By late afternoon on Saturday, a small armada of voyageur canoes should round Ten Mile Point as part of a gruelling, day-long circumnavigation of Greater Victoria.
Ten Mile Point and Trial Island is where “the water gets really interesting,” says Joe Boyd, organizer of Paddle for the Kids, a fundraiser for the Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan.
“We’ll have the tide at our back but the wind in our face,” he said. “It creates standing waves. You just have to keep paddling. When you stop that’s when troubles begin.”
For Saanich’s Don Munroe, it will be his 32nd expedition for Paddle for the Kids, a fundraiser that he started. This time around it will be in a brand new canoe that bears his name.
Last weekend the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club held a ceremony with Songhees First Nations members to bless the Munroe, a new 26-foot voyageur canoe, a design that hasn’t changed much from the fur trading era. This weekend it will be put to the test.
The group of four canoes will launch from the Tsartlip First Nation boat launch near Brentwood Bay at 7 a.m. Saturday, and paddle some 75 kilometres, rounding the Saanich Peninsula and into Victoria Harbour, up the Gorge Waterway to the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club near Tillicum Bridge.
Until 2010 and for 28 years, canoers paddled from Victoria to Port Angeles and back, a tough venture fraught with chop and strong currents, and occasionally a storm.
The navy pulled its escort in 2010, and the club found an equally long route closer to home, which allows them quick access to land should a canoe run into trouble. The Canadian Coast Guard auxiliary monitors the paddlers.
“It’s challenging conditions. The swell is not so swell,” Munroe joked. “It’s not quite as exciting now, but nevertheless it’s for the kids. You have to keep the kids in mind to keep you inspired. It is a very long day. Depending on the weather it’s 10 to 12 hours.”
“It’s exhilarating,” said Boyd, who has organized the event for four years. “When the seas are calm, there’s not much to talk about. When it’s rough it builds skill and strength.”
Each of the four canoes has two six-person teams, which swap out a three times over the day to allow paddlers to rest and refuel. Local Lions Club members – the B.C. Lions Society funds Camp Shawnigan – pick up and drop off rowers for the legs of the journey.
Paddle for the Kids raises between $12,000 to $20,000 each year and a week for a kid at Camp Shawnigan costs about $2,500. Munroe said visiting the camp in the summer reminds him of why they make the effort each year. “It brings tears to your eyes to know your donations have helped them.”
Paddle for the Kids should be off Saanich and Oak Bay by mid-to late afternoon.
See vckc.ca for more information or to donate.