Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Broken Islands Paddle Trip Aug/2016

The paddling trip this summer is the Broken Islands Group which is located on the west coast of Vancouver Islands across from Ucluelet. We plan on around 8 days of travelling to Port Alberni via the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Nanaimo, paddling the islands and return to Vernon. We have got our old Heleman canoe out of retirement and fitted the spray deck on top as there may be rough weather if the wind comes up on the open ocean in a few places.
We load up the Rav with our paddling/camping gear and head off over the Connecter and the Coquahalla highway, through North Vancouver into Hourseshoe Bay.
These are the Brenemans, Gerry and Mary Lynn who have paddled this group of islands a number of times in their ocean going, 17' fibreglass kayaks.
The third couple on this trip are Bert and Laurie Mueller who like us will be paddling a canoe which is a Clipper. 99% of the boats around these islands will be kayaks.
There are 2 ways to get to the islands, drive to Toquart Bay which is a long paddle, but cheaper access or take the Frances Barkley marine freighter to Sechart Lodge ,a 4 hour ride down the channel from Port Alberni. If doing this trip again, it would be to Toquart bay.

All of our paddling gear is dumped into these plastic bins. 

Under way heading down the channel. The coastal rain forest is totally different from the dryer interior  but except for all the rain it gets, the scenery is pretty special.

We have unloaded all of our canoe/kayaks out of the freighter and now it is time to start the packing.
The large plastic bins are winched over the side to the dock where the eager paddles figure out how to jam all of this gear into their craft. 

The canoes are so much easier to place large items between the seats such as tables, chairs, stoves,large rafting bags. The poor kayaks have to stuff much smaller items in the front and rear storage. 

Here is Pat standing by our boat waiting to launch with all of our gear strapped down in case we flip the boat and all of our gear will not go down to Davie Jones locker.

Bert with half of a household of furniture ready to set off camping for a week.

Lots of others on the dock still figuring out how to get all of the contents of those big plastic bins into these sleek, narrow kayaks.

We're off.

Water is pretty calm today as we paddle to out first lunch stop after an hour from the Lodge, Broken Island Group with a small sandy beach.
This is our guide Gerry looking pretty smug in his 17' kayak.

Our base camp will be on Willis Island. Huge cedar trees, ferns, moss covering everything, do  ya think it rains here?

Pat finds a somewhat level spot in the trees away from the water and puts up our brand new MSR HubbaHubba tent.

After everyone has set up their tent, the boats get emptied of the gear for cooking and generally setting up the camp.One thing you have to get used to that is different than canoeing on a lake are the tides which happen twice a day. You have to pack your boats high enough that a really high tide with waves will not float them away.

The Broken Group is a National Park and so it is very popular for kayaking especially. There are a lot of kayaking companies and guides leading groups of paddlers every day. This is just one more bunch that is passing by.

When it is sunny on the wet coast, there is nowhere else so beautiful and relaxing. Here is our group relaxing after a meal, too early for happy hour and too late for brunch. The boats will have to be brought up on the driftwood logs near the trees as this is how far the tide comes up.

Life is tough around the fire. We will get a few sunny days and then the weather will turn wet, cool and windy.

The tent set up ready for anything. In the 6 nights we sleep in it, 4 with some sort of moisture sometimes heavy, we will not get a drop inside.

Next day in the sun, the paddling is serene. Calm water, warm breezes. Today we will head around the end of Willis Island , around Walsh Island and then back around the north side of Dodd.

Bert and Laurie paddling in calm waters with the mountains of  Vancouver Island in the back ground.
Even though this is August, the temperatures are never hot, just warm.

This is the American couple who were on the same freighter as us. They were only out for 2 days. Gibraltar Island campsite. Great beaches for landing boats and that is why there are so many people here.

We glide past many sail boats from BC and Washington, mostly using them as floating hotels. This one had someone on deck practising yoga and the guy was tinkering with machinery.

Traversing through small passages between tiny islands. We were surprised how little current there was.
Stop to watch sailboats motor through pretty narrow channels and shallow  waterways between the islands.

This constriction had some current to paddle up against  when the tide was going out. There had been a type of aquatic bacteria that had decimated much of the starfish, barnacles, mussals, sea anemone etc. 3 years ago according to a local guide and we did not see the amount of live that was prevalent when Gerry and Mary Lynn were here 4 years before.

Back at the camp site on Willis Island, Bert stripping down to go diving in the waters while the rest of us hang around the beach  promoting happy hour. Pat and Gerry are making preparations for getting the evening meal on time.

With the backdrop of the coastal mountains in the back ground,we have a spectacular view of everyone and everything that passes by on the water. Even the odd sea lion. There are daily tourist boats that come from Ucluelet which is just across the straight from us. Some just bring passengers and others bring groups of kayaks who are with a guide for short, day trips.

Bert has brought his Dutch oven which is used this time to make cake. He digs a hole in the sand, places hot briquette coals under neath and some on the lid and after 1/2 hour, cake.

This is his masterpiece, carrot cake with creme cheese icing garnished with M&M's. When camping, this is a treat for sure.
Next morning, pancakes stacked 10 high. We wake up in the morning to cooler windy conditions, tough to keep our Okanoven sun tans from fading away.

These are the high priced accommodation that people are paying big bucks for especially the Americans. That is the penthouse with the best view on top, and below is the lower rent living.
Compost Toilets HaHaHa

This is the newer one. There is a box of shavings where you add to your dump and in a few months, wonderful black night soil.

Here is a constant companion of us all on this paddling trip, the Banana Slug. In the morning there seems to be slime trails all over the place.

We wake up to a hard down pour after all night showers. Glad we all brought our rain gear. Bring the tables under a big cedar for shelter but find out that the constant dripping from the branches is kinda like a Chinese water torture.
The 4 water craft chaffing at the bit to get going. The canoes are much different than the kayaks and each one has been developed for a big different purpose. Kayaks are perfect for big,wavy, windy places like lakes and oceans and because you sit much lower to the water, stability is increased. Canoes on the other hand, with their large open concept, can carry a large amount of cargo and in tight places like rivers with rapids, can turn quickly.
Pat getting ready to portage a short section of island at lower water on Turret Island. Only about 40m'
Raining pretty hard and cool, windy conditions follow us as we paddle over to Benson Island. There is no camping here. The information states there used to be a motel here.

Back at camp Pat whips up a special curry dish over the stove. It's her turn to cook for the crew and after a long days paddle, everyone is lined up.

Fresh caught west coast salmon, marinated with spices and of course good old maple syrup and Canadian rye whiskey.

More time eating, drinking and generally telling too many off coloured jokes. We found that it was sure nice to have some big camp fires as it was always damp no matter what time of the day or night.

Back next day for more paddling. Stop in at the campsite at Gilbert Island where Gerry is dreaming about palm trees, warm tropical breezes and beach babes down at the clothing optional beach.
Lunch time as we circle around Effington Island before finding a nice sandy/rocky beach to scavenge driftwood.

Gerry just had his urinary tract cleaned out cuz when he got older there was some restrictions. Now his flow is like a teenager.

Laurie stoking up the fire. Bert's tarp sure saved the day with times all of us eating under it when it decided to really pour.

Last day on the Broken Group. Gerry is navigating us through a bunch of side channels on the way back to the Sechart Lodge.

Lucky, the tide is in or we would have to go a different route.

Back to the place we started over 6 days ago. An older type of sailboat waits for us as we paddle into the cove.

The Lodge from the water. Looks like some others are going to be coming into the bay and will be on the same freighter as us.

Pat has all of the gear out of the canoe and ready to pack it up to the plastic bins for loading up onto the Frances Barkley. As we were waiting up in the building in the background, a black bear and cub wondered out of the bushes and headed towards the shoreline where momma would roll over the rocks and junior would lick up the crabs. They were obviously used to people and did not seem concerned that most people were trying to get pictures of them.

After a quiet 3 hour ride back to Port Alberni on the Frances Barkley, we loaded all of our gear into the vehicles, strapped down the canoes/ Kayaks and drove over to the motel for a shower. From here we decided to head down to a local German restaurant where we ate until we just about burst at the seams. The platters could have fed all the loggers in Alberni. We tried to eat everthing but in the end, had to doggy bag the food we couldn't eat. Next morning, everyone split up and went in their own direction with us going back to Nanaimo, catching the ferry to Horseshoe bay and then through a bit of gridlock in North Vancouver before driving straight home to Vernon.

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