Archive for January, 2014
After a few days of Salt Spring Island being held hostage by a lingering fog it was time to rise above it with a hike. The best escape from the damp cold hovering at sea-level was to hike to the top of the island’s notable landmark, Mt. Maxwell. Below us the fog bank moved, rose and fell, and played in the moving air caused by this thermal inversion. As we hopped from one rocky ledge to the next in search of the ultimate place to park in the sunshine we could not believe it was January as it could easily be confused with a springtime walk. The inversion created rising waves of air and our layers of clothing fell away in the long lingering hours of sunbathing. If this blog posts offends the rest of the country gripped and unfortunate in its dealings with ‘real’ winter, or comes across as another example of the annual west coast gloating, well it is a risk I take. Love me or resent me, here is what I saw from the three mountain perches was enjoyed all afternoon.
It is not all glory in the waves while paddling my wooden kayak along the shores of the west coast, there are some land-based thrills as well and one of my favorites is exploring the beaches.
Something the kayaker interacts with, hopefully gingerly so are the intertidal zones. This most precious and fragile area that is neither in the ocean, nor entirely on land. It is the limbo between the moon’s comings and goings and in incoming and outgoing tides. Pockets of sand, or divots in the rocks or deep holes eroded over time that capture eco-systems of their own. What lands in them as the sea climbs the beach are fish, crabs, shrimp, shellfish, sea anemone , grasses, and assorted hearty underwater life that don’t mind the pools heating up during the day while exposed at low tide.
On a trip to Tofino I found a humble tidal pool at the end of the tombolo (sand spit) that connects North and South Chesterman Beach with Frank Island. Chesterman Beach, unlike the famous Long Beach in the Park does not come with parking fees and is equally spectacular, pleasant and less populated during the tourist season. Although in this section of Vancouver Island’s skirting of bare sand stone is covered in sand it is not easy to find these tidal potholes. However, at the fringe of Frank Island nestled in the exposed rocks I found a sandy anemone garden. A few hermit crabs wandered about and skittish fish darted away when I lowered my camera under the water for close-ups. Here are some of the results.
Last spring I was well on the way to a great year of kayaking. I set out at least once a week for a good 25 km paddle leading up to one epic day circumnavigating my home island of Salt Spring. (I am aiming to beat my best time this spring). I was feeling better and better with each paddle stroke until I made the grand mistake of bagging a full time job and within a couple of weeks I was side-lined with numbness and pain in both my forearms and wrists. With years of paddling I had not succumbed to the kayaker’s complaint of tendonitis, it took an 8-hour shift five days a week doing something repetitive and apparently stressful that caused such an extreme flare-up. I was gobsmacked by this turn of events as I have worked with my hands all my life and this was the first time it had become an issue. Coupled with being staggeringly pooped at the end of the day the idea of getting out on the water in the evenings, or on the weekends was a struggle of time and pain management. Reluctantly, I hung up the paddle for the season and tended to earning a few bucks while dealing with a certain amount of chronic pain. The result being that too much time on land has made me crazy.
Not this year! I am off work for the winter and looking for something less taxing on the old joints than the old job. Options open I am spending the time reacquainting myself with my lovely wooden kayak, which currently resides in the workshop while getting a fresh new look. I am also looking into exercises to use for kayaking now that the specter of tendonitis and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome CTS are looming over my head. I accept that this will alter my paddling, then again, maybe not. I feel the arms healing already and eager to get back in the seat of my kayak. But, a new regime of preparation and daily stretching is in order to help prevent or at least dull the lingering affects.
While investigating various ways of easing the pain and suffering I may now achieve with each paddle stroke I found this short but informative video on youtube. Very simple exercises to add to my regular paddling stretching before and after a day on the water. I thought I would share this as I know there are paddlers out there popping anti inflammatory tablets as I speak.
As the gathering winds of January blow chilly and cold the images of wintertime paddling would not be the one above taken on a spectacular morning with plus-side temperatures, and calm waters in Stuart Channel near my home on Salt Spring Island. On this day we set out for a lunch on a nearby islet and the only limitation on the day was daylight hours. Only by noon did the winds pick up enough to damage the mirror of the sea with a slight mischievous ripple. The best summer day of paddling, it was just in winter.
By contrast, a lovely morning paddle in that same stretch of water turned ugly, grey and challenging for the novice kayaker who paddled with me that day in, not November, December, or even January, but in May! We had a fair morning with calm waters to practice paddle strokes and techniques, a brief stop for lunch and our entertainment was the darkening skies looming on the opposites shores. Time to head home, but not before the squall packing gusting winds and heavy chop battered us. It gave my friend a tiring but fruitful day of learning to cope with good ol’ Mother Nature and her bad parenting skills. It gave me a chance to tutor someone through the storm. It was a terrific wintertime paddling day, it was just in May.
What astonishes me in this demanding age of instant gratification and information over-load is how come I had never heard of African-based adventurer, Riaan Manser. I discovered him by accident as I was looking up Madagascar on a whim after many semi-tongue-in-cheek conversations about paddling around the formidable island with a paddling friend of mine. He was adamant that he could accomplish what no one had done before, but alas, someone had.
My investigations lead me to this Manser fellow who had successfully kayaked around the island. This was in fact his second grand African adventure as a few years before he had become the first to circumnavigation the African continent by bicycle as he pedaled through over 30 countries, not all of them happy places.
I downloaded his book Around Madagascar on my Kayak to my ereader and settled into the sofa for a good read. I was left not disappointed as his prose are detailed, and filled with personality and heart, but all in all I wondered how much of this story was left on the floor because of the documentary he and his trip manager were creating throughout. That said, what transpired from page one to the end was a solo and unsupported kayaking epic on the level of the first accent of Mt. Everest. Is that putting it to a more lofty height than Manser deserves. Not in the slightest. In the tradition of ‘it has never been done before’, or ‘because it is there’, Riaan Manser set out to paddle in waters filled with dangers, both from Mother Nature and from Human Nature. He battles his own limitations as a kayaker as well as an adventurer. He is welcomed by the poorest of the poor and arrested by those who insist on maintaining slim control in this country, though separated from the continent by water still faces the uncertainty of economics and dodgy politics.
Any one of us who has ever set out on a windy day in our kayaks will know the feeling. Most of us will go on the water for a couple of hours safe in the knowledge that after we can dry off, settle in with a pint at the pub and a warm bed in our own home at night. No all of us would be willing to paddle upwards of 13 hours a day, everyday for nearly a year while landing in fierce surf onto sandy beaches that come with their own set of dangers and challenges. This is why he is the real deal, a real adventurer having real adventures.
For that vicarious thrill of paddling dangerously I recommend reading Around Madagascar on my Kayak. Check out some of his video diary clips on youtube, they are a nice companion to the book.
(He has recently published a new book Around Iceland on Inspiration, which accounts the five-month circumnavigation of Iceland in a tandem kayak with partner Dan Skinstad who has mild cerebral palsy).
A random find on Pinterest and a great idea for my kayak kitchen is born. Looks like I will have very fresh breath for the next while as I build up a collection of these containers for my essential spices.
While I am off work this winter I have been cleaning up around the place, beginning with the kitchen. That task done, and with this week’s triumph of finding the workshop floor under months of clutter I have turned my attention to the computer files. A rigorous, some would say even brutal editing of my photo files has begun. Why is there seventeen copies of the same dang kayak on the beach image? Alas.
Another vexing question is why one camera takes video that will play on demand, while the other waterproof camera forces me to convert its videos before viewing. I think it might be time to invest in a GoPro and be done with this, but in the meantime I have been converting files that have no titles. My methods of cataloging as you may have guessed by this point are, well random at best. But hidden behind the mystery files have popped up some surprises and old friends. This video in particular taken a couple of summers ago with my good friend Mike as we paddled on this hot calm day out of Long Harbour around the point to have lunch at a beach known as Chocolate Beach. There isn’t any chocolate there, it went extinct. However, on this day we were Hobbits of the seas paddling under the ever watchful eye. To make matters odder still, you will hear a kitten meowing around the 37 second mark of the video. My point and shoot camera’s least annoying start-up sound.
Remember young Hobbits, One does not simply paddle into Mordor!