Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking Queen Charlotte Strait Solo


It was still raining at 7:00am, when my alarm rang. To my disappointment, I had found a puddle of water inside the tent. I had pitched the tent on gravel, so the water could only have come from the roof leaks or the condensation. Fortunately, as the tent was on a slope, all the water had accumulated in one corner, away from my sleeping bag.

The rain had all but stopped soon thereafter. To minimize cooking in the wet, I had only prepared coffee and then enjoyed it with a cereal bar. My neighbors were also awake and we had discussed the porpoises with white dorsal fins that we had observed again near the shore. Later, I had found that these were Dall's Porpoises.

I waited for a while before starting packing, until the rain had stopped. While packing, I left the tent and everything dry inside for the last moment, as the water was still coming down from the trees, shaken by the wind. At the end, I had to pack my tent still wet -- there was nothing I could do about it. Meanwhile, my neighbors had finished their morning chores, packed up and departed at 11:00am. Once again, I had appreciated the power of the group: everything was much faster when there was an extra pair of hands to share the chores and to work in parallel.

I had only left at 12:15 and initially headed for Berry Island, to check out a petroglyph on its northern shore. Surprisingly, I had to fight the opposite current when passing through narrow straits between the islands, while the general current flow supposed to be in my direction. Once again, this had confirmed that in a maze of islands the currents could behave in very strange ways.

No matter how much I tried, I still could not locate the petroglyph. After searching for a while, and for some reason again paddling against the current, while I should have been carried on by the flood, I had given up and continued toward Beware Passage.

When I had reached the east end of Berry Island, I was happy to see that the passage between it and the adjacent island was open: it was shown as drying up at low tide. This had saved me at least 15 minutes and, after getting through the shallow but still navigable waters, I was on the south side of Berry Island. There was a settlement a few kilometers east of my present location -- this could only be Tanakteuk -- a First Nations village on Harbledown Island, and Beware Passage was just to the left.

This was a good moment to rest and enjoy my lunch while drifting, this time in the right direction. I had finished a couple of granola bars and then checked on the GPS the remaining distance to my camp. It was about 7 kilometers, as the crow flew, and likely at least 8 kilometers for a kayaker, or about two hours of paddling. After some work, I had reached Beware Passage entrance.

I could feel the opposing current, so the tide must have just recently turned. The flow at the passage entrance was quite strong, however I had managed to cheat it by catching a ride in a counter-current, and entered the passage at a respectable speed, without paddling. This nature of the currents cannot stop amazing me. Whenever there is a strong dominant current, there are usually also small counter-currents, often along the shore, flowing in the opposite direction. While kayaking, and if one is lucky, it is possible to move against the dominant flow by riding these counter-currents.

The guidebook had warned about the rocks and the shallows in the passage, and that it should be navigated at low tide, to see the obstacles clearly. So far,  I had not noticed any -- maybe because it was still high tide?  Initially, I was moving at a reduced speed. However, after seeing no obstacles, I had gradually started speeding up. According to the charts, the tide inside the passage was almost unnoticeable, and indeed I could only tell that I was going against it by the direction of the kelp leaves -- usually quite a reliable indicator.

The passage was quiet. The only indication of human presence was numerous buoys, most likely associated with fishing, as I had noticed many similar ones in the vicinity of the First Nations settlement. The boat traffic was also very light -- just one power boat overtaking me and then returning much later. The wildlife was barely noticeable -- I had only observed a seal and a porpoise.

It was already 5:30pm when I had reached my intended campsite. This was an expanse tidal area, however not much in a way of flat surfaces large enough for a tent. After some searching, I had found a flat spot under a tree, and hung my tent there, above the ground, to dry up.

The forest in this area was clear-cut logged recently: I could see a clearing behind a thin line of trees along the shore, no more than 100 meters deep. The logging tapes were still on the trees, one of them with an animal jaw attached, definitely a carnivore by the look of the teeth.

Being a meat eater myself, I had opened a can of ham, cooked the rice and enjoyed my dinner. Was inside the tent by 9:00pm, writing up my daily notes. The plan for tomorrow was to explore the ruins of the First Nations village, about 2 kilometers away, and to check out nearby islands.

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