Sunday, June 21, 2009

Broken Islands Kayak Trip

When I built my new kayak, one of the design criteria was that it should be suitable for a week long camping trip. This of course means that at some point I would have to test this theory.
Rather than do this in a stages, I decided that a cannonball off the end of the dock would be more productive. So after a bunch of research and reading (checking the water depth before diving) I packed up my car with way too much stuff and headed out to Toquart Bay in Barkley Sound, BC.
The photo to the right shows the gear pile, most of which also functions as a flotation device in case I flood my kayak.


This is the view of Lyall Point from the exit of the channel between the Stopper Islands. Beyond Lyall, you can see the distant island straight ahead, Hand Island, my first destination. I should mention that short of a brief paddle in Vancouver when I was a kid, this is my first time in a kayak on the ocean. Nothing like starting slow.
The crossing was good though, pretty smooth water but its odd when you get out into the swell, and your kayak goes up and down by a meter or more.

This is the view from Dodd Island, across Peacock Channel to the Brabants and Hand Island.
This last leg on the first day proved to be somewhat ill advised. The winds were calm when I started, but picked up fast as I made my way across, before long I was bucking big whitecaps with some slight swell underneath. Wave size is of course hard to judge in a kayak, but they were big enough to cause me to question the wisdom of my choices. To top off the fun, the waves were perpendicular to my planned course, so I ended up adjusting and heading out to the far tip of the island so I could take the waves three quarter on my bow. Turns out though that a fully loaded Aleut kayak is a bloody stable thing, and the only time I felt somewhat nervous was making the turn once I got to the island, so I could surf back down wind to the harbor entrance. I don't have any pictures of any adventurous water, I didn't want to drop my paddle to take photos as I needed to use the blade to brace the kayak and stay upright.


One thing I have to say about the Broken Group, the sunsets are absolutely amazing, this is Dodd island. Made the first days paddle all worth it.
The nice thing about Dodd is that there are lots of guided groups, while on the surface this may sound like a problem, it is important to note that guided groups always have left over food, and its good. I got cake.

I stuck around Dodd for a couple nights, to rest and relax. Did some paddling around but kept to sheltered waters, I was a little shy after getting hit by the wind on my first day. On day three I struck out to move camp to Gibraltar Island, which is located in the more sheltered inner islands. This is an island along the way, unnamed but located near Elbow Rocks.

Midway between Mullins and Dempster Island I found a group of Sea Lions on a rock. I kept a fair distance away so as not to disturb them, but they barked at me regardless and took to the water.

The lagoon between Jaques and Jarvis. Pretty at high tide, but amazing at low tide.

The Treble Islands. Most places in the Broken Group consist of little clumps of islands, with sheltered water in between. There are a few major channels though, which tend to get a little choppy.

View from Gibraltar island campsite. This was a group of kayakers I met the night previous departing. Everyone in the islands is super friendly, you could come with a weeks food and stay for months just on the leftovers of departing kayakers who don't want to lug things home.

Rock near Nettle Island, this one had a mink on it that was fishing for crab.

This is in a narrow channel between Denne and Nettle islands. Once you enter it all you hear is the sounds of birds, specifically the Hermit Thrush, they are on all the islands and have the most beautiful call.

One of the Treble Islands up close. There are little nooks and crannies on near every island, just countless places to explore. This one had a small sand beach at low tide that was covered with mussels and snails.

Between Jaques and Jarvis is a little lagoon, the north west corner of which has a small channel, which at low tide is like paddling through an aquarium. You look down off your boat and there are countless creatures, starfish, bat stars, snails and crabs, and lots of these freaky things, sea cucumbers. Now picture being an naive prairie kid and something like this appearing out of the mirk right below your kayak, I half expected it to leap up and start clawing my face off, and it took me a while to work up the courage to stick my hand in the water to take a few pictures.

Continuing the theme of wacky creatures from the shallow, this is a moon snail. The picture doesn't quite do it justice, you have to see this guy in person, the shell is 4 inches across, and the foot is the size of a dinner plate.

The forest on Gibraltar. Once you get off the water, the islands haven't really been logged, so there are lots of neat woods, no official trails though, so the walking is fun.
I also had this Island all to myself on my fourth night. Its funny how a lot of people told me that it would take five days to get really comfortable, and its totally true, I had all my systems in place, and living was easy so I could just truly enjoy where I was. All my lifes worries faded away and I just was. As someone I met later put it "...you just become part of the tides". Interesting experience, solo wilderness travel is highly recommended.

As a bit of a pastime while out on the islands I carved driftwood, usually into these little watcher figurines which I used to keep an eye on my tent and boat. A lot of these got sent off with various people as presents or thank yous for donated treats. There are tons of pieces of old growth cedar just washed up on the beaches.

Hand Island, around sunset. I think Hand was my favorite island, beautiful white sandy beaches, lots of trails, great tide pools, and people coming and going, and not many staying.

View to the Brabants, if you get out early in the day you can avoid the wind, and its just flat calm out there.

Brabant islands, looking north to hand and the main body of Vancouver Island.

Sea Anemone in a tide pool on Hand Island.

The beach on Hand Island, you can see my campsite in the centre of frame. Rough life, I even had a wooden dinner table with a bench seat.

More hand Island Beach, looking towards Lyall Point, I had this beach all to myself on my last night, great morning and evening sun.

This little spot was just past the Stopper Islands. Looking out at the open ocean, other than the few small islands there isn't a whole lot of land between here and Japan. Something I was cognizant of as I made the open crossing from Hand. You definitely have to trust yourself and your gear, and realize that your survival is up to you alone. Though really, if I got into a real spot I had flares on me, and I was wearing a dry suit, with lots of insulation underneath, so I could just hang out till help arrived.
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Strangely this isn't photoshoped, this is looking across David Channel towards the Mountains. Absolutely amazing scenery, and in the right light you dont see the clearcuts.


Back at civilization, cant say I was overly happy about it, but I met some nice people from Comox who offered me tea and some good conversation. Good way to ease back in.

The kayak, it survived intact and happy, though I now have a lot of sand and grit inside, so I don't think the skin is going to last long, we shall see.
All in all though, I love this boat, the hatches worked like a dream, I could pile a TON of gear inside: 32 litres of water, way too much food for a week, full repair and first aid kits, a spare hammock tent, in addition to a full camping kit and some luxury items like 6 cans of tonic so I could sip G&T's on the beach. She was comfortable through the long days, and took the waves with aplomb, no fuss or anything.
The Aluet paddle is fantastic, tons of support when things are rough, comfy to hold, and motivates the kayak smartly, even when its loaded down. I cant see switching back, except for rivers.

1 comment:

Sara said...

I'm glad you had such a wonderful time and met so many people. I thought you were going to be out there all alone.

And, damn, do you ever take such wonderful photos! Keep it up!