Updated: Jun 13
The morning brought dead calm conditions. The tide was falling and that helped to make fast progress early on, perhaps even a little too fast.
I covered the first six miles to the western tip of Malcolm Island in a little over an hour where there is a lighthouse that marks the end of the Johnstone Strait, and the beginning of the Queen Charlotte Sound. There was a perfectly good beach to make a stop for a pee break, but I just wasn’t feeling like I needed it, and so I kept on going. That was a big mistake. Several fellow kayakers have told me that when you wear a dry suit you should pee when you can, and not when you have to. Port Hardy was another eighteen miles away.
Three hours later I was folding myself into a pretzel with the urge to go. Peeing in a bottle in the kayak felt a little too difficult, because opening the pee zipper in the dry is a very risky thing to do in the water, even in relatively calm conditions. In warmer waters like in Florida, it is easy. You just pee in the kayak, and then splash in some water to dilute the urine and make enough volume to pump it out. Here, however, If I flip over, the shrinkage would be the least of my problems. Perhaps, if I had someone else next to me to hold on to my boat, going about the business would not have seemed so daunting, but alone, I just could not relax enough to do it.
I spotted a humpback whale far in the distance hitting its pectoral fin on the water. At first, like the last time I had seen a whale at the Blackney Passage, nothing could be heard, and only after a few moments the splashing sounds reached my ears in powerful thumps like someone trying to beat down a door with a battering ram. Whatever it was telling its friends, they would have heard it from miles away. Perhaps it said, “Come take a look at this guy in a kayak, you won’t believe the face he’s making trying not to wiz himself.”
I pulled into the Port Hardy marina early afternoon, stood up on the boat ramp, and took one of the longest leaks I’ve ever done, not caring one bit if there was anyone looking.
There were two hotels adjacent to the Marina, but both were full for the day.
“Come back tomorrow, and we will have a room. For tonight, however, you’ll have to try and see what you find in the town.”
Ever since I had to do the twenty-five-mile portage on my kayak journey around Florida, I have concluded that it is almost always worth it to pay extra to walk less. Fortunately, except for one steep hill on the way to downtown, the portage today was nowhere as demanding. and the gas station halfway was a welcomed break for an ice cream.
I called ahead to a hotel called Kwa’lilas which had a room available. As usual I did not let them know ahead of time that my 18-foot kayak would be a guest with special needs, and only sprung the situation on the receptionist once I had already checked in.
“What’s your vehicle?” he asked.
“An 18-foot kayak.”
“Like on the roof of the car?”
“No, that is the vehicle. Any chance you have a place for me to park it?”
He looked outside through the main double door in the lobby.”
“Oh… hmmm... Let me call the manager.”
The manager arrived after a few minutes. He was an indigenous man with a very round face, and a broad shiny forehead exposed from his hair which was pulled back and tied into a long silky ponytail. He had an imposing frame and wore a suit that looked chiseled from a black rock. A sharp contrast to my ragged beard and loose dry suit.
“So, you’re kayaking around the island, eh?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Ah, I’m sure we can help with that. We can put it in the back courtyard, that way it’s not out in the street.”
We walked past the lobby, down a corridor, and through a dining hall. On every wall were paintings and carvings of native art, which I found hard to not pause for a moment and appreciate. They were images of bears, eagles, killer whales, and wolves, with radiant shades of red and black hues, and geometric forms that fit together like a puzzle. I especially liked one carving of a school of salmon appearing to frantically swim up a river, and I imagined how I could draw something like that on the deck of my kayak.
“Yes, it was done by one of our locals. He has a gallery downtown, if you have the time, you should go see it.”
“Yes, they are beautiful works.”
“We also sell many carvings and paintings in the hotel gift shop. You should look and see if you want to take something home with you.”
“Oh, I wish I could. I don’t think a delicate wooden sculpture would not survive for a whole month inside my kayak hatch. And I would hate to fold one of the paintings down the middle like a napkin.”
“Ah yes, here is where we can keep your kayak.” He pointed at a wooden bleacher next to a large flat deck in the back courtyard. “This is where we had our grand opening ceremony six years ago. It was a big deal, eh. The first native funded, constructed, operated, and owned hotel in BC. The whole news media from Canada came to see the Chiefs bless the building and watch the kids from the high school play and dance. It was a big deal, eh. I think the blessings worked. We survived the pandemic, the tourists are back in droves, we’re the fanciest place in town, and the business is booming.”
“Oh that is such good news!”
As he was telling me more about the hotel, my eye caught sight of something that made me excited.
“Oh, you have a water hose here! Can I wash my kayak?”
Sea kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation