Monday, June 30, 2014

Fine Tuning With Cowichan Bay Kayaks

Robyn and I headed to Cowichan Bay yesterday to firm up plans for our Paddle Canada Level 3 course with Cowichan Bay Kayaks September 25th-29th in the Deer Group. We are so excited for this opportunity and have a lot of homework to do in preparation for this 5 day program that will be taught completely in the outdoors.

Dave Nichols who is a PC Level 4 paddler, PC Level 2 Instructor was taking a family out on a 2 hour wildlife tour of the bay and he let us tag along.

Dave gets his group ready for the the wildlife tour. 

Heading out towards the Cowichan River estuary to see what wildlife could be found

The wonderful thing about a wildlife paddle is that it makes you look for the obvious that you might miss while just paddling. On this tour above the water we spotted Purple Martins, Blue Herons, Muted Swans, Belted Kingfishers, Cormorants, Harbour Seals and several Ospreys and their nesting areas. Below the water there were egg sacks on the Eel Grass (maybe herring?), Lion's Mane Jellyfish and the bay was blooming with what is know as Red Tide. I have seen red tide before but never this crimson in color. In many parts of the bay it was almost blood red.

A mating pair of Ospreys guard their nest of chicks that recently hatched. 

While Dave was talking about the various creatures that the tour was seeing an Osprey was aggressively chasing away a Blue Heron that got too close to a nesting area. Just sitting back and watching nature in action is very cool. We all need to just be more observant to what is happening around us to see it.

The tour then headed into Genoa Bay which is a very small community near the south end of Sansum Narrows. There is a marina and the local favorite Genoa Bay Cafe that many pleasure craft visit each day.

Entering Genoa Bay

Janette, Dave and Dean with his son Easton paddle into the marina.

Robyn finds an orca ... well at least another statue of one.

After the wildlife tour Robyn and I headed back onto the water with Dave for a little coaching in preparation of our upcoming PC Level 3 course. Unknown to ourselves, Dave was assessing of paddling ability while on the wildlife tour and in particular our paddling strokes that we were using. After Robyn completed her rolling session, Dave then put us through a series of paddle strokes to blend them together to increase our ability to maneuver the kayak.

The reverse low brace .... never thought of that one before but I can see why I might need it.

We finished the day off with some rescues and paddling drills that we can use on our own over the next couple of months. We'll be going back to Cowichan Bay Kayaks in August for another tune up prior to our September course. Thanks Huw & Dave for a great day!

2014 Paddle # 22 Cowichan Bay Kayaks
Distance: 4.75 nm (8.8 km)
YTD: 114.58 nm (212.2 km)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mid Week Playtime

Summer time means late afternoon paddle fun so I headed off to Cadboro Bay with Gary and Jane Jacek on Tuesday evening for a little paddle around Cadboro Point. For Jane this was her first paddle in some time as she is a full time teacher and recently completed her graduate diploma. Now it's time for her to unwind a bit and get back on the water. Robyn and I will be joining Jane and Gary in a couple of weeks when we head to the Bunsby Islands for 11 days.

Gary assists Jane to get her foot pegs adjusted.

We headed to Cadboro Point and played in the currents as the ebb was just starting to pick up. I decided to leave some P&H (Lava) Delphin on some of the rocks when I managed to get hung upon one in the midst of a turn. That's what plastic kayaks are for anyway .... having fun rock gardening!

Gary photo bombs .... again LOL

Jane heading back through Cadboro Point. Two weeks ago Robyn and I couldn't paddle through here due to no water.

The great thing about living in Victoria is that we are only minutes away from the water in all directions so evening paddles are becoming more popular with us. Next up .... we are heading to Cowichan Bay on Sunday to paddle with Cowichan Bay Kayaks for a little refresher training.

2014 Paddle # 21 Cadboro Bay Playtime
Distance: 4.56 nm (8.44 km)
YTD: 109.83 nm (203.4 km)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

BCMTN Musgrave Point

This past weekend we attended the BC Marine Trails Network sign posting event at Musgrave Point on Saltspring Island.

The rear hatches loaded. The front hatches were the same ... almost empty.
But first ... over the past couple of years we have refined our kayak camping gear and the loading of our Delta 15.5's. On this trip we found that we had at least 50% of unused space in each kayak! This extra space will come in handy when we head out on a 10 day trip next month. Maybe we could lease out the space to the other kayakers in our group! LOL

Now you know why we call them our mini vans!

Launching out of Sidney (Amherst Beach) at 2:30 pm on Friday we made it to the Musgrave Point camping area around 6:00 pm and we were more than a little sun baked from the fantastic summer weather that has settled onto the south coast. Although we have paddled past the Musgrave Point camping area before we had never come ashore to see what amenities were available. Though there is a little hike up a bank, once you reach the designated camping location there is enough room for several tents, a brand new picnic table and the 20 year old outhouse which has been totally refurbished by the Saltspring Island Kayaking Club. Nice!

Robyn tries to unwind from the paddle and set up before we start to make dinner.

Plenty of space to store the kayaks overnight on the beach.

By the time we cooked dinner and socialized a bit it was just after 9:00 pm and we were ready for bed. The next morning we were up bright and early (7:30 ish), had a quick breakfast and packed up our gear to get ready for the flotilla that was expected to arrive around 10:30 am. Sure enough the 70+ paddlers from all over the island and the mainland descended on our location right on time.

Here comes the group from Cowichan Bay

Michael Pardy was in charge of assembling the flotilla so that we would look some what organized for the media pictures as we paddled ashore for the event .

Michael Pardy rallies the paddlers on hand.

It couldn't have been a better day in terms of the weather and conditions for the paddlers to make the crossing to Musgrave Point for this historic event.

Lots of familiar faces at the sign posting. It was great to see everyone again.

The BCMTN President, Stephanie Meinke (Nanaimo Paddlers) thanked everyone for attending such a special event in the history of the organization and the paddling community. Robyn tried to steal the spotlight as she took a little side trip off her chair. LOL

Paul Grey (Nanaimo Paddlers, Cowichan Kayak & Canoe Club) and Secretary, Alan Thomson (RCABC and VCKC) bolted the first BCMTN sign in place while Treasurer, Robyn (SISKA, Nanaimo Paddlers) and Reed Clarke did the honors of christening the sign with sea water. How fitting!

After the event, Robyn, Reed and I headed to Portland Island 8.30 nm's away. The paddle down to the south end of Saltspring Island was into a pretty good head wind but as we rounded the corner we were greeted with calm conditions and just a little ebb current to assist us towards our destination.

A quick pit stop at the end southern end of Saltspring Island to stretch the legs.

Arriving at Arbutus Point we had the whole campsite to ourselves other than the semi resident UVIC bird watching team that we meet back in April. It turns out that they will be on the island until August recording the activities of the Song Sparrow.

Aaaah! Camp is set up ... time for some wine and beer!

While relaxing, four hikers came to the point and I thought I recognized one of them. After they explored the point and stated to make their way back up the trail I asked the last person in their group. "Are you Russell Henry?" Sure enough it was Russell! What the heck??? This young man had just completed the record breaking solo circumnavigation of Vancouver Island and here he was back out on the water again. Actually he came by motorboat and was giving some family members a tour around the island by foot. We chatted for a few minutes and he shared a few tidbits of his latest adventure. Note to self ..... get picture with famous person next time!

Looking southeast with great marine conditions and nothing but blue skies.

Views like this keep us coming back to one of our favorite campsites. It's strange that we seem to always have the campground to ourselves.

Mt. Baker above South Pender Island.

One of the resident bandits came to visit us as we lounged in the sun. He had other plans .... ZZZZZZzzzzzz before he would start his nocturnal habits of checking out the camp for leftovers. He was actually pretty good and didn't bother us a bit.

Another Portland Island sunset ..... we never get tired of them :-)

Lots of paddling on this trip but it is good preparation for our big trip in July. Thanks for stopping by to read our adventures.

2014 Paddle #18, 18, 20 BCMTN Musgrave Point
Distance: 24.36 nm (45.11 km)
YTD: 105.27 nm (194.96 km)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Practice Makes Perfect .... Or At Least Better!

Launching at low tide in Telegraph Bay.

Goal number one ...... get wet! That meant it was practice time as Robyn and I headed to Telegraph Bay on Sunday to work on some high brace, edging, turning strokes, rolling and static bracing skills. Other than my GoPro I decided not to take my waterproof point and shoot because I figured we wouldn't need it. Robyn had hers but we really didn't plan on taking any pictures since we would be under the water a bit.

Heading to Cadboro Point

We did go for a little warm up paddle to Cadboro Point to see what was happening around the islets in hopes of doing a little rock gardening. But ... there was no water! 

At high tide there is a river of water running through here to practice in. Not today though.

We headed back to Telegraph Bay and did some static bracing using paddle floats while we focused on getting our torso square to the cockpit. This is where yoga really comes in handy and we quickly realized that we need to do more of it. 

A static brace is a great way to rest while

Robyn is a natural at it

While we were busy practicing we heard a little kid on the beach yell "Whales" and sure enough behind us a pod of orca with a calf swam past us. By the time we got turned around they had moved south of the bay towards Cadboro Point, and me without my camera! So cool regardless and a great way to end the practice session. 

2014 Paddle #17  Telegraph Bay Practice
Distance: 3.09 nm (5.72 km)
YTD: 80.91 nm (150.76 km)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Discovery Island Just A Different Way

It just wasn't supposed to be a typical kayak camping trip. Different kayaks, a different route and certainly different paddling conditions to assess our decision making and paddling skills to date. Our destination was the Discovery Island Marine Park was familiar but for this trip we decided to use our P&H Delphins and launch from the Oak Bay Marina. Our reasoning was simple. After using our Delta 15.5 Expeditions as our tripping kayaks for the past couple of years, we needed to test our Delphins as tripping kayaks in preparation for our upcoming Paddle Canada Level 2 & 3 certifications.  

After completing a pre-pack of the Delphins earlier in the week we confirmed that our camping kit and supplies would all fit in the kayaks. One thing for sure is that a Delphin is more like a VW Beetle compared to what we call the Delta's .... our mini vans because they haul so much gear. Every nook and cranny in the Delphins were used and other than our Watershed Ocoee bags which were attached to the decks everything else made its way into the hatches.

Final suit up begins as the fully loaded P&H Delphins are ready for the trip.

For quite some time I had been curious how a fully loaded Delphin might perform and on this trip the conditions that they would be tested in were perfect for assessing that. The marine forecast was for clear skies with winds SW 15-20 late in the day and monitoring the conditions throughout the day there was a window of opportunity for us to at least launch and test the Delphin's stability. Making it to Discovery Island would only happen if the conditions were right.

As in all of our planning, I build a series of  'Go, No Go' decision points as the paddle progresses and today this would be put to the greatest test to date. Leaving the sheltered marina we headed out towards the Chain Islands which were the mid point to Discovery Island. Passing Mary Todd Island we entered Mayor Channel into a SW 3 foot chop with cresting tops coming from our starboard side. This combined with an increasing flood from the same direction got my attention really fast as we made our way to Great Chain Island. For the first time in our paddling adventures I was about to call a 'No Go' and return to the launch point.

But .... assessing the conditions ahead of us in Plumper Passage there was no evidence of whitecaps so WE made the decision to press on to the last of the Chain Islets. Other than a really good wind assisted flood which was coming directly from behind us we literally surfed our way across the passage to Discovery Island doing just over 5 knots! Our original plan when reaching Discovery was to turn right and paddle around Commodore Point into the BC Marine Park Campground in Rudlin Bay but the point was awash with breaking whitecaps. Another 'No Go' decision as we opted to surf our way into the shallows between the Chatham and Discovery Islands.

Making our way around the east side of  Discovery Island the winds were calm and the water was absolutely flat but as we approached the lighthouse at Sea Bird Point I knew that would all change really fast. And it did! Making the turn directly into the 20 kt SW winds with flood the last 10 minutes of paddling would be our greatest physical test to date. The fact that we had to paddle through a kelp bed didn't help but we pressed on and entered the confined shelter bay of the marine park and we were a bit surprised to find the campground completely empty. I really wished that I had the GoPro on for this crossing as it would have made for some great pictures and video.

The sea state off Commodore Point just after our landing. The picture doesn't do justice of how windy it was when we arrived.

After setting up camp it was getting close to 8:00 pm as we prepared a dinner of fish tacos and the wind didn't let up. In fact it howled all night and I for one was thankful that I brought my earplugs as I didn't hear a peep until 7:00 am the next morning.

Robyn ... One happy camper that we made it safely to the campsite. Time for dinner!

The next day we woke to brilliant sunshine and with just a slight breeze and we were expecting that we would have guests arriving throughout the day. The Ocean River Discovery Shuttle  and the South Island Sea Kayaking Association (SISKA) were sure to be coming to the island today so just after breakfast we headed out for a walk to the lighthouse with a slight detour to find a nearby Geocache.

Robyn retrieves our supplies from the food cache for breakfast. No wind in the mornings.

The Discovery Island Lighthouse is now deserted having been fully automated in 1996

Established in 1886 the Discovery Island lighthouse was manned for 110 years before being automated in 1996. The buildings have been left to deteriorate and there is evidence of vandalism in most of the buildings. This lighthouse facility would make a fabulous museum instead of letting it disappear from BC's maritime history.

A view from the lighthouse of the kelp bed that we paddled through the night before in heavy seas.

Just after we arrived back at camp the Ocean River Discovery Shuttle came into the bay with a full load of customers. To our surprise the tour actually paddled around the island and not just in bay. What a great day to paddle around the island for these lucky tourists!

The Ocean River Discovery Shuttle with a full load of kayaks and passengers

Not long after the SISKA paddlers also arrived and we spent some time talking with our fellow club members. Suddenly our quiet little campsite became very busy for a few hours.

The SISKA paddlers land on the beach for their lunch break.

A popular place to visit today

And then it was quiet again.

After everyone left we went for a walk to Commodore Point via the inner island trail which we have never done before. Such a beautiful trail and we kept a close eye out for the wolf which we never did see.

Arriving at the point we noticed a lot of activity heading our way from the Chain Islands. To our surprise the Island Iron 18 km outrigger race was taking place today and we had front row seats as they passed by us.

The Ocean River Paddling Club chases down the competition from False Creek

The outriggers pass our camp and round Sea Bird Point with a freighter nearby.

On the way back to camp we noticed a plaque on a rock face obscured by blackberry vines. It was erected in 1972 by the Boy Scouts of Canada in memory of Captain E.G. Beaumont who lived on the island from 1918 to 1967. After he died he passed on his share of the island to the Province of BC who in turn made it a park in 1972.

A nice honor from the Boy Scouts of Canada

Lots of eagles rode the wind currents around the camp

Saturday afternoon the winds returned and we took shelter in the tent not long after the sun set around 9:00 pm. The forecast for Sunday was much the same as Saturday with light winds in the morning. Waking up at around 5:30 am we had breakfast and decided to take advantage of the slack tide so we were on the water by 8:30 am heading back to Oak Bay.

While loading up the kayaks we finally heard the Discovery Island wolf howling just beyond the campsite. This was the first time that we had ever heard a wolf and it was amazing as well as very eerie. You just had a sense that it was being made by a very large animal.

The paddle back to the Oak Bay Marina was as expected with very little current running through the Chain Islands. We actually decided that we prefer our usual route from 10 Mile Point to Discovery Island for a number of reasons. Still it was a great weekend of further exploring our paddling and decision making abilities.

Almost back at the marina, Robyn pauses with the Olympic mountains and Victoria Golf Club in the background.

2014 Paddle #15 &16  Discovery Island
Distance: 7.39 nm(13.68 km)
YTD: 77.82 nm (145.04 km)