Thursday, September 20, 2007

Three Tidal Races, One Day, Any Day

On the second day at Holyhead we reversed the previous days course and left much earlier to take advantage of bigger water at the North, South and Pendwyn Mawr and finally to shore at Port Dafarch.

Tom, Phil, David and myself reached the North Stack to find a confused sea state. Truthfully I was very nervous. Here I was at the crucible of kayaking and I desperately did not want to look the fool. At the time I had no idea how big the waves were. It was simply up and over. The Romany handles this stuff like a dream. It's not as fast as the Explorer but it turns much quicker. I caught a couple of waves for some good surf rides but spent most of the time trying not to get knocked over.

As we were leaving to head further south I climbed up one last wave face. The boat was completely out of the water back as far as the front of the cockpit. I've done this lots of times at home off East Sooke Park and in Baynes channel. But this time something different happened. As gravity caught the bow and brought it slamming down on the back side of the wave there was a distinctive crack mixed in with the slapping sound of the boat hitting the water. At the time I thought nothing of it.

In retrospect I think this is when the coaming broke and started to separate from the deck. After surfing at the South Stack I knew I had a problem. While Tom and David stayed inside Phil and I headed out to play in the current. The waves where much more uniform then those up at the North Stack. The race seemed to be about seven waves wide and the first two waves greened out into a long fine line which made catching them easy for Phil and less so for me. He caught any wave he wanted, I caught about a quarter of mine. By the time we headed into the "boulder" beach I was feeling ready for break. I was also feeling a lot of water around my feet, legs and knees. At first I just but it down to a poor fitting spray deck and the wet rides we'd been playing in. But when we pulled out there was a lot of water in the cockpit. Odd very odd.

Lunch was on a beach that no one from Victoria would even consider landing on. Stones the size of soccer balls, slimy green sea weed, rocks the size of small sedans. In other words a typical and fine place for a spot of tea.

Afterwards we slipped into the water, going first gave me a few moments head start and I used he opportunity to get right in amongst the rocks and play. Lots of fun that. We then paddled down to Pendwyn Mawr the third race of the day. I thought my face would split. I was laughing and smiling so much. Here I was playing in this legendary tidal race, catching waves, setting up ferry angles across the chop and current, just having a blast.

Finally we turned for shore. I found myself lagging behind. The boat seemed sluggish partly because the engine driving the kayak was slowing down but also because I had shipped a lot of water into the cockpit. That rational part of my brain was breaking through to the emotional thrill seeking part and saying things like, "excuse me for interrupting but there is something seriously wrong with this kayak."

Back on shore dumped out the cockpit. It seemed like 20 litres of water came flushing out. Then Phil leaned over and pulled up on the coaming. The coaming started to lift but the kayak stayed on the beach. Every lean, brace, and turn had allowed the the split to open up and let the water in.

No problem we just loaded up the lorry and headed back to the base where I'd get kitted out with another boat for the next day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Late in August I made a trip to Wales to hook up with the good folks from Sea Kayaking UK. After 36 hours of travel, with little to no sleep I arrived at Nigel
Dennis' house to be graciously greeted as an unexpected guests by the man himself. Nigel is the man behind NDK kayaks, an accomplished adventure and a renowned kayaker.

This was the bank holiday weekend in England and with staff rushing off to escape to parts unknown, the message about my arriving a day early got lost. Oh well not to worry a quick turn of the sheets and Nigel had a room ready for me. I was so zoned out from the flight, crying babies, sniffling adolescence and a very distracting cougar on the train ride up that I could have slept anywhere.

The next afternoon Nigel invited me along for a paddle with his daughter Elizabeth, Justine Curgvengen, Barry Shaw,
and Tom Thomas. Tom is the bloke on the About Us page on Sea Kayaking UK web page. His handsome features are unfortunately somewhat obscured by the history/information. We paddled from Port Dafach around to the sea wall at Holyhead. That's paddling through Pendwyn Mawr and the South and North Stacks. With little tidal stream running it was a perfect introduction to the area. Justin, Barry, and myself played in the surf off the Porth Ruffydd headland. Later I'd learn this was the fearsome Pendwyn Mawr, well ok not today.

I was kitted out in a Romany Surf. Here's a hint when doing your BCU assessments paddle one of these - it'll make you look good. Unless you break it. More about that later. I also chose to wear my dry suit. Bad mistake as the water was amazingly warm. As we paddled along the towering cliffs we stayed inshore. I contemplated slowing down to play in the rocks but was content to tag along. At the South stacks we split up. Barry and Justine went outside of the Stack to play in the tide race while we made our way through the multitude inside channels that separate the lighthouse islet from Holyhead. Soon we were in amongst some large and deep caves full of sleepy seals. The seals here have dog like faces and long necks. They spy hop like otters but don't bark like west coast harbour seals rather they moan.

Every time a seal was spotted some one would point it out, "look at the seal." To my Vancouver Island eyes a seal is a seal is a seal unless it's a sea lion or a whale. But what a great intro to the area. Along the shore there's a life time of rock gardens to play in. And when the tide and wind are racing off shore there's enough adventure to keep the most jaded entertained.

That evening Tom cracked open his laptop so Liz could download some music to her ipod. He has an amazing collection of music. I once worked for a national radio station with a huge music library to which this collection compared very favourably. Lots of rock , blues, jazz and reggae from the 30's on up.

It was a real joy watching the evening sun softly streaming through the window to illuminate this 16 year old girl. In a days time Liz would be off to Cambridge to school. A whole new chapter of her life opening up in front of her. In a few years my son will be doing the same. Throughout the evening Tom was letting Liz sample various artist from his playlists. She hated the teenage angst songs - no scars on her heart, but liked Dylan, almost all reggae which always brought a smile and even the Chieftans - very cool girl. While Liz listened Tom and myself took an introspective journey in an opposite direction to where Liz's life is taking her. We travelled back through our lives carried along with the music of our youth. I couldn't help but smile.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why British Boats Are Built The Way They Are

This is the stern section of a Valley Boat built in England. The owner was playing in Deception Pass (between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands Washington State) on the flood when he got caught in a whirlpool, went inverted and snagged the stern in a crevice in a rock wall.

The stress on the boat caused what witness described as an explosion. One witness said he looked up at the bridge thinking there had been a car accident.

Once ashore the stern was taped up and the boat was paddled the next day in Deception Pass. Within hours word of the accident had reached East Sound on Orcas Island and paddlers started making their way down to Deception Pass to see what was up.

Today the boat has been repaired and is ready for another full on adventure.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Rum Island and Witty's Lagoon

Ah the joys of have three days off. Perfect for two paddles with a day of rest in between. Sunday Aug 5th I hooked up with my old friend Bill and along with a group of Victoria paddlers struck out from Sidney BC to Rum Island percjed on the edge of the USA. We made our way through the Little Group Dock and the north side of Forest where big money from Montana via NYC has made some very dramatic changes to the islands shoreline. We slipped into the take out spit the connects Gooch Island to Rum about 90 minutes out from Sidney. Just off shore was a fine long low off shore yacht. Easy on the eyes while the mind fills with dreams of sailing off to circumnavigate the Pacific.

Rum was very dry and it looks like there has been lots of wind damage inside the wooden heart of the island. It was nice to see Parks Canada has built some nice tent platforms. I might return with a screw driver and add some tie down points so people will be able to secure their tents when it gets really windy.

Lunch was a two hour siesta. In which we regaled ourselves with various accounts of our prowess. Whenever one gets drawn into one of these sessions it's important to never go first. I did listen with a peaked interest to Rossco's tale of never leading another "club" paddle as the skill level of the local club members was greatly lacking when the wind came up. Been there done that. It's the age old conflict between being a social club and a centre for developing kayak skills. I'm glad not to be a part of that scene.

Two days later I made a trip from Albert Head to Whitty's Lagoon with Michael Jackson. We should have done a sea pup count. The cute little guys where everywhere and often very courious. As much as we could we attempted not to disturb them but often they'll come to check us out while we simply sat still in our boats. One little guy slightly bigger then my paddle blade kept swimming back and forth under my kayak. I was content to sit and stare back. I reason any moverment to pull out the camera would spook him so I simply watched until some other aquatic diversion drew his attention away and he was off.

Just tot he north side of Albert Head the kelp has come under some very serious attack. The leaves are either completely eaten away or in the process of being consumed by what appears to be donut like egg casings. These casings have also fixed themselves to the stocks and floats. The kelp floats are bleached out in colour and some appear to have been sliced along the horizontal axis. Very strange. We both snapped some pictures and Mike promised to send them off to a marine biologist he knew at the Bamfield research centre.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cape Flattery July 21, 2007

I made a one day trip to Cape Flattery on Saturday. Up early to catch the 6 AM Coho to Port Angles, bought a book at the bookshop anticipating the heavy rains, stopped for breakfast at Clallam Bay and made it to the Hobbart Camp ground on Makah Bay just after noon. Paid my $15 bucks to camp. It's possibly worth it as they have a brand new shower, bathroom facility. I fitted my pitiful stern wheels to the boat and dragged it through the sinking sand about a 1/4 mile to the beach. Punched out through some small breakers and turned right into heavy rain. Paddled around to Neah Bay pulled the wheels out and started the 10 k hike back to Hobbart. After three kilometers and the almost total collapse of the wheels I chucked the boat into the ditch and accepted a ride from a commercial fisherman back to the camp ground. I raced back to the kayak, threw it on the roof, struggled out of the Goretex dry suit which was almost completely soaked with sweat and rain. Back at the camp the ground was completely soaked. I passed on stringing the Hammock between the one miserable tree and the car and decided to head home. I made the last ferry with 10 minutes to spare.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Discovery Island

Thursday afternoon saw me out on the water from Cattle Point heading for Discovery Island to shoot some photos of the light house. I struck out for the southwest corner of the island. The plan was to let the flood tide and SW winds push me along. I crossed north of Tod Rock, passed Fiddle and Carolina Reef and across Plumper Passage. Just south of Commodore Point there was a nice one foot rip about two meters off shore. After playing in the rip I turned back for the south shore of Discovery and found a nice quiet inlet to switch my paddles. I put the carbon fibre blade away and pulled out the equally nice but more durable fibreglass. For the next part of the trip it would be me, the waves, and the barnacles as I cruised through the rock gardens. This is a challenging place to play in the rocks. I think it's best half way between the high tide and low tide marks. If it's too high, it's too easy, too low and it's impossible. Wind and swell add to the degree of difficulty. If you're afraid of scratching your boat stay away. For some reason the barnacles here seem bigger, more jagged and sharper then anywhere else in the area. This is not the place to make mistakes. Such as the two I made. Picture to the right is a beautiful cowboy camping spot. It's outside of the Provincial Camp ground on the Indian Reserve. Camping here is illegal unless you have permission of the local band. The legal camp ground faces south and has a commanding view of Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic peninsula. The Lighthouse has been automated. This would be a great site for a kayaking school. Throughout the summer it beginners could be taught the fundamentals . In the winter the school could focus on advanced skills as students learned to grapple with the seasonal storms.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Poppy quarter led to spy coin warnings

Last Updated: Monday, May 7, 2007 | 7:37 PM ET

The surprise explanation behind the U.S. government's sensational but false warnings about mysterious Canadian spy coins is the harmless poppy quarter, the world's first colourized coin.

The odd-looking coins were so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. army contractors travelling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them.

The worried contractors described the coins as "anomalous" and "filled with something manmade that looked like nanotechnology," said once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails.

The 25-cent piece features the red image of a poppy inlaid over a maple leaf. The quarter is identical to the coins pictured and described as suspicious in the contractors' accounts.

The supposed nanotechnology actually was a conventional protective coating the Royal Canadian Mint applied to prevent the poppy's red colour from rubbing off. The mint produced nearly 30 million such quarters in 2004 commemorating Canada's 117,000 war dead.

"It did not appear to be electronic [analog] in nature or have a power source," wrote one U.S. contractor, who discovered the coin in the cup holder of a rental car.

Poppy Coin Part of Massive Destabilization Plot

The UnAsssoaited Press

Washington DC According to an internal whistle blower calling herself William (Billie) Casey, an unnamed Intelligence Agency working with a second unnamed internal USA agency, in an attempt to destabilise the drug cartel econonmy in Asia had these conterfit coins produced. The two agencies contracted the Canadian mint to produce this drug money. William Casey, not her real name says, the theory was simple. The counterfit coins would be slipped into the local drug economies in massive quantities. Once in wide circulation it would be "leaked" that the coins where counterfit. The local economies would collapse and wipe out millions of dollars of ill gotten drug gains.

Unfortuantely the US dollar undermined by the current massive war efforts fell so far in value that the counterfit poppy coins started to increase in value, said Ms. Casey, not her real sex.

The two unnamed agencies moved quickly and bought up all the remaining counterfit coins. However with no place to store the coins they came to an agreement with the Canadian Mint. The Mint had been paid $10 million dollars to produce the coins. Circulation figures are still classified, but all the remaining uncirculated coins were discounted to the two agencies for half price, said Mr. Casey, who is still confused by sex.

The Canadian mint which was just about to ship the coins to the agencies head offices , 5600 Fishers Lane Rockville, Maryland 20857, stepped in and for one third of the original contracted price agreed not to ship the coins and dispose of them.

Mr. Casey would not put a dollar figure on the covert opperation but when pressed he repeatly winked his right eye each time a dollar figure was announced. At 10:15 PM his winking was interrupted by a telephone call, a number of clicks and whirls such as a camera makes when film is being advanced. The last number Mr. Casey winked over was $100 million US. At this time two Russians broke through the door shouting the vodka was spiked with Plutonium.

The Canadian Mint quietly slipped the coins into circulation in Canada where no one noticed them until US defence constractors inadvertently drew attention to them.

Previously the Canadian mint had experimented with adding mood stones to the centre of the Canadian coin affectionately called the "Loonie." The intent was to attempt to gage what sort of mood or what Canadian consumers had on their minds. Turns out Canadians have only one thing on their minds - hockey and are always in the mood for more.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Kayaker's Rescued off of Victoria

It was quite the windy day here in Victoria yesterday. Three gentlemen had to be pulled from the ocean by the local police rescue team. Here's the link. Apparently they were paddling a single and a double.

When the wind knocks out the radio broadcasts I just look at my back deck. If the Barbie, deck chairs and cushion box are all at one end I know it's a windy day. The BBQ weighs about 80 pounds.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Gale Warnings

Gale warnings continued.
Winds westerly 30 to gales 40 knots with the highest winds near The east entrance. Another blustery day on Juan de Fuca Strait. So I threw the gear into the boot and headed for Esquimalt Lagoon. When I arrived the winds were blowing out of the west and stacking up the ebb from the lagoon in a neat series of standing waves. I launched in the lagoon and quickly rode the ebb out through the inlet channel. Passed a rather tough looking five year old who was about to sink me with a rock until his Mom intervened. Out in the bay in front of Royal Roads the wind was not yet blowing unreasonably hard. I surfed back into the outlet channel two or three times then headed over to Fisgard Lighthouse to snap some photos.

I slipped in close and rounded the lighthouse cutting inside of the boomer rock just off shore. I expected to be intercepted by the Navy from Esquimalt but no one showed up. Either it was too rough for the RHI or lunch. I surfed into a small bay for a photo op.

Things where going fine here in the lee of the island but as soon as I pushed my bow out into the wind, she wanted to weather cock. I was having none of that so I slipped back into the lee then choose a better angle and as I slipped past the last rock dug deep and paddled hard to come around to the landward side of the lighthouse. Reversing course I surfed back out through the rocks and into the entrance to the naval base. Still no navy chaps. Retracing my path as soon as I reached the open water the wind took me. Try as I might I couldn't bring the bow into the wind and make any discernible head way. So I retreated to the landward side of the lighthouse to consider my options. I pulled the boat out, fetched the tea and the VHF to check the weather. Amazingly the wind decided to launch my kayak. This is no carbon fibre light weight but a proper British NDK Explorer. Watching it spin around on the sand was quite unnerving. I dragged the misbehaving beast up into the logs and tucked it in next to a nice old cedar. Up on the beach I sat down on Mr. and Mrs. Somethingorother. The loving couple, departed, have been memorialised by having their names engraved on a park bench. I feel awful having spent that time with them only to forget their names. I'll have to go back and make amends. While I was sharing my tea, the cup blew over, the VHF was squawking some dire news. Winds at Esquimalt were blowing 36 gusting to 43, similar winds were being recorded at Gonzales and Trail Island. Race Rocks was gusting to 38. All from the west and right into my face.

Time to explore the Lighthouse. Luckily it was open. Inside it's a typical Parks Canada installation. Lots of pictures of sinking ships, winds whipping the shore with monster waves, the usual stuff. The old building was creaking and moaning in the wind like the last survivor at the old folks lodge, "I'm still here!"

Back out side I took a walk out to the outside edge of the rocks. I was careful not to leap from one out crop to the next fearing the wind might just like to play a little game and propel me a little further then I would want to go. Looking down I saw a way to escape. If I manoeuvred through the rock garden on the east side I'd come to a channel that cut off the actual head land where the wind was the highest. I could then cut hard to the west and surf back down a channel on the west side and into the relative shelter of the adjoining bay. It was worth a shot.
That's the passage out on the left. Back at the beach the wind had again tried to launch my kayak. Even though tucked in next to a log the wind had spun the boat 80 degrees and blew it the length of my tether rope toward the water. I took it as a sign that it was time to leave. Back in the kayak, I worked my way through the rock garden and out into the exposed coast but with real bad timing. High winds and waves drove me east and not west. I looped back around, worked back through the rocks and into the channel this time I waited until I saw a pattern. I let the larger waves go past and punched out through some smaller ones. Made a hard bow rudder turn to starboard and slipped into the adjoining channel. From here it was a short 400 metres back to the launch site. Into the wind it took the better part of an hour to get the kayak back. Loading up I almost lost it doing the Klingon Jerk lift. One hand on the leading edge of the cockpit, one on the back, lift with the knees, explode upwards with your arms, and step forward and lower onto the roof rack, except when I stepped forward nothing happened. The wind pushed me back. Quickly I lowed the kayak and suggested to the nice lady taking pictures that she might want to move her car as my kayak was attempting to turn into an airplane and fly off.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Orcas off of Trial Island

This morning I went down to Trial Island to paddle out on the ebb and take some pictures of the Light House. I should have guessed it would be a special day when a River Otter spy hopped about five meters off my bow. This bold little guy showed no fear what so ever. He even swam a few strokes towards me, enough to make me think he might become a problem. Then down he went.

There's a huge air and water military exercise gearing up off the west coast of Vancouver Island this week. Today was the first day and there was lots of military traffic on the water. Canadian Frigates were out, no doubt hunting American subs. Up at the Airport an American F15 a couple of Hawkeye's, a US airforce CB-9 (it's a DC-9) and a CF Airbus came in over the weekend. With all this activity I couldn't help but wonder if the micro waves and the radar rays would be strong enough to cook a hot dog on my deck. Alas I never seem to have a dog when I need one.

After snapping a few photos of the Lighthouse I headed back to Oak Bay to do my annual golf ball rolls. Just along the shore there is a golf course. From the elevated tees the duffers routinely slice golf balls into the sea. I like to roll my boat reach down, grab a ball, and roll back up. Holding the golf ball in your hand ensures you use a light touch on the paddle - slowing the sweep down. It's good practice. Sometimes I throw the balls back on the fairway. Sometimes not. On the way back I was surfing the bow wave of an outbound tanker when I heard the tell tale whoosh of an Orca. A pod was transiting through Enterprise Channel between Trial Island and Ross Bay. I snapped a few shots. The photos have been enlarged so the detail is not that great. It's great to live in a place where you can drive down to the shore, take a stroll or go for a paddle and be welcomed by these guys.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Plumbing Your Kayak Revisited

Some good folks have written and pointed out that I forgot to include pictures of paddles in yesterdays post. Oops! Here then are the missing photos. In the first one you see a close up of the paddle button. What you should see is a small bevel at the top of the cut so the button can easily slip into the pipe. Some people cut a notch. I've been procrastinating and will get around to this later.
In the second photo you can see how I removed the drip rings from an old paddle and slipped them over the pipes. This lifts the pipe ends off the deck making it easier to slide the paddle shafts into the pipes. This is especially welcome when you're on the water.
In the last picture you see how the blades are held in place. I added a couple of smaller black bungees to help hold the paddles on the deck when I'm in the surf. I choose to cut the pipes short so they would not protrude over the fore deck hatch. Longer pipes hold the paddle shafts more securely in dynamic water conditions such as surf. Thanks, the multitude of kayakers who showed me how to do this.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Plumbing Your Kayak!

You can use two drain pipes normally used to connect a sink to plumbing pipes to hold a split paddle on your fore deck.
Make a diagonal cut on the long end of the drain pipe. This slanted cut will make it easier to slip the paddle shaft into the pipe. Use a file to take the edge off the cut. You can also file a notch in the top of the cut to help the release button slip past and into the pipe. Now drill holes at the base of the elbow of each pipe. Run a bungee cord through the holes and either snap the ends of the bungee's onto your deck lines or whip them on. I've used some black zip straps and a couple of bungee hooks to secure the pipes to the deck lines. Don't cut the pipes to short or you run the risk of large waves washing the paddle shafts out when you are breaking out in larger surf. The blade end of your paddles are secured by your fore deck bungees. I strongly recommend replacing the smaller diameter bungee cords that come with most kayaks with thicker and stronger lines. Takes about an hour to add these to your fore deck. My experience has been that straight shaft paddles secure easier then bent shaft paddles. This may be becasue I cut the plastic pipes too short.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Death by a Thousand Scratches
Doug Lloyd, a well known extreme Victoria kayaker, has pulled his Nordkapp apart for what may be the last time.
I say may because he's rebuilt it so many times that there may just be one more rebuild down the road. If not he's got a plan. "Too heavy and too far gone to rebuild. I'm thinking of filling in all the bolt holes, damage, etc, then recessing the rear cockpit rim, then lowering the volume 1/2 inch along the seam line, then making a mold of the hull and deck, then making a new boat from composites and epoxy (vacuum bagged); this would give me the layup I want with the deck features I want incorporated. Or, I could order a new Nordkapp LV infusion epoxy made boat from the UK - about $4500.00."
Doug says he'll write to Nordkapp about his plans and ask for their approval before he snaps off a new mold. He's made so many changes I can't see the point. His one off is so modified it might as well be dubbed the Lloyd Nordkapp. Although that does sound like one of those chaps with a peerage and parentage problem from back across the pond. "I say old chap, is not that Douglas Lloyd Nordkapp over there with that stunning looking kayak. Tea? Hair Hair!"
Should Doug resurrect his boat I suggest he call in the Mary Ellen Carter. Google Stan Rogers.

Not satisfied with the philosophical question, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin", Doug added a rudder to the stern of his Nordkapp and added fuel to the great kayaking debate - skegg vs. rudder. Over there on the left you can see one of the through hull scratches that facilitated new cloth on the inside. The full length keel strip is another Lloyd innovation that allowed Doug to drag his plus 100 pound boat to and from the launch site. This Nordkapp has had a long and venerable career. Nordkapp should reclaim it, hang it in their offices and send Doug a new one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I've added some links. One is for the Weather Office. This is for the marine weather for the Gulf Islands and the BC coastal areas. Move your mouse around the page and click on the various regions for the latest 12 hour reports. Up at the top you can click on links to ocean buoy reports. Each area has it's own buoys numbered. For example if you click on Georgia Basin then 20 you'll get the latest report from Race Rocks. Usually you can get Temperature, Barometric Pressure, (watch out if it's dropping) Wind direction and speed from each reporting buoy or light house. I say usually because these buoys float in some very unforgiving environments which sometimes knock out the electronics. Another great feature is the Georgia Basin Pressure Slope. I won't try to explain how to read this or how to use it, but if you paddle this area you should develop these skills. Mike Pardy of Skils gives a great lecture on understanding weather in the area. Paddlers in the NW should own a copy of, "The Wind Came All Ways." I have heard some kayakers complain that the book makes their head hurt. Thinking can do that. The link will show you how to get the book. I don't know why people get mad at weathermen. They're like fortune tellers, they only make predictions. I've never heard, " ...and here's Bill Baggins with today's weather sure thing."

The other post is to a web album of photos from New York City. NYC was a family compromise we couldn't decide what tropical island to go to so choose NYC instead. We arrived in the middle of a late season snow storm did the tourist trip but caught a hockey game at MSQ and two Broadway plays. Theatre will never be the same for me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rumours connecting Mike O'Connor and myself to the political wing (Sein Fain) of the IRA remain unproven. It was Mike however who got me involved in the British Canoe Union (BCU). Here Mike is attempting to show me the proper BCU way to draw. Personally I prefer using pen and ink. Nevertheless one must admire the young man's strength. Manipulating that "Light weight," Lendal takes a real Herculean effort.

Somewhere west of Jordan River on Juan de Fuca Strait, possibly Bear Beach. This was back in March 07. On the way back I tried to shoot some photos of a water fall coming off a cliff - only to get knocked about by the only wave in the previous three hours. I kept the boat off the cliff but lost my hat and camera from the paddle mount. Stored the camera and went back in for the hat when the second wave tryed to turn me into a cliff decal.
Company Point along the entrance to Sooke Basin with Wiffin Spit in the background. I waited out swells that pinned me on a shelf in the SW corner of the Islet. Ocean hydrology
is an easy study especially when it's in your face.
As I pulled into my in laws place out in East Sooke I could look out and see a wonderful off shore break out in front of Whiffin Spit. A seemingly perfectly straight white curl formed about 200 meters out. A second break appeared closer in.

Previous plans to go east out along the wild East Sooke Park where immediately dropped. This would be a surf day. I'd learned of this elusive surf from my wife's cousins husband. He's a big time surfer out here on Vancouver Island. You're big time when you sell your house in town and builds a home 10 minutes from the local surf Mecca - Jordan River. That's the local surf beach for Victoria. Anyway Guy told me that when the swell and winds where just right you can surf the outside of Whiffin Spit.

The problem is that the outside of the Spit is littered with large boulders that lurk just below the surface. However with Guy's directions and with numerous trips along the shore at low tide I'd developed a pretty good idea of where it would be safe to surf.

I launched and ferry glided across the entrance and was soon approaching the breaking waves. I pulled on my helmet, secured everything off the deck and dropped my skeg about an inch. I'm not the best surfer in the world and I'd been thinking that dropping the skeg on my NDK Explorer might just give me a little extra directional stability. I started on a moderate wave and got a good ride. Then I moved up to the larger off shore break and again got a good ride. The third was the best. I caught the wave just ahead of the green wall and shot off toward shore. A fast stern rudder, pushing on the paddle face kept me running straight, then neutral, then I pulled hard on the paddle and induced the boat to broach just on the top of the second break. The boat swung around and I headed back out. The fourth ride buried the bow right to my body inducing a tad nervous flick to the boat but we road it out and turned for more. Where do those nervous twitches come from?

Alas there seemed to be nothing left. I waited and waited but the only breaks where occurring very close into shore in the soup zone in very shallow water. Time to move on. Back across the entrance to the rock gardens.

The forecast for today was low to moderate swells with winds 10 to 15 knots. We have a weather station on the roof of the house and the winds where West at an 8 knot average. This was the second mildest paddling day on the Strait in the pass month. Perhaps it was the fact there where no high winds, no white caps, and lots of sunshine. What ever it was I made a critical mistake. Just past Company Point I came up on a rock garden that I've paddle through dozens of times. Often in high winds and lots of wind waves. Company Point ends in an islet that is separated from the rest of the point by a narrow cleft in the rock. The cleft is perhaps three meters wide. On certain tides you can paddle through the cleft. Today the stopper in the middle was fully exposed. So I pushed on to what will be a second cleft in the rock. In about one million years.

This cut has a rock face on the left and a series of rocks on the right. The outer rock is usually dry. The inner rocks wash and drain. Two thirds of the way along the wall there is a perfect dog leg to the right that you can escape out. If you miss that exit there is a second right-hander at the end of the cleft where a narrow 40 in crevice leads directly back to the sea.

My mistake on this day was not taking enough time to survey what was happening in front of me and more importantly what was coming up from behind. As I looked in I saw the surface chop, some foamy white water but mostly a nice aqua. I pushed forward with powerful strokes to get my speed up. I was planning a hard paddle support turn to the right to set me up for the dog leg then more power strokes to slip back into the open water. I knew things were changing when my stern started to rise. Too bad for me there was nothing I could do as I was committed. It was turn the boat or terminate the ride by plowing the bow into the rock wall at the end. My turn worked and the boat swung to the right just as that aforementioned moderate swell arrived from the open sea on my right. I was perfectly broached to the breaking swell. I used a draw stroke desperately trying to keep the boat from being pushed past the dog leg. I hung on for a bit and the wave passed. The problem now was the retreating water was pulling me on to the rock that seconds before was on my right. My draw evolved into a skulling stroke. Unfortunately the water was turning to foam. My boat slipped stern first into the hole that is until the next wave crashed in. Tons of water poured into a very confined cauldron. I felt the boat hit the rocks just as I lost all support and went under.

I set up to try to roll into the on coming wave. Swung my paddle. It slammed into a submerged rock. I set up again tried to shorten the extension but then I heard more scrapping followed immediately by a compression on the top of my helmet. The water was draining out of my rock pool and I was on bottom. I bailed.

Leon Somme's words, "never let go of your boat", came to me in slow motion as I popped up with one hand firmly on the boat and the other on my paddle. I flipped the boat upright and got smashed again. Picture yourself in a big washing machine going round and round. Add an 18 foot kayak to the spin cycle. I bounced off the rocks and feared for my dry suit. My inner mind said, "If you rip this suit on the razor clams or barnacles and have to cut the feet out, I"m going to be really pissed." Right! It was time to forget about the equipment so I let go of my paddle. It was on a leash and I'd only hung on to it fearing that left to it's own it'd just come back and slap me about out of spite. I reached out and grasped the rocks. The spinning stopped and I was able to cough and spit out the sea water just before the boat was thrown into me. I don't know when or how but I'd clearly moved to the bow as I had the single line toggle tightly in my grip. Quickly between swells I scaled up about two feet onto a rock shelf dragging the kayak behind me. Before I could take stock another swell washed over the shelf and threw me and the boat toward the rock wall. Luckily I went down into a shallow pool which slowed us enough so the impact against the wall was minimal.

I got up never let go of the boat stuffed the paddle in the cock pit and took a look around.

For my small shelf I looked out over a sea of moderate rollers. They were not the monstrous waves of apocalyptic doom. They were just moderate waves. One after another and another and another. I stood there looking out at the sea with my boat in one hand and my feet braced to absorb the waves as they broke over my shelf. Time to take stock. My feet were dry so I knew there were no holes in my dry suit. My hands were not cut, no blood on my face or ears no pulled muscles. I turned to my boat and decided to empty the cockpit. I tipped it over and let it drain then lifted it to get the last of the water out. It seemed heavy indicating I might have water in the forward hatch, which is leak proof, which meant a possible hole. I decided to deal with that possibility later and turned to the deck. There seemed to be no cracks or damage to the deck so I decided once the swells subsided I'd pop the hatches and have a look inside.

Turning back to the sea I started to time the swells. One one thousand, two one thousand...14 one thousands. Could I throw my boat off the shelf, jump in, fasten the spray deck and paddle out in 14 seconds? I switched to Mississippi's, then Steamboats but it didn't make much difference. I looked to the rock face. Scrambling up would be easy, pulling the boat up with my various ropes would be had but could be done, but to want end. I'd still be on a rock cut off from the point and this was likely the best place to re launch from. Seal launching out when the shelf flooded wasn't and option as I'd be dropping into a foam stack laying over rocks just below the surface. Slamming into them would surely lead to greater hull damage then I'd already inflicted on the boat.

I looked at my watch it was 20 minutes to 12 noon. I looked at my for deck and read the grease pencil message, "High tide at High noon". Would my drying shelf be completely flooded? Or would enough water water pour into the rock garden to change the water dynamics? Would the swell pattern recycle back from moderate to low. It was time to watch the ocean and study.

I love the sea. No matter it's state watching it is easy. The way swells break and spill from blue to green to white is hypnotizing. The slate gray of rollers rising and falling can draw me in. And the sound. Whether it's listening to the trusted sound of waves breaking on a beach when your tucked in tight on shore, or the clatter of rounded stones being played as waves wash back and forth, or the pure fury of a wind storm over deep waters, or that distinctive sound water makes in confined races when the current is running hard and fast, all of it is music, a symphony of nature. It was no different on the shelf.

Gradually I began to see a pattern in the swells. I figured I'd be able to slide the boat off the shelf and step in then paddle out until I could safely put the spray deck back on. I watched through the first then second calm period during the third I checked the forward and aft hatches. They were dry. I reasoned the boat felt heavy simply because of the after affects of the adrenaline that had coursed through me.

At noon the largest set of waves washed over the shelf re flooding my cockpit. I settled down to wait some more. Sometime after 12 PM I slipped the kayak down the rocks stepped in and dropped my but into the seat. I pulled my right foot in and paddled out just as if I'd launched off a dock. I let out a whoop and a yell and headed out towards Possession Point. I checked out the slot into the phony water treatment plant where Michael Jackson and I landed last week. It was impossible to see the sand at the end of the slot so I decided to pass and headed for a small beach further along. I knew the waves would be dumping on the beach. But I also know I need to work out strategies for landing on just such a beach. I paddled up on the back of the waves. Studied the beach choose the spot where I thought getting in would be the easiest.

Winslow Homer knew a thing or two about waves! You can see the real thing in New York at the MET.

Then on a whim I decided to pull the spray deck so I could jump out and run up the beach as soon as I hit the stones. Immediately the cockpit was swamped by a rebound wave off a wall to my left. I was tunneling in on the beach and had forgotten about the wall. The kayak slewed sideways, slowed on the back of the wave I chosen to come in on and was rolled up by the wave behind me. My high brace was futile. The landing was less then eloquent. I pulled myself and the boat up well beyond the high tide point and did an inventory check of all my equipment. My VHF, binoculars, camera, paddles, hatches, deck and hull all seemed fine. Pulled out lunch. While sitting there I said to my self your not having a very good day. Then laughed as I realized this was my best day paddling in the previous months. I was out here on the edge of the world doing the things I have trained and dreamed of doing. Pushing myself and my limits.

Thankfully I was alone. Partners would have grown impatient, tried to force a rescue or some ill conceived plan upon the situation. Discussions would have followed chatter, chatter, chatter. Self reliance beats all that noise. Oh and self reliance on flat calm water doesn't count.
I decided to enjoy the sun rest and had a nice nap. Shot some photos and re launched. I paddled out to the end of Possession point. Amazingly I was able to surf the rebound waves off the wall back along the tops of the incoming swell. I was getting long rides on the rebound. But I took a pass on surfing between the rock just off the end and the point itself. I turned for home. On the way back I stopped and took some photos of my shelf. I watched for some time figuring out how to paddle back in and reverse out the way I'd entered earlier. Then I worked out and alternative approach. Essentially rushing into a drying rock shelf and timing the arrival to coincide with the incoming swell so the bow would rise over the shelf and glide on out the other side. I worked these plans out then turned around and by passed the entire rock garden.

This blow hole makes a wonderful bass boom when the waves compress the air inside until it blows.

Back in the entrance I played in the standing wave at the end of Whiffin Spit. Did a couple of rolls, skulled left and right, did a reentry and roll, pumped out, followed up with right and left high braces then headed for home. When I pulled the kayak up and washed it down with fresh water I discovered a one inch gel coat chip on the left aft side right at the aft bulkhead. I'll fix it tomorrow.