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Kayaking North Vancouver Island Straits Solo

DAY 3:  TO

The alarm rang at 8:00am. With the tide turning only in the second half of the day, an early departure did not make much sense. Thanks to the light wind, the fog was almost gone, and this was definitely a good day for crossing the strait to Malcolm Island. After a breakfast, I started getting ready for the crossing.

This was my first attempt to pack the kayak properly and establish a routine to follow, and it took more time than I expected, At the end, and after a number of later refinements, I had developed a reasonably good approach described below.

When loaded up, this inflatable kayak is too fragile to lift up and move, and its skin too delicate to drag over any surface except perhaps the grass or the sand. The only feasible approach is to keep the kayak in water while loading/unloading, except in case of launching through the surf (described later). The kayak, with the deck removed, has to be partially deflated, with just enough air left to keep it afloat when fully loaded. Then I lower it in the water and stuff up with the dry bags, leaving as little empty space as possible. I squeeze water bottles in the openings left between the dry bags, the floor and the sides. After the kayak is almost fully packed, I install the deck, inflate the floor and the sides, and attach the deck bags and other deck-based equipment.

I had fully packed the kayak by 2:00pm and departed shortly thereafter. The plan for the day was crossing Broughton Strait to Malcolm Island, round its west point and camp on the island’s north-western shore, a trip of no more than seven nautical miles. Crossing the Broughton Strait took less than an hour, and the traffic was light, mostly fishing and sail boats. The wind was gentle and the sea almost calm, while the tide was pushing me in the right direction. After rounding the picturesque Pulteney Point with the lighthouse (below), I had started feeling the gentle swells of the ocean.

In less than an hour thereafter I was paddling along the western shore, navigating between the shoreline and expansive kelp fields.

Paddling in the narrow strait between the kelp and the shore is often the safest route for a kayaker. Kelp fields calm down the sea and usually keep the motorboat traffic away from the shore. The downside is the shallows and the rocks, especially dangerous in high swell. However, I have found that with a careful lookout these obstacles can be avoided.

After paddling for another hour, I had located a suitable landing site with a flat pebble beach and enough space for a camp. This was my first attempt of landing through the surf. Although I had read a good deal about various approaches, they were all for rigid kayaks with the bottoms that could take some beating. My preference was to save the delicate fabric on the bottom of my inflatable kayak from abrasion. Therefore beaching the kayak through this surf  head-on was not an option.

I had instead opted for a “parallel parking” approach: getting as close to the shore as possible, turning the kayak almost parallel to the shore and then letting the surf deposit it on shore. Then I quickly jumped out and, with help of the coming surf that was lifting the kayak wave after wave, moved it up the shore, out of reach for big waves.

I have refined this technique thereafter. I would stop a few boat lengths away from the surf line and unlock the spray skirt while waiting for the next wave. Then I would slowly paddle to the shore with the coming wave, at a shallow angle, and let the waive deposit me in the surf zone. Then I would jump out of kayak before the next waive arrived and gently push it further on shore with each coming wave.

The landing place was suitable for a camp. There was an almost dry small pond just a few steps away from the high tide zone, and I could see a tiny creek entering the pond through the bushes. Encouraged by these signs of fresh water, I had decided to stay there, removed the deck bags from the kayak and paddled out to catch some fish, as the sunset was still a couple of hours away. The fishing was successful, but by the time I came back it was too late to cook it for dinner, so I just cleaned my catch leaving it for the next day lunch.

My first night on Malcolm Island had passed uninterrupted, accompanied by the hissing sound of the surf.

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