Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WCP Portland Island By Greenland

This past weekend was the West Coast Paddler (forum driven) Campout at Portland Island in the majestic Southern Gulf Islands. Each year the users of the forum run polls for when and where the campout should be held. Many factors come into play like the BC Ferries schedules, paddle distances and dry places to camp and once again Portland Island fit the bill.

After working a really early shift Robyn and I met Sheila Porteous and Gary Jacek at the Swartz Bay Government Dock at 13:30 and prepared our rides for the trip to Portland Island. The kayaking gods must have been with us because when do you get two empty parking spots on a Friday afternoon at Swartz Bay???

Sheila, Gary and me ready to take to the water with our Greenland Paddles.

Robyn and I were really excited about using our Joe O Paddles Greenland paddles made from old growth BC Red Cedar on this trip. They had just arrived the day before by FedEx (Thanks Joe!) and when we opened the box we were amazed at the craftsmanship of them. They almost looked too good to use but that isn't why we bought them. A Greenland paddle is a tool that is meant to enhance the paddling experience and so we put them to the test with our fully (camping gear) loaded kayaks to Portland Island.

Riding along with a full moon flood and a 15 knot SW wind at our back, the trip took less than one hour for us to reach the white shell beach on the west side of Arbutus Point. Last year this was our first camping trip along with it being our first big crossing and it pushed us a bit further in our skills back then. This year after several hundred kilometers under our keels we felt right at home on this journey. On the way into the beach we dropped our crab trap in hopes that we might have dungeness crab for dinner on Saturday night. LOL

Many of the WCP Camp Out usual attendees were already there and it was great to see them once again. Dan, Maddie, Marshall (Langley) Greg (Brentwood), Jill and Bob (Mission) were already on site greeting the arrivals as we paddled into view.

Just before we arrived, Kelly (Kelowna) and his daughter Rachel via South Pender and the Swanson Channel Adventure were unloading their kayaks or should I say Kelly was unloaded while Rachel was texting her mom about the paddle to get here. Kelly's version was pretty amusing especially the part of hitching a ride on a sailboat to make it to Portland Island. ;-)

Kelly, Rachel and Philip at their camp. I'm pretty sure Kelly is winking that Rachel enjoyed the trip.
Rachel ... well she warmed up to the adventure as the weekend went on.

Philip (Vancouver) who launched out of Swartz Bay just before us with kayak sail ready to go arrived a few minuted before us and later in the evening Alana, Matt and Mark (Vancouver) arrived rounding up the Friday campers.

We staked our tent site for the weekend between the trees and set up our guide tarp for the possible heavy rains predicted for the weekend. Robyn and I have never kayak camped in the rain so we hoped that we were prepared for a possible downpour.

Camp Gecko Paddler seen just behind the stump under the green guide tarp.

It was Gary's first trip to a WCP Camp Out and he took advantage of a great place to make home for the weekend. Perched at the top of a ledge only feet from the high tide he had a great view of the Moresby Passage, Mt. Baker and all the sea life (seals, river otters, water fowl) and critters (raccoons, eagles etc.) that live around the island.

Gary's room with a view. Man I hope that tarp will keep you dry if it rains!

Dan Millsip's picture of Mt. Baker  behind South Pender Island with Moresby Island on the right

After a long day we hit the hay early while we expected the predicted rain and wind overnight. Saturday morning we awoke to breezy conditions but no rain but would it come later? As the morning tide receded we watched a couple of raccoons foraging in the tide pools while an eagle kept an eye out for the chance to steal their finds. Dan managed to get close up and took some amazing pictures of the whole interaction.

Another great picture by Dan Millsip. The little "bandits" showed no fear of the eagle.

After breakfast Alana and Matt and Mark headed out for a paddle around Portland Island and then over to Fulford Harbour while Kelly made a direct solo run to Fulford Harbour for soda pops. Most of the rest of camp decided to hike around the island while Dan and Greg kept themselves busy around camp.  

Our first stop was at Shell Beach where we had lunch on the beach by the ancient Coast Salish Village (Midden). What looks only to be fragments of shells and rocks in the exposed bank could actually hold artifacts and or be could be burial places of early First Nations peoples.

A close up of the Coast Salish Village midden laid down over hundreds or even thousands of years.

Lunch on Shell Beach. L to R: Bob, Jill, Robyn, Rachel, Sheila, Gary, Maddie and Marshall.
Philip came by later as he was on a trek around the island as well getting lots of pictures.

Stormy conditions at Shell Beach but no rain for us today.

Leaving Shell Beach after lunch Rachel spotted one of the "bandits" of the island perched high up in a cedar tree. So this is where you hide when not scurrying around the tide pools or raiding our campsite huh?

The group then made its way to Princess Bay Campsite to visit the old orchard and historical markers. Once owned by a  group of Hawaiians known as the Kanakas the island passed through many hands including a retired British army officer (Frank Sutton) who bought the island with money he had won betting on horse races in China. The plan was to raise & train thoroughbred racehorses on the island but that plan fell through during the Great Depression.

Portland Island was presented to Princess Margaret of England, in 1958, to commemorate her visit to British Columbia. In 1967, the Princess returned it to the province and for many years, the island was also known as Princess Margaret Marine Park, Today, the island is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, and is known Portland Island.

"Who ??? .... Not me!"  photo by Dan Millsip
Making our way back to camp Robyn and I made a  detour with Jill and Bob to harvest some oysters for a midday snack. While cooking them up a little "bandit" came into camp and stole our slab of butter while we had our backs turned.  We did manage to find it in the bushes close by only partially eaten so we were able to salvage some of it.

Mike Jackson arrives. Photo by Dan Millsip
Through the rest of the afternoon several visitors for the day arrived through the breezy conditions. First to arrive was Mike followed by Mark and Scott. It was getting late in the afternoon when Joanne came paddling up the east side of the island as the the sun was starting to peek through the clouds.

The planned potluck dinner started to come to life in Dan's big MSR tent that he brings to the camp out. It provides shelter from the winds and rain (which didn't come) and makes for a great dining hall.

The potluck in full swing. Robyn and I were busy making the second batch of scallops in bacon. Photo by Dan Millsip

After dinner we sat around and watched the sun go down before Joanne headed back to Swartz bay. Hey! We did come to a consensus that the 2014 Camp Out would be back at Portland Island April 25th - 27th. There were a lot of laughs around the campfire LOL then there was Philip. :-)

Photo by Jill Florkow Gardner

Sitting around the imaginary campfire. What a view!!! Photo by Dan Millsip

Photo by Dan Millsip
Philip took charge of the story telling as he recounted an Arctic kayaking trip where he and a friend were attacked while wrapped up in their sleeping bags in the tent. At one point Philip gets picked up by one foot while his friend manages to fire their shotgun through the tent at whatever was outside. After the whole ordeal the pair made their way into a local town where it was discovered that Philip had actually survived a polar bear attack. There aren't too many people alive who have encountered a polar bear and survived to tell the story. Philip is one of those.

Photo by Jill Florkow Gardner
Philip then disappeared for a couple of minutes and into camp arrived George Costanza ... I mean Philip. LOL

Demonstrating his wearable sleeping bag/coat, Philip had the camp in tears laughing. Only a true "Gearhead" would have one of these and Philip fits that bill to a T!

Once the sun starts to set the temperature also starts to drop so it wasn't long before we made our way into the tent for the evening. Very early Sunday morning I woke up feeling not well at all and in fact I thought I was in the middle of a migraine cycle. Heading out on the trails I thought a good walk might help the situation but in fact something else was actually the problem which I didn't realize until we were on our way back to Swartz Bay.

Heading back to Swartz Bay. Photo by Jill Florkow Gardner

Thankfully the weather was perfect and the winds light as the camp started to dismantle and our gear was  packed into the kayaks. The forecast for later in the day wasn't looking promising so several groups of us started the trek back towards the Government Dock. During this time I realized what the symptoms I was experiencing were ..... severe dehydration.   Being overly cautious about our water situation I simply didn't get enough liquids for the paddle over to the island and a hike around the island. In fact I figured it out later that I was lucky if I managed to consume just over a 1.5L of water / G2 over three days. Not good! Note: Monday we purchased (2) 10L MSR Dromedary's as this is the second time this has happened to me. Never again!!

On the way back to Swartz Bay I managed to drink a couple of G2's and forced down a banana on a breif stop at Shell Beach. The ebb current was pretty strong as we paddled towards Piers Island which kept us on course for Swartz Bay. Our group of myself, Robyn, Sheila, Gary, Jill and Bob arrived back at the Government Dock together and it wasn't long before we saw Dan, Maddie, Marshall, Kelly and Rachel arriving at the dock. The Vancouver bound members quickly loaded their kayaks on wheels and they were off to make the 12:00 ferry.

Onboard the 12:00 ferry to Vancouver. Photo by Dan Millsip

We on the other hand took our time (which seemed like forever) transferring our gear to the truck and headed home to get some liquids into me followed by a really good much needed sleep.

Another fantastic weekend of camping with the WCP users and not a drop of rain. Oh yeah .... the crab trap. Well our batting average of ZERO for the year continues as Saturday there was nothing in the trap but the bait had been taken. On Sunday we picked the trap up on the way home and it had a huge sunstar in it and a spider crab. Thank goodness we didn't rely on our crab catching techniques for the potluck dinner on Saturday night. LOL

As for the the Greenland paddles from Joe O Paddles .... they were fabulous and my shoulders felt so much better especially with a fully loaded kayak. These paddles are going to be great for touring and learning new rolls.

For more pictures of the campout  please visit the Trip Report section of West Coast Paddler at the link here
West Coast Paddler

2013 Paddle # 22 Swartz Bay to Portland Island (Friday)
Distance:  7.01 km  (3.78 nm)

2013 Paddle # 23 Portland Island to Swartz Bay (Sunday)
Distance:  7.35 km  (3.97 nm)

YTD: 236.56 km (127.73 nm)

On the agenda for this week: SISKA's first early evening paddle on Thursday in Cadboro Bay and a rolling session with Yves of Go Kayak on Sunday night. Got work on my OTHER side roll.

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