Day 1 - Friday - June 8 - San Juan Island to Prevost Harbor
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.