Kayaking Belcarra to Ferrar Cove

Now that it’s finally starting to feel like Spring, me and Seth were stoked to get our kayaks out again! We bought them last year and did a lot of kayaking in the spring, but less than we would have liked in the summer. The backpacking season is so short, so it’s hard to fit in both backpacking and kayaking, so we decided to make Spring our prime kayaking season (since the alpine is still under snow until the end of June).

20220423_090224

We went out once in early April to do our Level 1 Paddling Course (the second course after Sea Kayaking Basics), which was a great opportunity to refresh our rescue skills and work on our paddling strokes. We got wetsuits for Christmas this past year, so I’m feeling more confident about early season kayaking. It made me nervous before because I knew it would potentially be pretty dangerous if either of us accidentally went for a swim. But we tested wet exits in the kayaks in early April and the wetsuits helped a lot!

20220423_103740

The training course wasn’t in our own kayaks though, so we were keen to get back to Belcarra, which is one of our favourite places to paddle near where we live in Coquitlam (Rocky Point and Barnet Marine are closer, but Belcarra is our preferred). I like to look at maps a lot and I noticed that there’s a tea house located in Belvedere (neighbourhood in Belcarra) and thought it might be fun to check out. It’s called 8 Corners Organic Tea Room and you can access it by road through Sasamat Lake, but since the road goes through the park, this can be tricky since Metro Vancouver often closes the gate once the parking lot is full during the busy season. So I scoped out the water access, which is available through Farrer Cove, and decided to make an attempt by boat.

20220423_102736

We started by getting to Belcarra for 8am. In April you don’t have to go quite this early to get parking (there was lots available), but in the summer, I usually aim for no later than 9am if I want to be assured parking. In this case, we went for 8am anyways because the water is a lot flatter in the morning, which makes for great paddling. In the summer you can rent kayaks from Takaya Paddling Centre in Belcarra, but it’s not open year round, so an alternative in shoulder season is that you can instead rent kayaks from Deep Cove and paddle across Indian Arm. It’s about the same distance from either location (Deep Cove or Belcarra), but it’s a bit of an easier paddle from Belcarra since you don’t have to cross the Arm.

20220423_095110

On this particular day, it was super calm on the water and we had a really enjoyable paddle out to Jug Island. I’ve written about Jug Island before, which makes a great paddling trip if you’re new to kayaking. It’s an easy paddle and not as long. I’d budget about 3 hours for Jug Island, whereas we needed a full 6 hours for Ferrar Cove. But Jug Island makes for a good break and we pulled into the beach for a snack and to use the outhouse. There were some hikers on the beach, but it was still pretty early and the tide was really high, so there wasn’t too many people.

20220423_095044

From there we continued across Bedwell Bay to Ferrar Cove/Belvedere, which is where the tea room is located. The open water crossing is shorter than Deep Cove, but you want to make sure you check the weather and wind forecast before attempting either crossing. It was a low 6km/h the day we went and we won’t go out in winds higher than 20km/h, which requires a lot more effort. The wind usually comes up in the afternoon in Indian Arm, so earlier paddling will be easier. It was probably only 3-4km/h winds on the way to the tea room, and maybe more like 8km/h winds on the way back. So it was a very easy crossing, which is always nice.

20220423_102831

In my advance research, I’d identified a small beach at the end of the cove where we could land, but upon arriving, it didn’t look like the beach connected through to the road. There was however a very large dock that was completely empty. We couldn’t see any signs indicating that it was a private dock, so we tied up our kayaks there and walked up the hill to the tea room, which has a beautiful view looking out over Ferrar Cove. I’m still not 100% sure what the deal is with the dock and whether it’s a proper public dock, but we asked the tea room and they said that it’s the correct place to land when you’re visiting the tea room. While there is a road, they are technically a water access property, so they can’t guarantee that customers will always be able to access the tea room via the road if the park gate is closed, but you should always be able to access the tea room via the dock! So definitely check it out!

20220423_122543

The tea room is only open from 11-5 on Fridays and Saturdays. We got there shortly after 11, so we were the only customers when we arrived and had a great chat with some of the staff! The staff are lovely and they let us sample all of the cold brew teas they were just brewing (cold brew is my favourite) and told us a bit about some of the history of the teas, which they get from an organic tea farm on Jeju Island in Korea. You can make bookings for a proper 90 minute afternoon tea, but since we weren’t sure about our timing, we decided to order a la carte instead. So we each had an open-faced sandwich and a dessert with our cold brew. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, but we opted to sit outside to enjoy the view. It’s a really gorgeous location and we felt so content to relax on the patio. It gave our paddling trip a bit more structure to have such a nice destination and I guarantee we’ll be back again!

20220423_113531

Around 1pm we returned to the dock to start the return trip. If you’re visiting by kayak, it is a little bit tricky to dock. It’s definitely tailored to sailboats and yachts, so it’s a bit high to board from a kayak. We were able to use the railings to get in and out of the boats and there is a ladder on the other side if you’re really struggling. The harder part though would be getting the kayaks up onto the dock as it is a bit of a drop. We opted to just leave them in the water and instead locked them to the rail. You could also tie them up using your tow line, just make sure you secure them well.

20220423_094416

The wind did pick up in the afternoon, but it was considerably less than some of the other times I’ve paddled Indian Arm and we didn’t find it challenging. We paddled back to Jug Island for a quick pee break before heading back to Belcarra again. It was 9am when we started paddling and shortly after 2pm when we returned. So if you give yourself a full 6 hours of paddling time that should be more than sufficient, though if you do the full afternoon tea, you might want a bit more time.

All in all, it was one of the most fun days I’ve had on the water since we got our kayaks. At 10km round trip, it was the perfect length paddle for a day trip. We absolutely loved the tea room and would definitely recommend whether you’re paddling from Belcarra or Deep Cove. Can’t wait to go back again!

20220423_140307

Kayaking Twin Islands

Since we weren’t allowed to travel outside of our health region over the May Long weekend, options for camping were pretty slim in the lower mainland. We’ve been wanting to kayak up Indian Arm since before we bought our own kayaks, and we decided to do a short trip out to Twin Islands on Saturday night.

Carolyn and Steve have a sailboat that they dock at Lonsdale, so the plan was for them to spend the night in Bedford Bay, near Belcarra, we would camp on Twin Islands, and then we could explore around Indian Arm together on the sailboat.

20210522_101353

Me and Seth wanted to leave out of Belcarra, but there’s no overnight parking anywhere in Belcarra (they really need to do something about this, I’m fine to pay for it, but there’s literally no options), so we were forced to leave from Deep Cove instead. Usually we launch from Belcarra around 9am and have no problems with parking, so we figured that would be sufficient for Deep Cove as well. We offloaded the kayaks and all our gear at the main parking lot and then I went in search of street parking while Seth brought everything down to the beach.

I was not prepared for how busy Deep Cove was at 9am. It was completely crawling with other boaters and picnickers. I drove around for ages looking for street parking before finally giving up and parking way up in the bush and walking 15 minutes back to the beach. The boat loading zone has to be one of the worst designed loading zones I’ve ever seen. People were double parked all over the road and the beach in front of the kayak rental shop must have had about 2 dozen paddlers.

20210522_114717

We had offloaded further down the beach, so it was just us and a family of 4 who were loading up their canoe. It was a gorgeous hot, sunny day, so we put on sunscreen before launching into Deep Cove towards Twin Islands. Our plan was to go directly to the island to secure a campsite and then spend the rest of the day around Indian Arm. It was still really calm on the water when we left, so a lot of the paddlers charted a direct course across Indian Arm to Twin Islands. I don’t like paddling in the middle of a huge open body of water for extended periods of time, so we clung to the coast until we were parallel with Raccoon island before crossing Indian Arm.

As the name suggests, Twin Islands comprises two islands located very close together. When the tide is low, you can walk between the two, when the tide is high, you can paddle between them. The tide was pretty high when we arrived, so I paddled around to have a look at the two islands. The North Island has steep cliffs along the exterior and the only way to get on the island is from a dock on the north side. In contrast, there is a small beach on the South Island where you can land, so we decided to land there.

20210522_124226

Seth took a quick run around the island, it’s not very big and there were already several tents set up, but he found a nice spot looking north across the inlet. We dragged all our gear up to the site, but decided to relax and have lunch before setting up. Unfortunately, it was then that Carolyn called to tell us they weren’t going to be able to make it out for the day. They had loaded all their gear onto the sailboat and backed out of the marina, only to discover their throttle was broken. They could reverse, but they couldn’t get the boat to go forward! So they were going to have to commit the day to fixing the problem before they could do any sailing.

After we had lunch I heard some other paddlers talking to the people in the campsite next to us about how camping isn’t actually allowed on the south island and debating whether to camp there or not. This came as a surprise to me because I hadn’t read about it anywhere in my research and couldn’t see any signs. We did some quick research since we still had cell service and I was able to find one line on the parks webpage that says “south island is just for day use”. Then I did a walk around the entire island and did find a single sign in the middle with a no camping symbol. We didn’t notice it when we first came in because it’s not visible from the water and another group had literally set their tent up right in front of it.

20210522_114830

So we had a little bit of a dilemma. I hate breaking rules in the backcountry because they usually exist for a reason. In this case, I suspect it’s because there’s no outhouse on the south island. We had come prepared for this because I actually thought there was no outhouse on either island, but my conscience didn’t feel right to camp on the island once I knew you weren’t supposed to, even though clearly other people we’re doing it. To be frank, the entire island was a bit of a gong show. There were boats everywhere and tons of picnickers and campers.

We had wasted time on the south island offloading and eating our lunch and I knew sites were now going to be slim on the North Island as well. So we debated what to do for a while and eventually decided to pack everything back up and skip camping altogether. The day was mostly supposed to be about spending time with Steve and Carolyn and neither of us was excited about camping on a super crowded island. Instead, we decided to paddle around Indian Arm for the afternoon and then return to Deep Cove before dark. It was a little disappointing, but I know we made the right chose not to camp where it’s not permitted.

GOPR3769_1622747539844

At least we hadn’t set up any gear, so it didn’t take too long to repack the kayaks. A dozen people had abandoned their boats on the small beach and neglected to give any thought to the rising tide, so Seth rescued 2 kayaks and a canoe that had started to float away because they hadn’t been tied on. We were both incredulous at such a level of negligence that we weren’t sad to leave Twin Islands behind. I would have liked to check out the North Island at least, but the dock makes it very difficult because you have to carry your kayaks up the gangway and store them on the island, which neither of us wanted to do with fully loaded boats.

We had the current with us, so we decided to paddle up Indian Arm a little way to see the old Buntzen Lake powerhouse. It was a quick paddle along the coast to get to the powerhouse, but the water was getting pretty choppy so I was a little nervous. I read that Indian Arm is best paddled in the early morning or in the evening and that the wind tends to come up in the afternoon. This was our first time paddling in the afternoon and it definitely wasn’t the best conditions. There’s no where to land by the powerhouse so we decided to make our crossing and head over to Thwaytes Landing, a small section of beach that has been designated as a Regional Park.

20210522_135055_03

It was an uncomfortable paddle, especially when any motorized boats would pass us, throwing their wake up over the tops of our kayaks. Normally I don’t have a problem with power boats, but these were not being considerate of paddlers and would speed by very close to us. I know they have the right of way, but they’re a lot faster than me and if they decide to pass right next to me, there’s really nothing I can do about it. It was a choppy landing at Thwaytes, but we had the beach to ourselves. There’s no facilities and it’s one of the stranger regional parks I’ve visited, but it’s great that it exists because there aren’t many rest points for paddlers along the arm.

The waves did die down a little bit while we hung out on the beach, so we decided to re-launch while things were a bit calmer. We didn’t want to go any further up the arm, so we started back the same direction we’d come. The waves had gone down a little, but there was still a pretty strong headwind to paddle against. We definitely got a good work-out and took another break at Brighton Beach, which is across from Twin Islands. It’s not a public beach, but we figured we could break at the end because generally you can’t own the beach below the high tide line (although Seth did some research and there are homeowners that own the beach because they bought the land before this rule came into effect). Unlike the camping rules though, I don’t care so much about this one!

20210522_174131

We were interested in going back to Twin Islands to go for a swim, but we didn’t want to cross the arm again, so we decided to head back to Deep Cove instead. It was tiring and took longer than anticipated, but we managed okay and finally paddled into the cove around 5pm. The water was surprisingly warm, so I decided to go for a quick swim in Deep Cove. Pre-Covid I would always go on a May Long weekend camping trip with my friends and me and Carolyn would go swimming, so I always swim at the end of May and all I can say is the ocean is definitely warmer than the alpine lakes!

I hiked back up to the car and we re-loaded the kayaks and all our gear. I texted Carolyn to let her know we were back and she quickly gave me a call to see if we wanted to come join them for supper since we were still in North Van. So we ended up picking up take-away and eating our dinner on the sailboat sitting in the marina! Not quite the meal we’d planned for the day, but we laughed that at least we finally got to hang out on the boat! We’ll definitely try the trip again in the future, but next time we’ll try to paddle out Friday night instead of Saturday morning to hopefully beat some of the crowds. Or potentially even go on a weeknight because it’s just so busy on the weekends, it does take away from the experience.

So overall, not the trip we planned, but we made the best of it and had some lessons learned about paddling in Indian Arm. Fortunately, since we don’t have to rent kayaks, it’s relatively easy to try the trip again soon.

20210522_211336

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!