top of page

PART 3 - Heriot Bay  to Port Hardy

June 10th - Day 12

I slept very heavily last night until early morning, and never heard a clatter of drunken partying, chanting or thumping from the karaoke down at the bar below me.

In just eight days of paddling, I’ve covered nearly half the distance from Seattle to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, about two hundred and fifty miles so far. There are still sixteen days until I meet with the Skils Sea Kayaking group on St Joseph Bay. Therefore, I concluded that I am running ahead of schedule, and even with a few spare days to account for bad weather, I should be able to arrive on time.

I decided to take a rest day.

A couple of days ago I was contacted by a fellow kayaker living in Heriot Bay who invited me for a drink and barter some stories. We met at a café next to the local supermarket up the road from the hotel. Over some coffee he told me he works for his father-in-law during the summer months by taking care of his property, and thus far hasn’t had any time to sneak or for a break.

“Man, I work all day at that place. I cut grass, nail in floorboards, and paint the walls; I suppose I am a kind of indentured servant to my father-in-law.” He said, in a way that sounded half joking.

“Well, I sure hope she was worth all the indentured work.” I joked back at him.

“Oh, she is definitely worth all the work. Though she doesn’t always act like it.” He laughed.

He asked me if I could give him any advice based on my previous long kayaking journeys, and any tips and tricks I had learned along the way. At first, I did not know how to respond, I’ve never considered myself an authority on anything about kayaking let alone to be someone qualified to give advice on the subject. I thought about the subject for about a minute. “You know what I think is a really good invention I came up with? I’ve wrapped my bilge pump and my water bottles with waterproof Velcro. That way I can stick them to the kayak floor between my legs and everything stays in place, even when I roll, or have to do a wet exit. That’s been really helpful not having to worry about losing your bottles, if you flip over. I’ll show you when we go back to the hotel.”

That same afternoon I ran across a couple who had been paddling through the Johnstone Strait for the past week and had only recently arrived in Heriot Bay the day before. George and Marla were staying at the hotel, and we talked over dinner at the bar about their trip.

“Yes, we saw one bear. It happened on Sonora Island just north of Quadra. He was right on the campsite we were planning to stay for the night. He ran into the bush when we arrived, but I sure didn’t want to camp there and find out if he was planning to come back. We kept going until Francisco Island on the discovery passage. The island is small enough that the bears usually have no reason to hang out there. How are you keeping track of the current?”

“Well, I usually look at the tide table on my phone for the closest station. There is one here on Heriot Bay.” I answered.

Marla gazed at me with a face that spoke of disapproval. “Yeah, that probably works on the West Coast of Vancouver, but here in the sounds, that’s going to get you into trouble. The turn of the tide doesn’t always coincide with the high or the low tide. Yes, it might be the celestial high or low tide, but the narrow passageways between the sounds can really goof up everything. You might get to one passage thinking it’s slack tide, and you’ll be waiting there for an additional hour before the current is weak enough to cross, or worse, that your time to cross has already passed.”

She then reached into her purse and pulled out a few sheets of letter sized paper that she had carefully folded into two Ziplock bags.

“Let me give you something that will be useful to you.” She whispered.

She unfolded the paper and showed it to me. On it was a long series of tables

“These are the current tables for all the passageways in the Discovery Islands. It gives you the time and speed of the peak flood and ebb currents, and the time of the turns. There are only a few passageways for which there is raw data on the Canadian Hydrogeologic Service website, so for a few of the others, I extrapolated the times and speeds based on the distances from the closest gauges. It’s worked remarkably well for us during the past week. The tables go until June 15th which should cover you, there you see here you have the times for the surge narrows, and the Okisollo passage where you’ll be going through.”

“Thank you so much for this. I wish there was a way I could repay your generosity.”

“Oh, no worries. Put us in the story of your great adventure if you wish. We will follow you along the link you gave us “” I guess I can remember that. Not many people circumnavigate Vancouver Island. It can get very rough on the ocean side. I certainly wouldn’t paddle there by myself. Oh, and by the way, if you decide to go to Sonora Island, don’t bother stopping at the Sonora Resort. The place has nothing but rich assholes who pay over a thousand dollars a night or more, the staff wouldn’t even let us land to stretch our legs.”