Sunday, May 18, 2008
Now that we have reached Port Hardy, which is about 20-25% of the way around the Island, we are taking a slightly longer break. Our special thanks to Pat and Jackie Kervin (and Kyook) of Odyssey Kayaking for storing our boats to make this possible. Pat also provided valuable advice and local knowledge for our next few paddling days. We will be back on the water on Tuesday. Port Hardy is a great place. A proper coffee house is a major plus. It also has a neat little bookshop and craft shop attached. There is a great marina too.
Our progress up the island has been very steady. After Sayward we hit a couple of less good days from the point of view of the weather. A strong south-easterly led to a decision to stay off the water after only one day back on. Even when the south-easterly was over the ebb, which would have been expected to flatten the water somewhat, the water looked just a fierce so we stayed under cover, ate a lot (which we always seem to do on rest days) and brought our journals up to date.
We were at the Forestry Department campground at Naka Creek, which is a site with a good beach. Even on good beaches the problem of getting back on the water is not inconsiderable. Even if we could lift a fully laden Explorer between the two of us, the strain on the boat would be enormous and the risk of catastrophic damage very real. We have mastered the art of getting heavily laden boats back on the water using drift wood as rollers.
After two nights at Naka Creek we decided that we should get on again. The forecast was a little better than the day before. We were still able to use the ebb, and the SE wind helped too although the last stretch, from Telegraph Cove to Alder Bay, was fairly demanding. Four foot wind waves coming from the starboard stern quarter meant that we were well-practised in bracing and surfing by the time we reached the Alder Bay Resort. Thrilling stuff but we needed to concentrate hard. Not the time to try to admire the scenery. You use most of your senses during a paddle like this, watching the tilt of the horizon and the heading of the bow, listening for breaking waves behind you, feeling for the resistance of the water on your blade and the edging of the boat beneath you, and the pressure of the thigh pads on your legs and the footpegs on your feet.
Fortunately we had had a strengthening lunch of truly fabulous burgers at Telegraph Cove's restaurant. We hit the Cove right at the start of the season so the restaurant, which is often packed, was empty except for us. Just as well - any other guests might have been a bit put off their lunches by two sweaty kayakers, half-stripped of their dry suits (and thus odorous), devouring their food. Thanks to Steve Emery and Louise Defryn of North Island Kayaks for looking after our boats and kit whilst we went in search of sustenance. Unfortunately we saw no orcas. The resident pods are not expected for a few weeks. There are apparently a few transients around but sadly we did not spot any.
Alder Bay Resort is a good stopping point as it too has a good beach for landing and launching. The campsites are right on the water. And, joy of joys, there are hot showers.
Leaving Alder Bay involved an important decision. Our next re-supply point was Port Hardy where Anne and Penny would be meeting us in two days. We knew that the next day of paddling might be quite tough as the start would be against the flood. A knot of current against you slows you by a full knot. We were expecting one or two knots of current. There was also a worry about campsites - there are not many certain ones in the area and we did not want to be paddling into the evening without a clear target. We therefore, with regret, had to decide not spend any time visiting the communities of Alert Bay (mainly First Nations) and Sointula (originally a Finnish pioneers community). It was a wise choice. It was one of our harder days yet we travelled only 12 miles. It seemed to take an age to cross the Nimpkish River estuary.
Luckily we came across a campground that is not featured in the kayaking guidebooks that we have used (there are about four or five in total). Quite a surprise as it is a very well-kept and attractive campsite on a First Nations Reserve, called the Cluxewe resort. However, we probably have found the reason. Clouds of no-see-'ums (midges to the Brits reading this) that managed to find every uncovered and non-DEETed bit of skin.
Our paddle to Port Hardy was a little under 17 miles (by the way, we are using nautical miles which are 1.85 kilometres, or 1.15 Statute miles). It was fantastic. The view across to the BC mainland was over water that at times was as calm as a mill pond, and the mirroring of our kayaks on the water looked really cool. We found a picture perfect white shell beach for our lunch in the sun. If it had not been for the fir trees, and the snow-capped mountains in the background, we might have been in the Caribbean.