Race Rocks, July 23/06

Close to nature?
Elephant Seal

We had put in at the Cheanuh Marina, off the East Sooke Road, on the Scia’new First Nation. The Marina is on the north edge of Becher (also spelled Beecher) Bay. The east side of the bay is bounded by the Rocky Point DND land. There is a little bay in the north east corner that had three naval vessels, cordoned off by the nets.
The original idea was paddling around the bay but we accepted Peter’s suggestion of a trip to Race Rocks. The trip from Becher Bay to Race Rocks was fast, on a flooding tide in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. When we set out Peter said we should go to the right of the first rock when we got there. It turned out that this was the way to ride the current and get out in the lee under the north side of Great Race Rock, which is the rock with the lighthouse and field station. I think this isn’t necessarily difficult paddling, but the current and waves looked pretty impressive.
Peter was one of the first in. I saw, but did not hear, one of the island “guardians” say something to him. We hauled out. The plan was to have lunch on the seawall, let the current diminish, ferry across to Rocky Point and get back into Becher Bay along the shore. Shortly after we arrived, we saw two male elephant seals in the kelp just beyond the breakwater. One came up on the nice smooth concrete ramp that leads to the boathouse on the top of the rock. Race Rocks Ramp
We moved the lowest boats. It stayed there for a while, getting some rays.Resting
Standoff. We were landlocked. We moved the boats higher. The second seal came up. We moved the boats onto the top of the seawall. The seals went right up to the top of the rock among the sheds and buildings. Late in this process the female “guardian” of the rocks came out and gave us shit for being in the seals’ “home” and asked how we would feel about visitors in our home. I am not fond of anthropomorphic arguments or worried about hurting an animal’s feelings, unless said animal is likely to react to a situation in a way that affects me. If I was that big, I wouldn’t worry about a kayak unless I saw a harpoon. I wondered why the seals were acclimatized to humans. Perhaps the guardian had names for the brutes and gives them little fishy treats. Some pets.
The Race Rocks are about a kilometer southeast of the end of Rocky Point. Great Race Rock is about 1.75 k out. There was a barge tied below the next rock in, part of an experimental tidal power project.Barge Crane
Getting back meant paddling facing the current, going sideways from rock to rock, and then crossing the last kilometer, which is Race Passage. Race Passage
That was kind of fun, with current turbulence, a few whirlpools, and it being kind of wet and hot.
It was also, with hindsight, a little foolish. I don’t have a wet suit and I don’t know how other paddlers might have got me out in that current. I think that Peter hadn’t thought that out.
Did I say it was over 30 Sunday? Didn’t notice the heat on the water, although paddling up under Rocky Point got hot until we came clear and got into the breeze again.
When we got back into Becher Bay, we heard drums at the marina. The First Nation had a big sea-going dug out canoe in the water. There were 4 of them at the top of the ramp when we arrived. It was kind of wild, nine of us trying to get our boats up, a few salmon fishers trying to back their trailers down the ramp to pull out their power boats, and half the First Nation finishing their canoe celebration. The kids were fun. One shouted that the Eskimos were here. In fact one kayak was made of wood and canvas, hand made, on an Inuit model. Paul was using a wooden Greenland paddle.
It was a little crazy, and after loading and helping some other others load and tie down, I headed back for Victoria without getting pictures of the canoes.