Sunday, May 31, 2009

2009.14.145 - Smooth Paddlin'

It's fair to say that summer's here. (Yeah, you're right -- I've probably jinxed the weather now.) A beautiful and balmy Sunday morning greeted Louise and myself as we arrived at Cadboro Bay. It was just going to be the two of us today as Richard was up at Tofino, and Bernie and Paula had made other plans.
We had planned for a relatively short and simple plan of just kayaking around Cadboro Bay with our cameras and taking pictures. But as noted over at frogma last week, plans can change because it's a "pretty nice day out there, y'know?"
Caddy Pano 1

The picture-taking paddle plan didn't start off so well, as somehow I'd left my main camera at home. That would be my waterproof Pentax Optio W60 that I keep in my PFD pocket. Fortunately I often take three cameras with me, the number two camera being a bigger but non-waterproof Sony DSC-H9 that I keep in a dry bag under my skirt. (Camera number three is an Optio W10 that I usually mount somewhere on the kayak and set for interval shooting.) But things turned out okay; the water was so flat and calm today that I was able to get my Sony out with little concern about it getting wet.
We started our paddle as we often do by paying our respects to the Buddha. Someone has placed a happy Buddha on the rocky shore smiling out over the bay, and we often stop and greet it as we head out from the beach.
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And here's a picture taken by me of Louise taking a picture of me taking a picture of me taking a picture of the Buddha. (And you think you're confused....)
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We spent the first part of the paddle meandering through the rocks along Ten Mile Point.
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Gosh, that's a fine looking Delta 17 Sport. (Now can we get some Delta hats, Mark?)
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It wasn't long until we spotted a literal gaggle of geese. If these were the same babies we spotted a couple of weeks ago, they sure have grown quickly.
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I counted eight adults, so I presume that this is four different families of goslings having a vegetarian breakfast. There were many geese families around today. After we watched this group, the next little cove revealed another group of three families swimming together.
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We reached the end of Ten Mile Point which was going to be our limit today, but it was just too nice out there to stop. So we pressed on past Flower and Jemmy Jones Islands, and crossed over to Chatham Island. As we paddled across, others were enjoying the great conditions, too.
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The crossing to Chatham was about the easiest we've ever made. There was no current to speak of and despite all the sailboats that were out, there was hardly any wind. It really was just perfect.
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At Chatham we found, yes, more geese. But interestingly, no goslings. We found a small piece of shore where a lot of these baby-less geese were hanging out. I started to wonder if this spot was like a "geese singles's bar" and these were the last stragglers who, just before closing time were commiserating with each other that they didn't get lucky. Or maybe not.
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I don't think this oystercatcher was buying into my idea about the geese at all.
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It was so nice that we didn't want to head back, so we opted for The Grand Tour and so we left Chatham....
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...and crossed over to the Chain Islands.
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Normally this little archipelago is covered in seals but not today, although there were a few scattered throughout the rocks. These seals were totally mesmerized by this seagull's moves. It's not everyday you get to watch a seagull play charades. (The answer is "The Karate Kid".)
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However we did see a lot of -- you guessed it -- baby geese.
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As we headed back, we could see that the bay was filled with boats of all kinds. Ocean River Sports had a group of Kayakers out at Sheep Cove, and another big group was launching from the beach. And the bay was filled with sailboats.
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And we followed the geese home. Just another magical day on the water!
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2009-05-31 Chatham

Trip length: 11.84
YTD: 107.96
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

2009.13.144 - Newcastle Island

Today, the original plan was for Paula, Bernie, Louise and I to meet in at Maffeo Sutton Park in downtown Nanaimo and launch from there, but when we arrived we discovered that large portions of the park (including a large chunk of the parking lot) were closed off as improvements were being made to the park, and we faced a long walk from our vehicles to the shore. Otherwise, it looked like a great place to launch from, so maybe next time we'll try from there.
Instead we moved a little further up the coast to Departure Bay at the northern end of Newcastle Island. This was probably a better choice as we also wanted to visit Jesse Island, which is home to a small cave that can be kayaked through.
Departure Bay Pano

It was bright and sunny, but a little breezier than expected. We're also experiencing quite a tidal variance this week with the low tides being super low. The low tide turned into a good thing later on, but it made for a bit of slog down to the water.
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Departure Bay is home to a BC Ferries terminal, and so keeping your eyes peeled for departing and arriving ferries, recreational marine traffic, and the occasional landing sea plane is vital for kayakers here lest you become a marine speed bump. Here, the MV Coastal Renaissance departs the terminal.
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We kayaked out towards Jesse Island, first passing small Brandon Island...
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...then past a small tightly clumped group of rocks. Here, Paula found a small opening...
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...which lead into a beautiful little channel. Here's when the extreme low tide was a benefit. I'm guessing that during a normal low tide, the walls of this channel wouldn't be nearly so deep, and at a high tide they'd probably be underwater. So this is about as shallow as this channel ever gets, and only a few times a year.
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Louise followed me through the channel, but when we came out, we couldn't find Paula. She loved the channel so much that she had paddled back to go through it again!
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From there, we made the short crossing to Jesse Island. The wind was playing tricks with us, dropping and rising without warning, but we didn't care -- we'd found the paddle-through cave! The only problem was that due to the extreme low tide it was over our heads!
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Jesse Island has some gorgeous rock formations.
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Jesse Island has another feature, a cute but loud and obnoxious guard dog. He followed us around the island, barking and growling every chance he had. It drove him nuts whenever we ducked under an overhang and he could no longer see us. Bernie teased him unmercifully; I was certain the dog was going to fling itself off the cliff right into his kayak. We named the dog Bruno.
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Jesse Island is also for sale. US$5.9 million, if you've got loose change kicking around.

From there, we crossed to Newcastle Island. We were going to go around the outside of the island, but the up and down wind came up again, and Bernie, scouting ahead, reported back that it was looking pretty gnarly around the point ahead, and he recommended that we head back. Normally, Bernie is the gung-ho death-wisher of the group, so if Bernie wants to turn around, it must be rough. So we went the other way and paddled down the inside passage.
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We saw lots of raccoons taking advantage of the low tide to feast on (we presume) crabs along the shore. Whole raccoon families were enjoying a Sunday seafood smorgasbord, but I couldn't get any pictures as they would scamper away before we got close.
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We discovered the site of some sort of Nanaimo rite of passage: a pole covered in bras and bikini tops (and one pair of Homer Simpson boxer shorts).
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We turned back, as a few of us were starting to ache. (We're pretty wimpy paddlers - Freya we ain't!) Naturally, as soon as we turned around that's when the wind kicked up again.
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We gave the MV Queen of Oak Bay a wide clearance. (And believe me, you want to give the Oak Bay as much clearance as you can.)
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We crossed back towards our landing spot, but Bernie detoured across to Jesse. Bruno was having none of it and we could hear him barking at Bernie from a kilometre away. "You? Again?" I really thought that Bruno that going to jump into the water and swim after Bernie. (Maybe we'll need to start carrying dog anti-venom in our first aid kits.)
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This is a terrific place to paddle, easily two or three different day-trips could be planned for this area. We shall return!

Trip length: 11.05 km
YTD: 96.12
My pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

2009.12.143 - Reunions

After yesterday's sunshine, we were hoping that we might get a repeat of the good weather today, the final day of the Victoria Day weekend, but no such luck. The forecast called for clouds and rain in the afternoon, but it came early and while others were enjoying the parade, we readied our kayaks in a light drizzle. But a couple of things happened that brought sunshine to our hearts. First, Bernie joined us today.
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He's paddled a couple of times in the last year, but this is the first time he has paddled with Louise and I in about 14 months. Then an even bigger surprise: Tracy suddenly appeared on the beach! We haven't paddled with her in a couple of years. She tried to surprise us at Esquimalt Harbour yesterday but arrived late and we had already launched.
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So feeling like old times, we geared up and launched into the light rain.
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We knew that the weather was slowly going to get worse, and the currents were also going to slowly speed up, so we decided to put in at Cadboro Bay and kayak quicly out to Chatham and Discovery Islands, explore there for a bit, then head back and noodle around the rocks on the protected south side of Ten Mile Point.
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The drizzle soon stopped, and the water, while not glass smooth, was fairly calm. Currents were light and we quickly left Cadboro Bay and moved into more open water.
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At Chatham, we wondered if the owner of this boat misjudged the tides. It was tied up to the shore so it wouldn't float away, but that certainly wasn't going to be a problem today.
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We saw some seals, and being a large fleet today we didn't want to crowd them....
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...but this one didn't seem to mind posing as we passed him between Chatham and Discovery.
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We bade Chatham goodbye...
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...and crossed back to the mainland. We paddled slowly along the coast, passing families of geese and their latest additions.
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A moment later, I saw some otters on a small island. Usually, otters don't hang around long enough to let me get any pictures. I've been kayaking for four years, and I have taken only three pictures of otters. Today, most of the otters, as per usual, quickly scurried away, but one stayed in position, possibly too distracted by eating something to notice me.
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But something else noticed him. Suddenly, an eagle swooped in! I'm not positive what really happened. The eagle was being harassed a pair of crows, so I'm not sure if the eagle was after the otter, or after something the otter was eating, or was just looking for a little peace from the crows and just happened to land near the otter. Needless to say there was a brief moment of National Geographic-like consternation and uproar. This was my best picture, not so good really, but at least I did get the otter and eagle in the same frame!
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In the end, no harm was done, although the eagle kept getting an earful from the crows as it took shelter in a tree. The otter was briefly annoyed...
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...but quickly regained its composure, and went back to whatever it was doing on the rock, even after it finally noticed me.
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Soon, we landed, and in the final reunion of the day, Richard made a surprise appearance at the post-kayaking coffee at Olive Olios.
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Trip length: 10.07 km
YTD: 85.07
My pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.