Date: July 9-12, 2009
Paddlers: Paul Delaney & Toby OíDea, in two pink-white & green Seaknife 17ís
NTS map: 2C 12/13/14
Weather: Above 20oC to 30oC. Winds, generally light to non-existent, but some fresh NE winds the first day. It was strange that with a generally SW or W flow we had NE winds whenever there was any wind and yet it was warm and dry. The major reaches in this part of the bay are susceptible to NE and SW winds. Water was warm on the hands, cooler further east.
Trip Lengths/Day(km) Ė 27.0, 7.0, 15.35, 12.0
Magnetic Declination Ė 20o 27í
Route map. Thumbnail - click on image to enlarge
This trip was conceived initially by Toby to explore the historically unsettled Willis Island, whilst also paddling the area in general. Finally the weather conditions looked good and we headed out. First night we camped on the beach in St. Chadís, a beautiful, protected cove. No sooner had we started to unload but a couple came by to chat, or to try to throw us off the land; we werenít sure. Turned out it was Kevin and Sophie Redmond. With the way sunglasses can hide a face we didnít realize Kevin and I knew each other until formal introductions. Kevin has written a book on kayaking in Nfld. His brother has a house just along from where we going to camp. This turned out real good as we were able to get all kinds of firewood for the cool night ahead and our cooking as well as some cookies. Also at night his daughter sang rather lovely. Great voice.
Next day we were off to Burnside to do the initial loading. We left the beach about noon. We had planned 2 or 3 nights out and it was no problem to load enough equipment and supplies for that length of journey. We decided to do the scenic route by heading west before swinging up Long Reach, crossing to Card Island and then weaving along till we crossed Willis Channel to Willis Island and continuing along the south shore to Lower Gander Cove, our planned destination. The day started calm but within Long Reach we got pushed up the channel by some following winds till we neared the NE exit whereupon the winds were now blowing down the reach! We stopped for a quick snack of dry salami and cheese and bread and then headed into the wind and across to Card Island. The wind was fresh but not overly hard to paddle into. We paddled up the channel between Card and Broad Island where a few cabins are located as well as a decent looking camp area. But we headed on and out to the east to pass between Coal and Hail islands. In this area there were notable interference patterns between wave directions creating somewhat confused waters. No doubt created by the mixture of islands and wind direction, they werenít really bad at all but visually interesting, but with higher wind speeds they could be a bit of trouble. The St. Brendanís ferry was headed our way as we crossed Willis Reach near the SW corner of the island. For awhile then we were protected from the wind as we headed into Upper Gander Cove. This cove has a brook running into it and a nice bottom. Although we didnít really explore for a campsite I think the potential is there. Heading on east we caught a bit more wind and somewhat lumpy water. The sedimentary stratigraphy along this shore included some impressive-looking, prominent, thick, white beds. Finally into Lower Gander Cove we made landfall at about 7:15pm after a 27 km paddle. It was quite enough for the day. There is a well set up cabin in this cove, a nice brook for fresh water (tested regularly and always good quality was returned). Camping is easy here in a couple of spots. We set up camp and cooked our pork chops with pasta al pesto mixed with onions, garlic and mushrooms whilst downing some excellent Irish Newfoundland Red Ales from Storm Brewery. Their beers are some of the best produced on the island and their style means they do not require being cold which can be a useful factor when kayaking in the warm summer. Temperature dropped into single digits that night.
Photo 1: Launch Site, Burnside
Photo 2: Paddling
Photo 3: Sea Stack
Photo 4: Fair & False Bay
Photo 5: Long Reach
Photo 6: Card Island from Long Reach
Photo 7: Card/Broad Island channel looking to SW
Photo 8: Top of Hail Island looking east
Photo 9: Looking across to Willis Island
Photo 10: Dipping sediments, south shore of Willis Island
Photo 11: Lower Gander Cove
Photo 12: Lower Gander Cove camp & gear
Next day we took it pretty easy in the morning due to the previous days work. Before long the cabin owner showed up and we helped bring his supplies from the wharf and had a cup of coffee. Turns out heís the cousin of a good girlfriend of mine from the top of the Northern Peninsula. Another example of how small a world Nfld is! Breaking camp we didnít get back on the water till after noon. The water was supremely calm at this point and we ducked into all nooks along the way. We noted one keyhole in an almost sea stack and another ďAĒ-shaped notch. We didnít go too far this day, just looking for a camping spot. We had some fun pushing through a shallow passage with Toby getting a bit of activity from what was obviously the biggest swells of the day, but no real issue. We carried on and explored some coves, one of which used to host gardens of the Flat Islanders. Some minor NE winds sprung up on the way back, merely giving some ferry practice. We set up camp on a small beach with a little brook for fresh water. There is an open cabin just inside, in good condition, a bit musty indicating it hasnít been used too recently. The cove is quite striking with a cliff on the north side and heavy trees generally all around. Once set up we followed the brook up to a pond that supposedly has trout. There was a loon fishing and hopefully he had more luck than us as there wasnít even a sniff of fish. There are some rather impressive trees on this island. Supper that night was a curried chicken stir fry, prepped a few weeks earlier and frozen for the trip. Served over pasta it was a great repast.
Photo 13: Toby through islets in Bessy Island Tickle
Photo 14: Toby in Bessy Island Tickle
Photo 15: East camp, Willis Island
Photo 16: East camp evening
Photo 17: Paul at pond above east camp
Photo 18: Toby in Willis Island woods
Photo 19: Toby at east camp fire
Day 3 Ė 15 km
We had planned to paddle along the south shore of the island and camp on Broad Island, but plans changed. The seas were eminently calm, oily for the most part. The sun was hot, possibly hitting 30oC this day. We ran across the Lower Gander Cove cabin owner out with friends to see the sights. We got some interesting shots in the ďAĒ and Keyhole notches and cruised comfortably along the coast. Eventually we heard the exhalation of a whale and noted a minke out in the bay. As we came abreast of the prominent Varket Island we decided that rather than retrace Day 1 we would make the crossing to explore Varket and Morris islands. While normally open crossing donít really interest me this part of the bay means that there is land on all quarters for a nice visual experience. Also the waters were so calm that there was no real challenge in making the crossing. As we looked back out to sea we noted two very steep-sided flat-topped islands out past Willis Island. This was actually an optical illusion due to the heat and humidity. Gradually one island returned to its normal shape. On the way to Morris Island we heard the sound and saw the spray of a small pod of humpbacks, almost certainly with a calf or two. It was pleasant paddling along some impressive shore on the east side of the island. As we had done a few times before we rafted up using a bungee cord to attach us as we had a seaborne meal, as a slight NE breeze pushed us along. We did similar as we started to cross to Burnside, but eventually had to release to keep a better line in a somewhat stronger breeze. Not sure if linking with a cord is recommended, especially in rougher seas, but worked well for us on this trip. Back in Burnside we headed back to St. Chadís for the night.
Photo 20: East camp in morning
Photo 21: Leaving east camp
Photo 22: The ďAĒ Arch
Photo 23: Hobbs Head
Photo 24: Keyhole
Photo 25: Varket Islands
Photo 26: Optical Illusion
Photo 27: Islands to east of Morris Island
Photo 28: Morris Island coast
Photo 29: Morris Island stratigraphy
Photo 30: Burnside return
As it was our last day and linking with travel home in different directions we looked at a fairly simple paddle out of St. Chadís. We stayed on the north side initially heading out to Stock Cove Island. I played in some rocks, scraping bottom once in negotiating a low breaking surf over a bedrock bar. Could be a fun play area for others in more active water. Crossing to Bakerís Loaf Island we found a rather wonderful island with some swell crashing the eastern shore that we really hadnít seen all trip. The northwest side is quite steep and it was nice to rest in some shaded cliff zones while encountering a couple of mature eagles. Rounding the eastern head the small swell created a pleasant movement and sound. On the southeast side of the island there was an impressive cliff-sided broad cove with prominent heavy orange lichen coatings on the rocks. In this cove we discovered a narrow channel into a small forked cove, with just enough space to spin the kayak around. Heading in I got a nice push from a higher swell, but maneuvered with a stern rudder into the calm inside. Typically a nice discovery for a kayaker. Got a few shots of Toby as he had a run in as well, plus short video. Towards the south of the island there was a nice breaking swell. Might have gone for a surf off the edge of the main wave which formed as a steep inverted V-shape till the wind and steepness took the top off, but there was a hidden rock right in the likely glide path so didnít chance it. This island with its more active seas and sights was one of our favourites of the journey. We weaved amongst some smaller islands and pleasant coves on the way back to St. Chadís, doing a good steady pull over the last few kilometres.
Photo 31: Broad cove on south of Bakerís Loaf Island
Photo 32: Toby in forked cove, Bakerís Cove Island
Photo 33: Hull down in forked cove
Photo 34: A little active water
Several eagles, lots of shags (cormorants, especially more westerly), many snipes including one peeping chick on Varket Island, several fish hawks (osprey), lots of black guillemots, a couple of seals, a minke and a few humpback whales, loons, gulls and crows.
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