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.