South of Ucluelet is a wide bay with hundreds of islands called the Broken Group. On a map it resembles the shards of a shattered green wine glass, and is a maze of narrow passages, tidal flows, and hidden beaches. There are many families of sea otters living here that stake their territorial claim on every bed of kelp, and sealions populate the rocky islets sticking out from the sea in their hundreds, constantly yelling loudly at one another like a rowdy crowd in a football match.
Occasionally, a pod of orcas patrols the sea lion colonies looking for easy pickings. The most vulnerable sea lions are the glutenous ones, those who go out hunting for herring and eat more than they should. They get bloated, and fail to keep up with the herd. These are the ones the orcas look for. Although the sea lion can be acrobatic in the water, it is no competition for the speed and agility of the orca which can whack the three-hundred-pound animal into the air with its tail like a tennis ball.
Alas, however, today if any of these trials of life were happening, they would have been hidden in a veil of dense fog.
I saw only one boat pass by me early in the day. It had a quiver of a dozen kayaks, and some hours later at the western edge of the Broken Group I ran into the flock of paddlers they belonged to.
“Wow, you are here already. That was fast. We saw you from the boat this morning.” Said one of them.
We took a break to chat; they were a group of ten friends from Ontario on a five-day kayak camping trip in the Pacific Rim National Park and had booked this trip some six months ago.
“You can’t pick the weather, but you must pick the dates. All the campsites in the park get booked months in advance this time of year.”
“Oh really, so I won’t find anywhere to camp south of Bamfield through the park?”
“Almost certainly not, eh… All the spaces are reserved. Maybe there’s a no show, but you won’t know until you’re there.”
“Hmmm…. That will be a problem… It's almost 50 miles to paddle from Bamfield to Port Renfrew. Would be tough to cover that much distance in a day.”
“Better start early tomorrow then…”
I checked the distance on the GPS, from Bamfield to Port Renfrew is 44 miles as the bird flies, which would be about 50 miles on the boat.
After leaving the Broken Group the bay had a four-mile crossing exposed to the Pacific Ocean before reaching Bamfield. The ocean breeze picked up, cleared the fog, and large swells began rolling in. Each wave period must have been about a minute; they rolled gently and carried me further up the bay until I was lined up with the harbor entrance which splits the town down the middle.. There’s no bridge or road that connects the west side to the east. The eastside seemed open only to pedestrian traffic via a long winding boardwalk.
I paddled down the harbor looking for a lodge or marina to land. The HarborSide Lodge seemed inviting. I called the number on their billboard.
“Hello, good afternoon, would you have a bed for one person tonight?”
“We do, when are you arriving?”
“I am the yellow kayak floating by the dock. Are you the lady on the porch with the cell phone?”
“Indeed I am.” She said laughing. “Pull up on the beach and you can get settled in.”
When I undressed from my dry suit, I noticed that my right arm was soaked. While the left arm was dry.
“ God Damn it! It must be leaking.” I thought and felt very disappointed with Kokatat. This entire journey I have been extra careful with my dry suit. I washed it in freshwater at every chance, I waxed the zippers and sprayed the ankle and neck gaskets with silicone and beat off any grain of sand I found in it, but it seems, it was not enough. How the arms could have sprung a leak is beyond my comprehension. Perhaps the paddling is causing parts of the suit to rub against one another, but that should be what the suit is designed to do.
“They will get a piece of my mind when I’m back. A $1,200 suit shouldn’t do this.” I thought
Strolling down the boardwalk in the afternoon I found a mini market, which had my favorite food, ice cream. I asked for three scoops of chocolate fudge on the waffle cone, and then had a second three scooped serving of mango.
“I guess I should have more ice cream in my diet.” Said the owner of the mini mart. “How can you not be fat and eat so much ice cream?”
“I’m living life to the fullest right now.” I joked.
“With six scoops, I’d be surprised if anyone said they were not.”
Sea Kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation