Coastal Journeys Team member Jon Dawkins shares his experiences of kayakaing in Hakai.
Click on the bar to view photographs for this article.
Article and photos by Jon Dawkins
It was a pretty long haul to get the boat and four loads of gear down to the water's edge. Glenn had warned me about confusion that occurs when the ebb tries to turn south out of Hakai Passage at Surf Islets so I was choosing to launch on a rising tide.
The swell was immediately present but the predicted 15-20 knot wind was still in the 10 knot range. The sea state did get messy right away but was fun paddling. Fog began obscuring the shoreline so I only caught occasional glimpses of Calvert's many lovely northern beaches when I would tuck into a bay.
What I was able to see was gorgeous but each point of land presented a new challenge. The current was flowing north along the shore, across the swell and counter to the wind so it made for interesting water. Each point created reflection and turbulence so chop above my head was the norm. Definitely active but fun. Dublin Point, in particular, really had its bitch on and gave me as much "fun" as I cared for while crawling on against the flood.
Once I gained Bolivar Beach I was past Dublin and its evil southern sister which allowed most of the wind and waves to be on my stern and that improved my quality of life. The fog was lifting, also, presenting me with the sweeping beauty of Bolivar. What a magnificent beach. I paddled about 300 meters off shore which put me about 50 meters beyond the peaking surf break. The beach roared loudly and without reflected waves I had a little over 1 NM of smooth sailing.
During this trip I had heard several paddlers refer to Bolivar as "Three Mile Beach". Does anyone know where that name comes from? The beach isn't 3 miles long. Not even 1/2 that. Magnificent, yes. Three miles long, no. Maybe it is 3 miles from something.
The last 4 NM to Blackney Beach went fast and were a bit concerning. It had been about four hours since I had left Wolf Beach at the north end of Calvert Island intent on landing at Blackney. The north wind had risen past 15 knots and the seas were a solid 2 meter plus wind waves that combined to 9 feet opposing the northward flowing flood current. It was busy and getting kind of big. I was hoping that Blackney Island, the kelp and shoal would knock the swell down. If it didn't I might fixin' to hurt.
As I approached Blackney Beach I was dismayed at how far offshore the island was, funneling the wind and swell rather than blocking it, allowing it full access to my desired landing site. I was arriving right at high tide so all of the energy robbing kelp heads were submerged and the current, running north over the shoal that connects Blackney to Calvert, was standing the seas up on my approach. The beach was lit up in an unfriendly fashion and pain looked like a possibility. Down in the troughs I could only see the tops of Calvert’s tallest trees but the wave crests offered a brief view of the beach. At the top of a wave I spotted a 30-foot-wide section of sheltered beach tucked behind the rocky point that defined the north end of the beach. It was right where I had hoped it would be. I was moving fast and, like it or not, I was on final approach. There would be no go-around. I back paddled hard against the breaking wave that smacked against my back and shoulders, braced and then broke hard for the lee side of the rocks. Using the next wave to clear the rocks I glided in on one foot waves. High anxiety and then relief.
The exposed shore was small, without shade and blistering hot. I quickly stripped off my drysuit and base layers and hung them to dry in the sun. The evening high tide was going to come up very close to the forest so I looked for an upland clearing to set up my tent but found none. Few people paddle here so there are no established tent clearings. The thick forest barred any hopes of entry to higher ground so I settled for the highest spot I could find on the beach and figured that I had a three-inch buffer from the evening's high tide. I set my alarm for 2:00 AM and figured that if it didn’t go off or I had miscalculated or the wind and swell increased or the barometric dropped I would be wakened by the movement of the surrounding logs before things got wet or I was crushed. A decent option where others don't exist.
Walking the beach, I found the prints of a large wolf. Comparing his prints with the tide line it was clear that he had watched my approach and landing. I had been too busy to look for wildlife but he had watched me and, perhaps, sensing my anxiety had figured that I wouldn't be good company. He chose to leave his beach to me. I wish he had stuck around.