Tuesday, July 28, 2015

God's Pocket - 7 Days plus 1 (Part 1)

Travel Day - July 10, 2015

Our first time in the Port Hardy. A lot quieter than I thought it would be
After travelling all day from Victoria to Port Hardy (500km) our group consisting of Gary and Jane Jacek, Stan and Paula Ball along with Robyn and I met up at the North Shore Inn located in Port Hardy in time for our 6pm dinner reservations at the Quarterdeck Pub. 

The special for the night was prime rib so we made it easy for the waitress by ordering a half dozen for our last supper in civilization while we watched eagles fly around the marina in numbers like we see seagulls at home. We discussed some last minute planning details before adjourning to our hotel which reminded me of a nearly defunct ski hill establishment from the 1950’s.

One would have thought that for $135 the rooms would at least have the right amount of coaxial cables so the TV would work or have air conditioning. We resolved both issues simply by not watching TV (reading) and opening the barely operable sliding door to the sloped deck. What the heck ... the parking of our vehicles was free for the time we were going to be away so maybe it was a good deal? The next morning we wouldn't have to be concerned with such amenities as we would be heading to God’s Pocket Marine Park.

Day 1 – July 11, 2015

We woke up to overcast skies with only a hint of rain as our little band of travellers headed to Captain Hardy’s for a full breakfast before attending to the task of packing our kayaks. Our goal was to be on the water before 11:00am to take advantage of high tide for loading and the turn to ebb that would carry us towards our destination. 

How the heck is all this stuff going to fit in the kayaks?? Well it did with room to spare.

Packing went as expected and once again we were amazed that we managed to squeeze everything in the kayaks (including the watermelon) with room to spare. You just gotta love the Delta Kayak 15.5's Expeditions for this reason. The forecast was for light SE winds with possible showers and visibility of around 10 miles. Perfect conditions to head to our planned first stop on Balaclava Island and set up camp but we had to get there first. Gary took on the role of paddle leader for this portion of the trip as this was his (along with Stan and Paula's) third time here. Robyn, Jane and I were simply along for the ride at this point and I was content just to absorb our environment.

Crossing from Duval to Duncan Island in easy paddling conditions ...... this time ;-)

Launching ahead of schedule we made our way along the west shoreline of Port Hardy Bay to Duval Island to reassess the conditions before committing to the crossing of Goletas Channel to Duncan Island 3 nm in the distance. The relatively calm conditions made me wonder what the participants of the Race to Alaska experienced over a month ago battling 30-40 knots NW wind as they tried to traverse this narrow passage. Our crossing was nothing more than an opportunity to soak in the rugged beauty of the northern end of Vancouver Island until we reached Duncan Island where we caught sight of a fairly large fish farm that was not only looking out of place but generating enough noise to disturb the tranquil quietness that we were paddling in.

The first time we have seen a salmon farm. It just seemed out of place in such beautiful settings. 

Our destination was now less than 3 nm away as we paddled past Blyth Island and Noble Islets in light showers sighting several harbour porpoise along the way. Arriving at Nolan Point on Balaclava Island we noticed that the primary campsite on the point was already occupied so we landed in one of the sheltered coves to scope out our camping opportunities.

Camp Nolan, site #2
Gary spoke with the group already on site (from Vancouver) and found out that they would be leaving in a couple of days so we selected the alternate campsite just across the dry creek bed which had an established kitchen and seating area. It had everything we needed including big cedars to pitch our tents under, a common area (the kitchen) and we even had our own private little beach with a pretty nice view.

Shelter... bring on the rain and it did!
After setting up our tent and getting out of our dry suits, Robyn and I went to work on tarpology for the kitchen and dining room. You can never have enough rope or carabiners when it comes to camp craft and when you add a couple of collapsible poles and a few greenland paddles the whole thing comes together nicely. While hustling around we heard the telltale blowing sound of a whale and sure enough we got our first glimpse of a humpback whale just beyond Jerome Island.

From L to R: Myself and Robyn, Jane and Gary, Stan and Paula

Robyn and I cooked up a batch of scallops and bacon for appetizers followed by pork chops with mushroom sauce and salad for the main entre. We tend to like cooking fresh for the first couple of days but after the success of Robyn's dehydrated meals on this trip we are going to rethink that for the future.

Our beach front view. Photo by Gary Jacek

It's all about balance in life
I spent part of the evening showing rocks how to defy gravity. It's become a bit of a passion lately as it challenges myself to be patient while pushing the envelope a bit on getting multiple rocks to balance on each other with the least amount of contact.

Robyn suggested that I create a new Facebook page dedicated to my art and you can see more of my creations here. Gecko Paddler's Mosaic

Tomorrow would be our first day trip in the area and we were excited as to what we would experience. We sort of had a bucket list which included humpback whales (fairly close-up), orca and of course sea otters.

The last thing I remembered before closing my iPad book was how light it stays this far north of home. Even at 10:30pm there wasn't a need to use a flashlight around camp.

2015 Paddle #24 - Port Hardy to Balaclava Island
Distance: 9.97 nm (18.46 km)
YTD: 199.37 nm (‪369.23 km)

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