Paddle to a Pub

Living in the Gulf Islands we wait patiently through long wet winter months of seemingly endless grey skies crying down buckets of tears. We wait with anticipatory visions of gliding through the water in the summer heat. The reality is startlingly different when summer does arrive and all we can hope for is that the local islands will grow a mile or two higher to give some early shade as we paddle. Where is the relief from the humidity gathering in the cockpit under the spray skirt? Where can we refresh ourselves? How about on a patio overlooking the sea under the protection of an umbrella with a cold pint of amber ale in hand. What could be better than a paddle to the pub?

At low tide the cut between the two islands means getting out and pulling. Photo by Dave Barnes

At low tide the cut between the two islands means getting out and pulling.
Photo by Dave Barnes

The paddling day begins from Southey Point eccentrically placed at the northern tip of Salt Spring Island on a day the islands surrounding us would never grow high enough to cast any shade, we pointed to Penelakut Island. This island is native land and formerly named, Kuper Island. The spit near the village of Penelakut is visible from Southey Point and we chose to cruise the shallow sandbars of Penelakut. The water was still around our kayaks and in the clarity it was easy to view schools of frantic fish zigzagging to avoid our approach. Crabs nestled face down in the sand were no match for a tag-team effort between two paddle blades scooping them up at will. Dinner would be simple if it were crab, not the grog and burgers that was our prey that day.

Higher tide navigation of the shallow cut in the sandbars between Penelakut and Thetis Islands.

Higher tide navigation of the shallow cut in the sandbars between Penelakut and Thetis Islands.
Photo courtesy Peter Mede

In the heat haze on the water the white stick ahead was thought a marker of some sort, but only recognizable as a man when our group paddled closer. Walking waist-deep along the shore, but still far from shore a resident of the island was flicking up crab into a garbage bag with a garden rack with the handle cut short. We chatted and he offered some of his quarry to which we refused gracefully. Onwards around the jetty where the chop rose slightly in the confusion of water not knowing how to go, and into the cut.

We had planned out outing around the tides, something not entirely crucial in the Gulf Islands baring any needs to sneak out into the Strait of Georgia where the narrows between islands can get up to 10 knots of current. To get to the Thetis Island Marina Pub from this direction requires a higher tide to navigate ‘the cut’. This shallow groove meanders through high sandbars, once prime clamming beds in between Penelakut and Thetis Islands. At low tide be prepared to get out and push, pull or drag your kayak, and at higher water levels keep and eye out for small motor craft coming and going from the marina. The cut narrows and becomes shallow in a bottleneck forming a muddy land bridge at low tide before opening to deeper water at the marina.

Finding new friends along the way.

Finding new friends along the way.

Thetis Island Marine Pub is nothing fancy and the patio is a slender deck facing the docks but the food is great and the beer is cold, except on this day. A large pleasure boat had left the bay dragging its anchor and thus severing the underwater cable giving power to the island. The sandwiches and room temperature beer was delightful, and in the many return visits to the pub I have enjoyed much of the menu of good pub fare while sipping a cold pint. As I lazed on the patio watching eagles admiring boater life from high snags on Penelakut as though separated in time.

A rest stop on Tent Island in the sunshine. Photo by Dave Barnes

A rest stop on Tent Island in the sunshine.
Photo by Dave Barnes

The day ending with the return paddle in Stuart Channel, a belly scrapping slip in between Penelakut and Tent Island before crossing back to Southey Point. The beer refreshed us only if for a few moments as the late afternoon sun slowed our progress accompanied by digestion. We stop at Tent island for a brief stretch which resolves to be an afternoon nap. The only thing better than paddling to a pub is the kayak nap soon after on cool pebbles.

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