Saturday, May 22, 12021 HE
We were heading over to North Vancouver for the day so I planned to paddle at Ambleside in the afternoon. When I got there, as to be expected on a fair-weathered day for the May long weekend the parking lot was packed. I did spot a few spots on Bellevue Avenue but they were parallel parking spots and I had my kit in the boot and our Thule T2 Pro bike rack on with the four bike add-on to boot. So I was pretty sure if I parked I wouldn’t be able to get my kit out. I decided to abort on Ambleside and make the extra drive out to Caulfeild Cove and paddle there. Unfortunately, I ran into the same problem…right, this is why I typically paddle in the early morning, no one else is out and about.
After looping around to find parking unsuccessfully, I decided to unload my kit in the laneway near the dock and then find parking further away and walk down. That turned out to be a success.
When I finally made it down to the dock it was teeming with teeny-boppers drinking, smoking, listening to loud music, and all-in-all having a grand old time. Ahh, the good old days. They had just deflated a SUP and I overhead them teasing one another about how choppy it was, the size of the waves, and their difficulty paddling. Perfect! I considered asking them about the conditions directly but decided against it.
The forecast on Windy.com was a southeasterly wind so I decided to head out into the wind around Lighthouse Park so that I could catch a few rollers on my way back to the cove. As I set out there was a for sure a headwind and some light chop. The picture below is the view out of Caulfeild Cove with the eastern shore of Eagle Point on the right.
The video below is not great but it gives you a sense of the conditions.
Heading upwind it felt like there would be some decent conditions coming back. I was excited!
When I made it to Lighthouse Park I stopped to take stock of the lighthouse. Realizing that my camera was aimed too low to capture the lighthouse I got down on my board to adjust the field of view. It was at this point that I heard and then saw someone calling to me from the shore in a tiny little alcove right next to the lighthouse. At first, I thought he was asking me if I was okay. Perhaps he thought I was having trouble staying up on my board since I was on all fours to adjust my camera. I waved back and told him that I was fine as I stood back up. I then realized that he was signalling that he needed help. He was standing in waist-deep water and I could see that there was something blue in the water bobbing in front of him. For a moment my heart jumped as I thought it might be a person floating facedown. But I relaxed as I realized that there wasn’t any sense of urgency in his call. Unless he was as cool as a cucumber under pressure we weren’t dealing with a body.
I am skeptical by nature so I approached with caution. What was going on and how was I going to help this guy? The opening line from The Coup‘s Fat Cats, Bigga Fish track rolled around in my head, “Well uh, ha-ha, what have we here?”.
Below is the view from the water as I approached.
The picture below is off for the field of view as my camera was still angled upward to capture the lighthouse from before. But I included it so you could get a perspective for the size of the logs. Why will become apparent in a moment?
This was a fairly big piece of timber. From memory, the diameter would have probably been about a foot and a half (or 45 centimetres for the non-imperialistic readers).
As I got closer I realized that the blue object that was floating in the water was actually the hull of this gentleman’s kayak. Somehow it had gotten stuck underneath this giant log. My initial assumption was that he had landed and then gone to explore the area around the lighthouse and in the meantime, the changing tide had somehow trapped his boat.
He was hoping that with extra help he would be able to dislodge his kayak. He explained that he had already moved a smaller log off of his vessel. I reluctantly joined him in the water. I had been busy trying to stay high side of my board out on the water so you’ll have to excuse my reluctance to dismount and help. The water was quite warm. I kept my leash on so that my board wouldn’t drift away. I also made note of another piece of driftwood coming into the small cove behind us making sure that it would not be a hazard. The last thing I needed was to have another mishap occur while our attention was focused on trying to free his kayak.
There was no way that we were moving the other log by hand. I wondered if somehow we could lever one end of the log off of his boat using another piece of driftwood. The other option would be to hope the rising tide could lift the log off of the boat. I suggested both of these but he didn’t seem to be keen on either. In hindsight perhaps I should have trusted my instincts more as the state of the situation proved to be already a prime example of the Dunning Kruger effect at work. But I didn’t have a stake in the situation so I wasn’t going to push.
We tried to wiggle the boat back in forth in hopes of prying it loose to no avail. It was only when I reached underneath the log to feel the contours of the boat that I release that (1) the plastic hull of the kayak had a small tear in it from the flex in the hull, and (2) the log was indented into the hull of the boat so that only way to free the boat would be to lift the log. I explained this to the gentleman, at which point he vaguely explained how he had knocked loose some of the driftwood so that it had fallen on top of his kayak. Ahh, now things made a bit more sense as to how the kayak had become wedged underneath the log. I had assumed the tide had pushed that kayak up underneath the log. But the reality was the log had come down and crushed the kayak. There was no way this kayak was coming loose without a high tide or a crane.
I then asked where this guy had come from. He said Caulfeild Cove. I asked if there was someone he could call for a ride. He said he didn’t have a phone. In my mind, I thought to myself what the fuck are you doing out on the water without a phone (or some other communication device). What I said, however, was that I could call someone for him. He responded that there was no one close by that he knew. I offered that I could shuttle him back on my SUP, but not wanting to do so I emphasized that I couldn’t guarantee that we would both stay on the board in the chop. Which was not untrue. He declined. We weren’t that far from Caulfeild so he could walk. I just wasn’t sure of the trail. I explain this to him and then decided to be on my way, ensuring that he felt comfortable with the situation.
As I paddled away it was a reminder to me that I have noticed that I am much more risk-averse than I ever believed myself to be. Though I prefer to look at it through the lens of being safety conscience. While I have made some paddling decisions that I think some others might question I have always felt that I have made them by weighing the risks and rewards. Though I realize that this may very well be the Dunning Kruger effect playing itself out yet again.
I tried to make the most of the time I had remaining.
I rounded the point and found myself in that uneasy soup of mixing currents and waves. There was cross swell, the wind was now at my back, and there was the rebound of the waves off of the shoreline. Uneasy, but great conditions to hone your skills for future downwinders.
I could spy the Gebe Islets in the distance with a few kayakers and canoers around them so I decided to see if I could make it over. You can see them in the foreground below and Mount Wrottesley in the background.
I got a bit closer before decided that I needed to turn around. I already had lost a fair amount of time searching for parking. And then my assistance with the attempted kayak retrieval had taken up some more paddle time.
Here is a clip of the return trip and dealing with the chop of the swell and passing boat traffic. I was trying to get a bit further out so that I would have a direct line back to Caulfeild Cove. But in trying to do so I needed to get out into the waters where all the boat traffic rounding the point was too.
But it was a day to be thankful to be out on the water. It was gorgeous out. The photos and video do not do the real-life experience justice. Below are some sailors taking full advantage too with Point Grey as the backdrop.
There were some small bumps to ride back en route to Caulfeild Cove. Here I am trying to catch up to a tandem kayak that took a more inland path around the point.
And then as I approached Caulfeild Cove I looked over to see a canoe with three paddlers in it. The middle paddler was seated backward and was using a kayak paddle. At first, I thought that it was an interesting choice of paddles and then I realized that it was the gentleman who had lost his kayak. I was glad to see that he was able to get a safe return ride. I paddled over and we discussed tides, canoes, and inflatable SUPs en route to the dock. The couple in the canoe was quite intrigued about inflatable boards for their ease of use.
After stopping at the Caulfield dock I realized that I could save myself a longer portage if I paddled in further and landed on the shoreline. After a small backtrack to find a suitable trail to the road I found an adequate landing and in the end, it did save me a longer portage.
Below is my paddle route with all the detours recorded on Google Fit.
One other insight on this paddle, which was slightly inspired by the YouTube video below, was that a launch from Whytecliff Park and then paddle out to Passage Island could make for an epic downwinder to Ambleside with a westerly wind. The other option would be to paddle across to Bowen Island using its leeward east coast for wind shelter paddling down to Point Cowan before heading downwind east toward Vancouver. The safety concern there would be monitoring for BC Ferries traffic. This link provides a real-time tracker for BC Ferries, but tried and true is the old paper-to-pen method which cannot fail via technological glitches. Though if it was windy enough perhaps the ferries would be halted and you needn’t worry.