Sayward to Telegraph Cove

We left early the next morning to calm seas, no wind, and the currents behind us. We leisurely and joyfully made our way up the coast in this unexpected gift from nature.

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looking south down Johnstone Strait

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looking east across Johnstone Strait to the Coast Mountains

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looking northwest up the coast of Vancouver Island from somewhere north of Sayward

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Near the end of the day we had a few kilometres in headwinds but in the end we paddled about 33 km, and we could have done more if we had pushed harder earlier. We stopped at a really nice river beach (Christopher Creek I believe) backed by a beautiful open forest of big sitka spruce and douglas fir. There were bear prints in the sand, a mother and cub. We camped just above the beach in the trees.

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landing in SAND at Christopher Creek

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kelp greenling caught in the ….. kelp

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big douglas fir by Christopher Creek

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In the evening we were discussing some mundane thing and then all of a sudden Maggie screamed out, “Oh my God! Whales!” They were not far offshore heading south. I raced out and got a few pictures.

In the morning I decided to give my boat a bath in the river because it was so dirty and full of sand from me foolishly storing it upside down on the sandy beach, something we have not been accustomed to much so far!

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giving my boat a bath in the creek

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Bryan and Maggie left a bit before I did and we didn’t have far to go, only the last campsite before Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, which you are not allowed to enter. This is operated by a kayak tour company, and they graciously allowed us to stay and they even fed us! Bryan and I fished to provide some other food for the guests, but I lost my lure. Brian caught two. That evening the whales again came by, and so did a humpback whale way off in the middle of the channel. I went “up Schmidt Creek” as the sign says and took a cold bath.

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The next morning again treated us to orcas and they were closer to shore this time and I got some nice photos.

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camping with the group at Schmidt Creek

We left shortly afterwards but there was a headwind. You have to stay a mile offshore here for eight kilometres to stay out of the ecological reserve. I soon got fed up with this and crossed Johnstone Strait over to Cracroft Island. As I came across I could see two whale watching zodiacs milling around, and there was the humpback again, a few hundred meters away going south. It took refuge from the wind in the bays and worked my way up the shoreline. I was worried about Brian and Maggie out there in the middle of the Strait. I stopped on a beach to eat lunch and a boat came around the corner and a guy jumped ashore and it turns out he is a real life beachcomber! I had been thinking recently how it must be a profitable business to be in, with all these valuable logs washed up on the shore, escaped from log booms. He said no, he has to give half the profits to the co-op, but find his own buyers, and the market is really down right now. He pulled a creosote pole off the beach, which are becoming more valuable now because creosote is banned because it is so toxic. I got video of it!

By this point the wind had died down so I crossed over Johnstone Strait again on glassy calm water, a rarity this time of year.

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crossing a very rare glassy Johnstone Strait to Robson Bight. That is the partially protected Tsitika watershed.

Midway across, as expected, the park warden Adam bombed over in his zodiac to talk to me. He was nice and interested in my trip and just wanted to check me out and make sure I knew the drill with the whales. I wasn’t in the reserve. He knew my name because he had talked to Brian and Maggie earlier, who were on the beach just to the north of Robson Bight. That’s where I was headin’!

I got over to Bryan and Maggie and decided that since the conditions were so nice I’d put a few more kilometres under my belt before calling it a day – which would turn out to be the biggest mistake of the trip so far. The next morning they had a big bull orca come up and rub on the beach, right in front of them. They were awoken by him in the silent fog. He was there for a half hour. And later in the day while they were fishing off the kelp a mother and calf came in underneath them and went inside the kelp!

Meanwhile, I was three km up the coast in my own protected cove listening to porpoises in the Strait and then having my silence broken by two big cruise ships come by and their wake bouncing around for the next half hour. I recognized the ships from Vancouver, where I had photographed at least one of them, the Coral Princess, many months before docked at Canada Place.

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Bryan and Maggie said however that the fishing boats kept them awake at night. Yes, that’s fishing boats in the ecological reserve! Only kayakers and pleasure craft must stay out of Robson Bight, but fishing boats can and do string seine nets right across from the points to catch salmon! There is nothing the rangers can do about this because the ecological reserve is a provincial creation but fisheries are federal. This needs attention. The feds should rectify this situation and work with the provinces to unify protected areas.

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waking up to fog north of Robson Bight

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where is the horizon?

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huh? This is when you need your GPS if you have to make a crossing.

The next morning, while Bryan and Maggie were having their intimate moment with the whale in the fog, I was paddling up to Telegraph Cove to phone and meet my mom. I was fighting the winds most of the day and finally rounded the point to see the place right there in front of my eyes! What a relief! Telegraph Cove is small, packed with boats, and tourist oriented, but it has a neat character with a boardwalk all around the cove. It is also expensive with few supplies. For supplies Sayward or Port McNeil are much better. The kayaking community here is very helpful and friendly. I didn’t want to pay $30 for camping so I paddled back to the peninsula sticking out, three km back, and camped there.

The next morning I went back into town and met Bryan and Maggie who showed up a little later, and my mom later still. My mom and I camped in a very windy RV park overlooking the town. It never stops blowing. But we had WiFi internet access all through town for $5 a day.

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Telegraph Cove

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The next day we all headed into Port McNeil to resupply, and Bryan and I caught lots of Pacific cod off the dock right in the cove. All the ones I caught were too small but Brian caught big ones and we all ate them by the fire at their cheap campsite away from town where the seasonal residents live for the summer.

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Bryan with my monster cod. Don’t worry, we threw it back

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bigger cod to eat

The next day Bryan and Maggie headed out to the Broughtons with their very heavy kayaks and enough supplies to last them a month and a half. My mom and I instead headed south to that beach in Robson Bight I passed up a few days before….

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The winds blew us down there in a few hours and we spent two nights there.

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pebble rubbing beach in Robson Bight

The second day was very relaxing with light winds and lots of orcas, although none came too close to shore. We were both awoken by the big breath of a humpback about 50 yards away just off the kelp line. I got my camera but didn’t see it again. They can hold their breath for a long time.

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mother and calf

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harebells

Coming back the next day proved much more strenuous and we fought the headwinds all day.

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We made it into town though and I had a chance to try out my new GoPro POV cam on my kayak. It works well but doesn’t focus underwater properly so I will still use my camcorder for that (although it doesn’t focus well either).

We stayed in the nice campsite in the forest out of the wind and this morning our neighbour blew his nose really loud while I was still asleep, so I woke up quickly to look out my tent to see the whale. Unfortunately there was no whale, just some trees and our neighbour blowing his nose.

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