Kayaking under a Perfect Sunrise

Luck and weather play a part in kayaking on the BC coast.

My trip to Desolation Sound began on a hot August day on glass-flat waters at the terminus of Georgia Strait, but little did I know the forecast planned an unscheduled change to stormy overnight. I had originally planned to paddle the loop around the edges of both West and East Redonda Islands that mark the centerpiece of the Sound, stopping along the way to revel in the quiet wilderness and maybe a day trip up Toba Inlet. East Redonda is the highest point of land off-shore of the mainland excluding Vancouver Islands with the most volume for surface area. It towers a whopping 5,200 ft and looks like a child’s drawing of a mountain.

Kayaking back to Cortes Island, BC at 6am.Photo by Dave Barnes

Kayaking back to Cortes Island, BC at 6am.
Photo by Dave Barnes

Try as I might, the winds the following day made it tough to gain any progress towards Toba Inlet, and more and more unlikely that I would make it from Tenedos Bay (my first camp in a crowded bay reserved for motor boats) to Forbes Bay some distance up Humfray Channel, which incidentally is the deepest space of water on the coast sounding at 399 fathoms.

Two hours into the morning paddle to Forbes under dour skies and bounding into a grey/green sea with breaking rollers all the way up and around the corner beyond my sight, and I gave up the fight. The water was not nearly as tossed as it should be, however the constant insistent outflow down the channel made it hard to lift the paddle let alone gat any headway. Paddling into the wind was draining my energy. I had to make a decision that would change my trip entirely. I spun around and let the conditions shoot me back down the channel. Turning into Oekover Inlet around a bald bluff with recoiling waves and standing chop was a splashy affair but once into the lee of Malaspina Peninsula the inlet was night and day different from the hours I had already spent in the kayak. Now in calmer waters, the air was warmer without the constant wind, and I drifted more than paddled as the tide carried me along.

Paddling into the lands depicted by Grant Lawrence in his wonderful book Adventures in Solitude I passed homesteads and cabins along the shoreline and others obscured by overhanging rocky cliffs. Rounding into a small bay I discovered an island told to me by a fellow kayaker that morning as having an island with one camp spot hidden in the rocks. I paddled around this island and to my great joy found a slab of sandstone that at that tide level was the perfect boat ramp. I landed, camped and waited out three days of bad weather but napping, reading, writing and exploring coves.

By now the timeline for circumnavigation of the Redondas was gone. I spent the next few days on a leisurely exploration of the sound. Crossing to the Redondas and camping in a busy Roscoe Bay. Then it was back tracking around and into the strait once more to Teakearne Arm and a night by a waterfall. I had an enjoyable trip and returned to the hole in the wall camp location I used the year before on Kinghorn Island. It was a perfect last stop before heading home via Cortes Island. That night it grew rather wild as I sat in the shelter of my camp knowing opposite side of the small island facing down Georgia Strait was being hammered.It was a loud night of branches falling and the raccoon that snuck about the camp in search of goodies. He made more noise than the wind storm! I rolled out of my sleeping bag about 5am. Not that sleeping was easy with all the racket knowing that I had to get ready and on the water rather early to meet two ferries and a lunch meeting in Campbell River with the woman who would eventually become my wife. It was looking to be a big day!

I was packed, bleary-eyed and half caffeinated when I started paddling about quarter to seven. The storm had passed by but left a big chop in its wake. It would be a far cry better than the epic of the previous year when attempting a crossing from this same island into the more exposed launch site at Cortes Bay on a morning paddle in 4 foot spiking waves and winds. This morning wasn’t as much a technical rock and roll paddle, but bumpy until half way across Cortes when things flattened out somewhat. The sky was the big attraction on that trip. Vivid views of the coast mountains on a clear day then vast cloud formations the next as one system after the next attempted to send me home prematurely. In today’s image I give you a paddler’s POV at 7am midway between Kinghorn and Cortes Islands. It was trying to rain a little, humid and warm. The afternoon forecast was would be that big clear bit. I, of course continued to enjoy the deep black cloud all the way to Squirrel Cove on Cortes. The view was amazing and a morning paddle I will not soon forget.

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