This weekend I headed up to the Tofino area for a bit of surfing and kayaking. We picked the right weekend to enjoy the west coast with a heat wave over Vancouver island. The waves in Cox bay were messy as hell and pretty big. A nice wind mixed with the tides made for a pretty challenging time on the water. The day after surfing I planned to launch from Tofino into Clayoquot sound and enjoy a little sightseeing in a new area. Man, I was in for a treat.


I got up from my camp at surf junction at about 0700 and headed to Tofino. Then it hit me: I had no idea where to launch at all. I stopped at the gas station on the edge of town and bought some snacks for the trip. While I was there, I asked if he knew a place to launch a boat and he told me turn right on 4th street and it's right at the end. I merrily drove to 4th street and came to a rather large government dock - with fees to the tune of $20. I stood around looking confused for a few minutes and this grizzled dude came out and asked if I was looking for a kayak launch. He then instructed me to go to fifth street, which I guess was some kind of Tofino local joke and I fell for it. Fifth street unequivocally does not exist.


So I was kind of stressing at this point, desperately looking for anything beach-like in town. I eventually broke down and asked someone standing in front of a kayak store where to go. He said go down to the bottom of First street and there's a little gravel road with a beach. I drove down the street and sure enough, there was a small boat launch there - even labelled "kayak launch." by now it was about 0800 and I still had to find parking somewhere while my boat sat a bit too close to the tide line for my liking. I went up a block and dropped off the Van and ran back to the boat.


The confusion and stress of getting there was dispelled the second I hit the water. This place was not like anywhere I've paddled before. The area was very very shallow for the most part and there were reams of tiny islets populated by any tree that could grow roots. the water was exceptionally clear making it easy to see large shoals of fish and jellyfish going about their business. I had planned to be out in high tide near slack, so I could explore freely. Even though I planned my route, I didn't follow it at all. Instead of going into Lemmens Inlet, I was on course to get a ways around the sheltered part of Vargas Island.


I crossed first to Felice island and the over to Stubbs island. Felice island was fairly unremarkable except it has a big swirly current around it and some pretty amazing shallows. I saw some pretty gnarly jellies here - they were big and bright red with thin stringy tentacles. Stubbs island had a large, modern pier with solar cells on the archways. Everyone has a powerboat/yacht in this area, so I was constantly hearing the roar of motors from almost every angle. the northeast side of stubs has a spectacular view of lone cone, a steep mountain on the west side of Meares island. I swear parts of this area came straight out of a postcard.


I set out from Stubbs to the southwest side of Meares island. Lots and lots of boat traffic from zodiacs to fully rigged fishing vessels whizzed past. I'm wondering how the boating tradition will change in this area in the next few years, if fuel prices continue the current trend. From Meares I crossed some weird swirly water to Vargas where I met a strong opposing tide that I really wasn't expecting. I guess the current flows through the channel between Vargas and Meares to the south during high tide. Luckily, I was out there near high tide at 1016, so it wasn't all that strong, just a good workout.


I paddled and paddled along a fairly rocky shoreline along the east side of Vargas with a beautiful mountain range in the distant east. A light mist was coming off the water as the sun turned on the heat. As I got to the northern part of Vargas, I noticed I was able to see very far away to the west. I sort of imagined the surf I was in the other day and decided going around this island was not the right idea today.


Instead I headed back to a few places that caught my attention on the way up. The first was a neat rocky islet just off the tip of Vargas with some unique rocks doing their best to defy gravity. Just around the corner is a little sandy shallow nook on Vargas itself. This place was a highlight for me. It's a cool little channel with a nice sandy beach at the end that had lot of room and a slow ebb and flow even at high tide. As I entered this place, I kept seeing massive shoals of fish passing under my boat. I scared one group and the water came alive with jumping fish. They looked like small, silvery catfish and probably just fry. By the time I could get video of them, I was aground.


I set foot on the island hoping there were no bear around as the onshore breeze was throwing my scent right into the bush. It was refreshing to have a a nice light breeze and some shade on a few parts of the beach. There wasn't much to do at the tide line, but the photos make feel warm and cozy inside. Unfortunately I was on a schedule, so the book stayed in the hatch and I put back in. The current was now in my favour and I was making good way back toward Meares island with very little effort. The current comes on quickly in here I guess.


I crossed to Meares and played chicken with a couple of powerboats. Meares was also very shallow near shore, but the Kayak really doesn't care. I came upon a town on Meares that consisted of a few houses on the water and a small marina. The village had a unique antenna structure in behind the houses which made it look like a remnant of some X-files set. It was a pretty neat place/the perfect hideout for a bond villain.


I crossed from Meares to the Deadman islets trying to avoid being on the wrong side of the nav aids in the deep parts of the channel. A whole lot of boats took that route out of Tofino, so I decided to go between the islets, which is incredibly shallow even at high tide. It may be impassable at low tide. I dodged a few more power boats and ended back at Tofino. As I pulled up onto the beach, I was greeted by a couple walking their copper Husky. We gabbed about kayaks and tourism in the area for a little while and I headed back to the van to load up and head back to camp. I didn't think I went as far as I did today, but the conditions were too nice not to explore just a bit.

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