Posts Tagged With: kayak

Never get out of the boat.

“Never get out of the boat! Never get out of the boat!” Chef – Apocalypse Now.

Beach at Gibson, Flores Island, BC.

Beach camp at Gibson, Flores Island, BC.

In a driving rain, I landed on the desolate sandy beach. It would have been more inviting, if not for the weather. I was glad to land, the wind was picking up, and the seas were getting angry. Also I was a little off, feeling tired, not on top of my game. This was going to be my spot for the night. I searched for the backwood campsite and found it in the dunes. It was a nice sheltered site, level with a wooden tent platform, metal food cache box and pit toilet. This was luxury compared to the beach camping I had been doing. I couldn’t really complain though; any beach camping ain’t that bad.

As I explored my accommodation for the night, I noticed a strange mound on the beach with crows circling above, so I went to investigate. It proved to be a large, recently deceased sea lion washed up on the sand. As I walked around the carcass, a chill went down my spine. His neck was ripped open and he was surrounded by a large amount of canine prints that led back to the tree line. They were fresh and large, too big to be coyote. I instantly knew what had left them; wolves!

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Wolf prints, lots of wolf prints

Wolf prints, lots of wolf prints

Wolves are known to roam these beaches. I spun around and nervously scanned the area, nothing. I pulled out my bear spray and grabbed a thick stick with a knot on the end; wolf club. I reconsidered, this might not be the best place to camp after all.

There was another beach beyond the headland, a few hundred yards away. I decided to recon to see if it was suitable for camping. I figured it wouldn’t take long and the nocturnal beasts wouldn’t be active in the afternoon. (Did I now think I was an expert in wolf behavior?)

I walked over the headland through dense, pristine old-growth forest and saw that the next beach was a protected place to land from the surf with a few good spots to camp on the sand. So I headed back to get my kayak in order to relocate.

As I left the forest I quickly scanned the beach with my binoculars. I saw the kayak, it was fine, so then I checked out the sea lion. My heart stopped. There was a large wolf on top, tearing its skin off and he was between me and my boat.

It suddenly hits me what an idiot I am! Basically I see a dead seal surrounded by wolf prints and I go for a stroll!? Anyone with half a mind would have immediately got off the f****** beach. I was disappointed in myself for that bone-headed decision. As I said, clearly not on my game. I knew this situation had to be resolved fast – I had to get to the kayak with all my provisions in it and launch, preferably without getting mauled.

I have had some experience with wolves in the wild, so I knew they tend to be shy of humans. Hmmmm. Unless they are defending a food stash? Again, clearly I am not an expert in wild canine behavior. But I did need a plan. And quick.

I was about three hundred yards away and I didn’t think he had seen me yet. So my cunning plan was to let him know I was there. I mean, What’s the worst that could happen? I reviewed the options.

A) He would see me and run off. Good

B) He would ignore me and continue chewing on the seal, blocking my escape route. Not good

C) He would charge me and I would have to defend myself with my weak, completely inadequate arsenal of pocket knife, bear spray, wolf club. Really bad.

Hoping wildly for the first option, I took a deep breath and shouted; deep, guttural and loud. My voice boomed and echoed across the bay. Standing tall, I started waving my arms. The wolf’s head popped up in the opposite direction; He slowly turned and looked my way for about ten seconds and then he continued tearing away at the seal.

Great, now what? I’m screwed. It was a massive seal, he could be eating for days.

Suddenly he started behaving differently, twitchy. Surprisingly, he jumped off the seal and trotted off. He took a quick look my way as he disappeared into the trees. This was my chance; I started moving quickly down the beach towards the seal.

As I pass by, I saw him along the tree line, only 75 yards away! We watched each other cautiously as we walked in opposite directions. He again disappeared into the trees. I threw everything into the cockpit, dragged the kayak into the water and clumsily launched. I was reminded of a line from a favorite movie – Never get out of the boat.

Massive!, very fresh wolf print on the beach.

Massive! Very fresh wolf print on the beach.

I landed at the next beach which was, in reality, only about a quarter mile away. So as I unloaded I wasn’t surprised to see wolf prints here too. In my mind I tried to reassure myself; You have camped in wolf territory before, it will be fine. Taking advantage of a lull in the rain, I started setting up my tent feet away from a pair of wolf tracks.

Wolf prints near the tent.

Wolf prints near the tent.

I was skittish, my head swiveled continuously, scanning the beach. I had wolf club nearby and the bear spray in my pocket, with the safety off, ready to go. A rookie mistake, I know better. As I bent down to unload the kayak, I heard the mace go off. For the second time that day I thought ‘what an Idiot’.

I closed my eyes and held my breath. After a few minutes I slowly opened my eyes. they didn’t sting; I wasn’t choking. Phew! I got lucky. Then I looked down the front of my pants and from my waist to my knees was soaked in pepper spray. Not good! The burning sensation came on quickly. I don’t know if you ever maced yourself in the nuts before. It’s a unique kind of pain. It felt as if you juiced one hundred jalapeños and poured it down the front of your pants. I ripped off my pants faster than a teenager in heat. I danced around the beach and waded out into the ocean. For days my thighs were stained deep orange, and every once and a while they would heat up like a sunburn.

I slept well that night despite reeking of mace, the driving rain, and the threat of wolf attack. Because of circumstances beyond my control I was forced to spend three nights on this beach, and I never did see another wolf.

 

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Categories: Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Danger paddle

In planning my kayak trip through Clayoquot Sound, there was a stretch I was fretting about. My route included a seven mile stretch of rugged coast that would take three hours of paddling, exposed to the Pacific swell and westerly winds. It was going to be challenging and full of hazards; I nick-named it ‘danger paddle’.

I became obsessed; studying nautical charts for hours, but it didn’t help; it just made me more nervous. I had the chart laid out on the floor. I would hover over it on my hands and knees, drops of sweat formed on my brow as I studied it during the summer heat. There were shoals, submerged rocks, exposed points and lots of shallows. That spelled trouble – boomers: unpredictable waves that rise out of the shallows and are catastrophic if one hits you. It was going to be like paddling through a minefield.

The cons were endless, with most scenarios ending in my capsizing and huge waves mashing me into the rocks.

There was only two pros :

1 If I didn’t do danger paddle, I had a 20 mile detour; A full day and half worth of paddling. That would put a big kink in my schedule.

2 It would be intense, exhilarating, scary. I wanted to do it bad!

The bottom line; I was only attempting it if everything was perfect; both weather forecast and sea conditions. But the only way to know if everything was perfect was to check it out in person.

Helen isn’t a big fan of my solo kayak trips. She was definitely was not happy about this one; Ten days and out of cell phone reception the whole time. For safety reasons, we went through my trip itinerary before I left, like we always do. We mapped out my route on the nautical charts and went through each day and all my notes. Everything was fine until she flips to day five on the notepad. “Why is day five titled ‘danger paddle’?” I hemmed and hawed a little, and muttered, “It’s an exposed area … But it shouldn’t be that bad.” H – “If it’s not that bad why did you call it danger paddle?”
Crap. I just made her more nervous than she already was.

But I was going to be careful, I always am on these trips. All alone, miles from anyone, no cell phone reception. If you’re in trouble, there is hardly anywhere to land. If you can even make it ashore in the massive surf and jagged rocks, you’re on a deserted island.  If it goes bad, you’re on your own.

Early morning launch

Early launch in the morning mist.

Finally, the big day arrives. The Pacific is usually calmer early in the morning with the off-shore wind building throughout the day. So I woke up before dawn and stuck my head out the tent. A perfect day; a little mist but no wind and the ocean was calm. I quickly broke camp and launched.

The swell built as I paddled west out of the bay, but sea conditions were still manageable as I swung well off-shore. The waves passed under me and thunderously broke against the rocks; foaming and chaotic. Soon I could see the first large point that extended a half mile out into the sea; a massive headland with 100 foot cliffs. Large waves exploded off it’s face and whitewater bubbled and churned all around the point. I would have to swing over a mile off-shore to get around, and this was the smallest of four points I would have to pass.

The power of The Pacific was terrifying; I felt tiny in my little kayak bobbing in the powerful swell. The wind had slightly increased, and the waves had less rhythm to them, which was disconcerting. This was the point of no return.

I went back and forth. I would be fine if the conditions didn’t get worse. But what if it did get worse? It’s not easy turning back, but the whole scenario freaked me out; in the end I had a bad feeling, a sixth sense that said “don’t do it”.

So disappointed, I slowly turned around and headed for calmer waters. Instantly my blood pressure dropped, my head de-stressed, my body relaxed. Two hours later, a strong wind kicked up, It was like I won the lottery! I would have been right in the middle of danger paddle; it would have been ugly.

Cruising calmer waters

Cruising calmer waters

I had a big smile on my face as I cruised the long way on perfectly calm channels.

Categories: Americas, Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Springs Cove

The water from the hot springs poured over the ledge like a waterfall. I sat underneath and let the warm water wash away the grime from four days of paddling. But I was not alone.

This place is a strange contradiction of pristine, rugged coast wilderness and popular, yet hard to get to, busy tourist spot. It took me three days to paddle here from the closest town, Tofino. Tourists can take a two hour high-speed boat ride, or a 30 minute float plane ride; A day trip- Not 3!  For anyone, it’s a commitment just to get to Tofino – it’s not that easy to get to this remote area of West Vancouver Island. I forgot to mention, there is a two mile hike to the hot spring.

Hot Springs Cove with hot spring pools hidden in the rocky shore.

Hot Springs Cove with hot spring pools hidden in the rocky shore.

But it’s worth it- the rugged beauty of this place is breathtaking. The spring starts in the forest and flows into a steaming creek that winds around old growth cedar trees. It then exits the forest and flows over jet-black rocks into a long narrow crevasse, where the water becomes waist deep. Numerous pools of varying sizes and temperatures lead down to the ocean, with the cooler pools closest to the open water. Uniquely stunning; like no place I have seen before.

Hot spring stream through the forest

Hot spring stream through the forest

I had reached the springs early in the morning and it was a shock to find dozens of people from all over the world, after hardly seeing anyone for days. There were people everywhere in all the small spring pools. I was worried about stepping on feet as I maneuvered around the spring.

Spring waterfall

Spring waterfall

When I am on my solo kayak trips, it’s my mission to get as far away from civilization as possible, I hope to see no-one. So when I find a truly remote, unspoiled, wild place filled with people it’s a little disappointing. But when you see the unique beauty of Hot Springs Cove, you understand why so many people make the pilgrimage.

It was all good, after not speaking to anyone all week, It was nice to have a little chat. But before long, I retreated back to the the woods, alone.

Categories: Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lucky White Trash Kayak Hat

The one thing I can’t forget on any kayak trip is my lucky hat; or Lucky White Trash Kayak Hat: LWTKH. I wear LWTKH for kayak trips only. I don’t want to use the luck up wearing it all the time; It might only have limited amount of mystical protective power. It hasn’t let me down yet. Eight years and counting.

LWTKH in Boughton's arkipeligo.

LWTKH in Broughton Archipelago.

It’s not easy being my lucky kayak hat. It has to endure salt water, sweat, blazing sun, dirt, sand. Plus poor LWTKH gets no respect: Left outside overnight, used as a potholder, lashed to the deck of my kayak. I wash it in a stream, wring it out and leave it on the beach to dry.

There have been times over the years on trips, in dangerous situations where I have needed a little luck.  LWTKH is always there for me, protecting me from peril, harm and rogue waves.

Lucky White Trash Kayak Hat

Lucky White Trash Kayak Hat.  Looking rough, Post-trip.

After a trip it looks like crap; plastered with sand, dirt stains and it smells like a cross between campfire smoke and wet cat.  But everytime, after a couple of washes, it looks surprisingly good.

If I were to forget it on a trip, I would drive back home for it, no matter how far. Seriously!

A trip would be doomed if I were to forget my Lucky White Trash Kayak Hat.

Categories: Broughton Archipelago, BC - September 2014 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Getting there is half the battle

I was embarking on my week-long solo kayak trip to the remote and wild Broughton Archipelago, off the far north-east coast of  Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. This involved some meticulous planning and packing. I had to organize transport, menus, camping and kayaking equipment. Unfortunately, meticulous is one thing I am not, and my organizational skills are non-existent.

The week before the trip I begin piling up equipment and food in the staging area, a.k.a.the front room. All of the camping and kayaking equipment is supposed to be in neatly labeled bins in the garage. This year, as usual, things have mysteriously left the bins and scattered themselves all over the garage. This results in me digging around, last-minute, looking for crucial items in a garage piled high with crates, boxes, bins, bags and these could fall at any time causing major bodily harm.

I had to have everything set to pack the car and tie the kayak to the car roof, to leave by 7.30 am. The drive involves crossing the border, catching a ferry for the two-hour crossing and then a four-hour drive north to Telegraph Cove where I will camp for the night to launch early the following day.  And all before dark, hopefully.

So the night before I come home from work to finish packing and the list of last-minute things to do is still alarmingly long. When I go to bed at midnight, I still have a few things to do in the morning including loading the kayak on the roof of the car. But my busy mind does not let me sleep well and so I am up before five; I load up the car, muscle the kayak on the roof, and tie up the loose ends. I’m on the road by 8:00am, not too bad, I should be fine to catch my ferry.

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I get to the terminal and the sign says ‘Possible Wait’; translation= the ferry is almost full and I might not make it on; if I miss this ferry, it’s two hours until the next one and that would mean arriving at the campsite well after dark. The car in front of me paying was asking lots of questions, taking way too long. Finally I get to pay, get in line and then have to wait a long half hour until the ferry arrives, with fingers crossed, hoping to make it. The ferry arrives, cars start to load and I slowly move towards the massive boat. We stop and I am twenty cars away: No!

A few moments later, I am moving again slowly; I’m going to have a coronary. I am now only a few cars away when a man in orange, with a radio to his ear, walks up the line of cars. As he passes, I hear over the radio “… Two after the kayak”; the second car behind me is stopped, I made it!  A huge relief hit me. After running around for 24 hours, packing, driving, lack of sleep, All of that was instantly forgotten, I made the ferry and will make camp by dark; the last hurdle.

The ferry always means I’m heading out on a trip; so from this moment on, I am officially on vacation.

Categories: Broughton Archipelago, BC - September 2014 | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Bad hair

On the fifth day of the ten-day solo kayak tour, only able to rinse off in the frigid ocean, my hair had now turned into a living form or perhaps had something living in it.

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Day 5: my hair is starting to gain volume

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Day 6: my hair begins to take on chameleon-like powers, imitating the landscape around it.

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Day 7: ? !

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Day 8: Medusa

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Day 9: Getting nappy; dreadlocks forming

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Day 10: A little drizzle added to the wet and wild look

10 days.  70 miles kayaked. 0 showers.

It’s odd what  you up do to keep amused when you’re alone for ten days.

Categories: Americas, San Juan Islands - May 2013 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

All teenagers are dumb

Tried to get on the water early to catch slack tide, but I was a little late. No problem,  the tide was with me flowing like a fast-moving river through the shallows and tiny rocky islands just off of John’s Island.

It was a rather large ten foot tide on this morning; a lot of water on the move and I had to concentrate on the unpredictable tidal flow.  Up ahead I noticed what I thought were two oddly shaped dorsal fins in the water. Turns out it wasn’t fins; it was the ears of a deer trying to swim across the one mile wide channel during this large tidal transfer.  Clearly he had no chance.

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stranded!

Miraculously he did somehow manage to scramble onto the last small rocky island; too bad for him it was a flood tide and his island would soon be underwater.  He was a young buck with small nubs for antlers. What was he thinking? I guess teenagers are the same throughout the animal kingdom.

Categories: Americas, San Juan Islands - May 2013 | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Safari island

Break camp, pack kayak and on the water by 8am. The tide was favorable and the weather always better in the morning as the southerly wind builds as the day grows.  I crossed Spieden Channel at slack tide to avoid the swift currents that plague the area on ebb and flow tides. Spieden Island has a colorful history like many islands in the San Juan archipelago. These islands, far from Washington DC authority, were populated with the independently minded or those on the run;  Civil war vets, rum runners, families, farmers.

Spieden Island was bought in the ’70’s by the Jones brothers,  who were taxidermists from Seattle. The brothers renamed the island Safari island and they imported exotic animals from around the world. They then spent their free time with friends hunting these imports. Sadly they were soon shut down.

It is said that the animals still roam the island,  but I’ve seen the island from afar before, and didn’t believe the rumors.

But, as I now approached the steep grass shores of Spieden Island, I immediately saw a herd of animals; Small deer with white spots like oversized bambis and a large group of  scruffy looking goats, looking a little out-of-place on the steep grassy knoll above the shoreline. Rumors could be true!

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Wildlife

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deer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few miles past ‘Safari Island’, I cruised the long harbor of Stuart Island to my spot for the next two nights. I set up camp at the end of Reid Harbor and wandered the dirt path to the historic lighthouse on the other end of the island. I walked past the one-room schoolhouse built in the late 1800’s and the old town cemetery with tombstone names like Littlewolf. The lighthouse and massive lightkeeper’s house was on turn point with sweeping views north to Canada.

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lightkeeper’s “cottage”

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Cemetary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With safari island and its strange inhabitants far in the distance and with dusk approaching I started a fire. The fire started easily with the sun-baked driftwood from the beach.I usually have problems starting fires which is strange, since I was a little pyro when I was young.

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Pyro

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End of a stunning day.

Categories: Americas, San Juan Islands - May 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Juan kayak tour: 2013

The first day was crucial in my seventy-mile, ten-day kayak camping tour of the San Juan Islands, WA. It was a seventeen mile kayak to the first campsite along the rugged western coast of San Juan Island, open to the southerly winds and swells off the Pacific. If I was unable to reach the campsite that day, it could derail my carefully laid plans for the rest of the trip.

To complete this leg of the trip I would need calm seas, mild winds and a small tide.  The weather is usually best in the morning and slack tide  on this day was at 6.30 am.  This was going to be the best time to launch and round dangerous Cattle Point and the shallows past it,  before the wind and tides increased causing tide rips and currents and  terrifying whirlpools.  Not ideal since I am not the most organized person and this would mean I have to break camp, drive to the sneaky, secret launch site,  load the kayak with equipment and supplies for ten days and then launch by 6:30 am  latest. Luckily, for once I had it together and launched right on the money.

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Cattle Point

The skies were dark with a low ceiling of clouds , no wind, water like glass: perfect.  I paddled hard and made good time.  A light rain started to fall as I passed Cattle Point and powered through the shallows and up the west coast of San Juan Island. The resident orca pods frequent this coast, hunting salmon, and I was hoping to run into them. I glided over huge kelp beds, along wind-swept rocky shores, with the sky, ocean and shore all different shades of gray under the cloud-filled skies.

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Small Pox Bay; with a view of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

At 2:30 pm I finally landed at the County Campsite at Small Pox Bay; a full eight hours after launch, with sadly, no orca.  I set up camp on the field on the bluff overlooking Haro Straight and took a  quick nap. When I awoke, just after sunset, a pod of orca passed off-shore, a good omen for the trip to come.

Categories: Americas, San Juan Islands - May 2013 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Seaweed

Helen signed up for a three-day seaweed foraging and cooking weekend seminar, taking place on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands in Washington. Camping in a group site, the idea was they would collect seaweed during the day and then cook delicious seaweed cuisine at night. I was skeptical but decided to come along and kayak while Helen did the seaweed thing; I haven’t been to the San Juans for a while and it’s a great kayaking area.

Early the following morning, I was up and on the water early for the 12 mile circumnavigation of Shaw Island. Calm seas and full sun, a great day to explore the undeveloped rocky shores of Shaw. A wonderful leisurely paddle dodging pleasure boats sneaking in and out of the harbors and inlet along the coast. I made good time and was back on shore by mid afternoon.

Kayaking lopez with harbor seal in the background.

Kayaking lopez with harbor seal in the background.

When I arrived back at the campsite, it was a-buzz with activity as the foragers prepared for another excursion; apparently it was low tide, prime time to find the elusive nori seaweed. As Helen ran from the campsite she yelled, “can you hang up the rest of the kelp?”. I wandered over to the tent to find a sagging clothes line with a few pieces of kelp on it and a big wet trash bag of seaweed sitting in front of the tent door. Alone in the campsite, like a good boy scout I strung up the line properly and began to hang up the slimy kelp thinking, “how did this happen?”

I got screwed.

the kelp clothes line

the kelp clothes line

On the final day we began to load up the car with multiple hefty bags full of seaweed. Helen informed me that she’d been told it was beneficial to put ground up seaweed in your condiments. I said ” you’re not putting seaweed in the ketchup.” I love my ketchup. She replied, “But it’s good for you and you won’t even notice.”

We had to wait a few hours for the ferry and took a walk along the beach. It was a clear and hot day, and the sun was beating down on our car full of trash bags of seaweed. As the ferry approached, we returned to the car and opened the door, the smell was overpowering, like a fish cannery.

The following day back at the house we set up a large blue tarp in the backyard and laid out the seaweed to dry in the sun. We hung a twenty-foot line to hang the kelp. The neighbors must have wondered what we were up to now; luckily, they think we are crazy anyway.

And yes, I spotted some foreign particles in the Heinz the other day, small black flakes!

Categories: Americas, Lopez Island - August 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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