Two Loops from Side Bay - July 2011

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by nootka, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. nootka

    nootka Paddler

    May 26, 2007
    Campbell River
    I finally got back to my long-term project of paddling the west coast piece by piece. This time it was two loops from Side Bay: one to the north, and one to the south. I went south first because it is more weather-dependent.
    ...sunset at the Crabapple Islets

    A relatively short hop through Brooks Bay puts you at the Crabapple Islets. They are both joined by sand spits to the main beach. The easterly sand spit was submerged at high tide; while the westerly one stayed dry. The spits dramatically reduce surf size if it is windy. This was the only campsite where I didn't see anybody.
    ...Solander Island peeks above a wave

    The forecast called for NW winds 15-25 knots with 20-25 south of the Brooks. I was packed up for a day of beach hiking when I caught the Solander wind report of 11 knots. It had been 7 knots an hour earlier; while Quatsino & Nootka lighthouses had been NW 3 and NE 5 an hour earlier. Since the forecasts for the next 3 days were for higher NW winds, I decided on the spur of the moment to try and get to Nordstrom Creek. Another factor in my decision making was that the Friday forecast called for south winds in the afternoon, making the return trip easier.

    I didn't leave camp till 11:30, but Solander was still reporting 11 knots as I approached it. It was basically calm at Cape Cook; with just some wave action as the swell moved into the shallows. At the south end of Solander Island I was past the biggest of the waves; and raised the sail (nod of thanks to Philip). You might think that having a sail in front of me would make it harder to dodge the rocks and reefs between Cape Cook and Solander Island; but I had taken the precaution of programming a track into my gps that avoided the rocks. While under sail, it was relatively easy to steer and follow the track. The sailing did get exciting at times, with the kayak well reverse-heeled into the wind so it would be easier for me to counteract gusts. I found my new carbon fiber greenland paddle to be extremely trustworthy as an outrigger as I could fully extend it and put lots of force on it. I also appreciated my many hours of practice at Surge Narrows as I used a variety of stern rudders to steer the rudder-less and keel-less yak.

    I sailed south to Clerke Point, where I lowered the sail. The wind direction was too far off my desired direction; and I was unwilling to push the odds. Once around Clerke Point I again raised the sail; which pushed me out from shore. This became a problem as I hit the outflow from Cladothamnus Creek, which surely translates to "blow you out to sea" creek. Lowering the sail, I paddled to little avail for an hour, and then ran with the wind at an angle until I escaped the main force. From there it was a calm paddle to a sandy beach. I celebrated with one of the two beers I had tucked into my packed Pilgrim X.

    There was a group of hikers camped on the beach; and they warned me that the resident bruin was not shy. I did encounter him while I was moving my gear away from his regular route; but after glaring at me, he continued on his way. The campers also told me that the small enclosed beach that Kimantas recommends as a storm-proof beach seemed to be Barney's hangout.
    ...a sweeping sand beach on the south side of the Brooks Peninsula

    I took a day trip south the next day, to overlap my trip of 2006. Other than that, it was a rest day. The next two days were stay-in-camp days, as the forecast called for respective winds of S 20-30 knots and NW 15-25. I did have a long-overdue rolling session one day; I had neglected my rolling in favour of distance paddling in preparation for this trip.

    On Friday however, the forecast was for NW 15 changing to SW 10. I was up early and left camp at 0630. Conditions were calm until I met a small headwind at Clerke Point. This persisted until north of Nordstrom Creek, where the wind died out. I had been monitoring conditions at Solander Island, and the wind there had dropped from N 13 to N 9 to N 7.

    On this leg, I avoided the rocks and reefs by crossing over to Solander Island and paddling around the backside. I found some very lively clapotis as the incoming swell bounced off the island. At Cape Cook, it felt like I was paddling against current, so I veered a bit north to make progress. After that, I was able to stay close to shore and made my way back to the Crabapple Islets.

    The next morning, I watched the clouds streaming over the Brooks Peninsula; yet the ones draped over the mountains near Klaskish Inlet were still. I paddled and sailed back to Side Bay, trying to utilize the moderate wind coming out of Klaskish Inlet. At Side Bay I re-supplied provisions and fuel. I made a serious mistake here as I slept in the back of my truck. I should have packed up and gone to Lawn Point; as a group of rednecks from Mission BC ran quads up & down the beach at 3 am.
    ...looking south from Grant Bay

    Despite the lack of sleep, I launched at 0640. I followed two sea lions as we worked our way through the reefs off Lawn Point. There was enough swell to mark the boomers but the wind stayed fairly calm as I crossed Quatsino Sound. The main beach at Grant Bay was busy, so I camped at a small beach to the west.
    ...paddling into San Josef Bay on a gray day

    I took two days to paddle to San Josef Bay, stopping overnite at Topknot Bay. It was a nice change to camp on pea gravel. The landing was reasonably protected, and a small creek was nearby. I saw a Barney feeding alongside the main creek, but he never came near my camp.

    After leaving the beach the next day, I found that my skeg was stuck. Since I could not reach the cord, I paddled back and into the creek to land and fix it. The creek is totally protected from swell. It has a nice sandy beach but the elevation is too low to camp on.

    Since the morning swell was small, I detoured into Raft Cove to check out the landing options. I found a good one, but it involved threading a narrow lane between a reef and a boomer.

    I continued on to San Josef Bay through a couple of small squalls. This was a very gray day; which generally makes for windless travel but lousy pictures. The sun came out in the afternoon, so I was able to dry everything out.
    ...sea stacks at San Josef Bay

    According to the forecast, I should have turned around and headed south. However, I wanted a rest day, so I stayed put. It was sunny, so I did some beach walking. There were a number of campers in the area, but I was off the main beach and did not feel crowded.
    ...looking towards the San Josef river

    There are two little islets semi-connected to the beach. At low tide, one can walk along the base of the headland (pictured) where they join. I went exploring at a higher tide, so I took the muddy overland route. On the way back, I opted for the over-the-knees wade instead. The above picture is taken from one of the islets, with the second one in the background.
    ...the Raft Cove sauna

    This day I paddled a short distance south to Raft Cove in fog, wind, and a larger swell. I balanced the fact that San Josef was too far north for staging purposes with the less than optimal travelling conditions. The larger swell made me glad that I had checked out the landing path two days before.

    There were various shelters in the woods just above the beach. One of them had this well constructed sauna. No benches, but it did have a metal bucket.
    ...sailing south in Quatsino Sound

    This day was a travelling day. The forecast was for NW 15 winds, with mainly S winds over the next 4 days. The surf in Raft Cove was sizeable, but I got out without having a wave break on me. A grey whale surfaced near me south of Topknot Point, and I saw him a couple more times in the area. After a couple of hours of paddling I was able to raise the sail. The wind stayed below 10 knots, but it was still refreshing to have a tailwind instead of a headwind. The wind enabled me to readjust my destination from Grant Bay to Rowley Reefs, and eventually to Side Bay.

    While sailing across Quatsino Sound, a longliner fishing boat used its right of way to force me to a dead stop as it barged into my path. Apparently the skippy was incapable of steering a non-intersecting path through the miles of empty ocean all around me.

    I lowered sail to work through the boomers near Lawn Point but raised it again for the short hop between Lawn Point and Rugged Island. After 8 hours in the yak, I landed at Side Bay.
    ...end of the day

    After two hours on the logging roads, I arrived in Port Alice. After a twisty paved road and a bite to eat in Port McNeil, I was ready for the run south to Campbell River.

    Will next year's trip be the last section of the west side of the island? Or will I spend some time on the east side? ... Time will tell.

    Attached Files:

  2. rheag

    rheag Paddler

    Jun 10, 2009
    This looks and sounds pretty wild! Amazing trip, thanks for posting the report and photos. It's also nice to read the decision making process of an experienced paddler with regard to the conditions.