Monday, June 8, 2015

D'Arcy Island Get-a-way

Robyn had a great suggestion to help me through trying to write blog updates which have become a bit of a chore lately. She said "Why don't you just dictate it to your iPad or iPhone and then cut and paste the transcript when you get home?" Holy cow .... what a great idea so I tried it this past weekend updating each day while the events of the day were fresh in my mind.

On Friday we decided to head to D'Arcy Island for a single overnight since we really didn't have any plans to start the weekend. Launching out of Amherst Beach in Sidney at 2:15pm we crossed over to Sidney Island to follow the coastline down to D'Arcy. Checking the tides and currents we knew that we would be paddling against the incoming 2.91 knot flood and against a slight breeze but it wasn't anything that we couldn't handle. D,Arcy Island is one of our favorite southern Gulf Islands camping locations as most of the time we've been there hardly anyone else has.  Arriving just after 5:30pm we were shocked to find that there wasn't anyone else and we had our choice of the campsites.  We chose site #2 which is our favorite for the afternoon sun. The island was all ours for the evening! After setting up camp we settled in for some "happy hour" appies followed by a great dinner of pork chops and salad with trail mix cookies for dessert.

It doesn't get any better than this in the southern Gulf Islands. D'Arcy Island all to oursevlves for the moment.

Saturday morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning with a slight breeze coming from the southeast. Nothing starts the camping day off better than a hot cup of coffee so Robyn fired up our new Jetboil for the first time and it did a great job making our morning brew in about 3 1/2 minutes. Before breakfast we went for a walk to the point overlooking the bay of the campsite. From our vantage point we could see most of the southern end of the island which Robyn managed to capture on a panoramic setting.

Discovery Island in the distance ...... we are blessed to have the west coast as our playground.

Back at camp we had a great breakfast of bacon and poached eggs on cheese scones and then made our way up onto the grassy knoll to spend the rest of the day in the sun before heading home. A couple of times we seriously thought about staying another night but we had commitments that we needed to take care of on Sunday so our plan was to be on the water at 3:00pm.

I know that camping really shouldn't include social media or internet access but we posted a few Facebook teasers where we were and watched our Marine Traffic app to track the freighters making their way to and from Vancouver. Robyn then pointed out that the Cornelia Marie from Deadliest Catch was leaving Seattle and heading our way and soon would be passing between us and San Juan Island. Sure enough, just before we had to start packing, there she was steaming her way north towards Alaska for I think the King Salmon season.

We came around the corner from the campsite and there were more of the SMU students who just arrived. Time to go!

Just before we starting to pack up to leave I noticed a double kayak, and another, and another, and another, and another coming between D'Arcy and Little D'Arcy Islands. Our peaceful existence was about to change as a group of 40+ students from St. Michael's University in Victoria were descending on the campsite. Perfect timing ... they were coming and we were leaving!

On the water just after 3:00pm we caught the first of the flood current as we entered the pass between the two D'Arcy Islands. We decided to utilize flood current to paddle home but our route would be just a little different than the way we came. We crossed over to James Island with the goal of doing a little crab fishing and as we approached the sand bluffs on the south end we noticed a couple of whale sightseeing boats further north about a quarter-mile away. Could there be some sort of marine life viewing activity up there?

Suddenly we both heard the tell tale sign of a whale blowing and sure enough, straight ahead at less than 150 feet we saw two tall thin dorsal fins rise out of the water heading across our bows. It was one of those OH MY GOD moments as we frantically got our cameras ready and started filming and snapping pictures. It wasn't long before the whale boats also saw them and quickly started moving in our direction only to be disappointed as the Orca made a final blow and descended under the surface not to be seen again. For a few brief moments Robyn and I had the Orca all to ourselves and it was a very special time to share together.

After our Orca encounter we continued our way along James Island riding the rapidly increasing current as it took us past the James Island dock and through a mass of crab floats. Something caught my attention on the surface so I paddled towards it and came upon a female Dungeness crab that was on the surface swimming upside down. It was the darndest thing I have ever seen and I suspected that she was recently released from a crab trap but had air trapped inside her body that wouldn't allow her to sink. Double checking to make sure that it was a female and of legal size I scooped her up with my paddle blade and put her on my kayak deck to rest a bit. It didn't take long for her to scramble back into water and head back down to the bottom. 

So .... it was obvious there were crab here so we went to work baiting (salmon scraps) our new folding crab snare that we got at Capital Iron for $15. After only 10 minutes on the bottom I gave it a quick tug to close the trap like a purse and hauled it up. YIKES .... really? Crabs? Yes a couple of legal Red Rock males that we decided to keep for dinner on Sunday night. We are both ecstatic how the crab trap worked and would have loved to spend a couple of hours in search of larger Dungeness crabs but we needed to be heading on our way back to Sidney.

We arrived back at our put in point at Amherst Beach just after 5:30pm after a wonderful and exciting paddle home. We were only away for 24 hours but it was worth every minute.

2015 Paddle #20 - D'Arcy Island Get-a-way
Distance: 15.55 nm (28.79 km)
YTD: 176.26 nm (‪326.43 km)

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