Monday, October 14, 2013

Just An Ordinary Paddle

Our launch area at Pedder Bay. By not using the ramp there are no fees

Sunday morning Robyn and I decided to head out with the hopes of another encounter with the transient Orcas that we came across on Saturday or maybe a pod of the residents that frequent the area. The south coast has been "alive" with whale sightings recently and we have been blessed to have some very close encounters with these amazing mammals. We felt our chances were pretty good for another sighting so off we went from Pedder Bay following the eastern shoreline towards William Head.

The weather, wind, tide and current forecasts were perfect for an exploration day that could be modified as we paddled. Sun, no wind, gentle rising tide and most importantly in our case today we would be paddling into a slack tide around Race Rocks.

Calm conditions at William Head with Victoria in the background

Strange rock formation at William Head would make a great Earthcache for Gecko Cacher ;-) 

For some reason we kinda expected to see Orcas again (like Saturday) deep inside the bay and when it happen it didn't take long for that disappointment to set in. However as we made our way around William Head we decided to modify our paddle plan by heading towards Race Rocks which as it turns out presented us with some amazing encounters along the way.

A great picture of Robyn and the conditions we were paddling in heading to Race Rocks

About half way across Pedder Bay we noticed a single stationary sightseeing boat about a mile south of us and it wasn't long before we spotted whale tail flukes and very loud "blows". As I watched the aerial display of the whales I realized the scale of the tail flukes compared to the whale boat was way too big for Orcas. There was only one explanation .... grey or humpback whales. Sure enough as we got a little closer on our way to Race Rocks the tell tail (pun) sign of the blow, humped back and then the huge tail coming out of the water confirmed our thoughts. Very cool .... our first "big" whales. Note: Back at camp we found out that the whales were Greys from some fishing guides.

Thousands of seagull in the distance feeding on some sort of bait.

Continuing towards Race Rocks there were literally thousands of seagulls in a feeding frenzie just off our starboard side and then Robyn said to me "There's a couple of Dall's Porpoise right next to you". Sure enough dorsal and tail fins started to appear less than a couple meters away but they weren't Dall's at all but a school of Coho Salmon! Holy cow, where's my fishing gear when I needed it??  

Keeping and eye on what the currents were doing as we crossed Race Passage we headed towards a couple of the smaller islets on north side of the Ecological Reserve. As we were coming up on the turn towards the ebb flow we started to notice the water moving west very slowly towards the Pacific. Keeping caution on our side we decided that our stay at the Reserve would be short before heading back towards Bentinck Island.

The kelp bed made for a good resting place to take pictures of the lighthouse.

The barking of the Sea Lions at the lighthouse were very loud as we paddled into a kelp bed which allowed us to stay in place while taking pictures. The kelp bed was also a resting spot for a flock of Heermann's Gulls  which didn't mind the least that we were sharing their spot.

A Sea Lion behind my Delphin
It wasn't long before a couple of Sea Lions came by to see what we were up to and although they snorted and swam closer to us they didn't display any aggressive posturing. A few times they dove under our kayaks and we could see them at a depth of probably 15 feet looking up at us while they were inverted (belly towards the surface).

We thought about paddling around the kelp bed but there were a few too many Sea Lions in the water for our comfort. It might have been because of the number of sightseeing boats now at Race Rocks that they took to the water. The Sea Lions that habitat Race Rocks are huge mammals and their sheer size is a little unnerving when they approach us in our kayaks. Sometimes it is best to just let them be and leave the area.

This Sea Lion (center right ) seemed to like Robyn as it kept coming back to see what she was up to.

An ocean container  freighter in the distance and a couple of the sightseeing
boats that were watching the Grey whales that we saw earlier.

One last picture of the lighthouse and it was time to start heading back towards Pedder Bay. One of the planned items for this paddle was for Robyn to try her first rolls in the ocean. So we headed over to the east side of the bay to a little cove that we call "Hole In The Wall" as you can enter it through a little passage in the rocks nearby.

Entering the "Hole In The Wall" into the secluded little cove to work on some rolling skills.

The little beach inside the cove

While I stood waist deep in the water, Robyn completed several rolls for the first time in the ocean. She did a great job using both a Euro and Greenland paddle so now all it comes down to is more rolling in the ocean environment to get better at them. I do have to say that after spending about 10 minutes in the water with Robyn I was absolutely frozen from the waist down in my drysuit. It thought that maybe my suit was leaking but it was the just the fact that I had a single cotton layer on inside the suit. Next time we practice rolling in the ocean I'm going to have to layer up better. I can only imagine what it would be like to be in the water for that long without immersion gear.

After our little practice session it was time to head back to marina and relax in the warm sunshine around our campsite. This by far was an amazing weekend of kayaking in Pedder Bay and we think everything was just a bit out of the ordinary :-)

2013 Paddle #64 Ordinary Paddle
Distance:  8.09 nm ( 14.98 km)
YTD:  362.94 nm ( 690.58 km)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gecko Paddler Adventure Tours

In our wildest dreams would we ever thought that we would be able to take four relatively new kayakers out for a paddle with us and they would see something that they would never forget. Best of all ... no sightseeing whale boat required.

After changing our plans to go kayak camping for the Thanksgiving long weekend we are back at the Pedder Bay RV Resort. Our RV camping buddies Dave and Kelly are also here and fellow geocachers / new kayakers Drew and Marie Fidoe came for a paddle with the four of us today. Our goal was pretty simple ... a real lazy paddle up one side of the bay and back down the other. 

Paddling along the west side of the bay towards Watt Point we explored the rock gardens just showing themselves in the rising tide. I think we all heard that distinctive blow sound that could only be one thing and sure enough across the bay near Weir Point there were orca! Less than 150 meters away two orca were slowly making their way out of the shallow confined waters of the bay towards William Head. 

Exploring the little bays towards William Head, the orca were searching for seals in the little bay just before Ned Point where the corrections facility is located. They rapidly started crossing back and forth around the rock islets where we have seen many seals before and then disappeared around William Head. When we arrived at the point we found the seals tucked into the nooks and crannies of the islets that protected them from the orca. It was interesting to watch the seals as they refused to enter the water when we paddled by and they sure had a "scared" look. I don't blame them.

Whale boat in the distance with myself, Drew and Marie near William Head

Funny thing was that we could see whale watching tour boats running back and forth near Race Rocks in the distance. We, in our human powered watercraft had just experienced something special that I think we will all remember for a long time. After reaching the tip of William Head our group got a view of downtown Victoria in the sunshine and it was time for us to head across the bay and make our way back towards the marina.

Heading across Pedder Bay in a nice tight group towards the DND dock.

As we made our way along the shoreline the sun broke through the clouds and warmed us up. Passing the DND dock Kelly spotted the two orca again following the course that we had just done crossing the bay. If we had just spent a few more minutes before crossing the bay we probably would have got another visit from the orca.

The rest of the paddle was a chance for the group to explore the shoreline and I took advantage of the slow pace to work on some rolls and strokes with my Greenland paddle. We made our way into the marina where Marie found a water accessible geocache close by. Drew was checking out an eagle that we spotted close by while Dave and Kelly explored the slough a bit more. While Marie was locating the geocache I tried out my new integrated Greenjacket PFD tow system on Robyn. I was really pleased how easy it was to use and most importantly it didn't tug on my lower back.  

Who's eagle eyeing who? Drew watches an eagle keeping close watch on the marina fish cleaning station

Dave & Kelly ... starting to become pros in the rental gear. Maybe it's time to take that next step?? ;-)

Robyn and Marie geocaching by water

An awesome day on the water with Gecko Cacher Adventure Tours. BTW .... Weir Point will now forever be known to us as Killer Whale Point.

2013 Paddle #63 Gecko Paddler Adventure Tours
Distance:  4.93 nm ( 9.13 km)
YTD:  354.85 nm ( 675.60 km)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Going A Bit Further

Our camping buddies (Dave & Kelly) had to head home this morning so Robyn and I headed out to do a little bit more exploring out of Pedder Bay towards Beecher Bay.

First off, great news arrived yesterday as the 2nd Pacific Paddling Symposium was announced for 2014. The event is going to be held again at The Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific May 30th - June 1st. next year. Staying at Pedder Bay we paddle past this venue heading out to play in what we call our backyard play area.

Robyn paddles past the The Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific boat docks

The forecast for today was for a mix of sun and cloud but the winds were supposed to increase from E 5 - 15 to a predicted Gale Force Warning later in the day. So we headed out just after breakfast with the goal of paddling west towards Beecher Bay which for some reason we just haven't made it to before.  Paddling into Eemdyck Passage on the last of the ebb we saw the hundreds of migrating (thanks Marie) Turkey Vultures again over Bentinck Island. This time I had my camera ready to capture the flock riding the thermals.

Can you count how many there are in this picture? This was only a small fraction of the Turkey Vultures visible.

Passing Christopher Point we were now into new territory as we paddled into Whirl Bay riding the back eddy along the shoreline of the DND property. As I came around the point, the small island in the picture below was a stark contrast in colors with all the waterfowl there. Just as I started taking pictures a huge Stellar Sea Lion came roaring (both verbally and fast) towards me and it kinda startled me for a second. Once he surfaced closer to me for the second time he quickly passed behind me and that was the last that we saw of him on the paddle. Massive animals whose bark is worse than their bite when they charge at our kayaks to defend their territory.

One thing we noticed about Whirl Bay was how rugged the area was and only a few crevices provided the opportunity for us to land for a rest stop. We did however find a spot to stretch our legs and I spotted an orange object just above the high water line. With further investigation I found that it was a hard hat but very close by was a spent ammunition container like the many that can be found washed up on the beaches all around the DND facility.


The other thing we noticed was the number and variety of gulls in the area and it was due to the amount of bait fish (minnows?) in the area. There were so many fish that the water below our kayaks shimmered like a silver coins flowing down a river.

On this paddle we made it to Church Point / Island just as the flood was starting and with the E-SE breeze it was time to start heading back towards Pedder Bay. The flood against increasing wind would make for a sloppy paddle back so we chose the more cautious plan. There was just enough of a layer of high fog forming around the point that we noticed the change in the temperature even though the sun was shining. The change in the weather was coming and we could see it in the cloud formations coming from the west.

Seals in Eemdyck Passage with a loaded super tanker in the distance heading out towards the Pacific

Heading back into Eemdyck Passage we decided to circumnavigate Bentinck Island. The many seals that reside in the passage came to see what we were up to. They are so curious but that's about it when it comes to interacting with kayakers, not like their pinniped buddy we encountered earlier.

The water around Bentinck was as expected a little sloppy from the wind, current and the many whale boats roaring by. We didn't see indication of whales in the area but the boats did head to Race Rocks to let the tourists see the very noisy Sea Lions that we could hear.

Thousands of seagulls around Rocky Point greeted us as we paddled back towards Pedder Bay as there was lots of bait fish in the water. I think we saw every type of seagull that could be possible at this location but thankfully they weren't flying above us :-)

Arriving back at camp we relaxed in the sun and drank a wonderful bottle of Malbec that Dave & Kelly left for us on our RV step. The perfect way to finish the day off.

2013 Paddle #62 Out Of Pedder Bay
Distance:  9.73 nm ( 18.02 km)
YTD:  349.92 nm ( 666.47 km)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Gobble, Gobble

What day does that happen? Answer, Canadian Thanksgiving and we are at Pedder Bay RV Resort with Dave and Kelly Reaville for the 4 day long weekend to celebrate except ...... it isn't Thanksgiving! In a nutshell we got our 2013 holiday dates all mixed up last year when we booked our sites for this weekend and only figured it out about a month ago. With no hope of getting the our preferred sites for next weekend we decided to go camping anyway. Besides, it gives us another long weekend next week for another kayak adventure.

Putting in at the marina with the local seal in the background

So maybe we picked the right weekend to camp anyway after the south coast just emerged from the first wind and rain storm during the past week. With the forecast looking pretty good Robyn and I went for a paddle on Friday morning towards Bentinck Island to play in some currents using our P&H Delphins.

Robyn paddling past the marina towards The Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific

One of the things about paddling from the sheltered marina in Pedder Bay is that you really don't know what conditions you might get once outside of the bay. Although the marine forecast (SE 5-15) and current predictions (+3.2 kts) give you a rough idea of what might be happening in the area, the rest was up to us to assess the actual conditions to determine where our paddle might take us.

Approaching Edye Point the 10 kt SE against the flood was producing a 2 foot chop that we would have to keep an eye on as we headed into Eemdyck Passage. As I expected, the entrance to the passage had a bit of a rip which we played in before heading over to Bentinck Island riding the back eddies towards George Point.

Race Rocks Lighthouse from George Point

Although we have seen turkey vultures before in the area, today there were a couple hundred riding the thermals above Bentinck Island which was really neat to see. We never knew that there were that many around here and even though they are considered to be one of the ugliest looking birds they are very graceful in flight.

We had planned to circumnavigate Bentinck but there was a very big rip from the opposing wind against current on the south side of the island which we decided not to tackle by ourselves. Instead we just let the flood carry us back through the passage past all the seals on the many rocky islets.

Heading back into Pedder Bay we played in the rock gardens before crossing over towards Weir Point and into the little protected bay that we visit frequently to practice rolling.

After last weekend's paddle, I have started to feel really comfortable using my Greenland paddle in the Delphin and so I committed to use it again for this paddle in more challenging conditions. One thing for sure is that I really like it for rolling and look forward to learning more of the Greenland rolling techniques.

One thing that most kayakers will agree upon is diversity of wildlife that can be seen from the water. Thinking back to what we saw right from our put in I think this is our list. Seals, female Common Merganser, 2 baby Raccoons, Mink, Turkey Vultures (hundreds), Eagles, Falcons, Oystercatchers, Blue Herons, Kingfishers, Canada Geese, and of course Heermann's Seagulls.

We also explored some more of the features on our Fuji XP50 cameras using the continuous picture mode of 12 pictures in 1.5 seconds. In particular I wanted to see what would happen shooting under water and the results were exactly what I was looking for. Now only if a seal would swim by. :-)

2013 Paddle #61 Turkey Run
Distance:  6.66 nm ( 12.34 km)
YTD:  340.19 nm ( 648.45 km)