We left Nanaimo on Sunday, with light rain a nice tailwind. We were glad to leave the town behind. It is the last large town we will see for a long time. Nanaimo has around 80,000 people, and is spread out for miles. We stayed in a provincial park on Newcastle Island, a short paddle from downtown. We stopped for breakfast and to pick up some supplies before leaving, but weren’t able to find everything we needed in the city center. The outdoor stores, and by outdoor stores I guess I mean Canadian Tire and Walmart because they are the only outdoor stores to which the locals could direct us, are located out of town. So we loaded up and headed north without resupply in the early afternoon.
Our goal for the day was to reach Southey Island, about 4 or 5 miles from the Ballenas Islands, where we would cross the Strait of Georgia. We made it to Southey late in the evening, then went to bed with the rain coming down. Southey Island already looked remarkably different from the Gulf Islands through which we just passed. It’s a small rock with a thick patch of madrone and gary oak, and a small patch of grass that tilts toward the water. We had just enough time to make dinner in the rain and crawl into the tents before dark.
The strait is a large body of water between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland. The crossing from Ballenas is 5 to 7 miles depending on where you choose to land. We paddled from Southey north then east to Ballenas, where we could see what the water looked like in the Strait. The wind was blowing 10 – 15 from the South, and the waves were 1 to 2 feet. We figured this was probably about the best conditions we could expect, so headed over to the tip of Lasqueti Island, about 7 miles. We made it across easily, with me and Katey sailing, and Zach paddling and bracing through the waves. We only saw one other boat on the crossing, a tug pulling a large barge that passed way behind us. We rounded the tip of Lasqueti and paddled on to Jedediah Island to a nice sand beach. We spent 3 nights on Jedediah when the wind picked up to 30 knots. It was a great place to hang out, with plenty of trails to wander.
When we left Jedediah the winds blew us easily down the west side of Texada Island, all the way to a hamburger stand we had heard about in Gillies Bay. The southerly wind pushed the waves higher and higher through the day, but it was easy sailing for me and Katey. All we had to do was adjust our speed from time to time so we wouldn’t surf down the 1 to 3 foot waves. Zach, worked a little harder, having to concentrate and keep a close eye on the waves approaching from behind.
After hamburgers and showers we thought we might be able to make Powell River the next day if the winds cooperated. We got up extra early to annoy Katey (5 AM) and put in early miles in case the winds built up in the afternoon. The paddle started with flat water, but quickly became a light to moderate headwind that made it hard for me and Katey to paddle. Zach, with his lighter and faster boat was able to disappear ahead in short order. As we rounded the north end of Texada we were able to tack through the wind a bit, then just as we reached a heading that would allow us to sail the wind died. We paddled on, at least free of a headwind. After a while the wind picked up from a new direction and helped push as toward Powell River. After we caught up with Zach we stopped for some food and rest, then pushed across the last 4 miles to a campsite in Powell River.
It was a long 17 or so miles, but we made it in town early enough to set up camp and seek out another great mexican dinner. We have a lot of food with us, and we eat a lot of food, but I’m still famished most days. It’s hard to describe how nice it is to shove a plate full of spicy food down your throat after paddling for 8 hours.
From Powell River we finally start heading into the wilderness. Powell River has around 8000 people, and is one of the last towns accessible by road on the Sunshine Coast of BC. Our next town will be Port McNeill back on Vancouver Island, around 150 miles North and West of here.
Powell River is the last stop for Zach. He is going to catch a bus to the airport in Vancouver and fly back to Anchorage. It’s been really great having him along, not only to help carry our boats up the beach, but to provide entertainment around the cookstoves. It takes a certain sense of humor to paddle along day after day in the wind, the rain, and occasional sunshine, and still wake up singing annoying theme songs from the 80′s. Maybe Zach
and our friends John and Keeley can meet us in Ketchikan to paddle Misty Fjords when we get there?!