Kingfisher patrol

On Friday, I ducked out of work early to go kayaking because I’d been kept late for various emergencies on previous days. I have been a little worried about the “NO TRESPASSING” and “AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY” signs that have appeared at my put-in at Browncroft Avenue, so I was planning to go down to BayCreek and put in there, but the wind was blowing so strongly that I decided I’d risk the parking ticket and put-in on the more sheltered part of the creek.

We’d had two thunderstorms last week, and some rainfall the night before, so the creek was running very fast. There was also some new trees down across the creek. None were totally blocking the creek, although one had obviously been chainsawed.

Choosing the sheltered part of the stream had been a good choice – it was quiet and beautiful as always. It was pretty hard work getting up, but I had a constant escort of usually two but sometimes three kingfishers both upstream and downstream. At one point, a huge flotilla of rental canoes and kayaks came around a corner and bore down on me. Even though I’m the one who had to paddle hard and they were basically just ruddering along, they forced me out of the deep part of the channel. At one point I just grabbed an overhanging tree branch and waited for a couple of them to pass until I could reclaim enough depth to paddle in.

In spite of how fast the water was running, there were a couple of rapids there I bottomed out and had to push along the bottom. At least once that was because the stream pushed my boat out of the fastest part and I couldn’t get back into it. I tried various depths of skeg trying to find that perfect compromise between using it to point my bow upstream and having it prevent me from maneuvering the boat. It never quite worked as well as I hoped, mostly because when you’re angling across the stream the bow hits the fast moving water and tends to head you away from it before the stern (and the skeg) get into the same fast water to tend to head you towards it.

Other than the kingfishers and the idiot boaters, I saw a group of geese out feeding. Some were obviously this year’s born because while they’ve got nearly adult colouration, it looks more like down than proper feathers. They were spread across the part of the channel I wanted to paddle, and when I got in between an adult and a youngster I got a lot of hissing and threatening from the adult.

Just about where I turn around, there are a series of rapids that get trickier and trickier. The turn around is where there is a rapid that I’d never be able to paddle up in a million years – I think it is the remnants of an old structure of some sort. I’ve seen white-water playboats in that rapid, so it’s probably not suitable for an 18 foot sea kayak. Anyway, I was struggling up the second last rapid, and it was harder than it had ever been before – the current kept taking me into the shore, and onto rocks, and onto riverbed too shallow to paddle. And I saw a tiny little duckling, small enough it could probably fit into my hand. It saw me and hid in some rocks by the shore. But there was no adult duck around, nor any other babies. I felt pretty bad for it, but I had other problems at that point, and there was no way I could get over to those rocks from where I was anyway. After I turned around, I couldn’t see the little duckling again, but it had more time to get hidden in those rocks. About 10-15 minutes downstream I saw an adult duck and a bunch of ducklings. At this point in the narrative, Vicki says “Why didn’t you go back and get the lone duckling”. And I say, “I’ve just used up most of my strength struggling upstream against a hard current for two and a half miles, I’ve finally turned downstream, and you expect me to turn around upstream to paddle back up for 20-30 minutes? And once I get there, assuming I can even find the duckling again, how am I supposed to catch it and bring it back?” And she withers in the face of my unassailable logic and concedes defeat. But I think I hear her muttering “duck killer” under her breath.

The way back down was nice – the strong flow made things challenging and I had fun trying to use leaning and the variations in flow across the stream to kick my stern out around corners and the like. I had my constant kingfisher escort. At the dog park, I tossed a tennis ball onto the shore that I’d collected on the way up, and a dog ran after it and retrieved it. A swallow nearly flew right into my face – it turned away so close to me I would have needed my reading glasses to see it in any detail. And to top it all off, no parking ticket. Yeah, me!

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