Sunday, October 19, 2014

Baynes Channel, Discovery Island and Birthday Girl

Every once in awhile life just gets in the way of blogging and the past couple of weeks has been a flurry of activity for Robyn and I. Between our activities with the BC Marine Trails Network Association and our other volunteer commitments, this post just sat in the draft box while I found time finish it. So here we go ......

It was supposed to be a stormy day on the west coast with 25-30 knot winds from the SE by noon. But where did it go? Hardly a breath of wind anywhere to be seen. It really didn't matter as this paddle was all about being with a bunch of friends celebrating Reale's birthday and she wanted to go paddling.

Reale can really navigate her kayak both from inside and outside the cockpit. :-)

After a ceremonial dump of the birthday girl in the water by yours truly :-) we assembled on the water off the Gyro Park beach in Cadboro Bay. While waiting for everyone Reale demonstrated her dexterity skills by playing on the top deck of her kayak. She really loves her kayak!

Our group of 12 left Cadboro Bay and headed towards Discovery Island for lunch but first we decided to play in the flood tide race at Baynes Channel that was just off the marker at Cadboro Point. In all the times we have been going over to Discovery Island I have never seen a flood tide race before when the current was only running at around 3 knots. But then again, Baynes Channel always shows a different face every time we cross her no matter what the conditions are. 

Making our way across to the Chatham Islands we gathered in the slough that is a popular current training location. Robyn and I did our first currents course here with Yves of Go Kayak who was also on this paddle with us. Today however there wasn't much water movement but it gave us a chance to relax a bit while we waited for Michel to catch up with the rest of us. It also allowed myself to get out of my kayak and stretch a bit as my hips were giving me grief. That has never happened before but I think I know why.

The "slough" catch area was pretty still today. Still, a beautiful day for a paddle!

Our next stop would be the Discovery Island Marine Park campground for lunch so we headed through the middle of the islands and then along the eastern shoreline of Discovery to the park. There was just a little bit of a swell coming in that allowed some of the group to play a bit in the surge waves near the lighthouse.

Discovery Island in the distance. Not a storm cloud in sight

Arriving at our lunch stop we basked in the early fall sunshine. The weather patterns over the past couple of weeks have started to turn towards the normal wet season after an unbelievable dry summer. There won't be many more days like today as we head towards winter so we better enjoy it.

L to R: Robyn, Jo, Susie, Beverely, Michael, Walter, Michel, Patti

The paddle back to Gyro Park was pretty uneventful in terms of the sea state and weather. Nothing but glorious sunshine and hardly any current activity in Baynes Channel. For me however it was a different story. Just entering the channel I found that I was experiencing excruciating pain in my hips and simply found it difficult sit upright and paddle. I never thought I would have to ask for assistance while paddling but today I gladly accepted the fact that I needed a little tow help. Robyn and Susie were paddling close by so they teamed up to in-line tow me back across the channel to Flower Island. It was just like on our PC3 course but this time it was "No Duff". Thanks girls!

The source of my hip pain? I decided to start my running routine the day before and even though it was only a short 20 minute session I felt soreness when I woke up. Thinking a good paddle would limber me up I was mistaken as my hips muscles became increasingly sore throughout the day. Looking back at it now it might have been a good day to stand down but at the time of launching I felt pretty good. One thing for sure it's time to get back to my daily yoga Yin practice which I need to do anyway to improve my core rotation in the kayak.

Coming up next: Rock Gardening with Rowan and Costain (SKILS)

2014 Paddle # 52 - Baynes Channel / Discovery Island
Distance: 9.60 nm (17.77 km)
YTD: 276.65 nm (512.34 km)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thanksgiving At Pedder Bay

It's becoming an annual tradition to spend the weekend at Pedder Bay RV Resort & Marina for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our friends Dave & Kelly Reaville were also spending the weekend there so it was a great way to unwind with no plans other than for the food festivities which we seem to over indulge in every year.

On Friday Robyn and I headed out for a simple relaxing paddle to explore the coastline of the bay. It's been a while since we just went for a paddle without focusing on practicing skills but still it was a good opportunity to use the GoPro to have a look at our paddle strokes.

What? The play kayaks again?? 

I think it is fair to say that most paddlers don't pay enough attention to the stroke that is used the most. The forward paddle stroke is the #1 means of propulsion for a kayaker and for most of us it is a work in progress to seek maximum efficiency. On this paddle I did a simple bit of math to determine how many forward strokes that I used today. Completing several one minute trials while paddling at a comfortable 2 - 3 knots I determined that I was averaging about 65 strokes per minute.

Now that doesn't seem like a lot but let me put this into perspective. Our paddle was 2.25 hours or 135 minutes in duration so paddling at an average of 65 strokes per minute equaled roughly 8775 (+/- 5%) forward paddle strokes that I used on this very relaxing paddle. 8775!! Now I have to ask you, how efficient is your forward paddle stroke? If you have the opportunity to video yourself using a GoPro you should do it! Look to see if you are just using your arms or if you are also engaging your torso core for every type of paddle stroke. If you are just using your arms then I would imagine that after 8775 strokes they are going to hurt a bit. Something to think about next time you head out on the water.

Robyn paddling past Cracked Rock at the entrance to Eemdyck Passage.

We did have a little fun playing in the rock gardens on the way back into the bay and every once and a while a rock would swim up underneath our kayaks to see what we were doing :-) That's our story and we are sticking too it!

On Sunday we decided it was a skills day so we headed out to work in Eemdyck Passage where the current was running at about 3 knots on the ebb. It's a great place to practice crossing the eddy lines and use ferrying techniques to work our way back "up stream".

Robyn also wanted to work on her edging in combination with her bow rudder turns so we spent a lot of time navigating through the exposed rocks and again every once and a while a darn rock would swim up under my kayak. :-)

Heading back to our launch point we came across these little critters. A family of river otters wondering what the heck we were doing making all the noise in the rock gardens. Sorry guys!

It was a great day of skills practice that ended in Robyn working on her roll. She is so close to nailing them down 100% of the time and I'm so proud of her determination to make it happen. 2015 should be an exciting year of training, big trips, assessments and most of all ..... doing it with my paddling buddy. I'm thankful for her experiencing this pastime with me! I love you Robyn!

2014 Paddle # 50 - Friday Relaxed Paddle
Distance: 6.31 nm ( 11.68 km)
YTD: 261.08 nm (483.82 km)

2014 Paddle # 51 - Sunday Skills Paddle
Distance: 5.97 nm (11.05 km)
YTD: 267.05 nm (494.57 km)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Practice Time ..... Really?

Well it has been an amazing summer of completing our first "big" multi day trip on the west coast and spending a lot of time practicing for our Paddle Canada certifications that we recently completed. One might think it would be time to take a break and just paddle a bit ...... heck no it's time to work on refining some skills in the tropical conditions of the local pool!

Robyn and I were back at it again last Sunday focusing on her rolling which she completed several times on her own (nice!) and a number of other self and assisted rescues that are now part of our skill set. There were only 8 of us in the pool for this session which also included the members of the Bunsby 2014 expedition so there was lots of space to work on a lot of things including paddle strokes.

Normally we launch by climbing into the kayak from the pool deck which really is a pain in the butt so we decided to just start off with a self rescue reentry. 

This coming weekend we are heading to the Pedder Bay RV Resort & Marina for a little R&R but I have a feeling that Robyn wants to do some ocean rolls. Go figure .... she wants to get her PC Level 3 next year and I'm looking at getting my PC Level 1 Instructor certification. Looks like more practice time is on the agenda! LOL

2014 Paddle # 49 - Pool Practice Time
Distance: Going in circles
YTD: 254.77 nm (471.82 km)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

East Coast Meets West Coast, A Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Skills Level 3 Adventure

Thursday, September 18, 2014

After so many postponements, the day had finally arrived for Robyn and I to embark on a kayak adventure of sorts. We were about to head onto unfamiliar waters with some old friends and some new friends to participate in a Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Level 3 course that was being hosted by Cowichan Bay Kayaks.

The course was to be an assessment on a couple of levels as Richard Alexander had come all the way from Newfoundland to be the chief instructor for the course and to be the mentor for Dave Nichols of Cowichan Bay Kayaks who recently earned his Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Level 3 Instructor certification. Richard is a Past President of Paddle Canada, the association governing kayaking and kayak instruction in the country.  He holds a Sea Kayaking Level 4 skill, Level 4 instructor and Level 3 Instructor Trainer designations -- the highest sea kayaking certifications available. He also holds Instructor Trainer Status in the Coastal Canoe Program and Advanced Lake Tandem and Advanced Lake Solo Canoe certifications. As the owner and director of the Newfoundland Kayak Company, he has been responsible for introducing hundreds of people to the joy of sea kayaking and canoeing. 

The rest of our group comprised of some east coast paddlers (Johnny Walsh and Ron Schwartz) who had also arrived from Newfoundland and west coast paddlers (Warren Ruiter, Susie Marsh, Gene Gapsis, Robyn and myself). Johnny, who is a Paddle Canada Level 4 paddler, had travelled from Newfoundland for the opportunity to see the west coast and assist Richard and Dave during the assessment process. One thing for sure ... we would be in good hands.

Loaded up and ready to head out on the logging road. Hopefully the kayaks are tied down :-)

Dave leads the way on the rough road to Bamfield.
We arrived at Susie's place in Lake Cowichan on Thursday morning to get ready for the 2 hour drive on a logging road to Bamfield, BC which would be our put in. For this course our classroom would be in the Deer Group of islands located in Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. 

Having never been to the Deer Group, Robyn and I were excited when we heard that Cowichan Bay Kayaks would be offering this course there. What an opportunity to experience the beauty of the islands all while putting our skills to the test. It couldn't have been a better scenario but one thing for sure .... this wasn't going to be a vacation. We were going there with specific goals in mind and were determined to reach them.  

After navigating our way on the pot hole, washboard logging road in the rain (which was poorly marked at a number of junctions) we finally made it to Bamfield with only one minor delay when we took a wrong turn somewhere. 

Before starting to load our kayaks and head onto the water, Richard held a lecture on navigation in the shelter at the campground. Perfect timing as it was pouring outside and who wanted to load their kayak in that?

Richard discusses navigation with the group while waiting for the rain to ease a bit

Poor Dave took a few jabs elegantly at his terrestrial navigation for the detour on route. Not knowing each other very well it was a good opportunity to break the ice so to speak and Richard did a great job at that with a little bit of east coast humor too.

We soon would be heading onto the water and Richard wanted to see if our knowledge of chart symbols was proficient enough. None of us could figure this one out though. Maybe the east coast has navigation markers different than the west coast? Any ideas?

Giraffe walking by window ..... That got us laughing!

Perfect timing! The rain stopped by the time we suited up and headed to the boat launch in Grappler Inlet where we loaded our kayaks. For this expedition Cowichan Bay Kayaks provided all the food and cookware and we, as a group, had to figure out who was going to carry what and where it would be stowed. As you can see in the picture below we didn't have typical touring kayaks so trying to fit all of our personal gear and provisions into our play boats became a challenge. Any ideas where the dromedary's were stored?

Once again.... I have no idea how we managed to get all the supplies into the kayaks but we did.

We made our way out to Aquilar Point where Richard divided the 6 students into pairs for our first on-the-water lesson which was dead reckoning. Robyn and I were teamed up with Richard and we plotted our way across Trevor Channel to the north end of Helby Island estimating our time of arrival based upon bearing, average paddling speed and distance to the next way point. While making the crossing we spotted a humpback whale in the distance not far from the Ross Islets. A nice start to this adventure.

Richard checks Robyn's plotting before heading off to our next way point.

We continued to plot our way to Ohiat Islet, Sanford Island and then finally into the Ross Islets which would be our base camp for the next couple of days. This was Robyn's first time using her Cockpit Plotter, chart and deck mounted compass and she did a great job on the legs that she navigated us to. The only piece of kit that she was missing was a watch to time her transits but Richard and I kept track of that for her. (Note to self .... Christmas list!)

We were the second group to arrive at the campsite and went about unloading our kayaks and setting up our tent and tarp over the kitchen area. I have to admit that I think we have the camping portion of our kayaking skills pretty well covered and I like the challenge of putting up tarps to keep the camp dry. As it turns out the tarp would come in handy because it poured all night.

Getting to know each other a bit more. Note: Johnny, Richard and Ron had cell coverage (east coast Bell),
we west coasters had none with Telus or Rogers

Our Ross Islets camp. Most of the tents are in the trees in nicely cleared spots.

The view from camp .... not much today with the overcast weather.

After dinner we settled around the campfire and Richard debriefed us on the days activities and shared his observations of our interactions as a group. Day one wasn't bad for a bunch of people who had just met each other earlier in the day but one thing for sure was that we had the making of good group dynamics.

It was just after 9:00pm when Robyn, myself and Susie headed to our tents to get some much needed sleep. Cozy and warm in our sleeping bags there wasn't a sound to be heard when all of a sudden we heard the tell tale sound of a humpback whale blowing just off the islet we were on. That was the last sound we heard until we woke up in the middle of the night in a downpour of rain. The rest of the night I just couldn't sleep as my mind kept going through all the skill elements that we we would be assessed on over the next four days, not only physically but this course was going to be mentally tough as well and somehow I would need to channel my thoughts and energy properly to succeed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Best recent kit investment .... rain gear and rubber boots! Leading up to this course we knew there was the possibility that we could experience one or more days of rain. On our recent 11 day trip on the west coast we had one day of rain and found that it took a couple of days to dry out shoes and clothing. We came prepared for the worst this time. 

Climbing out of our tent just after 6:00am we put on our new rain gear and headed to the kitchen area for a warm cup of coffee. Warren and I went to work cooking bacon and eggs for the group before the days activities began.

If you paddle the west coast chances are it will rain - and it did on day two.

Class began just after 9:00am with Dave refreshing us on how to light a stove and set up a tarp over Richard's kayak which would be his easel. The lecture for this morning would be on leadership and specifically the types of leadership that is effective in different situations.

Richard takes the group through different types of leadership and how it effects group dynamics

Leadership was going to play an important role over the next few days as once again we were divided into pairs to become paddle leaders for each day. Today Susie and Ron would be in control when we were on the water during scenarios that the instructors would put us into. Tomorrow it would be myself and Gene followed by Robyn and Warren on Sunday. Bring it on!

The best classroom is one held in nature. Johnny, Dave and Susie take it all in.

After the lecture we suited up and headed onto the water to work on paddle strokes. Now I can just see some of you out there wondering why a level 3 course would be working on paddle strokes. The answer is simple. To maneuver a kayak it requires proper edging with a combination of paddle strokes and torso or core rotation to do it efficiently and at level 3 it had to be done in a proficient manner. Any or a combination of these not done properly could result in a conditional pass so it was very important that these skills were strong.

The sun starts to come out as Richard talks about paddle strokes 

First assessment time, 360 degree pivot using forward and reverse sweep strokes.

After a quick lunch back at camp we were back on the water for an afternoon of rescues and our first scenario that we were exposed to.  We soon became aware that our instructors were sort of like earth, wind and fire and although they were part of the paddling group there were considered to be untouchable in terms of being a resource during a "worst case Ontario" (another east coast saying).

Loving the west coast, Richard and Johnny. I think they were scheming! LOL

Susie and Dave perform a T-Rescue but this one had a scramble element included.

After the rescues sessions we all headed out for a short paddle led by Ron and Susie around the west end of Fleming Island and into a small cove that was awash with the offshore swells. All of a sudden Dave was in the water close to a rock wall and he is indicating that he has a separated shoulder. Ron directs Gene to get to Dave and assist him getting back into his kayak where they decide to use the scoop rescue. Once both kayaks were upright I was directed to tow both of them out of the cove to deep water and away from the swells and rocks. This is where the leadership role really came into play as decisions have to be made quickly in order for the rescue to be completed in a timely manner. The key is to get the swimmer out of the water as fast as possible before the effects of hypothermia can set in. Even with a dry suit on it doesn't take long for an injured kayaker to feel the effects of the cold water if there are immersed for a long period of time. For our first test Susie and Ron did a great job!

Enough fun for one day as we headed back to camp to unwind and relax a bit before dinner. Today I have to admit just wasn't a good day on the water for me. For some reason I found myself fighting my kayak instead of allowing the blending of edging, strokes and torso rotation to just flow together. Speaking with Warren later he felt the same way and we both concluded that we would just put it aside and step it up a notch the next day. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sunrise and moon set at the Ross Islets
Moving day! Today would be the greatest physical and mental challenge that I would endure during the course. After another restless sleep I was up early to catch the sun just starting to peak over the horizon and I was determined that my performance would be better than the day before. 

The past couple of days we had focused on a combination of the core paddling skills along with a number of skills that a paddler needs in order to spend several days in possible big conditions.

Today I figured that some of the more advanced paddling skills such as rolling and towing would come into play and sure enough they did. Although I think I have a pretty good roll the thought of losing my roll during the course had scared the hell out of me the past couple of days. 

Our trusty rides wait for us as the sun starts to rise over Vancouver Island

6:30am and the camp comes to life. It's going to be a busy day so better get moving early.

Warren's charts and paperwork .... a little wet :-)
After breakfast Richard did a lecture on weather and we discussed the many elements that make up the marine conditions that we paddle in. Being able to analyse a marine forecast for days in advance of heading onto the water gives the paddler a greater understanding of what could happen over the next 12 - 24 hours when heading out for a paddle.

In preparation for this course we were asked to complete a weather log for 3 days prior to the trip and using this information try to come up with what should happen and what could happen scenarios. Ever since we have started paddling I have taken a keen interest in what the weather was going to do while we were on the water. I like to call it respecting nature.

Right after the lecture was finished we suited up and headed out on the water in front of the camp to work on some rolling and towing skills that I mentioned earlier. Robyn went to work with Richard on her rolls while the rest of the group worked with Dave and Johnny as we completed rolls of our choice, re-entry rolls and while towing, roll, release the tow belt and roll back up. Easy said ... now do it!

Although I had completed a re-entry roll in the pool several months ago and recently a paddle float re-entry roll, this was the first time I had to complete a re-entry roll in the ocean without the paddle float. The first attempt wasn't pretty as my head was the culprit (always is) but I was determined to git 'er' done so I just took my time, set up properly and up I came. That was a big moment for me as I didn't want to let a roll be the downfall for not getting my level 3. Likewise I figured out the tow release roll and was feeling pretty good at how the day was progressing. I managed to catch a glimpse of Robyn working with Richard and heard that she managed to complete 3 rolls under his guidance so I was really pleased for her.

After a quick lunch we broke camp and headed to Diana Island with Gene and myself being the paddle leaders for the rest of the day. Based upon yesterday's scenario I knew that anything could happen but just when that would be was up to the Richard. Leaving the protected water of the Ross Islets we entered Imperial Eagle Channel and I plotted our course for Diana Island via Ohiat Islet 2 miles to the SW.

Heading out past Sanford Island it was about to be "Go Time"

Just as we were passing Sanford Island in rolling seas the crap started to hit the fan. First Ron went in the water ahead of the group and then Johnny experienced a separated shoulder and needed to be towed. To make things worse Robyn also needed to be towed as she started to struggle a bit in the conditions. As I worked with Gene directing other paddlers to assist in the unfolding rescue scenarios, Richard tried to throw another curve ball at us by trying to split up the group which can happen when conditions start to get big . Nice try Richard ;-) but it didn't work as I corralled the wandering paddlers to stay with the paddlers in distress. The day before Gene and I talked about this as I had a hunch that might be the case and so the little voice in the back of my mind kept reminding me to keep the group together at all times. I have actually experienced a group split up in dynamic water before and how it effected the paddlers. Today it wasn't going to happen on Gene and my watch.

Gene tows Robyn over swells. You can just see the other paddlers over the crests of the waves. 

Once we reached Ohiat Islet, Richard ended the scenario and we all rafted up to debrief on Gene and my group management. I had a lot of "I could have done this better or that better" thoughts going through my head but was pleasantly surprised to hear that the group thought we did a pretty good job. See ... paddling isn't just physical and today it was decision making that was testing our ability to handle stress when things start going bad.

Before continuing on our way it was time to perform our open water, fully loaded kayak roll which I had never done before. Susie lead the way and before she rolled up I thought to myself "Get it done" and in I went. The first thing I noticed was that the roll was slower than an empty kayak roll but the weight also created a pendulum effect and the kayak actually carried the momentum as I patiently set up and rolled upright. What a relief!

It was time to navigate our way to our next campsite. The only resources available to me at this time were my chart, my eyes and possibly other paddlers in the group who had been to the campsite before. Looking at the chart I had a pretty good idea where a campsite might be based upon the topography and the surf conditions breaking around Kirby Point indicated where not to go. I knew Dave had been to this campsite before but when I asked him about the possible landing area the response I got was "You have to navigate to it". Oh yeah ..... I forgot that although the instructors were with us as a group, technically they were a resource that couldn't be used.

As we got closer to what I thought would be the most logical place for a camp to be, a beach became visible and we landed at our home for the next night. The campsite is actually located on Huusmaghsuus First Nations land but is open to the public to use.

The view from a very beautiful place to camp. Sanford Island in the distance and nearby Ohiat Islet

Lots of places to put up a tent under cover.
First order of duty was to set up the kitchen tarp so Robyn and Gene went to work putting up our guide tarp while the rest of the group went about locating places to put up their tents. Tonight's chefs were Gene and Ron and while they were busy making dinner several of us walked through the forest to the south side of the island. Here we found the Huusmaghsuus camp and indications of a burial area nearby which we respected.

A nicely established fire pit and kitchen area. I made the clothes hanger to dry out our gear.

Gene and Ron working their magic while Richard prepares some appy's from the east coast.

Relaxing on the SW beach before dinner close to the First Nations camp.

Another amazing view from this side of the island.

After dinner, as the sun was starting to slowly go down, Richard suggested that there was enough light that we could head out onto the water and practice our strokes. I took this as an indication of what we really needed to work on and although tired after a long day we headed back onto the water. Dave and Johnny made their way onto the exposed reef to offer suggestions to blend our edging and strokes together to increase maneuverability of our kayaks.

Working the paddle strokes into the night.

To make things easier for us, Richard, Dave and Johnny did the dishes and got a fire going for our return just before dark. We sat around the fire nibbling on snacks which included a couple of big bars of chocolate, a nice reward after a very busy day. Tomorrow we would be heading back to our put in location in Bamfield. The forecast was calling for 15-25 SE with a low SW swell and during our (Gene and I) paddle leader debrief with Richard, Dave and Johnny we were asked if the group could handle those possible conditions. Based upon the forecast, topography and skill set of the group we felt that we should be able to handle those conditions as a group while crossing Trevor Channel. We would soon find out.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunrise at Diana Island

Another magnificent start to our last day in the Deer Group. It was amazing how fast the time went by and we really didn't absorb the beauty like we would have if we were just tripping. We were out here for a reason and it was all about getting down to business but it was a perfect setting to keep the balance of pleasure and work in perspective. We will return here again to explore nature.

The tide really goes out here but there is a nice sandy beach to launch from

Time to head towards Bamfield with Robyn and Warren as the paddle leaders for the day. After a beach talk by Warren, Robyn lead the group out around the north end of Diana Island and into McKenzie Anchorage where the effects of the SE wind could be seen and felt. A strong chop was building with cresting waves when all of a sudden Richard was in the water.

Robyn and Warren went to work assessing the situation and initiated the rescue process but there was a catch. Richard had somehow not fully zipped up his dry suit and it was now full of icy cold water. Quicky Richard was maneuvered back into his kayak and no sooner were we under way again, he was back in the water. This time however he was starting to show the signs of hypothermia and was shivering uncontrollably and kept calling for Johnny who had wandered off. The situation was starting to go sideways in a hurry but once again he was managed back into his kayak where Warren directed Gene and I to raft up on either side to stabilize him. In the meantime Susie and Ron began towing us towards a cove on Helby Island with the intentions of landing as soon as possible to get Richard warmed up.

During this time the sea state increased significantly and we were now in a strong 15-20 SE with 2 -3 foot chop and white caps. In these conditions Dave had somehow managed to end up in the water and Robyn directed Gene to assist him with getting back into his kayak. Once everyone was upright  the scenario ended! It was an Academy Award performance by Richard, Dave and Johnny that made it seem so real and it was a stark reminder that anything can happen to anyone regardless of their skill level. One thing that we all noticed was how hard it was to communicate when the sea state is confused and the wind is blowing. Before continuing over to Bamfield we debriefed what happened and considering the conditions and the scenarios that were thrown at them, Robyn and Warren did a great job!

I asked Robyn for a little summary of how her paddler leader experience went and here is her perspective: "My leadership day (with Warren) was pretty eventful. On our paddle from our campsite on Diana Island back to Bamfield we had three capsizes (twice by Richard, once by Dave), towing (Susie and Ron) and paddlers misbehaving (Johnny).  By the time everyone was sorted out and back in their kayaks we had a 20 knot headwind and I had to keep blowing my whistle to keep the unruly group together!  All in all I think Warren and I did a really good job. It was definitely an eye opener as to how quickly things can go wrong."

Ron and myself listen at the surf landing discussion
The group then crossed over towards Bamfield where we did some work on surf landing techniques under the guidance of Warren who communicated with each paddler (by paddle position) to head into the beach. Although not the perfect surf conditions due to lack of wind in the area, the basic elements were covered and we discussed the pros and cons of exiting the kayak using different methods.

Paddling back into Bamfield. The adventure isn't over yet as we are heading to Quadra Island next.

It was time to head back to the put in as our goal was to head to Campbell River to catch the ferry to  the Discovery Islands Lodge on Quadra Island.

Robyn, Susie, Gene, Ron and Warren ... pass the chips!
A quick stop at the local market just up the road from the put in to grab some junk food and of course the customary "been there, bought the t-shirt" souvenir.

I bet there was lots of scheming going on in the car. Johnny, Richard and Dave
On the road again at 1:50pm via the logging road to Port Alberni, Alberni Highway to the Inland Highway to Campbell River, burgers at Wendy's, BC Ferry to Quathiaski Cove (Quadra Island) and then a 45 minute drive on Village Bay Road to the lodge arriving at 6:30pm

Our next destination ... Discovery Islands Lodge on Quadra Island

Monday, September 22, 2014

Robyn and I were up just after 6:00am and were greeted by Lani and Beth busy making breakfast for the groups of paddlers staying at the lodge. The dining room / living room soon came alive as the aroma of coffee, cinnamon rolls and baked apples greeted each guest making their way upstairs.  

A busy breakfast table

OMG ... best cinnamon rolls ever!

Our course would end today with a currents session at Surge Narrows about 20 minutes north of the lodge by kayak. In order to take advantage of arriving at slack we would need to be on the water by 9:30 am but first we attended a currents lecture that was presented by Dave. 

In preparation for the course Dave had asked us to prepare a day trip to the Octopus Islands that are north of Surge Narrows and we got to discuss the many hazards, obstacles and resources that we used in planning our trip. We wouldn't be going to the Octopus Islands today but it allowed everyone to understand how the land and marine topography, currents and wind all interact with each other in this area.

After the lecture was over we were right on schedule launching from the dock at 9:30 and I led the group up to the main Surge Narrows feature riding the last of a gentle ebb. Dave and Richard decided that since we had arrived just before slack it would be a great opportunity for another assessment on our edging and blending of paddle strokes. Little did I know that I was on the bubble and needed to bring a strong day to the table in order to reach my personal goal in the course.

The flood just starting to show itself as we work on some stroke assessments.

Dave ran us through a number of drills while Richard intensely watched, looking for the proficiency that he needed to see. I felt that I was having a good day at this point but I was excited to get on the main feature once it started to flow.

While sitting in a back eddy I was amazed to see hundreds or even thousands of sea urchins just inches below the surface around the main feature. I had only seen sea urchins once before and that was at Chrome Island but holy cow this was a huge colony!

Sea urchins of every size and color

Johnny finds a pet .... sea urchin

Beautiful aren't they?

As the flood started to flow, the wave on the main feature began to form and we were put through some bracing turns work in and out of the eddies. For our Level 3 course technically the maximum current is 3 knots but those of you who have been to Surge Narrows know the real fun begins once the current starts to run around +5 knots. 

After tiring ourselves out on the wave and doing a few unplanned rescues :-) we worked on ferrying techniques between Peck and Quadra Island and were even visited by a Stellar Sea Lion. I think he was taking a liking to us! 

For the boys from the east coast this was a great opportunity for them to experience west coast fun and we were so glad that they could see our playground. A big thanks to Dave and Huw from Cowichan Bay Kayaks for putting this course together, Richard for coming all the way from Newfoundland to teach the course and mentor Dave, Johnny and Ron for making the trip to experience just a sample of what BC has to offer for kayakers, fellow local paddlers Susie, Warren, Gene and my wonderful wife Robyn for making up the rest of the group. It was a fantastic 5 days of just being out there doing what we love and you all made it a wonderful experience. Thanks!

Dave Nichols

Gene Gapsis

Warren Ruiter

Johnny Walsh

Ron Schwartz

Susie Marsh

Richard Alexander

Dave Nichols

Warren and I riding tandem on the wave with our P&H Delphins

Final words

Our aspirations to become a better kayakers and to be able to give back to this amazing pastime lead both Robyn and I to take the challenge of this course. Relatively new to paddling (just coming up to our 3 year anniversary) we have spent an amazing amount of time on the water as certified level 1 paddlers and met some great new friends along the way.

Originally we had planned on taking a full level 2 course but a number of things altered that plan. When the opportunity came along to pursue a level 3 certification we both jumped at it, working hard over the past couple of months trying to get up to speed on both the level 2 and level 3 components.

Robyn's goal for the course was to secure her level 2 certification and complete as many of the level 3 components. For myself I felt that my skills would get me close to the level 3 certification but I would need a lot of things to come together at the right time for it to become a reality. Looking back now after a couple of weeks, if I had the chance to do it all over again I personally would complete the level 2 certification prior to taking on the level 3. Going directly from a level 1 to a level 3 certified sea kayaker is a huge jump in skill sets and I would not recommend that progression to anyone unless every element is rock solid. 

A lot of personal life experiences are usually a physical challenge or a mental challenge such as in decision making. I think that I have had enough experience of both that helped me get through this course however, for myself, the combination of physical and mental (some self inflicted) demands that I endured in reaching my goal was nothing that I have experienced before. Simply, it was tough! Would I do it again? Hell ya!

Mark Byrne
Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Skills Level 3

Robyn Byrne
Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Skills Level 2

2014 Paddle # 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 - Paddle Canada Level 3 (Deer Group)
Distance: 16.62 nm (30.78 km)
YTD: 251.64 nm (466.03 km)

2014 Paddle # 48 - Paddle Canada Level 3 (Surge Narrows) 
Distance: 3.13 nm (5.79 km)
YTD: 254.77 nm (471.82 km)