Surf and Turf

Surf and Turf
For most of  the night, I laid awake in the tent with my eyes wide open listening to the surf crash on the beach, my mind racing with thoughts of how we were going to launch the canoe in the morning into those waves. Earlier that day, after an adventurous ride down Kilditt Sound and a misty 5 km crossing of notorious Hakai Passage, we surfed onto the expansive and sandy North Beach on Calvert Island on a smallish two-foot high wave.

After landing, we both jumped out and dragged the canoe up a few feet before the next wave swamped it.

We had arrived in the place I had dreamed of—a kilometre-long sandy (albeit log strewn) beach, not far from where researchers had recently discovered 12,000-year-old human footprints.

North Beach on Calvert Island

After setting up camp on the beach above the high tide mark, we followed trails to the wild and exposed West Beach under a haze-obscured sun.

Smoke filled skies on West Beach

We also visited  the Hakai Research Institute in Pruth Bay, which houses as many as 70 researchers and staff.

The next day’s launch was going to be unusual. Usually, when we leave a campsite, we carry our gear down to the beach, then carry the canoe down and place it in the water, wade into the water with the gear, load the canoe, climb in and set off. Easy. On North Beach, that wasn’t an option, as the waves were breaking right on the shore. It was time for a more creative but risky solution.

Just after dawn, as the tide started to come in, we carried our gear and canoe down to the beach as usual, but this time we laid the canoe atop a series of logs and loaded the canoe onshore. The next step involved rolling the fully-loaded canoe a few feet forward. Then, we placed one log after another in front of the bow, rolling the canoe forward again and again until the logs were submerged but still holding the weight of the canoe. Finally, KJ got in the bow seat, while I stood behind the canoe waiting for a big wave to come. A few moments later, a big wave did come followed by its wash that came up under the canoe, lifting it slightly. Quickly, I pushed the canoe forward into the water and jumped in awkwardly as the canoe was moving hoping for a brief pause before the next wave broke. The canoe tilted wildly to one side as KJ braced and I yelled “Paddle!”. Within a moment, we were out beyond the break. Phew, we made it!

The photograph below belies the excitement of launching the canoe in the surf.

Launching into a surf on North Beach

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You Could See Japan from Here if the World was Flat

You Could See Japan from Here if the World was Flat
Looking out from a high vantage point atop a rocky promontory, I could see a little ways north towards Superstition Point, an exposed point of land we had to get around to reach protected Cultus Sound and then, in two days, the ferry, 30 km further north.

Approaching Swordfish Bay where the waves and swells got much bigger

Days earlier, we had passed that point without much problem on our way south, but now, paddling north, conditions had changed. To the west lay seemingly endless ocean and swells.

Though we left Triquet Island, 12 km away, early that morning, we encountered a forecasted headwind. That was fine in the quiet channels we paddled through, but as we approached Superstition Point, the wind, waves and swells overwhelmed us. Kayakers revel in those conditions, even seek them out, but they’re not to our taste. We can handle round, slow moving 2-metre swells, but these were larger, and there were also big waves ahead that had the potential to break over our bow.

To avoid calamity, we headed into the large and complex Swordfish Bay to find a campsite someone briefly mentioned a few days earlier. It was not among any I had read about. After scouring all the tiny coves and arms, we found it, a wind protected tidal flat with a sandy section above the high tide mark. Perfect. Even better, according to the forecast, the winds would abate at midnight.

We had all day to relax

Our alarm clock buzzed before dawn, and within an hour, we were on the water, passing the exposed point in much calmer conditions.

Approaching Superstition Point in calm conditions

Soon, we were in the glassy waters of Cultus Sound.

Dawn in Cultus Sound

As I looked west, I thought that if the Earth was flat, we would see Japan, but all we saw was water because y’know, the Earth’s a globe.

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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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