Friday, January 27, 2017

Blue Highways of the Inside Passage



Paddling the Inside Passage changes people forever.  Attempting it is bold.  Completing it is remarkable.  I stand in awe of those who have attempted or completed that task.

Living in Seattle I have the good fortune of being just a day’s drive from Port Hardy which is located at the north end of Vancouver Island.  That allows me access to the Canadian Coast that most North American paddlers would die for.  While I have paddled parts and pieces of the Inside Passage I lack the commitment that is required to do it from start to finish.

The planning and logistics of a trip of that magnitude are daunting and the time requirement can be tough to accommodate with our busy lives.  The Canadian and Alaskan Pacific Coastline is probably a long way from your home.  It certainly is for most North American paddlers so just getting to and from your put-in and take-out isn’t easy for most.   It takes tremendous commitment from beginning to end and I suspect that this combines to make the Inside Passage trip a one-and-done sort of experience for many paddlers.

The IP is well established and serves as the primary route for all water craft with only minor variations that are focused on efficiency of staying on task.  Little is mentioned about what lies just off the route by a day or of lesser-used parallel routes and from an efficiency standpoint that seems wise.

In 1982 William Least Heat Moon released the book “Blue Highways” which was his account of traveling around the United States using lesser used roads which, in the days of paper road maps, were blue in color.  Avoiding the interstate highways/established routes his experience was enriched by traveling the “road not taken”.  since it may be hard for you to return to this remote paradise consider incorporating some “Blue Highways” into your route planning. .………..just in case you don’t get back that way or you need fodder for planning another trip.


As Robert Frost once said:

I shall be telling with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Continued.........

Friday, January 20, 2017

Blue Highways - Hakai Luxvbalis



Traveling northbound on the IP you exit Fitz Hugh Sound by hanging a left into Lama Passage and following the shoreline of Denny Island to Bella Bella.  Most folks stop at Bella Bella / Shearwater to pick up a resupply, do laundry, take a shower, sleep in a real bed and/or to eat a real dinner of pizza and beer.  “Blue Highway-Hakai” recommends that you cross Fitz Hugh Sound after visiting the Addenbroke Light Station and work your way up Calvert Island’s steep eastern shoreline to Kwakshua Channel or Hakai Passage.  Both will take you west into the heart of Hakai Luxvbalis Conservancy Area which is an unspoiled region of magnificent beaches and stunning beauty.  Kwakshua is more protected from winds and its currents are light where Hakai Passage is magnificent but may display both in spades.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Blue Highways - Queens Sound / Bardswell Group

Swordfish Bay

An option to picking up your resupply in Shearwater is to have it sent to Klemtu, instead.  That makes Shearwater a discretionary stop rather than required and makes it easier to exercise the Queens Sound / Bardswell Group Blue Highway option.  Klemtu is a dry community, though, so no pizza and beer dinner.


If you are in a hurry to get back on the IP you need to reach Seaforth Channel.  From Cultus travel up Queens Sound on a strong flood and blow through Raymond Passage to Seaforth.  You will miss a lot if you do but will be back on task.  Instead consider stops at the Goose Group, the McMullin Group and the transit of Gale Passage.  That is a much more interesting route but more time consuming.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Blue Highways - Beyond Seaforth


If you pick up your resupply in Shearwater be sure to take the time to visit the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre in Bella Bella.  You won’t regret it.  When I was there they were closed but opened up to us and provided a personal docent to help guide our journey.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Magic Light on Otter Channel


One of my favorite things about paddling the BC coastline is the way light is accentuated, diffused, bent, filtered and muted to create impossible colors and a million shades of grey.  It’s true that the precipitation that created the world’s largest temperate rainforest can provide greyness in seemingly endless quantities but in smaller doses it interacts with light and makes magic.  Paddling in fog or overcast you may experience a visual transformation of dark monotones changing to silvers that suddenly erupt into violent explosions of color.  Longer angles of sunlight passing through moisture suspended in the air bathes us in unworldly colors that have no names.



There is a particular magic light that occurs when the sky has a low overcast or a thin fog layer and the sun tries hard to work its way though. Everything is in shades of silver and grey. The water is in motion and reflects light like mercury.  The cloud cover thins in places and beams of sunlight break through, explode then disappear.

Careless Cove


Martin Ryer's account of having his boat and paddle taken by the evening tide while camped on Spring Island serves as a cautionary tale for all paddlers.  It's easy to say "That won't happen to me", which is what I thought until it did.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Blackney Beach 2 Grief Bay


70 degrees, Clear, NW @ 10 - 20 knots, W swell 2 meter with 2 - 3 foot wind waves

I left Blackney Beach while the NW wind was at 10 knots with the knowledge that it would build.  The forecast called for moderate seas with NW winds at 15 – 20 knots, a westerly swell to 2 meter with wind waves to 3 feet.  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.