The calm weather allowed for a side journey into the Nuchatlitz Sound which carves a deep groove into the northwest side of Nookta Island where a splatter of rocky islets and kelp beds creates a maze of passages and rip currents. Sometimes the spaces were so narrow we had to pass one kayak at a time, and even then, only when the waves rolled in and gave enough depth to the water.
Past the islets we came across a cliff face where the waves carved a multitude of caves into the soft rock. Some caves were wide enough to paddle into, however, that is always an intricate endeavor as there is very little room to turn around an eighteen-foot kayak. JF went to inspect one of the larger caverns where a waterfall poured a gushing stream into the sea through a shaft of light. As he paddled past the mouth of the cave beyond the reach of the sunlight he vanished in the contrast between light and shadow along with the waves rolling in, before reappearing after a couple of minutes.
“You can paddle in; there’s a pocket at the very back of the cave where you can turn in place. But be careful. Do not paddle through the waterfall, there is a shallow rock immediately below it, and you will get stuck on it until the tide rolls in.”
I went into the cave beyond the reach of sunlight, and it took a moment before my eyes to adjust and allow me to observe my whereabouts. The width between the walls was much narrower than the length of my kayak, the cave ceiling was about fifteen feet and dripped with moisture from curtains of green moss and lichens. I continued until I reached the light shaft with the waterfall which I kept just to my right. When I passed it, I saw the shallow rock JF had warned out. It was barely visible in the splashing water from the waterfall, and I wondered if JF had had a previous bad experience with it to know that it was there.
Two boat lengths beyond the waterfall was the turnaround pocket. For a while I considered if I should paddle out backwards all the way out, rather than risk getting pinned. “I think JF’s boat is a foot shorter than mine.” I thought.
I leaned into my strokes as much as possible to spin in place. About a third of the way I brushed the rudder against the rock but only gently, and I followed through until the bow was pointed into the cave’s mouth glaring sunlight.
“I’m not sure I want to do this on my own. Not with a boat this long. How does my rudder look?” I asked, emerging from the cave.
“Nothing wrong with the rudder. Yes, you don’t want to be rock gardening or paddling into a cave in a sea kayak on your own. You always need someone who can fetch you out if something happens.”
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We continued paddling up the sound, and came across another group of six kayakers. They were on the fifth day of a six-day journey from Zeballos.
“When you get to the next beach keep your wits about you. We saw two bears on the shore looking for clams and they had a curious look about them when they saw us.” Said one of the men.
We did not have to go much farther before catching sight of the first bear. The animal sitting on the meadow by the beach was licking something and was completely not interested in us. The second bear we sighted was on the beach we’d intended to camp for the night right next to a waterfall we hoped to replenish our water supply, this bear seemed more interested in what we were and kept us in its sight until we were past the headland and out of view. Perhaps it thought we were some strange and colorful driftwood. Nevertheless, JF was sure to give us a warning.
“Folks, tonight if you hear something, like a banging on the boats, we will have to scare away the animal, be it a bear, wolf, or cougar. And if it is persistent, be prepared to haze the animal. The beaches serve as corridors for wildlife, and you never know if you are in a funnel where creatures pass through on their way up and down the coast.”
The bears, cougars, and wolves, however, were the least of our worries. After taking a bath at the waterfall I walked bare legged through a patch of grass. When I sat down, I noticed a tick with its head buried in my leg calf and was plump like a red pimple. I slapped the bugger dead with a splash, but the damage was done now. I’d have to monitor the bite for the next five days and make sure a sore didn’t develop into a leishmaniasis infection.
“Unlikely, but yes, you never know. You should have kept the tick in a Ziplock bag, just in case.” Said JF.
“Too late, It’s a gooey red slime now.”
Sea Kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation