The Royal Round Solo (Part The Third)

kayakwriter

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Back in the day, Butedale was a thriving, company-owned fish canning community of several hundred people. “The day” ended in the 1950s. Since then, the rain forest has been relentlessly reclaiming the town. Today, only a few buildings remain habitable. Lou, the 65-year old caretaker, lives in one, and he rents out rooms in a couple of other cabins to recreational fishermen and the occasional kayaker.
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The accommodations could most kindly be described as basic.
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But hey, there was indoor plumbing, electric light, and a woodstove.
This wiring is up to code, right?
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I shared my cabin with a couple of Real Men™ from Kitimat (one was a pipe line fitter – the other a drywaller). You could tell they weren’t quite sure what to make of a fleece-wearin’, tree-huggin’, cappucccino-sippin’ kayaker. But then the conversation turned to guns. Though I didn’t have it with me on this trip, I own a shotgun and could talk knowledgeably about the right rounds to use for bear defense. You could see my man-cred rising in their eyes. Eventually, I told them this story:
https://philiptorrens.com/2020/04/19/predatory-rites-finding-ones-place-in-the-polar-food-chain/
That sealed the deal – I was a Real Man after all. Beer was passed. They reciprocated with a few bear tales of their own that were easily the equal of mine. Male bonding was complete.

I slept in the next morning, and then hurried down to the Butedale Self-Serve Laundromat.
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Once my clothes were washed and hung to dry, I joined another couple of visitors for the Lou tour of the generator house – the turbines there still power Butedale after a century of use.
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After that, I had pancakes and coffee with Lou in his office/kitchen/workshop. We were joined by Andrew Linger (http://andylinger.com/IP10/) who stopped in on his kayak trip north.
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In the early evening, I fired up the woodstove in the cabin. This was both so my laundry could finish drying (it had been cool and cloudy all day) and so my fishing cabin-mates could return to a warm hut after a cold day on the water. My completely uncalculated kindness was rewarded by being invited to join them in a feast of fresh-caught crab.

The next day (July 3 for those keeping track) started warm and hazy – enough so that I put on sunscreen before my 10:15 launch. But by the time I reached the Canoona River, it was rainy and windy. No bears to be seen – just a couple of First Nations fishermen laying out a net from a skiff. I plugged against a brutal counter current as I passed Griffin Point.

I took a brief detour into Swanson Bay, where all that remains of the once-thriving pulp mill town are pilings and a tall chimney.
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I got to Flat Point about 16:30HRs. I had to delay my landing for a few minutes to allow the swell from the BC Ferries Northern Expedition to disperse. I like how the mist in this picture creates the illusion of a shallow depth of field, making the ferry look like a toy boat.
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With the rain coming down very hard, I was glad – for far from the first time on this trip – of my full size tarp and of the Neufeld woodstove, which warms not only supper, but also body and soul.
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By getting up at first light, I was on the water for 8:30 the next morning, which was a Sunday. I’d run the sums the night before – with 22ish nautical miles to go, I could make the 18HRs ferry out of Klemtu that day if I kept up a steady 3+ knots. (My original plan had been to take out from Bella Bella or Shearwater that coming Friday, but I was rather sick of rain and missing my wife badly, so the idea of an early return appealed.) I rang down for full speed from the engines and made 4+ knots for more than an hour. Then the south wind, counter-currents and reality set in, slashing my speed to less than a couple of knots. I had to let go of the idea of an early out, since maintaining high speed in those conditions seemed a sure-fire way to wreck my wrists. Back to Plan A.

I pulled into the campsite on Sarah Island at 16:30, greeted on my arrival by a crowd of curious seals.
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The tent sites here were large and lovely – the site seems to be used by either a tour company or possibly by the First Nations for one of their Rediscovery programs (basically taking the young folk out on the land and having the elders teach them some traditional skills and instil a sense of pride in their heritage. One of the most grounded and together teenagers I ever met was a “graduate” of Rediscovery.) The one complaint was that a cascade of cold, damp air accompanies the stream down from the surrounding hills, creating condensation in the tent even when it’s sunny out.
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July 5th was a memorable day for a lot of reasons, including that it was the first day of the trip I had all-day, full-on sunshine. I ran down the west side of Sarah Island in the calm cool of the early morning, passing Boat Bluff Lighthouse and completing my loop around Princess Royal Island.
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By 11AM, I crossed over to Roderick Island, and cruised down its west coast in the shade. With the current slingshoting me along as I admired the rocky cliffs and waterfalls, it was some of the most perfect paddling of the trip.
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All went well until just after I’d crossed Oscar Passage to Dowager Island. Then the wind really picked up from the southwest. With the full fetch of the open Pacific from that quarter, it quickly brewed up big seas, which bounced off the portside shore to create brutal spilling claptois.

After clawing along for what felt like ages, I bolted ashore on a little beach at the southeast corner of Suzette Bay to refuel and consider my options. Camping there wasn’t one of them – the barnacle “depth gauge” on the rocks made it clear my temporary refuge became seafloor at high tide. The temptation to try to tough it out to Dallas Island, so achingly near, was strong. But a little thought made it clear that the already marginal seas here would be even worse on the exposed outside of Keith Point. And an honest self-assessment revealed that I had minimal energy reserves for coping with a capsize or other crisis.

By this point, I was already tired from a long day’s paddle. I pulled into a little beach at the south east corner of Suzette Bay to refuel and consider my options. Camping there wasn’t one of them – the barnacle “barometer” on the rocks made it clear my temporary refuge became sea bottom at high tide. The temptation to try to tough it out to Dallas, so achingly near, was strong. But a little thought made clear that the already marginal seas here would be even worse on the exposed outside of Keith Point. And an honest self-assessment revealed that I had very small reserves of energy for coping with a capsize or other crisis.

I enjoy reading Sea Kayaker magazine’s (sometimes literal) accident post-mortems, but I have no desire to be featured in one. So I headed back north. Yet again, the sail was my friend – it let me make my retreat through the ever-rising wind and waves much faster than paddling alone would have.
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I took green water over the deck and sprayskirt several times, but got safely to the mouth of Oscar Passage. In the much lighter airs there, I put up the second sail as well, and was able to move east through the entire passage at a respectable pace without paddling – very fortunate, since I was spent and needed a break. Once through Oscar Passage, I did have to paddle north to the aptly-named Rescue Bay, the nearest campable place I knew of. Two sailboats and a fishing boat were anchored there. I was glad of the proximity of people, even though I saw no one on deck and talked to no one. I landed on the small beach at 19:35hrs, found the tent platform someone’s cleared in the bush there, and quickly had the Hubba Hubba HP up.
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I was so tired it was tempting not to eat –only the ease of the Trangia stove and the effortlessness of freeze-dried Sweet and Sour motivated me to do supper. As I lay in bed at 21:30HRs, I heard a guitar sing-along happening on one of the boats in the bay. In my current mood, I found it charming in a loopy sort of way. What the neighbouring boats thought of it, I do not know.
To be continued…
 

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kisielk

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Thanks very much for taking the time to share your experiences. Really great writing makes it easy to live this trip vicariously...
 

chodups

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I slept in the next morning, and then hurried down to the Butedale Self-Serve Laundromat.
I'm not sure I understand all of the plumbing going on here but it looks like the machine in the laundramat uses the head of a putter taped to a piece of PVC for an agitator? Do I have that right or is it a 2 iron?

Excellent writing. Love the account of the bear attack. I guess you didn't buy that tent at MEC. I'm sure they would have stood behind it.

Jon
 

Kasey

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I have been totally enjoying this trip report as well Philip! Thanks!
Unlike some others though....
mbiraman said:
Bear story had me laughing out loud.
I was not laughing!! Wow!! I will not be camping in polar bear territory any time soon (Ever.)!
 

mbiraman

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Kasey said:
I have been totally enjoying this trip report as well Philip! Thanks!
Unlike some others though....
mbiraman said:
Bear story had me laughing out loud.
I was not laughing!! Wow!! I will not be camping in polar bear territory any time soon (Ever.)!
I'm not sure this needs saying but it was the way the bear story was written that had me laughin, not the encounter.
cheers
 

Kasey

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mbiraman said:
but it was the way the bear story was written that had me laughin, not the encounter.
cheers
Oh I know...I am quite enjoying Philip's writing style as well! ;) I understood!
 

Astoriadave

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Phillip told that tale to all of us at the Paddlers Inn a week or so ago, and he put about the same flavor on it then, also. Humor blended with terror. The terror came through well, and I think the humor was a way to help defuse it.

He is a very good story teller, either way it is done.

Not to mention an extremely fortunate fellow to have survived (well) an encounter with a polar bear.
 

Dan_Millsip

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Astoriadave said:
Phillip told that tale to all of us at the Paddlers Inn a week or so ago, and he put about the same flavor on it then, also. Humor blended with terror. The terror came through well, and I think the humor was a way to help defuse it.

He is a very good story teller, either way it is done.
I agree. Philip laughs in the face of danger. :lol:

Not to mention an extremely fortunate fellow to have survived (well) an encounter with a polar bear.
Can't say I've met another being on this planet that can say the same, and certainly not as eloquently.

Great stories, Philip.

*****
 

Kermode

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Wonderful report! :clap: :clap: :clap: Just a thought... moderators, is there any way the 3 parts can be combined or kept together? Hmmm.... thinking about it probably not, as posts are added to each individual thread.
Anyway thank you kayakwriter for taking the time to put together such a great trip report, it must have taken days to pull all that together, & you find time to kayak too! :shock:
Thank you to all the adventurers who allow the rest of us to share their adventures
 

sushiy

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Lynnwood, Washington, USA
I shared my cabin with a couple of Real Men™ from Kitimat (one was a pipe line fitter – the other a drywaller). You could tell they weren’t quite sure what to make of a fleece-wearin’, tree-huggin’, cappucccino-sippin’ kayaker. .....
.....
That sealed the deal – I was a Real Man after all. Beer was passed. They reciprocated with a few bear tales of their own that were easily the equal of mine. Male bonding was complete.
Cappuccino- the Real Real Man's drink. Back off Budweiser!!
 

kayakwriter

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chodups said:
I'm not sure I understand all of the plumbing going on here but it looks like the machine in the laundramat uses the head of a putter taped to a piece of PVC for an agitator? Do I have that right or is it a 2 iron?
Not sure what size, but yes, it is a golf club head. And the "the machine" in the laudramat is your own arms.

chodups said:
[ I guess you didn't buy that tent at MEC. I'm sure they would have stood behind it.
Actually, we did buy it from MEC. I kinda stretched the truth for a funny line in the story - I didn't even try to get a refund, even though MEC probably would have given it to me. I just wouldn't have felt right about asking, having worked behind the "Warranty And Dispair" counter myself there back in the day, I know how cheesed I got at the (relatively rare) folks who would abuse our generous return policy. (We had, no shit, a guy who wanted - and got - a refund on a pack. He'd come 'round a bend in the trail, encountered a black bear, wisely shucked his pack to shimmy up a tree, and the bear had opened the pack to get the goodies, rudely not bothering with the zippers and Fastex snaps.)

Thanks to everyone for all the kind comments - it's nice to know the effort is appreciated. I'm out and about for the next couple of days, so the fourth and final installment probably won't go up until next week.

Dan - if you do decide to combine the postings into one "omnibus" edition, please get in touch with me - I noticed a paragraph missing from Part 3 after the editing window had expired. I'd like to get it into "The Director's Cut" if there is one...
 

SheilaP

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Victoria, BC
I eagerly anticiapte the next chapter! :clap: :clap: :clap: Like those old comic books or something. Thanks for the tale Phillip.

BTW your tarp puts a guide tarp to shame. :lol:
 

Featheron

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Jan 6, 2008
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Location
Vancouver, BC
Philip,

Very much enjoyed your TR! Interesting to compare with my PRI trip in 2009. Nice to meet you on the ferry.

Cheers

Ron
 
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