Illegal Fishing


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-15 knots NE
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: calm



  • Noted two branded California Sea Lions.
  • U503 and U400.
  • Saw many others with brands but unable to view complete brand.


  • Fixed the electric fence near the energy building which had been ripped apart again.
  • Reorganized some diesel barrels.
  • Cleaned the solar panels.
  • The usual chores.


  • It was neat to watch more than fifteen fishing boats head through Race Passage at 7:15 in the partial darkness of sunrise.
  • Two boats were fishing in the Rockfish Conservation Area, mostly between the Rosedale Rock and the South Islands for several hours today.
  • I identified them as best I could, and reported them to the DFO.
  • At times there were other boats nearby, but they seemed to be making a conscious effort to anchor outside the boundary.
  • The two offending boats made no such effort, drifting about all over the southern part of the reserve.
  • Several ecotours came by today.
  • In the evening one small aluminium boat ripped through the reserve well above the speed limit. Presumably he was late for supper?


  • From about 11:50 until 13:00 I felt a series of unidentifiable booming shakes.
  • I can only assume it was DND blasting, although I saw no smoke, and it was Sunday.
Levitating boat optical illusion.

Levitating boat optical illusion.

Quiet Saturday on the Rock


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 5-15 knots North
  • Sky: overcast
  • Water: calm


  • Saw a California Sea Lion branded with 8465.



  • Reset the electric fence.
  • Removed ash from the wood stove for the season’s first light.



  • Observed one rental boat that appeared to be fishing within the reserve.
  • Contacted Pedder Bay Marina to let them know.


Pearson Students and Brands


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots NE, later West
  • Sky: clear
  • Water: calm


  • Saw two branded California sea lions.
  • U400 and U714.
  • Discovered a couple of recently deceased juvenile sea gulls.
  • Cause of death unknown.


  • The usual chores.


  • Lots of ecotours today.
  • One appeared to be going over the speed limit within the edge of the reserve.
  • Several times there were at least 3 in the Middle Channel.
  • Kyle brought two loads of students out in Second Nature.
  • One small boat was observed fishing illegally within the Rockfish Conservation area.
  • They were reported to the DFO.


  • Kyle, Laura, 14 Pearson students, and 3 filmmakers came out.
  • The students were supposed to be doing wind and wave measurements, but Race Rocks was providing very little in that department today.


  • Six pair of small DND blastings today.
  • They took place early in the hour, every hour, from the 10th until the 15th.

Blog On.

This blog covers three days, September 15, 16 and 17th; Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It will be replaced by a point form log for the rest of the stay.

Weather and Sea Conditions

Thursday was part of the last high pressure system with sunny afternoon westerlies of 10 – 15 knots. Friday was a transition day with heavy fog burning off by early afternoon and accompanied by westerlies of up to 25 knots. By dusk it had clouded over and showers continued overnight and into Saturday morning. This wet weather came with winds from the north. Morning fog patches continued Saturday and by early afternoon the wind switched from 10 – 15 knots north, to 25 -30 knots west partially cleared with sun between showers. The marine forecast for Central Juan de Fuca Strait includes a strong westerly wind warning. The wind is predicted to drop to westerly 10 to 15 early Sunday morning and showers are expected to end near midnight Saturday.

It appears that the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve weather station has not been operating since mid-June, so longer-term context is not possible other than anecdotal information recorded in recent logs.

Vessels in Ecological Reserve

Commercial whale-watching activity inside the Ecological Reserve boundaries is busy, with 20 commercial visits noted on the 16th and 14 visits on the 17th. The guidelines for vessel activity are not being observed by all operators and some of the commercial vessels are as close as 5 meters from the sea lions (and shore). Some very large vessels are going through shallow passages, making erratic turns in the current, travelling against the current and several vessels were seen speeding (> 7 knots within 400 m of Great Race). No other commercial activity was observed. Although several recreational vessels were seen passing through, there was no sports-fishing activity noted within the closed area.


Seasonal shifts are apparent with the return of some ‘winter’ species and visits by fall migrants. There are only seven Glaucous-winged Gull chicks left on Great Race Island that are not fully fledged. The smallest, chick has a badly injured left leg. One other still has pinfeathers on its head and the rest are close to flying. There are notably fewer gull chick remains on the island this year perhaps indicating a lower mortality rate. There does not appear to be any data on the number of nests or their productivity this year so it may just reflect lower productivity. The logged death of the old River Otter may be related to the drop in chick carcass numbers.

Glaucous-winged Gulls are still the dominant gull species here on Great Race. California Gulls are abundant in the area but not roosting on Great Race yet. There are large (>1,000 birds), mixed species, feeding flocks adjacent to the Ecological Reserve in Race Passage and in the distance. California Gulls have been seen resting on thick mats of Bull Kelp in Middle Channel.

Black Turnstones and Surfbirds have returned from the Arctic where they nest in the summer. One Ruddy Turnstone was noted today feeding on flies, fuel for a migration that may extend as far south as South America. A single Sanderling was noted both Friday and Saturday and this is another species that nests in the Arctic and is widespread in the ‘winter’. Black Oystercatchers, which are much more site fidel, are roosting near the energy building in the evenings. At least one Kildeer was heard each evening just after dark.

Both Stellers (Northern) and California Sea Lions are moulting this time of year and are hauling out on Great Race, South Seal and South Islands as well as Middle Rocks and Turbine Rock. Photos were taken and processed, of branded, tagged and entangled sea lions.

Northern Elephant Seals are hauling on both Middle and Great Race and a total of six were noted Saturday. No big males. Harbour Seals are abundant and using these haul-out areas; West, Middle, Turbine, North and South Seal Rocks and South Islands.

A single Sea Otter was observed in the kelp just south of North Rocks Saturday morning.

One Humpback Whale was noted feeding near the Ecological Reserve.


Solar panels are maintaining power for the island in spite of intermittent cloud and showers. Without the weather station operational, sunlight levels are not being measured. The diesel generator is run for a couple of hours each evening to top up the batteries for the night.


Kyle brought three visitors yesterday, two from Ocean Networks Canada and one from Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, for a site visit.

Maintenance and Operations

Regular chores included the 06:15 daily weather report for Pedder Bay Marina, daily solar panel maintenance, walkway cleaning, repairing and electrifying fences. The outside of the fuel barrel (eco-four) house was scrubbed, tops of fuel barrels stored outside were drained of water, and windows in the energy building were washed. The “science” house was inspected, an open window closed in the basement, exterior electrical box was noted broken from wall and conduit open at bottom (photo). Science house furnace was full on and the upstairs temperature was 22.0o C. Thermostat turned down. It was noted that diesel had been spilled in basement. Spill pads on the fuel drum are saturated and there was diesel on the entry bootscrubber/doormat. Looked at derrick dock woodpile and noted creosoted and pressure treated wood in woodpile, probably a health hazard to burn. Inspected chainsaw chain…just needs filing. Took VHF, charger and manual to top of tower to replace the one missing from there. Wheelbarrows were deployed for rainwater catchment. The conductivity meter’s line was marked with yellow electrical tape so that seawater sampling could be done at measured depth. In the energy building an attempt was made to align the indicator lights on the three Xantrax controllers with the holes. Two out of three can now be seen and the middle one can be seen plainly with the lights out. The flashing rate of these lights indicate the controller’s stage of operation and approximate battery voltage which is helpful to knowing how long to run the generator. Weather station troubleshooting will continue tomorrow.


The Grand Sailboat Regatta


  • Visibility: 8 miles in the early morning, 15 later on
  • Wind: 15-20 knots East, then North, then West
  • Sky: foggy and overcast, then sunny, then overcast
  • Scattered raindrops throughout the day
  • Water: mostly calm, with swells in the afternoon



  • Maya and Tazi conducted 4 intertidal transects today.
  • Studying an intertidal transect involves measuring out a certain distance from a peg, and then documenting the different species found every 0.5 metre.
  • In some transects the 0.5 metres are measured by water elevation; in others simply by distance.
  • By comparing the species found in every zone of the transect with transect data from previous decades, you can see the change in intertidal ecosystems due to climate change.
  • We saw a California Sea Lion with the brand U374 and another with a tracker.
  • While most of the gull eggs all look the same, one particular egg is quite different.


  • Maya and I ran the fire pump in the morning.
  • This added a few inches to the cistern.
  • We removed the old Canadian flag and hoisted a fresh one.
  • Tazi and I removed some algae.
  • Ali whacked away at the thistles.
  • We cleaned the solar panels.


  • Over 150 sailboats from Victoria passed by Race Rocks in the late morning on their way towards the Western horizon.
  • Some of them started to return as late as 22:30.
  • The colours of their sales included: red, blue, white, fluorescent yellow, green, purple, black, orange, and many combinations of all of the above.
  • Some standouts included the Miles Davis sail and the Union Jack.
  • I couldn’t stop taking photos and ended up with dozens. Below is a selection of the best.
  • One coastguard zodiac and a search and rescue boat appeared to be accompanying the sailboats.
  • Several eco-tours came by, including one Eagle Wings tour that drove through the South Channel.
  • Passing through the South Channel is prohibited as the width is too narrow.

A Dozen+ Eco-Tours


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind :15-25 knots West
  • Sky: mix of sun and clouds
  • Water: 1′ chop


  • Down to 14 elephant seals on Great Race today.
  • Lots of sea lions on the rocks near the derrick.


  • Glued the edge of the desalinator bunker door back on.
  • Cleaned the solar panels.


  • Between 15-20 eco-tours came into the reserve today; I lost count.
  • Most of them appeared to be too close to the sea lions at one point or another.
  • Once there were 4 eco-tours in the reserve at the same time.
  • Another time there were 5 eco-tours within the reserve.
  • Two times the small Prince of Whales boats went THRU the South Channel.
  • When marine mammals are present, this channel is too narrow for boats to pass through (the minimum distance for boats viewing marine mammals is 100 metres!)
  • Both times there were many sea lions present, including several that were already swimming in the channel or near the entrances.
  • Most of the sea lions were at the right hand entrance to the channel. Unfortunately both times the boat had already passed thru that entrance before I could get a photo.
  • I did get some photos of one PoW boat in the middle of the channel, and exiting it.
  • Several pleasure craft passed through the reserve as well, including a sail boat that was towing a smaller boat (reminiscent of motorhomes that tow cars).
  • I wasn’t able to get photos of all these boats, as I didn’t always have the camera on me. I also accidentally deleted a few photos.


Doing some Chores


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 15-20 knots West, later up to 35.
  • Sky: mix of sun and cloud
  • Water: 3′ chop


  • 15 elephant seals on Great Race.
  • Quite social and entertaining today. Some of them even trying to follow me around, though they didn’t like the noise of the weed eater.
  • About half as many Canada Geese on the island today!


  • Did some more weed whacking along the paths.
  • Cleaned the solar panels.
  • Stacked some firewood.
  • Cleaned part of the students’ house with algicide.


  • 3 eco-tours today.
  • 1 rented pleasure craft was seen fishing to the East of Great Race, quite likely within the reserve area where no fishing is allowed.
  • The photos I took aren’t the best. I spied them fishing with the binoculars before I could grab the camera.


Strong Gale


  • Visibility: 15 miles
  • Wind: 0-5 knots W in the morning, by 14:00 it had jumped to 40+ knots.
  • The highest reading I saw was 48 knots, which is no longer a “strong gale” but a “storm”.
  • Sky: clear in the morning, dark clouds by evening.
  • Water: initially calm, but the wind kicked up massive waves!
  • Forecast: looks like more gale tomorrow.

48 knots winds! stormy waters!


  • 15 elephant seals on Great Race.
  • A few California Sea Lions on the jetty today.
  • One lone crane fly was attached to a window for the second day straight. The gale blew it away.
  • The same elephant seal who blocked me outside yesterday tried the same trick again! Only this time I was already inside, so I wisely used a different door.


  • Goose work.
  • Weed eating. Or “whacking” if you prefer.


  • 6 eco-tours today.
  • 1 small pleasure craft had what appeared to be a family with young children fishing in the reserve. They departed very quickly before I could identify their boat, perhaps realizing their mistake independent of me?


Salt Air

Weather and Sea Conditions

It was another day dominated by the west wind, starting in thick fog and then partially clearing. Wind strength was significant, ranging from 20 – 25 knots in the morning then rising to gale strength with strong gusts over 42 knots by mid-afternoon. It was still blowing 35 – 40 knots at 18:30. Sea conditions were rough with breaking waves, dense streaks of foam and lots of salt spray in the air.

It turned out to be fairly sunny and the UV index was moderate, reaching 4 by mid-afternoon. Barometric pressure dropped slowly to 1008 hPa by early evening. The forecast calls for moderate easterly breezes by tomorrow morning, rising again to west 10 – 15 by Saturday evening.

Vessel Observations in the Protected Area

Two whale-watching vessels were observed working in the protected area today. I took a photo of the first one to show it as being exemplary in not approaching the South Rocks haul-outs closer than 100m but the exemplary part was completely blown out of the water when the operator sped off diagonally across the reserve.

I felt sorry for the passengers, it was an open boat and the people in the bow looked miserable, were soaked and had their heads down before he started speeding into the wind and seas. Gusts were over 42 knots at the time, the current was running against them at four knots and they were doing about 20 knots in the boat. Add those speeds together and it converts into their passengers taking salty slaps in the face at well over 100 km/hour. I took a few more photos through the window to keep the salt spray off this camera, document the alleged infraction and give the company, Orca Spirit Adventure an opportunity to change its ways. It says it is a green company, so no doubt it will take this seriously.

It is worth noting that many of the pinnipeds normally hauled-out ashore, were in the water today due to the high winds. I hope the speeding vessel didn’t strike any of them with this reckless driving. I know that visibility in that sort of wind and spray warrants slower travel, not faster. From a safety perspective, add log hazards into the mix they should consider themselves lucky to come back healthy and whole. Last seen heading west.

There was one low overflight this morning but it was moving quickly and I did not get an image.

Ecological and General Observations

Two young male Northern Elephant Seals came ashore after the females left yesterday and they returned this morning with two more. They have been asleep, lounging in the garden all day. The few birds left on the island today were hunkered down trying to not be blown away by the furious westerly. (I have included some photos from yesterday in today’s gallery in order to save the camera.)

Sustainability, Chores, Visitors

Sunlight levels were high enough to generate lots of electricity, in spite of morning fog and afternoon high overcast.

Chores were routine. There were no visitors.






Weather & Sea Conditions

Light, variable winds and overcast skies were the norm for most of today. The sun came out in the early evening but total accumulated sunlight levels were way down from the highs of last week. Of course this also meant a low UV index, which barely reached 2 today. The barometric pressure climbed steadily from a low of 1010 on Sunday, to over 1030 hPa today and tomorrow’s forecast calls for more sun and a moderate (5) UV index. Light winds are predicted to continue, rising to 15 knots Wednesday afternoon. Except for tidal rips and current driven standing waves, sea conditions were calm and rippled today.


Six whale watching vessels were observed working in the protected area today. One of the larger yellow vessels took chances with safety and wildlife security, ignoring common sense and rules, by barging through the narrow, shallow passageway between the South Rocks sea lions haul-out and Great Race. They were lucky, they missed the shallow rocks and the sea lions were disturbed but did not stampede.

Why is it always the same company that pushes the limits? Not all of their operators take these kinds of risks but it certainly makes one pause and wonder: what kind of leadership allows this to happen repeatedly?

Very few sports fishing boats were seen today except in the distance at Constance Bank and Beechey Head. One was observed passing through the protected area (not fishing), near Rosedale Reef.

Ecological and General Observations

Ecologically it was the day of the goose. The time has come, (the Walrus said), for egg laying to start, whether nests are built and territories staked out, or not. There was a certain desperation and pandemonium amongst the geese today leading to much honking, numerous chases, physical battles between the males and general goose drama. They are here to stay, like the California Sea Lions.

Everything else seemed to proceed as usual; sea lions and seals slept. Beulah crushed the beds where I picked tulips yesterday and then moved over behind the boat-shed. The river otter continues to use his two story, rock, otter spot and ‘decorates’ the walkway with evidence of his fish predation. The gulls seemed more settled and there seemed to be fewer marauding eagles. Black Oystercatchers are all in pairs in the same areas where they nested last year, through most of the day. The Pigeon Guillemots spent more of the day ashore and were still here in the late afternoon. The Harlequins were busy fuelling up for their move to the mountains.

A true sign of spring, the bull kelp could be seen reaching the surface at low tide. Soon there will be beds of kelp around each rock making it easier for the skippers to see the underwater hazards that are compounded by ‘the race’. The Sea Otter made a brief appearance and appeared to be itchy. Maybe he was just doing his daily ritual of grooming to keep his fur impeccable and impenetrable to the ocean’s cold.

Chores were routine today. There were no visitors.