This weekend I enjoyed a weekend of paddling with a few members from the west coast paddlers forum. We planned to use Portland island as our base camp and we'd do a long trip to somewhere in the gulf islands. The weather was fair with nice, warm winds at night. We ended up doing a fairly long paddle from north Portland to South Pender Island and then a beautiful, scenic trip around Coal island on the way home.


I left late Friday afternoon, just after work, and drove to the Swartz bay government dock just beside the ferries. I have to thank John Kimantas' wild coast book for finding that place. I probably wouldn't use that launch again unless I was totally guaranteed to have a partner for the trip. The dock is VERY high for paddle craft and has a large railing along the edge which makes putting a loaded kayak in the water very difficult. There is also a beach you can sneak down to, but be warned, there's a small car ferry that pulls into that beach at high tide. At Low tide, it's just big, jagged rocks and it's easy to bottom out on approach. Luckily there was help nearby when I went to put in.


The trip to Portland island was jaw dropping. I was paddling during golden hour and the sky was turning all interpretations of purple and gold. There were a number of distant fires on Saltspring island. Not sure what was burning, but it sent up white-yellow plumes of smoke that hung just above the treetops. I was being followed the whole way by seals. You could hear them snort and dive from pretty much all angles. The sea is totally alive with herring right now, you can see them jumping every couple of seconds. Maybe the seals were waiting for me to rile up the fish. I got to Portland Island amid a fairly strong opposing current between Pym and the shell beach.


I got near Chad Island and I met with Greg in his cool little Feathercraft. He was heading out to find Mark, who was coming in from Tsawwassen. I heard a bit of VHF chatter between them and I headed to camp, missed it, then headed to camp. It's a long story, but look at the GPS track for the first night. I think I need a checkup from the neck up. I got to the beach and saw the first of the famed raccoons that plague campers here. As soon as the camera flash went off, he was gone.


I tied up my boat and set up camp. The camp was fairly full already with what looked to be fairly permanent camp sites staked out. We were lucky and scored a nice group area on the point just in case the party got bigger. I had a chat with everyone there and got acquainted. I had met a few of them at the snow camp in April, but it had been a while. I think the high point of the night ended up with Greg teaching a raccoon a lesson with a stick. Nothing daunted these critters though. Just when you thought you were safe, they'd poke their heads out of a tree or come out from behind some hiding place. I was beat, so I headed to bed in anticipation of the next day's paddle.


The next morning was overcast, but the winds were light and warm. We all sort of got up at the same time and ate breakfast. Greg and Mark had found something weird to show me: the contents of a white bag beside the picnic table. It was full of bones! At fist I was thinking they were human, until Sheila withdrew the flipper bones. It was parts of a dead seal that had washed up on the beach *Whew* --- A little after everyone was up, we started to consider routes. The girls had it with Poets Cove on South Pender Island, a place that will always remain in my heart as "that place we could have gone to get a burger and a heated room during 2 degree weather with 10-20knot winds at the WCP get together." Mark shook his fist many times at the dude who told us not to go. I also hate that man :) I'm serious, wait till you see this place.


So we crossed the ferry lane to North Moresby. As we left, I really didn't feel much current, but as we got closer to Moresby, it was clear we were in an ebb tide. Greg stayed north of the channel and the reef around canoe rock, the rest of us were swept right into it with the tide. At one point, I was ferrying almost directly north to stay on track. Once the water got a bit less messy, we found a well populated seal haul out. A few of them scattered into the water, but a few stayed to have a look at the Pentax W30 with me :)


From north Moresby, we crossed to the big bluffs on Pender. The bluffs somehow have driftwood more than 30 feet up in the air and they have their own funny weather effects. For instance, as we got closer, the tempurature went up and a breeze picked up. The bluffs were a fun place to explore in calm waters like we had today. With only a few hundred kilometers of kayaking experience, I probably wouldn't reccommend being anywhere near these cliffs in wind. The swell breaks apart and goes everywhere and the current is really messy.


I passed by a whole lot of sea stars, kelp beds and fish. I still can't get over how many fish there are in the gulf islands right now. Having a white paddle really helped to make them show up as I glanced down. Just at the entrance to Bedwell harbour, near some pricey housing is a sudden shallow area and he current here runs in every single direction all at once. We had fun attacking this little feature.


Rounding the corner into Bedwell harbour we heard the rough idle of a number of high powered speedboats waiting in poets cove marina. We cautiously crossed to poets cove and found a nice bit of beach to pull out. We had been warned not to come here with kayaks, but no one cared at all. We were greeted mostly by smiles and waves. Poets cove was a beautiful little resort built into the hillside in south Pender island. As we got up to the terrace above the beach we found the restaurant
and had a look at the menu. It was all affordable and delicious. Not much like a pint and a burger after paddling a while.


To think we sat and froze our asses off at Beaumont park and didn't even come out to the sparkling resort in the distance. Oh well. They even had a heated pool, water view suites and a massive dining hall. Anyway. I spent some time walking around with the camera and taking pictures of some of the sights. We sort of left in a hurry, but I was prepared to spend a couple hours chilling on the beach there. I'd do that trip along the bluffs again in a heartbeat.


Mark and I left after the rest and cheered on the power boats ans they opened up the throttle through Swanson channel. To add to the noise, a harbour air flight took off into the air at the end of the parade. it was like I was being sprayed with fuel. Just as they passed, the wake and current started to interact and the water went kind of nuts. it would slide into the bluffs and back out into the channel and then up over all the shallow parts. We decided it'd probably be less agonizing to head away from the shore, and sure enough the current let us out of its grip.


The sun came out with a light mid day fog developing over the water. The Sun caught the top of the Olympic mountain range to the south. The trip back was a fairly long crossing to Moresby with only a few bits of current left in our way back to camp. We waited for the ferry to go by and Mark started to charge into its wake. I stayed back a bit and snapped some photos. I told mark, "You've got a ferry, a lighthouse and a breaking wave! what more could a man want?"


We came back to camp ready for rest and met Ken B with his spiffy NDK Explorer HV. he was full of energy and brought out hors d'oeuvres! The dude's the life of the party. Next time, I'm bringing two bottles of wine, smoked salmon, pate, crackers etc etc etc. I've come to the realization I just don't camp right ;) The sunset on Portland was spectacular. Just as the sun started to go down, Mark and Ken brought out their boats and put in for some rolls and stroke practice. Ken showed off his sweeeet two piece Feathercraft GP and Mark had a go in the Explorer HV. Night set in and we watched lighting over Bellingham and orcas island. After a bit more warding off raccoons and trying some fine drink courtesy of Ken, we all hit the hay.

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The next morning I was up a bit later than the others. I packed up camp and headed out with Mark and Greg on a scenic route home. We decided to round coal island and work our way back into Swartz bay on a light ebb. We parted ways with Ken, who was off to Fulford harbour, and headed out around the east side of Portland island. Always a man of class, Ken was smoking a stogie while paddling out. The only tricky water was in Moresby passage where we rode all sorts of little current rivers at a pretty good clip. The ebb tide got us to Coal in no time at all.


Coal island was beautiful as always, large stand of trees and old rustic buildings. It's a great spot any time of the year. Lots of seals huffing and puffing around us and more fish today. This place is pretty hard to land on. Nearly all of the southeast beaches are rocky and covered in barnacles. It's hard to pull out for a break. We found a respite near the little house on the southern beach. From there it was on to page passage and in through a shallow route into canoe bay. We paddled around the docks and headed around the point to Swartz bay for good byes. What great weekend!

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