Whale Hunt

Sunday, May 2, 12021 HE

Last weekend after my paddle I encountered two other SUPers. They were heading out in search of the humpback whale and it inspired me to do the same. I had seen the whale a few weeks early but it didn’t occur to me to go searching for it again last week. Though the conditions would have been ideal.

My neighbour recently mentioned that she had purchased a paddleboard and we had tentatively made a plan to go out paddling together. Since the conditions were so idyllic in Indian Arm yesterday I figured it would be a great day for her to get out on the water. And maybe we would even see the whale!

We planned to get out on the water early and the forecast looked okay. There was minimal wind forecasted. Though in hindsight as I write this and reflect on the paddle there was wind forecasted. I think I have become more accustomed to wind and was operating off of the general guidelines on wind found here. Less than 15 knots is labelled as ideal flat water conditions. I’ve used this guideline before to inform me of safe windy conditions. And I still think it is good as a general guideline. The error I made here was not equating the “ideal flat water conditions” to what would be appropriate for a novice. It was going to be my neighbour’s second time out on the water so calm waters would have been truly ideal.

Below is the wind forecast from the night before from Windy.com.

Screenshot of wind forecast from Windy.com.

At the time of planning our paddle, my lack of concern for the wind was overshadowed by my greater concern for the waves. The forecast was calling for 0.3 to 0.4 metres. Waves a third of a metre high were not ideal for learning to SUP. Especially, when the threat of falling into the water from a temperature and weather standpoint was high. This would be something different on a warm summer’s day. But for a cool spring morning, we were both hoping to stay dry side of our boards.

Below is the wave forecast from the night before from Windy.com.

Screenshot of wave forecast from Windy.com.

And below is the tide information from the My Tide Time Pro app. There would be a decent amount of water over the top of the Spanish Banks land shelf.

Screenshot of tide forecast from My Tide Times Pro.

In the morning, when I looked at the Jericho Sailing Club webcam the warning bells should have gone off. But we (cough…I) decided to check out the water first hand.

When we arrived at Spanish Banks West Concession, there was a cool northeasterly blowing. And as we set up our kit there was some definite wave action on the water.

We decided that we would test things out and we could always just stick close to the shore in one of the more sheltered coves depending on how things felt once we were out on the water.

Once we were out on the water the conditions were anything but ideal for learning to SUP. Cold wind, choppy water, and what would be cool water if you were to take a plunge. We paddled briefly upwind before my neighbour made the wise heads-up call to pack it in. In a post about safety, I tried to emphasize the importance of knowing your ability as well as knowing when to quit. It was a great call on her behalf to recognize her ability, and comfort level, and decide to turn in. I felt bad after suggesting such an early start for such a disappointing paddle. But she said that it had been a good experience to go through the process of setting up all the kit and launching.

Hopefully, there will be a future paddle in-store with real ideal conditions soon.

I decided to continue on and try my luck at finding the whale. I set out westward with my sights set on getting near the red bell buoy. I was wearing my camera on a head mount and was recording video. I planned to go back through the footage and pull out some still shots afterward. So I apologize for the crooked photos that follow. Apparently, I spend a lot of time tilted to one side when I am paddling.

Below is the view back eastward towards Vancouver.

Looking back towards the city.

And here is a similar view from a bit further out on the water with the sun trying to break through the clouds.

Clouds versus the sun overtop of Vancouver.

I made it out to the red bell buoy in search of the whale. The conditions were quite choppy and there were a few instances where I worried that I should have worn my semi-drysuit. Instead, I had opted to wear my paddling top. At this point, I was thankful that I had not persuaded my neighbour to venture out this way. The conditions were far from novice.

I didn’t see or hear the whale, but the bell buoy is cool to see up close and very loud! I went around the bell before turning to head back in. Below is a picture of the bell buoy. The cropping is not ideal but it was one of the better angles from my head-mounted camera. Unfortunately, the camera was angled slightly upward so that the camera field was above what was in my visual field unless I was looking down.

The red bell buoy at the north

The view southwestward toward Point Grey looked slightly more ominous than the view eastward without the sun highlighting the sky.

Looking out over the top of Point Grey.

The wind was stronger now, or at least it felt like it was, as turned to face it head-on. I had anticipated this, but it still always comes as a surprise just how strong a light wind can be. As a rule of thumb if you are paddling out somewhere and you do not feel wind it means that it is behind you and you need to keep this in mind for your return paddle.

Choppy waters ahead.

I kept a steady pace knowing that I could make progress into the wind but that it would be challenging. I think the image below encompasses the struggle.

Working hard against the easterly wind to make it back to shore.

My path was crossed by a flight of cormorants. I always love figuring out the different terms for various groups of birds. For cormorants the terms are a flight, gulp, sunning, or swim.

A sunning of cormorants in flight ahead.

And below is a short clip of the cormorants flying past. You can see what I mean by the camera field being aimed slightly too high with skyline start and finish to the clip. Fortunately, I was able to get some of their flight on video.

With the strong headwind and crossing swell, I decided to use the swell to my advantage and head in toward the shoreline for wind coverage. I was able to get a bit of wind shelter from the shoreline and successive coves. The image below shows one of the small points and coves that I took refuge within.

Some reprieve from the wind.

I liked the way the light interacted with the waves and tree line in the background in the photo below. The lighting lets you see the capillary waves scattered across the surface, the wind waves (or gravity waves), and then the swell.

Light and waves.

It was a morning of exploration but in the end, I didn’t find what I set out looking for. But I did come away with findings, they just weren’t what I was initially searching for.

Below is the paddle route that I took tracked on Google Fit.

Screenshot of Google Fit activity tracker.

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