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Kayaking North Vancouver Island Straits Solo


I had finished my breakfast and checked the forecast: light to moderate winds in the morning with a build up to 20 knots in the afternoon. This was typical for Queen Charlotte Strait in summer: quiet mornings followed by windy afternoons with a corresponding built up in seas. I felt that I could manage this type of weather, however the conditions could worsen during the day – it was an open ocean after all. So, I packed a few days worth of water and food, and other emergency stuff, in case that I would not be able to return to my campsite that night and needed to camp somewhere else.

I headed north, from an island to an island, from an islet to an islet, exploring and photographing the area.

There were many sea birds, on rocky outcrops and kelp beds.

I also saw harbour seals, but they did not like the stranger passing by in a kayak and were giving me a wide berth.

Two hours later, I was on the other side of Arrow Passage, two nautical miles north from my camp. I was hoping to continue further north, but the seas had started building up and it was wise to head back. When it was especially rough, I was hiding from the waves behind numerous islands and islets.

I had a quick lunch and rest in a shade of an island while enjoying a company of a resident bald eagle.

Once back in the open, I could see that the ocean was getting rougher. I reached the next island and fell under the protection of its windward shore. I felt that I could recognize my island among numerous islands in front of me, but to be sure I switched on the GPS, selecting my camp location and activating the GOTO function that would display an arrow pointing in the right direction and showing the distance to the destination.

To my surprise, the GPS had pointed me in the opposite direction, although the distance reading was about right, around one nautical mile. A bit confused, I still decided to trust the GPS, turned around and paddled toward the island the GPS was pointing to. When I reached it, I could not see the cove entrance: I might have missed it heading too far east along the island shore. I did not want to paddle back, against the sea that was getting rougher every minute, and decided to round the east side of the island hiding behind it from the waves, and then land in the small protected bay that I had discovered yesterday. To my surprise, I could not find that bay either, even after almost circumnavigating the island, against the large waves at the end. Then I had noticed that the GPS distance reading was telling me that I was getting closer to my camp every time when I paddled in the direction opposite to what my GPS was suggesting. Then it hit me that this had something to do with how I positioned the GPS. It was lying flat on my spray skirt, with the safety cord tied up to the deck lashing in front of me. This was the only way to safely attach the GPS, and it was therefore positioned upside down. Apparently, this confused the GPS and it kept pointing me in the opposite direction.

As soon as I had realized the problem, everything started making sense. I had soon reached my island, trying to paddle straight against the waves whenever possible to avoid being flipped over. The cove entrance was much calmer than the surrounding areas, thanks to the shade of the island in front of it and the kelp fields.

I was back to my camp by 5:30pm and soon noticed two kayakers entering the cove. Same as me, they were also choosing the campsites among listed in John Kimantas’ Wild Coast guidebooks and planned to camp on the island. I had showed them the forest campsite accessible from the bay nearby. They liked it and soon left the cove heading for the south-east bay.

This was the downside of relying on the immensely useful and popular guidebooks: everyone seemed to have them and even in a middle of nowhere, people descended on the same location because it was described in the guidebook. Starting early and getting to the campsite before the crowd seemed to be the only feasible approach in July-August, especially in popular areas or if only few camping options were listed in the guidebook. However, arriving early was not always feasible. It all depended of the weather and the tides, and an adverse tide for me might be a favorable tide for someone else coming from a different direction. So, the best approach seemed to be trying to arrive early, but always having plan B -- an alternative location if the preferred one was taken.

As agreed, the two kayakers visited me later in the evening for a quick chat. They told me that they saw me moving on the shore while they were entering the cove, decided that I must be a bear and were eager to take a closer look. I was glad that I was paddling in the 21st century, when travelers were carrying photo cameras, not rifles! The kayakers had also told me that they saw a raccoon or two near their forest campsite – maybe the scat that I had found earlier was theirs?

Despite the remote location, I got a mobile connection and had managed to send a couple of emails before going to bed.

This island had marked my northernmost destination during this trip: from now on I was heading back to my starting point, with several stops along the way. My next destination was Maud Island, near the famous abandoned First Nations village on Village Island that I was planning to visit. Although the guidebook mentioned no campsites in that area, I had located a couple of potential sites on the map and hoped that one of them would be suitable for me for one night. After all, I only had a one-person tent with a footprint so little that it could be placed almost anywhere, as long as a small flat ground patch was available.

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