it all starts with a borderline dumb idea…
About a year ago, I told my friend Meghan that I would canoe from Vancouver over to her house on the Sunshine Coast. She told me that again, I was being an idiot in suggesting that, and I may die. Subsequent internet searchings told me that yes, I may die, and that this crossing through Howe Sound’s turbulent, freezing cold waters was for advanced paddlers with water skills. So I dropped the idea.
But for some reason, I found myself doing a good part of that crossing last weekend, probably because Julien suggested the idea. The plan was to canoe from Porteau Cove (on the beautiful Sea to Sky coast) to Anvil Island, bag that peak, then canoe to Gambier, run around, then come back, either that night or the next day. We convinced Nancy that this was a better idea than attending a party in Vancouver, and before long and were hoisting the canoe onto my shit car at 10pm, ready to camp out near our canoe start.
somehow we always end up camping in style…
This is where we slept Friday night. Gotta love residential Furry Creek. Can you spot the tent?!
We woke up around 10am after that beautiful sleep and ate breakfast in a Furry Creek residents’ parking lot, with thoughts of gratitude for Canada Post and the way they arrange their mail boxes all lined up like that. We could hear strong winds and waves, and thought we may have to can the trip. But we thought we’d go check it out closer to the water, and decide then.
at first the mountains and open water are nice to us.
About 10am we arrived back in Porteau Cove, and the waves seemed okay afterall. We canoed the three of us, with one person just deadweight in the center, no paddle. We stuck to the coast for a couple kilometers south and then cut straight across to Anvil Island’s southern tip, where the trail begins. We got lucky with the paddle. There were only a couple patches of moderate waves, no “oh shit!” moments, and no whitecaps.
Once at Anvil island, we noticed a big house that sounded like it was having a big party. It was a Bible Camp at the southern end, and they helped us find the trail to the peak. That trail to the peak is an amazing, must-do hike! It’s got a bit of everything along the way, and at the top there’s 360 views of the steep North Shore mountains to the north, Gambier and Sunshine Coast and all the Howe Sound islands.
After some beachside snacking out and swimming, we leave sunny Anvil and canoe out to Douglas Bay on Gambier Island, lusting after the best beach to camp, with waterfalls, according to my trusty roommate. Gambier is already out of the sun’s rays at about 4pm, and the canoe ride toward the shaded foresty mass is mostly gentle all the way. Once we arrive, we’re lulled into simply hanging out and enjoying the camp spot, which indeed is amazing. There is a waterfall, a mix of beach and grassy camp areas, a trailhead to the rest of the island a few feet away, and a private view to thousands of stars.
and then howe sound flexed…
We had to get the canoe back by 10am, so we left Gambier the next morning at 5:30am, the most beautiful morning I’ve seen this year. The canoe from Douglas Bay to Anvil island was beautiful and gentle, I could even call it relaxing. But once we rounded the corner from Anvil, the opposite scenario unfolded, within minutes. The waves picked up and started entering the boat, the wind strengthened and blew across the waves. I had forgotten from Geography class, as the sun rises, the differences in water and land temperature create a movement of air from high pressure (sea) to low pressure (land), aka powerful sea breeze. Something tells me the Coastal mountains amplify the effect.
Thankfully, Julien has tons of experience in the water from rowing, and he made the call to turn back to Anvil island. We didn’t really have any other choice, except risking the boat sinking down in those waves, and in freezing water, that wasn’t a good idea!
back to bible camp…
We retreated, to see if there was some way we could charge our phone, and seek out a ride with a water taxi, or some other plan. A girl named Tess came to our rescue with an iphone charger, a cup of hot coffee, and the advice that the camp was sending a boat later that morning to Lions Bay, and maybe we could catch a ride, but it wasn’t up to her to decide. So we waited, talked to the important peoples, and they said no, there wasn’t room, they were taking the small boat and they couldn’t tow the canoe without damaging it. What were we going to do?! A water taxi cost $250. It seemed a bit much for this situation. The wind was still strong and we couldn’t wait all day, my roommate needed the canoe back. I started thinking we could try paddling, and just see…
Then, answering to our prayers, the camp important peoples changed their minds! We lucked out royally and caught a ride back in a big huge boat, on comfy seats with our canoe resting inside in the back. Now we just had to get from Lions Bay to Porteau Cove, to get our car. Wait a second… Tara’s dad lives here! And so with that, we showed up on Tara’s dad’s door with no notice, and he welcomed us in for a really nice sunday morning coffee, then he saved our asses and drove us to Porteau Cove. What an amazing family, I can see where Tara gets her generosity. We even got to practice on the trampoline!
i learn the rough and tumble way…
things we did really well?
- we made the right call, with a canoe designed for rivers & inadequate cold water gear, we could take zero chances and we had to be okay with turning back, waiting storms out, even camping overnight or if need be, paying other boats to get bailed out.
- we brought tons of food and camping gear to help us wait out for better conditions.
- THANK GOODNESS we had one very experienced person with us, who was able to make the right call to turn back rather than blindly paddle through to hell and back.
- being kind to the bible camp when asking for a ride, never expecting their help but just politely asking.
things we could massively do better?
- MAKE SURE I bring a phone battery re-charging device, there was surprisingly a lot of reception to be had and it was critical for calling the water taxis and our friends on the mainland.
- come with lots of helpful phone #’s ready to go, people who can help us in emergencies. Like, water taxis, friends with boats, local groups or businesses who would know the island inside and out…
- consider having a dry suit to survive cold water, because now I know how quickly and drastically the conditions can change!
- consider renting a boat that will not sink, again related to survival in cold water, so we will never get left swimming in cold water!
Here’s to the people who help others in adventurous times of need, you make our adventures possible! My turn to help 3 people!