Sunday, August 23, 2015

God's Pocket - 7 Days plus 1 (Part 4)

Day 5 - Wednesday July 15, 2015

Drip, drip, drip ..... the first sound of the morning as we woke up to rain and climbing out of the tent our camp was surrounded by fog as well. We had planned on heading towards Loquillilla Cove for the day but the weather was telling us otherwise. Making breakfast we listened to the latest weather report on the VHF radio and there was good and bad coming. The good was that it was going to be clearing as a high pressure ridge was going to slide down from Haida Gwaii. The bad was that it was going to get windy on Friday and Saturday .... really windy to the tune of 20 - 40 knots from the NW late each day.

Just as we were finishing breakfast the rain stopped and the fog started to lift teasing us with blue sky and whispering clouds. Time to load up the kayaks and continue with our plans to head up Goletas Channel and follow the shoreline of Nigei Island to Loquillilla Cove. 

A change in the weather is coming as we set out on our quest for a small creek located at Loquillilla Cove.

Lately I have been thinking about Alaska and I remember saying to Robyn that it is just up there :-)

I paddled off shore to capture this image of our
kayaks dwarfed by the cliff face.
Unlike the shorelines that we have paddled on this trip thus far, the south end of Nigei Island is a perfect example of the geographic diversity at the northern end of Vancouver Island.

Massive cliffs with exposed sea caves greeted us at low tide as we headed west to our destination. We did a little bit of exploring on the way there but wanted to take advantage of the remaining ebb to carry us along. There would be plenty of time on the way back to explore but first we wanted to make sure that we reached Loquillilla Cove to find the water source to fill up our dromedary's and most importantly, my shower bag!

Just before entering Loquillilla Cove, Gary and Jane spotted a humpback whale that surfaced just behind Robyn and I and it kept our streak of daily humpback whale sightings intact.

Stan and Jane enjoying lunch while the others are exploring.
Loquillilla Cove is a wonderful place to visit and it would also make a great camping destination. Sheltered from the prevailing NW winds it has a very large crescent moon beach of fine pebbles with a small creek located at the NE corner.

As the group started lunch I decided to set my crab trap. So far on this trip I haven't had much success trying to catch the elusive crustaceans but I thought that maybe this cove might be the perfect location.

The view looking at Vancouver Island in the distance. A pretty location to visit if you are in the area.

"Gary .... there's the perfect place for a skinny dip" :-)
After lunch we went on the search for water and although the creek does babble into the cove we needed to hike into the forest a bit until we found some deeper pools that would make filling our water containers easier.

Gray and Jane had other plans like having a good wash with fresh water.

Cool, clear water ... water... water
Nice clean flowing water to fill my shower bag. It was going to be worth hauling the 20 liters back to camp and all I could think about was the nice warm shower that I would have the next day.

Arriving back on the beach our friends from Vancouver had just arrived from their trip to Vansittart Island. They too had listened to the weather report and decided to "bug out" rather than running the risk of being weathered in up there. Chris told us they saw breaching humpback whales as well as orca and lots of sea otters.  Robyn ... we have to go there next time!!

It was time for us to head back onto the water and just in time as the winds started to pick up considerably. But first I had to check on my crab trap. Once again ..... nothin!! Maybe they just don't exist in these clean natural conditions??

Up to this point on the trip we had been blessed with sightings of so many different species of wildlife but one in particular hadn't been spotted. I'm talking about the adorable sea otter that we have seen on the west coast of the island. Paddling back towards camp we noticed something ahead of us frolicking on the surface and it could only be one thing. Our first (and only) sea otter! 

'Whatcha doin out here all by yourself buddy?'

The increasing wind made the our paddle back to camp a little sloppy but thankfully it was coming from behind us and with the flood direction. The paddle up to Loquillilla Cove took 2 hours but the return trip only took 1.25 hours in comparison. My appreciation of how the water and wind interact with each other at the north end of the island increased on this trip. Although God's Pocket is only a stone's throw away from Port Hardy, using the currents and wind to your advantage is key to paddling in the area.

Just after arriving back at camp 3 ladies arrived and set up camp at the alternate kitchen location. Talking with them later they told us that they were from the Sunshine Coast (Gibson's) and were planning on doing a little touring much like we had done the past few days. Hmmm .... the forecast might have a say in that.

Lazing around camp the rest of the afternoon I set up my shower using our bear cache pulley system and couldn't wait for the next day when it was warm. It was a little cool especially with the wind starting to blow but it sure beat the salt water sponge baths that I had been relying on so far.

The little bonsai tree across from our camp. 

Chris and his group arrived back at Nolan Point and after a discussion with them they decided to head to Bell Island for the night. They were concerned with the wind forecast for the next couple of days and wanted to get closer to Port Hardy just in case.

The Vancouver group heads to Bell Island

A couple of nights ago I woke up to a lot of blowing and trashing in the water and now I put 2 and 2 together as a very large pod of orca made it's way past Jerome Island. What I had heard was orca in the middle of the night coming very close to our camp. I should have got up and checked it out huh?

This pod was made up of at least 20 individuals and they were heading towards Christie Passage following the eddy line where we have seen the humpback feeding the last few days. There was lots of tail slapping, spy hopping and I'm pretty sure we even spotted a very very young baby in the pod. Very cool!!!

A pretty amazing day. You can even call it a trifecta with humpback, sea otter and orca's being seen the same day!!!

2015 Paddle #27 - Loquillilla Cove Water Run
Distance: 11.90 nm (22.03 km)
YTD: 231.53 nm (‪428.79 km)

Day 6 - Thursday July 16, 2015

Our last day before heading back to civilization and since there wasn't a group paddle planned, Robyn and I decided to hike along the shoreline at low tide to the end of Nolan Point. The high pressure system was establishing itself on the north coast and it provided beautiful clear skies with a gentle breeze to start the day.

The view from Nolan Point, Jerome Island on the left, Lucan Islands at center and our campsite on the point on the right.

From the same location behind us looking east are the Noble Islets and Duncan Island with Vancouver Island on the right.

The east side of Nolan Point is a catch basin for driftwood and we soon discovered other man-made items that have made their way to the shores of BC.

There have been a lot of reports of debris from the 2011 Japan tsunami on the west coast of Vancouver Island and it only makes sense that some items will or have made their way to the east coast of the island.

We found the usual suspects of fishing floats, Crocs, a few plastic water bottles and then I came across this pallet that I believe has Japanese writing on it. Did it come from the tsunami? Who knows but with the massive debris field that is circulating in the Pacific Ocean I'm sure we will come across more and more items in the future.

On our way back to camp we spotted Gary and Jane heading out to explore the under water life at low tide.

And Stan and Paula were also exploring the shoreline taking in the spectacular views.

After lunch Robyn and I headed out to once again try to catch a salmon. It would have made the perfect final dinner for the group but we had no luck other than catching several rockfish that were only bite size and not worth keeping.

I made Robyn a hand-line for the trip and she managed to catch a few rock fish on it so we know the rig works well. I can't wait to see when she hooks a larger fish like a 5-10 pound salmon. That should be fun!

Robyn's first catch on her hand-line. Pan size and perfect for two but not a big enough meal for the group. This one went back.

Back at camp the predicted afternoon NW winds started to increase and we checked the updated weather report on the VHF radio. It looked like we would have a window of opportunity to "bug out" of camp early the next morning when the winds would be light so we made plans to be on the water just after 7:00 am. Keeping the humpback whale sighting string intact, we spotted one on the backside of Jerome Island as it was feeding along with sea gulls and many of the eagles that we have seen the last several days.

Gary and Jane made dinner consisting of spaghetti bolognese followed by apple crumble for dessert and then we went to work disassembling the kitchen and loading the kayaks of non essential items to assist us in expediting our departure in the morning.

The feeding frenzy for sea gulls, eagles and a humpback whale.

Day 7 - Friday July 17, 2015

Robyn and I were awake just before 6:00 am and I checked the forecast which was calling for 10-15 NW for the next few hours before rising to 25-30 early in the afternoon. It was time to get moving so after a quick breakfast we moved the partially loaded kayaks closer to the waterline using Gary's hauling straps.

Time to load up .... the wind is starting to pick up and there are white caps showing beyond Jerome Island

Fully loaded and ready to go we watched as the wind against current started to change the sea state considerably and as a group, we made the decision to stand down. We wouldn't be leaving today unless the winds miraculously dropped.

We watched the waves build while the kayaks were packed and ready to go. 

Once the decision was made that we wouldn't be leaving God's Pocket, we hauled the fully loaded kayaks back up the beach using Gary's straps. (Thank you Gary for bringing the straps!!!)  With the six of us, moving the kayaks was relatively easy and it saved the task of unpacking everything to get the kayaks up to the headland.

Packed and ready. Now we just have to hang around and wait.

Jane passed the time napping :-)

Hey! We have hammocks ... perfect napping devices.

Later in the day I spent some time trying to balance rocks in the 25-30 knot winds. Talk about a challenge! Many only lasted minutes but a few managed to hang around long enough to get a camera for some pictures.

It was pretty obvious from the afternoon weather report that we wouldn't be leaving today so we set up our tents and went to work on planning dinner. Robyn and I had brought a 3 day supply for 2 of dehydrated meals consisting of pulled pork, black beans and rice which meant that we could feed the group tonight.

Big winds in the afternoon meant we would need another plan for the next day.

After dinner the group decided that we would get up at 3:00 am the following day which would allow us to be on the water at first light (4:30 am) which also was the slack water time. The wind was predicted to be 5-15 from the NW so with the slack tide we might be able to arrive back in Port Hardy for breakfast at Captain Hardy's by 8:00 am! LOL

Day 7 +1 - Saturday July 18, 2015

3:00 am, dark and the wind is still blowing. I scrambled out of the tent with my headlamp and met Stan and Paula heading into camp. After a brief discussion it was pretty obvious that we weren't going anywhere fast so it was back to bed.

6:00 am and I woke up to .... very little wind!! I scrambled out of the tent with my VHF radio and binoculars and walked to the viewpoint at the end of our campsite. The wind forecast was now 10-15 NW increasing later this morning and from what I could see beyond the eddy line which was now showing the effects of winds against current, the water was showing only the occasional breaking wave.

The past couple of years Robyn and I have worked hard to develop not only our paddling skills but we have also developed what we think are pretty good leadership skills for situations like this. It was time to put them to work so we woke the rest of the group and explained to them that we had a window of opportunity to attempt crossing Goletas Channel back to Vancouver Island.

We could sense a little bit of apprehension but part of our plan was to first get on the water and then paddle out to the eddy line just beyond Jerome Island to get a better look. Launching just after 7:00 am the low marine cloud was obscuring our view of Vancouver Island but we could see enough of the shoreline 1.5 nm in the distance. The wind was estimated to about 5-10 NW and the sea state was averaging a 2-3 foot chop with occasional breaks from some of the larger sets. Plotting a course of 180 degrees our goal would be to paddle across the channel to small beach which on our charts indicated a possible water source. I estimated that if we were to paddle at a moderate pace we should be able to reach the other side of the channel in about 30 minutes.

Consulting with the rest of the group as to how they felt about attempting the crossing we received a "Go" so Robyn and I took positions on either side of the rest of the group and we headed out into the channel. Paddling along in close proximity the group did an amazing job and I noticed how silent everyone was which tends to naturally happen when the conditions become a bit of a concern.

Lumpy conditions but the group presses on across Goletas Channel

Time flew by quickly as I mentioned to the group that we were now more than half way across and I could see the eyes of a black bear on the beach ahead. Of course there wasn't a black bear on the beach and if there was we certainly wouldn't have been able to see it's eyes but it got the group talking making fun of the nonexistent bear on the beach.

The next thing we knew we were out of the main flow of the channel and we entered the small cove of the beach which also provided shelter from the wind. The crossing took only 35 minutes which meant we were paddling at a pretty good pace of about 3 knots in conditions that were a bit of a challenge. An awesome job done by everyone and I think we all felt a sense of relief now that we had reached Vancouver Island, and no, there's weren't any black bears to greet us!

Stan and Paula complete the crossing into calmer water.

Sure enough, the little beach had a water source which was a waterfall a bit further back in the forest.

Now that we had crossed Goletas Channel all we had to do is put in a few miles of paddling to reach Port Hardy. In the case of the condition's deteriorating we had a number of locations we could stop if need be and the first one was Songhees Creek 2.5 nm east of our location. Although the main current flow was ebbing to the west we experienced a back eddy flowing our direction so we essentially were being pulled along towards Port Hardy in wind with current conditions. Nice!!

Landing at Songhees Creek for a rest stop.

A large expansive area that has good camping opportunities if weathered in.

Landing at Songhees Creek we were greeted by a paddler from Bellingham who with his group were attempting to paddle around Cape Scott. They had launched out of Port Hardy the day before and had run into the high winds as they entered Goletas Channel. They had spent the night on Duval Island before heading to Songhees Creek battling the back eddy that we had arrived on.

After launching from Songhees Creek we hugged the shoreline and made our way to Duval Island before entering the confined waters of Port Hardy Bay just in time for the winds to increase from behind us. The water out beyond Duval Point gradually turned dark with breaking whitecaps just as predicted. It looks like our group made the right decision to leave when we had the opportunity.

Port Hardy in the distance, wind and current with us and nothing but beautiful sunshine to greet us.

It was a great 7 + 1 days of exploring God's Pocket with Stan & Paula Ball, Jane & Gary Jacek and of course my honey Robyn. Now it's time to start planning for our next adventure on the west coast in September.

Loaded up and ready for the long drive home. 

2015 Paddle #28 - The Journey Home
Distance: 10.66 nm (19.74 km)
YTD: 242.19 nm (‪448.53 km)

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