Both PredictWind and Sailflow indicated northwest winds of 15 knots Friday morning. The temperature would be in low 20s by noon, yet we still opted to wear our dry suits. Apart from a short period paddling the south shore of Kulleet Bay, where I felt my suit was going to broil me, the winds provided nice air conditioning for the journey.
We launched at 9 am from Blue Heron Park, located on Yellowpoint Road, south of Nanaimo. The park is also very close to Yellowpoint Park and the Yellowpoint Eco-reserve where one can find a wide variety of birds including the Pileated Woodpecker, Great Horned Owl and other animals including many species of bats and the red-legged frog. There are kilometres of hikes before or after your paddle. It is possible to run into a cougar or a bear, but in the fall not the summer. Hiking the eco-reserve now for four decades, I have not encountered a bear or cat. However, my property borders the parks and a bear has trashed my apple trees.
In short order, we paddled past the historic Yellowpoint Lodge, seeing only a couple visitors on the lounge chairs. The lodge serves great food and I thought it might still be breakfast time. The lodge is almost impossible to acquire a room because of popularity.
We ambled along the shorelines, seeing quite a few breeds of ducks including a bird that looked like a Scoter—it was very black, an orange beak and very orange feet. On past paddles, Wood Ducks, Mallards, Mergansers and Harlequins, were sighted. In Kulleet Bay, over the Chemainus village, several eagles and turkey vultures rode the air streams while several Blue Heron hunted for fish along the shoreline.
As a boy, Lyle’s dad took him swimming at Kulleet Bay. He remembered the crystal-clear waters. The Stz’uminus People have lived here for thousands of years. The Stz’uminus have approximately 1200 hectares of land largely in the Kulleet Bay-Ladysmith Harbour area. Considering the bay’s proximity to urban areas such as Nanaimo or Ladysmith, the area is remarkably pristine and private. Definitely, a recommended coastal paddle!
Exiting Kulleet Bay, we paddled past several local First Nations digging clams. We easily navigated close to the shoreline, our boats slicing through half-metre waves, crashing ashore. Every few minutes we headed into the waves and wind and rode the waves back toward shore. It took approximately 15 to 20 minutes to reach Coffin Point from Kulleet Bay.
The Chemainus people lived here in three winter villages: Kulleet Bay, Sibell Bay and in the Coffin Point area. Coffin Point, known as Kumalockasun, was the third village in the area. The people from the three villages amalgamated in 1913. A royal commission awarded the local people 1082 hectares of land but excluded Coffin Point (even though they already lived there and owned the land for 5000 years). The permanent village at Kulleet Bay was called shts'emines; Chemainus is the anglicized version of the name.
The sea state changed quickly entering Ladysmith Harbour. We paddled by Elliott’s Beach and headed toward the Dunsmuir Islands. The sail through Ladysmith Harbour was an hour of bliss. A very light wind caressed our faces and the glassy waters reflected a cloudless sky. Navigating around a log boom, we soon reached the Ladysmith boat ramp—my wife drove our vehicle from Blue Heron to Ladysmith—and loaded our gear and boats. A few minutes later we were sitting in the Oyster Bay Café at the Ladysmith Maritime Society docks, enjoying Veggie and Sante Fe wraps with a mug of good coffee.
The Maritime Society will be placing a floating kayak dock within their facilities. The BC Marine Trails as part of the Salish Sea Marine Trail and the Gulf Islands Marine Trail will include the dock as one of their camping locations. The Society will place facilities—handles, kayak racks, etc.—to enable paddlers to get out of their boats and store them. The nearby restaurant, open mid-May to mid-September, will supply some great meals.
Short Youtube video of trip by Lyle Wilkinson: Follow here.