Training Test: Paddling Juan de Fuca for Kids (unedited)

Today I was blessed to spend 6+ hours in a voyager canoe with a fantastic group of people from Victoria Canoe an Kayak Club (VCKC). Last year I learned about a program the club runs called Paddle for Kids. It’s a 70 kilometre paddle that starts in Finlayson Arm and ends in the Gorge at VCKC. It’s a perfect training test this time of the year as it has me out in the Strait of water I will be swimming it, and if I iron the event it takes 10-12 hours. Plus it’s a great opportunity to raise funds for Easter Seals.

Today’s was the club’s last practice before the event and they found me a seat in Monroe! I was a bit nervous at first as I haven’t paddled since the Hawaii debacle. It was quite emotional as I love paddling and wasn’t sure I would be ok to paddle again.

We started our day at the club house at 8:15 and then headed to a beach in Esquimalt across from the lagoon. We were in the water by 9:30 and headed off to Race Rocks – a dream come true for me as I have heard so much about it and it and always wanted to see it. The water can rib through the tiny inlands at lightening speed if the current is running fast. The rocks are legendary.

Paddle voyager is a bit different than outrigger. There is no ama to stabilize the boat and when you switch your side you have to slide across the seat. If things are not timed just right you and your crew might find yourselves in the water. After the first few switches I was feeling pretty good and we were off on our 6 hour adventure, me and my incredible crew.

As we paddled point to point, bay to bay. Some where around 11 am we could see it – Race Rocks! It’s a small outcrop of islands /rocks, one of them large enough for a lighthouse. As we paddled closer we could see the change in the water – it was moving around the rocks and a different speed and in a different direction than the rest of the water. We could also hear an incredible heard of sea lions. I don’t think I have ever heard or seen so many in one place.

We pushed forward an made our way around the island and then headed into a lagoon for lunch.

I had never heard of the lagoon or island we stopped at but I understand that it was home to a number of lepers some time back. There is a small graveyard at the edge of the forest as you walk from the shoreline. It was good to stop in sit in the sun for a bit. I did wonder though, about the people who used to live there.

I did find the perfect spot for my lunch. I sat on a small hill overlooking an estuary. I could see Race Rocks from where we were.

We headed out after about 45 minutes. It was good to be back on the water.

After another 10km we landed at our final beach for heading in for the day. it was beautiful, so shallow and warm. A quick bathroom break for most and we headed back out paddling to our initial start point.

Throughout the day while on the water I would often look toward Victoria and then find the line to Dungeness Spit and then back to Victoria. I repeated this as often as I could making sure to not disrupt the boat. The more I do this the smaller the distance appears between here and there. It somehow makes the thought of the swim this year more manageable. If I can see it, I can swim it!

It was truly an amazing day on the water and I am grateful to VCKC for letting me jump in the boat. I am looking forward to the Paddle for Kids next weekend. We paddled about 40km today – another 30 and I am there.


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