Friday, August 19, 2011

Bro Goes to Discovery

After all the family business was done my brother in law and I slipped marriage bonds and got out for a morning paddle yesterday. 

Gareth is a novice paddler so some concessions in the interest of safety were made.  We staid out of the waning tide race.

After crossing Baynes Channel and making a quick stop on Chatham we slipped into the hidden lagoon which was almost dry.  We arrived during the last hour of the ebb.

Next we played in the Sluice practising ferry glides, break outs and break ins through the eddy line. Then we explored how to paddle against the current by finding the back eddies close to shore and off of head lands.

Finally we ended the day with a long ferry glide back across Baynes Channel to the put in at Maynard Bay.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Back on the Water

Wow, I was beginning to think this blog was no longer about kayaking.  A nice little paddle today from the end of 10 Mile Point in Victoria.

My long time paddling buddy Dan was just back from Singapore and was almost as badly in need of a paddle as I was.  We made a relatively quick launch, well it would have been quick, except I kept dawdling.

Once on the water we took advantage of the waning ebb and rode it down around Discovery Island.  The south side of Discovery is a great place.  Maybe even magical. We stopped for a short break, my trick knee was screaming let me out.  After consuming some fruit and power bars Dan dragged me off the beach.  He was clearly afraid I was going to take a nap.

Jesus, just fall asleep once under a warm sun on a pristine beach, and you can never live it down.  Well maybe it was the snoring.

Back on the water we made fast time back up to Baynes Channel where the flood was starting to stack up against the water in Haro Strait.  A nice line of waves was forming.  I suggested we slide in about mid channel and try to ferry surf the waves across to the Cadboro Bay light.  This worked perfectly.

While the waves were anything but large they were perfect for surfing.  Deep green walls would form, pick us up and surf us forward for 20 to 30 feet or bury us into the back of the receding wave.  Lots of fun.

Something odd about 10 Mile Point.  Can you guess the real location of the photo? 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Safety First

Timing. Mine's bad. I arrive at the stop sign just as a Volvo with two diminutive seniors tucked down in the front seat rolls through the intersection.

It appears that the Volvo is straining hard pulling a train of cars along behind it.  I count 10 cars before I can turn out and become the temporary caboose.  The speed limits 50 KPH.  We cruise along at a stately 35KPH.

I try to keep a couple of car lengths between me and the car directly in front. Soon there's a Miata trying to become intimate with the tail light of my bike.  Up ahead the cars are bunching up; less then a car length separates most of the train. 

Looking ahead I see a long sweeping left hand curve leading to a short straight stretch.  Inside the curve a farmer is working in a hay field.  On the outside an orchard reaches down to the curb of the road.  I'm sure I can count the aphids on the tree leaves.  My mind starts to drift off.  I'm Dickens getting 3 cents a word to describing nothing.  So far I've made $10 and I'm only on the cobble stones by the time I get to the door knocker I'll be rich.

"Braaack!" I'm snapped back to reality by the distinctive sound of a small block V8 roaring to life.  All that money gone, damn!

The pick up behind the Volvo has swung left to pass. He's misjudged the power and has overshot the road. His left wheels are throwing dust and dirt. The Volvo's brake lights flash. The Volvo drops speed like Newtons apple. Suddenly and with a startling affect on the driver now immediately behind the Volvo. Ouch!

The Newton swings left to miss the Volvo.  The truck has made the pass and is back in the right lane. But there's a car coming towards us.  Newton brakes hard and cuts back in behind the Volvo which is now creeping along.

My hands are sweating on the handlebars. It's all over in a flash.

The train resumes it's slow progress down the track as the Volvo slowly picks up speed until it reaches 30KPH where it seems to run out of breath.  Dickens sitting in the orchard witness the entire scene and starts an account for the Times.  He'll make 20 quid.

I pull over at a fruit stand shut the bike down and wait.

I can hear Donald Sutherland's baritone richly explaining the virtues of a Volvo.  I turn around and he's talking to a young couple with a baby.  Fourteen cars are piled on top of a Volvo, he explains the features, three point seat belts, padded dash, multiple air bags, disc brakes, crush zones.  It's as strong as a tank.  "It's so safe you could drive it in your sleep."  Did I really hear Donald say that?

Years later the baby is gone but the couple are still driving.  I imagine the baby having grown into a teenager throwing himself out the back door, rolling through a ditch, jumping up and leaping into the back of a pickup full of red necks running whisky and dope from the local grow op to the big city. The teenager is grinning ear to ear, shouting. "Free At Last."

The couple don't know the baby has grown and fled but are still sedately rolling along safely unconscious in their Volvo.

Donald Sutherland turns out to be a white haired farmer asking me, maybe for the fourth time, if I'd like to try some cherries.  I look at him and say, "What I'd really like is to kick Donald Sutherland in the ass but I'll take a flat of cherries."

He looks at me, he looks at the bike.  Right, better make that a single box.  I try to tell him about the Volvo.  He listens then disappears behind the stall.  I hear a cellphone chirping away then, "Betty better get down here and bring the Browning."

Ok, it's time to go.  I leave the cherries and $5 on the counter.  You meet the most interesting people on a motorcycle.  It's important to make an impression.  I round the next corner and there's a single apple sitting in the middle of the road.  Weird.  I roll on the throttle and crush it beneath the tires like a bug. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Salt Spring Island

Slept in late and missed the 9 AM paddle launch.  Hmmmm!  I thought about throwing the kayak on the roof and rushing down to the beach to try to catch my friends.  I rolled over and slept some more.

Around noon I decided to ride up to Swartz Bay and catch the ferry to Salt Spring Island.  Down to the garage, jump into my riding gear and out the door I went.  Hmmm! Ferry departs at 1 PM.  It's 12:31.  This will be interesting.  Google Maps says it'll take 31 minutes to travel the 31 miles to the terminal.

I make it with, ah how shall I put it, time to spare.

After an uneventful ocean cruise to Fulford Harbour I ride up one side, back and forth across the island then down the other and pull back into Ganges the heart of the last outpost of the alternative life style back to the earth movement.

It might be a Ural, but hey - It's a living.

The Tree House Cafe, reminds me of the Teton Tree House  a Bed and Breakfast I once stayed in outside of Jackson Hole Wyoming. So I give it a try.

I order a $14 cheese burger with salad and coffee. The staff consists of vegan granddaughters of aging hippies.  The girls are squeezed into tight 100 % hemp blue jeans, with conspicuous thong straps peaking out above the waist line, they wear tee shirts tie died with shade grown salmon berries from a natural watershed, kissed by sun dabbled rays diffused by peach trees planted by Pika Rose-Blossom in the summer of love.

They shudder at the thought of red meat.  I secretly smile.

Lunch arrives and as all wana-be French waiters do, my waitress arrives to ask,  "How is everything," just as I take a large bite of burger.  I look up into those doe like eyes and let some savoury juice dribble from the corner of my mouth, as the juice slides down my chin I reach for my napkin and say, "it's excellent but could I have a glass of  Chianti.  She flees.

Times passing so I leave  $20 on the table and head for the bike.  It's 3:45 PM the next ferry is at 4PM.  Why not.  I sedately leave Ganges and the sweet smell of illicit smoke.  As I climb up out of the town the beast explodes and I rip past a line of cars.  The next few miles blow by as a series of left, right, left, leans, down shifts, up again, hard brakes, accelerate until I emerge from that last corner to see the ferry 20 feet from the dock. Leaving.
Nice dock but the ferry is missing.
I park and walk over to the coffee shop and order a latte.

"Excuse me I only want want a latte.  Oh it's $5 for the coffee.  I'm sorry I thought you were asking me for this months rent."  I walk outside with what I hope will be the greatest coffee I've had since France.  It's not.

Hovering outside the Organic Clothing store staring at a line of Sanskrit  head scarfs I have a flash back.  I'm back in Roschdale, 17 years old, in a basement with my best friend and a bald guy who says he's a Buddhist.  Could be true.  My religious exposure extends to Catholics, Protestants and one Jew, Sam Cohen, who buys Pike, a fresh water fish, from me. I've illegally speared them in streams in the spring run off.  He pays me $1 a fish.

In the basement we're making silk screened scarfs and tee shirts on this giant frame.  Gold paint is poured over the screen, the Buddhists pulls a slide runs across and the paint is forced through the pattern on the screen and into the cloth below.  Back and forth until the Hindu God Shiva appears on the cloth.

Buddhists, Baptists and Catholics making Hindu gods in a basement.  Amazing.

Reg, my friend, eventually drifts away.  Oddly we both end up in Edmonton years later.  He on one side of town me on the other.  Separated by too many experiences and an eternity of time.

One day his preschool son returns from kindergarten, walks to the end of the dock by the house and topples in.  The books in his back pack hold him under and he drowns.  Reg owns a bookstore.

I'm a new dad but I'm too scared of the bad karma to reach out.

Funny what an organic clothing store and $5 coffee can dredge up out of the depths.  For me Salt Spring Island is losing a little bit more of its charm.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Motorcycle Madness

With all my paddling buddies occupied I took off for a little ride on the new bike.  There's this route on southern Vancouver Island called the Circle Drive.

It's essentially the brain child of the tourism office.  Their thinking was that if the government could find the money to pave 53 kilometers of logging road tourists in motor homes would travel this great circle dropping buckets of cash as they went.

So the government paved the road from Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan thus creating a 265 kilometer paved circle linking Port Renfrew, Duncan, and Victoria our provincial capital.  Guess what! The tourist didn't come.  The worst section of the road is only chip sealed, twisty and narrow.  The type of road that sends the RV crowd to the commode.

What's left is a pretty little road just fine for motorcyclists.

On this day I road up the Malahat to the Shawnigan Lake turn off and swung left to ride the back road and escape the up island traffic.  If you take this route stay to the left or west side of the lake.  Part of the road has been resurfaced and the traffic volume is even lower.

When you reach the end of the lake don't go back to the island highway but follow anyone of a number of back roads.  I travelled through Cobble Hill and Cowichan Bay before slipping into Duncan.

From Duncan I road straight west to Cowichan Lake, gassed up and headed for Port Renfrew.  Watch out for logging trucks and dodgy pavement.  Some of the corners are deceptive.  I squared a few and left my braking too late on a few others.  I'm still trying to sharpen skills that sat on the shelf for 23 years.

The last straight section before Port Renfrew is a sort of paved corrugated speed bump.  You'll see the straight out ahead of you but you will soon out drive your suspension if you open it up too much.

There's new pavement between Port Renfrew and Sombio Beach.  However the section immediately west of Jordan River is rough.  Watch out for the hair pin turn at the top of the big hill leading down into Jordan River.  I felt the rear wheel slide going through the corner as I had carried too much speed into the turn.  A religious moment for sure.

After the climb up out of Jordan River the road leads back to Sooke and is mostly uneventful.  If time permits take the Otter Point alternative for a more interesting ride.  Once you reach Sooke you're back in urban madness.  To escape take Gillespie Road to East Sooke Road and follow it back into Victoria. More photos

Saint Emilion

Some time in the 8th century a guy left Brittany. Fed up with the rotten weather he wanted to become a hermit.  Over time he performed many miracles.  He turned kittens into cats, puppies into dogs and eventually grapes into wine. 

One of these miracles caught the attention of the Pope and the hermit became Saint Emilion and the wine, oh the wine, well lets just say it may not be a miracle but it's surely a gift from the gods.

Emilion had the wisdom to set up his hermitage on a limestone bluff surrounded by beautiful sun drenched valleys.  Poor soil, lots of sun, two of the keys to great wine.  Today Saint Emilion is a Unesco World Heritage site.

The wines of Saint Emilion represent some of the very best of Bordeaux.  Oddly, the day I choose to visit the sun took a vacation.  For my purpose it hardly mattered as I came for the wine and great food and fell head over heels for the charm of the village. 

At La Cote Braisee we had a fantastic lunch with perhaps the best table or house wine I've ever tasted. The restaurant, carved out of the limestone hill, is located on the steps half way between the upper town and the lower.  Most of these shops are located in caves from which limestone blocks were cut to build the village, the ramparts and the church.

If you should have the great fortune of washing up in Saint Emilion begin by visiting the tourist office.  They'll direct you to choice wineries either your own personal favourite or ones they'll recommend. Here's a link to more photos from my visit.

Monday, July 11, 2011

On Driving in France

Day two. 

My partner has been talking about renting a car and driving across France from Lyon to Bordeaux.  This talk started weeks ago when it became evident that finding reasonable accommodations in Paris would be impossible. Consequently she decided we'd train down to Lyon then rent a car and drive to Bordeaux then on down to Aracachon where we'd rented a cottage for a week.

Hmmm, Bordeaux is on the Atlantic and Lyon in the east clear across France. Little LED lights went off, but I said nothing except to ask, as our departure date approached, if a car had been reserved.  Truth - I really didn't want to drive clear across France.  In fact I didn't want to drive down the block.  After driving in England I felt intimidated.

Nevertheless it seemed important to my sunshine so I swallowed my trepidation and kept my mouth shut.  This was to be her holiday besides we'd agreed to embark on a new holiday planning scheme; she plans one then I plan the next.

On our last day in Lyon we decided we check out if any cars were available.  Conveniently there was a EuroCar Agency just outside the Ibis Hotel lobby. In we walk and yes there is a nice car available for only 387 Euros. "A DAY!"

Well that's the end of that. The smacking sound was my jaw hitting the floor as she says we'll take it pulls out the credit card and signs the rental agreement.

In anticipation that a car might be rented we'd borrowed Monsieur
Tom Tom complete with all the required maps of Europe.  Out to the parking lot, once around the car, a nifty 5 speed Peugeot 306, hook up M. Tom and off we go.  Around the block turn left onto A6. Except there are four left hand lanes, I opt for the extreme right and drive us directly into a a six story parking garage.

Ever so cool I grap the ticket and drive straight to the exit gate on the second floor.  It won't open, I see a sharp left next to the gate, take it drive around to the back of the que and try again.  No more luck.  This time I hit the Info button and ask in my best pidgon French.

"Pardon M. parlay vour Anglais SVP?"  Please parlay vour, please! I don't voice that last thought to appear weak in front of the partner is just asking for trouble.  "I can't get the gate to open," I'm babelling but not yet sweating or swearing. That comes later.

Monsieur.  Just turn to ze left and take ze stairs!" Take the stairs!
Five minutes later  we're back on the street. The Peugeot's suspension was spared as the stairs turned out to be a ramp.  Now it was across the Rhone, then the Saone, another wrong turn on A6 which was surprisingly empty but going in the wrong direction.

Turned around going the right way and at a complete stop as every driver in Lyon was enterred in what appeared to be the Friday morning crush to get out of Dodge.  After a nervous hour of lane jumping, fast action, hard braking, very alert, attentive driving, we're off the A6 and onto a secondary highway heading for Roanne.

First, the highway system in France is so superior to anything in North America you'd think they invented the car.  Second, French drivers put us to shame.  Yes they drive fast, yes you get one shot at making your decision, but they drive.  They don't eat whoppers, drink lates, or talk on cellphones.  They drive.

Travel mugs are unheard of.  Why would you want one.  Cafe cream is a shot of espesso with a shot of cream.  It comes in a tiny cup that you sit down at a tiny table and drink.  After an indetermined amount of time, never less then 30 minutes, you may seek the attention of your waiter and beg for ze bill.  Very civilized.  Who would want to take away the coffee and race to your next destination and forego the pleasantry of just sitting around drinking high octane jump juice.  An aside.  Never had a bad cup of coffee all the time whilst in France.  Do you hear that England.

Back on the road.  The highway up to Roanne is amazing, I start to settle in feeling out the little 306.  Pretty soon I'm living dangerously passing Deuce Cevels, farm tractors and the occassional stationary bus.  Life is good.

Amazingly the very best of French engineering seems to have gone into road construction.  The pavement is smooth, corners cambered, posted speed signs reflect reality.  None of this, "oh my God it's a corner, better slow down to a crawl," postings we see in North America.

It's refreshing.

But then the fill up. 90 Euros for a tank of diesel. Next the tolls once we hit the cross country auto route, another 50 Euros.  If we did not have so far to go I'd stick to the secondary roads.  In fact I'd like to return,  pre rent an affordable car, and just travel around one area; maybe Normandy or the Central Masif.

Eventually we make Aracachon and call the cottage hostest.  More about the witch later.

Oh, just one more thing, I did not drive at all in Paris although we took two taxis.  The first one featured a lazy, driver who drove in the Formula one position - with the seat back laying on my knees in the back seat.  The entire time he chatted away on his blue tooth and stuck to the main roads, crawling trough the conjestion.

The next days driver was a true pro, drove fast made quick decisive lane changes when needed, took short cuts and back roads and got us back to the airport for 10 Euros less then the first driver.  Sweet.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Diner in Lyon

Tonight we found a small establishment in the old town tucked tight into the corner of three intersecting alleys. We started with pre-dinner drinks at a bar just across the alley from our restaurant. Perfect spot for people watching.

Dinner begins with the morning shopping at the local market.  Smart chefs, professional and amateur gather at the market and inspired by the daily fresh produce start planning the evening meal.

My repast began with a wonderful salad. Consisting of a round of Camembert cheese, carefully warmed, four spears of baguette, a medley of salad leaves with a Balsamic reduction, and four slices of the sweetest tomatoes to cross my  lips in a long long time.  The tomatoes, clearly grown in a field kissed by abundant sunlight where rich in flavour and a total delight.

Yet the crowning touch was a tiny jar of fig jam.  First the baguette is smoothed in the semi melted cheese then a small dollop of fig jam is added.  Bite off the offering and wait for your taste buds to take you to heaven.  So simple yet so rich and complex.

The first course was followed by a traditional Lyon dish.  Sausage and legumes.   Again simplicity is the key.  Four medallions of round pork sausage lightly spiced floating on a bed of legumes in a soft Dijon sweetened mustard sauce.   Just a hint of sauce; a tease.  Vegetarians could drop the sausage.  We chose a fine red Cotes du Rhone wine to compliment our meal.

Finally a creme caramel to finish.

Friday, July 8, 2011

On to Lyon

It was evening  when we arrived in Lyon after taking a train from Charles de Gaulle.  A few false starts but we managed to find our modest Ibis hotel.  Not too far from the train station.

Out first day we spent wandering aboutthe city of bridges.  The old town between the Rhone and the La Saone river is charming.  Lots of small covered alleys link various streets and avenues.

Lyon is know as the city of bridges, I've no idea how many but it seemed like we wandered over all of them.  There appears to be a genetic marker in my wifes family that prevents them from taking any modern form of conveyance.  No trams, no bus, and certainly no taxi.

The temperature was soaring all the time we were in Lyon so I was constantly walking around in sweat soaked shirts.  Hot, hot hot.
In the old village, Villeaux Lyon there are four main fetures; the funnucular, the St. Jean Cathedral, at the bottom of the hill and Notre Dame de Lyon at the top, and the old Roman theatres.  All are worth the visit.

Henry the V was married in the Saint Jean cathedral.  It's a beautiful building.  Cool and dark after the bright sun and hot and humid temperature outside.  The most impressive feature of the church is a midevil clock that chimes, strikes the hour and by the use of clever gearing sends various figures into motion every hour.

As we'd arrived at the bottom of the hour we retired to a pub across the square for a glass of wine and a pint of beer to wait for the clock to strike at 2 PM.  True to form we arrived back inside the church five minutes late and missed the show.

The funnucular ride to the top of the hill was crammed with elementary kids on a school outing.
Just as we entered the darkest part of the tunnel the engineer cut the lights and stopped the car, all the kids screamed, some in delight and a few is dispair. But magically the lights and piower came back on and we were off to the top. 

The Roman theaters no longer have the canvas tops that provided relief from the mid day sun, so now all the performances happen at night. Ancient engineering with modern technology makes for an impressive show.

Late in the afternoon we did not have enough time to tour the museum but we hung out in the court yard soaking up the cool shade.  These small spaces are clearly popular with the locals as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hannah and Gordin's Perfect Vacation


Eight hours out of Victoria and we've already made Vancouver.  Modern travel is so convenient. If I was paddling across Georgia |Strait there's no way I could have made it this far in such a short time.

We're now en route to Frankfurt.  We had no plans to visit the Teutonic City this morning but the cancellation of our 14 minute 10 AM flight to Vancouver has compounded.  Utilizing a mathematical formula devised by mortgage actuaries we will  now arrive in Paris on a Thursday in a week yet to be determined.

Not all is lost we just had word from Lufthansa, who came to our rescue after Air Canada failed us, and the word is that the lightning strike has not rendered the aircraft completely un-airworthy and that as soon as they can find a crew willing to fly it we'll be off.

Ya ve vill be fluggin even un half hour earlier den skcedulaled.  Dunka. They even threw in a $20 meal voucher which we've drank away at the bar.  Air Canada was also very generous and provided us with a $7 coffee voucher good at either Victoria or Vancouver.  I used it at Starbucks where the cashier was not sure if it was for $7 each or together. I ensured her it was worth a total of $14.  "But sir I can't give you change, she said.  That's ok just throw in a chocolate chip cookie and we're even.  So she rang up the cookie and it came to an even $100.  I turned to the gentleman who was patiently waiting next to me and pointing at the total on the screen said,

"You pay a little more for the cookies but they're worth it."  He was still laughing as I picked up my coffee and the double skinny no fat for Hannah.  Traveling is a connection of one joyous event followed by another.

So come along with Hannah and I on our tour through France via Germany.  I'll promise photos, racy pictures from French beaches and timely updates from exotic places, such as the departure lounge at Vancouver International.

Friday, June 17, 2011


There's a new toy in the garage. 
Where I thought I would be sleeping for the rest of my married life.  However, there may be something to the old saying, "women like bad men."  After the wife got over the shock, I guess she just didn't believe me when I said I was going to buy a motorcycle, things have be running really smooth on the home front.
Excuse me, my breaks over.  I've just got to vaccum, wash the floors, dust, do the laundry, make dinner, then iron, mow the lawn......
This is from the top of Mount Tolmie looking southwest over Victoria toward the Olympic Penninsula.
The last shot is looking Northeast back toward Vancouver where the mighty Bruins recently vanquished the Canucks.

Posted by PicasaClick any picture for a nice blow up.  Check out that speedo.  That's just nuts.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Took a Little Trip Awhile Ago

Easter Sunday I chased a gang of kayakers out of Pedder Bay.  They were claiming to be the South Island Sea Kayaker's Association (SISKA) but I think they may have really been the Diablo's or maybe members of Madame Cheng's pirate horde.

After a month of conducting intensive hull repairs to the Romany Surf and the HV Explorer, intensive in the sense that the hulls are covered in scratches a few gel-cracks and one cel-goat hole, I had one of the boats ready for sea trials.  Fibreglass boats are great.  Just bash them about all winter long then gel-coat the damage in the spring.  Of course this only pertains to "heavy" British boats, all others would have been holed through after the abuse I throw at kayaks.

Over the winter I'd developed a leak in my skegg box of the Romany after a particularly hard landing on a rock.  I brought the boat in dried in out by sticking my wife's hair drier in the aft hold.  Next I covered the hatch with a special hatch cover that I have drilled out and put a bicycle tube valve in.  I pumped up the pressure up and soaped all the deck pad eyes and the skegg box.  Once I'd determined the box was the leaking I did a gel-coat repair.  Repeated the process and found I still had a small leak and went at it once more.  With the left over gel-coat I filled the worst of the scratches and demelled out the spider cracks and filled them.  Then it was wet sanding, wet sanding, and finally polishing and waxing.

Pedder Bay is the tiny little inlet on the middle right of the photo.  I loaded the kayak with enough gear for an over night out on the East Sooke Entrance where my in-laws live.  The gear was just in case I found my self out-lawed. My finial destination was on the extreme left of the picture just where the shore curves around the spit of land (Whiffin Spit) 12.5 Nautical miles from the put in. 

I caught the pirate gang just past Rocky Point as they were about to land on a beach.  I slipped in behind some rocks and raised them on the radio.  With my best authoritative voice nearly correct radio protocols put the fear into them as they were about to land on a restrictive Department of Defence beach.  But I couldn't keep up the ruse, besides I need to land as well.  I'd averaged just over 4 knots and covered the distance from the put into to the bay in just under an hour.  At least half an hour faster then the gang.  After lunch I continued west while they turned back.  I completed the trip in four hours riding a favourable current the entire way. 

At the Fish Trap Shack beach on the East Sooke Trail I surprised and Otter.  He had just fished a spider crab off the bottom when I slid quietly right up behind him.  He spy hopped half his length out of the water and his big brown eyes fixed me with the most reproachful stare before he splashed back into the deep.

Further west I came up on a seal sleeping right out in the middle of a crossing.  I quietly came up from down wind and could see him bobbing in the waves with his eyes shut.  He was only a paddle length away and didn't wake until he caught a whiff of me as I moved up wind.  Kayakers do carry a distinctive odour.

Work on the HV Explorer will be complete by weeks end.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

23 Years Later

I enjoy a reputation here in Victoria as a bit of a maverick. Some would even say that I'm reckless, that I have no respect and when it comes to gel-coat they are absolutely correct.

My kayaks are British built by Nigel Dennis and I abuse them.  They accumulate lots of scratches and frequent gel-coat cracks.  Come spring I undertake repairs.  This spring has been  has required a little more work then normal, so much so that I turned to an old passion to fill in the time while the boats dried.

After an absence of 23 years I returned to motorcycling.  Yesterday I rented a 650 Suzuki V-Strom and rode all over my home town and turf.  Mostly I rode the country roads around Victoria.  Mind, pulling out of the rental shop I was a tad nervous.  Over reved the engine and squared the first dozen corners. But I did not stall.

After a while I even got the bike to lean over as I swept through the turns.  Well not to far.  I carefully picked my way through town and finially as I broke out of the burbs I was awash in the sensations of travelling in an environment and not just through it. 

No the wind did not sweep through my hair, I have too little for that, besides I keep my head wrapped up in a good helmet.  I bought the helmet last years and precipitated a major marriage spat. However, yesterday the wind on my face brought me sensations I'd long forgotten.  The smell of fresh mowed lawns, the slightly acid smell of burning leaves and cedar logs burning in the fireplace of that cabin by the road.  Family responsibilities have kept me from this for far too long.

I rode the bike out along East Sooke Road, turned around and rode back considerably quicker. Stopping  at an overlook with a great view of Becher Bay the wind carried the smell of the sea up to the road.  I drank deep and filled my lungs with the clean fresh smell of the sea.

From here I swung up over Kangaroo Road, down onto the Sooke Highway then up over Humpback Road over to the main island highway.  I skipped the highway and headed up to Prospect Lake Road and made my way up to the town of Sidney. No two lane highways just lots of back country byways.  It was a great four hours.  Nex tmonth I'm going to repeat the trip but on a lighter BMW.  Eventually I'll find a nice mid size bike to squeeze into the garage next to the kayaks.

Winslow Homer

The American landscape painter Winslow Homer was a genius when it came to capturing water.  On my last trip to Boston I rented a car and drove out to Cape Anne to a scene not unlike this.
As we drove along the Marble Head shore the rain was pelting down; hard enough to keep us in the rental car.  What is it about east coast rain storms?  Here in Victoria, even though we are in the rain shadow of the Olympic peninsula we get rain. But, nothing like the rain that hammers Boston.

During my first trip to Boston my wife and I almost drown in a cloud burst that lasted all of 5 minutes.  On the second visit a flash flood swept the streets of down town Boston.  The water was well above our ankles, brown; polluted with the worst you can imagine.  We were wearing sandals.

A day later in the Museum of Fine Art I found this painting.  It could have been painted the day before up in Marble Head. Homer masterfully captured the power and dynamic nature of the sea.  Standing back and admiring his work brought forth such a longing to get back onto the water. Weeks later I've still to return to the sea.  Soon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More thoughts on the Museum of Fine Arts - Boston

On day three of my trip to Boston we rented a car and drove up to Cape Anne.  We decided to skip the freeway and took the old highway anticipating a nice coastal drive.

Turns out the old highway just wanders through these old rust belt working class neighbourhoods.  Combined with the cold wet rain it was a rather depressing drive up to Salem.  In Salem we checked out the historic  homes on Chestnut Street.

The entire street is a national historic site and the homes are protected by a series of covenants.  The street is lined with stately old maples and oaks and must be a thing of amazing beauty when the leaves turn in the fall.

After Salem we finally reached the coast and leisurely wove our way through Rockport, Marblehead and Cape Anne.  The estate homes of the burgers or commerce, trade, shipping, and forestry from 200 years ago form a rather startling contrast to the working class towns closer to Boston.  The gap between the ultra rich and even ordinary middle class Americans is very large indeed.

Clearly though the highlight for me was Marblehead.  As the road inches closer to the sea just below a low bank the Atlantic was pounding its way through a series of off shore rocks.  Wonderful rock gardens just off shore, an on shore wind, and a rising tide.  If only I'd had a kayak.

So while my wife looked at the mansions to the left I watched the sea to the right and plotted how I could seal launch off some nabobs front lawn.

We managed to get in a fast second visit to the MFA before heading off to the airport for one of those nothing goes right flights home.

I'm a bit of a nut for landscapes and while reveling in the American and European wing I came across a Winslow Homer that reminded me of the Atlantic up at Marblehead.

I had a great time disrupting an art lecture in the Dutch masters gallery.  A young art professor was introducing his troupe of college students to the brilliance of Rembrandt.  But when he referred the old master as a "brand." I think he called him the first recognized brand name;  I thought this is a bit much.

He went on and to  make his point he asked the students how many had actually heard of Rembrandt. Most put up their hands.  Then he asked how many could name three of his paintings.  He paused and no hands went up.  So just as he was about to continue I struck.

"Belshazzar's Feast, A Turk, Man in a Black Hat, Rembrandt as a Young Man in a Black Hat, and of course his master piece The Night Watch, I'd go on but I have a lunch date but do carry on."  As the stuffed shirt glared back at me I slipped through the door smiling. What fun.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April Fools Day in Boston

Arrived during a snow storm and woke up in the morning to this. It didn't take long for things to start looking up.  The snow turned to rain and the rain to sunshine.

Friday night we got to the theater to watch Faustus. My son Matthew did the staging and lighting for the play.  It was a very interesting interpretation of the classic story of good versus evil.  The entire production unfolds on a slightly raised platform surrounded by a moat.

The key prop however is paint.  Gallons and gallons of paint. Fortuitously no one was allowed to sit in the front row.  Pared down to the essentials just the devil, Mephistopheles and Faustus and lots of paint.

The next night was Gilbert and Sullivan's the Merry Yeoman.  Matthew built a two story high replica of the Tower of London for this endeavour.  Very impressive.  All those years watching his Dad measuring once and cutting twice seemed to have paid off.  Wait a minute that's measure .... Oh the operetta was lots of fun but not your typical G&S as it ends with clear winners and losers.

Between shows his Mother went on a thirty kilometer run along the Charles why I pursued intellectual endeavours with a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts.  MFA - take it in if you ever make it to Boston.  Look for John Singer Sargent's painting called "A Capriote".  It features the most beautiful woman, Rossina Ferrara in the entire museum and is in my view the finest painting in the American collection.  Landscapes excepted.

I could have spent for more time at the mfa and will return when I next visit Boston.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Changing Plans

Sometimes the smart thing to do is to throw out the plan. Sunday we'd planned to do a one way paddle from Weirs Beach to Becher Bay. One way trips are unusual here in Victoria. Out and backs are easy to plan and execute. Out and backs also seem to fall into clock management. Even with it's high number of retirees people in Victoria like most others are covered by the clock.

For this trip we threw out the clock and planned to paddle the tides. We hoped to ride the ebb winds all the way. Unfortunately the wind conditions warranted a rethink and we tossed out the plan and launched from Becher Bay marina headed out to the DND property then retraced our path back to the marina.

Becher Bay is a wonderful destination and I'm surprised it's not on more peoples top list of sites to paddle around Victoria. Lots of rock gardens to play in,especially on the east shore. In fact I'll be repairing nice gel coat hole later today.
It was a great day to be on the water. We covered 6.64Nm out top speed was 5.9 Kt, we paddled 2hr 23 min, with a moving avg of 2.8 kt.s and stopped to 1hr 20 min. which reduced our overall avg spd to a breath taking 1.8 kts.  Stopped time and overall averages are essentially useless bits of information as the stop time includes everything from the time I turn the GPS on when loading until the time I remember to shut it off.  Usually one of the last things I do after returning home. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Race Rocks

It was a perfect day to visit Race Rocks and play in the current. We launched from Weir's Beach onto a 6.2 ebbing freight train. In very little time we made Race Rocks. This was one of those rare days of no wind. So when we raced the tidal over falls there were no standing wind waves - just lots of chaos.

Most of the action was happening at the South east corner of the islets.You can get a good sense of how we knocked about in the over falls from this second image.

Even without the wind there was lots of wave action to keep you focused. The odd low brace was required, my face got washed more then once, and I even got slammed sideways in the chest from a blind side that shifted the entire kayak about two feet. It felt like I'd been hip checked during a hockey game.

After knocking about we made our way around the main island where someone emerged to video tape our delinquent behaviour.
 We then slipped over to Bentinck Island for lunch then made our way back to the put in. Trip 10.1Nm Max Spd 7.8kt Mov Time 3hr 11 min. Mov Avg 3.1 kt Stopped time 1hr 42 min Overall avg 2 kt.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ides of March

Tuesday was a great day to be on the water. We started off with a nice bit of south east swell being pushed along by a dying SE wind. Maybe 15 knots. Earlier in the morning the wind was blowing 22 knots at the Discovery Island light house.

When we slipped out of Rat Bay into Enterprise channel we were met by some metre high waves. Both Dan and I were hoping things would build but for the most part conditions remained the same for most of the day. There was a minimal flood flowing for the first half of the trip and we'd hoped the sea might start to rock and roll as we came back down Baynes and through the Chain Islets but other then the current push not much happened.

That is until we turned west to re-enter Enterprise Channel. Here the swell caught us from the aft port quarter but for the most part was running too fast to catch any meaningful rides.

we travelled 9.25Nm with a max speed of 7.8kts. Our moving time was 3 hours, our moving Avg speed 3.1 kts, our stopped time 1hr and 34 min and our overall avg was a whopping 2kts.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tall Tales

Last week I mounted two cameras to the deck of the Romany and headed out. A WP10 Pentax facing forward mounted on the port quarter fired still shots every 10 second for a total of 250 pictures.

After a reset it fired another 250 and from those just over thirty were uploaded to the slide show that can be found in the right hand column of this blog. I'm going to try this experiment again only with the camera offset to shoot about thirty degrees to the left. Otherwise there's too much bow in the photos.

The second camera was a HD FLIP in a water proof case mounted on the right forward quarter deck and pointing aft. Both cameras were mounted with suction cups. A Ram held the larger Flip camera and a Fat Gecko held the Pentax. The Gecko cost about $50 at London Drugs. I highly recommend it. The FLIP shoots remarkable digital. Very clear. It's much larger then a GoPro but might be worth it if you want to become a video mogul. It comes with an extension arm and is more articulated.

With the Flip pointing aft it mostly captured the motor. In this case I hired a local actor to play the part of Victoria Kayaker. As you can see it wasn't a total success. The guy kept going out of character, isn't nearly as good looking as he thinks he is and simply refused to use a high angle paddle stroke.

He kept winning, "The paddle gets in front of my face." And when I did get him to raise his hands he kept smacking the cameras when he put the paddle in on the catch.

To cap it all off, he kept going off script and to relate these goofy stories.

I've fired him. Judge for yourself. But will attempt a re-shoot. Hopefully the next endeavour will result in a little more action.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tuesday Last

Got out for an afternoon paddle over to the Discovery Islands just off Oak Bay last Tuesday with my good friend Dan. After a few hours we were joined by Mike who had escaped the class room for a short recess.

I've no GPS track of the trip, my batteries died, but I did experiment with a couple of cameras mounted on my deck. I also field tested a temporary repair to a leaking skeg box. That effort failed as well. Still the results have put me on the right track - Gel-coat will be required.

As for the camera's I mounted a high definition Flip camera on the foredeck facing stern to capture pictures of the motor. Unfortunately the person playing the part of the engine was a complete bore and will be sent off to study some method acting techniques at the William Shatner school of drama.

I mounted a second still camera on a suction cup stock outbound on the starboard bow quarter side of the kayak. My intention was to capture pictures minus the bow of the kayak. I had mixed results here as well. I failed to consider the width of the camera lens and as you will see the bow figures prominently in many of the shots. I will retry in the future when I'll simply point the camera further off centre. I should get some dramatic images in rough water.

On Tuesday the camera was set to snap a picture every 10 seconds for a total of 225 shots. By the time I got onto the water the tide race in Baynes channel had run its course and we were surrounded by flat water. I reset the camera after Mike joined us and shot another 250 pictures.

When I got home I attacked the stack of photos and ruthlessly edited out about 475 pictures. Digital photography has a big advantage. The resulting pictures on on the adjoining slide show. I hope you find them interesting.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Madness

The camera and mount was tucked away warm and dry in the day hatch because today was going to be a flat water paddle. Problem was someone forgot to tell the ocean. Dan and I launched from Rat Bay just at the tick of 10 AM.

Our plan was to paddle north east cross Mayor Channel, through the Chain Islets, cross Plumper Passage, then up between the Chatham Islands, then drop back to the south east round Discovery and head back to the put in.

We had a falling flood tide running at 1.2 knots (Race Rocks) against what was suppose to be a South East wind between 15 and 25 knots. The wind was more out of the east and maybe between 10 and 15 knots. Which was a good thing.

As soon as we poked out into Enterprise Channel from the shelter of Rat and MacNeill Bay it was clear the forecast and sea state was a little wobbly. We ploughed into some significant swell pushing against the constricted flood moving through Enterprise. The wind having pushed the swell all the way from Whidbey Island was greeting us with some significant waves.

Anyone who's paddled this area when the seas are running out of the south east knows the waves really start to stand on their heads as they wash over Mouat Reef. True to form we found some three and four metre waves between Mouat Reef and Gonzales Point.

After punching through we discussed our plan and decided maybe going around Discovery wasn't such a good idea. We held to our plan, but instead of swinging south east at the top of Chatham Island, we turned west and rounded Strongtide and raced south west with the now ebbing current and East wind pushing us along.

On the return I don't think our speed ever dropped below 4.5 knots and after breaking out past the Chain Islets on the return we never dipped below 6 knots.
Although the entire paddle was great fun this is where the madness really got it's hooks into us.

With the swell coming in straight out of the east on a bearing of about 290 the waves were breaking in toward the golf course between Gonzales Point and Turkey Head. Surfing straight down the fast moving waves would give us a short momentary ride but in the wrong direction.

Without communicating our intentions both of us instinctively started to side surf the waves. We lifted our right knee and let the starboard side of the kayaks just bite into the waves. We set up a long ferry glide by pointing our bows at the light house at the south end of Trial Island. Doing this allowed us to surf forward from one wave to the next. I think I only climbed the back of a wave a half dozen times between the Chain Islets and Gonzales. Speeds here were over a sustained 6 knots with a max speed of 7.6 knots off one wave by rocks just west of the point. Not bad for a slow NDK Explorer.

It's been my experience that a lot of boats are faster then the NDK Romany and Explorers on flat water. But when things get rough the confidence that NDK kayaks give the paddler enables them to power forward leaving a lot of those flat water flashers behind. One exception to this is the Tahe Marine. I've no doubt that Dan could sink me like a stone should he wish. Then again it might be the engine.

Stats: Trip 8.71Nm, Max Spd. 7.6kts, Moving time 2 hrs. 37 min. Moving Average 3.3kts. Stopped time 1 hr. 26 min. (Dan talks a lot)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday!

I'm clearly doing something wrong. Here's a couple of photos of gifts my wife gave me for my Birthday.
Item 22057 as you can see comes from the distant and exotic middle kingdom more commonly called China. It appears to be a box stuffed with tissue paper and this.
I invite all to speculate on what this is.

My wife very thoughtfully bought me flowers. Yellow daisy's. I believe those are the flowers you give to acquiescences, invalid ladies, and to employees who are leaving but not soon enough. We opened a bottle of bubbly had a piece of fantastic cheese cake and curled up. Her on the couch with her iPad, which she got from another man for Christmas, and has not put down since, and me with item number 2 above in the seldom used love seat.

Later I was informed it's a spray skirt. Lovely.

Tuesday I'm hosting the, "My spouse has an iPad support group." I'll be serving left over cheese cake and everyone goes home with a daisy and one very lucky attendee will get a special door prize.