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

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Paul for putting up my story. I guess what could be more clear is that this is a crossing from Salmon Point just south of Campbell River on Vancouver Island to Lund on the Mainland.