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North Broughton Kayaking Adventure

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North Broughton Kayaking Adventure

August 31st, 2014  · stk

Lika Point, South End of Hanson Island. | Aug 24

We woke at 0645 hrs this morning to a lower hanging fog than we have had on previous mornings. It was also darker and mistier giving everything a damp feeling. Perhaps it is just the weather today, or perhaps this is the difference because we are now basically exposed to Queen Charlotte Straight instead of tucked away behind numerous islands and hidden inlets.

Despite our latest rise, it was our earliest departure. We were in our kayaks and pulling away from camp at 0830 hrs. We were a littie nervous about being exposed to the Straight and we wanted to make the most of the calm weather of the morning before the afternoon winds pick up.

We made our way out of Monday Anchorage and followed along the southern shore through the mist. As we neared the mouth of the inlet Marsden Island came into view. Still, we hugged the shore of Mars Island until we could see the islands between us and Angular Island. We wanted to paddle through Sunday harbour, but the fog was reducing visibility enough that we stayed close to the shore of one island until the next one was visible. Sunday Harbour is one of the reference points for the tide tables, and we also thought that if we were thinking of staying out a seventh night the Harbour could potentially be somewhere that we could get fresh water from as a yacht might be moored there. As we neared the harbour through the mist, we could hear a boat moving away, but we couldn’t see it. Had we missed our one chance at fresh water, or would there be many anchored yachts to choose from?

For the first time this trip, Rachel had to pull out her smartphone with a map app on it to definitely determine where we were. Scott though that Sunday Harbour was around the island to our left, but Rachel thought it was straight ahead. We turned on the GPS function of the smartphone and determined that Scott was correct. Angular Island was the one to the left, not the one to the right. It seems that once again Scott’s sense of direction is better than Rachel’s. One of these days she might learn to not even question him. Nonetheless, it was nice to have the map app available for a definitive location in the mist.

We paddled into the opening between Angular and Crib Islands and found ourselves in the calm waters of Sunday Harbour. As we made our way through the fog it became apparent that there were no boats anchored in the harbour. We noted, however, what a great spot it would be to moored because it was so protected with islands all around. We even noted three buoys that looked like they had been there a long time. We figured that they are actually moorage buoys rather than trap buoys.

We made our way out of the Harbour at Sunday Pass. As we came around the corner we hoped that the fog would be clear enough to give us a sighting of an island ahead with which we could landmark. We were in luck. The Coach Islets were visible, one after the other as we progressed through the calm but foggy waters.

Scott was a little apprehensive about making the crossing across Arrow Passage. He was worried that we could lose landmarks in the fog and face a 15 minute paddle blind. Thankfully it wasn’t an issue. The smattering of Islets and rocky outcrops between Sunday Harbour and Fog Islets off of Bonwich Island were plentiful enough that we never lost sight of land. In fact, for Rachel it was the opposite problem. There were so many outcrops and islets that she had a hard time keeping tabs on which corresponded to which one on the map.

With Scott leading the way, we soon found ourselves pulling into Dusky Cove. It was identifiable by its large marshy flat beach area which is so in contrast with most of the shoreline terrain. We pulled our kayaks up along the rock and clamoured out. We sat on the rocky beach and ate cookies and pepperoni until we had satisfied the hunger. The fog was still thick around us and we both commented that for the first time on this trip we were chilled. Rachel even opted to trade her long sleeved top for her neoprene one, and then as we were about to push off, she dug her neoprene gloves out as well (although she didn’t keep them on for much more than about five minutes.). Scott, however, toughed it out, but he did admit that he had given a thought to his neoprene gloves as well.

We left Dusky cove at about 1130hrs and we were planning to make our way through the islands towards Sedge Island. Again, however, we lost our reference points in the fog and what we though was High Island ended up being Sedge. We had to almost double back in order to check out the camp location indicated on the map. As Rachel headed into the finger cover on Sedge Island, Scott hung out around the islets to the south. We could hear a whale off in the fog, but we couldn’t see him. It seemed like he should be close, but the sound carries well across the water and the fog gave everything such a distorted feel.

The inlet to the camp on Sedge has a rocky outcrop in the middle. Even though it ws mid tide, the south side of the outcrop was really shallow with big boulders hiding just below the surface of the water, waiting to ground out a kayak or tear a propeller off a speed boat. As it turned out, Rachel did almost ground out on a particularly pointy rock and she cringed as she could almost feel the polymer scrape off the bottom of her kayak. Needless to say, as we left the cove, we kept to the other side of the outcrop and found much deeper water.

The head of the cove was littered with logs that made it difficult to make one’s way all the way to the headland and any semblance of beach. Rachel ended up climbing over quite a few logs, thinking how challenging it would be to protect one’s kayaks from high tide. When she reached the headland she noted that there were a couple of small two-person tent sites in the smashed down grass. There was also a trail leading off into the bush behind the beach and there was a clearing in the trees that could take a couple of tents (and obviously has in the past). All in all, it was not a very desirable site as far as the camping amenities, but it is very desirable in its proximity to the outer islands and wonderful paddling.

By the time we came back out of Sedge Island’s cover, the sound of the whale in the fog was gone. Thankfully, however, we could now see House Island and began to make our way there. As we were approaching it, we began to hear the whale again. It sounded like he was close by, but we still couldn’t see him. Then, seemingly over a matter of minutes, the fog lifted. At first it just rose up a bit so that we could better see the islands, but then all of a sudden it was gone altogether and the sun was shining down on us. As the fog cleared, we were able to see further and now we could see the whales! Yes, multiple whales were to our right as well as straight ahead. We paddled and watched, and watched and paddled, and before we knew it, we were nearing Fire Island off the tip of Owl Island. The whales were out in Queen Charlotte Straight but the majority of the action seemed to be over towards White Cliff Islets. Scott then looked at Rachel and asked if we wanted to head that way, and we did.

Sure enough, as we approached the Islets the whales seemingly disappeared or departed for other areas. Nonetheless we continued on to the inviting looking rocky outcrops and soon found ourselves at the eastern edge of one of the larger islets. The shore was a gentle sloping metamorphic gneiss rock that was smooth and its blackened surface was warm under the newly exposed sun. We easily landed our kayaks on the smooth rock ledge. We sat on the rock and had our lunch, went exploring around the island and made a mental note that this would be a cool island on which to camp. It felt very tropical and from our vantage point we were able to watch the whale activity all around us as well as the boat traffic coming and going from Telegraph Cove, Alert Bay and Port McNeil.

As we had sat eating our lunch on the rock shelf we had watched the whales breaching and flipping their tails out of the water, but it had been a kilometer or so away. As the whales breached, we saw their huge bodies out of the water for a second and then a massive splash of white water followed by what sounded like the clap of thunder. The delay on any of the noises that the whales make, whether it be blowing or breaching, was a second or two. Scott made the comment, when we were watching them, that by the time you heard them, it was too late to see them.

We lingered on the Islets for about an hour before we loaded back into our kayaks. We had been planning on camping at Owl Island, but we were already a little past that island so we decided to head past Bold Head on Swanson Island and into Blackfish Sound. We hoped to see more whales, and last time we were paddled from Telegraph Cove, it was in Blackfish Sound and Johnstone Straight that we saw all of the whale activity. Furthermore, on our last trip we had spent a night camped on a small island off the south eastern tip of Hanson Island. From that camp we had a viewpoint over the junction between Blackney Passage and Johnstone Straight. Not only do the currents cruise past that point, but so do the cruise ships and marine life, making for a great place to sit and watch the passage. The memory of that camp drew us on, both of us knowing that we were heading to that destination without having to discuss it.

We made the paddle from White Cliff Islets past Round Island towards Bold Head and then into Blackfish Sound. As we moved further away from our lunch spot, and we looked back over our shoulders, the whales were back playing in that area again, so much closer to the islets that we had just left behind.

As we entered into Blackfish Sound between Hanson and Swanson Islands we were amazed at the number of fishing boats out. We then reminded ourselves that it was a Sunday afternoon, but still, after the tranquility and solitude that we had just enjoyed for the past four and a half days, seeing a boat around every corner was a bit of a shock. We didn’t see many more whales once we were in the Sound, but we did see our first kayakers. As we were approaching Flower Island we saw them coming across the Sound from Hanson Island and it looked like they were headed for the camp at Flower Island. If there had been any question about where we were stopping for the night, that sighting decided it for us; Almost immediately Scott suggested that we begin our crossing of the Sound, and we were on our way to the camp at the tip of Hanson Island in Blackney Passage.

Two years ago when we had paddled across the Sound it had been foggy and we had very limited visibility. This time the sky was clear and the sun shining down on us. Nonetheless, we reached Hanson Island around Mel’s beach, which is pretty much the same place where we reached the other shore, through the fog, last time. Even though we were on an ebb tide, the current was still with us through the Sound. We easily made our way past the Orcha Research Centre and as we neared Licka Point the current picked up speed, making us both a little anxious that we might overshoot our camp’s cove. We needn’t have worried about bypassing it because we made our way out of the current and inside the kelp beds that lined the side of the islands. Once there we were in protected waters and weren’t being swept along the shore at an unmanageable speed. At our leisure, we were approach each small cove and determine whether or not it was the one we were looking for.

We arrived at our cove and pulled our kayaks in so that we could climb out. The clearing in the salal was much the same, but “Don” has leveled out another tent pad on the rock ledge by hauling up small gravel and he has also carved a sign that denotes it as his pad.

We put up the tent and laid our sleeping bags out in the sun, and then filled our mugs with some wine and sat out on the point to watch the activity. It is a difficult place to get the day’s journal written because there is so much going on and always something to steal your attention away from the writing. At 5pm, two hours after the tide changed we watched as the water got a little turbulent and then te current changed. We watched the fishing boats come and go, tugs pulling barges and a few humpbacks coming up for air as they made their way through the busy passage. The eagles were flying overhead and we watched as one plucked a fish out of the passage and then flew back to shore over our heads with his catch. Being that is was Sunday night we only saw one cruise ship pass by, and this one came down Johnstone Straight, having navigated through Weynton Passage instead of Blackney Passage. It was a Disney ship with the silhouette of Mickey on each of the two smoke stacks.

We ate our dinner out on the point and then continued to sit there as dusk set in around us. It was at that time when we saw the most whales come by the point. We had seen some in the 3-4 hours previous, but as the light faded, the whales seemingly came out. We saw a few pods of them come around the corner of Hanson Island, hit the current going through Blackney Passage and shoot through into the Sound. We also saw dolphins playing in the current, bobbing up and down in the same spot for a while. As dusk turned to dark we finally decided that it was time to head to the tent for a good night sleep. Once in the tent, Scott was soon snoring gently, but as Rachel read her book she could hear lots of splashing going on in the channel behind us. It was too dark to go see, but Rachel lay there envisioning the dolphins chasing salmon up and down the channel.

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Updated: 16-Sep-2014
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