Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Blue Highways of the Inside Passage - Northern Outer Passages - Part VIII

If you decided to bail on the promise of the outside in order to experience Grenville Channel then you have already returned to the narratives of others.  Though the camping opportunities out here are not all roses the sky is bigger, the air is fresher and the chance of bear encounters slim to none.  Grenville does offer amazing, if somewhat claustrophobic, vistas of peaks plunging into deep water.  It’s the classic fjord experience.  I wish you the best.

Since you stuck around your next task is to paddle from Monkton Inlet to Ralston Islands.  It’s about 15 NM and Ralston sets you up at the south end of Anger Island where you are poised to choose between continuing up Principe or opting for Petrel Channel.  

Ralston has signs of First Nations significance with small clearings for single tents scattered throughout the forest above the beach.  If visiting during Springs you will need to tie your boats securely at the top of the beach or drag them up the slope into the forest.  Take some time to pick through the fist-sized rocks that the beach is composed of.  Really fascinating geology. 

Something to know about your choices beyond Ralston is that both Principe and Petrel Channels flood towards the north.  Principe runs very straight into Browning Entrance and encourages, nay, accentuates the flow of high pressure winds.  Winds opposing currents here can turn the main channel into an impressive display.  Don’t ask me how I know. 

Petrel, on the other hand has a few significant bends in it that act to knock down some of that wind and give you places to hide.  Principe does not.  Petrel opens onto Ogden Channel and is somewhat buffered by Porcher Island and the archipelago of islands that define the outside of the Kitkatla complex. 

If you want to travel north on Ogden Channel past Oona River, Petrel would be your best choice and it will get you back onto the Inside Passage route the quickest.  The only good camp site that I know of in Petrel is across the channel from Elbow point where you can find clearings in the upland.  The campsite is nice and Petrel is scenic.

If you intend to rejoin the Inside Passage route at Prince Rupert and the winds and currents in Principe are favorable just stay left past Anger Island and camp near Hankin Point.  The campsite is decent with a strong fresh water source and plenty of room for tents in the forest. 

 Hankin Uplands
Image Dave Resler

Whichever route you take from Ralston the confluence of Principe and Petrel Channels is probably best transited in the morning before winds build and you want to have a flood in your favor.  If strong NW winds are in the forecast Principe Channel can be a real grunt.  Strong NW against a flood can get pretty sporty.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

International Relations

Solo adventure kayaking presents some challenges that aren’t present when traveling with a team. 

  • Some are obvious like having no shared gear which means more weight and more space required for you to deal with. 
  • It means that at least twice each day you have to solo carry your 60+ pound boat and 130+ pounds of gear between the tide line and camp.  On a three-week trip that is 5,250 pounds carried.  You have to trust me that if you have a partner it is easier to carry ½ that amount of weight twice than it is to carry it alone once. 
  • It means that you make all of the critical decisions as there are no “more experienced” partners to rely upon,  
  • It also means that if you are like me and sometimes awkward and lacking self-confidence around strangers you have no other confident, smiling face to buffer and smooth your interactions with said strangers.  No one to send ahead to pave the way, as it were. 
For this final reason, in part, my ferry ride from Port Hardy to Klemtu was an interesting and uncomfortable exercise in international relations.

Passengers with kayaks are the first allowed to board the Northern Expedition in Port Hardy as we have to move our boats from the ramp to the far end of the ferry.  I happened to be the only traveler with a kayak so I was the very first to board.  As the first walk-on I made my way to an upper deck and my favorite seating area on the starboard side just outside of the Aurora Lounge.  Being first in gave me my pick of seats so I chose a high-backed seat front and center to a set of tall windows.  Soon others filed in and a tall European man asked me if the seats were taken.

“Only this one that I’m sitting in” I responded with a smile.

 Soon he returned with an entourage of older German speaking folks.  They quickly snapped up all of the seats except for the one beside me.  Several walked up to the seat and looked down at me as if to suggest that I should move elsewhere so that they could have my place.  Their posture and glares seemed to say “If you move somewhere else we can sit here”.  I was wearing my best welcoming face because I was really looking forward to the company but had no plans of moving.  The group in the adjacent trio of seats had an animated conversation that was interrupted only by glances at me and the adjacent seat.  It was as if they were trying to figure out whether to ask me to move or failing that which among them would be so unfortunate as to sit next to me.  Finally, a fair-haired woman sat in the seat sideways with her back to me.

I still had hopes for some friendly conversation over the next 8 hours so I extended my hand and said, “Good morning.  My name is Jon Dawkins.  What is your name?”.

She hesitantly looked at me and took my hand with the same expression and enthusiasm you would expect if she were being forced to pick up a turd.  She said that her name was something that started with a “D” had three syllables and sounded like she was clearing her throat.  I asked her to say it again so that I could get it right, which she did, but that didn’t help me in the least.  I made my best attempt at saying her name and told her that I had never heard the name before and to please be patient with me as I might have trouble getting it right but assured her that I would be able to say it correctly before we arrived in Klemtu.  I was certain that my attempt to say her name and establish a relationship had fallen far short of expectations when she stood up sneering and vacated the seat.

More heated internal discussions ensued within the group accompanied by glances in my direction.  I had no more idea what they were saying than what my attempt at pronouncing the woman’s name had translated to in German.  Finally, a large woman from the group sat down and did her best to ignore me.  I’m still not sure if she had drawn the short straw or was hoping that I would say or do something that would give her justification to beat the shit out of me.  She was large enough to do it.  Clearly my wishes for conversation were at risk.

Our awkward silence continued and when Humpbacks were seen breaching outside of our windows she and everyone else in the seating area stood and camera mayhem reigned.  With every splash she pointed and shouted “Da!  Da!  Da!  Whenever she pointed and said “Da” the group aimed their cameras and fired off a succession of photos in that general direction.  The breaching whales were followed by a pod of Orcas and lots more “Da! Da! Da’s!”   Too soon, however, actual mammal sightings were replaced by splashes from waves breaking on reefs and rocks and still she shouted “Da!  Da!  Da!” ordering cameras to click and whir.  Out of my depth, I left to go walk the deck.

When I returned, she glanced at me and said “Mein Gott!”.  I don’t know who she was saying it to but it was clear who she was saying it about.  With that stunning “endorsement” I went into the restroom and checked myself over to be sure that I didn’t stink (I didn’t) or that my fly wasn’t down (it wasn’t).  I was wearing my favorite Icebreaker wool top which I would be wearing for the next week and a half and it had small holes in the shoulder and one arm.  Could this have been my transgression?

I paused in the aisle behind the three rows of window seats steeling myself for a return to the breach.  The European folk were deep into an animated conversation and my new best friend was gesticulating wildly.  I walked up to my seat and all conversation abruptly ceased.  I glanced across the group and all eyes were quickly averted.  Not a sound.  No eye contact.  WTF?

The last actual wildlife sighting (a leaping Salmon) occurred in Lama Passage.  After that distant rocks, reefs and shoals produced splashes and an occasional boomer which elicited Frau Blucher’s orders to the troops of “Da!  Da!  Da!”  to which they would salute smartly and charge up the hill with cameras clicking.  Once into Milbanke Sound Susan Rock, Vancouver Rock and Fellowes Rock all put on spectacular shows.  Their black seaweed covered and barnacled backs glistened while “flukes” stretched up to touch the sky they frolicked and cavorted, all the time never taking a single breath.
“Da!  Da!  Da!  Click, click, click!”

Groups of animals and sea life have peculiar names.  On the BC Coast you may encounter a School of Salmon, a Galaxy of Starfish, a Pod of Orcas, a Pack of Wolves, a Convocation of Eagles, an Unkindness of Ravens, a Gaggle of geese, an Army of frogs, a Murder of crows, a Bed of clams, a Sleuth of Bears, a Romp of Otters or a dance of Sandhill Cranes. 

A group of rocks, reefs and shoals is something else, though, and Frau Blucher ensured that her group of friends went back to Germany with lots and lots of pictures of “Shit-loads of Rocks”.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Nisqually Reach 2 Alki 2009

I have done a number of day trips in the South Sound but I always wanted to paddle back home rather than return to the put-in. I may have mentioned before that Dave and I have a goal to travel from the southern-most regions of Puget Sound to Alaska by kayak. Yes? No? Whatever, we do and this will be done, in chunks. The South Sound to Seattle was a just a piece of it but the timing was never right. Last Fall while eating lunch at Winghaven State Park (a WWT camp site on Vashon Island) we discussed the idea of banging out the South Sound piece during the Winter. We agreed to do it and in January and we did.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Harvey Island Camp

I’ve been holding off talking about Bill’s most remote camp out in Hecate Strait for 15 years.  A friend first told me about it immediately after returning from his visit there in 2005, just 2 years after Bill left the camp for the last time.  About then there were spoilers published by Neil Frazer in Sea Kayaker Magazine (https://3meterswell.blogspot.com/2017/11/looking-for-kayak-bill-by-neil-frazer.html), John Kimantas in “the Wild Coast 2” and Ian Mcallister in “Following the Last Wild Wolves”  but they flew under the radar or maybe nobody cared.  Probably the latter. 

Shortly after Bill’s wake in 2004 my friend was given copies of Billy’s journals and charts by one of his childhood mates from the Wood’s Christian Home orphanage outside of Calgary where the two had spent their early years.  http://woodschristianhome.info/  Using this information, he undertook a solo mission to visit some of the camps marked on the charts and mentioned in the journals.  Those resources led him out into Hecate Strait ~11.5 NM west from Aristazabal Camp III to the Beyers-Conroy-Harvey-Sinnet Islands Ecological Reserve and the site of Bill’s most remote and comfortable camp on the coast.  It was a camp less reliant on tarps for protection from the elements.  Almost a shack rather than a shelter. 

My friend paddled west from Weeteeum Bay into a fogbank on a compass course of 270 degrees, located the islets by sound and arrived on a high tide which happened to be the right answer.  His account was published online by Sea Kayaker Magazine and is available here: https://3meterswell.blogspot.com/2017/12/kayak-bill-requiem.html

On a 270 course out of AIC III
Image by My Shearwater Bar Friend

The Harvey Islets Group is one of the two groups of four in the conservancy out in the middle of nowhere that allows reasonable, albeit conditional, landings.  From the water you wouldn’t consider it advisable as the Harvey camp lies in the center of a maze of islets and is completely invisible from the perimeter of the group.  The area surrounding Harvey is shallow and the anchorage is foul.  Boomers are the norm which caution against approach by watercraft of any type.  At low tide the drying is extensive which further complicates approach and discourages exploration. 

Harvey Islets Group

In 2002 Neil Frazer learned from the Bonilla Island Lightkeeper that Bill had a camp on Harvey so he landed to look for him.  He found no sign that anyone had ever been there before.  Rather than camp on the islet he and his partner chose to anchor in the surrounding kelp and spent a cold and wet night in their kayaks.  Later he learned from Stewart Marshall that they had walked within meters of Bill’s camp. 

Nearly a decade ago, I met a paddler in Port Hardy with extensive knowledge of the coast.  He had an interest in Billy Davidson and had been to some of his camps by choice.  He described to me an encounter that he had with a man who had dropped by his campsite at the west end of Higgins Passage.  The visitor had spent the previous 25 Summers cruising the coast on his yacht which was anchored a bit east near the abandoned village site of Goo Ewe.  He told my friend of coming across Kayak Bill nearby while he was busy dressing out a freshly slain deer.  He told of visiting Bill’s Higgins Pass Camp and described its location and layout.  We used that description to narrow down the camp’s location but still couldn’t locate it until 2019. 

Further, he described a conversation where Bill had expressed interest in getting some plywood transported out to Harvey Islets where he was establishing a camp.  The online Sea Kayaker Magazine article said that the camp had plywood walls and roof. 

It turned out that the yachtsman’s timeline conflicted with other known events so the exact date of the establishment of the Harvey Camp is in question.  Personally, I think that it was established between 1995~ish and 2000.……………I’m not really sure though as some evidence is missing and I’ll update this document as information is received. 

In 1994 Bill told Colin Lake that he was thinking of establishing a camp on Goose to get away from tourists.  That makes me think that Goose must have been the most remote outer coast-type place he had been to at that point.  A place so removed that no “tourists” would intrude.  If you have been to Goose, though, you know that it can be a busy place with lots of coming and goings.  In 1994, however, Bill thought of it as “remote” so I can’t reconcile the thought that the Harvey Island Camp existed at that time or was even considered by him as a possibility because Harvey is so much more remote than Goose that it is ridiculous. 

  •  It is out in Hecate Strait where any sort of water travel has greater potential consequences than on Queen’s Sound. 
  •  The shortest approach is long and exposed.
  •  The Group is foul.  Tides and winds have greater consequences.  Objective near-shore risks are significant and require consideration.
  •  It is an Ecological Reserve so you are not supposed to be there in the first place.  

In 2017 my Port Hardy friend paddled out to Harvey and spent a couple of nights.  He had researched the approach and chosen his weather and tides.  Arriving at a reasonably high tide level allowed him to paddle up within meters of the shack which featured a standard driftwood windscreen, plywood walls and roof. 

Harvey Islet Camp 2017

He found it somewhat overgrown but definitely more comfortable than the remains of Bill’s other tarp dependent camps and still a very suitable and dry shelter.  The large fire stand was in good shape with a supply of firewood that Bill had left when he stepped out the camp on September 23, 2003. 

The planks that made the bed and various bench surfaces were in place and still serviceable.  A packet of Zig Zag rolling papers (Bill’s Signature) was still pinned to the board that topped the fire stand. 

A yellow Marmot rain shell (inadvertently left by the guy who introduced me to Billy’s story at the Shearwater Bar in 2005) hung from the wood forming the peak of the shelter.  A candle lantern made from an aluminum can was tacked to the shack wall.  My friend cooked dinner, warmed the space using the firestand and spent a comfortable night on Bill’s bed.

He described the firestand construction this way:

“Bill’s shelter was placed more or less on a line northwest to southeast.   This would put the fireplace in the most southerly corner.   Behind the fireplace Bill used cedar, like long split shakes for the wall and also for part of the roof that was most exposed to smoke.  There was a gap where the end wall met the roof of an inch or two which didn’t seem to let any rain in (it rained hard when I was there) but when there was any wind from other than the south or east the roof seemed to create a kind of venturi effect as it passed over the peak of the roof and this sucked the smoke out through the crack.   Given the placement of the shelter and the topography, most of the time the wind was funneled in from the west though the channel.   So, except when there was a storm bringing SE wind the smoke was drawn out of the shelter quite effectively.  I am not sure how it worked with a SE wind but I can speculate.  Bill had a window to the right of the door going in that was covered with an adjustable tarp. The bottom of the tarp had a long pole attached with on end of the pole through a hole in the back wall of the shelter and the other end appeared to be able to open and close the ‘window’ hole in some way. When I was there the tarp was badly torn and deteriorated and I couldn’t quite figure out how it worked.  I think when the wind was from the south most of it would be stopped by the wind break but what got through would create a similar venturi effect in reverse and take the smoke out the top of the door or maybe out the peak of the roof at the back.   The effect in this case was that if you remained sitting down, you were below the smoke and I think if it was set up properly most of the smoke would be no lower than about 5 or 6 feet.” 

Harvey Islet Camp at High Tide

Additionally, he reported that while he was there, he saw no sign of mice.  This may seem like no big deal but during Bill’s last stay in 2003 he reported 62 mouse encounters in a little over two months.  Mice really pissed him off and he reported mouse encounters in his journals at all of his camps and kept track of his successful kills.  Mice, Mosquitoes and Black Flies.  They were all dead to him.  With no fresh water for Mosquitoes or Blackflies to breed on, Harvey provided relief from them.  His fresh water came from his bucket well buried in the ground on the adjacent islet.  But mice?  They haunted him on Harvey.  How do mice get out there and why were they so prevalent during his last visit? 

Harvey Islet Camp at Low Tide

Bill Davidson described Harvey as a “Garden of Eden” where “time was way different”.  Each day he could gather what he called “wild peas, wild carrots, Goose Tongue, Sea Asparagus” and Crab Apples in minutes.  Huge Mussels and Gooseneck Barnacles were just outside of camp. His chart marks areas surrounding the islets as good for jigging.


He brought flour, and sometimes rice, from Shearwater to mix with sea water and seal oil to make chapatis and stew.  When needed, he would shoot a seal to render down to blubber that he would melt to make oil and after the meat fell off of the bones he would knead it, mixing it with sea water, forming it into patties that dried over the fire stand.  Dried Seal Burger.  When meat was on the menu, he simply soaked the dried seal burgers in sea water to mix with rice, chapatis or to eat by themselves.  

Life was good on Harvey.

On September 23, 2003 Bill left his Harvey Paradise for the last time on his way back to Shearwater.  He reported a “Very Hard Paddle” on Hecate Strait to Aristazabal Island Camp III with strong E to SE winds.  From there he took his time and didn’t get back to Shearwater until ~3 weeks later.  Weather was a factor but he was not in a hurry to get back to civilization.

After three and a half weeks in Shearwater he set off on his last trip choosing Goose over Harvey as his Winter Camp.  Why did he choose Goose over Harvey?  We assume that it was because:
  • With a hard push he could get there in one long day.
  • The approach to Goose was less exposed.
  • The Goose Camp faced north with great natural protection from southerlies.  This allowed him to get out in his boat to fish in the lee of large islands. 
  • The Goose Camp was slightly higher above sea level.  Its elevation and surrounding protective islands virtually eliminated the dangers posed by storm surge which he had experienced once on Harvey. 
  • Goose supported a deer population that would provide another food source. 
  • He could get away from camp and really walk around which he couldn’t do on Harvey.

Or he might have known that his trips were coming to an end and if this was to be the last one, it would be at a comfortable place that had played such an important role in his coastal journey.  

Back to Introduction

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Crossing Hakai

Quitting Triquet / Calvert Island 8.5 NM Distant

I was traveling southeast from Triquet to Calvert Island.  Conditions were NW @ 10-15 knots with swells at 2 meter topped with windwaves.  The route I chose to the Choked Passage complex was 8.5 NM of open water across Kildidt Sound and my crossing of Hakai Passage ended up being further west than intended.  That wasn’t a big deal as conditions were mostly at my back and I was having a really good time.  The wind was increasing and stacking wind waves on the swell but I expected things to lay down a bit in Hakai with the wind, current and swell all trending in the same general direction. 

About midway across Hakai I could see the sun reflecting differently off of the surface of the water and then encountered large westward flowing rips.  It was nearing high slack and I was expecting to find conditions optimal for the time of day so this surprised me.  The chop associated with the rip was above my head.  Paddling was "active" and enjoyable but it went on for too long.  I was feeling exposed and at least 2 miles from anything and was ready to do something else before it was ready to be done with me.  Once past the first rip things laid down but then picked up again as I crossed two more rips with peaky waves over my head. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find a  significant current flowing out of Choked Passage directly into the wind and swell that formed up into very nice, steeply-faced waves that spilled but didn't break.  I rode them directly into the bay in front of North Beach and got my bearings. 

No Name Beach

North Beach is enormous and I was in the mood for something more intimate so I paddled east into “No Name Beach” and ate lunch.  At about 200 meters in length No-Name is small by Calvert Island standards and has a very right-sized feel but the foreshore is shallow and rocky making comings and goings at low tides complicated at best.  I would be leaving in the morning near low slack and that made camping at No-Name a non-starter.  After lunch I paddled around the headland that separates No-Name from Wolf Beach and camped at the west end.

Wolf Beach Camp

I’ve crossed Hakai Passage on five occasions and it always has my respect and gains my full attention.  On the best of times it isn’t scary but simply bigger than anything else nearby.  The conditions this day were near perfect yet those rips were totally unexpected and reminiscent of paddling in a washing machine. 

Sunset on Choked Passage

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.

Dave, Greg and I were camped on the western shore of Price Island at a site called "P1" in the "West Coast Aristazabal, Price & Athlone Islands - Field Guide for Paddlers".  It's a sizable and protected beach that is choked with large drift logs.  There are no openings into the forested uplands that line the beach.  We were expecting a 15.7 foot tide so camping on the sand was not an option.  About 75 meters to the south and over some sharp rocks is a very camp-able area where we set up our tents.  Not wanting to carry our boats across the rocks we left them on the main beach.

Examining the previous night's high tide line we took into account the predicted rise of 3/10 foot and added a comfortable margin.  The log that we set our sterns on was at least 3.5 feet in diameter and 1/3 buried in sand that was above the point that the tide could possibly reach.  There were no winds in the forecast, seas and barometric pressure were flat.   I tied the decklines of all three boats to a log well up the beach using my tow line.

We spread our wet gear out to dry at camp, ate dinner and turned in for a quiet night of slumber.

We were up at 5:00 AM, ate breakfast and started carrying our gear 75 meters over rocks from our campsite to the adjacent cove where we had secured our boats.  Dropping the first load I looked 100 meters up the beach and saw that our boats were no longer on top of the logs.  They were still there but Dave's Grand Illusion was against the logs pointing north, Greg's Tempest was pointing south and mine was between them, sideways with the stern up on a large boulder!  It looked like a yard sale.  We had obviously miscalculated the evening's high tide.

I went to investigate and saw that I had neglected to put my cockpit cover on.  Consequently, my boat was full of water and wet sand.  I was relieved to see my four paddle halves and chart case poking up through the wet concrete.  My helmet was packed with sand and weighed as much as a bowling ball.  I hoped that my hull hadn't cracked over the boulder.  Greg's boat was tipped on its side and half full of sand and water.  His chart case, containing most of Dave's charts, was hanging from the deck lines like a water balloon full of tan confetti.  It had spent some time in the washing machine along with his GPS.  Dave's boat was fine with the cockpit cover in place.  Nothing was missing and the cockpit was clean.

I had tied the boats together and my knot had done its job but how did we miss this?  We had examined the previous night's tide line and thought we had taken 3/10 foot well into account.  The sterns had rested on a large log that was at least 1/3 buried in sand and above the point the water could possibly reach.  Even if the water did touch the log it couldn't possibly float it..............yet it had.  The tide had somehow floated it, pulled it out from under our boats and sent them on a yahoo ride.  This was with totally calm seas on a protected beach.  Pretty sobering.

Dave had lost seven charts costing $140 USD.  We gently emptied the water out of the case, pressed the confetti flat and strapped it back to the deck intent on salvaging some of the larger pieces.  Greg's GPSmap76CSx would no longer acquire satellites and was toast.  The good news was that my chart case hadn't leaked and I had brought my back-up GPS along.  My hull was fine and all of my gear intact but cleaning wet sand out of the cockpit, helmet, etc. took a while and continues to this day.

Eventually we were ready to launch and it was then that Greg realized his graphite Werner was MIA. He had propped it between some logs near the bows of our boats and hung laundry on it to dry.  His laundry and paddle were gone.  We spent about 45 minutes combing the cove for that paddle before giving up, tucking our tails between our legs and accepting that the $800+ lesson we had just experienced was a cheap slap in the face that we had well deserved.

The Spring Island site where Martin lost his paddle probably has a different significance to him now than it did before.  Likewise, "P1" was just a mark on my chart where I intended to camp.  I thought that I had this figured out.  

"P1" will forever be "Careless Cove" to me and my experience there has altered my behaviors, hopefully, forever.


Wolf Beach 2 Blackney Beach

Wolf Beach Campsite 

70 degrees, Clear
NW @ 15 – 20
W swell 2 meter with wind waves to 3 feet Seas Moderate 

Glenn Lewis had warned me about confusion that occurs when the ebb tries to turn south out of Hakai Passage so I was choosing to launch on a rising tide.  That made for a pretty long slog to get the boat and four loads of gear down to the water's edge.

Morning at Wolf Beach 

The swell was immediately present but the predicted 15-20 knot wind was still in the 10 knot range.  The sea state was a bit messy but made for enjoyable paddling.  The shoreline disappeared into thickening fog so I was afforded only occasional glimpses of Calvert's many lovely northern beaches when I tucked into a bay.

Fog Develops 

What I was able to see was gorgeous but each point of land presented a new challenge.  The current was flowing north along the shore, across the swell and counter to the wind so it made for interesting water.  Each point created reflection and turbulence so chop above my head was the norm.  Definitely active but fun.  Dublin Point, in particular, really had its bitch on and gave me as much "fun" as I cared for while crawling on against the flood.
Once I gained Bolivar Beach I was past Dublin Point and its evil southern sister which allowed most of the wind and waves to be on my stern, improving my quality of 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.

During this trip I had heard several paddlers refer to Bolivar as "Three Mile Beach".  Does anyone know where that name comes from?  The beach isn't 3 miles long.  Not even 1/2 that.  Magnificent, yes.  Three miles long, no.

The last 4 NM to Blackney Beach went fast and were a bit concerning.  It had been about four hours since I had left Wolf Beach at the north end of Calvert Island intent on landing at Blackney.  The north wind had risen past 15 knots and the seas were a solid 2 meter plus wind waves that combined to 9 feet opposing the northward flowing flood current.  It was busy and getting kind of big.  I was hoping that Blackney Island, the kelp and shoal would knock the swell down.  If it didn't I might be fixin' to hurt.

As I neared Blackney Beach I was dismayed to see how far off shore the island was, funneling the wind and swell rather than blocking it and allowing it full access to my desired landing site.  I was arriving right at high tide so all of the energy robbing kelp heads were submerged and the current, running north over the shoal between Blackney and Calvert Islands, was standing the seas up on my approach.  The beach was lit up in an unfriendly fashion and pain looked like a possibility.  Down in the troughs I could see only the tops of Calvert's tallest trees but the crests offered a brief view of the beach.  At the top of a wave I spotted a 30-foot wide section of beach tucked in behind some rocks at the north end.  It was right where I hoped it would be.  I was moving fast and on final approach.  There would be no go-around.  I back paddled hard against a breaking wave that smacked against my back and shoulders, braced and then broke hard for the lee of the rocks.  Using the next wave to clear the rocks I glided in on tiny one foot waves.  High anxiety and then relief.  

The exposed shore was small, without shade and blisteringly hot.  I quickly stripped off my dry suit and base layers and hung them to dry on some logs.  The evening high tide was going to come up very close to the forest so I looked for an upland clearing but found none.  Few people paddle here so there are no established tent clearings.  The thick forest barred any hopes of entry to higher ground so I settled for the highest spot I could find on the beach and figured that I had a three inch buffer from the next high tide.  I set my alarm for 2:00 AM.  I figured that if it didn't go off or I had miscalculated or the wind and swell increased or the barometric dropped I would be wakened by the movement of surrounding logs before things got too wet or I was crushed.  A decent option where others don't exist.


Walking the beach I found the prints of a large wolf.  Comparing his prints with the tide line it was clear that he had watched my approach and landing.  I had been too busy to look for wildlife but he had watched me and sensing my anxiety had figured that I wouldn't be good company.  He chose to leave the beach in my custody.

I wish he would have stuck around.