Adventures on the Blue

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Today I met Andreas from West Coast Paddler and we had the plan of paddling south, around Gonzales point and into McNeill bay. I unloaded my boat and set it down in the slippery and mucky beach off to the north side of the marina. As I set to rigging the boat, Andreas came over the hill and informed me he was on the southern beach. We agreed to just meet somewhere between the two beaches. In the meantime two folks were also getting ready to go out paddling - one in a wooden deck boat and another in a carbon fiber CD boat.




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I got in the kayak and launched, paddling around the marina and looking at some of the boats. As I rounded the corner, I saw Andreas just waiting by the breakwater and we headed out towards McNeill bay. For some reason, there was a bit of swell in the wake of a small system from last night. As we got closer to Gonzales point, the swell was surfing us. We were getting a nice hit of speed from the last bit of the ebbing current, so we just continued in the swell while humming and hahing about how comfortable we felt about it.




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The swell got bigger and bigger and uneasiness crept in. We could see more in store for us on the horizon, so we just turned around and paddled back to some more inviting waters. A few minutes after we turned around, the people I saw launching in the marina were coming towards us, we told them about the swell further down and they just grinned even more - I'm sure they loved it. So we headed on through the small reefs into Cadboro bay. There were all kinds of different water conditions that seemed to change every 500 meters or so. Andreas and I gabbed and paddled, eventually turning around at the entrance to south entrance of Cadboro bay.




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It was a short blast back to the marina, and I headed back to the beach for landing. Just before I got to the beach, I approached a rock full of seagulls - I paddled enough to coast toward them and then got the camera out and took some pics. the closer I got the more I could see them watching me. Then they started squawking and as soon as I just touched my paddle, they all took to the air. It was a neat little show and I probably pissed off every boat owner in the marina sending a flock of seagulls over their polished boats. My apologies. I racked up the boat and headed to the Tiderace Boat Demo down at McNeill bay along with Andreas.



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Saturday, February 23, 2008 Leave a Comment 2 comments

Quinton Gordon



Tonight I got to hear an excellent talk with a professional photographer, Quinton Gordon. As with Mike's talk last month, Ocean River was packed with excited folks just waiting to absorb the presentation. Quinton had put together a slick little presentation that started with an introduction and proceeded into the meat and potatoes of some excellent photography samples that he had taken on assignment.



This man has some fine credentials under his belt and his shop talk every now and then tells me he's been doing this a while. He's also a professed gadget-o-phile - not many presenters have the gall to torture their audience with yet another stupid mac commercial, but he went there - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry actually, but you can tell marketing works (in a P.T. Barnum kind of way). At least Quinton spared us the prussian grid and spiral discourse when he got into "what makes a good picture" instead talking about holistic approaches to photo taking and framing - he's forgiven.



Introductions aside, Quinton jumped right into a story line that worked its way across Canada and then out to Greenland. The pictures were incredible throughout the presentation, showing off all kinds of tricks with lighting and point of view that didn't seem too outrageous but really made the photograph sparkle. A great thing I've noticed about most photo seminars I've been to is that the photographs are usually just the icing on the cake when you hear the stories from the photographer. This talk was no different. He told us a story of being out in ranch country BC, and getting understandably puzzled looks from the locals when he was carting around a 20 pound, 12 foot tall tripod and leaving at 5 in the morning. You have to have a certain level of dedication to be always searching for that golden hour of light.



The story continues as he made his way out to Greenland. Clearly not much needed to be said about the kayaking around these parts. One of the Greenland photos was a detail of a beautifully crafted skin on frame nestled against a rock on a rugged coastline. Next was an image of kayaking near an iceberg that was in mid rotation. According to the lore, the precariously tilted iceberg completely flipped a short time after they passed.



The night came to a focus on two unique problems: photographing a polar bear and a penguin. To get the image of the the polar bear that he wanted, required him to turn around a large vessel he was aboard and look for a white bear on a white ice floe. After a little coercion, they turned around the ship to follow his whims. Eventually they found the bear again and got the shot. The second scenario involved penguins being shot from an angle down onto the beach where they leave for the day as opposed to waiting behind a bird blind and sneaking pictures of their cute little visage. He managed to get the photo in another manner - the 4 penguins lined up to form a southern cross. It ended up being more of a design than just a snapshot of a super sharp penguin eye. Again, he's a photographer with a well-trained instinct for holistic approaches to a scene. I feel humbled, but on the other hand it makes me want to go out and make some photos this very minute. Thanks to Quinton and Ocean River for another night of interesting discussion.



Quinton Gordon's Portfolio is here »
Wednesday, February 20, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments

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This week I did some calculations before the trip to make sure my navigations skills weren't totally wrong. I made up a couple of handy worksheets to figure out the time and the weather and then went up to see how they worked in the actual ocean. I got to the beach and was greeted by Paula and Bernie. Just as I got my kayak to the beach John showed up and the group was 4.




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The forecast was light wind from the northeast, an outgoing high tide and an ebbing current in the Baynes Channel, which maxed out at 3.9kts @ 2:30PDT. So far I was right about the tide, but the weather forecast was wrong. The wind was southeasterly, but still light. We launched from the beach and headed to the east and along the shoreline to flower island. We made our way around the narrow passages and out to Jemmy Jones Island where we could see Baynes channel, The current was already well on the ebb at 11:45. We decided it would be prudent to stay out of Baynes Channel and paddle toward Mary Tod Island.




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We played around in fiddle reef and noticed we were being pulled south by a lazy current. We headed out of the channel and noticed more and more confused water bubbling up around us. Once we were at Mary Tod, Bernie got out and adjusted his pegs and we were back on our way to the take out. We were fighting a small current along the shoreline until we entered Cadboro bay. Once in the bay, the water was free of current but was being chopped up a bit by the wind that was blowing directly against the outgoing tide. We caught glimpses of all kinds of bird life on the shores - we were greeted by a bald eagle and a number of cormorants as well as the great blue heron above. I followed Bernie's pace back to the beach double time using the last few hundred meters to feel the speed of a tailwind and a strong forward stroke. Felt good!



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Saturday, February 16, 2008 Leave a Comment 1 comment

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First off, I owe Peter at Pacifica Paddlesports a HUGE thankyou for all his help tonight and hosting a really great night of paddling at the pool. Tonight it was myself, Paula and Bernie and we did rescues until we were blue in the face. Bernie showed me a variation of the T rescue where the second paddler doesn't need to put weight on the stern. We also practiced scoop rescues and bow step rescues. Even got a solo or two in there. Tried rolling a bit, but I think I need professional help on that front. No matter how slow I take it or how much I think about righting myself, I end up only doing half a roll :). I'll get it soon enough - good things come with time and patience.

Sunday, February 10, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments

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Today 6 of us went out to Sooke to experience paddling the Sooke Basin and had a blast! The water was dead flat and the wind was quiet - it was the perfect day to be in a tiny craft on the sea. We had an interesting group - the kayak yak guys and a guy I learned to paddle with back in August, Jason M. It was awesome meeting Jason again and this was my first time paddling with John and Lou.



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The paddle started in Cooper's cove - mirror like water as far as the eye could see. I pretty much suspected it would look like this reading the weather info this morning and I was pleasantly surprised with my prediction - I'm slowly getting better at understanding marine weather which is positive :). It was nearing high tide and the wind was blowing from a protected direction. Once everyone arrived at Cooper's Cove, we geared up and set off one by one on the tiny public launch. My boat was happy to see me - just after launch I turned around to look at Bernie adjusting his pegs, and I notice my rudder happened to be pointing up at 45 degrees. I stowed the rudder and headed into the cove.



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It was a rusty and rustic place, where there weren't dilapidated old boats, there was nature in it's winter slumber. shrubs and trees were red tinted sticks and the hills had snow on them. I had a bit of a zen moment on the way around the peninsula, just staring at the ripple patterns from the hull. It's hard to get that kind of tranquility these days. The water was so calm that people were seeing shellfish at the surface and all that interrupted the silence was us chin wagging and water birds spooking and taking flight.



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We rounded a pretty shallow sandbar at Billings Point and were into the Sooke harbour. We paddled up the mouth of the Sooke River, which seemed pretty lazy this time of year. You can see the power it potentially has though. there were many tree trunks scattered in the harbour entrance pushed out presumably by strong current from the river. The trees were all gnarled and decaying slowly in the sea. A friendly seal came to see what we were up to in his river - and he popped up again and again as we paddled under the bridge into Milnes Landing.



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Perhaps a little worried about the shallow sandbar and current, we headed back to the put-in expecting a challenge. As Jason passed one of the shallow wetlands in the bay, the birds jumped into the air and took off. I managed to catch a bit of the commotion on camera. I ended up leading the charge into the current around Billings point and it really wasn't flowing, but the water was very shallow and I heard the scrape of sand below me as I crossed back into the Basin. It was a piece of cake and good to remember for next time. The basin was just as we left it, except now it had become even more impressive as all of the residential smoke hung in the windless day.



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I really wanted to just stay out here all day, it was just a special place. John and I straggled behind filling memory cards with images. You can see the smoke hanging in the mountains around us and a dense mackerel sky above us.



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We rafted up and shared around a little thermos of hot chocolate amongst us. All around us was rather desirable property - even the "cheap" homes would have done fine for me. We're a colorful bunch. After the short break, we headed back to the vehicles slowly but surely. After the paddle, we headed to a little greasy spoon style cafe called Mom's in downtown Sooke. In the end it was an 11km paddle and I'm perfectly comfortable with that distance or more. The GPS tracked well for the third time in a row, so you can get KML to play with in google earth or maps and have a look at where we went. I'd way rather do this than watch the Super Bowl.



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Sunday, February 3, 2008 Leave a Comment 2 comments

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The weather cleared up nicely this morning and allowed us to paddle for a little excercise out on the lake. The water was cold and the lake was empty of swimmers and power boats as we launched. It was really peaceful with only birds around to watch us.



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Bernie and Paula aligned boats and Bernie used paula's boat as a sophisticated paddle float, showing Catherine how much support you can get from another boat in something like a rescue situation. Once I finished dilly dallying taking photos, we gently glided over to the rowing club and just as we got close, we saw another kayaker heading back to shore. He told us that beaver lake, the southern connected lake to Elk Lake was completely frozen. We had to see this for ourselves, of course.



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Well, he was right. Paula tried the ice first and we realized this direction was totally impassable. Our plans to go around Beaver lake were thwarted, but just before we left, we were treated to the racket of eagles up in the trees. They make a heck of a noise when they're upset.



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The two eagles just sat like lumps in the trees while we sat like lumps chatting it up. Without glasses, I was having a bit of a time seeing them, but the camera had no real trouble. A little swig of water and we were on our way back to shore, wrapping up a short paddle around the center of elk lake. On our way back in I decided to test the speed of the boat (and me). At my current top speed the gps indicated 4-4.2kts (7.4-7.8km/h) over 3 waypoints. I'm pretty happy with that at my current paddling level. After the paddle, we crossed the street to a neat little restaurant. I had fish and chips and drank nearly all their coffee supply, and it was glorious. :)


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Saturday, February 2, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments
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