Page 1

COAST&KAYAK Magazine The magazine of coastal adventure and recreation

Volume 22, Issue 3

FALL 2012

FREE at select outlets and online or by subscription

Around the globe A look at Jason Lewis’s remarkable 13-year human-powered odyssey

Yukon River

PM 41687515

How a week on water created a true river woman

12fa_master.indd 1

7/26/2012 9:55:06 AM

Huge end of summer sale starts August 25

Exclusive Distributors of Sterling’s Kayak Home grown kayaks for West Coast Paddling

Check out our fall rental fleet sale

Great deals on used Single & Double Kayaks Visit our store 352 Lynn Ave, North Vancouver

Deep Cove Outdoors / 604.987.2202


12fa_master.indd 2


FALL 2012

7/26/2012 9:55:07 AM

Inside 8 28


One world, six stories


Coast&Kayak Magazine presents images and vignettes of Jason Lewis’s 13-year odyssey to circumnavigate the globe solely by human power.

Rolling down the river


Follow Inga Aksamit as she lives one of hers dreams, to follow the Klondike Gold Rush path from Alaska to the Yukon, retracing the steps of the hardy (or perhaps foolhardy) Argonauts of the late 1800s. This leg of the trip involves paddling 450 miles down the Yukon River in northern Canada.

The Uchuck Years


Many kayakers and other coastal explorers will be well familiar with the Uchuck III, or perhaps even its earlier counterparts. Coast&Kayak Magazine is proud to be able to offer excerpts from the new book The Uchuck Years, A West Coast Shipping Saga by David Esson Young. First Word .......................................................................4 News ..................................................................................6 Destinations: South Gulf Islands ................................................ 24 North Gulf Islands ................................................ 26 Haida Gwaii .............................................................. 27 West Vancouver Island...............................28-30 Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands ........31

Various destinations ........................................... 32 SKGABC column by Liam NcNeil..................... 33 Whales by James Dorsey...................................... 34 New Gear ..................................................................... 38 Kayak fishing by Peter Marshall........................ 40 Skillset by Alex Matthews .................................... 42 Instruction directory............................................. 43 Wildlife by Neil Schulman ...................................46 FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 3



7/26/2012 9:55:09 AM

The First Word

Another way to enjoy the water? Fall 2012

Volume 22, Number 3 PM No. 41687515 Cover Photo: Jason Lewis scopes out his route on his way around the world. His 13-year trip led him around the globe powered only by his own energy. See page 8. Kenny Brown photo.

Contact Us: General queries: Editorial: Advertising:

COAST&KAYAK MAGAZINE is an independent magazine available free at hundreds of print distribution sites (paddling shops, outdoor stores, paddling clubs, marinas, events, etc.), and globally on the web. Also available by paid subscription. Articles, photos, events, news are all welcome. Find back issues, articles, events, writers guidelines and advertising information online at


$20 for 1 year – 4 issues $35 for 2 years – 8 issues While Coast&Kayak Magazine is made available free, subscriptions ensure the magazine is delivered to your home and that you will never miss an issue. To subscribe, visit or call 1-866-984-6437.

Advertising rates and submission guidelines available at

ISSUE AD DEADLINE Winter 2012 Oct. 1 2013 schedule to be determined


A product of:

Wild Coast Publishing PO Box 24, Stn A Nanaimo, B.C., Canada, V9R 5K4 Ph: 1-866-984-6437 • Fax: 1-866-654-1937 Email: Website: Physical address: Aboard the Rainy Day, Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean

I’m having a whole bunch of new problems lately that never occurred while kayaking the coast. Plumbing leaks, varnish issues, which radar system is best... It’s a whole different skillset, and I’m hoping I’m not going astray in a bid to get closer to the water by opting to expand my life on the water. The background: Coast&Kayak Magazine, as of April, is being operated out of a boat – a Canoe Cove 36. The idea is to take a boat, add some new technology and eventually work remotely on the Pacific coast using telecommunications to keep in touch with the world. This raises the possibly of getting to quite remote locations, thereby running a busines while doing what we love most (exploring the coast) without the need to scurry back to the office every few days while being less expensive than running the old landlocked Commercial Street office. I’m not there yet. In fact, as of writing this, I have yet to take the boat out of its Nanaimo moorage slip. I have a new boat owner joke, and it goes like this: I told my friend I bought a boat. He asks, “Have you been out yet?” I reply, “Yes, 20 or 30 times.” He says, “That’s fantastic! Where have you gone?” I answer, “To the hardware store.” It’s funny because it’s true. My attraction to kayaking has always been and always will be the simplicity. I learned a lot about what is truly important in life by spending entire summers in a kayak, and I’ve incorporated that minimalist wisdom into my overall outlook in life. But unfortunately the realities of the world are often quite at odds with a desire to remain unfettered. And nothing fetters quite like a publishing business office. Add a boat to the equation and things can quickly become complicated. For instance, somewhere between the bridge and the helm is a wire problem involving the VHF radio. There goes possibly a day due to a broken wire somewhere. And it’s a long list of similar woes that could each take days to resolve. I view it as an investment. Fix something well and it will probably remain fixed for years, so once most problems are solved Leanne and I will potentially be free to enjoy the ideal image we originally had in mind, which is heading away, paddling from a base aboard the boat while still publishing a magazine. (Though the fallback isn’t bad – it’s a beautiful sunny day on the water as I’m writing this from the office aboard the boat in the moorage. Compare that with the old downtown office. You can’t.) There’s a part of me, of course, that yearns to simply get away: paddle to the next horizon, put up a tent and enjoy the view. It doesn’t get easier, and in most cases it doesn’t get better. I don’t want to lose sight of that. Of course, the new vision is good too. Anchor somewhere exceedingly beautiful, spend weeks paddling around getting to know the area, then move elsewhere with no worries about needing to return home to run the business. Will it work out that way? I’ll keep you posted. - John Kimantas

© 2012. Copyright is retained on all material (text, photos and graphics) in this magazine. No reproduction is allowed of any material in any form, print or electronic, for any purpose, except with the permission of Wild Coast Publishing. Some elements in maps in this magazine are reproduced with the permission of Natural Resources Canada 2010, courtesy of the Atlas of Canada. Also, our thanks to Geobase for some elements that may appear on Coast&Kayak maps.

Coast&Kayak Magazine is dedicated to making self-propelled coastal exploration fun and accessible. Safety and travel information is provided to augment pre-existing safety and knowledge. A safety course and proper equipment are advised before any exploration on water. See a list of paddling instruction locations at


12fa_master.indd 4


The new Coast&Kayak mascot, Yakky, wreaking havoc aboard our neighbour’s dinghy. Bad Yakky! SUMMER 2012

7/26/2012 9:55:11 AM

FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 5



7/26/2012 9:55:11 AM

News BOAT BLESSING  Ocean odyssey The morning was an unusual one in June when Transfer Beach in Ladysmith was transformed by a traditional Stz’uminus blessing for a kayak. This wasn’t just any kayak, though, but a Seaward Passat G3 being used by Wave Vidmar to paddle from California to Hawaii, a 5,000-km journey. Wave was on Vancouver Island prior to the start of the expedition to oversee the construction of the highly customized Passat. Prior to leaving for his launch in California both Wave and his kayak received a traditional blessing by Stz’uminus First Nation elders. Joining him in the blessing was Seaward Kayaks owner and trip sponsor Steve Rees. Meanwhile, Wave’s departure from San Francisco was still to take place by press time for this issue. His plan is to spend somewhere between 45 and 56 days on open water to complete the journey. To help, the kayak is outfitted with comforts such as a desalinator for drinking water, solar panels and one less bulkhead to allow him room to lie down to sleep. The trip has been completed once before: 25 years ago by Ed Gillet from Monterey Bay to Maui, a shorter route. Wave has also been planning a North Atlantic solo crossing by rowboat later in 2012 from Cape Cod to Great Britain. A previous accomplishment includes a solo expedition to the North Pole. 


12fa_master.indd 6


Steve Rees, Wave Vidmar (in the brown cloak) and a Passat G3 receive a blessing from Stz’uminus elders at Transfer Beach in Ladysmith prior to Wave’s trip from California to Hawaii. PROTEST BY PADDLE  Tanker traffic How big are the supertankers that will travel the Great Bear Rainforest to Kitimat? Kayakers gathered in Nanaimo in a rally on July 22 to demonstrate the point graphically by forming the shape and dimensions of a supertanker. The rally coincided with Nanaimo’s largest community event, the Nanaimo Bathtub Festival and the world championship bathtub race that has its finishing line at Nanaimo’s Departure Bay. The supertankers are 388 metres long. 

EXPEDITION  Arctic traverse A four-man team is attempting to be the first to row across the Arctic Ocean through 2,000 kms of ice-choked water. The route will take them from Inuvik, Canada to Provideniya, Russia, and will take 30 days. Paul Ridley, Collin West, Neal Mueller and Scott Mortensen have partnered with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation and The University of Alaska Fairbanks to collect data and conduct research about Arctic conditions along the way. 

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 9:55:44 AM


FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 7



7/26/2012 9:55:51 AM


One world, six stories

Coast&Kayak Magazine presents vignettes and images from The Expedition, Dark Waters, the 13-year, self-powered around-the-world odyssey of Jason Lewis

Into the Big Blue, day one of the Atlantic crossing. Photos by Kenny Brown. 8

12fa_master.indd 8


FALL FALL2012 2012

7/26/2012 9:55:51 AM

Jason Lewis


T’S INCREDIBLE isn’t it, how no one’s thought of it already?” As he’d already pointed out, the Earth had been circumnavigated using everything from sailboats, to airplanes, to hot air balloons. Yet the purest, most ecologically sound method of all and for centuries the most achievable – without using fossil fuels – was still up for grabs. “It may even be an original first,” he continued excitedly. “So, you reckon all the other big firsts in exploration and adventure have been done?” I asked. Steve had clearly done his homework, proceeding to reel off some of the more notable feats of the last century: Amundsen beating Scott to the South Pole in 1911; Hillary and Norgay summiting Everest in 1953; Armstrong setting foot on the moon in 1969. By 1992, however, it was slim pickings with the exception of the deep oceans and outer space. Nearly every square inch of the planet’s surface had been trampled upon, sailed across, flown or driven over. Explorers and adventurers were fast becoming a rare breed, increasingly reliant upon passing off a variation of a well-worn theme as something genuinely different. “It won’t be long before the media runs a story about the first blind-folded transsexual to snowboard down Everest in a thong,” he finished off dryly. I smiled. “That’s been done already.” “Not on a trashcan lid.”


Y OLD college pal Steve Smith and I were slumped on the kitchen floor of his flat in Paris, drinking Kronenbourg 1664 at two in the morning. A map of the world lay between us, paddled by the slowly revolving shadow of an ornate ceiling fan that gave the apartment an air of French colonial panache. Steve had just pitched the most ingenious, hair-brained, inspirational, irresponsible, guaranteed-to-give-your-mother-acardiac-arrest idea I had ever heard: A human-powered circumnavigation of the planet… Those few words hung suspended in air, like a spell, putting goosebumps on my skin. To travel as far as you can go over land and sea, to the very ends of the Earth itself, under your own steam. No motors or sails. Just the power of the human

body to get you there and back again. It had to be the ultimate human challenge. As Steve continued outlining his plan, my head filled with wildly romantic images: riding bicycles across the barren steppes of Central Asia; trekking through the frozen wastes of the Himalayas; staring into the flames of a roaring campfire after a hard day hacking through the Amazonian rainforest. What about the oceans? I wondered. Rowing? Swimming? Paddling a boogie board? And why was Steve asking me, of all people, to join him? I had absolutely no experience as a so-called adventurer. I owned a window cleaning business. I shot Steve a sidelong look. “You sure you want me as your expedition partner?” He nodded. “And it’ll take around three years to complete, you say?” “If we can find sponsorship.” “Okay, I’ll do it,” I said. Steve grinned. “Great!” “There is, however, one other question I have before signing on the dotted line.” I stabbed at the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on the map. “These blue areas...” “Yes! Yes! The big wet bits,” he interrupted enthusiastically. “Right, the, um, big wet bits. How do we get across those then?” “Easy. We’ll kayak.” “You’re crazy. Neither of us has kayaked before!” “How hard can it be? I mean, all you’ve got to do is go like this, and we’ll get there eventually.” And with these reassuring words, he lurched to his feet and began whirling his arms around his head in the manner of a paddling kayaker. I roared with laughter. “I was wrong. You’re not crazy. You’re insane!” Clearly, neither of us had any idea of what we were getting into. But, as we found ourselves reminding each other frequently from that point on, lack of experience isn’t a good enough reason not to try. Besides, as the sagacious old comic strip character Hagar the Horrible once noted, “Ignorance is the Mother of all Adventure.” And if I’d known what I was letting myself in for, I probably would have never agreed to join. FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 9

Moksha departs across the Pacific. Steve Smith, left, Jason Lewis, right.

Cape St. Vincent, Portugal: the last view of Europe.

Surfing storm waves on the Atlantic. Moments later, Moksha capsized.

Riding through the Belly of Stones, Djibouti, Africa.

Nepal, looking northwards to the Himalayas. COAST&KAYAK MAGAZINE


7/26/2012 9:55:55 AM


Some places in this world are still wild, remote and untouched. The outer coast of Vancouver Island is one. Through maps, photography and route descriptions, the BC Coast Explorer Vol. 1 provides the building blocks for the adventure of a lifetime. On foot or by paddle, this volume will take you to places rarely seen and yet too beautiful to miss. Buy on location: Abbotsford – Western Canoe and Kayaking • Campbell River – Outdoor Addictions • Comox – Comox Valley Kayaks • Duncan – Bucky’s / Alberni Outpost • Millstream – Valhalla Pure • Nanaimo, Duncan, Comox – Alberni Outpost • North Vancouver – Deep Cove Outdoors • Many, many more. Order online:


12fa_master.indd 10


Moksha’s humiliating maiden voyage, Exeter, England, November 1993 It had been a busy year since meeting up in Paris. Although we still had some 3,200 kms of on-the-job kayak training ahead of us, the idea of kayaking from Scotland to Canada had been shelved early on – to the great relief of our families. After listening to Steve’s ambitious circumnavigation plans, a naval architect from the Exeter Maritime Museum offered to design a humanpowered vessel from scratch. Calling on his extensive knowledge of the twenty or so rowing boats that had crossed the Atlantic since 1896, Alan Boswell drew up the blueprints for an eight-metre A capsize drill in Exeter’s canal basin to ensure Moksha craft, powered by propeller, would self-right mid-ocean. with enough storage space to sustain two people with food something.” and provisions for up to 150 days without The flood run-off was sweeping us resupply. sideways down the river. And now there By the end of two days of sea trials, was another sound like low, rolling thunder. we would know two things: whether the “Jase!” shouted Steve. “There’s a strange-looking contraption, christened waterfall!” Moksha, would float; and whether its Pedalling like the clappers, the customized propulsion system, comprising best I could do was head broadside the A-frame of a cannibalized bicycle to the current, aiming for a concrete flipped upside down and bolted to the keel, wall bordering a builder’s yard. could move it though the water. KERRUUNNNCH! The sickening sound What happened next was one of the of splintering wood echoed across the most humiliating episodes in the entire basin. Our disgrace was complete when a expedition. The idea was to pedal Moksha noisy black inflatable appeared and plucked around a sheltered canal basin while us off the lip of the dam just in time. the press documented the world’s first The next morning a short article two-man ocean-going pedal boat being appeared in The Daily Star tabloid: put through her paces. Cautiously, I took ‘PEDAL SUB SUNK!’ According to the Moksha out into the muddy-brown river, hack, ‘A pedal-powered submarine was swollen and turbulent with recent rain. swept out to sea by high winds...before “Can you give us a wave?” yelled the capsizing and sinking.’ Western Daily News. As well as learning a lot about the Steve leaned his head into the cockpit. nefarious workings of the press that day, “Did you hear that, Jase?” we made our acquaintance with an essential “Yup, just give me a second.” I shoved feature of the operational workings of the rudder hard over. Nothing happened. the boat. Steering depended entirely on “Err... Jason... We need to turn around, something called a centreboard, that metremate.” long piece of timber we’d left behind in the “I – I can’t! The rudder’s jammed or workshop. FALL 2012

7/26/2012 9:55:57 AM

Jason Lewis Northern France, cycling through the Somme region, August 1994. After a successful crossing of the English Channel, Moksha was plucked from the water and popped back onto her trailer for the 2,600-km overland journey to the Algarve Coast. Steve and I would cycle the same distance – the length of France, over the Pyrenees to Spain, then hang a right into Portugal – where Moksha would be waiting. On the evening of July 19, we camped in a small wood near Amiens. It had been a long day – ninety-five miles. I’d spent most of it wrestling with the baffling arsenal of new equipment apparently required for long distance cycling: 21 gears distributed with umpteen sprockets and levers, a computerized odometer and SPD pedals that were murder to clip on and off. The next morning we found ourselves slipping effortlessly along an exquisitely smooth road, Northern France unfurling before us as a quilted patchwork of brightly coloured squares: luminous green fields of cabbages, chocolate earth under plough, mile upon mile of butter-yellow

Crossing the Atlantic, a 111-day journey, October 1994 We were a week into what we naively assumed would be a three-month journey across the Atlantic, beginning to adapt to our strange new world of water. The first few days had been horrendous. Any attempt to hold down food was quickly followed by a violent episode of vomiting into the drink. But now our stomachs had stabilized and confidence in Moksha was growing daily. We were getting the hang of how she moved on the ocean, twisting and turning with dolphin-like grace in response to each passing wave. It was like riding a mechanical bull: hips gyrating, upper bodies constantly compensating to maintain balance. After a few days of experimenting, we settled on two-hour pedal shifts during the day, and three at night. Darkness, we discovered, brought its own special flavour

sunflowers thronging the roadside, their plate-sized heads bobbing approvingly as we passed. Seventy-eight years previously, the landscape looked very different: scarred, blistered, and pulverized out of all recognition by the 1916 Somme Offense, the first day of which the British alone suffered 57,470 casualties. I imagined in that briefest of moments going “over the top,” death lying face down in the mud a few paces away. Life would have been revealed in its most raw and vital form. And how the experience of being, and of what ultimately mattered – of what really mattered – would have come hurtling into hard sharp focus. Henry David Thoreau once said, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not, and I went away hungry.”

Jason a month into the Atlantic crossing.

to our strange dollhouse existence. Pedalling without a moon was like being immersed in a sensory deprivation tank – total blackout. Only the peristaltic rhythm of the sea gave a sense of kinesthesia. Up. Down. Side to side. Now rolling. Now pitching. We’d run out of time to fit a compass light, so navigating required lining up a lone star with the corner of the hatchway to keep on course. Every thirty minutes or so a different pinprick had to be chosen to account for the Earth’s rotation. FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 11

I wanted to know this same truth. Could I hope to find it in the merciless quarters of the ocean wilderness, I wondered?

Only the navigator’s keystone, the North Star, remained stationary. A big incentive for having someone constantly on the pedals, eyes scanning the horizon 24/7, was the drastically reduced chance of colliding with another ship. With the horizon only eight miles away, one of our biggest fears was waking to the throb of diesel engines and capsizing under a giant bow wave. Massive propellers would finish the job, pulverizing us into puréed fish food. Apart from a skipped stroke in the engine’s cadence, the crew would never know they’d hit anything. But for Steve and I, that was what the expedition was all about: getting closer to the edge, that fine line between comfort and calamity, where life and the experience of living it starts to get more vivid and more interesting. And we would soon discover how dangerously close to that edge we had become. COAST&KAYAK MAGAZINE


7/26/2012 9:55:58 AM

BC Destinations Adventures

Steve with a cup of tea at sunset – the nearest either came to ‘getting out of the house and going for a walk.’

Day 50 of the Atlantic crossing, November 1994 Saltwater sores plague our every waking move. As well as the enormous one on his bottom, Steve has a couple of fresh ones on his left kneecap leaking a steady stream of creamy discharge. I, too, have a huge Mt. Etna-like thing on my right forearm that hurt like heck when I Across America on inline skates, July 1995 After pedalling for 111 days across the Atlantic from Portugal to Miami failed to attract a sponsor, I’d hoped the PR potential of my bid to be the first person to inline skate across the U.S. would. It had been a fleeting whim on the Atlantic, one I’d given more serious thought to after studying the migratory patterns of bronze-legged beauties gliding up and down Miami’s South Beach boardwalk. As well as setting another record, I was interested to see how different modes of human power altered the experience of travel. We’d already used bikes in Europe, and a pedal-powered boat for the Atlantic. Would rollerblades, as unconventional as they were, be a catalyst for new experience and adventure in smalltown America? It would help test a theory, that the slower you move, and the more unorthodox the means of locomotion, the richer the journey. I asked Steve if he fancied the idea. “Sod that for a game of soldiers!” was the knee-jerk response. “The thing is Jase, 12

12fa_master.indd 12


hit it against the bulkhead earlier. The evening routine began like any other. At six o’clock we made ready to change position, a procedure as awkward on this, the fiftieth day of the voyage, as it was on the first. Steve, coming off his late afternoon shift, flung a sweatsoaked towel to the front of the cabin and shunted the pedal seat forward a

few inches to jam a chock of wood behind it, compensating for my shorter legs. Another minute of squirming and we made the switch, shuffling past each other in the narrow space like two crabs locked in a ritual dance. This almost always resulted in the exiting pedaler – on this occasion Steve – having his calves raked by the serrated teeth of the pedals. Changeover complete, we settled down to enjoy our favourite part of the day. Following the afternoon’s roasting, the temperature was now perfect and a light breeze wafted in through the hatch, cooling our tenderized skins. The setting sun seemed to hover for a moment, then lower its smoldering mass onto a pillow of low-lying clouds that sealed the offing as a grey weld. The western horizon ignited with an iridescent wash of fire stretching far over our heads to the east, and for the next thirty minutes we were treated to one of nature’s most well rehearsed recitals: gentle brushstrokes massaging a canvas of living art from one masterpiece to the next, until the curtain of night finally fell.

Jason skating State Road 710 to Lake Okeechobee, Florida

how practical do you think it’ll be biking and rollerblading together?” He meant the difference in speed. But he could easily have been referring to an even greater cause for doubt, one he’d magnanimously chosen not to mention. I’d never skated before. The decision was made to take two different routes across America. Steve chose a southerly route across country, hugging the Gulf Coast to New Orleans, then bisecting Arizona to Southern California. I would take a more mid-country trajectory,

skating the Deep South as far as Oklahoma, cutting northwest to the Kansas prairie, and crossing the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. All things being equal, we aimed to rendezvous in San Francisco mid-October before the mountain passes of the Sierras closed for the winter. Something about the act of separating felt odd, though, almost taboo. Of course, there was no way of knowing that we’d be seeing each other much sooner – and in more dire circumstances.

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 9:56:00 AM



Jason Lewis

Comox Valley


( Fleet Sale )


2012 Fleet Sale

Kayaks, Canoes & SUPs starts Aug. 15

Comox Valley Kayaks on Vancouver Island


Sales -Rentals - Instruction - Day Tours - Info Station

FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 13



7/26/2012 9:56:00 AM


Sea of Cortez, Baja California Peninsula.

Kayaking the Lombok Straits, Indonesia, Sept. 2005 Eight hundred miles of paddling from Dili had led us to this point. I tugged at my beard, now thick and tangled with four months unrestricted growth. “If we can get going really early and paddle like hell, we should be able to get two-thirds of the way across before the tide changes.” We were sitting on the highest point of Gili Trawangan, one of three islets off the northwest coast of Lombok, overlooking the biggest and most hazardous water crossing of the entire trip. I looked up from the chart resting on my knees and studied the dark tidal streams snaking through the silvery water. Privately, I put our chances at around 50/50. Ever since poring over the charts in the embryonic planning stages, Selat Lombok had filled me with the greatest uncertainty. And when I’d asked Simon from the Blue Marlin Dive Centre earlier in the day whether he recommended a support boat, he’d answered “Absolutely yes” before I’d even finished the sentence. But the cheapest quote from any of the Indonesian skippers was four million rupiah, the equivalent of $450, nearly half our remaining budget. 14

12fa_master.indd 14


What to do? If we decided to wing it, and the Libra capsized and flooded, we were on our own. Bobbing out there in our lifejackets, either the sharks would pick us off or the tide would suck us down into the dreaded Selat Badung. This was my biggest fear, the doomsday scenario of ending up in the narrow neck of water between Nusa Penida and the southeast coast of Bali, a gurgling, roiling, saltwater nightmare of contraflowing currents jostling for space, creating tidal rips, standing waves and terrifying whirlpools. Every twelve hours during spring tide, at the height of the ebb, a monster vortex formed off the southwestern tip of Nusa Penida. Our bodies would be swallowed by the deep and flushed out the U-bend of the strait, expelled from the archipelago into the vast emptiness of the Indian Ocean. Of all the risks I’d taken since leaving Greenwich, this would be the biggest yet. I’d always counted on the universe mitigating such leaps into the abyss, rising up to meet them halfway. But this time it was different. No quarter could be expected from such a malevolent body of water. And there was the added factor of

another person’s life at stake. The shadow of the tree we were sitting under merged with the night reaching in from the east, and I became intensely aware of the crickets buzzing lazily in the long grass, the birds trilling in the branches, the leaves rustling in the onshore breeze, and the last colours bleeding from the western sky. All the little things that made up the experience of being alive, all of them amplified, enhanced, resonating, as though filtered through some psychedelic prism. Time slowed to a crawl, and I was overcome by an almost Samadhi-like sense of being in the present. No past. No future. No sense of self. Just a seamless coupling with my surroundings. And with it, the fragility of life fell into sharp focus, and the realization of how I habitually took it for granted. I toyed with the Ocean Ring I'd superstitiously been wearing on my left ring finger since the beginning of the ocean crossings. Despite being worn and faded with time and saltwater abrasion, I could still make out each cresting wave forming a wheel of aqueous infinity. And I wondered. After all these years, would it still bring me the same luck?

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 9:56:02 AM

Rob Antonishen/Cartocopia

Jason Lewis

Jason Lewis and The Expedition The previous pages were excerpts from The Expedition: Dark Waters, True Story of the First Human-Powered Circumnavigation of the Earth, available Aug. 1. The first in an adventure trilogy, Dark Waters charts one of the longest journeys in history, circling the world using only the power of the human body. The work has been hailed by the London Sunday times as “The last great first for circumnavigation.” Prompted by what scientists have dubbed the “perfect storm” as the global population soars to 8.3 billion by 2030, adventurer Jason Lewis used the expedition to bring attention to our interconnectedness and shared responsibility of an inhabitable Earth. Jason has been a contributing author to such popular books as Chicken Soup for the Travelers Soul, Flightless: Incredible Journeys Without Leaving the Ground, and The Modern Explorers. He now shares his message on global sustainability to audiences from all walks of life. For speaking availability contact Tammie Stevens at BillyFish Books at 1-888-750-7887.

Photographer Kenny Brown Kenny Brown has been shooting stills, film and video for over 20 years. Originally from Scotland, he has worked for the BBC and other news outlets in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Chechnya and for documentaries, feature films and commercials. He is also the director of The Expedition, a documentary feature film about Expedition 360. Visit FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 15



7/26/2012 9:56:04 AM

Destinations: Yukon River

Rolling down the river How the Yukon can transform a traveller Taking advantage of favourable current and flat water by relaxing canoe-style.


12fa_master.indd 16


FALL FALL2012 2012

7/26/2012 9:56:05 AM

by Inga Aksamit


We fussed over the canoe, tying everything down and making sure everything was there – life jackets, sponge, bucket and paddles. We stuffed our clothing and supplies into large dry bags and pushed our freeze-dried food, fresh fruits, vegetables and bottles of wine (all too few) into the food barrel. I waited for last-minute instructions about government regulations or life-saving tips, but the outfitter had turned away and was walking back to the street, whistling happily. I stepped resolutely into the bow of the canoe, making sure not to tip it, and glanced back at my husband, Steve, who looked gleeful and carefree as we pushed off from the muddy beach. We were in the middle of the small town of Whitehorse, a town bisected by the Yukon River. I quashed any concerns about not feeling ready and reached for my paddle. It was too late for a panic attack. We were living one of our dreams, to follow the Klondike Gold Rush path from Alaska to the Yukon, retracing the steps of the hardy (or perhaps foolhardy) Argonauts of the late 1800s. This leg of the trip involved paddling 450 miles down the Yukon River in northern Canada, just the two of us. 4

Steve Mullen photo

AVE A GOOD TIME, see you at the other end,” the outfitter said cheerily with a wave after wheeling our wellstocked canoe to the riverbank on a dolly. I gazed at the swift current in the middle of the broad river. It suddenly seemed to be moving faster than it had before. On the other side was a towering clay riverbank topped with stunted spruce trees. I wondered what I was getting myself into.

FALL 2012 FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 17



7/26/2012 10:06:27 AM



At the half-way point, Carmacks.

Husband Steve.

A sandbar makes an ideal campsite.

RIOR TO THIS our sole paddling experience had been a two-hour guided tour in inflatable kayaks on the Dart River in New Zealand and some quiet afternoons canoeing on Green Lake in Whistler. Fortunately we possessed a great deal of wilderness experience and an abundance of enthusiasm as we set off to explore the relatively uninhabited Yukon. Ten percent larger than California, the Yukon Territories has only a minute fraction of California’s population, sprinkled lightly across just 12 tiny communities. The Yukon is one of the very few remaining places where one can experience boundless wilderness. The amount of bureaucratic red tape required to gain access to many wilderness areas in the U.S. is staggering. Most trails begin with a welcoming sign followed by a lengthy list of what not to do. In contrast, our Yukon River expedition began without any regulation-laden preface: no menacing signs, orientation sessions, forms, permits or imperatives in our way. I could tell this was going to be a different kind of backcountry trip. Locals are necessarily self-sufficient in the north and they presume that if you need information you’ll ask for it, otherwise the assumption is that you know what you’re doing and can take care of yourself. Off we went, full of energy and perhaps some trepidation as we embarked on a journey into true untamed wilderness. Over the last 15 years Steve and I developed a fascination with the history of northern settlers, from the ancient

crossing of the Bering land bridge that landed the first aboriginal people here 20,000 years ago, to the gold seekers a century ago. Both found the freedom of an unpopulated land, and with it much to celebrate and curse. The ample natural resources of the land are tempered by harsh living conditions, particularly in the long, dark winters. However, in summer, as we were experiencing, the weather is mild and forgiving, allowing exploration in relative comfort. We pushed off from the bank and gingerly paddled to the middle of the six-knot current to get our bearings. One good thing about the largely roadless Yukon is that we couldn’t get lost on the river if we tried. For a while we could hear comforting sounds of trucks from town trundling in the background, reminding us that civilization was near. Scores of eagles soared overhead, their white heads contrasting with the jet-black ravens that competed for airspace. The flap of broad wings and shrill cries filled the air. Paddling was easy in the swift current. No tipping yet. So far so good. That evening we found an obvious campsite with little trouble and feasted on our fresh food, starting with appetizers of sharp cheese and peppery salami, then supplemented our reconstituted freezedried meal of beef stroganoff with a salad of cabbage, crisp carrots and radishes smothered with ranch dressing, and washed it all down with a glass of pinot

Low, rounded hills near Whitehorse. 18

12fa_master.indd 18


FALL FALL2012 2012

7/26/2012 10:06:28 AM

Yukon River


SEE THE OUTLET of the lake,” I cried out excitedly, sitting up straighter on my diminutive bench. After slogging through the still waters of Lake Laberge, a very large widening of the river that causes the current to fade to nothing, for three very long days in a drizzly rain we were more than thrilled to see the river again. The mist lifted to display the

remains of the SS Evelyn, one of the 250 sternwheelers that used to ply these waters, and we beached the canoe to explore the area. We poked around the first of many abandoned cabins we discovered along the way, marveling at the small size and rough interior, though outfitted with glass window panes to allow light to penetrate. After eating a quick lunch of pita bread stuffed with canned chicken and cabbage, we piled back in the canoe with renewed vigor, now appreciating the swift current that looked so ominous the first day. We practically flew down the ‘30 Mile’ section, said to be the most beautiful part of the entire river, with crystal clear blue-green water magnifying the pebbles below. Fat grayling and arctic char swum under the boat and thick stands of spruce lined the banks along the narrowed waterway, so close we could easily cross from bank to bank with a couple of strong paddles. I lay back on the soft drybag filled with my gear and gazed up at the clearing sky, wispy clouds fading to blue. Eagles stood in trees in twos and threes, finding easy meals with the plentiful fish. The weak northern sun almost felt warm on my face and I dozed. All of a sudden a gust of wind interrupted my reverie and I popped up like a jack in the box. “What’s happening?” I asked. “The wind is kicking up pretty good swells,” said Steve, gesturing toward the water. I grabbed my paddle, preparing

FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 19

Scenery along the Yukon River.

photos by Steve Mullen and Inga Aksamit

noir. For dessert we enjoyed a crunchy, sweet apple and a piece of rich, dark chocolate. After dinner we sorted our gear on the beach and pulled the canoe out of the water so it wouldn’t float away. A gentle rain during the night taught us a valuable lesson, as it filled the canoe with puddles of water. After that we turned the canoe over each evening so the interior stayed dry. The next day, after a filling breakfast of instant oatmeal, a cup of hot tea, orangeflavored Tang and a slice of salami, we paddled north towards the Arctic Circle. As signs of civilization receded we noticed fewer houses, then finally none at all. We saw no one and heard nothing but our own voices, the water dripping off our oars and the cries of eagles. We spoke in hushed tones, our voices sounding unnaturally amplified as we unconsciously became part of the quiet land. We were alone.

Towing the boat out of an inlet on Lake Laberge.

An old trappers’ cabin.



7/26/2012 10:06:30 AM

Destinations for I knew not what. The river began a series of tight ‘S’ curves, challenging us to find the sweet spot, that place where wind, water and paddle align to propel us forward smoothly. I saw the bow angle toward the right bank and paddled harder to correct the course, to no avail. The water whipped up tiny whitecaps that in the Pacific would be negligible, but seemed to take on considerable significance for our tiny craft. “Dig in!” Steve said. I dug, but nothing useful happened. The boat started feeling precarious and visions of bodies and clothing scattering across the river propelled me to dig harder. After a tumultuous blur of barked instructions, paddling this way and that, Steve finally said, “Let ‘er go.” “What?” I shouted incredulously. Here we were in the fight of our life and we were just going to succumb? I stopped paddling and found myself looking upstream as the canoe found its own sweet spot, going backwards. I twisted and turned to get a look at Steve. “Now what?” I asked. “We’re fine,” he said with conviction. I looked around and found that we were, indeed, going to live. We hadn’t dumped the canoe, though we came close. It wasn’t until days later that he told me how close. “The water was less than an inch away from flooding the canoe,” he said later, over a glass of wine, far downriver. “It would have been bad,” he said in his dry, laconic style.

It was that early struggle with the river that windy afternoon that taught us the most about the river. As much as we tried to control the forces of nature, our puny efforts were no match. Once we learned to let the boat turn with the force of the wind, we found we could easily right ourselves a little later. We even came to enjoy it, those times when we’d lose our edge and spin around in a circle like a teacup ride at the fair. As long as we stayed far enough from shore that we didn’t get entangled with brush and downed trees we were safe from danger. This gave new meaning to the phrase, “go with the flow” and we learned to do just that, letting the river be the guide.


VER THE NEXT FEW DAYS some tributaries joined the Yukon and the character of the river changed. From the narrow confines of the ‘30 Mile,’ the river broadened to become braided with sandbars and tree-covered islands. The current slowed and instead of tight turns the curves became more meandering. Glacial-fed rivers dumped their load of chocolate milk-colored water, heavy with silt. The fine grains of rock resulting from the grinding action of the glaciers obscured the clarity of the river. “What’s that sound?” I asked, hearing the hiss of white noise. We had no electronic gear with us. We cocked our heads this way and that, listening closely. Suddenly I remembered a passage from an explorer’s account of the Yukon. “It’s

the sound of the glacial silt running under the fiberglass canoe,” I said. We bent down closer to the canoe and marveled at the sound miniscule grains of sand could produce. By now we were in sync with the river. We learned that the morning rains often gave way to clear skies so we’d just snuggle into our sleeping bags when we heard the pitter-patter of raindrops. We could afford to sleep in. The long northern days allowed us to paddle late into the night, usually till dusk around 9 p.m. That still gave us enough time to set up camp, fire up the camp stove to boil water for our hot chocolate and rehydrate our freezedried meals. Darkness fell at 11 p.m., though it was not complete darkness, for a faint shadowy light backlit the low hills for a few hours until dawn broke, around 2 am.


NE DAY IN THE CANOE Steve whispered, “Look on the right bank.” Scanning the distance I noticed some movement. Wishing we could pause the unrelenting flow of the river we watched two lynx frolicking on the shore in the warm afternoon sun. One lay on his back, paws up in the air, while the other batted mischievously at him and nuzzled his playmate, just like my house cats at home. They, like most other wildlife we saw, never noticed our silent canoe freely slipping by. We were just part of their landscape. One evening we were greeted by a great spray of water from a beaver tail as we

Plan your trip: Exotic destinations

th Our 2ar5. ye

K a yak with us in a warm-water paradise. B o ok your winter getaway now.

Paddle with us in the ‘World’s Aquarium’!

The Bahamas...

Costa riCa osa peninsula 7 days in paradise, December–April.

250-539-2442 / 20

12fa_master.indd 20


1 800 307 3982

Multi-Day Kayak Tours - Sea of Cortez- Loreto Baja Mexico Toll Free 1-866-765-BAJA (2252)

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:06:30 AM

Yukon River pulled onto a sandbar. The sound of tails slapping serenaded us long into the night. Our eagle count dropped from dozens in a day to just one or two, but the venerable raven, held in great esteem by northern aboriginal people, was ubiquitous. Moose tracks criss-crossed the sandy beach; a wolf danced on the beach with his fresh kill; a large herd of mountain goats somehow clung to high, barren cliffs; and a fisher stealthily swam to shore off in the distance. Frequent visitors to our campsites included chattering red squirrels and squawking gray jays looking for a handout. Our wildlife count for the day stood at wolves one, beavers two, mountain goats 30, humans zero.


N MANY VISITS to the north we had seen black bears but never a grizzly. We had a healthy respect for the unpredictable nature of these bruins but half-hoped we’d see one, preferably from a safe distance. Steve, spotter extraordinaire, made the woodboat_ad.qxp:Layout 1 I grabbed 9/16/10 sighting, again on the right bank. the binoculars and the bulky blond bear

came into sharp focus. The hump on his back sent shivers down mine. I carefully and quietly dipped my paddle into the water with the intention of putting some distance between us and him. Steve took his turn with the binoculars and began paddling as well. “Shhh,” we said to each other, wanting to prolong our surreptitious viewing. I couldn’t figure out why were spinning around – after so many days paddling together we had mastered synchronizing our strokes. I put in a little more effort to straighten us out but to my dismay we still went in circles. I looked back at Steve and said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m trying to get a closer look.” “What?” I asked, “I’m trying to get away from him!” I had been attempting to turn the canoe in one direction, while Steve had been turning it the other, resulting in our merry-go-round. 1:23 The PM bear Page reared 1up and crashed into the bushes, his peace, and ours, dispelled,

Instructions • Plans • Materials Canoe, Kayak & Small Boat Kits Classes with Ted Moores Wooden Boat Restoration Custom Building

and that’s the last we saw of him. We spun around one more time, then straightened up the canoe and laughed about how our different approaches reflected our personalities: Steve ever advancing towards danger while I aimed for safety. On our last full day before Dawson City we pulled in earlier than usual to avoid civilization for one more night and to savour our last evening on the river. Putting all our acquired knowledge to use that day we stopped at a side creek to get clear water, collected our beaver wood from a log jam, paddled expertly from side to side to catch the fastest current, and were rewarded with one of the best campsites of the entire two-week trip at Ogilvie Island. I leapt confidently out of the canoe as we angled onto the beach, grabbed the bow line and hauled the canoe in. “Yeah, there you go. You’re a real river woman now,” Steve said with a smile. Inga Aksamit is a Northern California-based travel writer.

Kayak Repair & Refit

G FEATURIN Peterborough, Canada


ALL full length bead & cove strips • Convenient international shipping

Experience the difference our quality makes

Andrea Morrison Meet Blackline’s kayak specialist – eight years of manufacturing and repair experience.

2072 Henry Avenue West Sidney, BC. (250) 654-0052

• Component Replacements • Keel Line Rebuilds • Gel Coat Refinishing • Structural Repairs

Vancouver Island South Blackline_10WI.indd 1

12fa_master.indd 21

FALL 2012



10/7/2010 2:22:32 PM

7/26/2012 10:06:31 AM


Getting There Flights to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada are available on a number of carriers. From Vancouver connections are available through Air North, Air Canada or WestJet. Air North: 1-800-661-0407, Air Canada: 1-888-247-2262, WestJet: 1-888-937-8538 CA/ 1-855-547-2451 US,

Getting to the river and back to Whitehorse Outfitters can assist in transporting the canoe and gear to the river and possibly van transportation back to Whitehorse from Carmacks (320 kms by river and 180 by road) or Dawson City (740 km by river and 530 km by road). These are the two rare locations where the river nears road access. Flights, car rental, shuttle and tour buses are options for traveling between Dawson City and Whitehorse.


Cabin Fever Adventures 867-821-3003 Cedar and Canvas Adventures 867-633-5526 Nahanni River Adventures (867) 668-3180 Taiga Journeys 867-393-3394 Up North Adventures (867) 667-7035 Cathers Wilderness Adventures 867-333-2186 Nature Tours of Yukon


Yukon River, Marsh Lake to Dawson City by Mike Rourke (Rivers North Publications, 1983). Created by a local paddler who has written several regional river guidebooks, this guide contains detailed river charts, route information and descriptions of historical sites.


12fa_master.indd 22


Planning your visit

The Yukon River, that mighty stretch of water that flows through the Yukon, has transported travellers for thousands of years and provided fodder for many a campfire story. In the late 1890s the Klondike gold rush made the river a household name as stampeders made their way north on its current. Today, the river still draws paddlers from around the world. For the most part, the current is gentle, helping to push your craft of choice along and making the river accessible to those who aren’t seasoned paddlers. If you’re starting in Whitehorse, a few hours will take you to spectacular Lake Laberge. While prevailing south winds can make the lake rough, there is nothing finer than floating along its eastern shores when the weather is calm and pulling off to camp at its many protected gravel beaches. Vegetation is light in some areas and provides great opportunities for hiking, rewarding you with spectacular views over the entire lake and river valley. For those who relish the challenge of faster water, a thrill awaits at the notorious Five Finger Rapids, one that has dashed many a stampeder’s dreams. Don’t worry – the far right channel offers passage with a ride over some of the smaller standing waves. It’s not time to relax just yet though, as Rink Rapids are another 30 minutes downstream. Again, sticking to the far right will keep you safe and dry. No trip down the Yukon River would be complete without stopping to investigate many of the historic sites that remain on the shores. From the ghostly paddlewheeler Evelyn, forever dry-docked just downstream of Hootalinqua, to the remains of the cabins and a roadhouse at Yukon Crossing, to Fort Selkirk, to Dawson City itself, the area is a feast for history buffs. For paddlers hungry for a guide to the historic river, there is plenty of literature to choose from, all available at local book and paddling stores. A river trip in the Yukon requires careful planning. Fortunately, there are local experts that can help. Guided trips are offered throughout the paddling season and range from short and sweet to

Dawson City

Carmacks Whitehorse

expeditionary in length and nature. No matter how long you spend on the river, it’s important to have the right gear. Yukon weather can change quickly and dramatically. It’s not uncommon to have a 20 ° C sunny day followed by an overcast chilly day with temperatures closer to 15 ° C. Overnight lows can drop into the single digits even during the height of summer. How to combat this multiple personality? Layers, of course. All paddlers should wear layers of quick-dry clothing. Polypropylene and fleece are warm, lightweight and dry quickly. Merino wool layers are another great alternative and tend to feel warmer even when damp. Good rain gear is essential and you’ll need the whole kit: jacket, pants and a rain hat – perhaps not the most stylish of outdoor gear, but you’ll be glad to have it if the skies really open up. For chilly evenings and mornings, a toque and mitts are always good to have on hand. And last but not least, pack mosquito protection. While you’re on the water, mosquitoes tend to leave you alone. At some water levels, there are many islands with gravel bar beaches that make great, relatively mosquito-free campsites. However, should you find yourself swatting away, a bug jacket or mosquito hat tucked in your gear will provide sweet relief. Here’s an additional tip: pack a baseball hat to wear under the bug hat/ jacket as its brim will keep the netting away from your face.

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:06:32 AM

FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 23



7/26/2012 10:06:33 AM

Destinations Old pilings frame the view of Georgeson Island from Bennett Bay.

The Belle islets T

HERE WAS A BRIEF moment of adjustment for many kayakers when the Gulf Islands National Park reserve decreed camping wouldn’t be allowed on the many islets under the new national park’s care. While kayakers couldn’t help but celebrate the creation of the national park back in 2003, many of the best little campsites in the south Gulf Islands were about to disappear – in an area largely hemmed in by homes and private land with only scattered official campsites. The reason for the ban was as good as any could be – conservation of the delicate and rare coastal bluff ecosystem best represented by these islets. On them, hardy little plants can cling to shallow deposits of soil atop sandstone crags, surviving winter storms and rains, saltspray splashes and summer droughts. What these little plants couldn’t survive was trampling, likely from any visitor who might like to stop and clamber up one of these island gems. One set of islets susceptible to such


12fa_master.indd 24


damage was the Belle Chain Islets along the outer shores of Mayne and Saturna islands. Lying in the open waters of the Strait of Georgia, they are home to seals, sea lions and a multitude of marine birds. Several of the islands also evolved into unregulated camping destinations on the prime rocky bluffs. The islands are now reverting to their natural uninhabited state. For those who venture out to this remote section of the Gulf Islands National Park reserve, the largest of the nearshore islands and the one closest to Samuel Island is accessible for day-use visits, making an ideal picnic spot on a daytrip exploration of this colourful region. A great time to visit is early spring when the wildflowers bloom on the coastal bluffs. Nearby Mayne Island makes an ideal starting point or base, given its good accessibility by ferry from both Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, not to mention the array of accommodations. An

alternative base is Saturna Island, though getting there can be more time-consuming. Boat ramps at both Bennett Bay on Mayne and Winter Cove on Saturna make good launch points, while extended trips are possible from Saltspring, the Pender Islands and beyond. The trick is the currents. Samuel Island serves as a partial plug in the gap between Saturna and Mayne, creating strong tidal channels on both sides of the island. Passing is easiest at slack current, with potentially dangerous rapids at peak periods, particularly in Boat Passage. Bennet Bay is an ideal launch location for allowing you to begin your trip outside the tidal channels. An attraction in the bay is Georgeson Island, an uninhabited island now also part of the Gulf Islands National Park reserve. Those planning an overnight trip can launch from here and travel the north side of Saturna Island to Cabbage Island, a designated camping islet within the Gulf Islands National Park reserve.

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:06:33 AM

Adapted from the Gulf Islands Recreation Map

South Gulf Islands

Plan your trip: South Gulf Islands 100 95 75

Eco Adventures in the Gulf Islands since 1991

25 5 0

Kayak Tours to Marine Parks & Islets SKGABC Guide Courses

Two Cozy Waterfront Accommodations Expeditions A Funky Outdoor, Surf/Skate Shop for Clothing & Gear. Lessons & Rentals 163 Fulford-Ganges Road



Tours ▪ Rentals ▪ Lessons ▪ Sales PIKA_AD_Wavelengths February-15-10 5:16:31 PM

Steps from National Seashore, Bennett Bay and a kayaker’s paradise!

Just 45 minutes from Victoria, on the ‘Gulf Islands Marine Trail Network’

Toll free: 1-888-749-2333 FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 25

• Kayak Galiano Island! • Daily Guided Tours & Rentals since 1985 • 1 hr from Vancouver! • Ferry Pick-Up • Open All Year! Join us in Costa Rica! Weekly Dec-April, since 1987



7/26/2012 10:06:36 AM

Destinations: North Gulf Islands

  Usually in British Columbia, First Nations reserves must be treated as private property. Because many of the original village sites were picked for the same reasons that make good kayaking campsites – good beach access and shelter – having reserves off-limits can drastically reduce the camping options for kayakers on the British Columbia coast. One remarkable exception is Tent Island, a small but surprisingly roomy island adjacent to Penelakut Island (formerly Kuper Island until 2010) off the north end of Saltspring Island. Previously a marine park, Tent Island reverted to ownership by the Penelakut First Nation, which has been gracious in allowing

Background: the main kayak landing beach. Inset: the main boat bay.

continued public access to this remarkable location. In addition, the band has created campsites off the main beaches, with wonderful spots on headlands overlooking beautiful coves and beaches. The main crescent beach and cove on the island’s west side is a popular day-beach for boaters, with kayakers preferring the beach and campsites to the north. Tent Island is an ideal waypoint on a larger exploration of this region that can include nearby Wallace Island Provincial Park, Pirates Cove Provincial Park and other north Gulf Islands destinations. See The Wild Coast Vol. 3 for full information on this region. Contact the band office at (250)-246-2321.

Plan your trip: Gabriola and Gulf Islands North Nanaimo

Gabriola Island

Cedar Ladysmith

Pirates Cove Tent Island

If you go: Launches from Chemainus, Ladysmith and north Saltspring Island are generally one to two hours away by paddle, making this an ideal day trip. The cliffs on the island’s southwest are remarkable. Permission to camp is through the Penelakut First Nation at (250) 246-2321.

Saltspring Island

SEALEGS KAYAKING and Marine Adventures

Kayak & SUP Sales Lessons, Rentals, Tours, Snorkeling Transport & Taxi Service 1-877-KAYAK BC 250-247-8939

Custom kayak tours, beginner lessons, kids camps, gourmet beach picnics, kayaking and yoga, and sunset paddles! 26

12fa_master.indd 26


FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:06:41 AM

Destinations: Haida Gwaii


Plan your trip: Haida Gwaii

Prince Rupert

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site

Réserve de parc national, réserve d’aire marine nationale de conservation, et site du patrimoine haïda Gwaii Haanas


We all have skyscrapers.


Come see ours.

Lyell Island

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve

Hotspring Island (Gandll K’in Gwaayaay)

À chacun ses gratte-ciel.

Venez voir les nôtres.

SGang Gwaay

“Local outfitter providing guided multi-day kayak adventures in Gwaii Haanas since 2000. Leaders in inclusionary and educational kayak tours. Eight-day trips from CDN $1,655


Real. Inspiring. Unique. Vraiment. phone: 250-557-4562


FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 27

Photo courtesy Go Haida Gwaii /


AIDA GWAII may be one of the cooler summer destinations, even by northern British Columbia standards, but a good soak in a hot spring can make up for a lot. A natural seaside thermal pool can be found at Gandll K’in Gwaayaay (Haida for Hot-Water-Island), often known as Hotspring Island. Reputed for its healing and spiritual qualities, the hotspring is a sacred Haida location set in Gwaii Haanas National Park reserve near a former village site on the island’s east side. Landing is recommended on the northeast side of the island. From there a trail leads through the forest to the Watchmen cabin where visitors can sign in before showering in the spring-fed showers in the bathhouse. Watchmen serve as guardians at key cultural sites in the national park to monitor visitors and provide information. The main and largest pool is located at the end of a small trail in a setting of salal and crabapple trees, while another trail leads to a cliffside pool. By continuing along that trail you can reach the beachside pool adjacent to the ocean. Gandll K’in Gwaayaay, located south of Lyell Island, is part of a heritage route down Gwaii Haanas that includes historic sites K’uuna Llnagaay (Skedans), T’aanuu Linagaay (Tanu) and Hik’yah GaawGa (Windy Bay). Continuing south brings you to Huxley Island, Ellen Island and eventually SGang Gwaay (Anthony Island) on the southwestern edge of Gwaii Haanas. Though on the more protected east side of Haida Gwaii, Gandll K’in Gwaayaay can still be a challenging location with exposed crossings and hazardous stretches of coastline and headlands. Hot springs are an anomaly that dot the coast of northern British Columbia: Bishop Bay on the Inside Passage near Kitimat, Shearwater Hot Springs in Gardner Canal and Eucott Hot Springs near Bella Coola. Most are developed with tubs and houses, with Eucott Hot Spring in its most natural state. Imagine a warm soak overlooking mountains and ocean in the midst of a long kayak trip on a remote area of coast. Could anything be better?



7/26/2012 10:06:45 AM

Destinations: West Vancouver Island

 Many kayakers and other coastal explorers will be familiar with the Uchuck III, or perhaps even its earlier counterparts. Coast&Kayak Magazine is proud to be able to offer excerpts from the new book The Uchuck Years, A West Coast Shipping Saga by David Esson Young. It covers a piece of history of the west coast of Vancouver Island now reserved for just two remaining passenger and freight coastal vessels (the other is the Frances Barkley out of Barkley Sound). A trip aboard either of these ships is a unique way to start and end a kayaking vacation to Barkley Sound, Nootka Sound or Kyuquot Sound. Here is part of the story behind the Uchuck III, courtesy Harbour Publishing and Getwest Adventures, the present-day owners of the Uchuck III. Î Î Î HE STORY of the Barkley Sound Transportation Co. Ltd. and its three renowned motor vessels – Uchuck I, II and III – had its roots in events that occurred more than three decades earlier. In 1911, E.D. Stone arrived in the Alberni Valley of Vancouver Island, soon to be followed by his brother, Percy, and the two men went to work on the waterfront. Within ten years they

were in the towing business and were also delivering mail around Barkley Sound, mainly to the people involved in the shore end of the fishing industry. In 1925 they built a passenger vessel named Somass Queen in their shipyard on the Somass River and began a regular service to the fish processing plants in the sound. This ship was the first in a succession of vessels that they operated in that capacity. One of the men that they hired to run

Plan your trip: Kyuquot Connect • Experience • Refresh

T 28

12fa_master.indd 28


that service was named Richard Porritt, and sometime before 1936 he bought the part of the Stone’s business that involved servicing the processing plants. (The Stone family carried on with their main towing business until 1974 when they sold it to Pacific Towing.) In 1936 Porritt bought a vessel from British Columbia Packers at Prince Rupert. This fifty-foot vessel, the MV Uchuck, had been built in 1928 and served him until he replaced her with the

Base Camp Comforts & Expedition Kayaking 40 Years of Kyuquot, Bunsby & Brooks Tours

…truly get away! 1-800-665-3040

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:06:48 AM

The Uchuck Years by David Esson Young newly built vessel Uchuck No. 1 in 1941. This was the first mail, passenger and freight vessel specifically built to run yearround in Barkley Sound. Î Î Î It is not certain what the name ‘Uchuck’ means but there are a lake and stream by that name at the head of Uchucklesit Inlet, and the name has some significance to the native population. Some of the possible meanings of the word translate as good harbour, small spring, very wet and healing waters. The last of these seems to be the one most commonly accepted. Î Î Î The West Coast was a busy place in the 1920s and1930s. There were fish canneries, salteries and reduction plants in the sounds employing hundreds of Chinese, Japanese and native workers, who all lived out on the coast for the fishing season. Although a branch of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway was completed to Port Alberni in 1911, most supplies and people were brought in by sea from Victoria and the Mainland, with products shipped out the same way. By 1946 fish processing had all but ended on the West Coast and the huge labour force had gone, leaving only remnants behind. The three places that were still operating were BC Packers’ Kildonan cannery and the Green Cove saltery, both in Uchucklesit Inlet, and a

reduction plant at Port Albion, across Ucluelet Inlet from the village of Ucluelet. The pilchard, a herring-like fish, was their mainstay species, but it mysteriously disappeared in 1947 in the same way that it had suddenly appeared in 1917. Î Î Î My first trip on the Uchuck I was nearly my last. It was shortly after my father and George acquired the vessel and I was not yet eight years old. I was lying down on the wide shelf above the bench seat in the wheelhouse, having been put there for my own safety while the vessel rolled her way across the mouth of Barkley Sound in a southeast gale. Then it came to be time for me to be seasick. I clambered down from my perch and started out the door, which my dad was holding open for me. In that vessel the deck of the wheelhouse was three feet above the main deck and level with the top of the guardrail around the deck. Just as I was stepping out, the

vessel rolled down to starboard and I stepped off towards a black hole in the ocean. Fortunately for me, it happened that an Air Force serviceman was standing in the lee of the wheelhouse by the door, trying not to be sick. As I was about to clear the rail on my way to the ocean, he grabbed a handful of the back of my jacket and brought me back inside the rail. The rest of the story has faded from my memory, but I do remember meeting that serviceman on another trip a few years later, and we recognized each other even though I had grown a lot by then. Î Î Î As business continued to grow, it soon was once again apparent that Barkley Sound Transportation needed more equipment, and again the hunt was on for another vessel. The next new vessel was found in Vancouver – the stripped-out hulk of a US Navy YMS minesweeper. The US Navy had built 561 of these Yardclass minesweepers in small shipyards across the country. YMS 123 had been completed in 1943 by Kruse and Banks Shipyard of North Bend, Oregon, and then moved to a base at Mare Island, which is not far from San Francisco, to do patrol duty off the west coast of the US and Canada. After the war the vessel had been struck from the naval list, sold into private hands, then imported into Canada. When Esson came across

Plan your trip: Nootka Sound Paddle with sea otters! Kayak transport between Zeballos and Nootka Island, Nuchatlitz Park and Friendly Cove. Kayak rentals.

CEDARS INN rooms & restaurant in a historic Zeballos lodge. Good food, friendly service.

1-866-222-2235 FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 29

Nootka transport & rentals Transport to Nuchatlitz Park, Yuquot (Friendly Cove), Bligh Island Marine Park and beyond. 1-866-934-6365 Kayak rentals! COAST&KAYAK MAGAZINE


7/26/2012 10:06:50 AM

Destinations: West Vancouver Island there was still enough work to be done in the area, although on a smaller scale, and they formed their own company, Alberni Marine Transportation Ltd. The Lady Rose served them well until they sold out and retired twenty years later. Although the Lady Rose has since been retired, there is still a service in Barkley Sound, nearly a century after one first began. The current vessel in service is the MV Frances Barkley. Î Î Î In warm weather while we were running at night and were away from the land, the feeling was magical. When there was no moon showing, the stars filled the sky as if there would not be room for any more. Even the regular constellations would be hard to distinguish among the crowd. With my head out the wheelhouse port, I

listened to the rush of water as the vessel surged forward in the ocean swell, and I saw the sparkles in the water from the bioluminescence, outlining the hull and leaving a brightly lit trail for a mile behind the ship. A trip like this stays in your memory and cancels out a whole lot of the other kind.

Bob Cossar photo

her in his search, she had been lying uncared for in Vancouver Harbour for four years after having been stripped of all useful equipment. There wasn’t so much as a light switch left. Î Î Î Operations in Barkley Sound ended for the Uchuck III with a charter run on June 11, 1960, to Ahousaht in Clayoquot Sound and back, and on June 16 at 12:53 the vessel sailed for Alert Bay, via Victoria, to go out on charter to Murray Marine Services. She would replace the Lady Rose on the run from Kelsey Bay to Alert Bay, Sointula, Port McNeil, Beaver Cove, Minstrel Island and a few smaller places. The service in Barkley Sound was uninterrupted after the June 1960 departure of the Uchuck III to Alert Bay. John Monrufet and Dick McMinn felt that

David Esson Young drew upon company records and 40 years of experience to write The Uchuck Years. He started as a junior deck hand with Nootka Sound Services while in his teens and finished as co-owner and shipmaster. He lives in Royston, BC.

A friendly seaside retreat. Enjoy the west coast in comfort. Ideal lodging for kayakers who can launch into Barkley Sound. Or relax and enjoy old growth cedars, bald eagles and sea lions.

Hundreds of islands to explore on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Barkley Sound, Pacific Rim National Park, and Clayoquot Sound. Our professionally guided tours include transportation, gourmet meals, and superior quality equipment.

1183 Helen Road, Ucluelet


Plan your trip: Broken Group/Barkley Sound

The ultimate guide The long-awaited heir to The Wild Coast Vol. 1, The BC Coast Explorer Vol. 1 explores Vancouver Island’s West Coast in a spectacular presentation of maps, photography and information. 30

12fa_master.indd 30


SECHART LODGE Closest accommodations to the Broken Group Islands • A relaxing, interesting and affordable retreat in a wilderness setting • Kayak rentals and water taxi services Email 250-723-8313/ 1-800-663-7192 April-Sept.

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:06:51 AM

Destinations: Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands

Push on for parkland Fans of Desolation Sound, Quadra Island and Surge Narrows will be happy to know a key area is getting a new block of parkland. The catch is that funds to secure the property must be raised by the end of September. On May 1, the BC government signed an agreement to purchase 395 hectares of private land between Octopus Islands Marine Park and Small Inlet Provincial Park. The current offer to purchase the property expires in September. This parcel has been at the top of BC Parks land acquisition plans for years and was originally intended to be part of the two parks. The chance to acquire the land has only recently come to to forefront, however. The BC Parks Land Acquisition Branch has been putting money aside towards the purchase price of $6.15 million, but further fundraising is necessary to secure the sale. A committee, Save the Heart of Quadra Parks, has formed under the umbrella of the Quadra Island Conservancy and Stewardship Society ( QICSS), with the goal of raising at least $200,000.

Parcels in yellow are potential parkland.


The area has hiking trails, a swimming lake, and fresh water from an artesian spring, making it appealing for outdoor enthusiasts. The new section would also protect a traditional portage route and trail between Waiat Bay and Small Inlet. For more information, or to donate, visit

Plan your trip: Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands Discover the Power in your Nature

Land for purchase Desolation Sound Quadra


Jervis Inlet


Howe Sound Nanaimo


Kayak Tours, Rentals & Transport Instruction & Leadership Programs Maps, Charts & Books Central waterfront location & launch site

Lund, BC | 604-483-7900 | 888-552-5558

Misty Isles Adventures Cortes Island, Desolation Sound

• Sail on a 43 ft. schooner • Guided kayaking day trips instruction & rentals • Kayak mothership trips • Natural and human history tours

Mothership trips to Desolation Sound, Discovery Islands, Toba and Bute Inlets 250-935-6756

FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 31



7/26/2012 10:06:54 AM

Destinations: Various locations ng Campri s tou

Lodge prograbased ms

Mothership AdventureS Luxury Mothership Sea Kayaking

Natural History, Cultural, Historical Tours

5&7 day tours in the BROKEN ISLANDS Explore B.C.’s remote coastal wilderness in comfort and safety!

Grey Wolf Expeditions @ Saratoga Beach, Black Creek All inclusive Kayak Tours Morning, afternoon and sunset Paddles Ask us about our overnight kayak-camping special Lessons and Rentals Phone: 1.877.337.5717 Email: Web:

Great Bear Rainforest ~ Broughton Archipelago ~ Desolation Sound

Odyssey Kayaking BC Ferries port; Gateway to Northern and Central BC Coast destinations. Sales, Rentals, Lessons, Trip planning. 8625 Shipley Street (across from the Post Office) Port Hardy. Phone: 250-949-7392 or cell 250-230-8318 Email: Web:

Kayak-Friendly Accommodation Nuchatlitz Island

4 bdrm cabin in the Nuchatlitz Provincial Park area of Nootka Island, BC.

Copper Kettle Bed & Breakfast 465 Stewart Ave Nanaimo, BC V9S 4C7 250-740-3977 1-877-740-3977

Perfect as a base for up to 8 people. Accessible by water only. Protected dock, minutes from the open Pacific. Large open plan on the main floor with 4 bdrms above. 2 bdrms with queen beds. 2 with twin beds. Propane stove, fridge and hot water. Non-smoking. 250-337-5180


12fa_master.indd 32


~ Traditional, cozy, English-style accommodation. ~ Delectable breakfast, queen beds, shower ensuite. ~ Great paddling possibilities: we are one block from sea front where you can launch a kayak to paddle in Nanaimo Harbour. Easy paddle to Newcastle and Protection Islands to walk, swim or picnic. ~ Close to downtown Nanaimo ~ 10 minute walk to kayak rentals near Departure Bay.

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:07:06 AM


Liam McNeill

It’s the little things that make the trip


CURSED MYSELF silently under my breath; a raindrop running down the tip of my nose. I forgot to pack the large group tarp: our roof, our shelter. With five pairs of eyes staring at me through the drizzle, this was the start of a life lesson I was not going to forget. My misadventure sans-tarp was not a complete disaster. A secondary small blue plastic tarp and a tent ground sheet made a passable roof and thankfully the next morning dawned clear and sunny. As I laid out my sodden raingear in the morning sun I vowed never again to forget the simple luxuries which make a voyage memorable. In order to be prepared for virtually any eventuality there are hundreds of individual items I bring on every kayak trip. Some items, like a sleeping bag, are large and obvious, while most, like the bolts to repair a broken rudder cable, are tiny and easy to forget. A paddling trip does not end when one hits the beach. As a group leader of friends or clients, everyone will be expecting you to have made plans for every eventuality and impress them with the items they would not have even considered packing. As a memory aid I use the SKGABC Packing List (available at to ensure I always have everything I might need. There are a few key items that can make or break a trip. Bring hearty, wholesome fresh food. Leave the freeze-dried food at home! On most overnight trips, there is ample room in most kayaks to pack fresh vegetables, fruit and snacks galore. Bringing good kitchen equipment can make cooking a breeze. Warm, multiple layers can adapt to any weather pattern. Throw in an extra sweater for good measure. It can get chilly even in mid-summer when camping by the ocean, and you may have lend it to another group member. You may be headed on a kayaking trip, but in reality you will likely spend three quarters of the day on land. As such, a

few field guide books (birds, plants, animals) are great to supplement a guest’s favourite fiction. Fill in the hours with a game of bocce, playing cards or frisbee. Sea kayakers tend to focus on the nuances of on-the-water safety, often to the neglect of land-based security. In many areas large animals can be a concern. I carry a can of bear spray and an axe, which at least gives me the feeling of safety. Consider your food storage options, and bring a bearhang set-up if needed. A well-stocked

first aid kit, and the knowledge to use it, is a necessity. Every kayak guide will develop their own style and flavour to the equipment they bring, which in turn influences the type of trip your guests will experience. Whether you develop your own, or use the SKGABC packing list, don’t be caught without a roof over your head. After ten years of guiding, Liam McNeil is a Level 3 Guide with Class 4 Waters Endorsement, and Executive Director of SKGABC. When not paddling, he can be found enjoying the rain living in Tofino.

Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC Guide Equipment List This list is meant as an example only. Select as appropriate. Additional equipment may be required. For more information, visit:

Day Trip Essentials  Tarp  First aid kit  VHF radio  Secondary communication device  Throw bag  Paddle float  Spare paddle  PFD / Life jacket  Spray Skirt  Compass  Whistle  Repair Kit  Flares  Spare clothes for guests  Food  Stove / Pot  Float plan

 Seat cushion Guide Gear  Log book  Tide tables  Hand held compass  Tarps  Misc. rope / line  Watch  Field books  Water bags / jugs  Binocs  Saw / axe  First aid kit  Water purification  Bear spray / bangers  Spare batteries  Fire starter  Matches & lighter  Bear hang equipment

Overnight Trip Gear

Communication Equipment  VHF radio  Cell Phone  EPIRB / SPOT  Emergency plans / contacts  Spare batteries

Paddling Clothes  Paddle jacket  PFD / Life jacket  Whistle on PFD  Rescue Knife  Strobe light  Water Cloths / Wetsuit / Dry suit  Spray Skirt  Cold Weather gloves / poggies  Helmet  Surf booties / water shoes On-Water Gear  Throw-bag / Towing Line  Paddle  Paddle leash  Spare paddle  Paddle float  Sponge  VHF Radio (spare batteries)  Pump  On-water first aid  On-water repair kit  Snacks  Flares  Charts  Chart case Sun Protection  Sunglasses  Sun Hat  Sunscreen  Sun Gloves  Long Sleeve Shirt Boat Accessories  Deck Compass

Tool Kit  Multi-tool  Pliers  Screwdriver  Vise grips  Sandpaper  Epoxy  Rudder cables  Crimps / bolts (for cables)  Duct tape  Super glue (goop)  5 mm cord  Bolts & nuts  Fiber glass repair  Sewing kit  Spare batteries Cooking Gear  Stove  Fuel  Pots and pans  Griddle  Coffee pot  Bowls or plates  Cups  Cutlery  Wooden spoon  Can opener  Knives  Spatula  Corkscrew  Shredder

 Cutting board  Pasta server  Scoop  Peeler  Wash kit  Scrubber  Dish cloths  Dish soap  Bleach Food Basics  Water  Coffee  Sugar  Milk  Drink kit (teas, hot chocolate)  Cooking oils  Aluminum foil  Spice kit (salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, etc)  Trip Food  Emergency Food  Bear hang equipment Personal Equipment  Sleeping bag  Sleeping pad  Tent / Bivi sack  Flash light / headlamp  Dry bags  Multi-tool Knife (Leatherman)  Camera  Tripod  Toothbrush  Water bottle  Toiletries  Medications (separate and duplicate)  Toilet paper Clothes (Warm)  Long johns  Warm wool sweater  Toque  Nylon / fleece pants  Synthetic shirt  Wool socks x 2 (or 4)  Water cloths  Synthetic / wool shirt  Rain gear  Gumboots Additional Equipment  _____________________________  _____________________________  _____________________________  _____________________________  _____________________________  _____________________________  _____________________________

Click this location in the online edition for a letter-page size version suitable for printing.

FALL 2012


SKGABC – PO Box 1005, Stn. A, Nanaimo, BC, V9R 5Z2 – –

12fa_master.indd 33


7/26/2012 10:07:06 AM


Impressions in



HEN I WAS LEARNING about cetaceans I was always taught that blue whales are solitary creatures, but in the past couple of years they have begun to appear in the Santa Barbara Channel of southern California in great numbers. This is due to a number of climatic changes that have brought an abundance of bait into the area and an animal will always go where the food is. This is also what has allowed me the limited access I have had to them. With all we know of dinosaurs, it is fascinating to realize that the largest animal ever to roam the planet is not just an artists’ rendering in a picture book, but is alive and well right now, often visible from shore. And unlike most of its predatory ancestors, it is a peaceful giant. From the cockpit of a kayak, a surfacing blue whale is like watching an island being born. The first time I saw one it reminded me of the ancient Polynesian canoe voyagers who traversed the oceans using only the sun, stars and knowledge of the water for navigation, and truly believed the canoe sat in


12fa_master.indd 34


one place while the island came to them. It felt like an island approaching my boat. Unfortunately because the ocean is vast and whales move great distances, it is difficult to learn about them unless we find a carcass on a beach to study. Some information has actually come to us from whaling ships that recorded unusual finds while hunting these creatures. The largest blue ever killed was an Atlantic whale measured at 33 metres long and weighing almost 190 tonnes, but the average is more like 27 metres and weighing somewhere around 100 tonnes. It cannot lift its body out of the water like a humpback or gray whale. Its flukes, while almost nine metres across, are far too small to generate such power, and it lacks the tremendous pectoral fins of the humpback. Juveniles have been observed trying to breach, but even they can only manage about a 45-degree angle, landing on their bellies or sides. It only has a tiny bump of a dorsal fin that adds to the difficulty of spotting one from the water level of a paddler. Unless you are flying over one, the most anyone can usually hope to see is the

FALL FALL2012 2012

7/26/2012 10:07:11 AM

by James Michael Dorsey

The world’s largest yet surprisingly elusive creature shows behaviour you might not expect

top of the head with its elevated blow hole or the flukes coming up for a dive. They are known to lunge-feed and this takes an enormous amount of energy just to get up the steam to surge its head out of the water to take bait fish from the surface. They are probably the least studied whales, but what is known about them is fascinating. They have a gestation of approximately one year after which time a baby blue weighing up to three tons and measuring 7.5 metres long will issue into the world; feeding exclusively on mother’s milk, it will gain up to 90 kilograms per day. Their sheer size is a deterrent to predators, but sharks may take a piece out of their flanks that the whale will hardly notice due to its coating of protective blubber. They swim at about eight kilometres an hour but can rapidly accelerate to over 50 kmh when distressed. Their lifespan is believed to average about 80 years and this is measured by the wax buildup inside the ears of a dead whale, the only current method for such identification. The oldest known blue lived 110 years and must have had a terrible time hearing.

Most kayakers will never really see one except in small parts at a time, so imagine this. You are paddling along and are assaulted by a sensation that you are not alone. Perhaps it is the enormous wave of pressure that precedes the animal as it cuts through the water, or maybe ultra-low frequency sounds that we sense rather than hear, but you are aware that something unusual is about to happen. It may even be a telepathic ability of this animal we know nothing about at this time, and I have no rational explanation for this feeling other than I have had it on numerous occasions, sensing when a blue whale was near my boat. There is nothing to compare to this encounter unless you have had a nuclear submarine surface next to you or you have been paddling when a volcanic island was born. Its sheer size will deflate the ego of the most accomplished paddler and reduce one to a feeling of insignificance in seconds. No other animal can be compared to it. It is indeed a living dinosaur. 4 FALL 2012 FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 35



7/26/2012 10:07:13 AM

Wildlife Suddenly the waters part and the gigantic head rises just enough for the small plateau that hosts the blowhole to break the surface. It sounds like a gunshot as the exhaled breath exits the warm body at over 450 kmh per hour, sending the largest spray of vapor of any whale 10 metres skyward. Its heart is the size of a small car and a man could easily crawl through its arteries. It usually cruises at about 8 knots, which is a good click for something so large. It is a baleen or rorqual whale. Baleen is unique to whales, composed of keratin, just as our fingernails and hair. A long plate of it grows downward from the roof of the whales’ mouth, tapering into individual sticks that resemble plastic toothbrushes, and these end in a soft, flexible brush-like design that could easily be compared to a whisk broom. Baleen only grows from the top part of the mouth, not the lower. While feeding, the whale will consume nearly four tonnes of krill a day that are taken in by its enormous mouth. The hundreds of serrated throat grooves allow it to expand its lower jaw much like that of a pelican, taking in tons of water and krill in one motion. It then pushes the water out with its tongue, trapping the krill on the backside of the baleen that the whale licks clean and swallows. Several other species of whale feed this way also. When that lower jaw is extended in the water it is as pliable as silly putty, and can move in various directions simultaneously as hundreds of independent muscles allow it to maneuver like an elephant trunk, reaching in several directions at once to gather in its prey. Watching a rorqual whale feed is like seeing spilled liquid spread in multiple directions. For the few photos I have been able to take of them, I have relied on big rolling seas, timing my shots for the crest of the roll to elevate me enough for a picture, but that is extremely difficult and has cost me more than a couple of fine cameras, not to mention one time when the crest of the roll was the back of a blue itself! It surfaced so close as to seem like a living wave. Their skin is a mottled gray on top with blue speckles that turn a deep cerulean due to refraction beneath the water, thus giving 36

12fa_master.indd 36


it its name. Micro-organisms tend to live on its underside that often gives their belly a yellow tint. Other than the occasional shark they have no natural predators but man. In 1937, over 30,000 blues were hunted for food, and between 1930 and 1960 over 260,000 of them fell to harpoons. In 1966 they gained protection from the international whaling commission, but it is a law with no teeth, subject to the whims of each individual nation with no enforcement apparatus in place should a country decide to begin killing them. They are currently listed as endangered on the World Conservation Red List, and their numbers worldwide are believed to be near 25,000. They are currently protected

by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but that is usually only honoured by the United States, and should that ever lapse they could become extinct in a single whaling season. When it comes to the ocean, nothing is written in stone. Just when I think I have seen every known behaviour, another manifests itself. This has definitely been the case with the blues. While I was once taught that they were solo creatures, I have seen dozens in a day on several occasions, and while they may not have been part of an organized pod, they were definitely in close enough proximity to be considered as such. Not long after I was told they weigh too much to spy hop, one did so right in front of me, coming up high

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:07:16 AM

The Blue Whale enough to see its eye. More than anything, I will remember the day one crossed my bow at less than six metres. I am sure it took no more than a few seconds, but from my perspective it was a good hour. I saw the massive blow from a hundred yards away, rising nearly 10 metres in the air before disappearing, and when it surfaced for another breath, there it was right before me, the legend of the sea monster incarnate, so unlike any other experience as to make plausible stories of fire breathing creatures such as were told in the Icelandic sagas. That moment was primeval. I was mere feet away from the largest animal ever to draw breath, perhaps unchanged since its landbased cousins walked the earth. I was in its territory and it was fully aware of my presence, a wild animal weighing almost 100 tonnes. One carries a memory like that forever. In 2012 an unprecedented arrival of krill in the Santa Barbara Channel, and even more rare, the Santa Monica Bay, coaxed these giants almost right on shore. For the first time in memory, blue whales could be seen in great numbers from shore. Unfortunately this prompted a rash of lunacy by would-be kayakers and novice paddlers who flocked to the local shore to paddle with these leviathans. Most had probably never heard of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that prohibits approaching these animals closer than 100 metres. I watched in amazement

as dozens of paddlers, most of them in rented sit-on-tops, pursued hapless whales, attempting to touch them, and one moron who actually jumped in the water to get his photo taken with a whale by his buddy with their new video camera. No one who loves or respects an animal would consider doing such a thing. In my many years of paddling I have found kayakers to be among the most nature-conscious people on earth because we spend so much of our time in it and realize what a treasure it is. It was embarrassing to see so many people making fools of themselves while harassing animals, and doing so through a sport that has meant so much to me for such a long time. On the evening news

Go The Distance, paddle with power and control

that night I cringed when the reporter referred to these people as kayakers. With the enormous amounts of krill, blue whales entered commercial fishing channels of the Southern California coast in record numbers in 2012, and in turn, ship strikes spiked. Commercial cargo and tanker ships travel at about 20 knots on the open ocean and take almost two full miles to turn. From the ship’s bridge, which can be over 30 metres above the water, a whale, even one that is 27 metres long, is extremely hard to spot, and if it is, it is just as difficult to maneuvre the ship to avoid a collision. Modern ships have a steel bubble on their bow at the waterline known as a wave cutter and it is becoming more and more common to find a dead whale laid across this cutter when the ships pull into port. Recent laws have required large ships to reduce their speed while in areas known to be full of whales, but this is a law almost impossible to enforce, leaving it up to the ships’ captains to be responsible. Enjoy them from a distance if you have the opportunity to see one; go out on a commercial whale watching boat, but please never try to approach one, especially in a kayak. James Dorsey is serializing his book Dancing With Dinosaurs, a naturalist’s 15-year odyssey of kayaking among whales, in Coast&Kayak Magazine.

The world’s most famous folding kayak. Period!

with Canadian Hand Crafted…

designed for optimum lightness, strength, power, and comfort.


Our boats are designed to travel by air, land, and sea! In Canada:

1-866-323-3525 FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 37

SINCE 1907



7/26/2012 10:07:19 AM

New Gear

u inReach The ability to stay in touch on long journeys to remote locations has until recently been limited to satellite phones and Spot, a system that allowed outbound communication to provide real-world tracking and even emergency response via 11sp_lasso_01.pdf 1 2/4/2011 8:57:03 AM satellite.

Secure Your Next Adventure Cable Locks for Your Kayak





Lasso Security Cables are simply the strongest, easiest and most effective theft deterrent available for your kayak.




K 707-498-9905

Spot had a major limitation, however: the communication is only one-way – outbound, and highly limited in the information you can send. A company called inReach is taking advantage of that shortfall with a new device that allows messages back and forth via satellite. It is still a long way away from a full-blown satellite communication link offering, say, access to the internet or voice connections, but it does provide send-andreceive texting. It also has the ability to track your location anywhere around the globe – but with a catch that most of the best features only work if coupled with another device. Paired with iPhones, iPads, iPods or Android phones and tablets you can use the phone or tablet for a keyboard to send and receive messages. No device? Then you get a choice of three predetermined messages using inReach only. With a device, you can send and receive both SOS and regular personal messages. This has the advantage of being able to specify the type of SOS – as there’s a big difference between being marooned on a desert island and being in the water and at risk of drowning. This can also help in the deployment of rescue resources – no need to send the entire Pacific coast guard fleet to do what a friend can do. Delivery confirmation means you’ll know when your message is received. An app called Earthmate (doesn’t everything have an app these days?) enables free downloads of DeLorme topo maps and NOAA nautical charts. This effectively turns a device coupled with inReach

into a GPS for navigation. Naturally, the disadvantage is you now need two devices and two battery sets to do the work of one device (a handheld GPS), but with the extra feature of text capability. It’s worth noting you won’t be able to get Canadian charts; at least not yet. A subscription is required to use, as with Spot, and runs from the lowestcost package of $14.95 per month plus a charge per text (of 95 cents) and track point (25 cents) or an expedition rate of $49.95 a month with a limit of 250 texts. Text addicts will probably adore this device, and it is a step forward in terms of utilizing the capabilities of satellite technology, but not for those on a budget trip. For the non-techies among us, waiting till at the dinner table to tell the story may just have to do, as has sufficed throughout history. TM


Why Dig When You Can Glide? 38

12fa_master.indd 38


FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:07:19 AM

New Gear

u Ion Air Pro Camera If inReach is targetting Spot, then GoPro will be eyeing the progress of the new Ion Air Pro camera by Gentec. The Ion is comparable to GoPro with full HD 1080 and a wide angle 170-degree field, waterproof to 10 metres and photos at up to 10 frames per second at 5 megapixel. The extra capability is through coupling it wth a WiFi Podz (sold separately) then to a smart phone to share your video in real time via social

networking sites – for those who find Youtube alone too slow for your selfbroadcasting needs. Now all you need is the audience that cares.

u Vassa Trainer Not everyone can be as blessed as Coast&Kayak Magazine with quick access to water (don’t think we aren’t still chortling that our kayak is 10 feet from our desk and six additional inches from the ocean). For those not so blessed, Vasa has designed a way to keep you trim even when your kayak is stored away for the winter. The Kayak Ergometer features airflow resistance with seven settings to simulate various paddling conditions and challenges. While you paddle, the power meter measures time, distance, pace, power, stroke rate and the right and left arm force to track your training progress. Two different seating options are


available, including the padded bench or the optional K1 racing seat designed for realistic K1 performance with full range of motion and torso rotation to mimic paddling on water.

Danuu Danuu PaddleSport Accessories (250)391-03331

FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 39



7/26/2012 10:07:21 AM

Kayak Fishing

In praise of pinks The perfect way to pull in a spring: note the paddle is well above the water and secure. The rod is up out of the way in a rod holder used for trolling. A net can be easier and safer than the gaff shown here.


WALKED THROUGH the kitchen to get a snack just as Bronwen finished packing another food bag. “By the way,” she said, “given that this is a multi-week trip, I am counting on at least two meals of salmon each week.” Hmm, all I have to do is wave my magic rod and produce salmon on demand. Back in the basement I pulled up a stool and propped my feet on the pile of gear. The trip will start in late July and continue through the first half of August. Likely it will be hot and sunny. We will be changing camps daily at the beginning of the trip and again at the end. So fishing will be limited to short periods while paddling during the day, anywhere from near shore to out several miles. Because of weight considerations I will have to carry fewer lures and lighter weights than normal. These constraints essentially ruled out chinook. An opening for Fraser River sockeye would be unlikely because their numbers have been so low during the past several years. Likewise, the predictions for returns of coho indicated fewer fish this year than even their normally low numbers for the Strait of Georgia to Port Hardy. Chum don’t arrive until the fall. So to put salmon on the menu, I needed to target pinks. Will they be available? The Fraser River has millions of 40

12fa_master.indd 40


pinks, but only in odd numbered years. Washington State has large runs during odd numbered years and very few pinks in even numbered years. So from Victoria through the Strait of Georgia, the fishery for wild pinks is limited to late July through to mid August during odd numbered years. During the past decade, however, various fishing and enhancement clubs, such as those at Cowichan Bay and Nanaimo, have raised young pinks in net pens. Two years later the mature pinks return to the location of their youth and thus provide increased fishing opportunities. Some streams on Johnstone Strait, northern Vancouver Island and the Central Coast have runs every year, though even numbered years tend to have larger runs. We planned to paddle out of Port Hardy, so there should be some pinks each year. I opened up my laptop, pulled up the DFO site for recreational fishing in tidal waters and found a map of the Pacific coast ( tidal-maree/index-eng.htm). Then I clicked on the area where we would be paddling and pulled up a table of salmon fishing regulations for that area and also read additional information below the table. Finally, I navigated to the DFO Rockfish Conservation Areas map to ensure I would not be fishing in one of these closed areas.

Then I added appropriate fishing gear to the pile as I read through my notes about fishing for pinks: Pinks have a very soft mouth, so I selected a light, limber three-metre-long mooching rod for trolling along the edges of kelp beds and offshore along tide lines. A light spin casting rod also went onto the mound of gear for casting into schools of pinks that mill about off stream estuaries. The spinning rod had 12-pound test line, which is more than sufficient for a three- to five-pound pink, but these fish are tenacious fighters. I left a 20-pound line on my trolling reel because I want to be able to recover lures that hook onto kelp, which is likely when fishing along the edge of kelp beds. Normally pinks are caught in the upper 18 metres of water, and 12 metres is a typical depth to start fishing. So I packed six-ounce weights for deep trolling and two-ounce weights for shallower depths. Pinks feed on plankton, shrimp and small fish. Into the sandwich box that I use to carry lures went 1.5- to 2.5-inch-long red, pink, orange and chartreuse coloured spoons and mini apex lures for trolling. I rigged a red Hot Spot five-inch micro flasher and 14 inches of 30 pound line to a size 2 hook that was buried in a pink mini squid about two inches long. A couple of

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:07:21 AM

by Peter Marshall small, one-inch long orange flies tied on number 6 hooks went into the box so that we could troll with light weights along tide lines. Lures for the spinning rod included small red buzz bombs and casting spoons. Since some of the lures had hooks with barbs, I squished the barbs down with a pair of pliers to meet the regulation that only barbless hooks can be used when fishing for salmon. A rod holder on my deck unit (described in the Summer 2012 issue of Coast&Kayak), net, tow line, knife and spare parts together with Bronwen’s binoculars rounded out the pile of gear. Then I added a few small lead head jigs for flounder or sole in case the magic rod failed to pull in salmon. Pinks tend to migrate in large schools. Occasionally a fish will jump, which marks the location of the school. Binoculars are handy to spot the jumpers and intercept the school of fish as it moves with an advantageous tide. When the tide is opposite the direction of migration, fish tend to congregate in the back eddy of a point or other areas of low velocity current, where again a jumping fish may give away the presence of a school. Typically these surface fish that jump do not bite. Hence, I start fishing at a depth of 12 metres before sunrise, though during the bright sun of midday I will add three or more metres of depth. When approaching the location of the school, I

While some people feel that early morning and evening are best, the bite may switch on for periods of a few minutes to half an hour at various times during the day. One time at the end of the first week of August we watched schools of pinks pass the mouth of the Adam River every fifteen to twenty minutes, so there can be opportunities throughout the day. ‘Strikes’ are almost undetectable. Essentially the lure pauses and it feels like hooking a floating weed. Then, moments later, the fight is on. Let the fish run because it will seldom go long distances like chinook or coho. Take your time. When the fish tires, maneuvre it over your net and simply lift the net. Oval spots on their tails identify pinks. I leave the fish in the water so that it stays cool and tow it to the nearest beach or landing spot where I can cut both gills and bleed the fish. During cleaning, I remove all of the dark matter along the backbone then rinse it quickly with a bit of fresh water. If there is still some distance to paddle to camp, then the fish is kept cool, out of the sun, and dry. We cook all of it that evening, and any leftover fish is used the next day.

Try your pink luck If you feel like a veteran fisherman after this article, you can put your skills to the test at the Kayak Fishing Derby Sept. 1-2 at Coast&Kayak’s hometown of Nanaimo at Maffeo Sutton Park. Up for grabs is a Tourque kayak by Ocean Kayak and other prizes. Regardless of the results you can join the salmon barbecue dinner and the SKILS seminars. Hosted by Alberni Outpost, you can get all the details at

slow down to say 1 to 1.5 knots (about 2-3 kmh), about one third or less of our normal cruising speed. Then I stream my trolling gear, put the rod in my rod holder then paddle in an oval around the location of the jump and extend the oval in the direction of migration. The drag tension on my reel is set only hard enough to stop more line going out. Thus even a small pink can strip out line. When casting with the spinning rod, I position my kayak off to one side of the location of the jump and cast diagonally forward to just ahead of the jump. I let the lure flutter down twenty seconds then start short retrieves of one to two feet of line, pause, then another short retrieve. If there is no response then I add another ten seconds of flutter time to the next cast.


Peter Marshall has fished for salmon from his kayak for a dozen years. Prior to that he fished from canoes, dinghies, and larger craft along the coast of British Columbia, across Canada, New Zealand, and the tropical Pacific to Japan.



Self Rescue Use a Towline Paddle in Wind and Waves Paddle in Tides and Currents




FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 41



7/26/2012 10:07:23 AM


math currents The



HETHER YOUR GOAL is to play in currents or avoid them, you’ll need to consult a tidal current atlas to establish the times of slack, maximum flood and maximum ebb in areas of significant tidal currents. Slack (or the turn) is the time when a tidal current reverses and turns to flow in the opposite direction. This is the time when currents will be minimal or nonexistent and the water is at its calmest for safe travel. Information in the tidal current atlas will also provide you with the time of maximum flood, maximum ebb and their respective speeds expressed in knots. Establishing the time of slack, maximum flood and maximum ebb in this manner is relatively straightforward. To estimate what the current will be doing between these times, however, is not as intuitive as you might think. The cycle of tidal currents is such that a flood or ebb current lasts approximately six hours. A tidal current will accelerate from slack (zero) to maximum speed over approximately three hours. The current then begins to slow again. As it decreases in speed, heading toward the next slack, this


12fa_master.indd 42


Get a handle on the risk of tidal rapids with The Rule of Thirds and the Slow Water Rule

deceleration also takes about three hours. Common sense might lead you to expect this acceleration and deceleration to progress in a nice linear way from slack to maximum flow and back again. But this isn’t the case. To predict flows between maximum and slack, you need to use the ‘Rule of Thirds.’ The Rule of Thirds breaks the flood or ebb tide currents into three one-hour

segments and states that the current reaches approximately 50 percent of its maximum speed in the first hour, 90 percent in the second hour, and 100 percent in the third hour. The current then decelerates to slack in the same order. For example: if you have a tidal passage that floods at a maximum of 10 knots at 3 p.m., you can assume the pattern shown in the table on the top of the next page. The same formula, of course, applies for ebb tide currents too. The Rule of Thirds shows that it is important to travel close to the exact time of slack if you want to avoid paddling in current, because the speed accelerates quickly after the tide turns. It also shows that if you want to play in the current, it is best to choose a maximum speed that you’re confidant to paddle in, because the current will be running at more than 90 per cent of that speed for much of the time. It can also be helpful to get a rough estimate of how long a slack current is likely to last. The “Slow Water Rule” is useful for this purpose. By establishing

FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:07:23 AM

by Alex Matthews Sample ‘Rule of Thirds’ chart for a 10 knot peak current Time Current % Attribute Hour zero (12 pm): 0% Slack, turning to flood Hour one (1 pm): 50% Increasing speed Hour two (2 pm): 90% Increasing speed Hour three (3 pm): 100% Maximum flood Hour four (4 pm): 90% Decreasing speed Hour five (5 pm): 50% Decreasing speed Hour six (6 pm): 0% Slack, turning to ebb

the maximum flood and maximum ebb (expressed in knots) either side of the turn that we are interested in, we can calculate the approximate duration of slack water (current under 0.5 knots). In a current atlas, look up the maximum flows before and after the slack in question. Say for instance that the turn is at 0840, with a maximum flood before it of +4 at 0540, and then a maximum ebb of -3 at 1200. By dividing 60 (there are 60 minutes in an hour) by the max flood and ebb speeds predicted (expressed in knots per hour), and then adding the two figures together, we get an approximate duration for slack. In this case: 60 / 4 = 15 minutes 60 / 3 = 20 minutes 20 + 15 = 35 minutes So the period of slack water where currents will be less than 0.5 knots during the turn will be about 35 minutes. When ebb and flood currents are moving faster, the duration of slack will be shorter. Let’s say that in the same scenario established above, flows were +10 and –12

Current speed About 0 knots About 5 knots About 9 knots About 10 knots About 9 knots About 5 knots About 0 knots

knots respectively on the flood and ebb. 60 / 10 = 6 minutes 60 / 12 = 5 minutes 6 + 5 = 11 minutes. In this instance, the period of slack water during the turn from flood to ebb current will only be approximately 11 minutes You should use the Rule of Thirds as a rough rule of thumb only. Also be sure to do your homework – study guidebooks and seek out local knowledge – because current speed is far from the sole indicator of a tidal current’s potential for danger. Bottom geography, wind, water depth and shorelines all contribute mightily. Also, big storms can disrupt the flows of tidal currents and reduce the accuracy of current table predictions. So let the final word rest with a visual appraisal on the scene. If the math works out but the current looks bad, trust your eyes and make decisions accordingly.

Kayak Academy (Seattle) Experience is Necessary! Whether you need lessons, paddle sports gear, a dry suit or kayak, Kayak Academy has the experience to help you. Phone: 206.527.1825; toll-free 866.306.1825 Web: Email:

Hooksum Outdoor School

West Coast Outdoor Leadership Training. Quality skills training and Hesquiaht traditional knowledge for those pursuing a career or employment in the outdoors. Certification courses include: Paddle Canada Sea Kayaking Levels I & II, Introduction to KayakingInstructors Course, Red Cross Wilderness First Responder, Lifesaving, BOAT & ROC(M). Visiting Kayak & Hiking Groups: Base your Hesquiaht Harbour adventures from our Longhouse. Meals and overnight stays available. Phone: 250.670.1120 Web: Email:

Adapted from “Sea Kayaking Rough Waters” by Alex Matthews available from Fox Chapel at product_p/6332s.htm

FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 43




7/26/2012 10:07:25 AM



Tufted puffin/James Luther Davis

’M STANDING ATOP Yaquina Head on the Oregon Coast, breathing in the thick aroma of guano. The source is some offshore rocks covered with thousands of penguins. They’re bringing fish for their chicks, flying like awkward black and white footballs with wings... Okay, you caught me. Penguins don’t live in the northern hemisphere, and they can’t fly. But their cousins do, and they play a similar and critical niche in the ecosystem. Squat with stubby wings, they’re awkward on land but fluid as ballerinas underwater. This is a family of birds called the alcids. Alcids are the northern hemisphere’s mirror image of the southern hemisphere’s penguins. Ecologically speaking, both are fish-eating, wingpropelled surface divers, and both act as essential indicators of the health of the ocean. You may know some alcids already. The most common northwest alcids are common murres, Cassin’s and rhinoceros auklets, tufted puffins, marbled murrelets and pigeon guillemots. (Cormorants, often seen with alcids, are actually related to pelicans.) In summer you’ve probably have seen or smelled their massive breeding colonies. But

the most fascinating aspect of alcids happens below the sea, where you can’t see them – unless things go very wrong. They can fly, and I can’t, but watching an alcid take off still evokes sympathy. From the sea they flap frantically along the water’s surface and take at least a hundred yards to gain a foot or two of air. The flapping continues while the bird slowly climbs. Taking off from a rock hundreds of feet above the sea is even more embarrassing. The bird takes a running start, leaps of the cliff and madly flails its stubby wings to start flying before it crashes into the sea. Now you know why they always nest on such high cliffs. They need that much height to take off. But underwater is a different story. Watch a murre underwater – this requires a trip to an aquarium or zoo – and you’ll realize they don’t swim so much as fly underwater. And they do it with indescribable grace. The laws of physics dictate that wings

that work well in air don’t work well in water, and vise versa. Broad wings for soaring are useless when fighting the resistance of water. Foot propulsion can only generate so much speed and distance during a breath and so limits the range of birds such as cormorants and loons that use this technique. Each species has made an evolutionary choice about whether to maximize their aerial or underwater capability. Brown pelicans, for instance, have opted to maximize soaring, and can only catch what they can reach in shallow, plunging dives. Alcids, like their penguin cousins, have chosen the opposite end of the spectrum. Those tiny wings excel against the greater resistance of the water, and their chunky bodies shed water like

Penguins 44

12fa_master.indd 44


FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:07:27 AM

by Neil Schulman/ photos by James Luther Davis a torpedo. This allows them to reach depths of 180 metres and access food that other seabirds can’t reach. They mostly feed on baitfish such as herring, capelin, sandlance and anchovy. Because they eat baitfish, alcids are good indicators of ocean health. Baitfish react very quickly to the health of the water column – that is, they are easily affected by the amount of plankton, lowoxygen zones from pollutants, ocean acidification and warming seas that result from climate change. Equally affected by ocean health,

baitfish and plankton are both hard to measure because they’re small, underwater and itinerant. Murres, puffins and auklets, which nest in large groups on a relatively small number of offshore rocks, can be easily observed from shore with a spotting scope. By tracking alcid populations, ecologists can get a quick and reasonably accurate picture of the health of the sea. During most spring and summers, complex sets of weather patterns create upwelling of deep-ocean water, rich in nutrients in the coastal waters of the Northwest. This nutrient-rich water feeds the baitfish, which feeds large

populations of alcids. Sometimes things go awry in the food chain, due to natural or human causes. When they do, every beachgoer on the Pacific Coast usually knows. The telltale sign is a large number of dead common murres washing up on the beach. Most often, the birds show no signs of injury and don’t have toxic chemicals in their system, but are emaciated and have most likely starved to death. The most common suspect is a little boy called El Nino. An El Nino, a warm surface water originating in the tropical Pacific, is a natural weather oscillation that unleashes a chain reaction affecting the whole world. One effect is that it stops the upwelling in the Pacific Northwest. Creatures reliant on zooplankton – baitfish, and therefore alcids – starve as a result. The very strong El Nino of 1983 took out an estimated 90 per cent of Washington’s common murres. The reverse is also true: when there’s a strong La Nina, El Nino’s opposite, alcid populations boom.


’M EATING MY LUNCH on Oregon’s Cannon Beach, watching the seabird colony atop Haystack Rock. Every twenty minutes or so there’s a loud, frantic ruckus as a bald eagle flies by to grab another snack, either a chick or an egg. Puffins and auklets, which dig burrows, are protected from these aerial predators, but ground-nesting murres aren’t. Since the eagle comes back so regularly, it must take its toll on the population. But they are totally protected from ground predators. (Antarctica has no land predators, so their penguin cousins could afford to trade flight for greater swimming ability.)



of the

FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 45



7/26/2012 10:07:29 AM


Pigeon guillemot

Rhinoceros auklet

Common murre

Like the shape of their wings, alcid nesting strategies are an evolutionary tradeoff. By nesting on offshore rocks, they get protection from land predators and a launch zone for their awkward flight. However, this means all their eggs, pun intended, are in one ecological basket, vulnerable to disturbance. This is especially true of rhinoceros auklets (which are actually a species of puffin). These nest in a few very large colonies, such as Protection Island in the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Triangle Island near Cape Scott. Human impacts, introduced land predators or disease at these few sites could be disastrous. There is also evidence, from where new volcanic islands have been created elsewhere in the world followed by a rapid spike in seabird populations, that nest site availability is a key factor in the limit of their population. If you watch a nesting colony with a spotting scope, you’ll certainly see plenty of aggressive competition for space. Two alcids have come up with a very different solution to the nesting problem. Pigeon guillemots nest on seaside cliffs in small groups, not big colonies, and often on the mainland. This opens up more options but creates more exposure to land predators. However, predation doesn’t have the same effect on the population when nests are dispersed. But for the truly novel solution, look to the small and endangered marbled murrelet. Murrelets don’t nest in colonies. In fact, their nests are so elusive that for almost two hundred years nobody knew where or

how they nested: they were the last bird in North America to have that riddle solved. One day in 1974, a tree surgeon in Big Basin Redwood State Park in California climbed 40 metres up a redwood and came eyeball-to-eyeball with a single downy murrelet chick sitting comfortably on a moss-covered branch. Murrelets fly into coastal ancient forests, find a large mossy branch in the mid-story, poke a small hole in the moss and lay a single egg. They commute as much as 100 kilometres to sea to gather food for their young. This strategy allows murrelets to inhabit a wider range of the coast. By not being dependent on offshore cliffs or rocks, they can access more feeding habitat. But it is also placed them in conflict with humans. Many mature coastal forests have been logged, and second growthforests don’t provide the mid-canopy, large, mossy branches. Murrelets are endangered in B.C., Oregon, Washington and California; seventy per cent of the surviving population is in Alaska. Very little is known about their specific nesting needs. Of course, this isn’t surprising since we didn’t know where they nested until so recently.

place on Whidbey Island, and this is a model for citizens helping study birds that are relatively easily observed. We must also advocate for funding scientific studies to learn more. Thirdly, we can preserve their nesting areas. Not many people pay much attention to the offshore rocks where alcids breed, so paddlers can have a big impact on their protection. Places like Triangle and Protection islands need to be kept free of disturbance (including us sea kayakers) during breeding season, especially introduced land predators like foxes and rats that eat seabird eggs. Lastly, we should watch what we eat. Because they dive so deep, alcids are often caught in nets or on longline hooks. As much as eight per cent of common murre mortality may come from bycatch. When you’re buying seafood, download the Seafood Watch app to your phone, and make sustainable use of your dollars. ( sfw/default.aspx) Next time you’re out paddling, you can also help others appreciate these penguins of the Northwest.


ADDLERS HAVE a key role in protecting alcids. First, we must protect the sea itself. That means being a voice for cleaner oceans and healthy fish populations. Second, we need to help science. We know very little about alcids. Volunteer studies of pigeon guillemots are taking

The writer: Neil Schulman lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works in environmental conservation and taught coastal ecology. The photographer: James Luther Davis is a Portland-based naturalist and author of The Northwest Nature Guide: Where to Go and What to See Month by Month in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. He gives lectures in an alcid costume.

Enjoyed this issue of Coast&Kayak? Don’t miss another. Subscribe! Get the print version of our magazine delivered to your door. $35 for 8 issues, $20 for 4. 46

12fa_master.indd 46


FALL 2012

7/26/2012 10:07:31 AM

FALL 2012

12fa_master.indd 47



7/26/2012 10:07:32 AM

Go Ahead, Take It ALL In...

Soul-Stirring Design

Breath-Taking Performance Unmatched Heritage

What are you waiting for? 100% HAND CRAFTED

right here in North America for over 25 yrs and counting!

When your life depends on your equipment, second best just isn’t good enough. That’s why I chose the Passat G3 from Seaward Kayaks. -Wave Vidmar

World Class Explorer

Seaward is proudly supporting Wave Vidmar as he paddles SOLO from California to Hawaii... the largest open ocean crossing in a traditional kayak - EVER!! Follow Wave’s progress live at:

w w w . s e a w a r d k a y a k s . c o m

12fa_master.indd 48

7/26/2012 10:07:34 AM

Fall 2012 Coast&Kayak Magazine  

Join Jason Lewis on his around-the-world self-powered circumnavigation of the globe; canoe the Yukon River; discover the penguins of the Nor...