Adventures on the Blue


This weekend we made last minute plans to go up to Tofino for a little surfing and catching up with friends. As I was driving up, I started getting a small cough and by the time I had the tent set up at camp, I had a full-on cold. Wonderful. Surfing was more or less skunked out by small waves - there's almost no wind to speak of in this heatwave. But seriously, bitching aside, this weekend ruled. I spent Saturday laying around the beach and absorbing sunshine. Went back to camp and successfully made some pretty huge steaks on my really dodgy new hibachi. Sunday I paddled.


Despite being a bit on the sick side, I dragged my ass out of bed, dropped my friend off at Cox bay and then headed up to the launch right downtown. Beautiful bright sunny morning, light wind from the west and pure wilderness all around. Can't ask for much better really. The object was to explore Lemmens inlet, the famous mudflats in Clayoquot sound. The tide was heading out, so I guessed I'd probably be getting to the lagoon as it was emptying. The charts show no depth at all in most of the inlet.


I launched into off a fairly rocky beach after parking up in town and running back down in my kayak booties. The current was running a little here and there as I crossed over toward the reserve area to the north. Lots of water taxis were out tonight and creating some nice big wakes to jump in the kayak. The scenery out in the sound is beautiful, just trees clinging to every edge of all the rocks and large, muddy sand dunes that sit just slightly above the surface of the water. The water was a bit disturbed in the morning from the gusty wind that would come and go as it pleased.


As I got close to the small village, I started to realize how run down the place was. The buildings look stapled together, covered with plastic sheeting, tin siding and shingles. A small motorboat roared by me with a new delivery of planks for the dock and it was carefully surveyed by an older fellow while he barked orders at his dogs and teenagers. A large and conspicuous radio tower rest uneasily against huge stands of old growth cedar forest just behind the village dwellings. I circled around the edge of dock and found out where fishing and pleasure craft go to die.


The huge trees reaching down to the ocean dwarfed 20-30 foot defunct vessels littering the shore line, a place only reached at high tide, even my kayak couldn't get close to this boat graveyard. Just a bit further on from the village is a small float home resting on giant swaths of eel grass. Eagles were absolutely everywhere, some beaches had 6 or 7 eagles just standing in the open on the beach - probably mid meal or something. The water was very shallow in the areas close to shore, offering barely 6 inches of water for navigating.


I entered the inlet on the deeper side, and a number of dinghys and flat bottomed aluminum motorboats past me on their way up to the fish farm units in the interior of Meares island. Not long after the past, everything went dead silent and the wind died right off. It was so quiet, you could hear yourself breathing. I had a bit of a zen moment as I paddled around the Arakun islands. The sun was blazing down and I found myself in a maze of shallows around the islands. Eelgrass touched the top of the mountain reflections in the water and trees covered in seaweed and moss drooped down to the shoreline. Many areas of rock had been eroded into rocky water paths lined with cedar and pine - roots left exposed to the air.


The lagoon eventually became impassably shallow. I had to turn around and head back to the car if I was going to make it in time. Funny I forgot all about being sick or anything and just paddled gingerly back out the way I came. The wind was back and blowing quite stiffly across the channel between Meares and monas island to the south. Small whitecaps had formed, but it wasn't that wild. More and more treasures dotted the coastline of these inner island groups, too.


Monas island had another wonderful little shack of a house sticking off the rocks. Adorned inconsistent images like a large beware of dog sign and a giant hippy sun emblem, this house looked like a gazebo turned into a house. Like all other things in the area, it was being fixed up from the years of harsh weather. As I got to the tip of the island, I decided to cross over to the next islands before Tofino harbour.


The current on the crossing surprised me. The first part of the crossing was nothing and then as I got to the shallows, I had to ferry nearly perpendicular to my course and paddle as hard as I could to keep going across. This island was another maze of mud flats and dunes and I found myself backpaddling out of a dead end again and again. Any shrubs on the islands around here were shaved down by gale winds in short order, so it was interesting to see any new growth on the rocks trying to grow upward and how frenetically it grew.


I was finally on the last leg heading back to shore and all of the sudden I noticed a hell of a lot more kayakers in the area. The kayak store was open for business, with nearly 10 boats lined up on the shore with the excited tourists pacing the beach getting ready to follow the leader out into the sound. I pulled my boat up on the beach as a huge trailer full of sea kayaks pulled up with Washington plates and hobbyist boats. I took my boat out and got out of there just in time for them to move their trailer before getting on the water.

Trip Distance: 10km

YTD: 162km

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Sunday, May 31, 2009 Leave a Comment 2 comments


Today I participated in one of the last races in the 66th Annual Swiftsure. I got a call Saturday evening from John and he asked me if I'd like to participate in the race. You can guess the answer. I was to meet the group down on the Inner Harbour at 9ish for a 10AM sailing. I was a bit worried just beacuse I didn't have a full grasp of all the boat's controls, but it turned out to be just fine. If I goofed a task, I really had no problem handing it off to someone more skilled, but tried to do as much as I could with limited expertise. I didn't want to lose us the race just for being ham handed, so I was just being a bit cautious. I hope to just go out and gybe the boat like 20 or 30 times just to get the rhythm down - an actual race isn't really a place for that.


I arrived at the Inner Harbour at about quarter to 9 and met the group: John, Seth and Carl. The two other crew looked experienced, and thankfully they were. The boat was rigged up and good to go, so I dropped all my gear off, John filled the outboard fuel tank and we motored out of the Inner Harbour at just after 9.


We passed a number of returning ships in the morning and I got to hear some of the histories on them as they folded up their high tech sails. John had a vague idea of where the race was starting, but called in to find that the start point had been moved at the last minute. It may have had something to do with the motorcycle rally going on on Clover Point. The start mark was dropped just off Brotchie Ledge and the course was set by VHF radio. Winds were moderately light this morning, so the race was effectively shortened from 20 miles to about 14, just so it wasn't really painful.


We played around with the sail configurations, tested our speeds in the current and then headed to the committee ship to await the start time. The countdowns came and we managed to get over the start line to watch two boats behind us make contact with one another. We realized we were in the middle of a pretty noisy pack and had to work to find our line. The course we took, however, was not getting us close to the others. The pack leaders began to pull away and we had to hunt for a new strategy.


We gybed out of the building flood current and got closer to shore where the current would be weaker. The wind was fading off as the weather system began to change around. John checked the wind patterns and decided Esquimalt was getting enough wind to power the boat up again. We made up a lot of lost distance taking that line, but then found ourselves calmed again and fighting toward the mark, using every single tweak we could to get the most out of the wind. It was about this time I left the spinnaker station and helped put more weight on the boat's side to get a more efficient heel angle.


The light air and mounting current was making things pretty slow and we inched toward the turn mark with just over a knot of speed. Some of the faster boats had a good lead on the rest of the racers. By the time we rounded the mark, our closes competition was a ways ahead, but we suddenly had an abundance of air! We took down the spinnaker and up went the 150 jib. We pulled into a close haul and began picking up some speed, again the fleet was in our sights, but John was pretty sure it was a bit late.


Trimming up the sails and a fresh breeze got us up to nearly 7 knots. The next turn was in view and coming up quick. The more we turned up the wind to compensate for the current, the slower the boat went. By the time we got to the mark, we were withing inches of the side of it. We pulled around the mark and were suddenly tailed by another boat in the race. We were neck and neck right up to the midway point between the mark and Ogden Point. With a bigger spinnaker, they were passing us ever so slowly.


The current was still pushing us slightly off course, so we basically got back to the finish line as fast as we could. As we passed the finish line, we got a canon for a signal. Taken aback, we all looked at each other wondering why. John was not happy with the rival winning the race, but I just told them to blame it all on the rookie. :) I learned a whole lot on the boat's controls, but definitely need more practice. The other crew did a great job and knew the game well. It's humbling to be with experienced company, but I picked up a whole lot of technique just by watching. John asked me how it went - I think you know my reaction to that one :DDD. (Very good, thumbs up and all that).

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Monday, May 25, 2009 Leave a Comment 0 comments


May 10th, I headed out to the old stomping grounds of caddy bay for a paddle with some unexpected company. The tides were due to be insane all weekend, so why not have some fun in Baynes channel. Today, meaning may 9th, I met Paula on the beach and Bernie was out making sure he'd dialed in his boat's seat setup. (ed: sorry for the narrative shift) I left the beach at gyro in light wind and overcast conditions. I was pretty sure the currents would be transitioning about 1 or 2 knots if we left the beach near noon.


The tide change ended up coming about 30 minutes earlier than expected and it was a steep curve to either side, giving us no real slack period. We paddled up the east side of Cadboro Bay, mostly gabbing and catching up. It's been a while since I got paddling in with the group. The current had already set up eddy lines in Baynes, but I was pretty determined to cross the channel today.


Paula and I met up with Bernie in Sheep Cove, a small, rocky beach between the properties that border the bay. He was wearing his Chinese supercooler hat!!! We decided to round Flower Island and take some photos of the weasel holes in the shrubs on the east facing side. There was a small current in the channel between Flower and it was definitely flooding. We paddled down to the Cadboro Point light, and found ourselves scooting down current whenever we stopped paddling.


My friends are still pretty wary of current, so I wasn't going to force the issue too hard. We paddled back to Jemmy Jones Island and Paula went to check out the wildlife on Flower. Bernie and I saw a nice little eddyline doing it's thing about 100m off the island. I stared at it for a bit and thought it couldn't be much over 2 knots at its fiercest. I entered the eddyline and paddled hard all the way out to Chatham. Baynes was fairly serene in the middle of the channel, but the eddies over the shallow parts were pretty quick.


I got to Vantreight Island and paddled quickly to not lose ground on the safe zone of Chatham. I was being drawn toward a sailboat exiting the channel between Strongtide and Vantreight islets. Luckily he was caught in the grip of currents as well, so i didn't have to yield and burn more energy getting my foothold again. Seeing Bernie had stayed at Jemmy, I meandered south along the current shadow and took a few photos of the sailboat. That's when I saw a really sweet eddy open up.


I gauged the distance between me and the bigger boat and entered the eddy with a nice high-angle paddle stroke. I made a bearing of the Cadboro Point light and just zoomed down the eddy for a ways. The GPS said I made a peak speed of 14.3km/h and the GPS tool said i sustained 13km/h for about 500m! I think that's a first for my boat. It felt like warp speed. I realized I was probably going to overshoot Cadboro Point, so i began a ferry back to Jemmy Jones - up current. It was worth it though! What a great workout!


I met up with Bernie somewhere between Jemmy and the point. He said something to the effect of, "Whew, I thought I was going to meed you at Telegraph Bay" Implying that I was going to slide down the current all the way out of Baynes. The current simply wasn't that strong, though I do love appearing insane. We paddled hard back up to Flower island - what a treadmill!


Safe and sound back in the shadow of Caddy Bay, we paddled back to the beach and admired the lasers out for practice. We saw a pink dot on the beach and it grew into a Paula. She had entertained herself out by Flower Island and had an encounter with and angry animal that makes an orrt! orrt! noise. I could hear that damned sea lion from Chatham! The weather just wasn't breaking up, so we got the boats all squared away and got a much needed coffee.

Trip Distance: 8km

YTD: 152km

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Sunday, May 10, 2009 Leave a Comment 0 comments


Today's mission was really a last minute choice between paddlefest and going out sailing. I had it in mind to paddle from maple bay to ladysmith, but the wind model was showing 15 knot headwinds just beyond the north tip of Saltspring Island. I called it yesterday and the paddlefest plans were scrapped. Instead it's sail today and some local kayaking on Sunday. I went down to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club to meet up with John, the skipper, and a couple of others who came by to join in on the fun.


I got introduced to the boat last week at a conference where I met up with John in the first place. It's a Thunderbird 26 in fiberglass by the name of Cool Breeze and she's a heck of a boat! She's rigged for racing control, with nearly every line led back to the cockpit and the stanchions removed to stop the foresail from getting bound up. One thing I immediately noticed is that the boat has a floating vinyl boatbath under it to keep all the sea goo off of the hull. Must be nice not having to bother with bottom painting.


John had already rigged up a lot of the boat before we got there, so basically I sat back and watched as we left the marina. The wind was a fairly light northeasterly in Cadboro bay and we were able to put up the sails almost immediately. I basically held us head to wind as John ran into the cabin to set the main and jib halyards. The mast on this boat is keel stepped with a nylon compression block inside the cabin at just about waterline. The main sheet is run to a pulley block in the center of the cockpit instead of a traveler and the transom is covered by an enclosure for the outboard.


We got out of Cadboro bay with almost no effort, the boat is very well behaved and sails gently even by the lee. The Turkey head race was on this morning and we could see the contestants coming around the Cadboro Point light. They were facing a 2 knot flood in Baynes by this point, but the finish line wasn't far off. A small power boat positioned just off cattle point was watching the race times. Our skipper decided to pay a visit to the finish line boat, Lobo, and I began to realize how connected the sailing community is around here. Everyone seems to know one another and the place is full of great stories. The finish line boat gave us a little checkered flag whistle just for kicks.


The wind piped up a little and we took a nice close haul out into Baynes. The boat got a lot happier as we began hardening the jib and main. looking to either side, the water was fairly calm, but the boat was still getting some great power out of 4 or 5 knots of wind. She likes to sail with about 12-15 degrees of heel, but we got the stories of 35 degrees+ which is something I'd love to try!


lo and behold, off our bow was a Cal 20 trying to make it through Baynes with almost no wind. It was Red Current with an older couple sitting in the cockpit. We passed her quickly and kept on a course out to the west point of Chatham/Vantreight Island. Baynes was pulling us north, so we crossed to Jemmy Jones and headed back into the bay. Off our beam was a small keelboat doing tacking techiques (to gain speed?) that looked like a bunch of mini capsizes. It was neat to watch and I have nothing but respect for people who can handle and maneuver those little boats with skill.


We got down to the beach end of Cadboro bay and went out for another hot lap of the bay. The wind had died a bit and veered east, so the second outing was for housewatching. I had no idea how many of these houses were owned by locals! Uplands is one of those places that I'd rather not look at for long, though. All the homes, with their 60' sailboat outside, makes me wonder if I'm in the right industry ;).


The current had also died a little in Baynes, so it came time to wrap up the day. We briefly met up with the race winner from earlier and her team were all smiles. I'm guessing they won it fair and square despite some much faster boats in the competition. The wind had veered even more toward the south and dealt out a few last puffs from the east. Once we got back to the marina, John quickly dropped all the sails and the day concluded with a little slice of heaven, sitting in the summer weather out on the RVYC grounds with a bit of food and drink. What a fun group, too! The 5 of us sat gabbing for a couple of hours about pretty much every topic under the sun.


I had a great time out there and thanks again to John for helping to develop my sailing addiction further! All that positivity in the club makes me wonder if it's not a bad idea to join while I'm still in the lower age bracket.

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This year's WCP outing was OFF the HOOK. This weekend went by so fast I couldn't believe it. I left work a tad early to try and catch the last of the beneficial currents from Sidney to Pender. I got up to Sidney and my anticipation of a flat calm bathtub was simply not happening. the wind meter was registering 17 knot winds and the sea looked a bit too white for my liking. I met up with Mike Jackson at Amherst beach and let him know that I intended to take the ferry. He was totally set to paddle and met me at the island a little later.


As I got to sidney I was kicking myself in the butt sooooo hard. There was nary a wave anywhere in the protection of the gulf islands, but I was committed to take the ferry with the ticket on my dash indicating a 2 hour wait.. and I was still in my wetsuit :(. A pretty boring, but pretty, ferry ride later and I was putting in on North Pender, a 2km paddle to the campsite.


It was late as I rolled into camp and just off my bow was Mike Jackson's boat. He beat me to Pender! He told me that as soon as he passed dock island (only a few km off of Sidney), everything went calm and the paddling up to Pender was just fine. Ohhh well.. there's always next year. I set up camp in the dark and headed down to the beach to gab about everything with some of the folks I never get to see outside of fun kayak camping trips!


Next morning, I was collecting my thoughts after waking up late and people were already loading up their boats for the afternoon. I got changed, ate a bagel and jumped in the boat. The morning was just perfect for paddling, lightly overcast with beams of light on the hillsides. We were going to circumnavigate the south Island. I laughed to myself as I paddled thinking of how arduous his journey was last year in the driving sleet.


We arrived at the fixed bridge that connect the artificially distinct north and south islands that make up Pender. The low tide under the bridge exposed a huge abundance of sea stars, tube worms, river otters, jumping fish and all kinds of other sea life. Further along you could see clams, geoducks and oysters spitting big streams of water into the fresh morning air.


There were seven of us in a nice tight pack with a good pace. No one was getting left in the dust as we paddled around the east side of shore. The clouds were starting to break up a bit and sunlight was hitting some of the really ugly housing developments on the cliffs of east err south pender. The houses seriously look like commercial buildings.


As we were paddling along we had these strange birds in our sights. They were too busy eating tiny fish to even car about us. Hundreds of them wound their way along the coast and out to Saturna Island. They're called Bonaparte's Gulls and they really look like miniature seagulls except for a black head and a sharp pointed black beak. They also have an unusual squawking noise. It was pretty cool being in the middle of the feeding frenzy.

More on them here! :)


We found a nice, sandy lagoon on the south part of the island and pulled out for lunch. The group just got quieter and quieter as the sun and brisk air had us all chilling out. I cooked on the beach and walked down to see our little lagoon filling back up with water. You could actually watch the water creeping up the shallow channels in the sand. We left the quiet little beach and finally ended up back at camp to find it nearly deserted.


With a warm sun and no where to go, I had a seat on the beach and drifted off into some much needed shut eye. Eventually our friends drifted back from their outings and everyone was getting hungry. It was about that point that the sailing kayak showed up. Dude had his boat rigged with two spirit sails and modified laser sail so he could go upwind. Needles to say it was a hot topic when he got out of his boat.


It was dinner time, and the tradition seems to be a giant potluck on saturdy night. Last year I brought pepperoni sticks .. this year? pastrami, cheese and crackers. People made all kinds of food. brownies seem to be the first to some to mind. At one point the table was full of them. by the end, there were just crumbs.


The folks at West Coast Paddler rewarded their more active forum members with all kind of neat paddling gear and we all pretty much had a laugh at their expense. Here's Andreas modeling his new Seal Line backpack. A collection of John Kimantas book went to a very grateful Greg N. As the awards wrapped up, the night closed in and everyone didn't make it much past 11pm.


The next morning I was a total zombie. I guess not enough water and some strange sleep walking must have occurred. I had a pretty bad headache that the Advil wasn't touching at all. I basically dragged myself down to my boat and began drinking all the water left in my 5 gallon bag inside the stern hatch. Griping aside, it was another absolutely beautiful day and by about noon, I was feeling a lot better.


The beach cleared out again as everyone began to leave. One group was just moving camp to Portland Island, another was heading to Saturna and I was just taking it slow, trying to spend a few hours in the sunlight. I paddled over to my car with Dan, the owner of the WCP site, to get him a replacement wheel for his kayak cart. Somehow along the way he had a blowout. While at the car, I unloaded the boat, and headed back to the campsite to paddle around a bit more. I headed out to poet's cove and then returned to the van slowly.


Exhaustion was creeping up on me and by the time I got to the ferry dock I was bushed. I had arrived to early for food and there was this big bee in the bathroom, so I just nodded off in the car. When I came to, delicious burgery smells were wafting my way. I stumbled down to the burger stand and ordered every possible meat I could on it. I did not regret anything about this entire weekend.

Trip Distance: 30km

YTD: 144km

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Friday, May 1, 2009 Leave a Comment 0 comments
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