The morning conditions were exactly as the forecast predicted, and I got on the water as soon as daylight allowed, to catch the falling tide and the slight tail breeze.
North of Port Hardy there are no towns or roads, and the beaches are only accessible by boat or trail. “I hope nothing happens that causes me to miss the group in St Josef Bay.” I thought. I had enough food and water with me for a bit over a week. If the worst were to happen, then I’d need to make a resupply stop in Winter Harbor on the Quatsino Sound, which is about a week’s paddle in fair conditions. The Hope, Nigei, and Balaklava islands form a narrow channel with the northern tip of Vancouver Island which is the last stretch of sheltered water before the coast becomes exposed to the swells of the Pacific Ocean. Today conditions were very benign. I barely felt the wind on my back, and the water was flat. However, I could imagine this place turning into a wind tunnel and would be completely impassable.
Halfway up the channel I met another kayaker on the water paddling in the opposite direction towards Port Hardy, and we stopped to talk for a few minutes. He was from Victoria and had been on a six-day trip around the three north islands and queen Charlotte Sound.
“The last few days have been very warm; I’d be sweating if I was wearing that.” He said pointing to my dry suit.
“Have you seen any bears?” I asked.
“Yes! I got a great shot of a black bear as he was sitting on a rock watching me pass on the kayak. I was as much of an attraction to him as he was to me.”
“Ok, I’ll keep an eye out for them. Any advice about the road ahead?”
“Yeah, don’t stop at the indigenous village on Hope Island. They don’t like outsiders. Had to get some water there, and folks were giving me the, “You’re not from here,” kind of look.”
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We continued our separate ways after our chance encounter on the water. At Hope Island I noticed the first ocean swells rolling under the kayak. The swell period was very long, maybe 15 seconds, but it had a tall amplitude, and at the crest of the wave the horizon revealed other small islets far in the distance.
I stopped at Cape Sutil which marked the Northernmost point in Vancouver Island where I checked the readings on my GPS unit, “50.52 Degrees of Latitude North.” It read.
“Interesting,” I thought, “This isn’t even as far north as London. They are at 51 Degrees.”
The moderating influence of the Gulf Stream on the European coast makes their weather the equivalent of ten degrees further south. The weather here is more like what you’d experience in Norway.
My guidebook gave me a stern warning about Cape Sutil and the river estuary next to it. “Beware of the Nahwitti bar when the west wind blows against the ebbing current as it will form dangerous rips and overfalls. Only attempt to cross it in ideal conditions.”
I looked around, and the water was flat like a mirror, but the forecast called for westerly winds in the afternoon. The time was 2:00pm.
“I better not hang out here too long.” I thought.
The wind was not late for the appointment. The last six miles of the day to Shuttleworth Bight were paddled with great effort through chop and breaking swells and the rising tide.
Sea Kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation