Trip Coordinator: Frank Geddes

Wanna play fetch?

When we arrived at the Astotin Lake parking lot of Elk Island National Park at 09:30, there was a 25-km/hr “breeze” and gusts from the SSE, although the water off the beach was fairly flat. The weather forecast called for winds of 30, gusting to 50 for much of the day. Two of our potential paddlers put their noses to the wind and hastily decided to keep their kayaks perched atop their vehicles, while the other four of us weighed our options. Rob wisely suggested a counter clockwise circuit because there were small whitecaps to our right (the north), so we would tackle those first and be clear of them by the time the waves got high. As most people know, wave height is determined generally by three factors, two of which are wind speed and wind duration. Later in the day, the wind would be stronger and have been blowing longer, so the waves there would be higher than in the morning.

By 10:30, we were merrily paddling north from the beach into whitecap heaven, eager to test our kayaking skills and experience. Soon, however, we found that the waves were already more gnarly than we had anticipated. That’s because the third factor determining wave height is fetch—or the distance that the wind blows across the water. The north (downwind) end of the lake obviously had more fetch, therefore the whitecaps. As we’d have to paddle about a kilometre broadside to the waves if we wished to continue our counter clockwise route, we beat a retreat along the shoreline to the beach area. It was amazing how easy it was to paddle upwind through the reeds and shallows close to shore.

Back at ground zero (or water zero), we headed farther upwind to wend our way through the islands and bays near the golf course. Paddling into the occasional wind gust was bracing, but we had no fetch, therefore no waves. We met a family group who had been hiking the trail from the golf course over to the peninsula near Griesbach Island. From there, we paddled past Elk Island and over to the bay behind Long Island, where there were several coots—not to mention the old one in the wooden kayak. Rounding Long Island clockwise, we came again into the main body and long fetch of the lake, so we cranked right and scudded up the west side of Lamont and Crane islands and eventually back to the beach. (See for a map of the lake and its islands.)

It was a great day and a nice counterpart to the previous weekend’s easy paddling on Islet Lake. By minding the fetch, we were able to test our paddling in strong winds without difficult waves, and we appreciated the 4-hour workout. Congratulations and thanks to the intrepid paddlers!

Whereas there was hardly a car in the parking lot at 09:30, it was full by 2:30 PM when we came off the water. As we were packing, people were asking for our parking spots. All the picnic tables and fire pits were taken as people enjoyed the holiday weekend—with a high of only 18 C, alternating sun and cloud, and winds of up to 50 km/hr. Boy, people sure are hungry for summer! Some were even playing fetch.

Participants: Stephanie, Rob, Margriet, Frank

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