SISKA's May 2016 Newsletter. Upcoming events, reports and articles
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May 2016 SISKA Newsletter


Dear <<First Name>>,

Here is the next edition of the SISKA newsletter. We hope you enjoy it. We always need content to keep the Newsletter interesting, so we need you to contribute a couple of photos from our various paddles with a 100-150 word e-mail description; please contact one of us.

Don't forget about our BBQ event on May 14th! Last call! If you want to sign up, the signup form is open until May 5th, 6 PM.

Please also consider helping out at SISKA's table at the MEC Paddlefest on June 25th. Rod Stiebel is coordinating and could use a couple of extra hands. Please email him:

Victoria Symphony Splash is on again this year, July 31, and as usual, they would love to have some volunteer kayakers to collect donations on the water. It is a fun event to participate in. If you are interested, please contact

Michael Jackson (SISKA president) and Ben van Drimmelen (editor)

(For previous Newsletters, go to

Table of Contents


Upcoming Events

May 07, 9:15 am - 3:00 pm,  (ENERGIZER)

May 11, 12, 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm, . (This course is full, but you can try the waiting list.)

May 14, 10:00 am - 3:00 pm, 

May 15, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm, 

May 16, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm,   (For those who already have their ROC certification. Given by Edgar Hunt.)

May 25, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm, SISKA  - The Best Coastal/Marine Environment in Urban Canada by Jacques Sirois

May 29, 9:30 am - 3:00 pm,  (ENERGIZER)

Jun 12, 9:30 am - 3:00 pm,  (RELAXED)

Jun 22, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm  - Victoria's Proposed Capital Marine Trail by John Rogers

Jun 26, 9:30 am - 3:00 pm  (ENERGIZER)

For more details, go to the SISKA website

What’s in a Name?

This is our local name series! Most of our featured names are drawn from “The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names” by Andrew Scott. We have a copy in the club's library.

The Oak Bay Islands

There are several small islands and named reefs in the Oak Bay area, a popular area for SISKA paddles.

Mary Tod Island, around which our inter-tidal paddle noodles, is named after the daughter of fur trader John Tod. John Tod (after whom Tod inlet and Tod rock are named) settled in Oak Bay in 1851 and owned a large property opposite and north of the island. Mary Tod (1843-1912) married John Bowker (Bowker Creek). Mary Tod Island is also known locally as Jimmy Chickens after a local fisherman, clam digger and notorious drinker who lived on the island with his spouse, Jenny. Chickens was well liked except when stealing fowl (hence his name) or when he caroused noisily late into the night. Songhees First Nation members know the island as Kohweechella, meaning "where there are many fish".

Jemmy Jones Island is named after James Jones (1830-82) who was a well-known west coast skipper. One of the boats he skippered, the Carolina, came to grief on the reef that bears its name in Oak Bay. He built another boat, the Jenny Jones, which played a part in a long story involving several jail escapes and all three North American countries! The island is known to the Songhees as Bukkaynung.

Lewis Reef, location of one of the Oak Bay lights, is named after Herbert George Lewis (1828-1905), who was a long-serving master mariner and officer for the HBC. Incidentally, he married Mary Langford, daughter of the Vancouver Island pioneer, Edward Langford.

The Chain Islets were named, descriptively, by Henry Kellet who did much of the naming of the Sooke Basin features described in the last newsletter.

Emily Islet to the east of Mary Todd was named after the youngest daughter of Thomas Harris, the first mayor of Victoria. Harris Island to the south of Emily Islet is named after Thomas, as is Mayor Channel between Oak Bay and the Chain Islets. The Songhees name for Emily Islet is Skwahanna. .

Victoria Waterways Loop - update

At a recent meeting of the Victoria Waterways Loop committee, representatives confirmed that the View Royal Council had allocated $35K for the construction of a launch ramp on Portage Inlet. Kudos go to SISKA members who contributed their support of the project. 

Further proposals involve a portage link under Tillicum Bridge to complete the loop, independent of the rapids at Tillicum Bridge. The map below details the proposed loop.

Note: Our June meeting is about this Trail/Loop!
The Victoria Waterways Loop logo


Last year's week-long clean-up of Restless Bight in the outer Quatsino Sound was a great success!  It cleared away almost four tons of tsunami debris and other flotsam and jetsam from these beaches. They were returned to being pristine and beautiful.
Now, we are looking for paddlers who are experienced on Vancouver Island's west coast to join us for a similar event:
From June 14 to 23 2016, we are going to the North Brooks area, also on northwestern Vancouver Island. We are seeking 18 volunteers to help clean our beaches of the man-made debris that has washed ashore. There is a $12/day food allowance and fuel will be covered at $0.25 per kilometre for all vehicles that transport at least two kayaks and paddlers. Those vehicles should have high clearance to navigate some 80 km of logging roads from Port Alice.

We will launch at three locations:

  1. Side Bay, for Lawn Point and 2 beaches at Newton Entrance,
  2. Klaskino, for 2 beaches at Heater Point, and
  3. Klashkish for 2 beaches at Crabapple Islets.

Three teams of 4-6 volunteers will gather and bag debris on each of the beaches and leave the bags above the high tide to be picked up at a later date by the Vancouver Island Marine Debris Management Group's Gar-Barge Project. For a clip of last year’s effort, go to:
A lot of work, great fun and friendship-building, but this is true west coast paddling so we ask that only those who have experience in similar waters apply. All participants will have to sign BC Marine Trail and BC Parks waivers and be responsible for their own safety. Come join us!
To volunteer, contact Jeff Follis at

Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Local naturalist and kayaker Jaques Sirois has been working hard to revive the Victoria Migratory Bird Sanctuary which was originally established in 1923. He and the sanctuary were recently featured in a Saanich news article.

Our May meeting features Jaques talking about Victoria as a  world class wildlife destination.
Jacques Sirois has acquired long overdue signage for the federally established Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. — Image Credit: Travis Paterson/News Staff

Portland Island Paddle - April 3rd

By Sheila Porteous

On April 3, a hearty group of over twenty SISKA paddlers and guests arose early for the popular Portland Island paddle. Unfortunately, few of the paddlers had actually taken the time to read the paddle description, so they were in for a few surprises. (As this was an infamous "SheilaP paddle", things were unlikely to run as many SISKA paddles do.) Thanks to several reminders, most of the enthusiastic crew did show up for the earlier launch and the rest were rushed into their awaiting crafts.

The tides were in our favour and the paddle was leisurely and social – except for the crossings, where SheilaP's border collie instincts herded laggard paddlers into a small, safe cluster. There were questions asked and lessons learned about crossing BC ferry routes. The group stayed together and supported each other to deal with the angst of the leader.

Once at the Portland Island beach, the leader reminded everyone that this would be a leisurely stop, taking time to hike, fish, explore, snooze and dine. Some were surprised at this plan but the extra time was enjoyed by all. The die-hards used the surplus time to practice skills and rolling. 
Some of the die-hards rolling around at lunch
Other paddlers enjoyed their time in various ways. The leader enjoyed a leisurely lunch, then socializing and snoozing on the white sand beach at Arbutus Point.

Around 2 pm, the group set off for Amherst Beach. They made good time back to the launch point and everyone pitched in to make light work of the end-of-day schlepping. It was delightful to see several newer members on the paddle, as well as many familiar faces. Nothing was left on the beach except the echoes of laughter and friendship.

Oak Bay Intertidal Paddle - April 10th

By Jo Runnells

I was happy to be the SISKA leader for the first inter-tidal paddle of the year. Timed to take advantage of a 0.5 m low tide, thirteen of us enjoyed this extremely short paddle – only 2.1 nautical miles for the entire paddle!

Dave Giuliani and Mike Jackson provided great information on tide cycles and the inter-tidal life of our local waters. We started with a beach talk on Willows Beach, checking out the diversity of life in the upper inter-tidal zone. Dave’s advice to always look closer was great – there was so much to see.  Before this talk I knew what a barnacle and a limpet looked like – but I didn’t know we had multiple species of each! 

We didn’t want to miss the lowest tide between 12:30 and 1 pm, so we had an early lunch on the beach before we even got into our kayaks. (This might have been the latest launch of any SISKA paddle.) We headed along the shore, then over to Mary Tod Island, or Jimmie Chicken Island as the Oak Bay locals call it. We conned the shoreline, looking at the variety of green, brown and red algae (better known as seaweed). Mike and Dave managed to find blood stars, multiple species of chiton, coralline algae, and even a nudibranch as we worked our way very slowly around the island. We ended with the plumose anemones and calcareous tube worms living under the Oak Bay Marine fuel dock. 

Fortunately the southwest wind stayed fairly low and we were able to tuck into protected bays when the waves made looking into the water difficult.  What started as an overcast day ended in bright sunshine – all in all, pretty fabulous for early April!

Mike and Dave also shared sources for more inter-tidal information:
The intertidal paddle track
Exploring intertidal Oak Bay

Becher Bay Paddle - April 16th

by Vic Turkington

The early forecast was cloudy with rain (i.e. - not great) but later changed to sun and cloud - much better!  Sixteen intrepid paddlers, including "sweep" Barbara, "chief paddle surgeon" Tony and several new paddlers, left Spirit Bay at high tide with a 5 kn E wind for a relaxed paddle in Becher Bay (named after Adm. Alex Becher - RN, hydrographer, 1796-1876).

We noodled slowly along the eastern shore around the many islets and inlets of this wonderful coastline.  Wendy K. helped us identify spring flowers including sea blush, camas, fawn lilies and sedum growing on the rocky cliffs. Val Chater managed to spot a couple of nudibranchs.

We paddled past Parker Island, slowly exploring this interesting coastline and checking out the harlequin and scoter ducks. We had to practice bow rudder strokes as we worked through the many rock gaps and islets. We eventually rounded Smyth Head and headed to the tombolo at Large Bedford Island. (What is a tombolo, you ask? A narrow spit or bar which connects an island to the mainland or another island.) With the falling tide, the tombolo was just awash and so became the outer limit of our paddle.

Back for lunch near Smyth Head, in the lee of a sun-facing gravel beach with wonderful views of the Olympics. Some paddlers explored the nearby grassy headland, covered with spring flowers. We had great views of the islands of Becher Bay. Murray T. captured a panoramic photo of our lunch beach which could easily feature in any kayak magazine. A 1 hour lunch break in the sun on a scenic beach truly adds meaning to a "relaxed" paddle.

 After lunch we crossed the bay to Aldridge Point with a gentle tail wind. John W. led us back along the west coast past Creyke Point, Murder Bay and Wolf Island to the marina. Many more houses are being  constructed in Spirit Bay.

Everyone easily managed the 7 nm trip, returning at 2.30 after an enjoyable paddle. Coffee and goodies afterwards at the Glenrosa Farm restaurant, where the owner explained the local farm history - a delightful coffee stop for future paddles in the Metchosin area.
Becher Bay paddling
The lunch stop

Kayakable Birding

Birds are a fine feature of any kayak trip. But which is which? In each Newsletter, we’ll describe a couple of species that you are likely to see at this particular time of year.

The Black Oystercatcher is seen - and heard - all year round on our coastal rocks and islets. Think of a large, pudgy crow with a carrot and long legs. The call is a long, accelerating series of yelps, rising and then falling. Once you hear it, you'll never forget it.
Black Oystercatcher

The Common Merganser is likely what you are looking at when you see a fairly large white duck with a black head accompanied by a grey one with a red head (that punkish hairdo in the photo is her winter wardrobe, less obvious in summer). They look like different species, but they are male and female. When flying, both show obvious white flashes on the inner wings.
Common Mergansers, male and female
Copyright © 2016 South Island Sea Kayaking Association, All rights reserved.

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