Monday, November 30, 2009
I've been reading a book called Transporters: Contemporary Salish Art. It's published by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. This is a terrific read, with strong and beautiful images. If you're living in Victoria, you can go read the copy at the Greater Victoria Public Library. If you live somewhere else, go ask your local public library to get a copy. Hey, get yourself a copy online or at your local bookstore.
It's hard to imagine a book on Salish Art that wouldn't mention boats and paddling on the local waters. And this book has some brilliant moments. Among these moments are names for four different kinds of canoes, in the version of the Salish language spoken on the Saanich Peninsula, SENĆOŦEN (pronounced Sen-chah-then). It's hard to type SENĆOŦEN words on a standard English keyboard, because some of the characters are different.
There are two words defined in the text of the book Transporters that are very appropriate for paddlers to know. I'll quote them directly from the book, using the glossary written by STOLC/EL-, John Elliot. The first word is:
This word has a very big meaning and refers to wherever you go in your canoe to hunt, fish, and sustain your life. This is where beliefs, knowledge, and environmental laws are passed on. This is related to cultural survival and maintaining relationships to ancestral lands and sacred responsibilities.
Now that's a word I needed.
And the second word is:
The moon of December. This is the time to thank your paddle and put it away. Talking to it like a reliable friend, thank your paddle for taking you where you needed to go for your life. Tell it that you will return soon to pick it back up for travelling back to sea, to your S,IST
As December begins, both of these words are in my thoughts and on my mind.
Friday, November 27, 2009
The Gorge is a terrific place to paddle, and we've kayaked here numerous times, including the area where this accident occurred. Being a long inlet, it's easy to forget that this is ocean water that can be brutally cold in the winter when the sun goes down.
Another tragic reminder to dress appropriately when you're out on the water. Dress to get wet. And cold.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Then I picked up my little inflatable kayak and went back to the beach. It was so good to be on the water, after days of wind. There was Mount Rainier, that tall volcano, visible across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with a couple of lenticular clouds floating beside it like UFOs. It was a treat to see these clouds, and remember the UFO sightings that regularly occur around Mount Rainier.
I tried to paddle out far enough to see if Mount Baker could be seen also. It's always nice to have a day with two volcanoes. But as I came by Flower Island, there were waves washing up on Evan's Rock just beyond it. Funny, there weren't waves washing up anywhere inside the bay. Sure enough, there was a stiff breeze blowing just outside the point, and the peninsula was sheltering the bay. Time to turn around, and paddle some figure eights around in the little rock garden along the shoreline.
Maybe a seal poked its head up to look at me, or maybe not... there were a couple of crab trap floats bobbing. But there were ducks here and there in the bay, mallards with their feathers whistling as they flew in little flocks, the ruddy heads of mergansers looking almost pink, and the funny round heads of buffleheads bobbing up from diving for fish. So nice to see the neighbours out and about.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday Magazine reports the Save Our Harbour group has "produced a legal opinion concerning who holds riparian rights (the right of landowners to reasonably access adjacent bodies of water) to portions of the waterfront at the Royal Quays condominiums where Evan wants to build his marina. And contrary to what events so far might suggest, it isn’t just Evans’ company Community Marine Concepts."
The opinion concludes "....we are of the view that the owners of Strata Plan VIS3900 and VIS1889 hold certain riparian rights to portions of the water in front of those developments. Those rights should not be ignored by the Provincial Crown, the City of Victoria or the developer of the marina.”
The Save Our Harbour group has turned the opinion over to the two strata corporations involved. Whether they chose to persue the matter is up to them, but up until now the developers and the province's Integrated Lands Management Bureau have considered the riparian rights question a non-issue.
Monday also reports that the City of Victoria is finally speaking out on the proposed marina. Quoting a letter from City of Victoria corporate administrator Rob Woodland to the province's Integrated Lands Management Bureau, Monday reports that "In the City’s view: a) a marina in this location would significantly diminish the natural marine area fronting Lime Bay Park; and b) would significantly diminish the public’s enjoyment of Lime Bay Park, including but not limited to, the views enjoyed by the public across the water surface.”
The letter also brings up the issue of the City's own riparian rights in the matter, and concludes that "[a]s far as the City is aware, the riparian rights issue has not been resolved, and certainly the City has not provided its consent to the proposed grant of any tenure directly in front of Lime Bay Park."
This is not the only front in which Victoria city council is finally speaking out of this issue. It has joined local sea kayakers and other groups in asking the Ministry of Environment that an independent review panel hold a full public hearing into the proposed mega-yacht project in Victoria's harbour. Local kayakers fear that this large-scale project will make it impossible for kayakers and rowers to use the harbour.
The city itself has no authority to reject or approve the marina application as the proposed marina is deemed to be on federal property, but it can make requests of the federal government. Currently, the application is under review by the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The canoeist who died in Devon after becoming trapped in a swollen river was an extremely experienced kayak instructor, it has emerged.
Two friends desperately tried to keep Chris Wheeler's head above the water when he became pinned against a tree in the river Dart, but he had died by the time rescuers got there.
In Brecon, mid Wales, the emergency services continued to search today for a 21-year-old woman who fell into the river Usk. Police were still trying to establish how the accident happened but said the banks were slippy and dangerous.
Wheeler, 46, a chartered surveyor and kayak instructor from Reading, got into difficulty after 30mm of rain fell in just three hours last night. The part of the river he died in is popular with canoeists but hazardous when in spate. His two colleagues were pulled from the water and airlifted to hospital suffering from the effects of hypothermia but were later discharged.
A spokesman for Devon and Somerset fire and rescue service said: "The spot was a five-mile walk from any road and it took fire crews around two hours to find them."
Wheeler, nicknamed Magic Knees after he dislocated both knees in an accident at a waterfall, had been canoeing for 25 years and regularly contributed articles to the Canoe and Kayak UK magazine. In the last few years, he had canoed in Bolivia, India, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Canada, USA and Norway.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Up the coast on some of the islands along the Inside Passage are white black bears. Yeah, that sounds like a contradiction in terms. They're a white version of the little brownish or blackish bears we call "black bears." And little is a relative term, by the way. Compared to a big grizzly bear in the Rocky Mountains, or a big Kodiak bear up in Alaska, a black bear is pretty much a half-sized omnivore who eats mostly plants. But if your usual animal that you interact with is a dog, well, a black bear is usually way bigger than most Newfoundland dogs.
While I haven't seen any bears when I'm out paddling, my partner Bernie and I have seen several when we were driving on the Yellowhead Highway, and he saw one when he was riding on the bike trail called the Galloping Goose. And my friend Linda has seen bears when she was on canoe trips -- she says it was wonderful to drift down a river past a bear on one bank, until they saw the bear's cub on the other shore. Augh! The canoe was between the mother bear and cub! Paddle faster!
I wondered how the kermode bears, these white bears, got to be white. They're not albinos, which is an absence of the colour pigment melanin, a genetic quirk that affects a small percentage of all warm-blooded animals. They're not related to polar bears. These kermode bears are white for a different reason: they inherit a recessive gene. Some bears are partly white and partly black, or cream-coloured, and people have seen black mother bears with white or partly white cubs.
It turns out that white bears are a little bit better at catching salmon than dark-coloured bears... seems that the salmon are more able to see a black bear looming over the water. The University of Victoria has an article about it posted here.
It's November all over, here.
Here on southern Vancouver Island, we may be in what's called the Banana Belt of Canada, but it's also the rain belt. This time of year, we can expect a series of rainstorms to move in off the Pacific every couple of days.
So when the sky blew itself out and was quiet yesterday, that was my opportunity to get on the water. It wasn't sunny and warm -- heck, it was barely not raining -- but the absence of howling wind and rain was enough to ensure the presence of me and my little kayak on the water.
It's more work to get out of the Beach House when there's a moat of rainwater standing around it on the lawn, but I waded past in my sandals. Soon the little Dragonfly was on the water in Cadboro Bay and I was enjoying big lungfuls of clean, cool air.
I kept the outing short -- just about an hour -- because the clouds were threatening and the breeze picking up and the light was fading pretty fast. Walking back through the park with my kayak on my shoulder, I was stopped by a passer-by. (This happens almost every time, by the way.)
"Aren't your feet cold?" asked a sweet, white-haired lady from the driver's seat of her car.
I looked down at my bare legs and feet in Teva sandals. "Um, not much," I told her. "I'm wearing a wet suit."
"But not on your feet!" She shuddered.
"I have booties for cold days," I said. "When I'm not out for very long, I don't need them."
"This isn't a cold day? I can't believe it. I'd be freezing. You be careful." She rolled up her window and drove off with her nodding friend oblivious in the passenger seat.
Just another reminder that good gear (wetsuit and merino wool sweater) really does keep me warm, but metabolism and activity and general health make all the difference. I'm a white-haired lady too, but there was more difference between us than just the ten years' difference in our ages.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Grocery stores have granola bars, fruit bars and energy bars... but then, apples or nectarines are so much more affordable than fruit bars, even if they're more juicy and squishable. And most of the other bars are just fancy cookies in a watertight wrapper! If the watertight wrapper isn't a problem, homemade energy bars or granola bars or even muffins and cookies are good, too. Gotta admit, it's nice to have a couple of the commercial bars of one kind or another in my dunk bag. So far, raccoons haven't figured out that my dunk bag contains food-like substances and found it necessary to chew their way through to the goodies.
I knew that drugstores have handy things like liquid-gel capsules of ibuprofen (hits the bloodstream much faster than the hard pills do!) or Pepto-Bismol tablets for indigestion, or liquid Benadryl for allergy relief. Hey, I know that not everyone considers over-the-counter medications to be paddling gear. But I sometimes get bad headaches, or seasick, and I know a couple of people who have been stung by bees while out on the water, so these medicines make sensible paddle gear for people who are familiar with their effects. Other stores have useful gear, too.
I was in Office Depot the other day, and saw that they carry not only underwater cameras but Pelican cases for cameras... very handy for those who like taking photos while kayaking. There are other stationery stores that carry notebooks with water-resistant paper, which are useful when boating and camping.
The day's shopping took Bernie and me to Lee Valley Tools. This is a chain of stores with several locations across Canada and a website to promote their woodworking and gardening supplies. Don't just pop in with a pocketful of money and credit cards if you don't want to come home with all sorts of neat things that are really useful. One of my friends used to work at a Lee Valley store. She said that it was a good month when there was any paycheck left to take home, but wow, did she ever have the best tools and presents and garden and... you get the picture.
Lee Valley has useful gear for the discerning gear-head paddler. There are two kinds of little screw-sealed containers to attach to your PFD, for instance. The littler size is all brass, and good for holding a waterproofed slip of paper with your name and who to contact if you are found. The larger size is still tiny, about half the size of a fat golf pencil, and has a gasket so it's probably waterproof. This little gizmo could also hold a couple of pills of medicine, something that's essential for some people to carry at all times.
The other kind of paddling gear I found are Bogs Boots and Bogs Ankle Shoes (you can find them on their website in the Garden Catalog on page 186). These are neoprene shoes or boots with natural rubber soles, much stiffer than the usual paddle booties which have flexible soles. I handled a couple of pairs and believe that they're well-made, though not cheap. As soon as I can come up with the price, I'll buy a pair and let you know how they feel. Because I get so vexed at the flexible soles of paddle shoes/boots which let my feet hurt and toes go to sleep, I'm hoping that these more rigid soles will feel better. Lee Valley has good warranties for all its products, so I'm really looking forward to trying these Bogs Ankle Shoes.
So, though I wasn't on the water yesterday, it wasn't a total loss as far as kayaking goes. Paddlers who keep alert can find gear on the most eclectic of shopping expeditions. If you're ever in a store that carries wheelchairs, look for the big square gel pads! While these aren't cheap, they may be just the thing to cushion your sit-upon bones. There is paddling gear everywhere!
Friday, November 13, 2009
This little fella, probably only a couple of days or even hours old, was photographed (by Mark Malleson, a contract marine mammal observer for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Center for Whale Research) off Victoria on Wednesday. He is J46, next to what is thought to be its mother, 16 year-old J28, also known as Polaris.
J46 is the fifth whale born to the local pods this year, and brings the resident population to 87. There were seven deaths in the pods last year, prompting fears for the mammels' chances of survival. Historicially, the number of local resident orcas has been about 120. The mortality rate for orca calves is about 50%, but a larger than normal return of their favourite food, chinook salmon, means that the fear of starvation that was threatening the local pods last year should not be an issue at least for this winter.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
All right. I know that it's just lazy of me to stuff my inflatable kayak on top of my big upright tricycle in the porch, instead of drying it out and folding it up each time I use it. But hey, I like needing only 1 minute to puff it from 85% inflated to full. That saves me nearly ten minutes of preparation time! When I'm getting on the water two or three times a week in it, that adds up. Well, with the 'flu sidelining me this fall, I've only been on the water three times in the past five weeks. So the inflatable had been tucked away for a while, and now I've pulled it out again, used it and stuffed it back in the porch. That means it's ready to go!
It also means that the kayak spends time where various aspects of Nature have an influence on it. Sunshine can fall on one end unless I stuff the boat pretty far into the hedge. Dew falls on the kayak, but if it's lying upside down that keeps some of the dew off my trike. Leaves blow into the porch, and on a rainy day the leaves stick to the kayak.
I'll get to the raccoon tracks in a minute. In the meantime, take note: Don't leave leaves on your kayak. They leave stains. Especially if the leaves are wet with rain. There are leafy stains on most of my kayaks.
Now, I'm not really complaining. No one who can use the phrase "most of my kayaks" in any capacity at all should ever be complaining about little things like having brown-coloured stains on any number of the kayaks, or even most of them. The willow and maple leaves that are most likely to fall on my kayaks or get tangled in the tarps don't seem to make permanent stains on the hardshell kayaks if the leaves stay on the boat surface only a week or two. A little sunshine seems to bleach the stain out of the rotomolded plastic, or the yellow marine paint. The inflatables are more likely to hang onto a stain. But well, these aren't museum exhibits -- they're kayaks for using and enjoying out in the wide world, and a few scratches or leaf stains are features, not flaws.
That's what I thought I saw on the grey rubbery underside of the kayak hull, when I went to take the boat out on the water: leaf stains. Looking a little closer, I saw that the brown marks were not random little curving stains, but regular muddy smudges. Little hand-prints with long finger shapes. Somebody with four neat little hand-paws had been walking across my kayak!
I dunno what kind of neighbours YOU have where you live. But our neighbours are an assortment of mink, squirrels, river otters in the bay, and a raccoon on the prowl. That darned raccoon has been walking through the porch every couple of days. He's looking to see if we put any cat food outside the door for the fluffy cat who seems to have adopted the house. I sent up an earnest hope that the raccoon wouldn't take to chewing on my paddle gear for the salt, and went paddling. The footprints were still there when I took the boat out of the water... even hosing down the kayak didn't get rid of them. It took real rubbing with a cloth to remove the marks. The fluffy cat (Bernie calls her H. R. Flufnstuf) wandered over to take a look. Here's a photo that John took of the cat the other day, with some kayaks behind her.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Today, Paula, Bernie Louise, Richard and I got together to watch some kayaking vids. Having just seen a lecture by Shawna Franklin and Leon Sommé about their Haida Gwaii expedition with Justine Curgenven, we started with Justine's Haida Gwaii film from This is The Sea 4 (as opposed to This is The C4 which sounds more like a Mythbusters episode). From there, we bounced around some of the other This is the Sea videos, and a good chunk of Pacific Horizons, finishing up the day with Crossing the Ditch, the story of the two Aussies who kayaked the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand.
It was a treat to go back and visit those videos we haven't watched in a while, as well as watch the Ditch video for the first time. I'm feeling a bit frustrated that since the van died we don't have adequate transport for our kayaks at the moment which leaves launching choices drastically limited to, well, only one place. But it is the stormy season and the holiday season so kayaking chances get reduced this time of year anyway, so it's not so bad. The new year will be better. In the meantime, we'll just enjoy whatever paddling we do.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
That's why it was so nice yesterday when the wind and rain stopped. I took the little Dragonfly inflatable down to Cadboro Bay beach and paddled out to Flower Island. The clouds blew away from time to time, and the sunlight had at moments that amazing clarity it gets. On little Stein Island there were a dozen colours of lichen and microbes staining the waterline... so many colours that one day we'll have to get knitting designer Kaffe Fassett out here in a kayak.
That idea may make sense only to Louise and Alison, who have also read his books Glorious Colour and Glorious Knitting. Fassett has designed many sweaters using plain knitting and purling in two-colour rows, and the resulting sweaters often have a dozen or more shades. He has been known to pick colours based on the peeling paint on a wall, or the lichen on a wall, as well as Muslim tile murals. That's why Alison and Louise and I would like to see what designs he'd make after seeing the colours on the trees and rocks and water in several of the places where we go kayaking.
You can see some of Fassett's fabric and needlepoint designs at his website. You can get some idea of how yesterday's sunlight on rain-wet trees and stone took my breath away if you look back through the Kayak Yak website at some of the photos taken of our trips along the Cadboro Bay shoreline. I didn't take a camera along. Just being there was enough, surfing a few waves at Stein Island, and realizing once again that this place, this whole grand assortment of islands, is so fine and beautiful.
The waves broke over and into my boat as I launched and landed. No problem. My boat wasn't like the yacht that washed up onshore during the storm that lasted all night. Good luck to that boat's owner!
Monday, November 09, 2009
This is the second foot to be identified, out of seven. It's good to know that the investigations are ongoing into the discoveries of these feet, and that there are some results.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
It's totally insane! There's a high quality clip here, and a lower-quality embedded video below:
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Apparently, craigslist has a "best of" section where they archive old but well-written listings, and this terrific listing invites us to Buy My Stupid Cousin's Awesome Kayak!
BUY MY STUPID COUSIN'S AWESOME KAYAK
My cousin is a grown up child man with all the best toys and here's your chance to own one of them!
Whilst between jobs - though both the one before and the one to come were both long out of sight - he needed a place to stay so he lived with me for a while. He paid rent for a while too, though one while was a lot shorter than the other while. He moved out to live with some buddies and left a bunch of his junk here. Sometimes he comes back to pick something up but somehow it always seems to coincide with needing to borrow money, though he doesn't seem to need to borrow it to pay me any rent.
One of the things he left - one of the largest things he left - is a kayak. A red kayak. It looks an awful lot like this, except it's red:
I asked him to tell me about it and this is what he typed:
KAYAK FOR SALE
PRIJON LUV 8'
River running playboat
excellent for surfing ocean waves
Frankly, I was underwhelmed by his effort, but somehow, not terribly surprised. On top of that, the name sounds dangerously close to "prison love" but that's not really a selling point, so forget I said that.
I did my own research, being a citizen of the Information Age, and discovered that according to the World Wide Web, the specs are as follows:
length width vol. weight
8 ft 1 25.50 in 52.00 gal 33.00 lbs
The most important part is this though:
Main use: playboat
Dude, how could you not buy your own watercraft whose main use is "playboat"? I don't have any idea what that means, but just reading it feels kinda bitchin! In point of fact, here's what the manufacturer would have you believe:
This Liquid-Utility-Vehicle is the ultimate in whitewater performance, maximum comfort and rad lines. This lightweight play hound has great stability on the flats and awesome control in the vertical world. Custom tailored features like the chine groove, planning hull width and bow & stern keels for play hogs like you. Engage the low volume ends for hesitation-free wheels and spark up the flat bottom for spin-mania. Bow and stern keel lines provide great tracking when moving from one play spot to the next. Superior comfort and an ergonomic fit for medium to large sized paddlers with large. It comes with super groovy, custom foam outfitting. Of course the LUV is made with HTP, which spins faster, rock wheels without grindage and reacts at your command. Stiff, durable, it rules.
Awesome control in the vertical world? Spin-mania? Rock wheels without grindage?? How can you pass this up??? I don't actually know if this one comes with the hesitation-free wheels because I don't see any wheels. Come to think of it, I've never seen a kayak with wheels, but if you get the right wheels for it, they will apparently be hesitation-free and how hard would that rock, dude? I'm a little frightened to know what the "large sized paddlers with large" are going to do with this boat, so I'm not gonna ask. What happens in the Prijon stays in the Prijon, as far as I'm concerned. Any which way, shoot the rapids, sit in it in the middle of your living room floor, or just drive around with it on the roof of your Volkswagen to make people think you're cool but get on over here and buy this dumb thing for three hundred bucks. It's totally awesome!
I sure hope he got the full $300! :)
Monday, November 02, 2009
Eagle Eatery at Goldstream
The Goldstream estuary has become a favourite winter dining spot for Bald Eagles. They flock to these feeding grounds to feast on the high-protein Chum Salmon carcasses - all that remains of the salmon run. Have a look at the graph; notice the recent rise in Bald Eagle numbers? This is because the estuary is now closed to public access. A little bit of history...
In the winter of 1990-1991, a quiet zone was created on the lower stretch of the Goldstream River. This Quiet Zone resulted in increasing numbers of Bald Eagles. Four years later, in the fall of 1994, a Black Bear entered the estuary to feed on the salmon. Rather than removing the Black Bear, the estuary was closed off to the public for the duration of the salmon run.
The absence of people in the area also provided eagles with a place to feed; free from human interruption. Since closing off the estuary, the number of eagles feeding on the salmon carcasses has risen from a yearly high of 12 to one of 276. More recently, the estuary has been closed all year round, a conservation strategy which has encouraged a pair of eagles to nest here as well. Even a single hiker or kayaker can cause the eagles to fly to safety and miss one of their daily meals.
Please help us ensure that eagles continue to return to Goldstream by respecting the signs around the estuary. It is possible to get a better look at the eagles through the video camera or spotting scope. Please ask one of the staff to operate the video camera.
I dunno about other paddlers, but I find this news motivates me to accept not being able to take my kayak into the estuary. There are plenty of beaches and inlets and lakes and shores for me to explore... if this place is one I have to look at from the Nature Centre through a scope, I am very willing to give the eagles and salmon the room they need!
We skipped kayaking yesterday and instead we drove just out of town to Goldstream Provincial Park to watch the final act in one of nature's most amazing migrations.
These are Chum salmon in the last few days of their short six or seven year lives heading upstream to spawn, and then die. While some salmon swim upstream upwards of 3200 km as in the Yukon River, these fish only have to swim a few kilometers from the river's mouth on Saanich Inlet (where we've kayaked a few times) up the river to their spawning grounds.
In places the river was so thick with salmon you could almost imagine being able to walk across on their backs. About 30,000 chum made into the river last year and their numbers are slowly increasing, although other species are in decline. One species had only 3 salmon make into the river last year.
The run has just started, so there aren't too many dead fish around yet and the birds and other wildlife haven't started their feast.
No, this is not a rainbow trout. At the Goldstream Park Nature House, this salmon was being used to make fish prints. Paint the fish, wrap it in paper, and violà -- instant art!
We ended our visit with a short hike to Little Niagara Falls.