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COAST&KAYAK Magazine The magazine of Pacific coast adventures and recreation

Volume 22, Issue 4


FREE at select outlets and online or by subscription

Going Greenland

PM 41687515

Will history repeat as an old tried-and-true paddle regains popularity?

Island affairs

Author Lyn Hancock revisits old turf and days of camping with cougars

Vancouver and the Lower Mainland's Hobie dealer Pedal it, Sail it, Paddle it or Power it




Inside This issue’s cover

by Jaime Sharp Jaime Sharp captured this self-portrait with a timed picture off the bow of his kayak at Skookumchuck Narrows, one of British Columbia’s premiere whitewater kayaking destinations thanks to a current that can top 16 knots (30 km/h). Another of his photos is featured with the Greenland paddle article ‘Different strokes’ on page 42 of this issue. Jaime was part of the Norway expedition featured in Lyn Hancock’s article on the Lofoten Islands in the Summer 2012 issue of Coast&Kayak Magazine. He is a travel guide and has paddled extensively around the world including Panama, Belize, New Zealand, Fiji, Croatia, and worked in the Canada’s Arctic as a dogsled guide and wolf naturalist. He is a New Zealander now based out of British Columbia.

Chasing a Princess


There is no better inspiration for a trip than to be told it can’t be done. Coast&Kayak editor John Kimantas returns to Princess Louisa Inlet a second time to experience by paddle the location that has captivated cruisers for decades. It’s not a major kayaking destination, though. Should it be? Read and decide.

Island affairs, then and now


In decades past Lyn Hancock had the rare experience to cuddle and cavort with cougars on the shores of D’Arcy Island, her private retreat near Victoria, BC. Fifty years later she kayaked there to retrace her footsteps to one of the coast’s most fascinating islands – where cougars were family and lepers were outcasts.

Rec boat wars


Chances are most kayakers won’t rate a kayak under 16 feet as a contender for title of ‘best.’ And yet these smaller recreation boats compose the majority of the market for kayak sales. That means a wide range of choices, with more than ever for 2013. We look at what’s new in this roundup of the rec boat category. First Word�����������������������������������������������������������������������4 News����������������������������������������������������������������������������������6 Wildlife�������������������������������������������������������������������������� 22 Destinations: Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands���������13 South Gulf Islands�������������������������������������������������21

Barkley Sound�������������������������������������������������������� 25 Haida Gwaii�������������������������������������������������������������� 26 North Gulf Islands������������������������������������������������ 30 Nootka Sound/Kyuquot Sound�������������������31 Various destinations�����������������������������������������������18 Instruction��������������������������������������������������������������������41 WINTER 2012



The First Word

How rushing can be a costly error Winter 2012 

Volume 22, Number 4 PM No. 41687515

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I decided late this summer, thanks to a spate of good weather, to do a run down Vancouver Island’s southwest coast. One problem with the West Coast, though, is even when there is good weather across the rest of the world, here it can be shrouded in fog. So I arrived at Pachena Bay near Bamfield in bright sunshine but looked out across the water to see a dismally dull and gloomy pall of fog. My partner Leanne dropped me off just an hour before sunset, so there wasn’t much time to consider my fate. A beach in a cove on the outer south shore of Pachena Bay looked promising and seemed to position me well for the run along the West Coast Trail portion of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The hope was to complete that stretch the next day (no doubt to the chagrin of hikers, who usually take five to six days to walk the trail). On arriving, though, I found the bay not nearly as indented as I had hoped, nor was there the usual break from white water on either end of the beach. I landed through about a foot of surf onto a rocky and forlorn beach. No matter, I set up camp amid ever-increasing gloom and was soon asleep, rising before dawn to load in the dark. It’s an odd quirk of the coast that even over a calm night the surf can rise come morning. And so where surf had been a foot at sunset, at dawn the water broke through the morning gloom as two-foot breakers. I’ve learned to be weary of two-footers. There simply isn’t enough time to sit and fix your sprayskirt before being swamped by the next oncoming wave. Smaller waves won’t swamp you; larger ones are spread out enough to give you time to set. Not twofooters. At least that’s my experience. So there are three choices – sit in the sand and wait to hopefully be sucked in; fix yourself up in the shallows and hope you don’t drift sideways or get soaked while preparing; or simply wait until you think you have a soft spot between large waves and head out quickly before fixing your skirt. I chose the latter, mostly to save time, and sure enough, after breaking nicely through one wave, ahead rose the biggest wave of the morning – easily twice the size of the earlier breakers. No chance to elegantly clear this one. It broke directly into me and pounded me backwards in roiling white water to wash the kayak up on high sand with a cockpit full of water. The real mistake was neglecting to check my gear. So a drybag used as a camera case leaked water, frying my best camera and an MP3 player. Plus my GoPro somehow got knocked from its little waterproof casing and was found floating in the cockpit. Plus a two-litre freshwater bag got washed away. The financial tally was one hit, but getting wet so early on a day offering no chance to dry out was the immediate downside. And all at the expense of three minutes of proper attention to details. And all for one ill-planned wave. - John Kimantas Leanne hard at work in the new floating office of Coast&Kayak Magazine. This issue was produced aboard.

© 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







News CAMPFIRE CARE u Child injured No doubt the kayakers thought they were doing the right thing by covering up their campfire with pebbles and rocks when they left their campsite in Nuchatlitz Provincial Park on July 26. Far from it. By covering up the fire without first extinguishing the embers they put into place circumstances that caused a disaster for a family later that day. In the evening a nine-year-old was enjoying the beach when he stepped onto the covered campfire. The resulting burns were enough to force the family to abandon their holiday, with the injury leaving the child unable to walk for five days. “Two weeks later his feet are still blistering. We were camping with a group of six adults and five kids including a three year old and the fire was not visible to any of us,” said mother Katrina Jensen. It’s a reminder to ensure campfires are completely extinguished before leaving them. Embers can also continue to burn for days, then reignite under the right conditions to start serious fires. “Our son was fortunate that he was able to have immediate first aid, to be camping with doctors and that we were able to arrange a ride out relatively quickly. Other kids and adults may not have been so lucky,” Katrina said. The good news is the youngster made a full recovery, is now running on his school’s cross-country team and used his savings to buy his own kayak.



INDUSTRY CHANGES u Riot reborn Expect to see some jockeying in the paddlesports industry as some old brand names resurface in new circumstances. Kayak Distribution Company, owned by Marc Pelland of Montreal, will see the brands Boreal Designs, Riot Kayaks and Beluga Outdoor Gear amalgamated under the one banner. In addition, Kayak Distribution has joined with Tahe Marine of Estonia to distribute the Tahe line of kayaks, including the Zegul and Trapper canoe and kayak brands. Kayak Distribution was first formed in 2007 when Pelland became a partner in Riot Kayaks with Riot founder Jeff Rivest. Riot moved the company’s production from Quebec to China, then in 2009 Riot parent company Voodoo Technologies declared bankruptcy, though Riot continued to operate. Rivest eventually left Riot to join the sales team at Point65 Kayaks and Pelland emerged as sole owner. Pelland is a chartered financial analyst and president of Woodchuck Inc., a Quebec skateboard manufacturer. He also owns and operates a private equity fund. Earlier this year Kayak Distribution bought the BorealDesign brand of kayaks. Boreal is a Quebec-based kayak manufacturing company that went bankrupt in February 2012. PASSINGS u Derek Hutchinson Author, renowned kayaking instructor and to many a father of modern sea kayaking, Derek Hutchinson passed away


Derek Hutchinson performs his rolling ‘hat trick.’ Photo by Wayne Horodowich peacefully Oct. 10. He was 79. Derek was a Senior British Canoe Union coach (BCU’s highest accreditation), a designer of numerous kayaks, paddles and kayaking equipment, and probably best known for writing ground-breaking sea kayaking instruction books, including The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking, first published in 1976 with the fifth edition released in 2004. His most famous kayaking trip was crossing the North Sea in a single kayak in 1976 – a difficult 160-km crossing that pushed the limits at the time by requiring paddling without sleep for the duration. MARINE TRAILS u Nova Scotia The north shore of Nova Scotia is the latest region to join the official inventory of public launch sites for Nova Scotia paddlers. This new section of water trail covers from Tidnish near the New Brunswick border east along the Northumberland Strait to Auld’s Cove at the Cape Breton causeway. The information will be added to five other sections of coast already online at the Coastal Water Trails website. Each launch site includes directions

by land and sea, a description of the launch, on-site amenities, nearby services, a GPS reading and photos. Possible day tours departing from the launch site are suggested. All the sites are located on an on-line map. A short introduction to paddling on the north shore will provide some background for people less familiar with this coast. u NATIONAL PARKS u Land added The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is now 100 hectares larger and less of a patchwork thanks to new parcels added in a $6.3 million land purchase in mid October. The new properties are two extensions to the Roesland property on west North Pender Island, Maple Bay on southeast Prevost Island (a small bay immediately south of Richardson Bay and the old lighthouse), and a parcel atop Brown Ridge on Saturna Island that brings closer the gap between the central properties on Saturna Island and the Narvaez Bay campsite. The new properties will eventually lead to new trails, day use areas and campsites.

Sheena Masson photo

News News

Kayakers land at Arisaig Beach near Cape George, Nova Scotia, part of the new marine trail. ACCESS RESTORED u Kitimat Alcan has re-opened public entry to the Kitimat waterfront after the corporation cut off the community’s access to the ocean. The Hospital Beach waterfront park and boat ramp were closed by the company due to safety concerns posed by passing trucks. After backlash over the summer, Alcan relented and has rerouted heavy rock-hauling trucks by building a new bridge

over Anderson Creek, new traffic lights at Construction Village and an extra road from the former Eurocan Haul Road. The closure had made kayak trips out of Kitimat difficult, despite it being one of just three oceanfront communities along British Columbia’s north and central coast. The other communities are Bella Coola and Prince Rupert. Kitimat is a key gateway to spirit bear habitat near Princess Royal Island.

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Destinations: Desolation/Discovery


he plan was to make use of the afternoon inflow wind to head up the long central leg of Jervis Inlet. I left the campsite at Fairview Bay in the lower portion of Jervis Inlet near dawn and paddled in calm water through Prince of Wales Reach, to finally get a bit of a tailwind once past Vancouver Bay. It didn’t last. As I rounded Moorsam Bluff I could see the small whitecaps disappear eastward into the distance of the valley behind McCall’s Landing. Ahead of me to the north along Princess Royal Reach lay only flat water. I find wind usually likes to follow the waterways; here for some reason it was determined to head inland, leaving the water ahead in calm. Looking up at the rock face of Moorsam Bluff I was reminded of the several dozen petroglyphs documented along Jervis Inlet, so I decided to make the most of the calm and tuck in close to

Chasing 8



by John Kimantas

shore for a look. I saw either hundreds of petroglyphs or none, as all the rock faces were etched and coloured in intricate designs. Whether natural or manmade it made no difference, as the artistic appeal was there either way. I glided toward two prospective beaches, only to watch them come into focus as boulder endcaps to old log dumps, so there’d be no stopping along this stretch. At Glacial Creek near a fish farm a gust of wind returned, and in an impressively short period of time I was being hit by a hard tailwind kicking up sizeable wind waves. I had hoped to get a push, but not this kind. It may have been rebound waves from the steep shoreline, but whatever the cause the result was choppy, unpredictable waves hitting me from behind. It meant constant course correction and bracing, plus getting wet as the whitecaps rolled over my sprayskirt. I decided to head towards the northwest shoreline in the hopes of better conditions on the other side of the inlet.

I did a shoulder check for traffic before turning and saw just one sailboat in the distance closer to McCall’s Landing. As I slowly headed to the west shore the conditions became more stable, allowing me to pull out a kayak sail. By this point the sailboat and I were neck and neck, and the sailors watched me suspiciously as I kept their pace. After a few minutes the wind died, and Jervis Inlet became dead calm, marooning the sailboat. I paddled over and offered a tow, which

they gratefully declined. “Any idea when slack is at Malibu Rapids?” the captain asked. “No, I never checked. I’m just winging it,” I replied, surprised that he was doing the same. My reasoning is the time of slack was irrelevant – I’d only get there when I got there, so there was no sense in planning. That and I forgot to check. “It’s usually 15 minutes after the Saltery Bay high tide,” the captain said, “so I figure it’s 5:45.” u

a Princess A major turn in Jervis Inlet is at Saumarez Bluff (left). Vancouver Bay and Marlborough Peak are in the background. WINTER 2012



Princess Louisa I thanked the captain for the information then paddled away to leave them to their drifting. Then I did the math. It was 3 p.m. and I was 18 kilometres away. So I either had to hurry to make slack or get there late and do a lengthy portage. The timing, it turned out, suddenly mattered a great deal. I decided to race to make the slack. The water was dead calm now, not so much as a ripple, so there was no excuse for anything but a perfect paddle stroke. I set in at a pace just a hair over 6 kilometres an hour determined to keep it up for three more hours fueled entirely by occasional handfuls




of peanuts, raisins and Smarties. After some patience trying unsuccessfully to find a breeze, the sailboat gave up and motored into Queens Reach first well behind me, then passing wide to avoid kelp to finally cross into Malibu Rapids ahead in the distance at exactly 5:45 p.m. Meanwhile, I still had the best part of two kilometres to go. One more handful of trail mix and I doubled my efforts. Ahead Club Malibu came into focus, the Christian youth camp set on the banks of the rapids. Capped by Mount Helena it appeared like some latter-day Utopia with a touch of Tolkien’s Rivendell thrown in for good measure. It grew gradually in stature until I came alongside and entered the rapids just as the first ripples of adverse current were snaking their way out of the passage. I pushed through with no trouble, but only by a hair. The time was 5:57 p.m., 12 minutes after the turn. The passage meandered forward and

I came out into Princess Louisa Inlet – a narrow, twisting passage hemmed in on all sides by massive mountains graced with punishing cliffsides and a myriad of cascading waterfalls. This was the paradise I had paddled 60 kilometres today to see.


rincess Louisa INLET has been a perennial cruising destination, its appeal made famous in part by the book The Curve of Time, the endearing memoirs of a mother who cruised the British Columbia coast in a small boat with her two young children back in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Part travelogue and part adventure, it captures the era of Desolation Sound and the coast of British Columbia in the days when there were only travellers, no tourists. Author Wylie Blanchet’s touching insights and descriptions help keep the book a regular bestseller here in BC, and many a traveller

has reached this location based on Wylie’s inspirational writing, revisiting many of her favourite locations while re-reading the book. Though now well known among the cruising world, the inlet remains offbeat as a kayaking destination. Back in 2005, as part of a publishing industry breakfast in Vancouver, I was talking with a fellow author who had put together a book of anecdotes compiled from newspaper columns about kayaking trips. I saw a section about Princess Louisa Inlet and asked him how he found paddling it. “No, I took a boat up, then kayaked. You couldn’t kayak there. It’s impossible,” he said. And so the gauntlet was laid. I first completed the trip back in 2006, but in very different circumstances. The world was grey, wet and overcast for that trip, and so I enjoyed the waterfalls but not the full splendour of the inlet thanks to

Background: Princess Louisa Inlet and the view toward Chatterbox Falls, shown more closely above. Top left: on the end of a portage through Club Malibu at Malibu Rapids on the return journey; a homeward-bound campsite on Princess Royal Reach; and one of the numerous waterfalls to be seen in Princess Louisa Inlet.




Princess Louisa Inlet

Chatterbox Falls

Princess Louisa Inlet

Malibu Rapids Queens Reach

Patricia Pt.

Princess Royal Reach McCall’s Landing Moorsam Bluff

McMurray Bay

Prince of Wales Reach Vancouver Bay Hotham Sound Saumarez Bluff

Inside Princess Louisa Inlet on the final turn before the view of Chatterbox Falls.

Harmony Fall Fairview Bay 12

Goliath Bay



the cloud cover. It was also much earlier in the year, so instead of inflow and outflow winds to worry about I had a constant outflow current to battle. The trip up took two full days; the trip back just one. On this trip my window was sunny and warm, so I had a strong suspicion inflows would be powerful. And they were – for about an hour. But the spring runoff was long gone so the travel was smooth enough, and the blessing was a rare unimpeded view of the surrounding mountains once I arrived. I often coach contributors to Coast&Kayak Magazine to express the beauty of a region through description rather than adjectives. Princess Louisa, however, remains outside the realm of fitting description, except for perhaps this. I’ve travelled almost all the BC coast now, and if I was to become jaded by mountainous landscapes that time would have arrived and long since passed. Yet when I turned the final corner to face Chatterbox Falls and its surrounding splendour, even for the second time, I found myself stunned to immobility. Paddling had to wait; there was nothing to be done but soak in the landscape and appreciate the steep, chiselled rock faces crashing kilometres from summit to sea, the uncountable ribbons of waterfalls, and central to it all massive Chatterbox Falls pounding directly into the head of the inlet. Yes, Princess Louisa Inlet can be kayaked. It won’t be easy, but few things worthwhile are. n This trip to Princess Louisa Inlet took place over eight days with a launch from the Coast&Kayak Magazine office (the MV Rainy Day) and back to Parksville, a 450-km route involving circumnavigations of Lasqueti, Texada and a dip into Sechelt Inlet through Skookumchuck Narrows (shown on the cover, though on this journey it was passed nearer slack). The distance was made possible by close attention to winds, and was the inspiration for the ‘Learning to deal with wind’ article on page 32.


If you go Princess Louisa Inlet is best suited for expert paddlers, though water taxis from Egmont, Pender Harbour, Sechelt, Powell River or Lund can reduce the length and difficulty of getting there. Two campsites are located in Princess Louisa Inlet Provincial Park – one at Chatterbox Falls at the head of the inlet and one 2 km farther down. Another amenity is a dock for visiting boaters. Tours are available, either by relaxed luxury mini-cruiseships or faster Zodiacs. Princess Louisa is reached through Jervis Inlet, which is the gateway to Desolation Sound and separated from Sechelt Inlet by the famed Skookumchuck Narrows (cover photo). Thus Princess Louisa and Jervis Inlet lend themselves to expedition-length explorations of the wider region, and several weeks would only scratch the surface.

Rounding Patricia Point on the way to Princess Royal Reach on the return journey.

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Destinations: South Gulf Islands Tom, who wouldn’t move unless I followed, lay down and rested his head on mine. Though small in relation to the rest of his body, it was too heavy for my comfort so I shifted it gently. Content he sprawled out on his side, placed his forepaws on my neck, and went to sleep purring. With an island of one’s own, such moments could last forever. Tom had given me his complete trust and confidence and it was a responsibility I did not take lightly.

“My chief fantasy is that one day the absentee owners (of Little D’Arcy Island) will come along and tell me that since I am Little D’Arcy’s strongest supporter, I can live there for the rest of my life for a dollar a year. Or perhaps I shall do some service for my country so that Ottawa will offer me my dearest wish. Then I will build a log house with lots of glass windows and a stone fireplace and roam the island with my cougar companions. Dreams.” – Excerpts from Affair with a Cougar, 1978 14



by Lyn Hancock


wrote that fantasy about Little D’Arcy Island in the 1978 book Love Affair with a Cougar, but neither scenario came to be: instead Big D’Arcy Island became a provincial park in 1967, then part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in 2003. In 1985, Phil Middleton bought Little D’Arcy Island, and built his own dream house above concrete cells left over from the old leper colony. That’s part of a dark chapter in British Columbia’s history, when Chinese lepers were banished here to a life of solitude between 1890 and 1924. Nine years after moving there, Phil read of my passion for Little D’Arcy Island and spent a year trying to track me down. When he found me in the Northwest Territories he invited me to revisit Little D’Arcy, and less than a week later I flew south to Sidney and met him. We shared our passion for this magic Shangri-la and I was able to revisit bygone days spent here roaming freely with cougars (yes cougars!) and releasing orphaned raccoons. One dream remained – to return here by kayak instead of the faster rubber dinghy I had used in the past. That chance came in August 2012. The plan was a leisurely circle route arriving from the

Town of Sidney via Sidney Spit on Sidney Island to the shoals and islets around Little D’Arcy. The second day would be spent on D’Arcy Island with a hike of its crossisland trails, then back to Vancouver Island at Island View Beach. No cougars and raccoons aboard this time (though I did want to take my house cat). I invited my paddling buddy Amir, a newcomer to Vancouver Island waters and its wildlife. Our first stop was the mile-long sand bar of Sidney Spit Marine Park with its upright log pilings – handy signposts that look like totem poles from afar but are really logs driven into the sand to prevent erosion. The sheltered sand and grass-edged lagoon with its kayakfriendly beaches were surprisingly deserted this holiday weekend. Odd given the abundance of birds – murrelets, auklets, oyster catchers, sandpipers, great blue herons – the clear blue skies and the warm summer sun. A change from my customary paddles on the outer coast. Eagles swooped down from the steep dry clay cliffs of Sidney Island to pluck unlucky gulls out of a smooth silky sea. One determined eagle dived repeatedly with outstretched talons to grab a gull who just as determinedly dipped and dived to WINTER 2012

Top left:, previous page: Lyn Hancock has a nap with Tom, back in the late 1960s when it was possible to snuggle with a cougar on D’Arcy Island. Above: Lyn the raccoon whisperer, making friends with possible descendants of the raccoons she released in her days as co-owner of Island View Beach Conservation Centre. Bottom left: normally two cougars in your camp might be a cause for concern, but for Lyn it was camping as usual.

get away. Finally, the eagle gave up pursuit and returned to its perch on a tree. I remembered the fortnightly flights on a float plane to study eagle nests on Sidney Island when most of it was owned by a single man. Now there are several private residences on this island, a fact we were told in no uncertain terms by one resident while having a quick lunch below the high tide line at the end of the island. The shoals and reefs, rocks and islets that surround the D’Arcys are replete with wildlife. Nesting gulls and cormorants thronged the whitewashed shorelines. Sleek seals balanced themselves atop offshore rocks like acrobats. Pairs of auklets and murrelets popped up and down in the water like corks. A black oystercatcher poked and pried its long red beak around COAST&KAYAK Magazine


D’Arcy Island

Above: The view through the window opening of ruins from the D’Arcy Island leper colony, possibly the caretakers residence. Other leper colony ruins dot the two D’Arcy islands. Right: an amble through the amiable forest of Big D’Arcy Island. Few British Columbia islands have such forgiving terrain for strolling.

the pebbles probing for molluscs. It’s hard to imagine a more delightful island than Little D’Arcy. At low tide it is almost two islands separated by a picturesque lagoon. At high tide it is shaped like the cotyledons of a bean. You can walk around it leisurely in about threequarters of an hour to discover variety at every bend. Most islands in the Pacific Northwest, if uninhabited, are heavily forested, but on Little D’Arcy (like Big D’Arcy) you can stroll through its heart as easily as walk its shoreline. Its vegetation is comparatively sparse and the trails that were cut in the days of the lepers are not yet overgrown. As Amir and I circumnavigated Little D’Arcy in our kayaks, I revelled in the memory of strolling around it with my 16


cougars – watching them balance on the driftwood; stretching along logs and raking the wood with their powerful forepaws to sharpen their claws; standing up against the trunks of trees to scratch deep gashes in the bark; swimming with Tom, the near-blind one, then falling asleep with him under the lean-to as deep rumbling purrs of catlike contentment seemed to shake the ground. Even now, I can feel his fur against my skin. We paddled into the beach on the WINTER 2012

southwest side. I clicked off a quick picture of the spruce tree on the bank where I camped with the cougars and another of the flower-bedecked, glasssurrounded house and deck built over the now cedar-sided concrete leper cells. And there lying on a log, waiting patiently for our arrival, was Phil and one of his favourite buddies, Brett, a friendly blacktailed deer buck. Brett’s family browsed nearby. Deer had found a haven on this

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~ 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.

D’Arcy Island critter-friendly island. Obviously there were no cougars here now, but there were fifteen raccoons, descendants of orphans like Rocky (There’s a Raccoon in my Parka) which I had released on the D’Arcys in the 1960s. While Phil prepared the prawns and hamburger beneath the curious eyes of two raccoons doing their balancing act on the barbecue lid and his partner Carole fixed the rest of the dinner, I took Amir on a stroll to see the sunset on the island on the other side of the lagoon. He was totally unprepared for meeting wild raccoons padding the same trail, island-sized raccoons that twirled on ballet-dancer legs, delicately fingering the air and staring at him curiously with their penetrating mask-lined eyes. Amir was in wonderland. Next morning we awoke to raccoons scampering up and down the stairs and climbing over each other to peer through the windows while we ate breakfast. Later, I sat on the sand, quiet and still, and stretched out my hand as several deer and a troop of raccoons visited, shyly at first and then with acceptance. I grinned as I wondered if they knew I was their grandmother a few greats removed. A family of eagles also at home on this island soared overhead. I was in ecstasy. Too soon we had to go, albeit only a ten-minute paddle away, to a cove on the protected east side of D’Arcy Island Marine Park. Whereas Little D’Arcy is a private island, Big D’Arcy is open to the public with campsites, washrooms and picnic tables. The trails are rough and not clearly marked, but thankfully Phil gave us a map he’d made of those he had personally helped to define. The coloured lines on his map coincided with his coloured ribbons on the trees and led us south along the beach, west across the island to the two concrete foundations of the lepers’ original row housing and then north to the lighthouse and the remaining concrete walls of a caretaker’s residence. Behind it, concrete steps hung above another concrete foundation. I thought it was an outbuilding, perhaps a chicken house. Amir thought it was an outhouse.

I watched apprehensively as our big male cougar unsheathed his long sharp claws and snatched at the inflated rubber sides of the boat. Any second I expected to see the material burst with a sudden puncture. Amazingly, it withstood the pressure from the cougar’s huge thumb, the deadly dew claw. There was not even a scratch on the rubber. Sitting in a comfortable place in the bottom of the boat among the cargo produced the inevitable results, as it does for any mammal that puts its feet in cold water or turns on the water tap in the bathroom. We hadn’t provided sandboxes so cleanup took a little time. From then on, the rest of the voyage was uneventful. Periodically, I would give the cougars a reassuring hug, and every now and then Tom would lean over the edge and snarl at the sea. I had to laugh. It seemed such an ineffectual way to express his views of this unknown phenomenon. Remnants of low stone walls along the edge of a large open space looked like they marked an orchard or garden. Returning to Island View Beach where my former home was also in ruins, I recollected my own history and the changes in attitudes and perceptions caused by the passage of time. Former neighbours who once feared my cougars dropped down the hill from their farms and subdivisions to tell me about a cougar that had recently been killing their sheep and goats. There was a warning sign ‘Cougar in Area’ by the parking lot and campground in what was now a WINTER 2012

regional park. We hugged. No grudges now.

n Lyn Hancock is planning a re-release of Love Affair With a Cougar as an e-book, having just completed her first electronic book, The Ring: Memories of a Metis Grandmother, available at Her book Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon is still available in print, as well as two collector’s copies of the original Love Affair With a Cougar (contact her for prices). She is currently on a five-month trip to Africa from Capetown to Cairo, revisiting the route of a hitchhiking trip she took in the 1960s. Visit COAST&KAYAK Magazine


D’Arcy Island

How camping with cougars came to be Back in the years when cougars were killed on sight because they ate deer (and sometimes livestock), I rescued four cougar kittens moments before they could be intentionally mauled to death by hounds trained to hunt them. Their mother had just been shot, so they could not be released in the wild, and one kitten I named Tom had congenital cataracts in his eyes and was almost blind. Being a school teacher and co-owner of Island View Beach Wildlife Conservation Centre, I was given educational, scientific and zoo permits to care for and keep these four kittens. These cougars changed my life and the lives of all who came in contact with them. I spent decades studying cougars at home, at university and in the field. My first book was Love Affair with a Cougar. The most idyllic moments of my life were spent wandering freely with my cougars on Little D’Arcy Island. Days there were a temporary respite before the inevitable and they were removed from the municipality after some neighbours tried to get our permits rescinded. But for some months this abandoned leper colony was a safe place to study firsthand how the cougars moved, swam, played, groomed, scraped, climbed trees, used their claws, made sounds, managed various kinds of food, how they behaved in the day compared to night and how they interacted with each other and us. 20


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If you go D’Arcy Island is on the south end of the southern Gulf Islands, easily approached by kayak from Sidney on Vancouver Island. It is part of a close cluster of islands within the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve with camping facilities; the other camping islands in the area are Sidney Spit and Rum Island. Because of their proximity to the greater Victoria region all three make ideal day-trip destinations as well as overnight stops. Another possibility is linking D’Arcy to a longer tour of the southern Gulf Islands, rich in areas to explore, many within the national park, created in 2003. From D’Arcy or Sidney islands it is possible to extend your trip to Portland Island north of Sidney and from there to destinations such as Prevost Island near Saltspring Island or Beaumont on the Pender Islands. The Town of Sidney, the Penders and Saltspring all offer an array of accommodation options that make island hopping a comfortable choice. Ideal bases for trips like this are marked with a boat launch icon on the map.

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Whalespeak Adventures in

Humpback whales are classic performers, shown here entertaining with a breach. Less common is the chance to hear them sing – not to mention trumpet, watch them bubble netting or other behaviours that defy explanation – for now. 22



by James Dorsey


fter the orca, the humpback whale seems to be the public favourite, first because they are so acrobatic and known for putting on a real show, and second, because they are known as the whale that sings. It is true, they do sing, but only the males do this and only while in warm waters where they migrate in the summertime. Not only that, but they hang upside down while singing, and we are not quite sure why they do this. For a long time it was thought this was a ploy to attract females, but that theory is gradually being replaced by the idea that it is a way for the males to establish territory. Researchers noticed a lot of jostling and pushing among the singing males, while at the same time noticing a distinct lack of females in the area. Perhaps the ladies did not appreciate this macho behavior? They range throughout most of the world spending winter months in high latitude feeding grounds and then migrate thousands of miles to southern breeding grounds. Many biologists believe there are at least ten distinct populations determined by geography, but other than a particular spot near Costa Rica no one knows just where these places are. Humpbacks enter the world at four to five metres in length weighing one to two tonnes. An adult will grow anywhere from 12 to 15 metres and weigh 25 to 30 tonnes. Each one is unique and identifiable by the individual markings of white on the underside of its mostly gray flukes. These markings are thought to be as reliable a source of identification as human fingerprints. They do not take their name from any physical deformity but rather from the way they bend their back, unlike any other whale, into an almost perfect 180-degree arch just before diving. They have huge knobby bumps all over their snout or rostrum and a tiny dorsal fin located about two thirds of the way back on their spine. Their most distinguishing characteristic is an elongated pectoral fin that is about one third the length of their body. That allows them to make the spectacular leaps and bounds they are known for. They are often curious and slow swimmers known to approach boats,

No doubt the humpbacks are telling us something. The question is what.

usually diving for three to nine minutes but they can stay under for up to 45 minutes if they wish. This is commonly followed by four to eight blows upon surfacing.


ubble netting is a hunting technique only the humpback employs. A humpback will swim below a school of baitfish and circle from underneath while slowly exhaling its breath to create a circle of bubbles. As the bubbles rise, the baitfish will rise with them. No one knows for sure why, but fish will not swim through bubbles. While the baitfish school is slowly surfacing, trapped within the bubble net, the rest of the humpback pod will dive below it and come up with their enormous mouths wide open, taking in tons of water and fish at the same time. From the surface you can tell when this is happening as you will spot a large circle of anchovies or other victims jump suddenly, en masse, just before the gigantic mouths break the surface. It is a WINTER 2012

stupendous sight to watch and one of the feeding marvels of any wild species. There is one other entirely new feeding technique that as far as I know my wife and I are the only people to have witnessed. We were camped on Chichigoff Island, a brown bear-packed piece of real estate that sits directly opposite the entrance to Alaska’s Glacier Bay on the Icy Strait. The strait itself is a swirling mass of colliding tidal zones that bring in massive amounts of krill while at the same time creating a nightmare of swirling, churning rips ready to suck a kayak down like a rubber bathtub toy. We arrived by power ferry boat rather than risk paddling and made camp on a stony beach with our backs against impenetrable devil’s club, a razorsharp thorny weed used as the only fence necessary to keep German Second World War prisoners on the island. This was humpback central. There were so many whale blows around us we could not count them all and spent our first night peering out our tent flap as the gentle giants cruised by our camp only a few yards offshore. They were there to feed and our presence was not even a minor inconvenience to them as we watched bubble netting just offshore for the better part of a day before hitting the water ourselves. A solid kelp wall about 30 metres offshore acted as a natural barrier against the unpredictable currents. We kept inside that for protected paddling. A chittering raft of sea otters greeted us the first morning we put in, rolled up tightly in the kelp beds and pounding open purple anemones held on their chest by smashing them with rocks. No sooner were we on the water than we were surrounded by whales. Some cruised by within inches, never quite close enough to touch, but suddenly a pod of at least ten whales shot past us at speed, all swimming in unison, which struck me as very unusual. They quickly left us behind but we kept them in sight with binoculars and approached to within a couple hundred yards just as they seemed to have reached their destination. We stopped paddling and let the current carry us slowly in their direction. COAST&KAYAK Magazine


Wildlife The pod had split in two and five whales had formed a line, all facing towards land. They began to beat the water with their tail flukes at the same time, and at first I thought it to be some form of communication, but then I spotted a number of silver flashes. The whales were driving what appeared to be a large school of herring away from them. Then Irene spotted the other half of the pod about a quarter mile away in a perpendicular line to their companions. They were just lying on the surface with open mouths and the frantic herring were rushing headlong into them. All the whales had to do was swallow. We watched this for several minutes when the lob-tailing suddenly ended abruptly and we figured the whales had eaten their fill. They had indeed, but only half the pod. At this point the whales that were first feeding now turned their tails towards the rest of the pod and began to lob-tail just as their companions had done, driving the schooling fish back towards the original whales who were now feeding as fast as the fish could swim. Once both halves of the pod had fed, they dispersed in several directions, apparently having come together only long enough to hunt as a solid unit. I wrote and published the story in a kayaking magazine asking for anyone who had witnessed such behavior to please contact me. To this day, no one has. To me, this behavior was proof of an advanced thought process, and in my mind it placed the humpback almost on an intellectual par with the orca, whom I had always thought to be the most intelligent animal on earth, smarter than chimpanzees and dogs. Another encounter I wish to relate took place on a small commercial whale watching boat out of Ventura in California. We were approaching Santa Cruz Island in late September, a good time for viewing humpbacks off the California coast as the Santa Barbara channel had been full of them all summer. We spotted three humpbacks breaching far off in the distance. Since nothing else was happening at the moment we decided to take off in hopes that they might just keep it up until we arrived. Naturally they did not. 24


A humpback rises to the surface with its mouth open from bubble netting.

When we reached the desired spot they were nowhere to be found, but we sat and waited for several minutes just in case they surfaced nearby after sounding. Within two minutes, they had not only surfaced less than 100 yards off our 10 o’clock but were trumpeting. For those not familiar with this behaviour, humpbacks can literally trumpet like an elephant and do it more often than people might think. Other than communication or pure joy, no one knows for sure why they do it, but it is a pleasant enough sound and certainly one you do not get to hear every day on a whale watch. Not only that, but they began approaching us, three abreast, trumpeting as loud as they possibly could. One split off and headed for the bow where it began to mouth our anchor chain with its baleen, while the other two came right up to the boat and began to slowly circle us repeatedly. They would stop every few feet and spyhop, keeping their rostrums just out of our reach, not allowing contact. The most surprising thing to me about all this was the fact that all three of them continued to trumpet for the better part of the hour that they spent around our boat. I have never heard them communicate in such a loud and continuous manner. Were they calling other whales or just having WINTER 2012

fun with us? The longer this kept up the more convinced I became that they were not just talking amongst themselves or calling to other whales but were making a concentrated effort to communicate with us. How frustrating to both them and us that this was not possible. For those who have never had such an experience, try to imagine a lion, tiger, or elephant coming right up to you, trying to tell you something but not knowing how. We take it for granted that our pets at home can communicate with us, but when it happens in the wild it becomes a supernatural occurrence. I used to believe that humpback whales were solitary and shy creatures that avoided boats, except for those in places where they have become habituated to them such as off the coast of Lahaina in Maui, Hawaii where watching humpbacks is the state pastime. But just offshore from my native California these whales have proved time and again that nothing is written in stone. Now they come in great numbers every summer, not only approaching boats but seeking human contact. I hope I live long enough to find out what they are trying to tell us. n Coast&Kayak Magazine is proud to be able to serialize James Dorsey’s book Dancing With Dinosaurs, a naturalist’s 15-year odyssey of kayaking among whales.

Destinations: Broken Group/Barkley Sound

Join the whales in Ucluelet Pacific Rim Whale Festival, March 16-24, 2013 different events. The festival coincides with the onset of spring on the west coast of Vancouver Island and includes events for children and families of interest to everyone from nature lovers to adventurers with a variety of cultural, culinary, musical and educational activities. If you go: Ucluelet is 2.5 hours from Nanaimo and fours hours from Victoria, plus additional ferry and travel time for those arriving from the mainland. Bus service is available (, and accommodation options range from small Dr. Steven Swartz, NOAA/NMFS/OPR

Each spring about 20,000 gray whales migrate from Baja Peninsula’s breeding and calving lagoons in Mexico for their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas near the Arctic. The passage of the whales often peaks in numbers along the British Columbia coast in March, and is marked by a whale festival along Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park and the adjacent community of Ucluelet. As well as a chance to view the whales, the festival serves as a way to view some of the unique west coast culture through art, photos, presentations, tours, culinary offerings and contests as well as educational events. The Pacific Rim Whale Festival is nine days and nights featuring about 90

bed and breakfasts to large resorts. Naturally, gray whales can be viewed year-round in adjacent Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands, along with humpback whales and numerous other marine mammals. The Broken Group Islands, part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, are a favourite kayaking destination. u Other festivals: These take place around the world from Maui, Hawaii to Oshika, Japan, with North American events including the Santa Barbara Whale Festival, Mendocino Coast Whale Festival, Fort Bragg Whale Festival and San Diego Whale Festival. Mujeres, Mexico has the International Whale and Shark Festival.

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Touring experiences: Haida Gwaii


hey say every seventh wave is the largest; those must have been the ones that slopped over the bow of my kayak and slid off my sprayskirt when my timing wasn’t spot on. I was on the outside of our foursome, and while at the foot of a huge trough, my peripheral vision lacked my friends. Committed now, it was just a matter of concentrating on paddling until we reached the relative calm of Collison Bay. Once there, as the adrenaline began to slow, we were joined by a pod of humpback whales seaward of us, their exhales reminiscent of our own sighs of relief. Heeding the warnings about the power of opposing wind and tide and having timed our rounding of Goodwin Point for slack water, we felt confident leaving our pond-like lunch spot in the bay. But nature’s power can be unleashed quickly and were soon engulfed in three-metre swells. Later around the campfire, we



agreed turning around was not an option. My three companions and I were paddling in the southern part of Gwaii Haanas National Park, in Haida Gwaii, Canada’s westernmost archipelago. The high-speed inflatable zodiac transporter we arranged in Sandspit whisked us from Moresby Camp to Fanny Cove, and dropped us off, along with our rented kayaks and gear, for a week’s paddle north. It was early yet for the paddling season, so we had this incredible wilderness beach all to ourselves. Topping our list for this trip was a paddle to Ninstints, the remains of a traditional northwest coast First Nations village site (Spring 2012 Coast&Kayak). A light breeze stirred as we paddled through the low swells of the open Pacific towards the remote eastern side of SGang Gwaay. We radioed the resident summer watchman, and she replied, “Permission to land, and you are the first kayakers to visit us this season.”

Ninstints is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, and sacred ground for the Haida. Above the beach, amongst the moss and grasses, stand disintegrating mortuary and memorial poles, as well as rotting beams and corner posts from huge cedar longhouses. The remains will eventually return to the earth as part of the natural cycle. Canoe runs are still visible on the beach as the tide falls. As we wandered through this 19th century village, the spirits of the Haida ancestors seemed to be watching. Respecting the freshening breeze and the change of tide, we thanked the watchman and hastened our return crossing. Paddling northwards, every day brought a fresh choice of camping spots. It is refreshing in a national park to have no designated camping areas, no outhouses and the freedom to have campfires below the high tide line. Fairytale-like carpets of deep moss amongst the huge cedars and sitka spruce

Misty miles


by Christine Fordham A rare, calm sea at Fanny Cove offers the chance to cross to SGang Gwaay (Anthony Island). Inset, top left: Paddling northward in formation to round Benjamin Point. Bottom left: a look at the thick and magical rainforest of Gwaii Haanas. Left background: Paddling into Skincuttle Inlet. Below: a fawn awaits mom’s return.

provided luxurious tent spots. Curious black bears occasionally checked out our camp, and chance encounters with killer whales, sea lions and numerous seabird added a delight to our days. Isolated pocket beaches, unusual rock formations and driftwood provided a beachcomber’s dream. Kelp forests, abalone shells and a cornucopia of sea life scattered the tide lines. One of our group, Albert, scored the most coveted treasure of all, a Japanese glass fishing float. Upon hearing a blow, Mike called out, “Let’s paddle that way,” and we headed seaward. A pod of risso’s dolphins treated us to a show of porpoising and breaching. Risso’s are large dolphins, with melon-shaped heads and scarred bodies. Traditionally they are a rare occurrence in these islands, but have been spotted in Bag Harbour over the last few years. The evening sunset glowed, but the weather changed rapidly and we awoke to grey skies and large swells, making launching our laden kayaks a bit tricky. Small craft warnings, fog and rain sum up the typical weather, hence the nickname the ‘Misty Isles.’ One morning, after a drastic downpour, Catrin awoke to find her sleeping pad partially afloat on the floor of her tent. No journey to Gwaii Haanas is complete without a full-on sou’easter, and the sideways rain and 40knot winds came full force. Fortunately our pickup was due to arrive. The radio crackled to life, “Party of four, above Burnaby Narrows, are you ready for pickup?” All too quickly this wild and wonderful wilderness adventure

started to slip into our “excellent adventures” memory banks.

n Christine Fordham is a business consultant from Black Creek BC. Her weekend passions are climbing mountains, backcountry skiing and mountain biking.

Plan your trip: Haida Gwaii Prince Rupert Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site

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Yukon’s Wild Side

Travel information: Animals tend to be more active in the early morning and evening. Take a walk or paddle before breakfast and after dinner. are drawn to, live in, or travel along Yukon’s waterways. Canoes, kayaks and rafts that travel in stealth and with minimal impact are perfectly suited to experience Yukon’s living things. If you spend enough time on the water, you’ll develop a sixth sense and know when the conditions for viewing are just right. Paddle alongside an uprooted tree next to a gin-clear back eddy that holds Arctic Grayling popping up to feast on bugs. Cruising next to south-facing slopes, blanketed in Purple Weedgrass, may feature 28


meandering black bears or hyperactive Arctic Ground Squirrels. Picking a spot to camp for the night is often best suited for a long gravel bar with views of high reaching mountain habitats. Hours can be

Travel information: Bring your reading glasses. Tour operators will bring many nature and wildlife guidebooks so you can get into the specifics of what you are seeing, smelling and hearing. spent in the reclined position, with binoculars in hand, watching Eagles, Gyrfalcons, Dall Sheep and whoknows-what pass by. It becomes an after dinner game, glassing, sharing and keeping track of the various animals you’ve spotted. Yukon’s nature also enhances the culinary component of your paddling experience. Paddling guides are always scanning for edible mushrooms, berries, and other land based flavourings to accompany your meal. Freshly caught grilled lake

Photo: Government of Yukon

Some things are certain. Paddling any of Yukon’s numerous navigable rivers and lakes means you’ll inevitably run into wildlife. There is so much space, that you may be the first human that animal has ever seen. Imagine rounding a river bend, lost in repetition of your J-stroke, and coasting by a yearling moose munching on spruce willows. Curiosity and amazement work both ways in Yukon and provides spontaneous wildlife-viewing opportunities. While large mammals, like grizzly and black bears, caribou, moose, sheep, and wolves steal the show, it’s the plants, fishes, birds and butterfl ies that complete the picture. Each plant and animal fi lls nooks and niches resulting in a living and dynamic eco-system. The majority of animals

Travel information:

Packages include all meals and equipment, as well as transportation in and out.

Pick your season to maximize your wildlife viewing and nature experience.


trout, seasoned with spruce tip salt, in a morel and cranberry mushroom sauce, accompanied by a fireweed honey vinaigrette salad. Need one say more? WINTER 2012

10 days from $1,925: Canoe into the heart of the Yukon wilderness with an experienced guide. Watch for moose, beavers, river otters, and many migrating birds. Fish along the way for Grayling, Pike and Inconnu and watch for migrating Chinook Salmon. Canoe from Johnson’s Crossing to Carmacks and pass active First Nation fish camps and historical sites.

Experts know the


Discover Yukon’s wildest spots with our adventure experts Pick summer or early fall and you will experience Yukon’s wildlife and nature. Couple this with natural phenomenon like the midnight sun, northern lights and the fall tundra colours and you’ve just knocked off more bucket-list items. No matter when you come, our fully licensed guides will give you the ultimate experience on a day trip, or a multi-day adventure. Find the right guide for you at KUSAWA LAKE KAYAKING:


5 days from $2,295: Paddle this dynamic lake with beaches, rocky outcrops, crystal clear water and nestled within tight mountain ranges. A 75-kilometer long lake with many camping spots and south facing slopes, perfect for viewing Dall Sheep, caribou and bears. Take advantage of the hiking opportunities from base camp with numerous alpine flowers and birds to view along the way.

3 days from $510: Take in our electric light show, the Yukon’s Aurora Borealis. This spectacular show can viewed starting in late August through to April. Coupled with fall colours this can be a dramatic visual experience before the snow falls. Let an expert customize a package that includes paddling lakes and rivers in the fall or dogsledding and snowmobiling in the winter. *per person / taxes extra




Destinations: Gabriola and Gulf Islands North Kayakers have a new destination in the north Gulf Islands, thanks to the Lyackson First Nation. Valdes Island is the largest of the Gulf Islands without ferry service, which has kept it only lightly developed, with a major landholder the Lyackson band. Until recently visitors have had to be content with Blackberry Point on the island’s south for recreation, but now the Lyackson have created a campsite complete with yurts in a beautiful cove setting on the island’s outer north facing the Strait of Georgia. The cove is pictured here. The work is still in the early stages, but it will no doubt be in full service for 2013. Visit

A new retreat Plan your trip: Gabriola and Gulf Islands North Nanaimo

Gabriola Island

Cedar Ladysmith

If you go: Silva Bay Yurts Valdes I. Galiano I.

Saltspring Island

Reaching outer Valdes Island requires either launching from Gabriola Island, Galiano Island or running the rapids in Gabriola Passage or Porlier Pass. Timed properly this makes launches from Cedar, Ladysmith and other Vancouver Island locations a possibility. Note the long distance and that the outer coast is more exposed than inner channels. Silva Bay is the closest launch point.

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Destinations: Nootka Sound/Kyuquot Sound

Stretch the legs Two favourite kayaking destinations are Rugged Point Provincial Park at the south entrance to Kyuquot Sound and Catala Island Provincial Park on the north entrance to Nootka Sound. Between them is about 17-km of sandy beaches interspersed with rock ledge. It is a difficult and exposed stretch of coast to paddle, but did you know it can be walked? The shoreline is exceptionally passable, with few obstacles beyond some low-tide rock scrambles and creek fords. Otherwise it is an idyllic coastal stroll along some of the most superbly wild and beautiful oceanfront on Vancouver Island. Day hikes from Rugged Point or Yellow Bluff (north of Catala Island) are possible, as is a multi-day trek. Of course, kayaking here is great – on good days, but the many reefs make it intimidating when the swell is up.

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Learning to deal with


ind is the one thing that can stop a kayaking trip dead. Rain, clouds and cold may make a trip miserable, but those won’t stop you – if you’re properly equipped. Wind, on the other hand, can strand you despite the best skills level and preparation. The simple fact is wind will do what it wants to do when it wants to do it, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. That would seem to make kayakers powerless, but there are things kayakers can do to mitigate the damage wind can cause in a trip. It’s a three-step process, generally 1) anticipate, 2) plan and 3) adapt. These steps won’t change what the wind will do, but it could make your holiday substantially more bearable. Here are some strategies to save your adventure from the evils of wind. 1) Anticipate Knowledge is the starting point. Here’s an example. A beginner’s mistake is to head off on a day trip by setting out in calm weather, only to return later in the day against a fierce headwind. People caught in this situation may think it bad luck, but in all likelihood they simply didn’t know the primary weather pattern, which is generally calm winds in the morning followed by rising winds throughout the day. Worse yet, they may have fallen into the trap of heading out with the prevailing wind direction, almost ensuring a headwind on the return leg. In those types of trips, planning can help avoid clearly defined wind patterns. The problem is weather is usually not as clearly defined as we might hope. A basic bit of knowledge for the southern British Columbia and Pacific Northwest coast is that in a patch of good weather a high pressure system will set up offshore, sending north, west or northwest




winds along the coast as the system rotates clockwise. Meanwhile, low pressure systems associated with poor weather will rotate anti-clockwise and bring south or southeast winds. While these are considered the prevailing weather systems, any number of variations can occur. Consider what happens when the wind hits shore. A northwest wind will run into mountains, trees and coastline. The wind pressure must go somewhere, so it will head along the coast, through valleys, up inlets and river systems and generally take the path of least resistance. This means much of the shore wind won’t be northwest any more. In places like the Discovery Islands and Gulf Islands on the east coast of Vancouver Island, wind will shift direction, stall or funnel in a highly unpredictable manner. Anticipating the direction is difficult, as a variation of a few degrees could result in a 180-degree shift along a side channel. As complex as that becomes, diurnal winds will add another degree of obfuscation. Diurnal winds are generally


caused by the heating and cooling of inland areas. Once heated, an area will suck in cooler offshore air, creating strong localized wind currents known as inflows. If the offshore air is warmer, the reverse will happen and an outflow wind can occur. If summer patterns are normal, a lighter outflow wind will begin in the morning, with stronger inflow winds developing from the mid or late morning to early afternoon. Some locations are notorious for their summer inflows and winter outflows. Generally the straighter, wider and deeper the inlet or channel, the potentially stronger the diurnal wind. The effects of diurnal winds can be wide-ranging. A renowned variation is the Qualicum winds of Vancouver Island. These originate from strong inflows blowing up Alberni Inlet on the island’s west coast then continuing overland. So the Strait of Georgia may be getting northerlies, but Qualicum Beach could be getting strong localized westerly squalls.

by John Kimantas Should prevailing conditions prevail (which isn’t as common as sense would dictate), you can plan for calm mornings and higher afternoon winds that will diminish again in the evening. And if this isn’t occurring, it is a hint that something is awry. Once you know the prevailing weather conditions, you can measure those against what is being predicted in marine weather forecasts. Many people find the wind predictions notoriously inaccurate, but consider the impossibility of the task. Most weather regions are huge and prone to a host of localized variations. The main point to take from a forecast is the wider implication: what is happening with a main weather system, front or ridge. Generally forecasters will know, for instance, if a high pressure system is approaching and if it will remain stationary. If so, the overall weather picture for the region can be predicted (within reason). After the regional forecast, the local conditions are the next crucial piece of the puzzle. Nearby lighthouse and automated weather station reports may not initially shed much light: calm conditions at one location, moderate winds at another, high winds at yet a third, and most in different directions – even though they are in the same regional weather system. What you might see is an indecipherable mishmash. Some variations can be expected. For instance, the Nootka Island lighthouse at Yuquot is on a point on the inside entrance to Nootka Sound, and so is prone to morning outflow winds that can skew the regional picture. Other locations are prone to wind funneling, such as Johnstone Strait or Juan de Fuca Strait, where strong sustained winds are far more likely than those in less exposed waterways.

Wind will do what it wants when it wants, but how you choose to approach it can make all the difference So consider each report as a piece of a puzzle to help create a picture of the weather for your area. One approach is to track the hourly reports at key automated weather stations. For instance, if you are planning on a trip somewhere in the sheltered waters of the Gulf Islands, your closest station could be the Entrance Island weather station. Entrance Island is set in the open water of the Strait of Georgia, so faces the worst of the regional weather. If the forecast is calling for winds to rise to 20 knots later in the day for the Strait of Georgia, you can assume the 20 knots will hit the worst and most exposed areas of the strait like the lighthouse. But what is the variation for your area? Will your more sheltered location be calm, moderate or up near 20 knots? Start by tracking the lighthouse. If at 6 a.m. Entrance Island is measuring 5 knots and you’re calm, that’s a good sign. If at 7 a.m. Entrance Island is still at 5 knots and you’re starting to experience a breeze, be weary, as the variation may not be high. But if Entrance Island is at 10 knots and you’re still calm, you at least have a window, and a growing one at that.

And if at 8 a.m. it is blowing 20 knots at Entrance Island and you’re still calm, that’s a bit too fortuitous – that’s early for a high wind, and what the lighthouse is getting might be heading your way soon. In other words, there is no definitive answer, but there are good hints to take forward into a trip. The one thing to not take forward is the expectation the current calm conditions will continue throughout the day. In some locations the regional weather won’t be a factor at all. For instance, diurnal winds in inlets will generally trump the regional winds. So weather stations may be reporting westerlies, but you may have a southerly due to the area’s relationship between the land and water. And you need not be in or near an inlet to get localized winds. If you are experiencing windy conditions when surrounded by calm conditions at nearby weather stations, you may be stuck in a wind pocket that could be limited to your channel or even your little bay. Paddle a few miles, turn a corner and you may be back in calm or at least manageable winds. That isn’t to say you should endanger yourself to better your situation, but it does mean you can be overly cautious and delay your trip unnecessarily. Conversely, the calm conditions you are enjoying could simply be your particularly well-sheltered location. Ignore the wider regional conditions and you could be in trouble when you head into nearby waters. 2) Plan Once you understand your weather, planning for it is usually fairly logical. The most basic planning is if winds are low, you probably have a good window for a paddle; but if winds are high, you may be best to stay off the water. Some planning can be done well in

Sloppy, rough conditions on the outer waters off Kyuquot Sound; the nearby beach is pictured on page 31. The wind transformed this from an idyllic paddle to a slog. WINTER WINTER2012 2012



Weather advance of your trip, such as taking advantage of the prevailing wind. For instance, if you are planning a run down the outer coast of Vancouver Island and the forecast is for northwesterlies, you would be best to travel north to south to enjoy a tailwind. But don’t assume too much. For instance, north of Brooks Peninsula and up by Cape Scott, the prevailing wind tends toward southerlies. And south towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca, westerlies may be too strong for some skills levels even in a favourable direction. So tackle each problem in light of the local and regional conditions. A good way to do this is to examine historic weather records for nearby weather stations for the time of year you plan to travel (with the caveat that past weather conditions do not guarantee future conditions). Should your circuit be a circle, you don’t have the luxury of choosing a direction, as you’ll be against the prevailing wind at some point. The planning then involves where you want the wind behind you. Common sense would indicate this would be along the most exposed and dangerous portions of the coast, but not always. Take an example of a circumnavigation of Nootka Island on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The outer side of the island is exposed with few refuges along the way. The inner passages, though, are prone to diurnal wind funneling, so the wind on the island’s inner passages could be significantly stronger than the outer water. So picture this scenario: the forecast is for light to moderate winds. If you travel clockwise along the exposed woodboat_ad.qxp:Layout 1 outer 9/16/10 shoreline early in the day for the lightest

winds against you, you can enter the protected inner water of Esperanza Inlet and use the inevitable inflow winds to your advantage. Having gone around Nootka Island this way I can say it was a huge advantage, allowing me to paddle a distance I would have otherwise not been able, but I would not have done it that way had conditions been less favourable. A second basic step to a good plan is to paddle early and be off the water at noon, or perhaps in the early afternoon if conditions are lighter. A beginner’s mistake is to have a leisurely morning and a late breakfast, then to pack up camp and leave just as the day’s winds are becoming brisk. These people will have missed the best five hours of the day’s paddling, whereas those who launched at or near dawn could be off the water and have the camp set for the day possibly before experiencing so much as a ripple. Perhaps the most important aspect of planning is your contingencies. On an extended trip, make sure you have a backup campsite or pullout in mind no more than two hours away at any given point, or less in exposed circumstances. Should you not have a backup or not know the area well enough to pinpoint a safe haven, at least know you are placing yourself at risk. As conditions can go from calm to stormy in under an hour, you should be prepared for that eventuality. And if that is a circumstance you’re not sure you can manage, you may want to plan a different trip. 3) Adapt If the 1:23 PMprevailing Page 1weather is northwesterly, and if the mornings are

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supposed to be calm, what happens if you are tearing down camp at dawn but begin to feel a brisk breeze upon your face and look out over the water to see chunky little whitecaps developing? This is the type of event that should set off alarm bells, particularly if it is a change in the weather. If you’ve already been out for a week in a settled weather system and have experienced this very same morning pattern, you’ll be in a much better situation to ignore this type of wind. It may be a localized pre-dawn breeze developing much like an outflow, or it may just be a symptom of the benign system in your region that happens to be kicking up morning winds (yes, some good weather systems have afternoon calm periods and higher morning and evening winds. Nothing is absolute). But if you have been in calm weather at dawn for a few days, the appearance of an early breeze should be a warning. From there it means re-evaluating the forecasts and the weather station reports. One tip is to look at conditions at nearby offshore buoys, which often herald the arrival of systems before they hit the coast. If you’re still unsure, the best decision is usually to wait. You won’t drown by staying at your campsite, you’ll just be late. One of the biggest factors in poor decisions is trying to meet artificial deadlines, such as being back at work Monday. These trips that go awry can usually be traced back to poor anticipation and planning: either a person didn’t know the weather conditions or didn’t have a contingency once conditions changed. Usually it’s both. A simple way to deal with bothersome

by John Kimantas wind conditions is to take advantage of alternatives. One concept to consider is the option of a lee, or an area sheltered from wind. Sometimes this means simply staying near shore, but if you’re travelling through an archipelago you may find shelter by paddling the other side of an island. Choosing a new destination for that day is another way to avoid a troublesome headwind. Think of the Broken Group Islands, with seven campsites scattered in various locations. You can continue bullheaded towards that one campsite that lies directly in the path of the wind, or you can turn sideways and head along a more sheltered route to a backup option. If you have no choice but to head upwind, particularly up a channel or inlet, consider the possibility of a jetstream. This is where wind funnels along a portion of the channel. They are hard to gauge, as water-level sightlines are generally limited to about a kilometre in a kayak, whereas channels can easily run six to 10 kilometres wide. Often by staying near

shore you can see the jetstream in the form of whitecaps in the central channel. The thing to consider is they are not always central, and if you’re in a jetstream you might be able to avoid the worst of the wind by crossing the channel. There’s a risk here, as you may make a crossing through rough conditions for no benefit, but if you learn to recognize certain land features you can place yourself strategically to avoid funnels. For instance, rounded shorelines lend themselves to funneling, whereas sharp turns do not. By approaching a ‘sharp’ point on the lee you can often avoid several kilometres of strong winds, as the land formation creates a dead spot. If you are experiencing unruly water conditions, consider other factors beyond just wind. This is especially significant if you are suffering choppy waves and whitecaps beyond what you should be getting for the amount of breeze. One cause could be that the current is against the wind, which generally leads to chop. Another is broken shelving on the ocean

floor or steep shoreline that can create rebound waves or tumultuous water. A solution is to head to deeper water or to simply wait till the current turns. It is astounding what a difference waiting an hour or two can make to flatten out water conditions. So the wind may do what it wants to do when it wants to do it, but usually you can also still do what you want to do as well – maybe just not when you might want to. And the difference between a carefree run with the wind and a tiresome or even dangerous slog against it is often just the difference of a bit of anticipation, planning and, you guessed it, adapting. n John Kimantas is editor of Coast&Kayak Magazine and author of the BC Coast Explorer and The Wild Coast book series. His expertise has become long-distance paddling trips, and he wrote this article after completing a 450-km trip to Princess Louisa Inlet in eight days (see page 8), a distance largely attributable to taking advantage of winds (with some bullheadedness thrown in).

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New Gear

Rec boat wars W

hen debating what makes the ideal kayak, ardent kayakers will probably quibble over details: rudder or skeg, hard or soft chine, rocker or no rocker. What they’re unlikely to debate is the length. Few will point to a kayak under 16 feet as an ideal. But there is a silent majority who have opted to go small. The reasons are varied: budget, interest, style of kayaking, storage capacity or plain old practicality, but the end result is that most of today’s kayaks are in fact under 16 feet in length – and often considerably shorter. Given that this is such a large market segment, the range of choices is huge. The basic first decision is sit-on-top or sit-in. After that, there is a plethora of details to consider. Here’s a guide to wading through some sit-in options, with an eye to what is or will be new in 2013. The starting point: small rotos Pelican has been at the forefront of affordable plastic rec kayaks for years now, with the most basic nothing more than a plastic shell. Coast&Kayak Magazine took a swipe at Pelican (Summer 2012) citing their kayaks in keeping entry-level kayakers from progressing up the ladder due to disillusionment with poor performance. Consequently Pelican took it personally and mailed us the Liberty 100X. It didn’t quite fit in an envelope, but compared

Okay, so maybe it’s not quite a war, but be sure the market is heating up for the privilege of putting you in a small boat

The Liberty 100X on the bow of the Coast&Kayak Magazine floating office. Boats are an ideal location for kayaks this size.

to most kayaks it is envelope-sized. It’s not the smallest of the Pelican fleet; that honour goes to the eight-foot Pursuit. The Liberty 100X measures 10 feet, and is part of the Pelican ‘premium’ line new for 2013. The Liberty 100X adds an array of thoughtful features that puts it a step up from the empty shells that compose most of this class of small rotomolded kayaks (called rotos for short, or just plastic). You’ll find front and rear quick-lock

hatches, knee pads, a back rest and a dry pouch. But most interesting is the cockpit table, which is a molded compartment in front of the cockpit, complete with a day hatch, a built-in dry bag and a bottle holder. After the frills, though, it is a kayak at its most basic. It is not suited for a sprayskirt (and even if one could be adapted, it is unlikely to be effective). Plus it lacks a bulkhead to keep water from flooding the kayak. Instead there is foam for flotation and drain plugs. This limits this kayak, as with most in this class, to exploring bays well away from swell, surf or weather. Tracking – the ability to stay straight while kayaking – is poor, with wobble from paddle strokes adding to the chore of a long-distance trip. Most of these types of kayaks will wind up as explorers for yachts, as they can be easily stowed to take up minimal space. They are also ideal for garage or basement storage without filling the room. The question is whether the handy size makes up for the limitations in performance.

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New Gear Step-up 1: Slightly larger rotos To graduate from the Pelicans, the best starting point for considering greater performance and features is probably the 12-foot range, which offers considerably better tracking and potential performance. One new series in this category is offered by Current Designs. CD got its start here in British Columbia with high-end fibreglass touring kayaks, notably the venerable Solstice series. Now a brand name of Wenonah Canoes of Minnesota, the full line encompasses some 40 styles, with the Ketrel and Solara rotomolded series aimed at the entry-level recreational boat user. The Solara is made of the same basic plastic polyethylene, but adds features such as bulkheads, with the Solara 100 one of the few 10-footers with dry bulkheads. Other models are the 120 and 135 (12 and 13.5 feet lengths), with the 120 and 135 also available in composite fibreglass. Fibreglass will save weight and lighten your pocketbook, costing roughly 2.5 times the price. The advantage of this line over the Pelicans is the expanded touring options given the bulkheads (though lacking on the 120) plus an optional rudder on the 135. Step-up 2: Small thermoforms Thermoform kayaks don’t require the time-consuming construction of fibreglass models, and instead are essentially plastic cooked into shape in large ovens (think car bumpers). This makes them considerably cheaper to produce than fibreglass while lighter than rotomolded kayaks. They also set a new class for durability, though some will argue flex and strength are the

The Solara adds length and options in the Current Designs’ line of entry-level rec boats.

thermoform’s weakness. Two small thermoforms, both produced in BC, have set a standard for the industry and grace many of the hulls and decks of boats not adorned with Pelicans. One option is Seaward Kayak’s Intrigue, which has a clear view panel on the cockpit floor for viewing intertidal marine life. At 10’2” and with a beam of 29” it is not a performance model, but weights 35.6 pounds compared to the Liberty 100X at 50 pounds – a significant difference. The other notable 10-footer is by Delta Kayaks. It shaves off inches on the width but manages to increase stability thanks to the catamaran hull design. This means excellent tracking and consequently less wasted effort. Add a large storage area, a deck stowage pod and an underwater viewing panel in the cockpit floor and you have a versatile day-tripper. And yes,

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there’s even a beverage holder. Step-up 3: Larger thermoforms Once within the 12-foot range, the options increase exponentially. Here you can get into some more serious kayaking, including the possibility of overnight trips – or at least longer day trips. New in this range is the SR series from Seaward Kayaks, manufactured here on Vancouver Island. The 12foot is the Pura, and it begins to take on the more graceful, sleek lines of its larger cousins that define the more elite kayak categories. The Pura, Halo 130 and Compass 140 all feature sealed bulkheads and hatches including a handy day hatch in front of the cockpit. The difference in performance is notable. While each offers a degree of improvement as the model gets longer, the SR-120 Pura is interesting on its own as a sports option. After a lake test all

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three seemed ideal candidates for some whitewater testing. That will have to wait, but the good news is the potential is there – these stand to be great sports boats in addition to bay explorers and daytrippers. An optional rudder for the SR-130 and SR-140 adds another degree of performance capability. More choices: Browse 1,030 kayak models online, by a variety of criteria: Wrapping it up: what we learned Most rec boats are likely to be bought by first-time or novice kayakers. That doesn’t mean these boats can’t be enjoyed for years as intended. Buyers should be aware of limitations, though, and it’s a shame to

buy a product designed to take you on the water, but in a very restricted fashion. Extra features do add cost, but once you’re in a slightly longer kayak equipped with a rudder and bulkheads you have the potential to go places and see things you might otherwise never see – one of the main reasons to kayak. Of course, there’s no reason a rec boat can’t continue to serve its original function as a lighter, less expensive and simpler option to move about and store, while a second kayak can serve as a tourer. Ardent kayakers will generally own a fleet to serve different purposes, and the most sage among them will no doubt argue that there is no one best single kayak – not when there are so many purposes to be filled. TM


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Why Dig When You Can Glide? WINTER 2012


by Liam McNeil

Transitions at sea

A hard lesson learned from moody waters


s the kayak smashed upon the rocks, with flecks of the hull drifting away in the waves, I asked myself how we had arrived in this predicament. On paddling journeys we transition between land and ocean, calm to wind, into current or through surf. As weather patterns change, or we move from sheltered waters to energetic headlands, we constantly adapt to changing conditions. As in this situation, it is during these transitions that accidents often occur. Our group left the campsite that morning for a day trip to explore some sheltered waters within the Broken Group Islands. Two guests, jet-lagged from a long journey to get to the area, were placed into a double kayak. A conscious choice was made to avoid the outer coast. The route we were to follow took into account wind direction, fetch and exposure to swell, but even so it almost lead to disaster. Throughout the morning the waters remained glassy calm. Only as we stopped for an early lunch did the first signs of the building winds start to rustle the branches around us. A few moments later, while the guests explored the beach, a few drops of rain began. After the warm summer morning, the two individuals who were paddling the double kayak dallied in donning their rain gear. Caught in the transition between weather patterns, these now damp individuals would soon regret their wet clothing. As we got back on the water after lunch, we soon realized the weather had changed dramatically. The calm waters had been replaced by gusty winds and sheets of rain. The route we followed was very sheltered, staying within a few metres of the lee side of islands. However, one small

channel exposed to the winds lay before our campsite. We had to leave the relative calm of one island and transition into sizeable waves before reaching calm waters again. I counseled the group on what to expect, stressing the importance of staying together and following directions from the guides. The rain pounding down splashed around our boats, creating an underlying din which muffled our words. I led the group from our rest area, around a rocky headland and into the full brunt of the building winds. The sea state increased dramatically as we transitioned into exposed conditions. Pausing to monitor the group as they adjusted to the new and more challenging paddling, I positioned myself between their boats and the rocky shoreline. The kayaks at the lead of the group quickly learned to compensate for the increased sea state. Since the other guide was coaching the double kayak, I turned my attention back to the other boats under our charge. As the double kayak left the shelter of the island the wind caught the bow of the boat, wrenching it to the side. Instead of making a wide turn around the headland, the boat proceeded directly towards the reefs. Through the sideways rain I turned to watch the double kayak wash up on the rocks. The jagged shoreline met the soft white gelcoat of the boat. The sound was audible even with the wind howling across my eardrums. As the wave receded, the kayak was left high-centred upon the barnacle-encrusted shoreline. For what seemed like an eternity the double scraped back and forth across the rocks. The waves, broadsiding the

boat, splashed across the deck of the scuttled kayak. The other guide managed to manoeuvre close to the rocks, attach a tow-line, and with strength that outmatched her small frame, forcibly dragged the boat from the rocks back into deep water. The double kayak was damaged, but thankfully still usable. Reflecting on the situation, several transitions combined to produce this incident. First, the guests were fatigued after a long journey to the region. Further, the change from sun to rain caused the guests to become chilled. Lastly, the calm waters shifted into challenging seas. Many factors are beyond our control, but taking a kayak leadership course is an important tool in learning to perceive dangers. Accidents happen, but with training and experience one can work to mitigate those situations which can lead to hardship. n After ten years of guiding, Liam McNeil, still looks forward to another ten. He 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. 11sp_lasso_01.pdf 1 2/4/2011 8:57:03 AM

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When less is more Edging with a low brace


any instructors wouldn’t categorize edging with a low brace as a stroke at all, let alone a turning stroke – likely because it doesn’t rely on active propulsion or breaking from the paddle, and because it generally isn’t formally taught as a turning stroke. The turn in question is really only the product of edging, but edging with the addition of a stand-by brace for security. A sea kayak turns far more effectively when the boat is edged so that the hull is heeled over on an angle (as opposed to being flat on an even keel). To increase turning efficiency and create a tighter turning radius, the boat can either be edged into the direction of the turn or away from the direction of the turn. Edging away from the turn yields the tightest turns, but provides less opportunity for bracing. Two types of turns, the ‘forward sweep with edging’ (Spring 2007) and ‘bow rudder’ (yet to come) place the paddler in a position edging away from the direction of the turn. Both work very well. But neither of these turns offers the maximum possible confidence for nervous edgers. Instead, try aggressively edging your kayak away from a turn while holding a low brace at the ready. This way you can happily crank the kayak way over on edge, safe in the knowledge that your low brace is immediately available for support should you need it. This turn relies on forward momentum (the paddle won’t be generating any drive through the turn) so be sure to start off with plenty of forward speed. Since the kayak will happily turn in either direction once set on edge, be sure to initiate the turn with a powerful forward sweep to help turn in the desired direction. If turning left, you will be rolling your weight onto your right butt cheek and lifting your left knee. A powerful forward sweep on your right side initiates the turn to your left. 40


Initiate the turn with a powerful forward sweep stroke.

Place your paddle into a low brace position and roll the kayak onto its side, edging away from the turn.

Maintain a climbing angle on the leading edge of your paddle blade to keep it from diving. WINTER 2012

photos by Rochelle Relyea


by Alex Matthews

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Only skim your paddle lightly across the water for support, loading the blade as little as possible – it’s the edging that provides the turning efficiency, not the low brace.

Having completed the forward sweep stroke, roll your knuckles down and raise your elbows, assuming a low brace position on your right side so that the non-power face of the blade lightly contacts the water’s surface. It is essential to maintain a climbing angle on the leading edge of your blade to create lift and prevent the paddle from diving when it lightly skims across the water. Think of walking down a flight of stairs: your descent is achieved with coordination and balance. Running a hand lightly along the handrail is all that is required (support is instantaneously available should your balance falter). Once you have lost your forward speed or achieved the turn required, take the next stroke that best propels you on your way. This edging turn works beautifully on flat water, and rewards paddlers with elegant and efficient turns. In moving

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As your boat slows, level out the kayak and take your next stroke.

water, however, it is better to use turns that provide support on the inside of the turn, like the low brace lean turn (Summer 2008) or high brace lean turn (Winter 2007). n Alex Matthew is Coast&Kayak Magazine’s skills guru and author of Sea Kayaking: Rough Waters (Fox Chapel Publishing).




Greenland Paddling A kayaker makes good use of a Greenland paddle in the rapids at Skookumchuck Narrows. Photo by Jaime Sharp.


eople often ask me why I paddle with “that long skinny stick.” They are referring, of course, to my Greenland kayak paddle. The Inuit of the Mackenzie Delta call it a pautik (pow-tic), which translates to ‘double’ and refers to the two blades. Sometimes kayakers simply call it a ‘stick.’ Greenland paddles are the result of some 6,000 years of refinement and testing on the ocean, making it one of the oldest tools to be tested to what might arguably be considered perfection. Euro blades for sea kayaking, meanwhile, evolved from whitewater paddles in the 1970s. Inuit paddling is part of a colourful history and culture that involves skin-onframe kayaks, harpoons, hunting seals and skills such as rolls and braces. One of the classic sources of information about traditional kayaking is the book Greenland Kayaks by Harvey Golden, which helps sort out the language of traditional kayaking. The things that we call kayaks are ‘qajaqs’ in West Greenland. East Greenlanders prefer the term sarquit or sakkit which, Harvey tells us, translates to ‘a means of wandering.’ Advanced sea kayakers are pushing the boundaries of Greenland paddles into 42


whitewater conditions in tide races such as Skookumchuck (pictured above and on this issue’s cover) and Surge Narrows (Summer 2012). These are the traditional domains of whitewater paddles, but some of us choose to use long skinny pautiks instead, just because we can. The art of hunting seals and other marine mammals from qajaqs developed first in Siberia and the Bering Strait about 6,000 years ago. The oldest qajaq artifacts to be found are a rib and part of a paddle dug out of the permafrost in Greenland dating back 3,000 to 4,000 years. The paddle fragment was from a leaf-shaped paddle, wider in the middle and tapering towards the ends. An early Copper Inuit paddle, meanwhile, was spoon-shaped. It would seem centuries of experimentation WINTER 2012

and design by northern people in the life-and-death business of hunting on the ocean has honed the design of pautiks to the best possible design, with wider paddles eliminated by the test of time. Modern kayaking originated in Britain by combining traditions from Greenland with whitewater traditions that originated in Germany and Austria. Hans W. Pawlata, an Austrian pioneer of the sport of whitewater kayaking, became the first European to roll a kayak in 1927, a skill previously known only to the Inuit people: “Quite contrary to the expectations of the old experienced paddler, on 30 July 1927, I succeeded as the first European sportsman to right himself again after capsizing in a kayak. Thus was the curse of the centuries-old Eskimo secret broken and kayaking ceased to exist in name only.” An extended paddle roll with a whitewater paddle is still referred to as a Pawlata roll. In 1955, German Herbert Baschin built the first river kayak from polyester resin and fibre cloth. The ability to build fibreglass kayaks and roll them created the modern sport of whitewater kayaking. Whitewater paddles also evolved with a design for maximum power in shallow,

by Gerhardt Lepp rocky water with wide blades with lots of surface area – a design necessary to brace in aerated river water and power across eddy lines. In 1959, University student Kenneth Taylor was sent by his professor to Greenland to study the kayak and Inuit culture. While there, Emanuele Korneiliussen built Ken a skin-on-frame kayak. Back in Britain, this kayak morphed into a plywood kayak called the Anas Acuta. In 1972, Frank Goodman started to commercially produce a fibreglass version of the Anas Acuta. Forty years later, Valley Sea Kayaks still produces the same model. In a 1960 photograph, Ken Taylor is shown paddling the Igdlorssuit skinon-frame kayak he brought back from Greenland. He demonstrated it for his fellow members of the Scottish Hosteller’s Canoe Club and he is shown paddling with a Greenland paddle. Enthusiasts adopted the Greenland kayak from Greenland but kept the whitewater paddle from

for 12 years as a park ranger, ski patroller, ground search and rescue member and Coast Guard Auxiliary crew.

Germany. Why not the Greenland paddle? Was this a case of resisting change? Did they think that wider paddles were better for sea kayaking? Or perhaps it was simply a case of Scottish frugality – it is likely the first sea kayakers were whitewater paddlers who continued to use the paddles they already owned. Since the marriage of the whitewater paddle to modern sea kayaking is an accident of history, it’s fitting that marriage is now being challenged by the pautik. The Greenlanders experimented with wide blades but eventually favoured long, narrow Greenland paddles. Is history repeating itself? Time will tell. n Gerhardt Lepp recently retired from IT system building to work as a sea kayak guide and carpenter making pautiks and kayaks in his tipi workshop. He has spent the last 20 years exploring the west coast by kayaking, mountaineering, hiking and running rivers. He has been involved in search and rescue operations

SSTIKS and the Greenland paddling community One of the attractions of traditional kayaking is the community that surrounds it. The South Sound Traditional Inuit Kayak Symposium ( SSTIKS ) is an annual gathering of the Greenland clan in Washington State. It is a model of community and family involvement –everyone from kids to aging water warriors join in the fun. The men dominate the process of building skin-on-frame qajaqs, pautiks and harpoons. Greenland rolling, however, is a level playing field for both men and women. Some of today’s most competitive rollers are female. Unlike whitewater paddling, upper body strength is not a major factor, but rather rolling rewards core strength, agility and grace. Women’s lower centre of gravity and higher buoyancy is also a distinct advantage.

Paddling is




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by Andre-Jean Maheu

But why, dad?


photo by

Robyn Monk

he early morning air was cool and crisp. I was taking my time tying the kayak on the roof of the car. Everything was pointing to a gorgeous few days ahead. Nicolas, my three-year-old son, hopped along on the sidewalk in my direction pretending to be a bunny. “Why are you putting the kayak on the ceiling of the car?” he asked, his voice trembling rhythmically from the bouncing. “Because we are going kayaking for a few days,” I replied cheerfully while tying a trucker’s hitch to secure the bow. The second question came, disarmingly simple: “But why, Papa?” I was pinching the tensioned rope through the bight when I froze in my track. Why are we going paddling? How do I even begin to answer that question, let alone in words that would make sense to a three year old? How do I communicate to him my belief that acquiring the skills to travel lightly in the wilderness might be one of the most significant, life-enriching things he can ever learn? That kayaking as a chosen mode of travel in nature is an enlightened decision? It is choosing to wilfully slow down and move in a more natural way under your own steam. It is choosing to accept that the weather and the tides might slow you down or change your plans altogether. It is understanding that just because we could go faster with an outboard doesn’t mean that we should. It is choosing a simpler, slower way that

leads to a deeper connection with the environment. It is being a natural part of the landscape as opposed to a mere, noisy visitor. But this is only scratching the surface. Paddling leads to a better understanding and a growing love of the environment we come from. Living in the city, it is too easy to forget that we depend on nature when our daily lives are so disconnected from it. We are fortunate enough to live in one of the most spectacular places on the planet and I have a duty to educate my kids to become stewards of this land, to never take for granted the wilderness that surrounds us. A duty to show them what they need to know to truly, deeply love this planet. Kayaking does that. Sea kayaking is a great way to focus our attention outward. While self absorption seems to be taking over our world by storm it is refreshing to have the time and opportunity to bring our awareness to the creatures around the boat as opposed to the ones sitting in it. There is no question that our planet is struggling to keep up

with the demands of an ever-expanding human race that seems to get greedier with every new generation. We need to make sure that as many kids as possible grow up to become paddlers. That they experience nature firsthand so they will learn to love it and protect it. Pain creeped between my index and thumb from holding the tensioned rope and slowly brought me back from my mental wanderings. Nicolas had stopped hopping and was now looking at me expectantly. I needed a quick answer so I settled for the only thing that really mattered for the time being. “Because kayaking is a lot of fun,” I said. “There will be crabs and jellyfish and sea stars and seals...” Nicolas considered my answer and, satisfied, bounced away. Then, like the proverbial dad, I couldn’t help but add: “It will be good for you.” n Andre-Jean Maheu is a paramedic, a wilderness emergency medical technician, paddler, a ski patrol training coordinator and avalanche forecaster at Grouse Mountain in Vancouver.

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Winter 2012 Coast&Kayak Magazine  

Explore Princess Louisa Inlet, frolic with cougars on D'Arcy Island, paddle the coast of Gwaii Haanas and try Greenland paddles in this issu...