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September 12, 2007

Headed South from Shearwater


Day 60

Headed south out of Shearwater

We left Shearwater yesterday around 2 PM all fat and happy. Two and a half days of lying about in the sun, drinking beer, and eating out of a cafe will do that to you. Otherwise, we spent our time repairing gear, drysuits and the stove to be precise. We've had major issues with the latex gaskets on our drysuits. Nick has blown out two neck gaskets and a wrist, while Becky has "only" blown out her neck gasket. We've done as good a patch job as we can and are hopeful that they'll at least last through Cape Caution. Kokatat offered to send replacements to Sullivan Bay. As for our stove, well about the only thing on an MSR stove that you can't fix in the field is a clogged fuel line and that's what we've got. The stove is still working, just. Becky spent some time on the phone with MSR today and they'll be sending a replacement fuel line to Sullivan Bay. We're going to have Christmas in Sullivan Bay, all sorts of goodies to pick up!! Such are the trials of a long-term expedition. Not bad considering the use all our stuff is getting and Beck and I are still sane and healthy. Yippee, off again into the blue!

So, yesterday we departed Shearwater under sunny skies, calm winds, and whispy high clouds. It was so warn and placid that I paddled without my drysuit relishing the summer sun. About the time we were ready to camp we came upon a couple camping on a small islet, their double kayak hauled up on the rocks. Pat and Bev, from Vancouver, were on their last night out after a week of local paddling. We chatted about our trips and shared campsite information as is the ritual when paddlers converge. Tomorrow they'll head to the BC Ferry terminal in Bella Bella and home from there.

Beck and I find camping on the next islet to the south behind a crushed white shell pocket beach. The spot is everything a kayaker looks for. The beach is steep and soft, but composed of coarse shell bits. Walking barefoot is possible, but all our gear doesn't get coated in sand. The steepness means that it is a short carry with the boats to get above the high tide line. There is a small clearing above the beach in the salal, just steps from the beach but well above the highest of tides. No worries of the water coming to get us tonight!

Beck sets about pitching the tent while I set up our kitchen. Tonight we have a treat for dinner, a halibut steak given to us by Karen from the Shearwater store! Salivating already, I pump up the stove and open the fuel valve. Nothing. Not a drop of precious halibut cooking petroluem is coming out of the jet. Okay, I guess I'll field strip and clean the stove. Again, nothing. I try a number of desperate measuers to get the stove fired up, but nothing works. Meanwhile my model expedition partner has started a fire and is boiling water. After an hour, I give up. By now, Becky has grilled the halibut over the fire and we enjoy our meal in the fading light.

Later, lying in the tent, we weigh our options. No stove means no food since most of our staples, rice, pasta, oatmeal, etc, all need to be cooked. We consider cooking over fires for the next 12 days. Possible, but a messy and time consuming prospect, especially in the mornings. Shearwater didn't even have white gas camping fuel, we're using gasoline from the fuel dock, so we can't buy a new stove there. The native village of Bella Bella is about a day's paddle back towards Shearwater, but we're not sure what we'll find and that will set us back at least two days, time we don't really have. Then, a light goes on...

Just 10 minutes away, on the next islet are Pat and Bev. Pat and Bev have a stove of some sort and they're on the last night of their trip. Maybe, just maybe we can buy their stove and continue on our way. I drift off to sleep dreaming of a working MSR Whisperlite stove.

So, that was yesterday.

Today we sleep in a bit and at the respectible hour of 7am I sheepishly paddle over to Pat and Bev's campsite. They're awake, and crawl out of their tent into the drizzle to greet me. They refuse to sell me the stove, instead they insist we come join them for breakfast and borrow their stove for as long as we need it, gratis. What's more is that they are using a Whisperlite, which means that our spare parts, fuel bottles, and pump will work with their stove.

Yippee! I wonder how many Karma Points we've just cached in. What a tremendous stroke of luck.

So, Beck and I pack up camp and spend the morning hunkered under a tarp, sipping tea and munching frybread, swapping stories with our new friends and saviors from Vancouver. The weather goes from bad to worse and we depart into a 15 knot headwind with sideways rain, but wave happily back at the two paddlers who have truly saved the day!

Thank you Pat and Bev! The stove is working perfectly and we should have it in the mail back to you around the 22nd of September.

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