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PART 5 - Jul. 2nd - Day 34 - Rounding the Brooks - Sea Kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation

Updated: Feb 4

Vancouver Island - West Coast - rockpool taran kayak

Last evening JF surprised us all with a fluffy chocolate cake topped with whip cream and blueberries he’d baked on the camping cooker.

“I think Skils Sea Kayak needs to investigate adding a culinary class as part of their kayak guide training certification. Nobody should get their guide diploma until they can demonstrate they can bake a cake on the beach.” I joked.

The cake put us in a relative comfort for that night’s update on the upcoming paddle.

“Guys, now that you’ve all been properly sugarcoated, I think I can give you an unsweetened pep talk on what is coming. So, pay attention.

“Rounding the Brooks is a big deal. Not many people do it, and it’s because it can be very dangerous if you get caught there in bad weather. Captain Cook who sailed through the Pacific Northwest didn’t call it The Cape of Storms for nothing. Many big ships have scuttled between the Cape and Solander Island, and as a little flotilla of kayaks we’d be little more than driftwood in bad conditions. The stretch facing the Pacific Ocean is long, rocky, and there aren’t many places to land if anyone gets into trouble. It’s shallow, and when the wind is blowing and the waves are breaking, the sea looks just like the cake you’re eating now.” He pointed at the ; white creamy slush splattered with dark chocolate Hershey kisses.

“Fortunately, tomorrow, conditions look like they will be ideal, but we have to start early to catch the ebbing tide and go with the flow. We want to be on the water by 6:00 am, so get a good night's sleep.”

When I was preparing for this journey, I occasionally checked the weather patterns around Vancouver Island to get a sense of what I would be up against. The Brooks Peninsula always looked particularly menacing and was the reason I wanted to paddle this section with a group. The peninsula sticks out twelve miles into the Pacific Ocean from the rest of Vancouver Island, and it catches the edge of the storms out in the open sea. On the Windfinder weather map, the wind color scale makes it evident the trap you could be blundering into. At the base of the peninsula the color will be blue or light purple indicating the wind is 5 to 10 knots, and at the cape it will be tinged yellow and orange which is 25 to 30 knots. That’s the difference between a leisure day on the water and struggling to not get walloped. And if the wind is blowing against the tide, it could spawn monsters.

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We were up and packed a little after sunrise. JF and Justine were up even earlier. They had to get breakfast ready and the coffee boiling for the rest of us. From the beach I looked north to the horizon, it was dead calm. I then looked to the southwest along the shore to the cape ten miles away; dead calm as well. It felt too easy, almost a disappointment. “Could we have a little challenge please?” I almost said out loud before clapping my mouth shut, lest I anger the sea gods.

We pushed off punctually at 6:00 am over the flat waters with our kayaks forming v-shaped ripples as the sliced through the sea. About an hour later the rocky outcrop of Solander Island appeared into view from behind the last headland;, we were rounding Cape Cook, the start of the six-mile run directly exposed to the ocean until Cape Clark where we would turn northeast along the South coast of the peninsula and be out of the danger zone.

Just as JF described, the shoreline here is littered with hundreds of rocky islets that make a boulder maze you have to navigate through and not get dashed to pieces by a rogue wave. Today however, the sea gods were distracted somewhere else, and we could safely approach and touch the outcrops, observe the cormorants and sea gulls sunning themselves, and even pose for a group photo.

When we stopped for lunch, at the only beach between Cape Cook and Cape Clark. JF felt like he owed us an explanation.

“Guys, I swear I wasn’t crying wolf. I have never, ever, seen this place so calm. Last time I paddled through here there was strong wind from the northwest, and we were whizzing through at over six knots; and that was a good day. What we just did was crawl over the face of a sleeping giant. It gets ugly very fast if he wakes up.”

Around Cape Clark the water was shallow and the swells crumbled with gentle foam from the wave crest. Had we not been loaded to the brim with gear, I would have enjoyed spending the day kayak surfing. We finished the day near Jackobson Point where we coasted gently to land on a wide flat beach.

“Well, congratulations! You can all say that you have paddled the Brooks. Not many people can say that. Definitely gives you some bragging rights in the sea kayaking world.” Said JF.

“We just won’t mention that Felipe slaughtered a sea otter last night so the gods would grant us safe passage.” Someone joked.

“Well, you do what you have to. It’s what the entrails of a fawn told me I had to do.” I dead panned back.

Sea Kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation


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