Thormanby and Jedediah Islands, Strait of Georgia, BC 6–8 March 2020

alexsidles

Paddler
Joined
Jan 10, 2009
Messages
418
Location
Seattle WA
Many years ago, I paddled past Jedediah Island without stopping during a crossing from the Ballenas Islands to Smuggler Cove. I’d been stormbound on the Ballenas for the previous thirty-six hours, so once the weather cleared, I was eager to cross the strait as quickly as possible, which meant skipping Jedediah. I promised myself I'd return someday for a make-up visit.

Google Maps claimed the drive from Seattle to the marina at Secret Cove would take less than five hours. What Google Maps failed to account for were the half-hour wait at the border, the half-hour wait for the ferry, and the hour I wasted driving aimlessly through downtown Vancouver, having exited Highway 91 too early. It was midnight when I arrived at the marina and after one in the morning by the time I finally got on the water.

00 Route map.jpg

00 Route map. Overnight camping is not allowed at the marina—a good excuse to make the crossing to Thormanby, not that any excuse is needed.

Luckily, the moon was in its waxing gibbous phase, so by 1:00 AM it was large, bright, and high in the sky. The moonlight was plenty bright to illuminate my way to the beach on Thormanby Island. When I arrived at the island, I was so tired from my long day I just lay out on the sand rather than set up a tent. I draped a rainfly over myself like a blanket to keep off the dew and beseeched the rain gods to grant me a dry night.

The rain gods rebuffed my entreaties. When I woke up, the sun had already climbed halfway up the sky, and I discovered it had been drizzling on me for the past several hours. Because of the cold, I was wearing two hats, which had kept me warm at the cost of preventing me from noticing that the upper portions of my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and pillow were all soaked.

Currents in Malaspina Strait were only moderate for the most part, which suited me fine since I hadn’t bothered to consult tide tables or current charts. The eleven-mile paddle from Thormanby took about three hours.

01 Alex at Thomanby Island.JPG

01 Drinking tea at Buccaneer Bay, Thormanby Island. The drysuit was necessary only because of drizzle, not wind.

02 Trumpeter swans.JPG

02 Trumpeter swans over Thormanby Island. Swans fly so high they are often audible before they become visible.

03 Kayaking Malaspina Strait.JPG

03 Crossing Malaspina Strait. The ebbing tide seemed to provide a slight westward pull in addition to its more pronounced southward flow.

04 White-winged scoter Malaspina Strait.JPG

04 White-winged scoter. This species usually forages farther from shore than the more common surf scoter.

05 Marbled murrelets Malaspina Strait.JPG

05 Marbled murrelets. These were the most numerous alcid on this trip.

06 Lopsided buoy at Upwood Point.JPG

06 Lopsided float near Upwood Point. "Ocean buoy reports it’s raining sideways out there!"

At Upwood Point, the southernmost tip of Texada Island, I rounded a corner and encountered a small group of male sea lions, both California and Steller, dozing on the rocks. Usually, sea lions hurtle into the water at the first sign of a kayaker, sometimes to flee in terror, other times to confront the intruder. But guys at Upwood Point were so relaxed, they just lay on the rocks and stared at me sleepily for a while before letting me off with a warning. As I paddled away to avoid disturbing them, the California sea lions began barking at me and the Steller sea lions began roaring, but I could tell their hearts weren't in it.

07 California sea lion at Upwood Point.JPG

07 California sea lion at Upwood Point. Only the males of this species are found in our waters.

09 Sleeping sea lion.jpg

08 Sleeping sea lion. This one was too tired even to look up as I passed.

08 California and Steller sea lions.JPG

09 California and Steller sea lions. Out of the water, it’s easy to see the size difference between these species. California sea lions are large but Steller sea lions are really large.

Home Bay on Jedediah Island was one of the best campsites I’ve ever stayed. The islands and headlands in the bay created a miniature water-world maze, at the end of which was a perfect landing beach, plenty of grassy sites for a tent, and several decent hiking trails. Best of all, I had the whole island to myself, except for approximately ten billion feral sheep left over from the farming days.

Normally, I dislike introduced species for the ecological harm they cause—and indeed, these sheep had trampled the meadows of Jedediah Island into mud pits—but even I had to admit there was a cool cultural or historical value to seeing these animals. They are relics from a bygone way of life, somewhat akin to the shell midden at the landing beach.

10 Entering Home Bay.JPG

10 Inside the water maze of Home Bay. The entrance to this maze is difficult to discern from the outside.

11 Sandy beach at Home Bay.JPG

11 Sandy beach at Home Bay. At low tide, the bay dries to a considerable distance.

12 Sheep on Jedediah Island.JPG

12 Sheep on Jedediah Island. About a quarter of the sheep were ewes, all born at the same time.

13 Home Bay on Jedediah Island.JPG

13 View of Home Bay. One of the most picturesque coves on the coast.

14 Old house at Home Bay.JPG

14 Old Foote residence. In the 1880s, the government gave away Jedediah Island for free as a crown grant. Ownership of the island passed through a chain of half a dozen private owners until the government finally repurchased the island in the 1990s at a cost of millions of dollars. Next time, maybe we can eliminate the middlemen and keep public lands in public hands.

15 Western redcedar conjoined with Douglas-fir.JPG

15 Conjoined western redcedar and Douglas-fir. Competitors? Symbionts? Lovers?

16 Sunrise at Upwood Point Jedediah Island.JPG

16 Sunrise at Upwood Point. There’s no better feeling than watching the dawn break from a kayak.

17 Early morning Malaspina Strait.JPG

17 Early morning in Malaspina Strait. How tempting just to paddle off into the wilderness forever.

Rain showers came and went throughout the afternoon and during the night. This time, I slept cozy and dry in the tent. At dawn the next morning, the ebbing tide was moderately adverse for a return to Secret Cove, but I still managed the twelve-mile return in four hours.

Jedediah Island fully lived up to my expectations. For scenery, wildlife, isolation, and comfort, Home Bay can't be beat. I would place it among the top ten campsites I've ever stayed.

Alex
 

AM

Paddler
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
904
Location
Vancouver
Great stuff. Jedediah’s a real gem. Home Bay is indeed gorgeous at high tide, but you must have seen low tide too...
 

drahcir

Paddler
Joined
Mar 26, 2010
Messages
569
Location
North Idaho (Sandpoint)
More than 10 years ago we visited Jedediah aboard a sail boat owned by friends (about the time we started kayaking). Your photos reminded me of that visit. I don't remember where we moored, but we walked hither and yon on the island. I remember the sheep, but the solitary horse had just died recently. We wandered into Home Bay and swam au naturel, killing very few fish and other sea life. My recollection is that the Palmers (owners) donated most of the island to the BC Marine Park Board. Mary Palmer wrote a book about their time on the island, "Jedediah Days".
 

cougarmeat

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Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
755
Location
Bend OR USA
Alex, your reports are always inspirational. I looked at Secret Cove (Google Earth) and it appears there are several places to launch and leave the car. Is there a preferred parking/launching area? Also, was the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale? I’ve only paddled a few crossings alone. Even though I’d tell myself, “Self, I can roll (usually). If not, I can get back in. I’m in a drysuit. Etc.” there is still this … hesitation. Not sure if it’s primordial fear or caution.

Do you leash your paddle and/or your kayak when you do an 11 mile solo crossing?
 

alexsidles

Paddler
Joined
Jan 10, 2009
Messages
418
Location
Seattle WA
Thanks for the kind responses, everyone. Paul, I took the Langdale ferry, then launched at Buccaneer Marina in Secret Cove. Parking was $5 CAD per day, with a $6 launch/recovery fee, payable at a drop-box on the dock. Bring your own payment envelope and a pen to write on it. On further consideration, I probably should have launched at Brooks Cove and parked for free up the road at Smuggler Cove Provincial Park. The route from Brooks Cove would have been even more scenic than the one from Secret Cove.

As for the crossing, it was a breeze. Eleven miles was the total paddling distance from Thormanby to Home Bay, but the single longest crossing along that route was just under five miles from Epsom Point to Upwood Point. So I was never more than two and a half miles from land, usually much closer.

Like everything else in sea kayaking, during calm weather, it's trivial. During a storm, it's impossible. I used to use a paddle leash, but I haven't for years. I have no idea how to roll. I paddle without a drysuit (or with the drysuit worn only as "pants") at least 90% of the time.

Alex
 
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