Adventures on the Blue

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Who thought I'd be leading a group of my work friends under a year after I got into the sport? Today was donated to that delightful blur between work and play. I put out a call on Friday to see who'd be interested in a little paddling in the Gorge and we got 9 people out to come have some fun. We showed up at the Gorge rowing center and everyone got a decent little rec boat to play around in. No one fell in this time.



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I led the group and just took it easy, enjoying all the sights and sounds and avoiding the harbour ferries flying around the area. Off to your left you'll see the overturned hull of a kayak I just ran over mwahahahahahaha... but I digress. We headed up the Gorge as planned and had a look at Tillicum bridge. I had checked the currents in the CHS book and WXtide and both were totally WRONG! I got to the bridge and the current was on a strong flood instead of calm conditions. I decided not to test my friends mettle today and kept this an upright paddling experience.



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So we turned around and went to go check out the inner harbour. The way back was a bit breezy, but everyone was doing great. As a harbour ferry tried to saw a seal in half showing it off to the tourists, we made it down to the Selkirk trestle and rounded the corner into the upper harbour. A big rusty fish boat, free of its usual flotes, was getting ready for tomorrow's catch while the big vic west property development loomed in the background. We passed under the johnson street bridge and into a busy harbour.



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My co worker wanted to show me an absolutely massive yacht moored at the international pier. It was just massive, and it stunk of wealth with the callsign, Tigre d'or. It was 4 decks with a below deck as well. It dwarfed almost all the other pleasure craft in the inner harbour. Some of our group were feeling the burn, so we headed back to the rental outfit to drop off the boats. We had a great dinner at Glo and hatched more plans for future outings.


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Sunday, July 20, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments

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I've been jonesing for a trip out to the chain islets and today was my lucky day. Today a surprise guest came out - Bernie! His boat's almost done after a really sweet restoration process, so in the meantime he was paddling his Pamlico for fun and profit. I arrived to unusually calm winds and a cloudless sky. We put in and decided which adventure would find us. It was soon agreed, we'd go visit great chain island - a long low blue smudge on the empty horizon.



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Bernie was sporting a new (to my eyes) Greenland paddle today, it was significantly lighter than others I've tried.. oh did I mention I tried it? Bernie handed me his GP stick as we left the bay. I proceeded to make an ass of myself by paddling it as high and hard as I could. According to the gps, all that ridiculous paddling got me nowhere fast. I really wasn't in a training mood at that point, but it's always neat to try out new gear. After blowing a few sculling strokes and botching up the Inuit style of it all, I handed it back to Bernie's capable hands.



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It was just as I handed it back that we became alarmed about a rather large tug and its rather large cargo heading directly toward us. Bernie had the presence of mind to suggest it was actually taking Baynes channel. We had to quickly scoot out of its way and hang out near the light at fiddle reef. The tide book predicted little to no current running through the channel and it was mostly correct. Fiddle reef had few tidal features near it. The tug passed and I paddled hard into the wake to feel alive or something. I caught a sweet ebbing tide that took me quickly to the chains. I looked behind me and saw Bernie and Paula hanging out in an upwelling near a light just north of the islands. The current looked formidable, but it was weak as hell. I'm not sure what was going on, but this is an area known for lots of overfalls, so it was probably a few points of water pressure that made it look scary.



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I paddled back to Bernie and Paula after snapping a few pics of the bird island. Turns out the green patches we saw a few stories back was a rather large shrubbery of some manner. I'm not sure how it grows in such nutrient starved environments, but it probably has something to do with doo doo. We regrouped and headed toward Harris island. The current was pushing us around a bit now, so the tide tables were correct if not a bit late. The sky was starting to turn golden and the group headed into oak bay marina for a looksee. Here's where we met the skipper of whale's way.



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At first we missed him in the sunlight, but he came over and broke the ice while clinging to his boat's deck lines. We asked him about the boat and 40 minutes later we knew about the boat. I'll try to squeeze it into this parag



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raph. So this boat's from Toronto and it came to BC the long way. He sailed east through the Suez canal paying off Muslim officials with Marlboros and a mud puddle scotch called "100 pipers" (from scotland). Sometimes they would finish a carton of cigarettes during their business visit and ask for one for the road. Keep in mind, this is 1998-1999. He then wanted to show his crew/family eastern Europe, so they took on the Danube river in winter. Great idea till it froze over and left them icebound until March, and once free they arrived in Belgrade just in time for NATO forces to arrive and bomb the hell out of the country. So they went to leave Belgrade after seeing approximately none of it and found themselves waiting on police to clear them to leave. At one point, a gestapo style secret police official in full regalia drops by to order his papers. They tell this particular official that they've already been cleared to leave to which he responds, "I'M IN THE GOVERNMENT, I KNOW EVERYTHING!" and storms away. a few bricks shit later, he comes back and orders them to be in another town 6 hours later. They concede that the boat is simply not fast enough to make it; it will take nearly 12 hours. He seems upset and says that will not do. they ask why. he responds, "BECAUSE THE AMERICANS HAVE ONLY AGREED TO STOP BOMBING THE RIVER FOR 6 HOURS!"



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The man's lucky to be two things. Canadian and alive. Bernie was the first to notice we were seriously running out of light. We had to drag ourselves from story time and get back to shore. It was a gentle bit of kayaking back to the beach and I sat and gabbed with Paula and Bernie for a few more hours in their cool little beach house. We even went further away than I thought, so extra bonus.


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Friday, July 18, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments






It needed to be rebroadcast. honestly. If you haven't seen this yet, please do so now, for the lulz.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 Leave a Comment 1 comment

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What's a good way to spend a quality weekend on the water? Try paddling from Swartz Bay to D'Arcy island. Man.. I hate gushing over sweet trips (riiight), but I'm pretty proud I'm pushing myself up to longer and longer trips. This trip had so much to see and makes me desperately want to return to Halibut island with my DSLR - Man there's so much cool stuff there! Gotta thank Mark for giving me an excuse to get to D'arcy the long way. Next time I'm eating breakfast before paddling home some 20km - oye.



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I met up with Mark at 9AM at that godawful Swartz Bay dock again. I'm lucky there was enough parking that morning. I got the boat on the cart and we headed down the dock at pretty low tide. We threw the boats in the water and paddled out into the bay. The bay had totally new boats moored in it this weekend. We headed around Swartz head into Page pass and faced a bit of current, but mostly wonderful water conditions. Seals were out in abundance lounging flat on the rocks near the marina. It looked like today wasn't going to offer up much of a challenge.



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Well one challenge: while the water was so glassy and calm, it meant there would be no natural air conditioning today. Both of us had our wetsuits on, and we kept getting really, really hot in the sun. As we passed Ker island and up through the little group, I was pretty much overheating. One fun little tip is just to stick your arms in the water for a few minutes and the water contact will wick away heat nice and quick. Instead of going to Dock Island, we made a B-Line for the light on Sidney Spit where we could take a dip in the water to cool off.



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We arrived to a deserted beach save for a few kids out exploring. The entire beach was covered in yellow grasses waist deep in areas. The beach had a pretty wicked swell which sent me sailing into a bunch of rough gravel on the beach. Mark and I got out of the boats for a stretch and to set foot on the island for a few minutes. I waded out into the ocean to cool down. The sun was just beating down with not a puff of wind. Everything on the island was still and only the noise of powerboats and shorebirds was in the air. I tried to do the island justice with a few snapshots, but it's much nicer in person. I'd like to come camping out here if it's always this abandoned.



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We continued on the east side of Sidney just as the Anacortes ferry came around Sidney spit. We were in a fairly shallow area close to shore, so we rode the ferry wake as it was breaking and got the decks all wet. There was still a huge expanse of empty, wonderful beach that I'll have to visit again. We got a little way down Sidney Island and we crossed to Mandarte island...



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Which turned out to be a shit covered rock full of birds...and not in a bad way. The actual landing to Mandarte was on the eastern side, but the birds knew we were there and we got a few warning shots off our bow. It's a pretty intense cliff face on the west side. Just south of Mandarte island was another rock with trees, which we later found out was called Halibut Island from one of the many menacing signs on the shore.



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One thing you'll instantly notice about Halibut Island is that there's stuff there that has no reason to be there. I counted a few derelict boats, some kind of excavator and us. I was feeling a bit hot again so I took a brief little wade and then headed up to take some pictures of the weirdest place I think I'll ever visit. Apparently this island is home to: snakes and plants. I saw neither and instead saw weathered old boats, which I'd be a little surprised if they could still be deemed seaworthy, rusting iron and some empty cages. I'm not sure what was going on in this operation, but the signs said it all: "Danger - no trespassing - Anyone removing or trading plants risk having their fingers broken and their genitals removed." *gulp*



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From Halibut Island, it was off to D'arcy Island. The currents were weak and the water was still nice and glassy as far as the eye could see (which was forever). Mark called the people on the island for coordinates to the camp site they settled on the night before. As the sun turned up the heat we landed nice and easy on a beautiful shore with a stunning view of Mount Doug. We lounged in the sun for a few hours and caught up with the folks on the island, Darren M. and bobdobbs (totally blanking on the dude's name).



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As I've said before in other posts, D'arcy is one of my favorite places in terms of bliss rating, and it also has a pretty awful history of being leper prison. We went for a hike down to the caretaker's lodge on the southwestern part of D'arcy island. As we left camp, we found a tiny little noose hanging from a tree and had to wonder who put it there.. was it you?



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The hike was pretty cool. Lots of plants and not too many signs of recent visitors. First, we ended up at the ruins that I've visited before, they were the foundations of two buildings likely used by the caretaker many years ago. Some bricks and implements litter the campsite, but they may just be garbage from years gone by. I couldn't help but take a photo of the metal bucket I saw here many years ago. Although it's been moved, it's only slightly more rotten than last time.



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The caretaker's lodge was still mostly standing, possibly with more graffiti. bright patches of yellow grasses stick to just about every rock surface out here. This part of D'arcy is just hallowed ground for me - I could seriously take photos from every angle and still never approach the feeling of actually being there. One of the guys we met on the beach wanted to continue around the island and walk the entire perimeter.



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We had a little walk around the shores of D'arcy and say that this place was definitely used by indigenous people. every now and then, you'd see a midden oozing out bright, white shell pieces. some of the beaches were covered in shattered bits of shell as well. We approached the government campsite and heard the park warden motoring around in his powerboat. By the time we got there, he was already well out into the channel.



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The walk back was just a nice little jaunt along mostly gravel beaches and gentle headlands. The sun was slowly setting as we arrived back at camp. I made some dinner and chilled out on the beach for the balance of the evening. Just as it got dark, we saw fireworks near the Saanich peninsula. The Butchart Gardens fireworks display was clearly visible from here. The night sky slowly took over with a near half moon lighting up the blackness.



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The next morning I woke up with a headache that Tylenol just wasn't touching. ughh. I didn't being near enough water for drinking or cooking (I left my nice, big water bag in Tofino). ugh. Sunday was poorly planned on my part and it was hot as hell again. I just couldn't get into my normal cheery mood and just wanted to be home. That's always a good mindset to be in when facing a bit of physical exertion. Oh well.. lesson learned. Everything was still amazing on the island and all, but I was just feeling like a lead weight.



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Things only got better when I put on 5 pounds of hot paddling gear. Mark was trying to get back to Swartz Bay for 5pm, so that he wouldn't have to take the pre-iron-curtain piece of shit that are the queen class ferries. We packed up camp and headed out into the passage between D'Arcy and little D'Arcy island. We took a short detour to get a photo of the facilities and watch a sweet reverse seal launch off the beach.



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Once we got through the passage, Mark and I said our goodbyes with the people we met on D'Arcy and headed back toward Swartz Bay via Sidney channel. The other side of Sidney island is also pretty shallow. I have nothing but respect for the person who set up a mobile home in the middle of the island. Neither of us could believe how empty the beaches were. It's like everyone was concentrated in the little marina/bay on the north of Sidney island and no one bothered to venture out in a dinghy or by foot. It was just beautiful shallow water that went on for a few kilometers.



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We tried in vain to get back in time for Mark's ferry, but it wasn't on the cards. I was totally running on empty as we got back to the dock. I was taking my sweet time with everything and ended up dropping my kayak on the ground from waist height. sheesh. Here's a tip kids: eat your Wheaties and stay cool. :) The best part is, after I said my goodbyes to Mark, I went to get changed out of my steam cooker and just as I peeled off the last layer, 3 families drove up and let their kids run free. You can guess where they all filed past. hand over face. I'm sorry to the families, but I won't be able to afford therapy for all of them.


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Sunday, July 13, 2008 Leave a Comment 5 comments
Thanks to the VCKC for bringing in Keith Hanna to help us get certified for the, Radiotelephone Operator's Certificate (Marine), aka the ROC(M). This was an intense, two-day class where you try to jam the words written in a government doc into your brain. I gotta say, for being such a standardized learning tool, the Powerpoint presentations we watched (the best possible way to make your brain want to kill you) need some work on consistency with the guide. It was great being able to take it with other paddlers and exchange a bit of info about channels to monitor and stuff like that. It was pretty much standard classroom style fare with a pretty easy exam phase. It's good to know the protocol I guess.

I'm ready to use the radio when I need it, and that's enough peace of mind.
Thursday, July 10, 2008 Leave a Comment 2 comments

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Today I met with Louise and John at Albert head lagoon, a small CRD park right near the gravel pit on Metchosin road. This would be my first outing in Juan De Fuca Strait. There are funny tidal rips all along here as well as rather large seal haul-outs. In one area, We saw over a dozen seals drop into the water - all from one rock! It was a tad windy today, and that makes the water wild even with the slightest breeze. There's significant fetch between Vancouver island and Port Angeles. The entire countryside is riddled with strange military installations, some active and some remnants of the pacific theatre. I got to the beach a bit late this morning to find Louise and John had just left shore.



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I quickly unloaded my boat and hopped down to a steeply sloping, but otherwise perfect beach. This is new territory for me, and this beach has me stoked. What a great place to put in for exploring the southern tip of the island. I rigged the boat and met the group over at the side of Albert head. The rocks out here sport all kinds of colorful algae and mosses above and below the tide line. The trees that try and grow are just gnarled and ravaged by seasons of gales. Probably not the best place to be in a strong southerly wind.



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Albert head, or CFB Albert head, has a whole lot of those old turrets and various cement structures that spill out onto the adjacent rocks. There's this feeling of man made stuff attempting to hide in the natural environment. I sort of joked about the bit of swell out here, saying it was probably not a great day for that spontaneous paddle to Port Angles. We paddled out around the head and John started heading for a kelp filled shortcut between the small island off the tip of Albert head. Try taking your sailboat through there :). There's lots of little shortcuts like this through the whole area.



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Passing through the small channel to the other side of Albert head, we were inundated by some fun swell traveling out of the bay. Lucky for us, the swell was moving with the wind, so it remained fairly glassy despite a pretty good wind in our faces. The current acts very counter intuitively on the south shores. Basically, we were out paddling at more or less full current at race rocks. The current out here, while pretty calm wants to take you out to sea during an ebb and push you toward shore during a flood. We were getting caught up in currents and kept saying to ourselves that it should be moving east to west, but this is that tidal rip style current that surfers fear.



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Next, we met the seals. In the shadow of beautiful homes, we escaped the swell and wind in a group of islands just east of Witty's lagoon. Seals lined pretty much all of the shallow rocky faces on the points of the islands. They let out a loud huff as we paddled into the group of Islands. Some of them stayed on the rocks, so John probably got some great distance shots of them with his zoom lens. We paddled on through with a parade of seals following us. The seal population looks pretty sizable out here.



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We ended up at Witty's lagoon at a fairly low tide and saw a few Heron catching lunch. They'd walk along the intertidal area and fish while these white gull-looking birds were only a few feet away, dive bombing for their food. The white sand beach at Witty's disappears into kelpy, planty goo near the islets just off shore - it's pretty easy to kayak even as the tide goes out, but I'm not sure how much luck you'd have getting into the little estuary to the east at anything but high tide. We saw a few people having a go at skim boarding along the shoreline and thought we might head toward that end of the beach. As we got about half way across, we decided to turn around because the wind had increased quite a bit in force.



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We'll explore a little further in nicer conditions, but now I'm hooked on making it down to Parker bay some time this summer. When we turned around, it felt like the paddle was made of feathers and helium balloons. That little current took us back out to Albert head double time and the swell had diminished quite a bit as the wind changed direction while we were gone. I paddled out and saw a photo to take that was out a little further. When John saw me turn abruptly, he asked if I was going to Port Angeles after all. I said my goodbyes and started my long journey to Ameri... actually no, I just needed some distance for the shot.



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We got back to the beach and pulled out the boats. The tide a bit lower that when we left, which made for a steep climb to the parking lot, but at least there were no craggy rocks to worry about. When I got back to the van, I had a note on my van's window. The scooter people had found me skipping a ride to Metchosin this morning. Too many hobbies, not enough time!


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Sunday, July 6, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments

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Went out for a quick spin with Paula around oak bay. When I got to the beach, there was a pretty good onshore wind running about 15knots at the launch and the water was murky brown with soil. The sea was quite warm even well off shore. Looks like swimming in the ocean will be possible over the next few weeks! Cadboro bay was full of sail boats today and our leisurely paddle avoided most of the traffic.



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Once we were on the water, we decided that the wind would probably keep us from venturing too far out, so we just hugged Cadboro bay to Cattle point and then crossed to Mary Tod island. On our way out, we got to ride some fun swell remnants from whatever was going on in the strait of Juan de Fuca - it looked a lot windier and choppy just around Gonzales point. As we neared Mary Tod, Paula wanted to adjust her pegs, so we landed and I had a look around. Paula pointed out that it's a picnic island and always has been as long as time can recall.



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We also noticed that great chain islet had more than just birds on it. There were patches of green plant life sprouting on the sides of it. The chains have been bare for months, so it's nice to see they are capable of growing something other than herring smell. The paddle back was mostly just a fun bit of surfing on the chop all the way back into Cadboro bay. It was a sunny and warm way to enjoy a day off work.


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Tuesday, July 1, 2008 Leave a Comment 0 comments
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