alarm rang at 5:00am, however I woke up at close to 6:00am. Despite all
reassurances and precautions, I still did not sleep well, listening for
the bear all night, but nothing had happened. Made pancakes for
breakfast, for today and tomorrow. This had delayed my departure until
9:30am, but the fresh pancakes with the condensed milk were worth it.
of the advantages of this campsite was its location close to the water
edge -- I did not have to do long portages of my stuff, otherwise this
would have postponed my departure even further.
was planning to paddle through Nipkish Bank, as the chart was showing
that it would be mostly covered with water at high tide. However,
considering that the tide was already falling, I had decided instead to
paddle around its edge, staying away from the busy traffic lanes and
watching carefully for the shoals and other obstacles.
I had managed to keep off the main traffic routes this year, and I did not have any unpleasant
encounters with the boats. Soon, I was paddling past Port McNeil and
could already see the peninsula opposite to Port McNeil, where I camped
last year and planned to camp again. Unlike the Port McNeil side, the
peninsula shore was all covered with the forest and looked like an
island from a distance.
ferry had left Alert Bay and passed in front of me going to Port
McNeil, then to Solintula and later back to Port McNeil, remaining
there. The day was sunny and almost windless: only the quite unusual
light easterly breeze that was gently pushing me in the right
direction, and the ebbing tide that was also helping me paddle west.
The visibility was great, as far as one could see, no fog issues that I experienced
the year before. However, despite the following wind, I had to make an effort
to keep the course. I think this was an unstable position for the
kayak: it did not like the wind directly behind and tried to use any opportunity to
turn broadside. In addition, numerous boats, passing all around me, some far away, some
close, were creating an unpredictable wave pattern, confusing my
kayak even further.
I was finally getting close to the peninsula
where my next campsite was. The wind had changed to the usual
north-west, still light. The tide was very low, but it had already
turned to flood: passing along a kelp field I had noticed that the
leaves were floating in the opposite direction. Although the tide was
now working against me, the current was still quite slow, creating no
difficulties, and soon I was in front of the place where my last year
What a change: with the low tide a vast area,
covered with seaweed and rocks, had opened up. Last year, I must have
arrived and departed at much higher tide, as I did not recall seeing
anything like this before. I landed as close as I could to the narrow
beach with the camp site, still at least a hundred of meters away, removed the two deck
bags from my kayak and carried them ashore. After portaging my deck
bags through the vast grounds covered with large slippery rocks, I had
finally reached the gravel beach and then the campsite. Unfortunately,
winter storms had deposited a couple of heavy logs exactly where I
pitched the tent last year. I had to search for an alternative place,
and I found it just a dozen of meters away, a gravel spot requiring
some leveling and barely large enough for my little tent, but it would
do for an overnight stay.
It made no sense to unload my stuff at
this tide: it would have taken me at least an hour just to carry it to
the shore, with an increased risk of injuries. I had decided to go
fishing for a couple of hours, returning when the tide would be much
higher. I had assembled my fishing rod and the net, and paddled out
seeking someone fishing to get updates on the sockeye salmon. I soon
located a motorboat trolling relatively close to where I was, with a
young couple inside. I had headed for them, then followed them trying
to ask my salmon question over the roar of their twin engines. They
tried to listen, but clearly could not understand what I was saying.
Meanwhile, they kept moving and I had finally realized that they were
not going to slow down for a talk. After all, they were in an expensive
leisure motorboat, and I was in a kayak, looking anything but expensive
after a month of travel. The class difference could not be more clear.
I had waved them "never mind -- please continue" and fell off
abandoning my pursuit.
I soon saw a more democratically-looking
boat, with a family of four or five inside, also trolling for salmon. I
got closer and they indeed slowed down and answered my questions. The
area limit for sockeye salmon was four per day, at least 30cm
long. I had thanked them and moved closer to the shore, away from the
path of fishing traffic.
The current was already quite
strong and I could not fish by trolling. If I was going with the
current, I was moving too fast, and if I was going against it, I was
barely making any progress. I had finally decided to cast and, after 20
minutes or so, abandoned it as well: the current was pushing me too
fast: a few casts and then I had to struggle back to my fishing spot,
against the current. I had tried again to troll with a much smaller
lure, but it caught something on the bottom, likely a rock, and no matter how hard I tried I could
not get close to it against the current. So I lost it and then decided
to give up on catching the salmon. I paddled back to the area where my
campsite was, embedded my kayak inside a kelp field and fished with an
artificial worm for the bottom-dwelling creatures. After catching and
releasing a couple of small things, and changing the fishing spot a few times, I had finally caught something of a decent size,
enough for a meal, a fish with quite a big head, likely a sculpin.
had returned to my camp. With the tide by now high I had quickly
unloaded the kayak and only then realized that it was already 3:00pm.
My previous meal was at 6:30am: busy with the fishing I had forgotten
about the snack and was now desperately hungry. I had immediately
heated up water and made mashed potatoes with the last can of meat,
followed by the tea. Then I tried to take a short nap, unsuccessfully,
thanks to the motorboat traffic keeping me awake.
getting out of the tent I had photographed my neighbors up on the tree:
a pair of bald eagles, quite likely the same that I had observed a year
shore was already mostly in shade, and I still had to do a couple of
chores requiring sunshine. First, I hung the wet paddling clothes in
a sunny spot, hoping that they would dry up by end of day. Then I heated two
liters of fresh water (I had plenty left) and headed up the hill to a
secluded sunny spot for a wash. Refreshed and wearing clean clothes, I
had returned back to my camp. I was following a bear trail when going
to my washing area and returning, and I could see where the bear stepped and even the claw imprints were still there. I
felt privileged to walk the bear trail, stepping where the animal
was stepping, likely as recently as this morning.
Back to the
camp, I cleaned the fish. It had a full stomach. When I opened it,
there was a whole crab inside. I found it ironic that the remains of
this crab-eater, after I was done with it, would end up back in water,
devoured by the same crabs that this predator was hunting just a few
hours ago. I fried the fish and ate it for dinner with mashed potatoes
and herbal tea. With the tomorrow coffee prepared and in the thermos, I had
proceeded to shaving, something I had not done for at least five days.
heated the water, applied the shaving cream and, after the first
attempt realized that my only razor was not working at all. It must
have clogged over the previous shavings and I spent 15 minutes or so
trying to clean it up. It helped a little and after scratching
myself for a long time on one side I had managed to shave it a bit.
Then, without knowing how long the razor would last, I had decided to
proceed shaving myself symmetrically, so if I had to stop it would not
look completely outrageous. I cleaned the razor again and then shaved
the other side. I was now left with a disgusting looking goatee. This
would not do for sure! I had cleaned the razor again (a long affair
involving dislodging the stuff from between the blades and the sides
with a pine needle), and continued scrubbing myself. Sometime
later, I was left with a mustache. The shaved areas looked like a
carelessly done logging: most trunks were gone, but enough were still
standing. The razor was completely clogged again and I had finally
given up: the mustache and the logging area would have to stay until my
daylight had ended with a picturesque sunset, as if the Nature was
saying Good Bye for now, yet reminding me to return next time and enjoy
its beauty again.
By the time I had packed up everything I
could for the tomorrow departure, it was already close to 11:00pm. I
was ready to go to bed. The night was quiet: all like the last year,
minus the orcas breaths. I started believing that the Straitwatch
patrol might have been right telling me that the orcas had left
the area following the salmon to Campbell River. There was no commercial fishing
where I was and yet the orcas were not around. Last year, the strait
was full of orcas, day or night.