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PART 3 - HERIOT BAY TO PORT HARDY - Jun. 10th - Day 12 - Sea kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation

Updated: Jan 30

Vancouver Island by Kayak Map

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

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, but there are still sixteen days until my encounter with the Skils Sea Kayaking group on St Josef Bay. Therefore, I concluded that I was ahead of schedule, and even with a few spare days to account for bad weather, I would be on time.

And so, I took a rest day.

Two days prior I was contacted by a fellow kayaker living in Heriot Bay who invited me for a drink. We met at a café next to the local supermarket up the road and he told me his story over some morning coffee. Michael works for his father-in-law during the summer months taking care of his property, and this was his first time in a month to sneak out 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, joking.

“Well, I sure hope she was worth all, right?”

“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 kayaking advice from my previous long journeys.

“Any tips and tricks you’ve picked up on the way?”

I wasn’t sure how to respond. I’ve never considered myself an authority on the sport.

“You know I did this thing with my bilge pump and water bottles where I wrapped them in waterproof velcro. I put the other half of the velcro on the floor of the cockpit, and now I don’t need bungies to keep the pump and the bottles in place. Works quite well even when I roll the boat.

“Oh that’s brilliant you’ll have to show me when we walk back.”

In the afternoon a couple that had been paddling the Johnstone Strait the past week arrived at the Heriot Bay Inn. I struck up a conversation with George and Marla who were very excited to tell me about their adventure over dinner.

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“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 to Francisco Island; that’s a neat place to camp, you’re right on the mouth of the Hole in the Wall and you see these huge dancing whirlpools from the current. Speaking of that, do you have a good way to know the tides in this area? You’re going to need it.”

“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 look 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 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. It was the printout of a long spreadsheet table.

“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 will 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 this kind of 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 have circumnavigated Vancouver Island, it’s a small group you’ll be joining. But be careful on the west coast. 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 paying over a thousand dollars a night or more. The staff wouldn’t even let us land to stretch our legs.”

Sea kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation



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