Section 1: Just the Beginning
Updated: May 3
I'm writing this from Mugz Cafe in Port McNeill, on a sunny & warm day, showered, rested, with a sweet borrowed dog for the day named Calli. The perfect wrap up to section 1.
Gale force winds off Discovery Island on day 2. Funny to be winded out on an island just a few miles from town.
We started in Victoria on April 16th, surrounded by friends and family. Launching from a public dock in downtown. It was quite the crowd, which was exciting but also a little nerve-wracking.
I really didn't want to accidentally fall out of my boat while boarding it! The support we've recieved has been touching and inspirational, we're so grateful to have the community that's helped get us here.
The overarching theme of this section has been "this is just the beginning." 16 days is approaching the longest trip I've ever done before, and yet we're just in the warm up phase for our expedition. This allows quite a different and exciting perspective.
The first few days were definitely not polished. We struggled to pack our boats on the dock, with our cockpits ending up full of pitas in a drybag and a deckbag on the back of my boat, not ideal.
Sanding out some dry bag stabbing fibers at the ends of the boat.
We did, thankfully, make it to Discovery Island before the gale force winds settled in on April 16th, a short 8 NM. We were stuck on Discovery Island for the 17th. 8 NM in two days was not the best start a trip where we'd planned 20 NM a day. Over the last few weeks, we have had a day hatch that flooded because it wasn't closed, a new tarp that tore due to slivers inside a kayak, and lost 10L of freshwater due to my kicking open a Drom as I entered my kayak. On day 15 I learned the hard way that my paddling jacket (purchased last minute on the 15th, the only one in Victoria that fit) isn't windproof or all that water proof - I spent a 9h day very wet and very cold. I had the new hard case holding my electronics leak, wrecking one of my batteries. And I had the buckle break on a brand new dry bag.
On weekend trips, none of these are big deals. But this is just the beginning for us. We can learn from here.
Since day 1, we've gotten much better at loading up our boats, eliminating the need for a deck bag and cockpit pitas. We've fixed and modified our gear, sanding down kayaks, cutting off buckles on bags, refined our morning checklists to be more efficient and get on the water faster (or just relax more).
The food has been awesome, and our execution of our recipes has just gotten better. We'll be publishing these as we go.
We've also gotten faster. We cracked out 7 straight days of paddling from April 25th through May 1st, including two 26 NM days and averaging 20 NM per day over that period, despite two days of strong headwinds and counter currents in Johnstone Strait. I've spent lots of time focussing on improving my padding technique, there are hours that pass where all I'm thinking about are the muscle movements required for my stroke.
Day 6 fish and chips with Ken!
We've also had some stellar things happen. Notably including a surprise visit from a fellow named Ken, who's solo paddling to Alaska this summer from Victoria, at Chivers Point. We paddled together for a few days, and even had a beer at a Dinghy Dock Pub in Nanaimo. We ran into some friends of friends on the Rendezvous Islands and met the students in the group they were guiding. They gave us some excellent locals knowledge about the waterways around Quadra Island which has helped us keep moving safely and quickly. And they shared a fresh orange with us, a real treat. We saw our first humpback whale, including a fluke close enough to see the details of their tail, and a black bear flipping rocks on a shoreline. We've even had two days so warm that we paddled in shirts and shorts! And meeting up with old friends in Port McNeill has been a real treat.
So many beautiful views, including this one from the Rendezvous Islands, where we had a rendez vous spontanée avec nos amis.
And I have to say, I'm really grateful to have my InReach to stay in touch with my friends at home. I've been missing them, and keeping those connections is a big deal, well worth the battery weight.
So, to summarize section 1, it's just the beginning. Normal things that I'd just shrug about and say "now I know for next time," I actually get to put into practice right away. We're already better with managing our boats and gear, our routines have sped up, and we're paddling faster. We've learned some lessons the hard way, for sure, but it's awesome to be able to know that we'll be able to use those lessons for the rest of the trip. And we're really grateful to have met some cool new people, some of whom we're sure we'll see again on this trip!
Northward we point!