Part 1

In which I travel up to the area and begin my solo paddles.

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7/16, Friday Day 1

Drove Seattle -> MEC -> Tsawassen -> Nanaimo. In the evening I stopped in Nanaimo. 4 years ago during a sailing trip I spent four days in Nanaimo waiting for boat parts. I bought some food and ate dinner sitting in the park overlooking the marina I stayed in. Very beautiful evening.

Saw the movie "Eyes Wide Shut."

Drove another hour or so then slept in my car.

7/17, Saturday, Day 2

Drove up to Port Hardy (about 5 hours). Arrive in middle of festival day. Visit with the natives. Sunny and very beautiful here today - the air is sparkling.

I am renting a radio from Odyssey Kayaks so I go there in the afternoon. The owners, Pat and Jackie, are very friendly. Pat makes sure that I'm set up with the radio and know how to operate it. Then we talk a bit about trips and he shows me notes he has about Hakai. Latter I accompany Pat on an errand to pick up some folks who have rented kayaks for a day. I'm impressed by the kayak opportunities around Port Hardy. In the evening Pat rides over to the ferry with me so that he can drive my car back to their house and store it while I'm away. They have been very helpful.

At the ferry, kayaks go on a kayak rack and baggage into carts. BC Ferries does not want any gear stored in kayaks because it is not secure from theft. The carts get locked but aren't all that much more secure. I put a lot of loose gear into my kayak and put the heavy items into the cart.


Ferry at the Port Hardy dock


Kayaks on the rack.


Recliners

The Queen of Chilliwack is showing her age, but the cabin is clean, recently refurbished, and comfortable. One end has a lounge with tables and chairs. The middle is the galley, stores, and bathrooms. At the other end a lounge with large reclining chairs. The recliners are OK for sleeping but after trying them out I go back to my kayak and get my sleeping pad. I set myself up in the Solarium, which is a sort of green house structure on the upper deck. It's dark and quite - good for tired campers.


Central hall

7/18, Sunday, Day 3

Overcast - Moderately warm.
Ferry ride to Klemtu


McLaughen Bay


The shoreline near Klemtu


Docking at Klemtu


Looking back across Klemtu Bay

Slept OK. Might of been better down below but a movie was playing and kids running around.

The ferry stops in McLaughen Bay (Bella Bella), Shearwater, then on to Klemtu where we arrive at 2:30 p.m. I go on the walking tour and learn a little about the community. This is probably what it is like to travel in south America and be able to speak to people around me. The culture is different, folks are friendly and interested in what I'm doing here. I'm welcome and I can communicate with folks.

Our tour guide is an awkward public speaker. She makes an interesting miss-expressions: "The band chief overLOOKS all aspects of band operation."

Klemtu was a boardwalk community. When it was first built there was a wooden boardwalk along the water front connecting the residents. Now they are replacing the boardwalk with a dirt (latter paved) road. The road is needed because their new ambulance is too big for the boardwalk and can't drive from the town center to the ferry. In a year the boardwalk will be gone and a paved road in it's place.

Klemtu also has a new school building which the community's pride possession.

For travelers Klemtu has a small tourist office just up from the ferry dock with bathrooms, showers, and laundry. Next to the office are picnic tables and camping, where I stay the nigh.

I talk a while with a couple going north in a Klepper for three weeks. They have paddled this area quite a bit and I get some recommendations for my next camp site.

Talk to Marie on the phone. I look forward to seeing her in 9 days. Bless her for closing up the house and planning food for the second half.

7/19, Monday, Day 4

Overcast AM - Partly Cloudy PM - Wind S10 Knot - Paddle 11 NM

Up at 5:30, shower, breakfast, pack. Chat with the other kayakers some more. They have done some interesting trips, including many to Greenland.

Launch from dock @ 9:30 AM today I plan to practice with navigation instruments so I set the compass and GPS on the deck. Through out the day the GPS says I paddle about 3.2 knots relaxed and 4 knots faster. I discover the importance of double checking entered way points.


Finlayson Channel


Myself as I start on on my paddling

Soon after leaving Klemtu I have to cross Finlayson channel. It's only a couple miles wide, but my first crossing and I'm unsure. As soon as I get into the channel I feel fine. I even feel comfortable enough to stop and take a few pictures. Low swell about 9", hardly noticeable.


Bright colored sea urchins


Fish farm

Just into Jackson channel I come across some bright red sea urchins, first of this sort that I've seen. Photograph them too.

Pass 2 boats in Jackson Channel, more than I expected. Farther on I come to a fish farm, then a clear cut. I was not expecting the wilderness, but I was not expecting this much human presence either.

I get out once, briefly, to pee but take lunch sitting in my boat. I drift around a small bay, watching seals surface here and there. The seals up here, like the seals back in Puget Sound, want little to do with people.

Jackson narrows turns out the be mellow, with a current of no more than 2 knots.

I land on a large sandy beach. I imagine tenting over there, kitchen over here, etc. Then I look at the tidal lines and realize that most will be covered by evening high tide, leaving only a thin band of vegetation. I begin the twice daily ritual of hauling all my gear from the water edge to above high tide, or back again. By the time I go for my kayak my camp is on an island and I'm wading through a deepening channel.

I watch as several more boats head into Jackson Narrows and two come anchor in Rescue Bay. One is an old fish boat now use for cruising. The lone guy on board says that there were going to be five for this trip, then four dropped out. Latter I discover I've left my spoon in Klemtu. I row out and he gives me three.

Small flies on the land. They are weak flyers, but fast. A breeze holds them down, but I find it hard to kill them unless they have their jaws sunk in to my flesh. Dine on freeze dried chicken fahitas. Simple and so-so. Tomorrow Pizza.


This guy gave me some spoons


Rescue bay, my tent is a small speck at the water line, just right of center.

I notice the 6 p.m. alarm and spend some time thinking about Marie, as we had agreed. As I write this remember I had a dream that I was actually able to send mental messages, like the image of the bay I was in. Tomorrow I'll send the image of that night's camp.

Rain sets in at dusk...

7/20, Tuesday, Day 5

Drizzle AM - Cloudy - Warm and humid - Sun in PM.
Paddle 6 NM.

Rains all night and I sleep heavily. Up at 8:30 and on the water by 10:00, driven off by flies.

When back packing I have all my systems in place. By the time camp is made my pack is empty & the few things I brought are all in their standard places: tent or kitchen. My gear is simple, everything has a use, and I know where it goes. But my kayak systems are not in place. I've brought a lot of gear and I'm not sure what goes where. There is a lot of stuff I never bring back packing: this journal, three pens, spare books, binoculars, camera, radio, GPS, extra boots, etc., etc. I seem to need one thing out of every bag. I have a lot of small items to transfer. It all needs to be hauled up from the kayaks in the evening, then down and loaded in morning. When I unload I'm organized enough that I can carry it all in 3 trips. But in the morning it's lots of little trips. Before leaving home I knew this would be the cost of all this gear, but I couldn't resist. The ability of a kayak to carry gear is seductive.

It was sort of by accident that I ended up bringing my large duffel but now I'm glad for it's usefullness toting gear up and down the beach.

After Pat left with my car I realized that that is that. I have what I have. Then I had a moment of fear - what if I really wanted something that I didn't have. The specific item I was thinking of was my fanny pack. Not a necessity at all, but the familiar. And a representation of my ability to get _things_ (it held my wallet). So I won't have the familiar, but I will have other things.

Like bugs. They are after me this morning - I can't relax and take to the water by 10 am. Fortunately, no bug bother me when I'm on the water.

I paddle out of Rescue Bay and down the west shore of XXX. I stick near shore. Frequent seals today, a couple in every little cove. At one point I see a wolf picking its way along the shore. I hang out quietly off shore. It does not give any indication that it seems me, but detours into the forest to go around me.

I stop on a small, rocky island for lunch. It's open to the wind and bug free. But has a rocky shore. I tie my boat to some rocks, but have to keep an eye on it as the tide rises.

At evening I look for the same thing: exposed and bug free. On the south end of Arthur island I find the perfect spot : a cluster of rocks off the shore. A larger one is toped by a flat grassy spot large enough for me to lay down. Now, at low tide the rocks are high, with a dry lagoon between them. At high tide they will become separate islets and the lagoon will flood. I haul my gear onto the larger rock and pitch my tent across the top of it.


The lagoon at low tide, my kayak is in the U notch in the center

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5 p.m. - the lagoon is filling, air is cooling, and the dough is rising. Time to make pizza.


The lagoon at high tide.

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Pizza is in. Evening drizzle started.

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Clearing - beautiful light. Camping on this small rock puts me right out in the middle of things. The water has risen, flooding the lagoon and making small islets from the rocks. I spend the evening with binoculars looking at the birds, seals, and boats. There is so much happening....


My kayak stored on the rocks for the night

7/21, Wednesday, Day 6

Fog overnight - Mist and Cloudy Morning - Clouds and infrequent mist, cooler. Moderate south wind - Rain evening
Paddle 11 NM in 6 HR

Whales! I woke to hear them swimming past at first light. Got one glimpse through the binoculars, but otherwise it was too dim and foggy to see them. They looked smallish.

I would like to see all large land mammals only from my kayak or across water. I would like to see large sea mammals during good daylight visibility, preferably from my kayak as well.

I try to get up at 7 am, but am running a little late.

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Paddling at 9:30. A short distance from shore I get worried that I left something on the rocks while loading my kayak. To put my mind at rest I paddle back to check. Nothing.

Head wind today. I'm paddling south through Mathieson Cannel, trying to make distance. I spend less time along the shore and more cutting across the channel on the shortest straight line. Listening to Tori Amos "Boys for Pele" helps keep my energy up, till batteries die.

Soon I hear water and find a big stream to fill up at. Beautiful thick primeval rain forest scene. I tie my boat to barnacle covered rocks and pick my way upstream a short ways to the fresh water. The rocks are just covered in slime and this may be the most treacherous thing I do today. We are blessed in the pacific north west, and suffer for it. While the boat is open I get new batteries out and finish listening to the tape.

From Mathieson Channel I go into Lady Trutch passage and Reid Passage. New openings around bends provide interest - today is more about traveling through country. These are narrow channels, sometimes shallow, winding a bit.

Getting tired at head of Reid Passage. I look into Oliver Cove, a marine park. At the entrance to the cove, on a small islet, someone has placed a bent propeller on a bent shaft, a warning about the many rocks in the cove. On the south shore, in the forest, I find a small desolate tent site. Near by there is a very small stream. And near that signs of an old camp and cabin, now very overgrown.

Not an appealing camp so I continue. The current is now against me and my tired arms.

Coming out of Reid passage I see a score of islands, some with promising beaches. I stop at the first and poke around. I see a possible camp site between highest drift wood and the forest so I unload. Then I find on the north end a gravel bar that is flatter and should be above most tides. I almost lug all my stuff over there but then I find a very flat pebble bar on the west side. So I lug my stuff over to there. I try to bring just what I need for camp, which ends up being just about everything I have.

It is only 6 p.m. High tide is not till 8:45 this evening and I won't be sure about the pebble bar till then. So I sit to read and cook dinner. I'm just settling in when it starts to drizzle. 30 more minutes of fussing and the tarp is keeping me and mine comfortably out of the rain.

My 6 p.m. alarm rings while I'm cooking. I look around and try to project the sense of this place to Marie and imagine her here. But I also have to keep cooking and after several minutes realize my mind is back on the mundane. I decide to also take a picture of the view I see at 6 p.m. every day.

6 p.m.: waiting for the tide.


Before I left many of my friends told me to have fun. They meant well, but this is not exactly about fun. If I just wanted to have fun I'd go out for a day paddle, or a weekend in the San Juans, in good weather, with friends. Or take up white water kayaking. Certainly this is fun at times, but sitting on a beach in the drizzle wondering if I'm right about the tides, missing my friends is not fun. Still, I like this and do it because I feel the reward. I learn about my ability to rely on myself. To make the right decisions, to take care, to keep gear dry and working, to not get myself into danger. To be able to sit with myself on an isolated, rainy gravel bar and still feel OK with myself.

I am here also to find my true temperament, with out the constant mirroring that Marie and friends provide. I can not spend my day wondering what others are thinking about me and what they might do in response to my actions. It is only myself who I have to think about.

I notice this strongly at decision points: should I camp here or go on? There is no one else to take into account and no ones opinions to seek. I have only myself to consider and only my own opinion. So I must truly learn what my own opinion is. I practice listening to myself out here.


Rain stops. Tide misses by feet (vertical). I can stay. Set the tent up on some nice, flat gravel, bear hang the food, sort gear, and write for a while.

I can hear the sea swell crashing on rocks a mile away, but here the sea is calm Lets hope it stays that way.

This would be a fine place to spend a couple nights. There is some nice day paddling from here. I could go to the outer coast before I try to paddle my full boat there.

7/22, Thursday, Day 7

Rain AM - Moderate S Wind - Cool (61F) - Rain PM - Cool
Day Paddle

I sleep heartily and wake to the dreams of Marie and Andrew. I feel I'm visiting with friends and am reluctant to return to reality.

Yoganand (Autobiography of a Yogi) suggests that our dreams are an analogy to how realized masters experience the world. They know the world is not actually reality and can travel through and even control the world.

But a full bladder pulls me back. RAIN. My decision about the day is made for me - I'll be staying here.


The inside of my tent.


6 p.m.: Eating dinner


Stunted Trees.


My camp

9:30 I get up to make breakfast: almond-poppy muffins. I'm very pleased with the tarp. Conditions are not so bad, only moderate wind and rain. I really appreciate the weather of the past 3 days. But I hope for even better in the future, this place would be stunningly beautiful on a sunny afternoon.

Just across the water is Ivory island. And on the other side of Ivory is a lighthouse which, along with others, periodically reports on weather conditions. The reports are then broadcast on the weather radio where I can hear them. Even though I know exactly what is going on here I like to listen to the Ivory light report. I find comfort in this official confirmation of my experience.

One reason for this is the weather forecast itself deals with the wind in detail but says little else about the weather. To the mariner the wind is of prime importance. Cloud cover and precipitation are mentioned briefly, but as a second thought. But to me, the sea kayaker who lives in the weather, wind is just one of several important elements. The closest the forecasters come to acknowledging the rain is to say that visibility may be obscured by fog and patchy drizzle. So I take comfort in what official acknowledgment I find.

By 11 am the wind is up and the tarp is flapping. I move a guy line to the windward side and snug things down. Still, a purpose built tarp might be more secure. Even better would be if I hadn't picked the windiest side of this island. My trust in this tarp's wind worthiness is limited. Every time I leave it I collapse it and put rocks on top to keep it secure.

The wind and blowing rain make it too uncomfortable to sit out and write so I retire to my fortress: the Noall Mountaineer II tent. For over six years this tent has kept me perfectly dry in all conditions. I have never felt threatened by the weather. If I had not come from a mountaineering background I would not have spent so much money on a good 4 seasons tent. But what a blessing on days like this


This is a mixed trip for gear. Some things serve me well: tent, jacket on loan from Patagonia, stove (MSR X-KG), oven. But I'm also doing a lot of repairs. Today I fixed:

Stove: replaced a bolt.
Kayak Seat: sewed webbing back into place after a too energetic entry tore it out.
Water Filter: Broke the keeper pin out of the hinge. Set it back in place and added a lanyard to the hinge so that I won't loose it.

RAIN & DRIZZLE all afternoon. After brunch I napped till 2:30 p.m.. Decided if I was going to go paddle at all now is the time. Started around Ivory island but I got to the NW corner and found myself in 3-4 ft swells - large enough to obscure the horizon occasionally. Long stable waves which the boat road well. Still, the largest I've been in yet. An even larger out on the windward side of the island. Bad weather - alone - I decide to turn around. I guess I won't be going down the outer coast tomorrow. Hope the Seaforth channel is a little calmer when I cross it.

Coming back into the lee of Ivory island I see several sea otters near a kelp bed. They see me to and head for shore. Looking over my shoulder I see them scurry up the rocks and into the brush.

In the evening I dine on Spicy Indian Potatoes and rice (YUM) and brownies. I save half the brownies for tomorrow. Sit and read, do repairs, then organize stiff. Early start tomorrow to catch Gale passage on the high tide. Hope for dyer weather but don't expect it. Don't know what I'll do if it is still raining...

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Page last modified:  Jul 09 08:57 2010  by  Tom Unger