Kelsey Bay to Rock Bay – Tiiiiiides are not on my side… No they’re not!
July 8, 2019 – Tired tired tired. Yesterday went so well leaving at 10 am and paddling 22.3 miles in under six hours. I thought I’d try the same thing today, only leaving a half hour later to accommodate the later ebb tide, the current for which, by the way, was predicted to be a maximum of -1 knots at 11:30. Not!
Yesterday I averaged 4 mph the first three hours. This morning I made 3.8 miles the first hour, less than 1.5 the second hour and less than that the third hour. In fact, after the third hour I came around a point and discovered that though I was paddling at my sprinting pace (about 5 mph), I was not moving forward. In defense of the current, when I came around the corner I noticed that the crystal clear water showed that the rock faces under the water were full of large sea urchins. So my attention was completely on how I could harvest one or two. The tide had come up enough I couldn’t reach them with my hands or even my paddle. I contemplated trying to land, putting on my drysuit, weighting it down with rocks, grabbing my dive mask… Oh wait, my dive mask was with uncle and dog in the Saab. Oh wait again.. I’m moving backwards and I’m basically in whitewater on this point but completely distracted by potential food. Ok, focus girl! Get out of potentially dangerous situation and assess the situation.
I moved forward – very slowly – to the center of a sandy beach. That was when I tried paddling at my sprinting speed which was a total bust. Then I moved out farther into the main channel to see if things had turned out there. Nada. So I paddled hard back into the sand beach and parked. Despite being at the tail end of the tide, it was still ripping out at at least 4 mph. I had something hot to drink. I took a 10 minute nap. I wasn’t hungry so eating was out of the question. At 1:50 pm the tide turned. By 2:35 the bull seaweed two feet from shore stopped moving. Everything else was moving out still, but I could ride the shore despite the extra miles until slack, followed by the much desired flood.
So far I had made only just over seven miles in three hours. I made a little over three in the next hour. My GPS said I still had over nine to go to get to Rock Bay where uncle and dog were waiting for me. This is to be our last night together before they head back home to check on the farm and take care of campers. Though I wanted to just find a nice sand beach and set up camp for the night, I moreso wanted to get to them and spend one more night with them. I stopped on one more sandy beach. This time I was hungry and out of steam. I ate the chili left over from the night before, drank the rest of my hot beverage, stretched. I was at least seven miles from Rock Bay. It was max flood for what that is worth in Johnstown Straight, You see, at the center of the east side of Vancouver Island, the incoming tide meets from both directions. So it’s like the wall of a bathtub. The water keeps filling but doesn’t keep moving once it hits the wall. Nonetheless I had some current and made the eight mile trek in two hours.
When I got to Rock Bay there were many RV rigs and fishing boats here. I couldn’t see the Saab or uncle or the dog. I tied up to a low float and walked up to the shore and there they were. I was so worried they were worried about my over three hour late arrival and had gone back to where they could get a cell signal to pick up the GPS messages I had been sending. Thankfully the camp host broke the rules and gave uncle her personal wifi password so he could check and then he knew how far out I was and didn’t panic.
The total for today was 22.8 miles in seven hours and 50 minutes. That is my longest hours of total paddling in a day thus far. I feel pretty fortunate now that I look at it that way. I didn’t have that same feeling by about hour six earlier today. I probably worked harder today total than I have any other day thus far. I’ve actually been really good about taking in the tide/current information I could get and plannng accordingly.
I won’t make the same error with Seymour Narrows. There is more than enough information on the tide/current for it that I should be able to shoot through during slack just like I have on all the other hazardous areas thus far. Alas, the chafing under the arms and now a new one on the waist are causing me to adjust. I don’t have a plan for how or where I will cross to Quadra Island yet. Too tired to solidify anything tonight. Tomorrow I may do a short 10-mile paddle to the north end of Quadra and camp so that the next day I can start fresh with Seymour Narrows. Or maybe have uncle drive me, BABS, and gear to the north entrance and just go from there. Regardless, rest assured planning will be more than adequate to ensure my safety and enjoyment on the second most most hazardous part of the journey.
It is almost dark here. I am so tired I can hardly believe I am still writing. Glad to have made it another 20+ miles in a day. Even more glad to have seen two harbour seals, one harbour porpoise, and a river otter. Three out of five I surprised and for that I apologized profusely to each of them. Uncle saw a grizzly bear as he came in to the campsite today. A great day for wildlife; those sea urchins sure lucked out on avoiding being eaten. Yay for them. Hopefully next time I will be the lucky one.