Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Winchelsea Exploring

Yesterday we decided to go explore an island that we had heard about a few times from the Nanaimo Paddlers named Winchelsea Island near Nanoose. Not really knowing too much about this particular area we did a little research starting with John Kimantas's BC Atlas for the South Coast and East Vancouver Island. John's series of atlases and Wild Coast companion series are considered to be like the "bible(s)" for sea kayaking around Vancouver Island. We also looked at the area using Google Maps to locate possible put in locations.

We loaded up the kayaks onto the truck and headed through Nanaimo making a couple of stops at marine and outdoors stores looking for Canadian Hydrographic Chart #3459 but none could be found. Whenever possible I like to have a chart of the area that I can reference on my deck especially when we are heading into unexplored areas for us. Another tool that we use is a good GPS and Robyn's Garmin Oregon 550T works great as we can navigate to put in locations, navigate on the water, use it to find Geocaches on the islands we visit and record our track data like you see at the bottom of our blog posts.

After checking one put in location we decided on Schooner Cove Marina which would give us a more direct route to Winchelsea Island instead of launching out of Nanoose Harbour. Go figure ... they also had the chart that we were looking for and the launch fee was only $4.00. Nice!!

Whenever possible launching at a boat ramp we try to stay out of the way of boats and trailers and so the clean out ramp was perfect for us to get our rides ready for the trip.

Once again an amazing sunny afternoon as we paddled out of the marina just after 1:00pm. Although the winds were SE 5-10 kts the conditions were perfect even though we had to paddle into the flood and wind.

Winchelsea Islands in the distance

Our main goal of Winchelsea Islands was just over 2 nm in the distance but we decided to head past Ruth Island and towards Southey Island which has a geocache. Arriving at Southey we located a little bay that had lots of oysters so while I started picking enough for dinner (6) Robyn located the unmarked camping area. We decided not to try and find the geocache on this island only because it was on the southern tip and there was no easy landing area. Next time we visit we'll land in the oyster bay and walk to cache location so it gives us another reason to come back soon.

The "oyster cove" on Southey Island

A resident juvenile eagle greets us as we arrive at Ada
Our next islands to explore were the little group known as the Ada Islands. Here there was also a geocache and after looking for a suitable location to land our kayaks we located a shelf like rock formation just under the water that allowed us step out of the kayaks. One thing that we did notice on this paddle is that other than Southey Island, most of the shoreline of the neighboring islands was very steep and rocky making possible landings tricky.

Not an easy landing but we found a spot on the northern Ada Island

A "micro" film canister Geocache with soaked logbook
While Robyn went off to locate the geocache I headed out to the highest point on the island to take in the panoramic views of all the islands in the area. Like most rocky islets on the south coast the ground cover vegetation was very dry and consisting of rocky type plants, lichens and grasses.

I did manage to locate an area where a bird of some sort ate it's shellfish. There were lots of broken clam shells and in the middle a perfectly hollowed out dried sea urchin with all of it's spikes still intact.

The DND facility on the northern Winchelsea Island

After such an exhausting exploration of the island (LOL) we sat back and enjoyed lunch before heading over towards the Winchelsea Islands. The northern island is part of the DND Torpedo Range facility located in Nanoose Bay while the southern island is owned by The Land Conservatory. We decided to stay clear of the DND facility and round the southern island before heading back towards Schooner Cove. Once again there is very little places to land a kayak on the island other than the main dock. One day we'll land and visit the TLC property.

Rounding the tip of the southern Winchelsea Island Robyn points to the seam that runs through
most of the island. I'm not sure but it sure looked like coal that is dominant in the area.

The paddle back to the marina took just over 1/2 an hour and we arrived back at the boat ramp at 4:30pm. A great way to spend a few hours exploring the little group of islands that are known as the Winchelsea area. We definitely will be back to explore the many more that are so close by. As for the oysters we picked .... tabasco and a little parmesan and they were yummy!!!

2013 Paddle #48 Winchelsea Islands
Distance:  6.88 nm ( 12.74 km)
YTD:  262.57 nm (486.27 km)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rollin, Rollin On The River

Yesterday it was moving day for us as we relocated our campsite to one of the view sites along the waterfront. After spending some time lying around in the sun we decided to put in a little rolling practice in the river. For Robyn this was her first time to try it in her Delphin since she last rolled in my Delphin back in June at the SISKA Camp Out. I could sense she was thinking, thinking, thinking. :-)

The river was super warm so we didn't need any immersion gear so I simply stood beside her as we worked through some of the techniques that are required to roll in a fluid fashion. Although Robyn just missed her first attempt, a few adjustments (HEAD) LOL and torso rotation resulted in her completing several on her own. She was pretty stoked coming back to camp for the evening. Rolling is quite simple if you don't over think it. Just Get 'Er Done!!! 

Nice work Honey!!!

2013 Paddle #47 River Work Made Easy
Distance:  Not Much nm ( Ditto km)
YTD:  255.69 nm (473.53 km)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tubbin In Nanaimo

This week we are on vacation and are staying at Living Forest Campground just south of Nanaimo, BC and it is our base camp for doing some day paddles around the area. Yesterday the 47th annual International World Championship Bathtub Race took place so we joined the Nanaimo Paddlers for their version of a relaxed paddle to enjoy the festivities in the area. Launching out of the campground river access to the Nanaimo estuary we headed over to Gallows Point on the south tip of Protection Island to meet the paddlers for the Protection Island Community Association pancake breakfast and watch the tubbers head out on their 36 mile challenge.

The pancake breakfast festivities
The paddle from the campground to Gallows Point was a bit of a slog with the rising NE 15-25 winds that were predicted for the day. All the way I couldn't help think how those tubbers were going to have a tough one out there on the Salish Sea. It brought back fond memories of the days when I piloted the Greyhound tub for a few races. Believe me when I say that a sea kayak is waaaaay more comfortable than a fiberglass bathtub who's sole purpose is to go fast.

The landing zone for the Nanaimo Paddlers at Gallows Point. I never get tired of picture of kayaks on the beach!

Just before the rest of the paddlers arrived, Robyn and I hunted down a Geocache that was on the point. The last attempt to find the cache resulted in a DNF (Did Not Find) and the owner disabled the cache. We however located it and sent the owner a message saying that it is actually there and back in play.

After a great breakfast we headed down to point and watched the start of the race as the tubbers came ripping past the beacon. Once past the beacon each tubber was required to locate his or her chase boat before heading out onto the open water part of the course. This was great for the leaders but by the time the middle of the pack reached the beacon the water was a churned up mess of waves and wakes going in every direction. It was a wonder that they all made it out of the harbour without overturning or sinking!

And they're off!

Locating their chase boats was no easy task ... Yikes!!!

Once the competitors were heading out towards Gabriola Island our group of paddlers took to the water and headed towards the finish line to wait for the tubbers who would be arriving about 2 hours later. While most of the group took the sheltered inside route along the harbour, Robyn and I joined Reale, Deb, Susie and Dave to take on the outside of Protection and Newcastle Islands. Yeah it was blowing pretty good out there but it was great to be working our muscles again heading straight into the 15+ kt winds. I kept looking out towards where the tubbers were and spotted the chase helicopter way out on my starboard side. The sea state made me glad that I wasn't in one of those contraptions again.

Susie Marsh & Robyn making their way towards Newcastle Island

A brief rest break in Kanaka Bay allowed us to get some liquids and for some of us just cool off the kayak way by simply rolling. It had been a while since I last rolled my Delta and with the encouragement from Reale who said that she would rescue me I just got it done. (nothing like encouragement) LOL.

And I came back up with my sunglasses and hat still on!

Arriving at the northern end of Newcastle Island we then played chicken with the arriving and departing BC Ferries ships leaving Departure Bay. Actually they weren't that close but still having two bearing down upon us was enough to deal with along with the arriving tubbers. We made the crossing over to Jesse Island and explored the sea caves that we have so much wanted to see. They are also known as an Earthcache so getting the opportunity to visit them was awesome too.

Me exiting the Jesse Island sea cave which is more than an archway 

While visiting the caves the first tubber came ripping by us and towards the finish line at Departure Bay beach. I was really surprised how fast he was going and the fact that he arrived almost a good half hour before anyone else means he had a really fast tub or was lucky enough not to flip. Maybe he had a bit of both on his side.

We made our way to the finish line and met up with the rest of the paddlers who took the inside route. We couldn't get much closer to the finish line than we were.

The first female pilot to finish arrives at the beach

Just look at all of the rubber foam inside the tubs and yes .... no seats!

After having lunch on the beach the paddlers started heading to their put in locations. For us it was another 5 nm paddle back to Living Forest but this time we had the winds at our backs as we paddled past the marinas in the Nanaimo harbour.

As a footnote, Robyn and I were watching TV last night and on Shaw Nanaimo there was a program covering the race. They even got footage of us in our kayaks as we approached the finish line. We also found out that most of the tubs flipped while making the run between Entrance Island and Winchelsea Islands and had to be righted by their chase boats. In some cases the spark plugs needed to be removed and the water drained out of the motors before continuing on. Just imagine trying to do that in 3 to 6 foot breaking waves!!! There was only a hand full of tubs that didn't make it to the finish line and I can attest that they probably had a crazy ride.

A great first paddle to start our vacation. Thanks Nanaimo Paddlers for such a great "Relaxed Paddle" LOL

2013 Paddle #46 Nanaimo Paddlers Pancake Breakfast
Distance:  12.16 nm (22.52 km)
YTD:  255.69 nm (473.53 km)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Spaghetti Expedition Extended (posted by Robyn)

After a few busy weeks we finally got back into the kayaks for a long awaited paddle.  This was my first opportunity to paddle my new Delphin!  I've paddled Mark's before and it's exactly the same but this one was MINE!  And it was GREEN! This was also our first opportunity to try out one of my dehydrated "meals in a bag" in anticipation of our September 10-day kayaking tour around the Gulf Islands.

The Delphin's sure aren't mini vans compared to the Delta's

We launched from Brentwood Bay as we were going on a SISKA paddle there later that night.  Our good friend and yoga instructor Kathryn lives a few houses up from the ferry so we are lucky to be able to park in her driveway.  After a short visit and securing the Delphins onto their wheels we proceeded to load the kayaks with our supplies for dinner, plus gear for the night paddle.  Well, that was a shock for me! There's not too much room in this green Delphin!!!  My Delta holds everything including the kitchen sink and still has room to spare!  And who put this skeg box there??? Hmmmmm.

Once loaded, we wheeled down the street past the pub and launched.  We meandered our way north up to Coles Bay past all the beautiful homes.  Everyone was on their docks soaking up the sun and having a swim. What a glorious day to be on the water.

Not much beach at high tide but it was sure nice and warm!!
Once at Coles Bay we got out our little chairs and set up for dinner.  Unfortunately the tide was up and we only had about 2 feet of beach but that was OK since it was really hot, we got to soak our feet while we relaxed.  I got out the WhisperLite stove and boiled up some water, added my dehydrated hamburger, put on the lid and waited about 10 minutes.  Time for a taste.  To my surprise it was hamburger again!!

I boiled up a bit more water and added my dehydrated spaghetti, bell peppers and onions, put on the lid and waited another 10 minutes.  When I took off the lid to check I was really surprised!!!  The pot was FULL of spaghetti!!

So I dumped in the hamburger, gave it a stir and rang the dinner bell!    We sat down to the most amazing spaghetti and meat sauce dinner, compete with some Parmesan cheese.  I was over the moon!! And I think Mark was too!

OK .... Mark is sold on the dehydrated spags!!

After dinner and dishes we packed up again and paddled back to Brentwood Bay.  When we got back to the launch there were already about 6 people there for the SISKA paddle.

Our track from Brentwood Bay to Coles Bay

2013 Paddle #44 Spaghetti Feast
Distance:  7.82 nm (14.48)
YTD:  240.38 nm (445.18 km)

By the time we stretched our legs and changed into our immersion gear there were 13 paddlers ready to go. Mark and I changed over from our Werner's to our Greenland paddles for this leg of the journey.

The SISKA paddlers getting ready
Gary Jacek was our paddle leader, Mike Jackson was the pace setter and Alan Campbell was the sweep. After completing the "Beach Talk" to make sure everyone had the proper equipment etc. the group headed out onto the water.

Almost full moon as we paddled through Brentwood Bay
We all followed Mike through the marinas and into Todd Inlet. The weather had cooled down a bit so it was really nice and the water was flat calm.  Not too many boats were anchored but the Coast Guard was still making the rounds checking on each boat to make sure they had all the regulation safety equipment.

At the end of Todd Inlet all the Purple Martens were sitting on their nest boxes and having a singalong when we arrived.  Nice to see them enjoying this nice weather too!  At this point we all cracked our blue glow sticks that Gary had provided as it was just turning dusk.

Another great fireworks show. It always is great to see from a kayak.

We paddled back up to the fireworks viewing area and found a nice stretch of beach to pull up on.  Our kayak seats and paddle floats made comfy seats for the show.  The fireworks started right at 9:45 and it was spectacular!!  We did see a few sparks go down into the trees but the sprinkler system engaged right away so I guess they've got that all figured out.

No the trees weren't on fire. It's just the "low" part of the show in behind them

When it was over we all put on our navigation lights and headed back to the launch point.  No phosphorescence in the water tonight but it was still a beautiful evening to paddle.  By the time we arrived back on the beach at Brentwood Bay at 11:15pm we were totally exhausted but really happy to be able to go kayaking.

The SISKA Fireworks Paddle track

2013 Paddle #45 SISKA Fireworks
Distance:  3.15 nm (5.83)
YTD:  243.53 nm (451.01 km)

Next week we start our holidays so there will be lots more paddle days in our future!!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mine is Lava, Her's is Emerald

After working hard (massage therapy & yoga) for the past couple of weeks to get my back functioning properly again we headed to the MEC Paddlefest at Willows Beach on Saturday. Last year we paddled to the event from Cadboro Bay but this year we were tasked with setting up the SISKA tent so we hauled all the display material in our truck with no kayaks and only the tie down straps. :-)

Arriving bright and early we located the designated SISKA spot along the upper walkway and went to work on getting everything ready. When it came time to put the pop up tent up we recognized that we had left the banners at home so Robyn went to get them while I finished off the set up procedure. The weather couldn't have been any better as we were blessed with a clear blue sky and almost next to no wind. What more could you ask for?? A kayak??

When our 10am crew came along to relieve us of our duties at the tent, Robyn and I ventured onto the sandy beach to check out all the demo kayaks and the ones designated for the MEC / P&H Kayaks Silent Auction. The one condition of the Silent Auction was that you had to take the kayak home with you right from the beach. Sure enough there was a brand new Emerald P&H Delphin 155 along with a few other plastic kayaks of the P&H brand that we were interested in. This might be an interesting day :-)

Robyn located the Coffee Demonstration which she was really wanted to check out as it provided options from the typical dehydrated brands we have been using on our kayak camping trips. No more out of a jar coffees for us in the future, only freshly brewed from now on.

Taking Rowan's Sterling Reflection for a test ride.

While was Robyn was doing her thing I went over to the Ocean River / Sterling Kayaks demo's and took a spin in Rowan Gloag's (The Hurricane Riders) Reflection. I was so amazed at how it handled even on flat water but I got the sense that this kayak really wants to go downhill on waves. :-) It was a great opportunity to paddle such a well known kayak. Yes I want one ..... sometime down the road. It was good to see John, Louise, Paula and Bernie of Kayak Yak checking some of the demo's out and I did a double take when John and Louise took a couple of Sterling kayaks out for a spin. Good for you guys!!!

The next kayak that I wanted try was the new P&H Hammer. At only 13.6 feet it is a hybrid between a white-water and sea kayak. My first impression was that it was super stable and with a simple single forward paddle stroke it could be turned 180 degrees. Performing bow rudder turns I was able to do U-Turns around the marker buoys almost by just touching the tip of my paddle blade in the water and applying and edge. My overall impression was that it was a fun kayak to play in but is probably suited to big rock garden surge channels and surfing.

After my play time, Robyn and I headed over to the Silva Bay Kayak Adventures tent where Hilary Masson and her mom Pat did an amazing job on showing the crowd how to make ling cod ceviche. After sampling the ceviche we decided that we would make a batch for ourselves for dinner that night which we did and it was really quite easy and tasted amazing! Another new kayak camping food to add to our list of possibilities when out on the water. Of course ... I still have to figure out how to catch fish or crabs first.

Robyn in a P&H Scorpio
Next it was Robyn's turn to test ride a few kayaks. She also took the opportunity to speak with P&H Rep Matt Nelson of Body Boat Blade, James Manke of All Things Qajaq, Rowan and a few others about the differences between the P&H kayaks. They pretty well said the same thing about each kayak which reconfirmed our thoughts as well. The MEC Paddlefest was the perfect opportunity to try the different versions of each one and it was evident while I watched her from the beach that she was very comfortable in the Delphin 155. That was it ..... time to start the bidding process.

Robyn test rides the "Emerald" P&H 155 Delphin

The rest of the afternoon we hung around the beach and at the SISKA tent while we waited for the Silent Auction to close at 3:30. As the time got closer to the end of the bidding process it really started to heat up. Even though the bids on the Delphin went a little higher than I thought it would, Robyn made one last bid with a few minutes left and then we held our breath waiting. One by one each kayak winning bid was announced and the Delphin was third up and Robyn's bid of $1050 did the trick. Retailing new for $1695 this was a great deal for a kayak that had only been used the day of the event and only had a few minor scuffs to show for it. Nice!!

So Robyn's previous purchase of the Lava Delphin 155 is now officially mine and her's is the Emerald Delphin 155. Now you know why we didn't bring our kayaks to the Paddlefest and only brought the tie down straps. :-)

Now the big question to consider when we head to the water.... "What kayak do you want to play in honey??"

2013 Paddle #43 Testing Kayaks
Distance:  Not really worth counting
YTD:  232.56 nm (430.70 km)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Where Are We?

With my back acting up a bit this week (lack of yoga) :-) I thought it would be a good time to write about a little device that Robyn and I have been using the past couple of months. 

When we first started kayaking our family and friends wanted to know if we were safe as we started to expand our time on the water and  venture on open water crossings. I carry a VHF radio which is a great tool to put out a distress call, make contact with other mariners or monitor weather conditions but it doesn't work as a means to contact those at home to tell them that we are safe. The same goes with our iPhone's which only work if you have cell coverage and we have been finding out lately that can be an issue as we expand our paddling expeditions into remote areas.

After doing a little research we decided to purchase a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger to keep in contact with our family members. The SPOT unit cost us only $99.95 (GPS City) and with an annual communication subscription cost of $99.99 we felt it was the perfect tool to add to our kayaking gear.

Height: 9.4 cm
Width: 6.6 cm
Thickness: 2.5 cm
Weight: 5.2 oz (147.4g)
Waterproof to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes
Operating Temp: -30C to 60C (-22F to 140F)
Operating Altitude: -100m to +6,500m (-328ft to +21,320ft)
 Battery Type: 3 AAA Lithium 8x - Energizer

What is the battery life of the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger? Based upon the table below and our experience this is pretty accurate.

Extreme cold or trying to send messages under extreme tree canopies need to be considered to extend battery life. If you have ever used a GPS device before in a forest like we have when Geocaching there are times when the GPS signal isn't very strong due to the tree coverage.

How does it work? Simply by accessing global positioning satellites (GPS), user predetermined messages are sent to either an internet email address, cell phone network or in the event of an emergency to the GEOS Rescue Coordination Center. After turning the SPOT on we wait until the GPS LED indicator is flashing and press the OK button to transmit our message. Once the message has been sent the little Envelope LED starts to flash. Currently we have our iPhone's as a contact too and sure enough the message reaches them within seconds of being sent.

The user creates a Check In / OK message that can be sent to up to 10 contacts. Below is an example from our recent D'arcy Island trip that let our contacts know that we are "Just checking in to let you know where we are. All is well". The contact also receives the Lat / Long coordinates which can be viewed either on the SPOT website or in Google Maps by the links provided in the message.

This is the function that we use a lot when launching, arriving at a rest or lunch stop or at the end of the day when we either arrive back at the put in location or at a destination location. Our families are grateful for this information and look forward to our messages. It simply takes the worry out of our kayaking adventures for them.

We also have a predetermined Help / SPOT Assist message that go to a number of selected contacts which simply tell them that we are OK but we need assistance in getting home. This is not an emergency rescue message but one that we would use in the case of an equipment failure such as a severely damaged kayak or possibly a non life threatening injury.

And then there is the SOS message for life-threatening or other critical situations to alert the GEOS International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center (IERCC). GEOS notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on your location and personal information – which may include local police, highway patrol, the Coast Guard, your country’s embassy or consulate, other emergency response centers, or search & rescue teams. 

This one we hope to never have to access. :-)

There are other options that we decided not to activate such as the ability to send out Track Progress points every 10 minutes. This feature was an additional $50 and we thought that although cool it isn't something that we would use. Where can it be used?? I think the map below will cover off all the areas we want to paddle in our lifetime.

We absolutely love the SPOT and wouldn't leave home without it. If you are a serious "Gear Head" like me (us) this is something that you might want to add to your essential safety equipment in the future.

Happy Paddling!