July 20, 2019 – This is the hardest journal entry to write thus far. Yesterday was such a fantastic day, you’d think today would just be a continuation. Or at least that was my expectation. The plan was to launch at 7:40 to get to Dodd Narros in time for the slack times reported by Peches et Oceans Canada (NOAA equivalent). All of the varying numbers for that stretch of water from different websites continued to niggle in my mind. My launch site was just 15 miles “downstream” from there and at 8 am the tide was still coming in just a little bit. As I loaded my boat the water kept creeping up the shore, floating more and more of her. How could water that basically runs in six-hour cycles still be flooding in at 8 am, 15 miles away from water that is supposed to be finished flooding in, then finished ebbing out again just three hours and thirty eight minutes later? Another site had it turning at 11:38 an then not slowing to slack for another hour and a half. That still troubled me. On the Columbia there is a delay, but not that long of one.
I got on and moving. The wind was gentle, around 7 mph. I was basically moving east so I had gentle rolling waves cutting across at about a 45 degree angle. After 20 minutes, the wind picked up to about 12. Then again after another 10 minutes to 15. Now I was getting larger rollers along with sets coming in from the east at 3-4 feet. After the first hour, I found myself saying, “This isn’t fun. I’m not scared. But it definitely isn’t fun. What it is doing is making me be present every single moment and aware of everything every single moment so I can respond appropriately. Oh, yes that’s life isn’t it? This is good training/practice for me.”
At the end of the second hour, I found myself saying, “Screw this! I’ve been aware of every single moment long enough! Lesson over!” With the direction the waves were pushing me, I had to paddle sideways to them to get out far enough not to get driven into the rocks. Then dealing with the regular fishing boat and other far away unseen boat wakes every few minutes, and the other varying sets of bigger waves, it just plain sucked. Note on the fishing boats all coming in: they come in after the flood tide is over – they were coming in between 8:30-9 thus confirming my observations of the tide not being what Canadian Peches et Oceans tide charts said it was for the area.
There was a nice gravel beach in front of me that kind of looked like a park so I did a textbook perfect surf landing (if I do say so myself). After landing, I found a sign that verified that I was at a day use park just north of Nanaimo. Quite a nice park called Neck Point Park. There was a just-married couple taking photographs and about 200 other people out enjoying its varied terrain and paths.
I felt stuck. In fact I was outright grouchy. I had said goodbye to Vancouver Island. I wasn’t supposed to be back on it. My plan was to be on DeCourcy Island sometime today. But the sketchy forecasts for Dodd Narrows also were pissing me off. It was now an ebb tide so if I wanted to launch from here today it meant unloading and reloading everything, and the whitecaps just kept getting bigger and bigger so, no I didn’t want to relaunch in that mess and I couldn’t stay here, and here I was stuck in a place I couldn’t legally camp, a long way from the place I intended to camp, and here were all of these happy freaking people thoroughly enjoying this beautiful park while I was totally grouchy.
So I called my uncle. I asked him how quickly he could leave and head up my way – that I was done, finished and ready to come home. That we could drive and take ferries round about to visit Roger on Orcas Island, but that I couldn’t see a way to get to Roger’s in the currently planned timeframe. My wise uncle said that he would do anything for me, would drop anything and start heading north if that is what I wanted. I told him that wasn’t yet what I wanted, so he said, “Call me back in a few hours when you know more and let me know what is happening then.” I said ok, feeling supported and knowing I had a sturdy lifeline.
Then I thought, “Where did I want to be by the end of the paddle day today, and the next, and the next?” I looked to the charts and saw that there are areas south of where I was from which I could launch and get to those places (Wallace Island and South Pender Island) and still stay within the current projected timetable. I researched water taxis (ah no!), land taxis (none with roof racks, sorry BABS), bus (ya right). One of the taxi companies suggested I call a local kayak company. Duh! I have a kayak company and didn’t think of this myself? No, I am grumpy and not in my “right mind”.
I call the kayak company south of me by an hour and a half or so. I speak with a nice woman named Nancy. She suggests I contact the large paddling/kayaking group in Nanaimo to see if any of them would give me a ride down to Crofton, an ideal launch site from which to get to either of the two islands (for someone of my paddling ability). So I look up the Nanaimo Paddlers group and send an email to all of their respective email addresses (thank you nanaimopaddlers.org for not hating me for this). About three hours later I get a response from their wonderful contact saying she has sent out my plea to their membership. Then, a half hour later I get a text from sea-angel Rod saying he can pick me up in about an hour and a half. Uncertain if this is a legit offer, I text back with specifics asking if that is ok with him. Then I get a response confirming. I am thrilled. But wait…
Where to stay in Crofton? I do a search for camping in Crofton, BC. The first hit is Osborne Bay Resort. I look them up. They are right on the water east of the ferry terminal with a spit from which I could easily launch. I call and a delightful woman, Alvina, answers and tells me she has one tent site left Hurray! I book it and, even though she will be gone by the time I get there, she’ll leave me instructions on the door of the office.
I now need to carry everything the half mile or so out to the parking lot of the park. I start putting the wheels on BABS and wheeling her over to where I have stowed the IKEA bags and soft gear and this woman appears and asks if I’d like help carrying things. I say yes of course and give her the bundle of soft gear to carry while I wheel BABS with the first IKEA bag in the cockpit out toward the parking lot. I am explaining what has happened today to this lovely woman as we briskly walk the half mile. Then when we get there, and I find Rod, he and I load the kayak onto his nice trailer and the first bag and soft gear into the back of his truck. When I tell him I have two more bags to go back for, the woman who helped me says she will go back and help me get those while he straps BABS to the trailer. Once she and I are walking back for the other load, she, whose name is Cory, confesses that she is also a member of the paddling club and, when she got home and saw the email, she just drove straight to the park to help me. Then I get another call from another member of the club and I thanked him and told him I already had help. Then I got another message from Nancy saying that if the paddling club thing didn’t work out she would come get me. I felt so so much better at this point. The help of human kindness at work Canadian style! This made me feel good about all of the folks who have called Columbia River Kayaking over the years, and I’ve taken the time to help them on their journeys. I still feel the need to pay it forward.
Rod drove me the 55 miles to the agricultural area of Crofton. It was nice to see pastures and fields again. Rod took me to the campground and helped me unload everything. Alvina was still there when we got there and helped me get oriented. My two new sea-angels, along with Cory who helped me so much.
After setting up camp I went to the local hotel/pub and had some supper and am far less grumpy. I am at a good place to launch but need time to do preparatory research on Gulf Island/San Juan Island currents and overall waters. I will probably stay here tomorrow to get it all down before venturing out. I studied them a year or two ago, but now that I am here I need a quick refresh on the passes, etc. I have the tide/current tables but there is more here than meets the eye…