Sunday, June 8, 2014

Discovery Island Just A Different Way

It just wasn't supposed to be a typical kayak camping trip. Different kayaks, a different route and certainly different paddling conditions to assess our decision making and paddling skills to date. Our destination was the Discovery Island Marine Park was familiar but for this trip we decided to use our P&H Delphins and launch from the Oak Bay Marina. Our reasoning was simple. After using our Delta 15.5 Expeditions as our tripping kayaks for the past couple of years, we needed to test our Delphins as tripping kayaks in preparation for our upcoming Paddle Canada Level 2 & 3 certifications.  

After completing a pre-pack of the Delphins earlier in the week we confirmed that our camping kit and supplies would all fit in the kayaks. One thing for sure is that a Delphin is more like a VW Beetle compared to what we call the Delta's .... our mini vans because they haul so much gear. Every nook and cranny in the Delphins were used and other than our Watershed Ocoee bags which were attached to the decks everything else made its way into the hatches.

Final suit up begins as the fully loaded P&H Delphins are ready for the trip.

For quite some time I had been curious how a fully loaded Delphin might perform and on this trip the conditions that they would be tested in were perfect for assessing that. The marine forecast was for clear skies with winds SW 15-20 late in the day and monitoring the conditions throughout the day there was a window of opportunity for us to at least launch and test the Delphin's stability. Making it to Discovery Island would only happen if the conditions were right.

As in all of our planning, I build a series of  'Go, No Go' decision points as the paddle progresses and today this would be put to the greatest test to date. Leaving the sheltered marina we headed out towards the Chain Islands which were the mid point to Discovery Island. Passing Mary Todd Island we entered Mayor Channel into a SW 3 foot chop with cresting tops coming from our starboard side. This combined with an increasing flood from the same direction got my attention really fast as we made our way to Great Chain Island. For the first time in our paddling adventures I was about to call a 'No Go' and return to the launch point.

But .... assessing the conditions ahead of us in Plumper Passage there was no evidence of whitecaps so WE made the decision to press on to the last of the Chain Islets. Other than a really good wind assisted flood which was coming directly from behind us we literally surfed our way across the passage to Discovery Island doing just over 5 knots! Our original plan when reaching Discovery was to turn right and paddle around Commodore Point into the BC Marine Park Campground in Rudlin Bay but the point was awash with breaking whitecaps. Another 'No Go' decision as we opted to surf our way into the shallows between the Chatham and Discovery Islands.

Making our way around the east side of  Discovery Island the winds were calm and the water was absolutely flat but as we approached the lighthouse at Sea Bird Point I knew that would all change really fast. And it did! Making the turn directly into the 20 kt SW winds with flood the last 10 minutes of paddling would be our greatest physical test to date. The fact that we had to paddle through a kelp bed didn't help but we pressed on and entered the confined shelter bay of the marine park and we were a bit surprised to find the campground completely empty. I really wished that I had the GoPro on for this crossing as it would have made for some great pictures and video.

The sea state off Commodore Point just after our landing. The picture doesn't do justice of how windy it was when we arrived.

After setting up camp it was getting close to 8:00 pm as we prepared a dinner of fish tacos and the wind didn't let up. In fact it howled all night and I for one was thankful that I brought my earplugs as I didn't hear a peep until 7:00 am the next morning.

Robyn ... One happy camper that we made it safely to the campsite. Time for dinner!

The next day we woke to brilliant sunshine and with just a slight breeze and we were expecting that we would have guests arriving throughout the day. The Ocean River Discovery Shuttle  and the South Island Sea Kayaking Association (SISKA) were sure to be coming to the island today so just after breakfast we headed out for a walk to the lighthouse with a slight detour to find a nearby Geocache.

Robyn retrieves our supplies from the food cache for breakfast. No wind in the mornings.

The Discovery Island Lighthouse is now deserted having been fully automated in 1996

Established in 1886 the Discovery Island lighthouse was manned for 110 years before being automated in 1996. The buildings have been left to deteriorate and there is evidence of vandalism in most of the buildings. This lighthouse facility would make a fabulous museum instead of letting it disappear from BC's maritime history.

A view from the lighthouse of the kelp bed that we paddled through the night before in heavy seas.

Just after we arrived back at camp the Ocean River Discovery Shuttle came into the bay with a full load of customers. To our surprise the tour actually paddled around the island and not just in bay. What a great day to paddle around the island for these lucky tourists!

The Ocean River Discovery Shuttle with a full load of kayaks and passengers

Not long after the SISKA paddlers also arrived and we spent some time talking with our fellow club members. Suddenly our quiet little campsite became very busy for a few hours.

The SISKA paddlers land on the beach for their lunch break.

A popular place to visit today

And then it was quiet again.

After everyone left we went for a walk to Commodore Point via the inner island trail which we have never done before. Such a beautiful trail and we kept a close eye out for the wolf which we never did see.

Arriving at the point we noticed a lot of activity heading our way from the Chain Islands. To our surprise the Island Iron 18 km outrigger race was taking place today and we had front row seats as they passed by us.

The Ocean River Paddling Club chases down the competition from False Creek

The outriggers pass our camp and round Sea Bird Point with a freighter nearby.

On the way back to camp we noticed a plaque on a rock face obscured by blackberry vines. It was erected in 1972 by the Boy Scouts of Canada in memory of Captain E.G. Beaumont who lived on the island from 1918 to 1967. After he died he passed on his share of the island to the Province of BC who in turn made it a park in 1972.

A nice honor from the Boy Scouts of Canada

Lots of eagles rode the wind currents around the camp

Saturday afternoon the winds returned and we took shelter in the tent not long after the sun set around 9:00 pm. The forecast for Sunday was much the same as Saturday with light winds in the morning. Waking up at around 5:30 am we had breakfast and decided to take advantage of the slack tide so we were on the water by 8:30 am heading back to Oak Bay.

While loading up the kayaks we finally heard the Discovery Island wolf howling just beyond the campsite. This was the first time that we had ever heard a wolf and it was amazing as well as very eerie. You just had a sense that it was being made by a very large animal.

The paddle back to the Oak Bay Marina was as expected with very little current running through the Chain Islands. We actually decided that we prefer our usual route from 10 Mile Point to Discovery Island for a number of reasons. Still it was a great weekend of further exploring our paddling and decision making abilities.

Almost back at the marina, Robyn pauses with the Olympic mountains and Victoria Golf Club in the background.

2014 Paddle #15 &16  Discovery Island
Distance: 7.39 nm(13.68 km)
YTD: 77.82 nm (145.04 km)

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