Sunday, 27 September 2015

Raft Cove: A Lightweight SUP'er

Darcy Wardrop duct-taping gear to his board

As you can see, the put-in on the MacJack River is a kind of small, muddy and mildly claustrophobic spot. But Darcy and I were very happy to be there after having driven the better part of 6 hours from Campbell River to get there.  Especially after some unplanned touring about trying to find the right logging road spur after missing a key detour sign at Holberg. Fortunately, Darcy remembered the way well enough from a few years before to get us back on track.

Another good thing was that we only had to carry our stuff about a 100 meters from where we parked my truck. Not that we had much stuff to carry given that we were packing everything in that we needed for four days on our paddle boards- including ~12 litres of water each. We were concerned about the reliability of the usual water supply given the record dry spring and summer conditions we'd been having.

Without tie-down points on his board, Darcy used ratchet straps going right around to secure his gear and then duct taped over that to make the bottom surface area more streamlined. Hey, it worked- an excellent west coast solution to a slippery problem and we were soon on our way. We wore the bottom half of our wetsuits because we didn't have anywhere else to put them and it was cool enough.

From Campbell River on Vancouver Island, it takes about five hours driving to get to the put-in spot on the Macjack River. The last two hours or so are on logging roads heading west from Port Hardy on the Holberg/ Cape Scott signed turnoff. There is 24 hour gas in Port Hardy- but not Port McNeil. Good idea to top up your gas in Port Hardy before heading west. Its a long way out there in remote country with no cell service- and no services past Holberg.  For a final good coffee and just because- you need to make a short detour into Port Hardy where you'll find the 'CafĂ© Guido' a combo bookstore/ coffee shop/gift shop at 7135 Market St. A great little place- and especially good to know about if you are in that area and need to wait out some inclement weather.Once you leave Port Hardy the only other community you'll come across is Holberg about 45 minutes along the gravel road. There's a general store with a gas bar and the 'Scarlet Ibis' pub/restaurant- which we were very glad to visit on the return trip.

Selective logging? Culturally modified trees? A hill with a haircut?

Once you start on the Holberg Rd, you are in logging country. The picture is of an older cut but there is plenty of active logging going on so you will likely encounter BIG logging trucks and other industrial vehicles along the way. Some of the locals who know the road well drive it at a higher speed than you or I may be comfortable with- so it's a sensible tactic to assume some huge truck is going to come barreling around every blind corner and that way you're prepared. And also pull over and let people by who come up behind you as its often hard to safely pass someone on these roads. Its an expected courtesy in these parts.

The first 15 minutes or so of the Macjack River past the put-in have a number of shallow spots and log jams to get over and around. Nothing difficult really- and nothing that required unloading but we were glad to get through those obstacles and then it was clear paddling for the remaining ~8 kilometers to Raft Cove. The scenery just kept getting better and better as we paddled along and the landscape began to open up, the sun began to shine and the water went from a darker cedar brown to clear to an almost luminescent pale green as the incoming tide began to reach us. I saw the first of several ospreys we were to see during the trip- a sign that the fishing is good.

Our progress was slowed somewhat by the straps and duct tape resistance on the bottom of Darcy's board. And he became even slower once the incoming tide and a freshening westerly breeze both began to work against us. Given the wind resistance of his load atop the board, I made the helpful suggestion that perhaps he should turn his board load-side down in order to make faster progress. What he then suggested I do with my own board was physically impossible- so we both carried on as we were.It took us just over two hours to reach the estuary and the sand bank take-out area. Although there were a surprising number of people there, we lucked into a 5 star campsite tucked just inside the trees and facing the open beach and the ocean which from there stretched out for thousands of miles with only a few tropical islands scattered here and there in the endless blue.Darcy set up his Hennessy hammock and I set up my lightweight Bibler single wall tent. We briefly considered going out to play in the waves but by then there was a stiff westerly breeze which made it less than appealing for stand-up paddling.

Darcy Wardrop; enjoying a wee dram
Supper consisted of simply having more of what we'd had for lunch- a good strategy for traveling light. Sardines for Darcy, sausage and cheese for me. After that we gravitated towards a suitable log and settled in to watch the sun in its long, slow motion fall into the sea to the west. Now that we had everything set up and we'd eaten, we could really relax and begin to arrive more fully into this beautiful wild west coast setting we had journeyed to. It can take time to become fully present to where one is when going from one place to another and very different place- so it was nice that we had given ourselves the gift of this transitional time. For the next several days, we had no thing to do- and no place to go. We were already there- life had suddenly become much simpler.We had both brought our own scotch whisky's. Glenlivet for Darcy and Laphroaig for myself. Sitting there in the warmth and light of the setting sun in such a place while sipping on a fine whisky- well it just doesn't get much better than that.Watching one of the resident ospreys hunting quickly became a favourite pastime while reclining against our log. They're large birds and amazing fliers. The osprey would hunt above the water and then just fold its wings and plunge straight down after its prey. There was no hesitation or pulling back at the last second- the osprey would hit with a great splash right into the water and then emerge flapping its way out and up with a fish in its talons. Several times, diving straight into breaking surf areas. Once well back up in the air, it would give itself a good shake and then head upriver to wherever it roosted. Hard to imagine the shock and surprise for this fish just swimming idly along minding its own business and then this great splash and commotion and "What the f---!"suddenly finding itself held in steel talons being hoisted out of the water and flying through the air now in an element not it's own and facing a much shortened day ending not quite the way it expected.

Heading out to play in the waves: Photo by Darcy Wardrop

The next morning, we enjoyed a long leisurely coffee reclining against our favourite beach log and then headed out to play in the waves. No wind and the ever changing light on the water was exquisite. We followed this pattern for the next three mornings and just had a great time out there.

I had brought the book, 'Far from the Madding Crowd' by Thomas Hardy to read. An apt title given where we were. It was good reading in the afternoon and before I went to sleep. Absorbed into a living rural England landscape of a time long ago and far away, I followed the ups and downs of the young and beautiful Bathsheba as she, with experiencing ever deepening levels of heart- encountered various archetypes in the forms of the three men who tried to court her. Interesting how in so many stories, myths and fairy tales- how things always show up in threes.

Sunset; Raft Cove

We did go exploring the beaches and rocky points just north of Raft Cove. And on our boards, we could have just kept going and going and then rode the waves and afternoon westerly back to the home beach. Lots of kelp beds and reefs about so the fishing would be good. The fishing for coho salmon was good while we were there and we were lucky to be invited over for a fresh salmon dinner with a friendly family from New Westminster.

Given our meager dinner rations, we took notice of the amazing number and variety of  sand-flea like critters hopping and scuttling about during our beach walks. Many were quite large. Perhaps a few dozen of those in a quick stir-fry-makeshift chopsticks- taste like shrimp? Well, maybe if we'd been stuck in there for an extra week or so.

Getting freshwater turned out to be no problem at all. Clean, cool, sweet water was at full flow through a one 1 inch pipe on the other side of the river. Neither ourselves or anyone else was bothering to treat it and we never had any problems. Given that the summer of 2015 had been a record breaking virtual drought- the fact that this water was still flowing and tasting so good was a welcome surprise. 

Note for hikers coming in by the trail: even at low tide, it would still involve a potentially hazardous swim across the river to access the water- and the water from the Macjack  itself is salty for a long way up the river. Best idea would be hitch a ride across in someone's canoe- so good idea to bring a large folding water container. Sure beats the water from the creek along the trail access which is a cedar infused tea colour.

We had a great time at Raft Cove and it was hard to leave. We met many interesting people- and there were lots there for such a remote place but it was August and a record summer for sun. Everyone had made a long journey to be there in that special place- and so we all shared that in common. 

Next time: The fishing is obviously very good  so a compact fishing rod would be well worth bringing in. Go for longer and bring a lightweight tarp to create a covered area in case of rain. 

Darcy's Hennessy hammock: He was actually having a nap in it when I took this picture and claimed he slept very comfortably for all three nights we were there. I was a bit skeptical- having no experience with overnighting in a hammock but now I'm curious. A very light set-up and weatherproof with the fly. He did say that an ensolite pad is needed for insulating warmth on the bottom.  

We started our paddle back out at the start of the rising tide and were back at the launch point in 1.5 hours. In spite of what we'd heard at times- I don't think it makes much difference what the tides doing for going either way. People were coming and going during all stages of the tide while we were there.

In the parking lot, we were lucky to encounter a really friendly couple from Vancouver who had just arrived and were planning to head into Raft Cove for a week or more. We were all hot and sweaty from our paddle back so when they asked if we'd like a cold beer- we were very grateful . 'Stella Artois' no less. Man, did that taste good!

Just over an hour's drive put us into Holberg where we enjoyed a great burger out on the sundeck before hitting the long and winding road back to Campbell River. 

An excellent outing and exciting to know that we could pack so lightly and do a 4 day trip on our boards. All that would be needed to extend that to a 7 day trip would be a bit more food- maybe a fishing rod and definitely more scotch!

Paul Kendrick


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Post Storm Surf Play

Leigh Stalker catching a nice one

It was one of those perfect situations for great waves just south of Campbell River at Storey's Beach. A long and quite intense  April southeaster with winds that had been blowing 25-35 knots all day along with lots of rain and fast moving grey cloud.

Then as luck would have it, the wind suddenly dropped off just as we were all off work and the sky began to clear. And the small group of us who are really active in the famed Storey's Beach Surf Club headed straight for the home Beach.
Gary and Doug had got an earlier start and  were doing a downwinder on their surf skis, but Leigh and I were on our paddleboards along with a small group of more traditional surfers.

Darcy would have been there but he and Darlene were off wave-hunting in Belize and Costa Rica.

After storm- evening light 

The light was ever changing and was quite dramatic with remnants of dark storm clouds and rain showers still around along with clearing skies and a setting sun.

Leigh's smile says it all

We've all been asked more than a few times, "How come you guys spend so much time at the same beach?"  Well, I'm finding that the more time I spend at Storey's Beach in all seasons, all weathers, tides, all times of day- it never really seems like the same beach. There are always things different from one time to the next- and it's kind of like an English garden that way. Some flower from the bouquet of potential experiences to be had there is always in bloom.

Paul Kendrick

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Downwinder: Salmon Point to Storey's Beach

Darcy Wardrop-taking a break- note the large raindrops. Didn't even notice that at the time.

Sunday morning January 4/2015. Pouring rain, cold, grey and dim, blowing like hell - 19-42 knots. Perfect! Lets do a downwinder, Salmon Point to Storey's. Gary Robinson's in. Leigh Douglas so wants to be there but hubby Jason's up skiing and there's little MacKenzie to look after and muffins in the oven- but she'll be there next time We three meet up at Storey's and Darlene drives us to Salmon Point. Wow! Is it blowing- though less than it had been earlier. Good thing the little pocket beach put-in is sheltered.
The question arises, "Why are we going away from a perfectly good pub?" There is no adequate explanation. We are venturing into silliness. In search of the kind of experience we can immerse our whole beings into- like cold water on a B.C. west-coast winter day.
I can only imagine what the people having a leisurely Sunday brunch in the pub were thinking looking out at us through the windows from inside the pub over their eggs bennie.

Big breakers. Lots of fast moving white-water

Well, from the van into full-on. Brr! Looks cold. No slow transition time for any kind of warm-up.  It's plunge in and go. It's normalcy to intensity just like that. I promptly fall off my board in waist deep water then hop quickly back on. Focus, focus, focus! And then all is good- I'm connected. We manage to get through the break and start heading offshore to get far enough out that we can then turn and run straight downwind all the way to Storey's beach- about 6 km's away.

Darcy; blowing with the wind. 

You can see the next huge swell slowly rising behind him. Some of these would became steep enough that we all got at least one really good ride in. But they were so fast moving and without a much longer board or a surf-ski almost impossible to catch.
The wind was still blowing hard at this point-so the resulting cross chop on top of the swell made for tricky balancing and any momentary lapse in attention would put us in the water. But then that is one of the things I love most about such paddling- that the conditions demand my full attention- my full presence. Anything less and I'm swimming. And we all did some of that anyway.

Gary and Darcy absolutely at home out there.  Atop what looks like a couple of ironing boards- riding these huge fast moving hills of  water - just having so much fun in conditions that would keep most boats tied up at the dock.
I sneak glances at them try to snap some pictures with my Cool-Pix, trying to remain upright at the same time- thinking this is so fantastic to be doing such a thing. To be in such a place on a stormy  January day- I want to remember what this feels like- always.

 Darcy and Gary taking a break- give the legs a rest. What a workout! Bobbing around out there while the big swells roll under us. Don't want it to be over too soon. 

As we neared Storey's Beach the wind began to drop right off and we arrived to find perfect conditions for surfing. So we just kept right on going- shifting into surf mode. Wave after wave. And then after about an hour, these big clearly defined sets of waves began rolling in and it became even better. We could go further out and just wait for an approaching set of the larger waves. I could see them coming from far enough away to get perfectly positioned by the time they arrived and away I'd go. Just about as good a conditions as we've ever had at Storey's. Darcy and I keep surfing until we can hardly stand up any more.

    These ARE the good old days! What could taste better than a 'Big Surf' beer.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Northern Salish Sea- a Solo Crossing by Darcy Wardrop

Rest stop on Mitlenatch Island 11km's from start

( This post is way overdue due for reporting on such a worthy venture. Darcy Wardrop's solo crossing from Salmon Point on the east side of Vancouver Island to Mitlenatch Island-then on to Savary Island and ending in the little village of Lund north of Powell River.
It is a long a committing crossing- and I love his faith in the universe that he simply planned to hitchhike back.  Darcy was not only my persistent mentor at getting me to try stand-up paddling, and sea kayaking before that- but has also been a very good friend for decades. His account below-and all photos are DW too.)

"Its an old adage I like that Time, Tide ( and Setting Resin ) wait for no-one, but the humble paddler knows that time, tide, wind and weather will play its happy games on the best of days. I have been watching the weather all week, and same as last year we had these crisp clear days , a bit of fog in the morning but burning off to flat calm waters, perfect for stand-up-paddle crossing of the Northern end of the Salish Sea.We had talked of this and my idea that if 2 hours took you out to Mittlnatch island 12km off shore , why backtrack when all sorts of possibilities open up from there, Savary, Cortes, Lund , just get out there and be prepared to take the wind where it might be favorable. As usual, I don't like to think about these things to much the night before, just keep a clear head and go. In the morning I packed a single bag with 2 liters of water and a couple of energy bars , a banana, 3 pieces of rye crisp and some peanut butter , dry clothes a tent hammock and my life jacket with wallet , camera and radio and about $20 bucks in spare change for phone booths as I don't own a cell phone. I impromptly dropped in on my good friend Howard to see if he would juggle my truck back from the put-in at Salmon Point.

                                          Darcy W. out on the perfect day for it.

 The water was rippled with a low wind and the odd whitecap, and the mainland some 25km away in fog. Nothing to do but launch and paddle for an hour and see what happens. About 20 minutes in I was feeling pretty comfortable once I got my balance in sync with a loaded board and the wind coming from NW. Savary Island beckoned in a straight SE line rather than a dogleg north up to Mitlenatch and over, but it seemed disappointing not to go to that wonderful place, and soon I found the tide pushing me north despite the wind and I was actually north and making my way SE to Mitlenatch. Two hours later I was greeted by 3 orange beaked Oyster-Catchers as I pulled in on the gorgeous beach on the north end. Last year my camera died after one picture out there so I wandered a bit to stretch my legs and take some pictures ( there is indeed cactus growing out there as well as a nice apple tree). Chatted with the caretakers and then washed down a Cliff bar and some rye crisp with water and ate my banana and took a swim enjoying the cool analgesic effects of the water. It was a sign that there were standing waves about a foot high in the current that creates a back-eddy off Mitlenatch, it would take me all most 3 hour to paddle the next shorter leg of the distance 10km to Savary island. The wind shifted to the south and blew ever so softly against me and kept me at a perfect temperature as I worked the paddle against it ( the Stroke-Hammer, my hand carved paddle-blade attached to a Nimbus whitewater paddle shaft performed wonderfully , with each stroke the shaft loads under compression and gives a little extra drive at the end when it releases the energy,,,,,I know paddle geek stuff). I made my way by Hernando Island and to Savary and was a bit surprised when the sunbathers that greeted me on Indian Point told me it was 245 pm, it hadn't seemed that long but I suppose I was just paddling in the zone and time had released me of its grip. Savary is one of our most beautiful islands, almost tropical with its white beaches. Though populated it has no real infrastructure , dirt roads, a few beater cars, no ferry but close to Lund that water taxis ferry people back and forth to the many luxury cabins and shacks.Washed down another Cliff Bar and taking another swim I noted that the tide was strong enough that I could barely swim against it. The water finally glassed off for the final 8km paddle to Lund and I was making nice time though I though I might not make it on time to the famous bakery there. About half way across I was feeling a bit dry so I sat down on the board for a while and dug out my other liter of water most of which I downed and fiddled with my shoes to get the sand out that was grinding a bit. Feeling very refreshed I made my way the final hour to Lund basked in the afternoon Sun that they are so famous for over there. I arrived in the nick of time just before Nancy's Bakery closed to have a salad and gluten free lasagna and a Glut free date bar washed down with delicious Beachcomber Ale

 ( I don't remember them tasting quite that good last I had one).I wanted to linger in the tropical garden and have another of those fine beer but they were closed now and I needed to get to Powell River. I talked with a few people around the busy little marina and store and put the word out that I was looking for a ride down to Powell River and would be willing to pay for gas. I had only arrived a half hour before and a guy offered me a ride up to the Malaspina cross road, where said you won't have to wait long.

                                          Hitchiking from Lund to the Powell River ferry

 Sure enough 3 cars and about 5 minutes later I had a ride right to the ferry terminal. The ferry staff allowed him to drive my board right down to the loading dock, and he would not take any of my offer for gas money. I was home by 11-oclock after Dar picked me up on the Comox side. Darcy (Salmon Point------Mitlenatch 12km --2hrs Mitlenatch--------Savary 10km --3 hrs hours Savary ---------Lund 8km --2 hrs 2 liters water, 3 pieces of rye crisp with peanut butter, a banana 2 cliff bars Trips like these, 7 hrs of paddling , the physical effort is relatively minor, fun really, but unlike a marathon or triathlon or organized event , there is no support, no hydration stations, no quick out if your injured. You're in it for the duration. Some people ask why? Adventure, fun ,exploration, lots of reasons- or as Mallory said "because its there." Several crossings of the Salish Sea have been made from the south, this might have been the first northern crossing on a SUP, its a fun fact but certainly not a reason for going,,,,,,,, the utility of the Stand-Up-Paddleboards has been remarkable, and I'm looking forward to trips in the future with friends."

Darcy Wardrop

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A summer paddle on the Puntledge River

Getting ready for the next section on this perfect late summer day   (Darcy Wardrop photo)

It was good to have had our first stand-up river paddling  experience on the slower moving waters, big pools and easy  riffle rapids of the Salmon River before we tried the Puntledge River in Courtenay- about 40 minutes south of our hometown of Campbell River on Vancouver Island. The Puntledge, while rated easy for kayaks, rafts, canoes and is a popular summer float for inner tubes and air mattresses,  it was a little more challenging while trying to stay standing upright on the equivalent of a long ironing board- especially for us river running novices.

Although a shorter run than the section of the Salmon River that we'd done, the Puntledge was flowing much faster and had more 'technical' paddling than our previous outing.

Darcy Wardrop, running one of the more demanding sections- good balance required.   (pk photo)
The water is much deeper than it appears in the photo above. The water is so exceptionally clear that the boulders appear to be just beneath the surface when in fact they are several feet down.

Darcy W. contemplating the best line for the next section- note the leash ...

We were new enough to paddleboarding rivers in 2012 that that we both wore our leashes and only afterwards found out that this can be a real danger on a river. People have died finding that one out. The danger occurs when the tailing leash loop catches on some under or above water fixed obstruction in the river because of a capsize or simple bad luck. 
 You'd be suddenly stopped with the full force of the river current piling up against you- likely being forced underwater with only the time you can hold your breath to free yourself before it was too late. So, we are a little smarter about that one now. On the other hand, one doesn't want to lose one's board either- so perhaps a quick release leash or one with a weaker link that would break with a good yank.  Knee pads would be a good idea and helmets too, if the water had been faster or we had started further up.

We plunked in at Puntledge Park in Courtenay and then pulled out at the little marina and kayak shop on the right further down towards the ocean. It can be run from further up- just down from the Puntledge salmon hatchery at about the same grade of water, so maybe next time we'll do that.

A beautiful paddle and superb warm-water swimming  on a perfect late summer day. And it was just a short enjoyable mountain bike ride back to get my truck at the park. 
Paul Kendrick

Friday, 23 August 2013

Sayward Forest Canoe Route- 2013 Fast & Light

Mohun Lake-early morning. A perfect beginning to my day.

I set out from the boat launch on Mohun Lake at exactly 7:00 a.m. on August 20th. The challenge of trying to do the Sayward Canoe route on my stand-up board in a single day had been on my mind since I had first done the route in 2012. I had used the same Surf-Tec board then but had carried gear and food enough to stay out for two nights as I really didn't know what to expect or how long different sections would take or what problems I might run into along the way.This time I knew the route,could pack much lighter and do each portage just once.


The 48km Sayward Forest Canoe Circuit
The light that morning was just exquisite, that kind of  clear golden light that saturates and enhances all the colours. The water was a vivid deep blue and the sunlit trees such a luminescent green, they seemed lit from within. There was still a faint white mist slowly rising off the surface of the lake - what a place to be paddling on such a morning.

 It took me about 50 minutes to cover the 4.74 km to the start of the first 1.6k portage. I had made an over the shoulder sling with 2 loops in the end to help carry my board- as it is way too tiring on the fingers to carry the full weight of it that kind of distance. I also had a medium sized dry bag with backpack straps on it that my daughter had bought me for Father's day to carry my food and bivi gear. It took about 20 minutes to hike the portage and I was soon back on the water again. Due to the very dry July we'd had, the water level was a little lower than last year so I had to move up closer to the front of my board more often to lift the fin up enough to get through some of the weedy, shallow sections.

The channel leading from the end of the first portage- leads into Twin Lakes

  There was a young couple with a canoe tenting at Twin Lakes and they were just starting to wake up with the warming sun when I landed on the beach. I made short work of the .8 km portage and launched my board into Amor Lake just before 9:00 a.m.
After about a kilometer, I began to hear the sound of loons coming from somewhere up ahead. That classic, iconic call that is so unmistakable, so inseparable from our ideas, our memories of wilderness places. And Amor Lake has that feeling of being a place of wilderness. It's the only major lake on the circuit that does not have any easy road access, so there were no power boats, jet-skis or clusters of campers and RV's along the shoreline like there is near the end of Brewster Lake and along part of the shorelines of Fry and Campbell Lakes.

Amor Lake still has the feel and look of an untouched and unspoiled  place. The water was still calm and the sun was beginning to warm me up. There was no one else in sight and no other sounds other than those made by my paddle moving through the water and the calling of the loons not far ahead.

And there wasn't just one or two, there were over a dozen of them all in some kind of mysterious loon gathering which I'd never seen or heard before. And they were all calling out at once. Both together and with as many different calls as there were birds in this amazing and highly complex acapella collage of wild sound. I needed to stop and hear this. I felt the urging, the pushing of my agenda for the day. But as I began really take in the sounds of this amazing chorus of loons, my paddle hesitated and then stopped and came to rest. I knew I was witnessing something quite remarkable.

For the next few minutes, I just stood still on my board and simply listened. Drifting at rest after the physical efforting to get to that place, I felt very present, very absorbent. I closed my eyes and just surrendered to this exquisite experience. The sound of the loons seemed like it was being somehow woven into the very fabric of this special place. Into the silence, the stillness. Into the waters, into the surrounding evergreen forest. 
Perhaps when I return to that place again, I will still be able to hear the songs of those loons- whether they are actually there or not. 'I will remember this place.'

Turning the corner and reluctantly leaving the loons behind, I began paddling south down the last 2 km of Amor Lake. I was now exposed to the NW wind which had just begun to build. Luckily, it was going with me and I made really good time down to the end of the lake and then again on Surprise, Brewster and Gray Lakes with my body acting as a kind of sail. 

Only needing to do the 2.2 km portage between Surprise and Brewster lakes once was really nice. And this time I carefully avoided the really deep quicksand like mudtrap at the end of Brewster Lake where in 2012 I'd had what I referred to in my post as, "The great mud Battle." I had stepped off my board a little further out than canoeists would- due to the fin on the back of my board, and promptly plunged in up to my waist in deep mud. It had not been easy getting out. If I hadn't grabbed onto my board so quickly, I would have been up to my neck in it. So beware! Land a little to the right of the obvious canoe stop and test the ground before putting your weight on it.
At the end of the 2.2km portage; start of the channel leading to Brewster Lake. Note the carrying sling for my board.

After about 6 1/2 hours of steady going with the only stops being for the loons and later a Snickers bar, I paddled out of the creek leading from Whymper Lake to Fry lake. And there was my good friend Terry Browne in his small inflatable boat with a cold beer in one hand and fishing rod in the other.

Time for a break. Terry had offered to meet me there in case I decided to bail due to strong winds or some other reason- but all was looking good so far. I very regretfully declined the offer of a cold beer knowing that my motivation and momentum would likely fizzle to a halt. I still had a long way to go. Instead I chugged down the Bolthouse chocolate protein drink he'd brought for me. I now believed I was going to make it all the way around before nightfall, so I gave Terry most of my bivi gear but kept my headlamp and extra food just in case. I still had plenty of daylight and energy left and I was past the halfway mark.

Unfortunately, the NW wind which had been such a help up to that point now started blowing directly against me from just past C3 on the Guide Map for the remaining ~4.5 kms to Gosling Bay on Campbell Lake. I took another break there and went for a quick cooling off swim as Terry packed his boat up.

 Lucky for me it wasn't blowing anything like the forecast 20 knots there, but it still made for much harder paddling for most of the remaining trip. Especially on Gosling Lake and most of all, for the final 5km of Mohun Lake back to my starting point.

There was just nothing for it but dig deep and paddle hard at a steady pace. Other than in the stronger gusts, I kept making slow but steady progress and I used every headland and every shoreline indentation I could find to reduce my exposure to the full brunt of the wind. It was hard work but manageable.

The steeper hill portage from Gosling Bay up to Gosling Lake was the last of the longer carries as there was only a few hundred meters each separating each of the the four remaining lakes; Gosling, Higgins, Lawrier and Mohun.

Lawier Lake; last one before the short portage to Mohun

The wind was the strongest on Mohun as it had a good long fetch to build before it reached the south end where I put in for the last stretch. But it was only 5km more to go at that point and I still felt really strong so I just started paddling and except for one quick stretch break on a lovely little whitesand beach about 3/4 of the way, I didn't stop until my board nosed into the same beach I had left from that same morning- and what a great feeling that was!

It had taken me 11 hours and 16 minutes, so faster than the 12-14 hours I had been prepared for.

Finished- and still sunny outside. Pointing to my start and finish point on the map at the boat launch on Mohun Lake.

Whether doing the the whole route or just a shorter section, there are lots of different options with all the logging road access points to most of the lakes. The lightness of the board makes it a lot easier for one person to carry over the portages than a canoe or a kayak- but you do need some kind of sling to go over your shoulder. 

 As far as I know, I'm still the only person to have done the whole route on a SUP board- and this is a surprise to me as it's such a great way to explore this very special area of Vancouver Island.
 So I hope this blog posting will get out there and inspire someone else to pick up their board and paddle this very accessible circuit of lakes. Whether taking a day or a week, it is great paddling country to be out in.

Cheers, Paul Kendrick        

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Read Island- a 51km Easter egg hunt

The Ace-Tech Wing; all ready for overnight wilderness touring (pk photo)

After about ten shorter outings in all kinds of weather from flatwater to a couple of big southeasters, I was more than ready to test my new board on it's first overnight trip- a circumnavigation of Read Island. Although I still really liked my 10' 6" Surf-Tech board, I knew that I was going to have to get a longer board with more flotation and more purpose designed for touring longer distances if I wanted to be able to do the kind of multi-day wilderness paddling trips I had been envisioning.
I surfed the net checking out all the SUP sites, articles, videos, forums etc and finally settled on the 12' 6" 'Ace-Tech Wing' made by BIC. 'Great, now I just have to go buy one,' which should be easy- or so I thought. As it turns out, there isn't (yet!) any retail distributor for the BIC stand-up boards here on the west-coast of Canada, and so I couldn't buy one- at least not unless I wanted to get one on E-Bay or drive to REI in Seattle. I couldn't believe it, I wanted to support one of the local businesses by buying one close to home but that just wasn't possible. Well, there had to be a way- so I decided to go to the top with my plight. A long story and many e-mails later, I was off to Nanaimo to catch the ferry over to Vancouver to pick up the board I wanted in Vancouver. Many thanks to Jason Hilton, Steve Hare and Chris Decerbo from BIC who made it happen. And the 'Wing' is everything I hoped it would be- perfect for Vancouver Island based adventure paddle board touring.

I caught the first ferry over to Quadra Island from Campbell River on March 29/13- 'Good Friday'  and set off from Heriot Bay heading north up Hoskyn Channel after having decided to go clockwise around Read Island. I was concerned about the NW wind which was forecast to blow up to to 30 knots- but by going north first early in the morning, I hoped for lighter winds and then have it behind me in the afternoon if it did really get that strong. Fortunately, it didn't.

Heriot Bay starting point at bottom left

I was sheltered from the wind for the first 45 minutes or so which was nice. Still on the east side of Quadra, I saw some eagles on the shore in the distance- obviously feeding on something, and decided to have a closer look.

                     Bald eagles enjoying rack of seal  (pk photo)

I was unpleasantly surprised to find the eagles feeding on the remains of not one but three seals there- so not sure what the story behind that is but obviously not a happy one for the seals. The eagles were sure dining in style though- nothing was going to waste.

As I neared Conville Point, the northwesterly wind really began to make itself felt and paddling became harder work. I was really happy though with the way the pointed bow of the Wing cut through the waves and with how stable the board felt with the added weight of my overnight gear. Stable enough that I felt no concerns about falling in as I crossed the roughest stretch from Conville Point to Sheer Point on the west side of Read Island. This was a narrow spot so the wind was funnelled through there and kicked up the only real whitecaps I encountered on the whole trip.

To get a better plan future trips I was wearing wearing the Garmin 305 GPS watch that I used for running and this was a great little aid to have along. Even with the wind, I was still making about 5.3km an hour and that actually stayed quite constant for the whole trip- including water and snack stops, so I was pleased with that as it meant I should be able to make it all the way around with just one overnight stop.

After 2.5 hours of steady paddling, I decided to take a short water and Snickers bar break in the little cove tucked behind the south end of Surge Point as I knew the next stretch would be more exposed to the wind.

Snickers stop behind Surge Point

Re-energized, I rounded the point and crossed the open stretch on the opposite side of Surge Narrows and enjoyed a brief respite from the wind at the entrance to Whiterock Passage.

                       Entrance to |Whiterock Passage- dividing Read and Maurelle Islands

The tide was getting quite low by the time I was entering the passage and so I was able to just go slowly along through this short windless stretch and  enjoy seeing some of the bottom flora and fauna through the clear water.

Big sunstar- Whiterock Passage

I could really relax and enjoy the day now because I was now turning east and once I was at the end of Whiterock Passage, I would then have the wind behind me. For March on the B.C. coast, it was developing into a really warm day and I was sweating in my farmer john wetsuit. Fortunately, there was still lots of water of water running in all the little seasonal creeks and runnels coming off the rock walls so I was able to keep well hydrated without going into the 2 litres of extra water I was carrying.
I turned the corner at the end of the passage and decided to take full advantage of the NW wind that was now behind me and paddle on to what I knew was a great campsite at the end of Whale Passage across from Frederic Point. It was still early afternoon by the time I got there but after 34.6km in 6 1/2 hours of paddling, I was more than ready to stop- have something to eat, put my gear out to dry and soak up some sun. Amazing it was so warm and I was just in shorts and sunglasses. Just a week earlier I had been wearing a wool toque and full wetsuit paddling out of Kelsey Bay and it was so cold that I could only stay warm as long as I kept moving.

                 Great camp spot. Bivi-sac, 2 lb down bag and the luxury of a full length Therma-rest.

I had a small fire that night and enjoyed 'a wee dram' of single malt- the Bowmore Doublewood, ahh.
I was packed and off by 7:30 the next morning wanting to take advanatge of the still flooding tide and the NW wind for the long run down the east side of Read Island to Viner Point.

East side of Quadra and Vancouver Island mountains - seen from the crossing  just north of Viner Point to the Breton Islands to Heriot Bay

I could now see Heriot Bay in the distance and with it came thoughts of a big breakfast and COFFEE to look forward to. I was fortunate on this stretch also that the NW winds nver got anywhere near what had been forecast the day before. If they had, I would have had to beat my way much further up the west side of Read Island before crossing and that would have taken a great deal more time and energy.

I'd been going just over 3 hours and had done 16.5 km by the time I landed on the beach in front of the Heriot Bay Inn. So total distance was 50.96m km and total paddling time was 9 hours 35 minutes. No, I don't always keep such tabs on times and distances- but it's useful information for planning more ambitious adventures. And yes, Read Island could be done in a day- but I wouldn't find it as enjoyable. It was a great outing and I hope the first of many such trips now that spring has arrived. Hey, who knows- next time,I may even be able to find someone else who wants to do these kind of trips.

No, I didn't find any Easter eggs.

Paul Kendrick