Kayaking Sechelt Inlet

Adventure travel on a shoestring

As I steered my kayak past Tuwanek Point and bounced through the standing waves of an ebbing tide-rip I had to remind myself that it had been only three hours since I left West Vancouver and it had cost less than 50 bucks to get here.

Our four boats hung close to the rocky shoreline. Riding the outgoing tide and boosted by a strong ocean wind we made good time, and the following sea was just rough enough to make paddling interesting. Betty and I had our own boats, daughter Janet, and son-in-law Robert got theirs from Peddles and Paddles, an outfit located near Porpoise Bay that rents top-line equipment and provides secure parking for cars left at the end of the road. We were just beginning a five-day camping trip in Sechelt Inlet.

For those of us who have been bitten by the bug the compulsion to travel is like a chronic disease, an affliction that can be controlled but never cured. Unfortunately those "far away places with strange-sounding names" are often beyond the reach of time and budget. But here in B.C. one needn't go far to find spots that offer adventure and a sense of discovery right on our doorstep. Sechelt Inlet is one of the easiest to get to.

A 40 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale, a scenic one hour drive through Sechelt and along Porpoise Bay road, and we are at the Peddles and Paddles boat ramp. An hour later, boats loaded and spray-skirts adjusted, we are on our way.

Sechelt Inlet itself is about 2 km wide and 30 km long but it is only part of a larger complex of fjords that includes Salmon, and Narrows Inlets, each more than 15 km long. The only link between this vast interior seaway and the open Pacific is through Skookumchuck Narrows, a cleft in the granite where tidal currents surge in and out at speeds up to 12 knots. Except for the turbulent waters of the Skookumchuck, Sechelt and its companion inlets offer protected waters where families, or people like Janet and Robert who are new to the sport, can enjoy ocean kayaking in a safe but challenging environment.

There are nine provincial campsites within the Sechelt Inlets, only one of which (Porpoise Bay) is accessible by car. The number of tent sites at each kayak camp varies from two or three to a dozen or more depending on how cozy you choose to be with your neighbour.

In less than three hours from Peddles and Paddles we nosed onto the beach at Nine Mile and were surprised to find the campsite nearly empty. This was Betty's night to cook so while she set up the kitchen on a chunk of driftwood the rest of us hauled the boats above high tide and pitched our tents. Its amazing what great cuisine can be served from a single-burner primus stove. Feeling mellow and full, with a glass of Robert's apre-dinner wine in hand, we leaned back against a beach log and watched the tide turn and start to creep back up the beach. Here at our camp in Sechelt Inlet, miles beyond the nearest road, the rest of the world seemed strangely remote and unimportant. Even the tide is out of sync with the rest of the Pacific. On the other side of Skookumchuck the tide turned three hours ago. So for the next five days we adjusted our lives to the unique rhythm of the Inlet.

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