The day started off beautifully and ended up not so well.
Got an early start and the weather was already showing patches of blue with the cloud cover much higher than yesterday. By mid morning, the sky was half sun, half clouds. It was an easy paddle in low swells as I skirted "the Wall", a low cliff face that I guess extended underwater, a spot famous among salmon fishermen who frequent the fishing resorts in Rivers Inlet.
By the time I neared the first resort, I was already crossing the Inlet to Penrose Provincial Park, a wonderful series of islands that creates a maze for a kayaker--hidden narrow passages, some of which lead out to the Sound with crashing surf, and others that lead to another bay, and on and on. There were even a few beaches, so I imagine its a popular sailing destination in the summer.
Sailing, or motor boating, would be a good way to see the several tight island groups that exist on B.C.s coast. From Desolation Sound to the Broughtons to Penrose, Hakai--these areas are too dispersed to connect by kayak normally, but with a larger boat and a dinghy or a kayak on board would be great. I'm glad I'm able to see all these areas, but I can't imagine someone (except from the Vancouver/Puget Sound area) making a special trip to any one island group for the kayaking.
Penrose had a nice campsite, but it was only 10:30, and if I stopped there, it would be a long paddle to Hakai tomorrow. There was one camp further on that sounded OK so I decided to paddle the 6-7 miles to it.
I was now paddling in FitzHugh Sound, a passage known for its winds funnelling from the north. As I left Penrose, the breezes began to pick up, and over the next 2 hours built to the point that paddling was getting tiresome, maybe 12-15 knots.
I finally made the small bay I hoped to camp in, and it was pretty disappointing. There were 2 parts of the bay--one had a lovely sand beach, but it looked like last nights high tide had covered it, and the tide would be higher tonight. The other part of the bay was rough rock, from fist-sized on up. The high end of this shore looked higher than the sand part of the bay, but it was hard to tell where last nights tide reached. I hunted through the bush to see if I could find a safe tent spot, but nothing reasonable. This didn't feel like home.
4 miles further north was a manned lighthouse and I vaguely recall that someone had been steered to a good camp on Blair Island next door by the lighthouse keeper. I think that memory dates back 6 years, so it is fuzzy. Anyway, I get out the VHF and call the lighthouse (Addenbroke). I ask the fellow who responds about the potential camp, but he's new at the lighthouse and doesn't know anything about camps in the area. But I'm welcome to visit the lighthouse anytime. Hmmmm. That clearly was not an invitation to spend the night. Too bad. The weather isn't getting any better out here. In fact, squalls are moving through, and with them comes gusty winds.
So I decide to give Blair Island a shot, though there's no mention in any books I've read about camping on Blair. The wind is even stronger now, so paddling is more laborious--nothing dangerous, just plodding. By the time I reach Blair and check out all the potential bays that turn up nothing, its after 3:30. So maybe if I paddle another hour into the wind to take up the lighthouse keeper's offer, it might turn into an invitation to stay the night. After all, its a windy, blustery, squally kind of afternoon, and keepers have been known to invite folks to stay. What's the worst that could happen? I'd have to paddle back an extra couple miles to a crappy camp.
Another option would be to try for the next camp up the Sound another 5-6 miles. It's supposed to be a nice camp, but 2 problems--I had hoped to cross the Sound at Addenbroke because that is the narrowest point (~1 1/2 miles) and the next camp would be past the channel headed west to the Hakai. And of course, I wouldn't think of continuing unless the wind died down. So I call the lighthouse and commit to a 50 minute paddle around Addenbroke Island to the lighthouse.
When I finally paddled around the last corner and saw their "dock", I couldn't believe it. They used to have a floating dock, but it got destroyed by the seas, so now they have a generator-powered hoist on a concrete deck 50 feet above the water, and a rocky climb to get up there. And that's if you managed to get out of your boat in that surging bay. Roger, who is one of the lighthouse keepers there with his wife, Leslie, lowered the crane hook and I tied to it. Then he swung the crane arm out over the bay, and my boat hung out there, riding the waves.
Roger and Leslie welcomed me into their comfy home out of the rain and wind. Sitting in their kitchen drinking chai, you'd have no idea of what it would be like out on the water. We had a nice chat, India, their German Shepard, finally warmed up to me, and I did my best to suppress my yawns and drooping eyes. In their warm kitchen, I felt how tired I really was.
But in the end, there was no invitation to stay, so I took my leave, and Roger helped bring my boat in to shore. The wind seemed to still be blowing too strong to try to make my way further north, but once I paddled out into the Sound, I wasn't sure. I turned north, paddled a few strokes, and decided against it. If it were earlier in the day, maybe I'd try, but it would be slow going, and I didn't feel like I had the strength. I turned back around and paddled south with the wind for an hour to what I expected to be an uncomfortable night.
I set up camp at the very top of the rocky shore with the tent half up in the bush. I only used 2 of the 4 poles because there wasn't enough room for the full tent footprint. I hacked away at some of the overhanging vegetation so I had a place in the bush for all the hear. I was dead tired, and the bugs were thick, but I kept plugging along getting the routine chores done--haul gear, set up tent, kitchen, make dinner, close up gear, hang food, store gear above high water, and sit and wait for the high tide. It was supposed to arrive around 11pm, but by 10, it was clear that I''d be OK, so I finally crawled into the tent. It was a fitful night sleeping on boulders and on a 30 degree slope, but it was OK. Better than I had feared.
Maybe Roger and Leslie had done me a favor.