Spending the day with the author of Hiking the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, both a fellow hiker and kayaker, renewed my fervour for exploring Salt Spring Island, both on land and by water. Charles took my
friend, Stephanie, and I on a whirlwind car tour, visiting most launch sites for kayaks or small boats, and also visiting remote areas on the island. The third largest Gulf island and second most populous, areas of Salt Spring are still quite remote and certainly intriguing—it was the first time I had seen the Bullman museum at Cusheon Cove. I never knew it existed!
There are three ferry routes to Salt Spring, but from mid-island (VI) the 20-minute, 2.8 nm Crofton ferry ride is the quickest. Paddlers can also cross to Salt Spring from several points. For example, the paddle from Maple Bay to Burgoyne Bay is a reasonable distance.
I usually launch from the bottom of Ontario Place (N48° 51.56’ W123° 27.82’) on Long Harbour for trips to Prevost Island. There’s a fair amount of parking at the end of the road, opposite the house owned by the Victoria Yacht Club. Quebec Dr. and then Ontario is accessed from Long Harbour Road. Exploring Long Harbour is appropriate for novice kayakers. If you are going to explore beyond Long Harbour it is best for novice-to-intermediate paddlers. If you choose these launch sites check the BC ferry schedule and plan your crossing around its arrival or departure. There’s not a long of extra navigational room for a big boat!
It is approximately a one- to one and a half-hour paddle to James Bay on Prevost Island. The main hazards on the trip are possible standing waves at Nose Point and boat/ferry traffic in Captain Passage. The crossing is fairly short and should be made in reasonable weather.
Usually, I set up camp in the old apple orchard bordering the bay and plan trips from there. The north end of the island, encompassing James Bay and Shelby Cove, is a primary site on the BC marine trails—Gulf Islands mid-trail section—and part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada.
On my second trip to Prevost I had a good sleep in my tent. Nothing really disturbs me except the occasional mouse running on my nylon tent fly. I have been known to sleep through events such as a bear breaking into a friend’s truck canopy and a dog barking rabidly at the same bear so I was surprised I could hear the light footwork of a rodent.
After my typical oatmeal and coffee breakfast I grabbed the necessary gear and launched toward Peile Pt and the Hawkins Islets on the northeast side of Prevost. The islets are teaming with life including crabs, moon snails, otters and small fish. The islets are part of a very sensitive eco-system and granted a high level of protection within the National Park Reserve. The best place to alight is at Richardson Bay, roughly 2 km southeast of Hawkins Islets and next to the Portlock Point lighthouse, which was originally built in 1895 and is in active service there. This is not an official BC marine trails stopover.
When the lighthouse commenced operation, Prevost Island was an exclusive hunting preserve for a club. Initially, they wanted to hire one of their members to operate the lighthouse, but the wages were too sparse. John Richardson, an outsider, eventually was hired by the government.
The island is much like it was a century ago. It still has large arbutus and cedar groves . Most of the island belongs to the descendants of Digby Hussey de Burgh, an Irish farmer. He raised sheep, goats and cattle. His family continue to raise sheep and farm the same land.
The coastline has beautifully etched, eroded sandstone formations, the whole gamut of Gulf Islands flora and nicely treed Douglas fir stands. I had the luxury today of simply floating past this amazing scenery. This is the best of the kayaking world!
I was traveling clockwise around Prevost. I’m an easy kayaker and often plan my trips with the prevailing currents. And today was no different. The current varies between one-quarter and three-quarters of a knot. I rode happily down the northeast side and now, after lunch, I was coasting and returning up the southwest side. I soon passed the Acland Islands, tucking into Glenthorne Passage while admiring the cottages hidden away in the trees. Most of the cottages are clustered around Secret Island or Annette Point.
I was soon back at camp, ready for an afternoon coffee and a freeze-dried supper, which can be delicious especially when you have been paddling hard (at least I thought I was) all day.