Friday, November 1, 2013

Surge Narrows Expeditions Day #1 Morning Session

Our weekend  expedition location at Surge Narrows on the north east corner of Quadra Island

Its been a few weeks since we have been on the water but this past weekend it was a combination of skills development and a lot of fun with a great bunch of people.

A few months back we heard of an Intro To Surge Narrows course being hosted by Huw Jones and Dave Nichols of Cowichan Bay Kayaks and we jumped at the opportunity to join them and 18 others at the Discovery Island Lodge located on the north end of Quadra Island.

So we loaded up the truck on Thursday (Halloween) afternoon and headed north to Campbell River to catch the BC Ferry over to Quadra Island. Arriving on the island just before 19:00 it was then a 30 km drive on a dark, misty windy, mostly gravel logging road to the lodge. The perfect scary road setting for a ghosts and goblins evening.

We were hoping we didn't take a wrong turn which is really hard to do considering it really is the only road heading that direction. Being the first ones to arrive at the dimly lit lodge just after 20:00pm a posted note on the door indicated the lodge was closed for the season but all the doors were left unlocked for our group.

Since we were the first to arrive we had our choice of the rooms and went to work unloading our kayaks and gear down to the dock area before heading upstairs to the main kitchen living room. Lannie & Ralph Keller own the lodge and they had left us a nice welcome note on the dining table as well as a nice warm fire burning in the wood stove.

Robyn in the main kitchen / dining / living area on the top floor of the lodge. The table can easily sit 20 people it's that big.

While waiting for some of the other members of the group to arrive later in the evening we explored the lodge a bit (at least what we could see in the dark) and then made dinner and a few drinks. An interesting point to note about the lodge is that it is not on the electric grid which means that it relies on solar, wind and a back up generator to charge the batteries that run the facility. There also is no internet or cell service at the location which means that the good old VHF radio is really the only means of communicating with others in the area. There sure were a lot of smart phones and laptops not being used over the weekend and it brought about a novel solution of talking while in the main living area.

Friday morning we woke up at 06:15 and headed upstairs where Susie Marsh was busy making pots of coffee for the expected early risers. Stepping out onto the balcony it was absolutely pitch black except for a single marker light that we could see in the distance at Whiterock Passage. As the dawn approached I could just make out the outlines of the surrounding islands that were starting to show themselves in the slight drizzle. Slowly the rest of the group made their way upstairs for breakfast and the morning float plan was laid out by Huw and Dave.

The lodge as seen from the dock. The main living area on the top floor and the second floor is
the sleeping quarters that sleeps 18.  Check out that cool kayak shed built by Susie and Gerhardt

Friday's clinic was going to be a little wet from above and below the water.

We participated in the Friday morning Surge Narrows clinic with Kevin, Rob, Jennifer and Will and were on the water at 09:00 in order to give us enough time to be at the training area for the slack current predicted for 10:30. With a max flood of 7.15 knots at around 12:15 we had to manage the time effectively to get our assisted rescue training at Peck Island completed before riding the main surf wave.

Getting ready to head out to Surge Narrows on a misty morning

The goal of our assisted rescue training was to simply assist a kayaker who is out of their kayak and in the current flow. Many kayakers can perform an assisted rescue in calm conditions and with relative ease but add building dynamic water and the simple task of holding onto gear or even the kayaker can be challenging.

Huw and Dave demonstrated the assisted rescue and then we paired up and performed it with each other. When I asked Robyn if she wanted me to go first she said “No” as she wanted to do it. A note here is that Robyn has only done a couple assisted rescues in the calm conditions of the Sooke River and many times in the pool. This was going to be her first real open water wet exit / assisted rescue.

Assisted rescue training. Robyn takes control of my kayak. Nice technique Honey!

What can I say other than she did an amazing job of wet exiting her kayak and got back in quickly once I provided the assistance that she needed. It was then my turn and again we performed the rescue. The key was keeping our time in the water to a minimum but also completing the re-entry correctly.

As the current continued to increase, the group worked on their ferrying skills across the main flow moving further and further up the channel. We then turned around and worked on low brace turns into the back eddies. Once everyone was comfortable with these skills Huw demonstrated a roll in the current flow while we all watched. Then I heard “OK Mark, your turn” and off I went letting my kayak edge the wrong way in the current resulting in me ending upside down.

Rolling in during the training session

A little bit to my surprise I pulled off the roll in the current, which was the first time that I have completed one in those conditions. My first two attempts at the PPS earlier this year weren't so graceful and when I got back to the group in the back eddy Dave asked me what I did to complete the roll. Very simple … while under water I relaxed, waited for the water to settle down around me, set up and reached for the surface with my paddle and then drove my legs (thanks James) in conjunction with my torso rotation to flow myself towards the back deck of my kayak. It was so fluid and I was super stoked to complete it those conditions.

Ya!!! That's the way to do it!!

We then made our way over to the main wave and took turns exiting the back eddy into the main current flow. Each time we did this I noticed that with the increase in current flow the angle of attack entering the wave had to be adjusted to keep the bow from being swept away downstream.

Robyn once again amazed me, taking control of her Delphin in these conditions. She never did need to be rescued, as she simply didn't end up in the water like I did a couple of times. The first time I went in was due to not keeping my paddle engaged with the water. Looking back at the video I was doing the high wire walker-balancing act with my paddle, which meant no bracing capability at all. I missed my roll by driving my knee out of the kayak (also seen on video) and then Robyn came to my rescue.

The no brace failure or maybe it's a sense of humor failure LOL

The ride down the current flow was a bit of a roller coaster as we were doing 360’s together once she reached me.

During a 360 Robyn has hold of my kayak while I'm holding on to her stern.
You can see how far we have come from the wave.

The second time I ended up in the water I simply didn't learn from my first rescue and while letting myself flow backwards off the wave I was caught by a whirlpool on my right side. Where was my paddle?? Yup… in the air (also on video) providing no bracing support at all. This time Huw provided the rescue and I was pretty annoyed at myself for ending up in the water again. Lesson learned … KEEP MY PADDLE ENGAGED AT ALL TIMES!!

After a few more runs on the wave the group headed back to the lodge for a debrief and lunch while we watched video taken by Dave and myself. The afternoon session would be a sightseeing tour with a little detour across Beazley Passage.

A close up of the training area and the main wave near the top of the track

2013 Paddle #66 Surge Narrows Training
Distance:  3.48 nm ( 6.44 km)
YTD:  366.42 nm ( 697.02 km)

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