What a wonderful world

What actually are Racoons ? 

A kayak tour in the Gulf Islands

For a long time, Reinhold had been dreaming of visiting the firm that had made our kayaks. So his eyes shone when Feathercraft invited us to visit the yard where the collapsible boats are built. On our first day in Vancouver, we set off for Granville Island. Unfortunately, it happened to be the most hectic part of the season (in August). The tour of the boatyard impressed us – there is a good reason why the boats cost so much. The larger part of the work is done by hand and each boat is unique. At first, they were not very enthusiastic when we asked if we could leave our boats to be overhauled (Greenland had left some deep scars on the skin of the boats). However, when we brought the boats that afternoon, it was no longer a problem. Ten days later, we could pick up our boats again – they looked like new. And this time we really felt welcome.

Our paddle tour this year was to start in Victoria, but the harbour did not look the ideal place to start it. The America ferry is impressive, there was a lot of shipping and, in addition to all this, seaplanes are taking off and landing. It would be best to let ourselves be taken to an island and to start from there. After looking for a while, we found a flyer from "Blackfish". The homepage promised ‘grey-haired guides’ – wonderful, at last we would not have a beginner in the game. A phone call, and Al took us to Discovery Island in his Indian boat. As we approached the island, we were greeted by a whole row of seals. These animals are incredible – sometimes they dared to come within one metre of the boat.

From the shore, we could watch an otter and, in the evening – when we were sitting in front of our tent, six orcas swam past in the bay.

Robbe vor Discovery Island

After a couple of days, our drinking water supply was getting low (there is no fresh water on Discovery. For once, we got up early, but we could have saved ourselves the bother – a couple of kilometres from the coast, the tide which was just starting to come in caught us full-force. We both had difficulty fighting our way through the resulting eddies. I was rather relieved when Reinhold agreed to go on land and wait for the tide to go out. An hour later, the situation was a bit better, but not really good, so we decided to ask Al to pick us up. However, we couldn’t get a connection with our mobile phone, so we had to spend another night out there. The next morning, the ‘mobile’ functioned perfectly and we arranged for Al to pick us up.

Schwimmende Robbe

Gulf Islands

That afternoon, he picked us up, bringing a friend with him. We asked them to take us to the Gulf Islands. They found this a good idea, and gave us the impression that they, too, were enjoying this longer trip. They set us down on d’Arcy Island, a former leper colony.

Al's Indianerkanu

D'Arcy Island

While walking round the island, we startled two animals. The second animal stood motionless, gazing at us for so long that I was no longer sure what kind of an animal it was (puma?). We went back and cooked our evening meal. When I had got my nose stuck in a book, Reinhold said, ‘Look, a puma!!’ The wild animal was standing less than three metres from us – a deer! It continued to graze placidly on our camping-place and was not even disturbed by the noise of our white-spirits cooker.

The next morning, we paddled from d’Arcy Island to Sydney Island. This island attracts one with its long white-sand beach and a lagoon, which is almost dry when the tide is out.

Rum Island

Our next destination was Rum Island, barely a mile from the US border. Under no circumstances did we want to risk being escorted into the next harbour by a US destroyer, so we fed all the co-ordinates into our GPS and relied on this device. However, it proved to be relatively inaccurate and we have to pay for our trust in technology with a completely unnecessary crossing against the wind. When we finally arrived on Rum Island, the GPS still showed a distance of 1.5 km – in a completely different direction. For the rest of the tour, the GPS stayed in its box and we reached all our other destinations without difficulty, using nautical charts.

Annette vor Rum Island

Portland Island

Portland Island was the next destination. For me, it was the most beautiful island on this tour. Our tent stood between blackberry bushes in a hundred-year-old apple orchard. During our evening meal, I felt as if I were in the Garden of Eden. In our guide book, it said that one should be careful with food because of the large number of racoons. Neither Reinhold nor I knew the word ‘racoon’ – and neither did our dictionary. When there was a rustling sound among the blackberry bushes, I could see small tasselled ears – but that was all. A Canadian who passed by described them as: 10 – 15 kg. in weight, ‘funny eyes’, cute ears, and a tail with rings on it. That still didn’t tell us what kind of an animal it was, so we decided to hang our food supplies in the trees. On getting back, we found we could have saved ourselves the bother – racoons are extremely good climbers.

Reinhold auf Portland Island

Annette im Garten Eden

South-Pender Island

From Portland Island, we went on to South Pender Island. Part of the way through the Swanson Channel was rather rough. The steep coast of North Pender reflected the waves to such an extent that we had to paddle really hard. We were glad when we finally found the camping-place. Just before reaching the camping-place, we again had to contest the right-of-way with a seaplane. We felt it was about time to spend an evening in a pub. From the camping-place, there were two possible ways of reaching Poets Cove – on foot, over the  244 m ‘local mountain’, or with the kayak. We decided to paddle to the pub. Fish and chips with a cool beer can be a feast after such a tour!

Kajak vor Rum Island

The next morning took us back to Rum Island and from there to Sidney Island. We decided that, if the weather didn’t change, we would cross, by kayak, from Sidney to Vancouver Island the next day. Our paddle guidebook told us that the route could be very dangerous. However, we hit on a day when the sea was as smooth as a mill-pond. Back on land, we could hardly believe that paddling had required so little effort. Reinhold said the sea reminded him of the one in the local puppet theatre.

On arrival in the harbour, we stowed the boats in their rucksacks and, that evening, Al picked us up. We spent a wonderful evening with him and his wife Sue. The high-spot of the evening was a Black Forest cherry cake, in our honour.

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© Annette Baur and Reinhold Strecker , May 2006

Last alteration: May, 10 2006