Sunday, April 27, 2014

2014 West Coast Paddler Unofficial Camp Out

It wasn't an official event. Just a bunch of kayakers who follow the forums on West Coast Paddler and get together once a year for a camp out.

The date was set a long time ago and we were at the mercy of the weather with the decision to “go or not go”. Robyn and I have paddled many nautical miles in various conditions since our first unofficial camp out 2 years ago and we were determined to keep the tradition going. The weather on the other hand tried its best to convince us otherwise.

We met up with Gary Jacek at the Swartz Bay Government Dock at 14:30 last Thursday afternoon and loaded the provisions into our trusty rides for the crossing to Portland Island. The marine forecast? Only 15-20 knots from the SW and an ebb working against us …. not the best conditions to paddle with a fully loaded kayak but we pressed on.

Gary and myself ready to head out with paddle (essential), pool noodle (not) and a near .05 beer (liquid)

Leaving the beach we paddled past Knapp Island and into Shute Passage towards Portland Island. With the winds pushing us along, Gary raised his kayak sail and started to pull away from us quickly so Robyn and I rafted up with him and under sail power the three of us managed to do 2.2 knots!

Under sail with Gary doing 2.2 knots with full left rudder.

Our original plan was to pass the north end of Brackman Island and then head up the west side of Portland Island to Arbutus Point. Nearing Celia reefs it became obvious that with the ebb flow combined with the rising SW wind there was no way we could reach Brackman Island. At this point we had separated from Gary and were surfing some of the swells at almost 4.7 knots! It was time to switch to plan “B” which meant we would allow the wind to push us up the east side of the island to the campground.

Arriving at Arbutus Point we were greeted by Dan Millsip from Langley (one of the founders of West Coast Paddler) and Kelly, who had come from Kelowna. With rain in the forecast we went to work (with help from Kelly) setting up camp making sure our tarp was secure. As in past years, the UVIC bird watchers were camped on the point as well and over the weekend we found out that they were researching the song sparrows on the island. Every morning at around 0700 they would head off in teams around the island either by foot or by zodiac and would return just before dinner.

Robyn and Gary around our shared kitchen table.

Gary's camp including a garage for our kayaks.

Friday morning we woke up to nothing but sunshine so Robyn, Gary and myself headed out for a clockwise hike around the island. Taking just around 2 hours we stopped at a few viewpoints and the other two campgrounds. We also bumped into a team of the birdwatchers who were searching for the nests of the song sparrows.

Arbutus Point spotted from the island trail

A Song Sparrow greeted us at the Princess Bay campsite

From L to R: Looking back towards Swartz Bay Pym, Knapp and Piers Islands

Shell Beach .... love this place!

Arriving back at camp we welcomed the last 4 paddlers to arrive for the weekend as we relaxed on the little shell beach on the point. First time camp out kayaker Richard from Vancouver arrived followed by Greg and Rod from Victoria and last but not least Phillip from Vancouver who arrived in his usual style - under sail power.

Friday evening, as the sun started to set over Saltspring Island, the group gathered on the shell beach and talked about how the Enbridge Pipeline and our dependency on oil is influencing our lives. At times the conversation was quite animated but we all agreed that we need to think twice about what we do or consume that involves oil by-product,s especially from overseas.

The sun setting behind Saltspring Island

A great setting for debating how we live now.

Saturday was another glorious day but the wind forecast was another story. After breakfast, 6 of us headed out on a counter clockwise circumnavigation of the island by kayak and once we rounded Kanaka Bluff we were paddling head on into a stiff SE wind. Dan had decided to paddle in the opposite direction and we passed him at Princess Bay.  We all noted how many raccoons we had come across on the south end of the island  as they searched the low water shoreline for food.

Our Saturday morning paddle route.

Arriving back at camp the latest marine forecast called for a gale warning and sure enough it started to blow 35+ knots with gusts even higher! We all retreated to Dan’s MSR guide tarp which provided shelter from the wind while the potluck for 9 got underway.  Robyn surprised the group with a little game of chance (count the jelly beans) with the winner (Dan) receiving the coveted buff that Robyn won the year before. We are hoping that the buff will become a pay it forward item so it is now up to Dan to figure out how he will pass it on next year.

Dan's MSR guide tarp provided shelter from the wind during our potluck

Dan Millsip, the lucky winner of the coveted buff for 2014

Several times we checked our camps during dinner to make sure that the tents and tarps were secure. A couple of the exposed camps needed to have their tarps taken down as they were taking a pretty good beating in the wind.  The marine forecast for the following morning wasn't looking very good as I checked the 21:30 update on my iPad so the plan would be to bug out as early as possible depending on our window of opportunity.

Sunday morning we awoke to overcast skies and just a slight breeze and the 04:00 marine was now forecasting winds of 15-20 knots from the SW. The good thing was that we would be riding an ebb back to Swartz Bay but still the winds would be a factor. The rest of the campers were soon up after us and we all started the task of packing up and heading onto the water as soon as possible. It was just after 08:30 when we left the beach and headed down the west side of the island. Our little group of campers had once again made the trip to Portland Island and it was now time to say goodbye for another year.

It's 0830 and we are bugging out before the winds come again

As expected, the sea conditions around Brackman Island was a little confused due to wind and current but we pressed on toward Knapp Island. Once we reached the shadow of the islands the winds decreased and we adjusted our course for the ebb flow. We arrived back in Swartz Bay around 10:00 and were back home just after 11:30.

The weather probably played a big part in the lower attendance this year at the unofficial camp out as the original forecast was for rain and wind the whole weekend however, for us on Portland Island, we had lots of sun, a howling wind storm on Saturday night and only a sprinkle of rain in the early hours of Sunday. It was an awesome weekend for everyone who attended.

2014 Paddle #10,11,12  WCP 2014
Distance: 11.44 nm (21.18 km)
YTD: 62.32 nm (116.38 km)

1 comment:

  1. This was an event that I had my eye on. It came down to, heads for Portland Island, tails for Jordan River. When the coin landed on tails, I flipped it again. I am glad you guys had a great weekend and thanks for sharing this story and the pictures!