Lessons Learned

Whether it’s camping, hiking, paddling or biking we usually learn something new with each outing. We did a lot of paddling this week and it was no exception. We came away more knowledgeable and potentially poorer since we know we have to invest for year-round paddling.

So, here are our Lessons Learned:

  1. Pool Noodles are a necessity. Almost everyone we paddled with this week carried a pool noodle, cut into two pieces, to protect the bottom of their boat when pulling up on beaches. This area has very few sand beaches so you are usually landing on rocks of any shape, many barnacle covered. If staying for a while and the tide is rising you need to pull up your boat. Bill and I almost always paddle together so we can easily pull up the boat, but if alone, this makes total sense. So, we went and bought a couple pool noodles!
  2. Charts are a necessity. Of course we knew that but couldn’t find charts anywhere when we arrived. The stores were out and could not replace them because Canadian Hydrographic Service was closed due to Covid. So we relied on others and a popular iPhone app. This works when with others but not long term. We were thrilled to find the atlas of charts for the Gulf Islands at the marina store where we were camping. Thank-you Page’s Resort!
  3. There is a second marina in Ladysmith. We met a couple on yesterday’s paddle that lives in nearby Chemainus. They said they go paddling all the time from the launch at Ladysmith Marina. We didn’t find a suitable land-based launch spot from the marina we visited shortly after we arrived. There was only dock launching which we don’t love and to get there is a long carry. So we went hunting today and we found Ladysmith Marina. It indeed has a great launch spot that requires a very short carry and free parking for the car. We will be using this for sure in the future. The first marina we visited was the Community Marina. Who knew?!
  4. Timing matters. We discovered, as we paddled at different times of the day, the impact of tides. It not only demands that you carefully time, and decide where, to launch from. Yesterday’s paddle was timed nicely. We started mid cycle of the tide coming in. It was not a long carry, and when we returned a couple hours later, we landed right at the top of the beach.
  5. Sealife abounds. Padding in a marine environment is so different than fresh water paddling. There is so much to see. We have seen countless seals, sea otters, eagles, cormorants and the list goes on. No whales or orcas yet but I’m told that the Winchelsea Islands, where we paddled yesterday, abound with them, as well as Stellar and California sea lions (in March/April). Add the always changing sea vegetation and critters that may or may not be visible, depending on the tides, and it’s an ever changing landscape that never disappoints.
  6. Gear matters. The water is cold but the air temperature is very warm, so we are not paddling in immersion gear right now. But club paddles in the fall and winter demand full immersion gear (ie: Drysuits), so we need to start saving. One of the reasons we moved here was to take advantage of year-round activity. But it seems to come with a price tag!
  7. Local Knowledge is key. Paddling with a local expert like Mary and Geoff this week was eye-opening. So many in our club have been paddling for years and we can learn not only the foundations of planning for winds, tides and currents, but they also know where to go and where the hidden beaches/landing spots are. We were treated to some spectacular stopping spots and I know that we would not have found them without their knowledge.

8. Gulf Islands are beautiful. These islands are at our doorsteps and they offer so much to see and enjoy. We loved it. This week was just the beginning and there is so much more to experience.

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