Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking North Vancouver Island Straits Solo


All night the heavy surf was pounding like cannon fire. However, by the time when my alarm rang at 6:00am, the wind was gone and the surf looked manageable.

To save the time, I resorted to a cold breakfast of fish and rice leftovers, completed with coffee from the thermos filled in the night before. The camp was wet, most likely a drizzle had passed overnight, however the morning was dry and promising. With everything finally packed in the dry bags I had started preparing my kayak for the departure.

Similarly to landing in surf, I wanted to avoid dragging my kayak over ground when departing, and I could not employ the traditional approach of packing up the kayak and then pushing it toward the surf. Instead, I had developed another approach. If launching from a shore with the surf, I would only depart during the rising tide. I would select a launching site covered with sand or round pebbles – no sharp objects. I would then position the empty kayak some distance away from the surf and at a shallow angle to it, estimating that by the time I would finish loading the kayak, the surf should be almost reaching it. The distance could be adjusted while loading, if the kayak seemed to be too close or too far away from the surf. Once the kayak was ready for departure, I would wait for the surf to start lifting the kayak and would push it further and further into water with each lifting wave. Once it was floating, I would wait for the pause between the surf waves, and then jump inside while pushing the kayak beyond the surf zone. Overall, this approach has worked. The amount of water splashed inside was limited. The biggest downside was that I would always be wet on the outside, sometimes up to my waist. However, a combination of water-tight pants, thermal underwear and neoprene socks kept me reasonably dry, except my feet, and warm.

This first time departure was wetter than in the days thereafter. Once I started paddling away from the shore, I had noticed that the kayak was sitting low in water, with its shape slightly distorted. Explaining this by too much water getting in during my departure and by a poor arrangement of the items inside the kayak, I had pressed on, keeping a bit offshore to paddle at an angle to the waves and to avoid strong turbulence close to Malcolm Point. After rounding Malcolm Point, I turned the kayak toward Bere Point letting the waves, now hitting in the stern, push me in the right direction, and ate a quick lunch of granola bars with water. When I started paddling again, I had noticed that some water from the following waves was getting inside the kayak. When I had checked the spray skirt on the back I realized that an inflatable rim, designed to keep the skirt on, had partially deflated. There was not much I could do about it until after reaching the shore, so I pressed on. Forty minutes thereafter, I was already paddling along the shore, looking for a gap in the extensive kelp field to get closer and search for a camp site. After passing through the kelp and locating a potential camping place behind a pebble beach, I had landed through the light surf. Unfortunately, there was no suitable site for the tent, so I left the kayak and walked along the shore until I had found a flat area that was definitely above the high tide.

After returning to my kayak, paddling to the selected spot and unloading the my stuff I had found the reason for the deflated rim and the kayak sitting too low in water: the air valves of the rim and the inflatable floor were open. This was definitely a design or a manufacturing issue: the valves, of the twisting type, could open on their own, with virtually no effort. I had resolved the problem by wrapping a piece of an electrician tape around each valve, after closing it down. This had worked fine, and the same piece of tape would last for up to a week.

After setting up the camp and hanging and spreading my things to dry, I had left to explore the shore between my camp and Malcolm Point that I visited on foot just a day before, but from a different direction.

There were two reasons for this walk. First, I lost my scope a day before, and I suspected it was somewhere near Malcolm Point. The scope was inside a clip-on pouch that had managed to slip from my belt. Second, I hoped to find fresh water. The walk to Malcolm Point along the shore took about 1.5 hours. I found several places with fresh water streaming from an overhang shore, the closest one just a few minutes away from my camp. The walk had also rewarded me with some berries and with this photograph of a driftwood stump, with haircut-like grass growing on its top.

I did find my scope, resting next to a log that I sat on a day before, all wet and fogged up -- likely washed over by the tide. Unfortunately, despite soaking it thereafter in the fresh water and then drying completely, the prisms were still covered with some residue that I could not clean properly.

Upon returning to the camp, I spent almost an hour trying to get the fire going: all the driftwood wood was still wet after the morning drizzle and the fog. With the fire finally up, I had cooked my dinner in the fresh water that tasted sweet after the brackish water of the prior day, and went to bed.

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