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June 19th and 20th - Days 21 and 22- Port Hardy

I reviewed the weather forecast for the next seven days and assessed when there’d be a weather window to round Cape Scott and arrive in St. Joseph Bay in time to meet the group from Skills Sea Kayak on June 26th. Tuesday June 21st seemed the best day to leave Port Hardy. I would have a falling tide in the morning, and a slight breeze from the Southeast. That would allow me to cover enough miles, camp on one of the north facing beaches on the island and be within striking distance of the Cape. I called JF at Skills Sea Kayak to coordinate.

“When you round Cape Scott, be sure that the tide and the wind are with you. Otherwise, it can get really choppy out there. Best to go in the morning when the winds are light.”

“That sounds good. What about the swells? I saw on the forecast that they come from the Southwest.”

“If the winds are light, you won’t have to worry. But if there’s a strong Northwest wind with a rising tide, the weather will be clear, but I wouldn’t want to be out there. That’s why you should go early in the morning.”

We coordinated a few other things, including picking up my kayak dolly which I would leave in Port Hardy, and freeing up room in the stern hatch.

With that done, I now had two full days to spend in Port Hardy.  

The town is not very big, and I think I walked down every street.  At the waterfront is a park where there’s a large obelisk and a tall totem pole. Celebrating fallen Canadians in past wars. (WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.) The inscription at the base of each read, “Brothers in Life, Forever Together in Death.” This isn’t the first monument to the fallen I have seen in Canada. Every town, large and small, has a monument to the Canadian war dead.

I walked north past the park, and I noticed a strange thing. A bald eagle swooped up and down the trees while being chased by a murder of some ten crows. It would come from up high and dive down till it almost hit the ground, before again gaining altitude like airplane in a bombing run. The ravens would fly in tow screaming like hounds chasing a fox, and one of them came close to nipping a tail feather from the eagle.  But the eagle seemed like it couldn't care less, and even slowed down to let the ravens catch up. I pointed this out to a local man on the street, and he gave out a laugh.

“Ah yes… it happens all the time. He’s taunting them, just to get a raise. The eagles fly right next to the raven’s nests, and it drives them insane. They’re like kids in the neighborhood you chase off your lawn; always up to no good…”

As I walked farther, I came across a familiar smell. “There must be a wastewater plant somewhere nearby.” I thought. Sure enough, around the corner of the street and down a hidden dirt road was a package plant with a bar screen, aeration tank, and a clarifier. It took a photograph of it to show it to the folks back at work. It’s rarely the case that a town so small can afford a wastewater treatment plant, but it seems that Port Hardy must have obtained a grant from the provincial government. This type of infrastructure investment must mean that the town can grow and develop. Any property that was previously on septic and is now connected to the sewer network will shoot up in value.

Later in the night I decided to treat myself to a good meal. I found a pizza place downtown and ordered a large pepperoni pizza. I was disappointed, however, when I received the dish. The pepperoni slices were almost a quarter inch thick as if they had been haphazardly cut by hand and soggy with dripping fat. This isn’t the first time I’ve had bad food in Canada. I’ve also eaten soggy fish and chips that even someone in England would have felt was below their dignity. Why the English-speaking world has such bad gastronomical talents I do not know. When I did a cycling trip through the Dolomites in Northern Italy I stopped in a local pizzeria where the owner only spoke German. The place was a hole in the wall, but their calzones were so delicious, that to this day I regret not taking a second one to go for the morning breakfast.

The next day I spent the morning buying supplies for the journey at the only supermarket in town. Not having to carry the kayak dolly in the stern hatch opened a world of possibilities of what I could afford to bring with me. I chose to buy twenty-four bottles of Perrier as a treat. I won’t be seeing the inside of a supermarket for at least three weeks.

Next to the supermarket was an outdoor store where I found a bear banger which I felt would be important to have with me in addition to the bear spray. “It will make mom happy if I tell her I have this with me,” I thought. Most importantly I replaced my ripped gear bags with new ones which would make carrying things to and from the kayak much quicker.

After buying everything I needed I found myself with not much to do. I read on Google that the nearby settlement of Fort Rupert had a curling club. Back in College my roommates and I enjoyed watching the women’s curling competition during the winter Olympics on TV. “Let’s go and see what it’s like,” I thought.

I called up a cab, “I’d like to go see the Curling Arena in Fort Rupert.” I told the driver.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” I said, without even thinking why he would ask. We drove the six miles and dropped me off in front of a prefab metal building with a sign that read, “Fort Rupert Curling Club, GE Wilson Memorial Arena.”

“You want me to wait?”

“No worries, I'll be here for a while.” I said, and he drove off.

I walked across the dirt parking lot to the building entrance, and promptly discovered that it was locked. I saw someone on the street walking their dog. “When do they open?” I asked.

“In the winter.” He replied.

“Oh…. I see….” I said, feeling a bit dumb. Of course, they don’t play curling in the summer, why would I think that?

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking back to Port Hardy.