This weekend brought me to Sooke Basin, a paddle I haven't done in a while. A couple weeks back, I had spotted the old hulk of a shipwreck out in Sooke Harbour and made a mental note to go visit it. We had some severe weather for the last week or so, which has made the water a little difficult to approach. Today it was back to beautiful, sunny skies with a little dash of winter winds. Fresh frost was covering all of the plants at the put in at Cooper's Cove. The salt chuck also had little slabs of ice floating on the surface and every kayak stroke went "crunch" on the way out of the launch.


One thing I learned today is that East winds chop up the Sooke basin something fierce. Coopers cove transitioned from a protected bay without a whiff of air to 20 knot East winds making a bunch of noisy, quick period white caps. On the way around the reservoir, I had my back to the wind and following seas, so it was a quick paddle into Sooke Harbour. Just before the spit that separates the basin from the harbour, I found another shipwreck of a mostly submerged fishing boat while being watched by sleepy cormorants.


Coming around Billings point led to a whole other ecosystem, the wind barely reached into the harbour and the sun was quickly warming the ocean. The fog banks were suddenly nowhere to be seen. I visited the marinas all the way west side of the bay, which comprised mostly of non local fishing vessels and then speedboats. The marina has a really strange fairway that is practically unmarked, it wasn't until a speedboat was bearing down on me that I realized I was in the center of the deep water in front of the docks.


I quickly got out of the way and then crossed over to Whiffin spit when it was safe. At this point the water was a giant bathtub, completely protected from the east by cliffs. A rather large fog bank stayed across the strait and the sun was warming this kayaker very nicely. The currents were starting to create upwellings and the water in Sooke inlet was actually moving quite quickly. I paddled along the spit and then crossed to the east shore to explore the coastline. The rocks are all covered with very brightly colored mosses that look at first like giant cave paintings.


I got to see a heron in a strange pose, he was standing fully upright but his wings were quite low and outstretched. He watched my boat carefully as I passed, but just stayed in his zen-like posture. The light along the shore was exceptionally beautiful this morning, it even made sea gulls look good against the rocks. Not long after exploring the neat rock formations here, I was approaching the shipwreck stuck in the shallows of Sooke Harbour.


As I paddled through the deeper water toward the wreck, I think I found the point where the ebb tide and the river current are at their quickest. It beacame a bit harder to paddle toward the boat and still snap a few photos before being pushed 20 feet back. I started taking photos of the Florence Filberg, a big, wooden tugboat stuck in the muddy bottom, from the front of the boat working toward the back. Shipwrecks are becoming one of my favorite photographic subjects for the winter. The red hulled boat and all of it's rusty metal plates made for an excellnt contrast with an empty, blue winter sky. The story behind the wreck is here:

"The boat, an old tug called the ‘Florence Filberg’, was towed up from Lake Union, Washington State where it was cleaned out of oil and other contaminants. It ran aground here during a storm very quickly after being anchored on November 10, 2007.

It is now stuck firmly in the mud with a gaping hole in the side and little chance of being floated out...under the federal Navigable Waters Protection Act, nothing can be done about the vessel until it is deemed "abandoned" for a period of 2 years."


While trying to get some good photos of the stern of the boat, I ended up drifting a bit too close to the wreck and my kayak slid a little bit violently along something partially submerged in the wreck when the current got a hold of my boat. I was a little irritated, but lucky no water came rushing in and left my boat sitting on a mud flat. From the wreck, I crossed back to the east side to stay out of the winds, which were considerably stronger in the basin now. Being in the lee of the headlands on the east side was all well and good, but once I got to Hill head it was clear I wouldn't be paddling the perimeter of the basin.


The basin was now just a bunch of whitecaps with 1-2 foot chop, which seemed significant to me for such a measely (3km) fetch. Whatever was going on, it made the trip back across a bit of a work out. (edit for Rich's woops moment) It's at this point in the story where if you look a the water with in the above photo and then the one previous, you can see sort of what I was trying to predict at the time - that I was going to be enjoying a wind bath. I popped my spray skirt next to the boat and pulled out my much maligned paddle leash. I didn't bring spare paddles today, so I was being better safe than sorry and I can't remember the last time I felt the need to leash the paddle to the boat. Sure enough, the third stroke out into the basin from the shelter, the wind grabbed my paddle and put it in the drink. I'm really glad I used the paddle leash after all, though I doubt my paddle would have gotten far even if it weren't strapped to my boat. So much for looking like a seasoned veteran kayaker - thanks John.

Anyway, I was paddling right into a headwind and trying to keep the water tower in my sights. the waves were just washing over the entire hull and getting me downright soaked. Once I reached the shoreline near the reservoir, I just paddled about 10 feet from it to try and stay out of the howling wind which was measuring in at 25 knots on the Kestrel - yeesh. Rounding the corner into cooper's cove was fairly easy and I pulled the boat out and then nearly froze to my core as the wind began to veer south, blowing cold wind right up into the cove. It was a nice paddle all told, but boy.. I'll keep the big easterlies funnel in mind next time I'm out.

Trip Distance: 16km

YTD: 31km

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