P&H Custom Sea Kayaks Blog

Sea Kayaking Articles from P&H Staff, Team Paddlers, and Friends

Author: Jonny Hawkins

Destination Guide – Inside Passage, BC, Canada

This Summer my partner Amy and I headed over to British Columbia to paddle a section of the Inside passage. If you’ve not heard of the ‘bucket-list’ worthy Inside Passage, it’s a coastal route that stretches 1700km from Washington, USA, through Western British Columbia, up to Skagway, Alaska. It’s major draw cards being the teaming wildlife, multitude of islands to weave and the perfect balance of solitude versus opportunities to re-stock in remote First Nations communities.

We had a month to play with, so opted for a 780km section of this marine passage, from Comox on Vancouver Island up to Prince Rupert, in the north west of British Columbia. We had a brilliant time encountering wildlife, meeting locals and living the simple life, submersed in stunning scenery. This guide is intended to help you plan your Inside Passage adventure and hopefully provide a few nuggets of inspiration and lessons learnt.

When to go

The climate is quite similar to Scotland so expect rain and also stunning blue skies. We went mid August to mid September and paddled in t-shirts for 90% of the time. The great thing about Aug/Sept is the salmon are starting to run so lots of Orca, Humpbacks and the bears should be well fed (fingers crossed).

Where to go

Quick hit – The most compact enjoyment was certainly around Telegraph Cove. There are lots of guided trip options, amazing scenery and loads of Orca and Humpback to get excited about.

For wildlife – The Broughton Islands certainly offered us the most varied scenery, tides and wildlife. We saw about 60 Orca on separate occasions, Humpbacks galore, Sea Lions, Sea Otters, Bald Eagles but no Bears though…

Wilderness – The further north we travelled, the less people we encountered. Although most of the coast has been logged at some point, north of Vancouver Island, thick forest lines the high tide mark with only the occasional small village breaking the vista.

How to get there

Fly to Vancouver and catch either a bus and ferry over to Vancouver Island or get a float plane to your starting point from £50 upwards.

Boat hire

We found it surprisingly difficult to hire boats. MEC hire Scorpios from Vancouver city but then you need to get them to your starting point. Most of the companies in the north of Vancouver Island only do guided trips. The best option we found was from a company called Comox Valley Kayaks. They hire out boats for any duration and provide a drop off and pick up service. We met other paddlers on shorter trips who used private boat shuttles to fine tune their drop off and pick up points.

Maps

There are lots of marine charts and topographic maps available of the BC west coast. Depending on the length of your trip I’d recommend marine charts from 1:40,000 scale and smaller. As our trip was quite long and space was at a premium, we opted to use a road atlas for large scale planning and the Viewranger and Navionics apps for our day to day navigation. To charge our devices we had a 17 Watt, waterproof, Voltaic Systems solar panel and battery. This system worked amazingly well, enabling us to charge cameras, phones, VHF and head-torches.

Useful info

There is a ton of useful resources out there to help you plan your paddle. The Inside Passage Facebook group is a great treasure trove of knowledge. We downloaded the book ‘Kayaking the Inside Passage’ by R.H. Miller onto our phones which offered information on; history, tides, wildlife, routes, campsites and much more. There are various online maps from previous paddling trips, featuring notated information such as: campsites, water and resupply points.

General conditions

We found the paddling relatively straight forward. The majority of the route is sheltered by islands with only a few exposed headlands. The wind offered some challenges but was never a show stopper for us. However, we have heard from other paddlers that it gets much stronger & prohibiting. As a general rule of thumb you could set your watch by winds picking up at 3pm in the afternoon. Tides do get pretty strong in areas with overfalls and whirlpools so a good knowledge of tidal planning is vital. Lots of the tidal cruxs need to be paddled at slack water and it was often possible to paddle up tide by hugging the coastline. Landings are found quite regularly and we found many more campsites than recorded online or in Miller’s book. We carried up to 13l of water each and managed to fill up from taps with the back up of water purification means with us if necessary. Bears… We saw one from the water and heard another near camp whilst in our tent. Cook away from your tent spot where possible. Store all smellies in your hatches, seal them and flip your boat overnight. Get studious and read up on bear safe camping. Again not a show stopper, but we have heard of trips earlier in the year with a greater number of sightings & encounters.

This area really is a sea kayaker’s paradise, with something for everyone. If you are thinking about a trip out there, do it! Give me a shout if you would like to chat more about it and happy paddling.

Destination Guide – Lofoten

Lofoten really is a sea kayakers paradise.  It combines Scotland’s intricate west coast with the mountain scapes of Patagonia and the wildlife of an Attenborough episode to create a truly magical place.  This summer Amy Dunis and I spent a month exploring this archipelago and have put together a destination guide to inspire and help you head out to enjoy these islands as much as we did.

Different places to paddle

Henningsvær – Is called the “Little Venice” of Lofoten.  You can explore and fish around the surrounding islands, then paddle into the spectacular harbor that cuts right through the picturesque town.

Moskenesøya – Is an amazing island in the south of the Archipelago that is the definition of wilderness.  Towering cliffs, soaring sea eagles, endless beaches. This is the place to go to get away from it all.

Trolltindan mountains – Towering peaks, hanging glaciers, smooth granite faces and lush green fields dotted with grass roofed huts.  A circumnavigation of this area gives you a real taste for all that is good about Lofoten.

Must sees

1. Sea eagles are by far the coolest looking bird out in Norway.  With a wingspan of up to 240cm they keep watch from cliffy headlands and saw overhead with such grace.  On our best day we spotted 11 birds with each sighting as exciting as the last.

2. Trollfjord is the crème de la crème of fjords.  1100m peaks drop straight into the 100m wide Fjord with snow capped mountains surrounding you.  Our top tip would be to get there early before all of the noisy tour ribs arrive.

3. Rulten in the Trolltindan mountain range claims the title of “Lofotens most beautiful mountain”. Paddling in crystal blue waters beneath the peak with a pristine grass roofed hut in the foreground sums up the Lofoten landscape perfectly.

4. Renei Fjord is a stunning 3 pronged fjord that cuts deep into the Moskenesøya mountains.  It is the perfect place to paddle when the open seas are wild and a great place to explore if you are new to sea kayaking.

5. Moskenesøya beaches are by far the best in Lofoten. They are plentiful and their white sands stretch for miles.  Camped up, with a fire roaring and the sun setting is pretty hard to beat.

When to go

The climate is similar to Scotland but on average 4°C colder so the best time to go is June to August.  This also allows you to experience the amazing 24h daylight.  Prepare to experience rain and wind but you will have the best chance to experience that classic Lofoten sun.

How to get there

This depends on your trip duration, budget and how many podcasts you have.  We chose to drive as we wanted to take our boats, lots of food and not have to hire a car.  It was a 47h drive so not for the fainthearted or those with limited time.  Another option is to fly to Tromso and then transfer to Lofoten by either bus, express boat, plane or onboard the Hurtigruten (ferry).  A hire car would make life a lot easier but isn’t essential.

 

Boat hire

Reine Adventure in the south and Lofoten Aktiv AS in the North hire boats and gear but you must have evidence of being at least BC 3*.  Both companies will be able to give you some great advice on where to go with the forecasted weather.

Where to stay

Wild camping opportunities in Norway are amazing.  You can camp for up to two nights anywhere on uncultivated land as long as you are over 150m from an inhabited building.  This is a great way to save money and also wake up in truly amazing places. There are plenty of campsites with good facilities and hotels if you are feeling fancy.

Guidebook

Yann Engstad and Olly Saunders have produced a brilliant guide to the Lofoten islands with loads of brilliant day trips to do and a detailed explanation of the outer coast for those seeking to circumnavigate some or all of these magical islands.

Thanks to P&H for the use of the brilliant Scorpios 🙂

If you would like any more information about paddling or climbing in these magical islands please get in touch – Highland Kayak School.

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