We were one of the chosen few that got to go on a group paddle yesterday. The paddle to the Flat Top Islands, off Gabriola Island, was very popular in the paddling club. We snagged 2 of the 6 spots, with 15 people on the waitlist. We are so happy we got to go.
The extreme heat has left our area and we are now in warm summer temps (high 20s) but the wind forecast for the day was a little concerning. Winds from the NW, up to 25-30 km, were predicted, but our host figured we would be fine since we were going to be pretty protected in the islands. And he was right. We played Peek-a-boo with the wind for the day.
The chosen course started from a point on Gabriola Island so we took the morning ferry from Nanimo and looked at the pretty significant white caps and trembled a bit. The put-in was great: smooth rock and we could bring the car right to the water’s edge so no carries of boat or gear. It was heaven.
The route, however, had us going through Garbriola Passage, the thin body of water between Gabriola and Valdes Island. This has to be done with the flood, and the return with the ebb of tides since the currents are too high to paddle against otherwise.
So we left and had a gentle push down the channel with no eddies to worry about, and made it safely through. Winds here were not a concern since we were sheltered.
Heading around the corner and up the shore of Gabriola was a pleasant paddle. Sheltered from the wind, we could appreciate the shoreline, some seals and the islands near us.
Once we turned the next corner, to make our way past Silva Bay to our lunch spot on Carlos Island, we were directly into the wind, probably about 20 kph at that point. But since we were still between islands, there were no waves to worry about. Just some strong paddling .
We landed at Carlos Island. Lunch on the south side was calm and sunny.
A walk up and over the island showed us the wind and waves in the Strait of Georgia and it was significant.
It was fun to feel such different conditions on either side of the island. Carlos Island is a great stop. The waters there seem to have a tropical teal/blue color and the sandstone formations on the windward side are spectacular.
After lunch we paddled south towards Saturnina Island. This was fun because we were being pushed by the wind and there were some waves/rollers that pushed us along too. It was not difficult; it was fun to travel fast and feel the push of the water. And the wind was increasing, not abating as forecasts had predicted.
Saturnina Island is a beautiful gem, just purchased by the BC government with funds donated from Lululemon, it will converted into a marine park. There is tombola between the island and a smaller outcrop of carved sandstone with a tree perched up on the hill. Very picturesque and a great lunch/snack stopping point. It will be interesting to see how, and when, it gets developed by the government.
Leaving Saturnina, we continued towards, and along, Breakwater Island. Stone shelves down to the beach, whiffs of seals, lots of trees and birds made interesting sights. Again, easy going since we were protected.
Once we rounded the corner of this island we were going into the wind again. And as we got closer to Gabriola Passage, we were fighting some haystack waves; the wind and ebbing current going in opposite directions. Thankfully it was nothing really difficult but it was really interesting to see the effect wind and currents have when you are paddling.
Riding the current back through the passage was fun and we just had to make sure we avoided large eddies on each side. We just followed Rick and we all got to shore safely!
It was such a great day on the water. We got to paddle in so many different types of conditions, all in a short 13.5 km paddle, in a beautiful area. We learned more about winds and currents from those more experienced than us. We have paddled here last summer and visited the same islands, but it’s always different and that’s one of the things what we love about paddling. It never gets boring!