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)

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