Day 5 - Tuesday - June 12 - Blackberry Point to Nanaimo
My campsite on the beach at Blackberry Point on Valdes Island.
Today I hoped to take advantage of a flood tide flowing north through Pylades Channel to help me on my way. I launched just after the tide turned and headed toward today’s destination, Nanaimo. After launching at 10:40am from Blackberry Point on Valdes Island, I cut across Pylades Channel and paddled up the east coast of Pylades and Ruxton Islands.
A small tug pulls a huge log raft through Ruxton Passage.
At Ruxton Passage, I arrived just as a small tug towing a raft of logs started to come through. It was amazing to watch as a huge raft, possibly 300 yards long, passed in front of me. I sat bobbing in the waves for 20 minutes as the raft slowly made its way past. My only consolation was the wonderful smell of the fresh cut timber that filled the air as I waited.
I stopped at the Ruxton Passage Cove Marine Park on the southeast tip of De Courcy Island and filled up my water bottles from the hand pump there. This park has a much more user-friendly landing area than Conover Cove on Wallace Island and the pump was much easier to use for filling water bottles.
Entering False Narrows with Gabriola Island on the right and Mudge Island on the left.
The current was flowing northerly thru Pylades Channel as I made my way along the east coast of De Courcy Island toward False Narrows. The current pushed me along at a good clip in the narrows as I watched the shallow bottom features zip past through the clear water.
Northumberland Channel appears in the distance as I make my way through the narrowest section of False Narrows.
Once I was out of False Narrows and into Northumberland Channel, conditions rapidly became uncomfortable. The current was now flowing at full force through False and Dodd Narrows, the wind had picked up to about 20mph, and there were power boaters zipping around in every direction. The sea conditions were choppy and confused requiring me to pay close attention and not take my hands off the paddle for a second. On top of all that, there were log rafts 100 feet wide tied up along the shore of Gabriola Island with the currents pushing me towards them. I knew it was important to stay away from the upstream ends of these rafts because if forced underneath them I would be in big trouble.
Newcastle Island appears across Northumberland Channel.
I cut across to the Vancouver Island side of the channel and started heading toward the ferry terminal near Jack Point. I could see the ferry approaching from far off so I timed myself to pass behind the ferry as it approached the dock. Now it was only a short distance to today’s destination, the Newcastle Island Marine Park in Nanaimo.
I yield the right of way to the BC ferry landing at Jack Point.
It is a good idea to launch and land at Newcastle Island during a high tide, as the water around the camping area is shallow, and landing at low tide requires a long carry. I arrived at 3:45, two hours before the day’s high tide so I was able to land high up on the beach. The best spot to land a kayak is where you see a little footbridge on the southeast side of the island near a place called Brownie Cove. Securely tie up your boat here and head west along the trail over to the pavilion where the campground office is located. Along the way you will pass campsites so be on the lookout for one that is empty. Locate a handcart either at the pavilion or at the powerboat dock and bring it back with you to your boat. You should be able to load your boat and all your gear on the handcart and bring it all to the campsite you have chosen in one trip. If you cannot find anyone to check in with, just occupy a vacant site and someone will come around, collect the fees from you, and check you in. I stayed here two nights so I could spend a full day in Nanaimo getting supplies and taking a break.
Hand carts are available on Newcastle Island to get your boat and gear from wherever you land to a campsite.
An alternative to landing by the footbridge at Brownie Point could be the public boat dock at Mark Bay on Newcastle Island. This may be a better choice if you have to land or launch at low tide although I did not investigate while there.
A large flock of Canadian Geese has made this lawn on Newcastle Island their territory.
While camped here, do not leave any food in your tent, as the island is full of raccoons that will tear a hole in your tent searching for something to eat. You may even want to leave your tent door unzipped, as I had a raccoon tear a hole in my mosquito net door to get in and I had left no food in the tent. Each campsite has a large wooden box for storing food and equipment so the raccoons cannot get to it.
Today I paddled sixteen miles in five hours.