Monday, July 13, 2020
It was an early morning wake up to be on the water at a decent time. This way I would be back relatively early to have some family time. My plan was to get to Britannia Beach, but I was willing to settle for Furry Creek.
There was more wind than I anticipated from the forecast from the shoreline. And being in the shadows of the mountains made for a cooler kit set up. I was a bit unnerved to be setting out on my own as this was my first serious solo-paddle. I had consulted several resources (paddling.com, fitfunsup.com, and islesurfandsup.com) on the pros and cons, and most specifically the safety implications of solo-paddling. In the end, I concluded that I was prepared, this paddle was within my abilities, and I could take safety measures (PFD, paddle plan, etc.). I took the extra safety measure of live-streaming my location on top of providing family members with my paddle plan. I would not be far offshore in the event something went wrong. I would not be visible from Highway 99 and I knew there would be a few steep rock faces limiting the ease of an exit point. But I would be able to swim to an accessible exit point (and if I was incapacitated to the point that I could not swim, well then I had bigger issues at hand).
DATE: July 13, 2020
ROUTE: Porteau Cove to Britannia Beach (round- trip)
EST. DEP.: 630 AM
EST. RET.: 830 AM
- TRAVELLERS: 1 (Mon Jef Peeters)
- VEHICLE: [Colour] [Year] [Make] [Model] [License Plate]
- PHONE: [xxx-xxx-xxxx]
As I was setting up my kit another gentleman arrived with an inflatable kayak. He appeared to be waiting for company, but it gave me some resolve to see another paddler preparing to embark. My father-in-law, who is a sailor, had previously warned me about wind conditions in the Howe Sound. And particularly that I would (maybe he said could) be in trouble with the forecast. There was the potential for 20 knots of wind or more. He spooked me enough that I looked into it further and found this post from Starboard which gave a general rule of thumb for various wind conditions.
Less than 15 knots (less than 27km/h) is ideal flat water conditions
At 15 knots small waves and whitecaps start to form
At 20-25 knots (37-46km/h), more experienced paddlers may want to use the wind to surf downwindCouve, Chris. “How To: The 5-Step Guide to Planning Your SUP Paddle.” Starboard SUP, Starboard SUP, 24 Sept. 2020, sup.star-board.com/how-to-the-5-step-guide-to-planning-your-sup-paddle/.
I launched from the boat ramp at Porteau Cove and as soon as a rounded the jetty I started to have some doubts. It was choppy and I was heading into a strong headwind. I considered turning around but steeled myself with the thought that falling in would not be that bad and that I was heading into a headwind. The return route would be much easier. I hoped that maybe the conditions would ease further on. Sadly my hopes never came to bear.
Unfortunately, with the difficult conditions, I found it hard to take in my surroundings. It was not until I reached the cove just before Furry Creek that I was able to relax a little bit. I seemed to get a bit of shelter from the northerly winds. But as I pushed on past the iconic Furry Creek golf green the winds were just as strong, if not stronger.
My first summer job in university was working on a construction site as a labourer at Furry Creek in what would become Oliver Landing. My brother was working on the grounds crew at the Furry Creek Golf & Country Club. Since we were pretty much heading in the same direction I asked to see if he could get me on staff. Eventually, I was hired and aside from the earlier morning start everything was an upgrade. So I was very familiar with the landline of the golf hole but not the shoreline. The shoreline north of the golf green and south of the Furry Creek estuary is breathtaking. I tried to imagine what it would have looked like before any of the development in the area.
At this point, I was sure that I was not going to make my full destination of Britannia Beach. I decided I would push on a bit further. When I reached Oliver Landing I paddled into the bay. It was wild to feel the water with next to no wind. I had a Larabar as a quick power up and then made my way out of the north channel of the bay. And then cue the music because this is where the trip turned from nerving to nirvana.
With the wind at my back, the paddle was a breeze. As I passed by the Furry Creek estuary a hawk flew by overhead. And to top it all off the sun crested over the mountains raining down its glorious warm rays to warm me up and brighten my day.
All of a sudden the choppy waters that I had been battling to cut through all morning melted away. I have not surfed a tonne but it felt like I was catching waves. The swell from behind would lift me up and float me forward. The closest thing I can liken the sensation to is skiing powder where you are floating over white fluffy clouds. It was a glorious pick up to the second leg of my paddle. My only disappointments on my return paddle were when the shadows of the mountains blocked out the sun and the end of the paddle of course.
I left elated, on a cloud you could say. I called my brother on my drive home to Vancouver to share my ordeal/adventure. Hopefully, he will be back in action soon so we can share some epic paddles! In hindsight, I realize now that my downwind paddling is what the Starboard post was referencing for the higher winds. I will be looking into this more for sure!
It was a lot of work heading north but I flew back south with the wind.