Bellingham to Skagway - Denis Dwyer

Denis Dwyer left Bellingham on Saturday the 12th for Skagway. He’s traveling solo and expects to finish in early August. He’s taking an Inside / Outside route to see some great country he missed on previous IP trips. He is spending the night near Skull Islet on South Pender this evening. He has his Spot sending a signal every 10 minutes so his track is interesting to follow while batteries last. Looks like it’s set up to post the last 50 Spots so his route from Bellingham to South of Patos is no longer viewable. Catch it while you can.

If you are interested you can follow his trip here:


The Broughtons

– Last Updated: Jun-03-12 11:21 PM EST –

Denis made it into the Broughton Group this morning. It's interesting to look at his track. He's pretty much a point to point guy and the way he wound around it looks like he may have been ducking the wind. He crossed the mouth of Fife Sound near high slack and his path was deflected a bit, I assume by the wind. Maybe he was just meandering.

He is about two 15 - 20 mile days from Slingsby Channel which you want to cross on a flood. Mornings are flooding now which works well for that but forces him to work against current to get there. I suspect that he will stop at Skull Cove to set up for Slingsby and probably Burnett Bay after that in preparation for rounding Cape Caution.

Interesting campsite tonight…

– Last Updated: Jun-04-12 8:33 PM EST –

....can't say that I have ever camped on that particular rock before. About 8 miles today in about 7 hours. I'm guessing it was snotty on the Queen. Tough go.

He has two major crux moves coming up in the next few days. Crossing Slingsby Channel and transiting Cape Caution / Kelp Head for cover in Smith Sound.

He probably didn't have much fun today.


A 20-something mile day…
…today ending at Shelter Bay. This is a nice protected beach to camp on. Photo here:

There has been an issue with Cougars there in the past but probably amounted to nothing.

Shelter Bay puts him about 3 hours away from Slingsby Channel and 5 - 6 hours away from Cape Caution. The start of flood is at 10:45 AM and I suspect that he will make crossing Slingby on the flood a priority. I think that we will see him pull in tomorrow at Burnett Bay and round Cape Caution early Friday morning to camp at Redsand Beach.


8:25 AM…

– Last Updated: Jun-08-12 9:13 PM EST –

....Denis was pinned on the rock by weather yesterday and set off in light conditions at around 6:00 AM this morning. Two hours later he had crossed Schooner Channel and was just off Skull Cove. He's stayed here before. Familiar waters.

You can find photos of Skull Cove on his site.

Burnett Bay
Denis crossed Slingsby Channel this morning and pulled into the south end of Burnett Bay, an enormous west facing beach. Burnett can get pounded by surf in snotty weather or by large swell emanating from distant Pacific storms. Check his track and blow up the beach.

You can see that the very south end offers a small protected landing and a reliable water source. On the north end of the beach is an islet that does a decent job of blocking surf in many tide levels. There is small cabin in the forest there that was built by Randel Washburne in the mid-eighties. Interesting articles here:

About 35 NM north of Burnett Bay is Addenbroke Lighthouse. The Keeper, Paul Whalen, in my experience, is friendly and welcoming to sea kayakers. Denis may stop here in 2 – 3 days. Paul documents life at the light through lots of videos he posts on YouTube. He just posted the one at the link below. If you go to the 7:00 minute mark there are some remarkable shots of a resident Bald Eagle.

Weather permitting Denis will put Cape Caution in his rearview mirror early tomorrow morning and camp in Smith Sound or continue on to Rivers Inlet.


Open Bight

– Last Updated: Jun-15-12 7:42 PM EST –

Denis paddled 20-some NM today from Burnett Bay, around Cape Caution, across Smith Sound and is camped at Open Bight, a long sandy beach tucked behind Cranstown Point. There is a small stream at the east end of the beach and it looks like that is where he has chosen to set up camp. It's a lovely place that is popular with the local Brown Bears.

Photo here:


Fury Cove
A short day today from Open Bight to Fury Island that was dominated by light rain. Not sure that light rain in a rain forest can count as dominating anything and, in fact, is anything other than a nice day up here. I would count it as very nice wind and current conditions to cross Rivers Inlet and arrive at Penrose.

Denis is back “inside” now and while the current still flows and the wind still blows Calvert Island, 5.5 NM to the west, provides some cover. He is probably feeling pretty good about his options. Continue north up Fitz Hugh Sound (an area he is familiar with) or go outside of Calvert Island. I think he can hit Addenbroke Lighthouse with his FM from here so they may be expecting him tomorrow.

The beach at Penrose is brilliant white and composed of clamshell fragments. Inside the upland forest are some areas that accept tents plus there is a large cabin there with a stove made of a 55 gallon drum, shelves, counters and a King-sized sleeping platform. If his SPOT is accurate it looks like he is in the forest rather than the cabin.


Goldstream Harbor…

…An 18 – 20 NM day today up Fitz Hugh Sound. Seems to be a really large concentration of Humpbacks through here. Looks like Denis never got out of his boat and probably hung on to kelp while fueling.

I’ve never been to Goldstream Harbor or seen any photos of it but John Kimintas describes it like this in his excellent book, “the Wild Coast 2”:

“Good camping locations are few and far between on the Calvert Island side of Fitz Hugh Sound, but Goldstream Harbor offers a gravel beach backed by forest. This is a convenient spot at the entrance to Hakai Passage……….If you enter the harbor from the south of Kelpie Point there is indeed a beach suitable for camping.”

I know that doesn’t sound like a glowing recommendation but on the Wild Coast it passes as a very desirable (dry in all tide levels) place to camp. Also gravel beaches here tend to not be as flat as sand beaches so the carry is shorter. Club Med in the rain forest.

Hakai Passage can really rip with currents up to 4 knots and if they oppose westerly wind or swells it can get big. Tomorrow’s morning flood is not a big exchange so it should offer some options. I suspect that Denis crossed to the west side of Fitz Hugh today to maximize his choices.

Continue north with the relative protection of the Inside Passage or go Outside? If weather permits I wouldn’t be surprised to see him eddy up Hakai Passage into Kildidt Sound where choices open up. Or maybe duck into the passages between Nalau and Sterling Islands if the wind blows. If he is feeling like he is ahead of schedule he might drop into Choked Passage to watch the wolves walk the beach.


Nice reports
thanks for the posts. I’ve had no time to follow his trip reports, so am very much enjoying yours. It was sort of fun remembering how tense it was for days approaching Cape Caution, Kimantas had memorable words to describe that headland and it scared us half to death…Lyn

…had memorable words to describe that headland and it scared us half to death…Lyn

And rightly so. Scary place. Cape Caution has smiled on me but just looking at the beat-up nature of the kelp you know it gets bad. Your passage was good too, right?

I am expecting to be rounding it again 2 months from now and hope it is as benign.


What a funny track today. It’s almost seems like after being so exposed and out in the open Denis was craving some intimacy and dove into tight spaces. Spitfire Channel isn’t a standard route. Meandered a bit and why not?

Looking at his SPOTS it’s clear that Queens Sound was mellow and flat as tracks #42 - 45 show him right up next to the rocks and that section of coast is very steep so whatever hits it comes back off. Clapotis with a capital “C”. The fishing is good at SPOT #45.

Cultus is a sweet beach for camping with sites above Spring tides, right Lyngo? It’s protected. Photo here:

Curious about his route choice for tomorrow. Approximately 8 NM to the west across Queens Sound lies the isolated Goose Group. Very pretty place and site of Kayak Bill’s last camp. Staying closer in but traveling north are lots places to stop, explore, camp plus a very large sea otter population… Maybe he will stay inside the groups and travel up Sans Peur Passage and Hunter Channel to a resupply, cold beer and hot pizza in Shearwater. He’s due.


…I suspect Denis will be sleeping in a real bed tonight (though there is camping nearby), dining at the bar & grill, doing his laundry and chatting with the locals. There is a post office so he is probably resupplying.

Next stop?

It was flat calm
and beautiful…we didn’t even have to wait for the right conditions, they just came at the right time.

Higgins Passage
Yesterday’s paddle ended at tiny Roar Islet in Blair Inlet. Denis camped here before. It was one of Kayak Bill’s camps back in the day though nothing much remains.

Today he paddled north and west around Lady Douglas Island, across Finlayson Channel and west through Higgins Passage. He passed up a number of excellent beaches to arrive at the west Higgins entrance camp, one of the best. Some photos are here:


Milne Island

– Last Updated: Jun-23-12 9:18 AM EST –

Nice paddle up the coast from Higgins Passage across Kitasoo Bay to Milne Island. Springboard to Laredo Channel, Aristazabal Island and the Great Bear Rain Forest. Looking at the track you can tell that conditions were very mild and he was probably using chart only as he had to make a U-turn at one point, or maybe he was meandering.

Milne offers some upland camping above Spring Tides with CMT’s (Culturally Modified Trees). The “beach” in front of the campsite is a little rocky and best approached at high tide.


Sager Islands
Denis left Milne an hour or so prior to low slack to ride the flood and southerly breeze up Laredo Channel. The charts show that Laredo floods to the north, but there are reports that it floods into both ends and splits around Ramsbotham Islands. Whatever he went about 24 NM today up along the shore of Princess Royal Island at Sager Islands. His SPOTS look like he either started to get tired or ran into opposing currents about midway. Note that he was safely on shore hours ago but didn’t send his I’m OK message. Most likely he was too beat to remember.

Some photos of the area can be found here:


Campania Island is a stunning place and not easy to get to. Determined paddling from ferry access at Klemtu or Kitkatla is three days away plus dealing with winds and currents can change itineraries. Needless to say, if Denis is sharing this fantastic beach with anyone it is someone he can relate to.

The beaches of Campania are described by some as the best on the BC coast and they are spectacular. Mount Pender soars 2300+ feet directly above them. This particular beach is really nice and there is a source of freshwater nearby. Depending on the season and the year Deerflies can be a problem there but being there is worth most anything. Nice place for a day off.

Some photos here:

Campania photos by Jonathon Walpole on his solo trip from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy in 2006. Spend some time looking at his other albums too. Nice stuff. He does a great job of capturing the BC coastal experience.


No-Name Cove…
…less than 200 feet wide at the entrance is one of the very few places along this stretch where Denis can gracefully exit his boat. If you don’t know it’s there it’s really easy to miss. A rough trail leads up into a mossy clearing in the forest


I’m guessing…
…that it was a nasty day on Principe Channel. The current runs and the channel is a natural wind pass. He has been averaging around 3-3.5 knots traveling speed yet today he managed 1.6 knots average. Look at his path. He stayed very close to the rocks which is to say that he stayed inside the kelp. I’m thinking that it was for the little shelter that it provided.

He averaged 2 knots for the first ~10 NM and then stopped to rest for ~1.5 hours behind a small island. He hasn’t done that during this trip. I suspect that he was headed for Ralston Islands at the south end of Anger Island but was really beat. On a normal day that would have been only another hour of paddling but today it would have been at least two or more. The place he stopped is noted as a reasonable spot to rest but not camp and judging by the amount of time he took to send off his “I’m OK” spot I would guess that he was distracted by some “improvements” he had to do before he could set up camp.

At spot number 24 he passed up entering Lundy Cove where a passable (and probably better) campsite can be found. He never really had a direct view to where it is so he may not have known about it or thought that things would improve.