COAST&KAYAK Magazine The magazine of coastal adventure and recreation
Volume 22, Issue 2
On Maquinnaâ€™s trail
FREE at select outlets and online or by subscription
Following the footsteps of the famed Nuu-chah-nulth leader on a journey down Nootka Island
Riding the Surge
We search out the white water and the calm in Surge Narrows
Inside Paddling through postcards
Author Lyn Hancock revisits Norway above the Arctic Circle 50 years later â€“ but this time without the ski instructor crush.
In the footsteps of Maquinna 32
History echoes along the shores of Nootka Island, a place perfect to explore by both land and by kayak. In this issue we look at the Nootka Trail from both perspectives.
Serenity or Surge 44
Many are drawn to Surge Narrows for the dramatic white water and chance to ride the waves. Other prefer it for the meandering channels and idyllic islands. You decide which is right for you. First Word .......................................................................4 News ..................................................................................7 Under the Golden Gate by Alex Matthews .8 Instruction directory................................................9 Destinations: North Gulf Islands ................................................ 24 South Gulf Islands ................................................ 25 Barkley Sound/Broken Group ...................... 26 Kyuquot Sound ..................................................... 28 Haida Gwaii .............................................................. 29
Yukon Wild ............................................................... 30 Various destinations ........................................... 32 Close Encounter by James Dorsey ................. 34 Kayak fishing by Peter Marshall........................ 36 New Gear ..................................................................... 38 Books and maps...................................................... 40 SKGABC column by Liam NcNeil..................... 42 Skillset by Alex Matthews ....................................44 Books and DVDs......................................................46
The First Word
Are cheap rec boats hurting kayaking? Summer 2012
Volume 22, Number 2 PM No. 41687515 Cover Photo: When the current hits 8.5 knots on a flood in Surge Narrows, some good waves can appear. Kayaker Taver Rice makes it look easy, but don’t be fooled – this can be a good way to go for a swim.
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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: email@example.com Website: www.coastandkayak.com Physical address: Aboard the Rainy Day, Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean
One of the mysteries of late is the demise of various paddlefests, notably this year the Vancouver Island Paddlefest, a May tradition that in many ways heralded the start of the kayaking season here on the island. Prior to that the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium folded in 2010. There have been other casualties. It reflects in some ways the overall growth, or lack of growth to be more precise, in paddlesports in the last six or seven years. If it wasn’t for standup paddleboards many paddlesports retailers would be truly hurting. Not many places could survive selling fibreglass kayaks alone. A topic on the West Coast Paddler forum asks the question, “where have all the sea kayakers gone?” The answers vary, with several saying the decline in interest is a good thing – it keeps the coast private. But one good answer states: “We’ve done it to ourselves... Now you need a drysuit, a self-built wood kayak or the ability to choose a suitable kayak from a myriad of choice, and the ability to do a dozen different rolls.” That seems to be a problem with paddlefests. The number of skeg boats being tested, the amount of head-to-foot Gore-tex as standard-issue paddlewear and the number of Greenland rollers showing off in the water would scare off most tire-kickers who stopped by to see what all this kayaking was about. The message is this is an elitist activity and the general public doesn’t belong. One of the problems retailers have faced is the growing number of non-kayak outlets stocking plastic rec kayaks: Costco, Canadian Tire, West Marine – it’s a long and growing list. Superficially this should be good for kayaking. On the same West Coast Paddler thread a paddlesport industry pro offers some insight. “Over the years I have sold lots of sea kayaks to people who started in rec boats. Rec boats seed the market. But lots of people figure they’re going to give this kayaking thing a try. But unsure if they are actually going to like it, they make the smallest investment possible (Costco Pelican)... The old Pelicans, however, with no keel, often frustrate people because they can’t paddle straight. After a couple days of paddling in circles everything is up on Craigslist and they are headed off to the bike store to try something more familiar. I must have close to 100 people every year try and trade in their cheap rec boats because they couldn’t paddle straight.” This might be symptomatic of a larger problem with rec boats. Given their visibility in stores, thousands must be selling or they wouldn’t be stocked. But looking out over the water I rarely see them amongst the various harbour paddlers. So I imagine these thousands of boats are collecting dust in garages because as a boat it never lived up to the dream – it was too poorly designed for what the user envisioned. And so someone who could have and should have been introduced to kayaking instead gets turned off, and someone who might one day have worked up to that fibreglass sea kayak instead is doing something else. Is this where the kayakers have gone? - John Kimantas firstname.lastname@example.org
© 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 www.coastandkayak.com
A kayaking contingent heads to Surge Narrows.
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WE’VE moVED! u our new office floats When you are out exploring the Pacific coast this year, keep your eyes open for the boat Rainy Day. Chances are a magazine is being produced aboard. Coast&Kayak Magazine’s parent company Wild Coast Publishing is now located aboard a cabin cruiser so we can operate the business while exploring the coast – something only possible in the past few years thanks to new mobile communication technology. The boat will be moored out of Nanaimo, and used more frequently on trips as we learn new paddling techniques for handling a 12-metre cruiser (edging will be particularly tough). The transom roof will be used for kayak storage and the swim grid
for oh-so-easy launching (especially during lunch hours). It carries on a long tradition of mothership kayaking by Coast&Kayak/ Wavelength Magazine publishers, though it adds the extra step of long-term liveaboard potential mixed with office capability. Goodbye dry land! EXPEDItIoNs u a trip sound This summer, five Alaskans are planning an epic trip down the Pacific coast from Juneau to Tierra Del Fuego. The first stage will be by kayak through the Inside Passage to meet up with trip sponsors Seaward Kayaks in Ladysmith, then by bicycle through to South America. The five plan a documentary on their journey, and will depart after they graduate in May. u www.atripsouth.com taNkER PRotEst u youth paddle Experiences with the beauty of the Great Bear Rainforest has Quest University student Magdalena Angel creating a Great Bear Rainforest Youth Paddle to protest proposed tanker traffic to Kitimat in Central BC. The trip is a four-day canoe journey from Hartley Bay to Kiel, a traditional Gitga’at site
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RECoRD attEmPt u arctic traverse Adventurer Yuri Klaver’s next expedition is the Polar America Traverse, a 10,000 km trek through the Arctic by human power alone. Having gained experience through trips on Siberian rivers, the new attempt is to traverse North America by kayak and ski. The route follows the 10,000-km sea route from Asia to Europe that was sailed for the first time by Roald Amundsen in 1906. If Yuri succeeds, he will be the first person to cross Arctic America without machine support and the first to cover such a great distance in the Arctic. u www.outdoorempathy.com.
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Learning under the
Golden Gate The Golden Gate Symposium is different from any other sea kayak festival I’ve attended in several respects, but primarily location. While every other sea kayak festival I’ve been at was held on the most sheltered bay possible, the Golden Gate Symposium is instead right on the doorstep of some very dynamic waters. Based out of the Presidio Yacht Club at Travis Marina in Horseshoe Bay, the put-in is minutes away from the Golden Gate itself. For those unfamiliar with the area, beneath the bridge you’ll find very busy shipping lanes heavily traveled by all manner of vessels. The channel is also subject to high winds and powerful tidal currents that routinely create extremely
rough conditions. It is a channel that demands respect. Fog can also envelop the area anytime, but especially in the summer. Continuing west beyond the bridge, the urban landscape of the city is replaced by the beautiful rugged coastline of Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Pacific swell rolls in here and powerful waves pound both Point Diablo and Point Bonita. If you head the other way, east out of Travis Marina, a short distance away you’ll find Yellow Bluff where a tide rip forms. Conditions for playing in the waves and turbulent waters are best on the ebb. Beyond is Angel Island State Park. Set in such a dynamic location, the Golden Gate Symposium is clearly not aimed at first time kayakers. Instead it focuses on developing the skills of paddlers who already have a good
Rochelle Relyea photos
“I can’t find my gloves!” one paddler laments as he frantically sifts through a bag of gear. Another kayaker is rushing to stow a spare paddle on her foredeck. Others are making last minute adjustments – sealing up hatches, stowing rescue kits, checking and rechecking equipment. It’s the usual last-minute feverish activity that precedes any group of kayakers launching. But this time, excitement is running especially high. Some paddlers talk nonstop, boisterously loud. Others are especially silent, their energy directed inward. It’s a pre-paddling atmosphere that I associate more with running whitewater than with sea kayaking. These paddlers are excited for sure, but they’re nervous as well, and adrenaline is making some a little giddy. And with good cause, because we are about to paddle the chaotic waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. For many of us (including me), it will be our first time. This February I was in San Francisco for the fourth annual Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium (GGSKS). This three-day gathering is the brainchild of Sean Morley and Matt Palmariello. Sean, originally from the UK, is former holder of the record for the fastest circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, while Matt is an independent event planner and avid canoeist, stand-up paddleboarder and certified sea kayaker.
Kayakers test balance skills before reaching more turbulent water. 8
SUMMER SPRING 2012 2012
by Alex Matthews foundation in the sport. A range of courses are tailored to sea kayakers of different skill levels ranging from “advanced beginner paddlers” through to “advanced intermediate paddlers.” Classes focus on skills including rock gardening, combat rescues, strokes and edge control. Surf courses take place farther up the coast, with the location determined by swell conditions. Due to the conditions prevalent in the area, and the challenging nature of the courses, the instructor/student ratio is high. Just over 100 paddlers signed up this year, with 30 coaches providing instructions. The roster of coaches read like a “who’s who” of sea kayaking: Gordon Brown, Ben Lawry, Shawna Franklin and Leon Sommé, Rob Avery, Jen Kleck, Bryant Burkhardt, Paul Kuthe, Steve and Cindy Scherrer, Roger Schumann and too many more great instructors to list. On the water, my group was in tight formation approaching the bridge. We hugged the shoreline and rounded the final corner leading us to the massive pilings supporting the immense structure directly above us. A fast current ripped through the middle of the wide channel, creating large, chaotic waves. It was mayhem, but by the shoreline we were safe. Bouncing around in our kayaks we grinned as we took in this astonishing view. We continued down the coastline, working on maneuvering skills, timing
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Hooksum Outdoor School Kayakers go through the frantic last moments of preparation before launching into the water near the Golden Gate Bridge.
surges, assessing slots, and even snatching a bilge pump from a cliffed-out section of shoreline (an exercise devised to help paddlers understand and time incoming swell). On our return we retraced our path again beneath the Golden Gate. We all passed under the bridge, and it is an experience that feels just a bit extraordinary. For more information on the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium go to www.ggsks.com. For my video report on the event go to http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=ba_q58K0bS4.
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Alex Matthews is Coast&Kayak Magazine’s Skillset columnist.
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through Postcards A narrow, river-like channel separates Moskenes Island from Flakstad Island to create MoskenesĂ¸ya Bay. It made an ideal landing spot for lunch at the head of the channel, followed by a hike across a hill to the white sand beach on the western shore.
by Lyn Hancock
norwegian love affair rekindled 50 years later My love affair with Norway’s fords, mountains and offshore islands is the reason I live in British Columbia – to enjoy the similarities. Mind you, on my first visit to Norway, a ski holiday in Geilo, I fell in love with my Norwegian ski instructor – aren’t all girls attracted to their ski instructors? – but Norway’s landscapes have stayed in my soul far longer than the ski instructor. So 50 years later, when Jaime, my New Zealand kayaking friend of World Wild Adventure, asked me to paddle the Lofoten Islands above the Arctic Circle in Norway, I immediately said “Yes!” before I even checked the chart.
The prow of a Viking ship at the Viking Museum at Borg.
Jaime and Lyn in Bergen after the cruise by a Hurtigruta coastal steamer from Bodø after the Lofoten Islands paddle.
The harbour of Ǻ is a fishing village of bright colourful wooden houses rentable as rorbuer. 12
Denise and Jaime on the sandy beach of Ramberg. They found a concert at a restaurant that night – a surprise as they saw almost no one on the entire trip, and yet the restaurant was full.
For two glorious weeks in September after the tourists had gone home and the Norwegians left on their own vacations, Jaime, Denise and I paddled Norway’s lovely Lofoten islands, from the southern end at Hell (aptly named for the strongest sea currents in the world) to Svolvaer in the north. There we traded our kayaks for a Hurtigruten ferry back down the coast along one of the most scenic waterways in the world to end our trip in bustling Bergen. For the first few days from Ǻ, a picturesque village named for the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet, through Reine, Sakrisoy, Hamnoy, Bunesfjord, Sund, Ramberg and Nusfjord, we paddled on calm seas under clear blue skies through a series of postcard-perfect settings: red-walled, white-windowed rorbuer (fishermen’s huts renovated for rent) clinging to granite outcroppings by pilings, huge wooden A-framed racks for drying cod (stockfish), harbours of deserted fishing boats in the larger villages, occasional stunning sandy beaches, but always a backdrop of soaring mountains whose steep peaks stretch dramatically across the horizon like elongated tiaras. Sometimes at the end of the day we climbed well-worn pencil trails above our rorbu and followed SUMMER 2012
the sheep to see the sunset. No need to scrape a place for tents above the high tide line on log-clogged beaches as we have to do in British Columbia. At the end of each day we just paddled into a harbour, hauled our kayaks onto the dock, climbed a ladder to the deck and settled into a rorbu with all the modern conveniences. Sometimes there was a pub or restaurant on the same deck; at other times we had to hike to the next village to find one open. Invariably, in this post-tourist season, we ate alone. Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, so we made our own breakfast and lunch, but we splurged for dinner on such specialties as fish (mostly salmon, halibut and the ubiquitous cod), prawns, reindeer, whale, the ever popular bacalao (cod stew) and a succulent lamb that beat any I have had in the rest of the world (and this is an Aussie speaking). After Nusfjord the weather began to deteriorate, but making the most of a myriad of sheltering islands we wove our way across the fjords to Ballstad then Stamsund. And there, faced with high winds, walls of water and cresting waves, Denise and I decided not to take a chance on the next long and open crossing to Henningsvaer. Indomitable Jaime was all gung ho and filmed our attempts to leave
Two hours later, we turned around and surfed back to the harbour for dinner, then caught a presentation on whale sounds, to be topped off by another paddle, this time at midnight back to the rorbu. We woke next day to heavy rain, high winds and conflicting currents which assaulted us from different directions, but as this was our last day by kayak we couldn’t delay. We had to slog on to Svolvaer to meet the ferry. Three hours later, despite the struggle, we were still only half-way to our destination. If we paddled on we would miss the MS Lofoten and the plane home. Disappointed but with his mind made up, Jaime led us to a tiny protected cove near Orsvagver so we could be reached by road for pick-up by van. We slid easily onto a sandy beach, packed our Trak kayaks in their bags and had time for lunch. The wind died down and the sun came out. Picture perfect Norway once again. The cruise down the coast to Bergen and drinking cod liver oil (ugh!) to celebrate our crossing of the Arctic Circle is another story for another time.
the harbour in worsening conditions, but he played it safe by arranging a van to take us around the fjord by the coastal road instead, giving us a novel land-side view of our route. But we didn’t escape the wind and waves completely. We were ensconced in our comfortable rorbu on the dock in Henningsvaer, which earns its nickname ‘Venice of Lofoten’ by being built on small islands connected by bridges. But somehow Jaime had us back in our kayaks for an afternoon paddle. Constantly buffeted by 20knot gusts of wind, we pushed our way through the wave-lashed pancake islands of the fjord to peer up at Henningsvaer’s famous climbing peaks.
Lyn was raised in Western Australia, taught in Australia, England and Canada, raised orphaned wild animals and traveled through Canada to China, Laos and Cambodia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, Central and South America, and Antarctica. From these experiences have come 20 books, countless images, articles and presentations.
Denise Ouelette photo
Jaime holds a sea urchin while kayaking to Stamsund.
In Sund outside the famous Blacksmith Museum where Tor Vegard Mørkved makes iron sculptures, most commonly cormorants.
The peaks behind the steep rocky walls of the Moskenes Titans are clothed in mist during the paddle from Reine to Ramberg.
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08/01/12 10:17 AM
photo from BC Coast Explorer, Vol. 1
In the footsteps of Maquinna
Hiking across Third Beach , the traditional first campsite on the Nootka Trail. 14
Touring Whitewater Recreational
Unpacking after landing kayaks at the point just south of Calvin Falls along outer Nootka Island. Though an exposed section of coast, the falls’ bay offers a good all-weather haven.
The old church at Yuquot houses wonderful examples of Mowachaht carvings. SUMMER 2012
ew names ring with such clarity in the history of Vancouver Island as Maquinna, chief of the mighty Mowachaht tribe of Nootka Sound. His lifetime represents a turning point in both European and Mowachaht history, marked most profoundly when he first greeted Captain George Vancouver at Yuquot on Nootka Island in 1792. No one could have predicted the transformation to follow, particularly for the Mowachaht in both economy and culture, which declined substantially in the years to follow. Maquinna’s era was the age of the first European impressions of native culture and so stands today as the first written record describing the Nuu-chah-nulth people. Easily considered savage for their lack of technology, lack of written language and hunter-gatherer lifestyle, they nonetheless showed great depth in their culture, traditions, artwork, fishing and whaling skills. Perhaps most telling was their hospitality. Captain James Cook’s welcome here earned the name ‘Friendly Cove’ for his first Nootka Sound anchorage in 1778. Whether it was the same Maquinna who greeted both him and Vancouver is a detail lost to history (Maquinna was, after all, the honorary name for all Mowachaht chiefs, so records don’t distinguish who had the name at the time. Maquinna’s actual name was never recorded). COAST&KAYAK MAgAzine
Crystal-X Proudly Canadian
Above: an early morning start on the crossing through the mouth of Nuchatlitz Inlet along the outside of Nootka Island. Right: hiking past Aass at Bajo Point.
As chief, Maquinna became a famed ambassador by hosting both Vancouver and Spanish envoy Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra for talks at Yuquot, the outcome eliminating the risk of war between Britain and Spain. To his credit, Maquinna even learned a considerable amount of the English language. It was a complex time for the Mowachaht, with social and political turmoil often leading to spilled blood. Maquinna’s brother was killed in 1791 by the Spanish, possibly even by the Spanish Ensign Esteban José Martínez, who was in charge of the Spanish settlement at Yuquot at the time of the conflict (Yuquot was the location of the Fort San Miguel, only Spanish fort built in North America). This act and other transgressions that went for the most part unrecorded created tension between Europeans and the Mowachaht, with those ill feelings spilling over when Maquinna led a slaughter aboard the ship the Boston in 1803. One man from that ship survived three years of enslavement, and John R. Jewitt’s resulting book offers perhaps the most comprehensive look at the Nuuchah-nulth culture prior to European dominance. Many of the names of that time resonate today through Nootka Sound’s place names: Jewitt Cove, Bligh Island, Cook Channel and Maquinna Point, among others. For this and other more subtle reasons, it is easy to feel the echo of lives lived long ago while exploring 16
Nootka Island’s shores. It is particularly poignant when coupled with the energy and vibrancy of the wild Pacific coast. The outer shore of Nootka Island offers the most compelling location to explore, but at the greatest risk – safe havens are few and far between along this long stretch of open coast. In 2003 two kayakers lost their lives leaving Nuchatlitz Provincial Park in strong winds, their wrecked kayaks washing up on nearby Ensanada Island in Nuchatlitz Inlet. For anyone planning this trip, the regular rules of the open ocean apply: leave early on a calm morning when the weather is forecast to be no higher than moderate at worst. Plan to be off the water by noon before the day’s winds reach their height, and with care you should be fine. Even so, it is an intimidating place, with shallow near-shore bars creating a constant line of white water in the distance. The perspective is more idyllic from shore, and you needn’t kayak here to appreciate it – if you don’t mind the extra effort of a hike and backpack. The Nootka Trail runs about 35 kilometres down the outside of the island from Louie Bay to Yuquot, mostly along beach, making this one of the easiest of Vancouver Island’s many multi-day coastal hikes. A water taxi is a common way to arrive at the trailhead at Louie Bay, though a charter plane flight SUMMER 2012
from Gold River and a return trip aboard the Uchuck freighter from Yuquot is another option. The native influence on Nootka Island is at a low ebb today, but at places like Bajo Point you can visit Aass, the former fishing village where three depressions mark the location of the historic houses. There you can survey the surroundings and imagine the strength of character necessary to thrive in such a remote and exposed location. The trail continues along the beach and finally overland above Maquinna Point to end at Yuquot, the heart of Mowachaht history. Once home to as many as 17 longhouses, that aspect has long disappeared, but a historic church with Mowachaht carvings, a fallen totem and an old cemetery provide glimpses into the Mowachaht culture. Some aspects were never meant to be seen, such as the whalers’ shrines. These were private places created for ritualistic purification to aid luck in whaling expeditions. The chief ’s shrine was passed down through the family, and contained an assortment of carvings, mummies, skulls and skeletons, including those of children. In 1905 anthropologists removed the chief ’s shrine from its hidden island on Jewitt Lake and took it to the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
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Hikers gather at Calvin Falls, a highlight of the Nootka Trail but most dramatic in the early summer when the runoff is highest.
The original site was named a national historic site, but it is overgrown now. Itâ€™s sad to note that in order to see one of the richest displays of Nuu-chah-nulth culture, you will have to travel to New York. What remains may not be as tangible, but the opportunity to travel the same lands once home to Maquinna offers a compelling perspective of a bygone age.
Wrecks are common along the outer coast, a reminder that good intentions on a trip can quickly go awry.
The overland portions of the Nootka Trail offer a glimpse into the remarkable ecology of a temperate coastal rainforest.
The rocks, caves and arches off Maquinna Point are often best viewed from a reasonable paddling distance.
If you go
To Cougar Cr.
the Nootka trail: Hiking will require either a water taxi, a float plane or the passenger freighter service Uchuck to arrive. Tahsis and Zeballos are both ideal bases for taking water taxis, while Gold River is usually the starting point for charter flights to the trailhead at Louie Bay, with a return via the Uchuck. The trail can be completed in three days but plan on five. A $45 trail fee is payable to the Mowachaht at Yuquot. kayaking Nootka Island: The outer shore is a route for veteran kayakers with difficult, exposed water. A favourite kayaking venture is from Espinosa Inlet near Zeballos to Nuchatlitz Provincial Park. The park makes a good base for runs down the island, with havens at Third Beach, Calvin Falls, Bajo Point, Callicum Creek and Yuquot. The interior of the island is less of a risk but prone to strong localized inflow winds. Trips for novice to intermediate paddlers are possible through the interior of Nootka Sound from the launch at Cougar Creek to the Spanish Pilot Group with a side trip possible to Yuquot. Plan a week to circumnavigate the island.
Adapted from The BC Coast Explorer Vol. 1
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Kayakers head through calm water in the Octopus Islands north of Surge Narrows. Inset: the other way to enjoy the area, in the midst of the white water. The best surfing wave is in the channel east of Beazley Passage. 20
Serenity or Surge
Surge Narrows offers an ideal mix of extremes: flat water if you want it, white water if you dare SUMMER2012 2012 SUMMER
Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands
When Coast&Kayak Magazine sent out the invitation to a group of Vancouver Island Greenland paddling enthusiasts to head to Surge Narrows for a weekend, no one was sure what to expect â€“ fast tidal water in the rapids, of course, but how the overall weekend might unravel was a question mark. We were booked into Discovery Islands Lodge, a kayakoriented waterfront lodge on Quadra Island, for the last weekend in March. We also had a peak afternoon current
on the Saturday of about 8.5 knots â€“ just enough to be intimidating for even the most skilled of the group. But it was March, still off-season, so there was always the chance of winter-like weather or at least the seasonal incessant rain to dampen the spirits. As luck would have it, the gathering of Pautik paddlers was blessed with blue skies and calm waters. Well, calm if you wanted that. For the rest, Surge Narrows was in fine SUMMER 2012 SUMMER 2012
Above: Kayaker Gerhardt Lepp finds a moment of calm sitting in a wave in Canoe Pass west of Peck Island. Okisollo Channel continues north towards the Octopus Islands in the background. Below: A wider view of the wave structure. The main wave is behind the islet.
form. In all it provided a rare opportunity to mix flat water with a white water challenge – possibly the best of both worlds. The plan was to leave the lodge on Saturday morning, head up Okisollo Channel past Surge Narrows using a favourable tide, then return with the change of current to Seymour Narrows in time to catch the afternoon wave at peak current. The plan might have been simpler if we initially crossed Surge Narrows at slack tide. Instead we went through a strong current, forcing a tricky crossing to start the morning. There are no good surfing waves on the ebb, so it was just a matter of choosing a good course and hanging on for the ride through the eddy lines and whirlpools. Once past the rapids we headed to Octopus Islands for a lunch break and to explore a rather unique cabin – driftwood art brought to the next level. The return trip was through the rapids at peak current. We had two options: Beazley Passage or a more calm route north and east of the Settlers Group. The western passage, known as Canoe Pass, was running too strong to consider. The low tide meant a waterfall with visible rocks. When the level rose this would create a good surfing wave (shown at left), but until then it was a barrier. Running Beazley Passage simply meant being swept along with the fast water and finally a breakthrough at the eddy line. That meant some interesting white water on the breakout. Those wanting to surf went back to catch the main wave in Canoe Pass. It was an ideal day if you like that sort of thing, with the main wave rising over a metre in height. The rest went back to the lodge to relax. Only one kayaker ended up in the chuck, but that was back at the lodge falling off the dock. Overall it was a surprisingly dry day. The weekend was rounded out by some great food and the inevitable shared stories of kayaking adventures. The consensus was split between those who love the challenge of white water and those who see it as getting in the way of a good paddle. Fortunately with Surge Narrows, you can choose which way you want to go. – Coast&Kayak Magazine
Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands
Above: window shopping in the odd driftwood cabin on one of the Octopus Islands. Below: kayaks ready for use in the idyllic setting of Discovery Islands Lodge, located just south of Surge Narrows.
If you go Surge Narrows is most easily reached from Quadra Island, which requires a ferry crossing from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. It is also possible to make the narrows part of a larger trip of Desolation Sound and the Discovery Islands from any number of launches. Accommodation is widely available in the area. Camping is possible in the Octopus Islands with generally poor options in Surge Narrows Provincial Park.
Plan your trip: Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands Discover the Power in your Nature
surge Narrows Desolation sound Quadra
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Misty Isles Adventures Cortes Island, Desolation Sound
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Destinations: Gabriola and North Gulf Islands
A remarkable figure in the history of British Columbia is Brother XII, a mysterious cult leader who formed the Aquarian Foundation and established a commune in the late 1920s and early 1930s. A key property was located on De Courcy Island, a haven in advance of a predicted Armageddon. Perhaps with good intentions to start, over time the spiritual component went astray, and a series of court cases provided insight into the commune’s financial and yes, sexual scandals, which included the role of a whip-wielding Madame Zee. Eventually Brother XII, or rather Edward A. Wilson, and his mistress fled. But witnesses told tale of glass jars filled with gold coins – the proceeds of donations to the foundation – stored in cedar chests. Though the pair escaped, speculation was they couldn’t have taken all the gold, meaning perhaps some is still buried somewhere on De Courcy Island. An idyllic area to paddle renowned for its sandstone cliffs, a prime portion of De Courcy is now secured as Pirates Cove Provincial Park. It includes an anchorage, kayaking beach, campsites, trails and even a treasure chest on the point of a headland invariably filled with booty of various types left by visitors – some quite inventive (treasure maps are a common theme, with a ‘gift’ for those who can follow the map).
Plan your trip: Gabriola and Gulf Islands North Nanaimo Cedar Ladysmith transfer Beach
Gabriola Island Pirates Cove Provincial Park Valdes I.
If you go: The protected waters around De Courcy Island make Pirates Cove a great overnight destination for novice paddlers. Day trips are possible from the main boat launch in Cedar, while a more direct route with a longer crossing is possible from Blue Heron Park off Yellow Point Road.
SEALEGS KAYAKING and Marine Adventures
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Custom kayak tours, beginner lessons, kids camps, gourmet beach picnics, kayaking and yoga, and sunset paddles! 24
Destinations: South Gulf Islands There aren’t many places in Canada where if you head east, the next land you hit will be the United States. East Point on Saturna Island is one of these places, the easternmost point of Vancouver Island’s Gulf Islands. Perhaps not surprisingly, it resembles an East Coast vista with its grassy headland and old 1880s lighthouse buildings – vestiges of the day when it
If you go: Saturna Island can be reached by ferry from Victoria or Vancouver, but often requiring multiple stops. A good starting point by kayak is Bennett Bay on adjacent Mayne Island, with a day’s paddle necessary to reach the point. Camping is possible at Cabbage Island. A sandy beach on the inside of the headland allows a break without risking the current.
was necessary to watch over the trouble created by nearby Boiling Reef. A part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve since 2006, the point presents a great place to stroll plus a challenging kayaking area, thanks to strong currents, with nearby
attractions Tumbo and Cabbage islands. The latter is a good camping base for exploring the region, possibly a remote target in a larger exploration of Gulf Islands National Park properties.
East Point Plan your trip: South Gulf Islands 100 95 75
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• Daily Guided Tours & Rentals since 1985 • Only 1 hr from Vancouver! • Ferry pick-up • Open all year! Join us in Costa Rica, weekly Dec-April, since 1987
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Destinations: Barkley Sound/Broken Group
Whatâ€™s in a name?
History, tradition and culture, thanks to new names granted through the Maa-nulth Treaty 26
SUMMER2012 2012 SUMMER
Destinations: Barkley Sound/Broken Group Visitors to the Broken Group Islands this summer, take note. Chances are good you’ll be leaving from Toquaht Bay, despite what the charts, maps and street signs might say. Toquaht is the new, or rather corrected name for Toquart Bay, a traditional point of entry for kayakers reaching the Broken Group Islands in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. This is one of the more notable changes to the landscape as a result of provisions of the Maa-nulth Treaty. The bay (and Toquaht River) now correctly coincide with the namesake band. Other changes reflect traditional use and history. Here are some new names to consider as you visit this year. stopper Islands: These are the two landmark islands in Toquaht Bay. Previously a package, they now each have a name. The north is Mii’is’iik (pronounced mee eseek) while the southern island is Ani’citakwul (anit chee kwush). Unfortunately, the meaning or significance
isn’t cited, thought it is known the south island was popular for clams and oysters. Bryant Islands: Located south of the Stopper Islands, this is Atchikapiih, a traditional fishing site used for abalone and seal hunting. atushuup: This is the name for the peninsula capped by Lyall Point, usually passed on the crossing from Stopper Islands to Hand Island. Pronounced atoosh oop, it is the traditional boundary of the Toquaht, Huu-ay-aht and Tseshaht. It means ‘standing deer point,’ with atush meaning deer. Page Island: This stand-alone island near Sargison Bank off the Broken Group Islands is Cakii, pronounced cha-kee, meaning ‘water on top,’ a reference to a raised pond or pool within the island. makii Lake: As you drive into Toquaht Bay you will pass a large lake. It was recorded as Maggie Lake, but there never was a Maggie. The proper pronunciation is may-kee.
mukapiih Islands: This is the collective name for Ottaway, Rowlands and Spilling islands south of Toquaht Bay. It means ‘glowing in the water,’ a reference to the phosphorescence. David Island: Located between Forbes and St. Ines islands, it is now Si’wiipk’amil, an island known for its stones used for sharpening harpoons. shears Islands: Set at the north entrance to Mayne Bay east of Stopper Islands, these are now T’atl’achist. The name is ‘islands in a row.’ st. Ines Island: Located south of Stopper Islands, St. Ines is Win’a’a, an island once used for collecting gooseneck barnacles and mussels. Forbes Island: Located halfway from Toquaht Bay to Ucluelet, it is now Yakachist, meaning ‘long island.’ The island is round, so it could be a reference to the shelves that run north and south. It was used for collecting mussels, gooseneck barnacles and cod fishing. – Coast&Kayak Magazine
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. www.majesticoceanbb.ca
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.
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Plan your trip: Broken Group/Barkley Sound
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Destinations: Kyuquot Sound
Visit Spring Island in Kyuquot Sound
Coast&Kayak Magazine featured Spring Island in the Spring 2012 issue, calling it the ‘Perfect island,’ but we left out one detail: it’s not Spring Island any more. It’s now Tle:hoh, by way of a provision of the Maa-nulth Treaty ratified by the Kyuquot/ Checleseht First Nation. Tle:hoh refers to the colour red. It is just one of a number of new names for locations in the Kyuquot region. Potentially the most significant is Tle:kaht (tlay KAH), the traditional name for Kyuquot Sound. It’s not the official name – not yet, at least, but the new name has been officially recorded. Here are some more updates to make on your charts.
too-tah Island: If you’ve ever visited one of the Bunsby Islands to the south of Brooks Peninsula and found a wonderful little beach on a mid-sized island southwest of Big Bunsby Island, you might have known it by its informal name, Barney’s Island. Well, it has a proper name now: Too-tah Island. There’s no interpretation for the new name, with Barney’s origin equally obscure. Checkaklis Island: This is a former village site and reserve that won’t be any easier to pronounce now it has its traditional name restored. It is now Che:k’tles7et’h’ Island. The safest pronunciation is probably ‘Checleset.’ malksope and maq:cup: East of the
Bunsby Islands is Malksope Inlet. Its name remains the same, but Malksope River is now Maq:cup River. Maq:cup was the name of the village at the river’s mouth. other changes: Ahmacinnit Island is now A:mak:nit Island (ah MUCK nit). It is the northernmost of the Mission Group Islands just outside the entrance to Kyuquot Sound. Aktis Island retains its name, but the old village’s name is now officially Ak:tiss (formerly Village Island). It means ‘grassy,’ which is appropriate for the shoreline, once the principal summer village location of the Kyuquot. Aktis Island’s neighbour, Kamils Island, is now Ka:milths Island. – Coast&Kayak Magazine
Previously it was known as ‘that beautiful little island with the best beach in the Bunsby Islands.’ You can now call it Too-tah.
Plan your trip: Kyuquot Connect • Experience • Refresh
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Destinations: Haida Gwaii Remote Haida Gwaii is one of the most dreamed-about kayaking destinations in the world, but its remote location, more than 50 km off the coast of Northern British Columbia, keeps it well off the beaten path. Travellers have two options for getting here: plane or ferry. “If people do not have much time to get here, we typically suggest they come by plane,” says Joanne Hager of Green Coast Kayaking. “If people have more time to get here and want to go on a road trip, then they may want to drive the two days from Vancouver and take the sixhour ferry crossing from Prince Rupert to Skidegate.” One possible itinerary is to drive up Vancouver Island and take the 16-hour ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert and then across to Skidegate.
photo courtesy BC Ferries
Getting there is part of the adventure
“The Hardy-Rupert journey is stunning, as you know. However, the sailings are weather dependent and the crossing to Haida Gwaii can get exciting, even in the summer months,” Joanne says. Barb and Keith Roswell of Anvil Cove Charters point out the costs to drive or fly generally work out to be the same. “Many of our guests use airline points,
Plan your trip: Haida Gwaii
as this is such an expensive flight for its distance – best value for your points then,” Barb says. The most economical method is to walk on at Port Hardy. Contingency planning should be part of the puzzle. “We have most services, but not necessarily in the format that you are used to in the real world,” Barb quips. Perhaps the biggest question is how to spend your extra time: on a ferry experiencing the majesty of the BC coast, or on the ground exploring Haida Gwaii. “I often suggest that people spend time here before or after their trip, as there really is so much to experience other than paddling,” Joanne says. She recommends time at the Haida Heritage Centre, North Beach, hiking up Sleeping Beauty and visiting the various communities and artisans.
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.
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Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve
Venez voir les nôtres. www.TourHaidaGwaii.com
anvil cove charters
“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
Kayak Mothership tours of Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands.
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“Rivers Less Paddled” When paddlers think of Yukon, the first rivers that spring to mind are usually the Yukon, the Alsek, the Tatshenshini, and the Big Salmon. But this vast paradise of ours has a few hidden gems, and the reward for seeking them out is as big as all Yukon!
The Firth—One of Our Oldest You aren’t just flying up to one of our most northerly rivers—this remote treasure is one of North America’s oldest, so when you land you truly are entering a different world and a different time. Nature rules up here. You are the outsider and you won’t forget it. Come in June and you may very well catch sight of the Porcupine Caribou herd, as nearly 20,000 of them migrate westward after calving. You’re also bound to see Dall sheep, along with muskoxen, wolves, and grizzlies.
Travel information: Daily flights land in Whitehorse from Vancouver, and there is regular service from Edmonton and Calgary. Average flight-time from those cities is 2–4 hours. And you may be fortunate enough to meet the only humans to call this area their own—the Inuvialuit. The river, which flows through the centre of Ivvavik National Park out to the Beaufort Sea, starts out wide, but that soon changes! Your experienced guide will navigate a path down a 30
Travel information: Yukon Wild adventure experts provide all the gear you need for your unforgettable excursion. 40 km–long canyon with plenty of whitewater to keep you on your toes. If you get a chance to look up, you’ll see birds of prey looking down. Past the canyon, the river braids into a gentle lagoon, the perfect opportunity to reflect on your adventure.
The Hart of the Yukon Yukon’s remote Peel Watershed is known for some of the wildest, most pristine rivers anywhere, and the Hart is one of its rarest. Ever changing, the Hart can be slow moving and languid one moment, frothy and fast the next. Your view may be steep canyons, or sweeping forested valleys. Bring your hiking boots and hunger for a full wilderness experience— this beauty incudes a 3 km portage around the Aberdeen Canyon.
Hyland Reels You’ll need an expert to help you find this off-the-beaten-path choice. Once there, you’ll need intermediate skills to master the whitewaters in its upper reaches in the Selwyn Mountains, but you’ll soon be reaching for your rod and reel as the Hyland slows down for stress-free paddling and excellent fishing. Bull trout, northern pike, and Arctic grayling abound. What is it about dining in the open that makes fish taste so good? (Could it be because your guide does all the cooking for you?)
Packages include all meals and equipment, as well as transportation in and out.
KayaKing: 5 days from $1,145: A kayaking trip in Yukon offers you unique access to a vast wealth of rivers and lakes surrounded by pristine Yukon wilderness landscapes and wildlife. Let an expert guide show you all the secret spots over the course of a multi-day adventure.
Experts know the
Best Paddling sPOts
Discover Yukon’s wildest spots with our adventure experts What’s your definition of wild? Thrilling whitewater that challenges your technical skills? Remote wilderness settings that return you to a basic way of life? Or maybe it’s the chance to see wildlife in its natural setting and a few days away from the world’s hustle and bustle. Whatever you’re seeking, the adventure experts at Yukon Wild will help you find it.
Find the right guide for you at yukonwild.com/paddle Peel RiveR WateRshed:
12 days from $6,175: Floatplane into one of the world’s largest intact ecosystems. There are no roads or houses here—just crystal-clear waters flowing from ancient glaciers, alpine tundra, and abundant wildlife. Rivers range from easygoing to “hard cores only.” Hike the surrounding mountains for glorious, uninterrupted views.
9 days from $1,885: Explore the remote Hyland on a wilderness canoe trip that combines intermediate whitewater with sections of gentle river. Excellent fishing in a spot so secluded you may not see another group on the river for the entire week.
*per person / taxes extra
Destinations: Various locations ng Campri s tou
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5&7 day tours in the BROKEN ISLANDS www.barkleykayakcentre.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.kayakvancouverisland.com
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: email@example.com Web: www.odysseykayaking.com
Great Bear Rainforest ~ Broughton Archipelago ~ Desolation Sound www.mothershipadventures.com
BROUGHTON ARCHIPELAGO.ca • Floathouse Inn • Floathouse Cabin • Waterfront Cottage • Catered Meals or Kitchenette • Kayak Tours & Rentals • On-site Massage • Water Taxi
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. www.nuchatlitzisland.com 250-337-5180
~ 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.
Basking Shark Code of Conduct KAYAKERS
The following guidelines have been designed to help kayakers reduce the risk of injuring or harassing Basking Sharks, as well as for your own safety.
Do not approach within 100m of Basking Sharks – but if you do find yourself close to Basking Sharks: Remain calm and quiet. Never paddle your kayak directly towards the sharks or allow several kayaks to surround them, as such actions will probably frighten them and make them dive or act unpredictably. Stay in a group, rather than stringing out around the sharks.
Remember that for every shark visible on the surface there are likely to be more hidden below
Kayakers should not cross the path of the shark so the sharks can maintain their course without changing direction or speed. Avoid sudden movements which will disturb the sharks. Never use your paddle or kayak to touch a shark. Avoid pairs or large numbers of sharks following each other closely. This may be courting behaviour and they should not be disturbed. Although Basking Sharks are filter-feeders and mostly placid, they can startle if disturbed, often thrashing their tail with enormous power. Also be aware that Basking Sharks do breach. Sharks appear attracted to kayaks and often swim alongside and below, very close to the hulls. If you stay calm, still, and observe, there is a good chance they will come to you .
Tips Take time to observe the direction(s) of movement of the sharks and then quietly position your kayak alongside their anticipated course for a safe and enjoyable view. Wait for them to come to you. Don’t forget to take pictures of the fins for the photo-identification project.
The basking shark is found in warm to temperate waters worldwide generally 8 to 14.5 °C (46 to 58 °F) and often near land. It feeds on plankton, making it regularly visible near the surface, though it is capable of depths reaching near a kilometre.
Don’t forget to take pictures of the fins for the photo-identification project
Chris Gotschalk photo
Illustrations by Marc Dando www.wildlifeillustrator.com
close encounter T
his memory floods over me as the familiar blows reach my ears, pulling me back to the present. I stop paddling and scan the fog bank. They are close. It is cold this morning and calm. The sun has tried to break through twice without success. The silence is broken only by the cry of a lone eagle taking fish from the littoral. Minnows are jumping, a sure sign larger predators are near. My breath floats crystals on the air and I zip up my fleece. The calm is broken when a young harbor seal shatters the surface, lunging for my boat and startling me into action. He is clearly terrified, seeking refuge on my bow. In another time and place I might let him rest there, but I sense what is coming and he cannot stay. I slap the water hard with my paddle, and he veers off, only for a second, but this animal is panic driven and will not be easily deterred. He approaches a second time and I fend him off with the flat of my blade, watching his pleading eyes as he arches for a final dive. He disappears behind a trail of bubbles. A brief silver flash passes under my boat, and a second later I am hit square in my flotation vest by a young salmon. It flops onto my spray skirt, flailing to get back to the water. Then one fish after another begins to strike the side of my boat. Suddenly a black dorsal bears down on me, knifing through the white curtain and leaving a foamy wake. Orcas are slipping through the fog, ghastly shadows at first, then steely black torpedoes as the thin sun finds their backs. There are so many their blows form a general cloud of mist coating me and beading up on my fleece. I am surrounded. The first orca crosses my bow, lunging as it takes a fish in midair,
and before I can react I am encircled by hungry hunters. The pod is herding a school of salmon, driving them against a rock wall twenty metres to my port. The pod is arrayed in a semi-circle from twelve to six oâ€™clock around my boat and they have the salmon cornered. The fish are running in panic as shiny black fins cut the water like knives, churning it into a crimson red as they take their prey. The salmon are slamming headfirst into the wall, knocking themselves senseless. Of all the places I could be paddling right now, I have found the eye of the storm. These carnivores have been around my boat on numerous occasions and have always shown themselves to be curious and friendly. Gentle when in contact with man, they are ruthless when it comes to taking prey. Still, I fight the urge to panic and sit quietly in awe as a deadly ballet plays out around me. I know these are resident whales because the transients only eat mammals, then I flash on a silly thought. I am a mammal and I hope I remember my whales correctly. A white saddle patch zips under the boat, rolling at the last second to clear my keel while another whale passes parallel, showering me with a blow as it moves in for a kill. Glistening dorsals cross left and right, parting the water like torpedoes. I can feel their clicks and squeals echoing through the fibreglass hull of my boat. They are executing a perfectly coordinated hunt, calling to each other, giving orders, and all of it in spite of my presence. Salmon lunge in all directions, clearing the water with great leaps. Large black heads break the surface to take fish down from midair. One whale is coming hard, broadside, and I instinctively brace for the crash as he breaks hard left, taking a salmon as he dives, his backwash causing me to brace hard. The whales pass within inches, some lightly grazing my boat, but they know
where I am and avoid any solid collisions. I sit perfectly still, not wishing to press my luck, when it occurs to me that the whales are actually using my boat, driving some fish against it as a barrier, stopping them just long enough to be taken. I am soaking wet from blow and covered with bloody scales. Twice I must brace against the churning, and carefully push a meaty hunk of salmon off my deck with my paddle blade, not wishing it to tempt a hungry whale. For most of an hour the whales take fish, then gradually the actions slows. They have eaten their fill and I see Dallâ€™s porpoises moving about to take the few stragglers. Orcas often allow their smaller cousins to join them near the end of a hunt to clean up leftovers. The final touch is something I have never seen. Half of the pod forms a single line, parallel to the wall, and turn their flukes toward it. They begin to slowly lob tail, causing waves to break against the rock. They are dislodging the few scared salmon that have taken refuge in the cracks and crevices while the rest of the whales and the porpoise take down what is left. It is the final act. In a few moments they go from a feeding frenzy to total lethargy, gorged and happy like large black sausages floating around my boat. The sudden calm allows me to take a head count and I realize they are all females or juvenile males; not one mature bull among them. While orcas are a matriarchal society, it is the alpha bull who stands as protector, and this hunt was sanctioned on his watch. I know he is nearby. I try to imagine where I would place myself as the bodyguard of a dozen feeding whales, and paddle further into the channel to sit and wait him out. Within a minute the tip of his tall black dorsal rises slowly; there is a soft blow that the wind carries towards me in a mist, and I am
by James Michael Dorsey
A pair of orcas navigate. A view often seen, rarely experienced is what happens below the water during a hunt. James Dorsey managed to catch a glimpse, and relates it here.
sitting by the great whale no more than 10 metres away. He has surfaced gently as a submarine, and his back fin towers over me by five feet. Sunlight twinkles on his ebony back and his saddle patch reflects like an alpine glacier. His dorsal has a slight bend to it and a missing chunk tells me he has met at least one large shark. He is half again as long as my boat and outweighs me by nine tons. He is a flesh eater whose teeth can shred a great white. I am sitting alone next to the greatest predator ever to rule the ocean. He rests on the surface, leisurely, sure of his power, in control of his domain. I am an insignificant interloper, here by his indulgence. He has not surfaced by chance as he is too wise for this to be a random happening. He chose the time
and place to show himself and is now making a statement. I am not alive by accident for if he thought me a threat to his pod, I undoubtedly would have been the first victim. He knew of my presence long before the hunt began and not only tolerated me, but allowed me to bear witness. I feel this as strongly as if he were talking to me. My boat sits between him and his pod; a position he would never allow an enemy to reach. Perhaps I have been demoted to a curiosity, but I choose to think of it as communication. His black eye, no larger than the tip of my thumb, is fixed on me as I try to fathom the thoughts behind it. Once again, I feel myself the inferior one, lacking the ability to understand what this animal would tell me. SUMMER 2012
Fearing I might overstay my welcome, I dip my paddle slowly and begin to push away. As I do, the bull moves forward, inching ahead at minimal speed. I paddle a little harder and he is with me, so I dig in and begin to push shovelfuls of water behind me as my bow starts to cut a wake. The bull starts to pull away, then senses my frailty and checks his speed, matching mine, even and steady. His head rises and falls, his eye just under the waterline, watching me, urging me on. In my head, I hear him say, â€œStay with me.â€? He is allowing me to paddle with him and I take up the challenge. My heart is racing and emotional tears start to cloud my vision. Even in his lowest gear it is hard for me to keep pace, but I am now part of his pod, and he is my leader, and this will never happen again. I pull my paddle now, abandoning technique, trying to maintain speed. My arms scream with pain but time has slowed. All that matters now is that I stay with this great beast. For a brief time there is nothing but the two of us, moving as one, and if ever an animal gave a gift to man, this is mine. I have no idea how far we have come, but soon I can go no farther. I lay my paddle across the cockpit and glide to a halt. I am cold, wet, exhausted, and I have never felt more alive. The great whale sees I have stopped and waits a moment, his black eye fixed on me, and then he dives. For a few seconds I am totally alone in deafening silence. I look around and feel very small. The bull surfaces in the distance where the pod is reforming. He is probably reporting to the matriarch, telling her of the strange creature who entered their space. They turn their flukes towards me and begin to swim. The fog closes slowly and I watch dorsals fade into it like a movie ending, while I sit, sucking air, taking in what has just happened. I hear the cry of an eagle in the distance and turn my bow towards land to paddle home. James Dorsey is serializing his book Dancing With Dinosaurs, a naturalistâ€™s 15-year odyssey of kayaking among whales, in Coast&Kayak Magazine. COAST&KAYAK MAgAzine
Setting up for the catch a
dozen years ago, my wife Bronwen and I were fishing along the edge of kelp beds where the Broughton Archipelago gives way to Queen Charlotte Strait. Three heavily laden double kayaks nosed out of the rocky islets and headed towards Alert Bay on their way to Port McNeill. A quick exchange revealed that several days ago they had caught a large halibut on a hand line – a heavy line wrapped around a plywood holder. After a lengthy “sleigh ride” they landed the fish on a beach: no gaff, no harpoon, no net. They realized it would take a couple of weeks to eat their way through the halibut, so they cobbled together a kelp smoker. When we met them they still had 35 pounds of smoked fish. The hand line was tucked under a bungee cord just ahead of a forward cockpit. A couple of spare terminal rigs comprised of circle hooks, plastic squid lures and eight ounce weights were stowed low in the boat along the centre line. A very sharp knife completed the gear. That was it. Simple. For us, most of our fishing is done by trolling while we are in transit to a new campsite or out exploring on day trips. It maximizes the time that our fishing lures are at the ideal depth to catch salmon. Bronwen and I have two single-person kayaks, so each of us has to be able to both paddle and fish simultaneously. Our fishing gear needs to be handy, secure in lumpy seas and yet easy to set up or to put away. Each of us has a simple platform constructed of half-inch plywood screwed to two wood runners. The platform sits just ahead of the cockpit. Quick release fasteners on both sides allow the whole unit to be dumped overboard to clear the forward deck in an emergency. The rod holder is a length of PVC pipe attached to a grooved triangular piece of wood. Fishing lures and weights are stowed on a small bracket attached to the wood part of the rod holder. Stainless wire brackets on 36
Correctly stowing fishing gear on your kayak can help get results like this one caught at Shelter Bay. Note how the paddle is stowed well above the water and secured to stop it sliding.
the starboard side of each platform secure each rod horizontally when not fishing. Rods readied on the beach are placed in the horizontal brackets. At a fishing spot the rod is raised and placed in the rod holder, the hook of the lure is unclipped from a hook keeper on the rod and line is paid out. A couple of paddle strokes gets the kayak moving again. Then a weight is removed from the bracket just below the rod holder and clipped onto a three-way swivel. Typically fifteen pulls of line are paid out, then a couple more paddle strokes, fifteen more pulls and then continuous paddling. Three or four different lures and a couple of sizes of spare weights on the bracket enable quick changes for fishing depth or targeting different species. Bronwen’s platform supports a waterproof box for her cameras and binoculars. Her compass is set on a hollow block of wood just at the back of the box, while her chart bag is on top of the lid. She keeps her box of spare lures and weights in her cockpit under her seat. I have a stuff box that contains a SUMMER 2012
plastic sandwich box that holds spare fishing lures and leaders. A second box has granola bars for snacks, while a waterproof box contains my small camera. Old paddling gloves for fishing, a rag to dry hands and a tow line with large clips for towing a fish are securely stowed around the waterproof box. A pair of pliers with a keeper line – as pliers do sink – are useful for removing hooks. My chart bag is on top of my stuff box and the chart is marked with no-fishing areas and spots that should be good for various species, such as rocky drop-offs for chinook or gravel-topped mounds for halibut. A hole in my platform allows me to see my deck-mounted compass. There are many ways to make a rod holder without drilling into your boat. Ours are rectangular platforms. One could make a very small and lightweight triangular unit that supports only a rod holder and chart bag. A friend constructed a simple tubular frame out of PVC pipe and incorporated a couple of screw joints so that the frame comes apart for transportation on his stern deck.
by Peter Marshall However you make a rod holder, think about what to do with your paddle. One time while fishing at the mouth of San Juan Harbour outside of Port Renfrew, I plopped my paddle onto my spray skirt so that I could make a quick adjustment to my fishing gear. While focused on the gear, I failed to notice a larger wave until it hit the almost-horizontal paddle blade and just about sent me for a swim in the cold Pacific. Both of our units have integral paddle holders so that the paddle is well above the water and does not flop around. I feel that this is probably the most important safety consideration when fishing from a low freeboard ocean kayak with a relatively narrow beam. Usually my landing net is stowed on the port side ahead of me with the handle accessible when needed. If I am not fishing on a given day, then I put it out of the way aft of the cockpit, but with the handle in reach – just in case I change my mind when passing a fishy looking spot. I use the net to contain fish so that I can remove the barbless hook with pliers and attach a large stainless wire clip so that I can tow the fish to a beach, which may be several miles away. It is possible to tow a fish in the net, though the extra drag reduces paddling speed. Since we often camp in bear country, we try to avoid having any fish smells on our kayaks. At a different beach from our campsite I’ll clean a fish, Bronwen will package the pieces, then I’ll scrub my hands, knife, tow clip and net with a nailbrush and soap. All of the equipment needed on a beach is kept in a small drybag behind my seat. We cook the fish for the next meal. Fish already cooked for lunch is transported in a plastic box with a tight-fitting lid, while other pieces are wrapped in foil and then in plastic bags. At night all of our food is hung in trees away from camp. For day trips, the bags with fish serve as ballast so that the cool water keeps the fish chilled. Because of the possibility of bears or raccoons smelling fish and ripping our kayaks apart at night, we avoid using bait. Spoons or Apex lures require less effort to pull than plugs or flashers. Also, a dozen spoons plus a spare weight fit into one
Fishing lures and weights are ready to use on a stainless steel horizontal wire loop. The net handle is equipped with tow rope, with all elements designed to be stowed or equipped quickly and easily.
small sandwich box, so the volume is small and the weight is minimal. The box also safely contains the sharp hooks. Fresh fish when out on a kayak trip is delectable. A simple hand line or light spinning rod may be sufficient. However, a bit of imagination together with a few hours of work with basic hand tools will provide a rod holder without any holes in the boat. Once you have a rod holder, you can adapt a wide range of off-the-shelf
fishing gear for use in a kayak. For us it has opened a whole new world of life that exists below our boats as we paddle the West Coast. 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.
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