Swells and Waves Go Away, Come Again Another Day

Swells and Waves Go Away, Come Again Another Day
We knew that on our first day on the water, wind would present an almost immediate challenge. That was unavoidable as the ferry from Port Hardy arrived in Bella Bella at 1 p.m. and all the wind forecasts I had been watching showed a spike in wind speed just before 3 p.m. Our worry was that those winds would prevent us from getting to our first campsite.

From Bella Bella, we headed to our campsite, Hose Point, just 15 km away. First, we went north past Bella Bella, then turned west into Seaforth Channel, just 20 kilometres away from open ocean and under 10 km to our campsite.

At first, we were protected from the wind and waves.

Dryad Point Lighthouse near Bella Bella

But the last part, 1.5-kilometre wide Raymond Channel, greeted us with lots of wind and high waves.

Crossing to Hose Point in relatively calm conditions

We turned back and found a deep bay, Odin Cove, where we relaxed in the sun on a lovely meadow exposed by low tide. KJ even made tea.

Enering calm Odin Cove
Odin Cove drying meadow at low tide

As the sun began to set and the tide came in, we left our soon-to-be-watery meadow and made the crossing in calm conditions and found our camp in another serene bay.

Approaching Hose Point campsite
Tent site at Hose Point

Ah, the rewards of patience.

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Raven about Nature

Raven about Nature
Without internet and 24-hour news to entertain us, the animal world creates its own viral videos to capture our attention. One evening on Triquet Island, a little fearless bird got very close to KJ as she was preparing dinner. It walked up to her, stopped a few feet away, watched her with curiosity and calmly walked away after a few minutes. Later, on that same island where we spent two days, we watched a raven and red-tailed hawk hang out together. We imagined that they were friends, and even named them Arthur and Merlin. Merlin, the raven, like many others we heard, did not caw deeply as expected, but instead made a sound that sounded like “Kpglop Kpglop”. Arthur, the red-tailed hawk, also loved flying around the campsite.

Red-tailed hawk soaring over Triquet Island NE

Nature sure was a wonderful replacement for my smartphone.

Interestingly, though we both heard and saw many crows and their larger cousins, ravens, they never approached our belongings or our food. They and other animals even left untouched a smelly plastic bag full of onion peels, food cans and other containers we inadvertently left hanging on a branch all day.

What we experienced speaks to the remoteness of the area. Without us, animals are truly wild, and that’s a good thing.

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Water, Water, Nowhere

Water, Water, Nowhere
Looking at the chart and reading reports, we expected fresh water to be abundant. Given our need for 3.5 litres of fresh water per day per person, we would need almost 100 litres of water for our trip. Typically, we carry 44 litres, but this trip, we opted to carry only 24 litres—a 20-litre container and two, 2-litre water bladders—and fill an empty 20 litre container as needed from those expected streams.

However, once we started on the trip, people we met told us that because of the winter drought in the area this year, fresh water was scarce. So, we decided to take every opportunity to fill our empty container. However, we could not find it, because, as we found out later, we left it on KJ’s garage floor. Oops.

But luck was on our side as people donated extra water they had, we did find water at a few creeks, an anchored Coast Guard vessel we passed spared us some water and the friendly folks at the Hakai Fishing Lodge on Calvert Island allowed us to fill our containers. Finally, we found that by washing our dishes in the sea and rinsing only minimally with fresh water, we could save us a few precious drops per day. All that, and the not too hot weather, which lowered our daily hydration needs, brought our daily need down to 2.5 litres per person.

And that’s how you canoe while carrying less than 28 litres of water at any time!

KJ filling our 4-litre jug with fresh water from a stream in Cultus Sound

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An Impossibly Beautiful Campsite

An Impossibly Beautiful Campsite

Rounding the corner of a point in the Serpent Islands, we entered a long and narrow shallow bay, tinged with blue-green water. At its end lay an almost flat 50-metre long driveway of Caribbean-like white sand. As we came to the end of the bay, the canoe came to a stop on the soft sand with a content sigh.

Clearly, the flat beach beckoning in front of us would be covered by the tide. Where was the campsite? We pulled the canoe up a few feet and walked down the beach, flanked by little cliffs. At its end, we rounded a corner guarded by a few boulders and were greeted by another white sand beach backed by a wall of salal, and on the other two sides, rose rock cliffs punctuated by two more channels.

We spent hours gazing at life teeming in the intertidal zone created by the three channels feeding the middle of this island.

We had plenty of time to lounge in the sun and scramble on the rocks too.

Later, after lounging in the sun all day, we marvelled as the high tide connected all three channels creating a little pond at the foot of our campsite.

We were in an impossibly beautiful sand oasis!

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Trip Logistics

Trip Logistics
Day 0: Port Hardy
We stayed at the Backpackers Hostel in Port Hardy. We dropped off the canoe, a Kevlar Clipper Tripper with our North Water spray deck and other gear in the morning, returned to the Hostel, dropped off the car (free parking) and took the $8 shuttle back to the ferry terminal in time for the check in 2 hours before departure on the M.V. Northern Expedition. At the terminal, we loaded our gear into the container (with labels), put the canoe onto a rack and handed the propane for our stoves to a ferry worker for the voyage–mandatory.

Route Map with Campsites

Day 1: Hose Point
Once the ferry arrived at McLoughlin Bay (3 km from Bella Bella), we unloaded the canoe from the rack just metres from the gentle shore, loaded it up and canoed to Hose Point.

Day 2: Quinoot Point
Then, we paddled down Boddy Narrows to Quinoot Point, where we found water from a stream just 500 metres north.

Day 3: Isle 55
On day 3, we stopped at Isle 55–look for the black buoy in the bay.

Day 4 & 5: Cultus Sound
We stopped next at No Name Islet, ( 52° 0’13.69″N, 128°15’7.10″W) but by late afternoon, the tide looked like it might flood the beach site. So, we continued on to Cultus Sound–a busy place.

Day 6: Serpent Islands
We spent an extra day there, then went around Superstition Point and camped at Serpent Islands. That is a fantastic site.

Day 7: Calvert Island
Our next stop was North Beach on Calvert Island after fumbling our way down Kilditt Sound and across Hakai Passage, almost all in heavy mist with minimal visability. We also stopped by the Hakai Fishing Lodge, where we stocked up on water, hiked to West Beach and to the Hakai Research Institute (there’s water there too, but be warned, it’s a long carry back to North Beach).

Day 8 & 9: Triquet Island NE
The following day,we launched precariously but successfully into the waves on North Beach, crossed Hakai Passage in a complete fog (hurray for my Garmin 64s GPS!) and went up Edward Channel, stopping for a quick look at the nice campsite in a north facing bay just a couple of kms up. We then headed west in Nalau Passage to Kilditt Sound, crossed to Serpents for lunch and ended the day a the Triquet Island NE, where we spent a delightful two nights.

Day 10: Swordfish Bay
On our third to last day, we headed to Cultus Sound, but were stymied by big waves and swells just before Supersition Point. We did see a group of kayakers paddling in those swells, wind and waves, but it was too much for us in the canoe as we were alone and thus, the risks were too great. We pulled into Swordfish Bay, hunted around and found a delightful sandy camp just at the southern bay/drying area.

Day 11: Isle 145
Very early the next morning, we crossed Superstition Point in calmer conditions, restocked on water in Cultus Sound in the large bay just east of the campsite and stopped for the day at Isle 145, a beautiful shell midden beach.

Day 12: Bella Bella
Our last day involved a pleasant 17 km paddle back to the ferry terminal at McLoughlin Bay. Once there, we rearranged our gear for the ferry and went to town–literally. Read the story about how we got to there!

On the Ferry
Once on the ferry, we paid $5 each for a hot shower, ate dinner, watched for whales (saw several) and watched a movie in the theatre.

Port Hardy
Back at Port Hardy, the shuttle picked me up, drove me to the hostel where I picked up the car, drove back to the ferry, retrieved our propane from the storage area, loaded up the gear and canoe and drove back to the inn for a relaxing night in a real bed.

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Trip Overview

Trip Overview

The Inside Passage

This section is about our trip to a part of the Inside Passage. The short stories, pictures and movies highlight this area’s beauty, remoteness and challenges—all considerably more significant than we had previously even considered. To say that the Inside Passage is big is an understatement. It runs from the northern tip oVancouver Island into Alaska, a distance of over 2,000 km.


Our route

Paddling the whole Inside Passage was not our goal. Over a couple of months, we planned a route with 10 solid days of paddling, covering an out and back distance of less than 200 km within a small (roughly 2,000 square kms) but special part of the area.

Most of the area we paddled lies in the Hakai Luxvbalis Conservancy. However, our plans were just an idea, given the maze of islands, exposed crossings, winds, currents and notoriously bad weather, including an expected four days of rain, many foggy mornings and cool temperatures. A main component of the plan, if everything worked, was to rise early and paddle with the tidal currents, as we worked our way south and back north.

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