I had no burning desire to take a solo trip. It was just that my paddling partners weren't available to travel and I did have a burning desire to go north for a bit, so solo it was. I liked the idea of being able to dictate my own schedule, poke around instead of focus on mileage, change my route without debate, take a day off or not as the spirit moved me, etc. The solo-thing meant, to me anyway, that I would need to select a route that wasn't too ambitious and that I would really have to pay attention to the conditions so that I stayed within my skill set.
Klemtu to Sarah Island
60 degrees, Overcast, calm winds and seas
Northern Expedition in Bear Cove
Lovely Klemtu Launch
Map from The Wild Coast 2
Copyright John Kimantas
Sarah Island Beach
60 degrees, Overcast, calm to light winds
Rescue Bay Campsite
50 degrees, Overcast, scattered showers, calm winds and seas
Good clear water for the coast
Mathieson Passage Looking South
Cockle Bay Cabin
The Juneau Fleet
60 degrees, Overcast, calm to SW @ 10 knots, Seas to one meter
"A Trip South" Entourage
If you paddle outside Athlone to Islet 48 it takes at least two hours more than cutting between Athlone and Dufferin using Gale Passage. I've never been outside Athlone so there was a definite draw but the timing for blowing straight though Gale was right so that's what I chose to do. First, though, I stopped at Roar Islet to find whatever was left of Kayak Bill's camp. Somehow I had been there twice before but missed it. There wasn't much left. Just the overgrown remains of his signature fire stand, a few pieces of typical junk that he found useful, some rope and line. It's unlikely that he had used it for sometime prior to his death in 2003 as Dallas was only a few hours away and much more developed. I also checked out landing sites on the backside of Ivory Island for future use then set off across Seaforth Channel.
Kayak Bill's Chart
Gale Passage North
When the alarm went off I stepped down to the beach and Stan called out from the other island, "Your boat's in the water, eh." Sure enough the stern was floating. I had timed it just right and easily pulled it a bit higher with the tide having done the heavy lifting.
60 degrees, Overcast, SW @ 10 - 15 knots, Swells to one meter with wind waves to two feet.
I met Eastern Washington paddlers, Tom and Betty, on McMullen. They were just getting ready to go paddling when I arrived. We chatted for a bit and they headed out around the north end of the group while I ate a snack. After leaving the beach I ran in to them outside of McMullen so we sat and chatted some more. They mentioned that there were a couple of other groups out and about the area and I ran into one of them at the south end of McMullen. Must have been a dozen of them on the beach with a fire going and lunch being prepared. I stopped for 15 minutes or so to get acquainted. They were a super friendly group out of Vancouver who had been taxied out to Goose and had been staying there for a while. Very casual. They seemed surprised that I was on a 200 NM trip and my decks were clear while they were out for a day paddle with stuff piled high.
Interesting McMullen Sky
The crossing of Golby Passage to Goose was on the verge of getting "busy" as converging currents were interacting with the 10 knot SW breeze. Several Humpbacks were hanging out in the area. It seemed to be ebbing south much of the way along the eastern shore of Goose so the going was easy with no swell and a cooling breeze in my face.
I made the shoreline tour of Goose Anchorage. There were two really nice looking campsites along the northwestern edge of the bay but I'm pretty certain that they are on the IR. One is for sure, the other.......probably. The weather forecast was sounding like tomorrow would be blown out and I didn't want to run the risk of being forced to move camp in inclement weather.
I paid my respects to Bill Davidson by visiting his last camp on Gosling Island. It was pretty beat up when Greg and I stopped by in 2007 but it was still a usable camp. It's a pile of garbage now. If you didn't know what to look for you wouldn't know what you were looking at.
Kayak Bill's Last Camp
Miraculously, the fire stand is partially intact but the wind block has been knocked down and much of the wood has been burned in various fire pits nearby. The personal odds and ends that characterize his camps are all gone and replaced with beer cans, liquor bottles, paper plates, socks. Disappointing but about what I expected. I was hoping to find some essence of the man remaining but Bill is gone from Gosling Island and has been replaced with trash.
I camped on Snipe in the woods at the group campsite. They have built a couple of 8' x 12' wooden platforms for setting up tents, I guess. I set mine up on a platform and it was a mistake. It made for a non-permeable surface that collected the rainfall that started around 9:00 PM. Made things pretty damp by morning.
Starting to Get Nasty
Islet 48 to Snipe Island 13.4 NM
45 degrees, Rain, S @ 20 - 25 knots
The Slums of Snipe
There is something about me and fires or maybe I should say there isn't something. You see, I definitely don't have the pyro gene. I was never fascinated by burning things or playing with matches. While my friends were setting the swamp on fire I was doing something else. Not interested at all. Consequently I never really developed decent fire building skills and and have always been happy to leave the fire to others. Even in Boy Scouts I only passed my 2nd Class 2-match fire building requirement by being observed succeeding on the concrete floor of Kim Krummeck's basement. I used to be ashamed to say so but it took me both matches and a well-crafted fuzz stick. Good thing that home smoke detectors didn't exist back then. Mostly I can take fires of leave them and there is probably a greater chance of getting struck and killed by falling space debris than there is for a fire to exist in my presence. So in spite of finding a dry stash of kindling and decently dry wood to split it took nearly 1/3 tube of Fire Ribbon and blowing on embers until I was about to pass out for anything sustainable to come to life. Even at that if I turned my back for an instant that sucker would try to check out. I swear it tried over and over again during the day.
The other thing about the day was the lack of drinking water and a fortuitous turn of events. On these trips I am always obsessing with having enough water, finding water to filter, etc. I keep track of my supply carefully and everyone knows that there isn't water available at Goose Anchorage so as badly as I wanted to make another cup of coffee or tea to help pass the nasty day I, instead, obsessed and brooded.
Who says there isn't water on Goose?
In spite of the high winds and rain I had dry and well-hydrated night.
Snipe Island to Triquet
8/2 Thursday, Day 7
65 degrees, Clear, Calm building to NW @ 15 knots, seas calm building to SW swell one meter with 2 foot wind waves
Lovely Snipe Morning
It was an uneventful crossing with a NW breeze @ 10 knots that rippled the sea. About 1/2 way across my lower back began to kill me as the 6 liter dromedary bag behind the seat pressed against my back. I'm unaccustomed to having anything touch my back when I paddle so I wondered if this was a bit of Instant Karma. I made an unscheduled stop at the Cultus campsite to move it elsewhere and to have a bite to eat.
The paddle south from Cultus to Swordfish Bay was the usual reflected-wave-bouncy ride and being near the 13.5 foot high tide you could enter the bay on either side of the islet. Such a charming spot. The single upland tent site didn't look like it had seen any campers for some time.
Paddling south past Spider Island I was drawn to explore the southern shore framed by Fulton Passage. Such a cool and convoluted shoreline with multiple coves to experience. It felt like a very private little world. The current was flowing out into Queens Sound at about 3 knots and was encountering the 15 knot wind and 1 meter swell. That stacked the waves up pretty well in the south half of the passage and made progress back to Spider Channel possible.
After setting up camp on Triquet Murray Down and Chris Davis arrived on their way north to Bella Bella from Vancouver. Murray is rowing a boat that he built and when he gets to Bella Bella he turns around and rows back home. Very interesting, super-nice guys. Check out Murray's web site: http://www.rhymeoarreason.ca/
Murray Down & Chris Davis
Snipe Island to Triquet 16.2 NM
65 degrees, Clear, NW @ 10 - 15 knots, Swell to two meter with 3 foot chop
I set out on a rising tide as I wanted to cross Hakai Passage during the flood and it would take me about 3 hours and ~8.5 NM of open water paddling to reach Calvert.
~8.5 NM from Calvert Island
First, though, I paddled around Triquet as I had previously only explored the northern shoreline. I had never even seen the rest of it except during a torrential downpour in 2005 while being beaten into submission by the rain. Once past the beach where Randall Washburne's Hotel California is located (http://washburnemarine.com/Stories.htm) the shoreline took a very pretty and wild turn.There is a protected sandy beach on the west side that definitely deserves a stay next time I'm in the area.
The route I chose from Triquet to Choked Passage was direct across Kildidt Sound and my crossing of Hakai Passage ended up being further west than intended. The wind was increasing and stacking wind waves on the swell but I expected that things would lay down a bit in Hakai with the wind, current and swell trending in the same direction. That was working, too, until I encountered large westward flowing rips about midway across. I was nearing high slack and expecting to find conditions optimal for the time of day so this surprised me. Paddling was "active" and enjoyable but I was ready to do something else before it was ready to be done with me. Surprisingly there seemed to be current flowing out of Choked Passage and Kwaskshua directly into the wind and swell so that formed up very nice steeply faced waves that spilled but didn't break and I rode these directly into the bay in front of North Beach.
I was a bit disoriented as I had never seen North Beach or the Choked Passage complex from this perspective and it took me a while to understand exactly where I was and what I was looking at. Since there was a power boat pulled up on North Beach I paddled east to check out Wolf Beach and the unnamed beach between them. I refer to that beach as "No-Name Beach" and if anyone knows what it's called I would like to know. It is a lovely beach guarded by large boulders and rocky islets but looked to me like it dried for some distance at low tide. I didn't want to get stuck in the morning so I continued on to Wolf Beach and camped at the west end.
Wolf Beach Campsite
It made for a very nice afternoon and evening.
Sunset at Wolf Beach
70 degrees, Clear, NW @ 15 - 20, W swell 2 meter with wind waves to 3 feet
Morning at Wolf Beach
Once I gained Bolivar Beach I was around Dublin and it's evil southern sister which allowed most of the wind and waves to be on my stern and improved the quality of my life. The fog was lifting, also, presenting me with the sweeping beauty of Bolivar. What a magnificent beach. I paddled about 300 meters off shore which put me about 50 meters beyond the peaking surf break. The beach roared loudly and without reflected waves I had a little over 1 NM of smooth sailing.
Map from the Wild Coast 2
Copyright John Kimantas
During this trip I heard several paddlers refer to Bolivar as "Three Mile Beach". Anyone know where that name comes from? The beach isn't 3 miles long. Not even 1/2 that long. Magnificent, yes. Three miles long, no.
The last 4 NM to Blackney went fast but were a bit concerning. The wind had risen past 15 knots and the seas were a solid 2 meter plus wind waves and I was sure hoping that Glenn knew what he was talking about when he said that Blackney Island, the kelp and shoal would knock the swell down. If it didn't I was in for a sound thrashing. I was dismayed at how far off shore Blackney Island was and being near high tide any kelp in the area was submerged plus current was running north over the shoal connecting Blackney and Calvert and standing up the seas on my approach. While both ends of the beach were lit up like the 4th of July the main beach was flat and I landed in waves smaller than one foot! It worked.
I looked for an upland clearing to set up my tent but found none and settled for the highest spot I could find on the beach. It was amazingly hot with zero shade. Thanks to the Slumlords of Snipe I had plenty of cool fresh water to drink.
Wolf Beach to Blackney Beach 12.5 NM
70 degrees, Clear, NW @ 10 - 20 knots, W swell 2 meter with 2 - 3 foot wind waves
I left the beach while the wind was at 10 knots and the knowledge that it would build. I wanted to make as many miles as possible before it gained in strength. The bad news was that it built more quickly than I anticipated. The good news was that it was mostly at my back.
Once again it became a "Game of Points" with each point contested and earned. Herbert, right out of the box, got my attention. I expected a pass on Herbert. What was with that? Bummer for me. By the time I rounded Stafford Point I was ready for something else. With no particular plan I tucked in behind Stafford and mindlessly toured calm Chic Chic Bay. That was a bit of a trap, though, as the deeper I went into the bay the longer the cross-condition leg I would have to paddle to get back out. Coming to my senses I looked ahead and got back on track and gained Charley and then O'Neil Islands. Both were real pleasures to meet and gave me a taste of what they could be if they had a mind to be buttheads. Not the sort of guys I wanted to hang out with, know what I mean?
Map from the Wild Coast 2
Copyright John Kimantas
After developing a stiff neck from watching carefully over my right shoulder and applying more well practiced braces I was coming up on Sorrow Island and the passage between it and Cape Calvert. Grief Bay was out of sight on the left and from my perspective the passage was lit up with whitewater. Sucked, right? My GPS indicated that a shoal was responsible for the unpleasantness on the left but that I should be able to slide though deeper water mid-channel. Flood current was flowing out of the passage and stacking the waves but there was a deep water section I found that was safe. I hurried through it and collapsed on a kelp bed safely inside the weirdness for a well-deserved mental and physical rest.
Passage Between Cape Calvert and Sorrow Island
After a rest and some refueling I paddled on in to "tropical" Grief Bay. It was obvious why Kayak Bill had chosen this isolated setting with it's lovely sand beach and freshwater stream for a camp site. I landed and set up camp near the stream.
Tropical Grief Bay
Walking along the beach I didn't favor my chances of finding his camp yet there it was, just inside the forest with the wind block still intact. Very easy to see. The firewood rack was still in place and 1/2 full of firewood perfectly cut to Bill's dimensions. The moss had taken over the camp and any of his usual personal possessions now belonged to the forest.
Kakak Bill's Camp Grief Bay
So the thing that I was turning over in my head was why the flood current chose to run north along the outside of Calvert. Wouldn't it be easier for water this far south to run into Fitz Hugh Sound or Rivers Inlet? I can get the north half of Calvert but the whole thing? Why did it run the full length of Calvert? And that meant that on any high pressure day, with opposing northwesterly winds, each point would pitch a fit and conspire to kick your butt. What was that all about? And that thing in Hakai? Huh?
Grief Bay Campsite
I had paddled for the past three days in green water up to my elbows and been schooled by current, winds and topography. In the end I didn't understand the course curriculum and had not graduated.
Blackney Beach to Grief Bay 11.2 NM
Grief Bay to Fury Island
60 degrees, Fog then clearing, SW @ 10 - 15 knots, Swell to 1.5 meter
Foggy Morning at Grief BayMy decision about what to do was made easy by my procrastination. While I was agonizing over whether go or stay the fog settled in and provided the piece that finally exceeded my acceptable level of discomfort. I was on vacation and had a week and a half to cover the few miles back to Port Hardy. I didn't have to do that crossing at all. I decided to paddle north towards Safety Cove and if the SE wind caught me I would just duck in there until conditions improved. If the wind didn't materialize and the fog lifted I would cross Fitz Hugh Sound where there were fewer moving parts to consider and then meander back south. Maybe paddle up to Addenbroke Light Station and say "Hi" to Paul.
The trip up along the eastern shore of Calvert was very pretty and made in the company of many Humpbacks and sport fishermen. While the peaks of Calvert were in the clouds the morning sun was shining over the fogbank that obscured the eastern half of Fitz Hugh Sound and a light breeze blew at my back. The foghorns and low-pitched drone of heavy ship engines let me know that the shipping lanes were active.
A bit north of Canoe Cove I decided to cross to Addenbroke Point (not Island). The fog was burning off and while the breeze was increasing south to 15 knots Scarlett, Pine and Egg Islands were not yet reporting the arrival of the dreaded 30 knot gale. I figured that I needed an hour and a half to get over to the other side so I went for it. Seemed like a long 1.5 hours and the current and wind conspired to blow me north of Addenbroke Point. Rather than fight it and paddle in beam seas I went with it and ended up 1 NM north at Arthur Point. There is a really nice little beach there with the foundation and floor of what used to be a building of some sort up in the forest.
Beach at Arthur PointPenrose Island Marine Park was just an hour back south so I ended up camping there for the night. Right after landing the owner of a cruiser anchored in the cove came up to me to say hello.
After a few moments of conversation he said, "Look. I'm not going beat around the bush. Do you drink beer?"
"Oh yeah", said I.
"You want some?"
With that he excused himself, took the dinghy out to his boat and returned with four beers. How nice was that? These powerboat folks are really social.
Friendly Folks from Comox
For a change I went to sleep with a pleasant buzz rather than one associated with a blood-sucking insect.
Calvert Island and Fitz Hugh Sound from Fury Island
Grief Bay to Fury Island 13.6 NM
8/7 Tuesday, Day 12
60 degrees, Overcast then clearing, NW @ 10 knots, Seas rippled
Trips back to Port Hardy always come to this. You have a few significant objectives like Cape Caution, Slingsby Channel and crossing Queen Charlotte Strait that require consideration and coordination with tides and weather and time of day. I suppose that some folks just blow through without a thought but that's not me. Especially solo. You can't knock them all off on the same day so each day you are setting yourself up for the next objective. That can make for some very long or very short days.
On this particular morning I was wanting to cross Rivers Inlet on the end of the ebb and end up on Brown Island off Extended Point. A friend had stayed on Brown a few years back and recommended it. It was .5 NM further from Hoop Bay than Red Sand Beach but I felt that early morning conditions might allow a slightly faster time with the ebb current unencumbered by shoreline friction and the morning might be a better time to cross Smith Sound. The weather report was still calling for that mysterious SE @ 30 knots and..........I wouldn't have to deal with cleaning red sand out of all my gear, right? I hate it when that happens.
With all that in mind I paddled out to thank my Comox benefactors for their hospitality (and my slight headache) and bid them farewell. They invited me to breakfast but understood that I had a schedule to keep. Such cool people.
Map from the Wild Coast 2
Copyright John Kimantas
The 2 hour crossing to Kelp Head was smooth and boring. Seas were calm and the water felt sticky and slow. The conditions did allow me to travel close to shore and just past Kelp Head I looked back into a very nice looking cove and beach (~51 21.07N 127 47.00W). Didn't recall hearing about it before but it looked decent and should offer cover in conditions if you can get into it. Lucy Bay also looked like an interesting place to explore but I know nothing about it in said conditions. Finally, the bay at Extended Point that I believe Kayak Bill marked on his chart. I have read an account where his camp was found at Extended Point but I have looked twice now without results. I may be looking in the wrong place as his charts lacked detail or maybe it's been gone for a while.
Kayak Bill's Chart
Brown Island looked like a total bust to me. I saw what looked like a shell beach at higher tides but being closer to low tide than high I saw boat damage written all over it. I chose to continue another 4 NM across Smith Sound to Red Sand Beach.
Red Sand Beach
Fury Island to Red Sand Beach 15.9 NM
60 degrees, Overcast, SW to 10 knots, seas rippled
I rode the ebb along the shoreline making 4 knots without exerting any effort. Groups of porpoise accompanied me but never got closer than 20 meters or so. A few sport fishing boats gave me less room as they motored by bound for Blunden Bay. The winds and seas remained calm. Approaching Milthrop Point I looked into Protection Cove which looked like it might be a good place to visit.
Calm Morning on Queen Charlotte Sound
Neck Ness to Cape Caution looked like a fishing derby. Lots of sport fishing boats and it actually took a bit of doing to tread my way between them. They were not making any accommodations for my passage.
Cape Caution Millpond
Cape Caution was a mill pond with current as a 2 knot northwesterly flow was making it's way out of Silvester Bay and into Queen Charlotte Sound. I guess that it was a huge eddy and I should have routed myself further off shore to avoid it. Made for a long-ish crossing of Silvester Bay. I was ready for a break a the Wilkie Point beach.
Crossing Silvester Bay
Making for my rendezvous with Slingsby Channel I stayed well off shore from magnificent Burnett Bay beach. With the low swell it would have been an easy day to land and launch but I stayed out with the groups of Porpoise. Due to my timing Slingsby was uneventful but odd. I doubt that water ever stops moving there and current in the area slowed my progress to 2 knots for the next 2 NM.
Calm Morning on Burnett Bay
Finally I arrived at Skull Cove. I don't like this place and don't understand it's popularity but after 20 NM I was ready to call it quits and it would make for a good staging area for tomorrow's crossing back to Port Hardy.
The tide was fairly low so I had no trouble finding a shoe sucking mud flat to tie the boat up at. It smelled pretty bad. I climbed the stairs up to the cabin complex and took a tour. Nothing looked very appealing and only one of the cabins was set up for sleeping as the rest were being used for storage. I really couldn't see carrying my 4 loads of gear up and down those stairs and dealing with that rocky cove below. I had been told that there were two trails that led away from the inter-tidal beach nearby to clearings in the forest so I went to investigate.
Inter-tidal-Goose- Poop- Covered- Mosquito- Infested Stink Cove
The "beach" was full of barnacle-covered rocks so I took care to avoid boat damage. The grassy area was covered with Goose poop. I found one of the trails and followed it above the beach to a decent clearing where I set up my tent and made dinner. I crawled into the tent to avoid the onslaught of mosquitoes and that's where I spent the next 12 hours.
Red Sand Beach to Skull Cove 20.3 NM
60 degrees, Overcast then clearing in the afternoon, Winds calm building to NW @ 15, Seas calm with low swell building 2 foot wind waves in the afternoon
Morning in Skull Cove
Weather forecast was calling for NW @ 15 - 20 knots in the afternoon. I was on the water about 7:00 AM with a high slack at 6:44 AM and low slack would be at 12:14 PM. The exchange would only be 3.6 feet. Practically nothing so current wouldn't be an issue.
I was taking a direct route to the north end of Kent Island and could see a large ship far to the south. I called in to Comox Traffic and alerted folks that I would be crossing from Harris Island to the Walker Group for the next two hours. I heard the message passed on and acknowledged by a couple of ships in the area. The water remained smooth.
Current was running north in Bolivar Passage so I eddied up along the west shore of the Walker Group to mid-Staples Island. The NW wind had picked up to 10 knots adding a bit of texture to the water. The Queen of Chilliwack called in to Comox Traffic to announce their departure from Bear Cove so I called in to say that I was crossing Gordon Channel from Staples to Bell Island. About 10 minutes later the "Queen" contacted Comox to let them know that they were leaving the dock and would transit Goletas Channel to Christine Passage. Not sure if they chose that route for my benefit but it insured that we were nowhere close to each other and I appreciated that.
I had never seen the campsite on Bell Island and since I was so close I paddled past the fish farm and up the narrow waterway to the midden beach. I was greeted by a group of Vancouver paddlers who warmly welcomed me and assured me that there was plenty of room. I thanked them but said that I was bound for Port Hardy. As I ate a bite and chatted another group paddled in off of Goletas Channel. I was very surprised to see that Reg Lake was with them. We talked for a while and then it was time for me to finish my trip.
The Scarlett Point light was reporting W @ 20 knots, a low swell with 3' moderate seas. Goletas was not blowing 20 but it was a solid 15 knots and the 3 foot seas sounded right. Since that was almost directly in line with Duvall Point it made for a fairly fast 4 NM with well organized wind waves pushing me along. Short of Duvall the seas got very busy and confused, though, and I got beat up pretty good until I rounded the point. Then it was just another ~3 NM across Hardy Bay to Bear Cove.
Bear Cove Boat Ramp
Skull Cove to Port Hardy 21.5 NM
At the conclusion of the trip I wasn't sure how to feel. Here I was at a boat ramp with some power boaters cleaning their catch. They didn't care where I had come from and didn't ask. Sort of odd that there was nobody to high five and share it with. Just more work to be done.
It seems that solo trips are more work. Everything is harder other than decision making. You have to do all of the heavy lifting, boat, gear, etc. I was very careful about how I lifted things, how much I carried and always protected my shoulders. Everything felt fine, too, until I loaded the Tempest on top of the car at the boat ramp and that tweaked my left shoulder. So glad it didn't happen early in the trip.
I traveled 190.5 NM on 13 paddling days averaging 14.7 NM / day
Shortest day was just 4.9 NM from Klemtu to Sarah Island
Longest day was 21.5 NM from Skull Cove to Port Hardy.
The weather was fabulous. I budgeted two weather days per week and only used one of them on Goose.
There was precipitation just three days. Heavy rain at Goose. Moderate scattered showers in Mathieson and a few light showers at Skull Cove.
Temperature was near perfect in the 50 - 60 degree range most days and you could often see your breath. I love that in the summertime.
As usual, biting insects ruled north of Seaforth Channel and dropped of markedly south of there (though when I took a nap on Wolf Beach my feet and ankles were attacked by beach cooties)
Whales were present most days. Some days I might not see them but I could hear them nearby. I saw no whales on the outside of Calvert.
I saw no Orcas or Sea Otters at all.
No wolves or bear.
I came home to a week of temperatures in the 90's and went paddling. Tomorrow I go back to work