A Gulf Islands Marine Trails Series Article...
At the Northwest end of the Saanich Peninsula is a launch site known as Moses Point. It is at the end of a dead-end street with a bit of a walk down to the water. Most folks bring along a set of wheels to get their boat from the road down to the water. Depending on the tide level, Moses Point can be a really nice shell beach facing Satellite Channel to having a very limited amount of space for putting in boats.
We have been paddling with a group of South Island Sea Kayaking Association friends every Wednesday for years, though this is not a club paddle but rather just folks spending the day out on the water together. We usually go to a different spot every week just to keep it interesting that can range from Sooke to Cowichan Bay.
One of the shorter paddles we do from Moses Point is over to and around Piers Island. It is about 9 nm round trip with a stop for lunch on the island at a nice beach next to an open meadow. The island is named for Henry Piers (d. 1902), a Royal Navy surgeon who served on HMS Satellite and HMS Investigator and at the Pacific Station (Esquimalt), later Deputy Inspector of Hospitals and Fleets. In the early 1930s a portion of the island was a penal colony used to house Sons of Freedom who were a group of Doukhobor extremists from around Castlegar.
Piers Island is less than one square mile in area, located between Colburne Passage and Satellite Channel. All but 3 properties are waterfront, ranging from walk-on beachfront, to high bank waterfront. The residents use electric golfcarts as well as foot travel and bicycles to get around. There are no stores, hospitals or schools on the island. Wildlife includes migratory and resident bird populations, black tailed deer, river otter, mink, newts, Pacific Tree frogs and the occasional unusual visitor.
A few years back, one July our group paddled over to the island with light winds, sunny skies and an easy sea state. We had heard on the news for a couple of nights previously that a cougar had been spotted on the island but none of us gave it much thought. We later learned that the Provincial Wildlife folks had been over to the island a number of times, with their dogs, looking for the cougar. They had been unsuccessful because the centre of the island is bush and the cougar, looking for deer, had left tracks and scent all over the island which made tracking a fresh scent by the dogs impossible.
On the day of the paddle, we pulled up for lunch and settled on the beach. The guys went to look for some bushes on the side of the clearing. I walked a little further on and saw across the meadow what I thought looked like a chainsaw carving of some kind of an animal. Much to my surprise the carving moved and that is when I realized I was looking at a full-size cougar which was staring right back at me.
I knew from previous wilderness training that the last thing you wanted to do, in that situation, was to turn and run as the cat was then very likely see you as prey and come after you. So, I did the only thing left, I reached into my pocket and took out my point and shoot camera and took a couple of photos as I was slowly backing away. The cat watched me until I was close to the beach and then turned and walked into the bush.
I informed my fellow paddlers about the cougar. A woman from the house next to the clearing walked over to us. She had seen the cougar from her kitchen window. She informed us that a cat occasionally swims over from the peninsula and stays for a day or two as it hunts for deer.
As we were a group, we didn’t think we were in any danger. After lunch we got back in our boats and paddled back to Moses Point then headed home with memories and a few pics of a different paddle experience.