After a relaxed 13 km paddle, the last thing a person wants to find on their camping beach is a group of teenagers with shabby power boats that cost much less than your first car, loud music and chainsaws! Needless to say I didn’t stay on the Stud Islets and for good reason. I found a much more “friendly” alternative which is all I can say so as not to disclose the location. The Whale told me to stay right where I was too!
Day 1 – May 25th, 2017
I departed Courtenay at 1:05 pm, over packed as usual and arrived at Poett Nook Marina and Kayak Launch just Northeast of Bamfield at about 4:00 pm. The road to Bamfield is never in the best of condition but there were sections this time that were a little more rough than usual. Poett Nook offers several amenities and easy access to the Deer Group Islands with limited exposure to the open water crossing. poettnook.com/welcome The only downside is that there’s only one fire pit that you have to share with others, if you’re so inclined to do so. I got lucky and met a couple folks from Germany that were on vacation and exploring the area, Sebastian and Markus. Great guys! I was smart to decline their offer of some sort of very potent German alcohol. I wanted to be on the water early the next morning otherwise it may have been worth a sip or two.
Day 2 – May 26th, 2017
I launched from Poett Nook at 6:20 am, the open water crossing through Trevor Channel was calm with only some gentle swell when I neared the Deer Group.
After passing through Robber’s Passage I took an on water break near the Sea Arch just North of the passage. The tide was too low to paddle through the arch but nonetheless it was inspiring to see a geological formation that has taken millennia to form.
I carried on, but not too far and took another break to actually get out and stretch some, at this point I was about 11 km in.
From here, my next destination was the Stud Islets which is where I intended to camp. I rounded the corner of the last islet and much to my disappointment I hear music, see shabby power boats, see the beach filled with “teenage children” and I hear a chainsaw. I beached my kayak and got out to see if there was any feasible way I could stay there knowing full well that there was no way. I barely exchanged words with the individuals that were there and quickly got back into my kayak and left. I circled Holford Bay for about 45 minutes contemplating a suitable alternative at which point I found a beach.
The BCMTN (British Columbia Marine Trail Network) alternative sites within Holford Bay North and South didn’t seem very appealing, at least to me. Nonetheless I did complete site condition reports on day 3 so that perhaps these locations can be contemplated some more. If you’re out there paddling, please take the time to complete a site condition report, it’s really easy and a fun way to contribute: bcmarinetrails.org/…w-to-help/stewardship
So, after eating I sat on this beach that I found for a little bit trying to decide if I really should stay or not or move not too far away to Holford Bay North. I sat there lost in my thoughts when out of nowhere a giant Humpback Whale breached not 100 m from where I was sitting, directly in my intended path to Holford Bay North! This has a way of convincing you to stay put. So, the Whale told me to stay right where I was and so I did for two nights. It ended up being fantastic. Thank you to this Whale for telling me what to do. It came back a few times afterwards too, maybe just to remind me. The picture below shows the whale, just to the left is Holford Beach North.
All in all I was very happy with my camping beach, it offered protection from the wind and sunlight until mid afternoon, an established fire ring and a great view.
Day 3 – May 27th, 2017
I slept in and didn’t wake up until 9:30 am, relaxed and spent most of the day reading a book that I have been meaning to read that was given to me as a gift at Christmas. If you don’t already know who Alex Honnold is, you need to catch up on him. He is to free solo rock climbing as to what three Mozart’s are to music. What this guy has achieved is incredible to say the least. alexhonnold.com
I did have some visitors. Lisa, her five year old son Anthony and their dog Marlee spent an hour or so foraging for shells on the beach. A very friendly trio. Lisa informed me that there’s Wolves on Tzartus Island and to listen for them at night. I informed her that a contributor to the BCMTN Facebook page shared a picture of a Cougar on the Stud Islets in May of 2016.
Day 4 – May 28th, 2017
I was asleep early the night before and up at 4:15 am, broke camp and on the water for 5:25 am for the paddle back to Poett Nook. (I did wake at around 2:00 am to check on my kayak during the high tide and was surprised to see the Northern Borealis. A first for me on the coast, even thought it was faint on the horizon.) As soon as I turned west of the island I was on, the wind picked up and the fog was pretty thick. It was an uncertain paddle all the way back to Robber’s Passage and I was concerned about the open water crossing through Trevor Channel. I took a break in the passage.
Much to my relief, Trevor Channel was dead calm, the 2 km crossing was easy and I made it safely back to Poett Nook at 9:30 am.
The Deer Group Islands are undervalued in my opinion as a kayaking destination, secluded yet accessible and definitely worth checking out. Later, I intend to check out the outer islands west of Robber’s Passage.
Martin Ryer is a director of the BC Marine Trails Network Association and photographer. You can follow his blog here.