My first major kayak trip of 2008. Cattle Island, Shelter Bay & Burnett Bay.
My first campsite on Cattle Island.
When sunny, this area is idyllic. The beach is crushed shells.
Low tide. Two islands become one.
High tide. Two islands.
Crustacean in a crack.
Small brown bird that I gave crumbs to.
My sundial. It's around 1:50 PM.
Almost four PM.
This trip's reading material. 'Shackelton's Boat Journey' was truly outstanding. Another good one was the story of the Shenandoah, a confederate raider that went from Australia to the Beaufort whaling grounds wreaking havoc on yankee merchant marine ships. If it floated and was yankee it was either blown up or torched. The Shenandoah was a tea-clipper, the fastest ship afloat. Under previous management she won the annual tea race where tea-clippers race halfway around the world from Ceylon to London to get the best price for their cargo. Tea clippers were the most advanced windships, sleek looking and designed totally for speed. The Shenandoah even managed to dash into London upon learning the confederate cause was lost without being destroyed by the union fleet. Fascinating stuff. Just the ticket for when you're in all snug 'in bag' waiting out a downpour or adverse winds.
Mussels for dinner. A warning --- DFO doesn't test Queen Charlotte Strait (DFO Area 11) for PSP (paralytic shellfish poison) so officially, all shellfish harvesting is permanently prohibited in DFO area 11. PSP is caused by a red colored plankton that, during certain conditions, bloom in such numbers they turn the water red and contain a paralytic toxin. I assume all mussels are PSP-contaminated and only eat a tiny bit of one, wait a day to see if symptoms develop, eat a slightly larger chunk, wait a day, etc, etc. After four or five days of this, I eat an entire one (a small one). If I'm still alive a day later, I assume they're ok. I'm a hard-core seafood-guy and willing to take the risk --- I strongly advise anybody else to stick to shrimp, crabs, prawns, fish or anything not affected by PSP. Why? PSP can (and does) kill. There's no antidote for PSP. The treatment for severe cases is an iron lung that breathes for you, until your body metabolizes the toxin.
The 'Siberian Bic' (lighter), guaranteed to start fires with the soggiest of wood in the heaviest of rain, can be used to steam mussels too. Steam them til they gape (open) but no longer. North Pacific mussels can get to be the size of NFL footballs, but I prefer smaller ones who's meats are no larger than popcorn. The big ones that take several bites to get down are too gory even for me. The pile of empty shells are all mussels I ate here.
Mmmm --- steamed mussels. They go best with properly chilled white wine, although beer and Louisiana hot sauce will do in a pinch. They taste like the ocean, sweet & garnished with butter. Mussels from this area are pristine. Being filter feeders, they pick up whatever's in the water which is why I only eat them north of Port Mcniel although officially, sewage contamination is not an issue except in close proximity to densely habited areas.. The ones up around Burnett Bay are incredible --- their fresh, sweet-buttery, ocean taste is outstanding.
Yeah babay! After stuffing myself on steamed mussels washed down with 8C beer (chilled in the ocean), I light a fire and revel in sheer beauty of my surroundings. I love these trips.
The full moon rises over the lights of Port Macniel, 30 km away. The high tides will be large for several days now. The highest high-tides follow the full moon while the lowest low-tides follow the new moon.
Somebody, probably kids, had built little shelters in various places on some of these islands. You can tell because nature arranges wood horizontally. Whenever you see vertically-oriented wood (like this) you know it's artificial.
Ready to rock. Taken at Storey's Beach, this photo shows me about to start the crossing of QC Strait to Burnett Bay. I only put the very lightest stuff on deck, like my thermal pad that goes under my sleeping bag. The heavy metal tent poles are stowed at the bottom of my aft hatch. Only light-weight tent fabric goes on deck so my CG isn't affected. Using deck-loads to trim for windage is useful --- for example, if I'm running downwind I put more stuff on my foredeck and weather-cock. If I'm slogging upwind I use my aft deck and weather-vane. Still, I clearly need a bigger kayak with more storage space. If I could, I'd stow everything below deck if only to minimize windage. I just can't do long trips with this kayak without a deckload.
Around Dillon Point there was a nasty, meter plus chop --- worse than it looks in the photo. The bow of my kayak would submarine through a wave, solid green water impacting my chest, ride completely clear of the water as the wave passed amidships, then slam down into the trough and punch through the next wave. I suppose I could have slugged through it, but why bother? If I bivouac til morning the wind will die AND the ebbing tide will be going my way. When crossing Goletas Channel northbound around Dillon Point when it's blowing north westerly, I've learned to be carefull estimating conditions because the Masterman Group blocks some of the chop. By the time I get out of their lee and fully exposed to it, I'm half a kilometer offshore. In any case, today I'm not even going to try. I let myself get blown back around the point.
I build a fire instead of putting up a tent --- it's not going to rain tonight.
Numas Island in the distance. I must go there one day. I bet it doesn't see many visitors.
In the morning conditions had improved --- hugely. What a difference a few hours makes! You gotta love those north-westerlies, they're SO predictable. Now I have a free ride downstream on an ebb-tide on glassy water instead of slogging upwind and pounding through half-meter chop.
Cliff on Wishart Island, the south end of the Deserter's Group.
I came here to find an old cabin site that had been hit with chemical defoliant to see how well the foliage has recovered. The cabin was built by a kayaker with the same idea in mind as with the Burnett Bay cabin, simply to provide shelter in inclement weather. However, the landowner or perhaps the RCMP spotted it, probably from the air, and hit it with defoliant. Buddy was horrified when saw the dead zone. Maybe they thought it was a dope grower's cabin or something. In any case, I endured the bushwack from hell only to realize I'd been looking in the wrong place, grrrr. Oh well, next time I'll probably go right to it. Due to the high rainfall here, the defoliant has probably been washed away by now. I hope so: nasty biocidal stuff.
See how dense this under-growth is? Truly, it's the bushwack from hell.
Cliff on Wishart Island.
Intrepid explorer. Walking stick in hand, large can of bear-spray in holster, and saharan-style head-dress. This guy is clearly thinking he's ready for anything. Then the horseflies attacked ...
The battle raged for what seemed an eternity. There were losses on both sides. Corpses littered the battlefield.
Wishart Island, Deserter Island in the background. More fine weather. If tomorrow dawns windless, I'll tackle the longest & most exposed leg en-route to the mainland.
Perfect paddling weather. Just before sunrise I set off to the mainland. This is looking south-east, between Wishart & Deserter islands. There is a cool channel between the two islands with some old ship hulks.
The channel, looking towards the west, from it's start, near the eastern edge of both islands. Wishart is on the left, Deserters to the right.
There's tons of 'flowerpots' and bizarre rock formations capped with bushes and trees.
Like this one.
A slice of Deserter Island marked, 'IR', that has a couple wooden troller hulks and one house in pretty good condition. On a later visit here, I learned the building is a mariner's cabin that the public is welcome to use, courtesy of the Gwa'sa'lah & Na'kwah'dah bands. Go on in and sign the guestbook, make a fire in the wood-stove if you're cold: just leave the place in better shape than you found it and hopefully the band's laissez-faire policy will continue. Lots of bands plaster 'No Trespassing' signs all over their IRs, but not these folks.
Sunrise. The view east after exiting the channel between Deserter & Wishart Islands at the western end. Mcleod Island is in the foreground, the Millar Group behind it, then the mainland's hills and mountains. That's the distance I have to cover to reach the mainland. I couldn't ask for better weather. My tactic to minimize exposure to strong winds and chop is simple: pre-pack the night before leaving (as much as possible), if there's no wind and clear skies at first light I start paddling right away and get off the water by 9 or 10 am at the latest. This still gives me several hours paddling and I have the rest of the day to relax. If a low pressure system comes along and upsets the applecart, all bets are off ...
Huge chunk of driftwood washed up on the beach at Shelter Bay. The crossing was uneventful.
Warning signs about cougars. Later, I found out why these signs are here. A group of trainee kayak guides had made camp at Shelter Bay and one of their members, a physically smaller female, separated from the group to answer a call of nature. While bent down and appearing small, she was attacked by a cougar. Fortunately she was able to escape with only minor scratches (and one awesome story!), losing only her shoe to the cat. Later, remnants of her show were found in cougar scat nearby. The cats were not hunted down, as far as I know.
I guess they put this sign up in case we don't know what a cougar looks like and mistake it for a really big house-cat. "Mommy! Look at the big pussy cat!" ;) I was in my tent, snoozing, when a marine diesel and the clatter of an anchor chain shattered the stillness. Then there was the racket of an outboard motor, then a chainsaw. When the chainsaw stopped a ghetto blaster took up the slack. I disgustedly threw the gear in the 'yak and started paddling. I made good time riding the ebb tide, arriving at the north end of Burnett Bay just as the sun was setting.
Burnett Bay is a gorgeous, remote beach several kilometers long. It only took a couple hours to paddle here from Shelter Bay through light fog and calm winds. Cape Caution is just to the north, keeping yachties away in droves. Cape Caution has a somewhat justified reputation as a dangerous place for small craft. Many kayakers mistakenly think a successfull landing at Burnett Bay beach is a matter of luck. It isn't. MAREP buoys provide real-time swell reports and there are hooks at both ends of the beach. With significant wave heights under 1.5 meters at the West Sea Otter MAREP buoy, surf behind either of the hooks will be practically non-existent, especially at low tide. Of course, going 'straight up the middle' with swell running, at high tide, is just asking for it. A group of kayakers unfamiliar with Burnett Bay arrived near dark one evening, under-estimated the surf (easy to do) and got beat up quite badly: read "Deep Trouble" by Matt Broze.
People? At Burnett Bay??? This is the first time I've ever seen other people at Burnett Bay. These folks were surfers, and had been here for three days and were leaving the next day. Too bad, they were good company. I asked if they minded me taking a photograph and they said, “Well, as long as you're not going to, like, put it on the internet or anything!” So, I compromised. I'm pretty sure they would OK this one. Cool folk, they were a typically eclectic PNW mix: successful log-salvagers, a bush-pilot and a guy who makes derogatory comments about free-loaders. I enjoyed their company and was sad to see them leave.
Parking a skiff presents more of a challenge than parking a kayak. On the other hand a skiff goes faster (a LOT faster) and carries more. To secure their skiff, they used lines tied to trees and anchors, and watched it like a hawk. Four meter tides were an additional complication. They had drysuits and boogey-boards (the shorter type of surf-board).
The 'canary-in-the-coal-mine'. If the little old, blind chihuahua is safe, you KNOW there's no predators in play.
View towards the south along Burnett Bay beach. There are usually grey whales here. Recovering almost completely from industrial whaling that ended in the mid 1900's, grey whales have a structure in their mouths that resembles a sieve. They scour trenches through the mud and sand on the bottom and eat sea pens and other things they dredge up. But today there are none to be seen.
Burnett Bay. One advantage of temperate, high-rainfall environments like this is that you never have to go far to get water. Although cedar-stained a faint yellow colour, water from these creeks tastes just fine. I've drunk tons of it and have never had problems. You sure can't do that in the Mexican jungle. Once, I had a case of dysentary that lasted two weeks from Jalisco province water.
Burnett Bay, north end. There are usually lots of animal tracks visible in the sand, but not today.
Another view of the surfer's skiff. The Storm Island chain is in the background, to the left. The view towards Cape Scott and Cox/Lanz Islands is blocked by the islet.
The north end of Burnett Bay.
Islets, north end of Burnett Bay. Normally this is the more sheltered end of the bay for landing a kayak.
Burnett Bay, looking north. Cape Caution is either the far point, or the next point behind that one.
Burnett Bay, islets, north end, looking towards the north west. If the swell is north westerly, as opposed to westerly or south westerly, your best bet for landing a kayak is probably here at the northern hook.
After the other group vacated the cabin, I moved in. It was in good shape. The stove was in rough shape but in 2009 a replacement was built. Not sure if it's been installed yet though.
Isn't there a minimum altitude regulation? Planes buzz Burnett Bay mercilessly. Cape Caution is the next point around this one, on the north end of the bay.
Driftwood, Burnett Bay.
Burnett Bay sunset. Cape Caution is the next point behind this one in the background.
The small but effective wood stove.
I roll over at night and burn my hand on the stove. Only first degree, the burn is still bad enough to bring this trip to huge, screeching halt. Instead of Burnett Bay being the jumping-off point for side-trips to Smith Sound, etc, now I have to wait til my burned hand scabs over enough to limp back to Hardy. If it had been second or third degree I wouldn't have hesitated to call for help. Actually, I'd try to contact a water taxi first and work something out with them instead of a M'Aidez call to the SARs. It's a mark of pride with me that I've never caused a SAR sortie, and I never will, hopefully. I have much respect for SARs. I do everything in my power not to ever need them --- on the other hand I've always got at least a couple transmitters capable of sending a M'Aidez if the need arises.
A low pressure trough got busy cranking out fronts. Significant wave heights at West Sea Otter rose to three meters. However, even though a surf-chicken like myself could still make a decent landing behind the northern hook, the smart money would be curled up in bag, reading a book and waiting for the low pressure trough to pass.
The dwindling food supplies and burn seemed insignificant as I walked through the grandeur that is Burnett Bay's southern end. Behind that rock-hook the surf is reduced to almost nothing ...
Lively surf near the south end of the beach. Note the difference in surf at different places along the beach. During my entire stay here, this was as bad as it got.
Evader Creek at the south end of Burnett Bay.
There's an abandoned cabin up the creek a ways. It's in really bad shape, twenty years old at least. Evader Creek is named after yankee war-avoiders. Not sure which war though. I think it's a mistake for Canada to deny residency to yankees fleeing the Iraqi & Afghanistan conflicts. We welcomed Vietnam war era draft-dodgers, why change the policy now?
I'm all for live and let live, but when the bastards start chewing the hair right off your head ...
Last year there was maybe one mouse in Burnett Bay's cabin and he was discreet. This year, as soon as it got dark it was rodent happy-hour. I started wearing a hoody to keep them from chewing my hair off. It's not like I have much to spare. When they leapt onto my sleeping bag I'd swat the inside of the bag and send them flying. Finally, I'd had enough. I started trapping them. This was the first one I got. Trapping him actually backfired --- he must have been a bad-ass, alpha-male mouse who had the others scared to come out of their holes. As soon as he was gone there were even MORE of the bastards running amok. Grrr ...
My cunning trap. Note the line of peanuts going into the bag and the string. They would work their way into the bag, one nut at a time til they were inside the threshold and wham! I'd yank the string. I didn't kill them, just put them in a holding cell til I left and then cut them loose. Most of the time there's nobody even here, so what the heck. Why inflict a rodent holocaust on the bastards on behalf of a guy who's going to spend at most a few days here. After a while I gave up. For every mouse I trapped there were three others waiting in the wings. Next year I think I'll use the cabin in the daytime and for drying stuff, but sleep in my tent.
Gotcha --- you little rodent! I had to get out of here, my hand was scabbed over a bit and I was running low on food. Now it was just a question of waiting for the right conditions.
Burnett Bay. The trough was weakening and there was increasing chatter on the coast guard weather channel about a 'building ridge'. High pressure ridges are good.
Storm Island group (from Burnett Bay). A high pressure ridge had arrived in the wake of the trough. I left at low tide so I could ride the flooding tide to the south-east. Later, I got a push from the north-westerlies. I made the entire 50 kilometers from Burnett Bay to Port Hardy in one shot.
I made it back to Port Hardy and began to drive south. En-route south between Port Hardy & Port Mcniel there's a place where bears like to hang around, eating clover. I tried everything to get his attention so I could get a better photo, but he totally ignored me. Cheeky devil.
I try to get him to look at me for a better picture by yelling and honking the horn. Nothing. He's probably sick of all the horn-blowing, shouting, camera-clicking paparazzi around here. Would it get his attention if I blasted him with my bear spray? Heh heh heh ... Oh well, maybe next time.
Hey! Hey you! Nonchalantly, he continues munching clover. I tire of being ignored and leave.