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)

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