In September Joe and Hannah made the trek from the UK to visit us in Vancouver, so we needed an adventure. The answer was a kayaking expedition to Sechelt Inlet on the Sunshine Coast. For an additional bonus we were joined by the Vancouver crew of Sarah, Oscar, Rory and Hannah.
Getting to the Sunshine coast involved an early ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Gibsons. Packing had been a confusing exercise involving a lot of guesswork but these things always work out in the end, usually!
Breakfast had been saved for the ferry after Oscar had specifically recommended the scrambled eggs. Ordering what we wanted turned out to be a challenge but eventually we nearly succeeded. Unfortunately it was all rather disappointing despite between us ordering pretty much everything on the menu!
It was then a 30 minute drive to Pedals and Paddles, the kayak rental shop. Upon arrival it was raining and the forecast was worse but spirits were very high including some questionable karaoke!
Organising a group of 7 idiots to go kayaking is like herding lemmings. Chaotic would be an understatement but special mention must go to Laurie, the owner, as she filled our glaring gaps with: dry bags, crocs, water containers as well as the kayaks and paddles.
In the midst of packing and working out what we could leave behind it was noticed we left a lot of food behind. We considered going back to town but were excited to get going and were of course ambitiously confident we would catch fish and collect mussels, clams, oysters etc to fill the gaps!! What could possibly go wrong…
Eventually the kayaks were packed and we were as ready as we were going to be. The only thing left was our briefing and to launch. Some people took this more seriously than others but we were finally all on the water and kayaking North!
As we launched the weather cleared and within minutes the briefing had been forgotten, the racing started and silly games began! They really shouldn’t let 7 children hire kayaks and go exploring. Between the tomfoolery we were making our way North exploring the coastline. The scenery was stunning and there was plenty of wildlife, mostly eagles and seals.
Laurie had said there was a small chance we might see a whale or Orca’s so we kept our eyes peeled. However, she did warn us people often mistook mating seals for splashing whales and we weren’t going to be fooled.
After an hour or so of paddling we were hungry so stopped for lunch. By chance, we were passing a beach and it was timed perfectly because as we approached the clear weather vanished to be replaced by wind and rain.
We ate our sandwiches and collected mussels and a clam to supplement our meal. The mussels took forever to cook so while they did we debated whether you eat clams raw or not? I eventually tried it raw and it was OK, but one clam is not very filling. The mussels were eventually ready and while they were rather tiny they were delicious.
With the arrival of wind and the rain it had got a lot colder so we got moving again as soon as lunch was over. As luck would have it the weather improved again the moment we launched. The timing was impeccable as the next stage was an open water crossing to Ketichkan point, our camp for the night.
The crossing was thankfully uneventful and completed about 4 hrs kayaking which was plenty for day one.
We explored the point and set up camp. There were only two tent platforms and despite our best efforts we couldn’t squeeze two tents on to one so Rory and Hannah kindly found a spot on the ground.
We then started the other key camp Activities: collecting and breaking fire wood, lighting a fire (challenging as the wood was so wet), putting up a tarp, fishing and swimming.
The weather remained nice for the evening and we enjoyed our dinner sitting around the campfire.
We timed our night perfectly because as we hit the tents the heavens opened and the wind came howling through. This is always my dream camping situation as you feel so warm and cozy and was asleep in no time. Between sharing with Joe and Hannah and the weather it wasn’t the most restful nights sleep but I slept pretty well. I woke up at 3am and needed a pee but the weather was so bad I decided I could wait! (Joe and the same thought!)
I woke again about 6am and thankfully the rain had stopped. Joe and I emerged from our tents to the most stunning sunrise over the mountains.
We took the morning at a relaxed pace as it takes a long time to get 7 people ready but we were finally ready the days adventure. Oscar, maybe impatiently led the launching before realising he had forgotten his paddle!
Not long after though we were all launched and beginning the adventure. The plan? Head up the channel and then to the Narrows Inlet.
As we launched Sarah and Hannah, in their double kayak, decided to do an extra loop of the local islands which slightly split the group. We stayed in small groups as we kayaked North up the channel. Joe and I were ‘responsibly’ leading the way and trying not to get lost!
We eventually turned the corner in to Storm Bay where a really narrow entrance in to a bay caught our eye. Curious, Joe led the team in for an explore. There was a strong current as the entrance was so narrow but the bay was really shallow but worth the detour. The bottom was absolutely covered with oysters. I have never seen so many in one place. We stopped for a mid morning snack and to collect what we could and supplement our food supply.
By now the weather had cleared up and we were left with the most amazing day to continue our trip. Despite the sun the section up the narrows was a bit of a slog against wind and tide but the views more than made up for it!
The journey to the narrows had taken longer than planned so we only had time for a quick lunch of bread rolls and fruit before it was time to head back to camp.
Rory had a slight hiccup/swim getting back in to his kayak but before long we were flying back down the Narrows on the tide. There was a brief moment of excitement when we saw some splashing off to one side. We hoped it was whales but disappointingly it was seals mating. That being said the way they twist and jump is quite impressive.
We were back to Storm Bay in no time and then things started to change. The wind started to pick up and our progress slowed. When we turned the corner in to the main channel things deteriorated again.
We were now punching a strong head wind and small waves that slowed our progress to a snails pace. After a long day kayaking this was the last thing our tired arms needed.
Oscar had gone ahead, I was with Hannah and Joe, then Sarah, Hannah and Rory were bringing up the rear.
It quickly turned in to an attritional slog. There were no bays we could shelter or rest in and if you stopped paddling you started moving backwards quickly. This combined with the slow forward progress and tired arms drained morale! On the worst mini headlands we basically come to a complete standstill.
Finally we were able to drop in to a bay and get out of the wind before slowly limping back to our camp wet, cold and exhausted.
Regrouped, we lit the fire, had some snacks and in no time morale was back at an all time high.
We had done close to 22km in the day and with the last two hours being a battle with no rest there were some tired arms. But what a day it had been and despite the wind we had been spoilt by the weather. (The forecast had been rain for all 3 days)
Once dry and warm we started our dinner with the oysters we had collected earlier. Joe didn’t participate as had a previous bad experience with oysters and was still recovering from the clamato juice in his Caesar at the weekend. One allergic reaction is enough! Oscar and I got fairly adapt at shucking oysters as everyone tried them but Oscar and I definitely ate the lions share.
The weather was still beautiful and we watched the sun go down as we sat around our camp fire. I haven’t had a fire since I was in Alaska a couple of years ago and there are few things nicer. Staring in to it, watching the flickering and feeling the heat.
We stayed by the fire well in to the night but slowly people slipped off to bed. Rory and I were the last to go and doused the fire before hitting the hay. It wasn’t 100% out but no more than a couple of embers glowing. It might have been another rather a large fire.
In the middle of the night I woke up to a a howling gale. I went out for a pee and it turned out the fire was raging again. It was controlled as it was in a fire pit but considering it had been put out it was a bit concerning. I discussed with Rory and we decided it was safe. I also checked Rory and Hannah were OK as they were having issues with their tent on the rock. Rory and I both continued to keep an eye on the tent but never saw each other. Which was a weird flash back to sailing in Brittany and a anchor issue. Around 3am the wind died down to be replaced with torrential rain. No more fire issues!
I slept well but when I woke everything had started to get a bit damp.
The rain led to a bit of a lie in but we eventually had to get up and pack up the camp. Plus spending too much time in a tent with Joe and Hannah would drive anyone insane and I’m sure they feel the same about me!
The rain briefly eased so we took the opportunity to pack the tents but everything was already soggy. After a quick breakfast of most the food we had left we packed the kayaks and did our final checks before our return trip.
I proposed returning down the other side of the inlet rather than taking the return route of day 1. It went to a vote and I won by 1 vote for and 6 abstentions.
So we would cross over to the West side of the Inlet and hug the coast heading South.
The first few km’s were nice and easy with the tide and wind behind us although it was still a bit damp. Then things started to get interesting again. The wind and waves whipped up and the tide started to turn.
We hugged the coastline as best we could, and the scenery was awesome, but at the headlands we were fighting large waves and again basically going nowhere. This made life a lot harder than the day before as we hadn’t had to fight waves of this size. I have done a bit of kayaking but wouldn’t want to be out in a larger swell than what we encountered!
The photos dried up as we were now in heavy showers and getting soaked and the focus just became the next headland as there was nowhere to stop.
We eventually found a little beach to stop and regroup before the final voyage across the channel which would again be an open after crossing. We were all soaked through, cold, pretty hungry and ready for the end.
We ate all the food we had left, rolls and tracker bars, and got moving before we got too cold.
The channel looked very rough and we had to cross perpendicular to the waves so we agreed to all stick together. We tried to use the tide and wind, where possible, to push across to shorten the time in the deep water.
As it turned out the section we crossed wasn’t that bad. We had been through the worst and made excellent time on the way back where Laurie was there to greet 7 bedraggled explorers.
We unloaded the kayaks, helped Laurie put them away and returned all the kit we had borrowed. This was done at top speed as everyone wanted to warm up and get to lunch. I had wanted to take them to Smitty’s Oyster House (best seafood in Vancouver) but it was closed so we ended up at 101 Brewing. We ate an insane amount of food as due to rationing we had all be running a calorie deficit for the last 3 days!!
Fed and warm we completed the journey home with everyone absolutely knackered.
Unfortunately later that night the oysters came back to haunt me which led to a miserable few days. I will continue to eat them but not in vulnerable situations as had I been while kayaking I don’t know what I would have done!
This was my second kayak adventure in Canada and another awesome one. Both the scenery and people made it a trip to remember and looking back I am still sad that Joe and Hannah had to leave us for the UK shortly after.