Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Orcas, Minkes and Sea Lions

Today I got a call just before 8am from my good friend Ivan who is the owner of Western Prince Whale Watching .  He had set up a ride on a zodiac from Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island.  His buddy Simon who is the captain of the boat from Ocean Ecoventures.  It was a end of the season get together for Ivan's staff and had a few spots free for others to ride along.  We out for about 6 hours and it was a great time.  The zodiac can run at about 30 knots, which is a bit faster than most of the whale watching boats out of Friday Harbor.  We got to see Transient Orcas, which are the ones that hunt marine mammals.  We got to see them eat a harbor seal.  It was not too bad, we did not get to see the details to close.  We also got to see a few Minke Whales while we were out.  I never get to see Minke Whales, so I was really excited.  Plus it was the first time I have been out to Race Rocks.  It is a grouping of rocks in the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Sea Lions gather there in the hundreds.  I have a few photos I am posting and my little point and shoot digi is not hat impressive.  You can check out my friend Monika's blog Orca Watcher.  She will have better photos.

This is the image I got of the Race Rocks Lighthouse.  It was a bit foggy.

This is the vessel of the day.  It was a much soother ride than I could have ever expected.  It is a great experience.

Yea I know it is a sweet look.  The mustang suit was warm and cruising at 30 knots, a warm suit is great.

Here area few Sea Lions on Race Rocks.  There were approx a couple of hundred in the area.

The only picture that I got that was good enough to post of the Orcas

Just added this image to show the tide running past Whale Rocks.

That was pretty much my day.  Most of it was on the boat running around checking out the area. Pictures just do not do justice to what it is actually like to be on the water.  Surrounded by mountains with snow covered peaks, beautiful islands with amazing water.  It really is something you just have to come an enjoy for yourself.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Well it is almost October and the weather could not be better.  It was such a nice sunny day today, I had to give up on work and head out on the water.  I mainly went out to practice a static brace, but that ends up being rolling practice as well. 

Yea I took a quick picture of me.  Self portraits never look to great.  But the good thing the sun is so bright I could not open my eyes all the way.  Since the sun will be going away soon, I'll take the squint.

Heading out around Dinner Island with Meaghan to see if there are any seals hauled out.

There were a lot of seals hanging out.  The picture is not the best.  It is hard to shoot with my little point and shoot and try and stay away from the haul out.  

It was a short paddle but it was fun.  We mainly went out to practice rolling and bracing.  But we say a large deadhead log and decided to investigate.  So figured we may as well go check out the harbor seals.  On the way back Meaghan decided to try and stand on the deadhead log.  This was very funny.  To bad my battery was dead on the cam.  She was moving to stand on it when it started sinking.  She jump from her boat and cowboyed on the back deck so fast you would have thought that the tree was trying to eat her.  None the less it was really funny and a good end to the paddle.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

San Juan Sunset

Not the most eventful day in the world.  But that is the reason we like to live on the island sometime.  The sun was out today but I ended up spending most of the time in the shop.  We just set the shop up for our end of season sale.  So I was rearranging the clothing for the sale.  But I did get a chance this morning to enjoy the cool fresh air while on a bike ride.  This evening I drove to the west side to see the sunset.  I have a few pictures of the sunset to share.  I know that someone that visits my blog misses seeing the San Juan sunsets.  So enjoy.


Werner Paddles

I think paddles are very specific to the person using them, but I can say that most people fall in love with the Werner Ikelos or the Werner Cyprus.  Both paddles have carbon shafts with foam core blades wrapped in carbon.  I like the neutral bent shaft as it provides a comfortable feel as you put on miles.  The Ikelos is my personal paddle and I have been using it for over 4 kayak seasons now. It is still in great shape.  The adjustable ferrule is great and can go left or right feather in 15 degree increments.

The Ikelos is a big blade with lots of surface area.  This can be quite a workout moving trough the water all day.  The Cyprus has less surface area and can be a bit easy on fatigue after kayaking all day.  

I find the  Ikelos is nice and smooth through the water.  It did take a bit for me to get use to, as the blade feels more buoyant due to the foam core center and while sculling I found it easier to use if I slow down my stroke.  In slowing down the sculling for support stroke I seem to be able to get feedback from the blade and can really start to feel the support it is providing.  This is a high angle paddle and is designed to provide efficent movement of single kayaks.  I have used other paddles in the past such as Lendal Kinetik.  But when I transitioned the Werner Ikelos, I have never purchased another paddle.  I have demoed plenty but none could replace my Ikelos.

Werner produces high quality paddles and are made in Washington State.  If you are at you local paddle shop and you see they stock Werner Paddles.  Take one out for a demo and you will see what I am talking about.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kayak Guide Notes

As a kayak guide I get to use lots of different gear and refine what works best for me.  You also learn small tweaks to your equipment by paddling with other kayakers, guides, and by taking formal training classes.  I have decided to make a quick list of products that I use while I am working.  I hope by adding this information new paddlers might be inspired to not only get safety equipment but take classes to ensure proper use.

Guiding in the San Juan Islands in Washington State you have to be prepared for the cold water. The average water temperature is 48F.  This is pretty cold and hypothermia is an extreme concern.  So I use a Kokatat Dry Suit.  It is a gortex suit that has latex gaskets at the neck and wrist.  The suits are pretty tough and keep you pretty much dry if you have to enter the water. With proper base layers it provides you some time to perform a self rescue.  Dry Suits are so important, in my view, to open new paddlers up for learning in cold water.  You no longer have to be wet all day when you capsize while practicing.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) are necessary.  As a guide we do not like to call them life jackets, since they will not save your life.  They simply keep you floating so your guide can save your life. I have been using the same PFD for the past couple of years and I have been pretty happy with it.  My personal PFD is the BRIK by Stohlquist.  I find it to fit snug and comfortable against the body and leaves plenty of room for rotation and movement.  There is not a lot of pocketing on the jacket but that is what I look for.  With less bulk with stuff in pockets it is easier to do some rescues.  It has been a very durable jacket and seems to have plenty life left in it.  I am going to retire it soon as I am going to test out a new vest made by Astral called the Green Jacket.  I think it is still waiting for Coast Guard approval.

Neoprene Spraydecks are my favorite to use and I have mostly used decks made by Snap Dragon.  I am currently using a Seal Spraydeck because I like the fit on the combing of the cockpit.  But I have found that the Seal decks do not seem to be as durable as the Snap Dragon decks.  Neoprene is my choice because it has a tight fit and resist imploding when going through waves.  There are many styles and companies that make spraydecks.  Find one that you are comfortable with.

In the guiding world we have to have a tow belt.  Mainly used for major issues and rescues.  It is rescue equipment, so do not expect your guide to hook a tow because you are tired.  The one I use is made by NorthWater.  It is the Sea Tec Tow Line and has all the features I look for in a belt.  It is packed in a tubular shape making it unobtrusive while kayaking.  Once hooked for tow and rope is deployed it has a strong webbing belt that feels secure around the waist.  The belt is outfitted with a quick release in case of emergency and you need to get free of the tow.  The rope can be stowed quickly due to the easy to pack square pouch that has a Velcro closure, so you do not have to roll it back up and it is secure.  I like to daisy chain my rope so that I can start with a short tow and if need due to conditions or length of tow I can relase the daisy chain for a long tow.

As a guide I carry lots of other safety equipment which includes flares, stove, spare clothing, food, compass, shelter, first aid kit, repair kit, VHF radio and water.  Seem my review of the ICOM M72 for my personal VHF.  Plus I always have a spare paddle along with my primary use paddle.  I will provide more detailed information on the paddle I prefer to use soon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

TideRace Kayaks

Last weekend I went to Port Townsend Washington to the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium.  It is a great event where anyone can come and enjoy taking classes, sitting in on lectures and demoing lots of kayaks.  

There was a new kayak that caught my attention and I decided to take it out for a demo.  The kayak is named the Xplore by TideRace Kayaks.  I wish I could have spent more time in the kayak and enjoy it in various conditions.  But I will just give my first impressions.

At first sight the lines of the kayak are very pleasing.  The color schemes are very catchy as well. Overall the finish of the kayak looked really solid and has an additional hatch just forward of the cockpit.  The placement of the day hatch seemed to be a bit of a problem for me.  It was centered behind the cockpit, making it difficult to access.  I am not sure but maybe the future builds will have the day hatch offset to one side.  The Xplore is 18 feet long and has a beam of 21 inches.  It seems to be a very fast moving kayak through the water.  When on edge the kayak seemed to display very predictable stability.  I found the kayak to be very maneuverable and  have quick response.  I could see using the Xplore as a great multi-day kayak.  Plenty of storage space, great speed and still very playful.  My chance to paddle the kayak was in calm water conditions so I cannot speak for weather cocking or other factors of paddling in rough conditions.  The kayak was designed with the idea of being used in rough conditions.  I would be more than happy to test one out any day in rougher conditions.

If you are interested in the kayaks you can visit Body Boat Blade in Washington State  or Alder Creek  in Portland Oregon.


Forecast for the day called for winds to shift to the SE and build to 3o knots. Well I am not sure that it has made the 30 knot mark but it is around 15 knots or so right now.  Pictures are of Griffin Bay, an area we typically run Half Day Tours.  But not on days like today.  SE winds are great for choppy water in Griffin Bay and offer lots of fun for kayak play time.

Not the best pictures in the world. You can see the change the wind can have on the water.  See my post Cattle Pass to see water conditions without wind.  Add some wind to the situation and you get a few more white caps and even a few little breaking wave.

It is a shame that the wind had to build so late in the day.  It is hard to find people to kayak with at such short notice to go out and have fun in these conditions.  I was lucky last year and Michelle living here and she was ready to go anytime.  I wish she was here this afternoon.


I decided to put a few words out there about the ICOM M72 for those who might be in the market for a handheld VHF radio.  I have only used the M72 for one season but it has turned out to be my favorite radio thus far.
I use the radio for collecting weather information, communicating with other kayakers and boaters in the area.  Give that the hard shell case is exposed to the salt water all the time I choose to keep it safe in a aquapac radio case.  This reduces the salt water exposure greatly.  The M72 is nice and slender so when added to the aquapac it does not feel over bulky as some radios have in the past.  The function buttons are all easy to use through the case.  Best for me is the amount of volume you can get out of the radio.  While on the water the radio may be on the deck of my kayak and the wind could be blowing hard restricting my hearing.  While listening for updated weather I can easily hear the M72.

The M72 also can operate at 6 watts of power.  This provides a nice strong signal, especially while kayaking along the shoreline and in and out of bays.  I can still get clear reception from many boater that are far from my location.

The battery life of the M72 has been much greater than any other radio I have used in the past and it has held up against the elements better that other radios I have used.  Even in a protective case other radios I have used start to get corrosion around screws and other parts of the radio.  My M72 still looks brand new.  It has been very reliable and I recommend checking it out if you are in the market for a radio.  

The M34 tends to get a lot of attention due to the fact that is can float.  Which would come in handy as a kayaker.  But with proper management and tethering the radio to your kayak or yourself.  There should be no problems.  I simply found the M34 to bulky for me.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cattle Pass Paddle

Today I took off on a nice kayak from Cattle Pass on San Juan Island and made my way over to Lopez Island.  I was on the look out for Stellar Sea Lions and I was not disappointed.  There were some hauled out at Whale Rocks and a few swimming in the channel.  I had a great shoreline paddle along Lopez Island where I saw many purple sea stars.  I took just a few photos since the water was so calm.  It was a great day.

Something New

I have decided to start a web blog to keep everyone up to date on what is going on out here in the Pacific Northwest or where ever else I might be.  I canceled my myspace.com account, I will try to post photos and information here.  I hope to post many photos of kayak trips and maybe even a few bits of information on cool kayak products that come up along the way.