Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chicken update!

Just wanted to pass this on from Roy, the poultry trainer at Mama na Dada:
"Man the women are doing fine,as per now they are having 55 chicks.hopefully be the end of the year they will be havng 200 chicks!!!"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our story in the Ladner Optimist paper

Saturday, September 4, 2010


While the weather was a considerable challenge in our last leg of the trip, as you can see from our previous post, the kayaking continued to be an amazing experience. In Work Channel, just before Portland Inlet and on the very day that we had the bitter taste of hypothermia, we had a magical close encounter with humpback whales. There was this one family with two cows, a big bull and a calf, who couldn't yet fully dive, right near the mouth of Work Channel and directly in our path. As we got closer, they didn't see us as any threat and just kept on doing their whale things - breath, breath, breath, then dive with their iconic split whale tails slowly sliding into the depths. They got so close to us and were sometimes only a paddle length away! They are gigantic. The part of their backs that surfaced easily dwarfed us and even dwarfed the fishing boats. Much of their mass remains unseen underwater like an iceberg. When they surfaced right beside us, you could tell that our 19 foot kayaks could easily fit inside of them! Good thing they are gentle giants.

We were paddling slow since we were going against the current so we got to spend a lot of time with them. A few times, they would swim right beside our boats and their four sinuous bodies arched and glided through the water. The two cows were often in perfect unison and dive together with two beautiful tails sticking up in the air like synchronized swimmers. The huge bull took the outside path, so closest to me, and often got so close that I could see the texture of the skin on his back and count the vertebrate. A little (little being relative...still the size of our kayaks!) calf kept up with its family but couldn't yet make a full dive with its tail in the air.

Every time after they dove, there would be a suspenseful 5 to 10 minutes before they surfaced again. Thoughts fleeted across our minds, "Where were they? Were the right under us? I sure hope they don't surface onto us!" But there were no worries - they seemed to know where we were though it was always a little jump of surprise when they cam out right beside me!!

The humpbacks continued to accompany us as we entered Alaska. They know no political borders and continued to surface and breach right beside us until we got close to Ketchikan.

On the 73rd day of the trip after launching at Vancouver, we crossed the invisible, imaginary line dividing nations and entered Alaska. There wasn't any fanfare or fireworks and the scenery remained remarkably similar. The only place you'll see a border is on a map. The same little diving birds still peeked their heads above the water and was so round from eating fish that they bounced a bit on the water before flying. The international boundary was completely artificial on the landscape as we crossed on one island to another. It existed in what it meant to people and for us, it meant that we have kayaked over 1100 km, fueled by people power along, almost the entire length of British Columbia. No matter what happens now, we have paddled to Alaska!

Bryan and I was talking on the beach after eating a delicious dinner of crab that night. After seeing our own backyard, we agree that it is one of the best places we have traveled to. It is so beautiful, so safe, so remote and so rich. No other place wold you have lived off the land with such ease as we did. Food is everywhere! We live in an amazing place.

Foggy Bay in Alaska lived up to its name and was foggy. We instead camped out on the nearby DeLong Islands, which weren't that long. There were some extremely shallow intertidal areas between islands that would dry up in low tide and morning these days featured an extremely low tide. The extensive drying sand flats made for an extreme workout in the morning as we carried our heavy kayaks down to water, sometimes almost 2 km away! On the day we got to Foggy Bay, we had to wake up at 4:30am when the tide was higher so we could escape our bay that would completely dry up. Consequently, we were very cautious picking out a camping spot to avoid this morning's hassles.

We find a nice pebble beach that faces outside to the bay in the north end of the islands and found some footprints leading ot the next beach.
"People!" Bryan exclaimed as we saw a neatly and widely spaced rows of identical yellow tents on the next beach.
"Kayakers!" I said excitedly. "Let's go say hi!"
It turns out that they were a kayak sport fishing group from the Ketchikan Kayak Company. The area around here is fantastic of halibut and they are able to catch huge fish off of their kayaks, which are stable sit-on-top "Ocean Kayaks" made for fishing. The owner, Howard, caught and landed a 183 pound halibut here! Absolutely amazing and an impressive display of skill. Our 43 pound halibut that Bryan caught in Namu was quite a struggle from a dock! One of the guys on the tour caught a 18 pound halibut and invited us for feast for lunch. Very nice and professional outfit.

As we paddled past Kah Shakes cove and Boca de Quadra inlet, we came by some rocks completely covered with hundreds of seals. They all slipped into the water with a splash and suddenly, we were surrounded by lots of little seal heads poking out of the water. We drifted through, eating a granola bar snack and the seals seemed torn between curiosity and fear. They would cautiously slink forward and poke their heads out of the water and then flip away with a splash and disappear. Groups of them waited nearby with their beady eyes glued to us. They inched forwards but always seemed surprised by how close they always got and made a quick get away.

We found a nice beach on the islands after. We sat around in the sand and relaxed the afternoon away. It wasn't that warm out and was actually kind of chilly. We are definitely seeing the end of summer. However, it was not raining! Yay! I know I will look back to theses days, chilling out of the beach without a care in the world and realize that we were in paradise.

Again, we say a bunch of big humpbacks on our paddle that day. I am still amazed by how big they get! When their tails come out right in front of us, I am dwarfed by it. I wonder how they know we're around. They always seem to miss us though they do sometimes come up RIGHT BEHIND US for a shockingly surprising breath if we didn't know that there were any whales around.

The next day after, we had a gigantic crossing where we crossed at the mouth of the mouth of Belm Channel. Belm Channel has strong tide currents and we knew that currents are strongest in narrow areas. We decided to take the widest possible crossing at the front, almost mirroring the route that boats would take. The weather was good until the end and we were feeling confident with nearly 3 months of continuous paddling under our belts. We ended up doing over 15km in crossing.

The next day was a drizzly, rainy paddle as we inched closer towards civilization. We could see houses and cars! Funny how just a little time in the bush makes returning to civilization a bit of a culture shock. Our eyes were glued to the buses (BUSES!) and trucks that drove by on a road. We were still over 10km away from Ketchikan proper but already signs of civilization was bombarding our senses. We could hear the rumble of the many float planes and helicopters as they whirled above our heads. We could feel the wakes of increasing boat traffic as we got closer to Ketchikan gently bounce our boats. The homes in Ketchikan's suburbs (SUBURBS! CRAZY!) are getting more and more visible. I can almost taste our victory burger and bear.

We had intended to spend another night camping but it was raining and the lure of our final destination was too much. The buildings beckoned to us. This was our goal for nearly the last 3 months and it was in sight! I could see the giant cruise ships docked in Ketchikan harbour and I know that our docking area was right before them. We were nearly there! It would be silly to stop now! Especially to camp in the rain within sight of the warm, dry finish line!

The cruise ships were actually a little deceiving. We were still about 10km away. It was just that the cruise ships were so giant that it looked close. As we got to Thomas Basin in Ketchikan Harbour, we were wet and cold but really excited.

The trip has really taught me that you can do anything. Nothing is impossible unless you think it is so. Impossible is just a frame of mind. While we can't physically fly, we can invent tools and find a way. When we were faced with headwinds and enormous waves, we woke up at the crack of dawn before the wind was awake. Stoke by stroke in the water and we have paddled pretty much the entire coast of BC.

The challenge, I think, is sometimes getting overwhelmed by the immensity of it all. I was certainly crushed in Bella Bella when I realized that we had about 600km left to go in about a month when I thought we only had 300km. However, by obsessing about the future and always worried about the end, you loose the pleasure of the detail in the present. The landscapes are stunning and beautiful, the paddling is invigorating and meditative, the places you stumble into are hidden paradises and the people you meet are wonderful. You would miss all that in a rush.

Projects such as these are so big that it is easy to panic or give up hope as the results are drawn out over a wide stretch of time and space. However, you just have to take it a day at a time and in the end, nearly 3 months later, we find ourselves in Ketchikan, Alaska. We can do it. Human strength is an amazing thing. We just need confidence, patience and a hell of a lot of determination.

It is the same for malnutrition. Malnutrition in Africa is a huge, complex problem with many pitfalls and depressing stories about its tangled webs of cause and effect. However, something as simple as an egg a day to children and we can end it.

After a bunch of beers, we stumble to church. The youth hostel here in Ketchikan is run by the local Methodist church and features separate female and male dorms. We went to check out the other hostel in town, Eagleview Hostel, but the man was rude and the couples room was booked. The Youth Hostel was super friendly and welcoming though so we gladly returned. We closed our eyes, tucked away in our warm, dry sleeping bags on a bed under a roof. My feet were dry and my sleeping bag was not clammy or cold.
"We made it! We have kayaked to Alaska!"
The excitement still raced though my mind as the sheer immensity of our trip is still kind of surreal and unbelievable. However, even the excitement was no match for our comfortable beds and our tiredness and we drift off to sleep.


As a last note, we have had a surprising lack of donations. I was wondering if anyone has any trouble with the website. If anyone has experienced any trouble with PayPal or wants to donate without going through PayPal, please contact me personally through my email ( or Santiago, the director of the charity (

Thank you for all your support and well wishes on this amazing journey!!!

On weather...

Our last leg of the journey was perhaps the hardest. We were getting tired but the lure of Ketchikan was seemed finally within grasp. The whole trip until this point, we had enjoyed unspeakably good weather...that is, we couldn't speak about it! We have enjoyed perfect conditions this entire trip: slightly overcast and calm in the morning when we paddled clearing away to an amazingly sunny and windy afternoon when we could enjoy camp and do the food gathering close by camp. However, every time we told people we had good weather, then it rained! It happened to us when we told people in Klemtu, then we had those rainy days in Cougar Bay when we went searching for spirit bear of the Pacific rainforest and only found rain in the forest. I guess the weather was like, "Well, I've been awfully nice to you and here you go ruining my reputation!" So we didn't speak about the weather and enjoyed amazing days.

...This worked until the last part of our trip. Around Prince Rupert, the weather seemed to drastically change. The fog around Prince Rupert was so thick that when we were trying to get to Kitson Island, just outside of Prince Rupert, we couldn't see the island even though we were right infront of it. There is something slightly unnerving about an island that runs away from you as you try to paddle to it. That was Kitson for us. On our approach to Prince Rupert, we had started our 12km crossing from Lewis Island and Kelp Passage, passing Genn and Little Genn Island, towards Kitson when Kitson dissappeared in the fog. We unconsciously started paddling towards Smith Island, which we didn't intend to but could see a hazy point in the fog. When we were under a kilometer away, we still coudln't see Kitson Island...or anything else for that matter. The current made a disconcerting twist on things as a heading on a compass helped until you drifted to a different perspective.

We finally caught that tricky island and was rewarded by the sun coming out in all her glory revealing a beautiful sandy beach with water that was an amazing turquoise, sparkling sapphire. Porpoises meandered by in pods. Porpoises are like the laid back version of dolphins and seem to slowly casually swim about instead of the jump, jump, JUMP! of dolphins which always seem like they're racing to some appointment that they are late for. Kitson Island is a gorgeous place and totally recommended... if you can find it!

The next weather challenge was crossing Portland Inlet. Portland Inlet sort of divides Canada from Alaska. I say sort of beacuse it is a little messier than that with some islands on the northern shore in Canada. The northern shore of the inlet fades into the mist as we begin our 8 km crossing. Portland Inlet is completely open to Chatham Sound and is very long. It is over 100km in length making it the the longest fjord in North America! The length, which winds get funneled down and picks up speed, plus the openness make for notoriously bad conditions. As we got around the middle, the calm and drizzly conditions quckly deteriorated as wind gusted down the channel, picking up wild whitecapped waves. The rain downpours and the water covers my glasses. I can bearly see and the raindrops pelt my face and stings my eyes. The shape of Tracy Island was only a faint outline in the fog that was visible if you stared intently and the rest of the shore right behind it remained cloaked in white. It was a very wild and wet crossing that took our complete concentration.

As we were able to see more of the shore, Boston Islands and the mainland becoming faintly visisble, there was a feeling of relief. Yay! We had almost made it and was virtually on Alaksa's doorstep!

However, Alaska would have to wait a couple more days. We landed on a little island just off of Wales Island with Alaska as the next set of islands across Tongass Passage as we were cold, shivering and on the verge of hypothermia. The rain continued to pour so we set up an old tarp in the forest. Even after changing, Bryan and I were shivering wrecks. I just wanted to curl up in a little ball and go to sleep. However, that was a very bad idea. A good idea was to keep moving and doing stuff. We went through our usual motions - I prepped hot chocolate and cookies then dinner and he carved out camp. By 6pm, we crawled into our nice dry tent into our sacks of delightful warming.

The next morning, we woke up to the downpouring rain pelting our tarmp and promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. Weather systems will pass and as yesterday's taste of hypothermia was still very fresh, we decided to take a rest day and stay warm and dry. Alaska was so close but would just have to wait another day.

For the rest of the trip, we danced with the rain. There were beautiful sunny breaks but for the most part, we weaved in and out of misty, drizzly weather. Big, fat raindrops showered as we kayaked down the coastline of Alaska's Misty Fjordlands, living up to its misty name. The wet weather made the trip considerably harder as all our stuff became damp and clammy, if not completely wet. My clothes supply diminished steadily as I couldn't dry stuff and then when I could, it had been sitting wet in my kayak for so long it stunk like you couldn't imagine. Wet weather at the end of the trip has made me realize that we have been so lucky to have amazing weather for most of the trip. Bad weather makes the trip considerably more uncomfortable and challenging. I don't know if we would have made it if it had been really wet in the beginning!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


We made it to Prince Rupert! Yay! We are so excited to have made it here and it has seemed so far away only until a couple days ago. This is a real milestone for us and it is kind of unreal. Ketchikan, our final destination, is only 180 km away and we are finally counting down rather than up. We have paddled about 1100 km to date! The final leg, which will take approximately 10 days will involve heading up the coast, past Port Simpson as the last town in Canada, then crossing Portland Canal into Alaska. We will head up the Misty Fjordlands of Alaska (a fancy way of saying foggy steep shorelines, hehe) and Tongass Forest, bypassing the treacherous Dixon Entrance. We will be back in exposed water so its back to early mornings and off by the noon when the winds pick up. Good news about exposed water (not open water necessarily, but open to the open water!) is that we have great sandy beaches again! Hopefully, we will have good weather to accompany it. Arriving in Ketchikan at the end of the month, we will have a few days to relax in Ketchikan before heading back on the ferry, departing Sept 1 and arriving in Bellingham on Sept 3. Amazingly, the ferry will cover more distance in two nights and one day than we would have is almost 3 months. I'm pretty excited for the change in perspective as we sit on the deck, watching our campsites wiz past.

The highlights of the trip so far have been countless. Telegraph Cove seems so far ago, both in space and time. After Telegraph cove, we were immediately lured into the beautiful archipelagos of the Broughton area and it looked like thousands of little island paradises sprinkled onto the sparkling ocean. While it was absolutely gorgeous to wander through all the little islands, camping was a little hard to find on the giant rock boulder islands.

Next was the Cape Caution lead up where Mother Nature once again showed us whose boss and blew us around. However, out here (as with everywhere), impossible is only a frame of mind and we can deal with pretty much anything. We woke up at the crack of dawn (the crack of shit as our friend, Steve, referred to it as) when the waves and the wind weren't awake yet and paddled like hell for as far as we could sneak in. Points are always nasty pieces of work that jut out of the coastline to catch all the wind and waves from many different directions. Cape Caution is the biggest and baddest one of all in B.C. and is pounded by the weather systems of the North Pacific. We had some EXCITING and adrenline filled days crossing by that area. Cape Caution itself was a breeze...because we got up early and there weren't any breezes at all. However, the day before and after were crazy paddles. Rounding Bramham Island was our first taste of monster waves that rose up so high, it would be a mountain of water heading towards us blocking out everything else in sight. Gone were the trees, the beach and even the mountains in the background. The 20 to 25 foot swells would take 5 paddles to get to the top of, then a moment where we are on top of the the world, then woosh down the back side like going down a halfpipe on a skateboard. In a kayak, we are quite low to the water and super stable. Also, we wear the kayak like it is one with us so it actually felt like some wierd form a surfing at some points.
Kelp Head, after Cape Caution was our next trial. Typically, some offshore reefs help protect the rounding a bit but when we went, the waves just broke in crashing cascading white water on them. We got to a beach after that breaking through the surf to land. When we got to shore, wet and cold, we find that the beach is absolutely covered in wolf prints: big ones and small ones no older than the last tide. Walking around, we see these deer prints and think, wow there's lots of life here! Then we see the bear prints. There were many different sets of them including this huge set where the paws were bigger than Bryan's feet! We saw nothing that night though and with our food safely tucked away in a tree, animals really have little reason to bother us with so much salmon around.

We were then in Rivers Inlet, one of the best salmon fishing spots in the world because it is a collection of many streams and rivers. It is one of two only places where there is a subspecies of the Chinook salmon that stays out in the ocean for 7 years before returning back to the spawning grounds. This means they are huge. Like over 100 pounds huge! With so much salmon here, many other things also congregate and it is so full of life. We were seeing so many humpback whales and since we were in kayaks, they would come up close and personal as we drifted along in our own private whale watching tour! We would see their plume of spray like geysers when they came up to breath. Typically, they would have 5 or 6 shallow breaths and then a deep one where they dived right down, their tails stuck high up into the air and then slowly slide down to the cold watery depths. Then they would say down for about 5 to 10 minutes. They were fishing for small little baitfish and there were millions here. They would jump up and snap they jaws so the water bellowed out the frills on their neck. We were seeing on average over a dozen whales a day and we would be lulled to sleep at night by the sound of whales. It was so amazing to see them jump and breach all around us and it felt like we were in the middle of a national geographic documentary!

We left and journeyed up the Fitzhugh Sound, which wonderfully seemed to always have a tail wind and the current going with us. A real treat after Cape Caution area! The humpback whale galore continued until Namu, the site of an old fish cannery which has now shut down and is slowly crumbling away. Human habitation has moved out into the the floating docks and harbour where cool caretakers, Peter, Rene and Theresa, live and a unique flock of boaters gather as salal and mold slowly take over the old buildings and houses. Bryan caught a 43 pound halibut, which Rene expertly fillet and we cooked over a huge fireplace for a potluck that everyone in the harbour was invited to and ate all the fish they could. We still had fish left over! Doug and Gail Stewart invited us onto their yacht for the night and it was amazing to sleep on a bed again! Such a small world, Gail just happens to be the sister of our neighbour back in Ladner!

We next when to Bella Bella, where everyone was super friendly. The moment we stepped into the First Nations community, we were invited to a community wedding. We thought it might have been weird since we didn't know anyone so we just talked to a few people outside but retired back to our campsite. Apparently, it was destiny that we meet them because the next day, we find the groom and bride's family and friends having a beach day and bbq on the beach where we were camped out. Everyone was so nice and it was great just hanging out with them. Hello Shawna ;)

Klemtu, the next First Nations village we went to, was super nice as well. People just go out of their way to be friendly and help you out! We went and visited the Big House there and it is amazing to see how their culture is being revived. When the Big House was built in 2002, Vern was telling us that they only remembered 6 traditional songs, when they were known to have hundreds, because small pox and residential schools had wrecked havoc in their histories and age had taken away many elders. Now, there has been 25 new songs composed and lavish potlaches are once again celebrated in the Big House, which hosts about 5 on average a year.

After Klemtu was the Princess Royal Island channel. We went to Princess Royal Island to try our luck at seeing the spirit bear of the pacific rainforest. The spirit bear is a small genetic subset of the black bear population that is white. Well, we didn't see any bears but we did find the rain forest... or well rain found us in the forest! The rain pelted down on us non stop and when it finally broke, there was a thick fog hanging in the air.

We stayed at Swanson bay and it was a lot of fun to explore the old remains of what must have been a really bustling place. The crumbling buildings of old cannery and mill is covered in Virgina Creepers but the old framework of buildings are still found in the rich, moist forest floor. Everywhere, there are bits of metal from machinery and bricks stamped with "clay burn". In the front, wooden poles form straight lines into the water: the last remnants of a massive deck. So much history and so much stuff just slowly being reclaimed back by nature. The B.C. coast is dotted with ghost canneries and villages.

The channels around Princess Royal Island are decidedly weird. Current flows are schitzophrenic and wind can be a bastard. For the first stretch, it seemed like the current and wind was always with us, then for the second part, it was decidedly always against us. Fraser Reach was the worst with huge rock cliff escarpments that shot vertically from the water to pierce the heavens. The place was stunningly beautiful in a barren, moonscape kind of way. Stark cliffs with lots of waterfalls tumbling off of them in cascading white and hardy trees clinging to the rock, making their own soil that they grow in. However, in this landscape, the wind and currents just whip through and there is not very many places to land and camp. We did find this amazing campsite in the middle of Fraser Reach on a rocky tumble out into the water. A gorgeous waterfall tumbled down into a little pool that was surrounded by oppertunistic greenery and it was like a little hidden paradise pool. Great for a cold "invigorating" dip!

Lowe Inlet in Grenville channel as we head up to Prince Rupert was extremely cool. Lowe Inlet was a very interesting place. There are the remains of what seems to be a large fishing wier which someone has put a hole in so it is not functional anymore. There is also a lot of old wooden poles in the water, maybe the remains of an old dock. When we were there just a week ago, there was so much salmon by Verney falls that the water was thick with them. They would be jumping all around our kayaks and some of them jumped so high, it looked like they were about to take flight! Verney falls is a tidal waterfall that has two tiers when it is low tide and only one in high tide. When the tide was high, Verney falls became smaller and salmon would try and jump up the falls...and often into waiting jaws of a bear! Every 15 minutes or so, a new black bear would come and snatch a huge salmon from the falls. One afternoon was ruled by a huge black bear that must have caught 8 huge salmon. He would only eat the stomachs. Once, he caught one by the head at the top of the falls but was caught up in the current so it flowed away and Bryan snatched it up! Salmon stolen from a bear was pretty much the best salmon I've ever had! Good job Bryan!

There is a fisheries and oceans cabin up at Lowe Inlet and we hung out with some friendly boaters, Earl and Aden from the "Hey You" Thanks for the yummy treat of steak and wine! Organic steak grilled over an open fire was absolutely delicious and a close second behind the salmon from a bear! hehe

I tried my luck the next morning and actually hopped onto the waterfall but unfortunately, all the salmon carcasses were a little too mauled and a day old.

Anyways, now we are up in Prince Rupert and I am rapidly running out of internet time. Bye until next time!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Central Coast

Just passing through Bella Bella in the middle of the wild central coast of B.C. The almost two weeks from Telegraph Cove to Rivers Inlet, we talked to no one else but us and yes, we are still friends!! Got to see some amazing, spectacular stuff. Top of the list is the humpback migration moving through Fitzhugh Sound. We had National Geographic sort of stuff with humpback whales breaching right infront of us and having staring contests with whales! Also awesome is the 43 pound halibut Bryan caught off the docks in Namu! There are so much fish here and salmon are jumping like crazy, flipping us the fin we call it. No salmon caught yet but I think one will come soon. I'm still trying to get the first salmon!

Hopefully in Prince Rupert, I will be able to do a more full account of our trip so far. Internet access has been sparce and the where there is, the connection slow that it is kind of painful. Backspaces can take a minute and oh it takes long for switching between sites. Someone recommended also bringing a novel!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Off again into the blue

Thanks to Mark and his mom, Vanessa, we were able to resupply in nearby Port McNeil. Port McNeil is a mere 20km away and would be a full day's paddle...or 20 minutes by car. Really puts things in perspective!
Anyways, we bought lots of food for breakfasts and snacks and looking like we'll be completely self sufficient for the next two months! Half of my 19 foot kayak is also completely full of food!
A really special thanks to North Island Kayak in Telegraph Cove for their warm welcome, support and great advice. Their guides are really awesome and it's a good shop. They totally welcomed us into their little family and we thank them.
We are off to Hanson Island and beyond to the Broughton Archipelago before heading up Cape Caution and then up the Inside Passages.