Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking North Vancouver Island Straits Solo


The alarm rang at 6:00am. I had checked the conditions outside – everything was packed up with fog. From my observations during the previous two days, I knew that the fog would likely dissipate later in the day, at least in the area where I had camped. However, my window for crossing Cormorant Channel during the slack tide was about an hour, starting at 12:30pm. If the fog were not gone by then, I would have to abandon the attempt. I was getting tired of staying in the same area, and decided to take my chances.

This time I had to depart at the falling tide, but with virtually no surf in the morning, this was not difficult. Paddling in heavy fog, I kept as close to the shore as possible to avoid the boat traffic, frequently taking advantage of the channels between the shore and the kelp fields, navigable even during the low tide.

I saw some marine wildlife, including birds, a sea lion and a curious seal that had cautiously followed me for some time, keeping its distance.

I had reached Cormorant Channel by 12:30pm, in time for crossing at slack tide. However, the fog was obscuring the channel – I could not see more than 100m away, too dangerous for crossing, considering the motorboat traffic. I had decided to wait and placed my kayak inside a kelp field. I had waited for 45 minutes while having a quick lunch of granola bars and water. Although the fog was getting a bit thinner, I knew that I should wait no longer: the tide had already turned and was picking up speed. I had to resort to my plan B: turn west and continue rounding Malcolm Island for another four nautical miles until I could reach an unpopulated area on its southern shore and make a camp there. Paddling against an accelerating tidal current took another two hours. On my way, first time during this trip, I saw two kayakers – they were staying in one of the houses on the island and enjoying a day ride.

While paddling to my intended campsite, I tried to hug the shore in places with heavy fog and cut across the bays if I could see the opposite side. However, on one occasion, while taking a shortcut across Mitchell Bay, the fog had closed in and I found myself surrounded by the milky substance. Fortunately, I remembered my compass bearing and I had pressed on relying only on the compass for assistance. I had to keep my eyes on the compass all the time: even a brief distraction was resulting in paddling in circles.

I had finally reached an unpopulated area with a nice cobble beach where I could safely unload my kayak. After leaving the deck bags onshore, I went fishing and in one hour caught enough to last for two meals. Established the camp, smoked the fish and had it with mashed potatoes for an early dinner. After a disappointing morning, everything looked better again. Walked around in the surrounding forest, helped myself to some wild berries and then started packing up for tomorrow. It was still the daylight when I first heard and then saw an orca passing by.

Then a mink walked along the shore, right in front of me, just a couple of meters away, completely uninterested in my presence. Finally, the sun started setting down. This was the time to call it a day.

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