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

Volume 23, Issue 3


World destinations

Join us in Crete, Fiji, Costa Rica and Antarctica

PM 41687515

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Inside This issue’s cover

by Andrew Leary It’s not often we can show a historic European location on the cover of Coast&Kayak Magazine, which was a big part of the decision to feature Andrew Leary’s image of Loutro, Crete, in this issue. Andrew is a guide and instructor with Northwest Passages, and an associate of Dana Paskiewicz, who contributed this issue’s look at Crete in a presentation featuring Pacific Northwest staff photography. Andrew has worked professionally in the outdoors since 2005, with tasks involving everything from a guiding wilderness experience for urban youth in Chicago, to ski patrol and avalanche mitigation in Utah, to working for collegiate outdoor programs. He is the lead climbing guide for Northwest Passage and also guides their Greek tours.

Paddling in Fiji

Touring Whitewater Recreational

8 Kayaker and photographer Bob Kandiko takes to the tropical paradise of Fiji in this photo essay covering the Yasawa Islands, a chain ideal for exploration on, over and under the water.

Penguins, history and ice


Stepping out of the Zodiac onto the beach at Salisbury Plain on South Georgia Island was like stepping out onto a bustling boulevard in a big city, except all the pedestrians were king penguins, as Mark Klein found on his and wife Nikki Rekman’s journey through Antarctica.

How to stay upright


Alex Matthews adds five ways to help your stability in a kayak. And a few of the suggestions on the list may surprise you.

First Word�����������������������������������������������������������������������4 News����������������������������������������������������������������������������������6 Monkeying around in Costa Rica�������������������16 Planning and safety���������������������������������������������� 28 Wildlife/Ecology������������������������������������������������������ 30 North Vancouver Island�������������������������������������� 33

Broken Group/Barkley Sound������������������������� 34 Sunshine Coast�������������������������������������������������������� 36 Day Trips: Desolation/Discovery������������������� 38 Day Trips: The Gulf Islands���������������������������������40 Skillset���������������������������������������������������������������������������� 42 Gearing up: winter warmth������������������������������44 FALL/WINTER 2013

Crystal-X Proudly Canadian



The First Word

Thoughts on growing old(er) Fall/Winter 2013 

Volume 23, Number 3 PM No. 41687515

Find Us: Online: Back issues: Turn the carousel on our back issues page, click on the issue you want to read. Contact Us: General queries: Editorial: Advertising: COAST&KAYAK MAGAZINE is an independent magazine available free at hundreds of print distribution sites (paddling shops, outdoor stores, paddling clubs, marinas, events, etc.), and globally on the web. Paid subscriptions are available for those who prefer home delivery. Articles, photos, events, news are all welcome.


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Wild Coast Publishing PO Box 24, Stn A Nanaimo, B.C., Canada, V9R 5K4 Ph: 1-866-984-6437 • Fax: 1-866-654-1937 Email: Website: Physical address: Aboard the Rainy Day, Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean The world’s only magazine published from aboard a boat (that we know of, anyway). © 2013. 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.

I celebrated a milestone recently: my 50th. To mark it, Leanne and I took off on a short cycling tour through the Gulf Islands. Say what you will about age being only a number, you can’t ignore things like stiff backs from sleeping pads and the reduced gusto when climbing yet another hill. These aren’t things you had to put up with in your 30s, for those who still remember those years. I like to point out to anyone who will listen that in end-of-life interviews, the majority of oldtimers will point to their 50s as the best decade. And why not? You’re still young enough to do everything a younger person can, even if slightly slower, but with the wisdom, experience, relative health and hopefully financial freedom to actually make best use of the chances while you still have them. I can’t help but think my 40s were pretty good to me. When I left my 30s, I was alone on a beach north of Brooks Peninsula with just a bear for company (he ran when he saw me) and two warm beers I had saved for that day. They weren’t half as good as I had hoped. The weather was cold and wet, I was going through my second divorce (yes, second!) and I was in a job I didn’t enjoy. Not that I was complaining. I took that summer off to kayak around Vancouver Island and my life changed drastically as a result – almost all for the better. So turning 50 with my beautiful partner Leanne on beautiful Galiano Island was a pleasure indeed. We drank beers (cold ones!) at a funky Galiano bistro. It was a good time to look back on some progress in my personal life over that decade, notably five books, two atlases and the creation of a small but growing publishing company with my office on a beautiful old Canoe Cove 36 cabin cruiser. How perfect is that? It’s funny how life could go one way or the other by circumstances completely beyond one’s control. For instance, back as editor at the Nanaimo Free Press I was short-listed for a job as city editor at the Vancouver Province. I knew what getting it would mean: a change from Vancouver Island to a big city, a fast pace, a completely different set of priorities. The Wild Coast books and Coast&Kayak Magazine would probably never have happened. I knew I didn’t want the job, not deep inside, but I would have taken it anyway for the experience. In other words, I was close to missing out on almost everything I value today. In a different example, Paul Willcocks hired me out of Ontario as editor at the Nanaimo Free Press back in 1993, which got me to Vancouver Island when I really had no right to be here (I mean, a 29-year-old managing editor at a daily newspaper. What was he thinking?). Everything in my life cascaded from that one man’s dubious decision. Had Paul had a different mindset that day and picked someone else I might still be in southern Ontario somewhere, still never having stepped in a kayak, let alone now cruising the coast in my floating office. So I don’t for a moment believe 50 is just a number. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just part of life and what you make of it. So here’s to the next 50. - John Kimantas

Kayakers (look for the dot) head past a picturesque headland in this photo from atop Monarch Head, Saturna Island.

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




Photo: John Hyde


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Island proves temperamental The blog entry on June 12 reads: “I'm leaving Stories Beach, just east of Port Hardy in about two hours time, around 4 p.m. Feeling good. Conditions calm, both wind and seas, nothing major happening, everything gently in my favour, at least through Friday, then a couple of more honest, variable days around Tofino, though still relatively calm.” The blog entry on June 21 reads: “Show is over – I just bailed in Ucluelet around 1 p.m. – too cold early on in the trip. You can’t stop and be changing or putting the tent up every time just to eat and drink. Also headwinds for first seven days then when I did get a 40 knot NW I got too chilled, paddling in Lifa underwear and a light shell, so I couldn’t stop to eat and drink, as I was only just warm enough in the boat – well, not really warm enough. After a while I got so cold I could hardly hold onto my paddle and had to camp early to stave off hypothermia, wasting half a day of fine downwind runs. My fault for not having a dry suit, but who would have thought a NW would be so cold? Runs were fantastic, belting along

Liam McNeil photo


Jerome Truran on the beach at Wya Point near Ucluelet shortly before calling it quits

at over 22 kph a couple of times. Blisters and wounds under the blisters killing me and headwind forecast for next three days wasn’t spelling breaking the record, so I bailed. Too hard of a gig to carry on just for the sake of carrying on.” It’s proof you should never underestimate how tough the conditions are going to be in attempting to set a speed record paddling around Vancouver Island. Jerome Truran’s time to beat was 15

days, 11 hours and 47 minutes, set by Colin Angus in 2011. On day ten Jerome bowed out in Ucluelet. He was attempting an unassisted record – that is, no outside help for the duration of the trip. For more information about other island record attempts, visit Coast&Kayak’s circumnavigation record page at islandrace.html.


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News More trails now online The North Shore has recently been added to the Nova Scotia Coastal Water Trail website with 62 launch sites for paddlers and an introduction to paddling that region of the coast. This new coastal section is along the Northumberland Strait from the New Brunswick border to the Canso Causeway. The field work was done last summer. Each site description has land and sea directions, a GPS reading, photos, nearby services and possible nearby waterways to explore. This water trail section joins others already on line in Cape Breton and along the South Shore. This is a Canoe Kayak Nova Scotia project funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness. u Red tape delays journey Plans by a pair of young Victoria, BC men to kayak 6,500 km from the mouth of the Amazon to Florida has hit its first major hurdle before even entering the water: red tape. As of mid July the pair were still

Waters Dancing

Kayakers land at Arisaig Beach, part of the Nova Scotia Water Trail.

awaiting the arrival of their kayaks. The first indication of trouble was having to pay import fees of about $3,000. And the last indication was the shipping agent missed the connection on the boat, causing a further three-week delay. “As you can imagine this is unbelievably frustrating and dejecting,” Russell and Graham Henry wrote on their blog. u

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Symposium marked for Chile

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World Destinations

by Bob Kandiko



by kayak






HE SOUND OF RAINDROPS on the tent stops. I unzip the fly to release the stifling heat and gaze up at countless stars twinkling in the darkest of skies. My toes curl into the damp sand as my skin tingles with the refreshing breeze rustling the palm fronds overhead. To the east, lightning illuminates towering cumulonimbus clouds. In the channel just offshore, lights from drift divers streak upwards from the depths. Microscopic plankton flash their bioluminescence as gentle waves lap onto the beach. I am lost in the moment. Baja, Thailand, Panama and the Bahamas are places that conjure up visions of aquamarine waters, swaying palm trees and brilliant sunshine. These locations are the epitome for exotic tropical sea kayaking destinations. Add Fiji to that list. Part of Melanesia in the South Pacific’s western fringe, the country of Fiji contains 322 islands, of which only about 110 are inhabited. The islands were avoided by early sailors due to

their reputation for cannibalism. Today Fiji attracts international tourists who come for world-class diving, surfing, kiteboarding and beaches. Fiji offers many options for sea kayaking, but the ultimate point-to-point tour is a trip through the Yasawa Islands. The Yasawas are a chain of 16 large volcanic islands and dozens of smaller islands that stretch 50 miles on the western side of the large island of Viti Levu. This leeward location, opposite the trade winds, results in a drier climate that gives the Yasawas the nickname “the desert islands.” Captain William Bligh sailed through them just prior to his infamous mutiny. The Blue Lagoon movie and one of The Survivor television series were filmed here. The Yasawas contain many exclusive resorts, but they are also home to many backpacker lodges that operate in a similar fashion to international hostels. These lodges, often operated by local villages, allow visitors an opportunity to experience true Fijian culture.

An isolated beach along the western shore of Naviti Island.




World Destinations

Inset: Karen Neubauer approaches Wayasewa Island with rocky Vatuvula Peak rising more than 1,100 feet.







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World Destinations

Looking north over the grassy top of Wayasewa Island, reached by hiking trail. Right: Wayalailai Resort from Vatuvula Peak on Waysewa Island, and from the resort looking up.





The islands

The 16 Yasawa Islands feature jagged ridges of volcanic rock. Below the lush tropical greenery, crescent coral sand beaches offer respite from the rocky headlands. On most days cumulus clouds cling to the higher elevations and cast contrasting shadows over the deep valleys. Sounds of life drift across the water from villages as fishermen launch skiffs and children frolic in the shallows. Ancient trails lead steeply through terraced plots of crops then emerge in wind-swept grasslands offering tantalizing views over the arc of islands. From a rocky promontory, we gaze almost straight down onto our resort nestled above the beach like a scene from the movie South Pacific.

you’ve arrived well before you get there. Our paddlers are as distinct and different as our many kayaks. Together they become one, sharing a balance of agility, speed, poise and maneuverability. Find your perfect travel companion. Visit us on the world wide web, and discover a whole new world of exploring.

A PA s s i o n to PA d d l e




World Destinations

The diving A kaleidoscope of colour saturates our eyes as we float over the vibrant coral reef. Multitudes of fish dart around the polyps as they search for tiny morsels of food. Anemones, starfish and clams in rich colours feed on the abundant plankton. An occasional turtle or ray passes by on the current, while small sharks patrol the deep drop-offs. Suspended in a fluid universe of life, we are strangers to this world. 14



The people “BULA.” So begins a unique moment of our trip to the Yasawas. The word is said with an emotion and infectious warmth by the Fijians as they welcome you to their village. “Bula” is not just a greeting, but an expression of the celebration of life. Akin to the serenity found in the “Namaste” greeting of the Sherpas of Nepal, the Fijian “Bula” captures the essence of a joyful spirit, love of life and invitation to others to share in this optimistic attitude. From the opening serenade upon landing on their island to the scrumptious buffet dinners on the open decks, the Fijian spirit leaves a lasting memory of goodwill. FALL/WINTER 2013



World Destinations

Solitude can be found on small islands such as Honeymoon Island. 16






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The kayaking

The paddles slice through crystal clear water as we slide over the mosaic of brilliant colored coral fans. The security of the lagoon is now behind us as we crest over the foam left by wave surges coming from the deeper seas. Four miles ahead lies a “Bali Hai” style of island with its distinctive volcanic form rising above the cobalt blue water. Gentle swells and a following wind make for an effortless crossing allowing us to relax and absorb all the sensations. The warmth of the breeze, the textures of the waves, the sounds of seabirds and the flashy reflections of sunlight all envelop our senses. A brief rain shower refreshes us with its cooling moisture. Rounding a cliff headland we sneak through the reef to slide onto a perfect arc of beach nestled below swaying palms just as a rainbow fills our horizon.

Paddling for the pot of gold at the end of a Fijian rainbow.

About the author:

Bob Kandiko has been paddling with his wife, Karen Neubauer, from their beach home on Bellingham Bay for 30 years. As school teachers they have ample vacation time to plan and enjoy adventures whether in kayaks or by hiking or climbing in wilderness ranges. Bob’s photos can be viewed in six books published on Blurb, including Sea Kayaking Alaska, which provided the basis for a photo feature in the Winter 2011 issue of Coast&Kayak, as well as Paddling Paradise: Sea Kayaking in the Tropics.




Monkeying around in costa rica

World Destinations


UR LANDING was cut short, the final approach to the airstrip interrupted somehow. The pilot looped back around Drake Bay while apologizing to us, the only two passengers in the 12-seater plane, but we didn’t mind. It gave us an unexpected second chance for a bird’s eye view of the Costa Rican shoreline. Clearly, Costa Rica’s southwest Pacific coast is a location made for exploration. Clear skies allowed us a view most of the way from the San Jose airport southward, showing a coastline peppered lightly with communities but mostly just endless sand beaches backed by jungle. At Drake Bay a few dozen homes and




by John Kimantas

resorts hugged the nearby hillsides, but behind them the rainforest disappeared into the shallow mountains of Corcovado National Park. We descended a second time and in a few minutes we were trudging along the dirt and grass runway to the airport terminal, a shack of an office with a verandah serving as a waiting area. We found a spot in the shade out of the blistering heat and waited for a pre-booked taxi that was destined never to come. Eventually a local arrived in a pickup truck to take us to our lodge, a trip requiring drives across various riverbeds. Bridges are a luxury that have yet to extend this far, we found.

Costa Rica

Our guide Ben Miltner of Gulf Islands Kayaking takes a shortcut through some rocks; inset: a whitefaced capuchin takes a closer look at our Nimbus kayak during a lunch break.

Luxury wasn’t our motive for picking Drake Bay. Quite the opposite. The new highway that extends down the west coast of Costa Rica ends at Sierpe, from which most visitors and even residents must travel by boat to reach Drake Bay. The improved highway is helping transform the country’s west coast into a strip mall of tourist destinations – nowhere near the extent of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula yet, but the writing is on the wall as rented cars race along the coastline. Drake Bay, meanwhile, is one of the few places left in Costa Rica still off the main roadmap. It is the northern gateway to Corcovado National Park, the jewel of the Costa Rican national park system and one of the world’s most

densely populated wildlife reserves. Our host, Ben Miltner, bases the Costa Rican side of his Gulf Islands Kayaking operation out of Drake Bay, giving us access to possibly the only fibreglass sea kayak fleet in the country. Plastic sit-on-tops may abound, but our old cold-water paddling habits die hard and we were happy to have the pick of a rainbow of well-loved Nimbus models. Ben was scheduled to arrive a few days after us, which gave us a chance to explore the land side of the country first. We were happy to find a hiking trail extending from Drake Bay along outer Osa Peninsula to the Corcovado park border. A scattering of ecolodges and resorts line the shore, but otherwise it was our dream FALL/WINTER FALL/WINTER2013 2013


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World Destinations

Above: Leanne Chetcuti passes jungle on a choppy day off Drake Bay; below: Ben Miltner leads an exploration through a meandering jungle river.




trail of easily traversed jungle headlands joining a seemingly endless selection of pristine sand beaches. Somehow six- and seven-hour hikes became a natural part of our daily plan to search out new and better beaches. My hope was to see at least one monkey this trip, but I needn’t have worried. Ten minutes into our first hike we encountered a tribe of white-faced capuchins, the curious but often cranky critters that populate the coast here and can regularly be seen clambering the nearby trees. They topped the population of rainforest mammals to be seen, but it wasn’t long before we could add to the list anteaters, spider monkeys, agoutis (giant guinea pigs), and in one case a herd of wild boar – not an encounter to be taken lightly, if the fleeing locals were any indication. Plus there were the birds – so many varieties in so many colours. The most majestic were the scarlet macaws. Each afternoon a group would feed at beachside trees, their mid-afternoon feast of nuts, ours of colour. Comical toucans made

Costa Rica

Above: a moody evening in the jungles looking towards Corcovado National Park.. Right: A scarlett macaw has his afternoon snack, part of a world so colourful that the bright macaw can actually appear well camouflaged within the tree cover. This is an exception.

the world seem like a child’s cartoon. And when a flock of mysterious bright green birds turned out to be parrots, it was a warm feeling to know there are places in the world where they still thrive outside cages in healthy numbers. When Ben arrived we were happy to kick off his kayaking season. He was the perfect host for a kayak outing, an experienced raconteur who managed to point out elements we may have otherwise missed. Key among them was a sloth family with a baby wrapped around the mother’s belly. The pair nestled in the trees just above eye level along a river bank – a perfect hiding spot from everything but kayakers. We continued upstream till the rapids got the better of us. Above us a spider monkey swung over the river from tree to tree. Below us an alligator skimmed the surface, as wary of us as we were of it. Or so I liked to think.

On a later kayak trip we set our sights farther from Drake Bay towards Corcovado park. The perfect lunch spot was in front of a large rock ring that created a breakwater for a surf-free landing. More capuchins joined us as we sat on the beach, curious to explore our kayaks, with one bold fellow going so far as to look inside our cockpit while another lifted our life vest in search of a misplaced sandwich. (A short video of this has been posted on Youtube – check for ‘Monkeys on kayaks’ from poster jk222100). Kayaking with monkeys was a first for us. Vancouver Island seemed a long way away. With hundreds of miles of relatively benign shore, Costa Rica looked inviting for an extended tour along the coast. But while long renowned for being a friendly country, tourist bulletins are increasingly dire about the risk of travelling here, FALL/WINTER 2013

particularly with regard to sleeping on the beach. It’s the curse of the tropics that drug trafficking, theft, violent crimes and poaching all seem on the increase. But on Osa Peninsula, at least, we found a world of peace. May the grid move slowly on its way toward Drake Bay. John Kimantas is editor of Coast&Kayak Magazine and author of seven publications including the BC Coast Explorer and Wild Coast series. COAST&KAYAK MAGAZINE


World Destinations




Costa Rica

Exploring the coastline by foot is easy along the Osa Peninsula thanks to a trail that skirts the peninsula to link secluded beaches like this one at Rio Claro



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World Destinations




Costa Rica

Opposite page, top: a Costan Rican sunset, but you have to be quick watching them – sunsets are fast near the equator. Far left: preparing for a launch from Drake Bay. Left: historic architecture in downtown San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica and the home of the main airport for reaching points farther afield. Above: one of the many roads that cars must cross through water near Drake Bay. Right: paddling is one way to enjoy Costa Rica, while luxury cruise yachts are another.




World Destinations

Happy just to see monkeys, the trip offered more than expected when a band of white-faced capuchins decided to give the Nimbus kayaks a good solid inspection.




Costa Rica




World Destinations

by Mark Klein


TEPPING OUT of the Zodiac onto the beach at Salisbury behind railings, just in case, and meals were increasingly poorly Plain on South Georgia Island was like stepping out onto attended. Luckily I was not too severely affected. a bustling boulevard in a big city. Here, though, all the Sea days are a feature of almost any trip to Antarctica, which pedestrians were king penguins busy going about their business boasts no cities and no runways capable of handling commercial with hardly a moment’s thought to the wonder-struck humans air traffic, so to visit there you usually travel by ship. The disembarking onto the beach. Southern Ocean can be one of the roughest in the world. The It was an interesting turn of the tables. Being accustomed to sea surrounding the Antarctic continent circles the globe without causing a dramatic response when approaching wildlife, it was being interrupted by a continent, so winds blow and waves astonishing to find this continue to build for degree of disinterest. Some vast distances over much penguins seemed curious of the year. In the days and approached us, while of sail it was common an equal number seemed for westward attempts mistrustful and walked away, around Cape Horn but most just went about through Drake Passage their business. And there to takes months tacking weren’t just penguins on the into wind and waves beach, but penguins as far without progress. as the eye could see – some For me, this 250,000 of them. Fur seals experience of the sea sat here and there, barking was itself a fascinating to protect their own little part of the trip. I’ve read backyards, while nearby The Cruel Sea and Moby huge glaciers flowed out of Dick and many of the Mark Klein photo distant mountains. It was Hornblower stories, but unbelievable, surreal and I’d never been aboard a wonderful. ship in rough water and Salisbury Plain was I’ve never had to get definitely the highlight of my “sea legs.” On our this Antarctic journey, but it trip the bow deck was was also just one of many closed a number of times incredible places and experiences on a trip with waves crashing over the front of the that started at the end of the world, or ship and spray hitting the windows of the in this case Fin Del Mundo, in Ushuaia, bridge on deck 6. One of my favourite Argentina, the southernmost city in the spots was outside on the lower aft deck, world. At 68 degrees south of the equator, which would one moment seem to be at Ushuaia is as far south as Inuvik is north, the bottom of a valley of waves, and would and a wonderful place to be in October, then rise up on the crest of a swell, where in the southern hemisphere’s spring as the wave-washed ocean would be visible we prepared for a paddling expedition to the horizon, only to sink back down and cruise to the Falklands Islands, South to be surrounded again by mountainous Georgia and the Antarctic peninsula with waves. This was a poignant experience, this One Ocean Expeditions. exhibition of the power of the sea. We left Ushuaia on the Russian research Our first port of call was Stanley, the vessel Akademik Ioffe, a ship designed capital of the Falkland Islands. I found it for polar acoustic research. We then particularly interesting for its history of the sailed east up Beagle Channel, named Argentine invasion, but we also happened for Charles Darwin’s ship. By morning I to arrive there on the sombre occasion was experiencing real ocean swell, and a of the funeral of Sir Rex Hunt, who had number of my shipmates were none too been the governor of the Falklands during comfortable. Sea sickness bags appeared the war. Apart from the military presence everywhere, strategically stuffed behind related to that event, there were interesting Richard Dubois photo pictures in hallways and cleverly wedged museums and memorials. A number of


Penguins, history and

The three pillars of an Antarctic odyssey 30




Nikki Rekman photo

A pair of king penguins appear aptly regal against the backdrop of South Georgia Island mountains. Left: an example of traffic congestion, Salisbury Plain style, and author Mark Klein paddles with Akademik Ioffe visible behind.



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World Destinations







33 33

local beaches were still closed due to mines that were laid during the conflict. Our next destination, after two more days of open ocean, was South Georgia Island, and our first chance to get in the kayaks. South Georgia is teeming with life and our first paddle into the bay at Elsehul was busy with fur seals and elephant seals and a few nesting rockhopper penguins. The next day was our visit to Salisbury Plain and the last outpost of civilization that we would see for many days, the old whaling center of Grytviken. Grytviken was the largest whaling town in the Southern Ocean, and it is tough to overstate the importance of whaling in the early 1900s. Whereas now we drill for oil, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the streetlights and chandeliers in London and Paris burned whale oil, and whaling in the Southern Ocean was an enormous industry. We saw rusting old whaling stations in a number of the bays on South Georgia, but at Grytviken we could walk amongst the old equipment, the meal plant, rotating oven, meat cookery and oil storage tanks to really get a feeling for what it must have been like in its heyday. Also in Grytviken we visited the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton, best known for his incredible 1,500km feat of navigation from Antarctica to South Georgia in an eight-metre lifeboat called the James Caird, and then a hike, with almost no gear, across the snow-capped mountains of the island to the whaling station at Stromness. His original mission was to cross Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea via the South Pole, but his ship Endurance became trapped in the ice

in the Weddell Sea and was crushed. He and his crew overwintered in the ice on the Weddell Sea, and were about to spend their second winter on Elephant Island when Shackleton returned. Remarkably the entire crew survived the venture. Finally we sailed for Antarctica, and if the Falklands were about history and South Georgia was about wildlife, then Antarctica was about ice. There is so much ice on Antarctica that if it all melted, global sea levels would rise by six metres. Mid-continent in some places the ice is 1,200 metres thick and the continent is huge at 14 million square kilometres, almost twice the size of Australia and not much smaller than South America. But those are statistics. From the water every level surface has a glacier on it, and in the water, well, there’s ice and icebergs and growlers everywhere. And what can I say about kayaking in Antarctica? It was a meditation, an art show, a dream come true. Most of all, the ice was stunningly beautiful. Floating, melting ice creates incredible sculpture.

Sophie Ballagh photo

World Destinations

As it melts its center of gravity shifts and it rolls to find a new equilibrium. Ice that melts underwater develops dimples like an oversized golf ball, while at the waterline melt is the most rapid and the wave action can cut a deep trench into the side of a berg or growler. Exposed to the sun and warming air, different parts of an iceberg seem to melt at different rates, and sometimes shatter and collapse. And I could go on and on. The more I write the more I recall and the more I notice how I feel changed by having visited Antarctica and paddled there. The One Ocean crew was fantastic, from the bartenders to the paddling guides. The food was incredible, even in rough seas. Happy hour in the bar was so much fun, chatting with shipmates about the adventures of that day, and chilling our drinks with 1,000-year-old ice. And the sea birds, petrels and albatross coasting in the wind-wake of the ship – there were so many remarkable experiences to be Paddling amid the glaciers, above, with Mark Klein and wife Nikki Rekman pictured with the penguins on South Georgia Island.




Antarctica had. If this trip is not on your bucket list, consider adding it, it is certain to be one of the most remarkable experiences of your life. Mark is a programmer, paddler, photographer, and motorcycle rider living in Chilliwack, BC, with his wife Nikki Rekman. The couple has previously shared their honeymoon adventure in the Grand Canyon in the Spring 2011 issue with the article With this paddle I thee wed. Nikki, who contributed photographs for this article, is a paddling industry rep. Visit

20 YEARS Archipelago Management Board

Sophie Ballagh photo

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World Destinations

by Dana Paskiewicz


Crete A

by kayak

BREATH of fresh air filled my lungs as I hopped from the dusty rental van into the Cretan sunshine. The afternoon sun beamed through the shade of palms as I grabbed my bags and headed into town through the crooked, painted streets of Matala, Greece. It was October, mid-afternoon, and the temperature was around 25°C. Making my way past trinket shops, tavernas, pottery shops, bakeries and jewelers, I located the hotel I’d call home for the next few nights. Just a few minutes walk from the Libyan sea, it would serve as the base for a weeklong sea kayaking trip I’d been assigned to guide. Kayaks, paddles, PFDs, tow ropes and bilge pumps lined the courtyard of the hotel, which we affectionately dubbed ‘the oven’ due to its unforgiving afternoon heat. My co-guides and I reviewed our maps, notes and the roster of participants for our kayaking adventure set to begin early the next morning. Far out from the metropolitan buzz of Heraklion, Matala lies on the south coast of Crete, sandwiched between loggerhead turtle breeding grounds and traditional white-washed villages reachable only by boat. It is a melting pot of culture, with origins dating back to the Roman empire and the Minoan civilization, but still peppered with the hippie counterculture of the 1960s when the likes of Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell sought solitude in the seaside caves here. Painted daisies, ancient ruins and flocks of renegade sheep dot the countryside. We hit the water early in the morning. The sea was still asleep, no waves in sight, 36


while the morning light climbed over the limestone cliffs surrounding the bay. Our paddlers were a mixed bunch, from newbies to Northwest Passage alumni. Our first destination was Red Beach. As we cruised through the calm sea past towering seaside cliffs, the shore revealed several dark caverns. We strapped on our headlamps and ventured in to explore the massive sea caves. We paddled through a narrow initial opening by placing our paddles on deck and walking through with our hands. The cave’s grand ballroom was a 20-by-30 foot cavity, large enough to hold more than a dozen kayaks. A quick glance up revealed hundreds of quivering, squeaking bats. The silence was broken by a gentle slap of wake on the walls of the cave, its hollow



Top: Overlooking the town of Matala. Above: A remote taverna stop on the south coast of Crete.

Photos this article courtesy the staff of Northwest Passage. FALL/WINTER 2013



World Destinations

Kayaking through rock formations on the Libyan Sea. 38






39 39

World Destinations

The mountainous Crete coastline.







41 41

World Destinations The group encased in mud at Red Beach. Inset: the kayakers depart a floating taverna at Sweetwater Beach.

cavity echoing the sounds of the sea. Red Beach is accessible only by hiking trail or boat. Golden sand, intricate rock carvings and cold drinks awaited our group at this remote waterfront paradise. The surf picked up a bit and the winds shifted eastward, creating a tiny white-capped surf zone at the landing site. Sending guides in, we coached the kayakers one at a time, high-fiving them as they completed their first surf landing. Rocky, pale limestone cliffs contrasted with aquamarine waters, tamarisk trees swayed in the light breeze and a cloudless sky hovered overhead. This was the place where Zeus had seduced Europa. Transforming himself into a beautiful, gentle white bull, Zeus came to her in animal form. She decorated him with crowns of flowers, climbed onto his back and sealed her fate. Charging into the ocean, he carried her from Phoenicia to Crete (where he was raised), some say just east of Matala, and cast off his animal form. There, under the shade of a cypress 42


tree, he made love to her and promised her the gift of many sons. Mythology, Minoan culture and the magic of the hippie generation are rooted so deeply in this location it’s hard not to daydream. Armed with a bucket and a shovel, a fellow guide grinned as he scrambled down from an outcropping of rocks. He tucked a shovel into his hatch and made an announcement to the group that we’re all about to partake in an “ancient Minoan ritual.” Within a half hour, nearly every paddler was covered head-to-toe in Cretan mud, sprawled out on the beach soaking up the beauty treatment. The cares and troubles of our everyday lives were now worlds away. A few strokes of the paddle brought us back into open water, refreshed for more adventure. The sea rocked with spits of white foam, an indication the conditions had changed. Keeping a tight group, we paddled on past arching seaside cliffs and caves cloaked in shadows. Conditions became slop and chop, but as I turned FALL/WINTER 2013

around I saw all the paddlers were still smiling. That’s just the kind of spirit Crete emits, I thought to myself. It isn’t necessarily the beauty, the history, the hospitality or the pristine paddling. It is something far greater, this Cretan attitude, and as the next few days passed there was nothing to do but soak it in. The novice paddlers turned into a group of hearty adventurers, ready to conquer open water crossings with the paddle equivalent of the trident of Greek gods. We kayaked, cliff jumped, explored, hiked, snorkelled, celebrated and embraced life. There is a seaside mural in Matala that is repainted every year: “Today is Life, Tomorrow Never Comes.” This was life indeed. Dana Paskiewicz is a Northwest Passage guide with a passion for the outdoors that has led her across the United States and Europe. When she’s not guiding, she can be found kayaking the western U.S., rock climbing, and backpacking.


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43 08/01/12 10:17 AM

Planning and Safety

Don’t fear fog, embrace the challenge


S A NOVICE PADDLER, my first experience in the thick substance known as fog was a bewildering experience. I was a freshly trained assistant guide as our group slipped our boats into the thick fog of an early morning. Our vision along the shore was reduced to a mere few metres. Sounds, muffled by the moisture hanging in the air, took on an eerie quality. Every inhalation of breath filled my lungs with the dense moisture of the Pacific Ocean. With every stroke forward the fog ahead parted, only to close in behind us. On land, you can orient yourself to the ground, taking one step after the



other, looking for landmarks. On the water I found comfort in the closeness of the shoreline as we slowly made our way along every bend. We were not lost as the shore was reassuringly beside us. To my consternation, the lead guide pulled his compass from his bag, took a bearing and headed our group away from shore. Our boats were immediately enveloped and all reference to land was lost. In every direction lay an unbroken wall of white cloud. With no visual clues, my head swam with thoughts of paddling into oblivion. I convinced myself that the lead guide had lead us into uncharted waters, paddling in circles that would surely end in disaster.


In a surprisingly short time a new shape appeared before us: a tiny offshore island. As we paused, the sounds of killer whales reached our ears. Moments later a pod of resident orcas came into view, their black fins a distinct contrast to the white veil of mist. Several came to investigate our group, and soon we were thrilled by animals spy-hopping and swimming directly between and beneath our stationary boats. The sound of echolocation reverberated off our hulls until finally the whales swam away into the haze. I realized then that fog should not be feared but instead embraced. Paddling in foggy conditions can be a mystical and

by Liam McNeil challenging experience, adding a new dimension to a journey, and while it does raise additional safety challenges, those can easily be overcome. Fog is generally encountered in one of three varieties. Radiation fog is usually only seen in the early morning over lakes or extremely calm inlets. With the rising sun and the first stirrings of a breeze, this fog dissipates quickly. Advection fog is much more common and problematic on the coast. Huge masses of moist air generated during the warm summer months condense over the cool offshore ocean waters. Drawn towards shore during the daylight hours, these fog banks can stretch for miles and reduce visibility to a few metres. Unlike radiation fog, considerable winds can persist even while the fog is present. This type of fog is so common in the summer months here on the west coast of Vancouver Island August is often jokingly referred to as Fogust. A third less common but hazardous type is a stratus surge fog. These infrequent summertime events are marked by a narrow band of stratus clouds moving along the ocean surface in a south-north direction. A stratus surge brings dramatic and sudden shifts in wind direction, velocity and visibility. I have experienced this on only one occasion while paddling in the Bunsby Islands on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Within a span of 15 minutes, a calm morning with clear skies was reduced to zero visibility with 25 knot winds from the southeast. A few simple pieces of equipment and knowledge can make paddling in fog possible and enjoyable. A compass combined with a chart are necessities

when paddling in areas with fog, making navigation possible regardless of visibility. Many individuals now utilize GPS units, which in addition to a chart and compass can be very useful. The lack of visibility does raise some potentially serious safety concerns for attempting a crossing in fog. Once away from the relative safety of the shoreline, there is a risk of paddling into the path of another vessel. Crossing shipping channels must be a calculated decision. Monitor Vessel Traffic Services on your VHF radio, and consider calling in to ask about oncoming ships. Keep your ears and eyes open for smaller boats and keep your group in a tight formation. Leaving the shoreline raises the potential of getting lost. Learn to trust your compass. A well-plotted compass bearing will lead you to your destination. Complicating matters is the need to compensate for the movement of the water upon which you are travelling. A long crossing in wind and current will have a substantial effect on your path, but with experience you will learn to compensate for those factors. A foggy day should be looked at as an opportunity to challenge your skills and experience from a new perspective in even familiar waters. Keep your compass handy and practice taking bearings during clear weather. With confidence a misty morning will become a blessing, not a curse.




Liam McNeil is a Level 3 Guide with Class 4 Waters Endorsement, and Executive Director with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance (SKGABC). When not paddling, he can be found enjoying the rains living in Tofino. Visit



Why Dig When You Can Glide?





Why do gray whales seek out human contact only in the Baja lagoons? No one knows.


ORE THAN with any other creature, my life has become intertwined with the gray

whale. When I first went south into Baja to see them, it was mostly out of curiosity. The great lagoons of Baja are the southern terminus of the annual migration of the gray whale from the northern waters of Alaska as they seek water rich in salt content. The above-average salt content helps keep their newborn calves afloat while they learn the fine art of being a whale. So these are not birth lagoons, as widely believed, but nurseries. Most but not all of the calves are born along the western coast of the ‘Rim of Fire’ during the migration from Alaska. With little natural instinct the calves must rely on their mothers to teach them all necessary survival skills. If the mother dies before the calf is weaned at approximately seven or eight months, the youngster will most likely die as well because these animals are not known to adopt orphans. Kayaking in the lagoon is strictly regulated as is whale watching in general, and most of my encounters have taken place in small open boats known as pangas, similar to a Boston Whaler, although more than one occasion has presented itself while paddling. Baja has three great nursery lagoons: Scammons in the north at the crook of the arm, San Ignacio in the center due west from the town of the same name, and Magdalena Bay in the south, along with many smaller lagoons too numerous to mention. Out of the roughly 20,000 whales in this population known as the Eastern stock, fewer than 3,000 make 46



the trip all the way south to Baja. The rest are strung out all along the eastern Rim of Fire wherever they may find food, and this has resulted in small year-round resident pods forming in many places off the western coast of North America. As a result, many small communities which in the past only got to see gray whales during the migration can now visit them most of the year. My preference from the beginning has been San Ignacio for several reasons. It is part of the massive El Viscaino FALL/WINTER 2013

biosphere reserve that covers a quarter of Baja and everything both alive and inanimate within its borders is strictly protected by Mexican law, especially the whales. Its massive size alone makes it less densely populated than the other two major lagoons and it is far more strictly regulated than either of them, limiting the number of boats on the water at any given time. A warden is on the water at all times empowered to cite anyone harassing an animal. Even though Mexico is not bound by the American Marine Mammal Protection Act, in most cases it is better followed than I have observed in the U.S., with the whales always given a wide berth and boats prohibited from approaching the whales. Most interesting of all, San Ignacio Lagoon is perhaps the only place on earth where wild mammals in their natural habitat routinely seek out human contact. (While contact with mammals may not be rare overall, it is usually motivated by food or acclimation, which makes these encounters all the more remarkable for the natural curiousity.) It is certainly a place of magic for me. These are gigantic animals unchanged since dinosaurs roamed the earth who are choosing to interacti with modern man. After a decade and a half of such interaction I am still at a loss to definitively explain this interspecies connection.

by James Dorsey


A curious juvenile gray whale moves in for a closer look. Such encounters are common in the great lagoons of Baja. FALL/WINTER FALL/WINTER2013 2013


47 47

Wildlife/Ecology Every moment of my first encounter with a grey whale so long ago is indelibly imprinted in my mind, as much a part of me as breathing. It was early morning under a clear blue cloudless sky, with water so calm you could skip a stone forever. It was the kind of day one remembers solely for its beauty and serenity. We had just cut our engines and were allowing the lazy tide to carry us into the main channel when the water parted about 30 metres to our starboard and a giant head revealed itself like an island being born. There was no blow as this was a large female giving us a look-over before deciding whether or not to approach us, and apparently we seemed benign enough for her as the island slowly began to move in our direction. She was just under the surface and her bulk parted the water like the wake of a slow-motion torpedo. She was snorkeling, holding her blow, an action usually employed when a whale does not wish to be seen, but in this case perhaps it was just her way of showing she came in peace. It is difficult to put into words what it feels like to have a 40-tonne wild animal

approach, especially when instinct tells you danger is approaching. She glided silently up to our boat like a massive locomotive coming into the station – gently, slowly, and at the final moment that great head rose up and I found myself staring into a gleaming brown eye the size of my fist. It was deep brown with the longest lashes imaginable, and in the center an iris black as coal reflected my own image back as if I was staring at myself in a tiny crystal ball. I was in her native habitat, with no bars, no restraints, just a tiny boat and a monstrous animal filled with curiosity. My mind raced with all manner of theories about what was going on behind that eye and I felt an intelligence trying at the same time to fathom the strange creature that had entered her realm. There was a pure moment of visual communication before she slid back down and laid her barnacle-encrusted rostrum as casually as if on a pillow across our gunwhales. She was as docile as a house cat, resting her enormous head on my boat. After staying for several minutes she gently slid back below the surface and was gone, a watery

spirit whose presence was so surreal as to make me ask myself if this had really happened. Even though it was exactly the type of encounter I had prayed for and had spent so much time and money to achieve, there was no way to prepare for the emotional impact of such an interaction. I freely admit to tears and have found out since that most people have cried during their first similar encounter. Over the years that same experience, identical in every way, has re-enacted itself countless times, and I have never grown tired or complacent with it. We humans have an inbred need to anthropromorphasize, that is, to assign human traits to animals, and I am as guilty as anyone in this case. But in the immense time I have spent upon the water in close proximity to whales I have been able to not only witness similarities to us that defy description but to see behaviours and actions that only long-term study can explain. You can follow James Dorsey at

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Trip planning: North Vancouver Island

Telegraph Cove by James Dorsey

Boardwalk memories K

AYAKERS WILL recognize Telegraph Cove as the gateway to Robson Bight and possibly the best killer whale viewing in Canada. There isn’t much competition for launch locations; coastal access points are few and far between in this region as the main highway skirts inland to avoid mountains between Sayward and Port McNeill. The only other ocean access between them is Naka Creek, accessible by logging road farther east of Robson Bight, the killer whale reserve that is central to this region’s role as a killer whale destination. A lot has changed in recent years at Telegraph Cove. Parking and launching has evolved into a cottage industry here, so don’t expect to simply slip into the water unnoticed. Telegraph Cove is also a popular fishing base, and so caters to boaters with a new marina and a housing development that is unfortunately out of scale with the rustic nature of the original pioneer community still in evidence. Telegraph Cove was named in 1912 for its role as home for a linesman’s station for the coastal telegraph line. A lumber mill and salmon saltery followed in the 1920s, with the town becoming the base for a relay station in the Second World War. As with many of the coastal communities of the era, most buildings simply fronted a boardwalk lining the shore rather than risk muddy roads to link homes and shops. (Another North

Vancouver Island example is Winter Harbour on the north entrance to Quatsino Inlet, a somewhat more remote destination.) The boardwalk and many

of the historic houses remain along the cove’s south shore, and so make an interesting diversion when visiting the region.

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Trip Planning: Barkley Sound


On the edge

Bamfield sits nestled in a protected harbour at the southeast entrance to Barkley Sound. The boardwalk village of West Bamfield is pictured here across the inlet.

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General store Post office Bistro Fisheries dock

Brady’s Beach

et Inl


ITH TRIPS to the Broken Group Islands thrown into chaos this year due to the closing of the traditional Toquaht Bay launch site, people looking for alternatives may want to consider the tiny west coast community of Bamfield. Bamfield is nestled alongside a pair of protected inlets on the southwest entrance to Barkley Sound. It is a key access point for fishermen and recreational boaters to the Deer Group, a linear archipelago split from the Broken Group Islands by Imperial Eagle Channel. While entailing a more exposed crossing, Bamfield is still less than 15 km to the outer Broken Group Islands, on par with the distance from Toquaht Bay. Even if you don’t go that far, the nearby Deer Group has numerous campsites and beaches for exploring the various islands rich in caves and wildlife. One of the biggest hurdles is reaching Bamfield. The access is along the Bamfield Main logging road, which wends its way through Vancouver Island southwest from Port Alberni. It is wide and well-maintained, but high in logging traffic with good odds of a flat tire from the sharp gravel. Plan on two hours to complete the 90 kilometres from Port Alberni. Bamfield is a full-service community, although some key locations such as the store, restaurant and gas station may have limited hours. Planning enough gas for the return drive is probably a good idea, as is stocking up on snacks and essentials. Bamfield itself is one of the old boardwalk communities of BC, split in two by Bamfield Inlet. Bamfield West requires a boat or water taxi to reach, and makes an interesting aside to a trip to this region to visit the bistro, general store or Brady’s Beach, a beautiful outer beach with an iconic rock pillar. The main employer in Bamfield is the Bamfield Marine

r ple ap Gr

Marine Sciences Centre

Aguilar Pt.

Centennial Park Campground 9 Cafe/store /tire repair Pub/motel Bamfield

Inlet Burlo I.


Rance I.

Pacific Rim Nationa Park Reserve (Parking for Keeha Beach trail)

Sciences Centre, an interesting old building set on the point overlooking the entrance to Bamfield and Grappler Inlets. It was originally the station for the eastern end of the trans-Pacific telegraph cable from 1901 to 1959. Kayaks can be launched from a boat ramp adjacent to the municipal Centennial Park Campground, an RV-oriented facility. Modest fees apply. Other options for reaching Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands remain Ucluelet, Toquaht Bay at the temporary launch site or in luxury via the MV Frances Barkley from Port Alberni (see the ad below).





Trip Planning: Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast Trail

Saltery Bay

Morning breaks in Jervis Inlet near Fairview Bay.

Jervis Inlet

Hotham Sound Fairview Bay

Nelson I.

Freil Falls


Where trail meets water T

HE SUNSHINE COAST TRAIL may give the wrong impression by name alone, as very little actually follows the coast. Instead it leads from Sarah Point on the tip of Desolation Sound primarily overland, often following mountain ridge lines before ending at Saltery Bay on the north shore of Jervis Inlet, a 180-km hike for the few who complete the entire trail. Most tackle smaller portions, with a dozen access points allowing a range of day trips to six-day hikes. Should anyone wish to complete the entire route, it is one of the few that can be done without a tent thanks to the creation of huts placed a day’s hike apart along the trail. The first hut to be built was in 2009 at Fairview Bay, the location that will be of most interest to kayakers. Fairview Bay is a fairly strategic location for anyone paddling lower Jervis Inlet, with

key attractions in the region being Freil Falls in Hotham Sound, Skookumchuck Rapids or more distant Princess Louisa Inlet. Fairview Bay would be ideal for kayakers arriving late in the day from a launch at Saltery Bay. It is also a reasonable day’s paddle from Powell River or Pender Harbour. The Fairview Bay hut is an acknowledged part of the BC Marine Trails system, which is still in development in this area. The hut is a semi-open style and features a sheltered ground-level area suitable for cooking or relaxing and an enclosed attic accessible by a ladder for sleeping. It is communal, so expect to share if others are visiting as well. The beach is not ideal for kayak launching and landing, but will suffice – just be watchful of slippery rocks. ►

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Day Trips: Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands





Heriot Bay

the Discovery Isles

Trips to Desolation Sound need not be epic in scope. Heriot Bay offers a quick, easy and rewarding way to spend a day. FALL/WINTER FALL/WINTER2013 2013


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Day Trips: Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands

Exploring the rugged outer shores of Breton Islands, and in the inset heading for the pretty inner beach of the south Breton Island.


NATURAL INCLINATION is to start a trip to the Desolation Sound region from Lund or Okeover Arm Provincial Park, both on the BC mainland. And why not? Those are closer to Desolation Sound Provincial Park. An alternative is Quadra Island, reached by ferry from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. Quadra is worth considering if you are interested in exploring the land as well as the water. The island offers a good mix of accommodation options, parks, hiking trails and services peppered with the colourful quasi-bohemian island subculture.




The ferry arrives on the island’s west shore at Quathiaski Cove. But a great area to explore is out of Heriot Bay on the island’s east side. It is a reasonable start for an exploration of the region to points such as Cortes Island, Desolation Sound and Surge Narrows. For those who have less time or inclination to wander, Heriot Bay has a lot to offer as a simple day-trip outing. The best launch is from Rebecca Spit Provincial Park, though the beach adjacent to the government dock at Heriot Bay is an option as well. Rebecca Spit offers the advantage of a sprawling beach, ample free parking and a boat ramp. Camping is available immediately adjacent

Heriot Bay Main Lakes Provincial Park

Ha’thayim Provincial Park

Reid Island Provincial Park

Open Bay

Sut il C han nel

at the We Wai Kai Campground in the Drew Harbour Indian Reserve. The obvious quick destinations are Open Bay and the Breton Islands. Open Bay is north of Rebecca Spit and has several fingers, with the best beach for a picnic being the westernmost. Breton Islands are to the immediate east and are aligned north-south. Both of the two main islands are privately owned but are unoccupied and undeveloped except for a few rustic camping spots on the southern island; the owner doesn’t seem to mind sharing. The sites can be found off a sheltered cove protecting the west-facing beach. Distances are short, with the crossing from Rebecca Spit to Open Bay little more than five kilometres. As anywhere, wind can be a factor, with the additional element of possible effects from the inflows or outflows from Bute or Toba inlets. Open Bay derives its name for its exposure to southeasterlies, so it would make a potentially nasty destination if a southerly blows up during your tour. An option includes exploring up the

Surge Narrows Provincial Park

Cortes Island

Breton Is. Rebecca Spit Provincial Park

Heriot Bay Quathiaski Cove


Marina I.

Campbell River

Quadra shoreline possibly as far as Surge Narrows, which is growing in fame for its surfing waves. Kayakers could also head to Read Island and explore the shore of the namesake provincial park or continue past to western Cortes Island. Marina Island

has a good beach for a lunch destination if you can manage the 30-plus km day. Ferry service from Campbell River is hourly and makes a quick 20-minute crossing. Campbell River is located about 150 kilometres north of Nanaimo.

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Day Trips: The Gulf Islands

Inner workings A peaceful evening looking into the heart of Ladysmith Harbour.




Ladysmith Harbour

of a harbour FALL/WINTER FALL/WINTER2013 2013


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Day Trips: The Gulf Islands The waters on the north side of the Dunsmuir Islands are a world away from the bustle of Ladysmith Harbour.


ADYSMITH HARBOUR is best known to kayakers as home to the Vancouver Island Paddlefest, the last of which took place in 2011. Though the paddlefest has folded, the harbour itself remains a remarkably active kayaking hotspot, with dozens of sea kayakers exploring the nearby islands on any given summer day. On some levels it appears an unlikely location for kayaking, as it is a working harbour, home to numerous log booms, a sawmill, a commercial fishing dock and several boat anchorages and marinas. Even at peak paddling times, kayakers are in the minority. Two features make up for the congestion. One is Transfer Beach, the former base for the paddlefest that provides a pleasant launch location with easy highway access. The other key attraction is the outer islands, an assortment dominated by the Dunsmuir Islands, a quick and sheltered destination for novice kayakers and a complete break from the bulk of the harbour’s activities. There are two Dunsmuir Islands. The northerly one is undeveloped with a good



low-tide-only beach off the north end. The south island is a private outstation of the

Map is an extract of the Gulf Islands recreation map. See page 47. FALL/WINTER 2013

Seattle Yacht Club, with a large dock and some supporting infrastructure.

Ladysmith Harbour Tucked in closer to Vancouver Island is Bute Island, which forms one side of a sheltered drying cove. Slightly northwest of all this is the Wood Islands. A log boom in Burleith Arm will restrict movement, but if you paddle between the two southern islets you’ll see good examples of eroded sandstone ledges and a sign proclaiming the 49th parallel, a rare tip of the hat to a geographic milestone.

Exploring near the marinas holds a different appeal. For instance, immediately north of Transfer Beach is an anchorage known as Dogpatch and home to semipermanently anchored boats of various states of artistic disrepair. The harbour excels in bird life, and particularly the high number of bald eagles and herons so close to a town. All in all it makes an easy and visually appealing half-

day or shorter outing. More ambitious kayakers could extend the trip to Evening Cove on the north entrance to the harbour. A pleasant beach and community park are located on the north shore. Long-distance paddlers could go to nearby Thetis and Penelakut islands, transforming the trip from a quick harbour tour to a multi-faceted Gulf Islands exploration.

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Five ways

to increase your stability H

ERE IS a list of five basic (and perhaps surprising) ways to significantly increase your stability in a kayak. 1. Wear a Drysuit The concept is simple: minimize the negative consequences from a possible capsize. If you are paddling a tippy boat and the consequences of flipping include immersion in freezing water and possible hypothermia, how relaxed are you likely to be? A stressed, rigid, and tentative approach typifies someone who is uncomfortable in a boat – a state that sets them up for failure and a less than enjoyable time on the water. Conversely, a supple, flexible torso is a great start to increased stability. So tension (and the resulting rigidity that it creates) is the enemy. Alleviating the fear associated with falling out of a kayak allows a paddler to stay relaxed, enjoy the challenge and have a good laugh if they do flip. Seek out the warmest water available (this is why pool sessions are so popular) and strive to minimize the intimidation factor of a swim by all means possible. Where I live, 62


Remove tension, boost your confidence and above all, keep paddling that often means wearing a drysuit. 2. Embrace Swimming For many sea kayakers, swimming from a boat is perceived as being very high on the list of ‘worst case scenario’ outcomes. This is a mindset that greatly hinders our ability to improve. How can we expect to master new skills and develop better stability if we are so intimidated by the water upon which we travel? FALL/WINTER 2013

Get used to swimming with your kayak – dress for immersion and start or end outings by practicing re-entries, and in appropriately safe conditions, attempt maneuvres that will likely cause you to swim. Once you have adopted a positive attitude towards swimming, you’ll be amazed at just how much more relaxed and confident you’ll become when trying new techniques or paddling less stable boats. 3. Learn to Roll The ability to roll reliably is a huge confidence booster and allows paddlers to routinely push their limits to the point of capsize with little consequence beyond getting wet (just like swimming, but a little drier). And the skills imparted in learning to roll also go a long way to making a paddler less prone to capsizing in the first place. Even when paddling kayaks that can’t be rolled (like surf skis, or flat water race boats) the understanding of how to brace for support and the practice in learning to roll helps both stability and confidence to try a boat that is outside your normal comfort zone.

by Alex Matthews 4. Paddle tippier boats If you invest the time and energy to learn how to paddle a far less stable kayak than what you are used to (race kayaks and surf skis are great for this), then when you hop back into your original boat you will be amazed at how stable it feels. One strategy for challenging your stability without changing boats is to raise your seat height with foam shims. This is most easily done on surf skis, or in boats

with large open cockpits. Sitting atop the back deck of your sea kayak while paddling is another great drill for improving stability. 5. Paddle Forward When in doubt: paddle forward! Every plant of the paddle blade provides connection to the water and generates support. Wing blades in particular generate an incredible amount of support when paddling forward, and are unbeatable for

generating greater stability when paddling tippy racing boats. When you’re not actively paddling forward, keep a blade in the water as that continued contact will help keep you oriented to the surface and help keep you stable. Alex Matthew is Coast&Kayak Magazine’s skills guru and author of Sea Kayaking: Rough Waters (Fox Chapel Publishing).

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Gearing up

Ten tips

for winter warmth R

AIN IS HITTING my face sideways. I’m huddled behind two barebranched shrubs that are doing a terrible job of blocking the wind. Every few minutes I stamp my feet to keep the blood moving while I eat a few more bites of my soggy sandwich. Isn’t winter paddling fun? If you answered “no,” then you may be one of the many kayakers who put your boat in storage for the winter or spend the bucks to paddle in Baja, Belize or New Zealand during the North American winter. I can’t blame you. But I can offer an alternative winter paddling experience close to home. It could have been like this: At lunchtime we duck under our spaceage portable shelter. We’re soon peeling off layers and venting our drysuits because it’s downright balmy inside. Soup and coffee are ready a few minutes

Icicles drape the shoreline along the Columbia River Gorge in Washington. It’s a beautiful day for a paddle, even if it is winter.




later. We emerge from our toasty cocoon for more paddling among bald eagles and waterfalls. Before we climb back into our kayaks, we indulge ourselves by pouring hot water into our booties and gloves, and feel the warmth penetrate. I firmly believe that when kayakers hang their boats up for the winter, they miss out on some of the best paddling of the year. In the Pacific Northwest, winter padding has some major advantages. The crowds, water-skiers and powerboaters are gone. They’ve been replaced by massive flotillas of waterfowl that have flown south from breeding grounds in the subarctic. Winter steelhead fill the rivers and rain fills the waterfalls. Bald eagles gather to feed on the ducks and fish. All that’s required is preparation for the lower temperatures and shorter days. Here are ten tips to paddling in the winter, and being nice and warm doing it.

by Neil Schulman “storm cag” that comes with thoughtful touches like fleece-lined pockets and integrated sprayskirts. These heatcapturing shells are the last thing I strip off before getting back in my kayak.

A happy paddler in a drysuit: it’s no coincidence.

it’s easy to bring both. 5. Hot water in booties and gloves Another use for that hot water is to warm up your feet and hands. I’ll often pour some warm (not boiling, obviously) water into my cold, wet neoprene booties and gloves, which trap the warm water and keep the extremeties toasty for a surprisingly long time.

A bothy bag.

1. Invest in A Drysuit A drysuit is both a safety factor and a comfort factor in winter. A drysuit combined with layers underneath is the best protection against hypothermia, plus it protects you from the rain and keeps your feet dry when you launch and land your kayak in cold water. It’s expensive, but well worth it for extending the paddling season to 12 months. 2. Stop Breathing Not you, your clothes. When you stop paddling and your internal furnace slows down, you’ll become cold as you lose heat through the evaporative cooling of breathable materials. Stopping for just a few minutes can be enough to chill you to the bone on cold winter days. When I stop, the first thing I do is throw on something non-breathable over my drysuit and PFD: either an old-school rubber rain slicker or a higher-tech

3. High-Tech Shelter A group shelter will supercharge a heat-trapping effect. Called beach igloos, beach shelters, windsacks or bothy bags, these compact shelters originated with winter hikers and Scandinavian ski tourers. They’re a simple dome of compact, high-tech parachute-like material that you simply drape over the group, which then sits on the edges to anchor it. The nonbreathable technical fabric traps so much heat that they come with vents. They’re needed, even in winter: I’ve had to duck outside because I became uncomfortably hot. They’re made by Terra Nova, Valley Sea Kayaks and Hilleberg under different names and in varying sizes and colors. A yellow one will even convince you it’s sunny outside. 4. Nothing Beats a Hot Lunch I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it took me years of cold sandwiches before I thought of bringing my camping stove and having a nice hot lunch. Compact and powerful stoves boil water quickly: you can be reheating soup instead of gnawing a frozen power bar. I’ll also bring a thermos of ready-made tea for on-the water drinking and to warm someone who capsizes. My stove, fuel and pot take up about as much space as a water bottle, so

Dressed for winter, smiling is optional.

6. Dress Down To Stay Warm Don’t overdo it on layers. In the morning cold before your body has started to crank out heat, overdressing may seem impossible. But if you wear too many layers under your drysuit and PFD, you’ll

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end up soaked in sweat, which will then chill you to the bone. As an old wilderness instructor of mine once said: “When you’re moving, take off clothes to stay warm; put them on to stay cool.” Unlike hikers, paddlers can’t toss off their pack and take off a layer in a few quick seconds. I wear layers under my drysuit that will keep me comfortable while exerting myself, and then add more layers over my suit and PFD that I shed right before I jump in my boat. I’ll also bring an extra base layer so that if I get soaked in sweat, I can replace it during a break. 7. Give your head a hand Since it’s awkward for paddlers to change their clothing, modulating your temperature via your head and hands is critical. I keep several options and combinations in my day hatch or PFD pockets: neoprene hoods, fleece hats, headbands, rain hats, neoprene gloves and pogies. On very cold days I’ll even wear pogies over neoprene gloves until my hands warm up. 8. Shuttle planning As whitewater kayakers like to say,

the shuttle is always class six: something always gets forgotten, disorganized or delayed. In the summer, this is no big deal. The rest of the group can simply sit out in the sun along the river while they wait. In winter, that’s a cold and unappealing prospect. Organize your shuttles to minimize waiting. Make sure there are warm clothes and a thermos of tea in the take-out vehicle and run the shuttle as quickly as you can. If you can, organize it so that there are enough cars at the takeout so that everyone and their boats can ride back in warm cars instead of waiting. 9. Stay Hydrated In the summer, we have no problem remembering to drink water. In the winter, however, it’s far too easy to reach for the warm cup of coffee. Dehydration makes paddling and staying warm harder on your body. Hypothermia also sets in faster when you’re dehydrated. Keep up a steady intake. 10. Have fun The whole point of going paddling is to have fun exploring the world. You’ll think less about the cold when you’re watching eagles, playing in rough water, checking out cliffs and waterfalls and generally having a good time. There’s a special joy that comes from paddling in the winter: the solitude, the rawness and ruggedness of the environment and the joy of being out there with your friends when everyone else is inside complaining about the weather. Once you’re having fun, you’ll forget that it’s even cold. Neil Schulman keeps threatening to go paddle somewhere warm, sunny, and tropical in the winter someday. Until then, look for him in Portland, Oregon. You can see his writing and photography at

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The next generation of coastal BC travel guides Coast&Kayak Magazine is proud to introduce our first book: a colourful and comprehensive guide for the British Columbia coast, and this year’s winner of an Independent Publisher Book Award non-fiction silver medal (an IPPY). Volume 1 covers some of the world’s best coastal exploration, from Port Hardy down the outer coast of Vancouver Island to Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands, including Cape Scott, Kyuquot, Brooks Peninsula, Nootka Sound, Clayoquot Sound and the Broken Group Islands – all documented in unrivalled detail. Coming Spring 2014: Volume 2: BC’s South Coast. Reserve your personalized numbered copy in advance, online only. Join our Facebook page or subscribe online to the magazine for free for advance notification.

Large-format maps offer a new level of detail for planning coastal trips.

Chart your journeys Coast&Kayak Magazine’s line of recreational maps offers key locations of the BC coast in large colourful format: • Broken Group/Barkley Sound • Desolation Sound/Discovery Islands • Broughton Islands/Johnstone Strait • Clayoquot Sound • Gulf Islands • North Coast Trail (hiking map) New editions arriving in spring 2014. Available at fine retailers and bookstores everywhere, including the retailers advertising in this issue. Or order online. FALL/WINTER 2013






Fall/Winter 2013 Coast&Kayak Magazine  

Join us in a journey to kayaking destinations around the world, including Crete, Costa Rica, Fiji and Antarctica.