Sunday, August 30, 2009

2009.33.164 - Ready for Our Close-Up

This morning, we arrived at the beach at Cadboro Bay and discovered that Bernie thinks he's the next Bryan Smith. Or maybe the next Michael Moore. Either way, Bernie had his video camera out and wanted to shoot footage of us unloading and getting our kayaks ready for launch. Brian's here too, despite having come down with Swine-Avian-Martian Flu. Or maybe just a bad cold. Brian, the crazy guy with the inflatable kayak/recumbent trike combo from our recent Gorge paddle, was going to paddle with us, but is skipping the paddle due to his cold; however, he is going to see us off and join us for coffee later.
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After watching us haul our kayaks to the beach (talk about exciting cinema!), Bernie positioned himself in the water and wanted us to paddle by him a few times. We kayaked past and he panned and tracked us.
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As we took up our positions for another run, I said, "I'm going to see how close I can get to Bernie's head." Tracy replied, "I thought the whole idea was to hit Bernie in the head." And she took off, taking dead aim. None of us actually hit Bernie, but I got as close as I could. Either Bernie is a very trusting cameraman, or he had no idea just how close I was planning to pass by him. Anyway, he lived, passed me the camera, and got out of the water and headed off for a coffee with Brian. I took some more shots as we paddled, and now Bernie has all the footage which he will no doubt use for some sort of nefarious purpose.

Finally we began the paddle proper. Louise, Tracy, Paula and I headed out under near calm conditions and sunny skies, although there was a large fog bank offshore obscuring Chatham and Discovery Islands, and that was just as well as none of us were feeling up to a crossing today anyway. We just wanted a nice noodle along the shore.
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There wasn't much to see at first, just a few seagulls and the occasional oystercatcher.
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Two weeks ago we were here and we couldn't paddle a metre without running over an otter (okay, that's a slight exaggeration), but today there's not an otter to be found. It is funny how one day you'll see a whole bunch of one animal and the next time you kayak in the same spot, there's none. It's like they all packed their bags and left to go to the next cove over or something. Did the the rent go up? Do otters pay rent? Did they get evicted for having too many late night parties? They otter have known better! (har har har)
The horizon was almost invisible at times....
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...but in close to shore the conditions were perfect.
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We paddled towards Willows Beach and Mary Tod Island, not seeing much of anything, expect for this determined-looking heron off Cattle Point. At Mary Tod, we headed out a bit towards the first bunch of small islands.
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And that's where the seals were hanging out. Big, fat, happy-looking seals.
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We drifted through the rocks and the seals seemed quite at ease with our passing armada. They must be quite used to humans in small boats. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
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We left the seals and headed back...
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...passing this person out enjoying his Hobie and talking on his cell phone. Aren't there laws against paddling and talking on your cell phone? Well, as long as he's calling someone back east and bragging about the glorious weather we've had this summer, I guess it'll be okay.
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2009-08-30 Cadboro to Willows
Trip length: 9.78 km
YTD: 279.03 km
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here

And here's what I did with the video we shot that day:

Monday, August 24, 2009

2009.32.163 - Mill Bay

Today we headed to Mill Bay. This is new territory for Louise and I, but Paula and Bernie had a quick little paddle here at the beginning of the year. We put in under a sunny sky beside the handy boat ramp at the end of the aptly named Handy Road.
Mill Bay

Usually when someone says the beach is a minefield, they're are referring to piles of dog poop. (Unless they're talking about real minefields. And just why haven't the world's major powers signed onto the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines anyway? Shame on them. But I digress.)
The launch beach was a minefield of large red jellyfish. This fellow was about 30cm across, and probably would not have liked being stepped on.
We saw a lot of jellyfish in the water after we got going, mostly clear ones, and Louise found a nice red and got all the great jellyfish shots today.
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It was just Louise, Paula and I today. Paula is trying a backbone in her Advanced Elements kayak that helps stiffen it to improve performance (insert your own dirty joke here). She said she felt a little faster and also sat higher out of the water, but she wasn't necessarially sure that the cost is equal to the benefit. More testing is required.
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We paddled through some of the clearest water we've seen in our local area.
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I love how the trees grow out over the water, making a canopy over the beach. Look how clear that water is.
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We were able to do something George Bush could never do: we found the remains of Saddam Hussein's nuclear arsenal. What it was doing here in Mill Bay is anyone's guess (although I'm sure Cheney and Rumsfled will say they knew the weapons were here the whole time).
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We didn't see much in the way of wildlife today. Just the occasional seal popping up. And this guy followed us for almost our entire paddle.
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Just a gorgeous day.
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Of course, as soon as we turned around to head back, the winds picked up and our flat calm became a little less flat.
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But we made it back to the beach.
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2009-08-23 Mill Bay
Trip Length: 10.31 km
YTD: 269.25 km
More photos are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Bernie unexpectedly lent me his video camera for this trip and it took a little while for me to get hang of it. For some reason it seems that I took a lot of footage of the inside of the camera bag. But I scraped together enough footage to make a quick little clip:

When in Mill Bay, we eat at Mill Bay 2-for-1 Pizza. Good food, good service, good price. Stop in for a slice.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

2009.31.162 - Most. Otters. Ever.

Monday morning, and Louise, Paula and I headed out for a quick jaunt around Cadboro Bay. A slightly overcast sky looked down on us, but the weatherman promised it would burn off over the course of the morning. Although calm here in the bay, the current was running through the channel and we only had a limited time to kayak today, so we were going to forgo a crossing to Chatham.
2009-08-17 Cadboro Bay 002

Why is it that some paddling days you see nothing but one certain kind of animal, let's say herons, and the next time it's nothing but seals? Not a complaint of course, variety is the spice of life. And nature-watching. At the start of our paddle, it looked like it was going to be a heron day.
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Then again, when we arrived at Flower Island, it looked like it might be an eagle day.
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We decided to go out to Jemmy Jones Island. As we arrived, we could feel the current pick up and see it racing on the far side between Jemmy Jones and Chatham. From there, we were going to head back to the mainland at Cattle Point. But before we headed back, I saw something splashing in the water ahead of me. Four little brown heads were bobbing up and down and staring at me with great interest. We'd found some otters.
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We've seen a lot of otters this year. In past years, we've barely caught a glimpse of any, but this year they are doing well and are everywhere. Today was looking more and more like an otter day.
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We crossed over to Cattle Point...
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...where I suggested that as we returned up the coast that we should hug the shoreline. It was a very low tide, and with all those fresh tidal pools and more rocky shoreline exposed than usual, I had a hunch that we might see more otters. Instead Paula and Louise drifted off-shore a bit, while I stayed in close. (They otter have known better.) Soon, I spotted another otter family enjoying the morning.
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As I paddled along, I also saw a couple of solo otters racing over the rocks. I watched one as it left the beach and climbed up a bluff and into a backyard. The heron looked on disapprovingly.
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I caught up to Louise and Paula and they decided to paddle with me along the shore. They weren't disappointed as soon we saw another otter family swimming. This group was leaving the water and scampering over rocks as we paddled by. We lost sight of them for a moment, but spotted them a moment later running up the large concrete backsteps of a multi-million dollar mansion. From there they disappeared somewhere on the patio. As we rounded the point near the entrance to Loon Bay, the otters scurried down the rocks on the other side of the property and back into the water. We watched them frolic from a safe distance.
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I didn't notice until I looked at my pictures later but they may have been doing more than just playing. I'm not sure what's going on here exactly, but one otter clearly has something in its mouth. My best guess is that he's got part of a crab shell. It's hard to tell what it is, but it looks like he was munching on something.
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A row boat paddled through the channel and the otters scattered, taking shelter in the rocky breakwater. We could hear them hiding in the rocks, and they knew all the channels through the breakwater. I saw them looking out on one side, and Louise saw them (and got some photos) on the other side.
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2009-08-17 Cadboro Bay

Trip Length: 7.92 km
YTD: 258.94
More pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

2009.30.161 - Back To The Lake

A beautiful Sunday morning on Thetis Lake.
Thetis 2

We have returned after only a couple of weeks for another practice session on the lake. Today, it's Louise, Paula, Khaled and myself. After a little paddle around the lake, it's self rescue practise time. Paula is going to figure out how to get back into the Advanced Elements Expedition she's been testing, while Khaled will try to figure if it's even possible for him to get back into his Pelican play boat.
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First, we do a little exploring in around the shore.
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We found one eagle, but he was a little shy and pretended to ignore us.
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There was something living under the lily pads. As we paddled through, tiny splashes would erupt ahead of us. We never determined what was causing the splashes. Frogs were our best guess, but it was just a guess.
A couple of times, I also some small black shapes running along the shoreline. My impression as I briefly caught sight of them was that they were cat-sized, but they clearly didn't move like cats. Minks? River otters? Who knows. Whatever they were, "stealth" was their middle name.
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We found another eagle, and after giving us the once over...
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...he was very willing to pose.
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Then came play time. Paula hit the water first trying to get into her Expedition.
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With roughly the same amount of exertion and swearing as when she gave birth to twins, she finally got in. But she quickly discovered that the normal route of a cowboy/scramble entry doesn't really work on the Expedition because there's hardly anything to grab onto on the back deck. So she had to scramble onto the front deck, which means that she is facing the stern, and now has an extra turn she has to deal with before she can get back inside the cockpit. Not impossible, but not exactly ideal.
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Then it was Khaled's turn to try a self-rescue in his Pelican play boat...
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...and it promptly sank. We very quickly discovered that almost any amount of water in the Pelican would make it totally unstable. Khaled could get on top of it, but he could never get in it before it tipped over or sank. Paula tried an assisted rescue from her kayak and that actually worked really well.
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Not to feel left out, I gave my paddle float entry a work out...
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...which of course led to the inevitable bilge pump fight.
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But perhaps the most important lesson I learned was this: if you're going to mount a camera on your kayak's back deck that's set to take a picture once a minute, make sure you know when it's about to take its next picture before you climb out of your kayak.
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The End!

Or is it?
As an added bonus, thanks to new-fangled modern technology, you can enjoy our paddle around Thetis Lake, too!

2009-08-16 Thetis Lake
Trip length: 5.13 km
YTD: 251.02 km
My pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.