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.
The route would be an "Inside-Outside" sort of thing with plenty of familiar locales to provide comfort plus some new sights and exciting challenges. Since I had never spent much time on the Inside Passage I would start by flavoring some of the long deep reaches. I would be passing four Kayak Bill camps and hoped to find his last camp on Gosling Island clean enough to camp at. The outside of Calvert had called to me for years so, conditions allowing, I would spend a couple of days checking that out. Finally, I had spent some time discussing the crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait with Glenn Lewis of Nanaimo and, if I lost the usual number of days to foul weather, I would be making that crossing when currents were running high in Gordon and Goletas Channels so a different tact would be employed.
Klemtu to Sarah Island
7/27 Friday, Day 1
60 degrees, Overcast, calm winds and seas
I met the Nanaimo Paddlers at the Bear Cove dock. Really a nice bunch of folks who were heading for the outside of Aristazabal, Price and Athlone and who would spend the next the 12 or so hours trying hard to convince me to come along with them. Made for a very enjoyable ride to Klemtu.
Northern Expedition in Bear Cove
The launch at the new Klemtu ferry dock is beneath the ramp. It is quite rocky and would be a handful if solo but with all hands cooperating we had mostly uneventful launches.
Lovely Klemtu Launch
Not long after leaving the dock a Humpback announced its presence and it traveled north with us for a while. The flood in Tolmie Channel was helpful boosting us along at up to 6 knots so, too soon, we arrived at Split Head and parted ways. The Nanaimo Group was headed for Elbow Camp at the bend in Meyers Passage while I was bound for the camp behind the light on Sarah Island.
I paddled through a light rip that extended all the way across the channel and marked the confluence of the Tolmie and Meyers Passage floods. I imagine that could get busy on a windy day.
Map from The Wild Coast 2
Copyright John Kimantas
After dodging several large and barely submerged boulders I slid up on the mixed gravel and shell beach to the delight of an adoring host of mosquitoes and no-seeums.
Sarah Island Beach
I had my choice of a few prepared tent sites and was just throwing the fly on the tent when I noticed that the "window" on the door had become mostly unattached. Whatever method had been used for adhering that window eight years prior had failed and it now hung loosely like the back flap of my Grampa's long underwear. It was just as shocking and unpleasant to look at, too.
"No worries! I have packed a repair kit and I have some Tenacious Tape. I'll just tape it back in place".
Unfortunately, Tenacious Tape didn't stick to either side of my rain fly. Neither did my Super Bomber duct tape. Luckily, the Seam Grip did so I painted it on with my finger and got the window stuck back in place. Hooray!
This distraction took my mind off of battling the blood-thirsty locals and they had their way with me. I sustained numerous "wounds" to my face, neck, ears and back of hands. While casualties were experienced by both forces I have to say that the bad guys won.
Klemtu to Sarah Island 4.9 NM
Sarah Island to Rescue Bay
7/28 Saturday, Day 2
60 degrees, Overcast, calm to light winds
The alarm went off at the usual time (4:00 AM) so I donned my headlamp and stumbled off to the beach. A low of 3.9 feet had passed just 30 minutes prior and I was curious to see what that meant at this campsite. I found that it meant that I was going back to bed as the water was hidden somewhere way the heck out there in the darkness past a minefield of slippery rocks, giant boulders and logs.
I launched five hours later just ahead of the 11.8 foot high slack and crossed Finlayson Channel from Boat Bluff to Mary Cove. I found that the anticipated push south from the ebb down to Jackson Passage was still northbound and conspiring with a freshening SW breeze to slow my progress. It was a slog but once at Jackson Passage the breeze blew right in.
Nothing utterly remarkable in Jackson Passage, however, I stopped at a gravel / shell beach at the outflow of a creek and while poking around in the woods found the exposed root ball of a fallen tree that was packed with shells and beach debris. The interesting thing about this is that it was at least 40 feet above the beach. Isostatic rebound?
In Rescue Bay I came across a group of 12 paddlers from Juneau, who were on day 59 and bound for Nanaimo. We were all looking for a place to camp and they clearly hadn't read "the Wild Coast 2" as they were scattered all over but hadn't yet checked out the campsite John Kimantas lists at the back of the bay. After exchanging pleasantries, I made haste in setting up camp. Nice spot. Thank you, John.
Rescue Bay Campsite
Sarah Island to Rescue Bay 17.1 NM
Rescue Bay to Cockle Bay
7/29 Sunday, Day 3
50 degrees, Overcast, scattered showers, calm winds and seas
My intent was to paddle 17.5 NM to Roar Islet via Lady Trutch Passage. Before setting off I paddled over to wish the Juneau Group well. I mentioned to them that I needed to find some water and they pointed out a nearby stream. Score! When asking them their plans for the day they hadn't decided so I told them about the Cockle Bay cabin and marked it on their GPS.
Good clear water for the coast
The trip down Mathieson Channel was beautiful. Calm and still. I stopped at one point out in the channel and there was absolutely no sound to be heard. Nothing. High slack was about an hour away so there was very little current to work against. Light boils across Oscar Passage announced the change to ebb and my pace slowed to a crawl. I had expected to benefit from the Mathieson ebb but it turns out that Oscar drains Mathieson as far south as Arthur Island. The only good thing about that is that I had plenty of time to watch some Humpbacks while I crawled ahead. South of Arthur Island I picked up one knot of favorable current.
Mathieson Channel Looking South
I stopped for lunch at a small cove near the entrance to Lady Trutch Passage. I was feeling pretty lazy and not sure that I wanted to paddle another two-plus hours. Cockle Bay was just 40 minutes away. I chose Cockle Bay.
The cabin was empty but trashed again. People just leave their stuff here. It makes no sense to me. Someone had left a roll of garbage bags behind so I had something to put the trash in as I cleaned up the cabin. Unfortunately, I couldn't pack it out and who knows if the next power boaters will bother.
Cockle Bay Cabin
Soon the vanguard of the Juneau Group arrived. They trickled in over the next hour or so. It turns out that this Inside Passage trip is just a small part of what the Juneau Group was doing. Once in Nanaimo they will return the loaner boats to Seaward, mount their bicycles and continue south to Tierra del Fuego! Holy buckets! Now that is a trip of a lifetime. Learn more about the trip and the individuals involved here: http://www.atripsouth.com/
The Juneau Fleet
Rescue Bay to Cockle Bay 14.5 NM
Cockle Bay to Islet 48
7/30 Monday, Day 4
60 degrees, Overcast, calm to SW @ 10 knots, Seas to one meter
We (A Trip South and I) paddled south through Perceval Narrows and down Reid Passage. It was a wonderful morning on the water and the company was good. In Blair Inlet we parted ways as they had a supply pick up and cultural experience scheduled in Bella Bella while I was bound for Islet 48.
"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 some time 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
Conditions were light with one meter westerly swell. Very mellow morning. I stopped at the stream behind the Gale Passage cabin to scoop up some brown water, to be filtered later, and was off for the Gale Rapids.
Southbound on Gale Passage
It was 30-some minutes past high slack of 12.5 feet when I entered the first rapid. I use the term generously and only because I've always been confronted with an entry rapid before but this time there was no visible drop. The second drop didn't exist either and consisted of a fast 5 knot current with a couple of standing waves. Once into the lagoon I was surprised to see an aluminum power boat. I didn't know they ever came in there. The climb out the south end wasn't a climb at all but just a bit of work against the current. Without the rapids here, it was disorienting and hard to recognize.
The 8 NM from the exit rapid across Thompson Bay to Islet 48 felt like a lot of work as the south wind, swell and wind waves were rising. Fingal Island (Evil Watcher of North Queens Sound) glowered disapprovingly at my progress. Whenever I checked the "ETA to Next" on my GPS it seemed that it hadn't changed and I swear Fingal would smirk.
About two hours after setting up camp at Islet 48 "Stan" from Vancouver arrived. He was solo and on a fairly tight schedule. He set up across the tombolo. I had hauled my boat up onto some driftwood and tied it up. I was beat so I retired but before doing so I set my alarm for 10:00 PM because high slack was 15.4 feet at about 11:30 PM and I figured that I didn't have it up high enough.
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.
Cockle Bay to Islet 48 16.7 NM
Islet 48 to Snipe Island
7/31 Tuesday, Day 5
60 degrees, Overcast, SW @ 10 - 15 knots, Swells to one meter with wind waves to two feet.
Stan mentioned that he wanted to go to the McMullen Group but hated the idea of packing up and paddling a couple of miles only to set up camp again. In the end he said he was headed for Cultus Sound so we left Islet 48 at the same time but went in different directions.
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 was 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.
Billy Davidson's Whisk
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
Snipe Island Weather Day
8/1 Wednesday, Day 6
45 degrees, Rain, S @ 20 - 25 knots
Low tide this morning was 0.7 feet. That empties the bay and I couldn't leave if I had to until the tide came back in. Since it's raining and blowing visibility was limited making it a moot point.
The Slums of Snipe
I moved my gear over to the fire pit that was partially covered with the raggedy blue tarp and set up my tent on the wet mossy ground nearby. The tent looked happier there and would, for sure, provide a drier night's sleep. The place looked worse than the jungle camps on the west side of Beacon Hill. There was trash strewn around and since it would be my home for a bit I cleaned it up and lit a fire.
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 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?
Then something remarkable happened. I found two 5 gallon carboys of drinking water left here, I assume, by whatever group uses this slum. One was completely full and the other was 2/3 full. Amazing! It totally made my day and I drank as much coffee, tea and just plain water as my heart desired. I was in heaven or would have been if I hadn't had to watch the fire so closely. Turned a crumby day into a pretty good one.
In spite of the high winds and rain I had a 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
I left Gosling as soon as there was enough water in the bay to float my boat. While it was a nice morning the weather called for building winds and seas and I wanted to get across Queens Sound before she woke up and realized I was leaving like a thief in the night with a full 27.5-liter compliment of water.
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
Triquet to Wolf Beach
8/3 Friday, Day 8
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. I found that 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 things to lay down a bit in Hakai with the wind, current and swell trending in the same direction. That was mostly the case, however, 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 significant current flowing out of Choked Passage directly into the wind and swell 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
Triquet to Wolf Beach 12.7 NM
Wolf Beach to Blackney Beach
8/4 Saturday, Day 9
70 degrees, Clear, NW @ 15 - 20, W swell 2 meter with wind waves to 3 feet
Glenn Lewis had warned me about confusion that occurs when the ebb tries to turn south out of Hakai Passage at Surf Islets so I was choosing to launch on a rising tide. That made for a pretty long haul 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 did get messy but made for enjoyable paddling. The shoreline disappeared into thickening fog so I was afforded occasional glimpses of Calvert’s many lovely northern beaches only when I tucked into a bay.
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 fixin' to hurt.
As I approached Blackney Beach I was dismayed at how far off shore the island was, funneling the wind rather than blocking it, 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 connecting Blackney and Calvert Islands, was standing up the seas on my approach. The beach was lit up in an unfriendly fashion and pain looked like a possibility. I was moving fast and, like it or not, I was on final approach. There would be no go-around.
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 to tiny one-foot waves. High anxiety and then relief.
The exposed shore was small, without shade and blisteringly hot. I quickly stripped off my drysuit 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 and felt 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 to me.
I wish he would have stuck around.
Wolf Beach to Blackney Beach 12.5 NM
Blackney Beach to Grief Bay
8/5 Sunday, Day 10
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. 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.
It became a "Game of Points" with each point contested and earned. Shortly after leaving the beach Herbert Point gained my full attention and was a harbinger of what south Calvert’s finest features had to offer. By the time I rounded Stafford Point I was a bit tired and ready for something else. With no particular plan I tucked into the lee of 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 more I was committing to paddling cross-conditions to get back out. Coming to my senses I looked ahead, 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 produce if they seriously had a mind to be contentious. Like a couple of rough drunks in their home bar they needed to be studied and navigated with caution.
After developing a stiff neck from watching conditions over my right shoulder and applying well practiced braces I approached the passage between Sorrow Island and Cape Calvert. Grief Bay was still out of sight on the left and current running out of the passage was stacking waves and creating a line of white water. My GPS indicated that a shoal was responsible for the unpleasantness on the left and that I should be able to slide though deeper water mid-channel. I hurried through it and retreated to a kelp bed just inside the weirdness for a well-deserved mental and physical rest.
Passage Between Cape Calvert and Sorrow Island
After some relaxation and refueling I paddled on in to "tropical" Grief Bay. It was obvious why Kayak Bill had chosen this isolated setting for a camp site. I landed on the lovely sand beach and set up my tent 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. It was very easy to see. The firewood rack was still in place and 1/2 full of wood perfectly cut to Bill's dimensions. Moss and Salal had taken over the camp so any of his usual personal possessions now belonged to the forest.
Kayak Bill's Camp Grief Bay
I was surprised to learn that the flood current ran north along the entire outside of Calvert. It seemed to me that it would be easier for water this far south to run into Fitz Hugh Sound, Rivers Inlet or turn north near Herbert Point. I guess that means that paddling this shoreline from north to south on a high pressure day is more comfortable on an ebb.
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
8/6 Monday, Day 11
60 degrees, Fog then clearing, SW @ 10 - 15 knots, Swell to 1.5 meter
A funny thing about this day. My plan was to paddle straight across Queen Charlotte Sound to the Kelp Head area and continue south as conditions allowed. Cape Calvert to Cranstown Point is only 5.3 NM and the brown bears that consider Open Bight their "Hood" had concerned me more than that crossing. Then came the 4:00 AM weather forecast calling for winds rising to SE @ 30 knots by afternoon. Hum-m-m-m. By afternoon..........like are we talking early afternoon or late afternoon? What if early afternoon becomes late morning? What if late morning became mid-morning?..........or early morning? The more I thought about this the more I reflected on my recent experiences with currents in the area and about how much I didn't know about the currents of South Passage. Currents bound to or from West Queen Charlotte Sound, Fitz Hugh Sound, Rivers Inlet, Smith Sound and Queen Charlotte Strait all intermingled here someplace. 5.3 NM should take less than 2 hours. Low slack wasn't until about 11:00 AM. How much longer would it take all of that water to start moving in the other direction? What about this manky forecast?
Foggy Morning at Grief Bay
My 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 Point
Penrose 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 blood-sucking insects.
Calvert Island and Fitz Hugh Sound from Fury Island
Grief Bay to Fury Island 13.6 NM
Fury Island to Red Sand Beach
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.
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
Red Sand Beach to Skull Cove
8/8 Wednesday, Day 13
60 degrees, Overcast, SW to 10 knots, seas rippled
I left Red Sand Beach at 6:30 AM which was about 45 minutes into the ebb. I was figuring to reach Slingsby Channel after noon and during the first hour of the flood in order to avoid any weirdness during the outflow. That should put me at Cape Caution around 9:00-ish AM around mid-ebb. Not a great time but the exchange was minimal, only 5.5 feet, the winds should still be light and not that much should be going on there. I was more concerned with Slingsby than with Caution and felt it a good compromise. The SE @ 30 was still being predicted.
I rode the ebb along the shoreline making 4 knots without exerting any effort. Groups of porpoises 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 Porpoises. 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 its 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.
On a scale of 1 - 5 stars I rate Stink Cove 2 stars. It earns 1 star because you can find a flat place to set up a tent and it gets the second star because you can get above the highest of tides but it is the most dismal campsite I have ever stayed at anywhere in Canada. Maybe a sunny day would paint a different picture.
Red Sand Beach to Skull Cove 20.3 NM
Skull Cove to Port Hardy
8/9 Thursday, Day 14
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
Skunk Cove looked a little nicer in the morning light.
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