In the summer of 2012 I completed my second, solo, Inside Passage kayaking adventure. I have chronicled the trip in my latest book, "Alone in the Passage: An Explorers Guide to Sea Kayaking the Inside Passage". Besides giving a day to day run down of my experiences, I provide the reader with valueable information that would be necessary to sucessfully complete this incredible journey. The book is available in both paperback and Kindle e-book versions from Amazon. To find out more and read exerpts from the book CLICK HERE.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Friday, August 7, 2009
A complete chronology of my 2007/2008 Inside Passage kayaking adventure is now available from Amazon Books in both paperback and digital "Kindle" format.
By clicking on the bold type title above, you will be brought to the Amazon page where either of the formats can be ordered.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
In the summers of 2007 and 2008 I was fortunate to complete a solo sea kayaking trip through the remote and sometimes dangerous waters of the Inside Passage from San Juan Island Washington to Skagway Alaska.
This is the story of that trip and the adventures I had along the way.
Canada's Coast Range appears across the Strait of Georgia as seen from the ferry.
As I rode the ferry across Puget Sound and looked north up the Strait of Georgia, I could see the snow capped peaks of Canada’s coastal mountain range stretching off into the distance. The kayaking trip I was about to undertake would take me well past the farthest mountains I could now see. In a few weeks, these distant peaks would be further behind me than they were in front of me now. The challenge was real, but I was confident that if I took it a day at a time, these sentinels would slowly disappear from my view as new vistas opened before me.
After months of planning, and a 3,000-mile drive across the US, I had finally arrived at my launch point on beautiful San Juan Island in Washington‘s, Northern Puget Sound. The “put in” would be Small Pox Bay at the San Juan County Park. I picked this spot to start the trip because it allowed me to avoid heavily urbanized areas along the mainland and put me in a good position to enter Canada’s Gulf Islands and travel within their relatively protected waters.
San Juan County Park is very popular with kayakers and whale watchers who come to catch a glimpse of the many pods of Orcas that frequently pass within a short distance of its shoreline. It can be crowded during the summer, so reservations are necessary if you plan to spend the night. Access to San Juan Island is via the Washington State Ferry that leaves the mainland in Anacortes Washington and arrives on the island at Friday Harbor.
First Leg - Days 1-12 - San Juan Island to Powell River
The main natural and man made features encountered along this stretch of the route include: The San Juan Islands, Boundary Pass, the US / Canadian border, the Gulf Islands, Trincomali Channel, the city of Nanaimo, the Strait of Georgia, Texada Island, Malaspina Strait, and the city of Powell River.
My big adventure begins at Small Pox Bay on San Juan Island.
The weather was perfect for my first day on the water, light winds, mild temperatures, and mostly clear skies. Launch time was 9:20am. I headed north thru Haro Strait with Canada’s Vancouver Island on my left and the west coast of San Juan Island on my right. Even though there was a slight current against me, I still made good time through Mosquito Pass and into Roche Harbor. As I entered the pass, I got my first look at a group of Harbor Seals that were sunning themselves on a rock while others seemed to be feeding or playing in the water near by.
As I start my crossing of Speiden Channel Vancouver Island fills the horizon across Haro Strait.
I cleared the pass between Henry and Pearl Islands at 11am and headed out across Spieden Channel towards the west tip of Spieden Island. This was my first open water crossing of the trip and a good introduction to what lay ahead. The wind was kicking up a light chop and there were recreational boaters speeding about in every direction. Even though Spieden Island is about halfway across the channel, there is no good place to land, so it is unusable as a refuge in bad weather. By noon, I had made the four-mile crossing to the entrance of Johns Pass. There was a one to two knot current running against me through Johns Pass so I stayed close to shore and out of the main flow.
My campsite at Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island.
In a short time, I had paddled around the eastern tip of Stuart Island and into Prevost Harbor. There is a state park here with a convenient landing spot for kayakers just west of the boat dock and a few yards from the designated campsites. All campsites are about twenty feet above high tide and have good views of the harbor. There are picnic tables, a composting toilet, and water. A trail winds through the park and offers a chance to stretch legs stiffened by a day of paddling.
Today’s paddle covered around 12 miles in 3 hours and 40 minutes.
Setting off across Boundary Pass from Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island toward South Pender Island.
The weather was gloomy but the wind calm as I woke up for my second day of paddling. After having a quick breakfast and breaking camp, I launched at 8am. As soon as I attached my spray skirt, it started to rain. Ahead lay the four miles of open water in Boundary Pass and the Canadian border. Since slack tide today was at 7:30am, I knew it was possible to make it across the four miles to South Pender Island before any serious current picked up. Boundary Pass is notorious for its fast tidal currents and heavy shipping traffic so it had been a major source of concern for me. Leaving early for the long crossing turned out to be a good idea as the weather later in the day got very windy and would have made the crossing dangerous. The light drizzle and lack of wind made the crossing go smoothly and by 9:30am I was tying up to the customs dock in Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island.
Entering Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island.
The Canadian customs station was unmanned. Instead of live personnel, there were three phones with direct links to customs agents. After asking me a few questions, an agent gave me permission to enter Canada. While standing in the rain talking to the customs agent, I started to get cold. I spotted a coffee shop nearby so I went over and got some coffee and a muffin. The combination of a hot drink and a warm room soon had me feeling better and ready to face the open water again. While there, I chatted with some friendly Canadians who were amazed that I had just paddled across Boundary Pass in a kayak.
A BC ferry enters Otter Bay on North Pender Island.
I left Bedwell Harbor at 10:30am and after rounding Wallace Point headed up the southwest coast of North Pender Island. The current was flooding south through Swanson Channel for the first two hours so I hugged the shore to stay out of the main flow. By 12:30pm, the current had turned and was no longer a problem, but now the wind and rain had picked up and created uncomfortable paddling conditions as squalls moved through. My original route plan was to go through Captain Passage along the west coast of Prevost Island. This would have required an open water crossing of 2.5 miles from North Pender to Prevost Islands. After considering the weather conditions, I opted instead to follow the west coast of North Pender Island. If conditions deteriorated, three large bays would offer me some protection.
A stormy day on Swanson Channel.
I stopped for a few minutes in the northernmost bay of Port Washington to consider the conditions that lay ahead in the crossing over to Prevost Island. The distance was about a mile and a half and a southerly wind was creating whitecaps that would be hitting me from the left rear. I decided to go for it and headed out for Portlock Point on Prevost Island. I was carrying a waterproof digital camera that could take short videos so I turned it on to try and capture the scene for friends back home that have no idea how it looks to be in a kayak in rough water. Unfortunately, it was just the first time that the camera was to malfunction on this trip so the crossing would go undocumented. After a determined thirty-minute paddle, I reached Prevost Island and could finally take a break out of the wind in relatively calm water.
The coast of Prevost Island was different from all the other shorelines I had passed in these first two days in that there were no homes visible from the water. Every other island had conspicuous homes indicating private property along their entire shorelines.
Approaching the beach at James Bay.
I rounded Peile Point on the North West tip of Prevost Island and headed into James Bay and a Cascadia Marine Trail (CMT) campsite. After landing in the rain at 3pm, I set up camp on a grassy meadow where a flock of Canadian geese had left plenty of proof of their recent feeding activity. The area has no improvements other than an outhouse but the landing site was good and the tall grass made for a comfortable campsite. Although there is no fresh water available at James Bay, I was able to collect a couple of gallons by strategically placing cooking pots to catch water running off my rain tarp.
After a stormy day of paddling the sky begins to clear at James Bay.
After dinner, I made a call home on my cell phone and was amazed when it actually went through. Today I covered eighteen miles in six hours.