Kayakers set out on an adventure expedition in the Broughton Archipelago.

Kayak expedition a unique way to discover beautiful B.C.

Record reporter spends time in the Broughton Archipelago

  • Jul. 9, 2016 5:00 p.m.

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

On an otherwise quiet night, the only sounds were whistling birds, raindrops in the trees and small waves lapping the shoreline. But then, out of the darkness, a whale exhaled. I couldn’t see the humpback due to the thickness of the fog hovering over Blackfish Sound.

It was beautifully eerie on this final night of a five-day kayaking expedition in the Broughton Archipelago. Earlier in the evening, we had parked our kayaks roughly 100 metres from the path of a whale, obeying the allowable distance. But eventually we found ourselves surrounded by passing humpbacks, and schools of dolphins, some of which popped up directly in front of the kayaks. Over the speakers of a whale-watching boat, the playful voice of Captain Wayne told his passengers: ‘Please don’t feed the kayakers.’

Blackfish Sound is a veritable playground for ocean wildlife, sea kayakers and whale watchers. It lies between Hanson and Swanson islands, where we stayed Monday and Thursday in tents on a campground leased by North Island Kayak, a company based in Telegraph Cove on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. We roughed it Tuesday and Wednesday at Cedar Island. No outhouse or electricity. Just the ground to set up tents.

Departing Monday from Telegraph Cove, our group of five kayakers and one guide kicked things off by crossing Johnstone Strait. It took just 10 minutes to spot a group of porpoise/dolphins — easily mistaken for Orcas. By the second day, we had seen our first humpback in Blackfish Sound. Later Tuesday, we had entered the archipelago, where overcast skies created a dreamy atmosphere. Our guide — Josh Julien — said the mountainous landscape resembled a painting. He was right.

Throughout the week, we were followed by seals. They’d pop their heads out of the water, scope out the situation with those wide eyes, disappear, then re-appear in a different location. At one point, a seal nosed the rudder of my kayak. Another popped its upper body out of the water to inspect the bow of a fellow paddler.

The biggest thrill happened on the final day. Within minutes of departing Cedar Island, the body of a humpback appeared about 10 feet in front of Jan. Then its tail swept by Jan’s wife Heather, whose shriek continues to amuse Josh.

It’s amazing seeing something that big up close. Adult humpbacks can reach lengths of about 17 metres and weigh about 40 tons. I felt helpless and awed at the same time.

But aside from the surface action, underwater also teems with life: jellyfish, sea cucumbers and an assortment of colourful anemones can be found along rock lines near shore. This is when the paddling slows to a crawl, and becomes restful, even meditative.

ocean, the arm and back muscles kick into gear, especially when battling currents. A novice kayaker, I was gripping the paddle too tightly. My left wrist was swollen at the end of the first day (it still hurts) and my right thumb developed a large blister. Equally challenging was keeping clothes dry. North Island Kayak supplies guests with a 10-litre dry bag to store essentials while kayaking, and a 20-litre dry bag for clothes and gear at the campsite. Call it getting by with the minimum. When it comes to clothing, we discovered it was more about ‘levels of damp’ as opposed to dry.

Kayakers need to prepare for rain. We had plenty. But that’s not a bad thing. In fact, ocean kayaking is pleasant in the rain, provided proper gear is worn. Cotton is not proper gear. Once wet, it stays wet.

But if our spirits had dampened, everything brightened come meal time. Josh’s cooking was stellar. Salads, egg dishes, pancakes, wraps. We ate well.

Here’s one recipe we named Josh’s Special: sauté garlic, jalapeño peppers and quinoa in oil. Add potatoes, carrots, spinach, corn and feta cheese — and anything else desired.

Our leader was up each morning at 6 a.m. to prepare breakfast. He even provided brown sugar for our morning coffee. Then, after a day of kayaking and unloading gear, he would cook dinner. Spoiled us silly.

I hardly slept the second night. Too much coffee, chocolate and hot chocolate. It wasn’t raining but moisture in the trees kept a steady flow of drops hitting the tent. One never knows what might pop into mind while lying awake in the middle of the night. At one point, though I hadn’t heard it in decades, I had the following Bugs Bunny tune running through my head:

Oh, we’re the boys of the chorus

We hope you like our show

We know you’re rooting for us

But now we have to go.

Looney Tunes, indeed. But I made up for it the following night with a 10-hour sleep. Made sure I drank herbal tea during the day.

All part of the experience, which was everything I expected — and then some.

 

Just Posted

Seventh annual Campagnolo Lecture coming to Courtenay

Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

School for students on Hornby Island ‘normal as can be’: portables expected in new year

While it’s not an ideal situation, the return to school for students… Continue reading

Christmas comes early for residents of Cumberland Lodge

It’s Christmas in September at Cumberland Lodge. The Rotary Club of Cumberland… Continue reading

Big Beach Cleanup builds awareness of ocean debris impacts

First two cleanup days brought in 40 cubic yards of plastic and styrofoam

Fashion Fridays: Rock some animal print

Kim XO, lets you in on the latest fall fashion trends on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen boasts of aiding Mueller investigation

Cohen could provide information on whether Trump’s campaign co-ordinated with Russians

Landslide forces evacuations of Philippine villages

More than 1,200 people in villages near the landslide-hit area were forcibly moved by authorities

Students asked about the positive effects of residential schools

Alberta’s education minister apologized after hearing about the online social studies course

Permit to give B.C. deer birth control on hold until consultation with First Nations

Complexity of consultation will depend on level of First Nations support for the project

Feds launching review of oil tanker traffic in bid to renew pipeline approval

The feds have ordered the National Energy Board to bring recommendations on whether pipeline expansion should proceed

Horvat leads Canucks to 4-3 shootout victory over Kings

Vancouver dumps L.A. in NHL pre-season contest

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

Why Whistler for ski jumping in 2026? Calgary proposal gets pushback

Calgary 2026 proposes re-using the 2010 ski jumping venue Whistler for that sport and nordic

Most Read