Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Polar Bear Swim Moved to Thetis Lake!

If you're planning to indulge in the chilly New Year's Day ritual tomorrow of the Annual Polar Bear Swim, be warned. Though it's not as cold this year as it has been in the past, Elk and Beaver Lake has a toxic blue-green algae bloom. The cyanobacteria can give swimmers skin rashes and irritated eyes, while swallowing water with this algae can cause symptoms like the 'flu. There's plenty you can find on-line about algae blooms, like this page from the Alberta government. Understandably, this year the Polar Bear Swim will take place at Thetis Lake instead on January 1. It's been written about in the local newspaper.

This photo appeared on the website Victoria Pet Adoption Society
For anyone thinking that winter weather = a little privacy on the busy lake that is called Elk Lake on its northern parts and Beaver Lake on its southern parts, well, not this winter. The algae bloom won't harm boats or kayaks, but it can still get on a paddler's feet and hands when launching.

Until a couple of windstorms have stirred the lake and broken up the algae bloom, it's best to keep off this lake. And keep dogs out of the water! It's best to learn how to live around algae blooms, because there might be more algae blooms than expected in the future due to global warming.
And a Happy New Year to all...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

DIY Pickle Barrel Boat

Okay, so I like making boats. So Bernie's made boats. But we're not the oddest boat makers around. Here's the work of the guy who I nominate for the oddest boat maker award: the do-it-yourself Pickle Barrel Boat.



Note that the fella has carefully donned his life jacket before launching! He's also willing to wear sun protection. This is one safe boater, even in a home-made assemblage that doesn't quite float at the surface. May all experimental boaters take at least as much care testing their creations!

I admit freely that when I come across various plastic containers the thought does cross my mind "How well would this float? Could I make some kind of boat or raft out of this?" But that thought never came to mind when looking at pickle barrels.
Check out the video of his upgrade with the tiny trolling motor attached...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Origami Boats

Sometimes I'd like an origami boat.
I'd like to make my own little paper toy folded out of paper, and float it with all my thoughts and wishes going out to my late father, whose ashes were scattered at sea. Maybe I'll look through this origami website or a YouTube video and find something to make.

I'd like to make my own origami real kayak, a little rec kayak, and ride it on a calm day in a quiet place like Spectacle Lake. I had a little simple one that flattened out into an 8-foot-long shape which could fit into many kinds of passenger van. It didn't make the triage when we moved away from the Beach House. I'll make a better one instead!
I'd like to try the Oru Kayak, which seems to be an interesting form of kayak origami. It's also a useful design for commando kayaking or transporting kayaks by bike and bus and on foot. Sure wish someone would bring one to a local Paddlefest so I could try it.
For origami fans, there are other scientific discoveries about this art of folding. One recent invention is a sheet of plastic that can fold itself into two different forms -- check out this article from Scientific American magazine! Another article in Scientific American notes that other kinds of plastic origami might be useful for shaping cells into tiny containers for future medical uses. Plastic that folds itself when an electric current runs through it? Sounds like an idea for a self-folding kayak: plug it in or turn on the battery, and bip-bend-bop the slim flat box unfolds itself and refolds itself into a kayak.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Making Good News Happen

There are lots of ways we can make good news happen, for ourselves and for our communities (including the natural world). One of the ways is by going out into the natural world as simply as possible: on foot, in our little boats, on bicycles. And yes, take the bus or even a car to get somewhere if you have to -- but carpool and do another errand, eh? -- then walk or paddle under the wide sky. That's personal good news, right there.

Another way is by being observant of the natural world, and putting those observations to use. Now that it's winter, cold clear water makes it easier for sea kayakers to spot sea stars and other marine invertebrates along the shore. Anyone along Canada's west coast who sees starfish that are apparently suffering from wasting syndrome should report their sightings to the Vancouver aquarium -- and post your photos at that link. Their website shows that reports have been posted from Cadboro Point. As the blog the Marine Detective notes on this topic, it's not enough just to feel sad -- let's make our observations into data points for researchers.

And a third way to make good news happen is to join community events. These can be simple or elaborate events, from the Carol Sing that just happened in Cadboro Bay Village to the Groundswell community conference in Powell River in January 2014. If there isn't an event set up in your community, fer cryin' out loud, set one up! If nothing needs fixing locally, just have a block party.

Sharing in a community is always good news (especially now that I've had a 'flu shot and won't be sharing that unhappy germ). It's sharing in the kayaking community that has helped our kayak group know of interesting local places to paddle, and reasonable equipment to use. And if there isn't any good news to share, I resolve to make some good news happen.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Snow Kayaking

Mix snow and kayaks and what do you get?
For me, an evening wasted surfing the 'net. For you, a bunch of snow kayaking embedded below for your enjoyment!




Monday, December 23, 2013

The Camera I - Christmas at The Ledge

Last Christmas Eve, Louise and I spent a little time taking pictures around the BC Legislature buildings on Victoria's Inner Harbour. Known locally as The Ledge, the Baroque-styled building's construction was completed in 1898 and designed by local architect Francis Rattenbury, who designed many of the buildings and structures in the downtown area. His career suffered a major setback in 1935 when he was murdered by his second wife's lover. But I digress.
The Ledge is normally lit up at night by the white lights, but for the holiday season, more traditional colours are added to the display.
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The tree in front has lights hung on it, and the fountain is lit by red and green spotlights.
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The Ledge also has one little known ability...it can jump into hyperspace!
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Santa News from Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue!

Check out the news from Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue -- it seems that Santa needed some help to save Christmas!

Click here for the link to their Facebook page with the full story... and three photos!

Happy Solstice -- and all the holidays to come.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Brooks Point Regional Park success!

Good news for those who like to paddle and hike in the Gulf Islands! Brooks Point Regional Park on South Pender Island has expanded its borders and now is contiguous between Brooks Point and Gowlland Point. The fund-raising has been successful to buy small parcels of land to complete the park. This project is a joint effort by several groups, including Habitat Acquisition Trust, the Capital Regional District and the Pender Island Conservancy Association.

Read the good news here at the Times-Colonist, and start planning your own Gulf Islands paddling days! There are more articles about this fund-raiser and other Island Conservation stories at Islands Trust Fund's website.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kayak on a Skateboard

I stumbled upon this cartoon today....
....which got me to thinking. Has anyone ever attached a kayak to a skateboard for real?
Naturally, I turned to The Fount Of All Knowledge, or Google, to find the answer. However, I hit a roadblock. It turns out that there's a skateboard riding hedgehog out there with the name of, you guessed it, Kayak, and you can just imagine how many hits that turns up when you enter "skateboard kayak" into a search engine. Check out the video below:

Okay, so he ain't Tony Hawk.
But a little more Internet sleuthing turned up this video, demonstrating that real life is never as exciting as a comic strip.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fishing Columnist Speaks Out About Cohen Commission

*Ftweet!*
Oi, paddlers along BC's coast! Check out D.C. Reid's column On Fishing in today's Times-Colonist, published today. He's titled it "Make your voice heard in the fight to save B.C. salmon."

Y'see, it's time to do more than just feel sad about how human activities are affecting the salmon runs in BC rivers. Standing up at demonstrations does let us count the number of people who are concerned, but it's only one small step. Keeping our kayaks out of streams when salmon are spawning is a personal action that we take. Now D.C. Reid has outlined two simple ways to make our concerns known to our elected officials who can take effective action.

The first is to contact Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans at min@dfo.mpo.ca , and ask for her response to the Cohen Report. Her department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has not yet responded to the Cohen Report or its 75 recommendations made in October 2012. It's been 15 months, and a response is needed!
The second is to get a pdf from the Auditor General for Canada showing how to make a request through its environmental petition process. Then send your request to its director Roger B. Hillier at roger.hillier@oag-bvg.gc.ca . Perhaps you too would like to know the DFO's plans and funding for resolving the 75 recommendations of the Cohen Report.

If there are enough requests of this kind, the Auditor General can launch an audit into this issue. I attended local hearings in 2011 of the Cohen Commission on the salmon fisheries. The Cohen Report has had no official response at all.

If you've never contacted a government office before, don't hesitate. These offices exist to serve us as citizens and answer these kinds of questions. Write a polite, brief note.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Seals!

It's always a special thing to see seals when I'm out in a kayak. So many sea animals are small, like the crabs and mussels and sea stars that are pretty common around here. One day we even saw a sea cucumber in the Chain Islands. The bigger animals can be problematic -- a whale up close needs plenty of room, and a sea lion is not to be approached! But harbour seals are different.

For one thing, harbour seals are about the size of a nice big dog... well, the females are. The males can get up to the size of a human. For another thing, harbour seals come up near our kayaks and look around to see what's happening. John has dozens of photos of seals checking us out. And for a third thing, harbour seals are pretty calm about the whole "humans nearby in a boat" thing.

Seal image from http://i.imgur.com/8rDeuAI.jpg I like how it's smiling!

Unless it's June when the mother seals are protecting their pups, a harbour seal will look over from a rock where it is basking in the sun and you can just see that it's thinking: "Human. In a kayak. Wannabe. You just wanna be like me, goofing around in the water and rocks. Hah. Poor things with those wiggly arms and all. No wonder you made nice sleek boats so you can glide around like me. Hah."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stand-Up Kayaking

Forget stand-up paddling...how about stand-up kayaking? Need a quick lesson? Check out the embedded video with Leon Sommé from Boat Body Blade and maybe soon you, too, will stand out from the kayaking crowd.

My West Coast Fantasy Novel!

Good News! The publisher of my fantasy novel, Tower in the Crooked Wood, is making the e-book version (and all their other titles) available at a discount! For $1.49, get an e-book copy of Tower for a Christmas present, and support this Canadian publisher. Heck, at that price, get everyone on your list a copy of my novel, or one of Bundoran Press Publishing House's terrific backlist titles.


There isn't any actual kayaking in my novel -- but there are canoes and small boats! And there is the vivid depiction of life on a coastal island, which puts this novel firmly in the genre of "West Coast Fantasy" or (as they call it in the English Department at UVic) "Literature of the West Coast."

Virtual Kayaking

Wah! It's been two weeks since I last went kayaking. (Hello. My name is Paula, and I am a kayaker. It's been two weeks since I last went kayaking...)
All my kayaks are currently parked elsewhere from where I am sleeping. This arrangement will have to be improved. The little inflatable, at least, will have to be picked up from Marlena's place and taken out for a quick paddle around a little bay, and then stuffed into my mother's storage room in the basement of her condo building. It's no longer enough to admire my life jacket and remember.
The other kayaks will have to be visited and petted and wiped down and covered... maybe a quick roll down to the Gorge is in the near future. Meanwhile, I look out the window wistfully whenever the bus is crossing a bridge or following the shoreline.
And I get virtual kayak thrills online. Today I read Baffin Paddler's post on turtles, about the kayaking day where Peggy described watching a nest of baby snapping turtles hatch, before paddling Big Moose Lake. Turtles! Kayaks! What a day.

This photo is from the Advanced Elements website!
The other big thrill was learning that my favourite inflatable kayak makers, Advanced Elements, have a brand-new model being released in the new year. Their Packlite is an ultralight inflatable suited for backpacking and recreational paddling. It weighs in at an unbelievable 4 pounds (under 2 kilograms) and fits into its own deckbag. Want want want! Stay tuned for more info on this smallest of kayaks.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Once Seen, It Can't Be Unseen!

Finally, after years of painstaking research, the crack team of Internet sleuths here at Kayak Yak have finally discovered an Internet meme that combines cats and kayaks.
Oh, please. There's no need to thank us.





UPDATE:
This just in -- we've found a second meme involving kayaks and cats. Now you can double your feline fun!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Panama Flat Skating Where We Paddled

At Panama Flats, there's Colquitz Creek running through a seasonally-flooding field, where some of us have paddled our kayaks. Karl and Stephanie have paddled there most often, and taken photos to boot. You can read some of our posts about Panama Flats here.
Today the cold snap has frozen the flooded field to a point where the ice is very nearly thick enough for Karl (a big man) to walk on. By late afternoon, some smaller people were carefully skating near shore.

Karl posted a video of his ice exploration today on YouTube and Facebook.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Book Review -- The Salmon Recipes

This week, I've been reading the best cookbook to come my way in years: The Salmon Recipes. This is a recipe book for anyone wanting to get a West Coast taste into their meals. More than just a list of recipes, this book has short notes from the contributors on their experiences living on the north coast of British Columbia, as well as their memories.

As it says on the back cover: "In this book the people of the north coast reach out in celebration of our rich culture of food in a bountiful region that has supported the gathering and sharing of sea resources since the beginning of time."

The recipes include many ways to prepare salmon as well as other kinds of seafood. But that's only one part of this book's appeal. Taken in series, the paragraphs and stories on pages facing the recipes are a heartfelt invitation to understand more about the lives of people living on the coast. The many colourful and informal photographs alone are worth the cover price!

Many of the stories involve beachcombing or going out in small boats. I particularly liked the story "One of his eight arms" by Luanne Roth:
Once in our prawn trap there was a small octopus holding a prawn. He was a bit scared and disoriented, but the whole time we had him out of the water, tipping the trap to have a better look as he pulled himself around, he kept one of his eight arms outstretched with the end carefully holding his prawn.

The Salmon Recipes: Stories of Our Endangered North Coast Cuisine
by the Prince Rupert Environmental Society
New Society Publishers

www.saveourskeenasalmon.org.
Check here on Facebook for news about their book launch and possibly more news in future.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Pirate!

Turns out pirates aren't just in the past, or desperate Somalis. There's a news report from Seattle about a man who appears to have stolen one of the Victoria Clippers. These high-speed ships shuttle people between Seattle and Victoria.
The incident seems to have ended with no boats sunk or people lost at sea. But there's a point to advise any would-be pirates on the Salish Sea: Just because a vessel has a joystick control does NOT mean that you can expect to use your Xbox expertise successfully!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

A hard truth about kayaking

This enthusiastic kayaker has re-learned a hard truth about kayaking. It's a lot easier to keep up the average number of times on the water per week when one lives a short walk from the launch point!
I was able to enjoy between two and three paddle outings a week for over five years while living at the Beach House, right next to Cadboro Bay's Gyro Park. But now that the landlady is selling the house, Bernie and I have emptied out our room and kitchen supplies. Kayaks and gear alone took two trips. With most of the kayaks and gear at one friend's house, and the rest in another friend's basement, I am suffering kayak withdrawal in our temporary digs.
But I am applying what I have learned about kayak location and its relationship to kayaking frequency. The kayaks are located a short walk from one of our popular launches. This could lead to using that launch site this winter, so here's hoping. The rest of the gear includes my little inflatable, which I miss most of all. So one day soon, when we've recovered from move-itis (symptoms, sore arms, dusty clothes, and severe lassitude about making more clothes accessible) I'll go hang out with that friend and bring the little kayak here on the bus.
Meanwhile, my former neighbour Mike Jackson just completed his 1000th km of the year. And he can roll like a champion. Shall wave at him again the next time I see him at the beach, but for now, I'm zen kayaking in memory.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Rescued Kayaker Says "Thank You!"

There's a follow-up to the news of the kayaker who was rescued on November 5. John posted a note here on Kayak Yak about this story. There's an article about the rescue here at the Times-Colonist newspaper. It's always good to hear more about an incident of this kind, so we paddlers can understand what happened. What went wrong? What went right?
Here's a map showing Cattle Point where the kayaker launched.
Jim Cliffe is alive and well today for several reasons, two of which were Leaving A Float Plan With Ground Crew, and the Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society coming to his rescue. Once he was ashore, he was taken to hospital and treated for hypothermia. (Being cold isn't just uncomfortable -- it leads to being unable to move or think well, and that's even more dangerous when on the water!) Let's give a big cheer for emergency services people and for hospitals!
It's a big thing, being able to depend on other people to save our lives. But we paddlers have to depend on ourselves first and foremost. When Jim Cliffe put on his clothes for immersion, he made it possible to stay alive for about three hours in the water until he was overdue and his ground crew sent the OBSR people to find him.
We know Jim Cliffe's name now, because this rescued kayaker has come out of anonymity and publicly thanked his rescuers in a letter to the editor that was published in the Times-Colonist newspaper. It's worth taking the time to read his letter, so here's a link.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shark Kissing

Here's what not to do when you've hooked a shark while kayak fishing. Fortunately, all seems to end well, but it was close! Check out the video below:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Zero to Paddling in 12 Seconds

Can you go from standing on a dock to being in your kayak and paddling in 12 seconds? Yes, you can, if you can master the launch technique displayed by Leon Sommé of Boat Body Blade in the embedded video below. Dubbed the Speed Launch, it will get you on the water quickly and is also a good opportunity to practice your scramble re-entry.
It goes without saying that men should be extra careful when practicing this maneuver.

Who's that chit-chattering behind the Nature House?

The latest time I went to the Nature House at Elk/Beaver Lake this fall, I expected to use my science talents, but I never expected to meet a new neighbour. A small neighbour, and new to me but a long-time resident of the area.

First sign of the little neighbour was a loud, repeated "CHIK!" sound from outside and behind the Nature House. I put down my gear -- a folding inflatable kayak in its bag, and a small drybag holding my wallet and spare dry shirt -- and walked round to the back of the Nature House. Up in a poplar tree was a small animal running from branch to branch, occasionally pausing to declare "CHIK!" in indignant tones.
Eventually I saw glimpses of it through the branches. It wasn't a bird as I'd thought; it was a furry four-footed animal. It wasn't a squirrel, either a red squirrel or a grey squirrel. Squirrels have long bushy tails. It wasn't a rat, either -- this animal's tail was shorter and furry, not long and bald. This little animal had a neat small head, and its furry coat was dark on the back with a white underside. I watched it scurry high in the branches, scolding another animal that was unseen; perhaps it was scolding a crow or raven.
Then I went into the Nature House, curious to figure out what I had seen. It was time for a little simple science research. But with no computer access to the internet, it was time to hit the books.
This photo is from ZooChat.com - check out their website!
First book I found on the Nature House shelves was Mammals of British Columbia. It's a great resource, with photos as well as descriptions of the animals and their habitats. The second book I opened was Carnivores of British Columbia. I had an idea what kind of animal this might be.
The sound this animal made reminded me of the sound I'd heard a baby river otter making on a seashore one day, and otters are carnivores. I wondered what kind of animals are related to otters, and are found in trees? Was this animal a pine marten, or maybe a fisher? It wasn't anywhere near big enough for either.
The little animal turned out to be the smallest member of the mustelidae family: a least weasel.
How wonderful it was to see this neat, bright little animal in the photos, and match it to the little fellow scrambling quickly through the trees. Small books like the ones in the Nature House or the public library are so useful for understanding more about our animal neighbours. I'm so glad that when I heard the sound of the weasel in the tree, I didn't just assume it was one more crow among many.
Later at home, I was able to find all sorts of interesting websites that can help us figure out what animals we're seeing in the woods, or traces that animals leave behind. One of them is the Canadian Museum of Nature website, which has lots of resources for learning a little or a lot. And it's bilingual!
The University of British Columbia has posted a list of animals. Canadian Geographic magazine has a website listing animal fact sheets for free download in English or French. And the Ministry of the Environment has an Identification Manual to the Small Mammals of British Columbia, with a link so that you can download and print it if you like. This manual is really detailed, right down to five drawings detailing key differences among chipmunk genital bones. That's a little more detail than I needed to identify my neighbour, the least weasel.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Coastal interests shown on websites

Y'know, I really love being part of Kayak Yak. It's not only the kayaking, which is terrific. It's not only the people, who are great. It's not even the after-paddling snacks like hot chocolate at Olive Olio's (mmmm) or the 2for1 Pizza in Mill Bay (yum!). It's being part of one of many websites reflecting the interests of people who live on and near the water.

Just found a new website called Northwest Coast Energy News, done by Robin Rowland in Kitimat. If you're wanting to know more about how the proposed new pipelines and tankers could affect the west coast -- both people and shoreline resources -- check this site out. It's hard to kayak through an oil slick, eh?


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blue Drinks - Canadian Water Network event

Do you work on the water? (Lucky you, except during winter storms!) Do you have life experiences, challenges, or do research on the water? (Hey... I'm a kayaker. I have life experiences and challenges on the water! I even do research for my writing there.) Got some good news, then...
There's a regular series of meetings going on at the University of Victoria's Halpern Centre for graduate students, also known as Grad House with a great little restaurant. This building is at the corner of Finnerty and Sinclair Road, at the new roundabout.
You don't have to be a graduate student to attend these Water Network events. You don't even have to be connected to UVic. Read about these meetings at this link, or below:

Blue Drinks is an informal opportunity to talk water-related work, life experience, research, challenges, fun-facts...
The next session is November 19 from 5:30 to 7:30 @ UVic Grad House
also on December 17, January 21 (3rd Tuesday every month) same time same place

For more information:

email: cbkusel@yahoo.ca
explore: http://www.cwn-rce.ca/young-professionals/networking-/blue-drinks/

Can some other local kayaker please attend? I'm a tutor for the Uni101 program on most Tuesdays at that time, or I'd be there!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kayak Across the Atlantic

In June of 2000, Pete Bray launched from St. John's. Newfoundland in an attempt to be the first person to kayak solo and unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean. Within a few hours, his kayak cabin was flooding, the cockpit was leaking, all his electronics including his communications gear was wrecked, and he was forced to take to his life raft, whose bottom was ripped and also leaking. And that's just the first eight pages of his book.
Fortunately, [SPOILER ALERT] Pete was quickly rescued and tried a second and [SPOILER ALERT] more successful attempt in 2001. His memoir of his crossing is a short but enjoyable read, describing the preparations for both attempts, as well as the lessons learned from the aborted first attempt. He tells the tale of his 76-day crossing in a breezy and relaxed fashion, from the solar-powered gear that had trouble recharging because the sun never shined, to the publicist who had a strange aversion to seeking publicity. His tome is light and slim, but if you enjoy expedition stories, this is worth checking out.

Demonstrations Saturday!

A reminder for all us paddlers -- make Saturday morning's time on the water really quick, because November 16 is a day of peaceful demonstrations across the country! It's time to assemble at public gatherings and state our interest in taking care of this beautiful country and its natural resources.


In Victoria, the local demonstration takes place at 1:00 pm at Clover Point, seen above in a stunning photo from a local photography company. (Check here to see where your local gathering takes place, or here to read about the history of Clover Point.) If there's no big demonstration planned for your community, that's your opportunity to be the small demonstration that does take place.

Speak out in favour of maintaining pipelines and cleaning up after the spills that are taking place. Speak out for no new pipelines and tankers because we humans are still not managing the existing ones responsibly. And most specifically, speak out to our elected representatives to make careful decisions that reflect our concerns for the environment, resource management, and climate change! Here's the open letter to Premier Christy Clark written by MLA Andrew Weaver, who is an oceanographer. Weaver's Facebook page can be found here. It didn't escape our notice that during two weeks while many Canadians found their attention absorbed by Senate controversies and Toronto's mayor, the premiers of British Columbia and Alberta discussed their pipeline plans.


Need to think more about pipelines and oil tankers? MLA Andrew Weaver writes about these matters as an ocean scientist. Meanwhile, check out these maps from the Wilderness Committee's website. Click on this link to find their website of pipeline route maps which you can see in an interactive format that lets you zoom in to see satellite images. These are our home waters, where we paddle. These are the waters we drink. These are the rivers we cross to go to work, or our camping places, or to see family.


If you need to know more about the Tar Sands development in Alberta, click here to read about the Beaver Lake Cree and how First Nations communities are being affected, or check out their page on Facebook. Where are you paddling next summer? How will that place be affected?


Let's all be good citizens, leading by our good example. I know one person who plans to hold a "teach-in" at her local demonstration. Two other friends are taking the bus to the demonstration so as not to fill up one of the few parking places. I'm bringing some trash bags to pick up litter on the shore at Clover Point.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where to report sea star illness

There's been a renewed call for kayakers in the Salish Sea to report any sightings of sea stars that are ill or decayed, as we reported in an earlier post. There's a website to contact with information that you can share -- the website for Vancouver Aquarium.
Click here to see a description of the problem facing sea stars, and photos of affected animals. Apparently the starfish that are being affected by Sea Star Wasting Syndrome include several species, and no longer only sunflower stars. I know that looking for starfish, healthy or otherwise, is going to be on my mind when I'm on the water.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sea Kayaker Magazine to Cease Publication

Just as the latest issue arrives in my mailbox, word is coming out that venerable Sea Kayaker Magazine will cease publication with its next issue early in the new year.
In a note posted on its website, the magazine announced "with great regret and sadness that the next issue of Sea Kayaker magazine will be our last. In the course of our many years of service to kayakers around the world, we've seen many changes in sea kayaking, the industry it supports, and the business of print and web media. For our first two decades the changes generally worked in our favor, but over this past decade, the tide slowly turned. Though the magazine and the website continue to draw nearly universal praise from our readers, we recently recognized that we've been paddling against an overwhelming current and it’s time to come ashore."
This is just me speculating, but reading between the lines I'm guessing that the magazine was facing two issues: the decline of physical publications as we transition to a digital environment, and the changes in kayaker demographics.
Always an enjoyable read, particularly the always interesting and sometimes controversial safety segment which presented true life kayaking accidents and analysis, the magazine will be sorely missed by many.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ben was in town, or Elvis Has Left The Building

Ben on the Rosedale footbridge over the Red Deer River
Ben was in town this fall for a couple of weeks. It's a bit like having Elvis on tour, if Elvis ever walked 5km just to loosen up or climbs Mount Tolmie to unwind in the evenings. And if Elvis had a beard or went kayaking. This is the third (or more?) time that Ben has made his way out from Edmonton via unconventional means, from bicycling to hitch-hiking to walking.

All photos are from Ben's trip blog
Yep, walking. This summer, Ben rode shank's mare a substantial portion of the way, including an off-highway ramble between Revelstoke and Golden. He's seen so many rivers, lakes and tarns up high in the Rockies that sometimes it surprises him to see running water that's not cloudy with glacial silt.

Ben has promised to write us some posts for Kayak Yak about his times on the water in a variety of jury-rigged boats. He's also become a fan of the many ferries in BC, including this free car ferry on Kootenay Lake!

While he was here, Ben pulled on a wetsuit and borrowed one of my inflatable kayaks, the Expedition that I took down the Red Deer River last summer. (Yes, I'm still talking about that trip. When you paddle down a river solo, even a class 1 river, you get to talk about your trip too. And of course I'm still talking about the kayak cuz it's an incredible and portable boat!) I got into the littler inflatable and we went along the shoreline, around Flower Island and back. Shall have to write more about that day and the mink & otters we saw... And now he's back on the road again. Elvis has left the building.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 3

Film-maker and podcaster Simon Willis and kayaking coach Gordon Brown round out their trilogy of kayaking coaching films with their latest offering, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 3. This third chapter differs from the previous two which consisted of an expedition film intertwined with coaching segments. This third volume does away with the expedition segment, and instead presents three films and and a rolling coaching segment.
The first film is on Emergency Situations, and presents two scenarios where emergency personnel have to be called to perform a rescue. Much of this film is presented from the point of view of rescue personnel and I've never seen anything quite like this in a kayaking video. This is a terrific segment, with lots of important tips and information presented. This segment alone is worth the price of admission. For those of us who have been lucky enough to not have needed rescue, it was certainly eye-opening to hear the thoughts of rescue personnel, many of them also kayakers, of what kayakers can do to assist rescuers in emergency situations. Equally informative was a short scene near the end when the rescue personnel displayed their own emergency kayaking kits.
A shorter but related film has a member of the Wilderness Emergency Medical Services Institute display the first aid gear he carries, as well as a couple of demonstrations of first aid situations. Some of the gear displayed is intended only for trained personnel, and a DVD is not going to replace actual first aid certification, but it is interesting to see what gear other people carry and the techniques they use. I'm certainly going to add some electrical tape to our first aid kit after watching this.
In the third film Gordon is joined by Franco Ferrero for a segment on navigation. A DVD is not going to replace a proper sea kayak navigation course, but the information regarding navigation concepts and tides are well-presented here.
Finally, the rolling segment is structured very differently. After a few exercises and roll demonstrations, the premise behind this segment is that the viewer will practice rolling with a spotter, as well as someone with a video-camera who will record the practice session. The viewer will then compare his own videos to the videos on the the DVD, using the troubleshooting section to identify mistakes, and then try to incorporate the fixes suggested. For instance, your roll might be failing, but why? Comparing your video to the common mistakes illustrated on the DVD, you may discover that your paddle is not at the correct angle and is diving down into the water instead of the staying at the service. You move to the fixes section and some tips are provided for you to try on keeping your paddle at surface level. At the risk of repeating myself, no DVD will ever replace having a certified instructor coaching you live and in the flesh, but the approach taken here is unique. Is it effective? We have yet to try it as designed by filming ourselves, but it seems like it should be a benefit to troubleshooting your roll (or lack of it).
This is another winning DVD from Gordon and Simon and, taken as a set, the three Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVDs are as comprehensive a set of kayaking video tutorials as you are ever likely to find.

Here's a behind the scenes interview with Simon and Gordon.



Friday, November 08, 2013

Paddlers and Pipelines

Even before I paddled over pipelines on my way down the Red Deer river last summer, the idea of how frequently pipelines leak fossil fuels worried me. The thought of new pipelines being built is upsetting because the existing pipelines aren't being well maintained or repaired. And as for the tankers that would carry away fossil fuels from the end of the pipeline to deliver to China -- well, we've written on Kayak Yak before about tankers.

Kayakers and other small boat users have responsibilities to make careful use of water resources, and also to ensure that these resources are protected. It's important to give our opinions to our government officials and agencies. The opportunity is coming up on November 16 for many paddlers and our friends across Canada to stand together peacefully as citizens and make our opinions known. In Victoria, we'll be gathering on Clover Point at 1:00 pm -- check here to see where the demonstrations are planned for your community!

For getting to the local demonstration on Clover Point, parking is limited, so be prepared to arrive by bike or bus (BC Transit route #3) or carpool and walk a few blocks.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kayaker Saves Owl

We've had pictures of lots of different animals on kayaks here on the blog, but we've never seen one like this before.
Pentti Taskinen, kayaking on Lake Tuusula in Finland, discovered a water-logged owl in trouble. "At first I thought it was an otter," Taskinen said. "But then I paddled closer and lo and behold, found the owl in the middle of the lake, around 500m from shore."
How the owl ended up in the middle of the lake is a mystery, and it probably would have died had not Taskinen happened along.
He transported the owl back to shore, and after it dried off it was able to fly away.

And This Is Why We Practice...

In light of the recent incident here where a kayaker was rescued after five hours in the water because he couldn't re-enter his kayak, today I re-stumbled onto this video (embedded below). Both the incident, and the video are a good reminder of why we need to practice.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Dolphins as Far as the Eye Can See -- Update

That dolphin superpod we told you about last week was sighted again, this time in Haro Strait somewhere between Pender Island and Sidney. Here's another amazing video to check out showing the superpod of an estimated 1,000 dolphins stretching more than one kilometre across. Amazing planet we live on, eh?

Kayaker Rescued off Discovery Island - Update

More details are emerging from Monday's incident involving the rescue of a kayaker off Discovery Island (as we previously report here.) The 56 year-old local man (who ironically teaches marine safety with the local Power Squadron) rented a sit-on-top kayak from Ocean River Sports, and launched from Cattle Point planning to kayak around Discovery Island. According to the Victoria Times-Colonist:
“I was timing it so the incoming current would carry me back up to Cattle Point. I miscalculated the level of turbulence and tidal eddies that come around that corner.”
At about 3:30 p.m., he was trying to paddle through rough water when a wave tossed him into the sea. He had a good life jacket on and was wearing clothing made of wet-suit material.
He tried to get back into the kayak. But, “it was like trying to climb onto a cork. It flipped over on top of me two or three times.”
He was within a few hundred metres of Discovery Island and tried for a while to push the kayak toward shore. “I kept running into kelp beds. I tied myself off to the boat so I wouldn’t get separated from it. I found I could get a leg and an arm onto the kayak.”
The light faded and he got concerned.
“I knew it was a life-threatening situation and I knew all the possibilities. I teach with the Power Squadron and that’s one of the things we always stress — safety and what happens if you go in the water.”
Fortunately, he had filed a float plan with both his wife and Ocean River. Authorites were alerted when he did not return and he was found tied to his kayak and pulled from the water about five hours later. He remains in hospital recovering from mild hypothermia, and is expected to fully recover.
I sure wouldn't want to take a sit-on-top around Discovery Island, but the kayaker in question has had pervious experience in this type of boat. He did have a cell phone and a VHS radio, but both were lost or rendered inoperative when he overturned. But he was wearing some sort of immersion gear, and that probably saved his life. That, and his float plan.
As a spokesman for Oak Bay Marine Search and Rescue said, “It’s a reminder that what looks like a short, easy paddle can go very wrong, and it’s important to have some means of signalling distress if you get into trouble.”

Right Whale Sighted!

Astonishing news! Not only has there been a group of over 1000 dolphins sighted from a BC Ferry (and reported by John here on Kayak Yak), but this weekend there have been sightings of a Right Whale reported in local media at Juan de Fuca Strait!
This whale is the second Right Whale spotted in the last four months. Dare we hope that there could be more sightings in the future?

No Right Whales have been seen near Vancouver Island since 1951... and the last one was killed by whalers. There are few of this species of whale left, with perhaps only 30 individuals living in the North Pacific Ocean. You can click on this link to read more about Right Whales.

Just a quick reminder for all small boat users who are lucky enough to see a whale: Give Whales Plenty Of Room! The Department of Fisheries and Oceans rule is to leave at least 100 metres of space between the whale and your boat, and at least 200 metres of space in the direction the whale is travelling. This rule covers all marine mammals, for their protection and yours, even in the far north where hunting is carefully regulated! If a whale appears close to you suddenly, knock on your boat and be careful to get out of the way of the whale. People are being fined for harrassing wildlife, particularly whales.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Kayaker Rescued off Discovery Island

Details are few, but local media is reporting that a kayaker was rescued from the waters south of Discovery Island yesterday. He tied himself to the kayak, and was in the water about three hours before he was rescued. The search was initiated when he was reported overdue. My guess from the sketchy reports is that the man overturned and couldn't get back into his kayak.
We've paddled this area many times and it's a gorgeous destination just off of Cadboro Bay. But if you catch it at the wrong time and in the wrong conditons, you'll have your hands full. A canoeist drowned in the same area last year. With such little information available, I wouldn't want to speculate on what the kayaker may have or may not have done wrong, but I will note at least one thing he did right -- someone on shore knew what his float plan was, and knew when he was overdue and alerted authorities. And here's a shout out to the Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society for a job well done!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Dolphins as Far as the Eye Can See

Passengers on a BC Ferry from the Gulf Islands to Tsawwassen were treated to an amazing sight earlier this week. A pod of 1,000 white-sided dolphins swam along the side the ferry, a video of which was captured by a passenger.
As reported by Global News:
Lance Barrett-Lennard, head of whale and dolphin research at the Vancouver Aquarium, says they were aware of this enormous pod for two days due to their B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, which is a volunteer program that helps track dolphins, whales and turtles. From aerial video footage, Barrett-Lennard was able to determine it’s the Pacific White-sided dolphin in the super-sized pod.
The species, he says, is known to be gregarious and travel in pods of 50 to 200 and sometimes can grow to numbers nearing 2,000 but what makes this “a rare and unique occurrence” is where they were roaming.
“Normally you’d see pods this size on the outside of Vancouver Island, where they’ve been swimming off shore,” Barrett-Lennard says. “Even though there’s been more recent showings of dolphins in the Strait of Georgia, it’s very rare to get such a large number in Howe Sound.”
Pods of dolphins of this size have never been seen in this area before.

Check out the video below:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Death at SeaWorld

Is there a benefit to keeping orcas in captivity? From a very narrow point of view, there probably is, as thousands of people can see these magnificent creatures who probably would never get the chance to. But what they are seeing is not typical orca behaviour in the wild; there are seeing glorified circus animals doing tricks and stunts far removed from their normal behaviours. And though the risk to trainers is now abundantly obvious, what of the risk to the physical, and perhaps more important, the mental health of the whales? Can intelligent, social and vocal animals with huge natural ranges be housed in what are essentially giant bathtubs, either in isolation or with unfamilliar orcas from different lineages with whom they can't communicate, without going a little nuts?
As a child growing up here in Victoria, one of the most popular tourist attractions in city was Sealand of the Pacific. And perhaps the Sealand experience is a microcosm of the story of orcas in capitivity. Nowhere is that question of captivity more relevant than in the history of Sealand, and in the deaths of Miracle, and Keltie Byrne.
Miracle was a young juvenile orca found alone, shot, and starving on the east coast of Vancouver Island in 1977. She was captured and moved to Sealand, a six hour drive on the back of a flat bed truck. She survived the trip, but when she was released into a tank at Sealand, she sank to the bottom of the pool. Rescuers pulled her to the surface, and she began a long and difficult road to return to health, but she beats the odds. A Miracle. She eventually became a star attraction at Sealand, but in January, 1982, she somehow became entangled in the nets of her sea pen and drowned.
Keltie Byrne was a trainer at Sealand. In late 1991, she slipped and fell into a tank with Tilikum and two other orcas. Sealand, unlike SeaWorld, did not do any water training -- the trainers never went in the water with the whales -- so having a trainer in the water was a new situation for the whales. Tilikum took her under the water and held her there, blocking her escape from the tank. Eventually all three whales began playing with their visitor. It took hours to retrieve Keltie's body from the pool. She was the first trainer ever killed by a captice orca.
Sealand closed within a year. Tilikum was sold to SeaWorld.
This is a heck of a lot of back story to get into for a book review, but David Kirby's Death at SeaWorld opens with Keltie's death, and Tilikum would go to even greater infamy, causing two more deaths at SeaWorld, including the title incident of the book.
These are astonishingly intelligent creatures, as evidenced by a chapter when the author relates the story of a scientist running visual and aural training on two recently captured orcas and it quickly became apparent that in actuality the orcas were running tests on the scientist. Equally astonishing is the utter ignorance with which orca trappers went about their work in the 1960s and 1970s. Working under the mistaken assumption that the local waters contained hundreds if not thousands of orcas, on one memorable day trappers netted almost all of the local resident orcas in one net. Some they let go, some they took away to transport to interested aquariums, some they killed, tying concrete blocks to their bodies so they would sink. They conceivably could have sold or killed all of them, not realizing that it indeed would have been all of them, all of the local residents. It wasn't until a few years later in the the mid-1970s that scientists actually counted the local orcas, and were surprised to discover how few of them there really are.
For anyone interested in the history of humanity's relationship with a fellow mammal, this should be required reading. The book tends to get bogged down with the legal ramifications of Tilikum's behaviour in its last third, but is utterly fascinating with its twin tales of modern orca research and the history of orcas in captivity.


Here's some bonus content. These are pictures my father took at a show at Victoria's Sealand of the Pacific in the fall of 1971. I'm not positive which whale is pictured. It's not Tilikum, and my guess is it's probably Haida.
1971 Sealand Oak Bay
1971 Sealand Oak Bay (3)
1971 Sealand Oak Bay (2)

Kayakers! Plant a Tree!

I love paddling in beautiful parks and waterfront right in the city. There are so many places in and around Victoria, BC where it is possible to find great launch spots. Take a small boat and enjoy green space around the water!
Trees don't just grow on trees, y'know. Er, well. Trees don't just appear out of nowhere, rather. In the city, it takes people to maintain trees, keep them from being cut down, promote sustainable use of parks, and other things that keep our green spaces green, and our paddling spaces enjoyably beautiful
The Tree Appreciation Day here in Saanich (part of Victoria) is being held on November 3, 2013. Go here for a link to the information about one particular way to appreciate trees by volunteering to plant trees and shrubs in parks. Volunteers are asked to help Saanich parks workers plant trees and shrubs that have been grown for these projects. Pick your choice of locations in Whitehead Park, Mt Douglas/PKOLS Park, or Emily Carr Park -- maybe a location near where you go kayaking! At ten am on Nov 3 I'll be planting trees along Douglas Creek, which drains into Cordova Bay.

As Cory Manton said in a press release:
Many benefits and values come from trees including a very specific sense of place, aesthetics, air quality, property value, soil and water conservation and protection of the environment. The planting and preservation of trees is an action that yields long range benefits.
Saanich’s Significant Tree Advisory Committee and Saanich Parks, in cooperation with the Saanich Pulling Together Volunteers, BC Hydro and Pacific Forestry Centre are looking for volunteers in our community to help plant trees and shrubs as detailed below. No experience is necessary.
Time at all locations is 10:00 am – 12:00 Noon.
  • Whitehead Park (Dysart Road) where native trees and shrubs will be planted in an area at the foot of the Dysart Bridge crossing into the park. This area was disturbed by human and dog traffic and is in the process of being restored. Parking is available along the frontage of Meadow Park on Dysart Street.

  • Whitehead Park (Goward Road/Prospect Lake Road) where native trees and shrubs will be planted along Tod Creek in areas under restoration. Parking is available in parking lots on Goward Road or Prospect Lake Road.

  • Mt. Douglas Park where native trees and shrubs will be planted along the recently restored tributaries that feed into Douglas Creek. Planting will take on Douglas trial just before the Weir trail access off Cedar Hill Road. Limited parking is available at Churchill Parking Lot or along Robinwood Road. You can also park at the main parking lot of Mt. Douglas Parkway by Ash Road and walk along Douglas Trail to the planting site.

  • Emily Carr Park (Gabo Creek) where native trees and shrubs will be planted along an area of Gabo Creek running through the park. Please park along Emily Carr Drive at Emily Carr Park. Drinks, snacks and planting tools will be provided. However, if any of the volunteers can bring a shovel and gloves it would be appreciated. Please remember to bring rain gear and boots since we will be planting rain or shine. If members of your group are interested in participating, please advise the total number of participants and at which location. This will allow us to make arrangements for food, etc.


  • If you have any questions please call me at 250-475-5522 or e-mail parks@saanich.ca.
    Sincerely, Cory Manton
    Manager of Urban Forestry, Horticulture and Natural Areas

    Friday, October 25, 2013

    Kayak Submarine

    We previously brought you a story about submersible canoes used in World War II, but here's a kayak that converts into a submarine. Designed by Oliver Feuillette, it looks like a fun yet crazy ride. "Air comes from a cylinder, over flow comes out. For long dive co2 filter is used i am talking over 2/3 hours. The pressure is equalized so scuba rules are apply, same for depth," Feuillette apparently posted on YouTube. Check out the video below:


    Wednesday, October 23, 2013

    CRD Land Acquisitions -- Paddlers take note!

    Are you a surfer at Jordan River? Are you hoping to do some surf kayaking at Sandycut Beach?
    The Capital Regional District has just released two documents -- an annual report and a bulletin on land acquisitions. Both are of interest to kayakers, as many of the places worth paddling are accessed by CRD parks. Thanks again to Anne Marie Marchi, the administrative clerk in Visitor Services and Community Development, who sends out these press releases. Wonderful to be so informed about what our CRD is doing with our parks in our communities!
    Check out their annual report at http://www.crd.bc.ca/parks/documents/regional-parks-2012-annual-report-web.pdf 
    And you can find their land acquisitions bulletin at http://www.crd.bc.ca/parks/documents/landacquisitionbulletin13.pdf

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Update from BC Marine Trails Network

    Check out the BC Marine Trails Network at their website for their latest news! This coastal group is working hard to promote a kayaking trail all along BC's coast, with low-impact camping sites and more. Lately, their efforts to improve communications with First Nations have been really successful. The latest issue of their newsletter is here.

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Fogtober and Sea Star Epidemic

    Yep, we had a good Fogust and September, even with some rain spells. Now we're half-past Fogtober, and all the trees around the shorelines have been changing colours. Marvelous!
    The last few days I've been on the water only a couple of times, six days apart. Augh! Withdrawal is tough, so I guess I am indeed hooked on kayaking. It's been foggy and breezy all that time, with an inversion holding foggy weather along the coast.

    The payoff for foggy weather is that the fish come up to the surface, and otters come out to catch them. There was a family of otters out in Cadboro Bay on the weekend, blithely and lithely slithering around a school of fish. The otter's round heads bobbed in the smooth water that was barely wrinkled. When their tails flickered for a dive, the little splash showed for hundreds of yards (metres). It's great to paddle a quiet boat, quieter and slower than the zodiacs and motorboats that zoom around the little training yachts sailing in the bay.

    I was glad to be on the water again. Lately, I've been jealous of the Gecko Paddlers and their casual outings to Race Rocks... but then, last week at a meeting with other university people studying digital humanities, a tenure-track professor looked enviously at me because last year I paddled down the Red Deer river, solo river camping. So, envy is a relative thing. I'll just go kayaking when and where I can, and let envy be a good servant rather than a poor master, eh?

    This photo is from Vancouver Aquarium' AquaBlog
    And meanwhile, it's time for paddlers in the Salish Sea area to go out and look for sea stars. Check on the health of the starfish in your home waters, folks. The sea stars in Howe Sound seem to be suffering from some disease. Click here for an article by Vancouver Aquarium on the die-off.

    Not all sea star types are affected, as the leather and bat and blood stars seem to be doing well. The large sunflower sea stars are particularly badly affected. Instead of looking plump and full-fleshed, the sick starfish are emaciated. If you see sea stars looking like the one in this photo, or just decaying on the sea bottom, leave a comment on Vancouver Aquarium's blog. Photos are helpful! Biologists trying to take affected animals for tests are appalled to find nothing but a bucket of goo by the time they get a sick starfish to the laboratory. Divers are also looking in Saanich Inlet to see if there are similar problems here across the strait.

    Areas in the Salish Sea have been affected by high populations of sea stars and sea urchins over the last several years, to the point where entire kelp forests are being eaten. I wonder if river otters and sea otters will be able to find plenty of urchins to eat, and thus maintain the kelp forests that sustain diverse shoreline life.

    Saturday, October 12, 2013

    Historical Paddle on the Gorge

    We kayakers are not the only ones who paddle on The Gorge, that narrow inlet that reaches from Victoria's Inner Harbour to a wide salt-water lake known as Portage Inlet. The Gorge has been the scene of human traffic in small boats for thousands of years since the Ice Age ended, and there are signs of all that use in the middens found at traditional First Nations village sites. There are some projects in place to restore the shoreline and water quality and bridges along this inland waterway.

    For more recent history, in 1861 a noteworthy traveler was visiting Victoria, and the Hudson's Bay Company took her touring on The Gorge. This traveler was Lady Jane Franklin, widow of Sir John Franklin (yup, the Franklin who was lost on an Arctic expedition). This week I've been reading an interesting series of books on Arctic expeditions written by Calgary author Ken McGoogan. In one of these books, Lady Franklin's Revenge, McGoogan tells the story of Jane Franklin's travels around the world. It was a great pleasure to learn that on her last great trip, she reached Vancouver Island and actually rode in a canoe in my home waters.

    The Hudson's Bay Company wanted to show off their local accomplishments, so the factor arranged for the town's worthies to accompany Lady Franklin on a boating tour. This sheltered inlet is well-suited for taking tours to show off the local shoreline and hills between the new town of Victoria and one of the farms set up to provide fresh produce. In a large Chinook canoe, Lady Franklin and her companion were conveyed by ten Canadian voyageurs wearing red shirts. They launched from the HBC wharf, which was probably located close to the foot of Fort Street today, (near the astonishingly good fish'n'chips booth Red Fish Blue Fish). A fleet of small boats carried dozens of local people along beside the large voyageur canoe.

    The Gorge wouldn't have looked to Lady Franklin and her niece Sophy Craycroft as it does now, with industrial development at the wide place now called the Selkirk Water and houses along the shoreline where the waterway narrows. It would have looked more like the portion just north of the Selkirk Water, which has been restored to a more natural shoreline with trees and grass rather than concrete docks and buildings.

    It was noted in The British Colonist newspaper that as Lady Franklin's boat passed under Victoria Bridge, "three rousing, hearty British cheers were given by a crowd thereon assembled." Ken McGoogan wrote on page 400 of Lady Franklin's Revenge that "Just beyond a rapids, at a place called Craigflower, Jane and her entourage relished an elaborate two-hour picnic before departing on their return journey to a final salute of gunshots."

    So, where was this picnic held? Clearly, McGoogan doesn't seem to have paddled on the Gorge above the only rapids at Gorge Narrows. If the picnic site were as McGoogan says "just beyond" the reversing falls under the modern Tillicum Bridge, it could have taken place at either Kinsmen Gorge Park or the beach where the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club launches. Both sites have good beaches for landing and launching small boats, and sloping shores where picknickers still gather today.

    But there's a better place for picnicking with dozens of people and small boats.
    The picnic site might have been less than a kilometre above the Gorge Narrows, on what is now the Saanich side of the narrow waterway, at the present site of Craigflower Bridge, where Kosapsum Park now has a few picnic tables and a public restroom just above a sandy beach. It's possible, because the fine beach at this spot was there in 1861. There was also Craigflower Schoolhouse, built in 1855, and Craigflower Manor built in 1856 just across the water on what is now the View Royal side of the bridge.

    This is a photo from Wikipedia, showing the white schoolhouse building above the sandy beach.

    This site is very probably where the picnic was held. The shoreline is not steep, and would suit the 70-year-old Lady Franklin as she climbed out of her canoe towards a fine cup of tea. The beach faces south and on a sunny day in March it is very comfortable to sit here, warmed by the sun and sheltered from the wind. There's plenty of beach for the small boats, and room for people to stroll. It's no surprise that this site shows signs of thousands of years of use!

    Another possibility for the picnic site is Christie Point, which was used in the coming decades by the Christie family of settlers and other daytrippers as an excellent place for picnicking and swimming. Christie Point is a little farther on along the waterway, jutting into the wide saltwater lake that is Portage Inlet. But I don't think that the 1861 picnic took place here. It wasn't a popular place for daytripping until there were more houses built along the waterway. Christie Point is not just beyond the reversing falls, and most of all, it's definitely beyond Craigflower Manor farm.

    Y'see, the best reason to bring Lady Franklin out on this day trip was to show off how the HBC was "developing" the area. She had made a habit as she toured the world, to see buildings and projects of many and various kinds. Of course the HBC would show off one of their four model farms; Craigflower farm was the most successful of the four, and was already a reliable source of produce and dairy products for the growing community of Victoria. During the two hours the picnic lasted, the HBC would not have missed the opportunity to try to earn her praise.

    Christie Point wasn't yet homesteaded in 1861, so it would have been thickly forested and a pretty site with a narrow shore. Neither Kinsmen Gorge Park nor the VCKC site were homesteaded yet, so it's hard to know how closely the trees came to the water at that time. All the trees now seen along the Gorge Waterway are second and third growth after the area was logged clear, so modern photographs aren't a good way to tell how much room there was for lounging picnickers.

    It doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, to figure out exactly which beach a world traveler might have lounged on, but it interests me. I like seeing the connection between the colonial imperialists of Victoria and the way Lady Franklin got her way in the world. I like thinking of connections between daring Arctic explorers and long sea voyages, and the calm, sheltered waterway that is our home waters.