Coastal Journeys

In mid-August Paul Grey and his friend Lyle decided to launch from Blue Heron Park and to just leave, strong wind warning or not.

The goal was to paddle the outside of Galiano Island and return back to our starting point. We had put off our launch dates for personal business twice and finally decided to just go.

Blowing from the Northwest at 15 to 20 knots we set off toward the Ragged Islets north of Thetis Island. It was a bit of a battle. Waves were approximately 2 feet high and sometimes breaking over our crafts. The islets have a couple of beaches so we landed on a small beach protected from the winds. After a short break we submerged ourselves into the wind and waves again, heading for Porlier Pass.

Arriving 40 minutes before slack we traversed the north side and paddled well beyond where the waves and currents were churning in the centre of the pass. By this time the waves were approaching 1-metre in height, maybe bigger. It was a strong effort to cross to Coon Bay in Dionisio Point Provincial Park. A surf landing placed us almost out of the sea onto a sandy beach, flanked with headlands, a grassy area with picnic tables and a protected and sheltered lagoon on the opposite side (where we should have entered but we thought the tide was too low).

The wind whipped across the tombolo by this time at 22 to 25 knots according to our estimate and VHF reports. Standing on ground never felt better. We unloaded our boats quickly and set tent up on the first two sites in the forest just above the newly fixed wellhead. With a few hours now to kill we snacked, socialized with Helen the camp host, walked the trails and read our novels. We also managed to view a pod of orcas from the headland later in the early evening.

 The next day we vacillated between leaving or not. The weather on the pass side looked God-awful. After an hour of discussion we packed our kayaks, pushing south along the coastline of Galiano Island. Two hours later we arrived at Pebble Beach, an alternate campsite on the BCMT map. By the time we had abandoned our boats for solid beach, our cockpits were quarter-filled with sea water. More practice needed on surf landings!

It turned out to be a local beach for young couples and families. Other entertainment later in the day included a river otter rolling around in the seaweed near camp and belted kingfishers shrieking at intruders over their closely guarded territories.

The small camp on the northwest end of the beach can house about 4 or 5 tents (maybe more if someone removed the huge blocks of Styrofoam). The waves crashed until midnight or so, but we were fast asleep before then.

The next morning we paddled to Cook Cove just northwest of the transmission station. Noted on Kimantis’ map and the logbook of Neil Frazer we checked out two small beaches. Upon inspection I decided the westerly beach could be used as a very rough alternate site, its location ideal for staging Active Pass.

Two hours later we found ourselves eating pizza at Sturdies Bay in front of the Galiano Inn and Spa. A nice sandy beach on the north side of the dock is ideal to park your boat. A stairway with ‘Guests Only’ sign means you’re welcome! If the tide is too high or no beach visible, lift your boats onto a table of rock/sand near the steps.

Sixty minutes before slack on an ebb flow we stroked our way into Active Pass toward Trincomali Channel, keeping to the north or Galiano side. We experienced no real rips or counter currents until we reached the green-capped lighthouse almost exiting the pass. It was still 30 minutes before slack on a maximum of 2.7 knot current (should have been about 0.8 knots) but the currents seemed faster. Water can flow here at 8 knots so it’s advantageous to time your entrance/exit smartly.

In less than an hour we reached the mouth of James Bay. Of course, the winds were now blowing southeast slowing our journey to the apple-laden orchards of the park. (Did you know there are 28 varieties of apples in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve?) With a couple of boats anchored and no kayakers in sight we had our choice of sites—a large open field or spots overlooking the bay. We quickly settled in for the night. We had just paddled 27 kilometres and were tired. The sun warmed our old bones and a meal with apples and plums filled our tummies. Happiness seeped in slowly as the sun set over Vancouver Island.

The latter half of our fourth day was the most picturesque. After two hours of relatively easy paddling we reached Wallace Island. The etched sandstone shoreline, the oak-arbutus-fir forests and an occasional deer chewing on drought-brown grasses along with calm protected seas gave us a chance to paddle in a semi-meditative state. By the time we reached the Chivers Point site even the droves of teenagers camped there didn’t diminish our spirits (because there were no available tentsites). Instead we rounded the point into a choppy slop and made our way to Cabin Bay where lo and behold two empty tent pads awaited us. We settled in.

  The final morning was a calm paddle on the leeward side of the Secretary Islands and Norway Island. By the time we were in the open the sea was flat, serene. A bit gungho we powered to the Ragged Islets at 4+ knots per hour. After a short break, we geared down and paddled the last 5 kilometres, enjoying the end of another great trip.

East Gulf Islands map/chart - Wild Coast Publishing

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