Broughton Archipelago, August 2017

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by stagger, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    My trusty travelling companion and I spent 10 days in the Broughton area this August on a couple of Mariner kayaks we bought from this Forum's very own John Abercrombie.

    Trip report is here:

    Day 1

    Day 2
    Day 3
    Day 4
    Day 5
    Day 6
    Day 7
    Day 8
    Day 9 & 10

    I'll do my best to cut & paste it into this thread, per Forum guidelines. I might not get all the pictures in.

    Video is terrible - I need a better computer so I can convert and edit them properly.
     
  2. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    Hm, 10,000 character limit on posts in the new forum.
     
  3. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    After last year's Desolation Sound trip, we conceived of a loose plan to do the Discovery Islands this year, launching from Lund again, pushing north from the Rendezvous Islands and making a circuit of the area while covering as much territory as we could. But try as I might, I couldn't create an itinerary that made sense. I didn't feel like we were up for transiting the area's many rapids yet; and given that they are so close together, we'd be looking at a lot of hanging-around time when our style is more miles-making. After reading a lot of trip reports, grabbing all the info we could from the Marine Trails website, and digesting a lot of John Kimantas, we settled on an itinerary more or less lifted straight out of The Wild Coast 3: around the east side of Gilford Island, up Penphrase Passage to the Hopetown area, then down along the western edge of the Broughtons themselves. Such a trip, he promised, rivals the Desolation Sound area for the best two-week trip on the south coast. He wasn't wrong.

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    Rough itinerary

    A spur-of-the moment decision to buy a couple of kayaks instead of renting complicated matters a bit and added a slight element of nervousness: We knew our capabilities in barges like the Nimbus Telkwa; how would we fare in these rudderless performance boats? We had the Mariners stashed at a marine repair shop in Nanaimo after buying them from Victoria long-distance. More logistics to play with.

    All of BC was covered in a thick blanket of smoke from the wildfires; when I picked Jon up in Vernon on August 3, visibility was a couple kilometers at best. We decided to push to Vancouver that night to get an earlier start the next day and be in Alder Bay at a reasonable hour and launch the following morning. The smoke persisted all the way down to the coast and settled into our clothes as we waited two sailings for the ferry to Nanaimo. It seemed as though half the world wanted to get to Vancouver Island - possibly the only smoke-free place in Western North America at that moment.

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    Thank You for Not Smoking

    After a final stop in Campbell River for the last essential item - we'd nearly forgotten toilet paper! - we began the long drive north to Alder Bay (between Telegraph Cove and Port McNeill) where we were due to be picked up tomorrow for a water taxi across Johnstone Strait. Alder Bay is a campsite/marina located right across the channel from Alert Bay, and proved a good staging point for our trip. Parking was cheap, the owners were friendly (if a bit odd), and we'd have the ability to clean ourselves up before driving back to civilization.

    We test-paddled the Mariners that night after setting up camp. We were exhausted with travel - with getting and spending, with packing and prepping - and excited to get out into the wilderness.
     
  4. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    August 5 dawned with heavy fog. So heavy you could see droplets suspended in the air in front of you. We were really glad we weren't crossing Johnstone Strait in those conditions. We would make a similarly blind crossing later in the trip, but at this point we didn't have our sea legs yet. Terry, the proprietor of Alder Bay, told us August was known in these parts as "Fog-ust." Our water taxi arrived on time and we were plenty chuffed that Larry, the owner/operator, recognized the Mariners and thought well of them. On the way to Mound Island, he grilled us about our plans. He wasn't thrilled with tonight's destination of Klaoitsis Island and gave us an alternate location in the area he said would be better. We'd later find out why.


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    The Mariners, loaded

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    Studying the charts near Plumper Islands

    By the time we arrived at Mound Island around 11:00 the fog had burned off and the day was clear and calm. Mound seems like it would be a great group site - open level forest, room for dozens of tents easily, a pit toilet, huge Douglas-firs and a scenic location. After a quick hike around, we packed the boats and set off toward Village Island. We could hear (but not see) whales blowing in the distance behind us as we paddled east.


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    A mound of gear to pack

    The beach at Village Island is a little ratty with rusty debris and glass - not all of it worn smooth by the sea yet. We had lunch with a little tour group that was a bit of a sad scene - nobody looked like they were enjoying themselves very much - and then had a tramp around before moving on. It wasn't just because of the remains of the houses that you could imagine what it must have been like when it was inhabited; the woods felt like they'd been lived in, old trails packed down and grown over. The most impressive thing was the skeleton of the longhouse. You really get a sense of the dimensions and it doesn't take much imagination to put up some imaginary walls and a roof, light an imaginary fire, and populate the place.

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    Entrance to the longhouse at Village Island

    Apparently there are two totem poles on Village but we only found one - almost unrecognizable as such now, just a log with some bits that were obviously carved. We found a bunch of old apple trees and - joy - some stinging nettles. Jon gathered some spearmint by the main house facing the beach and we left a pinch of tobacco in thanks.

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    A derelict Eaton's Catalogue house on Village Island

    Well into the afternoon we launched down Beware Passage, beginning to paddle against the current as the wind began to kick up. We passed a big floating logging camp at Caution Cove and found ourselves at a dead end on the northeast side of Care Island. Both the CHS chart and the WaveLength map show a channel there, but it's no longer navigable and the deadfall would make a portage awkward and hazardous. Doubling back into Beware Passage, the conditions made for some challenging and active paddling. The wind and the waves calmed down after we crossed to the Klaoitsis area, and we made for Larry's suggested campsite. We weren't super impressed with the amenities or with the very active and noisy logging across the channel on Cracroft Island, so we checked out a few potential rock ledge sites in the area (not impressed with those either) before landing on the midden beach at Klaoitsis. What a place! A heavily used, level, roomy, easy-to-access campsite with a gorgeous white clamshell beach overlooking a narrow channel that's obviously a clam garden. The only thing that could have made it more perfect would be a clear stream 100 meters away, but you can't have everything. We set up camp and made dinner.

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    Midden beach at Klaoitsis Island

    After supper when we went to hang our food, we discovered why Klaoitsis isn't on the Marine Trails list of sites and probably why Larry had tried to steer us away from it - it's a burial island. A little graveyard is hidden back in the woods, and when we returned from the comedy of errors of hanging our food near the graveyard (nobody is going to hire either of us as pro baseball pitchers) we discovered another stone grave marker close to our tent. I felt pretty sad about this - it's considered disrespectful to visit, much less camp on, burial islands, and if it hadn't been getting well on in the evening by this time we'd have packed up and tried another site. Or if anything I'd read (and believe me, I've read everything that Uncle Google has to say about Klaoitsis) had indicated it was a burial island we'd never have gone there. As it is, I'd like to do my part by warning people who might be tempted.

    Nonetheless, we quietly enjoyed the rest of our calm, sunny evening there. Despite the campfire ban, we sat up into the night reliving the day's events.

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  5. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    We might have been awake by 7:00, but our usual morning pokiness prevailed. When we staggered out to the shore, it was like a scene from a bad comedy: "Dude, Where's the Ocean?" The channel west of Klaoitsis dries extensively at low tide - a nice big clam garden, which explains the impressive midden - and we couldn't see much in the way of water in any direction. Ah, well, breakfast first, dragging kayaks to tidewater later.

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    Dude, where's the ocean?

    I gathered a bushel of the lovely currants that grew along the beachside while Jon boiled up some porridge. The cloud - or fog, depending on your perspective - hung low over the mountainsides, a ceiling of about 50 feet. We got launched by 9:45, and it was beautiful paddling against very mild current as we headed northeast up Clio Channel.

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    Another sunny morning in Clio Channel


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    Negro Rock

    Minstrel Island provided a nice pocket beach for a lunch stop - the beach and associated land is for sale, if you're interested. We took a bit of a hike around, stretching our sore first-day muscles, then launched up the channel named The Blow Hole. Not sure what I was expecting, but there was nothing as special about it as the name suggested - just your average little channel, a pretty spot, though. As we passed the marina on the east side of Minstrel Island, the fog began to burn off and the sun came out. Uh-oh. We put on a burst of speed, hoping to beat the wind to Knight Inlet for the crossing.

    We didn't beat it. By the time we hit Littleton Point at the intersection of Chatham Channel and Knight Inlet there were significant whitecaps and Knight just looked too gnarly to cross. We retreated to a small cove just south of Littleton Point to wait out the weather, hoping the wind might die down and allow us across in the afternoon.

    The landing in the cove was boulders at mid-low tide, mixed cobble and boulders at high tide, somewhat log-choked, but not a bad refuge from the wild weather just around the corner. We took a little hike to scope out a tent site if conditions didn't improve.

    They didn't.

    The forest was comprised of 100-year-old logging litter. In the language of the BC Marine Trails Network, the area had a few marginal sites in the upland. There's a wee trickle of fresh water south of the "main" site that might save someone's bacon sometime. No evidence of use by either bears or humans. Mice, yes.

    We hiked around in the upland for a couple of hours and grooved on the bizarre roots growing down cliff walls.

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    If anyone finds themselves in the same situation and the description of "just south of Littleton Point" doesn't cut it, the site is at Lat: N 50°37'45" Lon: W 126°17'47.5"

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    Contemplating eternity at high tide

    We played around with the map and compass while we waited out the weather. Neither of us could remember how to take a proper bearing and we argued like cavemen trying to parse Schopenhauer until we figured it out, a skill that would come in handy soon.

    Regular checks with the binoculars revealed no significant improvement in conditions "out there," so we pitched camp and went to bed as soon as the sun was down, a half day's travel behind but in good spirits.

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  6. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    An early night made an early morning possible. After the last two afternoons battling the wind, we decided (as most kayakers know) that morning travel was a much better option. It still took us 2 hours to get breakfasted and packed and out on the water.

    There was no dew on the tent, but there was dew on everything else, and fog hung low over the inlets and channels. The day was calm but Knight Inlet still presented a lumpy crossing. We were extremely glad of our conservative approach yesterday - if the paddling in calm conditions was this active, it would have been a war zone in yesterday's wind.

    The Doctor Islets are a very pretty spot, but we didn't spend much time enjoying them. It was moderately rough going with wind and waves at our back until we hit sheltered Sargeaunt Passage, where we were able to paddle like civilized people instead of fighting the weather. In stark contrast to Knight Inlet, Sargeaunt was dead calm, the water shallow and green. Our first sighting of wildlife on this trip (birds and seals excepted) was a baby black bear on the shore.

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    Where's your mom, little feller?

    At the obvious beach spot halfway up the passage we stopped for a snack. A good creek here looks like a year-round water source but it would have been a hike to get far enough up to avoid the brackishness.

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    Cheeky minky prints

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    Looking north up Sargeaunt Passage

    Launched into glassy conditions at Tribune Channel, the mountain vistas wide open and inspiring as the fog began to lift. We made excellent time up to Kumlah Creek, last night's original destination. As it was only noon, we decided to press on after lunch and see how much lost time we could make up. But first, water.

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    Into Tribune Channel

    Kumlah Creek may be the best kayak campsite in the Tribune region, but that's not saying a lot. It was definitely bear country - and mosquito country too. Finding good water was a bit of a search - the creek we tried at first was a mucky slick of bright orange algae.

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    Do you think this is ok to drink?

    Trying to pick a route up the pudding-bog into the forest, I slipped and fell right into it (of course), and the resulting orange stain will remain on my dry top for the rest of its life. Eventually we found a good running stream further in, and we filled up our jugs. The water was good, but full of tannins, the colour of tea.

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    Conditions remained dead calm until we rounded the point where Tribune changes direction after Thomson Sound, and a slight wind arose. We figured we had some time until the wind gathered strength, so we decided to beeline across the channel instead of hugging the shore to save some time. The crossing was lumpy and athletic, but well on the lower end of our abilities. After a quick stretch at the point halfway between Thomson and Bond Sounds, conditions ahead still looked good so we ran the second half of our beeline, aiming for the site known as "Tribune Channel East". By about halfway across, the lumps had turned to whitecaps. We were pleased to find that the Mariners took the conditions like champs - it was far easier to control them in these conditions than we'd ever found with ruddered boats. A small group of porpoises or dolphins - couldn't tell which - joined us for a while, our first real sighting of sea mammals this trip.

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    Tribune Channel landslide and a crown of cloud

    Once we hit shore and took our bearings, we found we had landed some way north of Tribune East, but the spot was an excellent one, with a small creek, plenty of driftwood logs to act as furniture and clothes-hangers (what Jon labels "featurettes"), and a top-notch level tent site in the upland, easy to access and well sheltered. A mound of bedrock provided a sunny seating area for a meal, with a stunning panoramic view down Tribune Channel and up Bond Sound. We did note, however, that launching at low tide was going to be a struggle: a hill of boulders all the way down. Some drama with a flock of seagulls and an eagle provided all the reality-TV entertainment we could have hoped for.

    Location: Lat: N 50°49'01.9" Lon: W 126°13'42.2"

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  7. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    Despite our best efforts, striking camp still took 2 hours and it was 7:30 before we were on the water. It was a rough launch! We loaded the kayaks as close to the water as possible, but the tide was still falling, which meant lifting the loaded boats into the water over large boulders - a comedy of errors culminating in "Just chuck it in there, Jonny!" and some lost gelcoat. Conditions were foggy and mild, with just a bit of headwind all the way to the Burdwoods, which came on quicker than we expected. Porpoises (dolphins?) were plentiful as we exited Tribune Channel into some interesting currents, which we had fun riding.

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    We stopped for lunch around 11:00 on a little clamshell tombolo near Watson Islet and met our first fellow kayakers, a group of Europeans in tandems.

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    Lunch on the remains of lunches past

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    Looking north from Watson Islet

    Rode the currents through the Burdwoods, a pretty island group flanked by higher mountians, very scenic and charming. We checked out both the main site - great swimming beach, and a very developed site with a little cabin and everything! - and the "islet hideaway" site, before proceeding up Penphrase passage, hoping for good conditions as the sun began to peek out through the cloud. The water was not rough, but the wind did keep us constantly correcting course as we transited Raleigh Passage.

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    Looking west across Raleigh Passage

    Once across, reasonably calm conditions miraculously persisted and we kept our fingers crossed that the passage behind Trivett Island was open; we didn't have a lot of faith in the charts since being stymied at Care Island the other day.

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    Looking south back towards the Burdwoods from a stretch stop south of Trivett Island

    Lots of yachts in the anchorage behind Trivett, and - wonder of wonders - the passage between Trivett and Broughton Islands was just navigable by kayak at high tide. I wouldn't put money on it at any other time.

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    The "channel" between Trivett and Broughton Islands

    As we trudged up Penphrase Passage the fog and cloud cleared at last to reveal stunning vistas and give us a bit of vitamin D.

    Turning the corner into Sutlej Channel, with Kingcome Inlet on our right, the water changed to the magical aquamarine so characteristic of glacier-fed waters (such as Toba Inlet or Lake Louise). We had put on a lot of miles today and were eager to eat and rest if we could find a suitable spot. We had Cypress Harbour in our back pockets, but the description of it being buggy, gloomy and damp didn't make it the #1 destination on our list.

    We decided to check out a likely islet cluster just past Woods Point. No dice! The forested bit was really forested, and the exposed bit was really exposed. The back side of the islets was choked with logs - where's Bruno Gerussi when you need him? Too bad, as aside from the fact there's no place to put a tent it'd be perfect: beautiful views in all directions.

    We backtracked into Cypress Harbour, past the fish farm and the log dump, and found a nice rock ledge site facing the Provincial Recreation Site. Lat: N 50°49'48" Lon: W 126°40'05.9" Reasonably level and covered in greenery, with some nice ripe salal berries to spice up tomorrow's porridge. We did have to make a few trips with the trowel to eject a massive pile of bear scat into the water so we could put the tent up - azure splashes making trails on the way to the bottom like a lava lamp.

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    I'll set up the tent when I'm good and ready. And when that bear scat is dealt with.

    A big day, well over 40km travelled. We could hardly put enough food in us. We even ate dessert, a backpacker mudpie pudding thing. Under any other conditions it would have been inedible but tonight we were grateful for every calorie.

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  8. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    10-image limit in posts, too
     
  9. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    Very damp and chilly this morning. So foggy that for all you could tell, the land could be prairie or Everest - ceiling about 25 feet.

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    Leaving Cypress Harbour

    We hugged the shore until Greenway Sound, where the prospect of a crossing in zero visibility stopped us in our tracks. We picked our way down along the shore, past the fish farm, until we could see Cecil Island, where we landed to take a compass bearing and put our theory to the test. We figured that even if we were wrong, we had about 90 degrees of error to play with - a good test ground. We took a bearing for Maud Island and launched again.

    As we set out into the white, it wasn't more than a minute or two before we could see Maud Island straight ahead of us, both confirming our theory of how this worked and providing us a visual target to shoot for. The fog was lifting, and placid conditions prevailed all the way up to Sullivan Bay.

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    View into Patrick Passage (L) and Dunsany Passage (R)

    We were halfway into our trip, and Sullivan Bay Marina provided a nice taste of civilization at that point. It was a bit awkward tying our kayaks up to the dock which was built for larger vessels, and in our ragtag paddling gear we looked more than a bit out of place. I wouldn't trade kayaking for a more convenient method of travel, but sometimes the "yotters" in their dry civvies inspire a little pang of jealousy. As advertised, though, they're friendly to kayakers. We ran some of our more foetid gear through the laundry and took showers, bought potato chips, tinned soup, apples, and some wine (just in case). As we waited for the laundry cycle to finish, the local chef came by and gave us a couple take-out containers of fried rice. Brilliant!

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    Sullivan Bay Marina

    We'd lingered a bit, and after a choppy crossing of Dunsany Passage we calculated it was too late to attempt a clockwise circuit of Watson Island to get to our destination of Blair Islet - we'd be trapped by the currents on the ebb - so we decided to head through Hopetown Passage instead. We sailed through like billy-o, carried by a nice strong current to the mouth of Mackenzie Sound. Lat: N 50°55'11.2" Lon: W 126°47'30.7"

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    Hopetown Passage, looking east

    Magnificent views! High, craggy mountains. The campsite at Blair Islet was a bit hidden - it's a bit west of the southernmost point of the islet. A very appealing spot, athough there'd be no beach at all at the highest tides.

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    Blair Islet, with the mainland beyond

    We had a nice tramp around Blair Islet - no bears, which meant we could keep our food in the boats. Some big cedars here, spared during the logging of last century probably because they weren't perfect trees. Lots of big old stumps with notches cut out of them for loggers to stand on, some with burned-out hearts. We had fun riffing on the idea of running an eco-tourism/parkour outfit here, playing athletic follow-the-leader through the 100-year-old logging debris.

    After supper we paddled out into Mackenzie Sound for a bit more look-see at the scenery. It's a stunning spot, well worth a visit.

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    Mackenzie Sound, looking east

    We checked out Hopetown Passage again, expecting the current to be running west at this point, and were surprised to find it was still running eastward, only one channel open now around low tide. So we clawed through against the current into placid fields of kelp then -just for kicks - shot the rapids one more time back to camp.

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    Hopetown Passage at sundown, looking west

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  10. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    The heavy fog made a circuit of Watson Island pointless; we wouldn't be able to see any of the scenery. As well, we'd likely have to fight current in Wells Passage if we took the "scenic" route this morning. So we reluctantly cut off the northernmost leg of the trip and started straight for the Polkinghornes.

    Glad we'd checked out Hopetown Passage last night; we knew where the deepest channel was, and we took it, now running swiftly westward. (If you visit the area, hug the north shore and you'll be alright at any tide.) The whole area was full of weird currents, sometimes unexpectedly against us. The whole world was dead still as we crossed the mouth of Dunsany Passage, and the dense fog gave it an eerie science-fiction quality. It was so thick you couldn't see the other shore except at the narrowest points, and you could predict which way the current would be running at any point by looking "uphill" or "downhill" - the water was visibly higher upstream.

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    We rode the current, hugging the eastern shoreline where we could. Visibility improved and we were afforded a really cool view of Stuart Narrows into Drury Inlet - a tempting distraction, but we wanted to make the Polkinghornes today and hopefully beat the worst of the current in Wells Passage when the tide turned.

    At Lambert Island we stopped for a stretch and a snack. Continuing down Wells Passage, we got a glimpse of the Wren Hills in the fog. Passing Bourmaster Point, it became increasingly foggy and the water became more and more glassy, and we began picking out each new landmark and confirming it before proceeding - it was all dead reckoning. It was like paddling on glass with occasional currents popping up; we were expecting a lot more currents to reckon with in the area and were glad it was such easy going, actually.

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    Mouth of Carter Passage, looking east

    The fog was so heavy that we had to pick our way from islet to islet.

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    Between Dickson and Percy Islands

    Percy Island was completely invisible until we were at the final islet; same with Vincent Island (which has crazy rock formations - a real geological bizarro-world).

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    Vincent Island

    Yet suddenly, there they were: the Polkinghorne Group, seeming too near to be really them.

    The clam beach on the main island that marks the campsite is really obvious, an easy landing (though a long carry at low tide). We checked out the rock ledge campsite mentioned in Kimintas and on the BCMTNA site and found it scenic but way too exposed, not to mention cut off from the main island by mid tide - was this hunk of bare rock really the only suitable spot on the island?


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    The canoe run on the NE approach to the Polkinghorne site

    A bit of walking revealed 3 upland campsites with plenty of evidence of prior use, one of which is absolutely perfect. Lat: N 50°47'53.3" Lon: W 126°56'02.4"

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    Main tent site at Polkinghorne Island

    The beach has tons of featurettes, including a log seat with a backrest. The only drawbacks to this site are a lack of sun and a lack of water.

    After setting up camp and having a bit of lunch we made a recreational circumnavigation of the island cluster. Light wind in Queen Charlotte Sound made significant waves on the west side of the islands, which are very windswept - dramatic west coast bansai gardens.

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    Playing on the west coast of Polkhinghorne Island

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    At Fantome Point

    The Mariners handled the wind waves, 3 feet and more in places, handily. I guess we were hitting our stride as paddlers too. Once in the lee of the islands conditions were as calm as you would wish; a crossing to Broughton Island would be as flat as a board. We did a bit more amateur orienteering while floating there, disagreeing on what features on the opposite shore corresponded to which features on the map.

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    Looking north from the southern tip of Polkinghorne

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  11. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    Lack of sun and a generally chilly mien made this site a no-go for a two-day stay, and we had decided on a compass-led crossing to Broughton Island first thing in the morning. We took a bearing for Card Point, the shortest crossing possible from our position. We were confident of our bearing and technique; nonetheless, it was with some nervousness that we launched into the blank white mist. All was still, no sound of engines or even of birds. There was nothing to tell you you were heading one way or another, and only the reflection on the water even showed up from down. It was unnerving, disorienting, and a great success.

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    Into the white

    We hit Card Point dead-on; we couldn't have been more accurate if we had been staring at it the whole time! Rather than disturb a mama black bear and cub at the first lake-fed stream, we pushed on to Cockatrice Bay. It was a bit of a hike up the stream to get past the brackish water, loudly singing bad songs all the way to deter bears.

    Just before Dobbin Bay we began to hear whales blowing fairly regularly, and soon we began to see them. We got a great show with the big humpbacks surfacing, blowing, and diving all around us. They stayed with us all the way to Fife Sound, and one fellow gave a fantastic display of tail-slapping.

    Near the enticing maze of islands that guard the entrance to Booker Lagoon, a big humpback surfaced too near for comfort - maybe 50 feet. All this time there was weird wild groaning and gargling sounds from farther ahead: sea lions? A bearing off Gordon Point to Duff Islet got us there. Near Screen Islet we saw them - a sea lion haulout. They made their arguments and counterarguments, their complaints and exclamations. A big one slid off the rock and stood sentry, keeping us in his beady eye with his snout raised vertically from the water. There was a horrendous stench upon the air, which we soon put down to a sea lion carcass guarded by a couple of eagles, one of them very ratty-looking.

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    Dinner and dinner's guardian

    After a snack hunkered down in the chilly wind at Gander Bay, we set off eastward into the Benjamin Group. On the north side of Eden Island the currents were significant - we could even hear them like a river rapid in the middle of Fife Sound. We rode some fun fast currents in toward John Island to check out the south campsite.

    I wouldn't call it a campsite. Lots of potential in this sheltered little bay, but it would need considerable work to make it anything like a destination. With some development, two separate one-tent sites would afford relative privacy and the potential for a group evening campfire on the beach, although at spring tides there'd be no beach at all.

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    The most comfortable spot at John Island South

    Through Old Passage, a pretty, kelpy channel, to the Insect Island site, where a top-notch midden beach indicates a long history of use. The Insect Island site is roomy and well-used - tons of room for at least a couple of large groups - level open forest and views over Misty and Blunden Passages. We had narrowly missed the window of opportunity to bag the prime site (to the south) but the second-best site was pretty great too. The previous tenants hadn't extinguished their illegal campfire. With wildfires raging across all of Western Canada, how could you not at least do your bit and put your damn fire out before you left a campground? Seriously, people.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    The beach at Insect Island

    We had a great chat with our neighbours, who gratifyingly grooved on the Mariners. Thanks to Sullivan Bay we had a little bit of extra booze, so we indulged ourselves and decided not to set an alarm for the next morning. Lat: N 50°45'17.3" Lon: W 126°37'32.4"

    [​IMG]
     
  12. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
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    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    We'd decided to camp at Insect Island a second night and take today to just paddle around in the islands. Woke at 7:00 to mist rolling in and the sound of harbour porpoises huffing and blowing in the bay in front of the campsite. After watching them do their slow-motion back-and forth for a while, we set off for a ramble around the archipelago. As we were packing up, we could hear the racket of a bunch of young yahoos kayaking toward us, yelling and singing and making the worst din. Frightened they were going to camp at Insect Island, we arranged with our neighbours to come stay on their side of the campsite tonight if necessary.

    We left the shrieking throng behind, paddling with more porpoises down Misty Passage, and topped up our water with some cedar tea from a little lake-fed stream in the unnamed cove west of Joe Cove, then went out to the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound where a panorama awaited: views up Vancouver Island, down to Malcolm Island and all the way to the Polkinghornes.

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    Exiting Misty Passage

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    Digital artifacts not present in the original view

    It was calm and sunny, just an ideal day. The humpbacks thought so too: they began to blow, to slap tails, and to dive in every direction around us as we skirted the very edge of Queen Charlotte Strait.

    [​IMG]

    After a couple hours watching the show, we noticed a weather front coming in from the north, so we decided to wander back to camp after lunch.

    Hauling our boats up onto the rocks at Start Island for lunch, I slipped on some seaweed and took a nice big chunk out of my hand on an ancient barnacle. Which is why you take the first-aid kit even on day trips.

    After lunch we picked our way back through the maze of islands and up Arrow Passage, where we got a stunning view of the mountains beyond. Near Mars Island a yacht from Vancouver, WA whipped by us, creating a nice wake to surf, then spun around and crept over to us, donating a nice salmon filet to our meal tonight! The rain caught up with us just as we landed, and we hastily erected tarps to keep our kitchen dry. The yahoos from this morning hadn't decided to camp here, thank god, and we had a fantastic if slightly soggy meal, topped off with slightly too much scotch. After the wonderful whale show and our porpoise companions, wildlife highlights of the evening included a fantastic big warty frog on the trail, and a big dark-brown mink on the beach.

    [​IMG]
    On the Insect Island beach at sundown

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  13. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    64
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    Woke wet. The night's heavy rain had stopped, but left sticky cedar bits & pieces all over everything. We were getting toward the end of the trip, very aware that this was the last leg and a little sad about it. Things were going so ideally (aside from my chewed-up hand) that we felt like we could go on out here forever. A beautiful paddle with intermittent sprinkles to the Fox Group where we stopped for a quick stretch and to check out the group site. A great spot with lots of driftwood and plywood amenities cobbled together (cooking platforms, etc) and lots of room for groups, although the tent sites themselves were all pretty lumpy. It's obviously heavily used and would be a good candidate for a pit or composting toilet.

    [​IMG]
    Misty mountain hop

    As we set off south, we saw a weird little dory-type boat with a mast trundling down the channel.

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    Health Bay

    Near Health Bay we caught up with it. Max and Addie in Oiselle, the smallest sailboat I've ever seen. They had launched from Skagway and were on their way back to their hometown of Bellingham, a 3-month journey. They'd done all but 50 miles of this trip by rowing - the sail hadn't helped much. We chatted for about 1/2 hour then parted ways.

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    Addie and Max and Oiselle and I

    You can see photos at their Instagram page.

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    Exiting Retreat Passage into the Broughtons

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    And this is where the hobbits would live

    All was smooth sailing until we discovered the passage between Cedar Island and Midsummer Island dries at low tide! An annoying 200m carry of the loaded boats to get back to water, and lunch at Owl Island where a large tour group of novices had set up camp. The two guides were great - the Aussie guy told us not to miss White Cliff Islets, and Sarah, the Canadian gal, gave us directions to a good camping spot on Hanson Island which she said beat our original destination of Leg Cove hands down. They were both absolutely right. Many thanks to them!

    White Cliff Islets are insanely scenic and pictureque - if you're in the area do not miss a chance to visit them! Camping on them would be fairly exposed, but with some shelter from topography, trees, and bushes - not the bare rock we had imagined when we decided against them as a campsite.

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    White Cliff Islets

    It was a rock shelf landing, and we could hear a humpback blowing nearby. There was a couple camped there already, and they said the big guy had been feeding right next to the islets all morning. We got a real show, with lots of diving and tail slapping, and a textbook display of bubble feeding, which I was fortunate enough to catch on video. Sorry for the crappy quality; I'll try to find a better converter and re-upload.

    [​IMG]

    He then passed right next to the islet - mere feet away - and we could see just how huge he was.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    64
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    When the show died down, we began to pick our way down the chain of islets toward Swanson Island. There were fishing and whale watching boats everywhere, and humpbacks blowing, slapping and diving in all directions - you didn't know which way to look! There was a huge sound like a 40-foot sea can being dragged over concrete: a humpback making its weird, wonderful groan. The whale watching boats were very noisy, hollering announcements over loudspeakers. One of them played recordings of orca noises to attract the whales closer, which I think is a dirty trick. I'm of two minds about the whole business. On one hand, I'm glad the industry is set up to preserve and not to hunt them; on the other, I couldn't help feeling like there was an element of harassment going on - it was so noisy and busy, the marine equivalent of Grand Central Station.

    [​IMG]

    Trying to stay away from the motorized vessels, we ended up in the middle of a family of orcas just off the western tip of Swanson Island: mother, calf, and Big Daddy leading the way with the occasional bellow. We got a real show, with mama and baby very active, jumping, playing and squeaking. They came within a hundred yards or so of us as we floated there in amazament. As we paddled on, Big Daddy surfaced very close - I just missed a photo op where Jon and his kayak were perfectly silhouetted against Big Daddy's back and dorsal fin. It was terrifying and exhilarating, and we feel privileged to have been allowed to see them so close and so active.

    [​IMG]
    Jon and Big Daddy

    Eventually the orca family moved on, we crossed Blackfish Sound to Hanson Island before the afternoon wind arose. Another pod of orcas in the distance, including one with the largest dorsal fin I have ever seen.

    Sarah's campsite was excellent, deluxe accommodations with an easy landing from either east or west, sheltered tent sites (7), a great beach to spread out and dry our wet gear, and a trail to a headland with a stellar view of Blackfish Sound and Queen Charlotte Strait beyond.

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    On the headland, overlooking Queen Charlotte Strait and Blackfish Sound

    Lat: N 50°35'16.2816" Lon: W 126°46'04.8000" The only thing it lacks is a source of water.

    It was the last night of our trip, and we enjoyed every minute of it, finishing the rest of our food and drink perched on the headland, watching sea lions and boats go by. A gigantic cruise ship blasted past, looking for all the world like a skyscraper on its side and dashing massive waves against the shore.

    [​IMG]

    The next morning, we launched around the west side of Hanson Island just after slack. Big currents were already building, and we rode them downhill into Johnstone Strait. You could see how the various waters converged and clashed, making weird eddylines with calm water on one side and vicious chop on the other. Luckily we harnessed relatively calm conditions, but the potential for this area to be fearsome was clear. I'd consider an early-morning crossing essential for a transit of Johnstone.

    A pretty boring paddle back to Alder Bay, that last homeward push that's always a slog. Showers were much appreciated, as were clean dry civilian clothes. By the time we packed up and drove away, you wouldn't have known we'd just spent the past 10 days in the woods and the brine.

    [​IMG]
    But first: Looking greasy at Alder Bay

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    We hadn't reserved spots on the ferry, as we didn't know exactly when we'd be returning. So we had an excruciating three-ferry wait from Nanaimo back to Vancouver.

    We couldn't have imagined a trip that would top last year's Desolation adventure, but this one was all-time. Where to go next? Maybe Hakai.
     
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  15. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    Messages:
    1,379
    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    Fantastic write up- interesting, and a lot of useful info 'for the files'!

    Thanks!
     
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  16. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2015
    Messages:
    756
    Location:
    Landlocked in Tennessee
    This was SO much fun to read. That "into the white" photo is amazing--they all are! Thanks for taking the time to post this. I just LOVE trip reports. :)

    The videos aren't viewable. :( Can you post direct links? I really wanna see the whales! RE: whale watching boats--in the US the law is 200 meters for orcas (100 for everyone else), and in Canada it's 100 for everyone. I think the 200m law is good b/c it tends to just keep everyone back a little farther. Also, perhaps b/c of the movie "Blackfish," there is a LOT of press lately in the US re: whales, and I think the WW boats are extra respectful as a result. Last summer I went out on a WW boat in the San Juans and at one point there were 4 boats politely (from 200+ meters) shadowing a traveling line of orcas. No loudspeakers, no harassment. Of course, it's the San Juans, where Orca Network and the Center for Whale Research are based, and I'm sure there would be a TON of bad press for any biz that messed with the orcas, even a little bit. I guess in the final analysis, it seem to me that YES, it would be better if we were not there, BUT if we don't let people see them in the wild, they'll be more likely to want to see them at SeaWorld, so I think there is a definite benefit to it to them in the long run. I hope so, anyway.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017 at 10:17 AM
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  17. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    64
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    Thanks for the positive comments, folks. I hope my TRs aren't just "then we did this, then we did that" but give a bit of a sense of the arc of the journey. Writing this trip up has really got me fired up for next year - I'm beginning to plan a Hakai-area trip & will be asking questions from those who've been there.

    You can view crappy, degraded versions of the videos in the blog links in the first post. There doesn't appear to be any video-editing freeware I can use with my ancient computer, but eventually I'll upgrade & re-post them. Eventually. The vids are very shaky - a combination of the sea, shaking hands, and trying to film without looking through the screen - I wanted to see the whales with my own eyes!

    I agree with you about the whale watching industry, Paws - I think it's a net benefit for the creatures even if it's sometimes intrusive.
     
  18. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

    Joined:
    May 31, 2005
    Messages:
    5,321
    Location:
    Astoria, Oregon, USA
    Great report, stagger. Love the integrated route shots. Insect Island is an amazing place. The topography of the area just above the riparian zone looks like there must have been a sizable village there, when we were there in 2010. It may have been potholed by souvenir seekers. Hard to tell.

    It is well known to many, and one result is the party crowd.

    You guys did a great job ferreting out bivy spots. The White Cliff Islets are definitely on my list as a campsite location. We went right past them on our water taxi ride to the Paddlers Inn. I was ready to hop out.
     
  19. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    64
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    I'd consider White Cliff Islets and the Polkinghornes must-stay destinations on this route, and I won't pass up a second chance to visit the Mackenzie Sound area. I'd really like to return in slightly better conditions and do a loop of Watson Island.

    In the spirit of LNT principles, I'd prefer to use established sites and am a bit chagrined that we pioneered at least two - three if you count the rock ledge at Cypress. Despite all the research that went into selecting destinations, we only camped at our planned sites 3 nights of the 9 (and in retrospect Klaoitsis shouldn't have been one of them). Jon is an experienced wilderness camper - me, not so much - and can smell a good tent site from a thousand yards.

    I asked BC Marine Trails if they would consider listing certain sites as "recommended not to stay" and they responded: "Generally, we put alternate sites up to steer people away from cultural or sensitive sites. We have worked with many First Nations and they choose to leave the sites off our map. We usually give them a selection of sites in their traditional territory and they indicate which sites they want to advertise or not." So assuming the wishes of the local First Nations are reflected in the Marine Trails sites selection, Insect Island and Klaoitsis should be given a berth. Likewise, it seems, the Goose Group in Hakai.

    If the BCMTNA wants to consider development of the John Island South site to draw traffic away from Insect Island - it's really the only alternate site in the north Broughtons - I'd be happy to spend a few days there with a chainsaw to help out - it could be a very cool little spot, it's just not ready for the big time yet.
     
  20. chodups

    chodups Paddler

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2005
    Messages:
    857
    Great report, stagger. Enjoyed reading it very much. Thanks for posting it.