This was a guided trip with a company based on Quadra Island. DAY ONE (August 14, 2015) After a long day of travel the day before (cab from my mom’s place in Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay; ferry HSB to Departure Bay; bus Departure Bay to Campbell River; ferry Campbell River to Quadra Island; cab QI ferry term to hotel!), and a pre-trip meeting at the Heriot Bay Inn on Quadra the night before, we departed via van from Quadra on the AM of Aug. 14 for the drive to Telegraph Cove. There were 10 guests (a family of 2 parents, two adult children, and their spouses, a couple, another single woman, and myself) and 2 guides. I was concerned about this large a group—my trip last summer in the San Juans was just 4 guests and 1 guide, and while we saw no orcas, the paddling was great. I feared (rightly, as it turned out!) that so many people would slow things to a crawl. [Telegraph Cove!] [Here are the boats, ready to launch. My first boat is the white one in the foreground.] We launched out of Telegraph Cove at about 12:30 PM. I started out (for the first 2 days) in a white Atlantis Titan. It was a nice boat ,but felt large for me—I felt sloppy in it. But it was fine, particularly as we encountered nothing even mildly challenging. The other single woman on the trip (B.) had requested a tandem, and there were plenty of boats, but for some reason one of the guides pressured B. to try a single instead. There was some discussion about it and B. finally agreed. They gave her a Current Designs Solstice. [Heading out of Telegraph Cove.] By the time we got out of the Cove, heading East down the Strait in very calm seas, it was clear that B. was having a lot of trouble. We went at a snail’s pace, constantly having to hold up and wait for B. and the guide with her. Despite having paddled before, she had only ever gone in a tandem, and she was afraid she would capsize. In addition, she just wasn’t very strong in her upper body. We took hours to get to Blinkhorn Peninsula (which isn’t very far at all from Telegraph Cove), where we stopped for a snack and (thankfully!!!) to allow B. to swap with someone in a tandem. [At Blinkhorn Peninsula.] Then we started again. Progress was better with B. in the tandem, but still fairly slow, as everyone just seemed very lackadaisical. This surprised me, as almost everyone else, other than the guides and one guest, were in tandems, and they really should have been able to smoke me in my single. I have a fairly brisk stroke, I guess, and it’s hard for me to just meander. What amazed me again and again, though, is that when there really was something good to see (an eagle or a bear) the group looked at it and went right on, while I was still happily watching whatever it was. At least that gave me a chance to get into the zone and really paddle while catching up! Around 4 PM we reached Kaikash Creek Campground. It was lovely, with a great beach (from which we viewed orcas the first night!), a nice protected area in the woods for tents, and the cutest outhouse in the middle of the ferns! We had dinner, watched the orcas, and went to bed early. My tent (rented from the company) came with only 4 stakes and there were no extras, and my Thermarest (also rented) would not stay inflated. The former wasn’t a big deal, but the latter was. I slept poorly throughout the trip. [My tent.] [World’s Cutest Outhouse.] [Guides preparing dinner.] [Boats safely stowed for the night.] DAY TWO (August 15, 2015) Having decided to stay for 2 nights at Kaikash, we launched after breakfast and paddled East towards Robson Bight. Again, progress was slow. I tried to paddle as slowly as I could, but even so constantly heard, “Elizabeth, wait up!” [Gulls on a huge log barge.] After just an hour on the water, we stopped for snacks, and 90 minutes later, we stopped for lunch. This group was all about the eating. I just wanted to paddle! We finally made it to Robson Bight, and after observing the sign for a while, we saw a pod of orcas heading toward the Reserve. They were fairly far away, but with my binos I could see them well. Very exciting! They were too far away for pix. [Robson Bight sign] Then we headed out into the Strait—about 1/3 of the way out, I guess—and then headed back West towards camp (still out in the Strait). I really enjoyed this open water paddling, although the sea was still glass and there was almost no wind, so there was no challenge to it. From where we were, we could see across to Blackney Passage, where a lot of whale watching boats were milling about. It was too far for us to get over there, but we knew there was a humpback there because we heard him breach even if we couldn’t see him! Wow! That’s an amazing sound. We returned to camp around 3:30 PM. Everyone was worn out except for me. We hadn’t gone very far at ALL—10 K I think. That day we saw the following animals: black bear; eagles; orcas; Dall’s porpoises; stellar sea lions; sea urchins; various water birds. I took a short hike to the actual Kaikash Creek in the late afternoon. [Kaikash Creek Hike.] That evening, the guides asked me if I would be willing to switch boats for the rest of the trip. The Current Design Solstice had been labelled “The Tippy Boat” by everyone who had tried it, and no one wanted to paddle it anymore. I had been looking at it with interest, so readily agreed. DAY 3 (August 16, 2015) Today the plan was for us to pack up our stuff and head across the Strait. We were going to head into Blackney Passage, then go down the South side of Hanson Island to a basecamp at the western end. This seemed like a great plan, as it was new territory—I was all for it! But circumstances conspired against us. First, we got started late. I appreciate that it is difficult to wrangle 10 people into getting up, eating, and packing up, but it was frustrating when so many were slow and made the rest of us late. I immediately found the Current Designs Solstice (yellow) to be a nice boat. It fit me much better than the Atlantis (a snugger fit, so I felt more in contact with the boat) and other than when getting in (when it was a bit less stable than the Titan), it seemed quite stable to me. Once we were finally on the water, though, the person using the Titan (who had not liked the Solstice) decided that she didn’t like the Titan either. So after only being out for 15 minutes, we had to put in at a beach and do a 2-way swap so that the person who didn’t like the Titan was now in a tandem. This took a solid half hour! Then we encountered ORCAS! Lots of them, and close! The first group came through when we were out about 1/3 of the way into the strait. We rafted up and they came by fairly close—many females, juveniles, and several big males. It was wonderful to see them at last from a kayak—I felt very close to them, being on their level and in their water. Unfortunately, although it was only about 11 AM, after this the guide decided that it was now too late to complete our crossing and proceed down Hanson Island, and it was decided instead to return to Blinkhorn Peninsula to camp. I was really disappointed by this, as it meant just retracing our steps instead of going someplace new. As we were headed back to the Vancouver Island shore, we saw another group of orcas heading right for us. Guide #1 told us to head toward shore to get out of their path and I started off fast for shore, wanting to get to the safe spot and get turned around before they got to us. Then I hear Guide #2 tell everyone to raft up where they were! I was surprised, because it was clear to me that this would put the group in the path of the orcas, violating the Marine Mammal laws (do not put yourself in their path and stay at least 100 yards away—in the US it is 200 yards). I stopped and turned around, and started back, but saw the orcas coming and knew I wouldn’t make it, so I just stopped in the water and rapped my hull. The orcas (3 of them) came right under our boats. We couldn’t see them, but they surfaced on one side and then the other. I was never worried, as orcas echolocate and probably knew we were there miles back! [Approaching Blinkhorn] Once the orcas were on their way, we headed back East towards Blinkhorn. We put in there around 1 PM and made camp. The wind came up around 4 PM, as it had most days, and when the guides suggested that we might take an evening paddle, the 3 weakest paddlers elected to stay on shore. The plan was to head out around the peninsula a ways and then come back. I’m not sure what the guides expected—clearly the wind was up a bit and clearly there would be chop out there. But once we got out there and they saw the chop (6” at best—and the wind would have been behind us on the way back) they aborted the plan, made us go back, and we ended up just dinking around in the bay a bit. I made myself this lovely little place to have tea and read my Kindle, right next to my tent. Later on, B. and I took a hike (very short) to Blinkhorn Light, which was picturesque. While there, I found some lovely driftwood. I’m kind of a freak for driftwood. ;-) In the evening, the wind got very strong and, as we were camped on an exposed spit (instead of the protected campsites—not sure why that decision was made!), my tent spent most of the night trying to fly away. The lack of tent stakes had not been a problem at Kaikash—I had just used pieces of branch to anchor the fly—but here it was a serious issue. I found large boulders and anchored the tent and the fly as best I could, but had to get up several times during the night to make adjustments. DAY 4 (August 17, 2015) We had to be back at Telegraph Cove to hand the boats off to the next trip by noon, so we got going fairly early and got back at 11 AM. We saw several eagles on the way back, including a pair, and another eagle eating a fish just below a nest. [Getting ready to launch.] [Pix of me in the Current Designs Solstice.] [Rounding the bend around Blinkhorn Peninsula.] [Eagle]. [Back at Telegraph Cove.] Once unloaded, we headed back to Quadra Island, and the next day I made the long trek (cab/ferry/bus/bus/ferry/bus) to the Vancouver Airport. The next day I returned to Tennessee. OVERALL I have to say that I’m a bit confused as to what this outfit does when the weather fails to cooperate! I mean, it IS the ocean, and you can’t expect calm water and sun every day. And most people really will rise to a challenge--I’m sure that had we continued on our planned route on Day 3 that everyone would have been glad to have had to work a little harder because they would have achieved something (a novel route) for it. It’s funny, because last year’s trip in the San Juans was AMAZING paddling (some difficult challenges, long days, plenty of paddling) but we saw orcas only once, and then from shore. This trip was great for orcas, and I wouldn’t have missed it for that, but the paddling, other than being much more beautiful, was no more challenging than an easy day on my lakes here in Tennessee. For that reason, I’m really glad of the day on English Bay (see my trip report about that!), because otherwise I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do anything more challenging than I can do at home! I ended the trip feeling that I will probably not do any more of these guided trips. They are very expensive, and since there is no way to know the makeup of the guests or the willingness of the guides to paddle on anything but glass seas, I run the risk of being disappointed (I was NOT this time, but primarily because of the orcas). I will post some questions soon about ideas I have for a short solo trip next summer. In the meantime, I will keep taking classes when I can, and keep paddling my boat here on the lakes. This winter I hope to get out on some windier days for more practice. And I am hoping to get to the Seattle/SJI area late next Spring for a course—possibly the 5-day one at Body Boat Blade on Orcas Island.