Moresby and Kunghit Islands - a return to Haida Gwaii

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Comoxpaddler, Jun 3, 2013.

  1. Comoxpaddler

    Comoxpaddler Paddler

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    So in 2010 I tried to circumnavigate Haida Gwaii and did so very publicly with SPOT locations available for WCPers and others to follow. I got around Graham and Langara Islands before a repetitive strain injury on the west coast of Graham - pronator teres syndrome with a side order of probable small haemorrhage alongside the median nerve - put paid to this by making my left hand go suddenly numb whilst trying to negotiate a northwesterly wind combined with clapotis and some current. I limped back to Queen Charlotte Village and came back to Vancouver Island feeling, let's be honest, a little chastened.

    I came back, this time without advertising the fact, once more hoping to paddle all the way around Haida Gwaii. I set out around Moresby Island on May 15 and got back to Queen Charlotte Village on June 1.

    I have had a terrific trip. The weather was awesome with only one day of persistent rain but that was spent under cover in the emergency cabin in one of the most magical of places, Puffin Cove, a lagoon of azure water that looks more like a lake in a Japanese garden than a body of water a few metres from the wild west coast of Moresby Island. I have had humpbacks breaching only a hundred metres from my boat. I have seen the landslides caused by the October 2012 earthquake. I have paddled almost daily yet still gone ten days (the trip itself took eighteen) without seeing a human or even a boat, just three jetliners tens of thousands of feet above me. I have again learnt lessons that may make me a better paddler.

    Sure, the pronator teres syndrome made a comeback on the west coast, ten days into the trip, having not been a problem for nearly three years, so that I have had to abandon the idea of doing Graham and Langara Islands again for safety reasons. However, I am quite happy to accept that whilst I cannot now claim to have done "A" circumnavigation of Haida Gwaii (in other words, a circumnavigation in one go), I have successfully circumnavigated Haida Gwaii, solo, in two trips. If this is good enough for Hayley Sheppard it is good enough for me!

    For those thinking of going to Haida Gwaii, the main lessons for me were twofold. Both perhaps a little banal for better paddlers than me, but I will explain them nonetheless.

    Firstly, Qualicum winds are not the preserve of Vancouver Island. When a gale force northwesterly is forecast for the west coast of Haida Gwaii, then having Kunghit Island between you and the west coast is no protection. Have a look at Google Earth. As you traverse the three southeast facing 1-2 mile wide bays on the southeastern side of Kunghit, northwesterlies whistle across the low valleys separating the bays from the west coast and become dangerous offshore winds, as I discovered to my cost. A more experienced paddler might have anticipated this. I did not. It is somewhat anxiety-inducing to realise, as you paddle in 25-30 knot winds coming from your starboard bow quarter (thankfully never achieving actual gale force, I am sure) that the next bit of land on the port side is Cape Scott on Vancouver Island, so you had better get to the other side of the bay before you run out of Kunghit Island as a target. Secondly, and I am especially embarrassed to relate this one, but do so in case it helps others, doing adequate bearings prior to setting out on a flat coast is terribly important. If you are a mile or more offshore, avoiding clapotis (the waves that reflect back off rocks making for confused seas), then it becomes very difficult to differentiate topographical features particularly if the shoreline itself is very regular. On one day I had to identify three islands, each about one quarter to one half mile across, in order to ascertain my position. I missed every one - and I was looking for them very, very intently. I ended up three miles further on than I realised, (I launched deliberately with wind and current in my favour but this worked even more for me than I had hoped) and might have missed my target destination (Puffin Cove) had I not come closer to shore when I realised that the islands were missing. So thereafter I made sure that when I set off, I knew where the next three features (points, heads, bays, islands) would be when I rounded the next point, because I had calculated the bearings to each beforehand. It is remarkable how unremarkable these features look when viewed from 5 miles away but how helpful it is to know where they are!
     
  2. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Terrific job, Comox! I have looked at those bays on the SE side of Kunghit with awe and trepidation. Your experience confirms my leeriness. But, you did it!

    Congratulations! :big_thumb :clap:

    Others will appreciate your candid appraisal of lessons learned. I do, for sure. The most valuable information comes from an appraisal like yours. Good job, man!

    PS I am terminally jealous that you spent a night in the cabin at Puffin Cove. That is an icon. When I read Neil Carey' s book almost 20 years ago I vowed to visit the Cove ... which won't happen for me. But its current use is in the spirit of those who went before.
     
  3. Andy_Ferguson

    Andy_Ferguson Paddler

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    Location:
    Prince George BC
    Here's a westward looking shot taken on a large beach at the south end of Kunghit. The winds whip through that small valley in the center of the image as is evidenced by all the blow down on the hill side.

    (I have a spot on my camera lens that I just can't get rid of!)
     

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  4. chodups

    chodups Paddler

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    First off....Congratulations! Nicely done

    Second.....Thanks for the candid report. Again, well done.
     
  5. alanh

    alanh New Member

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    Is clockwise the preferred direction to circumnavigate Haida Gwaii?
     
  6. VanIslePaddler

    VanIslePaddler Paddler

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    Tuff City
    Thanks for the report!

    I did Morseby in 2010 (same time you were doing Graham I believe). We also went clockwise and we also took 18 days.

    18 days seems a consistent time for Morseby. Both of us took that length as did Justin Curgwen and Shawna and Leone in 2008 or 2009 (they did both islands but that's the length of their Morseby component. Hayley Sheppard in 2005 took 25 days on Morseby

    We went clock wise.
    You went clockwise.
    Justin Curgwen went counter clockwise around Morseby.
     
  7. chodups

    chodups Paddler

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    comoxpaddler's report just came up as I was sorting through some stuff and I am, once again, grateful for his report.

    Well done comoxpaddler!
     
  8. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

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    Congrats! What a great trip. We need more pix, however. :)