About us

DOUG TAYLOR - former officer in the Canadian Forces (36 years) and manager at Osgoode Hall (7 years), retired to the Comox Valley in 2004. Can be found in my NDK Explorer HV, when not having a coffee at Rhodos or hanging out at Comox Valley Kayaks where I teach Paddle Canada courses.

JONATHAN REGGLER - Ex-British Army medical officer, became a civilian GP in the United Kingdom for 11 years then immigrated to the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, BC, in 2003. Sea kayaking since 2004. Family physician in Courtenay.

WHERE ARE WE?

Click on the link to maps.google.com in the latest post and follow our progress.

A message sent in the evening means we have been paddling and have reached a new place. A message sent in the morning means we are staying put.

If there is no SPOT message for a few days do not panic! SPOT is new technology and a glitch or two may happen. We have loads of back-up with VHF radios and EPIRB.



Comments

Doug and Jonathan love the fact that so many of you are following their progress but they also enjoy reading your comments when they have access to the internet. The links are at the end of the Spot message for the day. To read the comments: click on the Comment link. To leave a comment: click on the Envelope. They even answer some of them!!


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tofino

Firstly, we need to add an amendment to our Winter Harbour entry. Our thanks to our re-supply team were clearly (we entirely accept) inadequate and we are grateful to Don Lockwood for drafting a far more accurate account which we reproduce here unchanged:

“Anne Reggler and Don Lockwood risked life and limb to restock us in Winter Harbour. They battled dust, bears and very uncomfortable beds to bring us our much needed supplies. And more importantly they endured 20 hours of watching us fuss endlessly over our gear. We are eternally grateful for their support and saint like patience”.

Now to our report. For those without the time to read a long post, here is a synopsis. This is the blog entry in which Doug and Jonathan: struggle around Kwakiutl and Lawn Points - round the Brooks Peninsula during a 29 nautical mile day - find and paddle through a great sea arch that does not appear in any of the paddling books - visit an extraordinary pit toilet in the rain forest - pop into Kyuquot - spend two wonderful days in Esperanza - successfully negotiate the outside of Nootka Island – explore Yuquot and find an old totem pole in the brambles - meet another kayaker circumnavigating Vancouver Island - feast on mussels - sit out 53 knot winds - irritate sea lions without meaning to do so - discover the geological wonders of Homais Cove - enjoy the hot springs at Hot Springs Cove despite having to paddle nearly 30 miles and whale watch on the same day - tackle current, wind and clapotis off Vargas Island - reach Tofino.

*****

The Winter Harbour to Tofino leg has been our longest yet. We left Winter Harbour in murky conditions (this really has been a pretty dismal late spring, weatherwise) and paddled across Quatsino Sound, and then around Kwakiutl Point to Lawn Point. This was surprisingly hard work as we had not realized that there is an appreciable current here which was running against us at about one knot. Add in the 10 to 15 knot southerly wind blowing against us and our speed was reduced to about one and a half knots. It was rewarding, however, since because there was a low swell we were able to paddle very close to the reefs and boomers (where swell waves hit submerged rocks leading to an explosion of turbulent breaking water) which was exhilarating.

Rounding the Brooks Peninsula is one of the Vancouver Island kayaking “biggies”. We were quite nervous about it. Kayakers who approach it with a less than committed attitude can become seriously unstuck and only a couple of years ago a kayaker was lost in the seas there. Our plan was to position ourselves in a bay about halfway along the northern shore to await suitable weather for the 17 mile journey around the peninsula. This often requires kayakers to stay in their boats for six to seven hours without a break if the weather prevents landing at the only real out on the southwest facing shore between Cape Cook and Clerke Point. As we paddled towards the Brooks it became apparent, after we had already been on the water for quite a number of hours, that conditions were actually ideal that afternoon. The winds forecast had not materialized, the wind speed at Solander Island, usually 10 to 15 knots higher than elsewhere in the area, was only four knots. We decided we had to go for it. 29 nautical miles (32 Statute miles) after we had set out for a paddle of only half that distance we had done it!

We have made some great choices on the way; some planned, some accidental. Paddling from the Brooks Peninsula south we happened across the Cuttle Islets, near the Bunsby Islands, and found a great sea arch that does not appear in any of the paddling books that we have read. Because of the height of the tide at the time, we were able to paddle through it. On the same day we also saw the sea arch that actually passes through an entire island (Thomas Island). We finished that particular paddle by staying at West Coast Expeditions’ (thanks, Dave Pinel) base camp on Spring Island. No one was there yet as the season had not quite started but we were both really impressed by the camp. Our favourite part was the most extraordinary pit toilet in the rain forest, the walls built from wonderfully shaped bits of driftwood, and with a seashell mobile hanging on one side, aptly called “Thunder Grove Cathedral”. For those who knew him, Mike Simpson’s presence was everywhere.

A quick visit to Kyuquot allowed us to get a few treats at the Kyuquot Market (thanks Kristy!); water, bananas, chips (crisps to the Brits reading this) and bacon. Kyuquot consists of two communities, a Native community on the Indian Reserve on the Vancouver Island mainland to the north, and a predominantly Euro-Canadian community on Walters Island less than a mile to the south, facing the Indian Reserve. We met a young Native man working on the dockside on Walters Island. We had heard the marine forecast that day which promised a gale soon. Doug asked about the storm coming. “It has already been”, said the young man, “but our two communities have been living together for 150 years and have learnt how to communicate with each other and hopefully the weather ahead is going to be good, God willing.”

When we reached Rosa Island a couple of days later we had to choose whether to paddle on the inside or the outside of Nootka Island. Nootka has very few sheltered beaches on its outside and after our exciting day at Nissen Bight we have renewed respect for the power of surf particularly when one is paddling heavily-laden and thus less manoeuvrable boats. The weather was expected to worsen with stronger winds so we opted to go inside. The only community on the map in the immediate area is Esperanza, which we learnt later that day is a Christian mission that now tends to the needs of families and individuals in crisis. Families go there for six weeks and are helped to face and deal with their often very serious problems. The community is very integrated with the west coast population, both Native and white. When we reached Esperanza, which is on the shore opposite Nootka’s northern side, we stopped at the store hoping to help Doug satisfy his Coca Cola and chips (crisps, Brits, remember?) craving. As it was getting late, and cold, we ended up being offered accommodation for the night, which stretched into three. We were given the use of what was essentially an apartment, with comfortable beds, a kitchen, washing machine and a hot shower. We stayed longer than expected because of high winds and so tried to repay the kindness shown us (we were not allowed to pay for the accommodation although were delighted to be able to make a donation) by helping to build kitchen cabinets in one of the buildings that is being renovated. We both want to express our heartfelt thanks to the extraordinarily kind and welcoming people we met at Esperanza, especially Nancy and Tom Murphy, Hamish, TJ, Geoff Johnson, and Dave and Dianne Lewis and visiting friends and family. The latter were paying a quick visit prior to undertaking the very daunting “Great Walk” from Gold River to Tahsis.

On leaving Esperanza we decided to backtrack ten miles and, by paddling a few miles more through what Doug calls “wallowing seas”, positioned ourselves over night at Tongue Point (thanks again to Esperanza for letting us use their shelter) prior to kayaking the outside of Nootka Island. The marine forecast was favourable, offering a one day window before more high winds were expected (high winds have been a feature of this trip, giving us more no-paddling “weather days” than we had hoped). Neither of us believed that failing to go around Nootka would diminish what we are doing – this is a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, not of all the islands of BC’s coast – but it seemed a shame not to add this extra jewel in sea kayaking’s crown, if we could manage it. It was definitely worthwhile. Nootka’s outside coast makes for great paddling, particularly the north western tip at Ferrer Point, and especially the south eastern section from Bajo Point and reef to Beano Creek to Yuquot, which includes the very “interesting” water around Maquinna Point. Here, the inevitably confused seas that occur around most points are made extra-fun by the addition of lots of rocks and steep cliffs which adds masses of clapotis into the equation. Clapotis are waves that reflect back off rocks and cliffs, in the opposite direction to the incoming waves. Great stuff. We were able to make quick stops along the way at Third Beach which we shared with a very large but gratefully disinterested bear and again at Calvin Creek to visit the spectacular Crawfish Falls.

We were weathered in yet again at Yuquot which gave us the chance to explore. Yuquot is perhaps better known as Friendly Cove, and is one of BC’s most historic sites. It is where Captain James Cook became the first European to set foot on Canada’s west coast. At that time there were 1500 people in Yuquot, living in 22 long houses. Now there is only one house, the rest of the band having been “persuaded” to move to Gold River because it suited the government. Ray and his family let us use their spring to replenish our dwindling water supplies, and told us something of the history of Yuquot. Ray also directed us to the last totem pole in Yuquot. It lies slowly rotting, in the ferns and grass and brambles, about 100 feet from his home. It is exquisite, with small areas where some of the pigment is still just detectable. First Nations people believe that this is what should be allowed to happen to totem poles – it is a spiritual thing. To non-Native eyes it seemed somewhat sad that this link back to Yuquot’s more glorious past will simply turn to earth when it could be preserved. We also had time to visit the light house and a unique church where several historical events (including the meeting of Captains Vancouver and Quadra) are depicted in beautiful stained glass. They were donated by the Government of Spain. Doug also recognized the name of a former parish priest from Brantford Ontario, the Rev Tom Lobsinger OMI, who served the community of Friendly Cove in the 1950’s. Father Lobsinger was in Friendly Cove when the church was rebuilt and dedicated after burning down. His name appears on a plaque commemorating the event.

At Yuquot we met Fred Martin, who is also paddling around Vancouver Island. He started from Fanny Bay, a couple of day’s paddle south of Courtenay, some 10 days after us, but has been paddling almost every day. Fred is more of a minimalist, but seemed happy to experience our approach as we offered him stir-fried mussels followed by mussels steamed in Doug’s garlic, orange and parsley jus, within moments of him stepping out of his boat. The mussels, freshly harvested from the rocks just by our cabin, were, it must be said, delicious. The following day, weatherbound again although in glorious sunshine, the three of us ate more mussels, whilst watching the sea two miles outside the bay (which was calm) boiling in wind gusting at 53 knots. It is great to be able to eat food freshly gathered from the sea. We have also had meals of rockfish, kelp greenling and sea bass enticed onto our plates, via the frying pan, by Jonathan and his handline.

The next step promised to be one of the more difficult. The Hesquiat Peninsula is reasonably long and, like Nootka, has very few “outs” along the way. In fact, from Yuquot to Hot Springs Cove is a long stretch with very few campsites at all. One could turn north after rounding the tip of the peninsula, and enter a large bay named Hesquiat Harbour, but this involves crossing the Hesquiat Bar, a shallow stretch of water with nasty breaking waves (which we tackled last year) only to reach a campsite which is a total (there and back) of about 3 to 4 hours of extra paddling out of the way. Added to this, the winds were expected to be high (oh, really?) in the afternoon. We set off having planned a staged approach to the day, with decisions regarding each subsequent step to be made on reaching certain key positions. By doing this we reached Homais Cove, the only really protected bay on the peninsula, just a couple of miles north of the lighthouse at Estevan Point. This lighthouse is notable for being the only bit of Canadian soil attacked since 1812. In the Second World War a Japanese submarine shelled it. The pointlessness of this has led to a conspiracy theory that the Canadian government actually had the building shelled, to ginger up the country’s population.

Homais Cove is probably the most interesting bay we have been on. The geological formations, with lines of sandstone eroded to look like super-wide sidewalks (pavements, Brits, but you knew that) stretching out into the sea, sandwiched by odd pillows of a different sandstone above and an aggregated pebble and sandstone mix beneath, were fascinating.

Our entry into the Cove was also marked by an unusual encounter with some of the local wildlife. Paddling through a kelp bed (which reduces manoeuvrability and increases the risk of one’s paddle getting caught), we realized that we were nearing a sea lion colony on an island that we could not avoid approaching. We both have a healthy respect for these beasts, which are big and the most aggressive of all the sea mammals encountered on the BC coast. As we moved past the island, through a rather narrow channel, a very large sea lion surfaced about two yards ahead of Doug, who yelled at it since it was facing the opposite direction. It turned, reared up, and to avoid Doug’s boat executed an amazing back-flip, nearly but not quite missing the kayak which it clipped with a flipper. It let out a very annoyed bark and suddenly the whole colony of about twenty sea lions launched into the water and surged in our direction. Our paddling rate quickened somewhat and we beetled off at high speed. The sea lions kept up their barking for hours.

Our intention was to take a further three days to get to our next resupply point, Tofino. We anticipated a five hour, 14 to 15 mile (no breaks) paddle to Hot Springs Cove on the first day, a shorter flit to somewhere along the southern shore of Flores Island the next day and then a 14 mile trip into Tofino on the third day. As ever, the weather begged to differ. We were halfway through the first day’s foggy paddle when the 1030 a.m. marine forecast upped the ante and added in an outlook of gales about 24 hours ahead. We contemplated missing out Hot Spring Cove but anyone who has been there will know that this is not done lightly. So we steeled ourselves for another near 30 mile day and steered a more direct route to the Cove. The sea caves north of the Cove would have to wait. We would have to get to Tofino in two days.

The hot springs are heaven, especially if you have just kayaked for four hours and are facing another lengthy spell in the boat. The waterfall at the entrance to the pools is actually the hottest part, at nearly 50 degrees C. A neat way to enjoy the place is to climb down to the sea, get thoroughly chilled, and then progress up through increasingly hot pools and finish with the waterfall.

After the Cove we crossed to the southern shore of Flores Island and around into Cow Bay, a possible overnight stop. As we paddled towards the campsite we had used last year Jonathan spotted something we have been looking for in vain for more than 40 days. A thin triangle of mist, “base” uppermost, suddenly appeared over half a mile away: a gray whale!! In fact there were two. Despite the almost immediate appearance of two commercial whale watching boats, which we were concerned would scare the grays away, the whales carried on feeding, blowing three or four times before diving to feed on the molluscs and other goodies in the sand and mud of the bay. The noise they make when they blow is very eerie. A sort of “pfuuusht” followed by an almost metallic hollow echoing sound as if you are listening to noises generating within a huge cylinder.

We actually chose to end up in Whitesands Cove, more than 27 nautical miles from our starting point in Homais Cove, even though we had to dig deep to do it and put our tarps and tents up in the dark. The next day’s weather window was going to be small. Up early (0400 hours) we launched after a decent breakfast (we insist on this) and tackled the outside of Vargas Island in an intriguing mix of a 15-20 knot northwesterly crossing the flood current and variable amounts of clapotis, most notably off Hobbs Island at the north west tip of Vargas. We reached Tofino at noon, turning the corner into the kayak launch just as Anne Reggler arrived bearing a big smile and bottles of Coca Cola.

We are in Tofino two days, resupplying, cleaning kit and ourselves, drinking better coffee than we can make in the wilderness (Doug ran out of Rhodos coffee a few days earlier) and enjoying – sunshine. Once again, we are eternally grateful to Anne Reggler for her timely arrival and patience while we, once again in the words of Don Lockwood and Penny Dutton, futz endlessly with our gear. We were also surprised and delighted when good friend and paddling buddy Brent Arnold arrived and spent the day with us.

5 comments:

Mike J said...

great to read this post - brings back memories of our trips down the coast in 2006 and 2007. Looks like your weather was not the best, though at least good for the "biggies". Hope to see you soon in Victoria.

Gord Rose said...

The rugged coast image is made clear in your post! I have fished in some of the areas you discribe and it strikes me that your journey is very special. The struggle of muscle!
Congratulations!
Gord Rose.

Barb Fehlau said...

Glad to hear you survived the Brooks and had fun in Hot SPrings Cove - two of my favorite places!

Barb

Cathy D. said...

Hi Doug,

Doug, it was so great to talk to you last Saturday evening. It sure gave me a sense of what an amazing challenge this is that you both have set for yourself. I could hear the fatigue in your voice, but also a note of pride in the progress you've made. This was reinforced reading your blog entry from Tofino. 30 hours of paddling in one day takes an incredible amount of stamina, both physically and mentally. Through into the mix some sea lions with bad attitudes, and you've had some very interesting experiences. I can certainly appreciate Jonathan wanting to see whales. That would just "do it" for me too. Every time I ready your blog, I wish I could head out there this summer and just explore the island. Alas, it's not to be, so keep up with the blogs and I will continue to live vicariously through you.

Hugs,

Cathy (Dutton)

The Explorers said...

Hi Cathy,
Thanks for your comments. Sorry you won't get out west this summer. Hope to see you both in August.
Doug