Crofton to Galiano Island

Friday, April 26, 2013

Maybe mile away, a ferry, the Howe Sound Queen, is bringing its passengers from Saltspring Island to Crofton. I wonder if they look at me in this kayak and think, “not a smart idea.” Right now, I am contemplating the wisdom of being here.

I picked this route to Galiano Island this afternoon because of the dominate south-east winds forecast today. It seemed like a sound idea when looking at a map; I should be in the wind shadow of Saltspring Island. Reality is, Mount Maxwell on Saltspring and Maple Mountain on Vancouver Island make for a perfect venturi, increasing the wind speed and adding greatly to this adventure.

The waves are crashing over the deck of the kayak. This is definitely a new experience for me. I force myself to smile and it changes my skeptical demeanour. I begin to discover a rhythm with the conditions. Despite the wind and waves, Saltspring is getting closer so I continue on.

The shoreline of Saltspring is attained and I have found my wind shadow. Without the wind, the water is now almost like glass. The residual wind waves create a gentle swell that pushes me north on this journey to Galiano.

At the north point of Saltspring, I prepare to make another crossing. I pull out my iPhone and send a text message to my friends on Galiano, letting them know where I am. I have a description of their dock somewhere on the north-west end of Galiano; time to go find it.

I found the dock but I have a problem; I no longer have cellular reception. I have been floating in this bay almost 20 minutes now and the sun is about to go down. Are my friends delayed? Am I at the correct dock? My friend’s Galiano property is a short walk from Dionisio Point Provincial Park but a long walk from here. Separating me from Dionisio is Porlier Pass, a wide channel which experiences 9 knot tidal stream; well above my “current” skill set. What to do?

The wind is light on this side of the island, but the wind might be different on the exposed east side. Tuning in the weather on my VHF radio, the report comes back, “Straight of Georgia, south of Nanaimo, winds south-east, one-five to two-five…” Porlier’s slack tide tonight is at 18:07 and it is 17:58. I am a 10 minute paddle away. It is time for a decision.

Heart racing, I paddle as hard as possible, using this small window to get through Porlier Pass. I notice the bull kelp for the first time. Some are pointing in one direction, others in another. The prediction for slack tide seems spot on. There is residual current though and it moves me off course just enough to let me know, “this isn’t a place to stop.”

I arrive at a gorgeous sandy beach. The wind is remarkably calm; so much for the forecast. Dionisio Point is an oasis and I have the whole place to myself. As the sunset turns the sky into an unreal painting, my only decision is whether to go find my friends now, or to soak in this incredible place just a little longer.