Friday, June 19, 2015

Portland Island - The Unofficial Westcoast Paddler Camp Out

It was a good thing that we decided not to head to Portland Island on Thursday evening as mid summer wind storm hit south coast that night.  Instead we decided to get up early on Friday morning and paddle over to Portland Island for our first cup of coffee. The wind had subsided overnight and the glorious sunshine was once again bringing warmth and calm conditions for to us. Since we were getting an early start to the day we took a chance and drove to the Swartz Bay government dock in hopes of finding a parking spot. To our surprise there were several empty spots available which meant that our paddle to Portland Island would be shortened by about half an hour.

Ready to launch at the Swartz Bay government dock early Friday morning. Time to paddle to Portland Island for coffee!

Launching just after 9:00am we were able to take advantage of the turn to flood that would carry us all the way to Arbutus Point on the north end of Portland Island. Leaving from Swartz Bay really cuts the transit time down as we landed just after 10:30am after a leisurely paddle with little wind.

Passing Shell Beach which had no signs of campers.

Approaching Arbutus Point it looked like our campground was completely empty until we landed and started to explore the upland where we found Philip Torrens who was just finishing breakfast. Philip arrived the evening before under sail and told us that the wind wasn't that bad at this location on Haro Straight. It turns out that the highest winds missed the tip of the Saanich Peninsula and we could have attempted the paddle the evening before.

Robyn and Philip enjoying the sunshine and getting caught up with what has happened over the past year.

After setting up camp and having breakfast we spent the rest of the day just relaxing in the sun chatting with Philip as other kayakers arrived. The thing about this annual camp out is that you never know who is coming so it becomes a bit of a waiting game to see who might show up. Sheila and Neil landed at around 3:00pm followed by Yves and Patti of Go Kayak along with Michel closer to dinner time.

Sheila and Neil arrive

Followed by Yves, Patti and Michel

The Friday evening sun worshipers

We gathered on the beach after dinner and watched the sun set through the clouds over Salt Spring Island like a fiery volcano. Sunsets at Arbutus Point are always spectacular which makes it one of our favorite places to camp.

Friday evening sunset over Salt Spring Island

Looking like a album cover of an 80"s band in the Saturday morning sunshine

Shell Beach... empty mid day Saturday
Saturday morning we woke early to clear skies with brisk north winds. Yves and Patti joined us for a hike around the island while the others decided to relax back in camp. At Shell Beach we spotted a kayak heading towards the north end of the island so it looked like our little band of campers would be getting bigger later in the day. Arriving back at camp we spent the rest of the day soaking up the sun on the little shell beach as Rod arrived with word that Joanne and Doug were not far behind. Doug is a relatively new kayak camper (like first time) and it was fun to watch him unload his gear for a single overnight. It brought fond memories back to when Robyn and I arrived at the 2012 WCP camp out for our first time. Back then we brought everything including the kitchen sink and on this trip, so did Doug. LOL

Soon it was time to start preparing for the pot luck dinner and it has been our custom to provide a big plate of scallops and bacon. As usual there was tons of food to go around. Normally the camp out happens in April and we all huddle under Dan Millsip's big top tent to keep warm :-) but being June we had dinner on the beach instead.

We also had a birthday to celebrate as Sheila turned 24 :-) so we all sang happy birthday to her and then had individual bite size chocolate cupcakes that Rod brought. Haaaaaapppy Birthday Sheila!

Joanne brought Sheila a birthday gift which every paddler should have. John Kimantas' "The BC Coast Explorer" Volume 2 which covers the south coast of Vancouver Island, from Bamfield to Comox Harbour including the West Coast Trail, the Juan de Fuca Trail, Greater Victoria, Saanich Peninsula, the Gulf Islands, Bellenas-Winchelsea Archipelago, Denman and Hornby Islands and finally Comox Harbour.

Philip preaches to the wild coast campers! LOL
Once again Philip provided the entertainment for the evening showing off his Exped DreamWalker summer version sleeping bag. This isn't your ordinary sleeping bag as it can be morphed into a short jacket, vest or whatever you want it to be.

For those who have never heard the story before, he then told the tail of being almost eaten alive by a polar bear while trying to paddle through the northwest passage a number of years ago. Trapped inside his tent with another paddler, a polar bear picked him up by his foot only to be scared off when his companion fired off a blast from their shotgun through the tent. There are not too many people alive who can say that their foot was in a polar bear's mouth and who managed to live to tell about it. Philip has been there and done that!

Joanne had to depart after dinner so we watched her paddle off into the setting sun.

Another magical setting sun ends the day.

They were there, but only a couple of well behaved ones.
After the sun set behind Salt Spring Island the group dispersed to their tents after a wonderful day. The weekend was ending and once again our group would be disbanding until next year.

Sunday morning we woke to the best day yet with only a very slight breeze coming from the north. Our plan was to be on the water around 10:00am so that we could catch the last of the ebb back towards Swartz Bay. After saying our goodbyes for another year, we joined Sheila and Neil for the paddle along the eastern shoreline to our put in location. It was another great West Coast Paddler camp out and we can't wait for the 2016 gathering. I think June is waaaaay better than April. Just sayin ;-)

Almost back at the put in, Sheila and Neil pass by the ferries at Swartz Bay.

2015 Paddle #21 - Westcoast Paddler Camp Out
Distance: 7.64 nm (14.15 km)
YTD: 183.90 nm (‪340.58 km)

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