Monday, March 11, 2013

Going The Distance

This past Sunday Robyn and I joined up with 6 other Nanaimo Paddlers for a little (LOL) paddle around Satellite Channel that runs between Saltspring Island and the Saanich Peninsula. 

The freighter with Saltspring Island in the background, Portland Island
above the 3 kayaks on the left and Saanich Peninsula just above me.

Launching from Cherry Point we headed towards Saltspring Island passing one of the freighters at anchor waiting to head to Vancouver. Seeing these mighty ships from a distance really doesn't give you a true perspective to the size of them but once you are at an arms length away their size is staggering.

Making our way across to Saltspring Island

The water height marking on the freighter will give you an idea just how big it is. The top mark is 15.6 meters and the water line reads just over the 5 meter mark. So that's over 10 meters alone or almost 33 feet by the markings and then add another 30 feet or so above that. In simpler terms, almost as high as a 6 story building. Using my Marine Traffic App on my iPhone, this ship (Rapallo) is a bulk carrier under Malta registry and is listed as being 220 meters long by 30 meters wide coming in at mere 75,123 tons. Can you imagine seeing this bow coming at you doing 17.6 knots through the fog???  Holy Doodles!!

Arriving at Saltspring's Cape Keppel, we made our way with the ebb flow along to Isabella Islet which is a no access ecological preserve. Although it was enticing to have a break on the exposed tombolo at Isabella we chose to head across to a beach nearby on Saltspring. Our next stop on was Russell Island which is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR). During the "official" lunch break Robyn and I put our latest "gear head" items to use.

Made by a Australian company called Helinox, we spotted these chairs at MEC Victoria and Capital Island a couple of months back. The one thing we really missed last year while kayak camping was a chair that was awesome to sit in while reading or snoozing. At a mere 29 oz and all collapsible into the bag that I am displaying these are by far the best thing we have seen on the market. Set up time .... less than 1 minute!! They aren't cheap though coming in at around $95 but it sure beats sitting on a wobbly stump.

Reale, Joanne, me, Sheldon and Deb check out the
information sign at the old pioneer buildings
After lunch a few of us went for a little hike in our drysuits to visit the pioneer buildings on the other side of the island. Home to the summer care takers now, this was once the home of Hawaiian, or Kanaka settlers to the area. In 1997 the last private owners of the island sold it to the Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy which now has become part of the GINPR.

Beverley and Joan worked the beach for clams while we were on our hike.

Our little picnic area and shell beach on Russell Island was the perfect place to fuel up our bodies for the remainder of the paddle. And Boy .... what a paddle we had to left to do!

Leaving Russell Island the weather and water conditions were absolutely perfect for a high speed 3.5 km run across to Portland Island. Crossing one of the busiest ferry routes to and from Swartz Bay, Joanne monitored the marine traffic channel on her VHF so that we could hear which ferries were coming our way. The last thing we wanted was to get caught out in the middle of the crossing with a Spirit or Coastal class ferry bearing down on us. I managed to check my watch before we started the crossing and we reached the navigational marker on Portland Island in 26 minutes for about a 7 km per hour run or around 3.77 knots.

Robyn and I camped on Portland Island twice last year and it would have been so easy to just head to Arbutus Point and set up camp, but we didn't have our camping gear with us except our new chairs. :-) We paddled past Shell Beach and then started our final push towards our Cherry Point put in location 14 km away.

The group talking about the ferry crossings ahead of us. Our put in location is straight ahead 14 km in the distance.

Once again we had two more major ferry crossing ahead of us and we carefully listened and monitored our watches for departing and arriving ferries. The one thing about Swartz Bay is that there is no real published routes of ships as it all depends on schedules, weather etc. As a kayaker you really need to be aware in these areas but using common sense and your VHF radio it really shouldn't be an issue.

Crossing over to Piers Island we were getting close to the 4pm departure heading towards Tsawwassen and sure enough from the berth that the Spirit class was occupying it would be heading our direction. The group put it into high gear again and we made the crossing over to the Saanich Peninsula with lots of time to spare as I turned around and watched the ferry  lean through the turn at Arbutus Island.

I have to admit that the next 8 km of paddling was a test of our endurance and the ability to keep focus on paddle strokes to conserve energy but maintain a good pace. Being out in the middle of a long crossing gives you no reference points of speed and it felt like the put in location wasn't getting any closer at times. But sure enough I soon picked out the parking lot and our cars gradually went from just a line of something on the beach to individual vehicles. We sure are lucky that we didn't have to battle any head winds on the way back!

We landed at the put in 17:50 which meant that it was almost a full 8 hour day of paddling with a few rest stops. Another distance covered milestone for us at 30.71 km not including the hike around Russell Island.
Yes, I think the whole group felt pretty exhausted but rewarding to each of us. Thanks Nanaimo Paddlers for a great day on the water!

2013 Paddle # 10 - Cherry Point
Distance: 30.71 km
YTD: 104.85 km


  1. Hi Mark and Robyn, 30 plus km is a mighty impressive day's paddle! It's been a long time since we've put in that kind of distance on the water. I'm sure, very satisfying - good for you guys! Duncan.

    1. Hi Duncan & Joan,

      Thanks! Yes we figure it is good to build up the endurance for future west coast trips. These long ones make our normal ones like a paddle in the park so to speak. :-)