Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking Queen Charlotte Strait Solo


Woke up at 7:00am and had a breakfast of rice leftovers with coffee. It was low tide, and when I started walking toward the water line to wash my dishes after the breakfast,  I had realized how expanse this tidal area was. Fresh deer footprints were leading to the water -- this was most likely an early morning visitor. The grounds close to the water were littered with sea stars of various colors and sizes.

Fresh crab leftovers were a sure sign that someone else had also enjoyed a breakfast this morning.

There were so many things to photograph that I had continued for a bit longer, hand-held.

The tide was already rising and I had decided to rush back to the tent to get my main camera with the macro lens, packed away in a dry bag, and a tripod. By the time I was back to the shore, most sea stars had disappeared under water. Still, I had managed to take more pictures of sea stars and a mollusk, enjoying the return of the sea.

I had also found several patches of seaweed resembling the type served in seaweed salads in Asian restaurants.

Finally, I had left for my day trip at 11:00am. The tide was flooding and pushing me in the right direction. I was stopping often to photograph various islets.

At some point, when I was in a channel clogged with kelp, except for a narrow passage in the middle, I saw a power boat slowly moving in my direction, with a person at the bow checking the water ahead and directing another person at the helm. Surprised by this boat in a small and barely navigable channel, while a much better waterway was just on the other side of the islet, I had decided to get out of its way and placed my kayak inside a kelp field, near the shore.

Based on their facial expressions, the boaters were surprised by my move, but went after me toward the shore.  Stopping some distance away, they had clarified their pursuit. Apparently, they were looking for their friends, two parents and two teenage sons in two single and one double kayaks, who had started out of Telegraph Cove and were supposed to be at the Mound Island campsite the night before. Someone else was camping there, but not that family. The boaters were expecting the family to be listening the VHF radio, and tried reaching them a number of times, unsuccessfully. They were wondering if I had seen these kayakers. Unfortunately, I could not help except telling them that the Mound Island campsite was very popular and could have been easily taken prior the arrival of these kayakers, who then would have had to look for an alternative site. We parted, and I had promised to keep looking for the family and, should I encounter them, ask to get on the VHF and call the boat.

I went ahead toward the Indian Village and soon saw a white beach with remnants of buildings and a dock.

After landing and tying up my kayak to a log on the shore, I took my camera and went on to explore the area. The shore was overgrown with various berry-bearing bushes, creating virtually an impenetrable barrier with a few animal trails cutting through. Besides the ever-present blackberries, a few more species were present, including what looked like Blackcurrant. I had immediately started replenishing my vitamin reserves.

Lots of plum trees, with small, almost cherry-size yellow and red fruits, were adding lovely colors to the landscape, and an additional flavor to my palate.

After satisfying my initial appetite, I had continued exploring and photographing the village ruins. Not much was left of it. A couple of buildings were still standing above the vegetation, however it was next to impossible to tell what was out there behind the bushes, and on the ground. It was clear, however, that the bears were frequent visitors to this area: besides the trails toward the ruins, they had also left the droppings on the beach.

Then I had explored and photographed the sandy shore and the remains of a pier.

I had spent some time with a flock of shore birds, resting on the beach.

It was time to pack up and continue my exploration of the area. My next destination was the First Nation's cemetery island a short distance away. I had paddled along its shore but did not see anything: likely, the burial grounds were deep inside the island. It was also likely that even if anything could have been visible from the water, all signs of human presence, including the docking area, had since been covered by the abundant vegetation. It was tempting to step on the shore and see what was there, however these were the sacred grounds for the First Nations, and I had regretfully paddled away. The wind had picked up and any further exploration of the area, moving farer away from the camp, did not make much sense, as I would have to come back against the wind. So I had turned around and headed back for my camp.

The tide was ebbing and this had partially counterbalanced the front wind and the waves. Still, it was already 4:00pm when I had reached my camp.

After cooking pasta for dinner and preparing the coffee for tomorrow breakfast, I had checked my remaining food reserves. It looked like I was OK: enough food for my all remaining meals, with a substantial number of granola bars likely to be leftovers at the end. I also had enough potable water to last till the end, and in addition to it a four-day supply of fresh water from the creeks for cooking. However, I would have to fish at least once, as I was short of proteins for one meal.

While I was preoccupied with the food, a flock of chickadees had descended on a tree next to my kitchen. Suddenly, the whole tree was covered with the noise coming from what looked like dozens of these little birds. Realizing that I had forgotten to bring my camera from the tent, about 60 meters away, I had slowly left the area and then run for it. Unfortunately, by the time I was back, the birds had disappeared. Once again, I had blamed myself for breaking my own rule of never going anywhere without a camera.

I let the camera hung from a branch and continued with my kitchen activities. When I raised my head and looked at the shore, I had noticed that something was different. A black bear was foraging in the tidal zone, around 50 meters away from me. I had managed to take several pictures.

Something had alerted the bear: maybe these were the camera shutter clicks or maybe my movement behind the overhang branches. It stopped foraging and turned the head in my direction. And right at this crucial moment my camera had decided to quit, flashing the low battery power indicator. I remembered checking it when picking up the camera from the tent: two bars (out of five) were still available. Since I could not recharge the batteries with my solar panel, my only option was to drain each of them completely, before installing the next one. Cursing the camera for quitting at such a critical moment, and the solar panel for failing me on this trip, I put the camera away and watched the bear slowly walking along the shore an disappearing in the bushes.

I was puzzled by bear's reaction to my presence. Most likely, it did not realize that there was a human behind the bushes, otherwise it would have run away. I had noticed that the wind was parallel to the shore and the bear could not smell me and my food. At the same time, it did not come closer to investigate the source of all this disturbance. Its calmness and ignorance were quite unusual. Maybe it had taken me for a bird or a flock of birds?

In any case, I had packed all my food in the dry bags and this night left them in the kitchen area, well away from the tent. I left my breakfast in the cooking pot, weighting its cover with heavy items to prevent small creatures from getting inside. I had also placed empty food cans on the top, so if disturbed they would make a noise scaring the intruders away.

Went to tent at 9:00pm and spent an extra hour or so updating my diary and preparing for the next day. After some consideration, I had decided to circumnavigate Harbledown Island exiting via Baronet Passage, despite the turbulence at its end, where several tidal currents were colliding around Cracroft Point. I would try avoiding the worst of it by keeping close to passage's north side, as far away from the dangerous Cracroft Point as I could manage. I would have to be in Blackney Passage no later than 5:00pm, to cross it during the slack tide. Considering that it should take me around four hours to get there and providing for some delays and for the tide possibly turning earlier, I had decided to depart at noon.

Before going to bed I had listened to the forecast on the VHF radio. Periods of rain in the morning and a message again about a missing 19-foot aluminum vessel with four passengers. This message had been played for several days, with the latest twist that the active search stopped, boat recovered but the people still missing. A sober reminder about the dangers of boating in the ocean, and that if something happens, even the most intense efforts could be of little help when searching for a missing boat in such a vast area.

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