Monday, April 22, 2013

Ukee On The Sea

Our adventure this past weekend was a "kayak bucket list" trip to Ucluelet with 10 kayakers and support crew of the Nanaimo Paddlers. Robyn and I had this trip on our horizon but thanks to the organizers of the trip we were invited to tag along for the weekend.

Friday - Having never been past Port Alberni this was a whole new experience for us not only in the travel to get there and location but also what the west coast has to offer in terms of the sea. Leaving Victoria early Friday morning we made a quick stop at Dave Nichols' place in Shawnigan Lake to help him with transporting his gear. Good thing too as those SUV's don't pack much more than the wife (Alison), a couple of kids (Amy and Liv), the dog (Dhillon), a couple of kayaks and all the girls gear for the trip.

After 5 hours on the road we arrived at the Terrace Beach Resort just after 13:30 to slightly overcast skies, wind from the NW at 20 knots and 2-3 meters seas.

Our home for the next couple of days, the rustic looking Terrace Beach Resort.
 Picture from the GoPro mounted on my Delphin.

While waiting for the rest of the group to arrive we hiked the nearby Wild Pacific Trail to Amphitrite Lighthouse. Here we got our first look at the big water crashing onto the rugged shoreline around the trail system. We also got a glimpse of another "kayak bucket list" destination called the Broken Group which we hope to paddle to in May.

On the trail looking almost due west. Somewhere out there is ...... Russia

A view to the east and in the distance the Broken Group Islands

Just before dinner Walter Van Bruggen and Matthew Light headed out to check out the conditions just outside Terrace Bay. Dave and I took a walk along the trail to see if we could spot them and sure enough in the distance we could see Walter and Mat in their glory. As the sun was starting to set it made for a great picture of the guys riding the swells.

The Friday night potluck dinner was held in the Captain's Cabin and the food just kept on coming and coming. Dave fired up the BBQ and prepared a selection of burgers and sausages while a selection of salads were being prepared inside. Oh yeah .... and there was dessert too. After a long day and a great dinner we and our cabin mates headed back to our cabin (Hummingbird) and soaked in the hot tub before bed. Saturday would be a busy and big day for Robyn and I as we had no idea what to expect.

Saturday - Weather forecast of 25 NW winds possibly rising to 30 later in the day. Sea state of 2-3 meters and broken cloud and sun. Time to rig up and head out on the water.

For the launch phase of the day the group split into two with Walter, Dave and Joanne Nicolson heading out of Terrace Bay and rounding Amphitrite Point to check out the sea conditions for a possible crossing of Carolina Channel to George Fraser Island. The rest of the group launched in the sheltered Ucluelet Inlet and paddled to meet the three scouts at a beach on Francis Island. Here we had a group discussion and it was determined that the channel could be crossed but there were big rollers in the 2 to 3 meter range that would have to be paddled across. The waves were not breaking but it would be up to each paddler to make the decision if they would make the crossing once we got into the main channel. Those who chose not to make the crossing would explore the inlet while the rest of the group would venture across. 

Heading into the main flow of the waves the group stayed together and everyone made the 1.5 km  crossing assisted by the NW wind without any issue. Sure the sea was big but there were no crashing breakers to contend with other than the  up and down motion of the waves coming from the west. The key here was everyone was well informed of what we could expect on the crossing and nobody was beyond their skill set to handle the conditions. For me, I had one other factor to contend with. This was the first time I was in rough water in the Delphin and boy could I feel my hip muscles automatically respond to the wave movement. The further I paddled the better the Delphin felt and its "jittery" feel soon went away. Robyn on the other hand was stable as can be in her rock solid Delta and I think I was more concerned for me than her. ;-)

Here's a good picture of a roller behind me. I'm heading into the trough and the two kayaks
behind me are on the other side nowhere to be seen. Robyn is right beside me all the way across

Once we reached George Fraser Island we spotted a surge channel that was home to a colony of sea lions. It was time to play so we ventured into the wall of  foaming surge as it boomed its way through the islets. All the while I thought people were talking to me as I was heading through the channel and then I realized it was the sea lions on the rocky islets nearby barking at me. Too funny!

Trying to catch a surge wave as it boils up behind me.... so cool!

From L to R - Susan Marsh, Me, Joanne and Gloria Martens head into the surge channel to play.

At the end of the surge channel it was dead flat calm in the kelp bed. From L to R: Gerhardt Raven,
Gloria, Joanne, Reale Emond, Liz Van Heerwaarden, Susan and Robyn

The group did a little exploration of the island and Gloria did a little swimming in a tricky little area nearby. :-) I had just started to enter the same area when a wave caught her off guard and in she went. Dave, Walter, Susan and Gerhardt were at her kayak in seconds to assist her in getting back into the cockpit. After all that excitement it was time for lunch on a sheltered little beach nearby located in a channel between the two main islands. At one end, big waves were breaking pretty good and at the other end ......

........ a portage through a little channel that we paddled through earlier when there was water there. The only other option was to head out through the surge channel at the other end which was out of the question with the big boomers blocking the way.

Lto R: Susan, Robyn, Dave Gloria and myself walk the kayaks through the little creek like rapids.

We then made our way out to Janson Island where some of the group played around in the gnarly waves around the rocky islet close by. Janson Island is really quite amazing as its shear almost vertical rock face would make landings next to impossible.

Janson Island in the distance

It was decided to head back across Carolina Channels towards the Beg Islands where we had a chance to play in the rock gardens. This is where I christened the Delphin by getting it jammed bow to stern in a narrow channel. Everytime that I would get it free with the surging wave, I somehow got it stuck again when the water rushed back out. Frustrating?? Not really until I 1/4 rolled but managed to stop myself by driving my carbon Werner paddle into the rocky bottom. A few more bounces off the walls and I made it free feeling a little embarrassed.

With the low tide approaching the number of starfish were incredible including bat stars of every color imaginable. Dave, Walter, Mat and Joanne decided to head back to Terrace Bay around Amphitrite Point while the rest of us crossed over to the shoreline that we would follow back into Ucluelet Inlet.

Starfish well below the high water line on a rocky islet.

Along the way we made a rest stop at Elephant Rock to check out the sea arches on foot. I didn't go as I had to tend to my GoPro (batteries) but after seeing the pictures I sure wish I had.

While waiting for the group to come back to the beach I managed to get in a little cat nap in the sunshine.

The kayaks and me napping on the beach near Elephant Rock

We started to make our final push towards the inlet and our launch point and it was a bit of a slog as the NW winds were blowing directly in our faces. Those last 5 km were a little tough but a few of us managed to put in a couple of rolls along the way. Heck, I even put in an assisted rescue just for Reale when I missed my second roll. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it! LOL

Back at the resort we unwound in the hottub and had a few cottage brewery beers and then it was time for pot luck #2. Once again so much food and the 2 BBQ's were busy. Liz even baked a blueberry crumble on the BBQ as the cabins don't have ovens. I think we all slept really good that night after a great day on the water.

Saturday's track out to George Fraser Island.

Sunday - Way less wind and blue skies greeted us on this planned day of kayak surfing. I took the opportunity to put in a 6am Yin yoga session on the deck while listening to the waves and eagles perched high in a tree above our cabin.

Aftr checking out of the resort, we all headed north towards Tofino for a planned 10:00 OTW time. Stopping at Chesterman Beach, Dave and Walter visually checked out the conditions and the decision was made to suit up. The surf wasn't particular big when we arrived but as the tide started to go out and the wind picked up a bit we got some bigger conditions to play in.

What an amazing day to play in the surf and we had the whole surf zone to ourselves.

Dave and Walter briefed the group on how and where to surf to avoid potential collisions with each other. I had only seen videos of kayaks bumping into each other in the surf zone but today I got to experience it a couple of times up close. In both circumstances I saw the other kayak coming towards me which allowed me to prepare the best that I could for the impact. It was all in good fun but it sure opened a few eyes as to how fast things can develop in the surf.

In this one, the surfing kayak runs over my front deck and I managed to grab hold of it before tumbling into the surf.

In this one, Liz came out of her kayak in a wave but it kept on rolling in the surf towards me.
It was like a big log that just kept on coming getting bigger and bigger and bigger until ...

.... I couldn't brace on it any longer and simply tumbled into the surf with it and my kayak. :-)

Liz and I collecting our kayaks and paddles. LOL No harm done but a lesson learned.

I spent a good part of my morning perfecting the washing machine maneuver but I did manage to catch a few waves. Robyn on the other hand played in the waves just out of the main section and had a great time remaining upright in her kayak the whole time. Nice! She managed to get a few great shots of me out of the kayak a lot ..... thanks Honey! I have a bunch of video to go through and put together clip to be posted later in the week so check back soon.

I like this one ..... "Good kayak"

Happy surfers L to R: Me, Liz, Joanne, Gloria and Reale

After a few hours of surf fun it was time to say our goodbyes and head for home. What a fabulous weekend of water, water, water, fun, fun, fun, food, food, food. The best of all it was shared with a great group of kayakers who have the same passion for such a great pastime.

Our Sunday surf track. Not much distance but tons of fun!

2013 Paddle # 20 George Fraser Island
Distance:  19.19 km  (10.36 nm)

2013 Paddle # 21 Chesterman Beach Surfing
Distance:  1.95 km  (1.05 nm)

YTD: 222.20 km (119.98 nm)


  1. Awesome post, Mark. Love those photos of the kayaks coming at you! Good reflexes! ;)

  2. Hi John, thanks for the comments. It certainly was an adventure that we want more of.