Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

Home      About      Galleries      Fine Art Prints      Writing      Equipment      Contact

Kayaking Queen Charlotte Strait Solo


All night the mosquitoes were buzzing outside, sometimes louder than the nearby creek. I was thinking that I was not going to step out until the morning, no matter what. Even if my tent had collapsed, I would be still lying inside, as in a sleeping bag, waiting for the morning wind to blow the mosquitoes away. This night I had noticed first time that my sleeping pad was leaking -- it had partially deflated overnight. From now on it had been a continuous occurrence every night and on a number of occasions I had to top up the air in the pad in a middle of the night. The no-see-ums had congregated in my tent overnight, fortunately in manageable numbers. With the face covered and only a breathing hole left, I had managed to get some sleep. The still unresolved question remained how to pack up in the morning, before the wind picked up.

I woke up at 7:00am. The hostiles were still outside, buzzing and impatiently waiting for their morning meal. Overall, I had managed to finish my breakfast and pack up, although all activities were taking twice as long as on a normal day, frequently interrupted by mosquito attacks.

These mosquitoes were of a reddish color. I had learned over the years that they were several times more ferocious than the normal ones. I had tried to apply some DEED, but this had only made them pause for a split of the second. My DEED was quite a few years old -- maybe it had lost some of its potency? At one point I had changed into my kayaking outfit leaving my still warm jacket next to the tent. Most likely, the waterproof coating on the kayaking clothes was blocking most of my scent: the vast majority of the mosquitoes had not noticed the substitute at the beginning, keeping attacking the jacket that now looked like covered with rust. Unfortunately, they had eventually rediscovered the real meal, me. If it was my choice, I would have renamed this place from Cypress Harbour to Mosquito Harbour!

I had topped off all my water containers and filled in one of my dry bags with around 10 liters of water. Overall, I now had 41.5 liters of water -- enough to last until the end of my trip, if managed carefully and mixed with the sea water for cooking.

The tide was low -- I had to load up my kayak some distance away from my camp, in a muddy field. With all the delays, I had departed at 11:30am, when the tide had already turned to flood. The salmon was still jumping. One of the powerboat dinghies was inside the bay, with two people fishing. I had asked them about the results: several strikes, but no fish yet.

At the harbour entrance I had met a group of kayakers who were heading for the recreational campsite inside. They had arrived to Telegraph Cove a day before and then taken a water taxi to Burdwood Islands, where they camped overnight. I had told them about the powerboats next to the campsite in Cypress Harbour and the ferocious mosquitoes. In return, the kayakers had suggested to stay at the main campsite on Burdwood Islands that they had left vacant this morning. Then we parted.

My original plan was to check out the campsite on the beach under Deep Sea Bluff, recommended in the guidebook for its strategic location. It was overlooking a large area of open water with good potential for seeing and photographing marine wildlife. The guidebook had also warned that not much of the beach would be left at tides above 4.1m. The highest tide today was exactly 4.1m and I hoped that I would still be able to camp there.

2.5 hours later I was in Penphrase Passage, more than half-way to Deep Sea Bluff. The sun was gradually reappearing from the clouds and I had decided to take a short break to apply sunscreen and eat my lunch while floating in the passage. The wind was easterly, pushing me back, while the tidal current was carrying me in the right direction. I had reckoned that they might cancel each other keeping me in the same area. After finishing the lunch I had checked my surroundings and realized that I had drifted backwards a considerable distance. Apparently, the wind had overpowered the current. It took me another fifteen minutes to get back to the position where I had stopped for lunch. I had learned that the better approach would have been finding a quiet bay and floating there while eating the lunch. The opening skies had finally revealed the mountains: if it was only a day earlier! However, the clouds had thickened again by the end of the day.

Soon, I was reaching the end of Penphrase Passage and could see the peninsula with high hills and cliffs, including what I perceived to be Deep Sea Bluff. After switching on my GPS and activating the GOTO function, I had followed the GPS directions to the bluff, still around 4 kilometers away. Once again, I had confirmed that the GOTO function was unreliable, at least in a bouncing kayak: the GPS arrow was pointing in a direction at least 15 degree away from what I suspected Deep Sea Bluff was. Never the less, I had followed the GPS directions, reached the shore in a wrong place and then had to paddle around a kilometer to the right location -- to the place that I had correctly identified visually, a while ago. From that moment on I had decided to disregard the GOTO function arrow and instead use the charts downloaded into the GPS to see where I was and where I needed to go. The arrow function might still be useful for finding a general direction, but not more than that. It could be more useful on land, if a stable horizontal surface was readily available. In case of kayaking within the sight of the shore, I had found the GPS charts much more productive for finding the directions.

When I had finally reached the bluff and the campsite below, on the beach, I could see that not much of the beach was left, and the tide was still rising. Possibly, around three meters of the beach would still survive the tide. However, a wake of a passing-by boat, or wind-induced waves, could have turned this piece of beach into a wet trap. I might still have taken my chances, but a large colony of gulls on the rocks next to the site was both smelly and polluting the water. So, I had decided to follow the advice of the kayakers whom I met in the morning and camp on the main Burdwood Islands campsite. But first, I had stretched my legs for a couple of minutes and took a few pictures.


It took me about an hour to cross Tribune Channel to Burdwood Islands. The crossing was less than pleasant, thanks to the steady wind and waves on the beam, requiring me to paddle primarily on one side. I could already see the place where the campsite was, when I had noticed a boat nearby.  When I got closer, I had observed more boats and then finally the bay in front of the campsite had opened up to my view. It looked like a circus on water: at least half a dozen of boats anchored in the bay, connected by ferry lines between them and nearby little inlets. Kids in kayaks were moving back in forth all around the bay, holding the lines. A couple of motorized dingies were adding even more noise to the already buzzing harbour.

The campsite itself was also occupied: two large tents, one for sleeping and another one for cooking and dining. Nobody was around: it looked like their owners were out boating. Although enough empty space was still available, I did not feel comfortable setting a camp without talking first to the people already camping there. Plus, I was not particularly fond of crowded and noisy places. As it was still two hours before the sunset, I had decided to check a couple of alternative campsites on other islands, described in the guidebook. If unsuccessful, I would come back to this place and stay for the night.

The guidebook had described a "honeymoon" campsite, on another island: small and private. I had entered its coordinates into my GPS and following the directions soon found the place. It was not even on an island, but on a  little islet, about 20x20 meters, completely separated from a nearby island at the present high tide. The guidebook had described a beach providing an easy access to the site. Most likely, the beach was only above the water at lower tide. Presently, the islet had no easy landing place and was cut off from any other land. Not the best place to camp, except perhaps for a honeymoon couple not wanting any interruptions, happy to be confined to the islet.
I was running out of time, as the sunset was nearing and I had to find a place to camp within the next 30 minutes or so. My next chance was Central Burnwood Island. After entering the campsite coordinates into my GPS I had followed its directions for a while, to no success. Forgetting my earlier promise, I was using again the GOTO function with the arrow, and it had led me for a couple of rounds around a wrong island. At the end, I had switched to the map view, and finally found the right island, and the tiny patch of beach that, according to the guidebook, was a landing area with access to undeveloped campsites up on the shore. I had checked the area up the shore: the access from the beach was difficult and I saw no signs of campsites or camping in that was essentially a logged area. Although it was possible to clear a flat patch from the fallen branches and other debris and pitch a tent, I saw no reason for doing so, as the beach had provided enough flat space for my small tent. The high tide at this time was leaving a significant portion of the beach dry, the area looked comfortable enough. It was already 8:00pm and I had immediately settled in, just in time for the sunset.

Cooked pasta, two portions -- one for tonight and another one for the next day. Had it with cheese, followed by two cups of tea to compensate my loss of liquids during the long and intense paddling day. Two crows had passed by. One settled in on a tree near my camp, while another flew deep into the island interior. The crow near me kept calling its partner, with no avail. After a while, I got tired of this and had decided to respond. For a few minutes we had talked crow. I did not know what I was saying, but the crow was responding. Then, after making these coarse sounds, I had almost lost my voice and had to shut up. The crow had tried to reengage me several times and then gave up and flew away. In a moment I could hear it talking to the partner deep inside the island, most likely complaining about that rude fellow on the shore. It was already 10:00pm when I went to bed.

< Previous: Day 16 -- To Cypress Harbour Table of Contents
Next: Day 18 -- Central Burdwood Island >

Copyright 2011 Mikhail Belikov. All rights reserved.

All text and photographs appearing on this site are the property of Mikhail Belikov. They are protected by the copyright laws and are not to be copied, downloaded or reproduced in any way without the written permission of Mikhail Belikov.