Saturday, May 31, 2008

2008.19.112 - Double Trouble

While Richard was out paddling around Portland Island, Louise and I were playing host to her nephew Matt and his girlfriend Kaitlyn up here visiting from Salt Lake City. We rented a pair of doubles and took them around the Inner Harbour and the Gorge. They had never kayaked before, and any chance for us to send someone over to the dark side....
We rented these from Ocean River. We had the Delta TwentyT in white on the left, and the Eddyline Whisper in yellow on the right.

Louise headed out with Matt in the Delta. Already you can see that Matt has mastered the fine art of paddling tandem -- let the person in front do all the work.

Kaitlyn and I headed out in the Whisper. It's 18' long, so it's shorter than the Delta and we kept banging our paddles together, but it had a nice roomy cockpit which made getting in and out of it pretty easy. Kaitlyn picked up the paddling technique very quickly. The only drawback was that I took a lot of pictures of the back of Kaitlyn's head.

It was a busy and beautiful day on the water. There were some rowing races on The Gorge, and the Harbour Ferries were doing brisk business as well.

But not all the wildlife was chased away by the boats.

We passed the power rowers and went up The Gorge past the Selkirk Trestle...

...and up to Tillicum Bridge. In fact, the tide conditions were right for us to be able to scoot under it before heading back to the harbour.

On the way back, a pair of herons flew past us. I managed to get a shot of one of them. He looks like he's walking on the tips of his wings, but he's flying. Really! I swear!

There are some winos who sometimes pass the time in the bushes along here. This guy must be their mascot.

We continued into the harbour, past the seaplanes and towards The Legislature. You can see that Louise decided it was her turn to rest and she has changed places with Matt. That's a trick they don't teach you in kayaking courses!

Speaking of seaplanes, we had to make sure that they didn't come in on top of us.

We continued toward Fisherman's Wharf and the houseboats...

...finally ending with a look out at the great big sea.

Gorge-Inner Harbour Paddle

Trip length: 11.5 km
John's pictures are here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

2008.18.111 - Return to 15 Minute Island...and Beyond

This Sunday we decided to return to Brentwood Bay and paddle into Saanich Inlet, but instead of our usual southerly route past Tod Inlet and towards Squally Reach, we decided to head north towards what we call 15 Minute Island.
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It was Alison, Louise, Richard and myself today. Alison arrived a few minutes early and went for a little solo jaunt towards Tod Inlet before the rest of us arrived. As we all headed out later, we tried to pay her a dollar if she would paddle under this sailboat.
She declined.
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We paddled past this seagull on a buoy. We were making a lot of comments about how fat the seagull must be to make the buoy tip like that. Then the seagull took off, and we realized that the buoy was actually stuck in that position.
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This was Richard's first trip to 15 Minute Island. It's actually part of a nearby First Nations reserve and called Senanus Island, but we call it 15 Minute Island because on a previous paddle south from Coles Bay, Bernie suggested that we paddle to it.
"It looks only 15 minutes away," he kept saying. The problem was that after every 15 minutes of paddling, it still looked 15 minutes away.
The first time we decided to make it a paddle destination, it took us a lot longer than 15 minutes to get to it. Today, it took about 15 minutes. Either we are improving at this kayaking thing, or we had a helluva current pushing us today.
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Richard is trying out his latest gadget. It gives him the windspeed and tracks the barometric pressure. It's funny how now I suddenly covet something that I had no idea existed before today.
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As we went around the far side of the island, we saw some oystercatchers. Presumably they were catching oysters.
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We passed the lighthouse on the northern point of the island and crossed back to the shore, continuing north. We watched a seaplane practise some "touch 'n' gos," and the occasional seal popped up and followed us for a moment or two. We were passed by a large pleasure boat and we all turned to charge the wake. It was a little higher than we expected and we each caught some air. That was fun!
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We passed Coles Bay and went as far as the entrance to Patricia Bay. The jets were coming in over Saanich Inlet today, as evidenced by this WestJet 737 on final approach.
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We turned around and headed back. Richard is the fastest of the group, and Alison and I decided to see if we could draft off him. I'm not sure how well this worked with three kayaks, but I've tried with two, and when I'm the second kayak it sure feels to me like it's less work paddling.
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However, Louise set her sights on some divers. We heard her laughing maniacally. "Finally, we get to run over something! Who's the fricking speedbump now?"
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As we approached Brentwood Bay, we watched eagles flying along the shore. Finally one settled into a tree.
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And the paddle comes to an end.
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Saanich Inlet
Trip length: 15.7 km.
John's pictures are here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

2008.17.110- A Tale of Mystery and Imagination

Louise and I enjoyed a great paddle today. We put in at Albert Head, and saw a bunch of baby seals on a rock, a playful otter that swam by us for a visit, a pair of swans nesting, and a seagull take dead aim for Louise's boat (and miss it by that much, Chief). And this was just the first five minutes.
As we rounded Albert Head, we saw a dead seal up on a rock. (I thought he was dead, Louise thought that it might have farted.)
We saw an eagle snatch up some brunch, possibly a seagull chick or egg by the way the seagulls were chasing it. As we approached Witty's, we saw tons more seals, and they weren't shy about swimming up to our kayaks.
On the way back, we saw another eagle sitting on a rock. It wasn't going to move and we paddled close by him. We also saw the dead seal again who was valiantly succeeding in his struggle to remain dead.
Then as we loaded our boats for the drive home we saw a red-breasted tit-warbler sapsucker... or something like that. I don't know, it looked a crow but with red shoulder patches. (I got arrested once for tit-warbling, but that's another story.)
No doubt you are asking yourself, "That's all well and good, John, but where are your usually fantastic pictures of these wonderful scenes?"
And a good question it is.
And the answer is that somehow John forgot all three of his cameras at home.

My pictures are not here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

2008.16.109 - Swanlings, Gooselings and Cats - Oh My!

A beautiful Sunday morning dawned. Finally, some sunny spring weather arrived to chase away the winter blues, even if only briefly as the rain is due back tomorrow.
The only drawback was that the winds were forecast to pick up over the morning. It was only Louise and myself today and we had originally planned to go back to the Coal Island area near Sidney, but since it was just us and the wind was due to come up, we opted for Plan B: a trip into Portage Inlet.
The Gorge

We put in and and paddled under the Admirals Road Bridge.
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There were lots of geese about today, and many of them spent their time honking.
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We paddled around the point into the far arm of the Inlet. We were hoping that we'd be able to paddle up the two creeks that empty into the Inlet, but the was tide was very low and we discovered that we would ground before we entered the creeks.
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But before we tested that theory, I looked behind Louise and across the Inlet. Two swans were at the far shoreline. This was a good sign, as the three swans that had called this area home (and we saw on this previous paddle and this one) were electrocuted last year when they landed on some power lines over the Admirals Road Bridge. But another family of swans has apparently taken up residence. I pointed them out to Louise and we slowly crossed towards them. Then I noticed that there was something small with them....
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.... six little baby swan chicks! We drifted slowly until our boats quietly beached and watched the family. Those swanlings sure are cute!
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They didn't seem to mind us being there at all. They just played in the water, oblivious to our presence.
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Finally we tore ourselves away and continued down the Inlet. We finally grounded in the area where we've seen those strange egg sacks the last two autumns, but we didn't see any today. We did discover some shells that appear to be walking -- you can see the trails they are leaving behind them. The area was covered with them.
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As we returned, we saw that the swans had hit the water for a swim.
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The swans were being watched by this eagle. He eventually made a half-heartened attempt to score a little lunch, but the swans saw him diving and they honked and flapped their wings, and the eagle returned to his tree for watch for easier pickings.
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He began watching with interest this family of geese swimming up. With only one gosling in tow, we wondered if the eagle had already introduced himself to this family.
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In the end, everyone reached where they were going safely. Interestingly, after the eagle made his attempt on the swans, they regrouped and changed course right for us. We figured that the swans thought that we seemed friendly, and being much bigger than the eagle might dissaude him from another attack.
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And finally as we headed back, I totally blew this cat's mind. I spotted him on the rock wall, and turned towards him to get a picture. His eyes widened -- there's a person out there! And...he can see me!
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The poor cat didn't know what to do! I imagined the little feline wheels turning in its head! I've been spotted! What should I do? There's only one thing left! I better make myself small!
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Portage Inlet 2008-05-18
Trip length: 6.4 km.
John's pictures are here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

2008.15.108 - Vancouver Island Paddlefest 2008

Bright and early Saturday morning, we headed up island towards Ladysmith for Vancouver Island Paddlefest 2008.
Actually, it was only early -- bright was not on the horizon, as the weatherman was predicting clouds and showers. Still, there were going to be so many kayaks on the beach that you wouldn't be able to spit without hitting one. Why you want to do that, I don't know.
Transfer Beach, Ladysmith

Richard, Paula, Bernie, Marlene, Louise and I arrived just after registration opened and we quickly readied ourselves to try out boats.

But before we got on the water, others were already test driving. This fellow was out in a wave paddler. It looked like a lot of fun, but it's clearly a flat water ride.

Louise didn't waste any time trying this new 16' Delta kayak. We really dug the black colour. The 16' is still a prototype - there's only two in the world and they were both here.

Louise tried the other 16' (a blue one) just to be safe. She really liked this model. She also tried a 17' as well -- she liked them both, but preferred the 16'. I tried them both, but they weren't for me. I can't say anything bad about them, just not right for me. (I prefer the Delta 18' which I tried later.)
Mark, if you're reading this, you need to get those 16' models into stores ASAP -- you have a sale just begging to be made!

Here, Louise is trying a Current Design Kitsilano. Louise thought this boat was okay, but wasn't really impressed. I tried a Current Design Solstice Titan LV. It has a huge cockpit -- I was swimming in it! And this was the low volume version! I tried sitting in a regular Soltice, but found the cockpit a bit cramped. I may give it another shot at MEC Paddlefest next month.

Richard is trying an Atlantis Titan. He didn't care much for this boat, but I liked it a lot. The only problem was that I couldn't get out of it. Getting out of a kayak is the only difficulty I have left over from my shoulder injury, so ease of entry and exit is important to me. This was the sweetest ride of the day for me, but sadly it failed the exit test.

Louise tried this Necky Eliza composite...

...then she and Richard took out a couple of Seaward boats: Louise a Chinook, and Richard an Infiniti. Richard liked the Infiniti, saying that it was a very playful and edgy boat, but Louise also tried it and thought it was way too tippy. She much preferred the Chinook, but thought that it was too big for her. I tried the Chinook and thought it was a nice solid ride.

Sail and outrigger kayaks seemed to be popular this year.

There was also this Velomobile that Nimbus kayaks is working on. This looks pretty cool.

After all that paddling, there was hardly any time for mini-donuts!

John's photos are here.