Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking Queen Charlotte Strait Solo


After several days of non-stop travel, I wanted to have a day of rest, allocating some time to planning the next leg of my journey. With all the mosquitoes and no-see-ums, Popplewell Point Bay was not a viable option and I had decided to press on. My plan was to take Sutlej Channel and paddle along the north shore of North Broughton Island, staying for a night in Catwright Bay. This was a large bay with a tidal area and therefore likely flat spots big enough for a tent.  It also had a fresh water creek where I could replenish my water reserves.

Before departure, I had checked the forest in the morning: it was full of relatively young trees. Huge stumps were the only reminders of  the giants that used to dominate the area.

Someone had told me that the horizontal cuts, like the ones visible high up on this stump, were a clear indication that the area was likely logged early in the 20th century, before the chain saws became common. They were cut for the boards that the loggers inserted to stay on while cutting down the tree.

My departure was at rising but still low tide. I had to portage my stuff a long distance, around the fallen trees in the bay, and this delayed me significantly.


Finally, I was paddling north in Wells Passage, with the following wind and the tide. Snow-peaked mountains piercing through the clouds were adding more beauty to already strikingly attractive landscape.

Sometime along the way, I saw white caps, in a place where I did not not expect any. It took me a moment to realize that this was a pod of dolphins moving in the passage. A couple of times they had passed relatively close to my kayak. I got my camera ready and let the wind and the tide to slowly carry me through the passage. The dolphins had again passed not far off and I took some pictures. Then nothing was happening for a while and just when I had put my camera away and was ready to leave, the dolphins had shown up again. Camera out, pictures taken, the dolphins gone. Then a long wait, and just when I packed up my camera and was ready to paddle, the dolphins would appear again. This had repeated a few times. It was getting close to the slack tide and I had again started paddling. Then the pod had suddenly surrounded my kayak, on all sides, with a couple of dolphins even trying to ride my bow wave. It all had ended in a matter of seconds, but I had managed to capture an image of a dolphin jumping in front of me.


I continued paddling along the passage and soon had reached Atkins Island at Sutlej Channel entrance. I could see that the tide had already turned and was now working against me. With a considerable effort, I got through the narrow Patrick Passage, between Atkins and Kinnaird Islands. Seeing no reason to labor against the tide, I had decided to check out Sullivan Bay, just after Atkins Island in Sutlej Channel, for a campsite. Unfortunately, the bay was taken by a large marina, not shown on the official chart but, as I had immediately remembered, described in the guidebook.

So I had to press on. The paddling against the tide was quite tiring. By the time I was approaching Cartwright Bay, I was completely worn off and needed the rest. To my surprise, I saw a fish farm building floating in the bay, not shown on the charts or mentioned in the guidebook. I doubted that I had any energy left to continue fighting against the tide to the next possible campsite, at least a few kilometers away, so I took my chances and asked the people at the fish farm if they would mind me camping on the shore. They had no objections. They had also confirmed that this was a relatively new installation in the bay, likely after the guidebook was published. It also seemed to me that the farm itself was somewhere else, while the bay was a living quarter, protected from the wind and with a convenient supply of fresh water, pumped to the building from the creek via a rubber hose.

The tide was high and I had landed well inside the creek. After a brief search I had located a small flat grassy spot at the end of the tidal area, wet but big enough for my tent. With the tent pitched and the dinner cooked and eaten, I was ready to start planning the next leg of my journey. Then the mosquitoes had shown up in considerable numbers. I had to retreat inside my tent. Fortunately, no-see-ums, although present in small numbers, did not bug me, and I had managed to review the guidebook and the charts for the surrounding area. The guidebook had recommended to visit Mackenzie Sound, a long bay with nice views of the snow-capped mountains. I had several extra days in reserve, saved by not going to Cape Sutil and by not resting even for a day after camping at Walker-Deserters Group. Although I would have to backtrack my steps and pass again through Patrick Passage, essentially losing a day, plus another day for visiting the sound, I felt that an opportunity to see and photograph such a scenery would deserve a couple of days of my time. The only concern was the present cloud cover and the fog: if it continued like this, the mountains and even the nearby hills would not be visible. Still, I had decided to give it a try and fell asleep under a buzzing noise of mosquitoes outside the tent.

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