Monday, August 10, 2009

Sea Kayaking in British Columbia - July 15th

Wednesday, July 15th
There is such an abundance and variety of delicious food each morning at God’s Pocket that I have to restrain myself at breakfast. By now all of us here have bonded as a single group, a team, a crew. We waddle away from the dining room/kitchen cabin to get ready for the day’s activities, and are all reassembled down by the kayaks on the dock at 9:00. This morning Dan turns to the right as we leave the tiny bay to skirt the shoreline of Hurst Island.
We see eagles on the rocks. We see eagles perched high on bare branches of trees overlooking the water. We see eagles in flight. It seems there are eagles everywhere, especially when the salmon are running. Dan, our guide from Sea Kayak Adventures jokingly says that there are so many eagles around that they call them Vancouver Island pigeons.
Around the northern tip of Hurst Island we go, paddling through the edges of great masses of kelp, and we breathe in the pungent but pleasant smell of iodine and salt that floats like invisible fog in the chilly morning air.
Harlequin Bay, named for the harlequin ducks often seen there, cuts at an angle for perhaps a half mile into the eastern shore of Hurst Island. We stop near the head of the bay for a water break and rest before retracing our path back out.
Now heading southeast we reach then southern end of Hurst, and group close together, side by side, to cross the deep, narrow channel between Hurst and Bell Island. The combined effects of strong wind and current in the Christie Channel along the steep rocky edge of Bell Island created a heavy chop that made the going hard until we reached a narrow sheltered passage less than fifty meters across. Suddenly the water was calm in the wind shadow of a small hemlock and cedar covered islet. The still water reflected back the images of the trees on both sides as we coasted along, dipping our paddles quietly. Before long we came to a shingle beach where we hauled the kayaks up on the flat-sided gravel for a lunch break.
A short steep path up the bank behind the beach led to a spot where other kayakers had camped. The thick layer of moss on the forest floor would have provided a soft mattress for anyone lying there looking out and down to the green water of the channel. A lovely boat, with sails loose and slack came softly chuff-chuffing down the passage on diesel power, rounded a bend, and slid out of sight as we made our way back down to a hearty lunch spread out on a camp table by Mike and Dan.
We were a bit anxious as we headed back along the return path, anticipating hard, wet work paddling in the open channel into the wind and choppy waves when we left protected waters. It was a welcome surprise to find that the wind had completely died. All the chop was gone, and our trip back across the passage between Bell and Hurst was no more difficult than paddling on a lake. We could focus less on the process of moving forward and more on our surroundings. We saw more eagles, and while passing through a narrow opening a few yards wide between Hurst and offshore rocks, we spotted a mink scurrying about the tide pools, hustling up some dinner. More than once while we completed the circumnavigation of Hurst Island we saw harbor seals popping up for a quick breath of air and a peek above the surface. Off in the distance the dorsal fin of a Dall’s dolphin broke the still water as we rounded the point of our bay and headed for the dock.

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