Thursday, June 26, 2014

Urban Adventure: Olympia

Urban Adventure: Olympia

If you are willing to get out and wander around a bit you can find the most interesting things. A couple of three times a year I am sent on a business trip to Dupont, Washington for a half a week. While there, I like to stay at the Red Lion in Olympia. It is 20 minutes down the road, but the rooms are nice, the rate is low, and it has a very nice restaurant and lounge. It also sits up on a cliff with a wonderful view of Capitol Lake. Just a nice place. Because of this (and the price, no doubt) it has a constant flow of interesting clientele. There is just about always a sports team (U Dub this time) and a convention of some sort. Last time it was dogs. This time it is evidently paper mache tigers. Oh, and also a goodly supply of Bomb Disposal Experts, or perhaps Bomb Disposal Van Salesmen. Hard to tell from the evidence in the parking lot.

This is in the Lobby. Really. I must ask what it is.

Do you think they only dispose of Royal Bombs?

View Olympia Outing in a larger map

After work today the sun was out and glorious and so I set out on a walk. I thought I would figure out how to get down the cliff behind the hotel to the river/lake below. I figured there must be some sort of dirt walking path down near the water and probably some steps going down. I tried to find my own way by walking down the back of the property, but all I found was a cute little bunny and some signs that said “Danger, Steep Cliff”. 
 So I went inside and asked the nice desk person. She directed me to go out the front, turn right, and then turn right again at the court house. Sure enough, right down the very steep street to the lake. And wow, it turns out that I didn't find a dirt path but the very well maintained lake and park district of the capitol of the state of Washington. It was really nice. Cut Grass. Manicured bushes. Lots of informative fun signs to read. And some not so informative or nice signs: “Lake Closed Until Further Notice”. What is up with that? Is it some dire poison from industrial pollution? Perhaps an endangered bird started nesting here? 

No, it was this:

Wow. An Ecological disaster in the middle of the capitol of a State of the Estados Unidos. I never would have thunk it.  Wow, these little buggers are everywhere!! They have been invasive in Europe since 1860 and are all over the US. Check it out.

The impact of the closing of the lake became even more obvious to me as I circumnavigated the lake on the wonderful jogging and walking interpretive trail. Over on the far side (from my Hotel) was a nice grassy park. People playing soccer. Joggers. Things like that. Over there the park flowed down to the lake where there was a nice set of steps (perhaps 100 yards long, 3 steps down) that clearly led to what had once been a beach and swimming access to the lake. Now there is a chain link fence and then marsh. Wow, imagine shutting down the state swimming hole.... right there in front of a beautiful view of the State Capitol building.


As far as I can tell, this is the famous old Brewery at the end of the Deschutes River. This Bewery was bought by the Olympia Brewery at the end of prohibition. Note that it has the same picture as on the Olympia Beer can!!


I mentioned that it was an interpretive trail. There were a few themes for the signs. In one section it was all about Salmon and restoring their habitat and such. The rest of the loop, the widely spaced signs were about “what to do with Capitol Lake?”. It seems that the lake is not sustainable. It was created by the damming of the Deschutes River (not the Deschutes of brewing fame but...... wait..... it is the Deschutes of brewing fame, just different brewing fame than you are thinking. … Ahhhh .... If you are thinking Mirror Pond. It is the same if you are thinking Olympia.) and Percival Creek. These creeks carry a lot of sediment down to the lake every year and there is no way that sediment can exit the lake. So the lake is filling up. In the not to distant future, if Washington uses the “Status Quo” solution, the lake will become a complete freshwater marsh area. Not a desired effect. It probably will not smell very good. Image the “dead swamp” from the Lord of the Rings. But the swamp would be inhabited by the ghosts of Washington state assemblymen who let that travesty happen. The 2 solutions that the signage proposes are:
  1. Salt Water Estuary (e.g. the historic Natural Solution)
  2. Managed Freshwater Lake (e.g. Dig all of the mud out on an ongoing basis).

Both solutions are presented in an even handed fashion in the many signs. They talk about trade-offs and costs and the change in species and lake use by humans. I have never seen such an interesting and fair education to the public in permanent nice graphic signs. Old Signs, by the way. Perhaps there for 10 years or more. I wonder how the lake committee is doing? On the one hand, I vote for the back to nature clear out the dam and let the water flow solution. I think this would, for instance, kill off the snails and make the area usable again. But usable for what? The nice lake would be gone. If they manage the lake, that would be nice, but it would not get rid of the snail problem, so not swimming or sailing or throwing sticks for your lab. And.... It turns out that either solution would be very expensive because either solution would require dredging and disposing of the “contaminated” soil. Wow. A tough one. I was thinking they should poison the lake and kill the evil snail critters. But that would kill the cute little duckys and such. Drat.

I completed my walk and slugged back up the hill to my hotel, where I had a pint of local organic IPA and a nice Cobb salad. I am hoping I am calorie neutral for the day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mayne Island: part 3 of 3

The Japanese Gardens Paddle

View Japanese Gardens Paddle in a larger map

There was a lot of activity last night. Something going on. In the early evening we noticed a huge yacht parked in the cove next to our camp ground. I think a royal prince or something was there. I took a picture. See how that one guy is covering his face? He isn't saluting, that is the wrong hand. I feel like a paparazzi. I had better fuzz their faces.

Turns out the picture isn't good enough to need to fuzz the faces. But that guy in the white shirt is definitely royalty.

Then right after we saw that boat I heard this loud fan noise and I said “Hey, that sounds like a Hover Craft!” We looked through the trees and sure enough, A large red Royal Canadian Hover Craft. Could not tell if it was full of eels.

Then, after it got dark (which is really late in those latitudes) there was crashing and explosions and lights and we realized that it must be fireworks. We could even see a few through the leaves. There was some celebration going on over on the other island. Made it harder to sleep than the seal slapping. The seal slapping was going on down in the water at high tide. The seals would every now and then make a great whompus of splashing noise. To scare away rivals? To attract Orca? Who knows. But it kept many campers awake. All of those noises, however, are overshadowed by the hourly boom of the BC Ferry whistles as they make their turn down Active Pass. The whistles on those things create a sound that is like a great wind, you can hear it sweeping in and past you and then bouncing off of the distant hills and sweeping back past you again. The echo hitting you before the end of the long blast such that the entire bay seems engulfed with the sound. Luckily the Ferries stop running around 11:00pm and don't start up again until 6:00am

The Ferries at Night. Are Big and Bright. Deep in the Heart, of BC.

Last night, after a group dinner of hors d'oeuvres and left overs, we had a serious talk about the next day's paddles. Seems like the Canadian Weather person was predicting some not so good kayaking weather. High probability of rain, but even worse from our point of view, high winds. Winds at 25 mph (well perhaps 30 kph) and up. Wind can be a real killer when you are out paddling. If you are on an open body of water (like, say, the ocean, or a big bay) then the wind can come blasting across the water and push up a wicked swell. So you can quickly get high waves, high wind, flying spray, and a general scary situation. When you are paddling in a small boat, you can generally be pretty safe if you stear into the wind and waves, but if you want to go in a different direction, it can get very hard to stay upright. If you are going down wind, you start to be surfing on the waves. This means you can have your bow and stern on different waves or just have your central body picked up, in either case the boat will not want to track straight and you could broach to. (like that? Broach to? It means you will be sideways to the waves and perhaps rolled over). Hard to make rescues in the waves. And then you go where they want you to. Perhaps into the rocks. Perhaps out to sea. Perhaps New Jersey. None of these things are desirable.

Anyway, in the name of safety it was decided to cancel some of the more challenging trips and to instead schedule the shorter safer ones that were going to stay on the side of the island that would be protected from the expected Southeast killer wind. My partner and I elected to go on a little round the bay jaunt that was going to stop at a local historic landmark, the Japanese Gardens.

So that morning we struggled out of bed and loaded our boats on the action adventure mobile and headed over to the little public landing that is sort of next to the Mayne Island ferry port. OOPS takes great pride in their tradition of safety, as I have said before, and today we were being lead by a new trip leader. This was her first solo group leading (I think. My apologies if I am wrong. This is a work of fiction, you know) so she was extra careful and safety like. Which was fine with me. It was low tide when we started out, this meant a long slug through mud from the boat ramp to the wet stuff. But the launch was easy enough and we happily paddled out of the bay along the rocky, million dollar home encrusted shore. The coast here is high rock cliffs down to deep water. Many homes still manage to have docks and ramps up the cliffs to the houses. Many of the docks have these draw bridge things going down to the water such you can raise the ramps up to the dock. Not sure of the purpose of these draw bridges. Is it to protect the ramp from high waves in the event of a storm? Or to deny access to the house above from the water in the event of Pirates? I am betting the latter.

We paddled pretty slowly. We had all day and we wanted to spend some time looking in tide pools for critters and enjoying the many fascinating geological formations. Wind, Rain and Sea can do some cool carving on a mixture of hard and soft rock. For critters, we saw purple sea stars and a football Critin. For rocks, see the pictures.

There is evidently a plague wiping these guys out down in CA.

At the end of the next bay South we beached, hauled our boats up high, and then walked up the ramp to the grassy field that gave us access to the Japanese Gardens. These gardens were built in memory of the Japanese Canadian farmers that lived on Mayne Island at the onset of World War II.

It turns out that Canada has the same terrible past as the USA when it comes to their treatment of their citizens of Japanese decent during World War II. They had the same imprisonments in camps and the same seizure of property. To this day I can't understand how we could justify the legal seizure. One would think that even if we felt forced to imprison our own citizens until the end of the war that we at least would have felt compelled to give them their stuff back when it was all said and done. Or 100 years after it was all said and done. But apparently not. Apparently both in the USA and in Canada we didn't feel bad enough to give them back their homes and their farms. In Canada, however, they did feel bad enough to make a nice little garden in memory of the poor Canadians that lost their lands such that other Canadians might one day build million dollar summer homes. I don't know what else to say about this place. It has the same peace and geometric complexity/simplicity as any well done Japanese Garden. We walked quietly around for about an hour. Here are some pictures.

Kami Bell

OK, I made up the Kami Bell thing

But it sounded good, didn't it?

OK, I made up the bamboo thing

Super Heros

On the way home we stopped to play with the harbor seals and to do some bow rescue practice. I have been feeling a little damp lately after flipping over in my dry suit. I can't figure out if I have a real leak or just have some water coming in through my neck seal. My drysuit is from Kokatat. It is one of their less expensive models. It has lighter material than other models and the neck seal is just neoprene and not the much tighter and more water resistant rubber gasket. This means that the neck is much more comfortable than other drysuits but can let in more water. A trade-off. Don't flip over, or if you do, get your head above water as quick as you can.

When we got back to the boat launch the tide had come in quite a bit and we didn't have such a long slug through the mud. Just as well.

My partner and I had become a little tired of the camping. We had done the math and figured that in order to make the 7:00 am ferry, we would have to get up at like 5:00 and break camp and carry all of our stuff out. Or carry everything except the sleeping stuff out tonight. And what if the predicted rain shows up? Then we would be carrying stuff out through the mud. I didn't like that. So we called around and found a nice little cabin to rent over on the other side of the island (But that is a 10 minute drive !!). It was one of like 10 quaint little one room cabins in a little semi circle. The place is called the Blue Vista Resort and we stayed in the Hummingbird cabin. (do you know why hummingbirds hum? Because they can't remember the words !!). It had a bed and a shower and a little cooking unit. Was more than nice enough for our one night stay.

We had dinner with the group over there on that side of the island too. In a little restaurant looking out over the island chain that we didn't get to paddle to because of the weather. Oh yeah, the terrible wind and rain weather that never freaking happened. Thanks Canadian Weather Person. Nice to know that it is just as hard to predict the weather in Metric as it is in old English units.

The next morning we jumped up and drove out to the Ferry landing to wait in line for our Ferry. There was a whole bunch of action going on in the AM. People moving around. There were 2 ferries in at the same time for awhile. A small ferry came in to the smaller ferry ramp on the left and the guys lowered the draw bridge and cars started coming off. This was one of the ferries where the car deck is open to the sea. Sort of looks like what I would have called a “normal” ferry before this weekend started. Perhaps like something that may have plied back and forth across the Hudson in mid 20th century New York.

Anyway, the cars come off, drive up the hill toward us, and then just about every one of them takes this little turn-around loop and comes right back down and drives onto the larger ferry on the right (which I guess isn't our Ferry after all). Then the small ferry leaves. It gets out a few hundred yards, turns around, comes back and unloads cars from the other end. Not sure if that was a planned and standard manuvuer or not. Then both ferries leave. My partner and I joined up with a bunch of other OOPS people headed home and walked up to the little outdoor cafe to score some coffee. Then I hear a whistle and around the corner comes (what will turn out to be) our ferry. It chugs and opens its huge bow doors and in we all roll.

The trip back was different from the trip out in that we had sunshine.

And off we went. We did remember to return our borrowed Pillows.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Garage Sale Saturday Interlude

Garage Sale

A community event. The ultimate way to re-cycle. A great way to make some extra cash. A strange and truly american custom. Anyway you want to look at it, a Garage sale can be an interesting way to spend a Saturday. Well..... maybe once a year.

One of the things about being associated with a suave savvy sophisticated and money wise partner is you get to learn a lot of new things. For this week I was learning about Garage Sales. Did you know, for instance, that there is an entire science dedicated to the proper marketing of Garage Sales and the appropriate merchandising of the items contained therein?

Let me explain.

Garage Sale Marketing 101

First, you have to get out the word. Different communities are using different mechanisms. It used to be that the way to go was the Newspaper (in our case, The Oregonian) but evidently that is too passe even for the older neighborhoods. Just nobody does Oregonian anymore, probably because they don't actual deliver much anymore. No, we put a add online on Craig's List. And you don't just list your sale, you also list some of your big sale items. Perhaps you even list the big sale items separately and announce that they can be viewed from 9 to 2 on Saturday (hey, that is during my Garage Sale, Perfect !). In our case our big items where a nice china Hutch and matching dining table and a big bin of Legos. The Legos got a few calls right off the bat. More on them later.

Now once you have the word out, you have to price things and get things set up such that people will actually buy them. You have to do Merchandising. You can't just leave things sitting around and expect people to find them and buy them, no no no. You have to put them up high enough for older people (the ones with time and money) to be able to comfortably peruse. This means tables. Lots of tables. We didn't actually have too many tables, but what we did have was a bunch of long boards (no idea from where) and a bunch of small size moving boxes full of my books. Two boxes stacked on top of each other, 2 stacks for legs, board on top..... bang.... a table.

Then you need a bunch of the little circle labels and some larger sticky labels and a pen and you go to town.

But now what? Do you price things according to their value or to get them to sell? Do you put a high initial price and see if people but them? You can always mark them down later. But the real buyers come early. But if your prices are too low then you are losing money. I think the most important thing is to just get prices on everything. You can wander around the garage all day changing prices if you want.

My partner likes to arrange things by function. So we had a table for kitchen stuff (50 cents for any cooking utensil. When two households collide you have a lot of leftover spatulas), another table for electronics (with the cable grab box!!) and another table for household type stuff; like blankets and quilting supplies. In the center and spilling out into the driveway (Boy I hope it doesn't rain) were all of the random big things. We had some good random big things. We had: 2 air conditioners (one in-window, one standing), a lounge chair (very comfy), the aforementioned China hutch and table, numerous suitcases, my 2 old WWII down mummy sleeping bags (man it was hard to give up those bags) and a nice standing lamp. And a bin of Legos!

Did you know that there is a huge thriving business in re-cycled LEGO pieces? On eBay there are many sellers advertizing boxes of “newly cleaned” used legos. They sell them by the pound. About $20 a pound for just a bunch of random bricks (though they claim to have some larger and more interesting pieces (like airplane canopies and wings)). $20 a pound and it seems like we had at least 10 pounds worth. We marked the bin at $60. And we were not going to negotiate because this is one of the things that we know we can sell on Craig's list. (oh hell, if you had come and offered me $50, I would have buckled).

So, we have our advertizement. We have our Merchandising. We have our pricing. Are we ready to go? Hell no! You forgot two of the most important things: Change and Signage !! You need a whole bunch of 1's and 5s (cause everyone has fraking 20s) and you need quarters (cause you are a fraking idiot and think that the 25cent grab box-o-random-electric-cables is a good thing...twerp). You also need signs that start at some real road (that real people know about and drive on) and lead to your “Home in the sticks”. Geeze, we have a Portland Address and we have people telling us that they have no idea how to get “back to the road”. Of course, we had people that I was pretty sure hadn't found their way back to their homes in the last decade or so. But I digress.

So signs. Hand lettered. I wonder what they said, I never saw them. Let me ask. They said, “SALE, SATURDAY 9-2 ------>” and they had our address; 223157 stick street. Signs are important. Our neighbors have permanent signs that they use. They offered to lend them to us. I guess If people got to the house across the street they could then find us. We would be the house with the stuff in the yard. “You having a yard sale?” asked one of the first guys to arrive at 9:00 while I was carrying a box into the driveway. “No,” I replied “I just like stacking this shit in my driveway with signs on it”. Turns out this guy saw my partner out putting up signs and pretty much followed her back to the house. Well, he would follow the way she put up the arrow signs. He evidently got ahead of her one time and had to circle back till she put up the last arrow.
And this was one of the normal guys......

So. The people.

We have many classes of people. My neighbors with the permanent signs were one of the first to arrive. I think they just wanted to come over and chat some. But they looked around and took a few children's books for a school donation and were very pleasant. Perhaps that is why Americans have yard sales; to meet the neighbors. We had another neighbor come and buy the nice bicycle we didn't have room for. I didn't get to meet them. I must have been counting money or changing prices. Who else did we have? We had the WWII veteran. He was very nice. Told us about his wife of 60 years who just passed recently. He was looking for something for his great grandson who was coming to visit him for a week. Think of that, visiting your great-grandfather and actually being able to do things with him (and perhaps even remember him). I told him that I was getting married on Thursday and was hoping for 60 years with my wife too. He looked at me kinda funny and said “Good luck with that.”.

Who else?

There was the guy who really wanted to buy a lot of things but just didn't have the money. He did take the huge Ikea TV Console from Hell. Damn thing must have weighed over 100 pounds. But he bought it ($15 now and $15 more when I come back with my truck). He also ended up with a lounge chair. My partner let me talk to him when he came back, because he stood too close to her the first time. Funny, he didn't do that to me.

The junk metal guy came by in a pickup with high plywood signs. He just wanted a price on boxes of metal things. Pots and pans. Random metal weights. My wonderful but previously unused “50cent Box-o-random-electronic-cables”. $5.00. “Oh, you must be kidding, I just want the scrap”. He told me the story of his very well wrapped but slightly short middle right finger. (His english wasn't very good). “I was carrying metal, you know? And I had an air-conditioner and when I picked it up the freon sprayed on my hand, you know? It was very cold. Very Cold. But I shook it off and it stopped hurting after 5 minutes. No big deal, you know? Then two weeks go by and it turns black and it really starts to hurt. It really hurts and I go to the doctor. And they say they can't do anything for me. You know? They want to operate. I could see my bones in the flesh, you know? And they find a little tiny splinter. But they can't do anything for me, and they give me pills.” at this point he suddenly can say a few words very clearly, “They give me Oxycontin and Vicodin and Hydro Co Done. But it doesn't help very much. And as you can see, it is a problem. It is a problem for me because I play the accordion. It is very sad.” And off he went.

People of many sizes came in. Many people that I was amazed could walk came in and just wandered around for 5 minutes and then wandered out. No free large chunks of gold in that garage sale. Damn.

Had some nice families come in. Dad bought his son the flatscreen TV for $50. “He shot my other TV with an airsoft gun. Put a hole in the screen. It was an accident.”

When the families came by the son or daughter always went straight to the bin-o-legos. The boys would immediately start building something. Usually a space ship. I could tell because they would announce “I am building a space ship”. The girls would pick out the little lego action characters and make comments about their attire and social status. “This one is very rare, you know. Very rare. See the green shoes?” I liked the families. Dad would usually buy something. Mom would encourage the kids to get books. One young lady (perhaps 14) was going through the books in a very concerted fashion. At a dollar a book you gotta think that a book lover would be having some fun. Hey, Powell's Books !! LOL. (sorry, this is a double inside joke). I engaged her for a minute to see what she was interested in. There were a lot of good books there, but only if you like what I or my partner read or study. She found “Great Gatsby” and was very happy. I might be done with a book, but I still like it to go to a good home.

The Memories

Perhaps THAT is what a garage sale is about. You have all of this stuff. All of these parts of your life. Things you really needed and were kind to you in the past. That WWII air force down bag, for instance. That started life as a 2 foot square flat box with a quarter inch screw through it. It was made to be screwed onto the back of a ejection seat of a jet fighter pilot. I say a jet airplane but then I have to revise my WWII story. OK, Korean war jet ejection seat (be crazy to be Vietnam, it is a heavy down bag, for gosh sakes). Anyway, the flat box (made of fiberglass) had a metal zip cord around the outside rim. You pull on that wire and it would tear open the box and the bag would WOOSH out. (Well, it would woosh out exactly once. No getting it back in). Then you have this really fabulous down mummy bag. A really fabulous down mummy bag with screw holes randomly through it. My mom sewed up the holes (editor's note: with fabulous little red triangle patches) and then I started using it (Them actually, there were two. My brother probably had dibs on one). It was hard to find a place that was cold enough to use them. They were very warm. They were also reversible. Forest green on one side. Snow White on the other. Lets your jet fighter pilot eject into any enemy territory and hide out. No zipper. Just crawl in and pull the draw string tight. I remember using one in college on a hiking trip into the white mountains. It was very cold. I was not. Anyway. I have this thing with memories. A part of my life. But it doesn't fit me anymore and I can't find anyone that wants it (even after I tell the stories) and I have been hauling it around unused for 35 years now. Enough. I love you but it is time to go. I don't just want to dump you in Goodwill. I want to look into the eyes of the loving great-grandfather who had one of these “During the War” and wants to give it to his great-grandson that is now a first class in the Boyscouts. And for that, you need a garage sale.

You also need to be very lucky.

As my partner told me, on my second or third trip to the Good Will truck. “It isn't that no one wants your silly old sleeping bag. I mean, your very special and warm old sleeping bag. It means that no one wants your very special and warm old sleeping bag today. If we had done a little more advertizing and spent more time on merchandising and been open for 3 or 4 days, so that everyone had a chance to come by, we would have sold a lot more of our strange stuff. Maybe even your sleeping bags.”


Which brings us to....


When all is said and done, you still have a bunch of old redundant or useless crap in your garage and driveway. Suck it up, buttercup. Load up the old Adventure Mobile and cart that crap to Goodwill, wonderful down survival sleeping bags and all. Just throw that crap right away. But get a receipt and make a list. That crap is worth THOUSANDS on tax day.

Still for Sale:
Bin O Legos: $60
China Hutch: $250
Very Expandable Dining Table. With Pads. Matches the Hutch: $150
(Hutch and Table together: $350)
(Hutch and Table AND Legos: $400)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mayne Island: Part 2 of 3 (or so)

Mayne Island: Part 2 of 3 (or so)

Did you read Part 1?

We are staying the weekend in swanky camping accommodations at Miner's Bay on Mayne Island. This is a Oregon Ocean Paddling Society (OOPS) trip, one of their many big and exciting ventures of the year. My partner went on this last year by herself and had some big fun and adventure. So I was looking to her this year to take care of me and make sure that I had a good time. She did this by making sure we had a good campsite and then doing more than her fair share to carry all of my heavy camping gear the 200 yards from the car down the little trail to the site. A site with a really pretty view, but no fire pit. We were traveling in luxury, though. We had a queen size inflatabed and a power source to auto-inflate it as well as a dining fly and the usual array of Coleman stoves and lanterns. We had a little too much stuff to carry.

Trail to the campsite. Those rocks got old quick

View From Camp. Oh, look, a Ferry.

Seal Beach. Where are the Seals?

The Little Trip

But once we had our campsite set up, we still had plenty of time for a quick afternoon paddle around the bay. Just something to get our juices going. We signed out of camp for a personal paddle (OOPS is very safety conscious) and launched our matching Tempest 170s from the little boat landing on the camp grounds. The water was cold but still as we headed across the bay. Halfway out we ran into one of the morning OOPS group trips just coming back from around the point. We paddled out to say hi to them but they were in an all fired hurry to get back to camp and blew right by us with hardly a word. They almost looked like they were running from something (it turned out they were just having a friendly race to the beer, but I didn't know this at the time). So my partner and I continued West to the far side of the bay. The wind was starting to blow, it was scooping down off of the central “mountain” of Mayne Island and starting to stir up the waters of the bay. Now this bay is sort of a big jetty of that Active Passage that I told you about, and as the water swirls by in high speed out in the passage, it puts a spin on the bay; clockwise on the incoming tide, counterclockwise on the outgoing tide. Right in the middle of the bay is a little clump of stuff that is stuck there in the central spin point. Not a hugely fast spin, mind you, but you can still feel it when you kayak through.

Our boat launch. And the owners place. We don't get to go in there

Today we were kayaking out toward the edge of the bay. My partner wanted to see what conditions were like just out beyond the edge of the bay in Active Pass. She wanted us to just go around the corner. We would stay out of the fast current and eddies, probably. But the wind was blowing up swells behind us and BC Ferries were making swells in front of us and the current was starting to move and swell around us and the one place that you wanted to be to be out of the current (close to the rocks) you didn't want to be because of the swell (close to the rocks). And I finally just said “No”.

“Just a little further”

“No. No further. I am already freaked out right here. Going back now”

“Oh, OK”.

“No. NOT OK. Going back”

Oh. Two Ferris. Looking North West down Active Pass.

And so I retreated back into the bay and she came with. Once we got back over by the camp site things calmed down again and we explored a little around the point. But I still had a black feeling in my heart for the long and challenging paddles that we had planned this weekend. We were going to pass across Active Pass with the club. I was going to have to suck it up. It is extremely difficult for an exceedingly powerful, intelligent, courageous, (good looking), and independent (vane) man to get around the fact that his partner is sitting there calmly while he is fracking freaking out. It took me a long time to come down. Hard to suck it up in the midst of irrational (really? Did you see those swells?) fear. The “you should not be afraid” argument is, of course, What? You flip over and get wet? I will pull you out. Have done so before. Sigh.

Back in Calmer Waters (campsite in the background, I think)

We got back to camp just in time for me to start preparing dinner. The OOPS people (can't say the OOPS guys since the gender ratio is pretty much 1:1) have this new weekend procedure which is:
  1. Friday Night: Pot Luck Group Dinner
  2. Saturday Night: Left Overs from Friday and hors d'oeuvres
  3. Sunday Night: Dinner out.

This turns out to be a really great schedule but you sort of have to think about it and realize how it works to take maximum advantage of it. For instance, I didn't think that there would be enough food leftover on Saturday, so I had planned cooking on both Friday and Saturday. Other people knew there would be enough food and what they did was bring a premade covered dish (like Lasagna they made at home). Then they didn't have to cook AT ALL on the trip. This means they didn't have to carry a stove and pots and pans to their camp site. This is very smart. I had to do cooking for Friday (and in fairness, there were several others with this same plan). I made my camping spaghetti and red sauce (with sausage). I like to make my spaghetti sauce from individual canned ingredients (tomato sauce and sliced tomatoes) and throw in sauteed onions and mushrooms and such. It probably doesn't taste any better than a jar of pre-made stuff, but it makes me feel more authentic.

We had a very large and pleasant gathering with 30 or so other OOPS people. Plenty of food, that is for sure. Then we had a debrief of the day's trips. Talked about what went wrong and what went right. And then they talked about what trips would be offered the next day and what people would be going where.

There were two main trips offered. One would be crossing at the East end of Active Pass and exploring around the islands off the Southeast tip of Galiano. The other trip was crossing at the West end of the passage and going along the cliffs on the Southwest coast of Galiano to look at the tide pools and tide “walls” and the marine life therein. Both sounded pretty cool. I chose the East crossing as being slightly less difficult (and perhaps because it would make me retrace my path from that fiasco yesterday).

I love the summers in the Pacific Northwest. In the farther norther latitudes the sun doesn't set till.... well.... bedtime. This means that after dinner we had several hours of light to do anything we wanted (like blogging, or enjoying the sunset). One of the much enjoyed features of this campsite is an outdoor shower. It is a raised platform (6 feet) around a giant old tree. The shower head is afixed to the tree and the wooden decking goes all the way around. On the trail side of the tree the fence is 8 foot high, but on the bay facing side the fence is around waste height. This gives you this “being naked in the wilderness” sort of feeling which is extremely pleasant. And perhaps a little “oh we are being bad” sort of fun. This is a warm water shower and the water drains right into the forest, so you have to use environmentally friendly soap (which is provided). Also, since Mayne Island is an island surrounded by salt water, they don't have a lot of Fresh water. So the really green and eco-friendly and all around just concerned about the good of the planet and our fellow man type campers will insist on sharing the shower with someone. I suggest a beautiful partner. Just feels more eco-friendly that way.

OK, this is not the shower picture. Still trying to convince my partner to post that one.
Something about decency and laws and such.

In the morning the tide was high. I took some more pictures from our very wonderful campsite out on the point.

Oh, there are the seals! 

The Big Trip

So. We are going kayaking, big time, tomorrow. Perhaps we should discuss the situation a little.

View Mayne Island Paddle in a larger map

All of the kayaking around the South Gulf Islands is based on understanding the tidal flows (well, or dying) and watching and listening and talking to the Ferries (or dying). On our first club event of the weekend (we got there late) we met up early in the morning at miners bay (which happens to be where the campsite is, a happy coincidence). We were on the water at 8:15 for a 15 minute meet and greet and safety briefing. You know safety briefing? See who has tow ropes and radios, who can rescue, who brought the croissants, that sort of thing. On this particular day there were eleven of us signed up and about 5 trip leaders. (OK, 3, but it did get a little confusing).

A little calmer today

Laura Point

That is one of the big two ended Ferries out there.

The first thing to do was to get across Active Pass. Now I know what you are thinking, “Why do they call it Active Pass?”. Surely it must be because the currents and water are so “active” all of the time. It surely must be an interesting (dangerous) place to get such a name. But no, it turns out that pass namers aren't that subtle and introspective. If that had been the case they would have named it “Fast Water” pass, or “Bob died a horrible drowning death here” pass. No, the pass is named for the USS Active, a United States Navy survey vessel which was the first steamer to navigate the pass in 1855. I have a problem here. Wikipedia gives me links to more info about the USS Active, but those links claim that no such vessel ever sailed on the west coast. More study shows that it may have been a Coast Guard vessel, or at least not an USN vessel. But that may have had something to do with delivering the news that started the 1849 (49's) gold rush. Or not. So.... perhaps it is just “Active”.

Now, back to our exciting story:

We powered across miners bay and arrived at the choke point of Active Pass right at slack water. Right there where the bay hits the pass is a big eddy current loop. Right where I freaked out yesterday. Lots of flotsam gets caught in the whirl and we saw many trees along with other floating debris. We waited near the cliffs and then used VHF to contact BC Ferry control. We identified ourselves as “11 Kayakers”.

“11 Kayakers at Laura Point wanting to cross Active Pass to Burril point. Please advise on Ferry traffic.”

“North Bound traffic coming now. Clear after that” (Ok, the pretty skinny blond BC Ferry control voice said something more official sounding than that but I forget what it was. I bet she was wearing a uniform)

Powering across to Burril Point.

So we waited for the ferry, which came skidding around the bend, and then we waited for the wake to pass and then we powered across. Right at the slack tide. It was a pretty easy crossing. No wind, no current, which was the whole idea. If you go at the right time, then nothing is going to be happening and you get to have a nice day and continue that whole “stay living” thing. Good Job !!

We paddled past the Galiano Island ferry stop and around the corner and over to Gossip Island. (“You know what they say about Gossip Island, don't you?”). Here we ran into a bunch of Bald Eagles having a merry time with each other. A mating pair was hanging around (one up on a flag pole) and were rather upset at how close a pair of immature interlopers where getting. A little ariel battle occurred. One of the mature (white headed) eagles grabbed one of the immature eagles (brown headed) and they whirled around a bit over our heads. Glad they didn't come down on a kayak. I am not sure who won. The youngsters stuck around and landed on the rocks and were working on something dead they had over there.


One of the things that the OOPS organization does is to stress safety and training. There is usually a little bit of paddle or safety practice and instruction to be had on any given excursion. Today, we were doing some instruction on “Rock Gardening”. This is the practice of riding the swells and waves up amongst the rocks and barnacles near shore. I wasn't participating. I was watching and trying not to flip over. I did hear repeatedly that “The gel coat on a kayak is just a wear layer. You can paint it back on later”. Many were having none of that. I did respond that the same could be said of Skin. Now how, you may ask, does gliding up on the rocks map into my statement about safety? Well, if you are going to do anything adventurous, there is going to be a certain amount of risk. Risk mitigation becomes the key word, and for that you need training in how to do risky things with as much safety as possible. Just going out on the water is a bit risky. So we wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) and cold water emersion suits and practice self and partner rescues. Same for rock gardening. Do it in a relatively calm situation and learn the tricks from an experienced expert.

We had been paddling for about 2 hours and my boat was starting to fill up with water. OK, it was actually my bladder that was full, and since the rest of the group seemed to have similar concerns we pulled into a secluded beach off of Galiano and did some leg stretching and ate some food.

We were right off of this little island with this great big house on it. Now there is an expensive place. You have to buy the rock, you have to cart in all of the wood and cement and such to build the place. How do you get it there? Helicopter? Barge? Lots of people carrying stuff up the steps of the cliffs? And once you have it built, where do you get water and power? A generator, sure, where do you get your gas? All I am saying is that it must be very expensive and a bit of a hassle even to visit. You have to carry your week's food and clothes up the rocks? And I bet that sewage and trash disposal must be a problem. Oh to have those worries.

Alone on the Rock

And, of course, our children would never visit us. No Internet. (Don't be silly, Dad. Look at that mansion, of course there is internet!)

Purple Sea Stars. White Boat. Rock

Nicer Rock

Guard Geese

Back across to the main island and we have been paddling for a while now. I need another bio break but even more important, I find that my back is getting tired. And this is making me very wobbly and tippy in the water. I am sure that my fellow kayakers are noticing. I almost took a tumble when I had my camera out one time. Not good. I had felt like this before our first break, but after I had felt fine. Some of it has to do with the roughness of the water (I last longer on the flat stuff) but I think a lot of it is just being tired and not being used to my round bottomed boat yet.

Still, the rocky shoreline is very beautiful and we are seeing some interesting marine life. We saw a couple of seals (harbor seals?) and a pair of Stellar Sea Lions. The eagles I had mentioned and any number of seagulls (one apparently choking on a sea star. Unclear if it had the thing logged in it's throat or if it was just too stupid to spit it out. Either way, we saw that bird twice over a 4 hour period with the same thing stuck in its craw). The most interesting (to me) bird we saw was a Black Oyster Catcher. My memory doesn't have the bird as being solid black but the internets assure me that the American Oyster Catcher is only found on the east coast. I didn't get a chance to get my camera out and capture a picture of it (because of the aforementioned wobbles) so I am stealing one from the aforementioned internets.

But this is a referenced link. I think. Can you click on it?

At last it is time to head home. We are on a very well defined schedule here. We crossed Acitve Pass at slack tide and while we have been puttering around the islands the tide race through the passage has been going gang busters. Probably very dangerous to try and cross during that time. Last year when my partner was out there were some people that tried to cross the “eddyline” that is created by the fast water in the pass zipping past the non-moving water close to shore. When you hit that eddyline, you have to do the right things or you will get flipped over. These people got flipped and hauled out into the Ferry lanes. They were fine. Why? Because they had the right equipment and the right training. But they were capsized in the very fast moving (sort of white water river like) conditions for more than an hour. A normal boater in cotton clothing would have been in deep shit.

Oh yeah. Our schedule. We crossed at around 9:30 AM. Six hours later, at 3:30, would be slack water again. We would have around 30 minutes of close to no water movement in which to cross with the most safety. So we had to be on the point around that time and be ready to cross (and coordinate with BC Ferry control).

We ended up back at Burril point right around 3:20. We rafted up and relaxed and called BC Ferry traffic. They advised us that a Ferry was West Bound and would pass our location in 10 minutes. We said we would wait for it to clear and they thanked us for that. This controller was a little more surly than the last. When we asked for permission to cross she said something like “I can't give you permission, you have to decide if you are going to cross”. While probably the more accurate and truthful statement, not sure it was all that helpful. Perhaps it was. Perhaps being cognizant of your responsibility for your personal survival is the best thing.

Yes, I blurred the faces
While we were waiting we watched and talked to a young couple on the scenic rocks behind us. They were having their wedding pictures taken!! He was in a nice suit and she in a long flowing white dress and the photographer was doing the usual things to position them both and the beautiful (but deadly) rocks of the park that is out on Burril point. I wonder if they were pissed that their background scenery was capricously littered with brightly colored kayaks?

At this point I would like to draw your attention to the parallel of the kayakers and newly weds. Both setting out on adventures. Both taking along a partner. Which is the most dangerous? Which group had the appropriate equipment and training? Did either group have the right maps? On the times when my partner or I have gone upside down in the river (or deadly sea cave) the other has always been upright and in control and can offer assistance. I think that is perhaps not so common in marriage. In marriage it is more likely that the two will go under as a team. (well, or live happily ever after). My partner and I are going to be setting out on this adventure in a couple of weeks. I think we have better equipment and maps than last time. More safety training. More experience rock gardening.

Where was I? Oh yeah, waiting for the Ferry. Did BC Ferry control really say “west bound”? That would be from Tsawwaassen (promounced Tsawwaassen). We can see a Ferry coming from that direction, but it sure looks like it is more than 10 minutes away.

It was.

It was almost 30 minutes away. By the time it crossed in front of us we were getting toward the end of our safe crossing window (oh this is so exciting). But we were well rested and so headed across the channel with alacrity just as the ferry crossed in front of us. Everything was fine and simple until right around the halfway point I saw an eddyline. It was very clearly seen in the water. And it made me a little nervous. What was it going to do? How fast was it moving? Which direction am I supposed to lean and brace to keep from tipping over? Was it going to grab me and suck me down to a sea monster that inhabits these depths?

My partner comments, “What's up Jon? Don't worry, it is just an eddyline, it isn't going to eat you.”

Ha. She was the one that told me the story about the eddyline eating the kayakers last year.

Zip across after the Ferry. How come I have no pictures of the man eating Eddyline?

But it was nothing. Just a strangeness in the water. Didn't even push me around much. In retrospect, it may have been a disturbance in the water caused by the prop-wash of the Ferry. Or it could have been the start of the tide induced current. The trip leader timed the crossing. 8 minutes for the last kayak to clear the pass. 8 minutes. We easily could have crossed ahead of the Ferry (if we had had more accurate timing info). We did later hear that the Ferry captain was very appreciative of us waiting for him. I take it that many other groups of Kayakers are perhaps not so well trained or safety conscious as OOPS and may be out there in the Ferries way. The Ferry Captains refer to the kayakers as “sea fleas”. In this case the captain said “Tell the Kayaks thanks for us”. Good enough.

And so we returned safely to our campsite. We had plenty of “leftover” food and friendly conversation with our fellow kayakers. Then we went to bed early.

OK, there may have been another eco-friendly shower in there someplace.