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Klemtu to Port Hardy, central coast, BC 9–22 Oct 2022

alexsidles

Paddler
Joined
Jan 10, 2009
Messages
615
Location
Seattle WA
[cross-posted at alexsidles.com]

“Kayak Bill” Davidson lived alone among the islands of the Inside Passage, traveling from camp to camp by kayak, foraging for seafood and vegetables along the way. He sold watercolor landscape paintings to earn what little money he needed for basic supplies such as flour, sugar, and tobacco. He died of a gunshot wound under unknown circumstances in one of his camps in late 2003 or early 2004.

Kayak Bill’s bold lifestyle attracted many admirers, some of whom wrote articles after his death about what Kayak Bill meant to them. (“Kayak Bill: A Requiem,” Keith Webb; “Looking for Kayak Bill,” Neil Frazer; “Breakfast with Kayak Bill,” Colin Lake; “A Tribute to Billy,” Francis Dwyer.)

In the words of one of the authors:

Bill occupies a place in my imagination because he reversed the course of civilization. Except for Bill, civilization is a one-way trip. …​
In a material sense, Bill's wake was as ephemeral as the wake from his kayak. However, I doubt that he realized the emotional wake he had left behind.​

Faint though it was, Kayak Bill’s material wake can still be traced today, nearly twenty years after his death. Bill maintained a chain of campsites along the central coast, many of which remain recognizable thanks to Bill’s unique construction techniques.

Seattle-based kayaker Jon Dawkins has spent the past decade and a half amassing information about Kayak Bill and his campsites. He has generously published most of his research on his blog. Relying heavily on Jon’s work, I made a two-week pilgrimage to the central coast to find some of the campsites and retrace the footsteps of Kayak Bill.

00 Route map labelled.jpg

00 Route map. I parked my car at the Port Hardy ferry terminal, carried my kayak aboard the ferry, launched the kayak beneath the Klemtu ferry dock, then paddled back to my car at Port Hardy.

My first morning out of Klemtu, I encountered a sailboat transiting a narrow passage. We stopped to chat. They were wrapping up a sight-seeing and cultural tour, their last of the season. My adventure was just beginning. They would be the last people and the last boat I would see for a week.

Even with Jon’s descriptions and maps of Kayak Bill’s campsites, the sites were not always easy to find. Kayak Bill made many close friends among the residents of the coast, but he made enemies, too, people who would destroy his camps if they found them. The central coast is subject to competing land and water claims from First Nations, provincial and federal government agencies, and private property owners. Bill learned to hide his camps in out-of-the-way corners of the coast to avoid treading on other people’s sensitivities.

01 Narrowest part of Meyers Passage.JPG

01 Narrowest part of Meyers Passage. This is a principal waterway connecting the Inside Passage with the outer islands. Kayak Bill, ancient indigenous peoples, and modern residents of Klemtu have all used this route.

02 Meyers Passage Kayak Bill camp location.JPG

02 Kayak Bill campsite location, Meyers Passage. Kayak Bill had a campsite somewhere in this sublimely secluded bay, but I was not able to find it.

03 Meyers Passage pot.JPG

03 Pot, Meyers Passage. In the exact location marked on Kayak Bill’s chart, I found a rusty old pot in the forest. There was none of the characteristic Kayak Bill campsite architecture, so I cannot conclude that this is a Kayak Bill artifact.

04 Morning view of Laredo Sound.JPG

04 Morning view of Laredo Sound. The haunted, layered appearance of the coast in autumn exerted a strong influence on Kayak Bill’s watercolors.

05 Searching Higgins Pass for Kayak Bill camp.JPG

05 Searching Higgins Passage. Somewhere in this maze of rocky islets is another Kayak Bill camp, but I could not find it despite three hours’ combing.

Kayak Bill’s chief redoubt was Weeteeam Bay and the numerous clusters of islets at the south end of Aristazabal Island. Amid this labyrinth of water and rock, he constructed his largest and most elaborate camps. Here he spent the bulk of each year, decades on end, foraging alone.

It’s one of the most scenic areas of the coast. Visual texture is everywhere you look. Boomers guard the entrances, creating a fortress for kayakers against all but the most intrepid motorboaters.

This stretch of coast is unusually productive of seafood. The wave-washed rocks are covered in large California mussels and gooseneck barnacles. The beaches are full of clams. Shellfish formed the core of Kayak Bill’s diet, so Weeteeam Bay must have seemed like a paradise.

06 Departing Kayak Bill Camp I.JPG

06 Kayaking south end of Aristazabal Island. Kayak Bill was not afraid of ocean swells or rocky shores, but he did try to avoid surf landings.

07 South end of Aristazabal.JPG

07 South end of Aristazabal Island. Minutes after I took this picture, a hitherto-inactive boomer fired up just feet behind me and capsized my kayak, costing me my third pair of binoculars in as many years.

08 Kayaking Beauchemin Channel toward Aristazabal Island.JPG

08 Kayaking Beauchemin Channel toward Aristazabal Island. It requires multiple crossings of ten miles (16 km) or more to get to the most interesting locations along this part of the coast.

09 Narrow passage Weeteeam Bay.JPG

09 Narrow passage, Weeteeam Bay. Kayak Bill often sited his campsites near intricate waterways like this one.

10 Islands in Weeteeam Bay.JPG

10 Islands in Weeteeam Bay. This maze is confusing for strangers to navigate even with GPS, but for Kayak Bill, it must have felt as familiar as a living room.

The elaborate architecture of Kayak Bill’s camps distinguishes them from the crude “beach furniture” campsites constructed by other kayakers. A genuine Kayak Bill site features a fireplace made of flat stones buried in the ground or embedded in a firebox. Standing over the fireplace is a triangular “firestand” built of driftwood. Nearby is a stack of firewood, each piece cut to precisely the same length, with plywood or a tarp to keep the wood dry from the rain. Next to the fireplace is a stump to use as a seat. Behind that is a bed of planks. The perimeter is protected by a windscreen of logs or planks standing vertically and held in place by ropes. Overhead is a network of ropes stretching from tree to tree to accommodate tarps and mosquito nets.

11 Kayak Bill Camp I.JPG

11 Kayak Bill Camp I, Aristazabal Island. The tarp supports, firestand, and a small windbreak remain intact.

12 Firestand at Kayak Bill Camp I.JPG

12 Firestand, Camp I. The firestand allowed Kayak Bill to set objects at different heights above the fire to accomplish different purposes: boiling water, smoking meat, or drying clothes.

13 Kayak Bill well at Camp I.JPG

13 Gathering water from Kayak Bill’s well, Camp I. A trail, marked by buoys hung from trees, leads from Kayak Bill’s Camp I to a series of small fresh-water wells in the forest.

14 Kayak Bill Camp II.JPG

14 Kayak Bill Camp II, Weeteeam Bay. This camp is smaller and more overgrown than Camp I or Camp III, and sited on a much less accessible beach.

15 Windscreen Kayak Bill Camp II.JPG

15 Remnants of windscreen, Camp II. Whenever he arrived at a camp, Bill could just throw a tarp or mosquito net, as needed, over the existing infrastructure.

16 Windscreen Kayak Bill Camp III.JPG

16 Windscreen, Kayak Bill Camp III, Weeteeam Bay. Camp III is the most intact of Bill’s camps.

17 Stakes Kayak Bill Camp III.JPG

17 Stakes, Camp III. Kayak Bill drove stakes into the ground to support additional windscreens within the camp, as well as benches and other furniture.

18. Firewood Kayak Bill Camp III.JPG

18 Firewood shelter, Camp III. The shelter, wood, and extra saw blades are all original Kayak Bill artifacts. The fishhooks and ziplock bag containing a novel are probably deposits from later visitors.

Kayak Bill’s main camp was even more remote than his three camps around Weeteeam Bay. On Harvey Island, ten miles (16 km) offshore in Hecate Strait, Bill erected a plywood-and-tarp structure so elaborate it was almost more of a cabin than a campsite. He referred to Harvey as a “garden of Eden.” It was a place he could spend happy months at a time.

All his life, Kayak Bill was hounded by people who didn’t think they owed him respect. It began in childhood, when his mother abandoned him and his father deposited him in an orphanage in Calgary. The orphanage was no refuge. It was a place of physical and sexual abuse perpetrated upon the youngest residents by the older boys and certain members of the staff.

Civilized society continued to persecute Bill into adulthood. During his decades kayaking, his camps—which were his home—were frequently demolished by people who thought of him as a trespasser or a poacher. Other times, he would return to a camp only to find it befouled by boaters whose idea of camping involved beer cans and boomboxes. Bill kept moving deeper and deeper into the wilderness, but the meanest agents of civilization kept finding him.

Harvey Island is an ecological reserve. It’s illegal for anyone to land without a permit, much less move into a cabin and forage for shellfish. Bill might have been safe from the more casual breed of vandal here, but civilization wouldn’t leave him alone forever, even in a place so far from anywhere. Bill carved a tree stump into a statue of a human hand, extending its middle finger toward the viewer. He knew they were coming for him.

Vandals come in various guises. The ones who finally found Kayak Bill’s main camp wore uniforms and wielded the law with as much wrath as they wielded their chainsaws. They cut up Bill’s cabin, pulled down his windscreen, kicked over his hearth, scattered his years-old accumulation of clamshells, and burned whatever was left below the high-tide line.

Kayak Bill’s cabin should have been a monument to a way of life our civilization has all but forgotten. Instead, the government reduced it to rubble on our behalf. I hope the middle-finger statue was pointing right at their faces when they came ashore.

19 Harvey Island from Beauchemin Channel.JPG

19 Harvey Island at three miles’ distance, seen from Beauchemin Channel. There are other, even more remote islands in Hecate Strait, but I don’t know whether Kayak Bill made use of them.

20 Harvey Island south entrance.JPG

20 Harvey Island, south entrance to channel. Only at high tide is it possible to traverse the channel through the middle of the islands, where Kayak Bill built his home.

21 Kayak Bill clamshells Harvey Island.JPG

21 Remnants of Kayak Bill’s pile of mussels and clamshells, Harvey Island. Bill ate seals, deer, ducks and grouse, and fish, but his main source of meat was shellfish.

22 Ruins of Kayak Bill hearth Harvey Island.JPG

22 Ruins of Kayak Bill’s hearth, Harvey Island. If not for having seen the intact fireplaces in Weeteeam Bay, I would not have recognized this as a Kayak Bill artifact.

23 Kayak Bill ropes Harvey Island.JPG

23 Kayak Bill’s tarp and windscreen ropes, Harvey Island. The goons didn’t have the guts to climb the spruces and cut down the ropes Kayak Bill had hung.

24 Memorial to Kayak Bill.JPG

24 Amid the ruins of his hearth, tobacco and whiskey for Kayak Bill. Sorry I missed you, buddy.

25 Sunset Harvey Island.JPG

25 Sunset, Harvey Island. At low tide, the islands are defended by a drying reef hundreds of yards wide, but in the end, it wasn’t enough to keep out the intruders.

Looking for Kayak Bill is not the only reason to visit the central coast. The kayaking here is some of the best in the world. The central coast offers a huge range of experiences, from maze-like clusters of islets, to long, winding channels, to large, open bodies of water (“sounds”) so exposed to ocean swells they attract pelagic birds such as Leach’s storm-petrels, sooty shearwaters, and northern fulmars.

26 Goo Ewe salmon stream.JPG

26 Goo-Ewe salmon stream, Higgins Passage. Spawning salmon crowded the stream so thickly the entire surface of the water rippled and the air reeked of fish, attracting flocks of ravens, crows, and eagles. Here my GPS died for no apparent reason, throwing me back to the good ol’ map and compass for the next nine days.

27 Kayak at Cape Mark.JPG

27 Kayak at Cape Mark, off Athlone Island. South of here, I hewed to the outer coast and camped on nothing but sand.

28 Sunrise Athlone Island.JPG

28 Sunrise, west coast of Athlone Island. The weather remained benign until the last four days of the trip.

30 Black-legged kittiwake Beauchemin Channel.JPG

29 Black-legged kittiwake, Beauchemin Channel. This handsome species was present in low numbers throughout the central coast.

31 Sooty shearwaters Laredo Sound.JPG

30 Sooty shearwaters, Laredo Sound. The twin nostrils of the bird’s “tubenose” are visible.

33 Sea otter Milbanke Sound.JPG

31 Sea otter, Milbanke Sound. In 2022, the sea otters were much more numerous and widespread than the previous time I kayaked through here in 2011.

34 Raft of sea otters Grief Bay.JPG

32 Raft of sea otters, Grief Bay. On a day of high swell, the sea otters seemed to be as grateful for the shelter of Grief Bay as I was.

29 Kayaking Milbanke Sound.JPG

33 Kayaking Queens Sound. Here I encountered my first humpback whales of the trip.

32 Beach on Snipe Island.JPG

34 Beach on Snipe Island. The Goose Islands are justly famous for their beautiful sandy beaches.

[CONTINUED IN NEXT POST]

[cross-posted at alexsidles.com]
 
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[cross-posted at alexsidles.com]

[CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST]

In mid-October, most of the birds were in migration. Each morning and evening, huge flocks of geese would pass overhead, heading south to pass the winter in warmer pastures. The birds all had on their non-breeding, basic plumages.

35 Dunlin at Camp III.JPG

35 Dunlin, Camp III. It’s more common to encounter this species in flocks, but this individual was alone.

36 Semipalmated plover Snipe Island.JPG

36 Semipalmated plover, Snipe Island. This species is closely related to the more familiar killdeer.

37 Spotted sandpiper Indian Cove.JPG

37 Spotted sandpiper, Indian Cove. In its winter plumage, it loses the spots for which it is named.

38 Juvenile surf scoters Higgins Passage.JPG

38 Surf scoters, Higgins Passage. These juvenile birds were more approachable than the wary adults.

39 Fox sparrow Harvey Island.JPG

39 Fox sparrow, Harvey Island. Much like Kayak Bill, the fox sparrow prefers to skulk in the bushes, only showing itself when it has some definite purpose in doing so.

40 Savannah sparrow Snipe Island.JPG

40 Savannah sparrow, Snipe Island. This versatile species is as much at home on the beach as it is in grassy meadows inland.

41 Cackling geese and northern pintails Goose Island.JPG

41 Cackling geese and northern pintails, Goose Island. The cackling goose was split from the Canada goose in July 2004.

42 Common raven West Beach.JPG

42 Common raven, West Beach, Calvert Island. The ravens here are unusually large and well-fed, likely thanks to the proximity of the Hakai Institute.

Kayak Bill was not the first person to leave a physical mark upon the landscape. Aboriginal peoples have been living on the central coast for thousands upon thousands of years. Indeed, the central coast is a plausible candidate for the migration route of the first peoples to populate North America. Thousands of years before any gaps in the Ice Age glaciers opened in the interior of the continent, the coast was accessible to boat-using cultures.

A cooking hearth dating to 14,000 cal BP has been found on Triquet Island. Human footprints dating to 13,000 cal BP have been found on Calvert Island. Most of the continent was locked in ice, but here along the coast, people thrived.

It doesn’t necessarily require archeological excavation or radiocarbon dating to identify very old cultural sites along the coast. There are perhaps a dozen or so ancient longhouse sites still in good enough condition that a non-specialist can recognize them, and perhaps a few hundred pictographs and petroglyphs that can still be discerned with the naked eye. A few of these treasures lay along my route.

43 Pictograph headdress.JPG

43 Pictograph depicting human figure with headdress. In the immediate vicinity were other pictographs, faded into unrecognizable smudges of ochre. I searched for petroglyphs and other cultural relics I suspected were in the area but found none.

44 Longhouse ruins.JPG

44 Longhouse ruins. A partially collapsed roof-beam, right, spans a central pit. The second roof-beam, left, is wholly collapsed.

45 Longhouse central pit.JPG

45 Longhouse central pit. The terraced sides of the pit are made of cedar planks, which served as stadium-style seating inside the longhouse.

46 Longhouse roof beam and post.JPG

46 Longhouse roof beam and post. The longhouse is well along in its process of fading into the forest whence it came.

The best-preserved Kayak Bill sites are Camps I through III in Weeteeam Bay and the south end of Aristazabal Island. He had many others. Owing to time constraints, I wasn’t able to visit his sites in the Milbanke Sound area (Dallas, Roar, and Denniston) or at Swordfish Bay in Queens Sound. I wasn’t able to find his site in Higgins Passage. And I wasn’t able to land at his site at Extended Point due to high surf.

I did, however, visit his sites at Grief Bay and Gosling Island. They don’t compare to the Aristazabal sites. The Grief Bay camp is in a gorgeous, isolated location, with a long, sandy beach and a bay full of sea otters, but the camp itself is cramped within the forest. The camp is heavily overgrown, and I suspect Bill was not using it often in the years leading up to his death.

The Gosling Island camp is in a dark and dismal location. It has been thoroughly trashed by disrespectful, drunken campers (who abound throughout the Goose Group). It takes a knowledgeable eye even to recognize the ruins as a Kayak Bill site.

Gosling is where Kayak Bill died of a gunshot wound in late 2003 or early 2004. No one knows whether it was suicide, accident, or murder—at least, no one who’s talking. I left Gosling shortly after landing so I could spend the night at nearby Snipe Island, a cheerier and more beautiful spot.

47 Kayak Bill bed Gosling Island.JPG

47 Kayak Bill’s bed, Gosling Island. Nowadays, visitors to Gosling use it as a bench to sit and get drunk.

48 Kayak Bill fireplace Gosling Island.JPG

48 Kayak Bill’s fireplace, Gosling Island. The thin, upright stones are diagnostic of a Kayak Bill site. Other campers build primitive rings of stones, not a proper stone oven like Bill.

49 Kayak Bill windscreen Grief Bay.JPG

49 Windscreen, Kayak Bill camp at Grief Bay. The windscreen here is one of the most intact I found.

50 Inside Kayak Bill Grief Bay camp.JPG

50 Inside Kayak Bill’s Grief Bay camp. The windscreen blocks the beauty of the bay, but it was worth it to Bill to protect himself from the elements.

51 Kayak Bill firestand Grief Bay.JPG

51 Firestand, fireplace, and firewood supply at Grief Bay camp. All the classic elements of a Kayak Bill site are present here, but it’s a smaller camp than most others.

I experience a steady decline throughout the course of a long trip. With each passing day, my food supply dwindles lower and lower. My clothes and sleeping bag soak up more and more moisture. More and more pieces of gear break or are lost. I can’t stay out for more than a few weeks before I have to return to the land of washing machines and cheeseburgers. Kayak Bill stayed out for months at a time and kept it up for decades.

Obviously, his mastery of coastal foraging extended his food supply beyond anything a modern kayaker can carry. And his wood-based camping, while less time-efficient than our modern camp-stove style, meant he was able to keep himself and his clothes warm and dry on an indefinite basis, regardless of weather.

But there’s more to it than that. The coast can be a rough place. On this trip, I capsized twice in two weeks—once when a boomer hit me off the south tip of Aristazabal Island, and again during a failed surf landing at Blunden Bay. In my Goretex drysuit and fancy British sea kayak, it was a simple matter to roll upright each time. Bill, in his wool sweater and clunky, 1970s-era two-seater kayak, could never have rolled. Likely, he couldn’t even have remounted after exiting a capsized boat. His boat didn’t have bulkheads. It would have filled with hundreds of pounds of water. Photographs and video of Bill in action never show a lifejacket. It seems to me a capsize, especially of the offshore type caused by a boomer, might well have done him in.

I capsized after a single day at Aristazabal Island. Bill must have spent something on the order of three thousand days at Aristazabal, yet he must never have capsized, or he likely would have died. How did he avoid catastrophe so consistently over such a long time?

52 Kayaking Surf Islands.JPG

52 Kayaking among the Surf Islands. These little islands shelter the longest beach on the north shore of Calvert Island.

53 Kayaking west coast of Calvert Island.JPG

53 Kayaking west coast of Calvert Island, Mt. Buxton and Safety Mountain against the skyline. I had hoped to transit the west coast of Calvert in a single day, but a twenty-knot headwind in the afternoon made it a two-day proposition.

54 Calvert Island beach east of Blackney Island.JPG

54 Calvert Island beach east of Blackney Island. A Hakai Institute staffer (the only person I spoke with during two weeks’ kayaking) told me there is a Kayak Bill site on this beach. If so, it would be an undocumented one. I searched and did not find anything. The staffer also told me of a Kayak Bill site on the northwest side of Triquet Island and hinted obliquely at a site in the Moore Islands. Those, too, would be undocumented. Given the absence of a genuine Kayak Bill site at Blackney, I discount the likelihood of genuine sites at Triquet and Moore.

55 Kayaking Grief Bay.JPG

55 Kayaking Grief Bay, Calvert Island. But for the fact it is so many miles from anywhere, this would be one of the premier kayaking destinations on the coast.

56 Wolf tracks Grief Bay.JPG

56 Wolf tracks, Grief Bay, Calvert Island. Calvert Island is the stronghold of the coastal gray wolf. I was three nights on Calvert, up before dawn each morning and not in bed till after dusk, yet I never saw a wolf.

My hardest day was the passage from Grief Bay on the southern tip of Calvert Island to Blunden Bay just north of Cape Caution on the mainland. The closest data buoy (West Sea Otter, no. 46204) recorded a significant wave height of 5.6 meters (eighteen feet) that afternoon, with the highest waves measured at 10.2 meters (thirty-three feet). Such large waves were harmless on the open waters of Queen Charlotte Sound, but when I drew close to Extended Point to look for the Kayak Bill site, I entered a maelstrom of breakers and boomers amid the rocks offshore.

Kayak Bill didn’t do surf landings, so there must have been a safe way through the mess. I couldn’t find it. On the map, Tie Island, offshore of Extended Point, seemed like it might provide shelter from the swells, but Tie Island couldn’t protect against waves as large as these. Waves were breaking throughout the channel between Tie Island and the mainland, such that I could not even approach the channel, much less transit through. Even the wider, deeper, offshore channel between Tie Island and False Egg Island was mostly full of breakers, leaving only a narrow path for me to thread between explosions of whitewater. As for the coastline at Extended Point, it seemed to be a continuous mass of giant waves slamming ashore—no safe harbor in sight.

Giving up on Extended Point, I proceeded south toward Cape Caution, where the waves only grew larger. In thick fog, I was hugging the shore to keep myself oriented to landmarks. When I reached Neck Ness, I had to retreat. A submerged reef off Neck Ness was triggering massive breakers hundreds of yards offshore, with me caught between the offshore reef and the rocky shoreline of Neck Ness. Waves three stories high reared up, curled over, and slammed onto the reef with a noise like the hammer of god. There was no straight line to follow through the chaos, only a wending path between the deadly breakers.

My problems worsened when a tide rip began running past Neck Ness. Lacking a GPS, it was hard to determine, in the wave-tossed waters, what direction the current was carrying me, or how fast. All I could say for sure was that the chop from the tide race was making my kayak unstable, just when I most needed to concentrate on finding a way through the breakers.

I retreated offshore of Neck Ness to get away from the tide rip. The fog was so thick I quickly lost sight of land. Navigating by compass alone, I returned to shore several miles south of Neck Ness, safely past the reef and tide rip. I hoped to find the entrance to Indian Cove, which I remembered from a trip a decade earlier as a sheltered bay. Lacking a functional GPS, and disoriented by my offshore passage in the fog, I wasn’t sure where the entrance to Indian Cove was, or even where exactly I was. All I could see was a mess of breakers slamming into various rocks and headlands, but I couldn’t recognize any of the features.

I groped my way up and down the coast, trying to reorient myself in the fog. Eventually, I found the entrance to Indian Cove, only to discover that all routes into the cove were closed out by surf. My memory of Indian Cove as a safe harbor was based on a day of low swell, not the heavy swell I was facing now. I bobbed outside the main entrance to the cove, daring myself to race in between sets of waves, but a series of enormous breakers right in the middle of the entrance persuaded me not to risk it.

Around the corner from Indian Cove is Blunden Bay. Blunden Bay lacks Indian Cove’s offshore rocks, which in light conditions means Blunden Bay is less protected than Indian Cove. On this day of heavy conditions, however, Indian Cove’s rocks were only adding to the surf, not protecting from it, so Blunden Bay was actually the easier landing.

Most of the beach was being hammered by surf, but in the northernmost corner, the waves were running only four or five feet—large enough to seem intimidating, but not so large as to seem impossible. I took off into what I hoped was a lull, only to be caught from behind by a moderately sized wave that capsized me when I tried to surf it in.

I took a rest day the next day, my only one of the trip. I told myself the purpose was to give the swells time to die down, but really it was to restore my shaken confidence after the frightening conditions at Extended Point, Neck Ness, and Indian Cove.

When I resumed paddling the following day, I changed my route. Originally, I had planned to cross Queen Charlotte Strait by way of the Storm Islands and God’s Pocket. This would have involved several long, open crossings, but it would have treated me to some of the most beautiful kayaking on the coast. Instead, an adverse weather forecast persuaded me to take a more conventional route, hugging the coast to Shelter Bay, then crossing due south through the Millars, Deserters, and Gordons to Port Hardy.

57 Surf at Blunden Bay.JPG

57 Landing beach at Blunden Bay. “Excuse me, I didn’t order this much surf. Can you please take it back?”

58 Blunden Bay.JPG

58 Blunden Bay, calmer conditions. Over the course of two days, the surf moderated until it posed no threat.

59 Rounding Cape Caution.JPG

59 Rounding Cape Caution by kayak. Cape Caution has a fearsome reputation, but it is the area north of the cape that is actually more dangerous. Cape Caution itself is less challenging to paddle than the other two major capes, Cape Scott and Cape Flattery.

60 Rock patterns Southgate Group.JPG

60 Rock patterns, Southgate Group. Even mankind’s best pictographs pale in comparison to those nature has wrought.

61 Crossing Gordon Channel.JPG

61 Crossing Gordon Channel. A quartering wind between the Gordons and Port Hardy bullied me for the last few miles.

I would have liked to have been out here when Kayak Bill was alive. I would have liked to stumble upon him digging up clams on some secret beach. I would have liked to see the longhouse when it was still standing. I would have liked to sit on the terraced planks during a raucous gathering of leaders from the surrounding villages. I would have liked to asked the painters of the pictographs what they were drawing.

I liked the artifacts and paintings the earlier inhabitants of the coast left behind. I didn’t like the beer cans, derelict fishing gear, and hostile signage deposited by the latter-day ones.

I liked the birds and the mammals. I wished there were more of them. I was happy to see the sea otters on the increase. So many glories on the coast seem to be fading, but some few are as bright as ever.

Alex

[cross-posted at alexsidles.com]
 
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Alex,

Superb trip and report thereof. Bill's single digit salute sculpture is somewhere up north. I stumbled upon a photo of it on someone's FB page who was living in either Prince Rupert or somewhere in Haida Gwaii, can't recall which. Photo below.

Folks often assign every "camp" they come across to being one of Bill's but I believe that any camp that he didn't mark on his maps have other origins. He traveled the coast a lot and did a ton of bivi-camping. Stewart Marshall was arguably better-traveled than Bill and left a much smaller footprint. They both used some of the same casual camps but again, those not marked by Bill are probably not his. I have no doubt that he camped on Triquet, Blackney Beach and passed through the Moores but wouldn't have spent time in the first two. While Blackney would have had some appeal to him it wouldn't have served his purpose and I doubt that he ever put the energy into building out a real camp there. By 1977 Randel Washburne had built his first coastal cabin on the NW corner of Triquet in the Breadner Group. Consider that this may have pre-dated Bill's trips to the area and if not a shiny new cabin would have been an anathema to Billy and that little bay has seen a lot of private and commercial traffic ever since. I don't buy it.
52527205_10219053581874230_6832521617579442176_n.jpg
 
An amazing trip and an amazing trip report. Thanks for sharing.

I've had some close calls with boomers, including one where the trough deposited me and my fully loaded boat over the edge of a suddenly revealed rock, just hard enough scare the crap out of me, but not hard enough to snap my boat in half. Pretty much Poseidon telling me to "Wake the f**k up and pay attention! I could snap your boat open like a fortune cookie if I wanted to!"
 
Alex,
Out of curiosity when you were at Extended Point was the entrance to Lucy Bay closed out?
 
Thanks for the kind words, everyone. Jon, thanks for the update on the sculpture. As usual, you're the definitive guide to all things Kayak Bill!

The entrance to Lucy Bay was, indeed, closed out when I was at Extended Point. As I mentioned in the trip report, there must have been some way through, or Kayak Bill wouldn't have set up a camp here, but all I could see was a seemingly unbroken wall of breakers. Perhaps with the right twists and turns around the offshore rocks, a safe landing could have been found, but not by a first-time visitor during high swells.

Alex
 
On my last trip by Extended Point I explored Lucy Bay and recall that the entrance, though wide, was pretty bony. I could see it being unacceptable with the seas you experienced. I was looking to see if there were any artifacts back in there as the ragged beach fronting his camp is small and collects a lot of wood. It turns out Lucy Bay collects its fair share and I wasn't able to land on the obvious "beach" though it was well protected from the conditions I had that day.

I have come to believe that Billy avoided risk as much as possible and wouldn't have traveled in conditions that would make a landing at Extended Point difficult. Also, I doubt that Extended Point was a place where he would have spent that much time. Just a camp on his route while traveling north or south. Along the lines of Mustang Bay, perhaps.
 
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