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.

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