July 28 — Shelter Bay to Nakwakto Narrows

I packed up early this morning to get out ASAP. But I had to make a final trip to the “creek” for water and I was freaked out crouching down there. At least I had this new water jug which meant I didn’t need my drybag for water anymore.

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Looking west

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Between the trees there is the next cove over where the cougar was sharpening his claws.

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The creek feeds right behind the big rock on the left. The cougar was throwing around little logs right around there.

Launching was nice ‘n easy on this low tide and the sand went all the way down. This is apparently a good clamming area.

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I had to backtrack south a bit to get around the islands forming the outer wall of Shelter Bay because at low tide they aren’t islands.

I sure was glad to put Shelter Bay behind me. It seemed like a mirage when I first arrived but this whole cougar business freaked me out. It was an interesting experience to be on the giving end of the food chain. Whether or not I was on the menu I don’t know. I guess the answer to that depends on whether I was crouched or standing tall at the time.

It’s interesting how your opinion of a place can be so swayed by your own personal emotions at the time. Shelter Bay is a beautiful spot. And if I had ben there with a few other people so that the cougar situation wasn’t so scary then it would have been OK. But the fact that it was so deserted, but with so much evidence of people being there only a short time before, gave out such a creepy vibe for me. Plus, the fog just hanging around a few hundred meters to the west added to the tension. I think we need to try to do that more — analyze things more objectively without our own personal emotions skewing things.

I decided to try to camp on islands as often as possible fromnow on. I got a good night’s sleep the other night on the island near Blunden Harbour, without having to worry about bears.

The fog was thick as I went along the coastline and it was fogging up my glasses every few minutes. I was in my drysuit but it was so calm I didn’t need it. The Macrocystis beds became more prevalent.

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Macrocystis kelp bed just outside Shelter Bay

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Stuck in the kelp

I came upon the Southgate group of small islands and went throught the channel separating one from the mainland. There were oystercatchers around but I didn’t record their sounds. I want to do this.

I had my GoPro camera and the audio recorder going as I was paddling along and then I cut off the video but kept the audio on as I paddled. As I came to the end of the first island, through the fog I suddenly heard a HUGE breath over the bay near the next island. Holy cow that was a big whale! I could see the breath in the air. There were two humpbacks, a mother and a calf. They were working their way along the coast of the other island, heading away from me. Wow, you get an appreciation for the volume in that lung when you hear it in the stillness of the fog.

Interestingly, I was heading towards a small rock covered in birds at the time, including cormorants, when I heard the whales. But when I heard them I totally changed my focus from the birds to the whales, even as I drifted towards the bird rock. They didn’t seem to care and I could get closer than if I was focusing on the birds, even if I was trying to pretend to ignore them. I think they are smarter than we give them credit for. Maybe they were watching the whales too.

I turned on the video camera and got some footage of me watching the whales but with the fog it was only footage of me. But I did get some nice audio of the whales breathing. I was a little scared by all of this. What if one came up underneath me in the kelp without realizing it? I wanted to go closer to the whales but besides this being illegal I believe, I was too scared. They went their way to the east and I crossed the bay and continued north, with the video camera going all the way. The fog was still thick.

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Thick fog

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As I passed by the last of the islands the waves picked up a bit but it was still really foggy. I had a couple more km of relatively exposed coastline to go before I got to Schooner Channel, which is the waterway that leads beside Bramham Island up to Nakwakto Narrows and Seymour Inlet. This went by uneventfully. When I got to the head of the channel the fog began to lift a bit and I could see across to Vancouver Island and the boats in the Strait. There was also a pleasure craft across the channel to the north, nearby another humpback. There were also a few porpoises around.

I tied off onto some kelp beside a little island near the entrance of Schooner Channel and had some peanut butter and dates and somehow my map ended up in the water but I retrieved it. The currents were going against me so I hung out here for a little while and pondered this being the last time I would see the open seas again for a while since I was now going inland.

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There was a humpback over there.

I instead went north up the channel to the east of Schooner Channel. My crude map showed that it might get through at the other end but after 10 minutes I decided not to risk it based on the still water so I turned around and went back up Schooner Channel, against the current by hopping from one bay to the next. An aluminum work boat went by, coming out of the inlet.

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Looking up Schooner Channel

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Last look back towards Vancouver Island

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Near the end of the channel I saw an interesting little outcrop totally covered in bushes. Apparently this is an old aboriginal village site. It is situated in a strategic location, right in the middle of all the action only a km away from the narrows.

There was also an otter taunting me here so I followed that guy for a while around another island. I think this is also the entrance to Cougar Inlet, which goes in a few km to the east. I don’t think I’ll go there!

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I then crossed westwards over to the island across the channel which looked to be a good camping site. It was almost in the narrows but still out of view.

It turned out that it was a good camping site. There was a protected little haul out area which looked to be not too difficult with a low tide but I would not know until the morning. There were open mossy rocks where I could pitch my tent. However, the currents really ripped through here so I had to be careful. I wouldn’t want to get sucked into the narrows.

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I got set up and decided to go fishing. This was an ideal rockfish spot. There were angular steep rocks going into deep water with lots of current – ideal. I first caught a California sea cucumber and decided to keep it because you can eat it. However, the muscles are very small and turned out to be rubbery and not too tasty. Then I caught a small copper rockfish and threw it back. It wasn’t long before I caught a keeper and I decided to get another. I could have easily caught dozens of these guys but two was enough.

This spot also had a great flat rocky part down below, just above the water. I could clean the fish there and just wash the guts back into the water so bears wouldn’t be an issue. But they’d have to swim across the swift channel to get here so I doubt they’d even bother.

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My new jacknife was coming in handy. Sorry guy! I have to eat! I’ll grant you the respect of looking in your eyes before I eat you though.

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That is the digestive tract which they expell under stress. All that is left is those five small longitudinal muscles.

I cooked up the fish with all my spices which was good. The wind was a little strong but it died down nicely after dark. Tomorrow I was going to got through the narrows and the low tide was around 10 a.m. so I had lots of time to sort myself out.

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The narrows are just a little ways around that corner to the left.

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The water would really move at times by here.

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Tiger lily going to seed

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