Afternoon Paddle Troubles: Alouette Lake

Wednesday, July 14, 12021 HE

We were camping at the Gold Creek Campground at Alouette Lake in Golden Ears Provincial Park. In the morning I had explored the western shoreline from Gold Creek south towards Alouette Lake South Beach.

For the afternoon we made a family trip down to North Beach. We drove over from our campground and parked at the Gold Creek Parking. We then took the North Beach Trail down to North Beach. It is not far but it was a decent trek with all our gear in the heat. I had brought both of my iSUPs carrying one on my back and the other in a wagon. The hope was to make use of all three boards (my brother also has a Blackfin XL) and get all eight of us out on the water.

After getting all of our kit inflated, we also had two inflatable dinghies for the kids, we played around in the mouth of Gold Creek. My brother had brought all the kids over to some of the cliffs to jump off of and after I had finished inflating the kit I paddled out to join them.

The wind was southwesterly and already fairly strong in the small cove at the mouth of Gold Creek. There was decent wave action coming into the cove and onto the shore. And the wind and waves looked stronger and bigger further offshore. I was itching to get out and check them out!

A little later into our beach day I got my first window to check things out. With the strong winds, I decided to hug the shoreline and use it as a windbreak as much as possible. I paddled up the shoreline to the small beach near the southern side of the campground before heading offshore to get out into the wind. Then I turned to head back to North Beach.

It was awesome conditions for a lake! The waves weren’t big but I caught a few for some nice glides. And, I was on a lake! I was expecting pristine paddling not having a chance to ride a few bumps!

When I got to shore I told my brother he had to come for a run with me. We followed the same route out hugging the shore and then cut out around the beach to head downwind. We were just getting into some good runs, my brother was out ahead of me when I heard a snap. As I pulled my paddle forward to go into my next stroke I realized something was missing. My blade had snapped off! I turned to look back and could see my blade floundering in the water behind me. I quickly contemplated diving in after it but I was were sunglasses and was worried they would be lost. I called out to my brother that I had broken my paddle then got down onto my stomach to prone paddle back. I wasn’t sure if just my paddle blade would float. I had lost sight of it while I was turning. I paddle back to where I thought it would be but I couldn’t see anything. I stood up to survey but still nothing.

Here is a map I made of the run. The yellow highlight is where the wind was pretty light, maybe 10 knots. The orange is stronger, probably approaching 15 knots. The blue is the downwind component with the red X marking where I figure I was when my paddle broke.

Screenshot of a Google Map of downwind paddle mishap.

By this time my brother had backtracked to catch up to me. He offered a toe but I figured I would try just heading in prone. I was surprised at how fast I was able to travel. As I prone paddled into shore I thought about how lucky I was for the circumstances in which my paddle broke. On a lake. Heading downwind. Not too far from my destination/the shoreline. With a partner. All things considered, it was the ideal situation for my paddle to break. Especially, since this was the paddle I was planning to bring as my backup on my SUP touring camp trip (if and when it happens).

When I got to shore Annie, my wife, reminded me that the last time that I had paddled with my brother he had broken his paddle. The dreaded Peeters paddle pop problem.

And the kicker here was that this was the paddle from my replacement board. Which, I have not used very much and it is less than a year old. Technically my original board is still under its 2-year warranty so I will submit a claim and see what happens. My previous experience with iRocker for a leak in my board that was under warranty was nothing but positive.

Now Annie wasn’t keen on me bringing both boards as she didn’t think we would use them and they are not the smallest thing to pack. And now, as she explicitly pointed out, although I was keenly aware, we had three boards and only two paddles. I guess if I had rescued the blade we may have been able to MacGyver a repair. But, the way I saw the situation was that we still had two boards and two paddles. If we had only brought one board and still broke a paddle then we would have been stuck with two boards and one paddle. A much worse situation. At least this way we still had a functional duo.

Here is the damage that was done. The paddle is a carbon shaft with a nylon blade. The nylon blade failed where it inserts into the shaft.

A broken paddle blade.
Just the shaft.
A different view of the broken paddle.

But with such good conditions and an extra paddle, I wasn’t going to let the broken paddle stop me. I was hoping to get another uninterrupted run after some beach play.

Our boys seemed to be pretty tired in general and were soon asking to head back to our campsite. Rather than redo the North Beach Trail with tired kids and all our gear we decided to SUP ferry them across to the west shore so that they only had the short steep climb to do. Fortunately, once we were on the other side our guys wanted to watch their cousin’s cliff jump from the water. And then that must have served as inspiration for them to swim because they eventually did an extra dip. My oldest son is just getting the hang of swimming so I was happy to see him get out into the lake water, albeit in a PFD. But it was a confidence builder and positive exposure. His little brother was into the water right behind him, never one to miss out or be one-upped by his big bro.

I believe that swimming is a life skill and that everyone should learn to be an adequate swimmer. Especially if you are going to be around any bodies of water.

After the kids had gone up I did another run this time heading out a bit further. I made it just past the point before Campers Beach. The wind around this point was something else.

I tried to find some information on the wind speeds on Alouette Lake after we got back but couldn’t find too much. I did find this post that suggested a max wind speed of 12 knots. In my mind’s eye, I was eyeballing 15-20 knots of wind at its peak (if not more). But then when checked after the fact it had gusts of wind up to 20 knots forecasted the day after our departure. So I am confident in my initial estimate.

In any case, the wind was strong after the point as per the red highlighter on my map below. It was hard to make forward progress at that point.

Screenshot of a Google Map with my wind schematic.

I was having a great run coming back until my wind waves were disrupted by two boats at the tail end of my downwind.

I was able to convince my brother to do one more run with me and we repeated the run above. This time with no mishaps.

I am curious to know if the wind on Alouette Lake is consistently strong. If so, it would be a fun place to run a downwinder point to point sometime. From the internet searches I have done so far is seems the wind is the norm, not the exception.

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