Tuesday, July 2, 2013

D'arcy Island Get-A-Way

Scroll Right - Panoramic 180 from D'arcy Island National Marine Park Reserve
Sometimes all it takes is being swept along with the currents of the ocean to a magical place to bring things back into perspective. D'arcy Island of the National Marine Park Reserve was the perfect setting for our way of celebrating the Canada Day long weekend kayak camping. For me, I got to think about a few things that were just causing too much stress in my life.

Loaded to the gunnels .... ready to head out!
Launching from Sidney's Amherst Beach at 14:40 on Friday afternoon we had intended to head to Rum Island but since the water conditions were so close to perfect and a gentle ebb flow was with us, we decided to  set our course to D'arcy Island instead. This was our first non drysuit paddle of the year and it was a good thing as I'm pretty sure we would have overheated in the rising temperatures that were predicted. We still carried our suits with us just in case a sudden squall would develop in the late afternoon.

We made the crossing over to Sidney Island and followed the shoreline south drooling over all the huge dungeness crab we saw in the shallows. Go figure .... we decided to leave the crab trap at home. DOH Never again!!!  Lots of seals were in the area near the south end of Sidney Island and they followed close behind us as we crossed  Hughes Passage over to D'arcy Island. Arriving just after 16:30 we were greeted by a group of 7 kayakers from the Seattle (USA) area who were doing their annual pilgrimage to our side of the border. It turns out that they much prefer our kayak camping opportunities due to the ease of reserving ferry space and our marine parks are far less crowded than in the San Juans. Nice!! It was also great to find out that there was one tent pad left but that wouldn't have stopped us from staying the night. In fact, if the Seattle group wasn't there we would have had the whole island to ourselves for the evening.

Awesome!! A picnic table in each site and a level raised tent pad. What more do you need??

Our site (#2) nestled in the woods was just a short walk from the crescent moon bay with a pebble beach that we landed on. My first impression of the bay was that is was much like a mini Rudlin Bay on Discovery Island.

After being up since 04:00 I hung on until 22:00 before we hit the hay. I didn't hear much during the night except for the deer walking through the campsite and the river otters make a ruckus on the beach. Saturday morning we woke to stunning clear, warm conditions with not a wisp of wind.

D'arcy Island has a bit of a sad story because in 1891 the City of Victoria established a leper colony on the island of mostly chinese immigrants. Between 1891 and 1906 at least 14 men died and were buried in coffins on the island in unmarked graves. In 1924 the colony was relocated to Bentinck Island until a cure for leprosy was discovered. The main camping area of the NMPR is located just west of the main building ruins that was built by the inhabitants.

After breakfast Robyn and I hiked around the island clockwise and we got to explore the old caretaker ruins that were part of the leper colony on the far side of the island. Unlike the primitive buildings the lepers had to build themselves, the caretaker buildings were built to withstand the elements of which much still stands today.


For most of the hike we simply walked along the rocky beaches and Robyn found what looks to be tsunami debris from Japan. Robyn says there is a tsunami debris website that you can log your finds so that it can be tracked as to where the possible main debris might be heading. Only a few more feet away I located some sort of caffeine drink container also in Japanese.

After returning to camp we had lunch and decided to paddle around the island counter clockwise and try our luck at a little fishing. The evening before one of the Seattle kayakers caught a rock fish and released several more so we were pretty excited about the possibility of having fish for dinner however it seems that our ability to catch fish is like our ability to catch crab so we had to just settle on the set dinner menu we had planned.

Later in the day 3 other paddlers arrived but the 7 tents sites were full so they found spots for the evening and decided that they would relocate on Sunday morning when the Seattle kayakers had planned to leave.

Exploring D'arcy and Little D'arcy Islands by kayak on Saturday.

2013 Paddle #41 - Exploring D'arcy Island by kayak
Distance:  4.36 nm (8.07 km)

What a great view from the grassy knoll. No wonder it was a popular place to sit back and relax in the sun.

Arriving back at camp we joined most of the rest of the campers on the grassy knoll and enjoyed appetizers of blue cheese, wine salami, wine, beer and our books. Life is tough!!

On Sunday it was another stunning start to the day. After crawling out of the tent I went for a walk to capture some sunrise pictures of the little bay we were calling home for the weekend. This little island just kept on delivering magical moments and this was one of them.

We decided to have a really lazy day so we had several cups of coffee and then made a yummy warm cinnamon sunflower seed bannock with raspberry jam.  I think we finally got the recipe and cooking method down pat and the secret is a really good non stick fry pan and lid, very low heat and no butter in the pan. Bannock after all is much like a scone and needs to be baked slowly rather than fried. Boy it was great!!!

The group from Seattle had to leave for home as they didn't have a long weekend like we did so we wished them well on their paddle back to Island View Beach. He's a great story about them: When they arrived at Island View Beach on Thursday they expected to be able to leave their cars there. But we locals know the story and frustration about IVB and the CRD and they were turned away. It turns out that they drove down to Michell Farms and Celia said that they could park at the market. But wait ... along comes Vern Michell and he let's them park at his farmhouse on the hill then drives them back down to their kayaks at IVB. On the way back home all they had to do was call Vern and he drove them up to his place to get their cars. Talk about great hospitality from one of the best families in Central Saanich!!

We did a couple hours of reading and then decided to hike around to the prime fishing area to try our luck buzz bombing from the shore. I managed to hook into one small fish but it spit me off completely including the buzz bomb. Tying another one on I was feeling that we might be having fish for dinner that night until .....

.... a sailboat came around the point and I hooked it. The force was amazing and I hung on for dear life until my fishing rod snapped in two!!! Sounds like a great fish story huh?? Well it didn't really happen but I did break my fishing rod in two pieces when I snagged bottom and tried to get the buzz bomb to release. The sounds of the rod snapping was like a crack of lightning and the next thing I saw was the broken piece taking off down the fishing line towards the snagged lure underwater. Man ... this sustainability thing of living off the ocean is getting to be really tough!

We decided to cut the line and tie it off around a tree root close to shore and go get the kayaks to see if the missing rod piece could be recovered. Sure enough when I made my way out to where the fishing line went under water, there was the piece of broken rod just under the surface. Note: After a little splicing at home, the rod is ready to try our fishing again in the near future.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the shade of camp as it was just too hot to stay out in the sun on the grassy knoll. Our supply of wine and beer was portioned perfectly for the weekend and once again so was our appetizers.  Another couple arrived later in the day and we recognized them from one of Ocean River's PC Level 1 classes at Cadboro Bay run by Gary Allen. It was nice to see that they are now experiencing kayak camping much like we did last year. We shared our adventures and they seemed really keen in exploring the coast like we were now. In fact they decided to head to Rum Island on Monday morning and then possibly Portland Island for a couple of days. Wish we could have joined them.

Monday morning came and we were feeling kinda bummed out about leaving. D'arcy Island was such a special place to visit and to this point in our kayaking adventure it is by far the best gulf island camping location that we have been to. The trails are not really defined, the undergrowth in the camp area is still intact for the most part and it has a real primitive feel about it in terms of usage.

Loading the kayaks on Monday morning

Sidney in the background near our put in location.
For our return route to Sidney we decided to paddle up the sheltered east side of James Island just in case the predicted SW 15 - 25 winds came up. After reaching the northern tip of the island there wasn't a breath of wind so we made a direct route to the Sidney Pier where Robyn called her Mom (who lives a couple blocks from Amherst) to come visit us when we landed. I'm not sure what she thought about how we smelled after 4 days at sea but it was nice to see her.

Unpacked and ready for a nice hot shower. What an awesome weekend !!!!

2013 Paddle #40 & 42 D'arcy Island Expedition
Distance:  7.71 nm going, 7.86 nm return (28.83 km)
YTD:  232.56 nm (430.70 km)

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