Inside Passage - San Juans to Port Hardy - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
Extended Trip Report
June 8 - July 1, 2007
Submitted by: DenisDwyer
Inside Passage First Leg - San Juan Island to Port Hardy
Day 1 - June 8, 2007
After months of planning and a 3,000 mile drive across the US I had finally arrived at my launch point on San Juan Island Washington. The "put in" would be Small Pox Bay at the San Juan County Park. I picked this spot to start my trip because it allowed me to avoid heavily urbanized areas along the mainland and put me in a good position to enter Canadaís Gulf Islands and travel within their relatively protected waters.
San Juan County Park is very popular with kayakers and whale watchers who come to catch a glimpse of the many pods of Orcas that frequently pass within a short distance of the shoreline. It can be crowded during the summer and reservations should be made ahead of time if you plan on spending the night. Access to San Juan Island is via the Washington State Ferry that leaves the mainland in Anacortes Washington and arrives on the island at Friday Harbor.
The weather couldnít have been more perfect for my first day on the water, light winds, mild temperatures, and mostly clear skies. Launch time was 9:20am. I headed north thru Haro Strait with Canadaís Vancouver Island on my left and the west coast of San Juan Island on my right. Even though there was a slight current against me I still made good time through Mosquito Pass and into Roche Harbor. As I entered the pass I got my first look at a group of Harbor Seals that were sunning themselves on a rock while others seemed to be feeding or playing in the water near by.
I cleared the pass between Henry and Pearl Islands at 11am and headed out across Spieden Channel towards the west tip of Spieden Island. This was my first open water crossing of the trip and a good introduction to what lay ahead. The wind was kicking up a light chop and there were recreational boaters speeding about in every direction. Even though Spieden Island is about halfway across the channel there is no good place to land so it canít be counted on as a refuge in bad weather. By noon I had made the four mile crossing to the entrance of Johns Pass. There was a 1 to 2 knot current running against me thru Johns Pass so I stayed close to shore to stay out of the main flow.
In a short time I had paddled around the eastern tip of Stuart Island and into Prevost Harbor. There is a state park on Stuart Island in Prevost Harbor with a convenient landing spot for kayakers just west of the boat dock and a few yards from the designated campsites. All sites are about twenty feet above high tide and have good views of the harbor. There are picnic tables, composting toilets, and water. A trail takes you for a nice tour of the park and gives you a chance to stretch your legs after a day of paddling.
I paddled around 12 miles this day in 3 hours and 40 minutes.
Day 2 - June 9, 2007
The weather was gloomy but the wind calm as I woke up to my second day of paddling. After having a quick breakfast and breaking camp I launched at 8am. As soon as the spray skirt was attached it started to rain. Ahead lay four miles of open water and the Canadian border - Boundary Pass. Slack tide was at 7:30am so I was pretty sure I could make it across the four miles to South Pender Island before any serious current picked up. Boundary Pass is known for its fast tidal currents and heavy shipping traffic so it had been a major source of concern for me. Leaving early for the long crossing turned out to be a good idea as the weather later in the day got very windy and would have made the crossing dangerous. The light drizzle and lack of wind made the crossing go smoothly and by 9:30am I was tying up to the customs dock in Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island.
The Canadian customs station was unmanned but there were three phones with direct links to agents who after asking me a few questions gave me permission to enter Canada. After standing in the rain while talking on the phone I started to get a little chilled so I got some coffee and a muffin at a nearby shop and took a break and warmed up. While there I chatted with some friendly Canadians who were amazed that I had just paddled across Boundary Pass in a kayak.
I left Bedwell Harbor at 10:30am and after rounding Wallace Point headed up the south west coast of North Pender Island. The current was flooding south thru Swanson Channel for the first two hours so I hugged the shore to try and stay out of the main flow. By 12:30 the current had turned and was no longer a problem but now the wind and rain had picked up and created uncomfortable paddling conditions as squalls moved through. My original route had been planned to go through Captain Passage along the west shore of Prevost Island. This would have required an open water crossing of 2.5 miles from North Pender to Prevost Islands. After considering the weather conditions I opted instead to follow the west coast of North Pender Island where there are a series of three large bays that would offer some protection from the strong southerly winds in case conditions deteriorated.
I stopped for a few minutes in the northernmost bay of Port Washington to consider the conditions that lay ahead in the crossing over to Prevost Island. The distance was about a mile and a half and a southerly wind was creating whitecaps that would be hitting me from the left rear. I decided to go for it and headed out for Portlock Point on Prevost Island. I was carrying a waterproof digital camera that could take short videos so I turned it on to try and capture the scene for friends back home that have no idea how it looks to be in a kayak in rough water. Unfortunately it was just the first time that the camera was to malfunction on this trip so the crossing would go undocumented. After a determined thirty minute paddle I reached Prevost Island and could finally take a break out of the wind in relatively calm water.
The coast of Prevost Island was different from all the other shorelines I had passed in these first two days in that there were no homes visible from the water. Every other island had conspicuous homes indicating private property along their entire shorelines.
I rounded Peile Point on the North West tip of Prevost Island and headed into James Bay and a Cascadia Marine Trail (CMT) campsite. After landing in the rain at 3pm, I set up camp on a grassy meadow where a flock of Canadian geese had left plenty of proof of their recent feeding activity. The area has no improvements other than an outhouse but the landing site was good and the tall grass made for a comfortable campsite. Although there is no fresh water available at James Bay I was able to collect a couple of gallons worth by placing cook pots to catch water running off my rain tarp.
After dinner I made a call home on my cell phone and was amazed when it actually went through. I had paddled eighteen miles today in six hours.
Day 3 - June 10, 2007
I had a hard time sleeping last night due to pain in my right shoulder no doubt caused by two days of strenuous paddling. Since it was still raining off and on I decided to take a day off and let my shoulder rest.
James Bay was full of wildlife that kept me company during my stay there. Besides the flock of Canadian geese that seem to have made the bay home there were deer grazing in the meadow around my campsite and a sea otter feeding in the calm water just offshore. Eagles flew overhead and perched in the trees while a martin searched the shore for its next meal.
In the afternoon the wind shifted to northerly, the rain stopped, and it started to clear. This gave me a good opportunity to do some exploring. A trail along the shore brought me to an abandoned homestead site on a hill with beautiful views of the bay and an old orchard that in the past would have provided the Prevost Island settlers with fresh fruit.
Day 4 - June 11, 2007
After an early breakfast I broke camp, got the kayak loaded up, and was launched by 7:20am. Although the sky was cloudy and gray at least it wasnít raining. Todayís route would take me along the north east coast of Saltspring Island and through the Trincomali Channel. The shoreline of Saltspring Island was full of wildlife. As I paddled slowly along the rocky shore I spotted beaver, raccoon, martin, deer, seals, eagles, and starfish.
A planned stop at Conover Cove on Wallace Island to get water turned out to be a real challenge. The only shallow area in the cove was covered with thick sticky mud so it was necessary to tie up to the pier to exit my kayak. Depending how a pier is constructed it can be easy to impossible to get in or out of the boat. Luckily this one wasnít bad and I was able to get out easily. Finding the water proved more difficult as the unmarked source was a few hundred yards from the dock along a trail leading to the north end of the island. The antique water pump had seen better days and the sign on it said to boil water before drinking. As I would soon discover, all public water sources that I encountered on the trip would include this disclaimer apparently to protect its public provider from litigation. Through out the trip I never did boil water collected from these sources and I never did get sick.
I continued paddling along the west shore of Wallace Island and cut across at Chivers Point to follow the east coast of the Secretary Islands. After passing Hall Island on its west side and Reid Island on its east side I headed north to Valdes Island across a mile and a half wide section of the Trincomali Channel. Kayakers in this area should stay clear of Porlier Pass except during slack tides as the currents flowing through it can create dangerous tide rips.
Shingle Point on Valdes Island was a good place to stop for a break. A grassy meadow with some abandoned buildings was all that remained of a homestead on this beautiful point of land. A small cemetery nearby no doubt held the remains of some of the areas early settlers.
My destination on this day was Blackberry Point where a designated camping area has been established. Although there were a few possible sites up in the trees I opted instead for a breezy beach site as the mosquitoes seemed to have taken over the woods. This evenings tide was not very high so I didnít have to worry about being forced off the beach in the middle of the night. There is no water available at Blackberry Point but a rustic pit toilet is provided.
I arrived at Blackberry Point at 1:15pm after paddling nineteen miles in six hours.
Day 5 - June 12, 2007
Since the flood tide flows north thru Pylades Channel, which is the waterway I would be traveling on early this day, I launched just after the tide turned from low to high to take advantage of the currents that would push me toward todayís destination, Nanaimo. After launching at 10:40am from Blackberry Point on Valdes Island I cut across Pylades Channel and paddled up the east coast of Pylades and Ruxton Islands. At Ruxton Passage I arrived just as a small tug towing a raft of logs started to come through. It was amazing to see how long the raft was, possibly 300 yards, and how long it took to pass in front of me, about 20 minutes. The only consolation was the wonderful smell of the fresh cut timber that filled the air as I waited.
I stopped at the Ruxton Passage Cove Marine Park on the south east tip of De Courcy Island and filled up my water bottles from the hand pump there. This park has a much more user friendly landing area than Conover Cove on Wallace Island and the pump was much easier to use for filling water bottles.
The current was flowing northerly thru Pylades Channel as I made my way along the east coast of De Courcy Island toward False Narrows. The current pushed me along at a good clip in the narrows as I watched the shallow bottom features zip past through the crystal clear water.
Once I was out of False Narrows and into Northumberland Channel conditions rapidly became uncomfortable. The current was now flowing at full force through False and Dodd Narrows, the wind had picked up to about 20mph, and there were power boaters zipping around in every direction. The sea conditions were choppy and confused requiring me to pay close attention and not take my hands off the paddle for a second. On top of all that there were log rafts 100 feet wide tied up along the shore of Gabriola Island with the currents pushing me towards them. I knew I had to stay away from the upstream ends of these rafts or I would be pushed underneath and it would be all over.
I cut across to the Vancouver Island side of the channel and started heading toward the ferry terminal near Jack Point. I could see the ferry approaching from far off so I timed myself to pass behind the ferry as it approached the dock. Now it was only a short distance to todayís destination, the Newcastle Island Marine Park.
Itís a good idea to try and land (or launch) at Newcastle Island at or near high tide as the water around the camping area is shallow and landing at low tide would require a long carry. I arrived at 3:45, two hours before the dayís high tide so I was able to land pretty high up on the beach. The best spot to land a kayak is where you see a little foot bridge on the south east side of the island near a place called Brownie Cove. Securely tie up your boat here and head west along the trail over to the pavilion where the campground office is located. Along the way you will pass campsites so be on the lookout for one that is empty. Locate a hand cart either at the pavilion or at the power boat dock and bring it back with you to your boat. You should be able to load your boat and all your gear on the hand cart and bring it all to the campsite you have chosen in one trip. If you canít find anyone to check in with you can just occupy a vacant site and someone will come around and collect the fees from you and check you in. I stayed here two nights so I could spend a full day in Nanaimo getting supplies and taking a break. Donít leave any food in your tent and you may even want to leave the door unzipped as I had a raccoon tear a hole in my mosquito net door to get in and there was no food in the tent.
I paddled sixteen miles today in five hours.
Day 6 - June 13, 2007
Took the day off to look around Nanaimo and get some supplies. A small ferry shuttle leaves the dock at Newcastle Island every 15 minutes and crosses the harbor to Nanaimo.
There is a pedestrian walkway that takes you along the waterfront where you will find restaurants, shops, a laundromat, and a mall at the end with a large grocery store. If you like Mexican foods donít miss "Pennyís Palapa", a floating restaurant in the middle of the municipal harbor that has great food.
Newcastle Island Park has a pretty good food concession in the pavilion where you can get basic fast food meals not far from the camping area. There are coin operated hot showers, and flush toilets in the bathrooms. A trail leads around the island where you can stretch you legs and get some good views of the area.
While camped at Newcastle I met another kayaker that was paddling the same route I planned to take. Although I didnít know it then we would end up paddling off and on for the next three weeks all the way to Port Hardy.
Day 7 - June 14, 2007
According to the tide and current tables and my charts the currents should flood north during a rising tide in the area of Nanaimo. To take advantage of this I planned on launching from Newcastle Island at the turn to high tide which on this day was at 11:42am. This would give me plenty of time to get organized in the morning and even allowed me to have breakfast at the park pavilion. The disadvantage was that since I would be launching at low tide the equipment carry to the waters edge would be much longer than when I had landed two days earlier. This was a compromise that I was willing to make as the net effort involved would be less. As it turned out the current was against me for the first two hours before it reversed and began to help push me along. As I traveled further this relationship between tide turning and later current direction change would become more apparent and be confirmed repeatedly.
Todayís paddle would take me past the densely populated coast of Vancouver Island north of Nanaimo. The weather was clear and the wind was light and I made good time passing through the Winchelsea and Ada Islands and what seemed like dozens of other small islands and rocky islets. My destination this day was South Ballenas Island and as I paddled through all these small islands I wondered how hard it would be to find the island I was looking for. As I continued along however it soon became obvious as the two Ballenas Islands were much further north and more isolated out in the Strait of Georgia than any of the other islands in the area.
On the north side of South Ballenas Island there is small bay with a nice beach composed of smooth rounded pebbles. This beach is perfect for camping and would offer protection from all winds except northerlies. The view from the beach shows the six mile route that will be paddled on the following day across the Strait of Georgia to Lasqueti and Texada Islands. There is no water on South Ballenas Island.
When I arrived at the beach, the kayaker I had met at Newcastle Island Park was there already. After going over the days paddling schedule with her it seemed that launching earlier and not having to carry my boat and gear down to the low tide line and paddling a little longer into the current would have been the better choice.
I launched today at 12:10 and landed at 4:50 covering 16 miles in 4 hours and 40 minuets.
Day 8 - June 15, 2007
Today was the first day of the trip that I paddled with someone else. My new kayaking friend and I were both happy to have a companion along for the seven mile crossing of the Strait of Georgia from South Ballenas to Lasqueti Island. We launched at 9:40 and had no problems crossing the strait and arriving off the south east tip of Lasqueti Island at 12:10. We followed the rocky coastline around into Sabine Channel and through a group of small islands and rocky islets.
The first place that we found to land and take a break was Home Bay on Jedediah Island. Although this was a good place to stop for a rest it was not suitable for camping. We continued on a couple of miles further crossing Sabine Channel over to Texada Island. The most perfect campsite of the trip so far awaited us on a small peninsula jutting out from Texada just south of Mount Shepherd. The beach was easy to land the kayaks on and there was plenty of level space to pitch tents. The views up and down Sabine Channel were spectacular with miles of open water to the North West and south east and the broken shoreline of dozens of islands visible across the channel.
This evening the wind became very strong out of the south east and the sky was clearer than it had been at any time in the past week. This was not to last as overnight the wind stopped and a light rain started that lasted for the next three days.
We had landed at 3:00pm after traveling 13 miles from South Ballenas Island to Texada Island in 5 hours and 20 minutes.
Day 9 - June 16, 2007
I awoke to a rainy but calm morning on Texada Island. I set up my alcohol stove just outside the vestibule to my tent and had some coffee and hot cereal for breakfast. A crab fishermanís boat maneuvered slowly offshore playing Led Zeppelin over their stereo system as they picked up and emptied their traps. I didnít really feel like breaking camp and packing up in the rain so I took the opportunity to make some notes and read over the information I had with me on Texada Island and hoped that the rain would end soon.
After noon the rain ended and I got packed up and ready to go. As I steadied the boat parallel to the shore in completely calm water getting ready to enter, a set of waves from a barge that had passed about five minutes before reached me. I saw them building as they approached and the sea bottom became shallower. All I could do was to hold on to the boat and let it rise and fall with each wave as it passed underneath. This was at most an aggravation as I now had to bail out the boat and I was soaking wet before I had even launched. From this point on I made sure that there would be no wakes from passing boats that would catch me by surprise at launch time.
Not long after launching the wind began to pick up out of the south east which initially helped me along as I was paddling to the North West. As time went by and the wind and waves increased it became increasingly uncomfortable to be on the water. Added to that was the unusually large number of submerged rocks that lay just offshore along this stretch of Texada Island. I would be paddling 100 yards out and all of a sudden I would see waves breaking over the top of a barnacle encrusted boulder. This went on for miles and it was something I had not seen yet on this trip and would not see again. Because of this I could not take my eyes off the water in front of me for a second for fear of running full speed into one of these hull crushing rocks.
My destination for the day was the Shelter Point Regional Park which would have been only a fifteen mile paddle. The strong wind however forced me to cut this dayís paddle short. I had been staying fairly close to shore to try and keep out of the strongest winds so I was keeping an eye out for a suitable place to camp if one came along. About a mile north of Davie Bay I found a good site along a crushed shell beach full of big drift logs. I could see from driftwood on the beach that my tent site would be just above high tide and I knew that high tide would be at 9:00pm so it wasnít too risky because I could watch high tide rise and begin to fall before I even went to sleep.
I didnít make notes of what time I landed on this day but I had covered around eleven miles.
Day 10 - June 17, 2007
After making it through the night on my little sliver of beach without waves or tides getting to me, I got up at 6am and after having some coffee and getting packed up launched at 7:40. This was the easiest launch yet as all I had to do was sit in my loaded kayak and give a push and slide down a slick pebble beach right into the water. This was to be the only thing that was easy about todayís paddle as the wind was out of the North West and would be in my face creating rough seas in Sabine Channel. Normally in conditions like these I try to stay fairly close to shore if that will keep me out of a strong head wind, but the many large boulders that lay submerged just below the surface along this coastline forced me to stay a quarter mile offshore most of the time.
After paddling into the wind for two hours I had only traveled four miles which is about half my normal speed of four miles per hour in calm water. I reached the Shelter Point Regional Park, which had been my previous dayís destination, before 10am. Since it was too early to stop for the day I decided to just wait a while and see if the wind died down so I could continue. There was a restaurant in the park pavilion so after securing my boat I checked it out and had a really good burger and fries. The restaurants windows looked out on Gillies Bay, which was the next stretch of water that I had to cross, so I was able to sit comfortably and monitor the sea conditions.
By 2pm it was obvious that the wind was not going to let up anytime soon so I went ahead and got a campsite for the night. The sites are just above the high tide line and are easy to access from the beach. If you plan to stay here you should try and land near high tide as the beach is shallow making for a long carry at low tide. The park has hot showers and clean restrooms and the restaurant serves meals all day long so this is a "must stop" place to spend the night if you are paddling the coast of Texada Island.
After ten days on the water I was getting into a regular routine that I went through every evening that I called ďdoing my homeworkĒ. First I would get out my GPS and get the coordinates of that eveningís campsite. Next I would take out my Palm Pilot on which I had loaded "Tide Tool", a tide and current program available on the internet, and input the coordinates and date to find out what the tides would be for the next day. After I got this I would then write the times and heights of the two high and two low tides for the next day on the laminated charts that covered the next dayís route. I did this with a Sharpie pen that is waterproof so the charts could stay right on the deck all day long with the tide information at my fingertips whenever I needed to check it. I would then make my notes in a logbook of the days paddle with entries on times, wind direction, wave heights, and weather conditions.
Day 11 - June 16, 2007
After a rainy night I was packed up and launching at 7:30am. High tide was at 7:20 and I wanted to make sure and launch near that time as the beach at Shelter Point Park goes out for a long way at lower tides and I didnít want to have to haul my gear another 100 yards if it could be avoided. As soon as I shoved off the wind started to blow hard out of the North West and right into my face.
I headed across the wide opening of Gillies Bay on Texada Island and followed the shoreline keeping as close in as I could to try and avoid the strongest winds. There were lots of seals along this stretch of coast and their camouflage skin tones that matched the color of the rocks made them hard to spot until I was right on them. The wind blowing spray in my eyes kept me focused on paddling and watching out for obstructions but whenever I saw the seals far enough in advance I would try and go out a little further so as not to scare them off their rocky perches.
After paddling for an hour and a half into the wind I took a break in a shallow bay near an airfield to see if the wind would die down. This was the first time on the trip that I got cold while taking a break and after waiting over an hour I decided to get going just to warm up. It was now 10:15 and I would not stop again until 4pm when I reached the northern tip of Texada Island at Kiddie Point. This point was very unusual and showed signs of severe weathering from storms that blown down the Strait of Georgia. I stopped for a while and took a break but didnít stay too long as I wanted to find a campsite and get out of the wind and something to eat.
I paddled into Blubber Bay and had a look around but there was no place that would make a good campsite. Lots of sailboats were anchored there no doubt trying to stay out of the strong wind that was blowing the tops off whitecaps just outside the protection of the bay. About a half mile off along the east shore near Grilse Point I could see what looked like a gravel beach. Having no other alternative I paddled over and kept my fingers crossed as if this beach would not do for some reason there would be no place else to go but the industrial area of Blubber Bay.
My luck was good and the spot turned out to be one of the best campsites of my trip. The beach was steep and consisted of smooth rounded gravel that was easy on my boat and on me as I unloaded all my gear. This beach would be easy to land on at all tide levels. There was a level grassy area above even the highest tides and out of the unceasing wind that made a perfect spot to set up camp. The view across the Strait of Georgia to the west and Malaspina Strait to the east was spectacular and afforded me a good view of the crossing I would have to make to Powell River the next day. There is a lighted navigational aid just offshore on Cyril Rock and a tall radio tower just inland that make this site easy to find.
Although I didnít need to do it, I could have paddled over to the ferry landing in Blubber Bay and loaded myself and my kayak onboard for the crossing over to Powell River. The four miles of open water could be intimidating during even calm weather but add to that strong wind, rough seas, and boat traffic and it should make a cautious kayaker think twice about setting off for a solo paddle.
I landed at my Grilse Point campsite at 5:30pm after paddling 16 miles over ten hours. During calm conditions this distance could be easily paddled in half the time.
Day 12 - June 19, 2007
I awoke around 4am to hear the wind in the trees sounding like a jet engine. If the wind didnít die down my alternatives were to take the ferry across Malaspina Strait from Blubber Bay to Powell River or to just sit tight and wait for conditions to improve. At 5am the wind had suddenly stopped so I quickly got packed up and launched at 6:20. As soon as I got about a mile into the four mile crossing the wind started to pick back up. It was coming out of the south east at around 20mph and it was hitting me from my right front quarter. Although it was slowing me down at least I could see the waves as they approached and easily brace when they reached me. I found this type of sea to be more comfortable paddling in than when waves were reaching me from the rear quarters and I couldnít see them approaching and be ready with a bracing stroke. After ten days on the water I felt surprisingly stable and confident even in these rough conditions, a feeling I no doubt would not have had going solo on my first day out. There was a ferry making the crossing at the same time but since it was going in the opposite direction it was easy to keep an eye on its position and avoid its course. I did have to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure there wasnít a ferry headed my way from my stern. Since my destination for the evening was close to the ferry terminal it was inevitable that there would be ferry traffic in the area. The weather was clear and this was not a problem however I would not attempt this crossing in fog or at night.
My destination for this day was the Willingdon Beach Campground in Powell River. The evening before I had called the park office to find out their location in comparison to landmarks that I could see from my campsite at Grilse Point, the manager was very helpful and the directions she gave me got me right to the campgrounds beach so I didnít have to waste any time or effort trying to find the location along a crowded urban shoreline. It took me two hours to make the four mile crossing but since I had left so early I was there by 8:30am. I was surprised to see my kayaking friend from four days ago already there with her campsite set up on the beach. We spent hours talking about our adventures over the last few days and how the winds seemed to conspire to keep us from leaving Texada Island.
After unloading my boat and setting up camp I took a hot shower and got into some clean clothes. I spent the rest of the day eating and shopping for supplies for the next leg of the trip. There are plenty of stores in Powell River that are within a one mile walk of the campground so itís a perfect place to re-supply. The next chance to get groceries at a full sized supermarket would not come until Port Hardy another twelve days paddle away. The campground had a Laundromat so I took the opportunity to clean all my clothes. This was to be the last campground I stayed at until reaching Alder Bay in another ten days.
Day 13 - June 20, 2007
My kayaking friend had some last minute errands to run this morning so I launched at 9:10am with plans to meet up later in the day at a campsite on the Copeland Islands. High tide this morning was at 9:30am so I was able to ride a falling tide creating a current flowing northwest in my direction of travel up the coast of the Malaspina Peninsula.
Just north of Powell River I passed the local paper mill with around ten old rusty ships halfway sunk in the shallows to create a breakwater for the mills dock facility. The sight was extraordinary. Considering how clean the rest of the coast had been kept, this place looked like a garbage dump. The shoreline all the way to Lund was dotted with nicely kept homes looking out over the Malaspina Strait. A campground just south of Lund with sites right on the water would be a convenient access spot for kayakers either starting or ending a trip in this area. Lund is this last spot along this stretch of the inside passage route that is accessible by road until reaching Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island about an eight day paddle away.
When I reached the Copeland Islands I headed to a campsite that was recommended in one of the guidebooks for the area. This was to be the rendezvous point with my friend. After checking it out, it was obvious this site would not do. The moon was new and the tides this evening would be close to the highest of the month and there was no spot to camp above high tide. I continued on looking for a suitable campsite actually making a complete circumnavigation of the largest Copeland Island with no luck. By doing this I broke one of my own kayaking rules: never go back - always go forward. It would be the only time I would do it on this leg of the trip. I decided to continue on north since the wind and currents were still with me and hope to find a good site before dark and that my friend would either find me or a site that suited her. I found that it was very difficult to try and meet someone at a pre-determined campsite. There are just too many things that can change throughout the day for either paddler to be certain they can meet up at a specific location.
As I approached the last small group of islands in the Copelandís I spotted a small gravel beach where landing was possible. Even though there was no campsite visible I felt it was at least worth checking out. When I got up into the trees I was surprised to find a sign showing that it was a British Columbia Marine Trail campsite, a fact that would be unknown to anyone passing by in a kayak. I found it interesting that a sign would not be placed where it could be seen from the water alerting weary paddlers that refuge for the evening was close at hand. The site had two very nice tent platforms up in the forest and an outhouse.
After blowing hard all day the wind really picked up around 10pm with gusts of what I believe were around 40mph. I could hear branches being broken from the trees all around me and could just hope that no big ones fell on me while I was asleep in the tent.
I had made it to my campsite at 4pm after paddling 21 miles in around 7 hours.
Day 14 - June 21, 2007
The strong winds and a pain in my shoulder kept me up most of the night so I got off to a late start launching at 11am. The day started off with beautiful clear skies and a wind out of the south that helped to push me along all day.
Crossing Desolation Sound was the only real obstacle on todayís paddle. The weather was cooperating though and the four mile crossing went without a hitch. Kinghorn Island out in the middle of the sound did come in handy as a wind break. As the wind was coming out of the south west at around 15mph I went around the south east side of the island and was able to stay in itís wind shadow all the way to Redonda Island on the north side of the sound.
I stopped at Refuge Cove to check out the marina and fill my water bottles. The small store there did not have much in the way of supplies and the water faucet had a sign on it that recommended that the water be boiled before using. This "water warning" seemed to be common at most of the marinas I visited however I never boiled or filtered any of the water that I got from these municipal sources and I never did get sick on the trip.
As I headed out of Refuge Cove into Lewis Channel I got my first look at snow covered peaks off in the distance. This was why I had come all this way to paddle and the scenery in front of me made it all worth while. The wind was still blowing but now that I was in the confines of Lewis Channel the waves were not a problem as there was not a long enough distance for the wind to raise them up. The clouds started to thicken and get darker but the rain held off with not much more than a scattered drizzle. There were no good spots to camp along Lewis Channel as the shoreline consisted of boulders and shear rock all the way to the waterline and even this was topped off with impenetrable vegetation.
I continued paddling up Lewis Channel to itís junction with Calm Channel, Deer Passage, and Sutil Channel. At this juncture lay the Rendezvous Islands, my destination for the evening. The southernmost of these three islands has been designated as a BC Marine Trail Park. There was supposed to be campsites at both the northern and southern ends of this island but after looking carefully I could find neither. My only alternative now was to keep going and hope I would run into a suitable campsite soon. When I reached the north tip of the northern most Rendezvous Island there at last was a place to land with a level tent site above high tide. This campsite was interesting in that it was located on a tiny island that was connected to the largest of the Rendezvous Islands by a gravel beach that was exposed at low tide and covered at high tide cutting off access to the larger island.
After landing at 6pm I set up my tent, had something to eat, and fell asleep early. I had covered 24 miles today in seven hours.
Day 15 - June 22, 2007
Today was to be the day that I planned to paddle through Yuculta Rapids by Stuart Island. The timing for passage through this channel has to be done carefully as when the tides are in the middle of their cycle the currents in the channel create whirlpools and rips that can easily turn over a kayak. Passage therefore must take place at slack tide when the tide is neither rising nor falling and so no currents are created.
Normally I would have checked the tides the evening before and made note of the best time to launch the following day. I had been so tired and landed so late the night before that I put it off, planning to do it in the morning. Now that I was up and checking the tide times I found that I would have had to leave about an hour ago to make it to Yuculta Rapids at slack tide. I chalked it up to another lesson learned and decided that I would not go to sleep again without looking up the tides for the following day.
Since I had only taken two days off in the past two weeks I didnít feel bad about taking another break day. It drizzled off and on all day so I took the opportunity to just sit under the tarp and relax, eat, drink, and make some adjustments to my equipment. I also used the time to calculate exactly when I would have to launch the following day to arrive at Yuculta Rapids at slack tide.
Around mid-day my kayaking friend who I had last seen in Powell River, paddled up to where I was camped. She had found a campsite the night before a few miles back on a peninsula jutting out into Lewis Channel at Teakerne Arm on West Redonda Island. We swapped stories of our adventures over the last two days and found that neither one of us could find the campsites that according to our guidebook were supposed to be located on the Copeland and Rendezvous Islands.
In order to double check our calculations for tomorrowís passage through Yuculta Rapids we compared the times that each of us had figured out independently. I used the electronic tide table on my Palm Pilot and she used the standard paper tide tables. Upon comparison the times were just a couple of minutes apart which made us both feel much more confident about paddling through this dangerous passage.
Day 16 - June 23, 2007
When making the trip through Yuculta Rapids the currents are weaker at slack tide turning to ebb than at slack tide turning to flood so I timed my passage for the weaker ebb tide slack. The current table to use for Yuculta Rapids is Gillard Pass. If you are going through at ebb, like I was, add 5 minutes to the figures for Gillard Pass to get the time when Yuculta turns to slack. If you are going through at slack turning to flood add 25 minutes to the figures for Gillard Pass. For example on June 23, 2007 the current table for Gillard Pass showed slack turning to ebb at 12:40pm. I added 5 minutes to that and knew that the current would be slack in Yuculta Rapids at 12:45pm. Now all I had to do was be there waiting to go through at 12:45pm.
I was glad to have company for this section of the trip as I had never experienced saltwater rapids before and didnít know exactly what to expect. It was comforting to know that we had both figured out the time of slack tide to within minutes and that we wouldnít be going through at the wrong time and get into trouble.
We had six miles to paddle to the tip of Stuart Island where the entrance to the rapids begins. Not wanting to be late for our rendezvous with Yuculta we launched at 9:10am and had no difficulty making the six miles in two hours. We found a small bay with a dock at the tip of Stuart Island and pulled in to wait out the next hour and a half. At 12:30 we pulled out of the bay and slowly started making our way around the tip of the island and towards the infamous Yuculta Rapids that was about a half mile away.
After all the agony of anticipating this section of the trip, and all the horror stories we had heard about these treacherous waters, the surface turned out to be smooth and calm. We realized though that if we hadnít done our homework and taken the timing of running this stretch seriously the outcome could have been much different.
The destination for tonight was ďBig BayĒ on Stuart Island and being just past Yuculta Rapids we arrived there at 1pm. At Big Bay there is a large municipal pier with a smooth pebble beach at its base that is perfect for landing a kayak. Just a short walk from the beach is a small grocery store with a huge pavilion full of tables and chairs. There is a grassy lawn where you can camp for a small fee and best of all a clean bathroom with hot showers. After carrying up all our gear and the kayaks and setting up camp we started heating up something to eat on a table under the pavilion just as it started to pour down rain. This was the hardest rain I had encountered yet on the trip and I couldnít have been in a better place to have to deal with it. I didnít know it at the time but this rain would continue uninterrupted all the way to launch time tomorrow.
Day 17 - June 24, 2007
Timing of todayís departure was critical to paddling another area of potentially turbulent water known as Dent Rapids and then effortlessly riding the ebb current north through Cordero Channel. Slack turning to ebb today was at 1:45pm so we planned our departure from Big Bay for 1:15pm so we would arrive at the narrow pass north of Dent Island right at slack. This pass is about two miles from Big Bay and although it skirts the worst area of Dent Rapids we didnít want to take any chances so we planned our transit of it for slack tide.
The planning paid off as the water was essentially calm except for a few boils that we encountered just past Dent Island causing what I like to call "funny water". This is a surface condition that seems to make the kayak a little unstable, like when you try to ride a bike very slowly. I found that by just continuing to paddle through it you can maintain your balance easily.
We stayed close to shore along the north or mainland side of Cordero channel until at about five miles into todayís paddle we reached Horn Point where we crossed over to the Sonora Island side. About three miles further on Cordero Channel is bisected by Frederick Arm and Nodales Channel which creates a crossing of about two miles that affords beautiful views in every direction. The shoreline in this area is pretty much devoid of campsites as the thick forest vegetation extends all the way down to the high tide line where bare rocks make up the waters edge.
Finding a campsite would not be a problem tonight as our destination for this evening was the Cordero Lodge, a convenient fifteen miles from Big Bay. This lovely little bastion of civility in an otherwise remote wilderness is an incredible site to see nestled in a cove beneath towering spruce trees. After landing and tying up to their floating dock it became apparent that the entire establishment was floating on a huge log raft, cement deck and all.
Cordero Lodge is owned and operated by Doris and Reinhardt Kuppers. They offer lodging, a fine restaurant serving excellent German food, and a dock for your boat. They have a website where you can check out their facilities before leaving home.
This was the only evening on the trip that my cell phone would not receive a signal and I could not make a call home to check in.
Day 18 - June 25, 2007
There were two sets of tidal rapids to paddle through today. Just two miles from Cordero Lodge was Greene Point Rapids and then thirteen miles further on would be Whirlpool Rapids. If the timing of the passage through these rapids is done correctly you will not even know there is a hazard in the area. The strategy for running Green Point Rapids is to go through at slack before ebb, this way you can ride the falling tide all the way down Chancellor Channel and Wellbore Channel to Whirlpool Rapids.
Although we were ready to go early in the morning we had to wait till 12:45pm to launch to be at Greene Point Rapids at slack which would be at 1:45pm today. We paddled slowly along the north shore of Cordero Channel and were able to sneak through the small opening between Cordero Island and the mainland. We continued hugging the north shore all the way to Loughborough Inlet. Taking this route at slack tide allowed us to completely avoid any rough water altogether.
Guide books for this area indicated that there were few if any possible campsites along this stretch of the route. The only campsite that would be possible to reach today was in a small bay near the western end of Hardwicke Island. This meant that it would be impossible to wait for slack tide to make the run through Whirlpool Rapids as we would not be able to reach this campsite before dark. These rapids were also noted to be not as bad as the others we had encountered already so the decision was made to approach cautiously and see what the water looked like before heading through. No standing waves or rushing water was present but there were lots of spots where the water seemed to be boiling to the surface as it was deflected off submerged rocks. By just keeping a steady stroke with the paddle constantly in the water for balance we made it through with no problem.
We turned the corner into Sunderland Channel at 6pm still riding the falling tide and with the wind at our backs. Just as the guide books had said, there was no place to camp anywhere along this stretch of the Hardwicke Island shoreline. We kept paddling close to shore hoping to find our home for the evening at any moment. At 7:45pm after paddling 23 miles in 7 hours we finally reached the small bay which held a nice campsite located on a gravel peninsula between a small island and the shore.
This campsite was ok for this evening because the tides would be in the low range. If high spring tides would have been due overnight the beach would not have been usable and camp would have had to be set up in the trees in which there were few good spots.
Since this island is so big and remote it was the first place that I had camped on the trip so far that actually held the possibility of running into a brown bear. We placed the food far away from our tents in accordance with good bear avoidance practices and there were no overnight visits.
Day 19 - June 26, 2007
We woke up to a calm cloudy day at our campsite on Hardwicke Island. Low tide this morning was at 6:15am and the shore line was way far out over a field of barnacle encrusted boulders. We decided that it would be best to wait for the tide to rise and bring the shoreline closer to us so that we wouldnít have to carry the boats and gear over this dangerous obstacle. The first high tide today was at 12:45pm but by 12 noon it was high enough to float our already loaded kayaks right off the gravel beach.
At launch time the winds were calm and the seas smooth so we headed straight across two miles of Sunderland Channel over to the mainland side of Johnstone Strait. We followed the coastline contours westward staying about a quarter mile offshore always on the lookout for interesting scenery and wildlife.
By around 3:00pm the wind had picked up out of the south east and was hitting us from our left rear. The wind was blowing over a long distance of the strait so two foot waves were beginning to form. At one point I paddled right over an area of what must have been shallow water and the waves started to rise up to compensate for the now shallower seabed. Where one minute I was paddling in two foot seas I was now paddling in what I estimate were four foot seas. Since I was going in the same direction as the waves I didnít see the wave size changing until I was right on it. This was the first ď___ ____Ē moment of the trip. I kept paddling and braced into each wave as it hit and in about a minute I was out of the worst of it. If a novice paddler would have run into these same conditions it would have been a miracle for them not to have gone over.
Our destination for the evening was the Broken Islands at the entrance to Port Harvey. Although camping on a small island didnít guarantee a bear free campsite I tried to stay on one whenever possible to make the chances smaller. I always seemed to sleep better when I didnít have to be worried about being woken up in the middle of the night by one of the natives.
There werenít many campsites to pick from on the Broken Islands but we were able to find a beach far enough above high tide to provide a dry spot for the night. If tonightís high tide would have been a spring tide this site would have been unusable as it would have been underwater. Last nights high tide was just 0.3 feet lower that tonightís and we could see flotsam on the beach marking its high point so we were pretty sure we would be safe here for the night.
We covered 17 miles today in 5hrs. 45min.
Day 20 - June 27, 2007
As I awoke this morning around 6am the tide was still on its way out reaching the low point of the day at 6:50am. Just as the day before, the waterline was about thirty yards out across a field of barnacle covered rocks over which I really didnĎt want to have to carry my boat and all my gear. By the time I had eaten breakfast, broken down camp, and packed everything up in the kayak the water level had raised to a gravel area near the campsite where I had loaded it up. This allowed me to essentially sit in the boat and wait for the tide to float me off the beach.
We continued west down Johnstone Strait passing Forward Bay and hugging the coast of West Cracroft Island. After paddling for about three hours into a light headwind and against a small current it was time to take a break. I started looking for a convenient beach to land on and soon found one that was perfect. It was located on the chart right where the compass rose is positioned. As I approached I saw a black bear on the beach turning over beach logs with its paw and foraging for something to eat. I stayed quiet and the bear didnít see me at first giving me enough time to get his picture. I figured it would be best to continue on and find another beach on which to take a beak.
I paddled probably another half mile and found another suitable beach to land on. As I approached I was amazed to find a black bear cub foraging right on the beach. Not only did I not want to bother the little guy in his search for lunch but I figured mom could be somewhere nearby in the bushes. So on my way I went.
About another half mile down the coast was a similar beach that looked promising. As I approached it, unbelievably, there was another black bear foraging. By now I didnít want to land anywhere on that coastline for fear of having lunch interrupted by an ursine interloper. My story of the three bears turned out to be one of my favorite experiences on this first section of my Inside Passage journey.
At 2:20pm we arrived at the Boat Bay Orca Patrol Base. This is a research station manned by university students who study Orcas and protect the nearby area of Robson Bight which is an Orca sanctuary. We had a look around for a couple of hours then decided it was time to head off for this evenings destination. We paddled around to Swaine Point and then headed diagonally across Johnstone Strait for the three mile open water crossing to a beach on Vancouver Island.
This is a beach I had paddled to on three other trips that I made to the area launching each time from Telegraph Cove and paddling east along the shoreline. The site always provided the perfect viewpoint from which to spot the pods of Orcas that frequent this area of the Inside Passage and is located just about a mile west of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve.
It took us an hour and forty minutes to cross the strait fighting a headwind and opposing current the whole way. What I like to call a character building exercise. We arrived at our destination after paddling 16 miles in 7 hours.
Since we planned on taking the next day off from paddling and the chance of spotting Orcas was good I decided to stay up late and keep a lookout. I lit my first campfire of the trip using some of the abundant driftwood that had collected on the beach. By 11pm I had not spotted a single dorsal fin so I decided to call it a night and try again tomorrow.
Day 21 - June 28, 2007
This turned out to be a good day to take a break. It had started raining overnight and would continue all day. The wind was blowing hard out of the east directly down Johnstone Strait creating two to three foot waves with breaking whitecaps. Paddling today would have been not only uncomfortable but probably dangerous so I was happy to kick back and relax for the first time in six days.
I set up my tarp so I could sit comfortably out of the rain and keep watch for Orcas. Since I wasnít going anywhere I decided to see how much I could eat. The somewhat hectic pace of the last few days had not left much time to have a peaceful meal so today was the day to catch up. I started up my alcohol stove and collected water pouring off my tarp and proceeded to lighten up my food cache. I filled all my water bottles with rainwater and spent the afternoon re-reading the sections covering this area of the two guidebooks I had with me.
This beach is usually great for spotting Orcas but for some reason there were either none in the area or I didnít see them because the waves were so big their dorsal fins were obscured. Either way by the end of the second evening at this spot I had not spotted a single one.
Normally one of the easiest ways to see Orcas is to look for the tourist whale watching boats out of Telegraph Cove. These boats are given the location of Orca pods by spotter planes that fly around the area and radio back the coordinates to the captains. Since the tour boat operators guarantee their guests an Orca sighting they wonít leave port unless they know right where to go to find Orcas. So if you spot a tourist boat drifting slowly past, you can be pretty sure there are Orcas nearby.
Last night before the rain started, I collected a pile of firewood and covered it with a blue tarp to keep it dry. When the rain finally ended around 5pm I uncovered the pile and got a fire going. After it was established I started adding wet wood that had been out in the rain for the last 18 hours. If not for this dry stash of wood I doubt if I would have been able to get a fire going this evening.
Unbelievably my cell phone was still picking up a signal and I was able to call home and talk with friends to let them know my location and my plans for the next few days. This might not sound like a big deal but if you ever saw how remote this place is you would be amazed that any connection was possible. Not to sound like a commercial but I was using a Sanyo phone connected to Sprint service.
Day 22 - June 29, 2007
What a difference a day makes. After the rain and wind of yesterday I woke up today to a calm sunny day. I took my time getting ready this morning to give the sun a chance to dry off some of my things before packing them away.
The beach at this campsite is composed of small pebbles that have been smoothed by wave action and goes 100 feet out affording a good landing or launch site no matter what the tide level. I carried my kayak and all my gear down to about 10 feet from the waters edge and started loading it up. By the time I had finished packing the boat, the water level had risen to meet me. It was 9:15am as I slid off the slick gravel and into Johnstone Strait.
I paddled North West along the coast of Vancouver Island for 8 miles toward Telegraph Cove. All along this route are beaches that large numbers of kayakers use as base camps for exploring the area and watching for Orcas. In fact I saw more kayakers on this day than on all the rest of the days of the trip combined. Most kayakers who visit this area launch from Telegraph Cove where there is a marina with a boat launch ramp, floating dock, store, restaurant, showers, laundry, campground, lodging, and multi day parking lot. For those who donít have their own boat, kayaks can be rented and guided commercial tours are available.
The current and a light breeze were with me and by 11:30 I was pulling up to the dock at Telegraph Cove. It had started raining and I was looking forward to warming up and getting something different to eat from the camping food I had been eating for the past three weeks. The "Killer Whale" restaurant provided the perfect meal, a big burger with fries and a salad.
After lunch I continued toward todayís destination, Alder Bay. The current was now against me and the strongest I had yet encountered on the trip. I stayed close to shore and out of the strongest flow and was able to make good headway.
At 3pm I landed at the campground at Alder Bay. This turned out to be a good place to stop for the night. There are campsites right at the waters edge and it was easy to unload and carry all my gear just a few feet to a grassy tent site. After settling in I was able to take a shower and then wash all my clothes for the first time since Powell River 10 days ago. Alder Bay campground would be a good spot to use as a base camp for exploring the nearby islands or setting off into Johnstone Strait.
I covered 12 miles today in about 6 hours including the stop for lunch at Telegraph Cove.
Day 23 - June 30, 2007
After looking over the tide and current tables for today and the chart indicating I should travel on an ebbing tide I decided to leave as early as possible to take advantage of favorable currents. When I launched at 6:45am the weather was just cloudy and gray but before long it started to rain and it didnít stop till 3pm. The temperature also dropped today to the coldest I had yet encountered on the trip.
The shoreline along this stretch of Vancouver Island was mostly mile after mile of shallow gravel beaches backed up by lowlands that werenĎt very scenic. There was also more kelp than I had seen anywhere else along the route so far. The kelp turned out to be helpful because it calmed the waves that were being stirred up by the winds out in Queen Charlotte Strait. I was able to stay on course while picking my way through channels that were open through the kelp beds.
On a clear day the view across the strait would have been spectacular with the Coast Range rising up on the mainland showing off its snow covered peaks. Today though I had to keep my head down and paddle for hours into the wind with the rain in my face and the scenery obscured by low gray clouds and mist.
I only stopped once today for a quick break. I found that as long as I was paddling I could stay warm but if I stopped for just a short time chills began to set in. From miles off I could make out a group of islands that held my destination for this evening, Peel Island. I couldnít get there soon enough.
I could see planes taking off and landing from the Port Hardy airport that was visible from the water and marked on my chart. I knew I was getting close. As I passed Deer Island and entered Beaver Harbor the seas calmed and I was able relax a little for the first time today. Peel Island came into view and I started searching for a suitable campsite. At 2:15pm I found the perfect spot, a crushed shell beach on the far west side of the island. As if on queue the rain stopped just as I was setting up camp giving me the first break of the day.
I had paddled 23 miles today in 7 1/2 hours.
Day 24 - July 1, 2007
Since I only had a short distance to paddle today I slept till 8am and took my time getting ready. The tide was also very low around this time and an early launch would have required carrying my boat and all my gear over a barnacle encrusted bed of rocks to reach the water. It seemed best to wait for the water level to rise before setting off.
This strategy turned out to have an unexpected benefit. As I was having breakfast a Humpback Whale started cruising around just offshore. For a while the only thing that gave away the whales presence was the small dorsal fin and the sound of breathing as it broke the surface. Then it started breaching, repeatedly hitting the waters surface creating loud slaps. I grabbed my digital camera and set it to video mode and was able to capture the spectacle as it unfolded right in front of me. After a series of breaches that lasted a couple of minutes the whale took a breath then showed me his tail as he disappeared for the last time. What a great show on my last day of paddling.
I launched at 11:30am as the tide rose and lifted me off the crushed shell beach. My route today took me through Daedalus Passage and the Masterman Islands group. The weather today couldnít have been more perfect with mild temperatures and light winds. The Coastal mountain range was clearly visible across Queen Charlotte Strait and the small islands along the route were some of the prettiest I had seen on the trip. Once I rounded the peninsula that makes up the eastern side of Port Hardy I could see my final destination come into view. I stayed close to shore till I reached Daphne Point then headed across Hardy Bay to the Scotia Bay campground where this yearís trip would end.
Todayís paddle was only 7 miles and took less than two hours. It was a funny thing but I didnít want it to end. I had been out for 24 days with 20 days of paddling and 4 for layover. I had paddled over 300 miles and had a great adventure.
In May of 2008 I will return to Port Hardy and continue up the Inside Passage to Skagway Alaska another 700 miles.
Easy Rider Eskimo Expedition 17 ft.
None, except crossing the US / Canada border.
Drive to Anacortes, WA and take the ferry to San Juan Island.
"The Wild Coast 3" by John Kimantas.
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