Thursday, 21 May 2015

Sea kayaking from Royston to Kingfisher Oceanside Resort with the Comox Valley Paddlers



by Keith and Heather Nicol  
  On Wednesday evening May 20 we joined the Comox Valley Paddlers (CVP) for a trip from the Royston waterfront to Kingfisher Oceanside Resort. We had just joined the CVP and this was our first outing with this group. Overall we had about 20 people on the water and although most were in sea kayaks there was also a canoe and a foot peddle style kayak which we had not seen before. We put in around 6:30 pm  but just prior to launching we were given a quick briefing about the trip and that if we had time on our return from Kingfisher Oceanside Resort we might try paddling up the Trent River. The weather was perfect with just a light breeze and our convoy of paddlers headed south along the shore. Before long someone shouted “Orca” and there is the distance was the distinct fin of a killer whale. This attracted everyone’s attention and we all swung our kayaks around to check it out. But it that was the last we saw of it! 
All eyes are on the Orca
     We paddled just past Kingfisher Lodge and then turned back toward the Trent River.  By now the tide was high and we were able to ascend to just past the highway bridge before shallow water forced the end of that side trip. We paddled back to our launch point just as the sun was setting! Overall it was a great introduction to the paddling club and we were struck by how friendly everyone was. For more information on the Comox Valley Paddlers see: http://comoxvalleypaddlers.ca/ and on their web page they have a listing of their summer paddling schedule. Check it out. 
The night was perfect for paddling

We ended with a short paddle up the narrow Trent River

Monday, 18 May 2015

Sea kayaking with eagles in Courtenay, B.C.



by Keith and Heather Nicol
There were lots of eagles around on this day
On Sunday, May 17 we kayaked down the Courtenay River and into the estuary. As we mentioned in a previous post on May 3,  this spot is very popular and the Air Park Marina boat launch means that your “put in” is easy. On this day we must have seen 20 kayaks plus a couple of paddler boarders and 1 canoe in our 2 hour paddle  But the big find was seeing lots of eagles along the way. We hadn’t seen so many eagles in one spot since the herring run in mid March at Point Holmes.  There must have been some fish being cleaned or thrown out to attract so many eagles. One of the joys of paddling in this area is that you never know what you might see so always bring your camera. For more information on sea kayaking in the Courtenay - Comox area you can search this blog by typing in "Sea kayaking in Courtenay - Comox" in the search bar on the top left.
There were lots of paddlers on the river

The eagles were swooping overhead
Here are 5 eagles on this gravel bar with another 6 or so along the beach

Sunday, 17 May 2015

See Victoria`s impressive Abkhazi Gardens and try their afternoon tea



by Keith and Heather Nicol   
The Gardens include 3 small ponds
 The next day Friday May 15 we decided to see another of Victoria’s gardens and we were again joined by Keith’s brother Bruce and his wife Mary Ellen. The Abkhazi Garden is located in downtown Victoria on a large residential lot and initially was created by Peggy and Nicholas Abkhazi in the late 1940’s. They first met in Paris in the 1920’s and although separated by war they became reacquainted in New York and moved to Victoria and were married in 1946. They built a bungalow on top of a small rocky hill and proceeded to create a fascinating garden on their 1 acre property. The property had large native Garry oaks and glacially carved rock which defined the basic structure of the garden.   Today the house and grounds are part of The Land Conservancy which is designed to preserve the heritage house and gardens. The house has been transformed into a stylish tea house and gift shop and we opted for the afternoon tea to be served on the sunny patio. After a delicious sampling of small sandwiches, scones, tarts and tea we set out to explore the gardens.  At this time of year the rhododendron woodland garden was very colourful and well worth seeing on its own.  Some of the rhododendron plants are very large and close to 50 years old! There is also a small summerhouse at the edge of property and many other short trails that give different views of both the garden and surrounding landscape. If you like gardens and classic English tea then you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Abkhazi Garden. For more information on the Tea House see: www.abkhaziteahouse.com www.abkhaziteahouse.com  and for more information on the garden see: http://blog.conservancy.bc.ca/properties/vancouver-island-region/abkhazi-garden/ 
We enjoyed afternoon tea on the patio

Heather walking past one of the large rhododendrons


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Gardens and Boat Tours in Victoria, B.C.


Heather admiring the rhodo's
  by Keith and Heather Nicol
We visited Victoria in mid May and decided to check out the Gardens at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific (HCP). We had not been to these gardens before but we were impressed by the range of plants that are displayed on the 43 hectare site. On Thursday May 14 when we visited, the most colourful displays were in the rhododendron area but later in the summer the rose and lily areas are in bloom. We also enjoyed the Japanese gardens and the HCP has the largest bonsai garden in Canada! Some of these miniature trees are remarkably old. There are also sections displaying native plants, as well as a Mediterranean and kids’ garden. The Gardens are located at 505 Quayle Road in Victoria and you can get more information about the HCP at: http://hcp.ca/  We plan to come back when other flowers are in bloom.

The  bonsai display is the largest in Canada
    Later that day we headed into downtown Victoria to do a tour with Victoria Harbour Ferry
The Victoria Harbour Ferry in front of the B.C. Parliament buildings
(VHF). VHF has a fleet of small ferries that do tours of Victoria’s harbour as well as running shuttles between key tourism locations. We opted to take the Harbour Tour and were joined by Keith’s brother Bruce and his wife Mary Ellen who live in Victoria but had never done this tour. Our Captain was Ron Fenton and besides our group of 4 there was a family from Australia on board. The 45 minute tour did a loop around the harbour and we were amazed how active it is. We ran into vessels as small as sea kayaks and outrigger canoes to large tugs pulling barges. We saw a huge cruise ship tied up at a wharf at the entrance to the harbour and saw lots of float plane activity as well. Ron told us that this is the busiest floatplane base in the world and we saw several planes landing and taking off. Ron also said  that one time they had to stop landings since a killer whale had been spotted in the harbour in the prime take off and landing zone! We also saw a couple of harbour seals along the way as well as two groupings of floating houses.  Doing a Victoria Harbour Ferry tour is a great way to see Victoria from the water and we fully recommend it. For more information see: www.victoriaharbourferry.com

There is lots of activity in the harbour
The tour passes by many floating houses in Victoria Harbour

Monday, 4 May 2015

"The River Never Sleeps Festival" is well worth attending



by Keith and Heather Nicol
Thousands of salmon fry were in tanks in the hatchery
   On Sunday, May 3 we decided to head to the “River Never Sleeps Festival” which is now in its 8th year. It is sponsored by the Fanny Bay Salmonid Enhancement Society (FBSES)and included many activities focusing on salmon, healthy river systems as well as many related topics.  There were many booths set up where you could sample local oysters, listen to music, learn about other animals in the sea and on the land as well tour the adjacent fish hatchery. There were lots of families in attendance and one very popular activity was a chance to release a small bucket of salmon smolt into Rosewall Creek. We were impressed by all that the FBSES volunteers have accomplished and their role in coordinating this enjoyable event. We encourage anyone interested in salmon preservation as well as families looking for a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon that they check this event out next year. For more information on the FBSES or the "River Never Sleeps Festival” see: http://www.fbses.ca/
Kids enjoyed tipping buckets of salmon smolt into Rosewall Creek

You learn about and  practice fly fishing

The Vancouver Island University booth had a variety of local fish on display