The Zunoquad: Kayaking in the Broughton Archipelago (3)

Day 3

Ian was today’s elected leader. He commanded us to switch paddling partners. The new combinations seemed to work well and remained in effect for the rest of the trip.

Murray picked mussels at 6 AM and packed them along for the night’s dinner.

We decided on an early departure for destination Insect Island.

Under lowering skies and patchy fog, across wide channels and amidst narrow passages that left me utterly lost, Rob my taciturn co-kayaker, coached me on proper technique he learned as a member of a Vancouver outrigger canoe club.

He told me to keep both arms rigid, making a triangle with the paddle shaft and to move only from the waist, using abdominal and lateral lower back muscles—the “core” that I had been urged to rely on by a physiotherapist last year. Move slowly and with less effort, feel the boat pulled through the water with each stroke, dig deep and quick with the tip of the paddle, he’d repeat quietly at long intervals. I concentrated on the motion, fearful of injuring muscles that chronically ached, constrained by the life jacket I had left inside the spray skirt to cushion my sore back. After a while I would feel the rhythm, a kind of figure-eight movement that reminded me of the synchronized paddlers I had seen many years ago at the Lund-Sliammon dedication ceremony. But most of the time I felt awkward and scared.

An hour or so into Fife Channel, we pulled up to the lead kayak and shared some smoke. Afterwards my movements became more fluid, but the pain in my left hip joint resulting from immobility worsened. I fished two soggy Ibuprofens out of my shirt pocket, swallowed them with saliva and continued paddling with eyes closed, coordinating my stroke with drawing and expelling breath. I was getting soaked by the water trickling down the paddle falling into the grooves of the life jacket. If a headwind should come up or it started to rain I would face a serious challenge.

Once when I opened my eyes, a vision of exactly the kind of movement I was striving for came out of the fog. On a big aluminum boat with his back to us appeared a blond crew-cutted man with huge shoulders and upper arms wearing an orange parka. Hand over hand, rocking from side to side in a figure-eight motion, he was pulling something heavy and deep out of the ocean—a net–with movements as sleek and flowing as a seal’s. My hip ache went from a moan to a scream as we approached him. John was negotiating to buy prawns. The boy’s face was a little puffed, smiling and open. He said he worked for the salmon farm up the arm and was out fishing for the crew on his off time. He offered to give us his last net full of prawns for nothing, but agreed to take a twenty-dollar beer allowance. After dumping five pounds into one of Ian’s dry bags, he thanked us profusely and disappeared into the fog.

Unable to share in the general rejoicing over the new dinner prospect because of a shellfish allergy, I lapsed back into my rhythmic stupor, which combined pleasure in the flow of my paddling, amazement that I felt no fatigue or pain in my arms or back and panic at the damage to my hip. Passing round a corner through a tight channel we came upon a narrow clamshell beach at the base of a banked midden at least twenty feet high, surmountable by a steep slippery trail. We pulled up and exploded into activity—building a fire ring, sawing wood, unpacking the kayaks, cutting steps into the bank, hanging wet clothing out to dry as the sun started to come out, and preparing lunch. Not a great campsite, but a place to stop.

As soon as I was able to move around, the hip pain disappeared and I climbed to the top of the bank, where others had already deposited gear and pitched tents. I wandered down a well-traveled trail above which rose two more flat terraces carved from the mountain of shells. A hundred yards down and around two corners, the bank protruded into the water on three sides, creating a spacious platform with a fire ring in the middle, at the convergence point of three channels heading north, east and south and a view down one to the snow covered mountains of Vancouver Island. This must have been the seat of the monarch, where he’d preside in state surrounded by wives, reviewing the parade of canoes approaching from all directions with tribute of mussels, prawns, and clams. I ran back to the landing spot shouting, “home’s around the corner.” On the beach where we finally parked the canoes was this sign: “This is MUSBAMAGW DZAWAD-ENUXW territory. Respect our land.”


Down a well travelled trail from the spectacular campsite we found water in a creek running through an enchanted glade, a perfect example of “one of the most under-represented terrestrial ecosystems in the province – the Outer Fiordland Ecosection Coastal Western Hemlock very wet maritime submontane variant.”

To celebrate our arrival, Ian led us in the paddle cheer. Murray swam across the channel, but the water was too cold to tempt any of the rest to join him. Our travel south had brought us into the glacier-fed waters of Knight Inlet.

Despite the name, there were no bugs on Insect Island

Steve figured out how to use the GPS unit he’d bought almost a year ago to initiate his retirement. It took over an hour to hook up to the right satellites overhead.

John tried to keep the prawns alive by changing the water every hour. Murray cleaned his mussels.

John and Murray cooked dinner with the fresh seafood. Steven enjoyed the pasta pesto made with a jar of the real thing.

Cocoa with Nutella and rum concluded the meal of the trip.

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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