Monday, February 29, 2016

East Sooke Rock Gardens

A week ago Sunday we joined Dave Nichols of Blue Dog Kayaking, Kerry Davis and Kevin and Cindy Searle for a day of rock gardening out along East Sooke Park. Arriving at Whiffen Spit in the warm sunshine for a 10:00am launch we were greeted with a high tide and some significant sets of waves breaking onto the rocks below the parking lot. Assessing the situation we decided that it would be best to launch on the inside of the spit and paddle around it to reach the other side of the Sooke Inlet. No sense in starting the day off wrong by trying to surf launch when there was another option.

Reaching the east side of the inlet we noticed right away that even the relatively protected shoreline heading out of the bay that there was some pretty good energy in the waves as they reached shallower water. Usually we are able to warm up a bit by navigating through some of the islets in this area before heading out towards the open coastline near Secretary Island, but today it was simply too big to venture into some of the familiar play zones.

The "Slot" wasn't a slot today. It was just a surging mass of white water.

We paddled out to the area known as "The Slot" which is a very narrow passage with a couple of slight angles to navigate through on the inside and a gnarly rock just at the south end. Even with a bit of surge coming through, it can be a bit of a challenge but today it was just a massive boiling mess of whitewater.

We headed further south along the shoreline and even from a distance we could see some pretty big surge waves breaking over the point just before heading into Iron Mine Bay. They were big enough that we had to paddle off shore to avoid being pushed toward the rocks and at the same time avoid the clapotis waves rebounding back at us.

Entering Iron Mine Bay, Robyn and I checked out the landing area at the beach and there really wasn't any to speak of so our group decided to head further south seeking areas that we could play in. Once again most of the regular play areas were off limits as the surges were just too powerful for our group to consider.

We did find a few places to explore but it meant keeping and eye out for each other as the sets of waves sometimes exploded with fury into the features we were considering.

Kevin guides Dave through a feature using hand signals while keeping an eye out for sets of waves arriving.

All clear and Dave arrives after waiting out some big sets.

We continued our way towards the Trap Shack but the wind was predicted to change directions coming from the south east and sure enough it was starting to show itself. The group made the decision to head back into Iron Mine Bay for lunch and by this time the tide had dropped enough that we were able to land on a fairly tight beach that had just a little surf to contend with.

Just enough beach for lunch.

A little bit of surf, add some logs and seal launching makes it easier to get back on the water. :-)

After lunch we noticed that the tide had dropped a few feet since the morning and so had the energy of the waves. On the way back to the Sooke Inlet we were able to play in some areas that were off limits on the way out. Still ... there were some places that were just a little bit iffy and I found out the hard way.

One of my favorite places to practice looked pretty good and after watching a few sets of waves I headed into a narrow passage. Even in calmer conditions the water in the passage has a tendency to get sucked out pretty quickly but just beyond it is an open area with a number of rocky islets to navigate around. A good place to practice.

Well .. just as I was in the middle of the passage I noticed that I wasn't making any forward headway and the water started to drop rapidly. So fast that the right side of my kayak made contact with the rocks below it and in I went. All I remember was that I tried to high brace on my left side but it was too late as I was upside down and my paddle was now with me somewhere. The next thing I knew I had exited my kayak and was now bobbing around in the middle of the rocky islets I was trying to reach while IN my kayak.

Robyn spotted me first and started to move in to assist me. I flipped my kayak over just as Dave and Kevin teamed up to extract me from my little predicament. This is the first time I have been out of my kayak in these conditions and for some reason I didn't feel uncomfortable or scared of the rocks around me. It seemed like only a few seconds as Dave made contact with my kayak and I scrambled back into the cockpit. Then it was Kevin's turn to pull Dave and I out of the hazard area where we emptied my kayak and continued on our way. Thanks guys!!

Arriving back at Whiffen Spit parking lot there were some really good sets of waves coming in and several paddle boarders were trying to ride them. While Robyn and Cindy landed a bit further up the beach the boys rode a few waves until we were beat. It was a great day on and in the water even if the conditions were a little bigger than we liked for rock gardening. Heck ... I even got to try out my new PFD!!

2016 Paddle #5 - East Sooke
Distance: 7.91 nm (14.65 km)
YTD: 39.28 nm (72.74 km)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Astral Greenjacket

I normally don't do product reviews but maybe I should with all the kayak gear I buy annually. This post is about a piece of gear that I rely on every time I head out on the water ... my PFD (Personal Flotation Device).

Over the past couple of years I have spent a lot of time in the water developing my kayak rescue skills and the PFD that has performed flawlessly for me has been my Astral Greenjacket. A few years back I was in the market for a rescue PFD and Rowan Gloag who was working at Ocean River Sports at the time recommended it to me. As soon as I put it on I knew it was the PFD for me as I felt that I wasn't wearing it but it was more like it was part of me. 

With padded reinforced should straps, enhanced flotation protecting the back and ribs, a large clam-shell front pocket, integrated quick release, rope ready storage behind the clam-shell, fleece hand warmer and the fact that it didn't rub the inside of my arms were some of the features that I really liked right from the start.

The only thing that took a bit to get used to is that it is a pull on (over your head) instead of being front entry zipper PFD. I do however like how easy it is to adjust with three torso straps on each side and a two-panel adjustable fit system designed to eliminate ride-up and allow for maximum mobility. Astral Designs have been using CORDURA fabrics as a primary component of Astral PFDs since day one and it is well known for its durability, quick dry time, and abrasion resistance.

Broken zipper mechanism
Last fall I was on a multi-day trip when one of the two clam-shell plastic zipper mechanisms broke in half. Not a big deal because I could still use the pocket but over the next few months it became more of a pain in the butt to have to fully unzip the clam-shell pocket to get anything out. Just before Christmas I contacted and sent pictures to Astral Designs who make the Greenjacket as well as the Brewer water shoes that I wear to inquire if there was any way to repair the broken zipper. 

I received an email back from Kevin Mulligan at Astral and he said that he would replace the PFD. WOW!!!! Not what I was expecting as all I was looking for was some sort of repair option. But it gets better as Kevin said that he would replace my PFD with the same model right away or if I wanted to wait until February 2016 I could get one of the new updated versions that would have metal zipper mechanisms.

Since my PFD was still usable I opted for the later and a few weeks back Kevin sent me an email to let me know that a new Greenjacket was available in 3 new colors to choose from.

It didn't take me long to choose the new all Slate Black model as I figured that it is color that will go with any other personal wear I use. After all, you have to look good on the water! LOL So I expedited my PFD back to Astral and in return they expedited the new PFD to me which arrived a couple of days ago. Sweeeet!!!

Right of the box and ready for my next day on the water. Thanks Kevin and Astral Designs!!

I depend a lot on the kayak gear that I buy to enhance my experience on the water and some items are more expensive than others. The Astral Greenjacket lists at $249.95 US on the Astral Designs website but there is an old saying of "You get what you pay for". I truly believe in this and won't compromise when it comes to my personal safety equipment. The Astral Greenjacket is worth every penny from a performance standpoint and having a company like Astral Designs stand behind their products with exceptional customer service like I received is priceless.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Something Borrowed

We are spending the BC Family Day long weekend at Pedder Bay Marina & RV Park and yesterday we headed out for a little paddle to try out  a few things borrowed. I was using a borrowed PFD (thanks Gary J.) while I am waiting for my warranty replacement to arrive from Astral. Robyn borrowed Morley's Wilderness Systems 15.5 Zephyr while he is recovering from a skiing injury. 

Somebody looks haaaappppy!

Although Robyn likes her P&H 155 Delphin she doesn't love it. Her main issue is that when paddling in flat water conditions she finds it uncomfortable and I have to agree with her (just a little bit). I on the other hand love my Delphin in dynamic water so I can work around the the minor comfort issues.

Since the water was so calm it was a good test for Robyn to get the feel of the Zephyr and after working through some seat adjustments she reported that the kayak felt good. One thing that she did notice was that the Delphin does have a tighter turning radius but the Zephyr tracks better even without the skeg down. Is there a perfect kayak out there?? :-)

As usual our cameras were documenting our paddle and we were particularity interested in the birds we might see on this paddle. Following the shoreline out towards Bentinck Island we spotted more deer than we have ever seen in the area but that could also be because we haven't paddle this route in early February before.

Lots and lots and lots of deer watching us.

Good conditions and forecast were in our favor so we circumnavigated Bentinck and had a little flood current to paddle through on the Race Island side. Another good test of how the Zephyr handled for Robyn in a little bit of dynamic water.

Race Rocks Lighthouse selfie

Entering Eemdyk Passage we caught the flood going back towards Pedder Bay and we just let it carry us along while we watched the seals and many birds in the area. It was a good day of bird sightings with the following confirmed. Mature Bald Eagle, Juvenile Bald Eagle, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Brandt's Cormorant, Mute Swan, Canada Goose and Turkey Vultures.

Robyn photographing more wildlife

Pedder Bay in the past has been home to a pair of Mute Swans and rounding what we call Killer Whale Point (just past the 6 nm mark on our track) we came across a single swan. Both of us wondered where his or her mate was?? Maybe further out to sea feeding?? Who knows but we hope to see it again later in the summer.

It was a good day to test ride the Wilderness Systems 15.5 Zephyr and I think I know what Robyn has in mind. The question is .... what color?? 

2016 Paddle #4 - Pedder Bay
Distance: 7.12 nm (13.18 km)
YTD: 31.37 nm (58.09 km)