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PostPosted: October 10th, 2002, 3:00 pm 
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A rash of last-minute cancellations has seriously jeopardized our trip to the Broken Group Islands for Thanksgiving Weekend. Anyone out there interested and able to help us reestablish critical mass?

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PostPosted: October 11th, 2002, 11:00 am 
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Too bad I've already got plans, that's one I'd like to do one day. Have a good trip.


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PostPosted: October 15th, 2002, 12:38 am 
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With only two tandem canoes, and two kids, we defaulted to the more sheltered waters of Sechelt Inlet. With perfect weather, almost no other marine traffic, and frequent periods of glassy-calm water, it was a special treat.

Sechelt Inlet is a fjord, so the scenery is like a combination of the ocean coast and a big mountain lake.

We had the campsite at Kunechin Point to ourselves, and did a day trip up through Tzoonie Narrows in Narrows Inlet. Finished off today with a 8kph downwind run with following tide, then sat in a ferry lineup for 3 hours.

Saw a total of 4 stitch&glue wooden kayaks - beautiful boats.

A special treat for the two kids (2.5 and 4 years)was seeing the bioluminescence on the beach after dark.

Pointedstick - hopefully we can hook up for another trip sometime.

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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: SGrant on 2002-11-02 23:07 ]</font>


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PostPosted: October 15th, 2002, 1:53 pm 
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Here's a link to a story about a family trip with a canoe to the Broken Group Islands.

http://www.bivouac.com/TripPg.asp?TripId=245



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: SGrant on 2002-11-02 23:07 ]</font>


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PostPosted: October 18th, 2003, 12:02 am 
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Broken Group Islands Thanksgiving Canoe/Kayak Trip, 2003

For pictures that capture the feel of the place:
http://www.tumtum.com/gallery/BrokenGrp02.shtml

Unlike last year, we were able to get a critical mass of participants. Balancing an enormous organizational effort against an iffy marine weather forecast, we elected to start the trip. Friday was supposed to be good, with poor conditions for two days, then a reasonable day for our return trip on Monday. The advance group of 10 left home Thursday evening, and after the usual ferry frustrations and a dark and rainy drive, arrived at Toquart Bay at about 1:00am Friday. The ones who missed the turnoff arrived somewhat later. Another group was to join us on Saturday. We got little sleep due to passing vehicles, a barking sea lion who visited the beach in the middle of the night, and early-rising, vocal crows and eagles.

Friday dawned dry, calm and with low overcast. Our party consisted of 10: two adults and two kids in a canoe with spray deck, two adults in a double kayak, an adult in a single kayak, and our spray-decked canoe with two adults and a kid.

We were slow to get going. In fact, the party didn't hit the water until almost 11:00. We could almost have achieved that by catching the 6:30am ferry that morning. It also meant we squandered the morning calm hours, which was the reason for leaving home the night before. I was unhappy about this, but as usual, most of the concerns and tensions of the preparation for the trip vanished the moment we pushed off. In fact, until we reached Turret Island, 15km away, everyone kept commenting that it was like being in a paddling heaven.

A couple of sea lions frolicked just off the Toquart campsite beach. An uneventful crossing in improving weather to the Stopper Islands soon saw us having lunch in the sun on the beautiful beaches on Hand Island. South of Lyall Point we got the first experience of the big swells off the Pacific.

Then we island hopped past Mence Island, the south end of Brabant, just south of Dodd and Willis Islands, and over to the gap between Trickett and Turret. All the time we faced gradually increasing westerly breezes, small waves and often the large but gentle swells. At the gap, the leading double kayak made an incomplete examination of the gap, concluded it wouldn't go, and led the other canoe around the west end of Trickett. We checked more carefully and found a dog-leg channel just wide enough for the canoe, and were followed through by the single kayak.

Reaching the more exposed side of the islands was somewhat sobering. It looked like a pretty threatening place, and the wind and waves were stronger than on the NE side. It was the first of many opportunities to question the wisdom of coming here to begin with, let alone with a canoe, a child, and in the face of a poor forecast.

We blew our lead on the other boats by missing the buoy marking the entrance to a small cove where Turret Island's campsite hides. So we found a smaller unofficial site just SE, then rejoined the other two boats to return to the cove.

We nosed through rafts of bull kelp into the protected cove. Interestingly, this kelp has an annual lifecycle, growing up to 3m. per day during the summer, then being washed ashore in the fall, where it decomposes to nurture the intertidal zone. By the time we left, all the kelp in the cove was on the beach where it formed a very slippery obstacle course for the kids.

We set up camp, wondering at the campsites located deep in the woods, and why anyone would carry their gear so far. Varying from our usual practices, we also set up a lot of tarps. We marvelled at the magnificent, world-class, solar-powered compost toilets in substantial but rustic cedar outhouses.

Supper consisted of the traditional hot dog and marshmallow roast. Some of the participants, new Canadians from Germany, had never eaten marshmallows, so we happily demonstrated proper toasting technique, and warned of hazards such as the flying flaming charred goo syndrome.

Friday night the SE wind picked up, bringing rain, thunder and lightning. This grew to the point where the wind was roaring through the large trees, almost enough to drown out the distant booming of the big Pacific breakers on the islands and reefs farther west. At times we could hear a distant sea lion colony, sounding like an all-night party. Morning brought no improvement, but just after noon it settled down and we even had a little sun. However, it was too rough to consider going anywhere, and it turned out to be the eye of the storm.

Conversation centered on whether the second party would be joining us. We had little idea how rough the waters were between us and Toquart, so there was some spirited guessing. Little did we know what they were dealing with.

At noon Saturday, the second party prepared to launch in winds and rain. They an adult and a pre-teen in a spray-decked canoe, two teens in single kayaks, two adults in single kayaks, and an adult and a pre-teen in a double kayak. Their crossing to the Stoppers and most of the way to Lyall Point was uneventful, despite dealing with considerable chop.

At Turret, our reprieve came to a sudden end, announced by approaching thunder. Suddenly we were hammered by gale-force wind driving heavy rain. It blasted through the trees, and generated violent waves sweeping from the SE. If we'd been in phone or radio contact with anyone in the area, we would have warned them to seek shelter immediately.

As we determined later, the second party was just off Lyall Point when they saw what they called a "wall of white" coming at them. With a little difficulty, they made it to shelter behind Lyall Point, and waited out the violent storm. We later agreed the storm was sufficient to overturn a canoe that did not have a full load. In the slightly better condtions that followed, they made it to Hand Island and called it a day. (Sometime soon there should be an account of their trip on bivouac.com (membership probably required.))

We now understood the campsites far back in the woods. The storm let up a little, but not much. As dusk approached, we got a fire going and finally concluded the other group would not be arriving today. This was disappointing, because we looked forward to their company and knowledge of the area gained from many previous trips. The campfire ambience came to an abrupt end by a sudden downpour that resulted in a scene like a panicky exit from a theater on fire.

The marine weather reported a tug had lost 80 bundles of logs near Pachena Bay, just 15-20km from us. This was reported for the time the blast hit, and indicated even the professionals had been taken by surprise. We speculated about the possibility of our cove filling with logs.

During the night, as predicted, the rain ended and the wind swung around to the NW, and returned to gale force. Another incredibly noisy night, and more time to appreciate the excellent root systems of the surrounding trees. Sunday brought no letup. Just when we thought it must finally settle down, the storm would kick things up another notch, and eventually reached conditions rivalling Saturday's outburst. Nearby coastal weather stations reported winds up to storm force (50 knots). It went on and on. It reached the point where for a while, the normally dark old-growth forest floor lit up with daylight because the wind was so strong it blew the branches forming the forest canopy into streamers. It was like a tornado video on tv. There was no chance of anyone going anywhere, canoe or kayak making no difference.

At ground level, the wind was strong enough to make the tarps flap, but even with the frequent rain which sometimes reached torrential proportions, the tents stayed dry and cozy. Our clothing was also easily up to the task and we hardly used the umbrellas. We worried about large branches crashing out of the trees, but since none did, we concluded such winds are common in the area. Indeed, many of the large trees, even well within the woods, have branches only on the sheltered side.

An ambiguous forecast for Monday had us considering our situation. We were overwhelmingly aware that we must not have an accident. We never really planned portaging to the sheltered inner side of our island, but a few of us bushwhacked across to have a look at the conditions. It was reassuring to find it about a quarter as violent as on our side, but that was in the lee. Otherwise, the tension was building up. The incessant roar of the wind in the trees was tiring. The worry about how to get out of there without incident grew. One of the adults was sick, adding another complication. We started to prepare to contact Sechart Lodge to arrange a pickup by their water taxi, as a preference to waiting for good weather. We joked about reducing our rations from double to one-and-a-half.

Through it all, the three pre-schoolers had an excellent adventure, with so much to explore and so many games to play. Continual supervision, even split between 4 parents, was wonderful at times, but at other times got to be somewhat tiresome.

Besides the chop, ocean swells and tide, there was a fourth water motion. After the trip, one of the of the teens from the other group pointed out there had been "super waves", which caused the level of the waves to fluctuate up and down a foot or two over approximately 3 minute cycles. We'd noticed this, but thought nothing of it until he pointed out the unusual phenomena. This cycle further complicated boat loading and launching, and must have been the remnants of huge deep-sea waves.

On Hand Island, the second group played their own games, with their explorations and adventures limited to Hand Island. (The Hand Island campsite is actually on a smaller island connected to the NE corner of Hand at all but the higher tides.) The most experienced of them made an attempt to reach us by kayak, but got only as far as the gap between the Brabant Islands before being stopped by the uproar in Peacock Channel.

Marine weather updates became a focus of group interest. Sunday evening, the forecast for Monday definitely sounded good enough, if we could time our exit between the Northwesterlies calming down, and the Southeasterlies preceeding the next front. The ill person emerged from his tent, looking and feeling much better. As forecast, the wind gradually subsided all night, and by morning we had a half decent day with calm seas and a promise of sun.

We launched before 9:00am, and headed around the south end of Turret to avoid any residual waves from the northwesterlies. This went fine except for some ocean swells around the point that were starting to get us surfing, but not to the point where we needed to backpaddle to maintain control. The kids thought this was funny, but it caused me to have another bout of "maybe we shouldn't be here."

We were quickly out of that, and had a very fine cruise south of Turtle Island, and between Jarvis and Jacques Islands. That took a few minutes of waiting for the tide to sufficiently fill a very narrow channel. Then we went between Nettle and Prideaux, and over to Hand Island for lunch. Here we met a kayaker who filled us in about the other group. Unfortunately he did not know where they'd gone, but it was good to hear they'd been in the area and were safe. He was the only other paddler we saw the whole weekend.

Campsites such as Hand Island have protected, shallow angle beaches suited to landing kayaks. This meant they are perfect for landing canoes. The only problem was that as the tide changed, the horizontal distance from the water to the shore changed so rapidly it required continual attention to the boats. Fortunately the only one needing to dash into the water to retrieve his craft departing on a rising tide, was a kayaker.

So we lazed around in the sun, then backtracked past Lyall Point, the Stoppers and finally back to Toquart campsite.

The others' vehicles were gone, so we knew they'd headed home. We actually caught up to one of their carloads in yet another 4-hour ferry wait, and it certainly helped pass the timet as we excitedly swapped tales about the weekend. It was the sort of jabbering you get when coming down from a prolonged difficult experience. The various veterans of Broken Group trips agreed they had never seen such bad conditions.

In fact, the same storm caused the Grouse Grind hike in Vancouver to be closed, and our usual storm indicator, the amount of tree debris around our house, indicated a substantial event.

Concerning the boats: The double kayak was the fastest of our four craft. The Mad River Explorer canoe was annoyingly slow. It's been on three trips with us, and is always crewed by stronger paddlers than us. No matter who's in it, they can't keep up. They lacked a spare paddle, and wanted one of the halves that comprise our paddlefloat. I suggested we'd be close enough that we could always get it to them in the unlikely event they dropped one, and that way our self-reentry system would remain intact. However, within a couple of hours, they had split a bent shaft paddle against hooks (stainless steel) mounted on the hull for attaching their spray deck. So one of our spares went to them for the rest of the trip. Since those two dads were carrying two kids, plus two tent setups and food in the other canoe, we took a bit of their gear in the Tripper. We seldom have enough stuff in it to to round up the spray deck. One thing we noticed about the kayakers was that they were always drying all sorts of things such as their pants bottoms. Having such capable people with us was, however, very reasuring.

Lessons Learned:
I won't go to the Broken Islands again without a better forecast, and a marine chart in addition to the topo map. I'll allow for the weather to be worse than predicted by the marine forecast. Next time we'll have the phone number for the water taxi. Tarps are good, sometimes. I'll be careful about getting stuck beyond Thiepval Channel. Going with a mixed group of kayaks and canoes worked fine. Conditions that stop canoes will usually also stop kayaks. The difference can be managed, and I think it is reasonable to go to the Broken Group with (covered) canoes and kids. I reason that the McGuffins faced comparable conditions and decision-making situations during their Great Lakes trip with their daughter. We had in fact dealt with exceptionally poor conditions and returned safely.

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PostPosted: November 28th, 2003, 7:09 pm 
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Hey SG,

How long does it take to make the crossing from the mainland to the Islands?


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PostPosted: November 28th, 2003, 11:59 pm 
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Are you talking about the ferry ride? That's 4-5 hours depending on the linups.

It depends on where you're starting from and what you consider "the islands". And on the speed of the slowest boat in your party.

If you leave from Toquart Bay, the first island is the Stopper Islands, which are only 20min or so. But the first island within the national park is Hand Island, which is 8km, or an hour and a half to two hours if your party includes a Mad River Explorer or you pause to take it all in. This is no place to rush. Wouwer is the most distant island, another 10km at least.

If you start from Sechart Lodge, it's about 4km to Hand Island. Not recommended is the longest approach from Bamfield, minimum 10km, mainly across the risky crossing of the modestly named Imperial Eagle Channel.

You're not planning to go at this time of year, I hope?

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PostPosted: November 29th, 2003, 11:42 am 
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SGrant wrote:
You're not planning to go at this time of year, I hope?


No, just squirreling away information. I guess it would be pretty stormy now, though it would be nice to have it all to yourself.


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PostPosted: November 30th, 2003, 11:52 pm 
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The people who were supposed to join us at Thanksgiving, but got stuck on Hand Island, have usually done their trips to the Broken Group on the November "long weekend". Their party always includes at least one canoe. They said they have never had as stormy a trip in November as we had at Thanksgiving this year.

Still, I wouldn't be keen to go there at this time of year, especially with a canoe. But you could get a ferry ride to Sechart Lodge, which would allow easy access or just day trips to the Broken Group.

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