Thursday, September 11, 2014

Five days' kayaking in the Sechelt Inlets: Conclusion and lessons learned

Read the introduction here
Read about Day 1 here 
Read about Day 2 here
Read about Day 3 here
Read about Day 4 here
Read about Day 5 here

"Well," as Sam Gamgee famously said, "I'm back."

55 nautical miles (about 105 km) covered in 5 days, and we even got to enjoy it!

We had hit Pedals & Paddles at 6:40 on the nose. The second-last ferry was due to leave at 6:40 but was running a half-hour late, so we hightailed it to Langdale and made it with about 10 minutes to spare and were absolutely famished. As the Queen of Surrey (such an undignified name for a vessel) pulled into dock, they announced that they were cancelling the 6:40/7:20 sailing and the next (and last) sailing would be at 8:45. This news set up a very BC protest: everyone leaned on their car horns and honked their dissatisfaction for a few minutes.

Aside from a bag of chips or a chocolate bar from the vending machines, there would be nothing to eat. We considered pulling out of the queue and heading into Gibsons for a quick bite, but that would be cutting it pretty fine. Just as we were thinking of breaking into our stash of nuts and dried fruit (which, to be honest, we'd had enough of in the past few days), another announcement came: they were proceeding with a "modified cancellation" and would be sailing for Horseshoe Bay immediately. Hallelujah, for White Spot would be ours!


In retrospect, I'm glad we had had such a difficult last day. I think if it had been smooth sailing for the entire trip, we'd have been complacent and ill-prepared for next year's adventure (probably from Egmont on the seaward side of Skookumchuck Narrows around Nelson Island and into Hotham Sound). I'll be taking a refresher course in rescue techniques before we head out again, and the importance of practicing drills in those skills and in rolling was hammered home quite nicely, thank you.

The other thing that's worth mentioning is that we had difficulty only because and when we ignored the advice of someone who knew what he was talking about. Heeding warnings from reliable sources is a good thing. Repeat after me.

We also relied way too heavily on the rudimentary maps that P&P supplied us. They're good maps, but sometimes features we wanted to see were blotted out by text or symbols, and I'd often like more detail, a different perspective, something I can scribble notes on, etc. I'm the kind of guy who likes to know the names of mountains, points, bays, channels, islets, etc. Printoffs from Google Earth combined with charts from the Canadian Hydrographic Service would be the ticket, I think.

The following is mostly just stuff to remind myself of for next year.

Between now and next Spring I'll be assembling some items I want for the next trip (this list is also suitable for Christmas and birthday presents...)

-a waterproof camera (so many photo opportunities were lost because I had to unpack my camera from a little drybag every time I wanted to use it).
-A notebook (I ended up taking notes on the trip on firestarter paper)
-A sleeping hammock would be an excellent bit of kit, especially if camping outside prescribed campgrounds.
-Maybe a smaller, more convenient pair of binoculars, although I have to say my full-sized pair is awesome.
-An LED headlamp (my handy-dandy waterproof flashlight's bulb had failed between Calgary and Sechelt before I'd even had a chance to use it).
-A strap for my sunglasses, which I lost on the last day.
-I'm thinking I'll get a Trangia cook set for three reasons: 1) to have for my own day/overnight trips, 2) in case the WhisperLite fails (it almost did one night), and 3) to have a couple of extra receptacles for multi-dish feasts.
-Some kind of seat with back support would be really nice. Maybe this? Or if I win the lottery, this one.
-I had borrowed a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, and a waterproof Tilley-type hat (which may have looked dorky but was perfect for the application) from friends - I'll need my own.

I definitely took way too many clothes. Two pairs of socks would have been plenty. One pair of long underwear in case it got chilly after sundown (it didn't. Regular sweatpants would have been more than enough for the entire trip; summer nights on the coast don't cool off like they do in Alberta). I had a pair of fingerless paddling gloves and a pair of full gloves, and I abandoned the fingerless ones straight away.

A clean change of clothes for re-entry into civilization should have been left in the car; getting onto the ferry I could smell campfire and vague brininess on my dingy jeans and I'm sure everyone else could too. We probably looked quite a sight as we lurched onto the ferry at the end of the trip.

Packing list:

maps, maps, maps

socks (2)
underwear (2)
shorts for paddling and swimming
long-sleeved shirt (light coloured)
short-sleeved shirt
long pants for camp (sweats)
paddling jacket
light wool sweater
sunglasses (c/w strap)
paddling boots
paddling gloves
runners for camp and hiking

sleeping bag
sleeping pad
tent or sleeping hammock
stove & cooking gear
fuel for length of trip +1 day (this would be approx 2 bottles for the WhisperLite)
tarp and poly rope
small hatchet
swiss army knife
mesh daybag for to-hand items when paddling

1 meal for each night
lots of variety of small snacky things for lunches and quick power-ups
porridge and coffee for length of trip +1 day
emergency meals (i.e. dried chicken noodle soup), hot chocolate, tea
multiple lighters and a book of waterproof matches
bowl, butter knife, spoon & fork
1-gallon jugs of/for water (min.2, 3 is probably better)
collapsible/soft water bottle (for gathering fresh water where gallon jugs won't fit)
water bottle
water purification tabs (a Steripen would be better, but $$$. These worked just fine.)
coffee/drinks mug (contigo mug was perfect)
biodegradable camp soap 
little scrubby sponge

notebook & pen
book for reading (pocket-sized)
headlamp & spare batteries

first aid kit (includes Advil)
insect repellent
lip balm
toothbrush & toothpaste
comb (for re-entry into civilization)

Five days' kayaking in the Sechelt Inlets. Day 5: Kunechin to Halfway and back to square one

Read the introduction here
Read about Day 1 here
Read about Day 2 here
Read about Day 3 here 
Read about Day 4 here

September 8:


Up to this point, we were still thinking about heading up Salmon Inlet to check out Thornhill Beach. We finally decided against it, as it would be 3 hours' paddle there, another 3 back, and two more to Pedals & Paddles, leaving little time to enjoy the beach or any scenery along the way. Our revised itinerary was a leisurely morning exploring the rocks and shoreline east of Kunechin Point, then crossing to the west side of Sechelt Inlet after lunch and picking our way back south. Despite our best intentions, we didn't get on the water until 9:45.

The east side of Kunechin Point is really nice to explore by kayak. It receives a fair bit of wrack and flotsam from Salmon Inlet, which makes for some interesting debris on shore. We did discover the elusive third campsite we had missed on Day 1: it's at Kunechin Bay, about 10 minutes' paddle from the Point. Kunechin Bay is very sheltered, and it would make a nice alternate campsite if the Point was battered by winds. In nice weather, though, it's inferior to the Point, and by this time of year the bottom was covered in algae, giving the bay a grotty aspect.

We also made our way to what we later found out is a fish farm - a big green building floating just offshore with large netted corrals in the water. These farms are a source of controversy - locals claim they've been responsible for an increase in water turbidity, and because they farm Atlantic salmon, there are concerns about escapees wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem. From there we headed back to the Islets for some low-water exploring. The wind had kicked up and there was a bit of chop, but we weren't concerned; it was nothing we hadn't experienced already. Plus, we were invincible.

After lunch, at about noon, we set off to cross Sechelt Inlet. It was windy and hard paddling. By the time we were about 1/3 of the way across, the handful of whitecaps we had seen in the centre of the inlet had bloomed into a herd - whitecaps everywhere and 18-inch chop. We were halfway across when we realized we'd bitten off a bigger chunk than we had anticipated; 2-foot waves were common, and we had to nose into them to keep from being bowled over. The constant turning into the south wind was adding distance to our east-west crossing. Paddling was physically tiring and took all our mental attention. There was no chance at all to rest. About 3/4 of the way across I just about lost my nerve and turned my back to the wind to let the surf carry me north-west to shore. Jonathon was gamely powering on through the waves in our original direction, and I thought it was too dangerous to get separated, so I followed him.

About 40 minutes' hard paddle had brought us to the lee of Halfway Islet where we could take a breather. We thought we could pick our way along the shoreline and stay mainly out of harm's way, but as we exited the lee into the little bay to the west, we found the wind and waves just as daunting as before. I signalled to Jon to surf into shore, and we pulled up near a charming little cabin where a couple was kind of shaking their heads at our foolishness in making a crossing in such winds.

We discussed our options and decided to wait awhile and see if the wind would die down. I had a plane to catch the next morning, but if we caught the first ferry back to the mainland I could make it, so if we missed the last ferry tonight, we could camp at Piper Point across from the rental place and hightail it back just before dawn. We had enough food and just enough fuel for another meal and some snacks. The owner of the cabin told us about a creek to get some fresh water from, and there wasn't a lot else to do, so we clambered up the creek bed into the forest. It was really beautiful in there and it took our minds off our predicament for a while.

By 4:00 the wind hadn't abated. Halfway Beach was just around the point from where we were, and we figured we could shelter there if paddling was going to be impossible. Rounding the point was 5 minutes of hard paddling but once in the lee of the next point it was merely tough. We pressed on, resting in the lees before powering through the wind and waves at each point. There was a bit of quite hairy paddling where a vertical rock wall bounced the oncoming waves right back into themselves, creating very confused and choppy conditions (the "Wall of Death" on the map linked above). Other than that, it was a doable trek, if not pleasant. In keeping with our experience at Narrows Inlet, the western shore of Sechelt Inlet is much more scenic and interesting than the eastern one; I would have liked to have had a chance to enjoy it.

The further we paddled, the calmer the conditions became, and by the time we hit Piper Point it was quite pleasant paddling weather again. We made a landing on the south side of the point for a quick snack before crossing back to P&P. We hoped to see the ancient midden that's near there, but we didn't know exactly where it was and didn't have time to search.

Last one to Pedals & Paddles was a rotten egg (that's me). We loaded up in record time, gave Laurie a quick thank-you, and hightailed it toward the ferry.

Next: Homeward bound and lessons learned

Five days' kayaking in the Sechelt Inlets. Day 4: upper Narrows Inlet and an unexpected helping hand

Read the introduction here
Read about Day 1 here  
Read about Day 2 here
Read about Day 3 here

September 7:


Emboldened by our previous day's triumph, we figured we could take another whole day's paddling. We wanted to get back to Kunechin Point to camp tonight, but also wanted to explore further up beautiful Narrows Inlet. To that end we woke up early, struck camp, and made an early start of it.

 On the other side of the narrows, the inlet is still and sheltered. Early morning is a beautiful time for paddling anywhere, but here we felt like we'd crossed into Middle Earth or something. I lingered for a while under a moss-covered maple tree, where the light filtered green and gold through the leaves, bounced off the water, and rippled on the mossy trunk and branches from beneath. Whether by a trick of the light or a quirk of the location, the water here was clear and I watched little perch dart around under the boat for some time.

Our Pedals & Paddles map (not quite the same as the one on their website) didn't show the whole of Narrows Inlet, so we had no idea how long it really is. It curves gently northward, so around every corner we thought we might have come to the last reach, but every time there was just a little more.
All the trunk you see here is one tree. It goes up, over, down, over, and up again. What a survivor.
We took our time paddling up the north/west shore, taking it all in. We got a nice view of a waterfall on the opposite shore above some cabins about 3/4 of the way up, and it was generally just a gorgeous area. We had greatly underestimated how much distance we had to cover, but we decided to press on to the end.

Near the head of Narrows Inlet, the water, already turbid, changes again and is filled with a coarse particulate. It's quite unnerving to paddle in, actually. The head of the inlet was a logging camp up until about 10 years ago, and a lot of remnant structures and rusting equipment can be seen as you paddle into the shallow bay at the head. 

On the way back we hugged the opposite shore, passing the charming cabins under the waterfall and passing through a little channel between an islet and the shore. Other than that little gem of a spot, the east/south shore isn't as scenic as the other one, and we paddled a little more quickly back. This side of the inlet was chockers with jellyfish.
Acres of them.
 We watered up at the big creek, then pressed on back to camp for lunch. We wanted to hove off to Kunechin in good time. I found myself more tired than I had expected - partly the effects of yesterday's big paddle and partly because the morning's trip was quite a bit longer than we had anticipated.

On our return to camp we met a fellow named Dave who had moored his awesome little boat near us.
Dave's little tug
 He offered us a tow to Kunechin, as he was heading that way on his way to Sechelt anyhow. We wondered if that would be cheating, but when he threw the offer of a beer into the bargain, how could we say no? I've never enjoyed a Coors Light so much in my life.
Making time
As we left Tzoonie, the weather was fine, but the farther we went the more wind began to kick up. As we passed Storm Bay (scuttling our thoughts of exploring it, but you can't have everything) and entered Sechelt Inlet, we encountered significant chop from the afternoon winds, which were blowing against the tide. Nearing Kunechin, our kayaks began to kick water into Dave's kayak, and after a bit I noticed it was taking on too much. Dave cut the engine just as his little guy took a dive. We hauled her out, emptied her out, and rescued his life jacket, which was blowing away. It was a bit of a mad scramble in rough waters, and we had another struggle finding a sheltered spot to reenter our boats.  Poor Dave seemed a bit frazzled as he dropped us off, so I hope a few beers and a burger at the Lighthouse Pub restored his equilibrium.
Pictures never do it justice.
The winds didn't die down until well into the evening, as a huge moon rose over Mount Richardson and the Kunechin seals began their nightly gargle-fest: around 6:00. Now the warning we'd received about afternoon winds made sense. But did we listen? Like hell we did. Dumkopfs, we don't learn except the hard way.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Five days' kayaking in the Sechelt Inlets. Day 3: Tzoonie to Skookumchuck and back

Read the introduction here
Read about Day 1 here   
Read about Day 2 here

September 6:


Our unlikely companions set off for Kunechin the next morning, which was a bit of a relief. This was Saturday night, so we were expecting perhaps more company, although we hoped they'd have a little more common sense than the others. Today was for heading up to Skookumchuck Rapids - just to see it, not to go through by any means. The fact that the tide would be rising all day meant that the rapids would be flowing toward us, not trying to suck us out through them. We also thought a little mid-day hike around the area might be in order.

We took a very leisurely paddle along the north shore. Although less hermetically gorgeous than the part of the inlet on the other side of the narrows, there was plenty of stuff to groove on just below the surface, and the angle of the midmorning light was perfect for lighting up the shallow water and its weird denizens: lots of little golfball-sized urchins, tubeworms, and that most unlikely of God's creatures, the sea cucumber.
And the Lord did say "And the starfish shall lie down with the sea cuke"
Rounding the point into Sechelt Inlet proper, Jonathon startled a family of seals who had been peacefully sunning themselves on a rock. They made a bit of a fuss over us, herding us away from their tanning spot. Something I didn't know about seals before this episode: they stink.
Seal family says, "Piss off!" This photo was taken from a respectful distance once they'd stopped herding us. 
As the inlet narrowed toward Skookumchuck, we could hear the rapids and see the whitewater in the distance. We beelined for the western edge of Skookum Island, where the urchins were now the size of baseballs, and made a hop over to the western shore of the inlet, where we found a little bay behind Rapid Islet. On that little crossing, for the only time on our whole trip, the water was both deep and clear. You could feel the currents quite strongly, and the way the paddle grabbed the water was very different every time you crossed an eddyline. Fun and a little nervous-making. We pulled up in the little bay, pulled our boats high up the beach and tied them up. After a little lunch we clambered over rocks and through some bushes to watch the whitewater kayakers play in the standing waves. Skook doesn't look like much in photos, but in real life it's a stunner: the roar of the water lets you know how much power it holds, and the scale of the thing is pretty dramatic.
Braver than I.
One of the passing whitewater guys told us there was a trail from our bay to the cliffs overlooking the rapids, so we struck out through the salal to look for it. We did a fair bit of pretty heavy bushwhacking, occasionally stumbling on something that looked trail-like before losing the thread again.
The remnant of one of the West Coast's ancient giants, and beside him  an old-growth Douglas-Fir stump.
Eventually we hit the universal sign of civilized people everywhere: a fence. That we were on the wrong side of, natch. We hopped over and watched the whitewater daredevils awhile longer.
From the ledge below, the fit and foolhardy launch their assault on eternity.
Not far from the fence we picked up the trail, which took us on a surprisingly easy and salal-free route back to our landing spot. We'd just started from the wrong location. It was getting on in the afternoon and we'd already had half a day's paddle and a couple hours' hike, but all yesterdays' soreness was gone and we were ready for a good journey back to camp - and we had one! We rode the winding currents east of Skookum Island for a good long while before still waters prevailed again, although the tide was with us still. This effect was amplified as we rounded the point into Narrows Inlet and a good strong wind kicked up at our backs. With the wind and the tide on our side, we made amazing time back to Tzoonie - less than 2 hours from launch to landing. 
Virtually flying back to Tzoonie
As we'd predicted, there were two more parties at Tzoonie, but they were using the other sites. After a hearty Mexican meal, we felt pretty invincible as the sun disappeared over the mountains and the full moon came looming out and we reflected on a big, full day during which we pushed ourselves hard and met every challenge with ease. Do you remember the story of Icarus?

Five days' kayaking in the Sechelt Inlets. Day 2: Kunechin Point to Tzoonie Narrows

Read the introduction here
Read about Day 1 here 

September 5:


A leisurely breakfast and a late start heading toward Tzoonie Narrows for two nights' camp. I was mighty sore, especially in the neck and my SI joints. Wind and tide were mild, and we had an uneventful trek to Storm Bay, where we stopped for lunch. Just around the corner from Bird Point Retreat (for sale!), we hauled the kayaks out of the water at a spot where it looked like the retreating tide might leave a nice tidepool to explore. No such luck; all that was left was a mud flat covered in oysters, mussels, and weeds. There was some water a few hundred yards away, which might have been the desired pool, or might have been the continuation of Storm Bay. Still pretty sore, and disheartened by the grotty water in the area (everything was covered in brown fuzz; there was seaweed growing on the seaweed), we decided to press on to Tzoonie and explore Storm Bay on the return trip.
Like this, but browner and fuzzier. 
Careful now! Or hobbits will go down to join them and make little kelpies of their own.
We cut some distance off by point-hopping along the middle of Narrows Inlet rather than following the shoreline too closely, as there didn't seem to be a lot to see at the edges anyway. Upon rounding the point (the spot labelled "Sechelt Inlets Marine Park" on the map linked above), we were treated to a pretty little bay and a sun-dappled grassy campsite. There was no beach to speak of; at high tide the water would come right up to the grass. As we were the only ones there (save a little boat moored in the middle of the bay), we had our choice of campsite. The first one we saw was indeed the best; it had the best views, the most spacious lawn, and the most light in the afternoons when the sun peeked over the mountains for a bit. Once we got our bearings, we realized how stunning the location really was; the mountains on the opposite shore were close and more dramatic than we had seen thus far. Tzoonie really is a magical place, although below the surface, the water here is even more turbid than at the mouth of the inlet.
Looking towards the narrows
Water like glass. The islet in the bay is called Henry The Whale Rock.
Unlike at Kunechin Point, there wasn't much driftwood here for burning; it's an out-of-the-way nook, not a promontory at a confluence of waters. A moderate amount could be found, but it took a lot more legwork.

After setting up camp, we struck out to find some water to cook with. Although a lot of the little creeks throughout the area were dry by this point in the season, Laurie at Pedals & Paddles said she had heard running water in the area recently. Our map showed a number of streams - the most promising one being a little ways up the inlet through Tzoonie Narrows - but we decided to cross the inlet and do some leisurely exploring for the evening. The tide was rising and nearing its high point, which would mean the current would carry us through the narrows and we could cross back through around high slack.

No running streams on the opposite shore, so we cruised through Tzoonie Narrows. This was fun - our first experience of any significant current. At its narrowest point the narrows is about 50 feet wide, so it creates a significant current, but because it's deep and free of obstructions there's no whitewater. Entering into the upper section of Narrows Inlet was quite a treat - the mountains are high and dramatic, the water is still, and there's virtually no traffic (at least, when we were there). We dawdled up the right-hand shoreline for a while till Jon found a good creek where we filled our jugs. About another kilometre on, we found an even better creek - a real gusher - where at high tide you can canoe right into the little estuary. From there we looped to the north shore, which is full of the kind of amazing things you expect to see on the west coast: moss-covered trees making bizarre natural sculptures, plants clinging to rocks and growing in the most unusual places, little groves and grottoes that were magical in the evening light. The water here really bears mentioning (again) - it's almost opaque in most places, the colour of coffee ground too fine for the filter and with a couple of drops of milk in it - very unappealing, and at this time of year it was wall-to-wall jellyfish, too. Good thing there was no chance of a capsize.

As we passed back through the narrows the current was minimal - if we'd waited a little longer it would have been on our side, but we were hungry and had done a lot of paddling already. We were surprised to find another pair of paddlers had set up their tents beside ours, even though the other spots were empty. A genial, awkward pair of engineers from Vancouver - male and female, though not a couple. Jon tried valiantly to politely suggest they move, but they were terrified of bears and there was *gasp* a blackberry bush near the other site. The night of halting small talk that followed put a bit of a damper on our mood; the recounting of careers and families is bad enough in any setting, but in this one it was murder. A relatively early night, then.

Five days' kayaking in the Sechelt Inlets. Day 1: Pedals & Paddles to Kunechin Point

Read the introduction here

September 4:


Up at dawn to catch the 7:20 ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale on the Sunshine Coast. We were at Pedals & Paddles by a little after 9:00. Laurie, the owner, was great to deal with. Her partner, Steve, was a little gruff but gave us a firm warning about the winds that kick up around mid-day in these parts and make travel difficult. They outfitted us with a pair of Nimbus Telkwa kayaks (one regular, one high-volume) c/w paddle, spray skirt, PFD and whistle, sponge, paddle float, hand-operated bilge pump, throw line, spare paddle, and laminated maps of the inlets.
Ready to roll

By about 10:30 we were on the water. The weather was gorgeous and the day was calm and still. We made good time up the inlet, stopping after about an hour just north of Oyster Beach for lunch on a rugged little bay that would disappear at high tide. Another half-hour's paddle brought us to the entrance to Salmon Inlet. We had originally thought of exploring Salmon Inlet as part of this journey - and kept returning to it as an option right up till the end - but aside from apparently quite a nice beach at Thornhill Creek near the inlet's head, it's not a great trip; the scenery is second-rate and lots of wind. If we'd had another day, we probably would have gone for it.

We did pop around the corner for a look-see at the abandoned summer bible camp. Lots of ruined buildings and machinery being overtaken by moss. Would be a great place to shoot a horror movie.
Recreational opportunities abound
We then crossed the mouth of Salmon Inlet for Kunechin Point, about 20 minutes' vigorous slog in 6-inch chop: nothing too hairy. We landed on a little beach on the west side of the point after passing between the point and the Kunechin Islets, a pretty little clutch of rocks topped with gnarled fir and Arbutus. There was a couple there setting up their camp when we arrived. The two tent pads perched on the south-facing knob of the point were side by each; a possible third was indicated on the maps we had, but after a half-hour's exploring failed to turn it up, we resigned ourselves to a bit of company. (We later discovered said campsite; see the entry for Day 5 for details.)

Kunechin Point is easily the most spectacular camping spot in this whole area. It affords panoramic views of Salmon Inlet, the Islets, and the southern half of Sechelt Inlet; and the water around the Point is about the clearest we saw on the whole trip. (This was actually one of my few complaints with Sechelt Inlets as a destination; because they're so sheltered and not as heavily flushed by tides and storms, the water tends to be murky for viewing underwater life.) In poor weather you'd be too exposed here - buffeted by winds and pelted by rain - but during this sunny week it was perfect.
Looking east up Salmon Inlet; you can see the edge of the tent pad lower left

The Kunechin Islets and Sechelt Inlet to the south. There's a tent pad on the southernmost islet, but you'd have to be pretty desperate and willing to share your sleeping space with lots of gulls and their excreta.

The view to the west; our boats are just visible lower right
The only other thing that stops Kunechin from being camper's paradise is that there's no fresh water to be had here; you have to pack it in or pick it up elsewhere on day trips.

Jonathon found a second firepit and seating area a little to the east of the tent pads (there's also a third on the west side on the way to the outhouse), so we got out of our neighbours' faces for the evening and settled in for a meal (Italian night) and a nice fire. There's tons of driftwood here for burning. The seal colony on the Islets makes quite a racket well into the night; they were making the most improbable gargling-snorting sounds, alternated with cooing.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Five days' kayaking in the Sechelt Inlets. Introduction & preparation

This is going to be long.

Last year, my friend Jonathon and I hatched a dream to take a self-guided kayak trip through Gwaii Haanas National Park (the southern archipelago of Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte Islands). I began to do some research and realized that such a trip was going to require a lot of skills that neither of us actually has. We figured we should do a few smaller, less risky trips first, and eventually settled on Sechelt Inlet as a good arena for our first adventure. It's relatively sheltered and easy to paddle, and offers an abundance of marine parks with campgrounds to launch day tours from.

I took a couple of courses last fall: Intro to Sea Kayaking through the U of C, which was truly pretty basic; a self-rescue clinic through Undercurrents, which was quite a good one; and when he was in Calgary for a few weeks, Jonathon and I took a kayak rolling clinic through Aquabatics.

Next step was to get myself a little yak to practice with & build actual skills & necessary muscles through practice. We live near the Glenmore Reservoir, so it's very convenient for me to load a boat onto the roof rack and head out for an hour or two's paddle. I paid a little too much on Kijiji in the middle of winter for a bare-bones 10-foot recreational kayak with no amenities: no hatches or rigging, not even footrests. A couple of chunks of styrofoam cut to shape and stuffed in the nose of the canoe have served as a footrest, and I've spent a number of lovely afternoons on the reservoir this summer. But it's unsuited for anything but the most basic flat water paddling (chop higher than about 3 inches splashes over the deck and soaks you; the huge cockpit means any spray skirt would be a special-order item; it's distressingly slow; and it tracks like slalom). But it did serve the purpose of getting me in the habit of getting on the water and building a bit of familiarity.

Our trip was to start on September 4th and run to the 8th: 4 nights of camping and 5 days of paddling. We thought that the area would be a little less crowded post-Labour Day, and we were right, although when I called Pedals & Paddles to reserve the boats we bagged the last two available! (It pays to plan ahead.) I flew out to meet Jon in Vancouver on the evening of the 3rd and took the SkyTrain from the airport to downtown for $9. (This really is a service every decent city should have.) A trip to MEC and the Liquor Store for a few last-minute supplies and we were ready to go.