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post #1 of (permalink) Old 08-25-2010, 09:14 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada.
Posts: 125
Default Canoeing the Broken Group Islands

Here's my first trip report on CT. Enjoy!

August 16-20, 2010

Day 1: Toquart Bay to Clarke Island

After driving to Toquart, my wife and I hit the water around 10am in our fully-loaded 17” Clipper Ranger. The fog was thick that morning and visibility limited to a few hundred meters, which made me very glad to have borrowed a GPS for the trip.

The wind was calm and the trip over through the Stoppers was smooth. The fog had lifted by the time we reached Hand.

Hand Island looking west

After a quick bite, we headed south around Brabant Island, past the Dodd campsite and Joe's Bay, then west along Willis Island, also checking out the campsite there.

Looking west between Willis and Dodd

We then cut across to Lovell Island where we saw a whale feeding. We eventually arrived at Clarke with plenty of time left in the day, and managed to find a good camping spot just off the main beach.

Later in the day, the fog rolled in. The pictures don't capture how surreal it was.

We knew the Broken Islands would be busy in August. During our three night's stay in “downtown” Clarke, we met lots of people, most of whom were renting gear or on guided tours. Being the only canoe around, we got a lot of strange looks and even stranger questions about how we got there. We, in turn, had a lot of time to observe kayak culture up close, which mostly consisted of watching people spend hours packing and unpacking countless little dry sacks in and out of their boats. How do people keep track of everything?

Day 2: Day trip to Benson Island and Turret Island (Big Tree Trail)

We did two day trips, starting with a circumnavigation of Benson Island where we got to see another whale. Later, we landed at Benson's beach after and hiked along some trails going across the island that overlook the ocean.

There, we had time to have lunch, and watch the whale doing the same.

Benson snake

Later in the day, we headed to Turret Island to check out the Big Tree Trail, a short path that takes you to some old-growth trees. The path can be a bit tricky to find but if you follow the island along its southwest side behind some small islets you can't miss it. There are several old growth trees to be seen along the trail. I highly recommend checking them out.

Day 3: Day trip to Wouwer, Dicebox, and Gilbert Islands

We decided to check out some of the eastern islands in the group, and try for the outer side of Effingham Island. On the way there we saw lots of huge sea lions at Wouwer and stopped in a bay to set the crab trap and found another trail across the island to see the west side. Returning, I found my first red rock crab, a.k.a. dinner.

The view west from Wouwer

During the crossing from Wouwer to to Dicebox, we saw porpoises, seals, and a rather large sea lion that came snorting by, a little too close for comfort. By the time we reached Dicebox, the headwinds had kicked up enough that we decided to cut our attempt short by heading around Bauke Island and checking out the Gilbert campsite. Gilbert was the least populated site we saw on our trip. This is maybe because we heard the bugs were bad there and we noticed that it doesn't get much afternoon sun which makes it more chilly at night. At Gilbert we also spotted a camp of what had to be canoeists. No one was there but we could tell what they came in by the presence of folding beach chairs, giant Tupperware storage totes, and several large 5 gallon water bottles with a pump.

Back on Clarke that night, we saw a mother deer and fawn near the beach. They were so tame, allowing us to get within ten feet of them.

Day 4: Clarke to Gibraltar

We were somewhat glad to be leaving Clarke even though it is the nicest site in the Broken Group in my opinion. We were getting tired of the cramped conditions and constant buzz of activity. Before we had even finished packing up, a nearby group laid claim to our site with their dry sacks.

We headed back the way we came, around Lovell and past Joe's Bay and Dodd before heading east by the Tiny Group, then Mullins and Dempster Islands. We approached around the east side of Gibraltar, where we passed a bunch more kayakers and found some sea caves.

Gibraltar is nice and has late day sun along the beach. We camped in a wooded area off the beach but the best tent pads can be found on the knoll off the main beach.

Two canoeists checking out the Gibraltar sea-kayak colony.

After setting up camp, we headed out to check out the lagoon between Jacques and Jarvis Islands. This is a unique part of the Broken Group that we're glad we didn't miss. The waters in this sheltered part were calm as glass and great for swimming. We caught crabs with our hands.

The crabbing is good here and you'll find both Dungeness and rock crabs.

We camped just off the beach at Gibraltar with some other kayakers and canoeists in a cedar strip we met the day earlier. We spent the night eating fresh crab and drinking wine.

Day 5: Gibraltar to Toquart

We woke up to cloudy skies. Despite getting up early, we ended up lingering around and talking to others far too long this morning. We got out of Gibraltar late around 11, and headed back to Hand where we stopped for a quick cold lunch. There, we caught more crabs and saw this cool schooner go by.

My Grey Owl crab trap

By then the wind had kicked up and the crossing to the Stoppers and Toquart was rough, although the westerlies turned to tailwinds once we got past the Stoppers.

Resting in the Stopper channel before the last push home

The end! There was a greasy epilogue involving MacDonald's in Port Alberni but I'll spare you the images of that.

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