Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sea kayaking at Goose Spit and the Courtenay River, Courtenay. B.C.

   by Keith and Heather Nicol                         
     Sea kayakers have lots of options in the Courtenay – Comox area of Vancouver Island. With the good weather continuing through mid November we decided to explore Goose Spit and the Courtenay River. Goose Spit is also a popular place to walk since it juts out into Comox Harbour for a couple of kilometers and provides good views of the Comox Icefield as well as the surrounding countryside. We put in on the protected harbour side at : 10 U 0362746 E 5503155 N on Saturday, November 15. Since it was high tide we had only a short carry to the water and we paddled past many different sea birds as we headed in a westerly direction around the spit. We stopped for a rest where a sailboat had blown ashore during the last big wind storm. After a short break we decided to return following the same route back to the car.
At the put in on Goose Spit
     Two days later on Monday, November 17 we decided to paddle down the Courtenay River from the boat launch at the marina near the Air Park in Courtenay (coordinates : 10 U 0356855 E 5505141 N).  This is a convenient put in since you can basically drive right to the water. The Courtenay River is teeming with waterfowl as well as seals at this time of year. We also saw an eagle and a blue heron. We paddled around a small island at the end of the estuary before heading back up stream to our launching point. This area has so much bird life that you could paddle in this area repeatedly and see lots of interesting things on each trip. 
There were lots of waterfowl around on our most recent paddle in this area

 Also while at this location be sure to drop in and chat to the people at Comox Valley Kayaks and Canoes. They are a great source of information about sea kayaking and we have chatted on several occasions to Gabriela Brunschwiler about various aspects of kayaking in this area. Since we have just arrived she told us about many places to kayak in this area as well as provided advice on roof racks and kayak carts. They not only have a large well equipped retail store but they also provide instruction and tours. For more information see:

Be sure to check out Comox Valley Kayaks and Canoes while in Courtenay

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sea kayaking with the sea lions at Fanny Bay, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather checking out the sea lions
    Friday, November 14 was another sunny day with light winds and so we decided to head to Fanny Bay where we had heard there were sea lions just offshore and a place to launch sea kayaks next to the wharf. Fanny Bay is 20 kilometers south of Courtenay, B.C. along the old island highway. We had not visited Fanny Bay before but it didn’t take us long to hear the sea lions which had hauled out on a raft just in front of the wharf. The GPS coordinates for where we parked are: 10 U 0367671 E and 5485591 N. We launched our sea kayaks just before high tide which meant we had just a short carry to the water and we initially paddled out to the sea lions. We didn’t get too close since these are big animals with a large mouth and after getting some photos we headed for the headland to the south. The weather was perfect for paddling despite the cool 5 C temperatures. The flat calm conditions made paddling easy and we explored the shoreline for 45 minutes before heading back to check out the sea lions again. This is a great place to paddle if you want to photograph the sea lions and the other bird life in the area. 
The sea lions enjoying the sun

Fanny  Bay is great spot for sea birds and sea lions

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Exploring the Royston “wrecks” by sea kayak

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather paddles past one 'wreck'

     On Tuesday, November 11 we decided to visit and explore the Royston “wrecks”. Royston is just south of Courtenay on Vancouver Island and it turns out that the “wrecks” were brought to this area in the late 1930’s to create a breakwater. At that time logging was important in this area and trees cut here would be towed to saw mills in New Westminster on the other side of Georgia Strait. But in the fall and winter strong south east winds would create problems for establishing log booms in the harbour at Courtenay and a breakwater was needed. Over time 14 “wrecks” were sunk in this area and included old whaling boats, schooners, freighters and tugs. They even included the "Melanope", a 79-metre 3-masted sailing ship built in the mid 1870’s. Not much is left of these “wrecks” now but they are ideally suited to viewing from the seat of a kayak. We launched from the end of Royston Road (coordinates 10 U 0359636 E and 5501387 N) where there is an unofficial boat launch. The “wrecks” are clearly visible from shore and we paddled around the “wrecks” and then set our sites for masses of birds that were along the shore to the south of us. Along the way we saw several seals and the birds appeared to be mostly gulls of different varieties. We are not sure why they were in such large groupings and if anyone has any ideas we would like to know. Email us at
The wind and waves have greatly eroded these wrecks

Loads of gulls were congregating on the tidal flats

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Sampling Vancouver’s Seawall

This Inukshuk is located along the seawall
by Keith and Heather Nicol
    On Sunday, November 9 the weather was again sunny and warm and this really brought out people along the waterfront in Vancouver. We did a walk along a section of the seawall and then our daughter Kristie decided to join us for a 9 km bicycle loop around Stanley Park which was also getting lots of use on this particular day. The November sun made for a great day and we saw people biking, in line skating, running, walking, playing Frisbee and generally enjoying the spectacular ocean and mountain views that Vancouver is known for. The seawall is great feature of Vancouver’s waterfront and now extends for close to 22 km! With good weather forecast for the next few days and the trees still in colour be sure to check out the seawall and bring your camera.  For more information on the seawall see:
The seawall winds along Vancouver's waterfront for 22 km.

The trees along the seawall still have lots of colour

"Grinding" up Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Be sure to check out the grizzly bear exhibit
     On Saturday, November 8 we headed up the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver. Despite it being late in the hiking season the good weather brought out lots of people wanting to do this “natural stair master” of a hike. We were joined by our daughter Kristie and her boyfriend Eric who have been doing this route regularly through the summer and early fall. For anyone not familiar with the Grouse Grind  it starts at the base of Grouse Mountain and climbs steeply gaining about 850 meters in 3 km.  Over 150,000 people do the uphill trek each year and then most take the aerial tram back down to the bottom. Many people use the “Grind” as a fitness routine and we were passed by many people dressed light trail running gear and some were literally flying up the mountain. The hike has been done in an amazing 25 minutes but we took a more leisurely 1 hour and 25 minutes, which was 5 minutes slower than our last trip here in May, 2014. At the top we also checked out the grizzly bear exhibit and which is a popular attraction at the summit of Grouse.  The grizzly bears (Grinder and Coola) are part of a wildlife interpretation programme that Grouse Mountain has been running for over a decade. Grouse also has chairlift rides, ziplines and is also now beginning to get ready to winter where they offer skiing, snowshoeing and lots of other winter activities. For more information on Grouse Mountain check out:
Kristie enroute to top of Grouse 

The view from the top of Grouse provides a great panorama of  the Vancouver area