Day 2 of the journey to Cha’atl began with a beautiful sunrise. The overnight frost left a stunning sheen on everything.
A big contributor to the prior day’s success was a correct interpretation of the tides and currents running through the narrows (up to 7 knots!). Feeling pretty good about the whole thing, we were ready to ride the ebb tide on our journey west to Cha’atl and then ride the flood tide back in the evening. The ebb was due to begin around 11 am so we had a nice chillaxed morning. Bacon. Eggs. Avocado. Sunshine. Also a fresh bear print in the mud near our food hanging spot.
The paddle west began on glassy calm water with the current, as expected, helping us along. (Here is a map.) Google earth and oral histories are pretty much the best navigation tools in this place – the inlet has never been charted by the CHS. Around 12:30 pm the winds picked up and we began to feel the brunt of a northwesterly. In retrospect, we might have anticipated that the afternoon winds could be a bigger challenge than the tidal currents in this inlet with its big opening to the west coast and a clear view all the way to Japan.
With the winds out of the northwest and the tide flowing west, the two met such that their forces combined to build whitecaps on the waves. We stayed close to the shoreline in an attempt to avoid the roughest of it. The shores near the west coast tend to be steep and rocky so there are few places to put in for a break. Fortunately we brought along machines that convert stoke and gnar into awesomesauce so we were fine.
With the 9.5 km to Cha’atl complete, it was now time to eat and explore!
The village had a population over 560 in the early 1800s. On this day we were the only ones there. Two standing poles remain. One is particularly unique in that it is the only pole on Haida Gwaii to contain a mosquito crest (midway up the pole).
The flora and fauna were abundant. A short time before our trip we had visited the hereditary leader of the Cha’atl clan, Chief Gaahlaay. We asked permission to visit his ancestor’s village. He offered his encouragement and we had a lovely conversation that ran the gamut from renewable energy to kayaking. We told him we had packed food for a five day trip to Cha’atl and back. His response was beautiful. “Oh, there is lots of food there.”
I found a live Northern Abalone. They are an endangered species. I have found plenty of empty shells on the beach, but I think it is not too often they are seen alive out of the water. I moved it from the gravel down to some kelp covered boulders.
An 8 km paddle returned us to the vicinity of our day’s start with the wind having switched allegiances, going from foe to friend by maintaining its direction and strength. It was now at our backs and in concert with the flood tide building rolling waves that enabled the kayaks to surf at times.
Our evening was spent in a small cabin in the woods built about 40 years ago. A gift of freshly caught halibut was offered to us by a kind man named Rob out fishing the west coast. We feasted together and then he left with the evening tide.