About Philip Torrens

Established writer, emerging photographer, avid sea kayaker and camper, and human companion to my faithful sheltie.

Purple Sea Monsters Of The Pacific Northwest

a cluster of sea stars clinging to a rockPurple Sea Stars and their cousins are no longer called “starfish” because they aren’t fish. They’re Echinoderms, related to sea urchins, sand dollars and sea cucumbers. While rebranding Pisaster ochraceus (the title they use on formal occasions) from starfish to sea stars has brought us closer to the awful truth, full disclosure requires renaming them again. So let’s call them what they are: the Purple Sea Monsters of the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading

Going Paddleabout: Sea Kayaking Around Bella Bella, Part 3

July 21

the tent and tarp on Wolf BeachThe sound of rain on the roof had me scuttling out of the tent at 5:45 to rescue my drysuit and long johns from the no-longer drying area. Then it was back to bed ’til about 9. I took advantage of a brief lull in the rain to select a suitable centre pole for my tarp from the driftwood offerings on the beach, and used my kayak mast to hold one edge high as an entrance.

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Going Paddleabout: Sea Kayaking around Bella Bella, BC (Part 2)

July 17th

View of a creek over the bow of sea kayak

Peering out of my tent after the alarm went off at 5AM, I could see wavelets even in the lee-sheltered little bay. I decided not to make the exposed crossing to Stirling Island with the seas already so stirred up. I rolled over to enjoy a lie-in.
I rewoke at 8AM, on time to bid Gerald good-bye as he left, and make a yummy pancake breakfast. I spent the day sight-seeing and exploring the archipelago northeast of Triquet Island, rewatering from a small creek in a Hunter Island bay. With the weird and random winds running through the channels , I got to sail in short bursts on both the outbound and return trips. Continue reading

Going Paddleabout: Sea Kayaking around Bella Bella, BC (Part 1)

a bottle of rubbing alcoholPrelude
I’d driven up Vancouver Island to Port Hardy the evening before my 7AM ferry to Bella Bella departed, and car camped a few miles from the ferry terminal. As I sat in camp about 8:30, I realized with horror that I’d left the bag with all my alcohol at home. No, not that alcohol — the fuel for my stove! So I raced into Port Hardy. Just before they closed, I scurried into the pharmacy section of the local grocery store, and cleaned them out of their rubbing alcohol. As he rang up my eight bottles, the clerk eyed me with a mixture of pity and contempt. I decided any explanation would sound like protesting too much, so I rolled with it. Back at camp, the test burn in the stove went well: a little sootier than proper meths, but plenty hot. Continue reading

Remembrance Day: It’s Personal

photo of WW1 soldier G L Torrens

courtesy Imperial War Museums http://www.iwm.org.uk

This is my grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel George Leslie Torrens. I never met him, though I was in my teens by the time he died. He’d left the service under a cloud during the Second World War, after diverting tightly rationed resources – army vehicles and gasoline – to a family wedding. This was so scandalous that he and my grandmother parted and he was rarely spoken of. Growing up, I was given the impression, without ever being directly lied to, that he had died long before we were born from wounds received in “The War” (though which war was conveniently unspecified.)

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I Wanna Roll Like A Girl

Back in the day, I had a bombproof kayak roll. But gradually, I fell out of the habit of practising it. When I first abandoned whitewater and surf paddling in favour of exclusively ocean kayaking I kept it up. But over the years, I persuaded myself it wasn’t really essential for sea kayaking and probably wouldn’t work anyway with my sail on the boat. Besides, my brace worked fine (except when it didn’t.) Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that age made it unlikely I could recapture my roll.

A kayaker surfs a breaking wave

Displacement Hull Boat? Check. Wood Paddle? Check. Chunky PFD? Check. This must be me, surfin’ the 90s.

But this year, one of my personal and professional goals is to regain my roll. And to do it like a girl.

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Relaunch: Back On The Water

a sail on the front of a sea kayakLife events and some (non life-threatening) medical issues have kept me out of my sea kayak for a couple of months – the longest absence from paddling I’ve had in decades.

Earlier this week I took my hopefully rehabbed body out for some sea trials. My standard voyage is a straight shot from English Bay Beach to the Jericho Sailing Association, about 45 minutes of brisk paddling against the stiff breeze of the afternoon inflow. Since I was testing my recovery, I raised the sail and did a series of paddle-sailing broad tacks up either side of the wind, adding some distance and about twenty minutes to my crossing time, but reducing the load on my body to about half of paddling directly upwind.  Continue reading