Kayaking Sooke Basin

Since we recently got kayaks and I’ll likely be writing a lot more about kayaking, I figured I’d write about some of the day trips I’ve done in the past. I’ve been on three overnight trips in BC (and one in New Zealand), but I haven’t written about any of my shorter adventures, which are likely accessible for more people than overnight trips. Admittedly, my day trips are pretty limited as well, but I always have fun out on the water!

I kayaked Sooke Basin in 2019 with my Pathfinder unit. We went on a week long bike trip on Vancouver Island, which consisted of a few days camping in Sooke during which we went kayaking! We split the pathfinders into two groups, so myself and my co-guider accompanied 5 girls on a 3-hour morning paddle. The rest of the group had gone kayaking the day prior in some pretty heavy winds, so they’d been pretty confined to the shoreline and didn’t stray too far from the dock. But the wind and waves had settled a bit on the day we went, so they decided to take us across the basin. We were all in double kayaks, so I was paired up with one of the pathfinders.

GOPR2924

We rented from Rush Adventures, which is located inside the marina in a very sheltered area. The trip started off pretty chill and we saw some sea stars and jellies hanging out around the rocks. Then we pushed out into the basin to paddle over to the Goodridge Islands to look for seals. These islands are sacred to the first nations, so it’s important to keep your distance from them (and also from the wildlife). It’s also prohibited to land on the island, so our goal was to do some wildlife viewing from a far.

The guides that accompanied us were very enthusiastic, but I’m not sure how much experience they have in going out with younger paddlers. Obviously they’re experienced paddlers themselves, but I’m not sure it was the wisest decision to take a group of teenagers out in these conditions. Despite it being less windy than the previous day, we were still paddling into a pretty big headwind and one of the boats really struggled to stay with the group. I like to think I’m a decent paddler and the girl I was paired with was also very strong, so we didn’t have too much trouble, but unfortunately my co-guider didn’t have a lot of experience paddling and the girl she was paired with wasn’t giving her a whole lot of paddling support. The guide helped them out as best he could and put a tow line on the boat, but the rest of us were forced to paddle in place while we waited for them, which was also tiring because the headwind still required a fair bit of paddling to avoid going backwards.

GOPR2922

Eventually we made it to the sheltered side of the island and spotted a few seals sunning themselves on the rock, before eventually heading towards the other side of the basin and swinging around to head back. By this time we’d already been on the water for the better part of 2 hours, so I was getting pretty stiff and dying to pee. I asked the guide if there was somewhere we could stop and he said, “no, their are no washrooms”. I guess he assumed we’d be requiring a real washroom, but of course, we’re girl guides, so I insisted on stopping at the next beach because there was just no way I could hold it the whole paddle back. Once he realized we’d be “earning a badge” as we call it, he got the whole group to pull into the beach and I was joined by most of the unit, who were apparently all dying to go. It’s another reason why I think the guides maybe didn’t have a whole lot of experience with youth groups as they’d essentially planned to take us on a 3 hours strenuous paddle with no breaks for food or bathroom. Girl Guides is all about trying to make things fun, so we shared around some candy to prepare ourselves for the paddle back.

We made the decision to switch the girls paddling with me and my co-guider since I was a stronger paddler, and launched back into the water for the paddle back. The guides were optimistic we would have a tailwind on the way back, but wouldn’t you know, the wind had changed and we were AGAIN facing a headwind. I discovered the challenge my co-guider had been up against with my new paddling partner. Unfortunately she had virtually no power in her paddle (basically just dipping her paddle in and out of the water), so I really had to push to get us back to the other side and was pretty exhausted when we finally drifted into the marina. The girl later confided to me that she hadn’t been using the footrests because they were “uncomfortable”, which explains why her stroke was so weak. Oh well, we made it and rushed back to camp where the rest of the group blessedly had lunch waiting for us!

So it wasn’t my favourite paddling experience, but I do think the girls had a pretty good time. I’d definitely advise against taking young paddlers out in windy conditions, especially without scheduled breaks, but at the end of the day the girls all proved they could overcome the difficult conditions and had some fun stories to take home with them. Personally, I’d like to return someday and give this area another paddle in better conditions!

GOPR2934

Kayaking Jug Island

Seth and I started kayaking a few years ago in an effort to find a hobby that we both enjoyed. I love backpacking and camping and Seth likes hiking and camping, but he does not really like backpacking. Seth kayaked with his family as a kid and liked it, so I thought touring with sea kayaks might be a good shared hobby for us because we could get out in nature and go camping without having to carry packs. Turns out it was a great idea and we both loved it! We took a kayaking basics course in 2018 and have gone on a 3-day trip every year since, so this year we decided to get ourselves a pair of kayaks!

20210405_093537

Kayaks are definitely not cheap and have a lot of costs that come along with them (roof rack, paddles, PFDs, skirts, etc). To date we’ve always rented kayaks, and while that’s not cheap either, you can still go on quite a few trips before it approaches the cost of buying your own. But we’d like to start doing day and evening paddles as well, so we decided it was worth the money and are super excited about our new boats! We got them at Skyview Outdoor Store in Surrey, which I would highly recommend. We both got Boreal Storm 16 kayaks, which means they are 16 foot long sea touring kayaks. To differentiate between the two, I got a yellow one and Seth got red.

20210405_101727

We took them out on their maiden voyage over the Easter weekend in early April. We wanted to launch from the Belcarra picnic area, but we were a little too late getting started on Easter Sunday and couldn’t find parking, so instead we took them over to Sasamat Lake. It’s a nice little lake and it was fun to test them out there, but it’s a bit on the small side, so we returned to Belcarra early on Easter Monday to kayak to Jug Island. If you’re planning to explore (by foot or boat) from the picnic area, arriving early is a must as its a small parking lot and Metro Vancouver does close the road once it’s full. They have also introduced pay parking this year for $2 an hour. There is an upside though – you can get public transit to both Sasamat Lake at Belcarra from Moody Centre!

20210405_105717

We had absolutely perfect weather for it on the day we went – blue skies with a dead calm on the water. I really like Belcarra Regional Park and I’ve hiked out to Jug Island a few times. It’s only a 5km hike, so I recommend checking it out on foot if you’re in the area, but this time I definitely preferred visiting by boat! We took our time paddling up the coast looking at all the giant homes along the water. It has a very urban feel until you reach the end of the peninsula, but once you round the corner you can see Jug Island and up Indian Arm and it feels much more remote.

20210405_104447

We paddled around Jug Island and then pulled into the little beach at the end of the trail to have a snack. We didn’t see any other paddlers on the way out, but there were already quite a few hikers enjoying the view. We paddled a little further up to take a peak into Bedwell Bay and get some photos up Indian Arm before turning around and heading back. We saw a lot more paddlers on our way back and round trip it was about 7km of paddling. With the break at the beach looking towards Jug Island, I thought this was a really good half day beginner paddle!

IMG-20210405-WA0016

Going in April though, you definitely need to play close attention to the weather conditions and dress for it. It was a gorgeous sunny day when we went and Seth even kayaked just in a t-shirt for part of it, but the water is freezing, so I had a merino layer under my waterproof jacket and gloves and headband to keep my ears warm (plus extra fleece layers in my dry bag). I’m planning to invest in some neoprene booties next because the water is cold on your feet so early in the season!

IMG-20210405-WA0014

Now that we have kayaks, I’ll likely be posting a lot more content about kayaking. We have a few ideas for where we’d like to take them this year, but since we’re still new to the kayaking scene, would love to hear anyone else’s recommendations! Like I said, we have the Sea Kayaking Basics course from Paddle Canada, but we’re planning to upgrade to their Level 1 course soon to grow our knowledge and be more prepared on the water.

Looking forward to lots of new adventures!