Adventures on the Blue

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Nowhere else to go, nothing better to do on a Sunday night. It's paddling time! I've been to a few pool sessions now and they're just a great opportunity to learn new stuff. I tend mostly to practice rescues and keep trying for that roll. This night I brought my camera and one of my friends from work.



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There were a number of different skill ranges in the pool that night and a lot of people with traditional kayaks and/or Greenland paddles. I got to chatting with a guy named Kevin about Greenland paddles, and found out he was from Nanaimo and made the paddles with a swiss army knife saw and a plane using biometric measurements and some good lumber.



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I was on the low end of the skill range, but I just practiced more of the same wet exit and reentry techniques and tried a roll, but my body went all over the place in the cavernous boat I was using (Telkwa HV). I've also found over these sessions that foam paddle floats are a lot better for fatties than the air bag style ones. I tried a north water float, and it made for much more reliable reentries and paddle float rolls.



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Monday, November 26, 2007 Leave a Comment 0 comments

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A few of my work friends decided to go to Banff and Lake Louise to get away from it all. After a pretty uneventful drive through the rockies we drove right into Banff after staying in Golden for the night. Banff was hovering around 4 or 5 degrees and was quite foggy. We rented kayaks (Dirigos) from Blue Canoe on a relaxed part of the bow river. The crew set us up with paddles and PFDs, and a random guy on the site handed me a pair of binoculars. Just around the first bend, there were osprey nesting and you could hear them from the shore. We sat in the kayaks and the employees just dragged us over the gravel into the water.



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Our original plan was to head up into the Vermillion lakes, but the route was closed because of low water levels. Instead we traveled up the scenic bow river - and awed at the views and turquoise water beneath the boats. Apparently a certain type of sediment turns the water into a surreal teal/turquoise hue when the sun hits it. The fog disappeared not 10 minutes after we hit the water revealing beautiful clear skies. We paddled against a weak current up river, and found something new around every curve.



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Wildlife was everywhere. This elk was spooked by a passing train on the opposite shore. I saw numerous rodents and birds all sharing the riverside. We paddled about as far up river as we could in the time limit and we turned around to see all of the mountains lit up with the last of the morning clouds drifting by.



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Look closely at the bow of my friend's boat in that shot. The water in this part of the river is made of some sort of deep, deep magick. We headed back down the river getting a helpful push from the current. Just before we returned to shore, we spent a while locating and watching the osprey nest. It was in a pretty conspicuous location and the birds were making all kinds of noise while staring right down the binoculars. Just as we landed, my friends wanted to explore the passage to the Vermillion Lakes in case there was actually a way to get there. Within a few minutes, they found it impassable and returned to the shore. We handed back the gear and binoculars and went to find some lunch. I will definitely be back for Bow River and Lake Louise.


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Monday, September 10, 2007 Leave a Comment 3 comments

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So I get hooked on Kayaking. What next? Figure out how not to die - probably a good plan. I was really wanting to go on the Ocean, but given my last few follies on the sea, I think I needed a bit of direction on strokes and rescues. So I plonked down some cash for lessons with Ocean River here in Victoria. It was a 2 day course offering introductions to rescues and strokes starting in thetis lake and moving to Cadboro bay the next day.



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I arrived at thetis lake to dead calm water and a bunch of excited people. I was introduced to Ian Ross and Gary Allen, our instructors for the course, and we proceeded to gear up and get ready for a beating. I was paddling in a rotomolded Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 - nearly everyone else had current designs boats, but I'm just too big for the common CD models. The morning part of the course focused on mostly basic rescue techinques and how to execute a wet exit the right way. Needless to say it was fascinating to just pick up so much information so quickly.



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The basic two person rescues were much less daunting on nice flat water and it seemed all was going well until I found a fatal flaw (or 2) in my boat design. This is the best story I have so far. :) It came time to do solo rescues, I put the paddle float on the paddle and put the paddle under the deck lines. I went to hop up on the boat and it summarily tossed me off, and I noticed it had absorbed a whole lot of water from earlier rescues. I laughed a bit and jumped right back up and my hand went right through the rear hatch cover. The kayak was sitting very low to the water already due to a leaky cover and a whole lot of rolling over for wet exits. Before I could get off the deck, the boat was swamped - the much maligned cleopatra's needle. We spent nearly 15 minutes getting the boat to float enough to get back closer to shore using pumps to get rid of the water and paddle floats to add buoyancy. Once we were closer to shore, it just took a couple attempts to get back in because my pfd kept catching on the stupid seat back. All in all that boat got crossed off my list. It doesn't matter how comfortable a kayak is, if it's going to swamp because of poor hatch cover design, that's a massive liability. I guess I got more lessons for my money (and a good story).



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The latter half of the day was spent in the classroom chatting about weather, currents and safety. We planned out the conditions for the next day's paddle in the ocean. The next morning we met back in the classroom to give one last check over our calculations and decided to paddle Cadboro Bay. The wind had been picking up that morning and when we got to the beach, the winds were blowing about 15kts. Luckily the bay is so protected there's almost no fetch. We just had a bit of a headwind here and there, but as the day progressed the winds died down. After doing some basic maneuvering strokes, we altered course and had lunch on the beach we launched from. Just outside of the bay, you could see whitecaps, and the instructors decided not to take us out and around the point.



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Back on the beach, we ate lunch and talked about navigation. We sighted a few of the islands just offshore and triangulated our position on shore and learned how to mark a chart properly. Once they finished the map conversation, we went to learn more paddle strokes in a more protected area. We learned a few basic draw strokes and a basic low brace to help get out of trouble. Once the lesson on strokes concluded, we went for a bit of a free paddle out and around the rocks just before the mouth of Cadboro bay. After exploring the area a little and trying our luck in a few of the rock gardens, we headed back in before the next weather system (lots of rain) got to us.



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Back on shore, we peeled off the wetsuits and racked the boats and we were handed out little certificates for the course. It was a great time on the water and I felt a lot more confident after doing the training. I'd reccomend it to anyone.


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Saturday, August 25, 2007 Leave a Comment 0 comments

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After a couple tries on salt water in rather terrible kayaks and gear, I went up to Cowichan Lake with a few of my friends and had a great time on the water in some big ol' rec boats. We departed from a little kayak shop called Aquatica of the worlds nuttiest dock. The dock floated at about a 20 degree angle and moved freely in the water - it's no wonder it was still attached to shore. Getting in the boats was still quite a learning experience, but we managed to get in and settled. Heading up the river to Cowichan Lake was a light paddle into a bit of current and some surprisingly shallow water. Eventually we ended up at the weir - a dam that controls the flow down the river during the summer. None of us had any clue how to deal with the boat lock off to the side, so we paddled around a bit in front of the dam going "is this it? it's this as far as we can go?"



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Luckily we had some help from some canoeists unpacking their gear on the shore. "Go pull the string!" Sure enough right in front of the big iron lock door, there was a string hanging down. We maneuvered under the string and pulled. We could hear a distant bell ring. The door wasn't opening. Then we read a sign above the door telling us to stay back a ways. as soon as we moved back, the giant door opened allowing a rush of water out underneath us. Can you believe they want to automate this?! I was feeling pretty glad it wasn't automated at that point or we would have probably gotten a bit wet.



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We had a helpful voice up above help us navigate into the boat lock and talk to us about cowichan lake. She let us know about the weir and what it controls. She told us where to paddle to and then slowly operated the lift so we wouldn't get turned around with inrushes of current from the doors opening and closing. When the door opened to the other side it was clear that this was a huge lake. We paddled quickly to the main marina and stuck to the shore.



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The weather wasn't really clearing, it was in a holding pattern of fog and tiny patches of blue sky. We got to the marina and asked for directions noting all the speed boats whizzing by and kicking up wake. The people on the dock chuckled together and said, "with these idiots?" visibly upset by the other boaters flying by, "I'd stay to the side and make sure they can see you. good luck." So we paddled down the lake and noticed the afternoon breeze picking up. We decided we had paddled far enough into the wind and decided to cross the lake hoping to get in the lee.



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The crossing was done properly, we all went at the same time and stayed together. A boat in the distance saw us crossing and gave us plenty of berth. We got to the other side, and the wind was a bit lighter in the protection of the hill. We paddled a bit further down to see what we could. Eventually we started running out of time on our rentals, so we headed back in along the shore.



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Before we left, Sarah thought she'd show us how she could keep her balance and stand up in her kayak. So we gathered round to watch her give it a go. She almost made it, too. :)



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Saturday, August 11, 2007 Leave a Comment 0 comments


No photographs remain of my first, epic paddle in the gorge waterway. Okay well none were taken. I'd been in a canoe and a row boat a few times in scouts, but this was my first time out in a kayak. I waited anxiously for my friends to show up at Go! Rowing and paddling at the bottom of Jutland on a bright and beautiful Sunday afternoon. I had no experience at all and looking back just a few months ago I'm thinking.. "what was a I thinking?"



I was thinking.. this is going to be awesome.



We had a big group of about 8 people and we ran them out of rental boats. Two people in our team were more experienced paddlers and took a double, which was a huge benefit (more on that later). We geared up and went down to the docks and wathed the helpful guide to show us how to get in and how to hold the paddle. They brought the boats up and we got in shakily. Right away I knew something was up, I needed a shoehorn to fit in the boat. My feet were planted firmly against the bulkhead. I started to pull away from the dock and my kayak just went in circles.



The rudder on the back had not been stowed and wouldn't stay in it's seat. I got one of my friends to paddle around behind and got them to put up the rudder - there was no way of deploying or retracting it from the cockpit :P This boat was just awful. even with the rudder up it still turned in circles (I found out later from one of the guides that that kayak had a warped hull - wonderful). Nonetheless, I just paddled hard forward and stroked mostly on one side to keep the boat tracking straight.



We went under the old tressel where the galloping goose trail crosses the water, and I promptly smashed the boat into the pilings. Hoping no one had seen me wrecking rented equipment, I followed my friends as fast as I could with virtually no corrective strokes and maneuvering by paddle resistance only. The scenery through the gorge was totally making up for the boat issues, though my ass was falling asleep. a little ways up the water, a harbour seal popped up about 5 feet from my boat. I think that was the point where I started to forget about the kayak. I took the feather out of the paddle so I didn't have to keep rotating it. The tide was just out of slack and had started to flood as we headed merrily under the tillicum narrows bridge.



We a little ways out to just before Portage inlet and we realized we had to turn around because of the rental period and the parking time limit. So we admired the views and the beautiful houses and parks along the gorge and set to getting back to land. by this time, my butt was pretty sore and my feet couldn't move at all. We got back to the narrows and it was flooding with more and more speed. as we got closer is was getting more and more unruly to control my kayak. It was cocking and turning every which way, and the current was not helping one bit. There was very little wind that day. My friends had all gotten through the narrows, but I was fighting that boat tooth and nail - come on bessy - come on, and just as I was about to escape it, two people (unrelated to our group) in a double kayak came through the narrows within about a foot of my boat. I had nowhere to plant my paddle and no strokes in my inventory to fix the situation. The current grabbed the kayak broadside and dumped me into the sea. I had enough sense to hold onto the boat and the paddle, so I just swam to the sea wall.



The more experienced paddlers in my group came back through to help me get back in. At that point I told them, there's probably no way, so let's not repeat the experiment. They towed it through the passage and I walked over the bridge to the other side. There was a small dock there and we emptied the boat of water, but we didn't relaize the hatches had leaked practically the entire ocean into the hull. I got back into the yak and started paddling. Weighed down with water, the boat was just a miserable 4 ton weight and had no tracking ability at all. Every stroke would just kick out the bow or stern. Just as I was getting caught up with the people up front, my friend turned around to look and instantly capsized.



No one had any clue how to get him back in the boat, and it was a bit far to swim. So they improvised and told us to go on and feed the meter on their cars. so my friends proceeded to lift him out of the water somehow and they were back on their way. Luckily the water and air were both warm, so basically we laughed it off. We had no immersion gear, no spray skirt, no paddle float... oye. Guess i'm glad it was summer.



My boat was moving like it was on a turntable, so I threw my tow line to my friends in the double just to keep my nose pointing ahead. Once that was rigged up, it paddled well enough to get back in good time. My ass was about ready to turn black and fall off. Once back at the rental center, I sheepishly struggled out of the boat and onto the dock, then took the boat out of the water. I told the girl on the dock that it all went great except it has a "steering" problem. She took one look at it and said, yeah the hull's a "bit funny" on that, and it's not the ideal boat for larger paddlers since the center of balance will be way off. At least I didn't feel as bad about messing up the maneuvers after that.



Relfecting back on it, it's easy to see this as a really negative situation, but I think back when I was doing it, I felt amazed at what I'd been missing outside. I was busting my cycle. When I wasn't messing with the kayak, and just looked around, I remember feeling pretty psyched to be out there.



We all start somewhere, right?




Sunday, July 29, 2007 Leave a Comment 0 comments
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