We started our first day by commuting to the launch site at Telegraph Cove in the rain. Once we unloaded the dry bags from the taxi's, our three guides (Mel, Colin and Bob) spent time instructing us on kayaking safely, foot pedal adjustments inside the kayaks, paddling basics, how to use the rudder and optimal packing techniques of our small storage compartments inside the kayaks. Packing became even more of a challenge as we were each given a very large sleeping bag and sleeping pad (a very thin inflatable pad for under the sleeping bag) which also had to fit in with our dry bags and extra shoes. Anthony became a master at kayak packing and unpacking in no time flat. I think all of our traveling and camping helped prepare us for just such a challenge.
Next we were each provided with a personal flotation device (life jacket) and spray skirt. The life jackets were incredibly large and bulky. Mine was up to my chin during most of my time in the kayak (very unattractive for pictures and a bit uncomfortable). By day three I realized that rain water would leak through the seams of the spray skirts. Although the spray skirts helped to keep an overabundance of water from entering your kayak they really did not keep you dry.
Launching from telegraph Cove was our first lesson in "Boat Moving Time." Moving large kayaks that are loaded down with gear is a feat in itself. It would take 6 to 8 paddlers to move each double person kayak. For the 14 guests and three guides we had three single kayaks and seven doubles (10 total). We found over the course of the 6 days that we were often moving the kayaks on average 3 to 4 times a day depending on the tides and our paddling schedule. Sometimes the moving of the kayaks would include lifting and placing them high above the tide line or on top of very large washed up logs. Where was Popeye when we needed him?
Once all the kayaks were in the water we began our paddle within the Johnstone Strait. The Johnstone Strait is a 110 km (68 mi) channel along the north east coast of Vancouver Island. The strait is between 2.5 km (1.6 mi) and 5 km (3.1 mi) wide. It is a major navigation channel on the west coast of North America. It is the preferred channel for vessels from the Georgia Strait leaving to the north of Vancouver Island. The Strait is home to approximately 150 orca whales during the summer months too. Although the orcas were quite illusive this was our first true views of the rugged beauty of the area from the water. The rain did not dampen our spirits and by early afternoon the skies had cleared and we had lots of sunshine for the remainder of the day.
We paddled to our first base camp and after a quick tour, unloaded the kayaks, settled into our tents and enjoyed lunch, then an afternoon paddle and back at camp a happy hour with wine, hot chocolate and hors d'oeuvres. We learned about bathroom etiquette (more to come on that subject) and did a little exploring after dinner on the short trails and watched for whales and wildlife from the coast line. Each meal was prepared by the guides and evenings were a real treat with Dutch oven desserts to finish off our meals. Although the whales did not make an appearance (except from a distance) we did see eagles, deer, otters and sea lions on our first day. Not a bad way to start our outdoor nature adventure.