BC Inside Passage

CanadaBritish ColumbiaNorth Coast
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Allan Jacobs
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Freda Mellenthin
Additional Route Information
480 km
22 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Not applicable
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Prince Rupert, Digley & Kennedy Islands, Grenville Channel, Hartley Bay, Fraser & MacKay Reaches,Princess Royal Channel, Bute Dale, Sara Island, Tolmie Channel, Swindle Island, Klemtu, Jackson Channel, Lady Douglas Island, Bella Bella, Shearwater, Lama Channel, Fitz Hugh Sound, Namu, Calvert Island, Rivers Inlet, Blackney Channel, Smith Sound, Cape Caution, Slingby Inlet, Shelter Bay, Richard Channel, Ripple & Gordon Channels, Port Hardy.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Editor’s notes:
Ted Mellenthin is a highly experienced and capable white-water paddler; parts of this route may be beyond the capabilities of many recreational paddlers.

Title: Tides and Liquid Sunshine

Route: Inside Passage, from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy

Distance/duration: about 480 km, 22 days

Year travelled: 2001

Author: Freda Mellenthin

All day Sunday and Monday we were packing, loading and unloading our tandem kayak Sundog to be ready for the first ferry to Nanaimo on Tuesday. But with getting the house ready, emptying the fridge, etc, we only had fourteen minutes to make it to Horseshoe Bay. On top of it, Ted got confused at the exit to highway 99, turned left too late and mowed down the traffic sign. Was this a bad omen? But we made it on time and proceeded on the island highway towards Port Hardy. Once the RCMP stopped us - Oh, Oh, were we speeding? The officer was nice, gave us a friendly warning and admired the shape of our kayak. Hopefully this would be our last mistake on this trip. At 3:00 p.m. we reached Port Hardy. First we bought foot passenger tickets for us and the kayak, then
we arranged parking for a twenty-day period with the operators of the Wildwoods camping ground. After our last decent meal in Port Hardy we retired for a short night in the back of our truck.

Wednesday, June 27

At six in the morning we drove the three km to the ferry terminal, unloaded the kayak, the camping gear and the food. I drove the truck back to the Wildwoods campground to park it there. Then I positioned myself on the road to catch a ride back to the ferry terminal. It was a miserable rainy morning. I waited fifteen minutes until a sympathetic lady gave me a lift to the ferry. That's when I realized that I had left my sun/rain hat in the truck. I had over an hour to hitchhike back, but Ted did not let me go. We watched the loading of the cars. The ferry does not have any facility to help kayakers and their boats to get on the ferry, so we had to push our nineteen-foot Sundog on ourselves. Luckily we had a set of small wheels for it. The ferry left one hour late because there was a fire drill on the ship first. Finally we started our fifteen-hour trip to Prince Rupert. Our next worry was how to find a spot for camping that is close enough to the water once we arrive in Prince Rupert. The public relations personnel such as the steward, the purser and the tourist agent had no solution for us other than using the local campsite three-quarters of a kilometer away from the terminal. But talking to a crew member on the car deck, we received the right advice: we could use the empty building lot just off the ferry dock. The rest of the voyage, we tried to scout the shores of the various passages the ship ploughed through to spot possible campsites for our upcoming paddle. It did not look too promising. Towards mid-day a very brief stop in Bella Bella was announced which turned out to last over an hour. It looked as if they could not find all the people who wanted to disembark. They walked across the ramp at long intervals. As a result of this layover, we only arrived after midnight in Prince Rupert. Wheeling off our loaded Sundog, we found the described building lot, pulled the kayak behind a large grass hump, pitched our tent and retired at 1:30 a.m. We had a good, undisturbed sleep.

Thursday, June 28

We first woke up at 5:30 a.m. to the engine noise of the departing Queen of the North. Peeking out of the tent into a foggy miserable morning, we decided that it was too early to get up and managed to continue snoozing till nine. We cooked our porridge, used the ferry terminal's washrooms - a last-time luxury - and packed. Then we decided to contact the Coast Guard on our brand-new marine radio. After all, we had taken the course and had received a licence to operate it. The idea to speak on a public channel, where everybody on every boat could hear us, was a bit scary. Ted did not want to do it, so I contacted the Coast Guard, announcing our departure and asking all boats to look out for a yellow kayak. Secretly we were praying that we would not have to contact them again with a "Pan-Pan", or God forbid "Mayday" distress call on our voyage. Now we had to find an appropriate put-in spot. The shore was steep and the kayak too heavy to be let down fully loaded over big boulders and through prickly bushes. We pushed, lifted and pulled our Sundog along the railroad tracks, hoping that no train would come now. After five hundred meters, we let it down on a rope to the rocky beach. Because it was low tide, we still had to push it forward inch by inch, protecting the kayak underneath with old boards. At 2:00 p.m. we finally embarked and our adventure could begin. First we paddled north to get a glimpse of the Prince Rupert harbour, and then we headed south. At five p.m. we decided to camp on Digley Island not too far from our starting point, because the tide was coming in, creating a strong current against us. At this point we did not have too much knowledge of tides and currents. We had to get used to reading the various high-tide marks to secure our tent above it. After supper, our usual Lipton Soup Works diet, we went on a hike, straggling through the north-western rain forest. We found a deserted settlement with some houses that must have been proud dwellings at one time. It was a peaceful evening with no rain.

Friday, June 29

Another rainless day with some sunny intervals and unlimited visibility. We left at 9:00 a.m. with the outgoing tide, passing Prince Rupert's grain elevators and pulp mill. The first two hours we had good speed, but near noon we hardly moved forward any more. We had reached the waters of the outgoing Skeena River we had been warned about. We paddled frantically for an hour, finally passing the last outcrops of the current and landing on an island where we had lunch in the sun. Later we continued at a nice speed, passing Smith Island and paddling along Kennedy Island. Small fishing vessels passed us all day. One of them did not slow down for us and created a huge tail wave which we had to brace at 90 degrees. We watched seals bathing in the sun and gliding into the water when they saw us. Some dolphins passed in the distance and many bald eagles flew over us or watched from a tree. It was a great day! At 5:45 p.m. we decided to camp at the tip of Kennedy Island on a grassy spot above the high-tide mark. However we had to unload the kayak completely to be able to pull it up that high. Ted and I were so careful not to damage the hull of our Sundog, pulling and wheeling it over the sharp rocks covered with barnacles.

Saturday, June 30

Another absolutely gorgeous day! Sunny, blue sky and the third day without rain! At six in the morning it was too foggy to paddle and the tide would start to turn at ten a.m. So we returned to our sleeping bag and had another snooze. We started paddling around noon, leaving Kennedy Island behind. We passed Marrack Island and had lunch on a lovely gravel beach around two p.m. We knew that the tide would start coming in at four with the current in our favour. After a nap, we left to enter the infamous Grenville channel, a seventy-kilometer passage with steep embankments and with almost no suitable camping spots. We knew that the high waves from the wake of the ferry and cruise ships could be a problem, especially farther south where the channel becomes even more narrow. We had a chance to practice paddling through the wake when three cruise ships passed us going north. The main thing is to avoid being close to shore when the waves arrive, for they would smash you to pieces against the rock walls. We met a kayaker going north, an older man with a white beard by the name of Steve Granner. He had started paddling one and a half months ago from Port McNeil on Vancouver Island. In the evening it became quite choppy with a north wind propelling us forward through the high waves at a good speed. Around 7:00 p.m. we set up camp on a small level spot just above the high water mark with room for one small tent. Ted took a very cold bath to soothe (or shock?) his sore back.

Sunday, July 1

The day looked promising at eight in the morning, but when we left, a south wind had come up, forming whitecaps and making paddling against the wind very unpleasant. After a one and a half hour struggle, we decided to land and wait, but where and how? There are very few landing spots, as the shores consist of steep rock walls and the small bits of beaches are covered with slimy barnacles and rocks. With the nineteen to twenty-one-foot tide differences you have to plan where the landed kayak will be in one hour. We waited two hours on a pebble beach, had lunch there and explored the western rain forest. There was an old trap, a lean-to shelter, and a moss-grown trail leading to a river. Whose spirit lingered here in the middle of nowhere from times long passed?
When we continued paddling with the changing tides, the clouds hung quite low, giving the sun very few chances to peak through from time to time. This afternoon we had to put in two breaks because Ted’s left leg and his back got sore after sitting too long. Our second break was at the entrance to the most narrow part of the Grenville channel. Someone had described a camping spot to us in this area, so we continued until we had found it on the right side. It was a great spot with a flat place for the tent, a creek for drinking water and enough wood for a fire. This was our fourth day on the water, and we were having a great time. In the evening and in the morning we listen to the reports on our marine radio. We have learned that there are different reports for every little bay, and you have to know the whole area like your pocket to understand where the various turbulences took place. Sometimes we could relate to a particular item. Tonight we heard: "Securite, Securite, a five-foot log is anchored north of ... at position” so and so. We actually saw that log hung up on a chain. It was no danger to us or our Sundog, but could be disastrous or a fast going fishing vessel.

Monday, July 2

We woke up to a steady rain that made us crawl back into our sleeping bag quickly, lulling us back into our dreams, dry and cosy for another two hours. At 9:00 a.m. I got up and cooked the porridge, normally Ted's job. This time he had breakfast in bed. While we ate, we heard the waves of the southbound BC ferry crash against the shore. Later, when we were already on the water, a cruise ship. despite slowing down for us, created big swells on the narrow channel. A float plane passed over us, tipping its wings in salute. Farther down was a big oil spill which irritated our noses before it could be seen. The mountains and shores are wild and untamed, but the fishing boats, pleasure crafts, ferries and cruise ships betray the wilderness. We saw the odd camp spot earlier in the day, but too early to retire. The vital question for us always is: "How many more hours will we have to paddle to find the next campsite, maybe through half the night?" The steep rock walls that line the shores for miles are impossible to penetrate.
After six, when the tide started coming in, we saw a grassy patch high above a steep rocky beach. We disembarked, unloaded all gear and carried it up over barnacle-covered boulders, sharp rocks and three big logs. We put the tent up, spread the tarp as an overhanging roof above it against the steady rain and built a crackling fire before us. Our Sundog, tied up way down was lifted higher and higher towards us by the rising tide. Behind us, a trickle of a creek is running down, forming small bowls that served as kitchen sink and wash basin. Under the porch of our waterfront home, we felt secure and happy after a rather wet day.

Tuesday, July 3

This morning it was pouring. It was a south-westerly that brought us rain for the second day. We took our time for breakfast, talking and listening to the weather stations. Suddenly: "Pan Pan - Pan Pan, A green kayak with green sprayskirt, due in Prince Rupert two days ago, has failed to show up. All vessels look out for green kayak". Was that the kayaker from Port McNeil we met three days ago? "No", we thought with some relief, he had a blue kayak.
After eleven o'clock, realizing that the rain would not stop, we launched. It rained so heavily that we could hardly see, but the water was calm and we travelled at a good speed through the rest of the Grenville Channel. Our rain suits were not that waterproof, and we got soaked to the skin. Our goal today was to reach Hartley Bay, a remote Native village. By late afternoon the rain had subsided when we finally pulled in at the village dock. We had been hoping to find a store here to buy matches and maybe something different from our dry-food diet, but there was only a candy shop run in a private home. We complained to the native store owner that we could not catch any fish, upon which she opened her private freezer and gave us a package of salmon as a present. What a nice gesture!
The village is built on bog, therefore the houses are constructed on stilts and the streets are on brand-new boardwalks. There is a new, excellent gym, a modern school for approx. sixty students, and an old neglected church. A new housing project is underway. To buy groceries, the villagers have to go by a small ferry boat for which they pay fifty dollars per trip.
We left Hartley Bay at 8:00 p.m. hoping to find camping on the opposite island. Alas, we had to paddle two more hours before we found a safe camp spot, or so we thought! It was not ideal, but we cleared away some bigger rocks to create a smooth, level patch high above the big boulders. The tide was rising and would reach its peak at half past midnight. It would surely not rise above the boulders!? As we ate supper at 11:00 p.m., we started worrying about the slowly approaching water. When will it stop? Shortly before midnight Ted grabbed the tent when the first tongue of water lapped the entrance. I quickly packed all kitchen utensils and our sleeping bags. We groped in the dark, holding on to boulders and roots to c1imb into the g1oomy rain forest above. Lucki1y, there was an opening in the rock wall through which we could squeeze ourselves and the tent. We spent the night on a slightly slanted spot, our heads at the entrance. There was no room to peg down the tent fly. Nevertheless, we had a short, good night.

Wednesday, July 4

Today packing was time-consuming because our equipment was scattered all over the place due to yesterday's evacuation. It was not raining, and some of the things had a chance to dry out. First we had to make a crossing towards a beacon, but then we took the wrong turn into a north-east pointing channel. Maybe we had followed blindly the small sailing boat ahead of us, but when we saw the ferry going into a different direction, we knew that something was wrong. It cost us five kilometers to get back on track, but since it was not yet raining, we enjoyed the paddling. To make sure of our correct position, we consulted the compass and our charts. A man and his grandson on a pleasure boat from Edmonton stopped, reassuring us of the right way. We learned from him that there are hot springs at the end of the north-east channel and that apparently an Austrian kayaker is stranded there without much equipment. Our shortest route was to paddle through the Fraser Reach, and then the MacKay Reach. Some dolphins were playing in front of us, and the day was quite pleasant, although the clouds hung low. Around six in the evening we saw a perfect camping spot where logging had taken place years ago and the company had made a flat landing spot for loading logs. As always our camp was built first. While we ate some of the wonderful salmon, it started to rain. Ted had already put a tarp over the tent and had made a fire so that we could sit in the dry, listen to the radio and study our maps.

Thursday, July 5

Today we were on the water earlier than usual, at 9:15, which made us feel good. The sun was almost showing, but then a south wind came up and brought us rain from time to time. We entered the Princess Royal Channel, which is almost as narrow as the Grenville Channel. The shores are super steep with vertical rock walls going all the way up the mountains. There are many dramatic waterfalls on this stretch, and no bays whatsoever where you could stop for lunch. We paddled hour after hour, getting hungrier by the minute, but we could not find a single spot to land. Finally we landed under a slanted wall and carefully climbed up on it. A rock roof, from which steady trickles of water came down, hung over us. We did not dare sit down, fearing to slip and fall into the water. After lunch we passed Bute Dale, an old deserted cannery. From the distance you could see disintegrating buildings with sunken roofs of this at one time prosperous operation that became unfeasible because of modern freezing methods. The weather had turned so bad that we did not feel like stopping in this ghost town, but rather continued quickly, our minds already set on a cosy campsite with a crackling fire and a salmon steak in the frying pan. Two hours later we had just found that, tucked into a niche behind a small round peninsula. We had hardly any dry clothes left and went to bed dreaming about sunshine and warm pebble beaches.

Friday, July 6

When we woke up at eight it was very foggy and raining. Ted made a fire and we took our time getting ready, always hoping for a change in weather. Since that did not happen, we finally left at 11:15 in pouring rain. From time to time, the sky looked hopeful and the clouds brighter. But there was more rain, at times heavy, at times light. Gusts of wind whipped the water into whitecaps. Twenty minutes after starting, we had to land because the water was too wild. You never know if there will be another landing spot! We waited two and a half hours until the water had calmed down somewhat. With the outgoing tide, paddling was fast. We even had to go through a rapid created by a wild river emptying into the ocean. Higher up on the river we spotted a dam and a fish ladder. This must have been a small logging community at one time. On the shore an old logging machine was rusting away.
In the evening we had a hard time finding a camping spot. Our clothes were soaked and we were quite fed up. Crossing bay after bay, we were looking out for a flat landing spot with some camping space above the high-tide mark. There were small gravel beaches covered with huge logs in many bays, but at high tide the water would completely cover them. Finally we had found a refuge and could start our routine of completely unloading the kayak, carrying all gear up over slippery rocks and then pulling the kayak to a safe place where the waves would not bang it against the rocks. At last we were perched above a high rock pile behind a huge log whose giant roots were hanging like a roof over our tent. Even here we were not sure if the water would not reach us. Water was running, trickling and dropping from everywhere, but we had adequate protection from the elements.

Saturday, July 7

It rained and rained last night. I woke up at 2:00 a.m. from the gargling sound of the approaching tide water. Will it reach our tent? I woke Ted up and we looked outside. The water was still two meters away and would turn back in forty minutes. We were lucky and did not have to move. Nothing was dry any more in the morning. We got into our wet clothes and had breakfast standing up, so that we could dry our seats a bit. Suddenly we saw a kayaker in a blue and white kayak approaching our camp. It was an American by the name of Jeff White, forty-one years old, who was on his way from Seattle to Anchorage. He had started in early June. We offered him a tea, and he told us some of his adventures of his trip. But he was in a hurry to go on while the tidal current was in his favour. He was amazed that old folks like us were undertaking such a major and difficult trip. Before leaving again, Jeff quickly showed us a special computer in which the tides and tidal currents were displayed until the year 2008. We left in pouring rain and paddled to the tip of Princess Royal Island, then across to Sara Island. It took us all day to paddle south along the west shore of this island. We had plenty of time to admire the growth of the northwestern rain forest. The branches of the trees lining the rocky shores are covered with lush green moss, and out of this moss new trees are sprouting. In the afternoon the rain eased to a drizzle and the sun, still in hiding, highlighted the fringes of the clouds. Bright clouds and fine rain, a true liquid sunshine! The mountains along the coast were still shrouded in fog, unveiling themselves as we were approaching.
In the evening we arrived at the end of Tolmie Channel which separates into three new channels. The very left one leads to a small fishing community called Klemtu, still eight kilometers away. It was already evening, but because the tidal current was in our favour, we continued paddling under a blue sky on smooth mirror-like water. During a bigger crossing to reach Swindle Island, we had a bad experience. Having already crossed two thirds of the water, we saw a big ship approaching. We made sure to be well out of her way on her starboard side. While she was still at a fair distance, she suddenly made a sharp turn southwest towards us. The immediate reaction in such situations is to "run", so we paddled like crazy to get out of the ship's way. Completely out of breath, we crossed just in time in front of her when the captain finally must have seen us and slowed down. It was the Malaspina, the ferry from Seattle to Alaska. I think that it would have been more clever to make a countermove northeast or left to avoid her. For the future we will equip our Sundog with a radar reflector to avoid such mishaps. After we had somewhat recovered from the shock, I mentioned my theory, which did not go over very well. Ted became angry and released his frustration in a tirade of generalizations about women, using not the most selected vocabulary. I should have realized that it was much too soon to start a rational conversation about such a scary experience; sorry Ted!
Continuing towards Klemtu, we passed a still manned lighthouse called Bunt Bluff standing on the left side of the channel across from us with white walls and a red roof, very cosy with a fence and a garden. I was wondering if the lighthouse keeper would let us camp on his property, since it was already late and we were quite wet. However, we continued on the right side where we came across a set of rotten stairs leading right from the water up to who knows what. Ted, who is always curious, had to stop and find out while I preferred to stay in the warmth of the kayak. The stairs did not reveal anything on top, but Ted slipped on his way down on the slimy steps, catching himself just in time. It
would have been a disastrous fall! Further on, a motorboat passed close by and the three men offered to tow us to Klemtu. Of course we declined the offer and continued paddling until nine p.m. We pitched our tent on a steep shore near a creek. The creek water ran down the hill and around our tent in little rivulets, but we did not care anymore. Our feet were cold and wet, and the sleeping bag and tent floor damp. But we slept well, thankful that this day was over and we were alive and snuggled together in our double bag.

Sunday, July 8

An almost sunny morning and no rain! We hung up all our wet clothes and did not leave until it was all dry again. Klemtu was only twenty paddling-minutes away and we approached it with great anticipation, a day off in civilization!
Klemtu is a native village of about three hundred people. There is a modern school, an ambulance, a hydro building, a post office and a fish-processing plant where some locals work. The coffee shop is not operating, but there are two small stores where one can buy sweets and some canned food. It is a dry community, but most people are very overweight from unhealthy diets and too much pop and candy. A longhouse is being built and many other housing projects are under way. We talked to a native woman, Cindy, who is trying to establish a souvenir shop where the passengers from the ferry or boaters can buy native art. She also teaches the children traditional dancing and song. The ferry, the Queen of Chilliwack, arrives here every Sunday and stays for four hours. During that time, the locals come on board to eat out, or to play the slot-machines and buy trinkets in the ferry's souvenir shop. No alcohol is served during that time, so Ted did not get his beer either, but we had a nice meal. Klemtu also offers showers and a laundromat to tourists of small pleasure crafts. These facilities are administered by a young white man, Evan Loveless, who also teaches the native youth canoeing and kayaking during the summer months.
After we had washed all our clothes and had taken an extensive shower, we left Klemtu at six p.m., ready and refreshed for some new adventures. It was still sunny when we crossed the wide waters of the Finlayson Channel and paddled into Jackson Channel. There we found a little bay with enough room to put up our tent. When we retired for the night, the sky looked grey and forboding again. Before we had fallen asleep, a fierce storm started raging, howling and tearing at the tree tops behind us. Then it started raining heavily, but we were dry and comfortable, still dreaming of our pleasant day in town.

Monday, July 9

At ten a.m. we started paddling along Jackson Channel into the steady rain. To the right we passed two fish farms. There were huge holding-nets sitting in the water. On a large concrete barge sat a two-storey building, consisting of a work shed down below and living quarters above it. The two pools held different sizes of fish that were jumping in circles. At noon we left the Jackson Narrows behind us and paddled into wide open waters, past deep bays. After a wet lunch in a marine park, we had to cross several stretches of open water. The water was calm and through the fog we could see high mountains in the distance. Around three p.m. the rain had petered out and we paddled under blue sky into a peaceful evening. In the southeast, the mountains of Bella Bella were already visible. Our marine charts showed us that we could shorten our way a bit by turning into some side-channels. However, in the maze of the many narrow channels, it was not easy to find our way. Of course, it was not a good idea for me to suggest using our big overview chart, since Ted does not like any advice when he is confused himself. It triggers in him a typical male reaction of growling, and using the odd unprintable word.
Along some shores, the local fishermen had staked out their fishing grounds and put nets. Coming out of one of the channels, we looked westward into the open ocean and saw surf waves splashing on distant rocks. We passed Lady Douglas Island and Devon Peninsula. The landscape had become less gloomy than in the north, the shores were lower and the sandy beaches looked more inviting. We camped at eight p.m. and made a fire, which we had not done for a long time.

Tuesday, July 10

We woke up to a sunny sky, what a luxury! Ted got up during the night because he had heard some noises. It could have been a bear, since we had found two big bear turds here yesterday. At noon we started paddling with the incoming tide through a small channel with sand beaches and green patches. The water was calm until we came out of the channel and had open ocean from the west. A strong west wind was causing very choppy water with whitecaps and swells, and the highest waves we have experienced so far. After lunch in a sheltered bay, we had to cross over to the south shore in very high waves, surfing at quite a speed. At our first landing opportunity we took our wetsuits off, and that's where Ted forgot his sun hat and his fleece pants. Then we continued, crossing bay after bay of Campbell Island, passing the manned lighthouse, and finally turning into the bay where Bella Bella is. We camped at the government dock among some scattered remnants of civilization. Then we had supper at Alexa's Place, a native restaurant with excellent food. The Hawaiian chicken was the best I ever had. Later we walked in the village, Waglisla, as the Natives call it, past the modern gym, the new-fangled school and the church whose bell had beckoned everybody near and far at intervals to hurry towards it. Now the door was wide open and a service before a large congregation was in process. We also entered because the peaceful assembly and the happy and content faces of the Natives were very inviting. It was the memorial Service for a deceased man who had died by choking, as we later found out. The reverend of this non-denominational charismatic church was very personable and seemed to have won the love and respect of the native community- they all looked happy and hopeful-. We had a quiet night near the dock and nobody bothered us.

Wednesday, July 11

In the morning we went grocery shopping to the band store, a clean and well-stocked very big shop, but expensive because everything has to be shipped from far. Then we paddled across the bay to Shearwater, a modern fishing resort. On the way, Ted spotted some tombstones on a small island and we stopped to investigate. We found very old graves, dating from the early nineteen hundreds. On top of the island hill stood an old concrete shed that contained all sizes of stacked coffins, the lowest already rotten. There is a modern cemetery on a larger island.
Shearwater has eighty permanent residents and a school population of twenty-five. There is a large marine store, a nice restaurant with a pub, a laundromat, public showers and a souvenir shop, also a Fisheries and Oceans office. Our radio battery had gone dead and we had a hard time finding someone who would recharge it, since we had not brought the radio stand with us. But Ted charmed the young female officer from Fisheries and Oceans into helping us, using her radio stand. When she returned our radio fully recharged several hours later, Ted gave her the nicest hug he was capable of. We camped on a meadow behind the lodge and went on an evening walk in the hills behind Shearwater.

Thursday, July 12

Another sunny day in the resort! We ate our porridge in front of our tent. Then we enjoyed a few more hours on land, doing some laundry and taking a shower, and just sitting in the sunshine. Later we had lunch in the pub, and Ted had one more chance to flirt with the Fisheries and Oceans lady before we packed up and continued our paddling. Now the second half of our voyage had started and we were paddling into a more friendly, more southern atmosphere. Although it still rains a lot, we started carrying a water supply with us, because there are not as many creeks and rivers here. We paddled for four hours through some high chop under a northwest wind. There was very little camping opportunity on the north side of the Lama channel, and so we crossed over. As soon as we had reached the other side, the Alaska ferry passed by and we were glad that we were at a very safe distance from her this time. We did not have to climb so high anymore to put our tent up.

Friday, July 13

We left at 9:00 a.m., first paddling around the southeast of the Lama Channel and then crossing the Fisher Channel close to a beacon that looked like a helicopter landing. Now we were in the Fitz Hugh Sound, the main channel for all ships which is wide and leaves enough room for all vessels, large and small. We travelled along the mainland shoreline under a grey sky and very low clouds. After lunch a wind came up and the rain was not far behind. The shore was like a rugged wall at first, but as we proceeded southwards, bays and small islands replaced its grim aspect. As soon as we were not protected by an island, the water was very rough. Some islands had very white beaches formed by clam shells that were ground to a fine powder over the years. Ted dug out a bag of clams which we cooked in the evening. In the afternoon we crossed the Burke Channel which goes northeast to Bella Coola and whose shores looked very forboding on this rainy day, steep and dark. Although it was already past six o clock, we paddled frantically from tip to tip, because we wanted to reach Namu, a one-time cannery and sawmill. Finally we turned left into the bay of Namu, wet and cold from rain and waves. Two small craft were anchored at the dock, and a man frying his salmon catch invited us to come into his boat for a piece of fried fish and a drink. What a treat after a long, wet paddle!
Namu looks like a resort with a picturesque house perched on a hill, surrounded by a big lawn and many shrubs. Boardwalks lead to other smaller houses in the distance. These days Namu belongs to an absent owner, and only the caretaker and his family live here. There is also a machine shop, a general store, and large storage buildings. When we walked up to the caretaker’s house to ask if we could camp on the property, a big dog bit Ted in his calf without any warning; this was the only animal that attacked us on this trip. During the night I was sick to my stomach, probably because of the clams we had harvested earlier. One of the BC ferries comes to Namu once a week, and the big question for us is: should we catch a ride to Port Hardy or should we continue to paddle and do the big crossing from the mainland to Vancouver Island?

Saturday, July 14

We spent the rainless morning looking at maps and drying out clothes. Bob Gardiner, the caretaker, lent us an important chart of the Port Hardy area, so that we don't have an excuse any more that we can't do the crossing. Bob told us to wait for the incoming tide when we approach Slingby Channel close to Fox Island. When we left Namu at 3:00 p.m., Ted was in an inclement mood because I took exactly five minutes longer to be ready. He tends to be edgy every time we don't leave in the morning hours - but Ted, is it really worth to make both of us miserable because of a five-minute difference? –
It was choppy today. After paddling for three hours, we saw a lovely, wide sand beach in a bay across from the gap of open ocean in the west. Three families with three zodiac boats, whom we had met earlier, were already camped here. They invited us for tea in their camp, and later a young Englishman brought us a huge plate full of freshly cooked crabs. It started raining just when Ted had put the tarp over our tent, which was difficult without trees - he had to make tripods out of driftwood.

Sunday, July 15

Ted gave me a wake-up call from outside. Fully awake, I saw that his mattress and sleeping bag were already packed and outside. It was 5:30 a.m. We had decided to start early from now on, because the water tends to be calm then. Ted made porridge while I dismantled the tent. We worked well together as usually, ate, loaded the kayak and were ready to go at 6:30. That was the fastest we had ever done, except that I had not yet brushed my teeth. That did not go over very well and we locked "horns" so to speak.
So a beautiful morning was somewhat spoiled. But when Ted saw a secret tear in my eye later on and heard a muffled sob, he became super-nice, so nice that a confrontation is almost worthwhile!! We had a good paddle for five hours until a north wind started whipping up whitecaps. Quickly we found a small, sandy beach with a good tent spot high enough above the tide mark. Ted had a nap, and after that we walked in the bush and picked strawberries on a clearing. This was the first rest since Bella Bella. The day turned out to be great after all because Ted was very sweet.

Monday, July 16

We set the alarm clock for 4:00 a.m., got up, had breakfast and were in the kayak at 5:45 a.m. In the west, the tip of Calvert Island, a very long island, still protected us from the open Pacific, but not for long. The weather was perfect, no wind and no rain. We had two big crossings to make. The second one was across Rivers Inlet. First we tried to stay within the protection of islands along the mainland. We wanted to make a little detour going east where the inlet becomes more narrow. But navigation was difficult through all the little bays, islands and channels, in which we got lost a bit. Finally we gave up that plan and dared to cross Rivers Inlet quite far west where it is wide and subject to ocean swells and big waves. It was not yet windy, but the swells were huge and wide. It was actually fun to paddle up and down the waves, disappearing in the troughs and then reemerging again on the crest of a wave, alternately seeing the distant shore on the other side and not seeing anything any more.
At 10:00 a.m., we had made it across and landed on a small white sandy beach. Far out in the west on the tip of the inlet we could see many small motor boats with people in red jackets. They were guests of a nearby fishing lodge. We wanted to round the tip and paddle close to shore until we could slip into the next inlet. However, due to our lack of experience in ocean paddling, we did not know that paddling way out on the ocean was less dangerous than to hug the shore. The wind had picked up a bit and we had to paddle through high surf waves between two huge rocks. The danger that needs to be avoided is to be sucked into the troughs created by the surf waves. The coast was full of high rocks and rock islands with high waves smashing against them at regular intervals. The swells were now higher and tighter, and we were tossed up and down wildly. Ted's experience from whitewater paddling helped us tremendously, he braced and I paddled frantically. It was quite a dicey game and we hoped that none of the waves would break over us, for that would have caused us to tip. We worked hard for an hour. At one point Ted did not want to continue in the high waves and was looking for a cliff landing, but I encouraged him to go on, since we could not have made a safe landing, but would have got sucked into the surf and thrown against the rock walls.
At one p.m., we were finally out of the danger zone, paddling along the north shore of Blackney Channel into Smith Sound. We were ready to find a campsite and rest, but we could not find anything that was high enough above the high-tide mark. After a while we paddled into a once beautiful lagoon, now ravaged by logging. At least there was a creek from which we could fill our water containers. The shores consisted of either high rock walls or very low sand beaches. We continued paddling leisurely until 4:00 p.m., when at last a golden sand beach beckoned to us and became our refuge for one night.

Tuesday, July 17

This was our second day on the open Pacific. Again we got up at 4:00 a.m. While we ate our porridge, the sky lightened up slowly. The water was smooth and mirror-like. It is beautiful to paddle into the sunrise early in the morning. First we crossed Smith Sound, and then we passed the tip of the inlet, a typical west-coast scene with high cliffs on which hosts of scraggly cedar trees are trying to survive, bending eastwards away from the constant wind. There are huge rock islands close to the shore, a great habitat for sea- birds and sea lions. The waves beat relentlessly against the cliffs and create a strong surf from which we learned to distance ourselves. We stayed well west of the rock islands out in the open ocean and watched nature's spectacle. Two whales played in the waves ahead of us revealing their tails and fins. The ocean swells lifted and released us in a gentle rollercoaster ride. Quite far down on the coast we spotted Cape Caution, a notorious trouble spot, but no problem today. On our fun-ride, we had not noticed how far we had drifted out, so now we had to paddle hard to get back towards the tip of the Queen Charlotte Strait. Ted contacted a passing ferry on the starboard at quite a distance and received a weak radio check of which he was very proud; after all, it is intimidating to speak on the radio knowing that everybody on the water can hear you! We passed two kayakers who had started in Washington State and were on their way to Alaska. One paddled with a funny quick stroke and the other was a Japanese fellow in a home-built kayak. Before lunch we landed on a sandy beach, thinking that the dark-blue clouds would soon release a fierce shower. We had paddled for five and a half hours without a break and were ready to retire to soothe our various aches and pains of our aging bodies. Ted put up a tarp and we had a short snooze. Afterwards we built our camp and went exploring on this wide, sandy log-obstructed coast. The beach was rimmed with the trees of a dark western rainforest, and we found a deserted make-shift abode in its shade. Who might have used this uncomfortable shelter as a resting place? We had a relaxing free afternoon, relieved that we had passed Cape Caution with such ease.

Wednesday, July 18

We got up at 4:00 a.m. again, looking into a dismal, dark rainy morning, taking our time getting ready for a paddle into an uninviting day. We were still on the open Pacific, riding over big, regular ocean swells into Queen Charlotte Strait, staying well away from the shore with its typical rock islands against which the power of the waves and the resulting suction can easily smash you. We passed sandy beaches comparable to Long Beach, but untamed by park authorities. Continuous rain and dense fog slowly started engulfing the whole landscape, and the coastline stretching southeast became a faint shade in the mist. Around the area of Slingby Inlet, we got sucked out more and more into the open waters, so that the coast was not visible any more. At least there was no wind and the huge ocean swells were only slightly rippled. The only consolation was our compass that pointed in the direction where the coast was projecting southwards. Then, with the changing tide, we were able to approach the shore again, first vaguely recognizing its dim silhouettes in the fog and then actually seeing land. Landing was difficult, and we ate our lunch at 10:00 a.m. on the only possible landing spot, a cove full of soccerball-size pebbles and dripping logs hung up over rock walls. For some time the fog lifted, promising liquid sunshine, meaning a very wet atmosphere under somewhat bright clouds. After having paddled along the outer coast of the islands hugging the shore all morning, we now moved away from the Pacific swells between the islands into a narrow channel with a typical rainforest atmosphere. What a different world: so close to the rough open waters, but so peaceful, the tall trees reflecting in the calm sea and two gulls swimming beside us. Around one o'clock we paddled into Shelter Bay, a lagoon with very fine grey sand. It was still drizzling, and in the distance we could hear the fog horn. All our clothes were damp, and we made a big fire to dry everything. My feet were very cold as they have been most days on this trip, because my very expensive Sealskin socks were not suitable for the north-western rain-forest climate. The evening was rainless and peaceful. We sat around the crackling fire, discussing tomorrow's crossing over to Vancouver Island and reminiscing about our lives. Forty years ago on this day I had given birth to my second child, never in my wildest imagination thinking that four decades later I would be on a twenty-day kayak trip with a new husband.

Thursday, July 19

This morning at 4:00 o'clock, our usual rising time, it was not raining, but the water in our protected lagoon was not calm as usually so early in the morning. A strong westerly had whipped up a chop and the tide had swept away one of my sandals. Today we wanted to make a twenty-four km traverse across the Queen Charlotte Strait which is divided into four channels by a few rows of small islands. As soon as we had left the protection of the lagoon, we were in real trouble. The water was extremely choppy with irregular waves and a big swell caused by a strong westerly that had raged all night, and by the change of tides that we had overlooked. Once out in the open, a full turn to go back to shore would have made us capsize for sure. So we gritted our teeth and proceeded in the high waves, Ted bracing the southwestward rolling breakers, and I paddling frantically. At least it was not foggy. Our Sundog took wave after wave riding up and down like a roller coaster, landing horizontally after every toss. After two hours we had crossed Richard Channel, arriving at the first island group. However, to take a break here was not workable because the shores of the islets were surrounded by high rock walls. Not even a pit stop was possible. Therefore we continued without pause into Ripple Channel on calmer waters where paddling was fun again. At 9:00 a.m. we were hungry and looking for a spot to land, but no landing was feasible except on the dock of a fish farm that was nestled in a small bay. A man with a strange accent welcomed us, giving us shelter from the water and wind. When he assisted us with the launching later on, he made sure we knew that a Newfie had helped us. We continued into Gordon Channel under an almost sunny sky, passing the picturesque Bell Islands, glimpsing two more fish farms and a lighthouse in the distance. More and more boats from Port Hardy were passing us or heading towards us carelessly, which led us to this radio announcement: “Securite, Securite - Sundog, yellow kayak approaching Port Hardy after a twenty-day voyage - pass it with care – Sundog”. At 1:10 p.m. we pulled into the harbour of Port Hardy, almost too tired to cross one more bay to get to the Wildwoods campsite where we had left our truck three weeks earlier.

When I met Ted two years ago, he had told me about his dream to paddle along the west coast. Now it had become true: We had made it from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy through the worst of rain and waves, and we were mighty happy about it. We were also very thankful to the Great Spirit above who had given us enough strength and health to endure such an adventure, and had protected us all the way. Even our Sundog was still in good shape, not showing more scratches and wounds than we had acquired ourselves. Having been part of the elements for twenty days, part of the sea life, part of the rain, wind and sun has made us an even better team. It has broadened our understanding for each other even more.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
92L, 92M, 93D?, 102P?, 103A, 103G, 103H, 103J
Special Comments: 

Editor’s Comments:
This trip was undertaken by Ted & Freda Mellenthin & the report, originally a personal account, was written & typed (by typewriter) by Freda Mellenthin & was not prepared specifically for posting at CCR; it was then scanned, digitized & submitted by Allan Jacobs in January 2008; as a result, some information is not easily available & some errors were introduced by the scanning process.

Many thanks to the Mellenthins & Allan Jacobs for their efforts!