Friday, July 31, 2009

2009.26.157 - Plan R

The plan was to put in at Patricia Bay Park and kayak towards the north end of Saanich Peninsula. That was the plan.
But we had never put in here before and when we arrived we found that the tide was waaaaaay out further than we'd anticipated, and the path to the beach, though paved, was not particularly kayaker friendly.
Now, a lesson on the difference between theoretical and practical. Yes, theoretically it was possible for us to carry our kayaks down the couple of hundred metres of path to the steep and rocky stairs, carry our kayaks down those stairs, and then carry our kayaks over more hundreds of metres of squooshy tidal flats to get the ocean and launch. But practically, we're pretty lazy.
Thus endeth the lesson.
2009-07-31 Sidney 050
Louise, Alison and I all shared the same lack of enthusiasm for launching here, so we huddled to form Plan B. (Actually, it was more like Plan R by the time we agreed, but why bore you with the details of the negotiations.)
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One good thing about this spot is that we were right under the landing approach for the main runway at Victoria airport. So if you like jet planes whizzing over your head, this is the place to be.
2009-07-31 Sidney 043 copy
2009-07-31 Sidney 044

On to Plan R, er, Plan B. We decided to launch from Tulista Park in Sidney. From there, we would head south down the coast and explore an area we hadn't kayaked before.
Sidny pano

We headed out under another sunny and warm day. The monster heat wave we've suffered through over the last week has eased off some, and the temperatures are down to more normal levels. (However, if you've grown accustomed to my complaints about the heat and worry that they might be gone for good, there is hope for you. The current long-range forecast shows the heat returning in about 12 days.)
2009-07-31 Sidney 020

The usual assortment of critters were out: herons...
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...more herons...
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and the occasional eagle.
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We paddled against the flooding tide and the wind, but the wind would disappear for extended periods which allowed us to enjoy a few moments on an almost flat sea.
2009-07-31 Sidney 012

Eventually we had to turn around and the trip back turned into a bit of fun. With the current and wind behind us, our speed picked up and as we approached our landing site back at the park, we got into some really bouncy water.
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It was a great paddle, the kind that would put a smile on anyone's face!
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2009-07-31 Sidney

Trip Length: 9.63 km
YTD: 201.73 km
More pics are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009.25.156 - Alison's Great Idea

We are burning up.
Well, not quite. But we are in what some weather-watchers believe is the worst heat wave in these parts since records started being kept. It is brutally hot for BC. A high of 35c, but the humidity is making it feel like 40c here in Victoria. This is our fourth record-setting day in a row. Today was the hottest day ever recorded in Vancouver. I'm past melting; I've gone straight to sublimating.
It's strange that last December we had one of the worst cold snaps here in memory, and now we're having the worst heat wave in recent memory. Are these weather extremes a sign of things to come? Or worse, a sign of things that are already here?
With Alison's visit lasting just a few more days, we had wanted to do more kayaking this week but the extreme heat had thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the plans. We were planning to go to Saltspring Island today but the idea of driving in hot cars and taking a ferry only to end up somewhere hotter than here had only limited appeal even to the masochists among us. Then Alison said, "Why don't we go to Thetis Lake for a quick paddle, then spend some time practicing wet exits?" That's why we like Alison; she's so smart!

Of course, we weren't the only people who thought that a quick dip in the lake would help cool things off. The smaller beach at Thetis is a favourite spot for dogs to get a brief dip and drink while they hike around the park with their people. Today, the quicks dips were long cooling swims.
2009-07-29-Thetis Lake 001

Louise and I headed out while Alison and Paula, who arrived a few minutes later, geared up. Even though it was still early morning, we quickly found ourselves sticking to the shady potions of the lake as already the sun was bearing down on us and warming us up noticeably.
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We also did our bit to help clean up the lake. Someone enjoyed their new inflatable raft but threw the box behind some rocks....
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...while Paula either pulled a bottle of cider and a Heineken can out the lake, or was starting her daily drinking binge early and wasn't ashamed about it at all.
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We saw a heron basking in the sun...
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...while this eagle seemed to be enjoying the shade.
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Then the fun began. After all, the real point today was to get in the lake and cool off. We have not practiced enough lately, so it was good to get in the water to try our rescues, and we were all quite pleased that they went so well. First, Alison did a paddle float rescue. The only causality was a lost sponge. (I thought it was Scottish slang for when someone does something daft. "Ach! Have you lost your sponge?" If it isn't, it ought to be. I'm starting a campaign to see that this phrase enters common usage.)
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Louise has had trouble re-entering her boat in the past using the paddle float rescue, so she bought herself a stirrup and gave it a try today. That worked well for her and she was able to get back in no problem. Then she tried a cowboy re-entry.
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She started too far back, and the paddle float was in the way, so the first attempt didn't work so well. But this is why we practice, right? A couple of adjustments to her technique and she was in!

Then Alison decided to stand up and applaud Louise's efforts. And she did!
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Then it was my turn, and I went for a few dunks and re-entries.
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But even after all that dunking, we still needed to cool off. Off to the Quik-E-Mart for Squishies!
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Trip length: 5.01 km
YTD: 192.10
More photos are here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

2009.24.155 - It's Déjà Vu All Over Again

It's official. Environment Canada's definition of a heatwave apparently is five days in a row of heat above 30C, and we are smack dab in the middle of one. It's blisteringly hot today. I'm building up a sweat just typing this blog. And it's very humid.
We decided for a quick paddle up the Gorge today. Louise and I were bushed after hosting a yard sale yesterday in the baking heat. We did pretty well though, got rid of some old paddles and PFDs and some other gear. After the sale, we stayed out too late watching Star Trek at the IMAX. So we were pretty beat. I don't do well in the heat, so we just wanted to do a quickie paddle today before it became unbearable out there.
2009-07-26-The Gorge 028

We were joined by Paula and her paddling neighbour Khaled. It's an eclectic group of kayaks today. Louise and I were in our Deltas, while Paula took her Advanced Elements Expedition on the bus to join us, while Khaled was in his Pelican rec boat.
2009-07-26-The Gorge 005

This home-made canoe caught my eye.
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After we passed under the Admirals Road bridge....
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...we caught up with the swans.
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This person came out of their dock to feed them. If this pictures looks familiar, it's because we saw him feed last years crop of baby swans off the same dock.
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We found some more of those gelatinous egg-sack things we often see....
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...and a flock of one-legged geese.
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We're hoping for a few more paddles this week, it all depends on the heat.
2009-07-26 The Gorge

Trip Length: 8.67 km
YTD: 187.09
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

2009.23.154 - Potpourri

We've had another stretch of hot lawn-baking sunshine. Brown: it's the new green. Although it cooled off a bit today and is expected to cool further over the coming week, the current forecast high for next Sunday is 34c, about 11c above the normal high temperature. We'll be cooking, if we can trust the weather guru's often dubious prognostications.
This hot weather marks the temporary return of our kayaking comrade Alison, here visiting family, friends and her kayak from her current home (and the city where I was born) Montréal. [insert shameless plug here: buy her new novel!]
We put in this morning at Telegraph Bay.
Telegraph Bay

Before we removed our kayaks from our vehicles, we watched a pair of otters scrambling over the low tide rocks...
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...while on the other side of the small bay, this heron kept watch on the proceedings.
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It was Alison, Louise, Paula and myself today. I mentioned that the cool people were all paddling red kayaks this year. Reds are in this year, said Alison. Paula argued that she was almost a red with her pink kayak.
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As we made our way north-ish from Telegraph Bay, we saw quite a variety of animal life. This is the third deer we saw up on the bluffs. We saw two others earlier, both being tailed by a small black cat. No pictures, alas.
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We turned around and headed back at Mount Douglas Park, where we saw this eagle.
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Just south of the park, our curiosity was raised by this concrete wall. Paula said it was a salt water swimming pool. The pool fills up at high tide, allowing people to take a swim in it. She said she remembered walking to this pool from Mount Douglas Park and swimming in it as a child. She offered that if we were to put in, she'd jump into it for a quick dip for a picture.
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We put in and clambered over to rocks to find that the pool was indeed full of water.
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It was also full of green stuff and algae. Paula quickly reconsidered her offer to swim in it, much to Alison's amusement. Continuing our paddle, we noticed two or three other salt water pools like this one, although none were as big.
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We also noticed this small room built into the side of a cliff. Paula and Alison immdiately said it would make a great writing room, and they're so right. It's how I imagine a writing room to be: a small private and secluded space, with a great view and a cat in the window....
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....although generally I imagine the cat to be inside the window.
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We saw a little bit of everything today: two eagles, two otters, a heron, jumping fish, three deer, a few seals, two air force jets and two pussy cats. It just doesn't get much better.
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2009-07-19 Telegraph Bay

Trip length: 11.61 km
YTD: 178.42 km
My pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

2009.22.153 - It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time

We'd been planning a return to Portland Island for some weeks now. Paula had missed our trip there last fall and really wanted to go, but as the final hours ticked away before our put in time this morning, the weather was not going to cooperate. It fact, the reports were getting bleaker by the minute. A Small Craft Warning was posted for the afternoon in Haro Straight, and we certainly qualify as small craft.
So even though it looked lovely as we launched, we knew the weather was going to turn and the wind was going to come up.
2009-07-12 Coal Island 005

Bernie was also looking forward to going to Portland. He was thinking of camping out in the islands for a day or two, but he had forgotten his skirt and he didn't want to be out there with waves washing over him. With an ebbing tide current from the north and the expected winds coming from the south, conditions were going to look quite different from the flat calm we had at launch.
2009-07-12 Coal Island 011

In addition to Bernie and myself, Tracy, Louise and Paula rounded out our quintet. We decided to head in the direction of Portland Island and check out the conditions. We didn't really think we'd go across, but sometimes the weatherman is wrong. We certainly had our moments of doubt in him as we moved out of Roberts Bay into the more open Haro Strait.
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The herons, as usual, were insisting that I photograph them.
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It's a fixer-upper. Bring your own design ideas.
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We made it to the tip of Coal Island with little trouble. But here, things started going a little sideways.
From here, one would make the crossing to Portland, but the open water was already seeing the effects of the wind, so it was clearly a no-go for us. We thought about going around Coal, but as we poked our noses around the point, we could see that the wind along the exposed north side of Coal was also whipping up some waves.
Adding to the situation was the odd maneuver the ferry was making. We're close to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, so keeping an eye out for ferries is Rule #1 here, and this ferry would have normally turned towards us and sailed alongside Coal Island, past us and to the terminal. But it had turned in the opposite direction and was making a slow lazy loop. None of us had ever heard of a ferry doing this. I was monitoring ferry traffic on my VHF, but I didn't hear anything odd.
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After a quick discussion, we decided to head down the channel and forgo even a circumnavigation of Coal today. The winds were definitely coming up faster than forecast.
The other factor that hastened our discussion was that the ferry had finished its loop and was now heading towards us and its regular course. We did not want to be close to the rocky shore when its wake came in.
We turned into the channel, but Bernie and I stayed back a little. Bernie was fiddling with his new video camera when I called out, "Here it comes!"
"Here comes what?" he said.
"The ferry!"
"The ferry doesn't cross here," he said. "It'll be out over by--"
"Look up!" I shouted.
He looked up, and decided it was time move back a little.
2009-07-12 Coal Island 056

Moving down the channel, we met Alex Matthews and some friends enjoying the current. (His book Sea Kayaking: Rough Waters is on my Christmas list, you know. Hint hint.)
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After a quick chat with Alex and his friends, we pressed on. The waters were now teeming with pleasure craft. I haven't felt as close to being a potential speed bump as I was feeling today.
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Then we were into it. The winds came up and the waters were churning. Swells, currents, waves and boat wake were giving us a workout. Sometimes it felt like we were going in five directions at once.
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So it ended up being not at all the paddle we had planned, but it still was a paddle that we enjoyed. And my new SPOT worked like a charm. Three messages sent, three received - woo hoo!
2009-07-12 Coal Island 036

2009-07-12 Coal Island
Trip Length: 7.91
YTD: 166.80
My pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.