Barkley Sound

  Roadless Coast
Barkley Sound
Destruction Island

November 28th, 2004  (N48º 57.04'  W125º 18.73') - Barkley Sound lies south of Ucluelet and north of Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island and includes hundreds of islands, none of which is larger then 2 kilometers across. The sound was explored and named in 1787 by Captain Charles William Barkley of the Imperial Eagle. (see Destruction Island trip notes). Over the years Barkley Sound has become increasingly popular with paddlers, not only for diverse wild life and history, but also due to its wide range of paddling challenges; from the demanding outer coast, to the protected inner waterways, there is some water appropriate for every skill level.


Leaving for Nanaimo on BC Ferry

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© 2004 Azimuth Expeditions. All rights reserved

Due to the demands of last season, I was never able to get to the Sound during more temperate weather, and it didn’t look like I’d have much of a chance after the New Years either, so realizing the weather was likely to be heavy, I decided to go when I could. Mid-November. The down side would be that I could count on wind and rain, but the up side would be that I would very likely have the entire Broken Group to myself. I found a true and tested side kick in Marc and we soon found ourselves driving over some of the worst logging roads to Torquay Bay. Now I’m sure that during the season this road is pristine, but with the winter rains it tortured our backsides and slowed our progress unbearably. However, all dark thoughts quickly dissipated as we watched in wonder the clouds that had been with us all the way from Tacoma, start to peel back to the horizon. Not only where we treated to a spectacular sunset, but that night as we pitched camp on Hand Island, we witnessed an incredible full moon rise over the Coastal Mountain range.

For the next 3 days we were blessed with a high pressure system which made for awesome paddling. The nights were cold, in the upper twenty’s and we had to thaw gear in the morning sunshine but the day’s paddle more then made up for any brief morning chill. The Norwegians have a saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing.” And with the right gear, kayaking is a year round sport.

Fueled by Marc’s excellent culinary masterpieces, we quickly made it to all the islands and campsites on our list. With the exception of one anchored sailboat, we had the entire group to ourselves. Like sailors answering the song of a siren, we were seduced into going on the outside of Benson Island to feel the Pacific under us. Humbling is the best way to describe the feeling of sitting just out of harms way as the huge Pacific comber’s crash against Benson’s cliffs. Ducking over to the leeward side of the island, Marc wanted to view the waves from atop the cliffs, so it was out of the boats and through the woods in search of a view over what we just paddled through. The woods were so thick that I regretted not bringing a compass along, but we finally emerged through the thicket and from an entirely different angle admired the raw beauty of the ocean. Hmm, seemed much bigger from below.

And so our days were filled with paddling Barkley Sounds waters and exploring its shores. For me the highlight of the trip was an evening paddle under a full moon back to our base camp. For three hours we navigated more by sound and feel then by sight, and I’m still surprised that we never once had to backtrack.

Finally, on the last night, I awoke to hear rain drops on the tent fly and released that our Indian summer was over, but I couldn’t be anything but thankful for such an incredible time; this was the kind of trip you hope for during the summer much less during the winter! I look forward to re-visiting this place again soon and comparing notes.


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