Days 40 to 48: Bella Bella to Port Hardy

Trip Start Apr 07, 2010
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15
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Trip End Jan 19, 2012


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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 40 (May 17, 2010): We've only used 2 liters of white gas in 40 days. We'll see if we can finish the trip with a grand total of 1 gallon (3.6 L). Today was supposed to be a "town day "(update blog, laundry, shower, phone calls, and groceries). Well, it was, but not the day we had planned. After departing this morning and paddling 1.5 miles, we pass in front of Dryad Point Lighthouse and snap a few photos of it. We see a guy coming down to greet us and he invites us for coffee. Dan and his wife, Debby, are lighthouse keepers. They are very nice and let us use the internet (blog done!), make a few phone calls (done!), and even invite us to stay for lunch. We get to see the day-to-day life of a lightkeeper -- only 27 left on Canada's West Coast. We enjoyed their company so much that we stayed with them until 4pm.
    Next, Bella Bella. As we approach town, we ask for the grocrey store and are told it closes at 5pm. We shop for one week's worth of food in 15 minutes (done!). Selection is poor and prices are outrageously high...$5 for 5 slices of pre-packaged roast beef...crazy! No laundromat, public showers, or library in town, so we're out of here. As we begin to paddle out of town, we see 2 kayakers, the first kayakers we've seen since the beginning of the trip. Andrea and Brook are travelling doctors and are in Bella Bella for 2 weeks. They off to let us use their washing machine, so we do their casual after-work paddle with them. Long story short, we will spend the evening with them, which covers shower (done!) and laundry (done!). And, so ends our "town day."

Day 41:  Today is boat maintenance day. We have to do it once during this trip and it is not fun at all. But we committed to disassembling the boat and lubricating the frame at least once during the trip to make sure the aluminum tubes won't seize. Since we are a little more than half way through the Inside Passage, we decide to do it today. The good news is that we have a hose and a clean deck to work with. The bad news is that it rained all day. It took us close to 5 hours to disassemble, clean, lubricate, reassemble, and outfit the boat. Our hands are a mess; completely white and the skin is peeling off our fingers.
    We are finally on the water at 3pm. Just as we depart, we see "Norm," a dude that arrives on a paddleboard escorted by 2 kayakers. We saw a flyer yesterday about him -- he's here to talk about saving the bears. The whole town is here to greet him...what a hero!
    We don't have that much time left in the day, but are still able to cover 13 miles this afternoon in pouring rain at times.

Day 42: Late departure today. We're on the water at 10:30am. We had some rain overnight and when we woke up this morning, so we started slowly. The wind is behind us so we are quick on the water. After 14 miles covered in 3.5 hours, we arrive in Namu, an abandoned town that peaked at 400 inhabitants only 20 years ago. Now that the town only has 2 permanent residents, they have a lot of projects on their hands while the town is falling apart. A quick tour of the town as we are on our way South again.
    We approach a grey whale that we've been looking at for a while. It pops out of the water only 100 feet from us. Simply spectacular...whao!
    We end the day in Warrior Bay, were we find a ritual house that seems to be used by First Nation tribes to perform human sacrifices*...this will be our home for the night.

*Okay, not really, but that sounded cool, didn't it? :)

Day 43: We get up early this morning and are on the water by 7:30am. We couldn't get a forecast on the VHF, but according to someone in Bella Bella, yesterday was supposed to be the worst of it. The sky is blue above us with a few clouds, so we figure the storm has passed. As we paddle out of Warrior Bay and round the point, we get a good look at the sky ahead -- gray clouds loom over the mountaintops southwest of us, waiting to burst. Straight South, the sky is a misty gray. The seas are calm, so we continue on...but not for long. By 9am we are caught in a downpour and look for shelter in a cove, but nothing looks good for a landing. The sea is pretty calm, so we keep going despite being drenched. We wish we got up later this morning because we probably wouldn't have even started padding in rain like this. Oh well, can't change the past though.
    Lucky in our misfortune, there is a low-lying white shell beach just around the corner on an isthmus. We stop here, hurridly set up the tent as a temporary shelter, and wait. Soon, the wind picks up and the sea begins to rage. This is the worst we've ever seen the water -- gale force winds and there are even rolling breakers out in the channel. We are able to get the forecast from our new location and it sounds like we'll be spending the night afterall. We pull out the tide chart and re-asess the height of the tent spot...it's going to be close! We have dinner at 6:30pm and watch the tide rise in front of us, ready for an emergency evacuation. Yannick drew a line in the sand, a foot in front of the tarp marking when we should get ready to move at a certain time. Funny thing is the tide reached the marking -- even filled it with water -- but never crossed the line. Guess we'll be good for the night! We finish dinner and collect over 3 liters of rain water in 5 minutes...with some hail in it. Ice water, anyone?

Day 44:  We wake up at 6am, but are slow to move. We slept cold last night because everything was soaked. We clamber out of the tent and find the sky sunny and blue in all directions, but can't get ourselves to do much of anything. We debate over packing wet clothes and sleeping bags to get on the water early or wait for the sun to reach us to dry everything now. We feel cold and miserable, so we opt to take a nap and wait. By 9am, the sun reaches the isthmus and we happily dry our gear. We get on the wtaer at 11:10am with a nice tailwind to help us along. We make very good time and travel 14 miles in just under 4 hours, putting us in position to cross Rivers Inlet, the first of two cruxes we face in Queen Charlotte Sound. We are once again in Open Waters and vulnerable to the North Pacific's full energy. We decide to land on a protected ebach for a long break to watch the water for a while and get an updated forecast. At 5pm, we go for the crossing despite a strong wind and soem whitecaps. We would rather cross Rivers Inlet with tailwind and flooding tide than wait -- there are only 1 1/2 days of favorable conditions forecasted, so we want to try to get across Queen Charlotte before conditions deteriorate. We aim for shore midway between Goose Bay and Kelp Head, not knowing exactly which of the two we will get to. If conditions worsen during the crossing, we'll turn towards Goose Bay, where it would be more sheltered, but would add a few miles to the paddle. If the seas stay the same, we'll hit a cove behind Kelp Head. Halfway through the crossing, we aim for the cove and towards the less protected waters. As we get closer to Kelp Head, the swells from the open Pacific grow in size and come in at a perpendicular angle to the wind waves we've been riding. At times the land in front of us completely vanishes, and at others, we find ourselves high in the air trying not to surf overhead waves. Eventually, we make it across 10 miles to a beautiful cove with a long stretch of white sand beach. We land and inspect the sand for animal tracks. Nice, no bear tracks...but we may be visited by wolves tonight and papa wolf looks BIG!

Day 45 (May 22, 2010): Waking up this morning, the sea was a little rough, so we went back to bed until 9am. We took our time gettign ready. The VHF forecast announced that the wind would lessen after noon and the water does show signs of it. We get ready and are on the water by 11:30am. Today, we are rounding Kelp Head, one of the two major capes in Queen Charlotte Sound.
    As the kayak rounds the cape, we feel the power of the open ocean; the horizon frequently disappears behind a wall of water. Waves are at least 6 feet high and we make sure to stay away from rocks and breakers. After rounding Kelp Head, we are on our way to Cape Caution, hoping the wind would stay low. After 1h45m of paddling, however, we notice the wind is growing and the swells are getting much larger. Time for Plan B: Make for shore! Brown Island is nearby and we had read about a white sand beach on the East side. We land in rocks at low tide. The wind doesn't calm down until 6:30pm; too late for a re-launch. The forecast seems to say that the wind will decrease to 10 knots by midnight. We'll wake up at 4:45am tomorrow to see if we can launch early.

Day 46: Queen Charlotte sound is no joke and our endurance is put to the test -- 22 miles in 10 hours. As we wake in the early hours of the morning, we note the absence of wind and only hear an occasional wave break on shore. It sounds good outside! Yannick pokes his head out of the tent and says the sky is full of gray clouds, but the sea is as calm as we could hope here. He doesn't liek the looks of the sky, but we'll take what we can get. The VHF forecast announces the current conditions as 10-15 knot winds and 1-2 meter seas today, then worsening conditions for the next 3 days. This is our window of opportunity!
    Today we are taking on Cape Caution, named by Captain Vancouver, who almost lost his ship on the shallow waters during a storm. We are on the water at 6am and head straight from our camp on Brown Island towards Milthorp Point. The swells are big with only 1-foot chop and a light headwind; we cover 5 miles in 2 hours. We haven't seen any boats on the water yet. Why? Too early? We wonder...
    We can see Cape Caution now. Shirley has had a knot in her stomach all morning and can't wait for this part of the trip to be over so it will go away. Yannick says that any distance that we cover, no matter how logn or short, is a triumph because we'll never have to face that section again. Great, because Cape Caution looks like it could get freaken gnarly and we only want to do this once. We take it really wide (over a mile offshore) to avoid the chance of getting caught in an unexpected breaker. We are at the poitn of no return and are filled with excitement as we approach this pivotal point. The wind has gotten stronger and the swells are huge, but thigns are relatively calm. A wave of relief washes over us as we slowly round the cape. It is now 10am and we've gone a little more than 10 miles...not bad for a Sunday morning, eh?
    Yannick yells, "kayakers!" What? Sure enough, 4 kayakers heading in the opposite direction as us. We paddle over to them, exchange a few words, then go our separate ways. Of all places to keet other Inside Passage kayakers!
    We want to get to Skull Cove on Bramham Island, which is another 10 miles away. We have the wind and tide againse us and it feels like we aren't moving. Our arms grow tired, our hands ache, and our glutes grow numb...but we need to keep pushing. We pass a few long beaches, but they're completely exposed -- huge breakers crashing on them. Finally, at 3pm, we make it to the protected bay. Now, just 1 1/2 miles to camp. As we cruise along, we see a manmade shelter up high on the cliffs and our eyes grow wide. Ther eis nowhere to land along the steep rock cliffs though, so we sladly keep going. An opening to Skull Cove comes up and we are delighted to find a completely calm labyrinth of little islets inside. We stop on a nice sand beach adn see a wooden staircase to the left...could it be? Yannick investigates and find a bunch of empty cabins. Looks like a research or eco-tourism camp. Yes, home for the night! A nice, dry shelter...our reward at the end of a long, hard day.

Day 47: Mmmm....so good to sleep in! We aren't goign anywhere today because the wind is howling outside -- even is this protected bay. A big storm has hit Queen Charlotte Sound and West Vancouver Island and the wind is up to 50 knots. We feel fortunate that the conditions are bad on a day when we could use the rest rather than anxiously waiting, wasting time, and wanting to move forward. Today, we relax in our cozy little cabin...nice, dry, and happy. :)

Day 48: The winds, though lighter, persist at 30 knots today. Conditions may improve in the afternoon, but we don't know if it will be in time for a late launch to get a few miles in. For now, we anxiously wait, waste time, and want to move forward.
    Times are desperate as we only have one bag of cookies left. It doesn't matter that there is enough food to last at least 4 more days very comfortably, and never mind that we only have 3 liters of water left and just ran out of toilet paper. To only have one bag of cookies left is insane! Fortunately, the weather should improve for an early launch tomorrow and we will not have to resort to "the survival of the fittest." Let us hope that a resupply in Port Hardy comes just in time. We are about to spend our 3rd nigth in Skull Cove.

Day 49:  Got an early start this morning, put in 22 miles, and are in Port Hardy now. It's a "town day." Woohoo...NOT! At least we'll get ice cream :)



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Comments

Selene on

Again....you guys are awesome! I really like the pictures...keep posting and keep having fun!

BJ on

Are you guys like a month ahead of schedule???

Tina on

Human sacrifices...phew, I'm glad it wasn't really used for that. That would have been creepy!

hobos
hobos on

Yes we are ahead of schedule...but so far we beat the mosquitoes...we are only annoyed by some little flies (no-see-ums???).
Rock-n'-roll!

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