I woke up Friday morning to my single pane windows rattling on their tracks in my apartment. I saw the trees moving a little and started to rethink my Saturna island to Pender island crossing. Instead of the forecast following the previous night's outlook, the wind was getting worse and the weather was deteriorating. I packed up the last of my gear and drove down to oak bay to have a look at the conditions out in the strait. That little fish flopped around in my stomach as I saw waves thrashing on trial island blowing huge plumes of spray in the air. Turkey head was also being drenched with angry waves as the current hit the wind dead on. Somehow though, it was still sunny, and that gave me solace. I started working out the calculus in my head and had a good long thought about my paddling skills. I decided I'd take the least possible risk, because as far as I knew, I was paddling alone. Luckily Andreas was in the lineup to go to north Pender island, too. As we looked out from swartz bay, there was just nothing. The water was clear and glassy as could be for as far as we could see.


The ferry ride was clear and calm all the way out to Pender... where was this weather I saw in Victoria? Every once in a while you could see porpoises around the ferry and the sun was warm and inviting. I noticed a few clouds trickling in as we stopped at a little bakery in North Pender. Andreas led the way to a nice little launch beach and we loaded our kayaks and put in. we were on our way out to meet up with some of the members from West Coast Paddler. Just as we put in, I noticed a small piece of rain bounce off the beach and thought .. oh dear. So we're paddling in a hail storm and just sort of gritting our teeth as we get soaked. The campsite is only about 2.5km from the beach, so we didn't have long to go. My first priority was to set up and then listen to the weather.


I set up my tent and sleeping gear and left the radio on weather while I worked. I squared everything away in preparation for the incoming system and tried to plug up the kayak as best I could. Just as I got under the group tent and got settled, it started to snow fiercely. I got acquainted with as many people as I could while I was in there. Of course being a small area with camping people - everything was branded with MSR or trangia, etc. and I got to hear about the colorful opinions shared between the factions. I'm a coleman fan, so I just boiled some water and put the stove away.


The snow blew continuously for about 3 or 4 hours and there was a good bit of wind helping to chill everything down to freezing. As the afternoon progressed it cleared up a little and the wind died down. It was about that time that Mr. Payne, a suitable name in its own right, landed on the beach after an epic 35km paddle through the weather that we just sat through and that I had seen earlier in the morning. He had paddled from Smugglers cove directly up the Haro strait to our campsite near Bedwell harbour on South Pender Island. I couldn't help myself but talk this guy's ear off about the trip and the minutia of paddling. That must have been an intense trip, and by the look of his pictures.


The first day closed with a beautiful sunset and calm water followed by 15 knot Southerly winds and sub zero temps with a dash of rain for sleeping. Everyone woke up Saturday morning cold and ready to make warm meals. Saturday was better behaved for the most part. The wind stayed up all morning and we kept an eye to the clouds to see when we could get on the water again. I went on a little hike around the side of mount Norman to warm up. Our first attempt to find a usable path led us right into Mick Allen, who was shaving as we walked into his bathroom rock. Mick had slid in under darkness on Friday night taking what he described as an interesting night paddle. We filed by him on our quest to find a path along the shore, but the path we were looking for was a tad overgrown. We headed back to the main path and went to the base of the climb. Most of us were massively overdressed for the climb, so we chickened out and headed back to the camp. A few people managed to get up to the summit and a few even ran it.


Mick decided to go snorkeling to have a look at the local sea life. The visibility was poor in the water after being chopped up so badly by the storms, but I'm looking forward to seeing any pictures he may have gotten down there. There were a number of fishing boats and shorebirds around, which tell me it's full of sea life. We were still a bit weather bound at camp and I decided to try and slither into my damp wetsuit, so I'd have no excuse not to go kayaking whenever it decided to clear up. Not the greatest feeling at near freezing temps, but I think I was warmer in the wetsuit than long johns.


We were back in our kayaks the second the weather looked less hostile. What started off as a garbage disposal mission ended up with us at a pub in port browning. The sun started to come out and the still southerly wind was at our backs throughout Bedwell harbour. There was very little current under the channel bridge and we had a nice relaxing paddle to the pub. the little choppy waves and swell allowed for a bit of surfing fun on our way into the cove.


The pub overlooked mount Norman and clearing skies. We sat back and enjoyed the sudden warmth from the sun. We were joined by another group of paddlers from camp and decided to stay put for a while. Once we'd finished at the pub we put back in and went back to the campsite. This time we were treated to a northerly wind at our backs so the whole trip went without significant headwinds. There's all kinds of neat stuff on the coastal parts of the harbour - giant purple sea stars, beautiful houses, old marine eqipment and docks. Our nice afternoon paddle was just the beginning of a great evening!


It was time to eat. West Coast Paddler's members all agreed to bring a little potluck item so we could have a giant feast. It didn't disappoint, from shrimp cocktails to chocolate, we did dinner in style. Philip baked a few pies and cakes in his outback oven which tasted surprisingly good! Who knew you could bake a pie at camp? The potluck was a big success and I left full and happy. We did a little giveaway after with a smart looking Werner paddle going to Astoriadave, who had commuted from Oregon to be with us, and a few books and DVDs given out by a draw.


I woke up at 8 and sluggishly got all my gear ready to shove off and head home. I paddled back to the cars with Andreas and we packed out leaving for the 12:30 ferry.
I also had a massive burger at the stand beside the ferry terminal in otter bay... man that thing was good after 3 days of dehydrated blah.

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