Broken Islands by canoe

Sarah Hipkin

Paddler
Joined
Jul 7, 2021
Messages
12
Location
Victoria, BC, Canada
Hi,
We are thinking of canoeing (open canoe) in some of the Broken Group Islands (BGI) but I'm a bit concerned about safety. (Other than around a sheltered bay, I haven't canoed in ocean before.)
We would go around Sep 4th and perhaps get a shuttle to Dodd island, then paddle to stay overnight for two nights each at Gibraltar Island and Gilbert Island. It's hard to get an accurate picture of doing this in a canoe.
We've canoed in rough waters on lakes and a river before (annual canoe trip) and also tend to paddle early in the morning to try to avoid wind and waves. But I prefer to avoid waves if I can. Have other canoers been between/around these islands before and found it totally fine or have any tips ? We are purposefully avoiding outer islands.

Thanks for any advice!
 
Last edited:

Kayak Jim

Paddler
Joined
Mar 5, 2016
Messages
275
Location
Comox Valley BC
On a couple of my trips to BGI we've had one party in an open canoe, and I've seen others departing Sechart Lodge. No issues, but obviously conditions dependent.
 

AlphaEcho

Paddler
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
152
Location
Quadra Island, BC
The Broken Group Islands are generally protected from the open ocean. It sounds like you know this if you are planning to skip the outer islands. There are plenty of folk who paddle open canoe here on the west coast. It's really OK if you are an experienced paddler with multiday trips on your resume.

Check the wind and weather forecasts before you go to keep an eye on where the prevailing wind and swell will come from on the days you are out. On windy days, stick to paddle routes between islands and camp sites that keep you in the lee where possible. Check the charts so you are well familiar with the shorelines you will be passing by in case you need to find a beach to get you off the water in a hurry.

Hand-held VHF radios are recommended kit for sea kayakers on expedition because this is the primary (but not only) way to get updated marine weather information when you are 5 days into your trip. In your case, 3-5 days won't really make a difference, but if you decide to go out with a big low pressure system on the doorstep, that's on you.

If your prior experience is mainly freshwater, learning to keep track of the tides will be top of your list after the above: it is a big factor on timing your launches and landings because beaches and shores are very different at different tide levels. If you are paddling in areas with noticeable tidal currents, knowing what the tide current patterns are is also important. I've paddled in Barkley Sound and do not remember them as an issue -- but maybe other folks here can comment on that.

Very close after that is learning to carry your own freshwater for drinking and cooking. My paddling partners budget 3-5 liters/day per person, but it really depends on your own requirements and comfort levels.
 
Last edited:

jefffski

Paddler
Joined
Jan 2, 2014
Messages
108
I've paddled extensively in the ocean in a Clipper Tripper. On anything but glass, having paddling skills is key. Bow and stern should know how to work as a team, paddle in sync and have strong and efficient forward strokes. The stern should have excellent corrective strokes and both should know how to brace and steer. Comfort in waves and swells comes with practice, but if you don't have the basic skills, waves and swells may overwhelm you. Both occur in the BGI. As you mentioned, paddling early in the morning helps avoid wind and waves.

The BGI is not known for currents, so that's not an issue. Tides are irrelevant for canoes, because it's easy to load/unload them in the water and then just carry them empty to/from dry ground. If the water is too wavy to load in the water, load it on land, just above the water, after placing it on logs. Then, once loaded, roll it on the logs into the water.

I cannot over-emphasize that you must store your boat on always-dry land. Many paddlers wake to find their boats gone because they did not bring their boats high enough and a spring tide carried it away. We also always tie the canoe tightly to a tree, just in case.

I always carry a VHF on my PFD. the radio is waterproof and it floats. We use it mainly for weather forecasts. Get used to listening to them at home, because they're different than we're used to from TV etc. If you miss your location, be patient. In ten minutes, the whole thing repeats. You'll have to know what areas are relevant for you in the BGI because the forecast will not refer to the BGI specifically. You can find a text forecast online and from that you can determine which forecast area you should be listening for.

Bring some type of GPS device (phones are pretty good with the right app, but you should know how to use a chart and compass. Having said that, the BGI is a small area, just 100 sq. km, so even if you get lost, within an hour or so of paddling, you'll figure out where you are. If it's foggy, (FOGaust anyone?) you may have to just wait or navigate by gps.

Yes, you'll have to bring your own water. We budget 2 l per person per day. Wash dishes using salt water. You may be able to top up from departing paddlers who have spare water.

You can read some of my write-ups at my website and watch some videos on my YouTube channel. These are not monetized.
 

Sarah Hipkin

Paddler
Joined
Jul 7, 2021
Messages
12
Location
Victoria, BC, Canada
T
The Broken Group Islands are generally protected from the open ocean. It sounds like you know this if you are planning to skip the outer islands. There are plenty of folk who paddle open canoe here on the west coast. It's really OK if you are an experienced paddler with multiday trips on your resume.

Check the wind and weather forecasts before you go to keep an eye on where the prevailing wind and swell will come from on the days you are out. On windy days, stick to paddle routes between islands and camp sites that keep you in the lee where possible. Check the charts so you are well familiar with the shorelines you will be passing by in case you need to find a beach to get you off the water in a hurry.

Hand-held VHF radios are recommended kit for sea kayakers on expedition because this is the primary (but not only) way to get updated marine weather information when you are 5 days into your trip. In your case, 3-5 days won't really make a difference, but if you decide to go out with a big low pressure system on the doorstep, that's on you.

If your prior experience is mainly freshwater, learning to keep track of the tides will be top of your list after the above: it is a big factor on timing your launches and landings because beaches and shores are very different at different tide levels. If you are paddling in areas with noticeable tidal currents, knowing what the tide current patterns are is also important. I've paddled in Barkley Sound and do not remember them as an issue -- but maybe other folks here can comment on that.

Very close after that is learning to carry your own freshwater for drinking and cooking. My paddling partners budget 3-5 liters/day per person, but it really depends on your own requirements and comfort levels.
This was really helpful, thanks! Good tips and encouraged by "There are plenty of folk who paddle open canoe here on the west coast. It's really OK if you are an experienced paddler with multiday trips on your resume," which we do and we know our strokes. I just don't love rough water but we can be cautious and prepared. Good tips! Still deciding though...
 

Sarah Hipkin

Paddler
Joined
Jul 7, 2021
Messages
12
Location
Victoria, BC, Canada
I've paddled extensively in the ocean in a Clipper Tripper. On anything but glass, having paddling skills is key. Bow and stern should know how to work as a team, paddle in sync and have strong and efficient forward strokes. The stern should have excellent corrective strokes and both should know how to brace and steer. Comfort in waves and swells comes with practice, but if you don't have the basic skills, waves and swells may overwhelm you. Both occur in the BGI. As you mentioned, paddling early in the morning helps avoid wind and waves.

The BGI is not known for currents, so that's not an issue. Tides are irrelevant for canoes, because it's easy to load/unload them in the water and then just carry them empty to/from dry ground. If the water is too wavy to load in the water, load it on land, just above the water, after placing it on logs. Then, once loaded, roll it on the logs into the water.

I cannot over-emphasize that you must store your boat on always-dry land. Many paddlers wake to find their boats gone because they did not bring their boats high enough and a spring tide carried it away. We also always tie the canoe tightly to a tree, just in case.

I always carry a VHF on my PFD. the radio is waterproof and it floats. We use it mainly for weather forecasts. Get used to listening to them at home, because they're different than we're used to from TV etc. If you miss your location, be patient. In ten minutes, the whole thing repeats. You'll have to know what areas are relevant for you in the BGI because the forecast will not refer to the BGI specifically. You can find a text forecast online and from that you can determine which forecast area you should be listening for.

Bring some type of GPS device (phones are pretty good with the right app, but you should know how to use a chart and compass. Having said that, the BGI is a small area, just 100 sq. km, so even if you get lost, within an hour or so of paddling, you'll figure out where you are. If it's foggy, (FOGaust anyone?) you may have to just wait or navigate by gps.

Yes, you'll have to bring your own water. We budget 2 l per person per day. Wash dishes using salt water. You may be able to top up from departing paddlers who have spare water.

You can read some of my write-ups at my website and watch some videos on my YouTube channel. These are not monetized.
Thank you, Jefffski! Really great tips and encouraged by "The BGI is not known for currents, so that's not an issue. Tides are irrelevant..." We've started looking into the extra gear (weather radio) and have compass. I understand it can be foggy in the morning. Still deciding but this is great, thanks!
 

Sarah Hipkin

Paddler
Joined
Jul 7, 2021
Messages
12
Location
Victoria, BC, Canada
Hi,
We are thinking of canoeing (open canoe) in some of the Broken Group Islands (BGI) but I'm a bit concerned about safety. (Other than around a sheltered bay, I haven't canoed in ocean before.)
We would go around Sep 4th and perhaps get a shuttle to Dodd island, then paddle to stay overnight for two nights each at Gibraltar Island and Gilbert Island. It's hard to get an accurate picture of doing this in a canoe.
We've canoed in rough waters on lakes and a river before (annual canoe trip) and also tend to paddle early in the morning to try to avoid wind and waves. But I prefer to avoid waves if I can. Have other canoers been between/around these islands before and found it totally fine or have any tips ? We are purposefully avoiding outer islands.

Thanks for any advice!
One thing more: are spray decks a must for the canoe for the route we have chosen (shuttle to Dodd island, then paddle to stay overnight for two nights each at Gibraltar Island and Gilbert Island)?
 

jefffski

Paddler
Joined
Jan 2, 2014
Messages
108
One thing more: are spray decks a must for the canoe for the route we have chosen (shuttle to Dodd island, then paddle to stay overnight for two nights each at Gibraltar Island and Gilbert Island)?
I don't think a spray deck is needed on a canoe unless you are in big waves that go over the gunwales (and even then, spray skirts don't make that much difference), or it's going to really pour rain, or the weather will be cold. We have a Northwater skirt that we use on some big trips, but not all.
 

AlphaEcho

Paddler
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
152
Location
Quadra Island, BC
It sounds like you are concerned with the effects of wind and waves and while that is a thing, it's not the thing you want to stop you from having a great adventure. I introduced my kids to paddling on Indian Arm and Sechelt Inlet just like @jefffski and his wife. I hope you dig into his site because his experiences are representative of the path you're on.

There is time between now and September for you to get some more experience paddling in salt water. Maybe take your canoe out to Sidney and do an overnight on Portland Island (if it's open again). Or go up to Nanaimo, camp on Newcastle Island, and explore the harbor in your canoe. I did that with my kids too. You'll find your experience and judgement will kick in and you'll know what conditions you are up for and those you will enjoy watching from the beach.
 

JohnAbercrombie

Paddler
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
3,028
Location
Victoria, BC
There is time between now and September for you to get some more experience paddling in salt water. Maybe take your canoe out to Sidney and do an overnight on Portland Island (if it's open again). Or go up to Nanaimo, camp on Newcastle Island, and explore the harbor in your canoe. I did that with my kids too. You'll find your experience and judgement will kick in and you'll know what conditions you are up for and those you will enjoy watching from the beach.
Even closer to Victoria, Discovery Island is a destination to consider. It's an excellent spot to camp, and the short passage across Oak Bay needs respect due to currents so would be good practice in planning.
 

JohnAbercrombie

Paddler
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
3,028
Location
Victoria, BC
Thank-you sir. I hesitated to recommend an area I haven't paddled myself.
Actually, I hesitate to recommend it too. Although Discovery Is isn't very distant, Baynes Channel and Plumper Passage can be very challenging at times and deserve a lot of respect. There's also quite a bit of boat traffic in the area, including tugs with tows from time to time. A couple of months ago I had to wait and detour around a tug with a log boom transiting through Baynes Channel.
So that area can actually be more challenging and hazardous than anything in the 'inside' of the Broken Islands Group in Barkley Sound.
The Vancouver Island shoreline from Foul Bay all the way to Cormorant Point (McNeill Bay, Enterprise Channel, Chain Islands, Cadboro Bay, Cadboro Point, 10 Mile Point, Telegraph Cove) can produce a wide range of conditions and makes for interesting (too interesting, sometimes!! :) ) paddling, without crossing to Discovery and the Chathams.
 

eggabeewa

Paddler
Joined
Dec 12, 2019
Messages
14
Location
Greater Vancouver, BC
At one time, in the '80s, before the profusion of kayaks it was common, even normal, to do BGI by canoe. It was even on my bucket list to do it but I didn't get around to it until years later when I did own kayaks. Most people do them now with kayaks but it is possible and practical do them by canoe. I've been on lakes with worse conditions than I had on my BGI trip. If you have significant experience, especially on larger lakes, and plan to paddle in the mornings it can be totally doable, even the crossing to Sechart. Of course you should take all the same precautions that you would on a larger lake.
 

Sarah Hipkin

Paddler
Joined
Jul 7, 2021
Messages
12
Location
Victoria, BC, Canada
At one time, in the '80s, before the profusion of kayaks it was common, even normal, to do BGI by canoe. It was even on my bucket list to do it but I didn't get around to it until years later when I did own kayaks. Most people do them now with kayaks but it is possible and practical do them by canoe. I've been on lakes with worse conditions than I had on my BGI trip. If you have significant experience, especially on larger lakes, and plan to paddle in the mornings it can be totally doable, even the crossing to Sechart. Of course you should take all the same precautions that you would on a larger lake.
Thanks Eggabeeva! I'm sure I'm worrying excessively for the experience we've already got in waves on large lakes, but all of this helps and we'll be better prepared! We also went with a different campsite/island selection to remove a Parks Canada warning on booking. I would rather enjoy and explore as we wish, than having to make a crossing to get to designed campsite. Thank you very much for getting back to me!
 

Sarah Hipkin

Paddler
Joined
Jul 7, 2021
Messages
12
Location
Victoria, BC, Canada
Actually, I hesitate to recommend it too. Although Discovery Is isn't very distant, Baynes Channel and Plumper Passage can be very challenging at times and deserve a lot of respect. There's also quite a bit of boat traffic in the area, including tugs with tows from time to time. A couple of months ago I had to wait and detour around a tug with a log boom transiting through Baynes Channel.
So that area can actually be more challenging and hazardous than anything in the 'inside' of the Broken Islands Group in Barkley Sound.
The Vancouver Island shoreline from Foul Bay all the way to Cormorant Point (McNeill Bay, Enterprise Channel, Chain Islands, Cadboro Bay, Cadboro Point, 10 Mile Point, Telegraph Cove) can produce a wide range of conditions and makes for interesting (too interesting, sometimes!! :) ) paddling, without crossing to Discovery and the Chathams.
 

Sarah Hipkin

Paddler
Joined
Jul 7, 2021
Messages
12
Location
Victoria, BC, Canada
It sounds like you are concerned with the effects of wind and waves and while that is a thing, it's not the thing you want to stop you from having a great adventure. I introduced my kids to paddling on Indian Arm and Sechelt Inlet just like @jefffski and his wife. I hope you dig into his site because his experiences are representative of the path you're on.

There is time between now and September for you to get some more experience paddling in salt water. Maybe take your canoe out to Sidney and do an overnight on Portland Island (if it's open again). Or go up to Nanaimo, camp on Newcastle Island, and explore the harbor in your canoe. I did that with my kids too. You'll find your experience and judgement will kick in and you'll know what conditions you are up for and those you will enjoy watching from the beach.
This is great, AlphaEcho! Yes, it's definitely a comfort thing and probably excessive worrying on my part for the small area, lol. I still prefer to avoid waves as much as possible! But really, my hubby and I have been in some rough waters on lakes (and couple of river stretches with rapids) and have the strokes/teamwork managed over the years (about 15 multi-day canoe trips). We've probably been overly cautious and ended up booking Dodd, Gibraltar and Turrett campsites to avoid a crossing with a Parks Canada warning. Maybe we'll get to explore the Sidney /Portland Island suggestion too before then, since that's relatively near to us now, or it will be another adventure to look forward to! And i will look into Jeffski's ones some more too - thanks Jeffski too! It's a wealth of info and great tips on this forum! Thanks all!
 

drahcir

Paddler
Joined
Mar 26, 2010
Messages
616
Location
North Idaho (Sandpoint)
I didn't notice if Marleau's book has been mentioned:
 
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