Monday, May 25, 2009

Newcastle Island

Yesterday's original plan was for Paula, Bernie, Louise and I to meet near Maffeo Sutton Park in downtown Nanaimo and launch from there, but when we arrived we discovered that large portions of the park (including a large chunk of the parking lot) were closed off as improvements were being made to the park, and we faced a long walk from our vehicles to the shore. Otherwise, it looked like a great place to launch from, so maybe next time we'll try from there.
Instead we moved a little further up the coast to Departure Bay at the northern end of Newcastle Island. This was probably a better choice as we also wanted to visit Jesse Island, which is home to a small cave that can be kayaked through.
Departure Bay Pano

It was bright and sunny, but a little breezier than expected. We're also experiencing quite a tidal variance this week with the low tides being super low. The low tide turned into a good thing later on, but it made for a bit of slog down to the water.
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Departure Bay is home to a BC Ferries terminal, and so keeping your eyes peeled for departing and arriving ferries, recreational marine traffic, and the occasional landing sea plane is vital for kayakers here lest you become a marine speed bump. Here, the MV Coastal Renaissance departs the terminal.
2009-05-24 Newcastle Island 001

We kayaked out towards Jesse Island, first passing small Brandon Island...
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...then past a small tightly clumped group of rocks. Here, Paula found a small opening...
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...which lead into a beautiful little channel. Here's when the extreme low tide was a benefit. I'm guessing that during a normal low tide, the walls of this channel wouldn't be nearly so deep, and at a high tide they'd probably be underwater. So this is about as shallow as this channel ever gets, and only a few times a year.
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Louise followed me through the channel, but when we came out, we couldn't find Paula. She loved the channel so much that she had paddled back to go through it again!
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From there, we made the short crossing to Jesse Island. The wind was playing tricks with us, dropping and rising without warning, but we didn't care -- we'd found the paddle-through cave! The only problem was that due to the extreme low tide it was over our heads!
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Jesse Island has some gorgeous rock formations.
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Jesse Island has another feature, a cute but loud and obnoxious guard dog. He followed us around the island, barking and growling every chance he had. It drove him nuts whenever we ducked under an overhang and he could no longer see us. Bernie teased him unmercifully; I was certain the dog was going to fling itself off the cliff right into his kayak. We named the dog Bruno.
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Jesse Island is also for sale. US$5.9 million, if you've got loose change kicking around.

From there, we crossed to Newcastle Island. We were going to go around the outside of the island, but the up and down wind came up again, and Bernie, scouting ahead, reported back that it was looking pretty gnarly around the point ahead, and he recommended that we head back. Normally, Bernie is the gung-ho death-wisher of the group, so if Bernie wants to turn around, it must be rough. So we went the other way and paddled down the inside passage.
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We saw lots of raccoons taking advantage of the low tide to feast on (we presume) crabs along the shore. Whole raccoon families were enjoying a Sunday seafood smorgasbord, but I couldn't get any pictures as they would scamper away before we got close.
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We discovered the site of some sort of Nanaimo rite of passage: a pole covered in bras and bikini tops (and one pair of Homer Simpson boxer shorts).
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We turned back, as a few of us were starting to ache. (We're pretty wimpy paddlers - Freya we ain't!) Naturally, as soon as we turned around that's when the wind kicked up again.
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We gave the MV Queen of Oak Bay a wide clearance. (And believe me, you want to give the Oak Bay as much clearance as you can.)
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We crossed back towards our landing spot, but Bernie detoured across to Jesse. Bruno was having none of it and we could hear him barking at Bernie from a kilometre away. "You? Again?" I really thought that Bruno that going to jump into the water and swim after Bernie. (Maybe we'll need to start carrying dog anti-venom in our first aid kits.)
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This is a terrific place to paddle, easily two or three different day-trips could be planned for this area. We shall return!

Trip length: 11.05 km
YTD: 96.12
My pictures are here.
The Google Earth kmz is here.

Post #500 on the blog. Woo hoo!


  1. **mutters**
    Envy is a sin.
    Envy is a sin.
    Envy is a sin.

    Looks like a great paddle, despite the breeze. And congratulations on Blog Post #500. Surely someone somewhere has a website dedicated to collecting blog milestones.

    Not sure I have any paddling muscles left after 7 months, but I'll find out in a month or so ... assuming I finish courses, meet deadlines, and, oh, yes, buy a ticket. In the meantime, I plan to make it to MEC Paddlefest, Montreal version - though I don't quite have the nerve to sign up for a paddleboard class in French.


  2. Does this mean that you're coming out to visit your kayak? I'm sure it misses you! :) And we do, too!

  3. Alison! Tell us when you're coming! We'll plan another trip to Jesse and Newcastle for you to enjoy.

  4. Just by chance I did the exact same route you guys did. No dogs but the water was a bit lumpy. Going through the cave and channels was a bit scary as the water rose and fell constantly. Hard to get pictures :(

  5. Thank you for this post...I have wanted to go for a paddle around Newcastle and now I know the route to take and might even see some nice rock formations AND a cave.