Monday, 4 July 2016

Sea kayaking on Hornby Island continues to impress

by Keith and Heather Nicol
    We recently returned from a biking, hiking and sea kayaking adventure to Hornby Island before the summer crowds descend. We headed over on Monday, June 27 from Courtenay and after taking the 2 ferries (to Denman and then Hornby Island), we arrived around noon. Fortunately high tide was about that time and we knew from our experience last year that tides can raise havoc with paddling here.  This is because there is a large intertidal zone which can translate to long carries with your kayaks.  For paddlers interested in the places we sea kayaked on Hornby last summer, check our 4 archived posts from September 2015 for “put in” information and other details. 

Heather paddles past a large stump with an eagle perched on it
       We wanted to head to Norris Rocks again but this time we launched from Ford Cove which had a better launch point than the Sandpiper Beach access we used last year.  The launch point in Ford Cove is fairly obvious and is next to the marina (10 U 0978713E 5484017N) with some parking nearby. We paddled with a light to moderate north wind and followed an impressive sandstone shelf to Heron Rocks and around a low island. Up to now we had not seen much wildlife except for an eagle sitting on a huge stump that had somehow been washed onto the top of the island!  From there it was on to Norris Rocks and there we saw a lot more wildlife with 40 or so seals to dozens of harlequin ducks and a few black oyster catchers. We kept our distance, circled the island and then paddled back into a slight chop to Ford Cove. Total paddling time was a bit less than 2 hours and the distance was 7 km return.  You can’t beat this paddle for its wildlife offerings. 
You can't beat Norris Rocks for wildlife (photo taken with telephoto lens and cropped)

 Our second trip on Wednesday, June 29 was a repeat of one that we had done in September 2015 and on that day we were lucky to see 4 orcas, and 2 swam just in front of us near Flora Island. Could we get lucky this time? We put in at Whaling Station Bay where there is a public access and a small parking lot. Here our “wheels” came in very handy since even though we were close to high tide, the long beach would mean a longish carry over the sandy beach. The weather was perfect for padding with a light NW wind and this shoreline has lots of places to pull in if the need arises. We looped around Flora Island but this time there were no orcas in sight. In fact we saw very little wildlife except for some harlequins on Flora Island. We did take a side trip to the cliffs of Helliwell Park and this is worth doing to see the wind and wave sculpted sandstone rock in several places. Our route was about 8 km and it took us 2 hours to do the trip. Hornby Island is well suited to ½ day to day trips but watch the weather and plan your launch locations accordingly. Also “wheels” really help if the tides aren’t in your favour to make launching easier.
Heather paddling past sculpted sandstone at Helliwell Park


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