Broughton Archipelago ( Beginner trip)

IslandStyle

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Jun 6, 2021
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Port Mcneill
Hello. Planning a kayak trip to the Broughton Archipelago in early July. Planning on spending 5 nights camping at various sites in the archipelago. Will be with a group of 5 people with limited kayaking experience.

I have alot of experience boating and fishing on the west coast but not with multi-day kayak trips. I've done some kayaking in sheltered water in the Howe sound area however and the gulf islands.

Is the Broughtons a suitable area for beginner kayakers? I've done some research on routes and if seems there several channels that have strong currents that require slack tide to transit. The following 5 day itinerary is similar to what we have planned:

https://atthewatersedge.ca/kayaking-johnstone-strait-5-day-self-guided-itineraries/

Would this be a realistic trip option?

I have all the required nautical charts, VHF radio, and inreach device for emergencies.

Thanks for any info you can provide!
 

a_c

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Dec 23, 2014
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Victoria, BC
Hello, welcome to the forums!

From your description it sounds like you have lots of experience on the water (though not kayak specific), and as such you would be the de facto 'group leader' on this trip? If so, how comfortable are you in this role? Would they all defer to your judgement? Are you comfortable taking responsibility for their safety and well-being? Group dynamics can be tricky....

Gusty winds, fog, rough/choppy waters and strong currents, are common to the area, especially in Johnstone Strait. I would not consider this a suitable trip for a group of beginners. While it's true that many people with no kayaking experience take part in guided trips in this area, the key here is professionally guided - commercial operators that usually have a client to guide ratio of 3:1.

You mention charts, VHF and Inreach (good!), but more specifically, do you have the knowledge and know-how to self-rescue? What about assisting your friends if they run into trouble? Would your friends be able to rescue YOU if you went in the water? Small problems can spiral out of control pretty quickly on the water.

Not trying to scare you off, kayaking is a wonderful experience, but I would do a serious re-think about risk assessment, paddling abilities and the appropriateness of this area as a 'first time' experience. You might look at a water taxi 'drop off/pick up' in a more sheltered area of the Broughtons and build a trip around that, at the very least it might keep you away from some of the more challenging conditions mentioned above.

The interactive map on this site is a great trip planning resource: https://www.bcmarinetrails.org/

Good luck, keep us posted on how things work out (the Trip Reports section of this forum has a lot of great information).
 

rider

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Jul 12, 2005
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Coquitlam,BC
I have done a few multi day trips in the area, and honestly taking beginners there can end up totally fine, or seriously go for a ball of shit. In mild conditions, it's a piece of cake. But I have also seen winds kick up some nasty conditions in the strait, especially if opposing the tide. A lot of this can be mitigated by exercising conservative judgement and building a weather day, or two into the trip. Last time there we ended up sitting out a day on an islet due to dense fog in an area where wind and currents would have made navigation challenging. I would be very hesitant to take a self supported group of beginners out into the area. You can get great conditions and have an amazing time, but I wouldn't want the responsibility personally.
 

alexsidles

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Jan 10, 2009
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Seattle WA
The itinerary you propose is realistic for beginners. If you stay off the water when the wind reaches 15 knots or higher, and if you cross rapid-flowing channels at or near slack, the risk level in the Broughtons is minimal.

There’s no need for guides or water taxis. Self-supported beginners can do just fine. The key is to be conservative with regard to wind, current, and distances.

Get out and go!

Alex
 

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
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Bend OR USA
I made two possible mistakes in the Broughton. First - we approached our intended camp area and it was occupied by another kayak there so we had the water taxi take us to a Plan-B site. We should have asked the kayaker how long he intended to stay. As it was, he left the next day - we paddled over to investigate the site for future trips. That first site would have been great. But we had already set up camp - which included a large full water container we brought on the taxi - so we were already committed. The idea was to drink from it for the few days we were at “base camp”, then collapse it and store it empty as we completed the adventure using our more kayak friendly water bags.

The second was paying a water taxi to take us to OUR specified island in the Burdwood group. Apparently there’s a “shuttle” from Telegraph Cove to Echo Bay that would have saved us a few hundred dollars in water taxi transportation fees. Echo Bay was NOT our first destination, but we landed there for lunch during the “travel to, camp on, three or four islands on the way back” part of the trip. But again, our initial water supply was not “kayak friendly” and we wouldn’t have wanted to spend those first days at Echo Bay.

We headed out from Alder Bay - less hectic than Telegraph Cove. The “resort” at Alder Bay had reasonable daily parking and shower fees.

On the way back, we crossed over and camped at KiaKash Creek - the first place mosquitos were a problem. If you hike up the stream, you’ll come to a fresh water soaking pool - if you are brave (it’s not that cold).
 

SalishSeaNior

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Nov 15, 2020
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Okanagan Valley, Canada
I agree with much of what has been said. The north end of the Broughton Archapelago and Queen Charlotte Straight in general is not really beginner territory. Having said that there are protected areas and safety would be more dependent on proper trip planning, participant preparation and being very conservative with making crossings of Johnston Straight and Blackfish Sound, as well as having time to sit out bad conditions. I was stormbound in that area, though not in the Broughtons, for days many years ago.

With respect to beginner paddlers, as has been said, someone, the most experienced, must take on the task of trip leader. That person must be responsible for making conservative risk management decisions with regard to paddling conditions and the group must all agree to that. The others in the group need to have a very good understanding of what is involved with respect to crossings, weather and safety in general. They all must also have immersion clothing, PFD, and wear them, as well as safety equipment necessary to handle spills and rescues.

If it were my trip, I would also want to get the entire group to spend several days practicing various types of assisted and self rescues prior to the trip. A group of us in fact did that in February 1985 in English Bay to prepare for a May trip to Haida Gwaii. The water and air were cold, but that made the practice real. That means going out as a group in a sheltered area of a lake or the sea and rolling the boats and practicing rescues. Now that Covid restrictions are easing, that should be doable. Rescue practice can actually be a lot of fun and it will help build your group into a cohesive team. The more prepared your team is, the less stressful and more fun your trip will be. You might even consider getting together as a group one evening and watching how to rescue practice videos; T Kayak Rescue as an example; prior to rescue practice the next day or so. If folk in your group are not willing to do that kind of preparation, then they likely should not be going on a self supported trip to this area.

If your group does prepare properly, then I think the risk is manageable, especially if you watch the weather and stay in protected areas unless conditions are good on the outside and on the crossings. It will also help instil confidence and a sense of responsibility and team work in the group

My two bits worth.

Cheers, Rick
 

SalishSeaNior

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Nov 15, 2020
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Okanagan Valley, Canada
Nother thought, i mentioned practicing rescues prior to our 1985 Haida Gwaii trip. I actually had to do a T rescue with one our group on that trip for real. He was a rooky paddler, but after I got him to listen and calm down, the rescue proceeded without a hitch. There would have been a far different outcome without the pre-trip practice. No chance of outside rescue where we were at the time.

Also practice self rescues with a paddle float. Believe that you must take care of yourselves, outside rescue may not be there.

It is my own standard practice to take my boat out on the lake several times every summer and practice self rescues. That is in fact a lot of fun, especially in warm weather. It also means I have gotten quite proficient at it, even in rougher water.

R
 
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