Larry and the sea otters.JPG

Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Cape Sutil

I had been anticipating seeing the sea lions and had my binoculars out as soon as we spotted at least 75 of them on the distant rocks. I looked them over through the lens but didn’t see any wee ones. I was watching a big one that was either picking on or trying to flirt with a smaller one on the far right of the group when the alarm must have sounded. What happened next was pretty amazing. Photo credit: Terry Jaret

  • Thu, Jul 18, 2019 — Sun, Jul 28, 2019
  • Sea Kayak - Cape Sutil
  • Cape Sutil
  • Sea Kayaking
  • Successful
  • Road suitable for all vehicles

Excerpt of trip report that is available upon request.  Email Lisa at


 Last night I had to get up and when I came out of the tent there was an almost full moon casting its light over the shimmering quiet water.  I looked up at the stars that were still visible and knew that I was lucky to see Cape Sutil like this.

 We launched about 0900 to head straight over to Mexican Pt on Hope Island.  We saw many sea otters and a humpback came straight at me just as we were reaching the point on my left.  I saw the narrow fin on top of its heaving back as it dove underneath me about 50’ away.  No camera of course.  Once around the point the water quieted down and we paddled as softly as we could amid dozens and dozens of sea otters with their pups, pausing as they stared nervously at us before they either floated away or dove.  We continued up the beautiful and wild shoreline around two headlands a short distance to a stream that Larry remembered. The others got out to pump some water and I stayed with the boats the half hour or so while Terry explored along the shore and came back with a perfectly preserved crab and some delicate and lovely lavender colored sea urchins. I had just dumped a bunch of saturated pills from a container in my Pelican box and gave it to Terry for the urchins.  I put the crab in the box with no promises for its safety.  That is one box that is going to get cleaned with bleach when I get home!

 We got underway again, heading up Roller Bay amid the sea otters that we did our best not to disturb.  I still haven’t seen many seals although the others have reported a few sightings.  At the other end of the bay at Ashby Pt there is a sea lion hang out so I didn't really expect to see too many seals.  A few sea lions appeared as we were making our way through the quiet water as the sunshine began to build with the lifting of the light marine layer.  Roller Bay didn’t live up to its name although I can easily see where it could.  The beaches were long and bare with a small river on the top end just before you round the last headland before the point.

 I had been anticipating seeing the sea lions and had my binoculars out as soon as we spotted at least 75 of them on the distant rocks.  I looked them over through the lens but didn’t see any wee ones.  I was watching a big one that was either picking on or trying to flirt with a smaller one on the far right of the group when the alarm must have sounded.

 What happened next was pretty amazing.  We had stopped paddling, maintaining a large distance, taking pictures and me staring through the binoculars when they began leaping off the rocks, bellowing and roaring. The splashes of those 1,000+ lb bodies rose almost as high as the ledges they had been lying on, at least 10 feet above the water line.  The water churned all around as the others began slamming, humping and bumping their way down the rocks (that has to hurt!) into the water, emptying the outcropping in about 20 seconds.  I expected them to disappear but instead they came straight TOWARDS us like torpedos, rearing and leaping out of the water, baring their sizeable fangs when they didn’t have their mouths open and roaring at the top of their lungs.  A power boat came around, adding to the din.  I froze as I watched three groups of about 7-10 each coming straight at me from three directions at top speed, the water rising in front of their huge chests. I knew there was no way I could out paddle them and for a moment I considered (rather stupidly) waving my stick at them when they suddenly all stopped about 50’ from me and we stared at each other.  Then they reared up en masse and dove under like synchronized swimmers. The continued to circle us, groups of them leaping, breaching and one actually did a somersault clear out of the water right behind me on my right before crashing back onto the backs of the others. My impression was that at this point they weren’t so much challenging us as showing off but if it was for us or their mates I don’t know.

 We carefully got around the point and fewer and fewer followed us though we would see individuals the rest of the day.  Meantime there were plenty of sea otters and aucklets constantly popping up. I have NEVER paddled anywhere where there were so many sea otters. Those rhino aucklets are really cute too and came surprisingly close to my boat.  They have white markings like laugh lines from the backs of their eyes and of course, those little horns on their bills are very distinctive.

 We moved over to do some paddling in the large rock gardens along the way.  The shoreline of Hope Island is very beautiful and rewarding….it really gives Nigei a run for its money. There were beautiful and tempting pocket beaches but we wanted to take advantage of the non wind conditions to get as far as we could before having lunch.  We finally stopped at Cape James on a small cobbled beach with some lovely large and very smooth rocks to sit on along with the driftwood.  I found one set that was as comfortable as a chair that fit me perfectly…I could have laid back and taken a nap!

 Meantime the wind was building so when we pressed around to cross Shadwell Passage we had a good chop.  But the currents were moving fast and happily in our favor as we were able to get fairly quickly over to Vansittart.  We surprised a group of seals by the breaker reef and I got the rare opportunity to see over the back of a seal’s head, looking at another paddler before it spun around to see me and dove under.

 Once across Terry and I began looking for the buoy that had marked the campsite where we had stayed years ago.  We couldn’t find it before reaching the campsite on the south end where met a Canadian couple out on their 8th day.  Bob M knew of another site on the other side but that and the partially cleared orchard were not appealing.  Dave, Larry and I pulled up close to the shore near the north end when there was a movement on the right by the waterline.  A wolf ran out from the rocks, leaped into the greenery and then stopped to stare at us.  We stared back, drifting in by the wind as it turned, going farther up into the trees but turning to stop and watch us several times before finally disappearing in the forest.  I wonder if it was the same one I saw years ago across the channel?  It looked fully grown.

 The tide was high enough for us to go through the reef between Nicholas Island and Vansittart. We finally wound up where we started.  We switched on radios, split up and it was Bob M and Larry who finally found the campsite in the middle in the back of the cove.  (On the chart it looks like it is by a small island which is the area that dries out at low tide). The tide was still up in the well remembered area off to the right of the campground in the trees. 

 We unloaded and set up dispersed in the sloping area among the trees.  Dave took the site I had last time.  The kitchen table area in the trees (with the hanging buoy) was sadly rotted so we set up another one down in the driftwood area.  I made the tomato sausage and rice with a salad.  Our cabbage is reaching its final stages.

 The forecast was not good and we decided to get up at 8:00 and see if it is any better.