The Zunoquad: Kayaking in the Broughton Archipelago (1)

Note: click the small images for larger version. For locations on map, see this Flickr photoset

Prelude

Steven, Steve and Peter ferried from Powell River to Courtenay in Steve’s van. Steven was instructed in shopping for required drybags, thermal underwear and croakies. They proceeded to Murray’s house and decided to buy food while waiting for the car from Vancouver carrying Ian, Rob, John and Lionel. There was some disagreement in the Thrifty market about what provisions to purchase. Tradition won out.

All members of the party met back at Murray’s for lunch of fresh tomatoes and cantelope, some last minute internet map research and jettisoning of excess baggage. Steve assured Heather that Murray was in good hands and would be safe. The pledge was affirmed by a group cheer and departure photograph.

The two packed vehicles headed north for the three hour trip in pouring rain. A challenging and uncomfortable week ahead was envisioned. Steve’s fellow-passengers were intoxicated by the fumes from his shoe-gooing project.

A restrained visit to the liquor store in Port McNeil was followed by dinner at the McNeil cafe served by a “Renoiresque” young waitress. After extensive deliberation, the majority of the group voted to spend the night in a local motel rather than use the reservations Murray had made in a campground at next morning’s departure point, Telegraph Cove. The need to repack gear and food was offered as a reason, but more compelling was the wish to put off getting wet for one more day.

A brief search led to the “Haida-Way Inn,” whose Balkan proprietors were unwilling to let all eight of us stay in one room. A deal was struck by our broker John which had us paying $280 for two.

Day 1

Dawn broke on a sunny day, rare in these parts. John was elected nominal captain for the day. He gave no orders. Breakfast was granola and dried milk in the hotel room. Ian extracted the bladder of wine from the box he’d bought and most of it spilled in Steve’s van. We arrived at Telegraph Cove and noticed with regret how much booze other kayakers were carrying compared to our paltry portions.

We rushed to get boats rented and gear ready since we were warned that Dennis, the water taxi driver would charge heavily for any delay. But he was late. Ian gave an illuminating account of a National Geographic article he had recently read about “swarming”—the way leaderless groups of creatures manage to function, each member doing its own thing, but all working together. It seemed applicable to the way our expedition had been organized thus far.

After forty minutes of waiting for Dennis, a dispute between two unnamed members of our group about future kayak seating arrangements led to angry words, pushing, slapping and lenses being knocked out of both of their glasses. The volume and adrenaline level was impressive, and it was later reported that the altercation between “those two old guys” was the talk of the port. Peace was restored and the long awaited water taxi arrived. Dennis was stocky, cocky and remarkably efficient in loading the four kayaks and gear.

On the hour-long crossing to Echo Bay, he pointed out rare campsites and water sources on the map and regaled us with stories about local characters and warnings about the two native Bigfoot types, Zunoqua, a three foot child-eating, man-raping woman, and Bukhoose, a fearful male Giant. Both can be identified at a distance by their terrible smell.

Dennis unloaded us at the government dock at Echo Bay. We paid him a discounted $500 cash miraculously collected and arranged a rendezvous for pick up at Mamalilacula six days later. It was surprising to find, in this remote archipelago, a floating resort, some beautifully gardened and painted floathouses, an elementary school, in use though not in session, and Billy Procter’s museum of local lore and artifacts.

After lunch of salami and cheese on what we later learned was the big daddy of all clamshell middens, we loaded the kayaks and dipped paddles into the spectacular waters of Hornet passage, directed by John the Navigator.

Two and a half hours later we landed at a protected clamshell beach and campsite in the Burwood Islets. The place was crowded with families enjoying the swimming in the sheltered coves, some from a nearby anchored yacht, others from a beached boat.

The campsite was free and we were happy to claim it. Led by Murray, who took to the water like a black lab, several of us swam in the bay, others napped, collected firewood, pitched tents, and started preparing dinner on the Coleman stove. Swarm behavior.

As it got dark the other visitors to the island departed, but not before the group from the yacht shot off a small cannon they had brought all the way from the USA to ravish the peace and quiet of this remote preserve.

We shared the campsite with one solo kayaker named Ron, a very serious mathematician from Northern Ireland. As the evening went on and we consumed what was left of Ian’s wine and some fine Canadian herb, the noise from our campfire was probably as obnoxious to the yachtsfolk at anchor as was their cannon fire to us. We talked dirty like boy scouts and traded stories of being chased by cops and going to jail.

For a full set (67) of my Zunoquad pictures click here.

For a pool (184) of pictures by several people on this trip, click here.

For a wiki including these journal entries and writings by other participants, click here

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