August 4 — Back out Nakwakto Narrows into the Unknown
I slept without the rain tarp over my tent last night as usual since the moisture from confining my breath inside the tent is generally worse than the dew I get from having my tent open. The fog formed early last night and after that there should be no further dew on the tent. It was very thick fog this morning but the layer was not very deep as I could see the mountains and sun poking through.
I filled my water bottles from the hose, dumping the water I got from the waterfall yesterday since I figured this water would be safer to drink, coming from a well I presumed. The waterfall was surface water which is more risky to drink without filtering. I also gave the flowers a water. I went on a salal berry picking excursion and had some oatmeal which was good. I never seem to get sick of that stuff. I packed up and gave my tent a shake. Unfortunately it had my little flashlight in the sleeve, and this fell out and landed in a crack between floating logs and down into the abyss. I really need to pay more attention to what I’m doing.
The morning paddle was beautiful, through the calm and fog, with the sun brightening everything up. Everything was still and silent, except for the loons and grebes flying through the fog like ghosts.
I rounded points and stared into the clear water to see leather stars and ochre stars perched on the rocks. There was decent current around the points.
My plan was to flag down the first boat I saw and ask for help. I was hoping to catch a lift across to Port Hardy, but even just some description of the crossing would be enough help. I pondered going up to the end of Seymour Inlet which has a big river, as there would certainly be grizzlies there. But I only had a week’s worth of food left, and I’d probably be at least a week and a half to go there and back, while spending some time to observe the bears. It is a good 70 km to the end of the inlet from the Narrows.
I was very wary of running out of food. I was able to catch fish and eat berries but for some reason I had a great fear of running out of food. I think my eating was as much psychological as physical, and I was intimidated by the thought of not being able to eat whenever I wanted and instead having to go out and get it. Another irrational fear. Bryan and Maggie managed to do it. In retrospect, living off the land would be an interesting aspect to my journey and I think I will try to rely on this more next year. There is certainly no lack of food here if you know where to look and how to get it. If I didn’t have to spend all day paddling I could live very well here, completely off the land (and sea). Between the seaweeds, berries, fish, and shellfish, you could gorge yourself.
I entered the main channel of Belize Inlet and the fog was still very thick. At times when going from point to point across bays, I couldn’t see the point I was heading for. Eventually the fog began to lift and I saw a pleasure boat ahead across the channel. This was a welcome sign after being alone for so long. I crossed over to the south side of the inlet and went back around Mignon Point.
As I was taking photos of an interesting mountain ash bush on a rocky knoll and passing the logging camp near the Narrows, I heard a radio call and someone talking. I crossed over and yelled out “hello”. I could see someone walking around now and then and I was loud so there is no way he didn’t hear me. I yelled again and still no answer. He was doing his best to ignore me. I guess he didn’t want to deal with any of the hassle of talking with me. I think they were closing everything down and pulling out due to the dry weather.
As I approached the Narrows the currents picked up and moved me along really quickly. I got to what appeared to be a point of no return and tested it. It was really moving. I decided it was too dangerous and turned around. I had to paddle REALLY hard to get back to a calm back eddy. I decided to hang out there in the kelp and wait it out. There was actually a tiny little channel leading from here through to the other side and I could see boats waiting on the other side, to come around to my side. This channel was only a few feet wide and I was tempted to run it but there were too many mussels to make its safe. It dropped about a foot in water level from one side to the other so that is what the Narrows do over a fairly short distance as well.
I waited there for about an hour and filmed a lion’s mane jelly as it floated by. Eventually I decided that it was safe enough to run it, after one of those boats came up the rapids, and I rounded the corner. I zoomed along, past a sport fishing boat that was fishing right in the rapids. I don’t know why they chose that spot. They barely looked at me. I’ve noticed that out here; the sport fishing boats want nothing to do with me. The current moved me along pretty fast and I looked back and saw a sailboat milling around the entrance to the Narrows, and then it came through. It approached me and I decided to talk with them.
I asked them about the crossing and really just wanted a coordinate of the big island so in case I went off course in the fog I could make my way to that. After a few minutes of them digging for the chart I got it — 50 54’ and 127 31’. It was an interesting exchange, with them trying to negotiate the channel as they went down with the current, and me trying to keep up while I wrote the coordinates down. They were an older couple from Edmonton and had gone all over the coast in their boat. They were the first people I had spoken to in a couple weeks.
They were going to spend the night in Skull Cove by Bramham Island. I decided to push on back to the Southgate Group since that is the best jumping off point to cross the Strait. They said that they had seen sea otters in Skull Cove. That would be an interesting mammal to see, that I have never had the fortune of observing in the wild. They are working their way south, year by year, after being nearly exterminated by the fur trade many years ago. For some reason I didn’t go look for them. I wish I had spent a bit more time exploring the area before crossing back to Port Hardy; I had enough food.
Near the entrance to Schooner Channel the fog got thick again. I crossed over and headed down the coast. I was surprised by a big whale, maybe a grey, surfacing only about 50 meters away. I got a couple shots off but then put my camera away after it went down. And then it came up for its final surface and up came the tail. Damn, I missed it, except for one very blurry shot. I have to remember that for the future – the whale hasn’t gone down until the tail fluke comes up. Until then it is just taking small breaths and will come back up soon. But once it takes its big dive with the final tail kick, it could be down for a long time and resurface in some far off location.
I continued down the coast and the fog got even thicker. I reached the islands and began following the shorelines looking for a suitable camping spot. I came upon a big log boom which was waiting in the sheltered bay behind one of the big islands, near to where I saw the big whale and calf on my way up. I considered camping on the log boom but then wisely decided that would be a risky move. But right across on the island adjacent to this was a relatively clear rocky knoll with a protected pullout that would fit the bill.
I landed in the little channel, which turned out to be a bit surgy. But I got my stuff up OK. I set up my tent and did my usual stuff. There was a LOT of rope washed up here. The fog was also now extremely thick. At times I couldn’t see the log boom which couldn’t be more than 150 meters away. The interesting thing about this thick fog was that it was condensing on the vegetation and making rain. It really was coming down like light rain. There was a hemlock tree near me and this was dripping onto the rocks and filling a pool in the rock near my tent. Everything was soaked. This is what nourishes the coastal redwood forests of California. They can go a long time without rain in the summer but the coastal fog condenses on their needles and “rains” down to provide water. This is also why these extreme coastal hypermaritime forests are so luxurient with moss and lichen. Even during long dry spells the vegetation gets nourished by fog condensation.
I prepared myself for the crossing tomorrow and went to bed. At around two in the morning the tug boat at the end of the log boom came to life and all the lights came on. There were guys walking all over the boom getting it ready, making lots of noise, and after about an hour they took off. Good thing I didn’t sleep on it…