The Royal ‘Round: Sea Kayaking Princess Royal Island. Part 2

June 27, 2010

a kayak under sail in a high windToday gave me the weather window I needed for the long hop to Campania Island. I got jumped by a rain squall at the half-way point, but its wind was in my favour, so I simply put up the sail and ran with it for about a half an hour.

a sea kayak landed on a beach, with a cruise ship in the background

Cruise ships great and small: the view from the beach on Campania.

I made landfall at the southwest end of Campania a bit before 1PM. The skies were blue as I worked my way up the coast. That also meant the onshore breeze was steady and rising, which piled the swells ever steeper as time went on. The resulting rollercoaster was fun at first, but got spooky after awhile, especially in the sections where the swells were refracting off shoreline cliffs. I was just at the “I want off the ride now” point when I reached the campsite below Mount Pender, a beautiful beach about halfway up the coast, landing there just before 5PM. The evening sunshine and turquoise water made it feel like an island near the equator rather than latitude 53 North.  

a campstove with baked beans and bannockI celebrated the successful crossing with a supper of canned beans and fresh baked bannock. A camping food cliché, but it’s a classic for good reason: it’s delicious and warming.


a marine chart with a kayak route traced in red

my route, June 27, 2010

June 28, 2010

Today was windy and rainy – too wet even for the fish, who were nowhere to be found when I went out in search of supper. I wrung myself out under the tarp and stoked the inner furnace with spaghetti and pepperoni, as it was the only available heat source for drying the layers that got damp on my abortive fishing expedition.

June 29th, 2010

I launched early in the morning from the beach on Campania. Driftwood skids made getting out on a falling tide easier.

The wind blew strong from the south, creating big seas out on the open water, so I put up the sail and, as much as possible, dodged and weaved through the archipelago of islets on Campania’s west side.

With my attention fully occupied with high speed “micro-navigation” – i.e. not sailing and surfing my fully loaded boat onto rocks or reefs, the GPS came in handy for “macro-navigation” – making sure I wasn’t heading down any dead ends between the islets. At one point, I did have to get out and walk my boat through a shallow bottleneck around the Finlayson Peninsula, but after making a scraped offering of gelcoat to the sea gods, I slipped into open channels once more.

Having made my right hand turn through Otter Passage at the north end of Campania, I attempted to cross Squally Channel to Fin Island. The seas were peaky, but only occasionally spilling. For the first ten minutes, that is. Then the wind blew up and churned the channel into a sea of whitecaps. I swung north from my previous eastbound course and ran for the cover of the Cherry Islets. The following seas had me up to my elbows in green water at times, but the sail was once again a help, giving me at least an additional knot of speed for my escape, and helping me prevent broaching. Between sailing and surfing, I hit well over 4 knots much of the time, roughly equivalent to Warp 7 for a loaded sea kayak.

I eddied out into the lee of the Cherry Islets with a feeling of great relief. Thanks to John K’s Wild Coast for letting me know the site was there, and to “Seaserge”, another solo tourer, for clearing a tent ledge on the shell beach about a week before. .

an ocean inlet alive with waves

Safely ashore, looking back south towards Otter Channel. If the camera adds ten pounds to people, I’m sure it takes two feet off seas and swells. Those waves felt a lot bigger when I was out in them!

a marine chart, with a kayak route traced in red

my route, June 29, 2010

June 30, 2010

I awoke at 5AM to the sound of wind howling through the trees. There would be no crossing Squally Channel at the moment, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. It’s quiet amazing how on a trip, I can get up and go when needed, and store up sleep when paddling’s not possible. Once I did emerge, after 9AM, it was not raining, but it was windy enough to make it quite cold. I consoled myself with a couple of delightfully gooey toasted cheese-and-bacon sandwiches.

toasted cheese muffins and bacon on a campstove(A rumination on food: my elaborate meals may seem obsessive to some. And there are paddlers who accomplish amazing trips powered only by rice and energy bars. But for me, a varied and interesting diet is essential. A tasty supper can put the perfect cap on a good day, or help end a discouraging one on a high note. I can cope with almost any combination of wind, rain and distance during the day, provided I can sleep warm and eat well. I’m far from the first to prioritize good food in rough circumstances: On cattle drives in the old west, a good “cookie” — the guy who rustled up meals behind the covered wagon — commanded higher pay than the cowboys.)

clothes drying under the shelter of a camp tarpAfter brunch, I rigged a “West Coast clothesline” – a cord run under my tarp to protect drying laundry from the inevitable passing showers.

Late that afternoon, as I emerged from filling up my water bags at a stream in the lee of the Cherry Islets, I realized the wind had reduced from ludicrous speed to merely ridiculous, and the channel was now mostly green water with the occasional white exclamation mark. I scrambled back to camp and struck camp as quickly as possible, while shoveling gorp into my mouth as a pre-flight fuel-up. Making 4+ knots paddle-sailing, I got across Squally Channel in a couple of exciting hours

a highly stylized sea and shorescape by Kayak Bill

A Kayak Bill painting I’ve been lucky enough to see in the original

At my new campsite, old shelves and other fittings improvised out of indigenous materials in Kayak Bill‘s signature style confirmed I was paddling in the wake of this legendary kayaker/artist.a wilderness kitchen shelf made from split wooda sea kayak beached

a marine chart with a course line in red

My route, June 30, 2010

July 1, 2010
What with my late landing the night before, I slept in until 6AM but still got on the water for 9AM. Coming down the east coast of Gil Island, I found vast fields of tube worms in the intertidal zone.blood red tube worms

Although they are animals, these ones looked like blood red flowers – rather appropriate, for nearby, a pair of crosses commemorate the two passengers never found when The Queen Of The North sank nearby after striking the island. I’d sailed on that vessel several times; it was quite weird to think of it lying hundreds of feet below me on the sea floor.a pair of white memorial crosses on the shoreline

On a happier note, the weather was the best so far on the trip. Even in the light airs, I was able to sail back down towards Princess Royal Island by putting both sails up (the wind had obligingly shifted from southerly to northerly).

a sea kayak under sail, viewed from water level

Oddly, I couldn’t find the supposed campsites at the northeast corner of Princess Royal Island (I may have overshot them.) After farting around looking at ugly cobble beaches and gnarled Northern jungle that would take neither tent or nor hammock, I glanced at my watch, saw it was only 5PM, and thought “Screw it – it’s only a bit over 12 nautical miles to Butedale and we’re into the longest days of the year – I’ll go there.” Just after I’d set off, and rounded Kingcome Point, I ran into four northbound kayakers – the first folks I’d talked to in nine days.

a waterfall pours into the seaFor the next four hours, I paddled like a machine down Frazer Reach. The weather was warm, the wind calm, the current not too badly against me, and I was “in the zone”, fit from days of paddling, so it was a magic run. I reached Butedale at 9 in the evening. As I stood there on the floating docks, drained and a bit dazed, I was hailed from one of the recreational fishing boats tied up there, and had a steaming bowl of fresh fish chowder and a lavishly buttered bun thrust into my hands. What a warm welcome for a weary traveller.

a village seen from seaward

a map with a course traced in red

My route, July 1, 2010

The first chapter of this story is here. The next chapter is here.

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