Easter weekend escape to Portland

kayakwriter

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After weeks of planning, we caught the 9AM ferry on Friday from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, and, as hoped, had our car on the upper deck so we didn’t have to leave the vehicle.

I’d rooftopped my personal kayak; my two accomplices in kayaking had rented boats from Pacifica Paddlesports. Peter met us as scheduled at their Canoe Cove operation. The usual game of tetris ensued as we figured out where everything should fit.

P4020001 loading at the dock.jpg


We got underway about 1PM. The current was setting strongly towards the south through Page, Iroquois and John Passages, so we opted to loop ‘round the south and east sides of Coal Island. Even here, we were breasting considerable counter-currents, but not as swift as those in the three narrow passages behind us.

One member of our merry band, perhaps a bit out of practise with charts and compass, mistook Stuart Island in the States for our destination, Portland Island. Fortunately, I was able to lead them onto the paths of Righteousness and Truth - or at least show them the way to the campsite. A good thing for a couple of reasons: none of us had our passports or COVID shots, and my two younger companions were easily paddling much faster than I, so it was nice to be contributing something that showed it wasn’t quite time to put the ol’ guy out on an ice flow yet.

P4020408 R & M approaching Portland wave.jpg


P4020011 Beckman and Portland in view.jpg


There were some impressive standing waves just off Charmer Point on Coal Island (no pictures, ‘cos I selfishly wanted to stay upright.) On the run down to Brackman Island, we had the wind behind us - I wished I’d bought my Windpaddle sail. The sea was just lively enough to be fun and to have a good reason to be paddling kayaks rather than canoes. With skegs lowered, it was easy to avoid being broached by overtaking waves, and we got to surf a few.

We landed at Arbutus Point about 4PM (It’s typically about a 90 minute run from Canoe Cove, but we’d had all those countercurrents, plus me paddling like Tim Conway’s old man character in a kayak.)

Luck was with us: many of the sites had been taped off (because of COVID or for revegetation - it wasn’t clear.) With one other couple already occupying one site, there were just three tent pads left - one for each of us.

As is often the case, Arbutus Point was gusty, but fortunately it wasn’t raining, so we cooked and ate down on the shell beach on the west side of the point - out of the wind and in the last of the sunshine. Melissa treated us to meatballs, mashed tatties, and crisp green beans. Rhian broke out the rum and cokes, so the ambiance was semi-tropical. Later, there was a bit of bioluminescence - not great clouds of it, but tiny green sparks in the water where waves broke or we tossed shell fragments in.

P4030410 sunrise.jpg


We all slept in on Saturday, then had a vast brunch of scrambled eggs and pancakes, courtesy of Rhian. The cooler temps had thickened the pancake syrup to a taffy-like consistency, so we didn’t so much pour it on our pancakes as snip off bits to drop on them.

P4030040 kayaks on the beach.jpg


P4030057 whiteshell beach.jpg


bark.jpg


By mutual consent, we didn’t paddle today. Rhian and I wandered off on separate photo safaris, and Melissa went hiking and beachcombing. There were some drifting showers as we reconvened for supper in the evening, but with the wind light we were able to eat under the tarp at a picnic table. With some welcome assistance from Melissa, I prepared my go-to group supper of pasta with veggies and Chorizo, followed, after a suitable digestive pause, by steamed puddings with custard.

diner prep.jpg


tent at night.jpg


The wind blew quite strongly from the Northwest through most of the night, to the point that I was lying in my sleeping bag working out what scratch suppers and lunches we could make if we were weatherbound for an extra day. But just at dawn, it dropped to a calm, so that by the time we were ready to launch a bit before noon, it was perfect. The run down the east side of Portland was wonderful, with the sun shining and the current with us.

P4040479 Melissa launches.jpg


P4040474 Rhian lauches.jpg


P4040076 Tortise Islets.jpg


P4040088 Philip.jpg


As we made the crossing from Hood Islet to Stranger Passage, the shifting bearing on my deck compass showed me we were being set to the east by the current. I let my companions know, and began ferrying to the west. Somehow they didn’t quite grasp the degree of correction to starboard that was required and they wound up paddling in a long arc, with a real sprint upcurrent to the mouth of the passage. Oh well, they’re young, with lots of strength and energy to burn; creaky old farts like me have to work smarter, not harder!

I was gratified to find I’d extrapolated the currents in Page Passage correctly from the predictions for Swanson Channel and Haro Strait, so we got a gentle free ride from Swartz Head back to Canoe Cove, with a little seal sight-seeing enroute.

seals.jpg


After loading the car, we still had plenty of time before our 5PM ferry reservation, so we stopped to enjoy pizza on the patio at Porto Osteria in the Marina. Even with that civilized interlude, we rolled up to the ticket booth at about 3:45PM and were asked if we’d rather catch the 4PM ferry. Would we ever! Home an hour earlier than expected after an excellent weekend!
 
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kayakwriter

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You parked at Canoe Cove? Was that conditional on renting boats from Pacifica or is it available for 'anybody'?
Peter from Pacifica gave us a pass to put on our dash, so I assume you need to be doing business with one of the companies in the marina for it to be free. Whether you can just pay for parking or not, I don't know, but you could contact Canoe Cove Marina.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Peter from Pacifica gave us a pass to put on our dash, so I assume you need to be doing business with one of the companies in the marina for it to be free. Whether you can just pay for parking or not, I don't know, but you could contact Canoe Cove Marina.
That makes sense. In the past they have not allowed parking, even if folks were willing to pay for it. But the policy seems to vary year by year, so best to check, as you suggest.
 

cougarmeat

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KayakWriter, Thank you for the current (dual meaning) information on Portland Island and sharing your adventure and meals. It is so inspiring to read the trip reports as I live in the middle high desert country where our high lakes are snowed in 6 months out of the year. I have to break way from instant mash potatoes and foil pouch topping.

I tried to locate the passages and islands you mentioned on Google Earth to better trace your route. But either they aren’t labeled or I didn’t have the necessary zoom level. What URL do you recommend to see more complete labeling. I have NOAA charts for the San Juans and I’m pretty sure I have something on the Gaia app that covers the Gulf Islands. Not sure about Avenza.

Portland Island is on my list - once Canada is open to the USA again. I’m glad you mentioned the 90 minute crossing (in the right conditions) as I can use that as a selling point to potential paddling partners.

At one time there was supposed to be an active well for water in the middle of Porland Island and some compost toilets. And I recall something about a trail running east/west from Midden (white shell?) Beach to Arbutus Point. Are water and compost toilets available? If possible, I’d be camping with two hammocks and tarps (with tent backup). Would the wind be coming directly from the east straight on to Arbutus Point or more parallel with the shoreline?

I don’t have a skeg - I’d be taking a Mariner Max - and I’ve never successfully deployed my WindPaddle. But that’s because our local high lake - Elk Lake - has winds going in all directions at once and one can only take so much laugher from their paddling “partners”. When I'd finally get the sail up the wind would change 180 degrees. But one glorious time, for about 4 seconds, I did see a bow wake. So I know, when the wind cooperates, the wind paddle could assist. It’s too bad you didn’t have for an an unofficial race (aided by your WindPaddle supercharger) with the young whippersnappers - where your kayak touches shore about 2 seconds ahead of them so you can turn and say, “What took you so long?” :)
 

kayakwriter

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I tried to locate the passages and islands you mentioned on Google Earth to better trace your route. But either they aren’t labeled or I didn’t have the necessary zoom level. What URL do you recommend to see more complete labeling. I have NOAA charts for the San Juans and I’m pretty sure I have something on the Gaia app that covers the Gulf Islands. Not sure about Avenza.
scan from Gulf Island strip chart.jpg


The above image is a scan from a series of strip charts of the Gulf Islands the Government used to publish. They were extremely useful for and popular with kayakers and other small boaters, so naturally Canadian Hydrographic Services stopped printing them years ago. Anyhow, since they're strip charts, they're not "North up" - the hand drawn red arrow is magnetic north, so you can make sense of the narrative in my trip report.

At one time there was supposed to be an active well for water in the middle of Porland Island and some compost toilets. And I recall something about a trail running east/west from Midden (white shell?) Beach to Arbutus Point. Are water and compost toilets available?
There's a long ugly backstory to do with a couple of unqualified people who'd been signing off on water purity in a municipality in Ontario (a whole 'nother province) as a result of which the federal government decided rather that simply put "Use at your own risk; treat this water" signs on the wells at the campsites in Gulf Islands National Park, they simply plugged all the wells. So it's bring your own, which can be a pain in summer.

The campsites do have low-odour, composting outhouses.

There are lovely trails around and through Portland Island.

Arbutus Point is breezy in the off season, but in summer it should be warm enough to use a hammock pretty much anywhere.

Hope this helps.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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......... the federal government decided rather that simply put "Use at your own risk; treat this water" signs on the wells at the campsites in Gulf Islands National Park, they simply plugged all the wells.
Provincial government did this too - ex. : Wallace Island
Arbutus Point is breezy in the off season, but in summer it should be warm enough to use a hammock pretty much anywhere.
In summer the Gulf Islands campsites are plagued with over-attentive (NB: Attentions do not extend to the toilets) and over-officious young Parks Canada staff who will likely take a dim view of any hammock that isn't hung directly above a tent pad. So the possibilities could be a bit limited if it's crowded. Good to have that tent backup.
 

cougarmeat

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The beauty of a hammock is it can go up just before you go to bed and come down as soon as you get up. With both tarp and hammock (with underquilt) in their own sleeves, you just pull the sleeve on and unclip the tree support.

We do bring a tent because sometimes people are more comfortable changing clothes within walls and it can corral all the dry bags etc. Also, if a ranger comes by and doesn’t see any shelter, there will be more questions. It’s like an account told me as we were discussing taxes.”Cougarmeat," he said, (probably used a different name) "you have to show some income or the IRS will ask questions about how you are paying for food/shelter/clothing."

Thank you all for the additional information. Too bad about the water. On a multi-day trip, that’s not nothing. When Steve and I toured the Broghtons, we carried large multi-gallon collapsible water cubes in with the water taxi and used them as we camped in one place for several days. Then we switched to Dromedary Bags for the couple of days paddle back to Alder Bay. I suppose, as sort of a reverse objective, one could plan their trip on days assured of rain and catch/boil the run off.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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That's our British ancestry / culture
Charge the peons for everything, even if their taxes paid for it
I think the idea of 'Cost Recovery' is another gift from our 'friends' to the South, not from Britain.
It's pretty recent - I can remember when it started in Canada. And folks have pointed out in posts here at WCP that in countries like New Zealand and Australia which are even more wedded to 'the old country' than we are in Canada, charts are public domain.
 

AlphaEcho

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Alternate theory -- digital maps can be used to print paper charts that would then be resold as "official charts" by those who do not have any cultural concepts of copyright and intellectual property. Not pointing fingers in any particular direction. Just saying ..
 
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alexsidles

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What URL do you recommend to see more complete labeling.
The kayak gods will doubtless smite me for this, but I usually use topo maps instead of nautical charts, at least for inland waters where boomers are not a concern.

A few years ago, the Canadian government "upgraded" its online maps to this awful vector data called Toporama. Toporama deletes tons of detail and just generally looks bad—I won't even link to it.

But, you can still find visualizers that use the government's older, far superior raster maps. My current favorite is at: https://www.gpsvisualizer.com/draw/

Select from the dropdown menu the map titled "us: USGS topo (CalTopo)," then pan and zoom to your area of interest. Notwithstanding the map's name, there are excellent topo maps of Canada. Screenshot below:

screenshot sample.jpg


Sorry, Phil, for hijacking your lovely trip report!

Alex
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Thanks for that link, Alex!
:thumbsup::thumbsup:
I've used GPSVisualizer for years (for putting GPS tracks on a chart or map) but had never explored the 'Draw'/Sandbox pages.
 

AlphaEcho

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Your trip report is invaluable to those such as I who are definitely sliding into "Old Man" territory. When you've had the starch taken out of you, there's not much choice but to work every angle you can find.

P.S. lovely photos.
 
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