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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Kayaking Vancouver Island 2014

I first started kayaking about 12 year ago. For most of the following years I would go for a paddle about 2-3 times a year. I introduced Linda to kayaking several years ago. This past winter I told her that I wanted to buy my own kayak and asked her if she wanted to get one too and she said yes but had some reservations that buying these boats might be a passing interest. We never considered getting a tandem kayak. We like our individual freedom.

We ended up buying two 14 foot boats. They aren’t as stable as longer kayaks in the 17 foot range and more but they did come with rudders which makes steering easy. We had to purchase a roof rack and the accessories needed to put the kayaks on top of the car. Supposedly the kayaks each way about 50 pounds but they seem much heavier if we have to carry them more than several feet.
We also purchased life vests. Over the past few months we have worked out a routine as to who looks after which chore when we load and unload the kayaks from the car roof. It can take up to a half hour to lash everything down. We don’t want to see our investment bouncing off the pavement in the rear view mirror.
Spider Lake
Spider Lake is about a 45 minute drive north on the Island Highway from where we live in Lantzville just north of Nanaimo. I don’t think the name of the lake has anything to do with lots of spiders being in the area. It probably got its name because the lake has a number of arms. It isn’t a big lake (about 65 hectares) but it sure is pretty. No power craft are allowed and there are only a few cottages.
Usually there are a few people fishing for trout from their kayaks, canoes, and sometimes in those floating angler chairs. It is fairly common to see a fish jump out of the water. The lake has a number of sandbars that make it easy to beach the kayak and have a snack or lunch.
I’ve kayaked Spider Lake 3 times including once with my son Dean. Dean and I had an interesting conversation at the boat ramp with a well-mannered guy in his early seventies who is still chasing women and smoking cigarettes. I liked his spunk. Linda has kayaked at Spider Lake twice.

Sproat Lake
Sproat Lake is about a 15 minute drive west of Port Alberni in the middle of Vancouver Island. It is a spectacular lake that is about 25 kilometers in length. The water is very clear and you can see the lake bottom from about 35 feet above. For some reason you don’t see minnows or other small fish close to the shore but there are fish in the lake.
Sproat Lake was a place I wanted to kayak for a number of years before we got our boats. We visited the lake twice this summer. There are a number of magnificent country homes on the shores of the lake mostly in the eastern area. It is quite common to see people water skiing and there are quite a lot of power craft on the lake. In most cases the power boat operators are quite courteous to paddlers and are aware that the big wakes left behind their boats can bounce us paddlers around a bit.
On our first trip to Sproat Lake we launched our kayaks at a provincial park boat ramp near the eastern tip of the lake. We checked out some petroglyphs not too far away. We spent about 6 hours paddling that day mostly about 100 yards or so off shore. We saw the Mars water bombers that for a number of years helped fight wildfires in California.
I knew that the western part of Sproat Lake at the end of Taylor Arm was more pristine with fewer cottages and was determined to get there. We couldn’t find any road that looked like we could make it down to Taylor Arm and we finally gave up and went to another lake not far away for the day.
I still wanted to see the end of Taylor Arm and a week or two later we went back to Sproat Lake. We knew we were in for a lot of kayaking that day. As it turned out we kind of overextended ourselves. We made it most of the way down Taylor Arm but not quite to the end. All in all we spent a solid 7-1/2 hours paddling that day. We were exhausted when we finally made it back to the boat launch. It was then that I discovered that the rear hatch on my kayak was full of water. Apparently a rudder screw had come loose and the water was leaking in through a quarter inch hole. It was like I had been dragging an aquarium around with me and didn’t know it. We slept well that night.
Summer house.

Mars water bomber.
Linda and island.
Great Central Lake
This was the lake we decided to kayak on when we couldn’t find a road to Taylor Arm on Sproat Lake. It is about a 45 minutes west of Port Alberni. Great Central Lake is about 45 kilometers long. It is the 2nd deepest lake on Vancouver Island and has a maximum depth of about 965 feet. If you lose your watch, car keys, or sunglasses overboard don’t bother going looking for them.
The mountains go right into the lake which means that any structures like cottages and boathouses are all floating. The water level is controlled and the lake doesn’t freeze over in the winter. It is a very pretty lake but we found that we couldn’t find anywhere to beach the kayaks.
Shoe tree.

Old bridge.
Old boat shed.
Floating cottage..

Genoa Bay
Genoa Bay is one of the neatest little places on Vancouver Island, about an hour’s drive south of where we live. It was where we first launched our kayaks onto the ocean. Our original plan was to kayak from Cowichan Bay to Genoa Bay but we found the sea to be too rough at Cowichan Bay. The ocean was choppy at Genoa Bay too but we decided to give it a go and stay mostly by the shoreline. From a distance we spotted the large house with the green roof that a lady had given us a tour of some years ago. It was built around 1890. We had a nice late afternoon meal out on the deck of a waterside pub/restaurant.

Old House built around 1890.
Coming in for a landing.
Dog paddle?
Comox Lake
Comox Lake is about a 1-1/2 hour away from where we live going north on Vancouver Island. You have to drive through the old coal mining town of Cumberland to get there. It isn’t far from Courtenay, BC.
We thought the lake was quite pretty and would like to explore more of it. On the day we were there several high speed racing boats that were careening about and the high pitched sound of their engines was a bit annoying. We do realize that on bigger lakes that there are all kinds of other water craft including Sea-Doos enjoying the water. I wouldn’t mind taking a Sea-Doo for a ride myself.


Strathcona Provincial Park & Buttle Lake
Some friends of ours, Janet and Pennti, with a little Boler trailer, were going camping up in Strathcona Provincial Park and asked us if we would like to join them. Linda and I are not that big on camping anymore but I really wanted to see the park as I had never been there before. We also wanted to do some paddling in the park.
We worked out a plan. We have a golden retriever and dogs and kayaks don’t mix, at least not for us. We would get up at the crack of dawn, feed the dog and take him for a walk, get out on the highway and drive for 3 straight hours and meet our friends at their campsite by Buttle Lake. Strathcona Provincial Park is about an hour away from Campbell River. We would have about a 5 hour window to visit and get in some kayaking before heading back home and letting the dog out for a pee.
On our way to the campsite we stopped off at Strathcona Lodge which isn’t in the park but close to it.
Strathcona Park reminds me a bit of the Rocky Mountains with their snowcapped peaks. The scenery is breathtaking. The lake was a bit wavy but we paddled across it and up the shoreline a bit. We spotted a turkey vulture sitting in a tree. We beached our kayaks for about a half hour and I saw a number of tree stumps. At first I thought the stumps were kind of like picnic benches but then I learned that the lake was partly manmade and had been harvested of its trees before it was flooded.
I put in about 6 hours of driving that day and I’d like to go back and check some more things out in the area next year.

Buttle Lake.
Kayak shack.
Buttle Lake.
 Sandy Island Marine Provincial Park
Sandy Island is sometimes also known as Tree Island. It is a small island that sits off of larger Denman Island. It is uninhabited. It takes about an hour and a half to paddle there from Union Bay on Vancouver Island. I once owned a place just down the road from Union Bay at Fanny Bay. The area holds a lot of fond memories for me.
I’ve probably kayaked to Sandy Island about a dozen times over the years including with Linda and my son Dean. At low tide you can walk from Sandy Island to Denman Island. The island has a nice sandy beach and sand dollars can be seen close to shore. The far side of island is a bit more rugged. Blue Herons can be seen stalking small fish. There are also a number of tidal pools that can be investigated. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Sandy Island without spotting a few seals.
When we told our friends Janet and Pennti that we planned on spending a Saturday kayaking to and from Sandy Island they quickly told us that they wanted to join us. The ocean was calm that Saturday which meant we didn’t have to fight any waves. It was a very sunny day. I told Janet that she might consider counting strokes because if you looked at the horizon the island was a lot further away that it appeared.
We spent a few hours just taking it easy on the island. Janet and Linda poked around some tidal pools. We ate our lunches sitting on a log. Pennti discoverd some kind of plastic thing that looked like it might be used for collecting clams or oysters. He attached the plastic thing to his kayak on the way back and reminded me of Relic from the TV series The Beachcombers.
We went for a bit of a tour around Fanny Bay including a drive by of my old house, the oyster beaches, and The Enchanted Forest. They didn’t know that what I showed them existed. I think a number of people have driven by Fanny Bay thinking that there isn’t much there other than the FBI pub. Little do these people know?
We stopped off at a roadside place that sells native masks, pottery and ice cream cones. Linda and I once ran into the couple that owns the place in Mexico.
The day ended with Janet and Pentti joining us for dinner at our place in Lantzville. We baked up a batch of Fanny Bay Oysters. It was a perfect day.

Pentti and Janet.
Time to relax.
Tidal pools.

Out on the chuck.

 Winchelsea Islands

Most summers in the recent past on Vancouver Island have seen long stretches of continuous sunny weather. What makes it additionally pleasant is there is almost always a light breeze. Any kind of breeze at all is going to cause a bit of a chop in ocean waters. Sometimes that chop can make ocean kayaking a bit more challenging particularly if the chop is going every which way.
There are only a certain amount of days when the ocean is totally calm and as smooth as glass. These are the perfect times to go ocean kayaking. Last weekend was one of those times.
We live in Lantzville about 5 minutes from the ocean. A few minutes away from us is Winchelsea Golf Course. There are spots on the back nine holes of the course where you can see the Winchelsea Islands just off of Lantzville. We have wanted to kayak in that area for some time but the weather never seemed quite right.
Every once in a while we go down to the seashore in Lantzville, often with our dog so he can have a swim. It’s about a 20 minute walk and includes a trail through the forest. On warm summer nights a number of people from Lantzville and surrounding areas bring along their lawn chairs to watch the sun set. It’s a pretty mellow place.
This past weekend I noticed that there wasn’t the usual breeze around and I thought that the ocean would be about as flat as it would ever be. Lantzville doesn’t have a boat dock or boat ramp. We took our kayaks down to Sebastian Beach in Lantzville at about 4 p.m. in the afternoon and launched them from there. We were going to get in 3 or 4 hours of paddling, get an up close look at The Winchleseas, and watch the sun set as we made our way back to our starting point.
It was one sweet late afternoon and evening.


Winchelsea Islands

Almost home.

Cedar and Mudge Island
You may have taken the Duke Point ferry from just south of Nanaimo to Tswawwassen just south of Vancouver. What you may not be aware of (including a lot of people who live in Nanaimo) is that there are a number of really beautiful spots on the other side of the peninsula from where the ferry runs in an area called Cedar including The Crow and Gate Pub, Yellow Point Lodge, and Cable Bay Trail.
2 weekends ago, when the weather was cloudy, we took our dog along with us for a hike along the Cable Bay Trail. I also wanted to see where the Cedar boat ramp was as I knew a number of kayakers launch their boats from Cedar. We couldn’t find the ramp.
When we got home Linda googled the Cedar boat ramp and made a copy of the directions of how to get there. Last Sunday we set off to find the Cedar boat ramp. It turned out that we were pretty close to it the weekend before. I guess I had expected to see a sign indicating where the ramp is. There are no signs. Maybe it’s a local secret?
It was to be our second day in a row of kayaking on flat ocean water. We checked out a small island, saw a few seals, and headed over to a bigger island called Mudge Island. We found a nice spot to beach our kayaks and have lunch. A number of other kayakers had the same idea.
After exploring the area for a bit we got back in our kayaks and headed along the shoreline. We thought of going further along to an area where the ocean narrowed but decided to call it a day and made our way back to the Cedar boat ramp. We noticed several sailboats in the area that seemed to be moored.
Our guitar teacher is a sailor and we asked him about the area where the ocean narrows. It turns out that is called Dodds Narrows. Boats that are not power crafts can only go through the narrows when the tide is at a certain level and then only one at a time. Dodds Narrows leads into the harbor at Nanaimo. Those sailboats that I thought were moored were actually waiting for the right time to run through the narrows. Apparently kayakers could find themselves in some difficulty if they chose to go through the narrows at the wrong time.

Cedar boat ramp.

Mudge Island

More Kayaking

There are still several weekends before it gets too cold for kayaking. If the ocean is fairly calm we might try and go over to Pirate’s Cove on De Courcy Island. Otherwise we’ll find another lake to explore.

Linda and I are pretty well hooked now on kayaking. It isn’t all paddling and looking off in the distance. Sometimes we just sit out there and drink in the surroundings.

Note: Taking photos from a kayak isn't as easy as it looks. Your always bobbing around.


We liked Pirate's Cove so much we went twice, the second time with some friends. Here are some of the photos we took....

Brian and Fran and Linda.

Narrow pass.

Pirate's Cove