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

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