Tips for Planning a Sea Kayak Journey in British Columbia

british columbia paddleThe British Columbia coast is one of the world’s best sea kayaking destinations: long fjords, a rugged outer coast, offshore reefs that provide a measure of protection from the full brunt of the Pacific and a thriving ecosystem where whales abound, wolf tracks crisscross nearly every beach and sea otters float in adorable rafts. And the B.C. coast is easier to access from the lower 48 than Alaska. But planning a self-supported sea kayak journey takes some knowledge. Here’s how you can plan your own awesome and safe wilderness journey in one of the best parts of the world.

Know Yourself
As with any trip, start by knowing yourself. What are your kayak and expedition skills? Be brutally honest. Can you land a loaded kayak through surf? Navigate through fog? How many miles or hours in the boat do you tend to put in? Do you get grumpy if it rains for three days?

Know Why
Be equally clear about your goals. Are you looking for a relaxing trip with lounging in camp? Covering a lot of territory? Play in rock gardens and coastal surf? Are you willing to wake up early to catch a tidal current?

Know the Weather
A marine VHF radio with a weather function is an essential piece of gear for paddling B.C. waters. As you spend more time at sea, you’ll learn how to interpret patterns.

Wind: On sunny days, expect the wind to rise in the afternoon from the northwest. Don’t be caught out in a strong blow by this predictable pattern. When the wind blows from the southeast, expect rain and colder temperatures.

Inlets: In the steep fjords, temperature differences between the mountains and sea levels create an outflow-inflow pattern. In the morning, air flows out to sea as cold air tumbles down the mountains. In the afternoon, the pattern reverses.

Fog: Coastal morning fog can happen any time of year, but morning pea soup is most common on the outer coast in August, which the locals call Fogust.

Swell: The most common swell comes from the northwest in summer, but it can vary to come from either southwest or west depending on what’s happening far out at sea. On the outer coast, look for headlands and offshore reefs that block the swell for predicted landings. When you set up camp, pay attention to whether the swell forecast is rising in the next couple of days.