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MV Uchuck III Ferry Route

What Happened When Covid Came Kayaking

This turned out to be the kayak trip from hell. Inviting Covid along for the paddle—not a great idea!

There were eight of us originally. One dropped out a couple of weeks prior to the trip, one dropped out the night before because he was feeling ill (later testing negative), and one showed up with his driver at the meeting spot in Ladysmith after testing positive that morning. That person stayed with the group, wore an N95 mask, and we all took the Uchuck III from Gold River to Kyuquot.

By the time we arrived in Kyuquot, the person who tested positive that morning was feeling sick. The rest of us, now a group of five, disembarked and paddled to Spring Island. Our sick paddler was allowed to sleep on the Uchuck that night, but ended up going back to Gold River on the Uchuck, overnighting there, and then driving themselves home the next day.

I woke up on the third day of the trip very ill. There were a series of weather systems, with high winds and rain, scheduled to hit the Kyuquot area for a number of days, beginning that evening. I did not want to be lying in my sleeping bag feeling like death warmed over while the wind and rain battered the tent for days on end, so we decided to make an evacuation plan. It was definitely the right call to contact Nootka Air via our InReach satellite communications system, and charter a flight for me back to Gold River, regardless of the cost. They picked me up right off the beach on Spring Island and flew me back to Gold River. I drove all the way home to Victoria that same day, over 350 km. In retrospect that was not the smartest thing to do because of how sick I was.

Thankfully, Air Nootka picked me up off the beach at Spring Island.

Upon arriving home, feeling and looking awful, my partner Gail placed me in isolation upstairs in the guest bedroom. I tested positive for Covid the next morning, and for the next 10 days. As a result of being immunocompromised with moderate Covid symptoms, I went through the BC Covid program and was prescribed an antiviral drug.

Four of the original group remained on Spring Island, which is one of the loveliest paddling areas along our coast, for the rest of the week. At the end of the trip, when they got to Campbell River, they each tested themselves. Three tested negative and one, who was asymptomatic, turned out to be positive! This led to one of the four, even though they personally had tested negative, deciding not to return home for a week  because of their concern over passing any illness on to their spouse.

In retrospect, the group should have made better decisions when we met in Ladysmith, pertaining to the paddler who had tested positive and others who may have already been exposed. As a result of this experience, the “Catfish Group” has now established strict Covid and flu protocols which will be followed in the future. This was a learning experience for all of us.

Was I ever glad to be heading home!

I really thank Nootka Air (, the Uchuck III (, West Coast Expeditions (, and the people from Kyuquot/Checlesent First Nations. They all had a hand in helping us along on this trip.

A really nice flight if you're not feeling like death warmed over!

Fred Pishalski

I've been an ocean kayaker since the early 1990s and have paddled extensively all over Vancouver Island, the central coast, and Haida Gwaii. I've also been fortunate to enjoy kayaking journeys along the Baja Peninsula in the Sea of Cortez as well as day paddles in Hawaii, Cuba, Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Colombia, and a few other locations. I am the Vancouver Island Regional Manager for BC Marine Trails, and an active member of the South Island Sea Kayak Association (SISKA). I am retired and live in Victoria, BC.

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