Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking North Vancouver Island Straits Solo


The Seattle kayakers had packed up and left in the morning. I then relocated my camp to one of the now empty sites, with a partial view of the ocean. I got excited the day before by the stories of the whales in Queen Charlotte Strait and decided to go for a half-a-day paddle to White Cliff Islets in a hope to see them myself.

It took me around forty five minutes to reach Bold Head at the end of Swanson Island, before heading to the open sea to White Cliff Islets, already clearly visible.

The sea was becoming more and more unsettling, with the wind and the waves building up. After a while, I felt it was too risky for me to continue toward White Cliff Islets, and I had stopped in the open sea. I floated there for a while, watching large whales surfacing a great distance away, birds in feeding frenzy, in the areas where the whales were hunting for fish, and the orcas passing by, too far for a good picture.

Trying to take pictures from a kayak in the building seas was difficult. The kayak was bouncing around; I had a hard time alternating between grabbing the shots and paddling to keep the kayak head on to the waves. The situation had been getting worse and after a while I called it a quit.

Reaching Bold Head was not difficult, as the wind and the waves were pushing me in the right direction. Once I entered Blackfish Sound, the wind had lightened and the waves subsided. I had decided to raise the Wind Paddle -- the sail that I had taken with me on this trip, but had not had an opportunity to try yet. The next hour I had sailed with the wind to my stern, making close to three knots, my normal cruising speed under paddle. Sailing was not difficult, however using my kayaking paddle for steering required frequent actions. It was further complicated by the need to keep the sail lines in my hands, for a quick release in case of an emergency. Under sail, the motion of the kayak had changed: it became more rough and jerky. My biggest concern was that the kayak could turn broadside to the wind and the waves, something I had managed to avoid. Overall, my test of the sail was successful. However, I would avoid using this sail in stronger winds or offshore, as I felt that it made the kayak much less controllable than when paddling.

In an hour, I had returned to Flower Island. I had left my kayak in a small tidal bay and went onshore to cook my lunch and to prepare for an afternoon fishing trip.

Keeping the kayak afloat, away from sharp rocks and barnacles, had proved to be a challenge likely not worth the effort: I would have been better off by unloading it and placing onshore.

After finishing the lunch, I went fishing, but did not catch anything. Disappointed that I had returned empty-handed while my food supplies were running low, I made a dish of rice adding some instant noodle soup for taste. Upon finishing my dinner, I had filled the thermos with coffee for the next morning and started packing up to prepare for the tomorrow departure. Then I heard loud breaths of whales. I had turned around and saw two humpback whales, just a short distance from the shore. I had grabbed my camera and taken a number of pictures, before the whales disappeared.

On the spot, I had decided to stay on the island for another day, hoping to catch more action tomorrow. After enjoying an evening lighted up by the full moon, I went to bed full of anticipation for the day to come.

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