Locarno Beach to Tantalus Landing
Saturday, September 3, 12022 HE
Last summer Trevor and I tried to paddle from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish (check out the details of that previous post here, “SUP’in the Sound“) for a multiday stand up paddleboard (SUP) round-trip. Unfortunately, we met stronger than hoped headwinds. The winds forced us to turn back just past Porteau Cove. The trip wasn’t a complete bust. We enjoyed an overnight camp on Cha7élkwnech (Gambier Island) at the Ramillies Channel Marine Recreation Site (ínaḵa Lhaxwm). The trip left me with the desire to do it again this year for the same reasons we set out on our first attempt, why not? Plus, now I had the added motivation of our previous shortcoming.
Unfortunately, our schedules did not coincide to make the trip together. I was left with the choice of waiting for a later date and risking running into northerly headwinds again. Or, attempt to do the trip solo. After some serious consideration, I decided to try the latter. It wouldn’t be my first solo trip, but it would be the longest to date and in waters known to be inhospitable at times. I proceeded to plan with caution, following my “Rules of Engagement,” apart from paddling with a partner. I think there are reasons and times when solo paddling can be justified. For a few resources extolling the pros and cons, as well as precautions to consider with solo paddling, see the following articles: paddling.com, fitfunsup.com, and islesurfandsup.com.
Planning and preparing for this trip was relatively easy as I had records from last year’s attempt. I only needed to update things like the tides, stock up on food items, and get an accurate weather forecast in the days leading up to my launch.
However, in my preparations, I began to deliberate about my launch site and how to get there. I had read this post from the Serial Nomad site on paddling from Vancouver to Squamish. Granted, it was by kayak, but I still felt I could cover a similar distance. I concluded that rather than depart from Horseshoe Bay, like last year, I would launch from Spanish Banks, in Vancouver. Our previous trip from last year included an additional 12 kilometres of paddling from our campsite at Tantalus Landing Marine Recreation Site (Sxwan’shnm) at the end of day one to get a celebratory pint and meal at the Howe Sound Brewpub. Now that I was travelling alone, I decided that I could have a celebratory pint in solitude at my SUP cessation shelter. Despite a more southern launch point, without the additional paddle into town for a pint, the overall route should end up being the same. Plus, I could travel to my launch point without assistance at my ungodly departure time using an Evo Car Share. The challenge would be the return leg and whether I would finish at Horseshoe Bay or back in Vancouver, but that could be a game-time decision.
Below is my gear, ready to rock the night before. For a general list of SUP camping gear, see here.
Below is my float plan. I leave a copy with my family in case something should go wrong. And preparing the float plan also gives me an idea of where I can get to within allotted timelines. For this one, I used a paddling speed of 4.5 km/h, which was conservative. I knew I would likely have extra time, provided the conditions were similar to the forecast.
SUP FLOAT PLAN: Vancouver to Squamish (Round-trip)
DATE: Saturday, September 3-5, 2022
ROUTE: Locarno Beach, Vancouver to Tantalus Landing, Squamish
VESSEL: Teal Blackfin Model XL iSUP
EST. DEP. From Locarno Beach, Vancouver: 0545
EST. ARR. @ Tantalus Landing: 1830
EST. DEP. From Tantalus Landing: 0700
EST. ARR. @ Ramillies Channel: 1400
EST. DEP. From Ramillies Channel: 0700
EST. ARR. @ Spanish Banks: 1400
Tides (Darrell Bay)
Sat. Sept. 3
•0524 Low 1.3 m
•1304 High 3.9 m
•1722 Low 3.4 m
•2229 High 4.2 m
Sun. Sept. 4
•0625 Low 1.1
•1435 High 4.1 m
•1857 Low 3.7 m
•2321 High 4.0 m
Mon. Sept. 5
•0730 Low 1.0 m
•1544 High 4.3 m
•2049 Low 3.7 m
•Forecast: see Windy App
Morning (Burrard Inlet)
•Easterly (ESE) 11-14 kt (18-20 kt wind gusts)
•*Easterly waves 0.5-0.7 m
Afternoon (Zorro Bay)
•Southwesterly (SSW) 3-4 kt (15-17 kt wind gusts)
•Southwesterly (SWS) 2-4 kt (16-20 kt wind gusts)
**Howe Sound Marine Forecast
•STRONG WIND WARNING: southerly inflow 10 to 20 knots noon Saturday
Daylight (September 3):
•0631 – 1950
•0558 – 0631
•1950 – 2023
•0518 – 0558
Paddle Distance ~94 km
Paddle Time ~27hrs
TRAVELLERS: 1 (Mon Jef Peeters)
VEHICLE: Evo Car Share
September 3, 2022
0500 🚗 ↗️ Home
0515 🚗 ↘️ Locarno Beach
0545 🏄🏽♂️ ↗️ LB (7.5 km)
0725 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Point Atkinson (6 km)
0845 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Whytecliff Point (6 km)
1005 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Bowyer/Finisterre Island (8 km)
1150 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Pam Rocks (Christie Islet) (6 km)
1320 🏄🏽♂️ ↘️ Anvils Foot, Anvil Island
1350 🥘 ⏸ Anvils Foot
1420 🏄🏽♂️ ↗️ Anvils Foot (8 km)
1605 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Zorro Bay Ts’itpsm (6 km)
1735 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Watts Point (4 km)
1825 🏄🏽♂️ ↘️ Tantalus Landing Sxwan’shnm
1900 ⛺ ⏸ Tantalus Landing
September 4, 2022
0700 🏄🏽♂️ ↗️ Tantalus Landing (10 km)
0915 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Zorro Bay Ts’itpsm (5 km)
1020 🏄🏽♂️ ↘️ Islet View Marine Recreation Site
1050 🥘 ⏸ Islet View
1120 🏄🏽♂️ ↗️ Islet View (11.5 km)
1350 🏄🏽♂️ ↘️ Ramillies Channel MRS
1410 ⛺ ⏸ Ramillies Channel
(Christie Islet/Pam Rocks – Round Trip ~10 km)
September 5, 2022
0700 🏄🏽♂️ ↗️ Ramillies Channel (7.5 km)
0840 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Halkett Point (3 km)
0920 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Finisterre Island (6 km)
1040 🏄🏽♂️ ↔️ Whytcliff Cove (5 km)
1140 🏄🏽♂️ ↘️ Point Atkinson
1210 🥘 ⏸ Point Atkinson
1240 🏄🏽♂️ ↗️ Point Atkinson (7 km)
1410 🏄🏽♂️ ↘️ Spanish Banks
1440 🚗 ↗️ Spanish Banks
1500 🚗 ↘️ Home
With the low tide prediction, I decided to launch from Locarno Beach, rather than Spanish Banks. The water levels are higher there, and I wouldn’t have to carry my gear as far to get to the water without adding a significant amount of paddle distance. I was up early and had no trouble booking an Evo Car outside my place.
Down at Locarno, there were a few people already out and about. Nomads that have made the area home due to the shower and accessible water, I suspected. It also looked like some SUP campers were set up in the woodlands adjacent to the parking lot. But in the twilight, I couldn’t tell for sure and wasn’t about to go exploring to find out.
As I got my kit in order on the shoreline at the water’s edge, I spotted a cruise ship entering the bay. The timing was good, as it would be well out of the way by the time I made it into the deep-sea transit route. I also spotted Jupiter in the morning twilight (the link is worth a click as it is NASA’s real-time simulation of our solar system, “Solar System Exploration,” and is super cool). I knew it was Jupiter as I had seen the bright light in the night sky several nights before after an evening paddle. I had suspected it was a satellite, but Trevor called it spot on, “That’s a planet.” After checking with the Sky Tonight app, we confirmed it was Jupiter, and I have continued to see it ever since. I wonder if Zeus will fire any lightning bolts at me out on the water?
Once out on the water, the wind and waves in Səl̓ilw̓ət (Burrard Inlet) were close to the forecast. If anything, they were more easterly, which made crossing the inlet challenging. I had wind and waves on my starboard side. The conditions were challenging enough that I was approached by two separate recreational fishing boats mid-crossing. Their concern, as “Good Samaritans,” was appreciated. But their queries did leave me wondering if I look that bad out there. I consoled my ego by convincing myself that the solo aspect of my travel was their cause for concern.
Despite leaving 15 minutes behind schedule, around 0600 hours, I managed to make it across to Point Atkinson ahead of schedule at 0715 hours. Once around the point, as I entered Átl’ḵa7tsem (Howe Sound, click here for pronunciation), the conditions became more favourable. The further I got into the Queen Charlotte Channel, the more the wind and waves were at my back. I took a quick break from paddling for food and hydration. I was still moving relatively fast, so I checked my Garmin inReach® Mini to see my speed. Without even paddling, I was still moving at around 4 km/h. And, in my destination direction to boot! I had been worried about daylight with my itinerary if anything was to go not according to plan. So, my resting pace was reassuring since I could theoretically be blown to my destination and be nearly on time.
The section of water running down the channel toward Whytecliff Point was a fun paddle. With the tide flooding into the Sound and the wind at my back, I was moving quickly and catching a few small wind-powered bumps to ride. In addition, the ferry crossings worked in my favour to expedite my travel. The ferries all crossed as I approached in the correct directions. That is, I saw them pass in advance, and the next approaching ferry would be coming from the direction with the most visibility. Thankfully, none came while crossing to make my passage smoother.
The waves were less in my direction of travel as I exited the Queen Charlotte Channel at the north end of Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island) and the south end of Bowyer Island. They were sending me towards Ramillies Channel, whereas I wanted to travel through Montagu Channel to the east. I contemplated my planned diversion to Pam Rock and Christie Islet. But knowing I would be working against the wind and waves to get back out around Lhaxwm (Anvil Island) and the peninsula at its southeastern border, I decided to keep a more direct line toward Montagu Channel. I still had a lot of paddling ahead of me, so I decided it was best to conserve my energy.
In the image below, Lhaxwm (Anvil Island) is in the centre, with Cha7élkwnech (Gambier Island) to the left, Archer Point/Brunswick Point on the right, and Mount Wrottesley (left) and Mount Ellesmere (right) are the high points to either side of Lhaxwm in the background.
Below is the view out of Átl’ḵa7tsem (Howe Sound). On the left, just a tip of Bowyer Island is visible, with Horseshoe Bay and Whytecliff Point leading out toward Passage Island in the centre of the Queen Charlotte Channel, and Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island) on the right.
Below is the view of Lhaxwm (Anvil Island) as I approach it. You can see the peak that afforded it its colonial namesake from Captain George Vancouver. Pam Rock is on the left, and Christie Islet is in front of Lhaxwm.
The images below are the view into Montagu Channel and looking back over the Britannia Range to the east, with the north end of Bowyer Island visible.
Around the peninsula, it was still windy, but the landform had shifted the waves to southeasterly. The lighter waves helped to get me towards my lunch stop at Anvils Foot. I quickly checked the map I had downloaded from the BC Marine Trails website to my Google Maps in the calmer waters of the north bay. I still had a ways to go. In the end, I must have overshot the best landing site as a few options I surveyed en route to what I thought was Anvils Foot may have been easier landings. I managed the difficult dismount along the steep rocky shoreline to have a peaceful lunch with a view and a short rest.
I took a pair of gratuitous selfies to showcase my shades and sun hat.
On the menu for lunch was Nomad Nutrition’s Irish Shepherd’s Pie, dried mango, and mixed nuts. North over the water to the left of the image is the base of Mount Ellesmere, speckled in front by one of the Kwum Kwum (Defence) islands. In the centre of the Sound, Watts Point can be seen in the distance. The other points leading out to the water along the east coast (right side) of the fjord are where Britannia Beach and Furry Creek are.
Below is a short panoramic video of water surrounding my stop at Anvils Foot.
Launching from my luncheon, I entered the best section of water. As I made it into the open waters north of Lhaxwm (Anvil Island), the wind was at my back, and the waves were big enough to catch and ride. In spite of being on a bigger inflatable board weighed down with my kit. All I could think was that I needed to get back here in similar conditions on my hardboard. The challenge would be setting up your launching and landing points if you’re not planning on spending the night, as crossing back to the eastern shore of the fjord could prove difficult.
Upon reflection, while writing this post, I found myself wondering why the waves were so wonderful in that part of the water? I vaguely recalled reading about an underwater ridge in the fjord near Porteau Cove. Quickly checking the i-boating: Free Marine Navigation Charts & Fishing Maps website revealed a shallow section through where I transited. And a quick internet search brought me back to the original article where I had read this fun factoid. I came across the article when researching for my post on getting “Down with the Sound.” The blog post was a deep dive into the details of the anemology in Átl’ḵa7tsem (Howe Sound). I also came across an interactive topographic map on the howesoundguide.ca website, which is a marine steward initiative for Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound.
As I neared Kwum Kwum (Defence Islands), the conditions quickly went from coltish to calling for concentration. The waves rebounding off the northern shoreline at the narrowing of the Sound were combining into some crazy cross-chop. Splitting the defence (sorry, I had too, I am an ex-baller), I changed course for the bend en route to Zorro Bay.
This section of water was trickier to manage as now I was getting more cross-chop coming from my starboard stern. I had to battle against the waves to stay away from the shore as they were forcing me inland. I managed to make it around the peninsula to get some reprieve on the north, leeward side. I stopped briefly, kneeling on my board in the calmer waters to snack and hydrate. A yellow double kayak was leaving the bay. I took a few backward glances as I was curious where they were heading as I continued to be gently coaxed northward. I think the conditions outside the protection of the peninsula came as a surprise to the kayakers. It seemed that their plan was to cross the fjord perpendicular to the swell‽ As I stood up to continue on my route I kept checking back over my shoulder to see how they were faring. I was having enough trouble going somewhat with the waves and wind, so I wondered what was their wisdom to wage their way crosswise through the waters. I wondered how much more stable sitting in a sea kayak was compared to standing on a paddleboard. I didn’t get the best look, but I thought that they weren’t even wearing deck spray skirts. But, on my following back glance, I saw that they had started to turn back. A good call, I thought to myself. Though it left me wondering whether they were wondering what was my wisdom too‽
There was no time to dwell on that, though. The wind and waves were whisking me north to the end of the bay, and I needed to focus on getting away from the approaching outcrop. The sea gods seemed to have other plans pushing me onward to the point. I battled to break free from their force. However, it would seem the Nereids were on my side since I am telling this tale now.
On the other side of the outcropping, the conditions eased. The waters were still choppy, but the swell was less. I contemplated a straight shot to Sxwan’shnm (Tantalus Landing) through the centre of the fjord, aiming off of Watts Point. But, I decided to hug the shore more, hedging towards Woodfibre. Making my way north, I began to edge slowly eastward into the channel. The image below was the view to the end of the Sound. Sxwan’shnm is somewhere midway on the landmass to the left, the Squamish Terminals in the centre, Watts Point on the right, and the Stawamus Chief behind the point.
After a quick map consultation, I decided to aim for an intersection of tree clearing and powerlines as my Sxwan’shnm (Tantalus Landing) sighting. Further along, I revised my selection and decided to aim more northerly. In hindsight, I should have checked my map one last time, but I ass-u-me(d) I would reach the shore before the campsite. As it turns out, I made an ass out of me, as I overshot the site.
After hugging the shoreline for what felt much too long, I rechecked my map and GPS location. Much to my dismay, the site was behind me. I turned and started the struggle southward into the wind. It was like I was on a treadmill, nearly staying in place despite a hard paddling effort. Thankfully, being so close to the shore gave me feedback that I was in fact advancing, albeit slowly. As I wrestled the water upwind and wobbled in the wave washback, a shoreline rockface caught my eye. I did a double take as the geological formation was so striking in my mind. At the base of a crevasse, I spotted an intriguing rock. Check the image below for your own creative interpretation.
The wind was so strong that I went to my knees to lower my windage. Slowly but surely, I made my way to the landing. The signage is relatively nondescript, camouflage, you could say. The signage is also more northerly facing, which I suspect is for the traffic sailing from Squamish. I failed to consider that for my southernly started Sound sojourn.
With the high tide and southerly swell, the landing at Tantalus was tricky. I eased my way into the berth of the narrow cove. After dragging my board further ashore, I quickly surveyed the site. A short scramble led to the bear bin food cache. Further on, there is a bridge crossing over a small creek. On the other side of the bridge was a small bay covered with seagrass, flanked to the north side by a rocky point, which I had seen from the water. At the base of the point, a fellow camper had their kit set up. There was no sign of them or their vessel, aside from some kayak wheels revealing their mode of travel. I walked passed their camp to check out the point. There was a large communal table on the soft ground before the point. Out on the point, there was a firepit covered with a large rock. And a second tree-round for seating sat adjacent to the firepit. Turning back inland, I walked up to the newly built tent platforms. There are three of them heading up the bluff, with the path to the outhouse (a composting toilet) branching off between the first and second pad. I decided I would take the first tent pad as it had the best view and was closest. Heading back down, I checked out the grassland beach to see if I could land my SUP there. That would save me from carrying my kit overland to the tent pads. The image below is the official landing site at high tide, and the video gives you a glimpse of the conditions.
This video gives a bit more perspective on the state of the Sound.
I was able to land on the grasslands. After unloading my board, I dragged it far up shore as the highest tide was at 2241 hours and about half a metre higher than the present water level. Below is a scanned version of the site description.
The images below look out into Átl’ḵa7tsem (Howe Sound) from near the grassland landing.
Below is the view over the rock point with the decommissioned firepit (local fire ban) and surrounding seating, taken from my new landing site.
After setting up my campsite, I went down to the water to soak up some sun and R&R. Two kayakers paddled by heading south. As they made their way along the path toward the campsites, we briefly exchanged pleasantries. They had come down from Squamish. The gentleman I conversed with guessed I must have just arrived when they saw that I was travelling by SUP. He seemed baffled when I responded that I had been at the site for several hours. He explained that they had first departed from the Squamish Spit around noon. But, unable to make much headway into the inflow winds, they decided to turn back and wait for the winds to ease. I revealed that I had left in the morning, but from Vancouver. He quipped back, ‘Oh, you were blown down.’ A fair point, but from my perspective, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. He remarked it had still taken them an hour to paddle down, despite the lighter headwinds. I had a small sample of upwind travel in my journey, so I was aware of the challenge.
The images below show the first tent pad where I set up my tent and a close-up of the out-of-order firepit. It would be a lovely place to light a fire in wetter weather.
As mentioned, there was a bridge crossing over a small creek. I took advantage of the running water to stock up, using my Grayl Geopress Water Purifier to filter some fresh water. I still had an ample amount of water, but I had read that you should always take the opportunity to stock up when SUP touring. I am also waiting to receive a prototypical portable seawater desalinator, the QuenchSea, but it has only now reached the production phase. The Grayl unit is only capable of filtering freshwater, whereas the QuenchSea unit can only be used with seawater. I had hoped that the QuenchSea would have been shipped and received before this trip, as it was supposed to be ready last summer. But alas, these things are usually delayed for timeframes, and the pandemic has not helped the situation. Perhaps I will have it for my next ocean tour for a complimentary filtration system for all water types, fresh and sea.
I prepared my dinner down on the beach, AlpineAire Pork Jambalaya. I ate dinner perched on top of a rock, lined with my trusty Karrimor seat cushion that is a guilty pleasure pack on my SUP trips. As I didn’t have the seat cushion at lunch, I made sure to re-pack it in my food bag for tomorrow’s travel. I took in the evening sky and even had a short nap on the beach. It was a spectacular scene with various hues of blue.
My nap allowed me to make it to sunset. Unfortunately, with many of the campsites along the Sea to Sky Marine Trail lining the western shore of the fjord, you don’t get a direct viewing of sunset. But it was breathtakingly beautiful nonetheless.
My short upwind paddle from the afternoon had me spooked for Day Two as I would likely be battling inflow winds for a good portion of the day. I was anticipating some headwinds for the southern leg, but I hoped that the typical summer along-channel wind pattern would hold (i.e., morning outflow and afternoon inflow). If I was up and on the water early, I hoped to make some headway before the thermal winds picked up. However, the forecast from Windy.com was calling for all inflow, without the typical summer morning outflow. But the Government of Canada’s Howe Sound Marine Weather Forecast called for light outflows in the morning, changing to inflows. Either way, my window of opportunity, if there would be one, would be the morning. So I retired to my sleeping quarters perch early with the hope of breaking camp before daybreak and getting on the water at first light.
The image below is my route and statistics recorded with Geo Tracker. Unfortunately, my GPS signal appears to have been spotty after lunch, and the latter half of my recording is absent. It took me just under eight hours to complete the nearly 50 kilometres of travel.
I was able to transfer the GPS data to Relive and create a recap of my route. The video summary gives some geographical context to some of the photos. If the video below doesn’t work, here is a link to the video on Relive’s site.
Stay tuned for Day Two…