Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Force 10 from Victoria?

Click on the headline for a view of Haro Strait during the calm before the storm.

After a weak of laying about dealing with pig flue I had to get out. So I grabbed my binoculars and camera and headed out to do a little storm watching. Locked inside my car who could I inflict with H1N1 except the occasional car jacker.

Down along the shore front I found a Gale blowing. With nothing else to do I followed the shore up past Willows Beach, around to Cattle Point with a quick stop at Cadboro Bay.

My real destination was 10 Mile Point, Cadboro Point and of course Baynes Channel. Along the short drive I worked up mind exercises figuring out how and where to launch, what heading to paddle, how the southeaster would surf the boat and where to pull out.

I have a close friend who once while standing on a beach looking out at a much smaller sea turned to me and said, "I have to get out and practice in that stuff more." I replied. You don't have to get out and do anything. If you were standing here alone would you launch? "No, I wouldn't," he replied. Well if I came along and asked you to launch would you? "No properly not."

There, you see that's good judgement and that's all you ever need to practice. Lets go for coffee.

Alas I was too afraid to walk into a coffee house coughing and sneezing pig virus so instead I slipped into Cadboro Bay and jogged over to see if any yachts had slipped there anchors and blown ashore. One came ashore last week and the thieving wreckers had pulled all the electronics out of it before the owner could secure it.

Sadly there is an small ugly undercurrent to gentile Victoria, composed of people with no morals and clearly no respect for the law. Luckily, at least when I stopped by no boats where on the beach.

Back in the car I made a quick trip to the view point on Prevost Hill and snapped a quick shot of 10 Mile Point 200 metres below.
I was estimating the wind was blowing a steady 40 knots and the sea on the Beaufort scale to be Force 7. But it's hard to estimate such things from the pan of a kayak let alone the seat of a car.

After a brief stop at Cadboro Point and 10 Mile Point headland where I shot the video I headed home. I put some soup on and as I was uploading the photos I noticed the trees were really whipping around. the wind was picking up At 7:30 PM I checked the ocean buoy reports: Kelp Reef in Haro Strait SSE 48-63 knots, Discovery Island SSE 45 gusts 56 Weather forecast Storm Warning Winds SE 48-63. That's Force 10. I made coffee.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


It has been fine fall kayaking here in the Victoria area. Last Wednesday we managed to find standing waves in Baynes Channel right off the reef at the end of 10 Mile Point.

With a fast ebb coming around the head land slamming into a steady 10 knot wind the waves were stacking up into three footers. As usual most of the waves failed to line out which made surfing difficult. Nevertheless Denis, Mike and I managed to get in some good rides.

My advice to anyone entering this tidal race is to do so from the top of the race and slide into the leading wave backward. On this day we slipped by the reef buoy and attempted to enter from the bottom side.

We'd paddled out from Cadboro Bay and as we approached I stopped to switch my ball cap for a neoprene cap. You know the type that holds the cold water close to your head ensuring the freezing water gets deep into your ear canals. Who thinks these things up?

As we approached I thought to call out to my companions to slip through the inshore channel in front of the Williams/Green's house (it's made of glass and brass). Once through the channel we could stay inshore then swing out to drop into the race. For some odd reason I didn't, I guess I secretly wanted to see what would happen.

I was first to enter and the fast ebb quickly sent me too low and past the first wave line. I was in the chaos where surfing becomes secondary to just staying up right. I fought my way out with a major forward stroke effort that foreshadowed the next 20 minutes.

Crawling ever so slowly out against the ebb we finally reached the point were we could surf. Unfortunately I found us a little to close together for comfort and let some good waves go by to avoid potentially coming together. But everyone got in some great rides. I had my bow toggle drumming a tattoo, while Mike and Denis both buried their foredecks.

Eventually we agreed to paddle straight though the race to come out the other side. I took off for one more surf ride with the intent of paddling up above the race to get the maximum ride. This proved impossible as I couldn't make any headway. In fact all I was doing was maintaining position.

When ever I stopped paddling to look around for my companions I would lose any forward headway I had managed to eke out.

The last look about turned up one paddler short. Quickly I scanned 360 but could still see only one other kayaker. I called out where's Mike and set up a ferry glide angle to take me over to the reef to calm waters to have a better look. denis joined me and we soon spotted Mike flying through the race. For moments three quarters of his boat would be out of the water as he exploded through a stack. The black Tahe Greenlander looked beautiful in full flight.

From south of the race we set up a ferry glide over to Strong Tide Islet then clawed our way through the north cut into the lagoon and slipped down to the sluice were we played breaking in and out of the current rip.

At days end I did a quick roll, dragged the boat up reloaded my kit and came home to begin a week long battle against what appears to be the N1H1 virus. So much fun followed by so much misery. The photo is a snap of Hans Heupink's Anas Acuta after a hard surfing day in Holland.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shephard and the Albatross

The following was written back in July. I've been reluctant to publish it because I consider the trip that is being planned to be extremely dangerous. Is it wise? I do not know, but it'll take guts, knowledge and perhaps good fortune to complete. It scares me just thinking about it.

Hayley Shephard is trying to raise awareness of the plight of the Albatross by solo paddling around South Georgia this coming February. She's an experienced kayak guide who works in the Arctic and on South Georgia Island.

This has never been done before indeed the island has been circumnavigated by kayaks only twice; both of those expeditions consisted of three kayakers. To date Hayley has lined up a publisher for a book, a film editor for a documentary and three magazines to publish accounts her her efforts.

Hayley is raising funds that will go to the Save the Albatross Campaign. ""

However Hayley is in desperate need of sponsorship funds. The British Government which governs South Georgia has very strict regulations regarding access to the area. Hayley has been in contact with the Royal Geographic Society and has made an application for support.

If you want to help here's the link to her project site. ""

In this day an age many strike out on adventures, that seem only to full fill the persons need for self aggrandizement, it is especially gratifying to see that there are those who will undertake such adventures not solely for there own self fulfillment but for the advancement of important causes.

Nigel Denis is one of three British paddlers to circumnavigate South Georgia. Recently I asked him what's the most critical aspects of a solo paddle around the island.

His response, "develop lots of strength," surprised me but when he explained I understood. He said strength is needed to cope with the high winds. Nigel estimated they paddled in winds between 25 and 45 knots 40% of the time.

Technical skills are secondary to brute strength. I was somewhat surprised to hear that. Nigel also warned about fur seals which like to attack kayaks. When Nigel's team landed they used their paddles to fend off the seals. Do not confuse fur seals with the relatively harmless harbour seal. Fur seals are aggressive.

But most importantly he says taking the time to wait out the weather is key. Freezing cold, high winds, no reasonable back up. Hayley's support vessel well seldom be close enough to provide emergency support.

The following is a quote from Jeff Allen's blog account of the 2005 trip around.

“Fur seals are very aggressive, as is the weather, very unpredictable, went from a force 4 to a force 8 in seconds today, took Pete by surprise and capsized him, water is freezing, after ten minutes hands and feet are freezing.

“The challenge to paddle around South Georgia has been considered by many to be the ultimate challenge to any sea kayaker, comparisons between it and K2 to the climbing world have been bandied about, but South Georgia is truly unique and stands alone in the challenges that it does present, it certainly didn’t disappoint us.

We had the best and the worst that mother nature had to offer, when the going was good we made as much progress as we could, forcing ourselves to extend the limits at times to which you would not normally consider reasonable, over and above the norm.

When the weather was really bad we had no option, paddling wasn’t possible. The hardest thing to judge were those gaps in-between, seeing a weather system form overhead and wind increase from a force 2/3 to a full force 9 in the space of minutes was at times very frightening, especially when you were half way across a five mile open crossing.

All of the usual safety nets kayakers back home take for granted, VHF, Coastguard, RNLI even mobile phones were none existent and we knew that down here we were on our own, a self contained unit having to work as a team and being able to trust collectively in the decision making process meant so much more when making daily goals.

Although we had to have a support vessel to satisfy the license, the only time we saw it was when the weather was sound, if things turned foul they needed to head for cover as much as we did, what a seventy foot yacht considers appropriate shelter is well removed from what a kayaker would consider to be appropriate.”

A yacht such as Pelagic Australis can always head for open water, for us we had to take exceptional care when undertaking crossings, always looking for changes in the clouds, looking at the surface of the sea and reading the flow of water becomes second nature, if it hadn’t we may well have suffered for the mistake and this could have been a different update today.”

Prior to speaking with Nigel I talked with Dr. Fred Roots, a Royal Geographic Society member and gold medalist and an a renowned Antarctic and Arctic Scientist.

He was very cautious which is not surprising. One does not get to be an old Antarctic hand without paying close attention to due diligence. His first concern was with rescue.

In the past when Antarctic adventurers have messed up or been overwhelmed by the environment the only possible response to the Mayday would come from a scientific research project that might have taken years to put together. With limited resources the scientist would be expected to respond. This could mean the end of the research project. Years of work ruined by some adventurer.

Bitterness or resentment in the scientific community is understandable. By and large these pioneering scientist are hard men and women. Their projects in the 1950's and 60's where entirely self reliant. There was no safety net. When Dr. Roots geological partner had to have an eye removed after a shard of rock pieced it, the surgical tools where fashioned from a dinner knife and fork. The operation was done without either a loco or general antithesis.

The instruction were provided via Morse code from a surgeon in London. Think about it. Instructions for eye surgery locked in a series of dots and dashes.

While doing his geological survey Dr. Roots traveled solo via dog sled across the frozen ice , going unsupported from food cache to food cache for over 200 days. He had a compass.

Today The Royal Geographical Society will not allow people to undertake such adventures without means of rescue. She's had to charter a boat. But even that may not be sufficient.

There will be places on the west coast where the boat will not be any closer then three days travel. If disaster befalls her the reality is the rescue may in fact be a recovery.

Regarding the plight of the Albatross Dr. Roots pointed out that while it's an honorable endeavour that Hayley is undertaking. It may be fruitless. He explained that long line fishing practices around South Georgia have already been modified in attempts to ensure Albatrosses are not caught.

Long line fishermen, around South Georgia, to avoid catching these magnificent birds are now setting their lines at night or inboard so that the bait sinks before the Albatross can drop down and take the baited hooks. The save the Albatross project is trying to get all the worlds long line fishermen to do the same.

How easy is it going to be to get a long line fisherman from Port Hardy to voluntarily change the way they fish? Fishermen cannot even agree on a plan to save the salmon fishery.

But as Dr. Roots explains even if the entire world's long line fishing industry adopts these practices the Albatross will likely disappear. Victimized by humans rapacious harvesting of the sea. They'll starve to death. The future seems bleak for the Albatross.

All these factors add up to perhaps one of the most dangerous expeditions to date. Anyway you look at this it cannot be sugar coated. The endeavour is frightening and the goal maybe fruitless, but I hope she's successful.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lighthouse escape the Bean Counters - For Now

This was a truly stupid move. The amount of money that would be saved by shutting down the manned lighthouses on the west coast did not amount to a hill of beans when compared to the one life that may be saved by anyone of these lighthouse keepers. Yes that's one life because that one life might be your son or daughters.

Would any of us cancel the insurance on our cars to save money. Of course not. The Feds could raise taxes to pay for essential services except that's not what our government does. They take services away to make small minded people happy.

Decisions like this are driven by narrow minded individuals who only want to pay for the services they think they use. You know the type, "I don't have kids in school, so why should I pay school board taxes." Because Canada will become a nation of hamburger flippers if we don't educate the next generation. Hamburger flippers make $12 per year, we'd need 200 zillion of them to match current federal and provincial government revenues. You do the math. On the other hand CEO's apparently make a zillion a year each and are the product of good education systems add a large dollop of greed and you only need three to match government incomes.

I know, "lets cut taxes to the point where we pay nothing for nothing. All my money will be mine, mine mine. I won't have to share it out for dumb things like paved roads, utilities, health care or parks or any other nutty thing that makes a group of people a community, a village, a city, a province or even in this case Canada.

Norway or Denmark, one of those Scandahovian, countries has the highest taxes in the world. What a bunch of saps. So what if they have the highest standard of living in the world. I bet they'd all like to move here where they could get nothing for nothing from the government while all the time working in Norwegian fish farms on our the west coast at $10 per hour. Did I mention those Norwegian corporations cannot operate fish farms in Norway. Apparently it's not good for the Norwegian environment.

Tomorrows garbage day. Ideas like shutting down manned lighthouse should be thrown out with the trash. My garbage is picked up by municipal workers and for my money it's a great service that's paid for out of my municipal taxes. Keep manned light house keepers. If you have to cut back fire MP Gary Lunn. It'd be a sacrifice. I mean anyone could have dropped the isotope ball in Chalk River. Nuclear plants, neutrons, isotopes it's all rocket science to a real estate lawyer.

But, take away Gary and a couple of invisible back bencher's and suddenly there's enough money to pay for manned lighthouses.

Just wait. This stupid plan will come back.

Monday, July 27, 2009

House Sitting

Last week found me house sitting in North Saanich - only five minutes from work. I was able to bike into work in under 15 minutes. (Just try making a five minute ride in the dark)

I'd put the cat out and strike off just before the sun came up. By 12:45 pm was back to water and feed the cat. Next came a nice layback in the hammock under the shade trees with a bucket of cool ones and some reading to finish off the hottest part of the day.

Then a short paddle on Sannich Inlet and back for an early evening super followed by just laying back to watch the sun set over the inlet. What a great location.

It was so restful I found lots of time to compose my departing note to the home owners. The text follows.

I fixed the water heater. Some Tom came by and I'd like one of the kittens. I changed the language preference on your computer to Dutch and bookmarked lots of interesting adult sites.

Drank all your beer but could not find the broom. I wanted to use it to get the ladies thong off the ceiling fan. No matter how fast I ran the fan it just would not come down. Very odd.

I took your new Explorer out for a paddle. I'm not sure if gel coat will fix the hole. Thanks for letting me read the Ocean Paddler Magazines. I cut a few articles out to share with my SISKA friends. What's wrong with your oven?

I answered the phone Wednesday night and you've won the Nigerian lottery. It took a while for me to find your bank account info, but the guy on the line was real patient, especially when I fibbed and told him I was a senior. That gets sympathy every time. The money will be in your account on Monday - it's $4.2 million. Man are you one lucky guy. Would you consider a small gratuity. One percent would be sweet.

Victoria Kayaker

PS. I couldn't remember if you said I could smoke in the house or not. So I kept it down to just a couple of cigars in the evening. Oh yea, you can hardly see the beer stain or cigar burn on the carpet. I'm sure if you don't point them out no one will never know.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tahe Marine Update

Ocean River Sports had two Marine kayaks on hand at the MEC Paddlefest at Gyro Beach in Victoria. The Tahe Marine was purchased by Mike Jackson. I got to paddle the boat first at the MEC show then again after Mike had bought it. Click on the title to link to ORS.

There was a second slightly different version the Tahe at the MEC show, but I know nothing about it. The good news is the dealer for western Canada and the USA lives right here in Victoria. He's a semi retired gentleman from Oak Bay.

The other bit of good news is that a slightly larger version of the Tahe Marine is being designed and should be available in the fall. I believe it'll have the same hull but an enlarged deck to accommodate the longer legs and bigger feet of larger paddlers.

Check with Brian Henry about what kayaks he has in stock. As this is such a specialty boat I cannot see him or any retailer bringing in a large number of them.

Victoria Kayaker

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dry Hatch and the Black Beauty

Sea trials are complete and the Romany S forward hatch is bone dry after multiple rolls, braces etc.

Also had some time in the Tahe Marine. Amazing rolling machine, but very small cockpit, small enough to hurt. This would be a fine day paddler for anyone small enough to fit.

Turns well, rolls like a thought, static braces are easy, accelerates quickly and I believe would sustain a four knot speed with ease. I'd really like to see it in rough water.

Not sure if I want to be in the cock pit in rough conditions as it's such a tight squeeze I had serious misgivings of being able to get out should the worst happen. Mike Jackson is sold and I can't fault him for falling in love - fickle man that he is!!!

Mike looks on as Pete M. slides in for a test. For my test we had to call upon our companion with the longest arms to adjust the foot pegs. I could just reach the pegs with my finger tips but could not slide them further into the cockpit to accommodate my legs. If you're long legged, set them up, then don't move them unless you're a real knuckle dragger. Sorry Dan!!!

To do a static brace, which I have always struggled with, Dan and Mike simply leaned back onto the very low back deck then while twisting the torso, so the back will lay flat on the water, let the boat slip out from under them and they were doing a static brace. I'm inspired to try this in the Romany S.

Test and trials where conducted on a great day trip from Oak Bay Marine out around Discovery Island and along the shore of Chatham. I swapped my Romany S for Dan's Gulfstream for the return trip. The trip back reinforced my impression that the Gulfstream is the best kayak built by Current Design. Now if this earlier model only had a lower rear deck.

Here's a link to more photos Tahe

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Moment in the Valley by Doug Lloyd

For a free urban celebration of canoeing and kayaking with a token registration fee for on-water courses, demonstrations - and back at the beach seminars, the third annual Victoria Paddlefest hosted by MEC looked to be another success.

Being a three-decade Valley Canoe Products paddler myself I was pleasantly surprised to see the newer named, Valley Sea Kayaks well represented at Gyro Park now that Ocean River Sports in Victoria carries the Valley brand. Furthermore, Rob Avery was present with some extra Valley kayaks, including Sean Morely’s Nordkapp he’d used for the Vancouver Island Circumnavigation, as well as the nicely updated Valley Anas Acuta that all testers agreed was the most fun kayak of the bunch. It would have been nice if there was the 18’ Valley Q-boat there too.

I was able to test paddle the Nordkapp LV at my new weight of 215 pounds. I’d tried it previously at 170 pounds when the Tidrace kayaks were given a spin out at Trial Island. Both Gordin and I had agreed it was a fine sea kayak though it retained that classic Nordkapp tenderness you either love or hate. I was just able to squeeze into the cockpit and put it through a few manoeuvres. There was a bit of wind and the LV weather cocked far less than the classic Nordy, but it benefited by use of the skeg early. Other kayaks I know take longer before the benefit is essential.

What I did find invaluable this year was the opportunity to discuss kayaks with the very knowledgeable Rob Avery, who is the new Valley sales rep for the west coast region. Sean Morely has moved on to represent P&H and Pyranna kayaks. Rob, based out of Bainbridge, Washington kayakcraft is a BCU Level 3 Sea Kayak Coach and ACA Open Water Instructor. He’s an unassuming fellow, all around grand chap, and now deep in the Valley.

With the Nordkapp LV on my short list, there were some questions I was seeking answers to. There has been a fair bit of feedback from paddlers all over that the new LV unfortunately retained the high back deck. The answer I was given? Lay back rolls are dangerous you know. The kayak was designed as an easier to control unladen version of its bigger brother, the full sized Nordkapp, for smaller paddlers or paddlers looking for performance without the payload. There are no plans to address this rear cockpit height issue as far as Rob knew.

Second point: is there any discussion at Valley regarding front day lockers, such as found on the Rockpools and the new P&H Cetus? No. Is there a possibility to custom order an LV cut down (the seam line is lowered before joining the hull to deck yielding an even lower volume kayak). Given the curves near the seam line it would be highly unlikely.

I asked Rob about some of the rumours about quality control issues at Valley again. He wasn’t aware of any but did admit one boat shop on mainland BC had an out-of-proportion number of skeg issues than anywhere else, which seemed an odd anomaly to him.

Rob did agree that the choice to go with a round bilge hull with its responsiveness to hip movement versus a soft chine hull with better feedback for carving was an intensely personal preference. Furthermore, the Nordkapp series are kayaks you grow with for many years but are kayaks that have years of rewarding performance. Certainly the Nordkapp LV does provide good manoeuvrability though its static stability at rest remains low.

There was a paddler present with his Tiderace Xcite. Like the SKUK kayaks, it was heavy and well built – really stiff, strong, and durable. The owner loved the cockpit ergonomics, seat, knee position and height/angle of the front cockpit. He said if he could get his Nordkapp LV with the same deck, cockpit and seat as his Tidrace, he’d be in the Valley way more.

Victoria Kayak thanks Doug Lloyd for his insights and welcomes accounts from other readers. If you want to share your thoughts click on the comment button at the end of any story. Thanks

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Why do we tempt the gods. A short while ago I published a piece about quality control in the kayak industry. Not long after I took possession of the Romany S that I paddled around the Isle of Man last year. When it arrived the hatches were missing. I borrowed hatches and discovered the front hatch had a leak.

Odd as the front hatch was bone dry through some tumultuous waters in the Irish Sea.

After some good advice from Doug Lloyd I built a pressure hatch by drilling one of the spare hatch covers I now have. I cut a valve out of an old bike tube and squeezed it through the undersized hole. I added lots of Sikaflex around the valve stem.

Next I attached my bicycle foot pump and pumped it up to about 3 BARS. Then I applied soapy water to all the obvious places and low and behold there are bubbles burbling up from one of the deck fittings.

I removed the hatch and stuck my head in and what should I find but a inch and a half seam where the epoxy had flaked off along the edge of the fibreglass tape that holds the fitting in place. This allowed water to seep in around the fitting and then out under the tape and into the hull.

I went back to the tube of Sikaflex and applied it to the outside deck fitting and I am about to apply some wetted glass to the inside seam.

I suspect the epoxy chipped off when the fully loaded boat was dropped onto the cement parking lot at the end of my trip around the Isle of Man. It's not surprising that something like this could have happened. The drop was high enough that the hull was cracked through to the glass.

I have a friend who has been critical of these round deck fittings. A hole is cut in the deck then the fitting epoxied and taped in. I have the same fitting on my Explorer and this is the first to fail. Nevertheless I believe SKUK has gone back to the old style fittings commonly found on Valley boats. They are mechanically attached in recessed moulded pockets. I have never heard of them failing. I now concede the arguement to wiser kayakers and recommend sticking to the older style of fitting.

To date I've spent about six hours hunting down this leak. Previously I applied Sikaflex to all the bulk heads fore, aft and centre, and to the outside rim of the forward hatch. Then fruitlessly filled the compartments with water in the hopes of finding a seeping leak.

I don't know if hatches are pressure tested before leaving the factory but it seems like a good idea. Water tests will follow as soon as the glass is dry.

Mountain Equipment Coop Paddlefest Sat. June 27

Yesterday on Cadboro Bay in sunny but windy Victoria Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) hosted another successful Paddlefest.

As I'd just returned from a torturous week of job training in Vancouver I was more then ready to decompress by hooking up with fellow kayakers to swap lies and fill our boots with the usual banter about hard versus soft, rudder versus skeg and so on.

I did promise myself that I would not paddle any boats. As I explained to my friends I simply cannot afford lust.

My resolve lasted about an hour before I succumbed to the call of Valley Kayaks Avocet LV. Luckily I didn't fit, so on to the Nordkapp LV model. This boat could be made to fit if I removed or reconfigured the seat.

But why bother as I found it not nearly as good as either my NDK Explorer or my Romany S. The profile of the hull of those boats suits me better then that of the Nordkapp. I'm not knocking the Nordkapp and encourage paddlers to try these boats. In fact I suspect the Nordkapp may make you a better paddler over the long term. It simply demands more from the paddler.

I also found water in the day hatch of one of the models. It could have come from a poorly snapped down hatch but always check these out.

Eventually I found myself in the standard Nordkapp which even in the light winds (10 knots) really wanted to weather cock; likely due to the higher fore deck.

The kayak that most impressed me however was the venerable old Anas Acuta. Dating from the 1960's this is the grandfather of all English fibreglass Greenland style boats. After a short paddle I easily understood why this boat has remained so popular.

Ironically it was the boat that most mirrored the handling characteristics of the NDK now Sea Kayak UK or SKUK line. The Annus Acuta's hard chines are clearly the forerunner of the softer chines of the Romany and then the later Explorer. I suppose that should not be so surprising after all Frank Goodman, Nigel Denis et all go back along ways. What's odd is that the link between the Annus Cuta and the NDK or SKUK line seems stronger then that between the Annas Acuta and the Nordkapp. Interesting.

But the boat that stole the show was the Tahe Marine Greenland. Wow! Done up all in black this Estonian wonder woman is the ultimate fibreglass Greenland rolling machine. I witnessed money leaking out of Mike Jacksons pocket. First a couple of standard rolls (there goes a down payment) followed by some more complicated rolls and another payment until finally he'd bought and sold himself on yet another addition to the fleet.

I'm betting there will be a black beauty in the Jackson coral in short order. As for me I stay well clear of fast sleek women wearing black.

Links to Valley and Tahe Marine follow;


Tahe Marine

Op Ed policy

Victoria Kayaker welcomes comments, letters or more specifically to todays world - emails. Whether the comments are favorable or not they will be published. If you have given me your time to read this blog and taken up more of your time writing a reply to something you have read, then Victoria Kayaker owes you the courtesy of publishing your effort.

Liable and slander are of course off the tabble. In addition Victoria Kayaker will not engage in any on going flaming exercise as are common on some west coast kayaking chat lines. Those endeavors are unfair as the publisher, blog owner or moderator, always gets the last word.

Comments will of course appear at he end of each story. To post simply click on the comment button at the bottom and start typing. Sometimes it's best to type your comments and then wait a few hours before hitting send. This gives you time to reflect and maybe even polish ur proze! Rats!!

To those people who read this blog on a regular or irregular basis, thanks for your time.


Monday, June 15, 2009

High Winds in Juan de Fuca Strait

June 13th East Sooke Entrance

It was late in the afternoon by the time I reached the launch site at my in laws. Coming down the long drive way I could clearly see the far western reaches of Juan de Fuca where covered in white horses or white caps if you prefer.

I rushed through unloading the kayak and kit and dashed inside to check my father in laws weather station, winds were WNW at 20 knots at the house. On the computer Environment Canada weather stations at Race Rocks and Sherringham Point where reporting 30 plus knots and a Gale Warning had been issued for the Strait.

Finally I had a good day for paddling. This would be a nice test for the Romany S, the first real day of weather since the kayak came home over a month ago.

I headed almost due west out towards Simpson Point into a strong 4 knot flood and stiff winds that were taking the tops off of the waves. At Grant Rocks, the narrowest part of the Sooke Inlet the winds where being funnelled by the high lands to the east and Whiffin Spit to the west resulting in waves about three feet high. If the wind had of been out of the north-east there would have been a great standing wave at the rocks. But today the it was the wind that provided the challenge.

Each stroke of the paddle had to be pushed forward to make the plant, clearly the wind wanted to play with the paddle. I snuggled up the paddle leash as a precaution.

It was slow going, taking almost 45 minutes to cover 1.5 nautical miles to Simpson Point. Once past the point and out into the open waters of the Strait the wind waves and swell steeped up to maybe one and a half meters or about 5 maybe six feet. Steep enough that the Romany's bow would explode over the top of the waves and be exposed back to the coaming before slamming back into the next trough.

Bamm! Bamm! the hull would slam down, the spray would explode up and be whipped roaring back across my face. Off the top of one roller I swung the bow south to head toward Company Point and the rock gardens just short of the point. The swell was now firmly on my starboard beam not quite strong enough to threaten the use of some timely low or high braces, but close.

I had it in the back of my mind to ride the surf into one of the pocket beaches between Simpson and Company Point but a quick survey dissuaded me. The rocks that guard the small beaches where throwing up huge boomer's and the rock gardens where a zone of white water madness. Alone it didn't seem like such a good idea to go play in there, especially as I was only wearing my light summer kit. (Short sleeve paddling jacket and shorty wet suit.

I spun the Romany about and with the swell and waves now on the port beam headed back the way I'd come. Back at Simpson Point I set up for a fast surf ride back into Sooke Inlet. Did I say fast. What took 45 minutes to crawl into flashed by.

With a few stern rudders it was easy to steer the Romany, it surfs like a board. At the end of Whiffin Spit I raised both paddle blades above my head and let the wind drive me forward.

Back in the bay in front of the launch site I surfed in and worked on steering the boat around the crab pot buoys and kelp fronds. Back and forth until I tired of the game. Then I swung over to work the kayak through the support post on the long pier that juts out into the bay. I use the pier to practice my steering strokes. With the wind and waves it turned into an advance class. More then once I thought the barnacles might take a bite but good fortune and timely paddle strokes saved the gelcoat.

Finally I finished with some rough water rolls and some sculling.

On a day when the water was absolutely flat east of Victoria and the wind was only a whisper in town I'd found near perfect conditions. At times it was just like the Irish Sea, strong winds, high seas, blue skies - just me and the Romany. Perfect!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quality Control in the Kayak Industry

This high pressure zone over Victoria has absolutely flattened out the ocean. Little wind means few standing waves, and generally flat water. With nothing to surf and little current action I've been riding the web and came across this.

"Generally, Valley kayaks are better made now than in past years. The same can't be said of the NDK made kayaks."

If the guy who wrote that statement (he's a friend of mine) had of done some home work he'd know better. Since NDK's re emergence as Sea Kayak United Kingdom (SKUK)- you've got to love the British sense of humour; quality control has been on the up swing. Check with Leon Somme of Body Boat Blade if you don't believe me.

Yes I have two Nigel Denis kayaks, an Explorer bought used out of Homer Alaska and a Romany S which I purchased last August to paddle around the Isle of Man on my quest to raise funds for cancer research.

The Explorer has been beaten and bashed including being May Tagged in a bolder field while I attended to a kayaker who had just broke his leg attempting to launch into a dumping surf. In spite of the damage inflicted, cracked gel coat, the Explorer has never failed me and has brought me home every time.

I believe two things are contributing to the improved quality of SKUK boats, better quality coming out of the factory and better shipping methods. Improvements in the way the kayaks are being packaged and shipped in the containers has dramatically reduced shipping damages. I've seen this first hand.

When I was in the factory in Holyhead last year the boats ready for shipment where of a very high quality. I had a choice between an Explorer and a Romany S both of which where well built. I could see improvements in build quality over my previous visit to the plant in 2007.

During my circumnavigation of the Isle of Man the Romany developed one fault the skeg cable tubbing came unglued and I was not easily able to deploy the skeg. It barely mattered as the Romany handled so well I hardly needed the skeg. When I got the boat home I fixed the tube down with a piece of fiberglass.

This skeg is on a spring, when you go over a rock or land on a beach if the skeg is down it retracts, but does not kink the cable; slide off the rock and the skeg drops back down to where you had it set. Smart.

Every kayak manufacture struggles with quality issues. There's a well known west coast company that cannot master water proof hatches or bulkheads. There's a story about another that fired almost all it's manufacturing staff when they failed drug tests only to see quality control go into the can.

You can build kayaks while high on crack but it's hard to do without experience. I've heard other accounts of retailers sending entire shipments of North American boats back to the plant because of deficiencies.

Or what about the designer who built a series of hard chined kayaks but did not carry the chine all the way forward to the bow resulting in a weak and flexible bow. After consumers had bought countless kayaks the plug was dropped and a new one built to address the weak bow. Nice of the kayak public to do th R&D for the designer.

I wonder how those owners feel about having boats that didn't quite measure up. Yet these well known manufactures escape the poor quality control tag. Is there a double standard at work?

It could be that the persistent poor quality control tag hung on British boats is due to their market penetration into North America. SKUK or NDK, Valley, and P&H kayaks are easy to spot in North America. I've yet to see a North American made kayak on the Irish Sea let alone for sale in England.

This is of course due to different design parameters. I contend that North American manufactures design kayaks for a large recreational market which wants light strong kayaks. British builders build for a more demanding sea condition. An Explorer is laid up by hand with lots of Gel Coat not for strength but as a sacrificial layer that will chip off when landed in anger on a rocky shore. Thus their boats are heavier. Han laid chop strand glass is use for strength and to minimize the size of cracks when the worst does happen.

Slam a kayak constructed with an H lock between the hull and the deck into a rock during a storm on the Irish Sea and you can crack the glass beneath the 2ml layer of gel coat or you run the real risk of popping the H lock or splitting the fiberglass hull. Any of which will bring your day to an end.

But don't take my word for it. Just take a look at what kayaks are used for extreme adventures - Iceland, Ireland, Great Britain, New Zealand, South Georgia - the vast majority are British built or designed.

Quality issues are normal to any industry based on low wages, rotten working conditions and dangerous chemicals. One retailer recently told me, "a lot of these long time fiberglass layup guys can really drink beer and smoke cigarettes well. Just don't asked them to do math." It comes from breathing all that styrene.

There are inherit strengths and weaknesses in all kayaks and not all kayaks are designed to do the same thing. Some are big recreational kayaks meant for weak long camping trips on benevolent seas, some are pond boats, while others are meant for hard conditions.

"While the NDK designs are amongst the best, it still comes down to the paddler and his or her skills." that's the concluding statement from my friend who I quoted at the beginning.

His statement is only partly true. If you are the skilled paddler and in a boat that runs straight like a train but does not turn, you are going to be using a lot more energy then the equally skilled guy next to you in a boat that runs both straight and can still turn.

Your kayak does not have to be the best at anything but it should be really good at everything. And that's why readers of Sea Kayaker magazine chose the Romany as the best day boat and the Explorer as the best expedition kayak.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Return of the Romany

Can there be anything better then sailing into Friday Harbor on a sunny Friday morning.
We're almost home. Ten months after completing my Isle of Man circumnavigation my kayak has almost made it home.

Thanks to the graciousness of Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme' I did not have to travel down to the Seattle/Tacoma docks to retrieve the kayak. They picked her up and brought her up to Orcas Island.,

I had hoped to paddle it the 25 nautical miles from Orcas over to Victoria. But time simply didn't allow and I ended up having to drive around to collect the kayak. Which turned out to be a good thing as someone had nicked two of the hatch covers.

This is a lucky boat even when bad things happen to her she somehow manages to turn misfortune to an advantage. On that last day on the Isle of Man when the hull was accidentally cracked and the last 10 days of my adventure literally slipped through the crack; it was a turn of good fortune.

Trapped ashore for those ten days I was able to save the money budgeted to cover the expenses of what was to have been the circumnavigation of Angelsey. With the money saved I was able to buy airfare home after the air carrier Zoom went bankrupt taking my return ticket down with it.

Zoom was to have returned the kayak with me. Luckily Nigel Denis of Sea Kayaking United Kingdom stepped forward and offered to send the kayak in the next available container to Seattle.

As I write the kayak is down below on the ferry into Sidney. She's looking a little rough. Dust from ten months in the work shop obscures her bright red deck. The skeg still needs a little work, I'll have to add the keel strip that was over looked. However the cracked hull has been repaired.

The biggest problem to over come will be the hatch covers. Without them she's not sea worthy. But I'll improvise.

I want thank everyone who took part either as a contributor to the Canadian Cancer Society or as a direct or indirect sponsor. Together we raised $5,800 to help in the fight against cancer. A special thanks goes to Nigel Denis, Shawna and Leon.

Foot note
After a week in the garage the preliminary keel strip has been added to the Romany, it still needs a little work. I'm not very good at gel coating but it'll due for now. late yesterday afternoon the kayak was introduced to the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It felt great, indeed she performed every bit a well as my limited memory recalled. Short smooth turns without any drama or suspense, she picks up following waves like a dream and surfs better then the surfer sitting in the cockpit. I'm going to really love this kayak.

After standing back and assessing the keel strip I added I contacted Peter Harris of Pacifica Paddle Sports and will have him tear the strip off and replace it. I learned two lessons from this exercise don't gel coat in the garage when the wife is home and keel strips are a lot harder to do then small repairs.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sea Kayaker April Issue

Picked up the April issue of Sea Kayaker magazine to read on the flight over to Europe and was pleased to find myself drawn into a great edition.

Three items jumped out above the usual, Chris Cunningham's editorial, the letter from Pat Donlin and the article on Health. Like many in my generation I suffer from acid reflux an found the last item to be particularly pertinent.

But first to the editorial. I carefully read and re read the editorial then went to the letter from Pat Donlin that raised the question. I concluded that there were really two questions here; 1st should Search and Rescue (SAR) Teams be expected to come to the rescue of high risk adventurers? And 2nd should we idolize these adventurers.

Cunningham takes on the first question and answers it with an emphatic yes. He of course is absolutely correct. No SAR team, be they professional or volunteer units, has a litmus test to determine if a response is warranted. Lets see, you're irresponsible, poorly trained, poorly equipped and not very admirable, sorry we can't save your soul. Thankfully it does not work like that.

But the second question never really gets resolved. It's a tricky one. One of those principal, ethical and moral questions whose answer is usually found in some Grey area. Neither yes or no. The type of question that confounds the usual rhetoric generators - politicians and sports figures. In Donlin's letter it's implied that we should not idolize these adventures. The question is never clearly stated but it lays there between the lines.

Cunningham comes at this question sort of sideways because to some extent the magazine is part of the myth making machine. It regularly runs story's of adventurers accounts of their firsts a-rounds or fast crossings. In fact there is an excellent account in the April issue about the descent of the Atrato river in Columbia.

These story's when well told inspire. Maybe they provide the spark to do something extraordinary in another wise ordinary life. Or, maybe they only light up the imagination for a moment or two. Either is important and a positive result.

Cunningham references Joshu Sloccum's adventure as the first person to solo sail around the world. But don't take his word for it. Read Slocum's book. I believe the book is what made the adventure. It was his ability as a story teller that elevated the events. Face it sailing alone entails long stretches of tedium, boredom personified. The same happens on kayak trips, but a good writer can make the adventure.

Most adventures are complicated undertakings made simple while the people who undertake them always remain complex. You train, you develop the skills, you plan, you organize, you implement it's straight forward, it's just not easy.

When I was a boy I idolized a certain sports figure. I cut his pictures out of Sports Illustrated and taped them to my bedroom walls. This was long before the swim suit editions or I am sure other figures would have made it to the wall. Later I learned that my hero was a wife beater. Heroism crashed hard that day.

So as a father the lesson I taught my son was not to put people on to high a pedestal. Celebrate the accomplishment but keep in mind how complex humans are.

Freya Hoffmeister has left her family to complete her circumnavigation of Australia. Even if I had her skill, her fitness and her tenacity I would not do what she is doing. My family and the joy I derived from raising my son has kept me at home. That's about values mine are simply different from Freya's.

In fact I'm so out of step with the world that I believe raising a child up to be a successful and compassionate part of society is the greatest thing any parent can do. Paddling around a continent pales in comparison. Call me old fashioned.

Nevertheless when she succeeds I hope her account inspires someone to do something extraordinary, who knows maybe it'll be her own son.

Freya is closing in on successfully completing the 575 km crossing the Sea of Carpentaria.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More From Paris - late March

Two days in Paris and I no longer sound like a rube from Purgatory Ontario. Not bad for a guy with two weeks of grade nine French. Don't get me wrong. I wanted to learn French in high school but my basketball coach told me, "you have to keep your grade average up and that Dike fails all the jocks in her French class." Just because she was Dutch was no reason to slander her. Nevertheless I left the French lessons behind to my everlasting regret.

Now when I enthusiastically greet people in Paris they don't look about me as a poor Angles, they look upon me more as the village idiot from Gascony. I'm moving up.

Our first stop of the day was the Rodin Museum, it was just around the corner and only six kilometers from the hotel - so we walked. We could have take the tube from the hotel door and got out at the gate to the museum but it was pouring rain so we walked. Once inside we picked up a floor map rented the audio guides and headed off. The museum started life as the Hotel Biron. After falling on hard times it was taken over by nuns who operated it as a school. judging by the way they stripped the building of all its paintings it must have been a rather bleak school. Next it became an artist community headed up by Rodin himself and finally if evolved into the museum it is today.

As this was an evolutionary process there are some quirky things going on. For instance the floor map is conveniently numbered as is the audio guide. Unfortunately the exhibits and floor map numbering system are not entirely related to the audio guide. I believe this is done as a test to humble the casual tourists. Just as you begin to see what Rodin was doing to the face of that poor gargoyle you realize your actually facing the wrong way and the audio guide is talking about the piece behind you. These French artist enjoy a clever joke as much as the rest of us.

Rodin was of course a genius. He worked on the gates of hell for 30 years making changes trying to get it just right. Interestingly his mistress went crazy and had to be confined for the last 30 years of her life. Hmmmm!

Perhaps the most remarkable part of the tour is the stroll through the gardens. Here the scale of the sculptures are displayed to there perfect glory. Late spring would be an ideal time to visit when the trees, shrubs and beds are in full bloom. Of course, "The Thinker," is very prominent. You come across it just before you enter the main museum. The Gates of Hell are off to the right but the sculpture that I found most intriguing was that of the Burgers of Calais. If you walk through the gardens counter clockwise it'll be the last one you see before you exit the property.

After leaving the Rodin museum we head to the Musee d'Orsay. This is a converted railway station right along the south bank of the Seine. It is an impressive museum, very grand in it's scale. It contains works from Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh and countless others. With it's soaring ceiling this is a very impressive site and would be worthy of an extended multi day visit, but we were running short of time.

Day Two

Leaping backward from Rodin to the the Palace of Versailles we disembark from the metro and walk 500 meters turn the corner and there's the Palace. On this cold wind swept day it does not immediately overwhelm. But as we approach the gates the sun breaks free of the clouds and the gates ignite in a wild display of golden light, just as quickly the sun retreats leaving us with only a hint of what awaits inside.

If you have an Internet ticket go to the stone outpost to the right of the gate and exchange your electronic ticket for a proper pass. Don't go directly to the main entrance without the pass. You'll end up going back for it. Do get an audio guide, again they can be quirky but with thousands of people jostling for position they're ideal - just stick the speaker to your hear and ignore the throngs.

Opulence is not a grand enough word to discribe Versailles. From its beginning as a hunting lodge Louis XIV created what is one of the worlds leading heritage sites. The Hall of Mirrors, the grand canal and fountains are astounding. For me the Grand and Petite Trianon's were fascinating. Being almost a mile from the main Palace in the Marie-Antoinette's estate they were largely empty of the crowds in the Palace. Ironically that was exactly why they were built sort of a retreat from the main court and all the intrigue around the Royals.

If you go heed the advice go on less busy days and get there early. Take the metro.

Trains late March

We left Amsterdam in a flurry of wind and rain the perfect anticipation for a high speed train rush to Paris. It was only a tease as the train plods along comfortably like a Dutch burger through the flat and featureless countryside.

Getting out of the city is a blessing as the miles roll by you get a real sense of what the Dutch Masters and van Gogh were capturing. It is the sky that dominates. As in Saskatchewan the sky writes the poetry.

Holland in the winter would be a giant studio for the landscape artist. With the sun low in the southern sky for much of the day, the magic light of morning and evening is elongated giving the artist time to capture the subtle play of light on thunderheads, fleeting clouds and wisps of mists. But there is little warmth in this sunlight. the price of painting here could be high as the artist racing against the cold would have to work fast capturing the light before the seemingly ever present rain washes all away and the cold numbed fingers let the brush drop from the hand,

As we roll south the land is flat and without relief; a hill would be a welcome site. Everywhere the canals hold back the water. But they 're cold and without natures sparkle they are only ditches lacking the life of a river or the sea.

Through the low lands the train rolls until finally we reach Brussels where the train inexplicably breaks down in the terminal. There's a practiced scramble for a sister train, apparently this happens often. Once reembarked we slip into France and truly begin to race with the small countries behind us we literally begin to cut through the rolling hills of northern France faster and faster we plummet south trying in vain to catch the days last rays of sun.

Finally as the sun sets we slide into Gare Nord. Off the train we climb down into the darkness of the Metro only to pop up like mushrooms miles away. A short walk and we have reached our hotel. Next to the hotel is a tiny restaurant, small tables covered in pure white linen we crack open the glass pane that separates the magical room from the sidewalk and sit down to a wonderful dinner. Its what you come to Paris for. A perfect first night.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Off to Amsterdam and Paris

Heathrow, March 23

Vancouver to Heathrow sharing my corner of the AC flying canoe with a nice Norwegian herring fisherman. Really! After the first two hours I couldn't tell he fished at all.

The Norwegians have discovered Revelstoke as a ski haven. Granted the mountain is sublime and the snow light and fluffy but I suspect the main attraction is the price. These young Nordic gods can descend on the village, ski the mountains for a week, and fly home for the price of a cup of coffee in Oslo.

After arriving and making my way from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 I found myself craving a plate of smoked herring. Odd as I normally don't like smoked fish. Luckily there's just enough time in Heathrow to sample the ale list at The Tin Goose. I've started with a pint of London Pride; it has a fruity after taste.

The place is full of pale Irish faces wearing rugby union green shirts and sporting some massive hangovers from Ireland's defeat of the Welsh for the Six Nations cup. Normally the Irish accent is a lilting thing of beauty but these voices are ruined wrecks from 80 minutes of singing and god knows how many hours of drinking. I share a pint of Guinness with a few before drifting off to make my connections to Amsterdam.

This of course is not a usual kayaking trip. Normally if I'm crossing the Atlantic I'm heading for the Irish Sea but this time the destination is not adventure but romance. I'm “hoookiing” up with my beautiful wife in Amsterdam for a few days then it's down to Paris where we honeymooned 23 years ago. I may find time to check out kayaking on the Seine – not likely.

Wednesday March 24

It's now early Wednesday morning and my beautiful wife is upstairs fast asleep. It's raining hard in Amsterdam. Is there any other way. From my window seat at the Port de Cleve hotel I look across the Estrada at an ancient protestant church. Built in the traditional cross shape the Dutch have managed to squeeze in a house between the balustrades. Very practical.

Yesterday we visited the Vincent van Gogh museum and took in “The Colour's of the Night” show. Obviously Van Gogh was a tortured genius but I had no idea that his entire body of work, about 800 paintings, was created in only ten years.

Van Gogh's legacy is not just the wonderful works of art that he created but through that art he allows us to travel through time. Sit in front of one of his pastoral scenes or better yet the night sky over the City of Rhone and you find yourself transported back in time. His landscapes be they the rural views of Holland or the city scenes of Paris and the various villages he lived in are riveting.

Of course the show is extremely popular. Tourists, locals students and school children under the respectful care of curators vie for viewing space. I enjoy listening in as the curators explain this or that aspect of various works. Of course I cannot comprehend a word, but it's a hardly necessary as the passion and respect they convey is universal.

We use an audio headset to help fill in the gaps in our knowledge of Van Gogh. These things are both a blessing and a curse. They educate but I find some of the interpretations just silly. You get a priest like voice, after all they invented interpretive mumble jumble, intoning the listener to; “Look at how Van Gogh has caste the mans face in light and shadow to depict the mans melancholy, regret and sadness of his character.” Well how do you know! Maybe he's just lost a hundred guilders betting on the wrong cards. I much prefer it when the curators stick to the facts and leave the impressions and interpretations to the viewer.

The crowds in the museum can be diverting yet there are roses amongst the brambles. A young woman just on the cusp of womanhood walks across the room. I only see her face in profile framed by her long brown hair but her poise and grace is electric. Like many Dutch women she is fashionably dressed in high leather boots, black tights and a short flirty skirt. I shamelessly watch as she walks across the gallery. Quickly I look about and find at least a half dozen people watching her, yet she's oblivious. All too soon she disappears around a corner fleetingly, like the sun light on Van Gogh's fields of wheat, she's gone. For a moment I thought I could hear a chuckle and a sigh of appreciation. The old master certainly had and eye for beauty.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Squamish Stl'Atl'Imax Cultural Centre

In early February I had the privilege of accompanies an Australian delegation of government reps and aboriginal elders to the Squamish Stl'Atl'Imax Cultural Centre in Whistler.

This is a new cultural centre built to celebrate the cultures of two distinct native nations, the coast Squamish and the mountain Stl'Atl'Imix nations. Historically both nations shared this land so it's fitting that a cooperative effort has gone into the creation and maintenance of the centre. It's a beautiful post and beam long house that features a wall of glass.

Glass walls are hardly traditional but no one minds as the light flowing into the long house perfectly highlights the cultural artifacts and the amazing works of art displayed within.

Shortly after arriving we were welcomed with the singing of a Jimie Jimie song which normally would have been performed as a welcome to a Potlatch celebration. Two things stood out about the performance. When the singer lowered his head took a deep breath and broke into song, all activity in the building stopped. As the notes rose and filled the long house people frozen enraptured by this amazing voice. It was opera-matic in range and texture.

As part of the performance we were invited to dance. Our earnest but some what lacking efforts were eclipse by this one woman who danced the part of the eagle. Her performance was trans- formative. I swear for a moment she became the eagle. It was incredible.

If you visit take time to examine the dug out canoes and try to image paddling them back and forth across Georgia Strait. I'm sticking to my kayak.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sad day for Kingston General Hospital

From Kingston General Hospital there is a commanding view of Lake Ontario. In the summer sailors ply the waters practicing their skills. Some go on to be Olympians. In the winter ice boats fly across the ice in the bright but cold sun light.

Inside, in the halls of the hospital, doctors and surgeons hone their skills. Some have made significant contributions to the health and well being of not just their patients but of patients around the world.

I know this as I am one. The treatment that I am undergoing to combat bladder cancer was developed at KGH. Three years ago cardiac surgeons at KGH saved my fathers life. In February more surgeons successfully performed open heart surgery on my mother.

For these services I am grateful and indebted to KGH. In fact I had hoped to visit the cancer research facility and thank the researchers for the efforts of their predecessors. A year ago when I was diagnosed with stage two cancer I choose to focus not on the cancer but on raising money for cancer research. With the help of a great many people I solo circumnavigated the Isle of Man in a kayak and raised $5,800 cancer research.

My fight against bladder cancer began years ago at KGH where doctors developed the treatment that I under went. I wanted to encourage the present researchers to keep up the fight. It seemed to be a fitting thing to do, bringing my fight full circle back to the beginning.

But I was put off as not all is as it should be at this once great facility.

In February for six consecutive days I walked through the main entrance to KGH. Each day it was easy to imagine I was walking into an east Vancouver welfare hotel. The entrance was that dirty.

Walking up to the revolving door that traps the cold winter air is depressing enough. Just outside the door patients and visitors huddle pathetically like stoned door men puffing madly before the cold drives them back inside. Inside the revolving door the atmosphere is contaminated with the second hand smoke of the desperate.

There is worse to come. The butts of countless cigarettes lay trapped in the revolving door, not just for a shift or a day, but after a week it appears they're trapped there forever.

Through the door the once black floor mat lays there stained white with winter salt. To the right there is abandoned janitorial equipment. To the left a floor polisher or vacuum languishes unused, ironically, gathering dust.

Gathering dust is not hard to do as there is plenty to go around. Casually walk over to the window and draw your finger along the radiator top and it will come away grey.

In defence of KGH it is undergoing renovations. Unfortunately for KGH so are a lot of other hospitals across this country. In my home town the Royal Jubilee hospital has been a construction site for a good many years. Yet it's public areas never fell this low.

Further inside in the interest of good health take the stairs, but try not breathe too deeply or to focus on the sweepings and dust bunnies left behind by janitorial crews who have either been laid off, are on strike, or simply do not give a damn.

None of this is what prompted this account.

On day five walking into my mothers room a used needle was carelessly left laying on the floor of my mothers hospital room.

When I discovered the needle I put on a pair of protective gloves and disposed of it in the sharps container as I have been trained to do. In retrospect I should have brought it to the attention of the staff.

It was not until latter while talking with my family that I started thinking about how standards at the hospital had fallen in three short years.

Three years ago the staff on the recovery ward were constantly working with my father, they walked him throughout the day keeping him focused on his recovery. This time most of the staff visiting my mothers room were student nurses practising the taking of vital signs or nurses aids. Most of the walking and support provided to my mother came from family members and from a couple nurses assistant who long ago were classmates of mine. Maybe this is as it should be.

Yet I cannot help think that the sub standard face that KGH presents to the public in its lobby might just be affecting what is going on up on the wards. If standards are allowed to slide in one area how long will it be before they slip in others?

Times are tough, money and funding budgets are stretched for everyone, yadda, yadda, yadda. We've all heard it all before but I'm betting that if one person at KGH cared about the public's impression of this facility things could change. Perhaps that person will be the new CEO Leslee Thompson.

If this is the face of public health care in Eastern Ontario and if it doesn't change it won't be long until the public starts crying out for private care facilities and services.

Friday, February 6, 2009

New Video from Bryan Smith

Check this out. The trailler is very cool. The whirlpool is amazing.

Eastern Horizons Trailer from Bryan Smith on Vimeo.

Welsh Pub Crawl - Pub Reviews

The Royal Oak Hotel Betws-Y-Coed
Holyhead Road Betws-Y-Coed Gwynedd LL24 0AY
More of a restaurant/pub then the traditional pub, warm fireplace, lots of tourists, some walkers, hikers and outdoors types. Has a good selection of commercial ales, but the food is sub par. Mostly that trucked in stuff that's reheated in a microwave.

George & Dragon Hotel Beaumaris Church Street Beaumaris
This is an excellent pub, good ale, in a tiny pub. You've got to be social because, "ya gona b sitn wid da naybrrs." Fantastic food in the dining room which 200 years ago use to be the stables. They've been mucked out. This would be a great place to bring your partner and plan a sleep over upstairs. Lots of history; Swift, Dickens and the like all have stayed here. I even picked up a genuine Dickens autograph in the pub. This local, down on his luck, sold it to me for a pint. Apparently it's the only autograph Dickens signed with a ball point pen - worth a fortune!

Black Boy InnCaernarfon Northgate Street
Named after a black publican, this is the home of Welsh nationalism where the drive to revitalize the language started; good breakfast, really warm and welcoming staff, ask to see the wad of funny money collected from travellers over the years. Look for the $50,000 bank note from Zimbabwe with the best before date. Caernarfon is the seat of the Prince of Wales, the castle dominates the town and the pub is a good place to start and end your tour. The food here is very good. I had a great breakfast. There's nothing like starting your day in a pub except maybe ending the day in the same pub. I came close as I was waiting for my family to come up from London. They were six hours late. The staff are warm and welcoming especially if you're carrying a kayak paddle and can spin a tale or two.

Ye Old Mail Coach Conwy High Street
This was a hard place to like, warm ale is ok, hot is something else, only pub in Wales that I didn’t feel welcome in.

Albion Conwy 6 Uppergate Street
Run by Kerry Cresswell, her three sons and someone named Baz. There are no local ales but they serve good commercial pints. Check out the fireplace that burns real coal. - Very warm on a wet and cold day.

The Bluebell Inn Conwy Castle Street
Ah the Bluebell, it’s now run by a former SAS Non Commissioned Officer. There's a nice outdoor courtyard out back. Unfortunately the Bluebell has given in to the demand for video slots, and loud electric bands that feature some wanna be DJ scratching out noise with a record player, take a pass.

The Liverpool Arms Conwy Lower Gate Street
Best in Conwy for people watching, it’s right on the quay so you’ll find a mix of locals and tourists. It’s small, unpretentious and lovely, good mix of ales. If you take your pint outside you’ll get it in a plastic cup, outside can be cool as the wind comes straight off the Irish Sea and the estuary which really dries out on the ebb. Watch the current as the Conwy River outflow makes for some interesting boating. This is a great place to enjoy a drink. Conwy castle is just to your right, the library is back through the lower gate through the wall and some hovel called the smallest home in Wales is to your left. Check out the historic photo the the undefeated Lions Rugby Team. These are hard men with hearts of oak, or was that heads of oak.

The Kings Head Llandudno Old Road Llandudno
Great old fashioned pub, just like they should be, warm & friendly with an open fire. Best in Llandudno. Food was good, may have been great, but was totally distracted by the two women sitting next to us. What a pair! Good selection of draught bitters, the sort of pub one could happily spend all day in, in fact I did. The pub is located at the bottom terminal of the tram up the Great Orme; never got around to making the trip.

London Hotel Llandudno 131 Mostyn Street
Busy, very busy, but has good service and lots of ales, kind of funky, I wouldn’t call this a traditional pub, it serves latte’s for god’s sake, but for some reason I liked it.

The Groes Inn Conwy Nr. Conwy
Oldest licensed pub in Wales 1573, lots of older pubs but this one was licensed which seems odd. An Irishman, a Welshman and a Canadian are well into their cups, someone calls the Canadian a Yank. Things get out of hand. The evening ends with the trio singing folk songs to the sheep in a pasture. Oh, the food was good too.

Plough and Harrow Monknash, Nr Cowbridge
You're going to have to work to find this place but it's worth the trip. All the ales are from small cottage breweries at this freehold. Some of the best ales I sampled in Wales where right here. Major disappoint was the beer festival which was scheduled for the following week - we had to miss it. tears were shed. However the food was great, try the "Faggots with Spotted Dick" for desert. Go ahead the publican will really warm up to you. Small pub, large fire, tiny bar, but lots of real Welsh locals. Really liked this place. I had a great photo of myself surrounded by empty kegs piled three and four high in a sheep pen but the bloody computer ate it.

The Edinburgh CastleHolyhead Black Bridge
Local hangout for kayakers serves a good breakfast, expect beans with your eggs, and if you ask for poached eggs you’ll get something like “Air now, d’r fr’m da market ain’t da.” Poached; wont ya take us fer”!

The Boston Arms Hollyhead 1 London Road
Not very remarkable, had some interesting nautical paintings or photos, and a limited selection of ales. Centuries ago Johathan Swift, wrote a devastating review of the town of Hollyhead while waiting for the tide to turn and the captain to clear out of a pub. Things have improved. Slightly. Two best things to do in town are: Get a kayak from Nigel Denis and paddle away or catch a ferry to Dublin.

Red Lion Inn Llansannan High Street
If you’ve stumbled in here you are well and truly lost as this pub is well off the beaten track, never the less it’s a fine rural pub with a horse motif and a legendary chair, ask the publican to explain. There's a pub across the road called something like Saladin's Head. Park in front of this place and walk back to the Red Lion.

Notes: You don’t have to order a pint. You can always order a glass, which is of course much smaller. If you find you like it then you can follow up with a pint or move on to something else. If you've just come in from hiking in Snowdonia or from deconstructing a Welsh cottage start off with a glass of lime and water. It'll rehydrate you and you'll enjoy the subsequent pints more.

Green King is a stunning IPA, highly recommended. Brains sponsors the Welsh Rugby team. The brewery is located right across the street from the regional prison in Cardiff. They can be cruel. Brains apparently has been proven to have no affect what so ever on intellect, refinement or good taste. Enough said.

Freeholds are pubs that are not associated with any brewery, consequently they serve ales, bitters and stouts from a variety of sources, usually small local cottage breweries. The reality is that in GB more and more pubs are owned by the major breweries and managed by an employee of the brewery. This is better then the alternative of shutting the pub down. Support your local Freehold. Another development is the advent of pubs linked to motels along the major motorways. If you need a place to sleep and eat these places are fine but almost totally devoid of character. Kind of like a Holiday Inn in Pittsburgh.
List of Welsh breweries
This list is incomplete Artisan Brewery, Cardiff
• Black Mountain, Llangadog, Carmarthenshire
• Breconshire Brewery, Brecon, Powys
• Bryncelyn Brewery, Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot
• Bullmastiff Brewery, Leckwith, Cardiff
• Carter's Brewery, Machen, Caerphilly
• The Celt Experience, Caerphilly
• Bragdy Ceredigion Brewery, New Quay, Ceredigion
• Coles Family Brewery, Llandarog
• Conwy Brewery Ltd, Conwy
• Cwmbran Brewery, Upper Cwmbran
• Wm Evan Evans Brewery, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire
• Facer's Flintshire Brewery, Flint, Flintshire
• Felinfoel Brewery Company, Ltd., Felinfoel, Llanelli oldest regional brewery in Wales
• Ffos y Ffin Brewery, Capel Dewi, Carmarthen
• The Flock Inn Brewery, Brechfa, Carmarthen
• The Great Orme Brewery Ltd/Bragdy'r Gogarth, Colwyn Bay
• Bragdy Gwynant, Capel Bangor, Aberystwyth
• The Jacobi Brewery of Caio, Penlanwen, Pumsaint, Llanwrda
• Jolly Brewer, Wrexham
• Kingstone Brewery, Whitebrook, Monmouth
• Lord Raglan brewery, Merthyr Tydfil

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Trail Island Feb. 4, 2009

Headed south out of Oak Bay down to Trail Island to catch a ride on the tide race south of the island on Wednesday. Bright blue sky, temperatures in the plus double digits, nice and warm.

Only one problem - no wind meant no tide race. Oh well it was a good paddle with good friends. We got off to a fast start, too fast actually as most stopped to strip off a layer of winter clothing. I sculled and rolled for golf balls just off the beach next to the Oak Bay Golf course.

There simply are not enough duffers at this course as there were few golf balls to roll and retrieve. In fact the one I went for was just too deep and I couldn't reach it.

We played in the channel that splits Trial Island practicing breakins and breakouts along the eddy line, but with out much current it was hard to get the boat to spin in and then back out. More work needs to be done on this skill set.

We made the south end of Trial around noon, had lunch and headed back to the put in. Total distance 7.23nm, Moving time 2hr 57 min, Max spd 5.2kt overall average spd 2 kt. Total distance for the year 24.3Nm.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rough Water

Baynes Channel Feb 01, 2009

Jesus, Mary Mother of God! What a day to be on the water. The tide race at Baynes Channel was a monster. Something took possession of the tide race today and created conditions that from shore were totally deceptive.

The winds were blowing a steady 15 to 20 knots out of the South-east and were stacking up what appeared to be 4 and 5 foot wind waves against a 3.75 knot ebbing currant about 150 metres off shore.

As the waves were breaking much further out it appeared things were not as chaotic as the trip out to Baynes a few weeks back. Appearances can be deceptive. From shore Mike G., Dorothea, and myself decided to paddle North east and surf off the edge of the tide race. From that point I wanted, after catching, a few rides to swing about and ride the current straight through the race and come out the bottom.

Simple plan. I hung back setting up the camera to take a series of automatic shots here's the link" Just as we were about to enter the race we were joined by my old friend Craig Lylack. He'd been out for a half hour and thought conditions were about the same as when he'd started.

I followed Mike into the race and came about and tried to catch some of waves back toward shore. But these beast were bigger then the 4 and 5 foot I'd estimated most were 8 footers with some larger monsters. Mostly I found myself going up and down and making little head way back against the 3.75 knot current.

On one up ride I caught a glimpse of Mike, but saw no sign of Dorothea. It was a struggle to look around and stay up right. Try as I might I could not see any sign of her and was growing worried.

My position was also becoming more and more tentative as I was slowly being pushed south-west towards the rocks. I decided to move offshore by again by heading north-east away from the fixed light on the rocks. As I was doing so Craig came within hailing distance and asked what Dorothea was paddling.

He then told me she was on the rocks. I took this to mean she'd come out of her boat and had been washed into the shore. Turning south-west I smashed my way through to the bottom of the race where I could see two-thirds of a kayak on the rocks but no paddler.

As I drew nearer I finally saw Dorothea high up on the rocks and eventually could see the stern of her boat. It had been obscured by a rock. My heart slowed down a beat or two.

From below the tide race Mike, Craig and myself compared notes. Wow, loose hips but very tight sphincter muscles.

Nevertheless we decided to paddle out and back up through the race. Off we headed, Mike was soon being pushed back in toward the buoy light on the rock. Craig quickly put a lot of distance on both of us. I tried to head out further then up into the tidal stream but also found myself being shoved back towards the rock. Both Mike and I bailed. Craig carried on and got roughly into the top of the tide race and stalled there for the next 20 minutes.

I shouted to Mike to stand by as we might be making a rescue at any moment.
Mike paddled up inside the rocks to keep and eye out for Craig at the top while I stayed on station at the bottom of the tide race where he'd be flushed out if he was to come out of his boat.

For the longest while I watched as Craig's paddle wind milled through the air, he was going up and down but against San Juan Island in the background I could see little forward progress.

I know this man to be tough and strong and I was beginning to think he might be stupid as it seemed inevitable that he'd tire and be overwhelmed. For a time he'd make 15 to 20 feet then be swept back. Then I saw him get knocked over and sink behind a swell. I thought that's it; but he rolled or sculled back up.

Then when all appeared lost he caught a lull and was able to surf out of the north-west end of the tide race. He made straight for his put in site too tired to come down to us.

While he was fighting to get out I kept saying, "come on just turn the boat and let the current flush you back down here to the bottom". It's what I would have done. But he hung in and eventually made it through. A determined bit of paddling.

I swung back to the rock where Dorothea had come ashore. She'd repositioned her boat to the lee side of the rock and pulled it completely clear of the water. But while watching the struggle out in the race the wind had blown her kayak right off the rock. Luckily it had been blown straight into the gravel beach in front of the famous Williams glass house.

We got Dorothea reconnected with her steed and called it a day. Total time on the water maybe two hours.

As an aside I recently read a review of the new Delta Double where it was claimed to be a good rough water handling boat. This was concluded after it was taken to Skookumchuck and surfed. I don't know how it was paddled at the "Chuck", however surfing the front wave is not a true rough water test. Successfully paddling the tide race behind the front wave that's a test.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Becher Bay Jan 28 09

Wednesday was a magical day. One of those days with three seasons packed into it, sun wind rain, cold, more wind, more rain, and more sun. Sort of fall, winter, and spring in just a few short hours. I had the pleasure of spending this day with two of my fine friends John L and Dan G.

The only down side was that Heike could not join us. He was tucked in safe at home recovering from a unplanned conjoining of his bike with the front bumper of a car. You were missed Heike.

Our arrival at the marina was perfectly timed with a spring like rain shower. Just enough rain fell to ensure everything got wet. Once launched and out beyond the slips the cold wind hit us and as we slipped across Becher Bay I pulled the pokies out. Our plan was to traverse out along the more interesting east shore of Becher Bay and make our way east to Shelter Island in Whirl Bay. this area is just west of Race Rocks in Juan de Fuca strait.

Even with the rock hoping it was not long until we were passing Large Bedford Island. Unable to cross the tumbo due to the low water we retreated and circumnavigated the island. Out at the mouth of the bay the South west winds coming down Juan de Fuca Strait picked up. We cut between Large and South Bedford to avoid the full exposure tothe swells and wind in Juan de Fuca Strait.

Once in the lee of Large Bedford, John tuned into the weather channel and we rafted up to listen to the weather update. I was concerned and didn't want to round Church Point without a report from Race Rocks. While rafted up and waiting for the report we were making 2.5 knots against the ebbing current. The swell coming in against the ebb backed by the wind was worrisome. Sure enough at Race Rocks the wind was blowing 25 and gusting to 30 knots. We turned back toward Large Bedford that was now well behind us.

Splashing about in the swell and surf I put the camera on auto and fired off some photos as we made our way back to the tumbo for tea. After tea we made our way out to West Bedford and got into some good sized five and six foot waves. Unfortunately I inadvertently shut the camera off and missed photos from the most dramatic part of the trip.

Dan thought John was going to do a 360 spin at one point. I was a little worried for a few moments but once we moved inside things settled down. After a short lunch we headed back to the launch site.

It was a short but intense day with lots of fun. Total distance was only 6.72 knots the moving average was 2.4 and my max speed was 5.5 knots, paddling time was 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Race Rocks and Baynes Channel Trips

This past week I managed to get in on a couple of club paddles. the first one out to Race Rocks on what turned out to be one of the flattest days, water wise, that I have experienced at RR. I followed that up with a lumpy crossing of Baynes Channel off Oak Bay yesterday.

Saturday in Baynes was a cold day with winds from the NE from 10 12 knots but it was a lot of fun. The waves were just at that size to keep things interesting not to large, not to small, just right. The less experienced had fun while the jaded and twisted were kept amused.

The beach talk got kind of animated as the leader for the days paddle chose to split the group into those who wanted to stay inshore and those who wanted to challenge themselves in potentially rougher water. It was policy versus flexibility. Thankfully flexibility won the day but perhaps not the battle.

Wednesday at RR was a much larger paddle 13 in total made the crossing there and back. As there was little current at the rocks we detoured and slipped down the coast to the Bedford Islets before doubling back to Pedder Bay.

Brown Ale! IPA!, Brown, IPA and the debate goes on and on...

Around the corner from Rocky Point the military boys had the red danger flag up as they were playing with high explosives under water. Which curtailed any opportunity to go rock hopping in one of the best areas along that coast. In all the years I've paddled here that was the first time I'd seen the warning flag flying. Truth is I missed it entirely until it was pointed out.

Between the paddles I attended a very informative workshop on how to use your GPS. Finially I'm now on the cusp of being able to use the GPS for something more then a paper weight. Here's some numbers from Saturday trip 7.44Nm, Moving time 3hr07min, Max Spd 6.9 (surfing) Moving avg 2.4 overall av 1.8 Soon I'll have some charts an will be able to plot routes, trips and stuff. Wow! Here's a link to a short slide show of Baynes Channel with little current and winds from the NE at 10 to 12 knots.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Steve Pelton

Steve Pelton 1942 - 2009

Good by old friend.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Buddy System Indeed!

Mike O'Connor in Baynes Channel on a 3.75 knot ebb, zero winds Feb. 09. 2008

On a group excursion into an active Baynes Channel Tide Race last week I enjoyed some interesting group dynamics.

Baynes Channel off the end of 10 Mile Point in Victoria BC, under the right circumstances, can be a lot of fun as long as you manage the risk. Seldom do I venture into these waters in these conditions with paddlers who's skills I don't know. This was one of the exceptions.

On this occasion I suggested that if anyone lost their boat that we might regroup downstream on Jemmey Jones Island, if we were fortunate to catch up with the kayak, only to be told you can't land there.

Odd that; as I've stood on top of Jemmey Jones in a 45 knot Gale after
landing with five other kayakers. I know this for a fact as my friend Mike Jackson was standing next to me when he measured the wind speed with his nifty wind gauge.

During the shore meeting last weekend one paddler said she didn't want to paddle in the tide race but only on the edge, I then watched her and her "Buddy" paddle strait into the race. I thought that very odd as well.

I concluded either she has a short term memory problem or more likely does not understand the affects of current. Being familiar with the tide race I had suggested either approaching it from the south, (no one wanted to do that) or that we paddle NE on a ferry glide and slide down onto the shoulder of the tide race to surf the outside breaking waves.

This couple paddled ESE and ended up in the tide race at a point where they would have been washed into the rocks at the end of the head land if or should they have the misfortune to capsized.

One of the other kayakers, a professional coach, was also alarmed by this turn of events. Together we attempted to get their attention and encourage them to play in a more risk free area.

Prior to launching I stressed the need to pay close attention to the group dynamics and to be on the lookout for anyone in trouble but that got over ruled by this woman and her close friend who insisted the buddy system was better.

At the end of the day I initiated an impromptu rescue session by coming out of my boat (planned but unanticipated at that particular point) I washed out at the south end of the rocks marked by the 10 Mile Buoy.

There were four kayakers in the immediate area, two came to assist, while the "buddies" never looked around and paddled off to the put in where they pulled their boats out. When we got back they didn't even know that a rescue had taken place. If things had gone badly we could have been in a bit of a spot.
The "Buddy System" should be the beginning of your group awareness not the end
of it.
When the wind is against the ebbing currents surfing waves form just in front of the distant headland. If the wind builds the waves build as well until break on the rocks. At that point you want to be watching, high and dry, from ashore.