Friday, August 5, 2016

San Juan Expedition Part 4

The Patos Island Waiting Game - Thursday May 5th (Day #7)

The one thing about wind forecasts is that they usually tend to be correct around here and sure enough ours was. After finally falling asleep after a long day I woke up in the middle of the night only to hear the winds starting to rustle the trees around our little protected campsite. Great ..... Not!

The Holland America Rotterdam passes by Patos Island

Although we had nice clear skies the NW wind was blowing 25-30 kt which meant that we weren’t going anywhere this morning. Instead we decided that we would hike around the island and go visit the Patos Lighthouse National Park Monument and do a little geocaching too. We did watch a cruise ship come up Boundary Passage heading towards Vancouver through some pretty big seas. We even saw a BC Ferry on the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route detour around Saturna Island as we heard the conditions near Active Pass were pretty bad on this day.

Sitting around camp after breakfast we were watching the interaction of the wind and water when Lynn called out “whales”. Sure enough just off shore a pair of mature orca and a baby were passing by and the little fella put on a bit of a show breaching every so often. After paddling so far through the San Juan Islands we were a little disappointed not to have seen any whales up to this point so this was a special treat for us.

Mom and baby

Mom tail slapping

The baby puts on a show.

After the whale show we headed to the lighthouse to check out the buildings and to see what the conditions were like off Alden Point. Walking through the forest we arrived at the lighthouse passing by the old foundations of buildings that once were the home to the lighthouse keeper and his family. By the time we reached the point we had the full force of the winds blowing in our faces as the flood tide was interacting with the wind creating a huge tide race. One thing for sure was that we wouldn’t be paddling in these conditions any time soon and we started thinking that we might be staying on Patos Island for a few days.

Walking the trail to the lighthouse

An enormous tide race off Alden Point

The girls capturing a selfie

In the distance a container ship enters Boundary Passage

For a little bit more history on the Patos Island Lighthouse please visit this link HERE

Continuing on our way we completed the hike around the east side of the island and located one of the geocaches and then followed the trail through dense under growth that took us back to our campsite on the west side of the island. Lunch and siesta time was enjoyed in the warm sun as we sheltered ourselves under a rocky shelf at the campsite.

Kari finds the geocache

Michael checks out one of the items in the cache. 

Back at camp Michael does some reading

Kari reading while I'm fast asleep LOL

Later in the afternoon we decided to head back to the lighthouse for another look at the conditions because the long range forecast was calling for the winds to diminish late in the afternoon. What we were really looking for is how the slack tide would start to look like as the winds dropped near dinner time. With any luck …..

Sure enough the wind was dropping and after checking all available information via the internet and VHF radio we decided to break camp and be ready to leave at around 5pm. One last check of the 4:30pm Environment Canada Marine Report and we decided to head out and make a run across Boundary Passage towards Saturna Island.

Our original thoughts during the trip were to maybe make it to Tumbo Island off East Point but with the NW winds and the slack just starting to turn to an ebb it clearly became evident that this wasn't possible. Even though the winds were becoming lighter we did experience some significant rip tides which made the crossing a little interesting but thankfully we didn’t have to contend with any tanker or container ships. I stuck with Robyn and Kari while Michael stuck with Lynn through the bumpiest part of crossing and we even had a pod of porpoise playing in the rips that we paddled through.

Entering the protected water of Narvaez Bay 

Finally, in the wind shadow of Saturna Island we paddled into Narvaez Bay just before 7:30pm and began hauling our gear up the trail to the campground. After being spoiled with the Washington State Park system of well serviced campgrounds I felt a bit shell shocked establishing camp at this Parks Canada Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. This was the first time that Robyn and I had come to this campground that is situated on a really pretty point in Narvaez Bay but the camping area is placed well back from the point. We found three tent designated areas right near the visitor kiosk and for some reason there are also two picnic tables jammed right up to it. All this open space in the park yet the camping area is packed together like a mini tent city.

Our 3 tents in sites and the picnic tables at Narvaez Bay that are crowed around the visitor kiosk.
One has to wonder what the PCGINPR was thinking when establishing this site??

 After establishing camp Robyn and I went to work on making the group dinner which we enjoyed as the last bit of sunlight left our camp.  As for the outhouse …. Well it certainly had a lot to be desired compared to being spoiled the past week but it was an outhouse (less toilet paper) but it still beats digging a cat hole anytime. LOL After another long day I think we all slept very, very well that night back home in Canada! Hey! .... We still need to check in!!

2016 Paddle #22 - Patos Island to Canada
Distance: 6.20 nm (11.48 km)
Trip: 59.23 nm (109.69 km)
YTD: 205.12 nm (379.88 km)

Note: More pictures of the entire San Juan Islands trip can be found by following the link HERE

1 comment:

  1. Great trip report and pictures Mark. The San Juan Islands are now very much on my radar. Thanks,