and on herself. When I asked what she was looking for I heard the word “GPS” and all I could think of that it was somewhere in the depths of where we had just paddled. As I headed towards the beach Robyn wadded back into the water and below the surface at arms length she spotted her Oregon 550 rolling around on the rocky bottom. Now that is one lucky find!!

After checking to make sure the GPS was still working (it’s water resistant) she locked onto the Geocache location and climbed the rocky cliff to the top and located the treasure. 

While on the cliff she took the following picture of her landing area and the RV camp in the background. We'll look back at this Geocache find with fond memories of not loosing an expensive "finding tupperware in the woods" device not alone our primary electronic navigation tool. LOL

Heading back to the camp we played a bit in the surf breaking around the shoreline as it also allowed us to add a bit of distance to our paddle. 

Remember the target of 700 km? Well, we started the paddle needing 8.92 km and by the time we landed we had covered a distance of 9.08 km today reaching our milestone for 2012. But wait ….. we have one more day left in 2012 which means more adventures and distance to add tomorrow. The pressure is off now!

Paddle # 80 - 9.08 km
Total Distance (2012) 700.16 km

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Heading Towards 2013

Now that the Christmas celebrations are now over for another year we have migrated to Weir’s Beach RV Resort to ride out 2012 and bring in 2013. Yesterday the weather was quite stormy for kayaking so we decided to do a little Geocaching in the hills around Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific. It made for a great hike and I played around with the GoPro with GoPole handle taking video clips of our adventure along the way. No doubt the GoPole will come in handy (pun) when we head DisneyWorld in 19 days.

Our Geocaching Walk-A-Bout yesterday

After over sleeping for the second day straight, we had a quick breakfast while I checked the weather forecast for our planned paddle in the Sooke Basin. For December, anything other than snow is good and today it was going to be a mixed bag of rain, clouds and maybe a peek of sun. Our put in location at Cooper Cove is only about 20 minutes away by vehicle but with the morning drizzle trying to change our minds we put our drysuits on in the RV and headed out for a much needed paddle.

We have paddled in the Sooke Basin a number of times and have found that it is such a tranquil setting especially in the winter season. Today was no different as we had the whole basin to ourselves with only the numerous waterfowl, seals and even a river otter to keep us company. Many times we forget that we are on the ocean as the protected basin can take on the look of a still mountain lake. As we worked off the rust of not being on the water for almost 4 weeks, we simply took in every movement on the surface or the flight path of birds around us.

Other than being on the water we didn't have a destination or paddle plan so we just made up our routing on the fly so to speak and ended up paddling around Billings Spit playing in the gentle flood currents that were trying to take us back towards our put in location. The only thing for certain was that this would be a leisurely paddle and our kayaks would be observation stations for us.

A group of small seals escorted us around the basin and quietly slipped beneath the surface when they got too close to us. Curious little fellows who no doubt were looking for treats. The always nervous Cormorants gave us a wide berth by taking flight while the many different types of ducks just paddled away not really bothered by our presence. Oyster Catchers danced along the logs they were riding on while a couple of majestic bald eagles kept watch of us from the peaks of trees on the Goodridge Islands. 

While exploring the shoreline a lonely river otter spy hopped to get a better look at us before heading back to the bottom in search of lunch. 

Soon we came across a rare sight of a penguin proudly standing guard on a rocky point. He didn't even flinch as we let the current take us close by for a couple of pictures. My guess is that he may be standing guard still …… even at this late hour. ;-)

Heading back towards Cooper Cove the rain started to fall and it had this amazing “singing” tone that made me feel that I was listening to something that I would expect within the Hobbit that I am reading now. One could say that we are fair weather paddlers with the luck we have had avoiding rain over the past year but we also are beginning to understand why paddling in the rain can be so rewarding.

I just couldn't resist this picture....  

Paddle # 79 - 12.51 km
Total Distance (2012) 691.08 km

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December Thoughts

This month has been a whirl wind of paddling related activities but not so much in terms of actually being on the water. Simply put, the weather (wind storms) have kept us ashore from a few planned ocean paddles but we found our "kayak" fixes in other places.

Throughout our lives Robyn and I have always liked to give back in some way to the clubs or organizations that we have been part of. Although we are really newbies on the local paddling scene, both of us have offered our services to two organizations that have become the back bone of our paddling network. 

Robyn provides bookkeeping services in the Greater Victoria area and and through our contacts at SISKA we learned that the BC Marine Trails Network could use her expertise. So she has been busy assisting the Treasurer with providing volunteer bookkeeping services for a great kayaking resource.

I on the other hand have offered my services to SISKA (South Island Sea Kayaking Association) to assist the club in the role of Secretary until the next AGM in March. We have gained so much from being associated with both of these great organizations that we felt it was the least we could do to give back in some way.

This past Saturday the fifth annual SISKA Christmas Party and Paddle was planned but due to gale force winds the paddle portion was cancelled. We were very excited about participating in the paddle portion as we had all of our decorations ready for the kayaks. It would have been a great picture to see the 30 something paddlers make their way to the 6 Mile Pub by water and then hike up the bank into the pub to join the other 45 paddlers arriving by their land yachts. However we all ended up arriving by land yachts and good times were had by all. Robyn even won a couple of door prizes consisting of dry bags which you can never have enough of.

On Sunday night it was back into the pool for the SISKA Rolling Clinic which was lead by the club president and good friend Sheila Porteous. Having somewhat been able to roll, Sheila asked if I would like to assist her and Joanne with the group of first timers attempting to roll. Yeah ... for sure!!!!  Robyn also was participating in the clinic as a student but I was surprised when Sheila asked me to help two other ladies  who had no idea about rolling instead of working with Robyn.

After a introductory pool side basics session it was time to get into the water and start putting the elements of the roll together with my assigned students. We gradually worked through the bracing elements with a paddle float and then progressed all the way to both of my students completing their first unassisted roll before the end of the session. I by no means are an expert roller (not even close) but for me I found that I was able to relate to their apprehension since I had just gone though a similar learning process.

Taking a few pages from Sheila and Yves (Go Kayak) teaching techniques I simply reassured them that I was there to ensure them that any fear of being "stuck" under water was gone. What better way than to have the students roll onto their side for the first time while I just held them there in the crutch of of my arm. Here they worked of the sweeping motion all the way to rolling onto the back of their kayak. The other thing that I really focused on was getting them to relax through many stages of the roll and build fluidity into the process by letting go of the natural "panic" instincts. I know how both of my students must have felt completing their first roll but I have to admit I was pretty stoked as well. Do I hear a calling to become a PVC Level 1 Instructor in 2013???  ;-)

Next week is that magical time of year and last year my message was pretty simple. So once again it is our wish and we hope everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday season.

What would this world be like if every day we celebrated peace on earth like we do at this time of year? Even though we are all alone in space, the people of this amazing blue planet somehow manage to put differences aside and show that we care for one another.

Mark & Robyn

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Double

OK ...... maybe we chewed off too much for one day.

The first day of December and what better way to bring in the Christmas season by planning not one paddle but two all within 12 hours. One could call it testing our stamina but on the other hand one could call it "what were you thinking"?

Our day started by joining the South Island Sea Kayaking Association (SISKA) for a Relaxed Paddle on Saturday morning exploring the Gorge / Portage Inlet system. Joining up with 12 other paddlers our group lead by Gary Allen did what a relaxed paddle is supposed to be which was simply loligagging along the shoreline, playing limbo under gangways and trying to get stuck under low lying trees. No unnecessary waste of energy unless absolutely needed.

The one thing that was great to see was the number of new or relatively low time on the water paddlers come out for this paddle. What better environment to build up time and confidence than the protected waters of the Gorge but mother nature could have cooperated a bit better. The forecast called for periods of rain and right on cue the rain started at the paddle briefing. Although not everyone had dry suits those who didn't came prepared for the possibility of getting wet and they sure did.

Every once and a while the clouds would open up to reveal the sun and a few rainbows were seen around us. Then it was back to performing yoga to clear the gangways our any obstacles that we could challenge us.

I have no idea when I will ever use this paddle skill again but when you have peer pressure ya just have to show how it can be done. LOL

The group explored Craigflower Creek until we came across a dead fall blocking our way. I have heard that at one time you could paddle through a culvert that goes under the Trans Canada Highway not too far from where we had to turn around. Talk about up the creek with lots of paddlers!

Oh yeah .... I forgot to mention that it was high tide in the Gorge which can be a good thing because at low tide there are many places that you get stuck in the silt of Portage Inlet making passage to Colquitz Creek impossible. On the other hand with the rain run off and high tide it made for slim pickings for a rest stop area but we did manage to find one on the Colquitz.

I took this picture where it is normally high and dry but not today.

After our lunch break we headed further up the Colquitz until we all pretty much had enough of the rain and decided to head back to our put in location. It was a hardy group of paddlers who came out for a very relaxed paddle and you know something? Paddling in the rain isn't that bad after all.

Paddle #77

But Wait!!!!  There's more.

Robyn and I have been spending a few of our weekend evenings in the Crystal Pool working on our rolling skills and so after a couple hours to relax (nap) we were in the warm pool water at the Ocean River Sports drop in session. Feeling pretty good with our rolling progression we were excited to get back at it again with the GoPro Hero 2 ready to capture our training session.

WRONG!!!!  My first two attempts resulted in really bad timing of the sweep, hip snap, burying the paddle and of course lifting my head way to early. Oh well, I got to practice wet exits with my new Snap Dragon spray skirt. :-)

While I regrouped it was Robyn's turn and bingo .... same results as mine. What the heck???? We could do this a couple weeks ago. So it was back to basics for both of us as we started from scratch assisting each other Go Kayak style and analysed what we were doing wrong. After some more frustrating attempts things started to come together and even though not pretty we managed to get ourselves out of the water. It wasn't pretty and we knew it. :-)

It was during one of my set ups I found myself just leaning forward with my paddle in position and I realized that I simply couldn't think any more. I had no idea what I was going to do next and the only thing that came to mind was that we were told that there would be days like this.

Both of us just didn't feel comfortable in the pool tonight and it really wasn't physical tiredness we were experiencing but more of a mental block was occurring.  As we tried to struggle our way through the evening the physical exhaustion started to set in and we knew that we really weren't progressing tonight as we have in the past.

Lesson learned?  Don't bite off too much that you can chew on.

Oh yeah ...... the GoPro video ain't worth showing!  LOL

Paddle #78 sort of ....
Total Distance (2012) 678.57 km