Sunday, November 25, 2007

2007.29.93 - Breaking the Ice

It's a cold Sunday morning, maybe only a degree or so above zero, but we're here on The Gorge for a paddle into Portage Inlet.

Toques and gloves are in order today as we get ourselves ready. It's a large crew today: Karl, Stephanie, Bernie, Paula, Louise and myself.

We're launching at the the top end of The Gorge (#1) and paddling in Portage Inlet. At the far end of the Inlet (#2), we're going to head up Craigflower Creek. We've heard that the creek can be paddled up under the Trans-Canada Highway and up in behind Victoria General Hospital (#3). We're going to find out for ourselves.

No sooner did we start than we saw something cool. This homeowener has recently installed a bank of photovoltaic solar cells. That's the way of the future, we've got to get off the grid.

As we rounded the first point, Paula was ahead of us. Suddenly, she started whooping and shouting. "Ice!" she cried. Ahead of us, the Inlet had a thin sheen of ice on top. Paula had barrelled into it and soon the rest of us were into the icefield. Six little ice breakers.
Paddling Through the Ice 3

The ice was very thin, maybe 5mm if that, although there seemed to be the occasional section that was a little thicker. What an odd sensation to paddle through ice. We often joke about the water getting thicker when we paddle, but this water was solid! One expects to hear a splash when one's paddle hits the water, but all we heard was a crunch.
Stroke. Crunch. Stroke. Crunch.
We were also scaring all the birds away. Our six kayaks plowing through ice were making quite a racket as we cracked the ice around us, sending flocks of birds hundreds of metres away into frenzied flight. No doubt they thought the demons of hell were almost upon them.
Paddling through the Ice 2

We knew it was cold, but we never thought we'd be out breaking the ice. Karl figured that there must be a small layer of fresh water on top of the saltier Inlet water.

We found a lot of ice fields in the Inlet, and I'd guess that we spent about a third of our time in the Inlet paddling through ice.

We turned into Craigflower Creek and headed up. As you can see, we found some ice here. too.

We crossed under Helmcken Road.

This was a beautiful and quiet little river. Although we were sneaking through subdivisions, it was very easy to imagine that we were in the backwoods somewhere. There was one tricky spot, as a fallen tree had blocked most of the river. But there was a small channel, and Karl gave it a try.

It was tricky, but he made it.

Louise made it through, too.

Soon, we reached the Trans-Canada Highway. Here, the creek entered a tunnel.
Into the Tunnel

Ooooh, it's pretty scary, eh kids?

The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. As we left the tunnel, we discovered that there were a lot of rocks in the water here, so we had to be careful. We made it through, but it took a little maneuvering.

The navigable portion of the creek ended just beyond the tunnel and the rocks. Bernie got out to see if we could go any further, but this was pretty much the end of the line.

So there was nothing to do but turn around and head back through the tunnel. There was a bit of a bottle-neck as we entered....
In The Tunnel

...but it was a perfect time to practice some doo-wop.
Head For the Light

We ended up singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." The Tokens have nothing to worry about.
In The Tunnel
In The Tunnel

Back in the light of day, we had to get past that fallen log again.

Karl and I were lagging behind the others when he pointed to his right. "Hey, is that a hawk in the tree?"

And there he was, a small hawk that didn't seem the least bit worried about or interested in us.

Then we were back in the Inlet and paddling though the ice.

And eventually, all good things must come to an end.

Monday, November 12, 2007

2007.28.92 - Winter is Here

Today we are getting pummelled by the second big winter storm of the year. High winds and rain. The ferries aren't running today and nearly 200,000 people are without power. It's starting to sound just like last winter.
Yesterday, before the storm blew in, we'd thought we'd put in for a practice session at Cadboro Bay. Do some rescue practice, towing practice, and try out any tricks new we've read about.
So we were dressed for a dunking which was a good thing, because the winds preceding today's storm arrived at the beach before we did.
Rough Morning

So with one-foot waves lapping on the shore, we altered the plan and decided to use the occasion to gain more confidence paddling in rougher water. Bernie was so excited to go that he wouldn't even stop to get his picture taken.
To the Beach

Here's what the well-dressed kayaking couples are wearing these days....
What The Well-Dressed Kayaking Couples are Wearing This Season

...and their photographer is equally well-groomed.
Ready for Action

It was just Paula, Bernie and myself today (everyone else was either wimpier or smarter than us. I'll let you decide which.) Here they are launching....
Off We Go

....which didn't go exactly as planned.
A Failed Launch

If we were doing an "actual" paddle today, we probably wouldn't have gone out. But we decided that we were only going to go out a hundred metres or so. We set the moored boat as out limit. That way if something happened and one of us ended up in the water, we could probably walk back in if we had to. Also, both the wind and current were pushing into shore so we felt reasonable assured that we would be okay should some disaster strike.

And in fact once we got out a bit, it wasn't too bad at all. The wind seemed a little less than it was on shore, and the water was a little flatter than it was near the beach. Still, the wind and the waves were pushing us around a bit, so we had to keep our wits about us.
I Could Use Some Hot Chocolate

Bernie is hooked on his homemade Greenland paddle.....
Rough Water Bernie

...and Paula continues to sing the praises of her pink Eliza.
Paddlin' Paula

Any day on the water is a good day.

Monday, November 5, 2007

2007.27.91 - The Wind on the Willows

We couldn't get the gang together for a large paddle this weekend. Alison and Paula had a glorious day on the water yesterday for a long paddle from Cadboro Bay to Island View Beach. They said the water was a sheet of glass. Alison took lots of pictures and put up a paddle report here.
Louise and I were able to paddle today and we headed to Willows Beach.

While we still had a beautiful day....
Follow the Sun

...we didn't get the flat water that Alison and Paula had yesterday.

I'd hope to go out to some of the islands, maybe the Chain group, and try out my new camera on the birds and seals out there. But it was not to be as the wind was up and Louise's stomach was doing the heebie-jeebies. (That is a real technical medical term, by the way.)

So we stuck close to shore and we paddled towards Cadboro Bay. Here a cormorant keeps watch over us.

Even close to shore, the winds were kicking up some waves....

...but on the way back, the wind died off for a few minutes and we enjoyed some of the calm water that we missed yesterday.

Like these fellows, we enjoyed a fine couple of hours on the water.

My photos are here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

2007.26.90- Like Water Off a Buck's Back

A cloudy but mild (for late October) morning greets us on the shore of Esquimalt Lagoon.

It's just Louise, Paula and myself. We're not planning to paddle the lagoon today, but we're launching from here to explore a spot that we've never paddled before, Esquimalt Harbour. We had the choice of launching in the lagoon and heading out of it, or just launching directly into the ocean. We decided on the ocean launch because there was a bit of a current coming into the lagoon, and why should we fight against it? On our return, we thought we might ride the current in.

But that's later. First we head out into the morning sun, er, cloud.

We noticed that there were some sandbars offshore creating some breaking waves. Nothing too big, but we thought we'd head out around them to be safe.

To get into the Harbour, first we had to swing around the historic Fort Rodd Hill lighthouse. It's part of a base built in the late 19th century to defend Victoria and is now a national historic site.

What's that on the rocks? Could that be...?
Fort Rodd Hill Lighthouse

Yes, it is. Ol' eagle-eyes has done gone and spotted hisself an eagle.
Eagle on the Rock

Now we're in the Harbour proper. In the background is Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, one of the large naval bases here on the south end of Vancouver Island. There's also the Esquimalt shipyards here, and yes, that is a BC Ferry that's getting some repair work done on it. There's also some naval facilities on the other side of the harbour so we are in fact paddling between two naval bases. I took a lot of pictures today; I wonder how many were taken of us.

Anyway, we continued on. After we passed the base, we crossed over to the right side. Louise was looking for a park she sometimes walked in along here....

...but Paula suddenly saw something and pointed. "What's that swimming in the water?" she called.

We looked over and there was something swimming. Our first thought, of course, was that it was a duck or a seagull, but it was moving too fast. Our brains were trying were trying to match shapes we were familiar with to this totally unfamiliar shape. Dog? Cat? Ocelot? Hippopotamus? Finally, it became a recognizable shape. "Deer!" I shouted.
Deer Coming Out of the Water 1
Deer Coming Out of the Water 2
Deer Coming Out of the Water 3

It was a deer, alright. A big buck with a big rack.
If you've ever wanted to see a big buck shake himself dry after a swim, here's your chance.

I'm no good for estimating the size of this guy, but he was big. And fast. If we had been racing in the water, him swimming and me in my kayak, I'd be hard-pressed to think that I might win.
Just when you start thinking that this kayaking business is getting ho-hum...oh yeah, more seals and, I'm so booored of that scene....nature gives you another gift.

We carried on and found these old buildings on an island at the end of the harbour.
Old Buildings on the Shore

At first glance I thought that they might be old boat houses, but clearly they're not. But they have some sort of cranes in the top, presumably some sort of loading equipment.
[Addendum: Long-time reader Scott The Hoople believes that these building may be old munitions warehouses.]

We turned around at the top of the island and found some geese. They didn't seem at all frightened of us. As you can see, Paula paddled right by them. In fact, a lot of the waterfowl were pretty fearless today. Earlier, a seagull had come down and landed right beside me. He swam along with us for a while before he got bored and left. Later, as we neared the end of the paddle, a small bird like a kingfisher suddenly popped up out of the water right in front of Paula's pink kayak. He dove right away, otherwise Paula might have run it over. We both started laughing, although Paula was apologizing to it even though it was long gone. I was thinking that the bird would have quite a story to tell when it got home.
"Hey man! I almost got swallowed by a pink whale today!" it would say.
"What are you talking about?" its mother would say. "There's no such thing as a pink whale!"
"But I saw it! I did!"
"There's no such thing as a pink whale! You young birds and your crazy stories! You wait until your father gets home with some salmon fins! He'll spank you so hard that you'll wish you were back in the egg!!"
But I digress. Back to the geese.

They let me get close, too.

We found another old building on the island.

We headed back. We approached the lighthouse again as we headed to the open sea.

But once again, Paula spotted something on the causeway...

....another deer.

We swung around the lighthouse and Paula decided to run the current into the lagoon. She headed for the sandbars where the waves were breaking. She caught one, surfed it for a bit, then followed the current into the lagoon.

Louise and I watched her go. Louise was ahead of me and I called out and asked her if she was going to do the same thing. "I'm not sure," she shouted back. I saw that she was drifting into the area where the sandbars were. "Make up your mind quickly," I shouted back, "or the waves will make it for you." And no sooner had I finished than a wave came up and broke behind her, carrying her towards the shore.

She was heading in whether she wanted to or not!

But all's well that ends well. And we put into the beach after another fine paddle.

My photos are here.