Monday, September 24, 2007

Slit Their Throats Sink Their Boats; part 2

It was difficult to break camp and say goodbye to our comfortable little beach hovel in oyster bay, not because it was sad, but because we were totally hungover, and we hadn't gotten up before 10 or so in over a week. However we had an appointment to meet Andre at the general store sometime after 10 or so, so we got up early and hastily threw everything into the kayaks in the rain, and spent the next 12 hours hanging around at the general store waiting for Andre to show up. Redeemingly, the RV park had the best coin operated showeres I've ever had the pleasure of washing off two weeks worth of beach grime in. A loonie there gets you like 20 minutes of high pressure hot water, its incredible. Anyway, it was very generous of Andre to come pick us up there, because he ended up doing two trips to take Max and Is kayaks as well as his own and a rental kayak for Steve all the way up to Sayward. The reason for going to Sayward was because Max was going to meet his girlfriend Kate on West Thurlow Island, and the currents are too dangerous to navigate in a kayak from the south without a massive detour. Going to Sayward was fun not only because they have a really good diner with murals about the logging industry, but also because its an unpretensious coastal logging town, and there are a bunch of cool lookin old rusted out ships piled up to create a breakwater in the bay.
This is right on the Johnstone Straight, and the currents in these channels feed the Georgia Straight to the south, but in some places the channels are only a few kilometers wide, as a result the whole area is subject to the worlds most powerful tidal currents, standing waves, whirlpools and eddies. in some of the more famous and dangerous passes the currents reach speeds from 13 to 16 knots, and the boat swallowing whirlpools are legendary. The channel we had to paddle downt to get to thurlow island had a maximum current speed of about 7.5 knots, which is pretty fast for a kayak. There is absolutely no way you can paddle againt the current at this speed, so timing is really everything here.Thanks to Andre I actually have a few nice on the water shots of us kayaking for this post. Here are Max and I going with the flow, this was right before the Orcas showed up. The johnstone Straight is famous around the world for being the best place to see Killer Whales, and the best way to see them is from a kayak. As we were drifting in the current fishing, a couple of them literally swam right up to us and looked us in the eye, surfacing as close as three or four meters away. I swear I could feel them licking the bottom of my kayak. The water in this area also happens to be extremely clear, and you can actually see them swimming around below the surface at the right angle.
Heres a picture of an orca I stole off the internet, but this is what it was really like. The clear water in this area also makes for good diving, but the water is really cold, so I only went snorkelling for like a minute. We paddled two days, escorting Max and Steve, and then Andre and I paddled back to Sayward, about 20 kms, in 3 hours. we just got right out into the strongest part of the current, and before we knew it we were there. That was pretty fun. Then we drove across the Island to Zeballos, on the west coast.Zeballos is also a neat little coastal village, and the best place for access to nootka island on the west coast. Zeballos also has a bar that has good burgers, as well as bears that wander around town. We had to paddle a couple of hours before we made it out of the inlet, and out on to the "breathing ocean" Andre kept carrying on about. Andre hates inlets. It was nice to have the vhf radio, because it was blowing gales pretty consistently the entire ten days or so we were out there. We made it to an island on the west coast the first day, and ended up marooned there until two days later, which was fine with me because it was a really nice island, and we were stocked up on good food. This part of the island is the southernmost extent of the reintroduced sea otter population, and there really are loads of them. at one point I paddled out to a kelp bed between some rocks and there were at least 50 of them congregated all around me. There were no bears, cougars, or wolves on the island, so as a result there were a bunch of extremely tame deer and I had a good time chasing them around. The following day we paddled over to a beach on the big island, and learned the definition of "bear infested". It always makes me a little nervous when there are large potentially dangerous animals all over the place, and then it gets dark. Nonetheless, our campsite went unraided, and I slept soundly. In the morning the weather was actually nice, so we took the opportunity to cross a channel, and made it to another island just off of Nootka Island. I named the Island, which is listed in the chart as 44, Flathead Island, because of the many sea otters which hang out in the area. (I call sea otters flatheads).
The island was so nice and well situated for exploring that we spent the rest of the trip camped there, the gales never really let us spend the whole day on the water anyway. We ran out of fresh water, and while we were in our kayaks looking for a little stream someone told us about, we saw a pretty big black bear on a small beach. We paddled up closer, and the bear didn't seem to mind, so we got to spend a good long time watching it at close range flipping over rocks and rooting through the washed up seaweed. It only glanced at us occasionally, and eventually lumbered back into the woods.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Nootka burial cave on one of the small islands facing the pacific. We landed our kayaks on the beach and then proceeded to spend about an hour walking all the way around the island in search of the rumoured cave, only to discover it right back on the beach we landed on, next to our kayaks. The ground inside the cave is completely covered in pieces of carved cedar boxes and human bones, several of the skulls have been positioned up higher on ledges. It must be nice to be able to come and visit with your ancestors in this way.

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