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Jonathan Bell

Jonathan Bell

10:55 PM on Friday, May 24, 2019

My Trip by Kayak from Victoria Harbour to Sidney, BC

Date of trip: July 1, 2012

This past Canada Day long weekend, I did a trip that I had been planning for the past ten years. In June 2002, I planned a trip by kayak out of Victoria’s Inner Harbour to Sidney BC hitting up Discovery, D’arcy, and Sidney/Portland Islands along the way. I can’t believe that it took me almost ten years to do, but I’m happy to have finally completed it.

I first planned the trip after I had completed my guide training in 2002. I did it simply as an exercise in trip planning and chart reading, but I filled out all of the float plans, including the magnetic bearings and everything. I had originally planned the trip to be a solo trip. The piece of water in front of Oak Bay is special to me as it’s the spot that I have paddled many times with my dad.

This trip was a substitute trip for the annual kayak trip that my friend, Joe Day, usually organizes. Joe has just got a new job and it requires him to be away at the usual time that we have this trip (the fall). So, even though the weather was not super great, we went for it.

Getting up early, we met at Ocean River Sports (the place that I was actually working at ten years ago!) in order to "put in" right in the Inner Harbour.

Following my ten year old float plan to a tee, we took a rest break on Chain Island and arrived (thanks to the current and wind in our favor) on Discovery Island about three and a half hours after we left the dock at Ocean River Sports.

We met some other campers on the island and I walked over to introduce myself. When I shook the hands of the other campers (a couple), I was alerted to the fact that I actually worked at the same place (the PSA) as one of them! In fact, I had received an email from her not 24 hours ago! I had only met Elizabeth a handful of times, but was still blown away at the chances of seeing anyone I knew on this little island.

To make matters stranger, we came across a sign stating that there was a stray dog on the island! Liz and her husband told us that they were under the impression that it was in fact a wolf! We set off with some sausage in hand in order to try and make friends with "Cujo". We heard him (or her?) howling/crying across the bay but when we got to the spot, we couldn’t find the canine anywhere… We continued our walk to the deserted lighthouse on the island.

I had previously been here almost twenty years ago with the Boy Scouts of Canada. At the time, the lighthouse was a manned one and my scout troop had made the 2 lighthouse keeper’s boys honorary scouts.

The lighthouse is now automated and no one lives there anymore. We found the tower up to the lighthouse open and took the opportunity to venture up to its top!

We were afforded so great views of the island and surrounding area. In fact, that’s where we got a glimpse of the stray dog! To me, when I saw it at that range, it looked like a dog – a very mangy, mal-nourished, shy dog. We decided to bring it some food later. The dog disappeared back into the bush and we continued exploring the lighthouse.

The windows were all boarded up, but someone had broken into the ground level window. As it was already smashed in, we decided to go into the old lighthouse keepers house as well. I had last stood in the living room of this house when I was 12. The lighthouse keeper had offered us milk and we played capture the flag with his two boys. It was upsetting to stand in exactly the same spot but to see the house completely deserted and destroyed.

In the basement I found the old marine VHF radio and its log book. There were log entries in it from 1982! This book was as old as me! It also had entries in it from 1993 and 94, the same years that I had visited the island! It was amazing for me. To think that this was here my entire life and to draw the connections with the lifelines of the lighthouse and me was really a trip!

We returned to camp and started making dinner. Later the park ranger came by to ask about the dog. We let him know the time and spot that the dog was last seen, and Elizabeth and her husband showed their pictures of the canine to the ranger. We had a mini party with the ranger on the beach and Elizabeth and her husband, Byron. We made a small fire and watched the sun fall over the horizon.

Knowing that Cujo was being addressed, I felt it safe to turn in for the night. He howled in the middle of the night and I felt bad for him. The weather was the best the second day. I was the first up.

We were on the water early (before ten) and were on our way to D’arcy island with a small stop at Mount Douglas beach in order to purchase fuel for my stove. Joe and Kristin had brought an incompatible fuel container for their stove so my stove would take over, supporting the creation of their most delicious dinner that night.

We arrived at D’arcy Island just after three. I hadn’t been here in over 21 years! D’arcy, as I recalled, was an ex-leper colony.

Even though it has a spooky past, D’arcy has a pleasant and peaceful vibe to it. We followed some random flagging through the woods which led us to a small grassy point. We ate some nachos and salsa there, I named the point “Salsa Point”.

After eating almost all of the salsa, we made our ways a little further along the coast which led to the ruins of the old caretakers house. This structure is over 100 years old.

There was a clearly cultivated area behind this structure that was most likely a gardening area with retaining walls. We picked up some different flagging back to camp and Joe and Kristin and Emma started making dinner while I had a few sips of wine.

I learned a new card game (Kaiser) and we had a few more beers and talked around Joe’s candle lantern. The calm winds lasted through the next morning and after a breakfast of rice cakes and almond butter, we were off, heading back to civilization.

I was nearing the completion of my long-planned trip by kayak from Victoria to Sidney.

A lunch stop on the North end of James Island and then a short crossing back to the mainland of Vancouver Island and the trip would be complete.

We got back to Sidney and finished our game of Kaiser while we waited for Kim to drive my Caravan out from Victoria to pick us up. Joe and Emma actually ended up beating Kristin and me at the card game!

I returned home and had a look at the chart, we traveled well over 20 knots on the trip. It feels complete to have finally done this one after all those years of wanting to do it!

After we got back home, I realized that the dog was actually a wolf. She's been living on Discovery ever since we first met her.

The original VHF logbook

"Cujo", the wolf of Discover Island

My original (2002) float plan for this trip

Setting off in Victoria's Inner Harbour

The lighthouse caretaker's home on Discovery Island

The smashed window in the caretaker's home on Discovery Island

D'arcy Island leper colony

> 20 knots completed up Haro Straight over 2 days!

Discovery Island

Stoke is high

Salsa Point