Operation Bullwinkle: Broken Group Islands, BC Day 2

28 09 2012

I’m loving the sunrise today!

Today we are to pack up and launch!

It’s going to be a sunny day. Winds SW 10-12 knots. But early this morning fog drapes everything down low. This makes for a pensive, mysterious view of the water and the kayakers packing up near the shore.

Our plan calls for departing Toquart Bay Campground by 11:00 a.m. to ensure we don’t fight an incoming tide. We fix a hot breakfast and then must pack up tents and gear and then repack into the kayaks. It’s important to note that none of these islands have fresh water available – we’ve got to bring all of it.

There are so many islands, many easily navigated by sight. But I’ve been advised August is called “Fogust” here. So prior to heading out, I’ve got compass headings between islands marked on my chart. This is kayaking – so remember, there are no chart tables here. Your chart is on the deck in front of you. We all have compasses. And back in Portland, I made reduced versions of sections of our big chart so we can see the sections we need when we are paddling those sections.

As always with these situations, getting gear to the water is a chore, to say the least. The kayaks must be brought out. The dry bags of gear. Then the various containers of food. Where will all of it fit? We see other groups getting so over loaded that it takes four people to move the kayak once loaded. How can it float?

The early morning fog lifts and we take off. The kayaks do float-fine actually.

We do not have a definite final destination in mind for today. There are several island campsites to choose from. Lisa says the furthest, at Clarke Island, is the nicest one. It’ll be about 12 miles of paddling to get there.

The initial leg of our paddling today heads about a mile southeast, threading through the Stopper Islands, and then crossing the David Channel and the mouth of Sechart Channel the open crossing is 4.5 miles.

These channels intersect at Loudon Channel, which is open all the way to the Pacific, so it might pose challenges if the wind aligns just right. Today, while the wind is coming straight out of the Pacific and making occasional whitecaps, the waves are less than two feet. While not dangerous, we begin to tire of the constant battering off the starboard bow.

After rounding Lyall Point, we stop and commune to decide where we’re going to stop for lunch. We can head to Hand Island, which has the nearest campground, or head further south, delaying lunch, and try Willis Island. Since Willis lies closer to the heart of the group – within reach of Clarke Island and Turret Island Campgrounds, we push for Willis.

As we paddle further toward the Pacific, fog begins obscuring the distant islands. It is making its way inland. We are now past the open crossing and waters calm. Willis Island’s beach is soft sand, the wavelets softly caressing. The water is warm and clear. A few campers are about. Every so often kayakers pass by. And it’s sunny. But we know the fog lies just west of here.

Where should we head next? Should we go to Clarke? Or, maybe stay at Turret Island? We decide to check out Turret Island Campground next.

The fog blows in and out. We soon realize half of the view here is underwater. We encounter our first kelp bed and we’re amazed! You can see twenty or thirty feet down – there are crabs on the kelp, fishes, starfish.

To get the most out of the underwater view, you need polarized glasses! They cut through the glare. Lisa has an underwater camera – I promise to get her underwater shots soon!

We check out the campsites at Turret Island. I’m surprised to find the campground is super full. But I do find a trail to a private, gorgeous campsite with a Lord of the Rings feel to it. We ponder and decide to push further to Clarke Island.

Pushing off from Turret Island

Once decided, we had to make our way into the fog and out into the invisible outer islands.

This required my skills in navigation. Visibility was at times maybe 600 yards or less. When this is the case, and you have navigational object on your chart, you can sometimes hear what you cannot see, and make navigational judgments based on that.

What I mean is on the chart I could see an island with a nearby shoal – exposed to the ocean. That meant surf – something one can hear. If we got seaward of the shoal and heard the surf we could plot our location and then make a compass course to Clarke Island. We did exactly this. We paddled until we heard breakers and stopped. We could not see the surf or the island nearby but I knew it had to be there. If I plotted a compass course from this spot to Clarke Island we’d be there in an estimated 15 minutes. I gave Lisa and Bill a compass course and we started paddling. Sure enough, Clarke Island came into view – which they found amazing!

Clarke island cleared later in the day, and we had a really nice sunset! It was busy with campers. Yes. But beautiful! We made it!

Fog lifts…and voila!

The Clarke Island welcoming committee.

We even had visits from island residents! A deer family.

We enjoyed a meal with sausages and pasta tonight. We’ll make Clarke our base camp for a couple of nights and explore from here.

This is a nice place to stay! It’s got a composting toilet arranged for visitors. And really choice camping.


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