Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking North Vancouver Island Straits Solo


I had just a bit more than one hour of sleep -- the previous day and the night were spent packing and taking care of the pre-departure chores at home. It was an early morning departure from the bus depot in Victoria and then nine hours on the road, including waiting for and changing the buses twice. I had arrived to Port McNeill at mid-afternoon and then spent about an hour portaging all the bags to the municipal boat launch.

Then the fun had started. No matter how hard I tried, I could not fit as much as I hoped inside the kayak, even after stuffing the 30-liter deck bag full. Finally, after a couple of hours of fruitless attempts, I had no choice but to place about 50 liters of leftovers in a large dry bag and attach it to the kayak stern. Another issue was that two newly acquired folding water canisters started leaking along the folds and the handles as soon as I filled them with fresh water. I had to leave them behind. My water carrying capacity had immediately dropped from 30+ to 9 liters, and I had to get several water bottles from a nearby store to make sure that I had at least 18 liters, a one-week water supply, with me. Finding the water along the way had become an on-going priority.

It was just an hour and half before the sunset; I was ready to go. The plan was to paddle for a few nautical miles along the shore north of Port McNeill, until finding an acceptable campsite, hopefully close to the narrowest part of Broughton Strait that was separating Vancouver and Malcolm Islands.  After about one hour of paddling, I had found a small pebble beach and landed there.

There was not much space even for my small one-person tent -- just barely enough to squeeze it between two fallen trees on the beach, a notch below the high tide mark. Bear scat in several places, fortunately quite old, reminded me to store the food away from the tent at night. When the night had fallen, I could clearly hear breaths of orcas that had created an unforgettable background. An accidental glimpse toward the beach, with my head lamp on, illuminated a pair of bright eyes, fortunately small and close to the ground. The animal -- a mink -- must have been as fascinated by the bright light as I was by its bright eyes and we observed each other for a minute or so.  Then I decided to get my camera from the tent, but by the time I had returned the mink was gone. Another reminder -- always keep the camera close by! I fell asleep under the spell of orca breaths that were unfortunately completely overpowered by the rumble of boat engines later at night.

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