Friday, August 26, 2016

San Juan Expedition Part 5

Oh It’s Good to Be Back Home Again – Friday May 6th (Day #8)

Oh Canada! Surprise, surprise ….. howling NW winds coming through the Narvaez Bay campground as we woke up. LOL Before deciding about when to start heading towards Bedwell Harbour on Pender Island we decided after breakfast to hike up the Monarch Head bluff and assess the wind before making a decision.

The view from the bluff was pretty spectacular and it was great to get a panoramic of where we had traveled over the past several days. I think for me personally this was the first time that I looked at the San Juan Islands and didn’t think of them as some mysterious paddling destination of many unknowns. They had been our home, place of refuge and I knew that some day we would return to further explore their waterways and islands that are so close to Victoria.

 We were just there ... L to R Patos Island, Mt. Baker and Sucia Island and ...
a ship that we didn't have to play Frogger with LOL

Looking towards Sidney Island with a freighter rounding Stuart Island. Some pretty good rip tides too! 

From the bluff the winds off shore were still blowing fairly decently but we felt that we could paddle along the shoreline towards Taylor Point before crossing Plumper Sound to the Pender Islands. On the way back to camp we stopped at the picturesque point near the campsite and spotted our first humpback whale on the trip surfacing several hundred feet away. We also managed to locate one of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve's Top Ten Caches (GC2XHJK - Best place to meditate) that the GINPR staff activated back in 2011.

A humpback whale in Narvaez Bay

The San Juan Expedition crew L to R: Mark, Kari, Robyn, Michael and Lynn

Launching at noon we rounded Monarch Head and found ourselves slogging our way through a strong head wind and with a flood current as we passed Cactus Point. Only less that 100 feet from the shoreline it became obvious that we weren’t getting anywhere fast as the wind gusted stopping our forward progress. Michael decided to tow Lynn and they started to make good progress so I decided to in-line tow Kari and Robyn and slowly we started making some head way towards the little sheltered beach at Taylor Point. Out of all the paddling that we had done up to this point on the trip I found this to be the most challenging from a physical perspective. Traveling at just about 1nm per hour we finally reached Taylor Point almost 2 hours later and I was totally exhausted.

The beach at Taylor Point. Only 2 nm away is Cactus Point and it took us 2 hours to get here.

While the group was resting on the beach Michael paddled around the point to check out the conditions in Plumper Sound and returned with good news that the winds weren’t as bad. Continuing on our way we crossed the sound and into Port Browning, through the cut and to the Poet’s Cove Marina / Resort & Spa to check in with Canada Customs. We let Robyn make the call to the customs officer by telephone (who knows where) advising the gentlemen on the other end of the line that we were 5 kayakers returning into Canada. His only comments were if we were bringing anything illegal back into the country and then provided his badge number to us as our form of clearance into the country. It was that easy!!  LOL

Heading towards the cut between South and North Pender Islands

Lynn points out a Canada Customs sign or just common sense?

Poet's Cove Marina and Syrens Marine Pub close by to calling Canada Customs

Nothing tastes better than the first meal back in civilization!

Since we were already at the marina we decided to have dinner and drinks at Syrens Marine Pub, bought some off sales beer and then proceeded to head across the cove to Beaumont Park to set up camp. Beaumont was a nice surprise as it is situated in a little protected bay and there was only one other couple there. We set up camp in a clearing in the trees while defending ourselves from the hungry mosquitoes.  Sleep came easy that night not a breath of wind to disturb us.

2016 Paddle #23 - Narvaez Bay (Saturna Island) to Beaumont Park (South Pender Island)
Distance: 10.00 nm (18.52 km)
Trip: 69.23 nm (128.21 km)
YTD: 215.12 nm (398.40 km)

One Last Stop - Saturday May 7th (Day #9)

Camp set up in the trees at Beaumont Park

A nice shell beach to leave our kayaks

The next morning, we woke up to another beautiful day with no wind and I found the huge composting outhouse that is set back in the forest and spotted a Pileated Woodpecker nearby.

The nice composing outhouse

Pileated Woodpecker searching for grubs in a nearby log

The plan was to launch at 10:00am and since Lynn and Michael were ready early they headed out about half an hour ahead of Robyn, Kari and myself with a plan to meet up with them somewhere at Moresby Island.

As Robyn, Kari and I headed around Wallace Point it became evident That we would not be able to hug the shoreline due to the ebb current running around the point so instead we cut across the eddy lines and out into open water and started heading across Swanson Channel towards Moresby Island. 

We must be close to home if we have to wait for BC Ferries

We spotted Lynn and Michael near Pelorus Point (Moresby Island) and upon reaching them we waited for a BC Ferry to pass before continuing onto to Arbutus Point on Portland Island where we set up camp for our last night. To our surprise there was only one other kayaker who was visiting from Washington State. After establishing camp we hiked the trail through the middle of the island to Princess Bay completing the loop on the coast trail back to camp. Since we had an excess of water still with us Robyn and I decided to set up the shower above the high water line which was an amazing treat!! At least we would be heading home the next day smelling half decent. LOL

Relaxing around camp on Arbutus Point

Kari enjoying the calm blue ocean.

This is a view that we have seen before from Arbutus Point only this time we can say that we
have been there.  Mt. Baker in the background, South / North Pender Island on the left, just to the
 left of the red marker light is Sucia Island (USA) in the distance, to the right of the marker is
Waldron Island (USA) an Moresby Island on the right.

2016 Paddle #24 - Beaumont Park (South Pender Island) to Arbutus Point (Portland Island)
Distance: 7.19 nm (13.31 km)
Trip: 76.42 nm (141.53 km)
YTD: 222.31 nm (411.71 km)

Homeward Bound - Sunday May 8th (Day #10)

Our last morning of the trip we woke up to ….. wait for it ….. a little bit more wind but at least it was going the right direction towards Sidney. Michael had to leave a little bit ahead of schedule to meet his arranged ride and the rest of us followed a couple of hours later enjoying a nice leisurely paddle back to Sidney arriving at Van Isle Marina just after noon. 

Our 10-day trip to the San Juan Islands is now in the books so to speak we’ll return sometime soon. Our first visit to the San Juan’s really was an expedition to see what was there and we learned a lot on this short trip. One thing for sure is that the water through the San Juan Islands seems to be always moving (currents) and if the wind comes up if can get a little interesting. We only touched the tip of the iceberg regarding places to visit and would like to see what is south and east of Grays Harbour. Our next trip will probably be direct to Grays Harbour via the Washington State ferry from Sidney which will save paddling across the potentially busy shipping lanes. We’ll take at least 2 weeks to further explore these islands so close to home yet not on most kayakers to do list. Until next time …

2016 Paddle #25 - Arbutus Point (Portland Island) to Van Isle Marina
Distance: 5.41 nm (10.01 km)
Trip: 81.83 nm (151.55 km)
YTD: 227.72 nm (421.73 km)

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

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