Date: September 3 – 6, 2021
Location: Sechelt Inlet
Partners: Brittany, Will, Anne, Alex, Nikki, Christian, Nicole, Dawn, Matt
Distance Paddled: ~50 km
Photos: Brittany and Anne
One of the last really big group camping trips Brittany and I went on was a kayaking trip in the Broken Islands. That trip had some rain and a little bit of egg on our faces when our neighbours at the campsite called the Coast Guard because we were late coming back on a very windy day. We had a lot of fun but we needed some redemption on the water.
For Labour Day weekend, six old faces and four new ones headed to Sechelt Inlet for type 1 nautical fun.
Sechelt Inlet is a destination that I’ve overlooked for years since I’m not the one to plan paddling trips. With the organization done by Alex and Nikki, Brittany and I just had to be joiners and meet the gang at the ferry in the early afternoon on Friday before the long weekend.
With the short ferry and short drive, we were at the kayak rental business north of Porpoise Bay in the later afternoon and pushed off a little after 5:00. Within 30 minutes we reached the “aquarium” where we peered down at assorted sea creatures and schools of small fish. Another hour or so brought us to the perennially popular Nine Mile Beach campground. We didn’t even get out of our boats to check it out after talking with some of the crowd on the beach and instead paddled across the inlet to Halfway Beach.
Summer is ending and the earlier evenings can’t be ignored. The group was hungry and light was fading so Brittany jumped straight into reheating a big batch of curry she made a few days earlier while everyone else found a spot to pitch tents. It was pretty dark as we finished off the curry and changed to brownies for dessert. At the same time, a 4L bag of wine was being passed around followed by a bottle of whiskey. Unlike a lot of people, Covid hasn’t led to an uptick in my drinking but in the presence of good friends and summer’s last hurrah, it was a good time to wet my whistle. The laughter and stories while watching the stars come out and bioluminescence in the surf was worth the headache the next morning.
Our first full day dawned grey but clear allowing a relaxed breakfast discussing the relative merits of camp french press coffee versus instant versus canned. Anne is a proponent of canned because she can drink it in her tent without getting out or even turning on a stove. When the fat drops began to fall, camp was broken in a hurry and we were out on the water sometime after 10:00.
We headed north in bouts of rain and headwind, underneath the power line crossing stretched across the inlet, and then swung east into Narrows Inlet on our way to camp 2 at Tzoonie Narrows. There are a few fish farms along the west side of Sechelt Inlet and you can hear fish food rattling along the pipes before being flung out to the pens by a swinging feeder.
At the campsites at Tzoonie we found it to be pretty wet and dark since nearly the entire area is under tree cover. We spent a long time figuring out how to set up a tarp and feeling a fair bit soggier than we wanted. Fortunately the rain abated in the evening and we were able to eat in the open together at the far end of the site at a little beach with an apple tree (harvested for breakfast).
The rain was a one-day event but grey skies and wind still mixed it up with sunshine and calm waters for the remainder of the trip. On the third day we paddled down to Kunechin Point for a late lunch and a bit of swimming. If I come back to paddle in Sechelt Inlet again, this campground would be my first choice. Excellent views from a small bluff and generally more open than any of the other areas we checked out.
Our last paddle across more open water was across the mouth of Salmon Inlet on our way to a final camp at Nine Mile Beach (fingers crossed). The wind had consistently been against us and there was the beginnings of white caps. With our spotty track record in windy water, we wanted to make sure we crossed as a group and made sure no one was struggling. However, in this case, progress was still pretty easy and we floated around to Nine Mile Beach in the late afternoon and found the last remaining spots to pitch tents. While definitely not the prime real estate, they were flat enough and we spent our final evening on the beach anyway taking advantage of the recently lifted fire ban and making sure the kayaks would be light for our last paddle by finishing off another bag of wine.
Our group soaked up the sun on the final morning until noon while almost every other group cleared out hours earlier. When we did set out, the wind was the strongest yet so we made good use of the coastline to regroup in protected areas. At the first of these stops, Brittany spotted a mink and I turned just in time to see it scamper behind the rocks. The paddle back to return the kayaks was never going to be too long but the wind was dying down as we went allowing us to relax a little more and float through the aquarium for a second time.
Lunch at the Lighthouse Pub in Scehelt aligned well with an early-evening ferry reservation for a stress-free finish to an all-time weekend.
Thanks to everyone for taking responsibility for a group meal each. The carrying capacity of a kayak plus the high-effort put in by each couple meant we ate better paddling for four days than I ever do in a given four-day stretch at home. We also brought fresh water for the duration of the trip which was a good call. The only easily accessible stream we saw was at Nine Mile Beach but surely some other source can be found with a little legwork.