Sunday, February 7, 12021 HE
Saturday the weather was gorgeous, especially for February in Vancouver. And it was windy with a strong westerly to boot. Below is the forecast from Windy.com for the weekend as predicted on Saturday morning! There are four different predictions from four different models, but the take-home is Saturday afternoon was going to be windy! With the strong wind starting in a three-hour window centred around 1600 and continuing into the evening.
And below is the forecast for Sunday as predicated on Saturday morning as well. However, for Sunday, only the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and Meteoblue (MBLUE) forecast models were predicting strong winds in the afternoon. Here is Windy.com‘s explanation of the different models that they use.
While there was going to be more wind on Saturday afternoon it was pushing later into the day which was not ideal given the amount of winter daylight. But there would be enough daylight with a well-timed departure. And the wind would be increasing around 1430 based on the forecast estimating a 1600 start time (i.e. a three-hour block split into two one and a half chunks centred around 1600). Sunday had less wind and it was forecasted earlier in the day. But not all of the models called for wind which gave me less confidence in the forecast compare to Saturday. Even though Windy.com states that the ECMWF model is the most accurate, I was still a bit skeptical.
As luck would have it, none of this would really matter. Despite my wanting to get out for a paddle in the strong winds on Saturday it was not in the cards. No one was available to paddle, so a real downwinder was not really on the radar. I even contemplated renting an Evo Car Share so that I could shuttle myself back to my own vehicle. Though I was not certain the logistics regarding timing and location would work.
Though I did conclude that using an Evo to downwind could be an idea for the future. After contemplating it as an option for a solo downwinder, I realized that it could be a time-saving option for paddling with a partner. You could eliminate the need to pick up your drop off vehicle. The caveat is that the home zone for Evo only gets you as far west as Blanca Street. And with Evo’s current home zone you would be limited to the south side of Burrard Inlet (though you could park out at UBC if you were willing to do a bit longer board carry to get to the water).
So all of this is to say that Annie, my wife, could tell you I was a bit mopey on Saturday for missing such a wind worthy day. And that only became more apparent in the late afternoon when the winds outside of our place were blowing through our breezeway and swaying the trees outside of our backyard. Bye-bye windy Saturday.
Our children really wanted to do a park play in North Vancouver. This way they get to see Oma and Opa and do some exercise with them outdoors at the park. With the added parental back-up I could take advantage of the remaining weekend wind and paddle on the north side of Burrard Inlet. I checked the forecast and it still looked okay. Not as windy as Saturday but still windy nonetheless.
On route to North Vancouver while driving over the Lions Gate Bridge I had Annie peer westward to see if she could spot any whitecaps in Burrard Inlet. That was a negative.
Oh well, at least it was going to be sunny out.
My plan now was to do a round-trip paddle around the Caulfeild Cove area. But, just before leaving the park, I asked Michael, my father-in-law, to check his forecast. He’s a sailor so I guess I was looking for confirmation from him regarding the wind conditions. His weather source was predicting wind, so we made a tentative plan that I would do a one-way trip from Caulfeild Cove to Hollyburn Sailing Club. I realize the ridiculousness of this confirmation as the various weather applications available are obtaining their data from similar, if not the same, sources. But human psychology is irrational, and somehow having his weather report gave me more confidence that it would be windy out.
Our plan was that I would call him to confirm my plan after I arrived at Caulfeild and surveyed the conditions.
Just before I departed I saw a message from Peter asking if we were still okay to paddle in the afternoon. We had made tentative plans after not being able to connect for a paddle on Saturday, but now I was not able to make it. Though the thought of a second afternoon/evening twilight paddle on the other side of the inlet was alluring, time (and my family) would not permit it.
It was gorgeous out when I arrived at Caulfeild Cove. There were some waves on the water so I decided to give downwinding a shot. I assumed that the wind would be stronger later in the day, as per the forecast, and with the changes in air temperature/pressure creating an inflow in the fair-weather sun. In addition, I would be further into the fetch and further past the wind protection provided by Point Atkinson.
In any case, it would be a beautiful paddle, albeit a bit longer, in the event that the winds were light. Below is the view from the dock at Caulfeild Cove looking across to Point Grey with the east most part of Eagle Point jutting out on the right.
Coming out of Caulfeild Cove the wind wasn’t that strong but you could feel the groundswell. I paddled out towards one of the anchored ships, then changed course to follow the waves inland. I repeated this a few times zig-zagging my way eastward down the coast.
And then looking back westward towards Eagle Point on towards Point Atkinson (left) and Caulfeild Cove (centre-right).
The picture below is looking eastward to my destination of West Vancouver and ultimately the Hollyburn Sailing Club. The taller buildings just to the left of the large tanker ship are where I am headed.
The wind started to pick up as I passed the first ship moored off the coast of Stearman Beach. And by the time I made it to the second ship, the one visible in the photo above, things were starting to get interesting. A little bit later I stopped to take a few more pictures. In the image below you can see a few white caps starting to form as I get further into the fetch. I am closer to West Vancouver and there is a tanker ship leaving the Port of Vancouver just in front of Stanley Park. There was also one approaching from behind heading into the port, but it is out of the photo frame.
The waves and wind were now taking me more in the direction that I wanted to go. Though there was still a slight pull towards the shore as the waves curved and refracted towards the shore. The picture below is looking slightly more eastward.
The conditions became a bit more treacherous around Dundarave. I had ridden the swells in towards the shoreline and now I had to battle through a crosswind and the waves to make it out around the south sloped shoreline. I was caught off guard by a larger wave and fell in. The water was cold, but I was hot from paddling and still thankful to be in my drysuit. I had one more spill a little further along. The chop was pretty intense with the crosswind and groundswell.
In retrospect, I looked up the wave sizes out of curiosity (see below). I was surprised to find out that they were only 0.6 m (2 ft)! They sure felt bigger while I was out on the water. My ego was consoled when I read that the maximum height could be as much as double the reported average wave height. One point two metres (4 ft) swells sounds so much nobler than 0.6 m (2 ft) swells. And, my ego was padded further when I read that close to the shoreline the actual wave height is influenced by the sea bottom (i.e. groundswell). To me, the bigger waves felt more like 1.2-1.8 m (4-6 ft), but that just may be my fishing (i.e. paddling) story.
And of course my route. Ideally, I should have paddled out further earlier to prevent myself from getting caught up along the contour of the shoreline between my 5th and 6th kilometre.
I did try to play around with my footwork on my board throughout the paddle. I did a lot of shifting from parallel stance to surf stance. But I found that I wasn’t very comfortable trimming my board fore and aft once in surf stance. I was okay doing a shuffle step, but there was definitely room for improvement. And I was not at all comfortable cross-stepping in those conditions. So the next time that I am out on flat water conditions that is what I will be working on.