Monday, February 25, 2013

Surfs Up!!

Man those winter wind storms can play havoc on planned paddles. Such was the case this past weekend when our trip over to Discovery Island on Saturday was wiped out due to the forecast of gale force 50 knot winds from the west. "Oh sure" we said when we woke up to relatively calm conditions but checking the lighthouse and buoy reports confirmed what was coming at us. Saturday would be stand down day.

On Sunday we had planned to head out with SISKA on a Relaxed Paddle just off Sidney but once again the gale force warning was up but this time it was going to be a south easter. This meant that Haro Straight would be in the direct fury of the winds and so would the paddle group. Opting for the Plan "B", the SISKA Paddle headed over to the sheltered waters of Brentwood Bay while we just decided to pass on the group paddle for the day. Another stand down day which meant that we wouldn't be getting a chance to try out the borrowed Greenland paddles that I picked up from James during the week. Or would we??

After a few texts between Robyn and Sheila they decided that the three of us would meet up at Esquimalt Lagoon and play in the surf a bit. Since it is somewhat protected from the SE winds it would be a good opportunity to get out and see how our skills match up in the chunky surf zone. Arriving at the beach the first thing Sheila asked was if we had ever done a surf launch or landing ...... "Ah, no" was my response and it didn't take me long to find out the hard way or should I say wet way.

Well that didn't work .... empty kayak and try again the right way.

By not identifying the best location for my kayak to launch myself, I soon found out that I had placed it too far into the surf zone. By the time I got into the kayak, a couple of big dumpers rolled over my deck and filled my cockpit 3/4 full of water. DOH!!!

You learn quick from mistakes like this because bailing a kayak out with a hand pump is not easy work. After draining my kayak back on the beach it was time for another attempt and this time it worked like it should. In the kayak almost high and dry, spray skirt on, incoming wave, gorilla scoot out into the surf all nice and dry. 

Oh I forgot to mention that kayaking is an activity that is best served when wet. So after a few wave bracing demonstrations Sheila was in the water (planned??) and it was time for me to perform an assisted rescue. In fact, I did a few of these with her today but I think she got tired of me being able to perform them so we went surfing instead. Robyn was our camera person today and she caught all of our (Sheila's) time in the water. I actually enjoyed using my assisted rescue skills as there is no better place to try them than in ocean conditions.

We paddled over to the mouth of the lagoon where the rollers were braking pretty good. Every so often a set would come roaring in creating great opportunities for us to catch a wave and have a few moments of "Ya Baby". This was the first time using the GoPro in a good surf zone and I really wanted to capture images like some of the Baynes Channel legends get. Although the waves are nowhere near what Baynes has to offer, I managed to catch a few good waves and ride them until they closed in behind me. Dude..... I was so stoked that day!  LOL

What goes in, must come out which meant busting through some of the breakers on the way back out to the set up point. I have to admit they were just as fun as riding the waves especially the drop down the backside of the wave and punching through the second wave right behind it.

Before heading back to the beach I put my rolling skills to test in the ocean environment. One after another I banged them off in succession and even managed a few with one of Joe O Paddles Greenland's.  I must say that the water was waaaay warmer than Langford Lake last Wednesday. Almost pool like. LOL.

Did I mention that I was stoked about the day?  Three days later I still am!  Later dudes!!

2013 Paddle # 7 - Esquimalt Lagoon
Distance: 4.12 km (surfing)
YTD: 61.98 km

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Greenland Evolution Stage One

As I mentioned in my last post, this afternoon I headed over to James Manke's place to pick up some Joe O Paddles Greenland paddles to try out this weekend. James said to bring my drysuit which I did and it wasn't long before we got suited up and headed down to his lakefront to begin a rolling session.

One of the cool things was that I got to try my skills in Sterling Donalson's personal Ice Kap in combination with a Northern Light carbon Greenland paddle. The other cool thing was that James walked me through his proven rolling techniques with focus on using my legs (drive) more than my paddle. The great thing about this technique is that I learned it from Yves of Go Kayak so it was really natural to drive my legs throughout the rolling session today. 

My first roll was way too much paddle sweep which resulted in me almost ending back in the water (or did I James?) which proved that my leg drive is very effective. I soon found out that when using the paddle sweep in moderation with my leg drive the roll became almost effortless. Of course the Ice Kap also had a lot to do with that as it didn't have any stall points throughout the roll like my Delta has. This is not a knock on my Delta in any way as it just means that it handles different but still rolls very effectively. In fact I am glad that I learned to roll in my Delta as it made rolling the Ice Kap seem very easy.

Did I mention how cold the lake water was? Hell ya it was but I wasn't going to let James know that. :-) I just wanted to absorb as much as I could before it started getting dark. Not only did we work on my  Standard Greenland Roll but he worked me through the Butterfly Roll and Balance Bracing. James also used his GoPro to capture my performance and I am looking forward to analyzing the video clips to see how I can improve on today's efforts.

So, I now have in my possession James' Northern Light Paddlesports paddle that he used on his trip down the Grand Canyon as well as a couple of Joe O Paddles (one that Joe used to circumnavigate Vancouver Island as well as a Storm model). How cool is that!! Robyn and I are going to use them this weekend and no doubt I'll be showing her some of the new stuff I learned from James today.

Stoked??? Oh ya I am!!!

Thanks James for taking me under your paddle today!! :-)

Time to work on getting that play boat ;-)

2013 Paddle # 6 Langford Lake
Distance: Nada unless rolls can be tracked  :-)
YTD: 57.86 km

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just Rollin Along

December 2, 2012 .... pool session. Missed every roll that night!! So did Robyn

February 17, 2013 .... pool session. Boy, I hope that I remember how to roll!

It's funny how time works or should I say how your mind subconsciously knows what needs to be done and tells your memory to take a hike!!  Robyn and I took to the nice, warm, clear water of  the Crystal Pool on Sunday night with a number of paddlers from SISKA. A monthly event, Sunday's clinic was based around Greenland rolling but we only signed up for the extra drop in pool spaces to work on our not so consistent rolls. Our expectations weren't high so we just thought positively in that we would at least get to perfect our wet exits. See ..... taking the mind out of the equation!

We managed to get into our kayaks from the pool deck without completing a rainbow warrior and ending up in the pool so all was good. A few sweeping brace turns and sculling to get the shoulders working right and then Robyn and I sat there looking at each other. OK .... I'll go I said. Breathe, set up, relax, roll inverted, position paddle, sweep, keep head from popping up, roll onto back of deck and bingo.... first roll of the night completed.

Robyn's turn ..... same thing even though she popped her head she managed to power her way upright. It wasn't the most fluid of her rolls for the evening but like Yves of Go Kayak told us .... "just get yourself out of the water".

With all the Greenland paddlers around us, I watched how they were positioning their hands and thought "what if I grasp my Werner blade at the end and extend my other blade further"?  Why not??  I gave it a try and found that I almost propelled myself back into to the water after reaching the upright position. Lesson learned here? Better use of the leverage created by the extended paddle. But ..... could I do the same thing with a Greenland paddle?

So I paddled over to Joanne and smugly took her Greenland from her and after getting the feel of the twig in my hands, managed to complete a couple of rolls with it. Light bulb moment!!!!
These Greenland paddles do work and it's all about technique.

Robyn patiently was watching all this time and when I turned to her she said that she wanted to try the extended paddle method. So away she went completing not one, not two, not three but four consecutive rolls and every time she came back up her smile got bigger and bigger and bigger.

We left the pool with a really great feeling. I for once nailed (100%) all of my rolls with some really good and some "saved" by pure power. Robyn started out a little slow but by the end of the session she was very consistent finishing the night off with an over 50% success rate. Not bad for someone who has only a couple formal lessons and a couple pool sessions under her paddle so to speak ;-)

Note: I posted a note on Facebook last night to see if I could wrangle up a loaner Greenland Paddle for this coming weekend. Within seconds Joe of Joe O Paddles responded along with James Manke who is one of our local rising kayak stars and I have arranged to head over to James' place tomorrow to get fitted for a loaner Joe O Paddles Greenland. Funny though .... James said to bring my dry suit as the lake he lives on is cold at this time of year. Looks like I'm getting wet tomorrow!!

2013 Paddle # 5 In The Pool
Distance: Absolutely Zero .... OK, less than a km  :-)
YTD: 57.86 km

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Meetup Of Paddlers

Today Robyn and I headed up to Cedar, BC to join the Nanaimo Paddlers in a Meetup paddle to Pirates Cove Marine Park located on DeCourcy Island. The plan was to leave from the Cedar By-The-Sea boat ramp at 09:30, figure 8 Link & DeCourcy Islands with lunch at Pirates Cove and back through False and Dodd Narrows.

However, waking up this morning the weather forecast didn't look promising as we were expecting rain showers with NW winds 10-15 late in the morning increasing to 25 NW with a gale force warning during the afternoon. Robyn and I figured we head up to the put in location anyway and see what was happening and at the worst we would find some place along the way that we could paddle.

After driving through Cedar in the fog we arrived at the boat ramp that was bathed with beautiful warm sunshine, no wind and absolutely flat calm water. Could the marine forecast have been wrong? Meeting some familiar faces and some new we got our trusty rides ready for the day. Event Host, Reale Emond and Walter Van Bruggen went through a paddle talk on the water taking in consideration of what might happen during the day if the winds did come up. I was especially impressed with Walter asking the new kids (us) about our paddling experience and making note of our equipment.   

New friends and some familiar faces from the Nanaimo Paddlers gather for an on the water paddle talk

The area that we were paddling today is greatly influence by the ebb and flood currents that run through Dodd Narrows which can reach over 7 knots. We have hiked into the look out at Dodd Narrows before and seen it's fury on a -5 knot ebb so we had a little apprehension about today's adventure. Click HERE to see a video from our blog last year at Dodd Narrows.

Our goal today was to actually make a run through False and Dodd Narrows right at the time of the slack tide so timing was going to be very important today. Crossing Stuart Channel we passed Round Island and headed for the tombolo joining Mudge and Link Islands. The group decided to stay on the west side of DeCourcy Island since the weather was showing no signs of changing an boy are we glad. Robyn and I had paddled this route last year but today the galleries were stunning in the warm spring like sunshine.

Ursula Vaira, Walter Van Bruggen, Joanne Nicolson and Dave Ursulak enjoying the great conditions.

Dave Nichols and Kathleen McKinnell glide by one of the amazing galleries shimmering in the sun

We lazily paddled along the rocky shoreline on the way to Pirates Cove while playing in the rock gardens and observing the hundreds of Giant White-Plumed Anemones, Orange Sun Stars and Ochre (purple) Sea Stars on the rock walls below us. 

Robyn and Kathleen at Pirates Cove

Landing in Pirates Cove the group had a chance to stretch their legs, have a bite to eat and of course ... Robyn headed off to find a Geocache nearby. Did anyone bring their camping gear??? This would have been the perfect day to set up camp as the marine park was totally deserted. It was time to rig up the GoPro on my helmet for the rest of the paddle especially if we were going through Dodd Narrows.

Lunch stop #1 at Pirates Cove Marine Park

After our first lunch stop the group paddled up the east side of DeCourcy navigating around the small islets and shallow oyster beds. The water was so clear it was hard to keep our eyes above the surface. :-)

The shadow of my kayak on the bottom and a sea star captured with my GoPro

Since time was in our favor the group decided to take another lunch stop near the tombolo between Kink and Mudge Islands. Two lunch stop?? I like these Nanaimo Paddlers!!  :-)

The sheltered cove at our second lunch stop.  

However, during this stop the weather started to change dramatically, so much that it was decided by the group that we wouldn't be transiting False Narrows up to the head of Dodd Narrows. The NW winds were now starting to kick up pretty good so we portaged our kayaks across the tombolo and prepared for a lumpy crossing back to the put in location at Cedar.  

A wise decision to cut the paddle short but we had to haul our kayaks across the Mudge / Link Island tombolo. 

With the winds increasing, Walter's leadership skills were very evident as he made sure that the group was prepared for the next leg of our paddle up the west side of Mudge Island. Although a direct crossing could have been attempted the best course of action was to reduce the crossing of Stuart Channel. The safety of the group as a whole is always the best solution and in this case by hand railing up the shoreline we actually got into the shadow of the hill near Cable Bay which reduced the exposure to the wind.  

We made the shorter crossing of Stuart Channel and for the first time we got a view of Dodd Narrows from the water. So close but yet so far ..... next time!  A great first adventure with the Nanaimo Paddlers and we look forward to joining them on more Nanaimo Paddler Meetups.

2013 Paddle # 4
Distance: 18.61 km
YTD: 57.86 km

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lookout For 2013

Wow!! What a week of kayak planning for 2013. We knew after our paddle last weekend that we would  start filling our paddling schedule for the rest of the year. 

It started off with Robyn and I joining the Nanaimo Paddlers early in the week and after our membership was accepted we started to check all the cool paddling opportunities that they have posted on their Meetup site. It didn't take long to sign up for a May trip to one of our kayak bucket list destinations ..... the Broken Islands Group. 

Our week of planning just kept on from there with us signing up for a couple of SISKA paddles and another Nanaimo paddle over the next couple of weekends. Add a pool session next weekend to work on our rolling and we are well on our way to another great year in our kayaks. Oh yeah .... throw in a few Ace Mascot gigs for when we are not on the water just to make things interesting.

As I mentioned in our last post, we scouted the Oak Bay shoreline for a paddle to Trial Island today. Talk about almost (no sun) absolute perfect conditions for exploring one of the few areas we haven't been around , the Victoria waterfront. High overcast with a peak of the sun every once and awhile, a balmy temperature of 8C, zero wind and less that 2 knots of current from the ebb to the flood. It really was the perfect day for what we planned.

Launching from the Oak Bay Marina we headed towards the new Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Our first thoughts were kinda mixed as we loved the old one but the new one is pretty nice too. We just might have to visit the "new" Snug Pub to check it out.

The new Oak Bay Beach Hotel ... I wonder if they have kayak docks??

Our next landmark to visit was the Victoria Golf Club and from the water it really was something to see. Many of the tee boxes and greens are located right next to the water and it gave us the opportunity to see and talk to the golfers up close. Where in Canada can you kayak or golf at this time of year??? I'm thinking that Victoria is one of the very few and fortunate locations that this can happen all within a pitching wedge of each other.

Being a golfer myself ...... I didn't yell "Fore!!!"

Trail Island Lighthouse and the greeting party of German Shepard and Black Lab on the top step

Just further along the next fairway we spotted our goal for the day which was Trial Island. The flood was just starting to flow as we made our way across Enterprise Channel and headed for the lighthouse. At the same time we noticed an empty container ship rounding Discovery Island and she was kicking up quite a bow wave. Arriving at the boat ramp of the lighthouse we heard a couple of dogs heading our way and not far behind was Meredith Dickman, the resident Trial Island Lighthouse Keeper. Meredith came right down to the foot of the boat launch and we had a great talk with her about what she does and possibly visiting the station in the future. Being so close to one of the kayaking mecca's, Meredith gets to see a lot of kayakers come by, (most experienced but some not so) and sure enough she knows Yves & Patti of Go Kayak who visit her fair bit. I think she was pleased to see us fully rigged with our immersion gear :-)

Trial Island Lighthouse Keeper Meredith Dickman and her dogs (Sky & ???) A great visit!

With the container ship now starting to pass the island it was time to say goodbye and seek shelter in one of the bays from the huge breakers starting to make their way towards the shoreline. 

The picture doesn't really show how close it is but if you look close you can see the bow wave.

At first I thought we could simply paddle away from the shoreline towards the wake and ride the oncoming waves however when I saw them starting to break about 1/4 mile away I thought twice as these were pretty big and the last thing we wanted was one of them breaking on top of us. We rode out the smaller swells a bit down from the lighthouse while we watched the huge breakers pound the area around the lighthouse. Boy am I glad we made that decision!!

After the swells passed we paddled up to the tip of the island and had a look at the flood currents really mixing it up at the point. While Robyn stayed in a back eddy I paddled a bit into the main current to check out the conditions on the west side of the island. Although the currents and rip were navigable we choose to be cautious and not paddle down the west side by ourselves. In a group environment we would have taken on the challenge but with just the two of us we let caution be our guide.

Me surfing in the rip. See the little seal's head just to the right of my bow?

With the increasing flood we decided it was time to head back across Enterprise Channel and stop for lunch at Kitty Islet but first I did a little surfing in the rip currents running between the islands. While I was having fun, Robyn stayed in the back eddy and watched a couple of small seals come up behind me and in her words ... "I could only see the back of their heads, so I snuck up behind them and when I was no more than about three feet away I said "HEY" and they did a 180 so shocked to see me right there. They disappeared beneath the surface so fast!  They obviously didn't hear me with the noise of the current."

After crossing the flood current in Enterprise Channel we landed on the tombolo at Kitty Islet. It was here that we visited last weekend by car to scout Trail Island and log a couple of Geocaching Earthcaches. This time we arrived by kayak and had a much needed lunch break.

Lunch on the tombolo at Kitty Islet

Riding the flood current back towards our put in location we played in the rock gardens below the golf course fairways. There are lots of little beaches along the golf course that we just might have to use a rest stops below the high water line in the future. We just will have to keep an eye out for errant golf balls!

Robyn comes through one of the rock garden gaps near the golf course.

It was such an amazing day that Robyn suggested we make our way over to the Great Chain Island since we had never been there before. It's not often that you get water conditions like we had today so we extended our paddle plan and circumnavigated around the island. We both thought the same thing .... next time we go to Discovery Island we'll go via the Chain Islands out of Oak Bay Marina.

What a day on the water and week of kayak planning!

2013 Paddle #3
Distance: 12.71 km
YTD: 39.25 km

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Foggy Brentwood Lazy Paddle

Well ..... there goes January which means Spring is just around the corner. Really??

We have been really quite in terms of kayaking in January but our good excuse is that Robyn and I went to Disney World in Florida for a week to soak up some sun and get away from our soggy climate. Luck would have it that I came down with a doozy of a head cold while on vacation and Robyn got the bug once we returned home. The rest of January we spent trying to get back to normal and after not being on the water for 3 weeks (a record for us) it was time for a lazy paddle to get our 2013 paddling season going.

On Saturday we decided to head to Brentwood Bay and give our paddling muscles a chance to limber up for a couple hours as we paddled through the marinas and into Tod Inlet before crossing the mouth of the bay back to our put in location. Other than the Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay ferry there was no other boat traffic to be seen or heard during our excursion. I can't remember when Brentwood Bay was so quite as during the summer months it is a bee hive of activity especially during fireworks season at Butchart Gardens.

Robyn ... It's good to be back in the boat!

Not only was there a lack of a human presence about but there were so few water fowl today. Usually there are lots of jelly fish and sea stars to look at as well but with the recent rains, the sediment plume clouded the visibility to only a few feet below the surface. Other than this paddle giving us the opportunity to flex our muscles, it was a typical mid winter foggy day with nothin much happening. Still it was good to be back in the kayaks.

Sunday we did a little scouting by car along Dallas Road and stopped at the viewpoints looking over Enterprise Channel and Trial Islands. Next weekend the tides are perfect for paddle over to Trail Island which will be a first for us.

We are also starting to make plans for our busy 2013 paddling season and it won't be long before we are kayak camping again. One of goals for the year is a multi-day trip to either the Broken Group or the Deer Group near the end of May. Of course ... we'll be blogging our adventures as we go.

2013 Paddle #2
Distance: 9.54 km
YTD: 26.54 km