About us

DOUG TAYLOR - former officer in the Canadian Forces (36 years) and manager at Osgoode Hall (7 years), retired to the Comox Valley in 2004. Can be found in my NDK Explorer HV, when not having a coffee at Rhodos or hanging out at Comox Valley Kayaks where I teach Paddle Canada courses.

JONATHAN REGGLER - Ex-British Army medical officer, became a civilian GP in the United Kingdom for 11 years then immigrated to the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, BC, in 2003. Sea kayaking since 2004. Family physician in Courtenay.


Click on the link to maps.google.com in the latest post and follow our progress.

A message sent in the evening means we have been paddling and have reached a new place. A message sent in the morning means we are staying put.

If there is no SPOT message for a few days do not panic! SPOT is new technology and a glitch or two may happen. We have loads of back-up with VHF radios and EPIRB.


Doug and Jonathan love the fact that so many of you are following their progress but they also enjoy reading your comments when they have access to the internet. The links are at the end of the Spot message for the day. To read the comments: click on the Comment link. To leave a comment: click on the Envelope. They even answer some of them!!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Qualicum Beach

An unexpected weather day in Qualicum Beach has given us the opportunity to bring the blog up-to-date.

The part of our journey taking us around the southern tip of the Island had always been one that we felt was potentially going to be difficult because of the lack of campsites and places to stop. The stretch from Sooke to Discovery Island is fairly long and yet there is only one place that we know of to stay overnight. Victoria, though attractive, would add logistical difficulties and although we are really grateful to all those friends who offered shelter, none of the multimillionaires with oceanside properties in the area contacted us.

So we opted to paddle to Pedder Bay marina to set ourselves up for the hop to Discovery Island. We hoped that we would be helped by the flood to get past Esquimalt and Victoria and indeed we were. We whizzed past both although we had to keep a careful eye out for other water traffic. Having marveled at the lack of other marine users on most of the west coast, barring the little flotilla of sport fisherfolk outside Port Renfrew, the bay outside Victoria and the airspace above it was teeming with vessels and floatplanes. Some pretty fast-moving stuff, too. We also remarked on the warm wind on our faces – the first time we had had this since the start of the journey in early May.

We made such good progress that we decided to press on to D’Arcy Island. Neither of us had put the next chart into our on-deck waterproof chart cases but the bottom half of D’Arcy, a small island, was clearly marked on the chart we were using and a welcoming land mass appeared in the “right” place as we rounded one of the points so we paddled towards it. Unease set in after a few miles and our lack of progress towards the island. A light on a rock failed to materialize on our left as promised by our charts. I interrogated my GPS, which has mapping, though I prefer the “bigger picture” available from paper charts. The rock was actually half a mile to our right – we were paddling just a few degrees to the left of our intended direction, the sort of difference which one tends to put down to the bobbing of the bow (and the on-deck compass) from right to left during the natural motion of the boat. We had been heading towards James Island, a larger island further off. D’Arcy Island was actually camouflaged by a larger island behind it, obscuring its western and eastern shores. This was another lesson relearned; that charts work but you need the whole area around your destination. It is not that we had actually disregarded our charts – we had simply made much better progress than we had hoped for and had basically paddled to the edge of the chart in front of us (the next was buried deep in our hatches). Had we had the area beyond our destination on the chart we were using, we would not have made the mistake. Fortunately we paddled no more than an extra mile although we were certainly tired (the flood had also turned to an ebb against us for the last few miles) when we reached D’Arcy.

D’Arcy is a nice little island with a well-maintained campground and decent tent pads. It is the site of the leper colony created by the BC government to house the mainly oriental leper victims in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They were deposited there and received no medical treatment. A supply ship visited once every three months. Not BC’s finest hour.

From D’Arcy we pressed north until we reached Prevost Island. We decided that we would spend a day there. We paddled along Sidney Island, both of us saying that we would like to return for a proper exploration of the area. It looks like a great destination for relaxing paddles and stops on a beautiful sandy spit at the north of the island.

We stopped at the very tip of the spit to take bearings (determined not to aim at the wrong island two days in a row) and as we did so heard the excited voice of Jenn Erlendson asking “What are the chances?”, as she came across the beach towards us. We had met Jenn and her friend Steve Davis at Thrasher Cove the week before. It was marvellous to see her again although we were a tad disappointed by the lack of McVitie’s chocolate digestive cookies this time.

The paddle to Prevost Island from Sidney Island was harder than we expected. We should have had the benefit of the flood but there was a reasonable back eddy in the whole of the Moresby Channel and also in the large area north of Beaver Point and south of the Channel Islands. We also had to cope with a very large amount of holiday traffic and more ferries in one day than we had seen in the whole of the last month. As Doug said, “These are the most dangerous waters we have paddled!”.

At Prevost Island, quite by coincidence David Lecovin, paddling buddy and fellow Explorer user, was there with some of his family. It was a very pleasant surprise to see him there. We also met Lisa Blachut, an Ecomarine kayak guide and instructor, and her friend Charlie Easton. We had a number of mutual friends and acquaintances from the BC paddling community. We were also delighted to meet up again with Steve Davis; Jenn had radioed him on his boat Cavu and he anchored off the island. We spent our rest day chatting and eating with Steve and hiking to the northwesternmost point of the island with him and his dog, Ziggy.

We also met some of the ladies of the Nanaimo Paddlers, who were in the last two days of a Gulf Islands trip. An intrepid bunch who have kayaked some of the tougher bits of Vancouver Island’s coast, we were happy to share some of our experiences and ideas. Our gear and kayak outfitting was photographed extensively by Lyn Hancock, the well-known author and member of the Nanaimo group.

Passing through Dodd Narrows was a milestone for which we had to do some planning. We were in a period of large tides and consequently fast currents, so the period of slack water was going to be short. After considering our options we realized that the best solution was going to be a night at Pirates Cove on De Courcy Island (sadly bypassing the nicer campsites at Blackberry Point) so that we could make the Narrows in good time the following day. The 20+ mile push to Pirates Cove was aided by a good flood in the morning. The campground is worth avoiding. Lots of mosquitoes, plenty of raccoons, and the only place where mice damaged gear trying to get at an old candy wrapper (which should not have been where it was, however). We did meet Brent and Merle Middleton, a retired couple from Chilliwack, who told us of their mammoth cycle ride across Canada, in two installments, which we thought was a pretty major undertaking although they seemed to think it was a bit of a jaunt. The Power To Be organisation was there, too, with a group of young people from some of the BC children’s hospitals, on an extended kayak camping trip.

De Courcy Island is also remarkable for the story of “Brother XII” and his religious cult The Aquarian Foundation, which was based on the island (and Valdes Island) in the 1920s and 1930s. This charlatan managed to persuade 8000 people to give him their life savings and about 2000 of them joined him on De Courcy and Valdes.

We were up in plenty of time to have a relaxed paddle to the Narrows. This gave us time to enjoy the extraordinary sandstone structures along the western side of De Courcy Island. Erosion has worn the sandstone into remarkable shapes, with harder areas standing out in sharp latticework-relief. Large near-spherical boulders seem stuck into the sandstone like M & Ms (British = Smarties) in smooth icing sugar on the side of a cake.

Nipping through the Narrows between a line of boats passing the other way we headed up to the north-western end of Gabriola Island where we saw more strange sandstone formations and a large cormorant rookery. The cormorants nest in the erosion-excavated holes and spaces in the sandstone. The odour of bird guano is pretty pungent there. We last came across it in the caves just to the north of Port San Juan.

Finding somewhere to stay the night in the area immediately to the north of Nanaimo promised to be difficult but we did have a campsite marked just outside Nanoose Bay. As we paddled up to Southey Island it looked extremely unpromising but we managed to find a grassy ledge with enough room for two tents and two kayaks. It was also blessed with a fantastic stand of rose campion, the magenta flowers almost glowing in the early evening sun. As we set up camp a fellow kayaker arrived. AJ told us that he was four days out of Anacortes at the start of what he hoped would be a two and a half month trip covering the 1300 miles to Glacier Bay in Alaska. If AJ manages this it will be a terrific feat.

From Southey we put the boats in the water for what we hoped would be a relatively easy stage to Qualicum Beach. We were not disappointed. The wind blew up as expected, a nice friendly southeasterly that we had at our backs for the whole run. We arrived at Qualicum Beach a good hour earlier than expected. Charlie and Jill, who looked after us so kindly on Quadra right at the start of our journey, invited us into their Qualicum home too. We are very grateful for their continuing hospitality. And their extended hospitality: the wind today was forecast to (and in fact did) reach speeds that we felt it was prudent to avoid so we have remained here for an extra day. The forecast for the next two days is favourable, however, and we hope to return to Courtenay, our circumnavigation of the Island complete, on Sunday.

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