Paddle. Point. Grey. Whale.

Thurdsay, April 15, 12021 HE

Things were slow at work this week and with coronavirus-related cancellations, I was able to have a personal day. Funnily I received a message from Peter Wednesday night asking if there any chance that I was off Thursday. I was originally planning to paddle the TNR#2 course in Deep Cove. But with the potential paddle partner permutation, we made a plan to meet up to paddle from Spanish Banks. Wil would join too, but he had to work in the afternoon so the closer location would maximize our time on the water.

After dropping off our respective children at school we met at the Spanish Banks Off-Leash Dog Area. We planned to paddle out towards Point Grey and Secret Beach, time depending.

The weather was gorgeous and as we organised our kit in the parking lot we debated whether to wear wet/dry suits or brave it without. I decided to go without my suit while Peter and Wil decided to go with theirs. I think my semi-drysuit may be done for the season!

As we paddle out we passed a few crab traps and discussed laying traps from our SUPs in the future as well as the visible geography on the horizon. We could see clear across the straight towards the NanaimoNanoose Bay, and Parksville areas on Vancouver Island. I was slightly surprised by this as we’ve holidayed in Parksville the last few years. It hadn’t registered to me that it was nearly visible from Vancouver!

It seems to be like clockwork, but nearly every time that I am paddling off of Point Grey I see the Canadian Coast Guard Hovercraft. This time I had my camera at the ready, mounted to the front of my board so I was able to get an excellent clip for my boys! Below is a still shot.

Canadian Coast Guard Hovercraft en route to the Sea Island Base.

And below is a clip of the video.

Canadian Coast Guard Hovercraft en route to the Sea Island Base.

We didn’t make it to Secret Beach before we decided to turn around. En route back to Spanish Banks, there were some small rolling waves to catch. I had caught a few and was heading back out from the shoreline to ride another run when Wil happened to do shoulder check looking back out towards the straight and spotted a whale blow! I have no idea how he saw it. He did say afterward that his childhood nickname was Hawkeye.

Here is the still shot of will pointing out the whale blow with his paddle.

Wil pointing out the whale blow in the distance.

And below is what he was looking at! See anything? Neither did I. That’s Bowen Island in the background. The blow spout was where the tree clearing is between Cowan’s Point and Seymour Bay.

Looking for a whale blow in the distance.

For reference here is the same image as above with a red oval to mark where you should be looking. But before you strain your eyes there isn’t a blow visible in that picture.

Looking for a whale blow in the distance with a little bit of help.

There is a blow spout visible in the image below. Just to the left of the clearing. See if you can spot a small white column rising from the ocean to the left of the developed area on Bowen Island.

And here again, is the same image above with an oval to guide you towards the blow. Again, I don’t know how Wil spotted it. And I am glad I was out with him because there is no way I would have spotted it on my own!

Here is the video of it all unfolding. Though I apologize for not getting my board correctly orientated right away to where I was to be looking. The video starts with me heading out against the small waves before I turn around just as Wil spots the blow. You can see a visible blow between 1:02 and 1:04. But at the time it took me another two or three blows before I was able to spot the whale.

Searching the seascape for a whale blow.

I watched from a distance for a bit before I decided that I needed to get a closer look. Who knows when I would get another chance to see a whale from my SUP, plus my eyesight is the pits. I also was in no rush for the rest of my day. Wil and Peter stayed back as I paddled out.

As I paddled out I kept an eye on the horizon watching for the whale’s blows. I was on course towards the bell buoy that marks the north entrance of Burrard Inlet. I saw a few before at some point they stopped. At first, I thought it was a longer dive but then I started to think that I had lost him. I was reluctant to take my eyes off of my site bearing to scan the horizon for the spout so I continued forwards.

Just as the thought was entering my head that I had lost the whale and was slowing my paddle stroke I heard a loud whoosh to my left and turned to see a spout line. It was still a ways away but the whale had made a fairly large change of course. I turned and continued towards it. As I neared I decided to slow down and keep a safe distance. Wil had mentioned earlier that a whale was spotted in the area and that it seemed to be injured. I did want to get too close to a whale generally, let alone one that was not in full form and perhaps would be spooked by my presence. Below is some video as I approach and watch from a distance. I felt like I was much closer in real life than in the video. But later after getting into shore, I did look up the rules around safe viewing distances. The law from the Government of Canada is to keep a minimum of 100 metres from cetaceans. The whale does a blow and then is floating on its side with its pectoral fin out of the water for some time.

An injured humpback whale in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet near Point Grey.

And below is a stark informational video on BC boaters and cetacean encounters which I came across in this Vancouver Sun article when I was searching for more information on the Point Grey humpback whale.

Below is a still shot of its pectoral fin out of the water.

Humpback whale’s pectoral fin.

I stayed for one last blow before I turned and parted ways with the mighty mammal.

One last blow before I go.

And here is a still shot of its blow spout.

Humpback whale’s blow.

And the mist!

The mist from a humpback whale’s blow.

I have dreamed about seeing a whale on my SUP for some time now so I was super excited to have the experience. But from the moment I saw the whale from close up I had a feeling in my gut that something was wrong. Perhaps it was from what Wil had heard speculated on, that the whale was injured. Or maybe it was the way that it was moving? Or that it seemed odd for it to be alone by itself in the inlet (though I did read afterward that they will travel alone or in pods). Whatever it was, my spirits were mixed to see such a magnificent mammal maimed. The children’s book The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson was at the forefront in my mind as I watched the whale. Especially the part about the whale becoming confused by the sounds of the boats passing by it to the point that it goes too close to the shore and becomes beached. In the children’s story, the whale is saved by the local school children and the community. I wonder what will be the ultimate fate of this whale. Will it recover? And if so, will it rejoin its pod?

Later in the day, I searched to see if I could find any details on the whale. I found this article on Vancouver Is Awesome and this one in the CBC. It gave me some comfort to read in the CBC article that the biologist interviewed believes that the whale could recover from its injury.

Here is a GIF I made of one of its blows.

Humpback whale blow and mist.

And the route that we paddled. I was viewing the humpback whale around the 4 kilometre mark.

Screenshot of Google Fit activity tracker.

One thought on “Paddle. Point. Grey. Whale.

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