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 the 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 ter­ri­to­ries? 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.