Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking Queen Charlotte Strait Solo


The alarm was set for 5:00am, but I switched it off to get a bit more sleep and woke up at 6:00am. Cooked oatmeal and coffee, packed up my dry bags and departed by 10:00am. On my way, I photographed a colony of gulls on a rock close to my camp.

It was quiet: no wind, smooth water, beautiful conditions to travel.

I took the passage between Insect and Baker Islands, with frequent stops to photograph the area.

Time flew fast: I had realized that, if I wanted to get through Arrow Passage before the tide turned at 1:00pm, I would have to skip on a detailed exploration of Fox Group. So, I had only touched it and paddled between the outer islands. I liked Fox Group: a pretty cluster of islands, something to enjoy exploring next time.


It was time to set my course for Arrow Passage. Unexpectedly, finding it had presented a challenge. I was in the place with several passages around me. However, only one was visible, quite wide, too wide to be Arrow Passage -- a long and narrow water way, as shown on the chart. It was also a bit more south than I expected. After checking the chart and the compass, I had selected the course to paddle for reaching Arrow Passage and then got underway. 30 minutes later, I had started having doubts. I had switched on my GPS, but its chart was not of much help. It was telling me that I was at the crossroad with several passages leading in various directions -- this much I already knew. As I had learned over my trip, the GPS was not very good in giving precise direction when used on a kayak. Then it struck me that, while selecting my course on the chart, I used only a tiny portion of the compass rose (the rest was folded away), and this was the true course rose, not the inner, magnetic course rose. When I had adjusted my compass readings for the magnetic declination of about 20 degree east, it was clear that the passage I had ignored earlier was very likely Arrow Passage. I had changed my paddling direction and soon reached its entrance. Switched on my GPS to confirm that I was in the right spot: indeed, this time I could clearly see it on the chart.

Entered the passage at 1:00pm. While in the passage, faced the head winds and the chop, a bit unpleasant and slowing down, and a sign that the situation out in the open was unsettled. It took me almost an hour to reach Hudson Island, closer to the end of the passage. The wind was picking up as I was getting closer to the open waters at the passage end, and I could also see the build up of the waves ahead. I had decided to take the inner route seeking shelter from the weather in Spiller Passage, behind Hudson Island.  I could see a maze of islands in front of me; somewhere among them was Angular Island with the intended campsite.

After switching on the GPS, I had followed its chart to Angular Island, staying on the windward side of the islands along the way. In 30 minutes I had located the campsite. It was a pretty and interesting place on a peninsula, almost an island at high tide, surrounded by bays on three sides and connected to the rest of Angular Island by an isthmus, likely overflown at leap tides.

It seemed that this place had been popular among kayakers. One tent site had been prepared, with the gravel leveled, ready for pitching the tent, another flat place was also available on a rocky outcrop nearby, and a third tent could be placed next to the first one, if necessary. A large log was positioned for sitting, with two fireplaces with wind barriers nearby.  I had placed my camping gear on the site, leaving pitching the tent for later, and hung the solar panel out to charge the almost depleted camera battery. Unfortunately, the panel was not charging, although the sun was shining -- something was likely wrong with the panel. On a positive side, I had switched on my mobile phone and got a connection! While cooking a late lunch/early dinner of rice with the canned ham, and the tea, I had sent an OK email, the first one since leaving the Port Hardy area, and replied to the most urgent emails. With enough rice left for the breakfast and the thermos filled with the morning coffee, I was done with the most time consuming chores and was ready to photograph the area.

While portaging my stuff from the shore to the campsite, I had noticed a flock of small shore birds, likely Least Sandpipers. They were so well camouflaged when feeding on the shore in the tidal zone that several times I would have walked through them if they did not take off at my approach, just meters away.

I had taken a number of pictures with the telephoto lens, then napped for an hour or so, in the open under the warming sun. By 6:00pm it was getting cold, so I pitched the tent and prepared the camp for the night.

Then I saw the flock again, now feeding in a different area. I had moved very close, within 10-15 meters or so, sat down on a rock and started taking pictures with the telephoto lens. I was quiet and within a short period of time the birds had come very close, feeding all around me, quite often so close, within a couple of meters, that I could not focus the lens.  When this was happening, I would sit silently enjoying the precious moments, while blaming myself for not putting a shorter focal length lens in the pocket when leaving the camp.

The fog had moved in by 8:00pm and, after taking several pictures of the fog, I had retired to the tent. It was time to empty my Compact Flash cards, around 40GB, uploading the images into two portable hard drives. I had several sets of rechargeable AA batteries, fully charged before the trip. As I feared, after 20 days all of them save for one set had been dead. With the remaining set I had managed to power up my portable hard drives and upload all pictures. Unless the solar panel started charging, and soon, I would be on a tight ration. Still, I had enough AA alkaline batteries to power my GPS and headlamp until the end of the trip, with some in reserve. Plus, I had brought with me a hand cranker with a car adapter, and I could use it to charge the camera batteries and the mobile phone in a desperate situation. And the situation would have to be desperate -- I had tried charging the batteries and while it worked, I doubted I would have had enough patience and energy to crank it for more than a few minutes.

Went to bed at close to 11:00pm. My next destination was White Cliffs Islets, a group of small rocky islets around 10 km south. According to the guidebook, the east islet, the biggest one, had points of safe landing and flat areas suitable for a camp.

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