Monday, December 29, 2008

West of East Sooke Park

Christmas Day my family hiked out to my favourite kayaking site. My son Matthew Warner snapped a few pictures of the area. This elevated perspective captures the beauty of the area. Here's a link to all the photos.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Tonight in my in basket I found one of those sentimental seasonal messages beseeching me to think of the lonely soldier hunkered down in a fox hole. I did, but my thoughts wandered.

Soldiers fight in different fields every day. Some take up arms and march to war in distant lands. They risk their lives often for nebulous goals or so that some unethical politician can score political points. Most will tell you they're fighting for the guy next to them, their buddies, the other guys in the patrol or platoon. Many don't even know why they're in the fight, or even care. They fight simply to survive. The nobility is added by people in comfortable rooms far from the fight.

Some soldiers pick up sutures and needles and fight to save lives in operating rooms. They're called surgeons. Others carry on the fight in labs. These people fight against incredible odds for years and years. They make tiny incremental gains against disabling diseases. They're called research scientists and doctors.

Some soldiers march into a class room to fight ignorance and to give the gift of knowledge not just to the poor and the down trodden but sometimes to the middle class and wealthy who have become trapped in the rhetoric of fools.

Some soldiers fight for your soul. They reach out and try to help people to a better path be it Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Jewish or whatever.

Some are lawyers fighting to put criminals away or to protect those wrongly accused.
Many march off to dreary everyday jobs so they can provide for their families and children, they're called loving parents.

There are few parades for these people, few statutes and few words. By and large they are forgotten.

In 2008 I met a soldier who in fighting for his life asked others to join in the battle with him. Many responded and took up the fight. They were not able to engage his enemy directly but they gave their support to help sustain the fight that will in the end bring his enemy low.

Strangers, family and friends answered that call. The smallest contribution was a handful of coins, the largest was counted in the hundreds of dollars.

This soldiers fight took him into places that his supporters could not follow. Twice he fought major battles. Seven times he has fought minor skirmishes. Yet the war is not won but only at a stand still. His fight will last another two years if he can see it through to the end. The outcome is uncertain.

Yet throughout his battle he never asked anyone to help him. He only asked that people help others. During his battle he has been cut and bled countless times. Without drugs to easy the pain he grits his teeth and takes the cuts.

That soldiers life was enriched by all those friends and strangers who stepped up. Sadly he was left with one bleeding wound which he knows not how to heal. It came not from a knife but from words spoken by a loved one, "We've already given." The man's worth measured and found not worthy.

Personally I think 40 pieces of silver would have been a lighter burden to carry.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Wish List

As a public service I here with publish the following Christmas gift guide should you be looking for that perfect gift for the discerning kayaker. Thus in no particular order the list:

Any book on kayaking from Pesda Press

James Bond Quantum of Solace Omega wrist watch (for Wenley) $3,410 US

Any editon of Ocean Paddler www.oceanpaddlermagazine. available at Ecomarine in Vancouver or by post from the publisher

A helmet hero cam for the budding kayak videoographer prices vary but expect $189 US

If you have not got one either A Romany or Explorer from Sea Kayak UK

Any course from Body Boat Blade

2009 Canadian Tide and Current Tables for Juan de Fuca Strait

Wasburne's Tables for the Current Atlas Juan de Fuca strait to Strait of Georgia

Moleskine Pocket Weekly Diary

Waterproof note book

A good novel for days trapped ashore

Fair winds and sunny skies and good health


Fine Scotch, a cool Ale, a pint of Guinness

Kokatat dry suits for all

Werner paddles for those who have not gone to Greenland

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Weather, Humbug!

Baynes Channel was a giant canvas of white horses last weekend. Winds out of the NE had whipped the waves into a manic state. From high above in the Uplands the Channel looked like a perfect playground as the wind relentlessly blew the tops off the waves.

The air temperature told a different story. Minus 17C. Handling the waves and current was within means. But what to wear? The only wise thing to do was to pull out the lap top and surf the net.

I started with a quick visit to one of my favourite blogs; This is the play ground of one Ignacio Wenley Palacios. Check it out.

Wenley was on about developments in the world of safety flares. The new standard in hand held flares require the unscrewing of an end cap to allow the firing string to drop out. Supposed the screwed on cap will be more water proof then the old friction cap.

Most distressing is the addition of a two second delay before the flare ignites. One might surmise this gap in time was added to encourage the rescuee to have a look down the business end of the flare to see what's up. The subsequent removal of the said gentleman's head would negate a rescue attempt.

On a more positive aside Pains Wessex has introduced a one standard size for white collision flares, red hand helds, and smoke flares. Just make sure you're up wind of these before pulling the ignition cord. Pains Wessex has also introduced a nifty Zip Flare that should make loading these things a lot easier. The flare cartridges are held in a plastic box and the zip pen simply pushes onto the cartridges. Older versions of Zip flares left the cartridges to roll about or sink as they slipped through cold fingers.

In typical British fashion Pains Wessex's web page tells you everything about their products except the price. What a Pains!

Wenley recommends igniting a barn to increase the effectiveness; "this red rocket aims to attract attention at long range, firing a 30,000 candela red signal to 300 metres of altitude with a signal that will burns for 40 seconds - its burning time is dramatically extended, would it land in a barn - suspended under a parachute."

Here on Vancouver it's hard to see parachuting barns after the sun goes down. So I recommend firing the flare into any nearby Lighthouse. The resulting Roman candle should burn for considerably longer then 40 seconds and be visible for some significant distances.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Future of the Okisollo Tide Race

Okisollo is a hidden gem on the north east side of Quadra Island in the Pacific Northwest. This little known Canadian jewel is becoming a favourite of adventure kayakers in British Columbia and area.

What attracts these adventurers is the very feature that during the earlier ages of recreational kayaking would strike fear into the pioneering kayak crowd. A perfectly submerged shelf creates a beautifully formed standing wave on every flood. With max currents hitting over nine knots the resulting wave and chaos south of the leading wave where depicted as places to carefully avoid.

Early kayak tourers would read of Okisollo in a multitude of guide books that all explained how to get through the area at slack tide thus avoiding the terrible fate that would overtake the unwary.

Times change. Performance kayaks are becoming as popular as the station wagon kayaks that allow us to take just about every camping device invented into the wilds. Today kayakers seek out the danger and rush of surfing the surge wave. Some challenge themselves in unofficial competitions to see who can ride the wave the longest. Others take on the challenge of the chaos behind the wave. Testing themselves against the pyramid waves, the current, and whirlpools to see who can stay upright the longest and more importantly who can roll back or skull back up after the inevitable dumping.

This phenomenon reflects the maturation of sea kayaking. We've moved forward from simple touring and benign recreation to the point where performance kayaks and more adrenaline seeking owners are becoming more common.

But time keeps on changing. Now there is an application to explore the potential of Okisollo for electrical generation. Orca Power has applied for a permit to study the area to determine if it would be feasible to place a tide generator below the shelf that creates the ten knot floods at Okisollo.

The government of British Columbia is embracing small hydro electrical generation proposals as a greener alternative to massive dam or hydro carbon power generation options. Not surprisingly this initiative has attracted potential power companies and investors to areas such as Okisollo, Skoocumchuck.

This attention has raised concerns in the adventure kayak community. The initial Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) reaction has already lead to a letter writing campaign targeting the provincial officials who grant the license applications and local provincial legislature members.

Alarmist are painting a picture of industrial complexes complete with roads, power transformers, transmission lines and towers as the inevitable outcome if the research application should be granted.

While the kayak community is indebted to the people who brought this to the attention of the kayak world this is not the time to mount a NIMBY campaign. Knowledge should always come before action.

Further to the south an underwater tide current generator has been successfully installed at Race Rocks in Juan de Fuca Strait. Presently it collects power that is transmitted through underwater cables to the light house located on the islets. This power is then stored and used to reduce the dependence upon diesel generators on the island. This 'industrial' development has had no recreational affect on the area. Race rocks is still a popular destination for strong competent paddlers.

Of greater concern here is the voluntary prohibition against landing on Race Rocks.

The light house keeper is a bear with a minimal grasp of diplomacy. Instead of meeting kayakers at the shore and asking them not to land in the interest of protecting the colonies of seals and sea lions. He's been known to aggressively confront kayakers. Including one occasion when the islands where completely shrouded in fog. “Can't you people read? You can't land here,” he shouted, pointing back into a fog so thick you could not see the mans hand at the end of his arm.

But as far as power generation goes the Race Rock experiment seems to be working fine. One advantage of this location is that it works on both the flood and the ebb. At Okisollo this may not be the case which would seem to reduce the efficiency of area.

Nevertheless a below surface generator located deep enough below the shelf might not have any adverse affect for kayaking in the area at all. If warranted power from such a generator could be transmitted through underwater cables to the nearest road head miles south below Surge Narrows, then through lines located adjacent to the existing road. It might be that the generator may not be located below the shelf but further out in the channel. Without research date who knows.

Indeed it could be that, if feasible and I stress “IF”, such a power development might have a beneficial effect. As Okisollo becomes more popular facilities should be developed to protect the area. Apparently 1,500 people accessed the area this past season. That's a lot of people in an area that has no facilities at all. No designated camping, no toilets – nothing.

While many kayakers and recreational users know how to minimize their impact on the environment there are many others who do not and care nothing about what they leave behind or how they leave the area.

Road improvements could also bring more kayakers to the area. That might be good or bad.

In any case this initiative bares careful watching. It will be interesting to see what the research turns up if the application is granted. What is certain is the inevitable quest for electrical power, the increasing demand for more environmental power sources and the desire to protect existing recreational areas will bring us into conflict. Mitigating the impact and striking a balance between conflicting needs should be our goal. As for Okisollo it maybe that it's not suitable for electrical generation at all. Time, research and knowledge will tell.