Please see previous post of Scouting out the Broken Group Islands.
Now that the trip to the Broken Group Islands was a go, I needed to get moving at getting it all together. We were pretty much starting from scratch, except for my AI. I started a list of everything we would need. We would be going out there to have fun and enjoy ourselves, but we also had the responsibility of keeping ourselves safe.
Jerry had been out maybe 4 times in my AI over the last two years and never got the bug. We decided if at the end of this trip he found he really wasn't into doing any more trips with the AI, we would decide then to either sell it or hang on to it for friends to play in when visiting.
Friends,Seth and Hong having fun.
In May I ordered a yellow AI for Jerry, and started to make a list of everything we might need. I made all the reservations needed, Rose Marine Services and River Side Inn in Port Alberni, and the Black Ball Ferry in Port Angeles. Highly recommend reserving a place on the Black Ball Ferry in Port Angeles, on line. You are then guaranteed a spot on the ferry.
Near Father's Day, we picked up Jerry's AI. I picked up a Garmin gps 60csx and had fun figuring most of it out. In July I had ordered the Hobie 2-AI trailer. The guys at Hobie put it together for me and did a great job.
By August, I had all the safety equipment we needed, and after looking over my list, realized I had forgotten the trailer hitch so ordered that. I went on the net and looked at Kokotat T3 Tropos, dry suits. I was going to order a woman's suit with the lower front relief zipper, but found this suit needed to be special ordered, and it wouldn't have been delivered on time. My other choices, either get a woman's suit with the back relief zipper, which I had heard the back zipper could sometimes be very uncomfortable, or order a men's suit. I ordered, along with Jerry's dry suit, another men's. To my surprise, the next day when I was ordering neoprene gloves via the web, I came across a gently used women's dry suit, with the lower front relief zipper! It was a couple of hundred $$ less than new. I picked it up. The trailer hitch arrived and Jerry installed it. Two weeks before the trip, most everything was packed except for some food products. I really didn't want to have any last minute surprises. A week before we left, I made sure everything would fit in the boat. All our supplies fit in 11 dry bags, and we would each be carrying a 1-4 ltr, and 1-6 ltr bags of water. Each AI would be carrying 55 extra pounds.
Sept. 4th I loaded the boats on the trailer, and Sept. 5th, we put the bags in the car and left home.
We would be camping for 4 nights in the Broken Group Islands.
Sept 5th was a nice, sunny day for traveling and the trip up to Port Alberni was very pleasant.
When arriving in Port Alberni, we parked our car/trailer in a church parking lot right next to the Riverside Inn, checked in and decided to go for supper at Pescadores. This is about a 10 minute walk from the Inn and we would be walking on a nice trail along the Sommas River. As we crossed over to the river side of the street, we saw a couple pointing across the river. There was a black bear nosing around in the bushes. I was glad a good distance was between us. As we walked further up the trail, we spotted another black bear. We were already in the wild.
The meal was very good and the evening was perfect for walking back to the Inn. We needed to be at the Rose Marine dock at 7 the next morning so we hit the sack early.
Sept 6 the morning started out with a fine, dry drizzle, and pleasantly cool. The dry bags got packed in the boats. Breakfast was on Jerry's mind so we went to look for somewhere to eat and couldn't find anything open. Started feeling anxious about the time. Never before have we done this in our lives, but we stopped at a 7-Eleven and got some coffee and a danish. When we got to the docks, there were a decent amount of people already there. We pulled our loaded boats out to the Frances Barkley to be loaded and we were told they needed to be empty to be loaded on the ferry. We took all our bags out and placed them in the large plastic bin just for this purpose. The dagger board, mirage drive, and AI seats also got placed in the bins. We had the sails strapped on to the AIs and they stayed. The small crew had never loaded an AI on the Frances Barkley before. They were very careful and did a good job of loading the boats.
When Jerry went to park the car/trailer, I was asked many questions about the boats. The Captain told me a few weeks earlier they had had someone bring a 20' Hobie, and proudly told me, they were able to load it on to the F.Barkley.
Another crew member came up to me as I was waiting and very tactfully asked me questions as to, did we have wet suits, how about gps, vhf, food, water, what islands we would be staying on. He let me know if we got into weather trouble, we could call the Seachart lodge on the VHF on channel 6 and the folks at Seachart had a large boat and would come to pick us and our boats up. There were four other kayaks in the F. Barkley's hull.
We boarded the F. Barkley and started down the Alberni Inlet. It was de ja vu. Although this time there was a dry rain, and warmer, 60F.
I met two women Judith and Gailah, from Oregon, who were paddling friends and were going to paddle their kayaks and camp for 7 days out in the Broken Group Islands. They had done a few paddling adventures together. Judith had been to the Broken Group Is. a few years before. She told me Turret Is had a very nice camp site but it was a bit tricky to get to and told us how. I had thought Jerry and I would camp at a different site every night, but the women gave some great advice, to make a camp and then each day go out and paddle around and explore.
About an hour before getting to Seachart, we came across a humpback whale. I had been out on the upper deck when it happened and dashed down to get my camera. I took a photo of it again coming out of the water, but the tail is all I captured. .
We arrived at Seachart and the F. Barkley unloaded all our gear on a dock. Judith and Gailah asked if we would help launch their boats after they were loaded. Jerry and I loaded our boats and put on our dry suits. As we were waiting for the ladies to finish, kayakers who were finishing their trips were returning to Seachart to catch the ferry back to Port Alberni. No one on the dock, had seen AIs before and the owners of Seachart said they hadn't ever seen them in the Broken Group Is. So Jerry was put to the task of answering many AI questions.
When Judith put her dry suit on, she told me she had a secret way of putting the gasket over her head and she would show me. What a Hoot!
Judith and Gailah took off in one direction and Jerry and I in the other. Sitting in my AI, peddling away from the dock. I was overcome with the thought of...We're doing it!!! This is not a dream anymore, it's real!! I looked over at Jerry to see how he was doing and he already had his sail up, catching a pftt breeze! The drizzle stopped. This was going to be a great trip!
We had decided to stop the first night at Hand Is. only a couple of miles from Seachart, and we were able to sail almost all the way there. When we got to where the main camp was, we found, at low tide you could not beach the boats on, because of clam and oyster shells everywhere!
We had heard there was another campsite around to the side. We sailed over there. Perfect.
The clouds had lifted just a bit and it was a very pleasant evening. I took all our bags out of the boats and set up the cooking area, made some spaghetti with canned shrimp. Not too bad.
At low tide we saw this sea star and many empty clam shells. The blue-ish shells are from an introduced species called 'Varnish clams'. And when looking near the waterline, you could see hundreds and hundreds of clam squirts.
After the evening meal, I put all the bags back in the boats, and discussed where we would go the next day. I had wanted to go all the way to Gilbert Is and Jerry felt going to Turret Is would be best. So Turret Is it was.
I have to confess, even though Jerry had said he wanted to help, I wouldn't let him take out any bags or set anything up except the tent. All that hard work of making sure we had everything we needed, and packing it all up, knowing where everything was , not wanting to get sand in anything, well I was just being darn anal about it all! I asked Jerry if he would mind being in charge of the tent/sleeping bags etc. and I would keep all the cooking stuff in order. I handed over the GPS and decided to just let it go. I'd follow where ever he wanted to go. Good decision. We were out in the Broken Group Islands. No matter where we went, it would be great.
Because the temp was pleasant, 60'sF, we slept with the tent open.The smell of salt and clams was everywhere. That night I woke to a strange sound. It was a humpback whale singing!
It lasted for about half a minute. We were in a strange and beautiful place.
Sept 7th, we woke to low clouds, but it was warm, still in the 60's. We had coffee, oatmeal and bannoc for breakfast, packed up our gear and got ready to launch. I found this fish on the beach before we took off. I'm pretty sure it is a mackerel. The day before on the way to Hand Is., we came across a movement in the water a bit of a distance from us. It looked like a small whirl pool coming up from the water and soon we saw it was a group of small fish, right after they surfaced in a swirling mass, a sea lion came up and grabbed some. One of the kayakers had said the sea lions and humpbacks were eating the mackerel.
It was a nice morning for gentle sailing. Again, 60-65F. Low clouds and there was a fine, fishy smell to the air.
About an hour later the wind had died. So it was good peddling. Looking ahead, I noticed once again, Jerry had caught a pftt breeze.
Hey! Is that a grin on Jerry's face?? Yup, I think so.
Hah! I caught him!
We first crossed Peacock Channel. And caught a real nice wind here,sailed across the channel to Dodd Is.
The low clouds and mountains in the distance made for a nice photo.
We stopped for lunch on Dodd Is and enjoyed the sunshine. Resumed our sailing to Willis Is and after that we got into the Theipval Channel. We caught a real nice wind, tacted and practically flew across the channel. We got up to 7.5 mph. Fun!
As we were crossing we saw a group of 6 kayakers and heard someone yelling, "Hey! I have one of those!" We sailed closer to the group and a woman named Carol said she had been thinking of bringing her AI along but didn't know if she could. I spoke with Carol later at Seachart while waiting for the Frances Barkley. She told me she was with a group of 6 friends, ages 70-85. They had taken a week long paddle in the Broken Group Islands. She said she lived on Kootenay Lake in BC, and people often asked questions about her AI, but as far as she knew, she was the only person on the lake with an AI.
We located Turret Is and slowed down to find the tricky cove where our next camp spot would be. It was mid afternoon and we set up camp, laid out our dry suits to dry and walked around the area.
Supper was bannoc, rice, cream of mushroom soup and bagged chicken. A bit bland but we were hungry.
That night we were woken up often by some very close sea lions partying at all hours of the night. Put a smile on our faces. We were in their world.
All islands which have campsites on them also have composting toilets. These are pretty cool outhouses. They are raised up quite a way off the ground with a large tub underneath. After you do your duty, you sprinkle in an oyster shell's worth of wood shavings. There is a solar powered fan which helps to keep the odor down. When the tub is filled, it is cleaned out and the resulting compost is then used. This is such a great way of keeping the water in the Pacific Rim Reserve clean and healthy for the mammals and fish.
As Jerry and I were coming back form a short hike on the island, we came around a corner and about 50' in front of us was a mink. It surprised us as much as we surprise it. It disappeared before we could take a photo, but left behind tracks.
Views from Turret Is.
Sept. 8th,Wed. morning we woke up to some very dense fog.
In this damp environment, there are some critters and plants who really like it.
We heard noise in the brush and saw this young guy browsing.
Coffee, bannoc w/cinnamon, and oatmeal for breakfast.
Jerry was feeling uncomfortable about going out in the heavy fog, and rightly so,so we drank some more coffee and hung around camp for about an hour. I was feeling a need to get out on the water, so suggested we go out, stay close to shore and if we came across some driftwood we could have a campfire in the evening. When camping the in Broken Group Islands, it isn't allowed to gather any wood or debris from the forest. Only driftwood from the beach for fires. Also any campfire built should be below the high tide line.
We left camp and peddled into the fog.
Driftwood was a bit scarce, having campers gathering it all summer, but we did find some scraps and small branches and I suppose we looked a bit like transients peddling through the water.
We came across a very small beach and decided to stop. Jerry noticed a trail which went back in the woods. The forests out here are very fertile, and dense.
The further we went, this is what we found.
An Amazingly, Beautiful, ancient cedar! I measured 10 armlenghts around it.
We stayed and had our lunch in the presence of this magnificent tree.
The fog started to lift a bit and we went and explored around the many small islands near Turret Is. We were moving between two small islands and out of nowhere 3 small, dark porpoise surfaced, almost touching my ama, and I saw 3 more doing the same with Jerry's AI. These were fairly small porpoise, 5-6'. I'm fairly certain they are called Harbor Porpoise. It was nice to have them pass so closely.
We came across a strange sight of what looks like pillows made out of moss, in a fair number of trees. And also many trees with lichens growing on them.
We paddled a bit further out on the W side of the island and a bit more into Channel which is a bit more exposed. Met some decent swells and a lot more wind out there. We sailed for a short time and then and headed back to camp.
For supper Wed. night I diced up some yellow fins with the skins still on, onions, garlic, and carrots, salt and thyme, stir fried those up and added some bagged chicken and bannoc. Just as Jerry was getting the camp fire going, a young couple came into the bay and set up camp on the other side. They had paddled all the way from Toguart Bay, which is an alternative launch site for the Broken Group Is.
It was a very nice evening sitting by the fire and we stayed up late. My worries of Jerry not enjoying himself were in the past.
Man and his Fire
I woke in the middle of the night and thought I'd go check on the boats. Could hear the swells coming into the bay and was needlessly worrying about the water pulling the AI's away even though they were tied up good. I got out of the tent, and could see a greenish light down on the beach. Were our fellow campers down there looking for something with a flashlight? As I closer I realized it was bioluminescence. Every time the swells came up and gently broke on the beach, the whole water line would light up. I had to go wake Jerry up, and we both went down and watched for a while. He tossed in some rocks and sand and it was like a light bulb exploding. Amazingly beautiful. We were truly in a magical world.
Sept. 9th, we woke and had breakfast, and as we were breaking camp, this little fellow stopped by.
'Hey, lady! Where's the food!'.
We decided to head back to Hand Is, for our last night of camping. It was a very calm day so we peddled/paddled back across Thiepval Channel,then over to the West side of Willis Is. We squeezed between Willis and Dodd and past Turtle Is. We peddled over between Jaques and Jarvis Is,where once again Jerry caught a pfttt breeze. Dang, he was getting good!
We were fortunate to be the audience to a loon's long, lonely call. Once we got on the other side of these islands, we caught a real decent back wind and sailed about 2 miles all the way back to Hand Is.
About 1/2 mile from the island, we came across a 3 person canoe! They were moving so fast it looked like they had supernatural powers!
We made camp and visited the three canoeists. They were three women from Germany, one had been living in Canada for a few years and her friends came to visit. They decided to do something fun. None of them had done much canoeing or paddling before. It's a good thing the weather hadn't turned or they could have been in trouble. Later in the evening we saw a lonely kayaker come in to the island from Toguart Bay. He was from Manitoba, Canada and had traveled across country with his kayak just to paddle around the Islands.
Low tide creatures.
Sept. 10th we broke camp. Didn't want to leave. There was a gentle breeze and we unfurled our sails. Not wanting to get back to Seachart Lodge too soon, we slow-sailed and tacked, and peddled back to Seachart.
We were the first to arrive and took a well needed shower. The sun had come out at this time, so we sat and just soaked it up. We had done it! We sailed the Broken Group Islands. More kayakers arrived to take the return trip back to Port Alberni.
At 2pm the Frances Barkley came and loaded up our AI's and gear, we boarded the ferry and started our return up the Alberni Inlet. The next day, after we had gotten to the mainland, Jerry said, "I know this sounds crazy, but I'm already thinking about our next trip out here!"
There is a deep beauty to this wet, green, fertile, water world to the North, called the Broken Group Islands. And even a month after our trip, we are still thinking of it. It's calling us back.