Wednesday, September 4, 2013

D'arcy Island Magic

This past weekend we decided to spend the Labour Day long weekend at one of our favourite kayak camping locations on the south coast. Located at the southern end of the Gulf Islands chain, D'arcy Island is a short hop (2.25 hours, 7.59 nm) from Sidney which we consider to be just far enough and in some cases tougher to get to in adverse weather conditions. Although it can be challenging to get there and back it has become our little bit of paradise so close to home. Maybe that's why it usually isn't very busy the times that we have been there.

To start the trip we launched out of Amherst Beach in Sidney and left the truck parked on 3rd Street just a couple of blocks away. We could have also launched out of Island View Beach but the parking pass to do so would have cost us $40 and in our opinion the truck wouldn't have been as secure as where we parked it in Sidney.

Pre-launch sausage roll and we're off!

The weather forecast was for diminishing 10 SE winds and with the promise of rain looking pretty black over the Saanich Peninsula we headed across Sidney Channel against the last of the flood. Our goal was simple, make the biggest crossing first and then hug the coastline of Sidney Island all the way down towards D'arcy. Anchored at Sidney Spit a mega yacht caught our eye with a helicopter on the aft deck. The Westport 164 Evviva is owned by Orin Edson, the founder of Bayliner. Just as a note, mega yachts of this size can be chartered for a mear $50K per week on average for 12 lucky guests.

Go figure... the winds dropped completely and the skies opened up into warm and muggy sunshine which made wearing our drysuits a little uncomfortable. Still we pressed on towards our destination. Our hydration packs really came in handy on this paddle.

Resting at the Sallas Rocks before crossing Hughes Passage with D'arcy Island in the distance.

Arriving at the designated Gulf Islands National Park Reserve campground on D'arcy Island, only 3 of the 7 sites were occupied and they all seemed to have the same tents and gear but nobody was around. We figured that they must be part of some group tour which turned out to be sort of true as the guides were touring their family members visiting from the Quesnel area. It was not long after we got our first ever guide tarp set up (in the air) that Lynn Baier and Morley Eldridge arrived on the beach to spend the weekend with us. Nice!!

We're getting good at this kayaking camping. Site #1 D'arcy Island

After a restless sleep, Saturday was pretty well the perfect day for lounging around. We did set the crab trap .... enough on that story LOL and the rest of the time we hung around on the grassy knoll in the sun drinking wine, beer and nibbling on snacks. Lynn and Morley went for a little paddle around Little D'arcy to play in the currents and when they returned Morley borrowed my drysuit and did a little rolling practice in the bay while we critiqued his technique. :-)

Our view from the grassy knoll of Lynn and Morley returning from their paddle.

Morley practices his Greenland rolling techniques.

Just before dinner we spotted a number of fast moving boats coming through Baynes Channel heading towards D'arcy Island. It wasn't long before we realized that they were grouping together and had come to a stop which only could mean one thing ....whales!!!

Sure enough as the flotilla got closer to us we could see orca dorsal fins heading towards Kelp Reef. Morley and I thought about paddling out towards the marker for a closer look but by the time the pod arrived there it would have been too late for us. It's too bad as it was also slack tide and the conditions were dead calm, Next time we'll be on the water for sure to get a better view. Unfortunately the pod was about 3/4 of a mile away so we couldn't really get any pictures worth keeping. 

After dinner, Morley introduced us to Lynn's BioLite CampStove as the sun started to set. I have been wanting to see one of these little stoves in action and I was really impressed on how easy it was to start, how much heat it generated as a little campfire and of course the fact that it could charge my iPhone!! We never did try actually cooking with it. YES!! It's on my gearhead bucket list!!

Sunset from our campsite

The rest of the evening we watched a little bird hunt flying termites that were taking to the air all around the camp. He didn't have to go very far from his branch, more like a jump to catch the tasty insects. The following night he was back at it as the last of the termite hatch departed.

Sunday morning was absolutely spectacular when I climbed out of the tent. I grabbed my camera and headed south along the bay to capture some stunning pictures of the sunrise. It is really hard to know what images you are capturing when pointing the camera directly into the sun but I'm sure you will agree that our little place that we call magic is really just that.

After breakfast the four of us decided to go on a little paddle up the east side of Sidney Island and check out Halibut and Mandarte Islands. Taking advantage of the flood we made our way across Miners Channel to Halibut Island which is privately owned while I trolled for any type of fish. Enough of that story too!  LOL

We then crossed over to Mandarte Island which we thought was a protected part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve but it turns out that it is actually a First Nations Reserve (Bare Island) which is a fitting name because other than the single leafless tree on the island there is nothing but scrub brush and thousands of birds. 

Lynn with Mandarte Island in the background

What we thought were research stations are actually First Nations buildings

The only tree (if you can call it that) standing on Mandarte Island. I wonder if it has some sort of First Nations significance? 

We then paddled over to the cliffs on the east side of Sidney Island. Like some of the other cliffs on the neighboring island these are also massive in height. In the picture below you can just see Robyn on the beach and a couple of people walking along the sand.

On our way back towards D'arcy Island we stopped for lunch on a small sheltered beach to stretch our legs. What a way to spend the day just paddling around looking at the scenery. Life is tough!

Morley ponders kite
flying over a beer
We arrived back at camp just in time as the predicted 15 - 20 SE winds were starting to pick up. For the rest of the afternoon we took it easy up on the grassy knoll until Morley tried to get his kite into the air.   

Morley at the controls while Lynn and I try to get the parasail to inflate.

After several attempts of which each was followed by another drink (LOL) we concluded that there just wasn't enough wind up on the grassy knoll to let Morley fly his kite. Oh well .... another time. Note to self .... take my kite with me on camping trips. 

Our last night in camp was spent stoking the BioLite and taking in the last sunset of the weekend as a Feathercraft double camp into the bay. I think we all did a double take considering the water conditions weren't the best. The paddlers set up camp in site #5 and that was the last that we saw of them for the evening. 

The following morning we woke up to a thunderous "BOOM" as thunder rolled in over the camp around 6am. We also noticed the sound of raindrops from the on and off showers on the tent. Timing it right we got out of the tent and the showers were just that as a frontal system was passing by. Hey ... our guide tarp did it's job keeping our kitchen area nice and dry too!

The Feathercraft owners were busy disassembling camp as our group made coffee and thought about having breakfast. Morley spoke to them and it turned out that they were planning on heading directly to Discovery Island without any tide knowledge. They had no idea that they would be paddling into a 3.13 kt flood that would be happening at Baynes Channel. I was also a little shocked to see that one of the paddlers also didn't have his PFD on when he left and just hoped that the winds wouldn't come up on them. 

The forecast winds actually called for very light conditions and so we didn't hurry to depart from D'arcy Island. With the flood heading our way we decided to wait until around 11:30am to launch back towards Sidney. Our route back allowed us to ride the flood along the east side of James Island and straight to Sidney and boy did that work. Checking our GPS we managed to hit 4.7 kts without hardly even paddling and with no wind assisting us. In our fully loaded kayaks that made the 2 hour paddle go by fast. 

Riding the currents towards Sidney on the east side of James Island. Not a breath of wind either.
So sad to leave D'arcy but we'll be back .... maybe later this fall ;-) Anyone wanna go???

2013 Paddle #53, 54, 55 D'arcy Island
Distance:  7.58nm, 10.89 nm, 7.59 nm ( 14.03 km, 20.17 km, 14.05 km)
YTD:  313.86 nm ( 599.77 km)

1 comment:

  1. You & Robyn know how to enjoy life! I wanna go! I wanna go!!