Stranded on Prevost – Kayaking Trip

Kayak on beach
Break time!
Well, since I have a kayak that means I should go on more adventures, right? This year Canada Day (July 1st) fell on a Friday. So in an attempt to contiue exploring the coast from our kayaks, Natalie and I had decided to go on a 3 day kayaking trip around Saltspring. Three days of paddling in nice weather was just the thing. But we went paddling the weekend before, and decided to join another paddler in the Slegg Lumber Build-a-Quick-Boat Race on Friday the 1st. Because how hard can it be to build a boat in 4 hours and paddle it around a short course? So we had to go meet up with Claudia on Tuesday so we could get our plan together and also to practice paddling in a team, which we totally started to figure out.

Friday morning I’m up early but have to leave earlier than usual to get out to Pacifica Paddle Sports to meet Natalie and get our kayaks. All our gear is packed and stowed in the car. Kayaks on the roof of her new (yay!) car. We head over to meet Claudia, running a little bit late due to how far away we had to park since we have kayaks (and it’s not acceptable to run people over) and there was a parade going on. We finally get to see our materials, and we have our plans and our tools and we are ready to go (well, we had to grab food and more coffee, of course).

Promptly at noon we got to work.

It turns out we should probably have measured things a little more carefully. And maybe gotten some dowling. It also turns out that 1500 feet of plastic wrap makes a really effective canoe skin. Who knew?

We were planning to make the thing 16 feet long, which is a totally respectable length for a canoe.

The 20’ long final product was maybe a bit extreme.

We accidentally made a monster canoe. With kayak paddles for power. Except the paddles ended up being super heavy. Maybe next year we will get dowling…

We ended up stuck behind someone else when the race started and we were terribly uncoordinated until just before we rounded the second buoy. One team had already reached shore. The second team landed as we finished the turn. Two of us were in the final stretch. And there were people on their feet cheering and clapping and super excited as we pushed and closed the gap and then pulled ahead and took third place. I was pretty sure my arms were going to fall off. Four hours of sawing, sanding, and screwing and I was pretty tired.

Build-a-boat race
Securing Canoe to car with more plastic wrap!
I kept trying to sell the canoe for 3 coffees, but no one wanted to take me up on it. I mean who DOESN’T want a 20-foot plastic-wrap canoe with a broken spar? I mean really. Unreasonable. Since no one wanted our canoe, we had to get the canoe out of there and since there was some plastic wrap left, we used that to tie it to Claudia’s roof. We might have been the crowd favorite, but we lost that award to the firemen. I mean you can’t really argue with that. They rescue kittens. And we got trophies for third place anyway.

Finally we were off to Canoe Cove, Pacifica’s second location. Took some time to get our stuff sorted and then get our gear packed and get parking sorted out, but we were finally ready to launch well after eight.

The first leg of our adventure took us out from the harbour, between Knapp and Piers Island and out to Portland Island. This is the most open water we’ve ever paddled in, even though it’s just a short hop from island to island it’s still a bit different than paddling in Brentwood Bay. It was, however, a largely uneventful paddle. We caught the waves from a couple of the smaller ferries and made good time, landing about 9:30 pm. Well, we made a mistake and landed on Brackman Island which is an ecological reserve. So we got off the island and paddled around to Shell Beach, which is the Marine Park campground on Portland. No running water, but we did have a food cache and a pit toilet. My only complaint was that we weren’t allowed to have a fire, but given the temperature and the mosquitos that didn’t end up being a big issue, everything is just more fun with fire.

We did sent our tent up maybe just a little too close to the water – and we did spend the night paranoid we were going to end up with the water licking at us (and almost did) but it didn’t and we were dry all night.

We were slow to get going in the morning, our sleeping bags were far too cozy for us to venture out into the day, though it was beautifully sunny and soon enough we were finishing up breakfast and packing our kayaks.

Kayaker
This is me and Syl. Syl is not full here.
I learned on this trip that my kayak-some 60lbs when empty-is a monster when she’s full. Well over 100lbs not including myself, and trying to get her onto the beach with gear in is nearly impossible. Later I learned a valuable tip involving dollar store pool noodles. Still need to get one of those. Regardless, we managed to get them off the shore and headed out to explore some of the coast of Portland Island before crossing Satellite Channel to the coast of Saltspring Island.

This was probably the thing that ended up being the least nerve-wracking for us, despite the fact that we were crossing ferry traffic. Once across the channel we turned to head up the eastern coast of Saltspring Island, rounding Ruckle Park into Captain Passage.

Nat Yelled at me to look at her so many times.
Captain passage lies between Saltspring and Prevost, and leads straight into Ganges Harbour which is the ‘big town’ on Saltspring Island. We’d been paddling a few hours and were starting to get hungry so we took a break on a public beach for lunch and a glass of wine (because the best thing about kayaking is the fact your boat carries your gear for you). I had a short nap in the sun until the waves started breaking over my toes–and Natalie laughed quite a lot when I startled awake. Looking out over the water the wind had picked up and there were more than a few white caps visible. Not a good sign.

Having checked the forecast before we left we knew the weather was supposed to be pretty mild, and there had been no warning of strong winds. Still, we thought we could make it and so we set out into the waves. With the onlookers on the beach looking somewhere between impressed and concerned as the waves were coming up almost a foot high on the beach. Nat had the harder time of it; I’m harder on the bottom of my kayak than she is owing to the fact Sylphrena is a heavy plastic monstrosity so I could just slide off the beach with much more ease. Nat had to get in Tippy while she was in the water, and that took both of us and she almost went in a couple times. But managed some crazy dexterity and did not. I climbed into Syl and pushed off of the beach to meet her.

This was where things got a bit hairy.

We had no way to measure the wind, beyond visual cues where the waves were concerned, we knew it was the worst we had paddled through–actually made the ‘bad’ day we had in Brentwood Bay a few weeks earlier seem a lot less intimidating and that had been about 16kn winds in a pretty sheltered bay. We did have one of the big sailboats out that day circling us, with the crew looking on concerned that we were maybe not okay or in over our heads. The fact that they left us alone after a few turns makes me think they believed we were perhaps more experienced than we were. I admit that at this point, a large part of my anxiety in that crossing was the possibility that I’d go over and not be able to get out again due to panic. Probably should have practiced wet-exits before heading out on that trip, but that would have been the smart thing and sometimes we just don’t do that. Nat had done her wet-exit and self-rescue lesson, and since then I’ve also learned what it feels like to be upside down in my kayak and get myself out of trouble. Surprisingly easy to get out of the thing. Once the skirt is off you just pop out. Getting back in is harder for sure, especially in weather and I’m glad neither of us went in during this trip.

Kayaker
Nat titled this “Steph being Brave”
We took shelter on a private beach; between the wind and the current it was certainly too much for me to confidently keep pushing. Sheltered as the tide pushed up on to the beach we called into Pacifica to discuss our possibilities. They confirmed this to be an unforcasted South East wind, strong enough we probably could have justified not paddling on it. They presented us with two options; knowing that we have stronger-than-novice paddling skills they suggested pressing on and paddling around to Long Harbour, then rounding Nose Point and crossing to James Bay on Prevost Island. The angle of Trincomali Channel would shelter us from the worst of the wind, in retrospect, once we rounded nose point we could have continued up the eastern coast of Saltspring with little difficulty, excepting that we would have missed the turning of the tide that was to have carried us around then north tip and to our planned camp on Tent Island. Still, with a forecast calling for stronger winds the following day, it probably was in our best interest to hold until we knew for sure. So we headed around to Prevost and landed on the beach in James Bay to set up camp.

We met a gentleman named Drew here, who was on his 22nd day of his kayak trip, and his 8th island. As well we chatted with our camp neighbors, a couple who were travelling by tandem kayak. Most of our conversations were in regards to weather, the forecast, and gear we had. Since then I’ve realized that pretty much every activity I do results in getting together with other like-minded individuals on similar adventures and discussing gear. Climbers do it, kayakers do it, and backpackers do it.This kayak trip was the first time I realized I might not actually qualify as a ‘novice’ kayaker, for all my lack of knowledge.

Camping on the coast
The view from camp.
With limited times to kayak, Nat and I will often venture out into less than stellar weather just to get out and do it. And we will alter our planned course as necessary to ensure we aren’t getting too in over our heads. But the fact is that we are better paddlers than our experience dictates we should be. I think climbing–and the balance and fine motor control that stems from that–plays a big part of that. Core strength and balance is something that is vital to climbers, and I think that translates well into kayaking. Everything about our lives means we spend time on the water when we can, and (un?)fortunately for us that sometimes means we end up in weather that is more challenging than we might otherwise have chosen. This served us quite well on this trip as we faced stronger winds and weather than we had previously, plus currents stronger than anything we had yet found on the bay.

Me and Drew hanging out and talking gear.
Saturday we called in to work, to let them know we may not be making it home in time for our Monday shifts. It was kind of funny “so I know it’s Saturday and I don’t work until Monday, but we came into some weather and we may not be back in time for work. We’re safe, just maybe not coming in to work. We’re stranded on Prevost until the weather changes.” At the time this was our only option; the Sunday forecast was for 25-30 knot winds, well above what we would be able to kayak in. Without a fire we crawled into our beds pretty early, knowing we would need to check the forecast again in the morning before making any determination.

Sunday the forecast had changed again; it called for weaker winds in the morning, strengthening in the afternoon.

So we made our breakfast and discussed gear with our neighbors. And we discovered that Mountain House makes a KILLER freeze-dried breakfast skillet. Did you know that freeze-dried eggs could actually be fluffy and tasty? I did not think it was possible. I was wrong. It’s pretty tasty.

Waiting for the ferry with our kayaks. No trolly tho….
After breakfast we packed up, and got back into our kayaks to head back over to Saltspring. The plan was to tuck into Long Harbour, and then see if we could make into Ganges. Given that we found out later that Ganges charges for that, I’m glad we didn’t make it. We landed on the beach at the end of Long Harbour–but did find some GREAT cliffs for free-soloing on the way–and called my aunt and her husband who live on Saltspring. They very kindly picked us and our gear and kayaks up off the beach and drove us to the ferry. And even drove us around looking for a Kayak trolley to make getting our Kayaks on and off the ferry less troublesome. We were not able to, but she did offer to bring all our gear over the next day leaving us only our Kayaks to carry on to the ferry.

And thanks so much to BC Ferries staff for letting us walk our 17-foot kayaks one at a time onto the ferry deck. The water in Satellite Channel was amazingly calm, so we could have launched from Fulford harbour without any difficulty and paddled home, but we didn’t know that until we saw it. Still, frustrating as that was, it was also hilarious.

We got a few weird looks.

What else is new?

Still, we did make it Swartz Bay and Natalie walked to get the car and come back and pick me and the kayaks up. And then we were off to drop off the boats and then home.

So we ended up stranded on Prevost for a little while, but we survived, and our gear survived. And I think we learned a lot about ourselves and our abilities.

And honestly we had a lot of fun paddling in some conditions that would have been pretty intimidating not that long ago, including paddling into, through, across, and broadside to the wakes thrown up by all sizes of craft.

Sitting here, writing this up after the fact, I’m reminded that I love being on the water. And that as hard as it was to know I was not up to finishing the trip, I know better my limits and I have learned skills since that day that will serve to make me a better, more confident kayaker. I don’t know when we’re going next; the next several weeks are full with the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade, surfing, and camping. But sometime, we are going to get back on the water and we will do better. I will do better.

I’m going to use this, and my most recent adventure (post and photos coming soon, I promise) to help redefine ‘failure’. It’s so easy to be discouraged when you do not complete something, and to berate yourself for failing. But truthfully the only failure is not trying. I may have not pushed myself to my physical limits on this trip, but I did push my mental boundaries. I pushed beyond where I thought my capability was to find out I was more capable and stronger than I thought. That makes it something to be celebrated.

What is the last ‘failure’ you had, how could it be interpreted as a learning experience or ‘victory’? Do you find failure makes you want to give up, or push forward? Tell me why or why not!

Keep adventuring!

Not Lost Girl

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