09-Jun-2002 -- I visited this as my third visit of a weekend trip, after 50N 126W. When discussing my plans with Dave during a trip to 49N 124W the previous day, he mentioned that someone had already visited this point and sent in some pictures with no narrative. I very much enjoy the concept of being the first visitor to a point, so I found this a bit discouraging, but I had already reserved a kayak, and I knew the trip would be nice regardless of confluences and conquests. I'm glad I did it, even though someone else made it first.
This spot is off the southern tip of Cortes Island, one of the Northern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC. To get to Cortes Island from Vancouver Island, you must take a ferry first to Quadra Island, then another ferry to Cortes Island. The ferries start late on Sunday, the first crossing to Cortes being 11:05 AM. Accordingly, I slept in a bit, then headed to the Campbell River ferry dock to take the ferry to Quadra. I drove across Quadra to the other ferry dock, and pulled into the Heriot Bay Inn, where they rent kayaks. The folks here were really quite helpful, and before long, I had a nice plastic Necky kayak on the roof of my truck. I picked up some lunch at the store in Heriot Bay, and waited for the ferry to Cortes. During the wait, and on the ferry, I was reading Moby Dick to pass the time. I felt it was somewhat appropriate that the port that the ferry pulled into on Cortes Island was named "Whaletown". I drove down to the southern end of the island, to Smelt Bay provincial park. I was surprised at how big the island was, as it looks relatively small on the maps. As I drove through the scenic Island, I began to contemplate Island living - the closeness of civilization, yet the removal from it. I thought that I should consider living on an Island later in life.
The beach was rocky, but very nice, with views of the mountains on Vancouver Island, and of the surrounding islands. The tide was low, so I had to carry the kayak about 150m to the water. The GPS showed 3.6km to the point. I started paddling at about 12:30. The south-west corner of Cortes Island is very shallow (and is indicated as such on charts). At low tide, there are many rocks sticking out of the water, and many places where the water is only 1-2 feet deep, even several hundred meters offshore. The water is very clear, and I had a good view of fish darting about in the shallows, and of the other sea life nestled among the rocks. The local predators also had a good view: I saw at least 2 eagles fishing in the shallows. At one point, one of them who had just made a catch was marauded by another. He was so startled that he dropped his catch, and the pirate of the air dive-bombed and caught it before it hit the water. As I paddled around the rocks which were between me and the confluence point, I noticed a seal pop up in front of me. I was quite impressed, as seeing a seal that close is not an everyday occurance. Just then, another one popped up beside him, and another just past them, and I could see another sunning himself on a rock up ahead. I looked around me, and saw that there were seals on all sides, about 15 of them, looking at me curiously. I picked up the camera, and as soon as I pointed it at any of them, they would dive. I paddled on through the rocks, disturbing a number of wary seals, who would flop into the water when I got too close (about 150m seems to be their limit), then surface near me to check me out. I paddled around the rocks and headed straight out to the confluence point. As I was resting part way out, I looked behind me and saw that I was being followed! The seals decided to come along on the confluence trip. I kept paddling at a leisurely pace and eventually made it to the point. The views were magnificent: the rocky shores of the gulf islands; the Coast Mountains in the distance to the East, and Vancouver Island to the West. The seals lost some of their camera shyness and posed in the confluence pictures for me. I think this is allowed, as they are local residents.
There is a bouy not far from the confluence, with a gong which rings when disturbed by waves - it was somewhat startling at first. The south end of Cortes is an area of high marine traffic, so I decided not to stick around long in my little kayak.
As I paddled back around the other side of the rocks, I passed another seal colony, with the same reaction - they jumped in the water then surrounded me. All told, there were about 150 seals in the area. They followed me back until the water got too shallow and weedy for comfort.
At Smelt Bay, I had my lunch and sat in the sun, knowing that the next ferry out wasn't until 3:50. I caught that ferry, then dropped off the kayak and dashed across Quadra Island to try for the 5:00 ferry - just in time to see it pull away. I guess that is the drawback of living on Islands - waiting for the ferry. I caught the next ferry to Campbell River. I knew I wouldn't make the 7:00 ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver, so I stopped and took a picture of a sign I had noticed before. The citizens of Campbell river are aware that 50 North latitude passes through their fair city. According to the GPS, the actual line is about 30M south of the sign. After this, I drove to Nanaimo and caught another ferry, and finally got home at midnight - the end to a long and partially successful confluence weekend. I visited 3 points, but I was not the first person to any of them. It goes to show that you must be quick off the mark to be a successful confluencer.