Sea Kayak - Canadian Coast: Prince Rupert to Bella Bella

Trip

Sea Kayak - Canadian Coast: Prince Rupert to Bella Bella

Explore the northern Canadian coast, paddling the outer coast from Prince Rupert to Bella Bella.

Info
COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Sun, Jul 25, 2021 — Wed, Aug 18, 2021
  • Seattle Sea Kayaking
  • Sea Kayaking
  • Adults
  • Sea Kayak V
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 220.0 nm
  • Maximum Wind: 30 kts
  • Maximum Waves: 15 ft
  • Maximum Currents: 5 kts
  • Pace: 3.8kt

Nanaimo Water Park sometime on the afternoon of 7/25

Overview

Join an expedition to paddle the remote coastline between Prince Rupert and Bella Bella.  The planned 220 nm route follows the intricate outer coastline of Banks and Aristanzable Islands for roughly 220nm of travel through remote country.  There will be open ocean paddling, surf landings, long crossings, and remote wilderness camping.  

I’m looking for partners who are willing to step … erm, paddle into the unknown and trust that their skills and group teamwork will bring us through happy, healthy, and with a wealth of new experience.  This is an expedition in the sense that there is relatively little information about this area, we will discover many things about it, and the nature of our experience is unknown.

Schedule

My tentative schedule is below.  7/25 - Drive to Port Hardy

  • 7/26 - Ferry to Prince Rupert
  • 7/27 - about 21 days of kayaking
  • ~ 8/17 - Ferry to Port Hardy
  • ~ 8/18 - Drive to Nanaimo
  • ~ 8/19 - Drive to Seattle

This time window selects for the time of lowest winds, balancing more light with less fog.  Our exact start date can be adjusted by some number of days.  I’ve allowed 21 days of paddling.  The return date is flexible.  Ferries travel south from Bella Bella most days.  We will get there when we get there, probably around the 17th and hopefully before food runs out.

In addition, through the spring please anticipate joining the group in

  • 3 day paddles
  • One 3 day outing

Where we will gain experience paddling together, practice skills, gain familiarity with shared equipment (tarps, water filter, stoves, etc)

Route

Our route will primarily be down the outer coast of islands, with some forays inland to explore interesting sections.  From Prince Ruper I expect to travel through these major sections.

From Prince Rupert we’ll cross out to Porcher Island, traversing the intricate west coast and poking into the inlets.

Cross to Banks Island where we can explore the intricate north west corner.  

The crux of our route is likely the run down Banks Island’s west coast, which is described as remote with few stopping points.  However, the shoreline is complex, with sheltered inlets and island groups.  We may find camping options or we may have a 24 mile run to known camping at Terror Point.

From Banks, we wander around the Estevan Group then cross to explore the sandy beaches of Campania Island.

Aristazabal Island is another outer coast stretch with minimal information.  The shoreline is complex and BCMT has a marked camp sites.  

A long crossing of Laredo Sound brings us to Price Island, another complex coastline with minimal information.  

We will cross to Milbanke Sound and make our way to Bella Bella to catch a ferry home

Skills and Equipment

A long wilderness trip requires a diversity of skills:

  • Good boat handling in dynamic conditions.
  • Strength to paddle briskly when we are traveling and endurance to paddle long days.
  • Patience to wait for the right conditions for our next leg.
  • Willingness to take some risk launching into an unknown leg where the conditions, length, and camp site are unknown.
  • Able to endure adversity with good humor.

Resupply

I’ve not yet researched resupply options.  There may not be any appropriate location to ship supplies to ourselves.  Be prepared to carry supplies for 3 weeks.  This will require careful selection of equipment and food.

Expenses

Expenses will be shared.

  • Cost of car travel to Port Hardy
  • Ferry
  • Maps (about $150 for one set plus photo copies)
  • Consumable supplies (fuel, water filter, etc)

COVID-19

COVID-19 creates uncertainties for this trip and could prevent it from happening at all.  Conditions of the COVID pandemic come summer are uncertain.  I’m assuming that COVID-19 is still active in our communities but in more controlled numbers and that we are not yet vaccinated.  Maintaining social distance for a 3 week trip is impractical.  That means forming a pod for the duration of the trip.  Each person should plan on reducing risk before the trip (probably 7 days isolation and COVID test) such that we all start the trip with low risk of having COVID.  During the trip we must practice safe distancing from communities we travel through.  

Once on the trip, there will be little cause to interact with people outside our group and we should be relatively safe from COVID.

There are a number of COVID related conditions that could cancel this trip.  Canada is currently closed to travel.  I think it likely to open, but also possible that it does not.  If open, travel may not be allowed for the unvaccinated.  

Application

If you would like to join in this excellent adventure please read on.  The first thing for you to do is read the Goals, Expectations, and Style I have laid out below.  This will give you a better idea of the trip I intend to create as well as the skills necessary and participant temperament that may make for a compatible team.

Goals, Expectations, Style

Goals

  • Paddle from Prince Ruper to Bella Bella
  • Be safe:  Aware of risk and management.
  • Enjoy being out there, whatever conditions we encounter.
  • Enjoy company of each other.
  • Paddle the outer coasts of Banks, Aristazabal, and Price Islands
  • Explore intricate islands around Porcher, Estavan, Campania, and Anderson
  • Hike to the summit of Mount Pender on Campania Island

Expectations

  • Support the goals above
  • Think about and express your goals, expectations, and style
  • Have the skills and fitness required for this trip *
  • Bring appropriate equipment *
  • Train skills as a group *
  • Work as a team member to help the group be happy and accomplish our goals 
  • Participate in group decision making
  • Abide by decisions made by the group or by the leader 
  • Don't take risks that other group members do not support 

* Participant Skills

  • Endurance to paddle 15nm days in sequence.
  • Pace of 3.8kt (flatwater pace you can sustain for over an hour)
  • Strength to paddle into 15 knot winds @ 3.0kt pace.
  • Able to sail in 15 knot winds
  • Quick, efficient buddy rescue.
  • Camp skills:  stoves, filters, tarp/bug tent, group systems.
  • Able to camp in wet, cool conditions.
  • Able to land and launch through 3ft surf.
  • Able to paddle Deception pass in 5kt current.
  • Good brace reflex - don’t tip easily.
  • Reasonably reliable roll in conditions.
  • Know your history of sea sickness in swell and be able to manage it.
  • Camp in bear & wolf country:  hang food, clean camp, carry bear spray, cautious going out alone.
  • Patience or at least submission to the inevitable.

* Personal Equipment

  • Expedition boat able to pack 3 weeks of equipment
  • Sail
  • VHF Radio
  • Bearproof storage for at least 2 weeks + bear hang and willingness to use it or bearproof storage for all food trip.
  • Bear pepper spray

* Group Training

  • Three 1 day paddles
  • One 3 day weekend

Style

  • Most days are moving days and start early
  • However, since all happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast, we don’t rush
  • Take time to explore the coastline
  • Off the water early enough (4pm) to have unrushed time for camp chores and relaxation
  • Some layover days
  • Some silent mornings for personal space and reflection
  • Shared dinners, if others are interested
  • Sit together for dinner as time to reflect and discuss
  • I wish to avoid danger but don’t mind adversity
  • Intention to create a community of mutual respect and enjoyment.
  • Interest in focused, inclusive conversations.

Two Great Compatibilities

I’ve found pace and risk tolerance are two significant points of compatibility. Take seriously the need to train for this trip.  You should be able to comfortably maintain a pace of 3.8 knots (flat water) through a 15nm day.  We will often be paddling in conditions, with a head wind or contrary current, with multiple landings, maybe in surf, possibly an extended hunt for a suitable camp, and then camp chores.

Risk tolerance is difficult to assess.  I consider myself midding to cautious on expeditions, but that is a very relative statement of tolerance.  

If you have read this and are still interested in spending a chunk of your summer in this excellent adventure, the next steps are

  1. Ask for leader permission
  2. Think about and write your own Goals, Expectations, and Style for this trip.
  3. We will get together, maybe with other participants, and discuss our goals, expectations, and style.  The purpose of this is to surface any different understandings or incompatibilities before the trip
  4. If you have not paddled with me, we must paddle together on some appropriate trip.
  5. Be ready to set aside dates (to be negotiated) for training paddles with the team, including a 3 day weekend, on the coast if possible.
Route/Place

Canadian Coast: Prince Rupert to Bella Bella


Roster
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

Kayak expedition kit

Trip Reports