Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking Queen Charlotte Strait Solo


Woke up at close to 6:00am. It was a cool night: +14C inside the tent (versus +18C the night before), +11C outside. No wind, so some bugs were still active. Warmed up the rice with the condensed milk and water, finished it and then drank the coffee from the thermos. The fog was thickening covering everything around me. Took some pictures, including the kayaks on the shore in fog.

The fishing boats in the bay in front of me were also barely visible.

Started packing up at 7:00am, soon saw the Colorado couple waking up and cooking the breakfast. Left at 9:00am, as planned, despite the low tide and therefore long portages to the shore. Gave three blasts with my fog horn -- the signal of departure, actually meaning "the engines in reverse" -- to say good bye to everyone, including the North Vancouver couple.

The fog was thick and I kept paddling within the visibility of the shore, checking my position on the GPS to make sure I did not get into the large Bauze Bay, but rather cross its opening. The boat traffic was noticeable, fortunately moving slowly, with some fog horn blasts farer offshore. I stayed close to the kelp line to avoid the traffic. The fog was getting lighter and I soon started photographing the islets along my way.

After less than an hour I had started seeing some developments on the shore: it was clear that I was getting close to Telegraph Cove. Soon, I had reached the entrance.

Once inside the cove, I had photographed its old traditional side and the new one, with the recent developments completely altering the nature of the quiet wooden boardwalk community that it used to be. More construction was going on up on the hill: soon, it was going to be a resort town.

Paddled to the North Kayak office, to say Hi. On shore, chatted with a kayaker who was preparing for a departure. He was a police officer from Vancouver, on on a day trip with his girlfriend. They had quite small kayaks; however, they wisely did not plan to be out in the open, preferring instead to paddle along the shore and in the bays.

Soon, I was at the North Kayak office. A young woman sitting at the entrance had recognized me and asked about my paddle to Telegraph Cove. Meanwhile, I was struggling to figure out how she got to know me or about me. I certainly knew I was not that famous! And then it hit me: she was the guide with the novice group in Blinkhorn Bay two days earlier. She was wearing a wool cap at that time, hence the confusion. With the situation clarified, I had learned that her group had managed to paddle inside Bauze Bay with no problem. From there, they got a car ride to Telegraph Cove. Meanwhile, the owner of North Kayak had stepped out of the office. I was happy to know that the German family made it back all right -- a big relief for everyone seeing them departing yesterday. Twenty minutes later, after saying my good byes, I was already leaving the cove.

The day was calm, with the fog thinning and the sun shining. After some paddling further along the shore, I had found the cove where I intended to camp, separated by a small headland from Alder Bay. The cove and the beach were quite expanse, at low tide. 

While looking for a flat area for my campsite, I saw a line of large footprints across the beach. They were clearly visible in the gravel that was still wet after the tide.

Then I saw a pile of bear poop, also on the wet gravel, below today's high tide mark and so definitely left this morning. The combination of these two had informed me better than any official poster that a bear was patrolling this beach just a few hours ago.

By now I was already much less concerned about the black bears. Over this and previous trips and encounters I had learned that the black bears were often nearby, but always keeping their distance, unless tempted by the food left in the open or provoked by other similar unwise behavior. So I had proceeded with searching for a suitable place for my tent.

I had found two potential candidates, both small patches of flat ground on the beach, barely above the high tide mark, on the opposite sides of the beach. I had settled on the one closest to Alder Bay, next to the rocky headland/peninsula. The other one was in the plain view of Alert Bay -- a relatively sizable town on Cormorant Island just across the strait, and I wanted to have at least some privacy.

After unloading my stuff and placing the kayak on the shore, I had decided to wait for the high tide (4.9m at around 4:40pm) before pitching my tent, as I was not sure how far the water would reach today.

Meanwhile, I had boiled water and made mashed potatoes. Finished them with a small one-portion can of turkey, and the tea. I still had another small can left, this one of chicken. With three more meals to go before the end of my trip, excluding breakfasts, this definitely was not enough. However, I had decided against fishing in this area, as retention of salmon was not allowed here and I still hoped to catch one. Instead, I had left the fishing for the last day, in the place where keeping the salmon was allowed, and settled on the instant noodles for dinner tonight.

It was still 2.5 hours before the high tide. I had found a relatively flat and sunny spot on the beach and took a nap covering my face with the sun hat. Did not sleep long: in 40 minutes heard some voices, quite close. Sat down and took a look: a group of kayaks and two single canoes were passing along my bay. Asked -- they were from Alder Bay Resort, on a day trip.

Used the remaining time before the high tide to check my email, sent an OK message with my current coordinates and also searched the Internet for the recent fishing notices for the area where I was planning to be tomorrow. With the battery in my mobile getting low I could only do a very limited search. All the notices were about a good sockeye salmon run, so the fishing for the sockeye was likely open. However, I could not find anything on the day and size limit and decided to ask someone tomorrow.

Then I had transferred the location of my next and last camp from the old GPS (taken as a backup) into the new one. Also transferred the coordinates of the municipal boat ramp at Port McNeil: my final destination. It was interesting to see how the technology had improved over ten years: although I was sitting in the open, my old GPS had been initially complaining that it could not find enough satellites, then struggling to keep them and losing the signal at least once. The new GPS had no troubles at all.

It was still one hour before the high tide when I went ahead and pitched the tent. Although the water was still coming, the tent was up on a small slope, too far for the tide to reach it.

There was some shipping activity in front of me: a large barge, a cruise ship and a "ghost ship": likely a cruise ship far away, with the hot air flows from the water distorting the shape. These big ships in the strait were a reason for concerns, as their wake could reach far beyond the tide. Only after observing the wake I was satisfied with the site: the headland and the partially submerged driftwood log in front of the site had kept the waves away. Then the tide had started receding. Reassured, I had unpacked my camera with the telephoto lens and followed the bear trail into the forest. I had found a familiar picture: a patch of forest around 100 meters deep along the coast, then a recently logged site. Not much to photograph.

Returned, cooked the instant noodles and the tea for dinner. Then I had marked the territory around my camp, to let the bear know that a human was in the area, and packed all food in the dry bags and away from the tent. Went to bed earlier, at around 9:00pm, to wake up at 5:00am: this way I would cross the shallow Nipkish Bank at high tide.

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