I have landed in Tofino! It is just about the right time to resupply my food and I plan on taking care of that today. This works out perfectly since this is one of the few places to re-stock before going around the northern part of the island.
The last two days have been amazing and very different. The first day was grey and misty, with limited visibility. That day I went through the Broken Group islands that spread out across Barkley Sound. Most of the day was spent drawing out headings on the chart and following the compass into a wall of impenetrable grey. (That is always such a good test of how much confidence you have in your navigation skills.) Although I couldn’t see much of the distant islands through the mist, the beach I stopped at for lunch was beautiful, with bright blue water surrounding it like I have seen in the Florida Keys! It did clear a bit for the last crossing to the Ucluelet peninsula, where my day ended in the small town of the same name.
Justine Curgenven and JF Marleau met me on the beach. Both have been serious paddlers, guides, coaches, and expeditioners for over 20 years. Justine is also a film maker who has produced many popular paddling films, including the This Is The Sea series. It was wonderful to get a warm shower, delicious meal, and great conversation with the two of them. I learned so much about the areas that are coming up, including important bits of local knowledge for stormy landing spots, the best campsites, and who to say hello to along the way. We even had a board game night with a couple of their friends: a cozy evening by the woodstove while the rain made a constant noise on the roof. I was grateful to have a break from my tent on such a wet evening. The rain was still coming down in the morning, but the weather looked good for the next section and I headed out.
The stretch between Ucluelet and Tofino is exposed coast, with lots of rock gardens and wide beaches along the way. A swell of about 8 feet was coming in, making for exciting conditions as I paddled north, Sometimes I headed outside of the rocks to deeper water where the waves don’t break, sometimes I cut behind them in order to get some protection. This was a big contrast to the mellow grey day before. It is amazing to paddle just off the shore and rocks as the swell hits the coastline, creating a spectacular show.
Sometimes the kayak drops down quickly, like the feeling you get when a high-rise elevator starts descending. There is a pause, then you raise up higher than usual as a bigger wave passes underneath. Wait a few seconds, then look towards shore as a loud BOOM! goes off and a plume of white spray erupts, covering the rocks and sometimes flying high into the sky. Then you can’t see it anymore, because you have dropped down into the next trough. As you rise once more you get a view of the rock uncovered, white foam and bright blue water cascading down all sides. It is beautiful and awesome in the true sense of the word, and definitely engenders a healthy respect for the power of the water around you.
On arriving in Tofino I was met by Liam, the owner of Tofino Sea Kayaking. He let me store my boat at the landing and hang my gear inside to dry. I was very grateful to have such an easy setup while resetting for the next section.
Up ahead the paddling will be a mix of cutting inside of some larger islands in order to have sheltered paddling and then coming out to the coast to round some significant headlands. There are three in particular that will each be tough challenge: Estevan Point, the Brooks Peninsula, and Cape Scott. Each of these places is well known for concentrated winds, confused seas, and dangerous paddling conditions. I expect to potentially wait for several days at each in order to have a safe enough weather window to paddle around.
The next section is going to require very good judgement and a bit of luck with the weather. I am excited to see these places, but also getting a bit nervous about them. From here to Cape Scott is the crux of the trip; the next two weeks will determine if I succeed in this endeavor. As I pack more food and check my gear I am making sure that all the little details are in order, as even the small things are really going to count up ahead.
[ If you would like to learn more about Justine, JF, and Liam, you should check out their web pages or find them on Facebook. Each runs a very different operation, but all are true sea kayakers who love the adventure of going to wild places in small boats.]
Justine’s films - cackletv.com
JF’s paddling and leadership school - skils.ca
Liam’s guiding service - tofinoseakayaking.com