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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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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