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What's a good way to spend a quality weekend on the water? Try paddling from Swartz Bay to D'Arcy island. Man.. I hate gushing over sweet trips (riiight), but I'm pretty proud I'm pushing myself up to longer and longer trips. This trip had so much to see and makes me desperately want to return to Halibut island with my DSLR - Man there's so much cool stuff there! Gotta thank Mark for giving me an excuse to get to D'arcy the long way. Next time I'm eating breakfast before paddling home some 20km - oye.



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I met up with Mark at 9AM at that godawful Swartz Bay dock again. I'm lucky there was enough parking that morning. I got the boat on the cart and we headed down the dock at pretty low tide. We threw the boats in the water and paddled out into the bay. The bay had totally new boats moored in it this weekend. We headed around Swartz head into Page pass and faced a bit of current, but mostly wonderful water conditions. Seals were out in abundance lounging flat on the rocks near the marina. It looked like today wasn't going to offer up much of a challenge.



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Well one challenge: while the water was so glassy and calm, it meant there would be no natural air conditioning today. Both of us had our wetsuits on, and we kept getting really, really hot in the sun. As we passed Ker island and up through the little group, I was pretty much overheating. One fun little tip is just to stick your arms in the water for a few minutes and the water contact will wick away heat nice and quick. Instead of going to Dock Island, we made a B-Line for the light on Sidney Spit where we could take a dip in the water to cool off.



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We arrived to a deserted beach save for a few kids out exploring. The entire beach was covered in yellow grasses waist deep in areas. The beach had a pretty wicked swell which sent me sailing into a bunch of rough gravel on the beach. Mark and I got out of the boats for a stretch and to set foot on the island for a few minutes. I waded out into the ocean to cool down. The sun was just beating down with not a puff of wind. Everything on the island was still and only the noise of powerboats and shorebirds was in the air. I tried to do the island justice with a few snapshots, but it's much nicer in person. I'd like to come camping out here if it's always this abandoned.



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We continued on the east side of Sidney just as the Anacortes ferry came around Sidney spit. We were in a fairly shallow area close to shore, so we rode the ferry wake as it was breaking and got the decks all wet. There was still a huge expanse of empty, wonderful beach that I'll have to visit again. We got a little way down Sidney Island and we crossed to Mandarte island...



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Which turned out to be a shit covered rock full of birds...and not in a bad way. The actual landing to Mandarte was on the eastern side, but the birds knew we were there and we got a few warning shots off our bow. It's a pretty intense cliff face on the west side. Just south of Mandarte island was another rock with trees, which we later found out was called Halibut Island from one of the many menacing signs on the shore.



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One thing you'll instantly notice about Halibut Island is that there's stuff there that has no reason to be there. I counted a few derelict boats, some kind of excavator and us. I was feeling a bit hot again so I took a brief little wade and then headed up to take some pictures of the weirdest place I think I'll ever visit. Apparently this island is home to: snakes and plants. I saw neither and instead saw weathered old boats, which I'd be a little surprised if they could still be deemed seaworthy, rusting iron and some empty cages. I'm not sure what was going on in this operation, but the signs said it all: "Danger - no trespassing - Anyone removing or trading plants risk having their fingers broken and their genitals removed." *gulp*



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From Halibut Island, it was off to D'arcy Island. The currents were weak and the water was still nice and glassy as far as the eye could see (which was forever). Mark called the people on the island for coordinates to the camp site they settled on the night before. As the sun turned up the heat we landed nice and easy on a beautiful shore with a stunning view of Mount Doug. We lounged in the sun for a few hours and caught up with the folks on the island, Darren M. and bobdobbs (totally blanking on the dude's name).



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As I've said before in other posts, D'arcy is one of my favorite places in terms of bliss rating, and it also has a pretty awful history of being leper prison. We went for a hike down to the caretaker's lodge on the southwestern part of D'arcy island. As we left camp, we found a tiny little noose hanging from a tree and had to wonder who put it there.. was it you?



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The hike was pretty cool. Lots of plants and not too many signs of recent visitors. First, we ended up at the ruins that I've visited before, they were the foundations of two buildings likely used by the caretaker many years ago. Some bricks and implements litter the campsite, but they may just be garbage from years gone by. I couldn't help but take a photo of the metal bucket I saw here many years ago. Although it's been moved, it's only slightly more rotten than last time.



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The caretaker's lodge was still mostly standing, possibly with more graffiti. bright patches of yellow grasses stick to just about every rock surface out here. This part of D'arcy is just hallowed ground for me - I could seriously take photos from every angle and still never approach the feeling of actually being there. One of the guys we met on the beach wanted to continue around the island and walk the entire perimeter.



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We had a little walk around the shores of D'arcy and say that this place was definitely used by indigenous people. every now and then, you'd see a midden oozing out bright, white shell pieces. some of the beaches were covered in shattered bits of shell as well. We approached the government campsite and heard the park warden motoring around in his powerboat. By the time we got there, he was already well out into the channel.



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The walk back was just a nice little jaunt along mostly gravel beaches and gentle headlands. The sun was slowly setting as we arrived back at camp. I made some dinner and chilled out on the beach for the balance of the evening. Just as it got dark, we saw fireworks near the Saanich peninsula. The Butchart Gardens fireworks display was clearly visible from here. The night sky slowly took over with a near half moon lighting up the blackness.



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The next morning I woke up with a headache that Tylenol just wasn't touching. ughh. I didn't being near enough water for drinking or cooking (I left my nice, big water bag in Tofino). ugh. Sunday was poorly planned on my part and it was hot as hell again. I just couldn't get into my normal cheery mood and just wanted to be home. That's always a good mindset to be in when facing a bit of physical exertion. Oh well.. lesson learned. Everything was still amazing on the island and all, but I was just feeling like a lead weight.



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Things only got better when I put on 5 pounds of hot paddling gear. Mark was trying to get back to Swartz Bay for 5pm, so that he wouldn't have to take the pre-iron-curtain piece of shit that are the queen class ferries. We packed up camp and headed out into the passage between D'Arcy and little D'Arcy island. We took a short detour to get a photo of the facilities and watch a sweet reverse seal launch off the beach.



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Once we got through the passage, Mark and I said our goodbyes with the people we met on D'Arcy and headed back toward Swartz Bay via Sidney channel. The other side of Sidney island is also pretty shallow. I have nothing but respect for the person who set up a mobile home in the middle of the island. Neither of us could believe how empty the beaches were. It's like everyone was concentrated in the little marina/bay on the north of Sidney island and no one bothered to venture out in a dinghy or by foot. It was just beautiful shallow water that went on for a few kilometers.



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We tried in vain to get back in time for Mark's ferry, but it wasn't on the cards. I was totally running on empty as we got back to the dock. I was taking my sweet time with everything and ended up dropping my kayak on the ground from waist height. sheesh. Here's a tip kids: eat your Wheaties and stay cool. :) The best part is, after I said my goodbyes to Mark, I went to get changed out of my steam cooker and just as I peeled off the last layer, 3 families drove up and let their kids run free. You can guess where they all filed past. hand over face. I'm sorry to the families, but I won't be able to afford therapy for all of them.


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