Notes on the early days from Roz Rickard

Some comments on SKABC History -- starting with the early days when the club was still called VOTKA.

The teaching in the early days was basically one person teaching another and off we went. The information was not always consistent but we tried and kept adding to that which we knew.

Of significance, a group of us would for years go for an Easter weekend away to the Broken Islands. We drove down a logging road on the West Coast of Vancouver Island and put in there. Camping on the islands was spectacular. Not all the islands had water so we carried it. We carried all our garbage out and other peoples garbage too. Our attitude was leave nothing behind but our footprints in the sand. The trip was often very stormy at that time of the year. A small group of us would always make it out to the outside of the outer islands on the windward side and visit the sea lion rookery.

For about two summers a group of us, all members of VOTKA, would pack up on a Friday and catch a ferry to the Gulf Islands for the weekend. We went many times during the summer. Interestingly, we would drive to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and load up the kayaks in the parking lot with all out provisions for the weekend. We would either carry the boats on or use wheels. In those days the kayaks went for free and we stashed them down the sides of the ferry along the curved part of the hull, and we were just charged as foot passengers. It cost $2.00 each way! We had la ton of fun, lots of laughs and saw some breathtaking scenery.

The club or maybe the Sixta’s or John Dowd or Bernie Epting (can’ t remember who) brought an instructor out from England, Derek Hutchinson, who had written several books about sea ‘canoeing’ (kayaking) he was an instructor with the BCU ( British Canoe Union) (Kayaks were/are called canoes in England and a canoe was called a Canadian). A large number of us signed up for The Basic Proficiency Training course. Six to 8 months later Derek came back and a group of us did the Senior Instructors training and exams. There were just 5 of us passed, Mercia Sixta and I, Roz Rickard, were two of the 5, and I also think Garry Sixta too. During the time Derek was gone about 8 months, we had to pass a lifesaving course, have an up to date first aide course etc. For the exam we had to demonstrate we could teach people how to roll I believe that was at Lord Byng pool, we had to give a lecture the subject given to us ahead of time, mine was about paddling and paddles. We had to lead and teach a group which went from the Jericho Sailing Center across the channel to Lighthouse Park and back, it was rough that day. We had to demonstrate different methods of re-entering a kayak having dumped or done a wet exit. ETC.

Greg Blanchette designed the original long narrow bladed paddle prototype which he made using a 2x4 and an axe. He recreated an original Aleutian island paddle seen in old pictures. There was a group of two fellows who had a paddle making business Nimbus (I think). They were lovely guys, one of whom’ s party trick was turning his feet completely backwards - it was remarkable. They used Greg’s prototype and started building wooden narrow bladed paddles. As a present they gave Greg and I one each (I still have mine) before we set off on our 3 month Kayak Expedition covering 1,300 nautical miles taking 3 months, across The North West Passage. A huge trip - before cell phones and GPS’s and travelling in an area where the compass was erratic to useless and that was even printed on the charts we had. And in the days when there was sea ice. It took a year of organizing and planning. There were several mid-winter training trips to the west coast of Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands, both times mid-winter and both times we became stranded on islands – too rough to leave. I am telling you this because another part of the history of sea kayaking in this area is that Mike Neckar owner of Neke Kayaks built and designed kayaks. He was a very big man but paddled effortlessly with grace. For our North West Passage expedition we used a mold and built our own layup of the double kayak we used and we called it Kissuk. The boat building program lasted a few years. One could go there use their mold and materials, a less expensive way of acquiring a kayak. It lasted a few years in the early days, again Mercia might be able to tell you more.

At the VOTKA meetings we talked about water safety, photography, living off the land, packing a kayak, paddling techniques, how to keep warm, best visible colours on the water, navigation etc etc. And we discussed the change of the name of the club! And, the use of olive barrels which we used to be able to get free from the greed shops on 4th Ave and west Broadway back in the day. As time went on we had the newsletter which went out from time to time and different people contributed. As I recall it was a two page thing to begin with.

And yes, that was true, any time one saw a kayak on a roof rack you knew who it was there were only a few people to begin with and mostly not the very young people the majority were 25 years old and up, not lots of young people the way they are very attracted to paddle boarding.

Eco Marine was originally a little hole in the wall shop and then as things grew and John Dowd, a fellow Kiwi, moved into the location on Granville Island that we all know, years later Ecomarine was sold to Chris and Chris and sadly they have gone into receivership and closed down.

I still have my two kayaks an Arluk 1 and an Arluk 2 both of which are sadly waiting to go for a paddle having been sitting there for years.

The Cardboard kayak competition was enormous fun and tremendously exciting. We worked in teams with a limited amount of cardboard and duct tape. I remember winning it one year however in the end I think I was paddling myself supported on the water with my lifejacket and in the end the ‘kayak’ was submerged and just the bow of it floating held there with my feet as I was lying on my back with the help of my lifejacket. Lots of silly fun.