Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Paddle Stats 2009

Here's how this year compares to past years (in percentage of paddling days):

Some things to note:
- It was a sunnier year, up 15% from last year and double the sunshine of the crappy weather year we had in 2007.
- Interestingly, days that are just cloudy show a decidedly downward trend. Of course, that shouldn't be a surprise this year with all the sunshine, but interestingly this trend occurred doing years when sunshine was down.
- Weather-related cancellations were down this year probably for a couple of reasons. First, as we have gained experience we have ventured out into weather conditions that we might not have before, and we've been become a little more adept at planning safer Plan B paddles when the weather forecasts aren't looking so good. Second, my definition of a weather-related cancellation for this chart is if we'd made plans to paddle, and on the day of the paddle we've decided the conditions weren't acceptable. This year we changed tactics slightly and didn't even bother making plans some weekends based on the forecast. So those occasions wouldn't have counted as cancellations and that may have skewed the figures a bit. (The decision to cancel a paddle can be made at the launch site, or in while still in bed under the blankets and listening to the radio. Many a paddle has been cancelled this way. Especially in December. But I digress.)

None of this is terribly scientific of course, but it is interesting to see long term trends, even if they are as subjective as this.

I hit the water 38 times this year. Not as much as I would have liked, as I was held off the water by eye surgery at the start of the year, and some minor back issues at the end of the year, as well as the van blowing up, essentially leaving us vehicle-less for kayaking purposes. Still, not a bad total as some unlucky people never get on the water.
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You may well be asking yourself just how far I've paddled over my short paddling career. Or you may well be asking yourself if you want a cheese sandwich. Actually, I really don't know what you're asking yourself -- what am I, a mind reader?
The answer to how far I've paddled is 1162 km. You can see the yearly breakdown on this handy dandy chart:
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Now it's time to see about getting some wheels so we can get those kayaks back in the water. However you are on your own for that cheese sandwich.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2009.38.169 - Spawning On Sunday

After a couple of weeks off, we return to the waters of The Gorge.
Gorge Pano 1
We are deep into autumn now. Many of the tress on the We(s)t Coast are evergreens so we don't see the dramatic changes in leave colours that occurs further east in Ontario and Quebec, but if you look carefully you see some shades of yellow and a splash of red here and there.

Richard returned after a summer of sailing, bike riding, and scootering. Something had to give and it turned out to be kayaking, but he's here today under a cool but sunny sky, putting his boat in the water and about to discover if he remembers how to do any of this kayaking stuff.
While Louise and Paula got ready, Richard and I took a quick paddle down to Tillicum Bridge to check out the current.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 061

We rejoined Paula and Louise and started down towards Portage Inlet. It wasn't long until Paula spotted....
2009-10-18 The Gorge 024
...a deer on the shore. Louise and I saw a deer in our backyard a couple of days ago, and today we saw this one across The Gorge on the edge of a house construction site. I'm not sure if it's the same one; this one seems to have a bigger rack on it. Although there are lots of trees, shrubs and green space in this area, it is an urban area so I hope these deer are able to find their way back to a more suitable area before they become someone's hood ornament. And I hope we leave enough land undeveloped so they don't have to come wandering into urban areas looking for food.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 018

And soon after that we saw cormorants in a tree. One was posing in a very seasonal Hallowe'en style. Was he trying on his bat costume? Maybe he thought he should go as a cat this year and was trying his best to make himself look big.
Most likely he was just drying his wings. But they must have been very wet because he kept them outstretched like that for the entire time it took us to paddle by him.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 025

As we moved into Portage Inlet from The Gorge, we noticed how high the water was. We were on a flood tide, plus we'd just had a couple of days of monsoon rain. So conditions were right to try to paddle up Colquitz Creek.
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Richard and I pulled a little further ahead, but soon the way was blocked with brambles and bushes...
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...and since none of us had machetes handy, we headed back.
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Back in Portage Inlet, we found the swan family, two adults and three juveniles, enjoying the lovely morning.
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With the water high, we decided to head to Craigflower Creek and see if we could get around the tree trunk and into the tunnel. We had tried a couple of months ago, but our big boats couldn't sneak through the narrow channel between the tree trunk and the shore. But it appeared that since then part of the bank collapsed just enough that we poke our way through. Richard made it through...
2009-10-18 The Gorge 109
...as did Louise.
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Then the tunnel awaited.
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It goes under the Trans Canada Highway just east of Helmcken Road. The highway is about six or seven lanes wide at this point.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 116
We made it through to the other side....
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...when Paula said that she saw a fish swim by. Louise saw one, too. I saw a splash. Oh crap, it's a salmon stream! Coho salmon were taking a break here before heading further upstream to spawn. We quickly turned around...
2009-10-18 The Gorge 121
....and headed back down the tunnel.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 125

As we paddled back towards the inlet, the surprise discovery of salmon in this stream (and it is a surprise -- 40 years ago The Gorge was so polluted you would rarely find any fish in it, let alone salmon) also solved another mystery we were seeing today -- harbour seals. We'd seen four or five seals in The Gorge today heading into Portage Inlet. Seeing the occasional seal in The Gorge is not unheard of, but today it was almost like rush hour. We realized that they were chasing the salmon. In fact we saw a couple of seals splashing around hunting down some salmon on the far side of the inlet. No pictures, alas.
2009-10-18 The Gorge 127

2009-10-18 The Gorge
Trip Length: 16.11 km
YTD: 336.25
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

2009.37.168 - The Gorge Redux

Another sunny Sunday, another paddle in The Gorge. With no solution to the dead van problem, we are still limited to the home waters of The Gorge. Paula joined Louise and I for another paddle under clear warm skies.
2009-09-27 The Gorge Pano

We headed down to the narrows at Tillicum Bridge and paddled through. Today there was just a small current flooding current, and not the often seen roaring rapids.
2009-09-27 The Gorge 043

We weren't the only paddlers out. This outrigger canoe passed us a few times, and we saw other kayakers enjoying this gorgeous Autumn weekend. There won't be many more weekends like this so we better enjoy them when they happen.
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There were lots of geese out today. I'm guessing that a lot were passing through on their way south, although there is a sizable number who live here all year.
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And later, we caught up with the local swan family. We were a little concerned as we saw the parents and only two of the (now very large) baby swans. We'd seen all five swans last weekend, so we eared that something might have happened to the other baby swan.
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But a few minutes later we found the final baby feeding on his own. It looks like he's all grown up now and has moved out of his parents' basement.
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2009-09-27 The Gorge
Trip Length: 8.91 km
YTD: 320.14
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2009.36.167 - The Gorge

The last weekend of summer. And a glorious weekend it was. Warm temperatures, clear skies, calm winds. All weekends should be like this.
The only downside is that with the death of the van last week, we temporarily have no wheels to take our kayaks anywhere. But perhaps I should amend that. We have no motorized wheels to take our kayaks anywhere; we do have our kayak wheel carts to push our kayaks down the hill to launch on the Gorge. Paula and her inflatable joined Louise and I in our Deltas for a paddle under bright sunny skies.
2009-09-20 The Gorge 007 copy

We saw this cormorant high up in this tree, usually at the height where the eagles sit. Speaking of eagles, we've hardly seen any around the last few weeks. We think they're probably congregating near salmon streams for some easy pickings as the salmon are now running upriver to spawn.
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These ducks found a nice spot to sit and laze away the day.
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As we moved into Portage Inlet, we saw the swans floating towards us....
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...but they weren't coming to us, but to a family that had called them over to give them a little breakfast. These just might be the best-fed swans on the planet.
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The cat looked on jealously.
Then the cat soon became interested in me: a huge half-person, half-fish. I bet he thought that he could feed on me for a year.
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We wandered up Colquitz Creek to Admirals Road where this new bridge is being built. It was supposed to have opened two weeks ago, but it's still closed. It looks finished. Skateboarders are enjoying the new pavement on it.
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On the way back, this heron posed for a few quick snaps.
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As we neared the end of our paddle we spotted Brian and Marie on their recumbent tandem, and Brian hopes to join us for a paddle next week.
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2009-09-20 The Gorge
Trip Length: 8.14 km
YTD: 311.23
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2009.35.166 - The Last Roundup

I've been feeling like an old man for the last few days. I've been troubled by some low level back spasms, something that's never bothered me before, which naturally leaves me wondering if this is just a minor injury or strain that will heal in a few days, or is this the start of chronic middle-age stiffness and the slow start of declining abilities and health. I also seem to have banged my right foot on something and bruised the underneath of it which is causing me a bit of a limp which is obviously not helping my back at all. Even worse, I can't remember when or how I banged my foot, so clearly my memory is rapidly failing me as well. Alzheimer's can't be far behind.
Through a bit of a communication gaffe, we ended up paddling on Saturday instead of our usual Sunday paddle, but it was probably all for the best as Saturday was terrific for paddling, a gorgeous late summer day that was warm and full of sunshine.
We decided to head up-Island to Ladysmith. And although we have been there many times before for the annual Vancouver Island Paddlefest, we've never gone there and explored the area.
The start of our journey involves driving north from Victoria along Highway 1 over the Malahat Summit (what we locals call "over the 'Hat"). You can see from this picture taken at the summit that you make quite a climb considering that the drive from Victoria starts at sea level. Keep that thought in mind -- we'll get back to it.
You can also see in the photo some of our other paddling places in Saanich Inlet. The island across the inlet is what we call among ourselves 15 Minute Island (because it always seems about 15 minutes away) but is really called Senanus Island. The cove to its right is Brentwood Bay and further down to the right behind the trees is Finlayson Arm.
Sannich Inlet Pano

We arrived at Ladysmith and our put in at Transfer Beach. Sealegs Kayaking operates right on the beach and it looked like they were doing a rip-roaring business renting kayaks.
Transfer Beach

Soon we were in the water and underway. Paula and Bernie had rented a vehicle from the Victoria Car Share Co-op and Louise and I used my van, so we were able to get all four big boats on the water today, and it was well worth the effort. We crossed the inlet to the far side and meandered around the islands.
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The islands seem to be made mostly of sandstone. It's so odd to see solid rock with holes like a sponge and as bubbly as an Aero bar. And yet, here we were surrounded by these beautiful formations.
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We found long shelves of sandstone that paralleled the shoreline, and at the water line these shelves seemed to have been compressed to the thickness of paper or cardboard.
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Then Bernie had what he called "a serious WTF moment."
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Looking down he discovered a trailer sitting in the water just off a small uninhabited island. Go figure.
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Bernie's back was bothering him, so he returned early. Louise, Paula and I pressed on to Coffin Island...
2009-09-12 Ladysmith 076
...then made our way back to Transfer Beach.
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As we put in, Bernie, feeling better now that he was moving about a bit, cheerfully told us how he'd holed his kayak while loading it on their rented van. A small hole, about a couple of centimeters square, but a hole just the same. He was so cheerful about it, however, that we were wondering if he was overmedicating on his pain meds. But no, he was fine and looking forward to repairing it. I mentioned out loud that it might be a good article for the blog (hint hint).
After a quick bite from the concession stand, it was time to return to Victoria. Louise and I bid good-bye to Paula and Bernie as they were going to hang out in Ladysmith a little while longer.
As Louise and I headed south, we got closer to the Malahat and the climb we and the van would have to make. Leaving Victoria heading north, as we had done in the morning, the climb is long and mostly gradual, but heading south, as we were doing now, the climb is a quick and steep ascent. It has claimed many a car. It was about to claim another.
As we started up the hill the van responded fine, but about half-way up, an unusual knock started in the engine. As we crested the summit, the van began losing power, and the knock grew louder. Louise and I exchanged worried looks. Getting stuck here, halfway between nowhere and nothing was going to make a long day even longer. We made the summit and we began the long downhill. The van seemed to have enough power to handle flat stretches, and I was hoping we could nurse it home, but another small hill loomed and that was the end of that.
The knocking increased and suddenly something snapped. It sounded like something broke free in the engine and fell off, but we never found anything.
A loud bang, total loss of power, puffs of smoke. None of these things were good.
I pulled the van over and we jumped clear. Something had gone seriously wrong under the hood. Smoke was coming off the engine, and we quickly began preparing to off load as much gear as we could and our kayaks onto the shoulder of the highway. But soon the smoke cleared, and any immediate danger passed. We were just stuck on a dangerous and busy highway with a dead van carrying two kayaks on its roof.
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We phoned for a tow truck -- it was going the cost the equivalent of the national debt to tow the van back to Victoria. But what else could we do? Paula and Bernie drove up a few moments later and they offered to take Louise and some gear back to town while I waited for the tow truck. They scrounged up all their half-drained water bottles and left them with me as they took Louise back to town.
Soon the tow truck arrived and I told to the driver to take it my house. The van looked to be in a sorry state as she was loaded up for the trip home.
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My father bought the van new in 1981, and when he passed away eight years ago, it became mine, and since I discovered kayaking four years ago it has served yeoman's duty in transporting my gear and myself, as well as my fellow paddlers. But like me these past few days, it has been feeling its age the last few years. It has served my family well, but it has served its time. After some expensive transmission repairs last year, it is just not worth sinking more money into it. And from the loud bangs, I'm sure that whatever's wrong will cost major moola.
The tow truck operator hooked up to the van, and I climbed into the cab of his truck. My faithful steed made its last trip home empty and alone.

2009-09-12 Ladysmith

Trip length: 11.74 km
YTD: 303.09
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.