Written on July 8, 2011 at 7:30 am, by Scott
“Vancouver’s coves and bays yield secrets to canoeists” – 1981
Paddling out to sea, we guided our canoes up and over the rising ocean swells. Behind us, Vancouver Island’s rocky, storm-blown west coast receded in an early morning mist. Ahead lay three surf-beaten isles, where terns and gulls hovered in a constant, diving search for fish and where we, too, planned to catch our breakfast. Beyond these rocky points stretched the vastness of the Pacific, its endlessly rolling waves sweeping all the way to the Orient. For three days we had been exploring by canoe the inlets and fiords of Vancouver Island’s Kyuquot Sound, hidden away at the north western end of the Island, Kyuquot can only be reached by boat or by driving across several hundred miles of hazardous logging roads. The secluded coves and inlets of the sound were originally the home of the Nootka Indians. Intrepid hunters, they faced the ocean waters in great dugout cedar canoes, travelling long distances to hunt seals, otters and killer whales.
Now, in a week-long trip arranged through Strathcona Lodge (located on the Island), we followed their hunting and trading routes in modern fibreglass and aluminum canoes.
Our party of eleven tour members and two guides had first met at Strathcona for a day course in basic canoeing techniques. Paddling across a lake, we practiced forward and backward strokes, the draw and pry strokes, and the ‘J’ stroke for steering, and learned how to prevent disasters with canoe-to-canoe rescues.
A mixed group of engineers, business managers, home-makers, teachers and students, few of us had ever canoed before. But the lure of seeing Vancouver Island’s remote west coast in the traditional style of the Indians had appealed to all of us and we worked on our paddling skills until arms and shoulders ached. That night we met in Strathcona’s Lodge, where our guides, Cliff Redman and Sheila Taylor, unrolled a large chart of the Island’s west coast. On paper, the coast- line was a series of black squiggles and pointed loops dipping sharply in and out of the blue sea. Read more