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Travel Article: BC Sea Kayaking - Page 2
Broken Island Group

Day 3

This morning we awoke to fog. Thankful that we had put up a tarp over our kitchen, we could enjoy breakfast with some protection from the damp mist. Unlike the other mornings, where we had been greeted around 8 am by the fee collector, we had no such visit today. Although the seas were calm, the thick fog probably kept them away. Sechart Lodge was contracted by the park to send a boat, (an aluminum skiff), out every morning to collect fees and service the composting toilets. Park employees have also been seen visiting (in an inflatable "Zodiac" boat) to do some camp maintenance and cleanup. But not today. We figured we would stay off the water as well, at least until the fog lifted, so we enjoyed a long breakfast.

As the fog began lifting at noon, we made plans for a day paddle and launched at 2pm. We crossed Coaster Channel to Owens Island, then passed by the camp at Clarke Island, and peeked out toward Drum Rocks to check on the swell. The seas were relatively calm, with about 3 foot of swell, almost no wind, and good visibility, so we decided to continue around Clarke and Benson Islsnd to get a taste of the "outside". Nearing the south side of Benson, we experienced some chaotic chop so we heading back "inside" near Verbeke Reef.

Rounding Benson Island, we stopped on the east beach of Benson for a break and a short walk. Talking with some of the other visitors, we realized that we had missed a gray whale sighting in that area by about an hour. Even though we missed out on that opportunity, we did explore a bit of Benson Island's trails. This island has been closed to camping since 2009 and will likely stay day-use only for the foreseeable future. The reason is that some archeological findings have elevated the historical and cultural significance of the island, making conservation a higher priority. We continued our loop around Benson and Clarke then returned to Turret via Nantes Island, (where we found and explored a very narrow slot/cave with granite walls).

Day 4

As the low-pressure system of the last 24-48 hours was replaced by high pressure offshore, we were blessed with sun and cursed with wind. Tom and Ellen stayed ashore while Brian and Marcia braved the waves of Coaster Channel to explore Gilbert, Effingham, Cooper and nearby islands. The winds really picked up around noon, which prevented us from visiting the Dicebox-Howell-Wouwer group, so we just skirted behind Cooper, checked out its sea caves, and crossed Coaster Channel again with a 20-25 kt stern-quartering wind. We stayed very close together just in case of a mishap, but fortunately the crossing was uneventful. Returning to camp, we were greeted by Tom and Ellen, and met some new neighbors.

Day 5

Tom's back had been troubling him all week, so we decided to break the return trip into two days, stopping at Hand Island again for our last night in the Broken Group. So this day we enjoyed the calm conditions by paddling along the edge of Loudoun Channel, passing Lovett, Hankin, Willis, Dodd, and Brabant Islands. Our choice to have lunch on Willis was rewarded by tidepool life and white beaches. The crossing of Peacock Channel was a relaxing delight. The mild swell coming down Loudoun Channel provided a gentle reminder of the excitement of our previous excursion "outside" a few days earlier, but was entirely benign. Returning to Hand, we found the place almost deserted. So, we picked our favorite spots, and a few of us decided to spend the rest of the afternoon paddling to the Pinkerton Islands. We made the trek into a navigation exercise for those in our group who had earlier expressed some difficulties in identifying the many islands, channels, and points. As the winds increased, we headed back, pitched tents, and made dinner. A new couple paddled in, ending their first day of their first trip to the Broken Group.

Day 6

We got going around 11 am and, as a continuation of the navigation exercise, had a change in leadership for this last day of paddling. The team did an excellent job of leading the "leader" back to Toquart Bay. A stop for lunch on the north side of N Stopper Island by some shellfish farming structures was out last meal before "civilization". Upon return to the Toquart Bay campground, we quickly loaded the gear into the cars and set up tents for the night. We drove up to Ucluelet to shower and eat at the marina, then returned back to the campground to sleep. The bugs were not as bad this night, but the fireworks (and generators) were a little loud.

Day 7

We were on the road shortly after 8 am and drove on to Port Alberni where we bought some sockeye salmon from a local resident for CDN $15. We made a stop there for gas as well and then drove to Duke Point to catch the 12:45 ferry with plenty of time to spare. The border crossing was a little busier than last time, but we still got home with plenty of daylight to spare on this warm and sunny evening.

Comments

We noticed that most of the paddlers there were not dressed for immersion and had no weather or marine radio. Some were in drysuits, though, (and many of those were people from Colorado or Alberta, interestingly enough). There was one family consisting of a father and three boys. The father paddled an open canoe with one boy and the other two were in a double sea kayak. None of them were dressed for immersion nor had a marine radio. We shared a weather forecast with them. All of the people we met seemed perfectly happy with their chosen style of paddling and level of preparation. The ranger said he could never imagine himself paddling there without a marine radio. We had expected the average paddler there to have been more prepared for emergencies like poor weather or capsize. The ranger said they have at least one case a year where they have to rescue a paddler for one reason or another.

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