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Section 8: Homecoming

We board a ferry, climb a mountain, get caught in a lightning storm, clear Canadian customs, and spend another night on Discovery Island - this time with friends and family.


On the morning of August 22nd, we woke early and took down our campsite. After 4 days of dinners, card games, and socializing the day had come for us to board the ferry - MV Columbia. After one last stop in town (and lunch with Kylee, Amy, Charlie, and Ryan) we loaded our kayaks and gear onto the boat and settled ourselves into some lounge chairs in the solarium on deck 8. Right on schedule at 1:45, the ferry pulled away from the dock and we were underway. We quickly cruised through the pass between Baranof and Chichagof Islands and were passing the town of Kake by the time we sat down to eat the dinner we’d prepared in the morning.



The evening sunset was incredible - purples, oranges and reds. The sky was on fire! We went to sleep on lounge chairs in the solarium and at 3:00 we awoke to discover the boat was on fire too! An announcement came over the PA system: “this is not a drill, there is a fire onboard. Please proceed to the nearest muster station”.


We dutifully proceeded to the starboard side outer deck and waited for instructions. Thick smoke was filling the hallways from the bow and people in firefighting suits were running towards its source. Fifteen confusing, tense, and chilly minutes later we got another announcement: “the fire has been put out and all 6th floor doors should be held open for ventilation. Everyone stay in place so a count can be conducted”. It took nearly 45 minutes for everyone to be counted, but by 4:30 everyone had dispersed and we were off to bed once again.



We arrived in Ketchikan and had enough of a layover to leave the ferry and go exploring. Unsure what to do, we wandered out into the parking lot and were greeted by a friendly couple from the ferry who offered us a ride in their taxi to the local brewery for a beer.


At 8am on August 25th, after 67 hours of ferry transit, we docked in Bellingham and carried our kayaks and IKEA bags off the boat. Jordan and his friend Connor had driven down to the dock to meet us so we loaded up and set off towards Mike's house. The story of why Jordan was in Bellingham is best told by Sanesh so you'll have to ask him for the details, but it involves a passport in the mail, a bike trip, and a mysterious woman from Australia. Mike, is a carver and Tsimshian Elder who we met in Metlakatla BC. He invited us to stay at his place and maybe go on a day-hike with him before we paddled away.


Once we arrived at Mike's place, the plan evolved rapidly and soon we were committed to a 2-night alpine hike up Ptarmigan Ridge in the Mt Baker Wilderness Area. We spent the rest of the morning eating, preparing gear and buying hiking shoes from the local REI. We parted ways with Jordan and Connor in the early afternoon and by 5:30pm were on the trail. We hiked 6km out to Goat Lake and set up camp for the night. In the morning we left camp and walked out to the end of Ptarmigan Ridge and back to camp. It was a beautiful day - hot and clear.



Getting back on the water in town was a bit of a mess, I was feeling pretty frazzled and overstimulated being around so many people in the city. We ended up launching from Fisherman's Cove on the Lummi Reservation, just outside of Bellingham. Unfortunately, there's no grocery store there. We paddled over to Lummi Island for groceries. This was also our return to waters with high currents, which I mistimed. After getting pushed around a little bit, we decided to take our sweet time on Lummi to enjoy a walk & ginger beer. It was around 7pm by the time we landed at our camp ground, an 8h day for 5NM. We took our time, and it was nice.


We paddled from Lummi to Sucia the next day. This was again, way over stimulating for me. Sucia is a Washington State Park with camping. It also has more boat moorage than many of the towns we visited in Alaska. So. Many. People!


Overnight on Sucia, we had a monster of a lightning storm pass over us. We were awoken in the night by the noise. By 10am in the morning, it appeared to have passed, so based on our observations and the forecasts we decided to launch and paddle to Pender Island, Canada. While out on the water, we were greated to an unwelcome surprise. More lightning and thunder. We were in a bit of a bind, as we were in the middle of a crossing and had nowhere to hide. Add to that the currents we had to navigate, and we really had no choice but to push forward. We were vigilantly keeping our eyes and ears on the sky. Thankfully, we figure the lightning was 15 miles away from us and moving further away. It's been years since either we experienced lightning on the west coast, and yet on trip we had found ourselves out on the water in two lightning storms.


The next day we crossed customs in the morning on Pender Island. This was an odd experience. We simply called the Customs Agent from the phone at the dock, and after about an hour of waiting on hold and discussion with the officer, we'd officially entered Canada. As was our experience in Ketchican, the border agents really had no official mechanism for processing kayakers -- as our boats are unregisterable, and our speeds involve us crossing borders a day or two before we can reach the closest port of call. In both cases, customs agents did their best and admitted us legally into the country, with little hassle for us.



After crossing customs, we made our way to Rum Island. Another short paddle. I was excited when two more kayakers arrived later in the day, here visiting from the Netherlands on a kayak trip after hiking the Great Divide. It was great to share hot chocolate and stories with them.


On September 1st we paddled to Sidney, BC. We grabbed some snacks, and slowly made our way to meet up with our friends and family for our final paddle. Jay and Sylvia (Nathan's parents), Devan & Seelan (my dad and brother) Jordan, Grete, Sarah (Nathan's partner), and Griffin joined us for our last day of paddling. Eric & Lycette even joined us for a bit. It was quite a crew. Our evening was spent sharing stories, making new ones, and eating great food. It was Seelan's first time kayak camping. Jordan concocted deep fried oreos. Sylvia baked a cake for Sarah's birthday. Grete was the only one bold enough to swim, very Australian of her.



#SQUAD



And on September 2nd, after dropping our crew off, we paddled our last hour together into Victoria Harbour. After a failed attempt at buying a last trip ice cream in Fisherman's wharf, we landed at 2pm at Songhees Point.


Ending the trip felt bittersweet. Less like an accomplishment, and more like the closing of a chapter. Even though the trip is over, we'll be updating the blog with stories, lessons, and photos from our trip.


Thank you for following our little paddle.



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Jimmy Tudor
Jimmy Tudor
Oct 06, 2023

I really enjoyed following along over the summer! As a Ketchikan resident, kayaking the Inside Passage has been on my list for years. Reading your story reignites my passion for doing it!


I'd love to see a post with advice and lessons, like you mentioned. Although I've had lots of kayaking adventures, most haven't been longer than a couple days.


Thank you for sharing your journey!

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