Tuesday, August 22, 2017

D'Arcy Island .... All to Ourselves!

It’s the middle of summer and we haven’t gone kayak camping yet! What the heck?  So off to D’Arcy Island (Gulf Islands National Park Reserve) we went last Friday morning, ahead of the wind warning for Haro Strait that was to build in the afternoon.

We didn’t really have an on the water time but still we managed to get up early and left Amherst Beach at 9:30 am, loading on a low tide which meant that we would be paddling against the incoming flood all the way to D’Arcy. Trying to combine the perfect departure time, correct current direction and good wind conditions always seems to be a problem with one or more of these criteria not being met. In our case, it was the current flowing the opposite direction and so we started the average 2.5 kts paddle towards the island. A quick rest stop at Sidney Spit and we continued to our destination (7.65 nm) arriving at 12:30 pm.

Low, low tide at Amherst Beach. Loaded and ready to head out.

Pit stop on Sidney Spit

Little D'Arcy on the left and big D'Arcy on the right while Slogging our way down Sidney Channel

Sidebar #1: D'Arcy Island was once a leper colony for Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Just as we were landing, a couple of researchers from the University of Western Ontario were leaving the island after checking up on their deer study which involves tracking the movements of the deer on the island and how recorded sounds affects them. We were a little surprised not to find anyone else in the campsite or any other boats anchored in the small bay and we wondered if that would change later in the day.

Our favorite site #2 

And the rest of the sites completely empty!

It wasn’t long before we had our camp established and settled in for some well-deserved relaxation time.  For the rest of the day we watched the world go by on the waters between ourselves and San Juan Island (U.S.) only a few miles away. There were lots of cargo and tank ships, a few sport fishing boats and quite a few whale watching boats running at high speed.

Our kayaks were the only ones on the beach this weekend.

Sidebar #2: A typical 3-hour whale watching tour out of the Victoria Harbour costs around $120.00.

As predicted, the westerly winds did increase through the afternoon but we were sheltered on the east side of the island and felt only a slight breeze. Haro Strait was a maelstrom of dark seas and whitecaps which was probably the reason why nobody else arrived during the rest of the day. D’Arcy Island would be all ours for the first night.

Wind and current in Haro Strait Friday afternoon.

D’Arcy Island sunrises are spectacular and it’s one of the reasons why we love going there. The campsite faces southeast which means on a great day the sun bathes the beach area until around 5:00 pm when it settles in the west and the last of its sunrays sneak through the forest behind the campsite.

Goooooood Morning from D'Arcy Island. Bliss!

The wind forecast was much better for Saturday so we expected we would get some visitors either arriving by kayak or powerboats. Other than a few small hikes to a couple of vantage points we did nothing other than cat nap in our Helinox chairs, read and have a few snacks and happy hour beverages during the day. By the time the sun left the beach area and dinner time had passed so had the opportunity for visitors to arrive at our island retreat. D’Arcy Island would be all ours again for the second night.

That's the Discovery Island lighthouse in the distance

Fenced off ruins of the buildings for the Chinese immigrants leper colony from 1894 to 1924 

Sunday morning was another amazing start to the day and it looked like we were going to get all three conditions (time on the water, current direct and wind) for an ideal paddle back to Sidney. There was no rush to leave as slack before the flood was at 11:38 am so we watched the birds playing all around us in the foliage close to the beach, a family of river otters frolicking in the bay, the same four female Harlequin ducks who paddled around the waterline all weekend, a fawn that was around camp all weekend, an elusive Belted Kingfisher who wouldn’t sit still for me to take its picture and when we least expected it .  .  . a Humpback whale surfacing in our bay!!!

On of the many warblers that we spotted. Here is an Orange-crowned Warbler

A family of River Otters

Female Harlequin Ducks

A baby fawn deer

The Humpback surfaces in the bay

The Humpback in between little and big D'Arcy Islands

We kind of expected that we might see Orca passing by in Haro Strait in the distance but we never thought that a Humpback whale would appear so close to us.  We watched the whale as it made its way into our bay and through the shallow waters between ourselves and Little D’Arcy Island only a few hundred yards away. Realizing that the whale couldn’t pass between the exposed rocky islets at the low tide, it turned around and made its way back out and around Little D’Arcy Island and into open water.

While dismantling our camp we did have a couple of visitors in a powerboat on a day trip from Victoria visit us for a few minutes before they continued on their way in search of the Humpback that we told them about. All of the excitement of the morning had put our departure time behind schedule but it didn’t matter as the flood current would assist us home.

Ready to head home

As we made the crossing from D’Arcy Island to James Island we once again spotted the Humpback whale a few hundred yards away and hoped that we wouldn’t get a surprise close-up encounter on our crossing. Yeah right .  .  .  we both wanted it but it didn’t happen. Unlike our paddle to the island, the return transit back to Sidney resulted in an average moving speed of around 5 kts.

Crossing over to James Island after spotting the Humpback again.

Arriving back at Sidney wharf in only 2 hours we decided to paddle into Port of Sidney Marina and see if there was any action at the Blue Dog Kayaking dock but there was nobody around. On a nice day like today the crew was probably out giving lessons or touring a group through some of the islands nearby. We paddled to our put-in at Amherst Beach and with a rising tide it meant a relative easy unloading of our gear.

Blue Dog Kayaking's Port of Sidney operation

Sidebar #3: Robyn and I are both Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Level 3 graduates of Blue Dog Kayaking.

It was a wonderful weekend of solitude on our very own D’Arcy Island which doesn’t happen very often. See ya on the water!!

Yup! That's us!!

Distance: 15.66 nm (29.00 km)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Getting Back to Semi Normal

It's been a crazy last few weeks. Over the long weekend Robyn and I were heavily involved with the Victoria's Largest Little Airshow which the Victoria Radio Control Modelers Society (which I am a member of) hosts each year. Since its inception the airshow has raised over $289,000.00 for charity and this year we raised a whopping $24,300.00 which will be going to CFAX Santas Anonymous which helps families all year round but especially at Christmas. Last year, over 1500 Greater Victoria families received toys for the kids and Christmas hampers . The past couple of years the volunteers of the flying club and CFAX Santas Anonymous have worked hard together at the airshow so it's a great charity to support. 

On the work front, we are in a bit of a slow down for the next few months which means a shorter work week for myself. Financially it has drawbacks but on the positive side I have some personal projects to tackle and of course possibly more paddling .... maybe.

In late November of last year I had a surgical procedure done to correct atrial fibrillation (A-fib or simply an inconsistent heartbeat) which I have had for the past couple of years. It usually is considered to be successful if there are no further episodes during the first six months after the procedure which for me was in May. Smooth sailing and back to kayaking Robyn and I went. We even did a 10 day trip through the Gulf Islands in late May and had planned a trip to the Broughton's this coming September until ..... a week ago I woke up in A-fib and needed to have another cardioversion done. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a quick 3 or 4 hour visit to the hospital emergency where they put me out and use a crash cart to correct my heart beat. Just like you see on TV ..... CLEAR!!!! And I'm back into normal heart rhythm. Other than it's inconvenient and takes a lot out of me for a few days I'm used to the procedure (8 to date) and sure appreciate the staff at the Royal Jubilee Hospital ER who look after me. Anyway, it looks like my surgery wasn't totally successful and I was warned that there was a 25% chance that it would have to be repeated and here I am today still alive. All good!!

Our kayaking multi day adventures are on hold in the meantime but it doesn't mean that I can't kayak. Robyn and I just need to manage the risks associated with having another episode while on the water so we are sticking close to home so that I can get medical attention should I need it again.

So with that Robyn and I went on a day paddle with our kayak club, the South Island Sea Kayaking Association, on Sunday to Rum Island (Isle-de-Lis of the Gulf Islands National Parks Reserve). David Maxwell was the paddle leader for this outing and as he noted the night before in his email communication, there were conflicting forecasts in terms of wind for Haro Straight. Part of the issue is forecasts tend to cover a huge area and so specific local conditions may be different that what is being predicted. We have found that apps such as Sailflow or the Big Wave Dave website are pretty accurate in determining localized conditions but a lot of the time just looking with your eyes helps.

Looking pretty nice to paddle today

Launching out of Amherst Beach at 10:00am in Sidney our group of 13 paddlers headed out past the Little Group and Dock Island assisted by a westerly breeze at our backs. I have taken this route to Rum Island several times and each time it's so unique when it comes to tides/currents interacting with the wind. As expected it was a bit chunky passing Dock Island but once we reached Domville Island the sea conditions calmed right down. 

Sidebar #1: Robyn and I arrived at the launch site a little early and paddled out to set our crab trap :-) 

Gearing up for the paddle with a nice high tide at Amherst Beach

Robyn paddling past the cliff outhouse on Sheep Island

Our group arrived at Rum Island just after 11:30am and were greeted by a couple of fellows who work for Parks Canada. To our surprise they said nobody was camped on the island so we had the place to ourselves.

Several of us went to check out the campsite and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the four tent sites all have new picnic tables. I guess they were allocated to Rum as part of the Canada 150 Parks Canada celebration. Did you know that camping in Parks Canada is free for 2017??

The group having lunch on the tombolo separating Gooch Island which is private and Rum Island

The Parks Canada skiff heading out

Nice new picnic tables!

Looking towards the San Juan Islands in the USA. Been there done that on another trip last year

Every time I think ... we should camp here. Never have yet ..... bucket list!

Michael Egilson practices his Greenland rolling during lunch

After about an hour on Rum Island we started to head back to Sidney via Forrest Island and once again encountered the chunky conditions passing Dock Island. Come to think of it... I don't think I have ever paddled past Dock Island when it has been calm LOL.

Nearing Amherst Beach, Robyn and I detoured to pick up our crab trap and sure enough there were crabs in it. A total of 5 red rock crabs and all male and all well beyond legal size but I released the smallest one anyway. Crab salad for dinner anyone???

To end the day our group gathered at The Roost and enjoyed some of their wonderful baked goods like apple pie while we did a debrief. It was then time to head home to clean our gear and cook the crab for dinner.

Sidebar #2 Many crabbers throw back red rocks in preference of dungeness crabs but Robyn and I actually think the meat of a red rock is a little sweeter although not as plentiful as a dungeness.

Sidebar #3 Arriving back at Amherst Beach we noticed very little wind but back at home 16km away it was blowing 20-30 kts. The beauty of kayaking on southern Vancouver Island is that there's usually always somewhere you can paddle even when it's windy.

Another successful crab haul. We are getting pretty good ... finally!! LOL 

Distance: 11.12 nm (20.59 km)