Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Prevost Island ..... Our Way

This past Labour Day long weekend Robyn and I headed out on another kayak camping expedition and we decided to check out Prevost Island National Park Reserve. Our original plans were to paddle to Portland Island and then up to Prevost Island the following day but thinking about this a couple of times we decided that might be a bit of an ambitious plan. It's not that we couldn't do the trip in terms of distance but more because "what if" the weather turned ugly? So keeping things in perspective of why we were going in the first place (R&R) we decided to take the first BC Ferry on Saturday morning over to Fulford Harbour (Salt Spring Island) and drive up to our planned put in location at Ganges.

With the long weekend upon us and a targeted ebb slack tide that we wanted to be on the water by, we woke up 04:30 hours early on Saturday and headed for the ferry terminal to make sure we could get on the 07:30 sailing. It figured ..... no vehicle traffic to speak of and we were in Fulford Harbour by 08:00 and then it was only a short 15 minute drive through the sleepy Salt Spring countryside to Ganges. The only activity around were the local merchants setting up for the Saturday morning Ganges market. 

We checked out a few possible launch locations in town and then headed to where Salt Spring Island Adventure Tours are located to check out their kayak launch facilities. Robyn had been in touch with them earlier in the week and we had permission to use their dock if needed but parking was going to be an issue. Feeling a little hungry we headed across the street to the Harbour House Hotel for breakfast and afterwards we inquired about parking in their lot over the weekend. The food and folks at the hotel were amazing and we were granted permission to leave the truck in their parking lot while we were out on the water. You have to love the small island hospitality!! 

Launching next to Moby's Pub
We decided to launch from a small private drive down boat ramp ($6.00) right next to Moby's Pub to save hauling gear and boats down onto the docks.  The pub would come in handy but more on that later. :-)

When we arrived and started to load the kayaks the water was absolutely flat but by the time we headed out we noticed a SE breeze starting to ripple the water which in turn was blowing straight into our faces. For this trip we planned to use our new Kokatat dry suits on the advise of coach Sheila and they sure came in handy.

Chocolate Beach, Third Sister Island
We left Ganges at 10:30 and the plan was to reach Captain's Passage by 12:00 to take advantage of the slack right after the ebb tide for the crossing. This was plenty of time to explore some of the islands in Ganges Harbour and in particular stop at Chocolate Beach located on Third Sister Island. We had heard about the beautiful little beach and the gnome like outhouse there and neither disappointed us. 

Now comes the interesting part of the outward bound leg of the trip to Prevost Island. Right up to the evening before the forecast was for light winds and then 10 to 15 knots coming from the SE later in the afternoon. But we kayakers know one thing and that is the winds can change so suddenly and sure enough those 10 to 15 knot SE winds came up big time as we left Chocolate Beach. This meant that we would be making a number of "Go, No Go" decisions as we made our way first to Welbury Point and then over to Scott Point which is at the entrance of Long Harbour.  During this time the water grew darker and white caps were starting to break over the front of our kayaks and yes the dry suits kept us from getting drenched. Both Robyn and I were very comfortable in the conditions that we were paddling in and at no time did we feel that things were starting to get out of hand. 

We were hugging the shoreline as we crossed the entrance to Long Harbour assessing the winds again and also getting our first look at Captain's Passage from Nose Point. As I expected, Prevost Island did provide a little relief from the SE winds and waves but now our next task was to cross Captain's Passage while all the mega yachts and sailboats were ripping through the narrow 1/2 mile channel. I really should have put my GoPro on my helmet  at Chocolate Beach because it would have been neat to get capture some video of the sea conditions and the pleasure craft that we had to dodge through the passage. I must admit that the bigger boats did take care to avoid us although there were a few times that we were bobbing through 5 foot chop! 

Our arrival at the Prevost Island Marine Park camp
The last real hurdle of the crossing was going through the tide rip at the tip of Selby Point as we entered James Bay at Prevost Island. Here we did a little "surfing" and as Robyn said later .... "That was kinda fun". It wasn't long ago that we paddled Baynes Channel in 4 knots of ebb and Robyn felt a little uneasy in those conditions. Now here we were taking on the toughest conditions we have ever been in and we both handled it extremely well. I was so proud of Robyn's skills today (and all weekend) and making it to our Prevost Island Marine Park camping destination was a well deserved reward.

Tree #14 camp
Our camp for the weekend was nestled in an old orchard and we simply had to find a location to set up our tent and call it home. Picking tree #14 we set up camp and celebrated with a couple of glasses of wine and made a hearty lunch before settling into reading our books for the rest of the day. Bed time came really early after a long day as we climbed into our sleeping bags just after 8:00 with the intent to doing some more reading until dark. That didn't last long as before we knew it we were fast asleep and didn't hear a thing until waking up just after 7:00 the next morning.

The outward bound route from Ganges to Prevost Island

Sunday morning we woke to another beautiful day with winds forecasted to come from the SE again but not as strong as the previous day. We decided to explore the western side of the island for the day and set out with the ebb tide in our dry suits to check out some of the inlets, coves and islets on our way to the south east marine park at Portlock Point.

Here we stopped for lunch and were able to connect to the internet to let our family and friends know that we were safely on the island and enjoying ourselves. One of the coolest sights was seeing a Spirit Class BC Ferry coming roaring around the corner out of Active Pass towards us.

Making our way back to camp we were pushed along with the flood tide and SE breeze and then it really became apparent that wearing the dry suits in warmer weather increases the dehydration issue. I sure felt the effects of overheating the last couple of kilometres and once back at camp I wasn't feeling too great at all. It was a good thing that we brought extra water as I needed it to help me get hydrated again.  An important lesson learned.

Sunset from our camp beach
Just as we were making dinner a young couple arrived by kayak and talking to them we found that they had paddled from Portland Island (our original plan) and had just started a nine day tour of the Gulf Islands starting from the Anacortes ferry terminal in Sidney. After dinner we talked with them a bit more and found that they are from Oregon (Portland & Eugene) and once a year they do a big trip like this. Their favourite place to paddle??? The Gulf Islands!!

Exploring Prevost Island

Mom and baby deer right outside our tent
Monday morning we woke early (06:ish) to the departing Jazz Dash 8 heading to Vancouver and then the Salt Spring Island Air Beavers taking off out of Ganges. Time to get the day started so we made some hot chocolate and watched the sun rise in the camp. Checking the VHF radio the forecast was for NW winds 15 to 20 knots increasing to 25 late in the afternoon and watching the water in James Bay starting to change from a ripple to a slight chop it was decision time. Do we go now or wait it out to see what happens???

We decided to "bug out" and by the time we were on the water just before 10:00 the white caps at the entrance to the bay were forming pretty good. Add in the factor that we were right in the peak of the ebb tide, the crossing of the rip at Selby Point was entertaining :-) By using the ebb flow we allowed it to carry us over to Nose Point and across Long Harbour towards Ganges Harbour. Unlike our crossing on Saturday morning there was very little pleasure craft traffic so that was comforting. Once we made our way back to Welbury Point we were protected from the NW winds and for the most part the paddle back to our put in location was really relaxing. One thing we did notice were all the homes that we couldn't look at on the way out due to the water conditions we experienced. Some pretty amazing homes on the shores of Salt Spring Island.

Remember Moby's Pub?? Well after loading up the truck we decided to celebrate with a cold glass of Salt Spring Island Ale and probably one of the best home made burgers we have ever had. A great way to finish off a trip where we were able to use our kayaking and camping skills to the fullest extent. Ya ..... I think we did good!!!

The trek back to Ganges after a relaxing weekend


  1. Excellent trip report, Mark. Prevost Island is, indeed, a magical place. We did a three-day circumnav of Saltspring several years ago camping at Wallace Island, Prevost, and Musgrave Landing (on Saltspring). The start and finish point was Maple Bay. It's a wonderful (and close to home) venue for a "mini-expedition" of about 75 km. Highly recommended. You're both clearly having great fun! :) Duncan.

    1. Thanks Duncan for the comments. There is so much to do on the south coast and the various conditions that we come across are great training grounds for future west coast adventures. We can't believe what we have done over the past year and we are sure glad that we have documented the journey from day one.


  2. Once again, a great looking trip, Mark and Robyn. Considering the fact that Prevost is only a short jaunt from North Pender, I haven't made it there yet. So reading and seeing your pictures has renewed my interest. I also enjoyed this post because Salt Spring is my old stomping grounds. I lived and went to school in the 70's. At that time, my family owned Harbours End Marina. There was no Moby's on that section of the propery, just a big clunky marine ways that we used for raising up larger boats.

    I also had a close friend at that time who worked for the de Burgh family who owned and ranched all of Prevost. We used to boat over there and overnight in one of the out-buildings. I would love to see it again.

    thanks for the great post. Looking forward to the next one.


  3. Hey Greg, We read about the de Burgh family on the sign at the campground. We were wondering if the de Burgh family donated the land for the park reserve. This weekend we are heading to the Race Rocks area and with some luck we might catch a glimpse of an orca. That is on my bucket list and we are envious on how many you have seen. Love reading your posts!! Maybe one day we'll cross paths in person and share a cold one.