Thursday, September 10, 2015

Back on Canadian waters...and the sheer delight of an undiscovered "jewel".

For the twelve years we've lived on Vancouver Island, we've resisted "lake" paddling. Why? Well, the salt water is just five minutes away from home and these narrow boats are, after all sea kayaks. The past eighteen months in Scotland, however, taught us that when the nearby North Sea was inhospitable, as it often was, loch kayaking was just fine. There were many memorable paddles, for example, on majestic Loch Tay. 

This was the first paddle, back on Canadian waters. We quickly realized that we had discounted a very beautiful venue, also close to home...Cowichan Lake. Why? Who knows, maybe because it was just a lake? Maybe because it wasn't a salt water experience or because there were no tides or intertidal life? Maybe because the expectation was that it would be benign and calm, and therefore slightly "boring"? Hmmm...benign and calm? We should have known better. Our friend Linda certainly did. ;)

Life's like that though. We often discount new possibilities for adventures because of preconceived notions and assumptions. Today was to be a gentle reminder of that very thing. 

Cowichan Lake is about 30 kilometres west of the City of Duncan (Canada's smallest "city", by area). The lake is about 30 kilometres long and 2.5 kilometres wide at its widest point. Loch Tay, by comparison, is about 23 kilometres long - very similar. Both have a maximum depth of over 160 metres (500'). Both lakes can be very calm in the morning...but in the afternoon, a wind from the west almost always comes up.

On this morning, Linda, Joan, and I launched from Helen's lakeside home, the lake as smooth as a mirror. It truly was lovely...and so peaceful.

"Cowichan" (Quw’utsun’) is a First Nations Coast Salish word meaning "land warmed by the sun". This part of Vancouver Island is Canada's only maritime Mediterranean climate zone. We enjoy the warmest mean year-round temperatures in the country and the country’s longest growing season. The average 1,845 annual hours of sunshine makes for some wonderful locally produced wines.

Paddling by the waterfront homes and cottages, I wondered why we had never done this before.

After a couple of hours on the water, we stopped to stretch our legs on an uninhabited side of the lake. The mountains stretched towards the exposed coast of the Pacific Ocean. 

A light breeze began to ripple the water and the high, wispy clouds indicated a coming change in the weather. The breeze that had slowly materialised began to freshen.

The early September sun, however, warmed our bodies, and the dry suits began to feel a little warm.

It was a great place to "chill", eat some savoury snacks, and reflect on just how beautiful (and undiscovered!) places so close to home can be.

Conditions had been perfect for a gentle paddle, but Cowichan Lake never fails to please...and served up some fun bumps and lumps for the return trip.

The blue skies were rapidly obscured by a soft overcast, creating "grey seas". The energetic following waves carried the three happy paddlers along.

Cowichan Lake is truly a "jewel"...and so close to home. Who'd have thought it? Well, we would have...had the preconceived notions been corrected years ago. :)

Preconceived notions are the locks 
on the door to wisdom.
- Mary Kendall Browne

Preconceived notions and assumptions are rarely helpful, or accurate. Actual knowledge and experience is the best bet...every single time. It just takes a little sense of adventure, and the willingness to be shown something new. ;)


  1. Wow, what a beautiful area Duncan, and so much in common with some of the Scottish freshwater lochs - with a surf landing too! Wonderful, wonderful stuff :o)

    Warm wishes

    1. Thank you for that, Ian. You're right, there are SO many similarities...a "foot" in each is surely the best of both worlds. Nice to be in either place. :) As always, warm wishes. Duncan.

  2. It was simply a fantastic day and those waves, well what could I do but laugh in pure joy! Can't wait for the next adventure! Let's assume it will be just as enjoyable.

    1. Hi Linda, it was a fantastic day, indeed. You were right all along about the lake. ;) The next adventure? I can pretty much guarantee it will be just as enjoyable! Warm wishes. Duncan.

  3. It is great to read of such an enjoyable first paddle in your home waters Duncan. I have had several really great days on Loch Lomond which also has afternoon winds and waves. In summer if the sun shines ( which it does every few years or so) the slopes of Ben Lomond create a rising thermal which sucks cool wind in from the sea. The wind then accelerates as it is squeezed into the narrowing gap as the mountains crowd the loch. When I windsurfed in the '80s and 90's we had several great times there when there was not enough wind at the coast. Some of the roughest waves I have been in whilst sea kayaking have been on Loch Lomond! Douglas :o)

    1. Hi Douglas, great to hear from you. I can well imagine the possibilities on Loch Lomond. We haven't launched there but have experienced the changing weather on the top of Ben Lomond. We arrived at the summit in warm sunlight, under bright blue skies. Immediately following the required photograph at the trig point, a cold wind suddenly came up and a thick mist obscured the views...I'm sure the surface of the loch would have been exciting! Then the weather changed again and the views reappeared for the return hike. Lochs and lakes can hold many surprises! Warm wishes from us both. Duncan.