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Christmas Campout on Read Island


Jan 24, 2010
Quadra Island, BC
My custom at Christmas for the past few decades has been to get out of the house on the day of. No laying about like a bloated python among piles of shredded wrapping paper. This year I went a step further and decided for a winter paddle / campout.

Given that these are the shortest days of the year, I kept it simple and did a local paddle that only took me a few hours away. I camped at Freedom Point on Read Island (just across from Surge Narrows and Discovery Lodge). There were severe wind warnings posted, but those were coming down Johnstone Strait. Hoskyn Channel is generally protected from those. An added benefit: even the usual growling of outboards was stilled for once. I had a quiet evening with only the sounds of the rain drumming on my tent and tarp.

Hoskyn Channel is rotated a little in this view. It is more NNE than this. The launch/landing at Moulds Bay is on the lower left. The arrows indicate the wind on my return paddle.

I got up the next morning planning to go over to the Octopus Islands. The slack I needed to get through Surge was around 1:30-ish, so I had plenty of time. Unfortunately I brought only a small tarp and not a big one. My gear got wet as I was packing up and that effectively shut down the option of staying out another night. I loaded my boat and instead wandered around the Settler Group before heading home.

Looking South on Hoskyn Channel from Freedom Point.

My Boxing Day paddle was not as quiet as the day before. For a time it was just me, the cormorants, and the gulls, then four boats buzzed by in short order. They were, no doubt, shaking their heads at the lone kayak in the gloom, as they went to top up their eggnog. That was it for the rest of the day though; something to think about if you choose to winter paddle.

As is typical, after the North wind dropped the pattern reversed; the breeze now coming up Georgia Strait. Again, Hoskyn Channel is largely protected. There is a place where the wind hops over a low saddle on Read Island, but the chop wasn't bad nor the stretch long. The water was filled with chunks of wood set adrift from the recent blows. I was glad I was in my kayak and not a power boat zipping along.

My destination was a small cove at the end of Valdez road at Moulds Bay. It's a popular spot for locals because you can park overnight there. It's probably the best launch in winter because it saves you crossing from Heriot Bay harbour or Rebecca Spit -- both in the path of the ferry to Cortes. It's also protected from the wind by a small island. It is not a great landing at anything lower than a mid-tide. The beach is reasonably OK cobble above that.

From Bold Point to Moulds Bay is just over a NM of bumpy paddling because the area is open to the wind and swell coming up from Georgia Strait. It also shallows up, relatively speaking, so there are few places where the swell starts to break. If the wind hasn't had a chance to really build, it isn't anything impassable. Just mind your energy levels and attention. I had a good swig of hot chocolate and a shortbread cookie before I crossed and it was just fine.

My reward for the steady pace down the Channel was a rare winter sunset at Moulds Bay.

Some closing thoughts. Winter Camping is base camping. I would have been better off just keeping my camp at Freedom Point and doing the Octopus Islands as a day trip. Keep it simple. I need a larger paddling boot for winter. My feet were dry because my footies are part of my suit, but they would have been warmer with thicker insulation. A larger boot allows for that.

Edits: spelling and grammar
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