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September 15, 2007

Jedidiah Island to Southy Island


Day 82

Jedidiah Island to Southy Island

15 nautical miles

Pretty cool day today. Up at 0630 and paddling by 0830. We relaxed and took our time packing up this morning and still got off in two hours. Our efficiency has improved dramatically. A little overcast today, but winds are calm to light SE. Looks like a good day to cross the Strait of Georgia!

Jedidiah Island is a provincial marine park and a popular one at that. Lots of good, deep, sheltered coves with stern anchor tie-offs means lots of cruising boats. Last night, Becky and I took a little hike around the island and stumbled upon another kayaker’s site. The paddler was fast asleep and sawing logs in his/her tent. This morning there is no sign of life from either the yachties or the kayaker. We silently glide away unnoticed.

We cross narrow Bull Passage over to Lasqueti and enjoy paddling around its rugged east end admiring the perched homes. Farther along lies Squitty Cove, a provincial boat haven. The float in the harbor is packed with sailboats. The south BC coast is certainly the land of the sailboat, they almost outnumber the power boats down here. SE Alaska seemed to be dominated by commercial fishing boats, north BC was full of power yachts, and central BC had its charter fishing skiffs buzzing everywhere. As the character of the coast has changed so have the users.

Beyond Squitty Cove the water opens up. We now start our crossing of the Strait of Georgia by hopping over to Sangster Island. Previously flat seas turn slightly bumpy due to a current running in the channel between Sangster and Lasqueti, but the wind is calm. The coast of Sangster turns out to be sedimentary conglomerate sandstone, gone are the rugged granite shores we’ve encountered up to this point.

We leave Sangster and point for North Ballenas Island and the automated lighthouse visible atop the bluff on the north shore. The crossing is only 4.5 miles, but exposed to the entire length of the Strait of Georgia to the northwest and southeast. The seas flatten out as we cross, the wind remains light and we spot nary a tanker, ferry or barge the whole way across. Perfect!

A concern unique to this stretch of water is Whisky Golf, a joint Canadian / US torpedo testing range. The range takes up a significant portion of the Strait of Georgia off the city of Nanaimo, our next destination. Apparently the depth and flatness of the sea floor in this area is perfect for the sonar and hydrophone arrays used in torpedo testing. Our planned course keeps us well clear of the restricted area, but we carefully monitor our drift all the same. While the torpedos aren’t armed during testing, crossing paths with one speeding through the water at 40 knots is something we’d like to avoid.

We land at the old boathouse below the light station for a break and a look-see. The North Ballenas Lighthouse is perched on a bluff with a commanding view of the Strait. The keeper’s house is boarded up and the concrete sidewalks are crowded by blackberry bushes covered in ripe fruit. Becky and I stroll the grounds picking berries, enjoying the view and imagining the joys and struggles of lightkeeping.

A short paddle past a fleet of reefs, rocks and islets brings us to Southy Island and our camp for the night. Southy is a small swatch of public land in an increasingly developed coastline. On the shore, about 1 mile distant, we see nothing but rows of houses. We can even hear the sounds of vehicle traffic and police sirens carrying across the water. The sun and water are as warm as ever and both Becky and I indulge in a swim before a dinner of home-baked biscuits and dehydrated beef stew. An extra ration of grog for the crew in celebration of crossing the Strait!

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