Read Island Winter Campout - Snowpocalypse

AlphaEcho

Paddler
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
111
Location
Quadra Island, BC
Clearly we are living in "interesting times". I was reading about the specific circumstances required for there to be snow in all of Canada's capitals for more than 2 days straight. It hasn't happened very often since we started keeping track a little over a century ago. So, when the forecast for this coming weekend was for snowfall from Alaska to the Puget Sound, obviously a kayak camping trip was required.

Area of Operations Area of Operations

It is only about a 2.5 hour paddle from Heriot Bay to Whale Passage (campsite). In the daylight limited hours of winter, it is not quite that simple. You often don't have time to wait for the tide to change or the wind to drop. You need to stack the deck in your favour. So that is what we did.

We shortened our paddle time by taking the ferry to Whaletown on Cortes Island. From the ferry we drove to Coulter Bay. Launching there, it is only around a 1 hour paddle crossing Sutil Channel. It's not entirely protected water, but it's well around the corner from the long fetch of Georgia Strait.

Whale Passage is a great winter base camp. It offers easy access to the Penn Islands, Evans Bay, and the western shores of Cortes Island (check out Von Donop Inlet). Whales pass by (hence the name) all year round. Every time I've camped here, whales have passed by, breached even (I have photos!). This time was no exception. It was if anything even more majestic: the heavy exhales accentuated by the stillness only a snow covered landscape has.

6 pm feels like 10 pm Winter is great for those photo lighting experiments.
Snowy Kayaks Kayaks were made for winter paddling.
View from Whale Passage Camp Looking towards Frederic Point from our camp.
Kayaking Joy It may seem like extra effort to stay warm and dry, but the smiles are well earned.

Paddlers should take note:
  • Don't forget to check the ferry schedules for Heriot Bay to Cortes, and back. The ferry can save paddling time on the water, but add hours to your overall travel time if you aren't aware of the schedules.
  • Sutil Channel floods north and ebbs south. The currents are not strong, but they can add to your mileage if you're not paying attention.
  • Easy launches/landings around the region are few and far between. Coulter Bay is a long low-gradient beach. High tide is the best launch. Anything below that is a carry over silty mud studded with sharp rocks and oyster shells. Whale Passage has a campsite just inside the point best accessed at high tide where you can float up to stair-stepping slabs of rock, and then land your boat gingerly on flat spots. The rock is more broken at lower tides and at the lowest tide, it's slimy and sharp cobble sized rocks. There is another campsite in the inner part of the cove, much further from the point. Best approach is mid-tide on mixed cobble and gravel. The problem is that the foreshore is choked with logs on top of boulders. Low tide is slimy, sharp cobble, then a long carry across the gravel, and the final obstacle course of big logs.
  • Weather in this area is location specific. We got about 10 cm (4") snow at our campsite the 2 days we were there, but the temperatures swung from -4c to 2c. Coulter Bay, where we launched, got 20 cm (8") of snow. Now that I'm living here, the challenge is to learn the local patterns to know when and where to go safely. When in doubt, ask a local.
Coulter Bay launch Coulter Bay launch
 
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AlphaEcho

Paddler
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
111
Location
Quadra Island, BC
Thanks Mick. We all want to get out there. As one of those who can get out more easily and more often, I hope I can stoke the flames for folk in the interim. Also, if there are details that I could be adding, feedback is welcome.
 
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RFT

New Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2021
Messages
3
Location
Vancouver Island
Right On! One of our regular and favourite year round paddling areas. We also witness whale action, always in this area. Stay safe out there!!
 

AlphaEcho

Paddler
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
111
Location
Quadra Island, BC
Right On! One of our regular and favourite year round paddling areas. We also witness whale action, always in this area. Stay safe out there!!
Welcome to WCP! Hopefully we will bump into each other at some point out on the water. Where have you been around here?

I'm new to Quadra myself. It will be a year for me in May. I've been around Read twice and 3/4 around Quadra once. I'd like to round Cortes, Maurelle, and Sonora this season. I've only poked around parts of each.
 

RFT

New Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2021
Messages
3
Location
Vancouver Island
We do 10-12 trips/year (2-5 nights) for many years now. 1/2 in this area and Desolation and 1/2 in the GI. One big trip/year (10-14 nights) in the Loreto/Baja area 8 years running (except this one). We usually launch from Moulds Bay on Quadra.
 
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