Adventures on the Blue

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I read the weather and tide reports this morning and wiped the sweat off my brow. I'm still pretty new to kayaking, and, if the reports were correct, things were adding up to interesting water. Brentwood Bay is pretty much protected in one way or another from every direction other than north, and the the water was on the way out of the bay during a transition from high to low tide this morning. All warnings were up for strong to gale force Northerly winds this morning intensifying through the day and meeting with generally opposing current. What's a little challenge now and then, eh?



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Driving into Brentwood Bay, we had a little looksee at the water and sure enough, little white peaks and bobbing boats in the marina. This was going to be (I hope) fun . We launched off a small, rocky beach right next to the ferry. I'm guessing it's a lot easier on the hulls at lower tides, but we had a successful launch, and out into a the water we went. As we got out of the lee of the ferry terminal, the whistling winds were already giving us some fun chop. I decided to use a rudder for the first time today and I really liked it - let me concentrate more on ferry angles and staying head onto waves than the rudder and corrective strokes.



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Bernie was catching a bit of bow air on our way out, and I sort of put down the camera on the way back in as the waves had really increased in size. We were playing in probably 2-3foot waves and choppy water, but it really didn't feel too scary, just took a bit of concentration staying nose to the waves and still ferrying slightly to our little protective island. We paddled along with the waves into Tod Inlet, where the wind died off almost immediately and the water became flat - despite all the noise outside, it was calm here. It was a really beautiful place, with immense stands of trees crowding the hill all the way to the waterside. And when they ran out of soil, they grew out of the rock face. Bernie pointed out a mess of feathers on the water and guessed eagles had found a duck for supper. (mmm... duck). The water was sedate and the place was well worth exploring, but conditions back by the cars was rapidly worsening, so we turned around and headed back.



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Things got a little bigger back in but the kayak never really felt all that unstable. It ended up just being good exercise. We were looking for and audibly identifying pull outs if the weather really got berserk, but luckily it stayed rough, but not frightening enough to emergency pull-out. I learned a couple of great lessons: First, if you have a nice wind protection area, set up for a nice way to attack the waves head on rather than entering the chop broadside and Secondly stay in a nice big clump so everyone's safe if the water does end up gobbling one of the boats. We got back to our launch point safe and sound, covered in spray and ready for lunch. I also brought my cold war era GPS today in a nice electronics dry bag by seal-line and both items performed admirably.


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Sunday, January 20, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments



I've recently joined a forum called West Coast Paddler and I ended up finding out about Mike's talk on his kayak trip from Quatsino Sound to Port Renfrew. I walked down to Ocean River after work today and arrived to a bustling room full of people and a presentation projected on the screen at the back. Ocean river had kindly set up a little offering of goodies and coffee. Brian Henry, the owner of Ocean River, promptly introduced Mike Jackson to the audience and Mike dove right into the presentation.






The presentation started with a brief outline of the trip, the paddlers and their occupation. The second slide was of a bear running down the road in front of their large cargo van. He then introduced his videographer out in the audience. Everyone was sucked in - people in front of me were rapidly taking notes on where to land and what conditions to paddle in for their upcoming trip in the same general area this summer. The trip was broken into two parts over two years and they paddled most of the trip using Current Designs boats and Greenland-style touring paddles.



The first part focused greatly on rounding the brooks peninsula and getting down the tricky parts of the coast where there were few emergency landing areas and exposed reefs. A few humorous moments include fishing escapades with a fish bat and a good discussion on wine supply. They pull up on some pretty fantastic beaches and kept a good GPS track of the entire expedition. I also found it amazing how much stuff you can load into the kayaks. At one point they had all their gear sprawled on the beach to dry and it seemed like of of those magic bottomless bags. They also expressed a bit of concern with underexperienced paddlers doing foolish things and getting themselves killed. Apparently one paddler they saw attempting to round brooks peninsula solo was killed when he decided to turn around (due to fatigue I guess) back into huge seas and gale force winds. They were technically the last people to see him alive.



For me, the second year's highlights were mostly the trip down the west coast trail. It was great seeing some of the big landmarks like camper bay and the lighthouse off Pachena point. Brought back weird memories of that insane hike. They were mostly blessed with great weather the second year, only being weatherbound for most of a day. The photos off Cape Beale were amazing. I've never seen it so calm there.



It was a really well done night, and I'm sure I'll be back for more. Apparently there's a photography talk in February which is very interesting to my relevants. Thanks to all involved. It was a really informative and fun presentation. The photos were top notch and the video really helped to show the surroundings even more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments

Throw bag


Ahh, the venerable rope throw bag. You strap it to your boat and just hope you never have to use it. Did you know that you can edit a 14 minute movie together about throwing techniques? Well neither did I. Mr. throwline, who I identify as the straight laced european narrator, tells us all about throw lines and how to practice it's fateful execution along with his band of talented whitewater goons.


Watch The (err...)Short Film »


Fun Fact #2: Around my part of the world, you need a 15m floating throw line as a bare minimum to be on navigable waters.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 Leave a Comment 1 comment

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I set off this morning to meet some of the people from Kayak Yak Yak, a local blog about sea kayaking in the area. I've been reading their posts since about mid august and living vicariously while I was saving for a kayak of my own. Today I had the pleasure of meeting Bernie, Paula and Alison and we went for a nice, relaxed paddle around Esquimalt harbour. Thanks for the warm welcome, guys!



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I arrived at the beach a tad early and didn't see anyone around, so I watched the estuary for a bit and then just headed to the beach to find out where to meet. I saw kayaks coming through the trees at the bend in the road, so I drove over to meet the owners on the northmost part of the beach. I met Bernie and Paula first and had a photo op and then Alison drove up shortly after. I think we were all mutually excited to see one another. And The wind was low and the water looked inviting so we geared up and launched into the shallow sandbar. Once we were all safely on the water, we headed through the shallows towards the harbour.



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As we came around the lighthouse at the mouth of the bay, the clouds began to gather. We worked our way past some of the military properties and into more of the private mooring areas further north. I was stunned by some of the condition of the privately moored boats, though. They made for fantastic photos, but I don't know how much longer some of them will be seaworthy. It'll be interesting to return periodically to check them out again.



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In the northwest corner of the bay is a smaller waterway marked by an overhead car bridge. We paddled up the extremely shallow body of water to see how far we could make it before grounding out on the silty sand. The scenery began to change from an active marine environment full of concrete and sand bars to a decidedly more rocky and rustic wilderness interrupted by few signs of life. Got me wondering what kind of wildlife lived here - I could only hear distant birds. It ended up being navigable all the way until the falls at the end. Bernie charged into the current coming down the right hand bank until it became impassable with rocks. You could hear his boat bouncing off the rocks on his way back to where we were holding - looked like fun, but I valued my hull a bit too much to try it.



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I had a look around for birds in the binoculars and didn't see anything but tree mosses and the clouds going by. I slid down the current and landed on a sandbar a few meters away in order to dry off the camera housing a bit, but I ended up just smearing more water on it. Everyone else came down after sharing some snacks and we headed back out to sea. The tide had been on the ebb this morning, so the going was getting very shallow. eventually it was clear we were all aground on pretty dirty sand/soil. Every stroke lifted black muck all over the boat. So Bernie backed up and went exploring for a path through it and I quickly followed having little desire to portage. We found a nice deep pocket of water and rode it all the way back to the harbour.



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I think we all went into autopilot mode for a kilometer or so, taking pics, chatting and enjoying the surroundings. We were just paddling at an idle back the way we came and suddenly two military powerboats came roaring into the harbour and woke us all up . Suddenly we had more vigor and we began paddling a bit faster. We cruised to the outer edge of the harbour and saw two large flotillas to the south east and southwest. They had magically appeared when we turned our backs. We rounded the lighthouse again and went for the home stretch. but first there was a fun little tidal race to play in as if this wasn't already a great trip.



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This was the first time I'd been in surf in a kayak and man what a hoot! It was just little baby waves. They were totally nonthreatening, because the water depth would have let you do a roll just by hitting the sand below the boat with your fist. I rode the first set and thought: it's time to do that again. I looked back and everyone else was charging back into the waves. I took a few runs through the waves yelling "woo hoo" and such, and then suddenly I was in some kind of weird reflection and my boat cut through the first wave and turned sharply for the next - very nearly stabbing a seagull in the skull. As I rode the last wave in, I was beached hard on the shallow sandbar. I got out and dragged the boat away from the waves. Once everyone was ashore, we put the boats back on the cars and headed off to Timmy's for lunch.



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The boat was still just as dialed in as yesterday and I'm really happy to see that I can keep up with everyone even if at a leisurely pace. For 18 feet, it performed admirably in the narrower sections of the trip. It attacked the waves and even getting little breakers broadside wasn't alarming. That paddle is made of magic. I still don't feel like a paddled 10 or 11k today, and yesterday's fun on Thetis didn't even enter into it. Thanks again to all the members of Kayak yak yak for putting together some great reading and local knowledge. I hope to go to some more of their get-togethers in the near future.


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Sunday, January 13, 2008 Leave a Comment 3 comments

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Today was my new Kayak's maiden voyage, and it felt great. I paddled on a mirror all morning and got the feel for how the boat and paddle handled.



Kayak stuff first:

As I said in an earlier post. I bought this particular kayak because it was a bit smaller in the cockpit than the HV version. I made a wise choice. I can only describe it as wearing a good pair of runners: my knees fit in the gunwales, my butt doesn't fall asleep and the back band is perfect. A few small adjustments to the pedals and seat position an I was off. I started paddling out to the small island just ahead of the "canoe beach" at thetis lake. I started with a vertical forward stroke to see how the paddle acts with the boat. It's a tad jerky and makes the boat veer a little, which makes me think the paddle shaft is a bit on the long side; however, I don't have much experience with long touring blades, so I'll compare when I have others paddling with me. I also had nothing to compare to for speed, but I ended up paddling about 6 or 7k and felt no strain or fatigue even after unloading the yak solo - it's a great feeling. No leaks, no attention areas in the hull.. this boat has been babied and I'm proud of her.



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Now for the paddling experience. Watching the birds in my little binoculars, I saw something that caught my attention rather quickly. A young deer had gone for a dip and was swimming over to an island in the lake. Luckily this wasn't the first time I'd seen it, so I could focus on snapping a picture rather than questioning why this animal exists and how this behavior fits into the cosmos. :)



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The weather was unusual for January. At one point I even saw sun and blue sky. A few light rain showers would pass overhead and then it would go back to pleasant. The wind was dead calm and Thetis lake was a still mirror. Lots of wildlife to see: many types of ducks, deer, cormorants and eagles. It's really nice having a pair of binoculars so you don't spook them. I was really surprised with how big the lake was. In all my years living here, I've never explored this local lake. The public part of the lake is only about 1/3 of it's total size, so there was much more to explore.



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This bridge should have had a caption: this way to quiet. The morning paddle in the other parts of the lake led to more birds and quiet, relaxing places near shore. I sat there for a little time and just relaxed. I took a swig of water and started paddling back to shore double time, just to see what the boat had. It's a great feeling getting wind in your hair on a windless day. I was just amazed how fast she could go when pushed a little when compared to other kayaks I've tried.



Overall and extremely successful maiden voyage. I got the boat all set up for tomorrow's paddle into Esquimalt Harbour.


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Saturday, January 12, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments

I went and did it


For the last few months, I've been itching to get my own boat. I've been testing all shapes and sizes of boat and keeping a little journal of things I liked and things I really didn't like about each model and the equipment I used with it. Once the gales and clouds started pulling over Victoria for the winter, I started doing pool sessions with Pacifica Paddlesports downtown. I've rented out the Nimbus Telkwa HV on a few occasions for playing in the pool and found it to be a serious contender for top dog.

They're really comfortable boats without that scratchy fibreglass under the hatches. They get up to speed in no time and are really friendly to hustle back into when you capsize. I also liked the recessed and covered hatches, since I'd put my hand right through a hatch on a plastic WS tsunami during a self rescue(!!). The only problem I had with the HV model was it was too damned big for me. I'm 6'4 and about 265 pounds and the HV is made for someone well over 300 pounds.

I saw a regular Telkwa model come up on Usedvictoria, and asked the seller if he'd let me test the fit. I showed up to his place and we set to finding a nice place on the lawn to get it set up. pushed the seat back a bit and moved the rudder pedals back, and I'll be damned it wasn't a perfect fit. It was just what I had been looking for and in great condition to boot. I couldn't give him money for it fast enough.

I'm now the proud owner of the newest roof top accessory, a really good condition kayak. I can't wait till the weather starts to get warmer. I've been jonesing over a boat for so long that this just made my day.

I'm psyched psyched psyched.
Saturday, January 5, 2008 Leave a Comment 4 comments
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