Wildlife Explorers

Thursday, August 5, 12021 HE

We are away on Vancouver Island for a family vacation. We did the same trip last summer after the pandemic lockdown eased. We had booked for a spring trip in 2020 but, with the British Columbia Provincial Health Officer issuing a travel advisory at the time, recommending against non-essential travel, we decided to cancel our trip. Fortunately, the place that we had booked offered to honour our reservation in the summer if the travel advisory ceased. As things turned out, that was the case, and we had an amazing time in Qualicum Beach and Parksville last summer. To read the paddling posts that I did last year, check the following: How Far Can You Go?Denman Island Crossing: Baynes SoundCorrectly Mistaken IslandWinchelsea Islands or Were They?, and Ballenas Island(s).

We had such a good time last year that we booked again for this summer. Given the state of affairs in the interior regarding fires, travel restrictions, and air quality, it turned out to be prescient.

Here is my first post from this year’s trip, SUP ‘Surfs’ Up.

We were staying at near Qualicum Beach. It has a rocky shoreline which is perfect for searching for crabs, shells, and other marine treasures. But it is not ideal for swimming, especially when you have Rathtrevor Beach, only a short drive away.

But the other great part about the shoreline and waters around our place in Qualicum is there is a fair amount of wildlife around. Last year, the highlights were eagles and deer, so the boys were keen to see more this year.

Our vacation rental has a stand up paddleboard (Tower Adventurer 9’10”), so we decided to get out for a family exploration. Annie would ride on the Tower board, and I would use our board (BLACKFIN Model XL iSUP) with our boys.

Tower Adventurer 9’10” next to the BLACKFIN Model XL 11”6″.
Tower Adventurer 9’10” next to the BLACKFIN Model XL 11”6″.

The boys had been a bit reluctant to get out on the water around our place. They were keen to explore Spider Lake in search of frogs on the islands a few days before. To motivate them, we decided to pretend they were wildlife explorers. We would mount a camera (i.e., cellphone) to the front of the board so that they could take turns recording whatever we came across.

Here is Kieran checking out our kit and making sure the camera is in working order.

Kieran curating our kit.

As luck would have it, when we got down to the beach with our kit, there was a deer on the shoreline. It was perfectly timed because as the deer made its way down the shore, the boys were excited to track it from the water.

A deer exploring the shoreline (centre of image).

Elijah was first to operate the camera at the nose of the board. Kieran was behind him on navigation duty.

Below is a video clip of our first wildlife encounter from the water. You can barely see the deer, but I think the audio is hilarious. I may be slightly biased in my assessment. Elijah and Kieran are six and four years old, respectively.

Facing the Deer.

Below is a still shot with the deer in view… somewhere?

A deer on the shoreline.

I could barely find it and had to use the video to spot it through its motion. Nature’s camouflage at work yet again. I have circled where (I think) the deer is in the image above on the image below.

A deer on the shoreline.

We paddled along searching for seals, and the conversation turned to dry bags and electronics on the water. The boys were curious about the waterproof phone case I had on the cellphone we had mounted on the board and how I didn’t have a phone case on the phone that I was carrying. I also thought that I spotted a sea star. Kieran was quick to agree. Though, when I began to question my spotting, he remained convinced that there was a sea star in the waters below. From there, our banter trailed off into musing about Nuptse and Lhotse and their west coast adventures. You can listen to the dialogue in the video below.

Waterproof Bags and Sea Stars.

And a still shot of the view southeastward.

Looking southeastward through the Salish Sea.

Kieran wasn’t operating the camera, so he had some extra searching capacity and noticed the whirlpools created from my paddle strokes. That as well as the jet streams contrails overhead. I hoped this was a genuine observation of interest versus a burgeoning chemtrail conspiracy theory.

Whirlpools and Jet Streams.

Annie then spotted our first seals, a pair resting on a rock near the seashore. The boys had just traded places, so now Captain Kieran was operating the camera. As we drifted closer to the seals, they decided to abandon ship and seek safety in the water.

Famous Seals.

And here is a still shot of the shoreline. The seals are on the rock in the left of the image. While there are some seabirds are on the rock in the centre of the picture.

The shoreline near our place.
Annie in some of the smoother waters.

Next, it was the boys’ turn to spot a seal. They were thrilled to have done so, especially Kieran, who was excited to be getting video footage of the seal. They did spot one, but you’ll be hard-pressed to see it in the video footage below. But, the excitement of spotting it is palpable.

Seal Head Camera Close Ups.

On our way back to our launch site, the boys picked up on how to speak seal. Elijah makes the call that we are nearing land as he is now at the bow of the boat again. Meanwhile, Kieran is musing about the surrounding geography and the idea of what constitutes an island. It reminds me of the first time that Elijah rode on a ferry. He was less than two years old and was super excited about the idea of being on a big boat. Somehow in the process of driving on the ferry and heading up to the observation deck, Elijah missed the fact that we were on a boat. I can completely understand as I think he was comparing it to the idea of being on a sailboat in which you could tell that you were on a vessel that was on the water. However, from the observation deck of the ferry, while it was still at the terminal, to him, it seemed we were still onshore or some giant pier. He became fairly upset that we were not on a boat in his mind, despite being promised that we would be on one and reassurances that we were currently on one. When the ferry finally departed and it became more apparent that we were on a moving vessel, he calmed down and took our word for it.

Land Ho!

And as we neared returning to our departure point, Kieran started to lose interest and look for other things to do. He realized that he could pull back the cargo bungee cord and snap his brother’s feet, so he gave it a try. In the video below, you can hear the bungee cord snap, and see the vibration it causes, as well as the reaction from Elijah. Not wanting things to escalate between them, I try to redirect and prevent Kieran from doing it again by suggesting that it may capsize us. Elijah had recently capsized an inflatable boat when we were at Alouette Lake a few weeks before, so both of them knew what I meant. Kieran correctly realized that the bungee cord was unlikely to tip the board and more likely to slingshot his brother off of the board. So, after a brief contemplation of the scenario, he responds, suggesting that he will not tip off the board. I reply that we will all tip-off of the board to prevent him from testing his hypothesis. I love the mental gymnastics that they both do, running the scenario through in their heads as to where they, the board, and the camera would end up if we were to flip.

Underwater Float?

We made it back to shore without tipping inadvertently or as a lesson in sibling self-restraint. We had a snack onshore before the boys packed up to head in for lunch and I did a few extra pivot/step back and nose 360 turns to close out our (okay fine…my) paddle.

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