Canadian Canoe Routes

Ocean Canoeing - some basics
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Author:  SGrant [ July 15th, 2007, 12:47 am ]
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Tom H, thanks for the contribution. I hadn't heard of the wave effect you described, and it's something people should be aware of. You get the same thing, to a much smaller scale, at river mouths that empty into oncoming waves. Sounds like you were pushing the envelope about as far as one would want to.

I've been to Burnett Bay, and south into the Broughtons, in a party with a couple of Northen Dancer (fiberglass Haida war canoe replicas) canoes. Fabulous place. We stayed west of Bramham Island. Did the sand dry out enough for it to "sing"? Did you visit the cabin at the far end of the beach, or the relic up the stream at the south end?

I think it's the on-line Wavelength magazine that has a story about 5 kayakers coming to grief landing at the south end of Burnett Bay. They got forced by timing into landing in big surf, and got somewhat messed up. Fortunately no fatalities. So even the extreme south end is not safe in some conditions.

Author:  Tom H [ July 15th, 2007, 3:15 am ]
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Yes, the sand dried out enough to squeak --- it was an incredible place --- there were tons of deer tracks but no bear, cougar or wolf tracks. That was a little trick I picked up --- simply avoid dangerous wildlife by camping on deserted sand beaches --- look at the beach and you can tell right away what animals go there. Once I came upon a sandy beach with huge bear tracks on it so I passed on it, and went to the next beach.
I'd heard there was a cabin at Burnett, and assumed it was on the south end, so when I went and looked I didn't find it --- this was too bad because I struggled mightily to get there, thinking I needed a cabin to dry out my wet stuff, but ended up just setting up my tent and living with damp gear til the sun came out next day. Here it was, almost July 4th, and I was the only soul on this endless-looking, mile long beach. I never did make it to the north end. The wreck, or what I thought was a wreck turned out to be a really huge stump, half buried in the sand, 2/3 of the way from the south end. That was as far north as I got., only learning later that the cabin was behind the two islets on the north end. Oh well, I'm going back, perhaps in August if I can swing it.
There was a couple small runabouts trolling off the south end of the beach, but other than them, and the couple seaplanes that daily flew along the beach at treetop height, I was the only human in sight.
Just being in these places somehow revives the soul --- I absolutely recommend going there, my camera died the day before I got there, sadly, or I'd have some stunning pictures to show of it.
Did you do Nakwakto Rapids, SG? I passed right by en-route from Cougar Inlet on the ebb, but never actually went through.

Author:  SGrant [ July 15th, 2007, 9:33 pm ]
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The nice cabin is at the very north end, back in the trees a bit. It contains a log book in which people paddling the coast make a point of adding a note. Makes for essential reading.

The other wreck I referred to is a decrepit shack up the north bank of the stream that enters the beach at the south end. It's a ways upstream, and isn't worth visitin if you have anything better to do.

A NOLS group arrived just as we did, so we didn't have Burnett Bay to ourselves. And when we were at the north end, a helicpoter party arrived for a picnic. Pilots are not allowed to buzz populated places. Your presence makes it populated. Last summer we took the registration number off a plane buzzing Ahous Bay on Vargas Island, then went to the tour company responsible. They had already had a complaint from a kayak guide also at Ahous Bay who had contacted them by radio. The company claimed it was a new pilot who didn't know the rules. Anyway, if you don't want to put up with that sort of stuff, the regulations say you don't have to.

We did not do the rapids. In fact, I think that somewhere early in this forum, there's a writeup of the trip we did. That was in 1998. Last winter, I collected stiil shots, slides and some video from the people who were on our trip, and made a movie out of the material. There is good coverage of Burnett Bay and our visit to Sylvester Bay just to the north.

Now I must go and read your trip writeup.

Author:  Tom H [ July 20th, 2007, 9:45 am ]
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I just watched a short clip on a group of native-canoe replicators or something who were paddling the west coast of Newfoundland in a birchbark canoe. And that's the Atlantic ocean!
They came up a river and ran into some shortened-waves due to the outflow that looked like, near the crests, there wasn't much if any freeboard, but with a little bailing they made it. When you think about it, the haida used to raid slaves as far south as California with canoes, so for sure a canoe can be used successfully on the ocean. One of the best photo-essays of a salt-water trip, canoe or kayak, I've ever seen (by Monster) was by a guy in a canoe. I recommend it to all my friends just for the pictures.
Here's a link if anybody's interested:

My (most recent) trip, was to the area perhaps 70 or 80 km to the north of Monster's Broughton Trip. Again, for anybody interested, here's the link to my trip album:

Author:  Monster [ July 30th, 2007, 12:42 pm ]
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Steve, your article is fantastic and exactly what I need for all the people who e-mail me asking for advice on doing salt water trips. I do not like to hand out advice on a whim because big ocean trips require such detailed information that I simply cant cover all the bases with out writing an entire essay and, I dont want to be responsible for someone getting into trouble because of something I forgot to mention in an e-mail.

Sorry for being AWOL for the month or I would have replied to this much sooner. I returned at 11:30pm last night from a three week paddle covering just about all of Nootka Sound on the North West Coast of Vancouver Island. This trip was supposed to only be two weeks but as is often the case up there, big surf and winds had me trapped in a few places on the open side of Nootka Island.

Very sorry to hear about the kayaker, I did indeed make that crossing myself last summer and it is a well known danger zone at the south end of Hanson Island, especially right at the end of a slack tide where an ebb begins... cant imagine doing it when there are high winds too. To be honest, and although I never said anything about it in my report from last year, I have pictures of kayak guiders taking people out in absolutely insane circumstances and I even know the name of a specific company in Telegraph Cove that should be avoided at all cost... but I wont mention it publicly.

Thanks for the compliment Tom, hearing that people often refer others to my reports goes along way to helping me justify the time it takes to write them after a long trip, as it is a serious chunk of work after getting back.

Of course I will do a report from this latest trip but I'm almost a full five days late getting back to work and I have some catch up that needs doing right now. Thankfully the powers that be in Quebec are always eager to see the pictures from my latest adventures and to some extent, understand the perils that may keep me longer than I expected.

Steve, when you get back from the Broken Group I too will ask permission to link your article for others... a very thoughtful read!

Author:  acadia [ August 10th, 2007, 3:29 pm ]
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Thanks very much for this article (and to others for all the interesting replies). I'm a BC kayaker who is returning to his Ontario canoeing roots, having bought a Clipper Tripper in the fall as an alternative to my folding double kayak for saltwater trips. (And I must thank Monster, who may not remember it, for his advice on canoes via email).

Having spent some water time re-acquainting myself with canoe paddling, I am beginning to see that canoes are just fine for ocean tripping. In addition to all the excellent points made in the article I prefer canoes for:

1) Loading/unloading. I like to move camp every day or two, so I like the ability to simply chuck big bags and storage barrels into the boat and take off. Loading a kayak on slippery rocks at low tide is a pain no matter which way you look at it. I particularly hate standing knee deep in icy water trying to shove small items as far into the boat as possible.

2) Kids. I don't know if this is a universal experience, but my 9 year old is a much better canoe paddler than a kayak paddler. I think the sitting position in the kayak, the high combing, and the elevated arm position make it uncomfortable for him. In contrast, he will paddle the canoe happily for long stretches of time.

We just got back from a week in Johnstone Straight/Village Island area in our kayak. For the whole trip I kept thinking, "This would be really nice in a canoe". This winter I'll invest in a spraydeck for the Tripper, so hopefully I'll be ready next summer to focus on saltwater canoe trips.

Author:  sludge [ August 10th, 2007, 4:13 pm ]
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Two words to consider. "Clipper Sea-1".

Author:  acadia [ August 10th, 2007, 8:35 pm ]
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A nice boat, to be sure, but with two kids I will be tandem paddling for the forseeable future...

Author:  Krusty [ August 17th, 2007, 10:35 am ]
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Is there a technique for washing clothes with salt water? Maybe do the wash in salt, then rinse with a little fresh water?

Author:  Monster [ August 21st, 2007, 5:16 am ]
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you could check Canadian Tire to see if they sell a portable desalinization plant?

Author:  SGrant [ August 31st, 2007, 2:08 am ]
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Krusty wrote:
Is there a technique for washing clothes with salt water? Maybe do the wash in salt, then rinse with a little fresh water?

And what's wrong with crusty clothing?

Actually, if you wring most of the sea water out of the clothing, there isn't much salt left in the residual water. So the clothes won't be quite as nice as if they'd been rinsed in fresh water, but they'll be far better than before you started.

Author:  Ralph [ September 8th, 2007, 3:01 pm ]
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S Grant,
Thanks for doing this. I've been considering an ocean trip for a few years and this will certainly help. I'm still a few levels of knowledge and confidence below where I need to be but your article really helps the journey.

Author:  Tom H [ November 14th, 2007, 12:26 am ]
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The only justification for using a canoe over a kayak, as far as I'm concerned, is for really heavy weather - whitecaps, large, breaking-wave-type conditions in which a canoe would become swamped within a minute or two whereas a kayak won't.
Apart from these conditions, there's not much reason for the extra hassle involved with a kayak --- nevertheless for a small craft, at sea in these conditions, a kayak will bring you home when a canoe won't.
This margin-of-survivability is greatest when the paddler is wearing a drysuit. Look at the well-documented situations where absolute morons survived a half day's worth of exposure to 9 C water. Do a web search for --- "I shouldn't be alive." and "ocean kayak" if you need further convincing. How far do you think these guys would have gotten in a canoe?

For conditions less severe than the aforementioned, you're much better off with a canoe because it's easier to load/unload etc.

Author:  Scot T [ December 4th, 2007, 11:02 pm ]
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Thanks for the excellent article. Sorry it took me so long to find/read/respond as I don't often have time for browsing through the forums.

I live in the Victoria, BC area and often solo my little 15' homebuilt striper on the salt water in the area. Being extreamly conservative when it comes to "Big water - Little boat" I've always had a fun, safe time and plan on keeping it that way. Your article gives me much more info to ponder.

Thank you for taking the time to put it out there.

Author:  George Luste [ December 5th, 2007, 3:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ocean Canoeing - some basics

SGrant wrote:

A shoal may remain unseen below the surface during a set of minor or average waves. Then, the arrival of larger waves, with deeper troughs, can suddenly expose the reef in a boiling morass of tumbling water. They are called "boomers", and require a lot of vigilance to detect so you don't get capsized by the water or by being dropped on the rock. Paddlers typically travel close to shore where these things are most common. Watching for these things far ahead increases your chances of seeing them until you're in danger.


Excellent text !!!

I too have enjoyed ocean paddling (in the north Atlantic, the Arctic coast and some Pacific) - in a canoe with a good spray cover.

I thought I might add a bit on the above text.

A related issue is that in tidal waters (like Ungava Bay where the tides are 25 to 30 ft or so) - as the tides go out and you are paddling with ocean swells - you can get what I call "exploding rocks" on some submerged rock, which as the water level goes down are suddenly prone to a "boomer" for the first time. The worry is that one might encounter one of these without warning because there was no prior shallow depth to cause it
But by all means always scan the horizon as far ahead as possible looking for any clue that might suggest danger or caution.

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