We arrived in Port Hardy at about 8:00 in the morning. Not really sure what the town was like we had our usual dilema or where to stay, and what to do with our kayaks. As usual though these problems managed to solve themselves.
We decided that it would be easiest if I hitched from the ferry terminal into town and Kim paddled the boats across the bay to the dock. Kim set of in her kayak with mine in tow, while I hopped in a local's truck for the 5 minute ride into town. Whilst I was waiting for Kim on the end of the jetty, right next to the local coast guard station, the sight of a single kayaker pulling an obviously empty kayak seemed to cause a little bit of confusion and concern for the local coasties and I had to explain to them that it was ok, there wasn't a sea kayaker lost somewhere out there, the rescue could wait!
The site of Kim paddling towards the docks obviously impressed some people though, as we spent the next 2 hours being interview by the Goldy's, a couple who produce marine safety videos and were looking for someone to fill in for their kayaking segment! Fancy that, two aussie kayakers in a Canadian national marine safety video, wouldn't Dave be proud!!
The docks looked safe enough, so we risked leaving our boats there over night, they were right under the oses of the coast guard after all. Then there was only the question of where to stay. This too presented itself. A local called Ron was hanging out on jetty and noticed us being interviewed. We told him our story and asked us where was a good place to stay. Where upon he promptly invited us back to his place to crash for the nigiht. Too easy. We spent the rest of the day being shown around Port Hardy and looking for charts for the next week's paddling.
After an fun night, we headed to the docks to be on our way, only to find a confused harbour master, and the local sea kayak outfitter standing on the docks, looking at our kayaks. They were obviously a liitle confused about their appearance, and were debating what to do with them. It turned out that we had tied up to the dock the day before it was to be moved for the winter, and our kayaks were holding up this procedure. And if we hadn't arrived at the opputune moment, we wold have been short two kayaks and lots of gear!
After quickly moving the boats, it was my turn to get in and paddle this time, we began procratinating, and eventually met another aussie couple. The first of our country men we had seen since leaving Ketchikan a month ago. We ended up hanging out for the aftenoon, enjoying dinner together and retiring to our tents, on the dock. We promised ourselves that we would depart in the morning.
With a big push we set off the next morning around 11, headed South. Either Port McNeill of Telegraph Cove, whichever we made. With tail winds, and a flooding tide we made good time and sailed past Port McNeill around 5pm. Continuing on Telegraph was decided upon. Alas we couldn't make out the correct bay in the night and took the bay before, being confused by the mill that presented itself. We sent the night in a float house that was being built and rose before the sun to head around the corner to Telegraph Cove, literally 5 minutes away. Waiting for the 3 knott tide to turn we spent the morning looking around the historical logging and whaling comunity, which is now a tourist resort ironically relying on whale tours rather than destruction!
With the tide turning around midday we headed out to Port Neville. Skirting the Robson Bight marine park. We'd discovered in Telegraph, that this was an important place for Orca migration, and we realised that if we were ever to see Orca's then this was probably our last chance. Surprisingly we had seen literally hundreds of humpbacks up in Alaska but so far had been alluded by their more agressive cousins. Heartbreakingly we managed to arrive in numerous places the days following an Orca appearance!
Luckily though Robson didn't dissapoint, and we were entertained for about an hour, with a magical sunset, some of the local Orcas put on an impressive aerial display for us. I can only geuss at what would have happened to Kim if we hadn't seen an Orca the entire trip!
With the sun disapearing I began my usual routine of whining and Kim telling me to toughen-up. "It's only a bit of darkness and we have to keep going, there's nowhere to stop anyway". Looking at the bank I realised that she was right, as usual, there was absolutely nowhere to stop. So I cracked open a can of Toughen-Up, munchecd down on one of Polky's Be-A-Man granola bars and kept on paddling. We managed to find Port Neville in the dark, luckily the only resident was still up reading, as we found out the next morning, and we spotted the light. Without the light, we could easily have missed the small bay in the dark!
We awaoke the next morning to rain, and wind. We had camped on a dock, so we should have known! The morning was spent looking around the historic post office, it is still in use today, although the majority of the populace that it once served had all but vanished.
We ventured out into Johnstone Strait only to be hit by 25 kott headwinds. Ducking into a back channel in an attempt to avoid the worst of the weather didn't really work, we seemed to be battling head winds all day. We stopped and chatted to a couple of fish farmers who told us that there was another farm of theirs a couple of miles away and we should be fine to stay there. Liking the idea of a warm shower, a roof and some warm food we pushed on to the farm. Just before the farm we paddled passed what appeared to be a nice spot to camp, with a moral dilemma we discussed stopping to camp here, but the idea of warmth got the better of us and we headed for the farm. We found out later that there is a big, angry grizzly that lives right there!
Upon arriving at the farm we were greeted with a warm welcome. The boys had been out there for a week, and due to large plankton levels hadn't been able to do anything, except drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, they were happy for a bit of company!
After a nice warm shower and a relaxing evening on the couch we hit the water again the next morning. Our goal for today was Blind Pass, where we would be in a good position to tackle the Yuculta and Dent Rapids the day after. It turned out to be a relatively easy day, as the Greene Point Rapids that we had to negotiate were hit at dead slack water, due largely to luck....
We arrived in Blind Pass, a small fishing lodge which has a restaurant (closed), a liquor and grocery store (both open) which we took full advantage of. We spent the afternoon assessing the Dent and Yucalta rapids we would have to tackle the next day. Both of which are notoriusly dangerous having claimed several large fishing boats with all hands!
Friday morning we left nice and early to ensure we would hit both rapids at slack water, which we almost managed to do. As we were entering the Dent Rapids neither of us thought that we were moving that quickly until Kim looked at the bank and let out a yell of alarm. I looked over to see what the problem was, and saw! shore was quickly disapearing at at least 10 knots!!! Realising that we would have to take prompt action, there was no way we could get out ot the rapids now, we both began paddling hard, to allow us enough speed to negotiate the rapids. Watching 8 foot whirlpools from a distance of only 3 feet is quite alarming, even more so when you are in a 19 foot sea kayak. However I was relatively confident in our ability and was about to say somethig to Kim, when I noticed she was no longer next to me.
A quick glance over my right shoulder failed to reveal her, so I had to stop paddling and turn right around in my kayak. Temporarily forfeiting visibilty of what lay ahead, but also surrending control of my kayak. What I saw was somewhat alarming. 100 metres behind me I could see Kim. She was facing upstream and the stern of her kayak was totally submerged and the bow partially out of the water at about 15 degrees. I would have been impressed had I not been so scared. Also if anything had happened to Kim there was no way I would have been able to make it back against the current!
I had to quickly look back to where I was going, in order to prevent the same fate happening to me, but my next glance revealed that Kim was following again, albeit some distance behind. It wasn't really somewhere I wanted to stop and wait, but the rapids seemed to peter out so I managed to relax a bit whilst Kim caught up.
Although visibly shaken, there was more to come. Right in the middle of the rapids is a colony of seal lions. Those delightfully scary animals that had a habit of chasing us and scaring our pants off. These ones managed to live up to there reputation, chasing us into another set of rapids. Negotiating ocean rapids is unsettling at the best of times, doing it whilst watching over your shoulder for angry seal lions is down right scary! Luckily we managed to arrive unscathed into Big Bay, where we stopped for lunch, waiting for the Yuclata Rapids to subside.
These we the most fearsome of the two rapids in the area, and the ones we were most worried about. Kim went wandering along the docks to ask some locals for any advice, the only person she could find had arrived last night and had no idea that he had passed through one of the most dangerous pieces of inland waters on the Canadian West Coast, which was of no help at all. In the end we decided to trust our instincts, abilities and tide charts and nervously headed off for what we predicted to be about the right time. All of our fears were put to rest however when a float plane landed right in the middle of where the rapids were supposed to be. We spent the rest of the afternoon wondering why 3 knots felt so slow, after hitting 10 for most of the morning this wasn't surprising really, as we paddled towards Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island.
We finally arrived in Squirrel Cove about 10pm that night, to be immediately offered a bed by a local who had come down to the dock to pick up a life jacket out of her skiff, and ended up taking us and all of our wet smelly gear too!
Saturday morning was spent visiting the famous Free Store (yes as the name suggests you don't actually have to pay for anything) before heading to what would be our last wilderness campsite.
We had planned on pushing right through past Lund, after sampling the famous bakery, however after a hard day Friday and a late start we didn't quite make Lund, stopping instead at some small remote islands, which were suspiously similar to islands back home in Oz. We had a nice peaceful night in the Copeland Island group, and took in what we knew would be our last chance alone before we headed back into civilisation for good.
Sunday we managed to make Lund for breakfast, and the bakery was pretty good, although we haven't been able to have it verified by South Australia's leading bakery critic, David Williamson. With rain and wind pervailing outside the door it took us a while to drag ourselves from the warm confines of the bakery, but we did, and pushed on towards West View. Along the way we paddled through what was one of the eeriest parts of the trip.
At Powell River there is a large paper mill, this has its own dock, however it is in a relatively exposed position. In order to protect the dock at some point in time someone had the idea to beach numerous old cargo ships to act as a break-water. As practical as this appears to be, it does give the impression of paddling through a grave yard, as you gaze 10 metres up at the slowly rusting hulks.
Soaking wet and freezing cold we were quite relieved to come across a caravan park in West View and decided to spend the night. After a refreshing and warming shower we threw all of our clothes into the dryer and headed off to the covered picnic table for dinner.
With two more days of good weather forecast before the next front we had a long way to paddle if we were to get to Squamish in front of the weather. So it was that we were off in glorious sunshine and no winds to push as far as possible on Monday. It was somewhat appropriate that two of the best consecutive days we had in British Columbia were whilst we were paddling along the aptly named Sunshine Coast, and sunshine there was in abundance. The day was dominated with paddling along cliffs reminisant of South Australia littered with holiday houses of Vancouverites. We continued all day to Secret Cove, where we oggled all the large cruisers and looked about to see if there would be any to camp. Apparently not, so we continued on to Sechelt, arriving about midnight and camping on the beach right in front of a locals' house.
Tuesday morning the said resident came out and was somewhat shocked to see two people breaking camp on what was effectively her front yard, before 6 O'clock in the morning. She was somewhat soothed however when Kim explained what we were doing and that we were just leaving!
With Squamish literally just around the corner we decided to push on and make this our last day. We stopped at Gibsons, at the entrance to Howe Sound, for lunch and to try ring people to come and meet us at the dock. However with no answer we continued up the sound taking in the final views of our trip, and bathing in the sunshine. We could see the clouds rolling up the sound over our shoulder. With a brief stop at Britannia Beach we made it into Squamish sometime around 8pm and covering over 70km. We paddled up to the dock in the dark and into the spotlights of a film crew in town working on the lasted production to come out of Squamish. It was quite the shock for us after 106 days of adventure and quite the shock for them too when we told them where we had come from.
Skagway, Alaska, 2665km away by sea kayak!
|towing Lachs boat to the coast guard dock, Hardy|
|towing Lachs boat to the coast guard dock, Hardy|
|paddling south towards Telegraph Cove|
|just north of Robson Bight marine reserve|
|our first Orca sighting for the entire trip|
|Sunderland Channel, through Whirlpool Rapids|
|Yuclata rapids at slack water. note water surface|
|Water confusion in the Yuclatas. 100's of metres|
|looking south into Calm Channel|
|this is one way to transport a house|
|heading towards Rendezvous Island|
|looking west to Toba Inlet, Deer Passage|
|leaving Squirrel Cove for Copeland Islands|
|Sarah Pt, Desolation Sound|
|the goose at Lund|
|heading to Powell River|
|old cargo ships, now acting as a breakwater|
|south end of Nelson Island|
|heading along Sechelt Peninsula|
|enjoying our last few days|
|reminding us of SA|
|quiet and serene|
|our last sunset day 105 outside Secret Cove.|
|sunrise on day 106. This was our last campsite|
|sunrise, paddling past Sechelt|
|amazing morning to finish on|
|forecasted strong winds for Howe Sound approaching|
|turning north into Howe Sound|
|under the dock at Gibsons Landing|
|heading up Howe Sound....ready to retire|
|log booms behind Gambier Island|
|nearly home, Howe Sound|
|looking south watching for the weather|
|clearing skies, our last photo together! Anvil Is.|