Klemtu (Warning – Graphic Images Not for the Weak at Heart)
June 27, 2019 – A nice paddling day – even including miles 19 and 20 that were great ocean swells and rollers from every which way. I got from the north end of Tolmie Channel to the harbor in Klemtu in about five and a half hours. 22 miles. BABS handled like a champ and I kept my wits about me and we made it through the big stuff to the calmer passage between Swindle and Cone Islands just fine. Several fishing boats came past me and, as they slowed down to pass me, they looked over and signaled to me asking if I was ok, and I was able to signal back that I was. The fact that I was calm and confident enough in those conditions to pause and have a brief exchange like that told me a lot about myself.
After entering the more protected passage, I paddled past the rather large BC Ferries terminal. When I looked at the BC Ferries schedule during my initial research, I didn’t see that there was a Klemtu terminal. Good to note. I then paddled into the harbor. The dock at the harbor was full and the harbor itself was set with 17 knot SE winds, so I tied BABS up just long enough to use the restroom in the grocery store, then forged on another mile into the wind to the dock of the Spirit Bear Lodge.
The Lodge does trips like we do at home – multi-day group tours, with food and excursions included, all in one package. I have been researching this place for the past couple years and have wanted see if it is to just stay at the lodge itself. They are the epitome of ecotourism. Their rooms remind me of places I have stayed in Europe – simple, clean lines. They recycle everything possible, compost, use biodegradable soaps/detergents, and so on. Their food is incredible. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, with fresh home-grown produce in season, local fish, all lovingly prepared and artistically presented.
So I paddled up to their dock, secured BABS, and then walked in in my salt-stained hydroskins, PFD, sprayskirt, and well, my entire salt-stained person, and asked what lodging options they might have for a weary kayaker.
John, one of the program directors, looked into their available rooms, spoke with the chef, and was able to come up with a quite reasonable lodging/food package for as many days as I need. I called BC Ferries, and the next Klemtu to Port Hardy ferry leaves on Tuesday. I booked passage on it for me and BABS and scheduled a Tuesday checkout with John.
Here is the thought process in making the decision to take a five-day break from the water trail and restart in Port Hardy:
1) My body has several skin injuries (armpits, legs) that need to heal. I’ve just been wearing my hydroskin jacket under the pfd the last two days and that has kept the sores from getting worse, but they need air and the burn cream applied more regularly to heal faster.
2) For the past five or six paddle days, I have been taking on water in the cockpit. Not a lot, but more than seemed possible with the waves washing over the spray skirt. When John and I flipped BABS over on the deck, I counted at least three hull breaching cracks that need to be repaired. I brought my fiberglass repair kit with me so I can do that work hopefully on Saturday when it’s supposed to be dry and sunny again.
3) Most of the 12 or so dry bags I have have gotten water on the inside. Some of that may just be from all the rain and humidity I have been living in, but I need to dry them all out completely and test and repair leaks – especially in bags like the one in which this tablet lives.
4) So far it has been a routine of get up, eat breakfast, pack boat, paddle, get off water, unload boat, set up camp, to tired do anything else, journal and go to bed. Even the few times I’ve been able to park at a dock, I haven’t really had a chance yet to immerse myself in and explore a place. I’m in the middle of the Great Bear Rainforest, there is no place better suited to my interests in which for me to immerse myself. Once BABS is repaired I can do day paddles, or even go on some of the lodge’s trips (for free) to see bears and other wildlife one or two days.
5) On Tuesday, there is a ferry that will take me to Port Hardy. That will catch me up on mileage and allow me to more deeply explore the east side of Vancouver Island as I head south. Just as with that last 40 miles to Prince Rupert, I can come back someday and do the segment from Klemtu to Port Hardy, maybe even with someone else.
The decision to stay here and explore feels really good. Maybe I’ll get to see one of the spirit bears; my chances are best here in this area. Let the repairs begin!
Warning: some of the following images are pretty gnarly. View at your own ewwww! threshhold.