View topic - Broken Group Islands, August 2007

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PostPosted: September 20th, 2007, 8:35 pm 
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Joined: September 16th, 2002, 7:00 pm
Posts: 2075
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia Canada
This year's group comprised a couple in their brand new, fully equipped Clipper Tripper, and a couple with their teenage daughter in a double and single kayaks, and ourselves.

We launched from Toquart Bay and had an uneventful crossing to the Stopper Islands, then between them to the crossing to Lyall Point. A kayak group had been preparing to launch long before us, but we were ready to go sooner and reached the point first. (One of that group recognized us from Monster's pictures of the 2005 BGI trip.)

A grey whale was feeding in the area, so we paused just around the point to watch it. Hearing a commotion behind us, we turned to see the whale had surfaced just 10m from a kayak group. There was a lot of nervous laughter etc. from them, since their position relative to the point had blocked their view and the whale had taken them completely by surprise. The whale hung around long enough for me to shoot video, while frustrating those trying to get stills with digital cameras. You don't know exactly where or when whales will surface, and the shutter delay in digital cameras complicates things. This makes pictures such as Monster's even more amazing.

Next we toured through the bayous of the Pinkerton Group, then past Jacques Island to the campsite on Gilbert Island. Which was crowded and set the pattern for the rest of the trip. I'd estimate there were three times as many people at each campsite as we had experienced two years earlier with Monster. So the place lived up to its reputation, and I don't think you'll find me there again during high kayaking season. As before, we saw very few paddlers while on the water, and none in the more exposed locations.

After a refreshingly long night's sleep, we set out around the east and south sides of Effingham Island. We had a look at the sea tunnel, but the tide was too low to paddle through it. Then we wove our way through the islands to the sea lion colony on Wouwer Island. Very few compared to last time. As we left Wouwer our course took us into large Pacific swells, such that we could only see the other boats from the tops of the waves. The period between crests was about 6 seconds and looked quite intimidating. Like buildings coming at you sideways. In fact, it was intimidating enough that our party soon turned tail and fled back behind the shelter of the islands, then continued past Benson Island to Clarke.

On the way, the steamer Francis Barkely came at us out of the passage between Benson and Clarke. With time to spare, we crossed the path of the steamer until I could see the far side of the ship and was close enough to Clarke that I thought the ship would go behind us. We then stopped and regrouped. But the ship kept turning toward us, and was again pointed to cross in front of us, between us and Clarke. The couple in the other canoe started to make a run for it, but I suggested they not do so and they rejoined us. The ship then passed just in front of us, at a reduced speed to minimize the wake. The Francis Barkley is one of the two ships belonging to the company that, besides operating a passenger service in the area, also owns the area's main kayak rental, kayaker lodge and dropoff services.

Clarke was a zoo. The place was covered with tents, people and kayaks. There was a constant background noise of conversation, like a party. This somewhat blocked full appreciation of the stunning beauty of the place. Oh well, at least they weren't powerboating. Speaking of which, a couple of the parties had arrived by motorized canoe and zodiac.

Next day we went around the outside of Clarke to visit the campsite on Benson. We'd heard there was a trail to "Salal Joe's" place, and we spent quite some time bushwhacking around the island in a futile search. Then we crossed to the sea lion colony on Wouwer again, and stopped at our customary beach nearby for lunch. Next we visited the cave on Cooper Island for photographs, and then over to the campsite at Gilbert Island. Finally we did a direct route back across Coaster Channel to Clarke.

This hour-long crossing quickly degenerated into a race, won by the teenager in the single kayak (she races kayaks) with us close behind. Next was the other canoe, followed by the double kayak. Both of the latter had blown engine cylinders in the fray.

We arrived on Clarke to find the beach in front of our tents covered with Clipper canoes. Canoes?! We had been joined by a scout group from Seattle, who rented a trailer of 9 canoes from Western Canoeing, and who had paddled directly from Toquart Bay in just 3 hours. Some of the leaders had been coming to the Broken Group for decades. Anyway, they had a THING about fishing, and presented us with a massive salmon fillet. They had so much salmon almost everyone in the campsite got some. So we broke out the wine, fired up the little gas bbq and had a fine feast.

In the evening we explored the island's trails. This was made difficult by the numerous massive blowdowns. Like the West Coast Trail, the Broken Group was hit hard by last winter's severe storms. On every island we visited, there were lots of huge trees blown down, and the private contractor now operating in the area seems to have no reason for clearing any that are in the way. Our camp was also visited by deer, perhaps enjoying the freedom from predators in the campsite.

We were somewhat concerned about the scout group's safety practices. By late afternoon, the wind was up and the ocean had whitecapped chop on top of the ocean swells. Fishing is prohibited in the BGI, so they had to go outside the boundaries to fish. Which meant going out onto the open ocean. They would go out in those conditions, in a single open canoe, and out of sight beyond islets that blocked the view from Clarke. The good part is that this provided us with even more salmon for supper again.

Another group of friends were scheduled to start a trip in the Broken Group that day, so our next task was to find them. On our last full day, we left Clarke and took the standard route to Turtle Island. We poked into Joe's Bay, again trying to find Salal Joe's. No luck. We checked out the campsites on Willis and Dodd, with no sign of our friends. Finally we found them on Hand Island, which was to be our last night anyway. One of them thought he'd forgotten his tent poles, so he and his 80-year old father had paddled to Sechart where they caught the Francis Barkley. It took them to Ucluelet, where they planned to purchase a cheap tent. But on the way, a kayaker on the ship volunteered to lend them her tent. So they borrowed it, and later in the trip found the missing poles hidden 'way up in the nose of one of their kayaks. One of those families had no camera, and the other had found their battery was dead and left theirs in their car. So it was nice to have a spare that I loaned them. Each of the three of us had brought a camera, plus an underwater cam, and the spare.

Anyway, these people included some of our daughter's best friends, so the kids had a great time playing together through the evening. Next morning we took leave to head back to Toquart Bay, while their party went on to Clarke.

So once again we found the canoe to be perfectly suitable for the Broken Group (my fourth time there by canoe). Indeed, the basic setup of the Seattle party made our canoe rig look overdone. After a day regrouping in the Tofino area, we and the couple with the other canoe joined others for the Vargas Island trip.

In Memory of Robert Dziekanski

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PostPosted: September 20th, 2007, 8:55 pm 
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Joined: June 20th, 2001, 7:00 pm
Posts: 7514
Location: Scarbados, Ontario Canada
Thanks for posting, SG!

You know, we here in the interior are quite happy with our canoe country, but the ocean with its whales and the fjords into the mountains, that's something else.

I envy you guys!

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