July 29 — Running Nakwakto Rapids and up Belize Inlet
Before I got out of bed a tug boat came by towing a log boom out through the narrows. You have to time the tides right to pull something like that through the narrows! This is a working forestry area with lots of logging so I expect to have boats around. The old growth cedar and cypress is very valuable wood.
There were productive salal bushes all over this island so I augmented my morning oatmeal with berries and of course sugar. I am able to do this frequently since there are so many salal berries along this coast at this time of year.
Launching was a bit more difficult that anticipated because the rocks were slippery but I got away and rounded the corner of the island while fighting the currents. I would go as far as I could and then wait for the currents to die down before going through the narrows. Since it was going against me there was no chance of the current carrying me away past a point of no return and sucking me into the abyss.
I didn’t get very far until I reached raging white water. This really is an amazing spectacle. The water was raging by and very loud. It was like a huge whitewater river. There was a clear line separating the raging current from the kelpy little cove I was hiding in. The water was calm where I was tied up on some kelp. There was a small back eddy, and only 15 feet away, that back eddy met up with the 15 knot torrent (who knows).
Low tide was at 10 a.m. so I would just hang out here until the water slowed enough to be safe. Unfortunately it didn’t. For over an hour I sat there watching a log circling endlessly in the eddies, snoozing, and taking photos.
I realized that there is a lag between the tides and the currents. The current continues to gush out even after the ocean tide has reached its minimum and begins to rise again. This is because there are over 150 km of inlets behind Nakwakto Narrows, the two main ones being Belize to the north and Seymour to the south. They both generally head eastwards, filling in the channels created by parallelogram shaped mountain ranges. If it wasn’t for this 300 m wide channel, the whole thing would just be a very large lake.
So all the tidal water volume is fed and drained by a 300 m wide narrows. What happens is that the water flow through the narrows can’t keep up with the tide levels in the ocean outside. So even though the tide is low in the ocean, the inlets still haven’t finished draining and water continues to gush out until the tide rises enough to equal the level of the inlets. Then you get a slack tide and after this the current switches and the cycle repeats but on a high tide. Because of this, I am expecting the tides to have a narrower range once inside the narrows. I’m sure there’s some partial differential equation in there somewhere… I imagine that under certain conditions, and with big river runoff, the narrows could get crazy.
Eventually after lunch the currents died down enough and I crossed the channel to a larger bay on the other side which looked calm enough to make some headway. I went from cove to cove and at one point the current was just too fast so I had to retreat back five meters to hang out in the kelp only two meters away from the fast water, and wait a while. I took photos of Tremble Island, which is a rock sticking out of the middle of the rapids. Its trees are hanging with signs from people brave enough to land and climb on the island. I don’t know how long slack tide lasts here. Probably not long. I saw the sign from the Vancouver Aquarium. They went there a few years ago on an expedition up the coast. There were a few ducks on the rocks of the island and that would be an interesting place to camp. Maybe some day I’ll do it. I wonder if it would be a first.
There is interesting marine life in the narrows, with the strong currents. There are extensive beds of giant barnacles but I won’t be checking that out. You can eat barnacles by the way. They are crustaceans like crabs and apparently taste like them.
I got through the rapids and after another work boat went by I immediately crossed Seymour Inlet to the other side because I didn’t want to get sucked back through the narrows by crossing near its mouth.
There are tons of burrowing sea cucumbers in the inlet. These are a different species than the California sea cucumber I caught last night. They aren’t as mobile and keep most of their bodies in crevices, with their fluffy tentacles extended to catch plankton from the water. They have beautiful colours ranging from purple to orange. I got some nice footage of them as I moved along in my boat.
I didn’t waste any time heading up Belize Inlet, which goes northwest until doing a big U-turn at the corner of the parallelogram and turning eastwards. Seymour inlet goes east right from the narrows. It’s all semantics though. They are all just inlets.
The wind was against me but the currents were with me as I worked my way up the inlet. Because the currents were with me, this meant that the back eddies in the coves were against me, so in order to take advantage of the currents, I had to stay away from shore for much of the time. But this put me out in the wind. The two tended to balance out and I made decent progress.
At one point I saw some weasel-type critter in the trees right at the water’s edge. It took off quickly. It was fairly large but I don’t know my mustelids well enough to be able to ID it.
I reached the 270 degree turn at Mignon Point. I was actually not far from the big beach at Burnette Bay near Cape Caution. It is just a few kilometers over the land to the west. But with my kayak I do not want to risk that open ocean. I would not be able to land safely in big surf and there is nowhere to take refuge if needed. This is a shame because apparently it is a beautiful beach. Instead I am taking the inland route northwards. It will include a 3 km long bushwhack. I wonder if it’s ever been done before. I may be doing a first!
I began heading due east and the expanse of Belize Inlet lay before me, a dead straight shot into the mountains that went on for miles and miles. I soon crossed over to the north side and saw a rocky reef off in the distance. There were some sticks sticking up and I wondered if those were put there by someone to warn boaters of the rocks. But when I got to it I saw that the sticks were from a large log that had gotten stuck on the rock.
The marine life changed markedly in this inlet, compared with the open ocean. There were a lot fewer birds, but more loons. Also, mussels had returned. They had been absent from most of the open ocean shores I had been following previously. For some reason they seem to prefer the inlets which receive some fresh water dilution. I am not sure why. It might have something to do with their main predator, the ochre star.
I was getting pretty lonely in the empty vastness of this huge country. I had seen no boats since leaving the narrows. I passed by a few logging operation docks. I was starting to miss the open ocean now. I finally got to the beginnings of Mereworth Sound, which is the inlet leading off to the northeast from Belize Inlet. Right around here I saw some seals on some rocks which lifted my spirits a bit. Also, a speedboat passed by on the other side of the inlet, and a large ministry forest ranger boat went around the corner. I was wondering how much territory that boat must cover, and what it was doing up here.
I passed a floating logging camp which looked like an interesting place, with cedar shacks and a patriotic BC flag. No one seemed to be home though.
. I was heading for some little islands a few km further on, but I needed some water. I crossed over to the other side to where it appeared that there was a small river entering the inlet but when I got over it appeared to be way up some marshy estuary in the trees and I didn’t want to risk a bear encounter so I instead just went back across to the islands.
The skies had cleared up and the setting was stunning. The mountain across the inlet was cloaked in beautiful old growth cedar forest and these islands were really interesting. I was feeling very lonely and homesick at this point and the beautiful location helped temper that but I had been on my trip for a month and a half now and I always get homesick at that time, no matter where I am. Plus I had only spoken to one person for almost two weeks, since leaving Telegraph Cove. So I had curry again.