August Family Kayak Trip to Blackberry Point & Wallace Island

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I have written in the past of my love for Blackberry Point on Valdes Island. This place holds a special place in my heart because it is the location where I was able to spend time with my family when we took Hemingway on his first overnight kayak trip. Further this location is quite close to south Nanaimo and Ladysmith but has the feeling of being way out there. On this trip we used Blackberry Point as a way point to rest for the evening and enjoy the sunset before paddling on to Wallace Island Provincial Park.

LInk to the GPS Route with annotaion
GPS Route with photographic annotation

Total Distance: 55.7 kilomteres

Day 1 — Setting Sail Cedar-by-the-Sea to Blackberry Point — 14 km

We set out early, our paddle started at 10:45. Our intent was to catch the calm morning seas, the cool light of the early morning and diminished winds. We followed the same route we paddled on the families first trip to Blackberry Point; through Hole in the Wall south along the east shore of De Coursy Island. This time however we avoided the west shore of Valdes, we paddled south of Pirates Cover and on the east shore of Ruxton Island to Whale Boat Island and then made a bee line to Blackberry Point. We arrived at 2:00 pm.

Hemingway handled the paddling like a champ! He had a short nap for 40 minutes but otherwise he was in good spirits as we paddled along the route. He dipped his hands and his toys into the water and only needed to be held one time. We made great time because both of us were able to paddle at the same time.

Along the way I was scanning the shallows for rock crabs. Often, I see them on the rocky bottom but struggle to pull them up using my paddles like a pair of chopsticks. This time I came prepared! I brought a new tool, a two foot long grabbing tool. It worked exceptionally well! I was able to reach over the side to grasp and pull the crabs into the kayak. Along the coast of De Coursy I was able to pick up to 5″ rock crabs.

As we approached Blackberry Point,  we could see a big yellow sign reading fire ban. Although this was a bit disappointing, we had expected to see this because of the very dry summer and the province had issued a province wide fire ban.  We could also see that there were several groups set up along the beach. Fortunately we were able to move into my favourite area with no issue.

Once at the beach we set up camp. I was a bit concerned over our proximity to another family with children in their early-teens. My concern is two fold. Hemingway is still quite young and tends to wake in the night crying; I didn’t want to disturb other campers. My other concern, how excited Hemingway gets when watching other children, I was worried he would get all riled up and be  unable to sleep.  They arrived after us and for a time looked as though they were going to spend the night. I fear that we scared them away because they got back in their boats and paddled on. This gave us plenty of space, which I was secretly grateful for.

One of my favourite sites, note the leaning arbutus tree
One of my favourite sites, note the leaning arbutus tree

For dinner Hemingway had a squeeze pack of organic food and Kim and I shared our crab with garlic butter and ate a couple of dehydrated food packs. Hemingway wanted to try everything, including the sand on the beach. I don’t think he cared much for the pad Thai but he loved the crab. He kept pointing at it and smacking his lips, as we broke the carapace apart and pulled out little bits of meat for him.

After Hemingway went to bed, Kim and I sat up watching the sunset. The sunsets on this beach are magical, there is a good distance to the northwest to give an excellent view of the horizon, to the west you can watch the dozens of hills as they light up. Eventually watched the stars pop into the sky. It was great to spend that time together, even if we didn’t have fire to sit by.

Day 2 —  Paddle to Wallace Island –14 km

I woke before Kim and Hemingway and hurried to pack my gear, prepping for the day’s paddle. Once I was packed, I boiled water and prepped some oatmeal for the little monster. As the water was boiling, I could hear Hemingway rousing in the tent. He was pushing himself into the wall of the tent and eventually figured out how the zipper on the tent door worked, letting himself out.
I managed to scoop him up as he was exiting the tent. As I fed him, Kim packed her gear and Hemingway’s.

The morning passed without event and we were ready to set afloat. As we were about to get in our boat our neighbour kindly offered to take our photograph as we departed and email it to us! What an opportunity, normally I am behind the camera and therefore don’t often get into the pictures. Either way it means that we have some shots of the whole family in the kayak.

Photo credit: Nancy Rowan
Photo credit: Nancy Rowan

As we were pushing off I looked at my watch it was 9:45, the tide was slack for an hour longer, eventually moving to ebb tide. We were slightly hindered by a south east breeze, less than 5 km/h The paddle distance was similar to our first day, about 14 km.

I discussed our route with Kimberley. If we followed the coast of Valdes we would have to deal with Polier Pass, verily we could get caught up in the current, which can become as fast as 7 knots. Instead we crossed to Rose Islets and followed Trincomali Channel south along the east coast of Reid Island . We paddled past Hall Island easily but as we paddled west and reached Secretary Islets I could really feel the current and the wind.

Somewhere along the coast of Hall Island, Hemingway decided that he couldn’t bear life any longer and tried to commit suicide. He Jumped overboard! I managed to catch a leg before he even hit the water but his wet suit still soaked through. Fortunately, his wet suit kept him warm for the remainder of the trip but he did get a bit cranky as we reached Secretary Island, Kim took to holding him.

The wind picked up to between 15-25 km/h and whitecaps formed in the channel. To this point we were able to keep good speed, 7 km/h but with Kim holding Hemingway the last 1.5 kilometres went quite a bit slower.

As we reached Chivers Point on Wallace Island we immediately found a reprieve from the wind. We coasted toward shore and I was able to pluck one more crab from the sea floor. The bay is beautiful. The Provincial Park facilities are new; new tent pads, bear cache and pit toilet. Chivers Point is the northern point of Wallace Island, it’s very narrow and that is part of it’s charm. It provides easy access to the east and west side of the island. Kim, Hemingway and I visited each side, spending time to view the not so distant islands: Gallioano to the east, Saltspring and Cooper to the west.

We were the first to arrive and had the pick of the campsites, we chose one closest to beach. We were not alone for long. Within an hour 3 more boats arrived and by night fall there was a total of 9 or 10 boats, including another double. All of the tent pads were occupied.

10 Kayaks floating into this small bay
10 Kayaks floating into this small bay

Wallace Island is a popular destination because it is only a 45 minute paddle for a rental place on Salt Spring Island. It has multiple sites for camping and facilities for larger boats in some areas. Although we hiked just a kilometre down the well developed path to Cabin Bay, we didn’t go beyond to points south. It definitely warrants another trip with a longer stay.

Hemingway was teething badly on this night. It took quite some time for Kimberley to get him down. Once he was in his sleeping bag and asleep, Kim came out and we enjoyed our dinner, including fresh crab, while we sat on a west facing ledge above the ocean, watching the stars emerge.


Another amazing night!

Day 3 — The Long Paddle Home to Cedar-By-The-Sea — 25 km

We took two days to get to Wallace Island and planned a single day to paddle home. Given the wind the day before we were up an hour earlier and packing up to get the heck on the water an hour earlier! I planned a route that would allow us to paddle mostly at slack tide and then as the tide starts to ebb carry us with the current. We had planned for a long day. We knew that 25 kilometers of paddling was a long haul.

As we were packing our gear, the group in the site next to us offered assistance to move our very heave double kayak. We gratefully accepted the offer and were delighted that they asked us if they could take some photographs of our family as we departed. I know, you are thinking didn’t he already tell us about this? The answer is no! This was a completely different person that offered to take the same photos on a different island. We gratefully accepted, you can never have too many photographs of your family!

Photo credit: Shayne le Poer Trench

Photo credit: Shayne le Poer Trench

We pushed off from shore at 8:30 am, heading north west. I intended to paddle on the west side of Secretary Islets, then Mowgli Island, then Norway Island. Each offered their own interesting view of west coast lifestyle, though we didn’t want to spend a lot of time gawking. We anticipated 6 hours or longer of paddling to get home. We worried that Hemingway wouldn’t be able to make the trip. Either for physical or emotional reasons, it’s tough to be cooped up in a small watercraft for too many hours. Especially when you’re only 14 months old! You need to run your feet! Passing Norway Island we crossed to Kuper and eventually paddled along the shores of Thetis Island. Along Thetis,  we admired the dozens of truly amazing properties with beautiful homes sitting on its shore.

Hemingway was really great for most of the paddle and we made great time! We have a south east wind that help us move along, plus we were slightly following seas. He was awake for the first hour, gently reaching over the edge but mostly being content to look at the shore as we floated by. He fell asleep about an hour into the journey and remained asleep for a good length of time.

After the coast of Kuper Island, we had a long stretch of water to cross, 6 kilometres. I think this is the greatest stretch of water I’ve ever paddled. It began to feel as though you we were not moving. We paddle and paddle but it seemed as though we were making no progress. This feeling was compounded by the fact that about 4/5ths of the way through the paddle, Hemingway woke and started to get cranky. We still had an 5-7 kilometres left to our destination.

Kim held him, fed him and we even sang him a half dozen songs, including Slippery Fish. Mommy was able to sate him for more than an hour but he was getting restless. With just a short distance remaining, likely less than 25 minutes, he had a melt-down. It is very rare that our little guy gets to the point of inconsolable tears but today he found his way there. I’m sure every parent has had to deal with this at least a few times in their parenting life. It’s new to his mom and I, so we found it difficult to help him. Kim tried first: singing and rocking, offering him food, even trying to breast feed him — He wanted non of it. He was so angry that he was shaking and crying. I took a turn, she passed him to me and then took up the paddle. I tried the same techniques, sans the breastfeeding, but i also added in funny voices and other distraction techniques but that was getting him nowhere.

Kim was struggling to move the boat forward, the tides were no longer working in our favour and the less than smooth water was now fighting us rather than helping. Since there was no consoling Hemingway I put him down in the centre hatch. To our surprise, he quieted. There is no reason for it other than the fact that he was likely exhausted. Regardless, our 25 minute paddle was stretched to about forty five. Once we were both paddling we were on shore in 15 minutes.

Once Hemingway was out of the boat with his two feet on the sand he seemed happy again, even chuckling as we trundled gear from the kayak to the boat launch where the Subaru was now parked.

Despite Hemi’s mini-meltdown, I believe that we did exceptionally well as a family. It is true that it’s more stressful, travelling and paddling with a toddler. It’s a strain on a family’s relationship and it can be emotionally and physically demanding too. However, I believe that we have made it as easy as possible by ensuring that we have the proper gear for ourselves and Hemingway, and that we have an established safety/rescue plan in the case of an emergency in the water. There is no wondering about that issue, we have prepared the physical means and created the action plan.

Is it worth it to spend the time on the water and in tents as a family? Yes.

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