Operation Bullwinkle: To Gibralter Island Camp

5 10 2012

This morning’s breakfast conversation focused on where to camp tonight. We kind of started chronologically backward. To get back to Portland by early evening and make the afternoon ferry on time, we’d have to leave Toquart Bay Campground by 7:00 a.m. the day of departure. So by default we’d have to spend the prior night there. But that day we could spend paddling mostly. So we picked a campsite farthest to the east – Gibralter Island.

We could take a long day paddling today and another long one from Gibralter back to Toquart. After eating we packed up our kayaks again…heavily laden of course. This time it was paddling east, to the head of Effingham, then north past a string of islands…Faber, Onion, Mullins, Keith, and then Jarvis and finally Jacques. There is supposed to be an interesting lagoon inside Jacques one can explore.

On the way we duck in behind some of these islands. Behind Mullens is the best underwater viewing I saw!

There was a quiet area with rocks and kelp. It was maybe 15 or 20 feet deep. More bat stars, sea stars, and even some 15-inch long fish. But the most amazing thing I saw here was the arm of a giant octopus. It was amongst a bed of seaweed atop a rock only two feet down. It was five inches in diameter! But just an arm. What chopped it off? Must have been something big. An orca?

We reach a shortcut into the lagoon at Jacques Island. Because of the low tide the channel is exactly kayak-width wide right now. The tide’s coming in, so we wait. And wouldn’t you know it a group appears on the other side and squeezes through!

Bill knuckle-drags his boat through and so I give it a shot. I feel the dreaded scrape of oyster on kayak but it’s not drastic and I do have a plastic boat. Lisa’s is kevlar so she wants to wait a bit longer.

We explore the lagoon and all of us decide it’s actually NOT that interesting.

Exiting the lagoon we saw the Lady Rose, a little ferry that shuttles kayaks from the mainland out to Sechart Lodge.

The Lady Rose

Gibralter Camp is just fine – and we’re the only ones here – at first.

Then a group of kayakers shows up, led by a couple of guides. One of the guides is a friendly Canadian girl and sure enough her conversation is full of “ey” and stuff. They have salmon for dinner and have lots of leftovers to offer us.

Tonight we play in the phosphorescence at the shore. Anything stirring up the water causes a brilliant effect!

Tomorrow we’ll take our time and head back to Toquart.

Kayaking West Vancouver Island, British Columbia: Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Day 1

26 09 2012

Toquart Bay

I have lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1993. Yet I have never explored the big backyard to the north – British Columbia! In that time I have been to Thailand 7 times, Cambodia twice, Laos, Indonesia, Singapore twice, Hong Kong, Bhutan, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. Yet a world class destination lay at my doorstep. I was not going to let another summer pass without visiting BC. Time to go!

Early in 2012 a bunch of my friends decided to kayak camp in and around Vancouver Island. By May, the group was whittled down to three. Myself, Lisa and Bill. Round and round we went on the length of drive (which might include two ferries) and which venues were most interesting. We settled on the Broken Group which is in Barkley Sound, on the west side of Vancouver Island.

The Broken Group consists of at least 100 undeveloped islands scattered in the sound – and it’s a national park. There are several island campgrounds. The outer islands, nearer the Pacific Ocean, are exposed and require a higher skill level whilst the inner islands are not unlike freshwater lake kayak camping, with the exception of seals, sea stars, kelp, and other saltwater fauna and flora which abound. Not to mention humpback whales, gray whales, and orcas!

I live in Portland, Oregon. To get to Toquart Bay we’d have to travel 12 hours by highway, back roads and ferry. We’d spend the evening camping there. Then launch the next morning with the outgoing tide and explore the islands.


The adventure includes a ferry from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia. We arrive early and wait in the staging area. Countless cars and trucks, some with kayaks like us, pile in. I’m excited for the ride! Once underway the splendor of the Pacific NW was visible everywhere!

Lisa and Bill on the deck!

Once at sea, we glimpsed the Olympic Mountains, which form a backdrop for Port Angeles.

Along the way spectacular sights abound.

Way off to the right is towering Mount Baker. In the middle sit the San Juan Islands. And directly ahead is Vancouver Island and Victoria!

The day’s weather is sunny and warm. Our forecast is optimistic – light winds with dry days ahead!

We arrive in famous Victoria Harbor. It’s busy with sea planes coming and going, ferries, yachts, kayaks and tourist boats plying the waters.


It’s really pretty. People are walking about. And the British heritage is evident everywhere.

Customs…yes…everybody’s got to wait and go through customs…yet another delay.

So we sit and wait while the agents do their thing.

But our visit with customs officials goes without rigorous inspections or interrogations.

We sail through and are on our way.

Then it’s several more hours on the road. We’ll have to pick up some supplies at a grocery store somewhere on the way, then register and camp at Toquart Bay campground.

The road is full of fantastic scenery. Countless mountains and fjords line our path. We make it to our destination about 6:30 p.m. and settle in for the night.

Toquart Bay Campground is not what I’d describe as a “communing with nature” experience. This is a spot for fishermen – period. Ninety percent of the folks here have trucks with trailered fishing boats – so fishing is their primary interest, not the camping amenities! Trucks and boxy hunting tents sit

On the beach at Toquart Bay

shoulder to shoulder along the waterfront.

We’re happy to be at the starting point for the paddling adventure.

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s launch!