How to surprise a seal and other sea kayaking tips

Caitlin’s organising a sea kayaking trip around Howe Sound. What a good idea, I thought. And indeed it was. A small group of us set off from Gibsons, headed around Keats Island to camp on Gambier Island. The weather was reasonable, the company excellent and some invaluable lessons were learnt along the way. Here’s a few in case you ever embark on such an outing…

How to pack light

No need. This isn’t hiking, or skiing or any of those other silly activities where actually you have to carry things. You can shove whatever the hell you like in a kayak. Unless you’re Julien who, when trying to decide whether to prioritise spare clothes for himself or beers for the group, took the public spirited option. Apparently a wet suit makes for a perfectly adequate set of pyjamas.

How to look the part

I personally recommend a teenage boy’s wetsuit purchased circa 1988. Particularly for those whose figure bears no resemblance to that of a teenage boy. Bright blue is also an excellent choice of colour.

How to rent a kayak for Long John Silver

Sunshine Kayak in Gibsons do an excellent range of kayaks for people whose left leg is 20cm longer than their right. Thanks for that.

How to surprise a seal

This requires a significant amount of skill and experience and is not without it’s dangers. We left this to Caitlin. To my untrained eye, the key element appeared to be selecting the right precise location. You need to spend many hours observing seal behaviour to be able to predict exactly where one is likely to emerge. Then position your self in exactly the right spot. Not too close that it will bang its head on the boat, but just close enough. Wait for the selected seal to emerge. And then watch as the seal spots you, panics and performs a superb backflip to escape. Ideally you should then act as if you’re almost as surprised as the seal.


How to back out

Timing is the key. Within the first 10 minutes is ideal. Discovering you suffer from severe seasickness 5 hours into the trip is really going to spoil your day. Discretion is, after all, the better part of valour.

How to get a free ride

Martin: “You do the paddling. I’ll provide the musical accompaniment.”

How to identify a sea badger

A weasel? A beaver? A ferret? A pine martin? A sea otter? A selection of other animals that I have only heard of in American cartoons. Perhaps we are not the best of zoologists. I reckon it was a sea badger.

How to take a hike
You know, I thought VOCers were, as a rule, pretty good at multi-activities. I was proved quite wrong when we attempted to hike up the Gambier Mount.  On any other trip I’m sure it would have occurred to someone that the use of a map might help us find the right trail out of the campsite. After a 30 minute march uphill (it was uphill – it had to be the right way. hills go up) we emerged onto a logging road (cue “summit” photo). Which went down. It didn’t take too long to work out that a logging road leading down to the sea would probably not take up to the top of the hill. But we had successfully found the trail from the campsite to the logging road. How useful. 

How to dream of bears
Now it’s always a bit of a risk agreeing to share a tent with a boy… if you’ve not got ear plugs with you. (I think that’s fair – it’s not that girls are all entirely silent when asleep – but the most vocal of sleepers do seem to be male) It’s not that you snore, Phil. I would describe it more as a growl. A very occasional and rather loud growl. I came to consciousness thinking “but they said there were no bears on the island – how could there be one in my tent – FUCK THERE’S A BEAR IN THE TENT – oh no there isn’t – it’s just Phil”.

How to kayak down wind on the way there AND on the way back
No idea. If anyone knows – please please please tell me.



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5 Responses to How to surprise a seal and other sea kayaking tips

  1. Skyler Des Roches says:

    According to google, Sea Badgers are elusive and possibly mythical creatures that inhabit the shores of Devon and Cornwall. I’d bet your sea badger was an imposter. By which I mean that it seems you spotted a mink, smelliest of shore rodents. Since it’s hard to tell from the photo, I also wouldn’t rule out a river otter. Yes, river otters in all their deviousness often inhabit the sea. Either way, that one looks smelly enough to pass as a mink.

  2. Jen Williams says:

    Google image search reckoned it was a wild mink. But it also reckoned it was a wardrobe and a surfboard so I don’t entirely trust it. Definitely a sea badger.

  3. Roland Burton says:

    A mink is not a rodent. Rodents have funny teeth, and mink have sharp pointy teeth, suitable for killing rodents. The plural of mink is mink, I think. I don’t actually know anything about this though, so somebody start a flame war, ok?

  4. Stephanie Lafazanos says:

    Looks like you had fun, i just joined the VOCand have canoe and kayak instructing and leading experience. I look forward to joining / creating a kayak trip soon.

  5. Jeff Mottershead says:

    I think that’s an American Marten. I attempted to include a picture, but I’m not so sure if I did that right. Everything is so different from the last time I fouled the message board with my presence.

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