Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking Queen Charlotte Strait Solo


The alarm woke me up at 3:30am. I did not sleep well, keeping listening for a potential visitor. Fortunately, the bear did not show up. When I stepped outside, I could see that the tide was ebbing fast. My yesterday fear that I would get stuck in the dry bay was materializing. While I was portaging my stuff over an expanding tidal zone the bay had dried up, except for a shallow stream in the middle. When I put my kayak on water, the stream had already developed impassable rapids.

I had walked all way along the stream to the end of the dry zone, to check if there was a place from which I could launch the kayak. There was nothing, except launching on the ocean side, a few hundred meters away and with the surf. The portaging would have consumed more time than waiting until the water came back to my departure area.

This was disappointing, but I saw no other option but to wait for the tide returning in two hours, according to the tide tables.

While waiting, I had placed the kayak in a small pool connected to the stream, so far deep enough to keep the fully loaded kayak afloat.

The tide had finally come at 9:15am, flooding the stream soon thereafter. I had immediately departed.

Two precious hours of the quiet morning time were lost, but the ocean was still calm. I was paddling along the coast, when I saw a strange-looking kayak, with a short mast, coming in my direction. Soon, it was close enough and I had changed my course to meet the paddler.

This was an inflatable kayak with large dry bags placed vertically behind the kayaker. The mast, about 1.5 meter tall, held a microphone on the top and a camera much lower. Mark, the sole paddler in the kayak, was on a six-month journey, on his way to Prince Rupert, then planning a bushwalk through the forest. Talking about the adventurous spirits! He was video and audio recording his trip, with the plan to setup a website once he was back to civilization, and post his adventures there. After sharing with Mark the camping options along the shore that I was aware of, we parted.


In the hour thereafter the wind and the waves had picked up. Again, I could not fight the weather hitting me on the broad reach course and had to urgently seek a shelter. The best available option was a bay just east of Aylam Point. I had no trouble running to the bay with the following wind and the waves. Soon, I was under protection of Aylam Point: virtually no wind and only light waves close to the shore. The only confirmation of the turmoil outside was the white-cap covered sea, as long as one could see.

The bay was a vast tidal area chocked with the driftwood. However, I could not find any flat spot suitable for my tent, even after searching close to an hour and checking everything within the reasonable distance from the water edge, from the tree line to the rocky outcrops.


Finally, I had located a "raft": three logs deposited on the rocky shore, above the tide line. The central log was almost flat, allowing for comfortable sleeping. The raft was surrounded on north and east sides by uninviting vertical rocky walls, capped with the forest. The ocean was on the south side, separated by several driftwood logs, and piles of driftwood were to the west.
As always, when camping in or close to the tidal zone, with no obvious way out, I had located an escape route, in case the sea would build up or anything else would force me to urgently leave the camp.  It was around 20 meters long, requiring to walk on several interconnected driftwood logs that led to an opening in the bushes on the shore, likely an animal trail. I had no illusions: during the storms with the westerly winds, the bay would be the hell on earth. However, with the present south-west wind, the bay was well protected, and the escape route was giving me a reliable way out before the situation deteriorated. Satisfied, I had settled in this area and rested my kayak behind the raft, on a flat rocky outcrop.

I had then pitched the tent atop of the raft, placing it on a tarp and attaching to the logs with screws.

I then cooked my dinner, boiling extra water to refill my flask, and went to bed after 10:00pm. 
Some time into the night I had started having dreams that I was surrounded by water, splashing all over me. Then something had forced me to wake up. I could clearly hear the splashing water, next to my tent. Before pitching the tent, I had checked the tide line at the high tide in the afternoon -- it was well below my camp, so I could not believe that the ocean was moving on my camp. Still, to be sure, I put on my headlamp and stepped outside. The first things that I saw were my water bottles floating around me. This tide was much higher than the previous one, and the water kept rising. Quickly, I had collected all my stuff, left on the ground next to the raft, and moved it on the rocky outcrop, above the level of my tent. Then, as the water was still rising and already reaching the bottom of the raft, I had removed everything from the tent, also placing it on higher grounds. By that time it was 12:30am. I had checked the tide table: the high tide was one hour away, at 1:30am.

I was reluctant to remove my tent - this was more a mental barrier than anything else, meaning that I had to break my camp completely. However, the raft was already partially submerged, with the water splashing through the joints and reaching my tarp. Unhitching the tent took just a minute: the only thing that I had to do was to remove the loops from the screw heads. Then I waited. A mink had passed by, likely following its own trail from a log to a log. It was definitely surprised to see a stranger, especially at such a late hour. Meanwhile, the water had stopped rising and I realized that I could have left the tent standing. At 1:30am I pitched the tent again, and went to bed.

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