An epic sea kayaking adventure down the west coast of Canada.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Trip Log Part 1: North Coast

Day 1 -- Prince Rupert to Kitson Island
Date: June 26
Distance: 8 nautical miles
Duration: 3 hours including one stop
Forecast: SE winds 20-25
Actual conditions: 60 degrees, overcast , calm 

We launched in the dark (3:30 am) and paddled past ships being loaded with containers.  Trains along shore were bringing in more containers.  Ships were being filled with coal.  One ship was being loaded at 10 pm when we went by on the ferry and it was still being loaded when we paddled by in the morning.   Approaching Kitson Island we saw numerous eagles on rocks, in trees, on sandbars and in the air.  The eagles and ravens kept up a constant chatter.  You can still hear the train whistles from Kitson Island, but its a peaceful camp.  The Prince Rupert Ferry went by as did cruise ships.  We arrived at 6:30 am, rested and caught up on sleep.  There were 3 river otters close by our camp and when we went hiking along the shore one kept barking at Jonathan.  We heard loons calling and saw several ducks.  Seals came by and our eagle count for the day was 53. At one point we could see over 40 bald eagles at the same time.

Bald eagles near Kitson Island

Sweet pea

A comfortable place to hang out

Jonathan and some Indian Paint Brush

Chocolate lilies

Day 2 -- Kitson Island to Oval Beach
Date: June 27
Distance: 18 nautical miles
Duration: 6 hours with two stops
Actual conditions: sunny and calm to start, later a tailwind and current with us and then low swell on the outside of Porcher Island

The day started early with a long crossing to Porcher Island in glassy calm conditions, but soon a 10-15 knot NE wind picked up and we had the pleasure of quartering following seas and even some current assist. We made good time. We stopped at Oval Beach and then were going to keep going because conditions seemed good, but we decided to listen to a forecast before continuing. It called for increasing winds and rough seas so we decided to stay put at a beautiful pebble beach at the North end of the bay.  We saw four orca swimming near our rocky point.  It looked like two females and a young one with a male farther out.   We walked the beach and checked out a rocky mound where a whole bunch of eagles were congregating near the water line.  They flew into the trees as we came by.  We discovered they were feeding on small fish that were coming in to spawn on the sandy beach in that area.  The little dumping waves picked the fish up and threw them forward where they would then wiggle back to sea.  We saw 25 bald eagles.

A calm early morning crossing to Porcher Island
Kirti and her Pilgrim on the crossing
Jenny and Kirti in synch and cruising at 4 knots
Approaching Porcher Island
A few ripples signal the arrival of the tailwind
Getting a push along the north shore of Porcher Island
Kirti and her Pilgrim
Walking the beach at Oval Bay

Jenny's babies

Day 3 – Oval Beach to Hankin Point
Date: June 28
Distance: 30 nautical miles
Duration: 10 ½  hours with three stops
Actual conditions: Overcast with no wind.  Tide against most of the way and low swell.

Another early morning start. We saw a wolf cruising along the shoreline.  He was brownish gray and seemed curious and unafraid of us in our boats.  We went through many enormous healthy kelp beds.  We stopped to get water but it had a lot of tannin in it.  We had many long crossings of bays and from island to island.  At Hankin Point we found a bed of live sand dollars.  This camp required us to put a tent under the trees.  We also put up a bug shelter with a rain tarp since there were both mosquitoes and rain.  We hauled kayaks up and rested them on logs above the high tide line.  At low tide you can see the rock fences that the natives used as fish traps.  We saw seals, sand hill cranes and 27 bald eagles.

Our early morning wolf sighting

Slow going through miles of bull kelp

Slow going through miles of giant kelp

Kirti finds some water among all that kelp

Where are we?

Pilgrims on a voyage

The calm before the storm approaching Hankin Point

Day 4 –  Hankin Point to Anger Island
Date: June 29
Distance: 26 nautical miles
Duration: 8  hours with 1 stop
Actual conditions: Small swell and light wind with rain, rain, rain

We picked up two dromedary bags of water from a stream at Hankin Point before we set off.  We paddled part of the day with the swell, stealing energy from the waves.  We paddled against the tide most of the time.  We had some wind and a little chop for our last crossing to Anger Island.  We actually got further than we thought we would.  We stopped on a very small island for a hot breakfast/lunch. It was cold and rainy.  We passed through beautiful sets of little islands.  We saw 24 eagles, 2 orcas, 2 otter, 2 seals and one sailboat in the distance.  We found our camp to be in a very protected location with a great forest and rocks.   The forest is fairly open and easy to walk through with stumps of old growth trees.  At camp there is a huge old shell midden.  There were also pottery shards all over along with some strange graphite rods.  When the tide dropped you could see a rock fence for a fish trap area and two cleared pathways for boat landing.  All the big rocks had been moved aside.  The tannin in the water slowed the filter immediately.

Stopped for a hot lunch on a cold wet day

Gloomy but beautiful

Northern abolone

Kirti in the rain

Jenny in the rain

Jenny enjoying calm conditions

Jon trying to keep warm with his hood up

Impressive clouds and mountains on Pitt Island

Jenny and Kirti heading toward Pitt Island

Looks like its raining over there too

On the crossing to Anger Island

Arriving at Anger Island

Ropes and pulleys for hanging 12 person-weeks of food

Jenny by a little tree stump

Old growth forest at our Anger Island camp

Giant skunk cabbage

Day 5 – Anger Island to Ralston Islands
Date: June 30
Distance: 8 nautical miles
Duration: 3 hours
Actual conditions: Overcast, rainy, windy with whitecaps, tide against.

We woke to the sound of rain on the tent and decided to sleep more and launch later to have more tide with us.   We saw humpback whales, 23 bald eagles.  This is a great maze of islands with different kinds of rock. The South East wind picked up and we decided to stop instead of go on to Monkton inlet.  We had to paddle back the way we came to find a camp.  We set up shelters and prepared for the weather.

Jonathan playing his flute at our Ralston Islands camp

Some shelter from the wind near our camp

Our kayaks tied off above the high tide mark

Sheltering from the rain before it got too windy for a tarp

Day 6 –Ralston Islands
Date: July 1
Distance: 0 nautical miles
Duration: 0 hours
Actual conditions: Stormy

We hunkered down to wait out the weather.  A fierce storm blew with constant wind and rain thrashing down.   The intensity was amazing. The wind was like a jet engine for hours and the rain was torrential. The wind and rain blasted at full intensity for over 36 hours.  We stayed tent bound.  We snoozed a lot and read 14 chapters of the book “Born To Run”.  It was very challenging to keep things as dry as possible.  Our camp was only slightly protected in the woods with kayaks pulled up on logs.   The wind was blowing 40-50 knots constantly all day from the South East straight up Principe Channel.  Intense wind gusts would blow frequently as well.  It easily rained several inches in one day.  We had about six inches of water in our cockpits by the time the storm was over.   The temperature dropped.

This was about all we saw of the outside world for most of the day

Day 7 –Ralston Islands to Monkton Inlet
Date: July 2
Distance: 18 nautical miles
Duration: 8 hours with a few stops to stretch and eat
Actual conditions: Tide against, South East wind 15, bigger waves with whitecaps gradually diminishing

To escape the wind and waves we paddled into Lundy Bay, which was beautiful. We had some lunch there, but it was very cold and wet so we got back on the water to paddle hard and warm up. There was no camp available there that would survive a high tide and a strong SE wind. Eventually we made it to Monkton Inlet. Our camp was in a little cove where we had a glimpse of sunshine so we spread everything out with the hope it would dry a bit.   We put the tent in the woods past an old base for a log cabin.  The forest was green and mossy.  We found more broken pottery, old kettles, etc.  There was a bear trail with (old) grizzly bear scat in the middle of it.  We saw a mink run across the beach.  High tide made it tricky to get to our boats and food that we had bear bagged.  We timed it so that the tide would be dropping when we left.  We had rain at night and in the morning.  Our water filter slowed way down.  We saved our other filter for clearer water and put tablets in the tannin water instead.  

A long slippery carry to launch

Stopping for a cold wet lunch at the beautiful Lundy Bay

A break for a back massage (36 hours in a tent can cripple you!)

Northern abolone

A bit of yoga might help

Trying to get a weather forecast, but still nothing on the VHF radio

Another cold wet day - full winter paddling gear, hood and pogies

Heading down Principe Channel

Still cold and cloudy, but its stopped raining

Bashing through waves and head winds and fighting the tide to Monkton Inlet

Kirti toiling on

Jon heading down Principe Channel

Not a lot of camping options around here

... nor here. Miles of rocky shoreline along Principe Channel

One of many flocks of Harlequin ducks

A few minutes of sunshine. Quick spread all the wet stuff out (i.e., virtually everything!)

Day 8 –Monkton Inlet to an island off Finlayson Peninsula on Campania
Date: July 3
Distance: 14 nautical miles
Duration: 5  1/2 hours
Actual conditions: Tide was with us at the start with the wind against.  Soon the wind picked up to 15+ knots against, with waves, and eventually the tide turned and started running against us. 

We were finally able to get a weather forecast as we were going through Otter Channel.  It was the first forecast we were able to get since Oval Beach.  We had a long crossing from Pitt Island to Campania - 3 ½ nautical miles.  Wind and tide turned against us. It was hard going to make any headway especially around the headlands once we got to Campania.  We couldn’t make it to the camp we had set out for but found a nice little one with one tent spot in the woods and rocks to cook on (after some intense searching around).  Tidal difference at Prince Rupert is 18 ½ feet. It seems to be much more here.  There was a really long, rocky and seaweed covered carry to get above the high tide line, so we elected to tie off and incrementally float the boats up as the tide came in. Once we had established camp we walked around the island trying for an updated forecast, but could not get a signal anywhere.  Kirti called Jim on the Sat phone and got a weather forecast.  We saw a few boats go by in the distance today.  We saw 20 bald eagles, a foot and a half long red and orange sea cucumber, seals,  and a whale splash in the distance.

The landing and long slippery carry at our camp.

Looking west from where we landed
Kitchen area and shelter above the high tide line.

Looking west from camp

After we floated the boats up

Looking east toward our kitchen area with tent (not visible) above in the trees

Kirti talking with Jim by satellite phone

Cinquefoil (Potentilla)


Day 9 –An island off Finlayson Peninsula on Campania
Date: July 4
Distance: 0 nautical miles
Duration: 0 hours
Forecast: Southeast winds 35-45 knots

We had prepared shelters to hunker down and wait out the weather.  We had built up a nice wood floor under our day use shelter, which helped us stay drier.  We were in the perfect location in terms of terrain and wind direction. We hung out under the trees by a rock wall and then in the shelter.  Things didn’t dry much at all, but we were very well sheltered from the wind which was roaring out in the strait.  We watched the tides rise and fall, 20 feet or so.  We saw a pod of whales moving North.  We saw a few eagles, seals, and minks.  We found giant barnacles and abalone shells.

Probably the biggest barnacle I've ever seen

Kirti and the giant barnacle

Sitting out the storm in the kitchen shelter during the day

Looking west from camp at a medium high tide

Looking west from camp at a medium low tide

The carry before launching


  1. The flower marked with the "??" appears to be some variety of cinquefoil. It looks much like a version we have here on the prairies, though there are many species of cinquefoil (Potentilla).

    I'm enjoying reading the trip report and viewing the pictures.


  2. Jenny and friends,
    We're stunned by the photos and story of your trip! Thanks for documenting so well....even a photo of the WOLF! You're amazingly physically fit, capable, and adventurous. It'll take us days to explore your whole blog, as we have to look things up to learn still more. Can't wait to share this site with my brother! So proud to know you, Paula (Larwick)

  3. Chris Overholtzer, my husband, also enjoyed your blog. We will look forward to our morning "reads" each day for the next week!