13 Years Ago, Kingkown Inlet Finally let us Leave. May 2, 2020 21:11
May 2, 2007. Banks Island, B.C. Canada.
Expedition Journal Entry
(Unedited. Expect nautical terms, bodily functions, improper grammar and punctuation).
I woke up in the tent to a sunrise out of the large window (that doesn’t exist)… It was so pretty I took out my camera. On my second picture, through the viewfinder I see a Hokusai-esque tsunami wave wipe across the scene (right to left, impossible on that site at Banks) and I said to Kathleen “Oh my God, I just saw something that almost made me pee my pants!”
Then the real 4:30 alarm went off and it was still dark outside our tiny tent window. Whew, I hoped that last dream wasn’t an omen as the background swell/wind noise was the same it had been all night… We started packing up our sleeping bags and pads, then donned our outside clothes to go check the 4:00 am weather report… Bonilla Island read NW 17 knots, 4 foot swell, low NW swell. Gale warning forecast for Hecate Straight N 10-20 building to 15-25 in the morning, switching moderate to strong to gale SE in the afternoon. Different, yet looking like a headwind the whole way… Still giving it a go because it’s a window of sorts. Put on the drysuit, packed up the tent and started packing boats as it lightened (technically 5:30 is light enough tto leave on the outside, for future reference). I looked up at one point to look at Goring Rocks and was shocked to see something foreign floating in the water. At first I figured it was a log, then it kind of freaked me out because I realized it was a boat - aluminum skiff - like the panga of the northern locals. I don’t exactly know why it startled me, but it felt scary, for some reason…
It was a good sign, we realized, that the locals were coming into Kingkown - definitely a weather window of sorts. Some fishing seasons did just open May 1st (shrimp, I’ll have to research what else) and it was the first decent conditions. I was packed in at exactly 7, and we decided to give the #2’s a try (mine wasn’t worth the hole I dug for it) and we were off at 7:20. We saw a total of 5 skiffs heading towards Kingkown, gathering things on the inside of the reefs. We paddled into an extremely mild headwind and a mix of SW & NW swells - long periods on the SW made it mellow, yet exciting to watch on the breakers. At each point - Laverock, Sneath Islands, Solander, etc. we cheered a little for day 11 - finally leaving Kingkown.
Once we entered Griffin Harbor area, the wind was calm, seas glassy - such a nice, wide open window. We snacked just inside White Rocks. We had a quicker pace than our trip down, just under 4 knots. We rounded the NW tip and skirted between the rocks and N Banks as the NW swells rolled in. I engaged my legs, such a great help for power and keeping the butt happy. We paddled for another 3 nautical miles (17ish total ) before our standing, snacking, tea, bathroom, and radio check break at around 10:45. We felt so good to be on land outside of Kingkown and having at least 17 nautical miles in before noon.
My fake jerky and almond cheese snack was incredible. I killed the last of the trail mix that I’d intended to finish before the trip (late night snack with Laci at our bulkfood buy/Friday night party). After my long awaited poo, we were ready to head into the building SE headwind (forecast said gales). We had never been so thrilled paddling against current into a headwind. Caplets weren’t even worth mentioning as something to be concerned about - a gale when you’re next to a protected shore, no matter how “unlandable” is such less of a red light. We followed the curves of E Banks, gaining coverage from the winds and perhaps catching the occasional eddy. Our heavy bows would catch the smallest swells and toss the water into our faces, making even the sucker patches a wet experience. We poked along, surprisingly fast for against a current and 10-20 knot headwinds. We hoped the conditions would stay mellow until we made it to Colby Bay, but the continuous whitecaps that started mid-channel eventually reached us (consistent 15 knots w/gusts 20-25?) and we found a slot into a protected cove about 5 nautical miles shy of Colby.
We realized camping was going to suck on the East in comparison to our last sites. First the scouting was calm and pretty, then the bugs began to drive me nuts. It was probably the best spot around for miles though - at high tide it was a shallow sloped beach, completely protected. Workable tarp and tent sites. Boggy as all get out, but any place so protected was going to have bug/bog issues. We peeked at the next cove up - nothing, didn’t want to deal with more headwinds, so though Kathleen was skeptical about my bug tolerance level (I assured her repeatedly I’d be fine, it’s just the thing I wine about and have freak outs about in life - I eventually deal and get over it - a great zen-out activity/practice for me. Plus, I’d get to use the head net I brought). We re-scouted, me bushwhacking through salal and evergreens, sometimes chest deep over assorted fallen mossy logs and holes between. My poor drysuit got quite dirty (mellowing the mango color at least). Luckily the best spots ended up being close to the beach, so minimal 4th class shlupping was required. I dug out my net first thing and life started getting calmer.
I realized how lucky we were to have such great beaches for our 11 day extreme slumber party in Kingkown. I would have gone a little more nuts if they were bug infested. Once the tarp and tent were up, my frustrations soon subsided under their bug-free shelter (why, I don’t know, but thank God those little things like to go to the top of such shelters, umbrellas, etc.).
We enjoyed tea and I ate a monstrous chunk of Scharffenberger with peanut butter. We were ready, after about 25 nautical miles of paddling, for an early dinner, so Kathleen whipped up some sweet and sour couscous (raisins, peanuts, vinegar, sugar, Braggs/soy, lots of spices - cayenne & coconut are key) which I couldn’t even finish 1 bowl of. Much denser than other meals and now that I’m aware of my bowl’s volume (30.2 fluid ounces) it’s a little harder to inhale multiple bowls. Good leftovers for tomorrow. We had another batch of tea after watching 2 not too shy, adorable, brownish pipers (distinguishing patchwork - type pattern near rears/end of wings - light brown overall, not the smallest of pipers) eating in the tidal flat. We packed up and headed for early tent time, planning the next few moves and looking at places we’d need to avoid bad forecasts at… Our theory was that we had pretty much a week’s worth of big moves and any time on the outside would have to be done in a day, with good forecast and outlook, to avoid another lengthy wind-in. Hopefully tomorrow (SE gales lessening in the afternoon, outlook moderate westerlies) we’ll get around the Sister Islands (SE tip of Banks, 31 nautical miles) to prepare us to cross Sea Otter Channel the following day. I’ll be forever skeptical of mellow sounding outlooks, because by the time they’re forecasts (much less present conditions) they’re always more severe and, more often than not, SE gales. Since our arrival in Kingkown (11 days ago) we’ve only had maybe 2.5 days without a SE gale or storm warning. The weather radio didn’t seem to bother announcing small craft warnings in Hecate Strait (the winds during half of those 2.5 days would have been considered small craft warnings in other regions).
Come on spring, calm conditions, it is May now - we just need 7-9 beautiful (or at least not horrendous) days (low wind, Northerlies would be great, mellow swells to get us outside again… High pressures would be stupendous). We’ll see what awaits - all I know is I’m glad we won’t have to get rescued from Kingkown - a relief. THANK YOU FOR THE WEATHER WINDOW! THANK YOU FOR LETTING US GO! Maybe Kingkown knew it was time for the locals to visit, so it didn’t mind releasing us. Whatever the reason, we’re extremely grateful to be on the move again - we hope it continues…