Adventures on the Blue

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Today started off with a whole lot of rain in short bursts. The weather has been highly changeable this weekend, so all we could do was put in and hope for the best out on the water. Man, am I ever glad we did. Immediately after we launched from Roberts bay, the rain let up and a serene hush took over everything: the seas, the landscape and the wind. My VHF radio crackling with unsquelched static was the only thing that broke the silence the first 500m or so out into the bay (more on that later).



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So out we paddled to the small islands, known to us as the little group (islets), just beyond these islands. The two islands in the picture are Little shell and Ker Island. Little shell island has a broken down shack with all of the paint sloughing off of it in the northeast quadrant along with a number of weathered pilings. Ker island is lightly forested and looks pretty rugged ad the points. All of the islands we saw were windswept and had a large intertidal zone with rocky outcroppings extending out 10-30 feet off shore (we were at the middle of the tides today). The current was dead calm, running well under 1/2kt according to the GPS.



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The group was a bit upset about the weather changing on us. I checked the radio and the forecast was the same as when I left earlier that morning: Winds NE 5-15 shifting to SW 10-20 later in the afternoon. I couldn't put their fears to rest about poor weather attacking us, so we called off circumnavigating coal and played a bit in the little group. They took me to a rocky outcropping they called the sphinx (photo above). After I squinted enough to see it, we headed a bit further south and crossed all the little passages with ease, giving wide berth to the seals resting on the rocks. The current was so slack even perceived disturbances in the water surface couldn't hurt a fly.



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A small rain squall came across as we left the little group towards the lee of coal island. The clouds would periodically clear away, and we could see all the local mountains covered in snow. It was a bit chilly and snow was sticking at a few hundred feet. After our crossing to coal, the water was gorgeous and mirror like again. You could see rain drops hitting the ocean and making ripples of their own. We paddled down to killer whale point and decided to go and try Tsehum harbour, a large marina just adjacent to our launch. The second we passed killer whale point the emergency channel on my VHF lit up.



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"Anacortes Ferry, Anacortes Ferry, Anacortes Ferry. Can you see a group of kayakers off your starboard bow?"



We looked towards Sidney and tried to get a fix on their position, but it was too far away to see anything as small as a kayaker. John noted the ferry was approaching westbound into Sidney just off one of the islands.



"Anacortes Ferry, Anacortes Ferry, Anacortes Ferry. Can you see a group of kayakers off your starboard bow?"



a pause.



"Vessel hailing Anacortes Ferry, This is Victoria Coast Guard, the captain is standing by on Victoria traffic services channel 11."



I quickly switched to channel 11, but heard no further communication between the kayakers and the ferry as the Ferry sped past the island and into port. I assume they were alright but had some wicked wake to deal with. It's fascinating listening to a situation like that - I was wondering how I'd handle being off the bow of a large vessel like a ferry.



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Tsehum harbour was bustling with activity. Boats were coming in and out of the harbour often, so we stayed to the north in Bryden bay and stayed in the rocks where no other boats would dare to go. The wind started to blow a little making some cat's paws on the water. This day was so calm and so welcoming I could have stayed out for another few hours without a moments hesitation. I rounded kingfisher point and poked into the storage area of the harbour. People were busting aboard their boats and the only sounds were of busy cleaning or a tiny squeak of an spinning air exhaust. A few people in the group held back, so once we were finished sightseeing we paddled back and crossed the harbour entrance as a group.



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Another rain squall was coming in. We saw a line of boats waiting to enter the harbour, so we quickly pulled up to a moored boat at the entrance so everyone could pass us and keep us in sight. Once the coast was clear, we just paddled around the point and back into Roberts Bay. I watched a Canadian flag on our way back in and the wind had shifted to east southeast, but it was still just a nice breeze. We passed a local out for a paddle on our way back in and she and the others got to talking about kayaks. I took some pictures and reluctantly headed to take-out. Man what a neat place - definitely going to have to spend some quality time out here.


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Sunday, March 30, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments

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My old camera's still down and my insurance claim is taking its sweet time, so I've invested in a new camera for use in the kayak, a pentax optio W30. So far so good, not much of a learning curve and it's nice and small. Anyway, this weekend I decided to go to Cadboro bay again with the group. It's becoming sort of a training ground for me. All kinds of conditions all in one spot.



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This week we were gifted with slack period and beautiful weather (between storms as usual). We hurried over to cadboro point to see this mysterious "slack current." Last week this place was a large river with overfalls, and paddling it now, it's a complete mirror. We passed some rather nice real estate on our way out and overall everything was going great until we rounded the corner.



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As we came around the corner of Ten Mile Point, our progress forward slowed considerably. There was a current running around the whole area. The sun also had a smart halo around it, meaning we were in for some interesting weather in the next little while. I paddled out toward Gordon head and looked behind me. No one there. Looking at the GPS track after the fact, I kind of see why. Every time I stopped to take a photo, I was being carried backward in the ebbing current. I was losing sight of them as I kept up the march for Gordon head. Gordon head is sort of a mirage when you're on the water. It seems so close, but the more you paddle the more you realize it's further away than it looks. In the end I decided to turn around by telegraph bay and not keep them waiting. The minute I turned around I was sailing along in the current and gentle swell and really got some great speed going. I love it when the hull makes an all new type of noise cutting through the water.



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We used the narrow passage at Cadboro Point to slingshot right into Cadboro Bay again. Just as we rounded flower island we saw a juvenile eagle we've been keeping track of for a while now. He sat there while we took his star photo and then he got bored of us and flew off. Form there it was back to the beach in mirror calm water as a huge rain squall started to blot out the sky. We made it back to the cars and got changed before it got grey and dumped mixed snow/rain.


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Saturday, March 29, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments
A rainy morning pulled out of the way for a clearing and nearly sunny time on the water this morning. as is the theme this weekend, I was treated to beautiful flat water with a bunch of happy people paddling out in the wilderness. It was really great to be expecting doom and gloom and being rewarded with flat, easy conditions. Also, according to sources, a dog pissed on my kayak at the put in.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments


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Today we went out to caddy bay again. This time we went with a couple of first time paddlers, B.K. and Diane. Bernie showed them the ropes. As Bernie and Paula helped them launch I got in and set to monkeying with my new radio - listening for traffic here and there - most of the transmissions coming from the nearby yacht club this morning. It's neat having that extra layer of security, and I bought a radio that fits in the PFD I have quite well. It's a Standard Horizon HX-270S. So far no bad solder joints and the reception is quite clear - I didn't even have to do much squelching. The weather radio part is also a nice touch. It's been a while since I did ham stuff, probably back when I was in scouts, but most of the lingo is still there.



So back to paddling - I followed Paula out to flower island and then towards cadboro point to see this tidal rip everyone in the group sort of half dreads, the Baynes Channel "freight train." We paddled through mirror-calm water (wind was blowing northwest) out to the islands on the outside of the bay. As we rounded flower island, I really couldn't see or feel much current, though the current table forecasted that the Baynes channel would be on full ebb at about the time we got there. It became much more clear as we got closer to the point though. We poked into the little rock pile just adjacent to the river running around the point.



An active Baynes Channel is a neat thing to watch - the water pressure swirls and pools anywhere it can. You'll be watching a steady stream and then it'll let off for a while and start up full blast again with a few inches of eddy line. The sounds is probably where it gets it's infamous title. Imagine standing not to far from a waterfall and add more bass. Paula wanted to try running one of the more protected streams and I was all for it. Anything to get out and learn a bit. Paula launched into the rip and was quickly swung into the rocks. I watched and made sure she was okay getting out of the whirlpool behind the rocks. Today wasn't the time I was going to get to try running the current. Looks fun as hell though!




Paula and I headed back towards Cadboro Bay and to our surprise, Bernie had brought B.K. and Diane all the way out to a channel by Flower Island. We met up with them and headed back in slowly just sort of chewing the fat. I'm pretty proud of them getting out that far, and they got pretty much ideal conditions to build confidence in their kayaks. We all went and got coffee afterwards - nothing ends a good paddle like a cup of joe.








Saturday, March 22, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments


Well it would have been a great day for a camera, but alas, I'm still waiting on the insurance claim on my housing. :( Anyway, I went out with the usual crew, we got on the water at about 9:30 and drifted out into the bay. There was a false alarm on environment canada today, forecasting stong winds in Haro and JDF. I got to Caddy bay and the sun was out and the waves were gently lapping the shore line - there was little wind to speak of.



The bay was calm and lots of shorebirds flew around us. Lots of herons and ducks on the water. We scooted up next to the aluminum catamaran moored just next to the Yacht club to see what kind of draft it had. To our surprise, a pretty massive boat only drew about 8" of water. You'd be able to get that boat to some pretty shallow places.



Thwarted by my last opportunity to go out to Gonzales point, I decided I'd take another shot at just getting out to the golf course to get some skills in the swell. My boat handled it beautifully and wanted more. So I kept going towards the headland and I turned around - the rest of the crew had held up near mary todd island after feeling a bit questionable about the conditions. This time the swell was only a couple feet at the maximum and i could have kept on going; however, I promised them I'd only go to the golf course. So I swung around and came back to the group - I was met not with congratulations, but with long faces :D I guess I got a little carried away and turned into a speck on the horizon. That gets people worried, I hear.



That was the point where I thought maybe it's time for a radio after all. Oh well. next time I'll be a bit more vocal about what crazy idea I've cooked up. We ended up traveling through the breakwater at oak bay marina and sticking to the path back into Cadboro Bay. once all the boats were racked up, we got some coffee. A good morning of paddling - I'll be out again tomorrow and maybe even Sunday! :)



Oh yeah, and paddling my kayak after paddling a sit on top, I don't think I'll ever look at a sit on top again. :)







Friday, March 21, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments
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To start, A friend and I decided to go on a vacation to Oahu and Kauai. The night before we got to the paddling part on the Wailua river, I took my camera in it's waterproof case out to the reef in Poipu to go snorkel with the fish. I got in the water and started swimming along and to my horror, the waterproof case was very not waterproof all of a sudden. Before I realized what was going on, the housing was full of water. I unbuckled the housing and quickly whipped out the battery and memory card. The camera was DOA and the battery was warm to the touch. I could only hope the SD card would make it when I got home. I saw nothing wrong with the seal at all and I closed it in the hotel where it was clean of sand, so I'm not sure what happened to make it spring a leak, but now I have an odd shaped brick rather than a camera :/. I can only hope I still have a bit of insurance left with the manufacturer. I couldn't go without pics, so I went and got a little disposable for the paddle (sorry about the quality).




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The thing about Kauai and really all of Hawaii in general is you have to wake up early to beat the crowds of tourists. We hit the water at 7:30 AM and we were on a nice empty river. a little way up the river, there was a small road bridge we could paddle under, so taking our time, we went as far as the little branch would go. just under a click in, the waterway ended with a spectacular view of the mountains past the tall grasses that grew out of the water. The water was really murky even in the shallow areas, so it was pretty hard to guess the depth. I snapped a few pics and we headed back out under the bridge. Now we were surrounded by tour groups.




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It was about 8:15 when we arrived at the beach to hike to the falls. Every last inch of space was now occupied by tourists. We headed across the bank and changed shoes to hike. The small trail went through a forest that seemed eerily like the west coast. There was a water level indicator with a gradicule that went to over 20 feet. Must be a very wet place in the rainy season. Some of the guides from the tours were murmuring about the place being a muddy pit only a week ago. We got to the falls just before the rest of the tourists showed up. There were lots of signs warning about falling rocks and imminent death from above to swimmers below the falls.




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I didn't hike a mile to not go in the waterfall, though. So I got in the moderately cold water and went for a swim. I got a bit more courage and swam near it, but I never got right underneath the falls. I'm glad I didn't die. ;) Once I got out of the water I noticed sort of a uniquely kauai scene: chickens - everywhere. Kauai has a bit of a chicken problem and the tourists contantly feeding them probably isn't helping. At least they're nice looking chicken. They seemed to roam coast to coast and no matter where you are on the island, the silence is interrupted with rooster crowing.




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We made our way back down to the kayaks and the beach was crammed with the little sit on tops. Oddly most of them were doubles. My friend and I traveled up the river a bit more and I went on to see how far upstream you could get. The river terminates ina set of lazy rapids during the dryer season. Our time was running down - almost 5 straight hours of paddling and hiking. We booked it back to the put in and dealt with the wake from all kinds of power boats on the river. The day just kept getting better and better. Pleased with our progress on the river we headed to a great pub in Kapa'a called Pau Hana's Bar and Grill. The restaurant was a small sports bar with some cool hot rod and Harley paraphernalia. The bartender came over and handed us a guest-book and explained the story behind all these bills pinned to the ceiling. It was quick and tasty food with a couple friendly folks on staff. A good way to fuel up for surfing later on at our spot just past Kapa'a. Life is good.



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Monday, March 10, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments
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