Wild West Coast -Paddle Happy

Sunset low tide

My recent sea kayak trip to the BC west coast wilderness just affirmed what I already believe.  We live in a spectacular gem of a place on this earth. The examples, in British Columbia’s Kyuquot Sound, of the Creator’s power, bounty and charm is awesome! From the massive swing of the powerful tides to the range of flora and fauna and the magical vistas, paddling in Checleset Bay this week was stunning and adventurous. My camera will never do the experience justice.  Paddling skills and physical fitness for Dave, Don, Barry, Carl, Henri, Ralf and myself were tested each day on the open ocean.

After a meal and cold beer we left our wired word behind on the north island highway heading toward tiny Fair Harbour west of Sayward.  A picturesque winding dirt road drive to the old gold mining village of Zeballos through snow capped mountains( yes mountains and yes snow, even in late August) and large waterfalls finally brought our two trucks to the sea. We set up a simple camp in the drizzle in order to meet our prearranged water taxi Voyager Sportfish.com the next morning. The damp and dark skies had us concerned about weather prospects but one plans these trips assuming a deluge for the week.

Our taxi pilot, Leo, arrived early in the morning and we loaded our three homemade cedar kayaks on board along with a ridiculous amount of gear. We motored past abandoned native villages and the Kyuquot IR village on way to Spring Island, the destination for picking up three rental kayaks from West Coast Expeditions. We continued the taxi tour to Bunsby Island for our second night camp. Chartering a shuttle from Fair Harbour saved us two days of paddling and helped deliver all our gear out to the outer islands and the wild west coast seas.

We set up a wilderness camp among the sheltered shrubs and trees centering the rocky Bunsby Island cove, building a cooking area and fire pit among the huge driftwood logs and sand. Every direction you turned opened up a new expansive vista of blue sky and deep blue ocean horizons or a drop back of steep vertical forests. The place just buzzed with life- waterfowl, otters, seals, fish, kelpbeds and the endless thump or crash of waves upon the shores.

Our specific paddling and camping itinerary from Tuesday to Saturday would be as fluid as the undulating surf with brief discussions choosing a consensus of destinations and agendas. Our team goal was to explore as much of the Checleset Bay as was practical always depending on weather and sea conditions so the sunny skies and good weather jhelped us move northwestward. Our next camping spot would be tiny islands off Acous Peninsula. Practical matters like meal preparations and equipment was preplanned. Dinners were prepared by paddling pairs and all other arrangements were shared. It’s always amazing how well things work out when 7 men cooperate on a common task. Apparent ad hoc chaos is in fact a well oiled experienced unit of terrific men. The greatest focus was always on the routes and paddling as the wild west coast, in all its glory, can be a hazardous venture. Barry and I decided to paddle the double Seward ‘barge’ for the week along with the other 6 single paddlers creating a flotilla of life vests and kayaks.

Our paddling routes included crossing channels of huge swells and whitecaps, crossing some gigantic crashing surf and reefs as well as beautiful sheltered tidal rollers and even a fresh water river.  I knew I was in for an unique week the first breezy morning crossing when I turned to my left to see Don paddling next to me- 3 meters above my head and then slowly disappearing over the crest of a dark blue swell only to find my kayak also lifted up over the deep wave and surfed down the other side! The fabulous challenging paddling experience was highlighted by diverse tides and waves, warm weather and superbly sunny blue skies.  Weather on the outside coast of Vancouver Island is unique and often unpredictable.  We fortunately had perhaps the best weather of the 2011 summer in this rugged region of the province.

Tallship anchored at Jackobson Point

We had too many highlights to journal them all but a few moments deserve notation. The relentless rhythmic ebb and flood of the tides take over your daily awareness. The tides dictate absolutely everything one experiences on the outer coast. When you only see your feet on the pebbly shore and nothing but blue water and and sky in all visible directions something is changed in your personal consciousness. It is like the inverse reflection of standing on the summit of Mount Baker and seeing nothing but clouds and your own snow capped 360′ platform. You don’t feel alone or lonely but remote and small on a scale not imagined while living in a city.


  • Going to bed at 8:30pm! Without any significant worry but rather only a healthy sense of living a full physically tiring day and welcoming sleep even if on the ground.
  • Tracking a humpback whale as it repeatedly rises and expels a blast of air through the surf.
  • Paddling across Ououkinsh Inlet and through a Bunsby Island reef where the roaring surf foam was thicker than the height of my boat and staring down the dark blue chasm created by the wave before it thundered upon the rocks
  • Seeing the twin masts of a SALTS tall ship increasingly enlarge its silhouette on Jackobson’s Point, as I paddled closer, knowing my niece was likely aboard as a crew member.
  • Paddling up the small river at Battle Bay watching a sockeye repeatedly breach as we anticipated a swim in the cold fresh water
  • Toasted bagels and Dale’s apricot jam!
  • Falling to sleep with the sound of gentle surf one night and a roaring high tide freight train the next
  • Waking Barry at 1:00am to help a paranoid me move the kayaks higher up from the unrelenting large high tide
  • Walking the long sandy beach on the lookout for ancient caves
  • Eating Nancy’s butter chicken while sitting on the beach!
  • Watching a black bear(shocked by us no doubt) walk right through our camp, dive off a rock and then swim across a passage
  • In the Mission Group, a hundred otters all in a row- no bull!
  • Waking up to clear skies and realizing all the water dripping from my tent fly was dew!
  • Not once missing my cell phone but wishing I could txt Nancy my photos
  • Cooking improv fresh rock cod and spicy rice with Don
  • A 6am tequila sunrise on a high tide

Thanks fellas! for an experience I shall remember until my final day ebbs into the endless sleep.

Photos: visit my photography album on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/okflyfisher/sets/72157627426603805/


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The Wild Coast (Volume 1, 2 & 3) by John Kimantas
A kayaking, hiking and recreation guide for North and West Vancouver Island. The Wild Coast covers Vancouver Island from Port Hardy to Esquimalt and explores best-kept secrets such as hiking trails, sea caves, and private campsites. Each chapter examines a part of the coast and discusses the regions’ attractions, history, and ecology. Detailed maps show all the major points of interest—from the best campgrounds to the ideal spot to view wildlife

About LiterateOWL

photographer, flyfisher , bird watcher, dog lover, amateur artist and retired teacher-librarian...
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62 Responses to Wild West Coast -Paddle Happy

  1. rakhikankane says:

    enjoyed reading 🙂 nice blog!

  2. conniewalden says:

    I think people who get out there and paddle over the deep like that, are brave souls. Thanks for sharing. Keep save. Connie

    • LiterateOwl says:

      Thanks love! I really appreciate your encouragement. I don’t think too much of the risks but rather the what can I do. I’m lucky in that my team is smart and my family is supportive. If I realistically imagined the risks I’d quit but the truth lies in our ability to plan and execute. I’m at an age where my children are adults and I can afford to take risks. Besides, my wife likes it when I’m away for awhile- it gives her some options. Thx

  3. jack says:

    this is called lyf…. i m really jealous…!

  4. Beautiful! I’ve only kayaked once, on Humboldt Bay in California, and it was completely awesome. I’d like to do more but where I live now it’s not so much a thing, even though we’ve got lots of nice lakes around.

  5. I grew up just over the boarder from there…in the San Juan islands in WA state, and I love your pictures – that feel of HOME! I even set my book in the Queen Charlotte Islands (The Haidi Gawaii) because I can’t get it out of my system!) Thanks for posting these photos!

  6. and thats what i call adventure! i want to try that someday!! ty for sharing!!! ^_^


  7. I am feeling inspired to make that kayaking trip to Canada I’ve long thought about. Thank you for sharing (especially the new method for toasting bagels)

    • LiterateOwl says:

      Heah man! bagels rock on trips- they are such tough suckers! hope you get here. West Coast Expeditions is a place to snoop for ideas, rentals, etc. .. you can do these trips independently and inexpensively if you plan. In Kyuquot, access is a barrier because it is so far and remote from civilization. If you decide, call me, I might be able to help out.

  8. Kathleen says:

    I also just came back from a sea-kayaking adventure on the Claquot Sound. Amazing scenery. Thanks for sharing!

    • LiterateOwl says:

      Thanks ! I did Clayquot 3 years ago- what a fabulous place. We had huge grey whales 50 feet from us!! so cool… Did you get to Cow Bay and/or Hotsprings Cove?

  9. Miranda says:

    I live on the West Coast of B.C. myself and the majesty of it all leaves me speechless on a very regular basis!

    I actually kayak to and from work; if you’re an avid kayaker (and it sounds like you are) then I highly, highly recommend taking a trip to the Sunshine Coast. It’s only a 45 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay (I’m not sure where you’re located, but if you’re not sure where that is, it’s about a 30 minute drive from Vancouver). The Coast is world-reknowned for its beauty and endless plethora of all things outdoor, like hiking, kayaking, biking, swimming – you get the picture 🙂

    You should put it on your bucket list!


    • LiterateOwl says:

      I live in the beautiful and ARID Kelowna but sea kayak at least once a year. I paddle some in interior lakes too but the majesty of the ocean is so magnetic. Although I have visited and love your neighbourhood, I will also add Sunshine Coast paddle to my future list. The boys and I do a unique trip every summer now for 17 years. Rumours have it we might sail next year- ideas? welcome your feedback. thank you.

  10. gaycarboys says:

    I’m exhausted just reading the post. I’m terrible allergic to exercise but I’m with you in spirit. Great post though.

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  12. Axomeonse says:

    Haha, ne me *****

  13. Great job!! Well written, interesting, accompanied with beautiful photos!!!

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  17. I admire that you have the chance to paddle in the wildness. I have only paddled in a pond. Even so, I enjoyed it a lot. If I can paddle in a ocean among islands like you, I must feel a great joy. Wish one day I can also have that kind of experience.

  18. You’ve inspired me to go kayaking this weekend on this West Coast (California). Thanks for the great information and photos.

  19. Yumolo says:

    Wow this is inspiring! I really enjoyed your post .Love the photographs and your story!

  20. Nice photos. I love your photos. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Anita Mac says:

    Love it – especially the part about the bear! Your pictures make me want to hop on a flight and head west! You made me feel like I was there! Off for a long weekend of kayak camping in Gatineau Park (Quebec) on the weekend – not likely to see any bears, but as it is a long weekend, I am sure the natives will be restless!

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  23. Beautiful images that brings calmness….the colors, the serene waters…..inspiring!

  24. monasapple says:

    just saw your blog on wordpress homepage. in carmel, ca, visiting family and i just told my mom today i’d really like to go kayaking. i don’t expect to see humpbacks, though a few otters would be nice, but thanks for the little bump in motivation i needed to do it before i head home to los angeles. cheers!

  25. rumpydog says:

    Oh Dog! That is so cool!!!!

  26. Great job!! Well written, interesting, accompanied with beautiful photos!

  27. TJ Johnston says:

    Excellent photos!

  28. What a awesome journey. So beautifully written and illustrated with photo’s. This story and photo’s could easily been part of a life mag photo shot. Congrads on being chosen for FP.

  29. Very nice pictures! Congratulations on being FP


  30. I love the photos!! I ❤ Canada!

  31. Very pretty photos! So proud to be Canadian and live in a country with scenery like that. 🙂

  32. Beautiful images — and it sounds like quite the adventure!


    Congrats on a major accomplishment and an incredible list of highlights.

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