Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking North Vancouver Island Straits Solo


Woke up at 5:30am to depart on time. While packing the kayak, I had found that the dry bag with the fresh water was leaking along the seam. It was too late to replace the bag, so I placed it leak up in the kayak, hoping that by the time I reach my next destination most of the water would still be there. Later I have learned that transparent dry bags, like the one that I used, were in general less reliable at seams than the standard ones.

I departed at 9:30am. It was still an hour before the turn of the tide, but the water was already almost slack. 

After my encounter with the bald eagles yesterday, I had decided to try offering them a fish head in the same area, letting it float in front of me while keeping my camera ready. Unfortunately, the head had immediately sunk. Nice idea, bad implementation!

My further path took me along the northern shore of Hanson Island. Islands and islets, some still covered with patches of fog, presented pleasant views along the way.

After two hours of paddling, I had reached Burnt Point on the eastern shore of Hanson Island. This was the place where I had to turn north and cross Blackney Passage, well known for the fast tidal currents, up to five knots, and also a busy shipping channel. I did not worry too much about the currents: thanks to my early departure, before the turn of the tide, the current, although already flowing, was still light. My major concern was the ship traffic, especially the cruise ships. I stopped in a kelp field for a quick lunch and switched the VHF radio on to monitor the channels for any reports of the coming ships. Fifteen minutes later I was ready to cross. I carefully searched the horizon: only small motorboats were present. Turning north, I rushed across the channel heading toward Whitebeach Passage that would lead me to my next camping site. 

The crossing was smooth. However, once I entered the passage I was carried forward by a powerful current flowing like a river.

It was so strong that at some point, when I wanted to turn back and take a picture of a sign on the First Nations side of the passage, I could not paddle against the current. Thanks to my timing, the flow was in the right direction. The only thing left to do was to relax and let it carry me toward my destination, while looking for interesting photo opportunities, like these rocks resembling a Protoceratops head.

Toward the end of the passage, I saw two kayakers cutting across in the direction of my intended campsite. I had started worrying that the campsite would be taken. Contrary to my expectations, the kayakers had turned and headed toward me. They turned out to be a wildlife patrol. After chatting for a few minutes about the wildlife in the area, they answered my questions and shared with me brochures and wildlife viewing ideas. Then we had parted.

Short time thereafter I had reached the Mound Island campsite located in a picturesque place, with a beach of broken shells, facing a narrow passage. Several sail and power boats were anchored nearby. However, they were invisible from the campsite and if it were not for the barking dog, I would not have known that someone was there. There was some boat traffic through the shallow passage in front of the site, mostly fishing and pleasure motorboats moving at very slow speed.

This was a large group site. My tent looked tiny compared to the huge frame of the group kitchen. An outhouse was some distance away, inside the forest.

After hanging my things to dry, and the solar panel to charge the batteries, I cooked my combined lunch and dinner. I was happy that I had arrived early: two groups had passed by since then, but seeing my tent they had pressed on.

The unpleasant discovery was that the leaking dry bag filled with the fresh water at the previous location was only one third full. Apparently, the water had escaped through the leak, but also through the rolled top. After finishing the lunch I had no choice but to pick another dry bag and head along the southern shore looking for any source of fresh water. It was a hot day. Twenty minutes later, after climbing up and down the boulders and navigating the thick forest, the fading trail that I was following had disappeared. With no fresh water in sight, I had no choice but to return to my camp and try again, this time along the northern shore.   

A well-used trail had led me to the second campsite, just a few hundred meters away, with the steep stairs leading up to it from the shore. This campsite was not as convenient or attractive as mine was, but a campsite never the less. Unfortunately, the north shore trail had also disappeared shortly thereafter. Disappointed and sweating from the exhaustion after climbing up and down on such a hot day, I had returned empty-handed.

My next destination was Sedge Islands in Queen Charlotte Strait, open to the weather and with likely no fresh water as well. Although I had enough water to last for a week, a prospect of sitting on a small island during a long storm and counting every drop of water did not sound very attractive. I did not want to rely on civilization during this trip. However, I saw no alternative but to stop at one of the resorts along the way and fill in a sturdy dry bag with the fresh water there. That was unless I could find a creek on one of the islands that I would be passing by.

After taking a seawater bath and warming up under the setting sun, I had finished my dinner and started packing up for the next day. It was completely dark when I had finished. I was wearing my headlamp and when I had turned my head away from the shore, the light reflected from two large bright eyes, just a few meters from me, at the forest edge. After a moment of shock I had realized that it was a deer checking the campsite for food leftovers. Most likely, this was its daily routine: with the campsite heavily occupied in July-August, there were always some treats to discover. Went to bed at 11:00pm, still excited about this sudden encounter.

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