Sunday, June 26, 2011

2011.16.214 - Cadboro Bay

Louise and I planned to kayak with Paula today, but Paula had an early afternoon social engagement to attend, so it looked like the three of us would just have a quickie around Cadboro Bay. We wanted to take full advantage of the first full weekend of summer, and we're happy to report that "Summer" is finally living up to its name. Sunshine and warmth, but not too warm. Just right. I felt like Goldilocks. Where's my porridge, dammit?

Paula was saying last night that her kayak wheels weren't working very well. I dunno -- they looked like they are working fine this morning.
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As the mostly blue sky shone down on us, we headed out.
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Louise continues to like the results of the Delta Fit Kit I installed at the beginning of the month. She feels much more snug and secure in her boat, and that's a good thing. For those of you keeping score at home, she is still at one pad on each side and seems comfortable with that width, so I don't think we'll be making any changes to it.
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I scooted along the northern shore of the bay while Louise and Paula stayed offshore on a more direct route. Just as we met up, I saw a splash in the water ahead on me and noticed three otters scamper out of the water. As they ran over the rocks, I reached into my cockpit for my big camera, but it slipped out of my hands as the otters crossed over a ridge. I hadn't seen any otters since our New Year's Day paddle, and was disappointed that I'd missed a chance to get a couple of shots. However, as Louise and Paula rounded the next small point, they saw the otters taking shelter under an old concrete boat ramp.
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After a few minutes, they decided it safe to leave their shelter and resume foraging.
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We paddled out first to Flower, then to Jemmy Jones Island, the stepping stones one would take before crossing to Chatham Island.
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We weren't going to Chatham today -- we didn't have the time -- but it always seems like a disappointment when we don't make the crossing, but as we turned around at Jemmy, I saw something land back on Flower Island.
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We hadn't seen many eagles so far this year either, so this was pretty cool. And so was he, especially as we moved in a little closer.
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Suddenly, there was movement near the eagle. We looked and saw a mink scurry between some rocks! Well, either a mink or a big furry rat. We're going with mink. And I've never seen one of those around here before!

Crossing to the southern shore of the bay, we meandered around the rock garden off of the Uplands district. I spotted a goose family with some baby geese, although on closer inspection, they looked more like teenage geese.
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Behind me, Louise and Paula were watching a life and death struggle between a seagull and a crab. The crab appeared to be winning as it had managed to latch itself to the seagull's breast with one claw and while dangling there was reaching up with his other claw trying to grab the seagull around the neck. The seagull seemed at a loss as to how to proceed, but finally shook the crab loose. As I returned, it appeared that the crab's efforts to escape were in vain.
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As we started back, we saw another mink! We began an inventory of all the animals we'd seen so far. Apart from a couple of overflights, we hadn't seen any herons, but as we poked our nose into Loon Bay, a lone heron was staring intently at something....
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...which turned out to be another pair of otters coming out of the water.
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We fished an old fire extinguisher out of the water....
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....and continued paddling along the shore. We couldn't believe how much marine life we'd seen on this short paddle.
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"A seal," I said. "We haven't seen any seals yet." Louise and Paula murmured in agreement. Not 20 seconds after I spoke, a little seal head popped up. We all laughed as the seal dove under the water quickly, but the seal didn't dive deeply and instead slowly swan just below the surface towards us and the the rear of my kayak. I blindly aimed my camera over my shoulder.
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The seal surfaced and gently bumped the rear of my kayak, then moved over and bumped Louise's kayak. It was a small seal, probably a juvenile waiting for its mother to return with food. Eventually he realized his mistake, and he soon moved away.
What else could we see on this paddle? "A pod of killer whales!" I shouted. But no, we were in three metre deep water and less than 500 metres from shore. No killer whales. But that was hardly a disappointment after this great paddle.

Trip Length: 6.90 km
YTD: 121.99 km
More pictures are here.
2011-06-26 Cadboro Bay

Monday, June 20, 2011

2011.15.213 - Albert Head

Albert Head
Today was one of those days that was made especially for being outside and doing your thing, whatever your thing is. And Louise's and my thing was to kayak around Albert Head.

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It looks like Spring may finally be here...just in time for Summer to arrive on Tuesday.

As we headed off around Albert Head, a small headland on Vancouver Island just west of Victoria, we passed a couple of families of geese enjoying the bright sunny morning.
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We reached the small short cut that we like to call "The Short Cut." Even with the lowering tide, we could still make it through the channel and cut a couple of minutes off the journey around the point of Albert Head.
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As we paddled along we could here the familiar whirring of a helicopter off in the distance. There is passenger helicopter service from Victoria's harbour, but this seemed to be closer than that. We assumed that there must a helicopter performing some manoeuvres at the nearby military base and moments later, we were proven correct as a chopper flew over us.
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I'm no expert, but I'm guessing this was one of the last of the SH-3 Sea Kings that's being phased out this year.
The seal didn't care what it was -- he just thought it was too noisy.
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A couple of minutes later it was back, and this time passed at tree-top height over the bathers at Witty's Lagoon.
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That seemed like more than enough excitement for us so we started back.
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The seals didn't care one way or the long as we were quiet about it.
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Trip Length: 10.08 km
YTD: 115.09 km
More pictures are here.
2011-06-20 Albert Head

Saturday, June 18, 2011

2011.14.212 - MEC Paddlefest Victoria

The rain let up just as Louise and I arrived at Willows Beach to enjoy the 2011 MEC Paddlefest Victoria. Overcast skies and a breeze greeted us as we began out tour of the information booths.

Nothing says kayaking like a donkey! Or did we miss a turn and somehow end up at a 4-H event?

No, it's a paddlefest. We found Paula manning the Straitwatch table.
Here we met a local shark researcher investigating the local waters for basking sharks. They are listed as endangered in BC waters as they were hunted to near extinction in these waters in the middle of the last century. In fact, extermination of the basking shark was official (and short-sighted) government policy in the 1950s.
It's not known how many basking sharks are left on the coast of BC -- there might not even be any -- but there has been a sighting or two in the last couple of years, giving hope that at the very least the occasional transiting basking shark might be paying regular visits.
If you've ever seen a basking shark in local waters, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans wants to hear from you.

After that we hit the beach....
...and I took an Atlantis Titan for a spin. I also wanted to take out a Current Design Solstice GT Titan but the guy manning the Current Design booth didn't seem very interested in helping me.
However, Tony from Tony's Trailers was keen to show off his kayak trailers for bicycles.

The weather seemed to be keeping the crowds away, but those of us that showed up had a great time!

Trip Length: 1.27 km
YTD: 105.01 km
More pictures are here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011.13.211 - Inner Harbour

This morning, Louise and I met Paula for a paddle down in the Inner Harbour. We hadn't paddled here in a while, but if you don't use it, you'll lose it to developers who think it's their universe-given right to exploit public land to make a profit for themselves to the detriment of the people who actually live here. But I digress.

We put in on the western side of the harbour on a little beach in what is known as the Songhees area of town, but 150 years ago this was the hub of the Songhees nation.
Two modern totems watched us as we prepared to launch.

Louise was very excited to practice the skills she learned at last week's tidal currents course. but the only skill she could remember was "the helicopter."
Her father was a helicopter pilot. Like father, like daughter.

We start by passing under the Johnson Street Bridge, also known as The Blue Bridge, or Big Blue in these parts.
Enjoy this view while you can, folks. The old bridge had seen better days, and it will be replaced over the next couple of years. In fact, demolition of the rail side of the bridge will begin in the fall.
Under the bridge...
...and past the industrial working harbour...
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...and suddenly we're into modern urban housing and retail.

This heron is enjoying a late Sunday brunch.
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Clearly someone has an opinion on the Stanley Cup finals.
Trip Length: 7.23 km
YTD: 103.74 km
More pictures are here.
2011-06-12 Inner Harbour

Sunday, June 5, 2011

2011.12.210 - Tidal Currents Course

Ladies and gentlemen, it's been a long wait, but that wait may finally be over. May I present, in all its glory, summer!
Yesterday may have been the first day I ventured outside without a jacket since last September. And today was promising to be sunny and warm, some might even say "hot." It would eventually hit 21 degrees in the afternoon, and it must have been the hottest day since last autumn.

It was under these bright sunny skies that Louise and I participated in a Tidal Currents course put on by the fine folks at Ocean River Sports. Long-time readers of this blog may recall that we took the course last year under conditions that were less than ideal, and Ocean River gave everyone in the course a do-over. Out of the six people on the course today, four of them were from last year's adventure. Another person had a fair amount of experience, and as for the last student, he'd been in his kayak in a lake, but this was the first time he'd been out on the ocean. Talk about jumping in with both feet!

Louise looks thrilled at the prospect of being out in the currents again.
This was also the first test of the new hip pads we installed in her kayak last week.

It really was a beautiful day. Thin clouds slowly drifted by on a light breeze. Discovery and Chatham Islands were calling us....
...but we stuck close to shore and headed out to Ten Mile Point.
We've paddled here lots of times, but today we were planning to be there at maximum current. Our instructor Gary estimated the current at about four knots. Max current was early today, so he wanted us on the water right away to take advantage of it. He would deal with the theory part later back on the beach.

We huddled together in an eddy while Gary quickly checked the lay of the, I mean water.
Ten Mile Point is a rocky area with many outcroppings and islets. Gary found three main currents runing through the rocks: a mild one near the shore, a second stronger one further out, and a third, stronger still, and futher out again.
Gary moved us to the mild current to demonstrate how to peel into a current, but as he hit the current and planted his low brace, a sea lion popped up from behind a nearby rock, possbily annoyed that he now had to share the ocean with us. Gary returned and demonstrated the maneuver again as clearly the class had been distracted.

From there, we moved to medium current, then to the fast current. Louise was feeling a little apprehensive and hung back at the medium wave with Janette, the co-instructor. She is still feeling a little unsure in her boat, and she dislikes being around large sealife and the sea lion had spooked her. What she didn't realize was that when she stayed back, the sea lion popped up right behind her without her noticing! But she quickly gathered her courage and joined us out in an eddy near the strong current.

Gary demonstrated how to play in a small standing wave....
...and the rest of us gave it a go, some more successfully than others.
Of course, the most successful of us was the sea lion.
He spent the morning riding the current over and over aagin like an amusement park ride, showing us stupid humans how it's really done.

Finally, we headed back to the beach for a snack and the theory, avoiding the traffic jam of geese as best we could.

Trip Length: 8.15 km
YTD: 96.51 km
More pictures are here.