Posts Tagged ocean

Island Kid

images You may have noticed a lack of kayak rogue posts of late, but don’t think for a second my paddling friends that I have not been writing, or paddling. I have been doing both although the paddling has been reduced to small windows of usable non-winter in springtime conditions which have been far and few between. Typing at my desk has been warmer, drier and for the most part successful. The projects on the page are not about kayaking, but my kayaking lifestyle would not have happened and we would not be here reading my posts about paddling if not for the decision to move the family from the burbs to a small island back in the mid-1970’s.

For about a year now I have been contemplating a project where I sit down and pull forward memories that are nearly 39-years-old to create a collection of stories and essays about growing up on that island. With time now to actually write, I have begun and it has been a trip so far. A trip down memory lane, to both good and bad of a childhood living in and around nature with oft-times little on the table, but as a kid it was a grand adventure filled with freedom to explore from dawn to after dark. It was a kidhood of fishing on docks with friends, riding bikes in the woods and making mischief on the beach walk home from school each day. It was a kidhood surrounded by rougher characters than you might find on Salt Spring Island these days. Tourism destination was not yet in the local vocabulary and everyone knew what you were doing, even before you did it. Salt Spring Island in the 70’s as to a certain extent remains today is a small town surrounded by water and inhabited by people who could not or would not make it on the outside. It is my home.

That being said and the initial dozen posts posted I invite you all to take a visit to Growing Up SaltSpring on WordPress and take a ride into the past to an island where the diverse gang of hippies, loggers, fisher folk, freedom seekers, pot growers, candle makers, potters, rough types and retirees all rubbed elbows.


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The Environmental Impacts of Sea Kayakers

A starfish in an intertidal pool, Nuchatlitz Inlet BC. photo by Dave Barnes

A starfish in an intertidal pool, Nuchatlitz Inlet BC.
photo by Dave Barnes

The hot ticket environmental issue on the BC coast centers around pipelines and oil tanker traffic in the often unpredictable waters of the Inside Passage.  In my opinion the very real potential for environmental disaster resulting in devastation to a delicate coastline lasting months, years or perhaps even decades if the Exxon Valdez episode can be used as example out weighs any, if any monetary benefits. I can’t even imagine the fallout from an event such as this on my beloved wild shores. As a sea kayaker of many years this haunts me as the age-old fight between our need for earthly resources and the rainforests, mountains, lakes, rivers and oceans wages on. The worst case scenario is obvious and would  press greatly on sea kayaking and on Beautiful British Columbia tourism in general, and tourism dollars are nothing to be shrugged off lightly.

That argument aside, shall I flip the coin and suggest that we, the humble paddlers all can impact the eco-systems of our local waters and shoreline in proportionally equality to that of a super tanker cracking open spilling crude all over seals and seagulls. We are not as low-impact as we would like to  believe.  An addition to my ‘everything bag’ that I have in the cockpit of my kayak at all times contains among other necessary objects such as camera, safety stuff is a magnifying glass. Not for aid in fire starting, though it would come in handy for such a use. No, it is there to examine the miniature world of the intertidal zone that we kayakers use without much thought to who we may be trampling when we land at the ‘perfect’ camping spot.

As a wilderness camper and kayaker this comes to the forefront of my paddling experience. Although, my kayaking trips may begin at designated launch sites such as public docks or boat ramps the landings are in the wilds on far-flung beaches or nooks in the world of the coastal shoreline. Anyone that has been in this situation will know the pitfalls of such a landing and the questions that come along for the ride. Is there surf? Which way is the tide flowing? Are there rocks ahead? But do we ever ask on the ride in on that last wave of the day, are there any indigenous life forms in my path? No, I didn’t think so. Don’t beat yourself up just yet, if you are like me this question never popped up before.

I am not suggesting we avoid veering away from the beaten path. That would defeat the entire purpose of this type of kayaking. However, I am suggesting a recognition that we the kayaker (patting on the back thinking of ourselves as environmentally low-impact) are only relatively low-impact ,and by landing on far-flung beaches we do a certain amount of harm. With the bow of my kayak pointed to shore I now scan for a space of beach for safe landings. If at all possible I do this with respect to those living lives in and under the rocks and grasses. I attempt to land my kayak with as much care as I take with selecting a spot for my tent that will not crush, bend, or squash plants while considering my requirements for safety, shade and seclusion from the elements.

Yes, okay I know this sounds like performing the impossible, but again I am not suggesting that we never come ashore like paddling Flying Dutchmen. We can keep on doing what we are doing out there but think about where we are. Ask these questions instead. Is it nesting time? Observable impact can be seen when landing and launching in estuaries, mudflats and shallow coves. The intertidal zone is something we trample without much thought. I have heard too many crunches under my sandals over the years and though there are thousands of small snails wandering about, I know I took out a few. Drop a tree on your back and you will understand the starfish point of view when the bow of a kayak or canoe lands on them. The shallows of sandbars covered in inches of water, enough for our kayaks to skim across, but each paddle stroke of push-off on the sand tears up eel grasses, and can impact again on shell fish etc, and we can be noisy. Seals and other sea life are rather skittish .Imagine how you feel with a bucket of cold water tossed on you while sun bathing. A seal lazing on a rock is spooked, stressed and suddenly back in the cold ocean as we approach too closely.

By comparison our kayaks to the scale and point of view of the average beach crab, snail, or nesting shore bird is the same as the average tanker. Do no harm, leave no trace, and take only pictures. Sounds trite but it is true. It is a delicate balance living with wild things in our fragile little world and without knowing it we do a fair measure of harm. We kayakers are relatively low-impact players in the game and my encounters with fellow members of the paddling community declares our care and respect for where we go. All I ask is that we ask a few more questions as we paddle to shore. Does not landing that beached starfish make a difference? It does to the starfish!

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Undersea Gardens

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.

Tide Garden 1

Tide Garden 2

Tide Garden 3

Tide Garden 3

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A Paddler’s Therapy on Film

It has been a few days since I last posted. Things got busy last week and then I was knocked off my feet (literally on my knees) and hugging the nurse, riding the porcelain bus…you get the idea so there is no need to describe in earthy goopy details the violent atrocities that occurred for about 48 hours. Needless to say I thank my wife Jen for the stomach bug that she had and finished with. My version was worse, yes I am that competitive.

Anyway, with tummy somewhat settling down if a big gurgling I plan a bit of kayaking therapy, another long paddling day this coming Sunday. Paddling from town (Ganges on Saltspring Island) to Fulford Harbour (also on Salt Spring Island) some 20+ kms to the south. I have done it before and is a sweet day out passing shoreline homes and Ruckle Provincial Park.

Being in the kayak no matter what is going on at home on land has always chilled me out. Call it what you will, floatation therapy, paddling or recreational therapy all I know is that it works. A few minutes in the boat and floating while adjusting my spray skirt or just simply floating before the thousands of paddle strokes begins, for that time I am melted into a happy place of deep inner calm. Which is good because an hour later I most likely will be dealing with rising winds and obstinate currents. These seem trivial when reading a story about a fellow paddler who has had some great weights upon his spirit. That paddler being Zac Crouse who sadly witnessed the death of a good friend in a kayaking accident. He fell into disrepair after than and diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

To help heal his heart and mind he chose a positive, to use both a love of music and kayaking as a mode of self-therapy. I encourage you to click on the link below, which leads to an Indiegogo campaign he has running to raise the funds for post production of his documentary, Paddle to the Ocean and accompanying soundtrack CD.

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