Several years ago, my Mum said she’d like to go for a paddle in Finlayson Arm, the fjord at the end of the Sannich Inlet separating the Sannich penninsula from the rest of Vancouver Island. Mum grew up there, in 1952-3 her Dad cut a road out to the end of the inlet and built a log cabin there for his father (Grandfather Edward). The whole family would go out on weekends to bring water and groceries, to visit over meals, and to swim and paddle. The inlet ends in a tidal mudflat, so there were also lots of clams, dungeness crab, and oysters to gather. In the fall, salmon would swarm up and into the goldtream river to spawn. Nana and Pop (Mum’s parents) moved out to the cabin in the 60s, and so as a kid I spent lots of time there, learning to swim and canoe in the warm water. When Mum repeated her request early this summer, it seemed like a good time to make a return.
Paddling in Finalyson Arm in the summer of 2020 had a lot more complications than paddling there in 1990: 1) we wouldn’t be accessing the water from Nana and Pop’s cabin, but rather from the closest marina, Halls a short drive up the Malahat across and out from the cabin ($12 paring and launch fee); 2) the end of the inlet is now a protected conservation area, so no boat traffic is allowed up by the mudflats and the river (it is silly that they treat canoes the same as noisy gas-powered jet skis). We also wouldn’t be using Uncle Lester’s Canoe. MEC isn’t doing rentals during COVID-19 and efforts to borrow one fell flat, so we ended up renting from Pacifica paddle sports in Schwartz Bay. It was a great big plastic beast with PFDs and throw rope included – just what we needed. That is most of the requirements – except we needed a vehicle with racks to bring the boat from Schwartz Bay to Halls. Most folks are understandably a bit leery about loaning their vehicles during a pandemic, but happily David’s pathfinder had racks and loaned it when he came over to the island. The boat would be a bit much for me and Mum to load and tie down, so Graham offered to come along as our ‘pit crew’. Operation Family Paddle: All systems go!
It was a bit convoluted to do regularly, but it sure was fun! As Mum approaches 80 it is great to see her enjoying these kinds of adventures, and she sits pretty steady in a canoe, even with motorboat wake etc. We were out for >2hrs, and at the end climbed out onto the dock (a climb up since it was motorboat height) like it was nothing… must be all the yoga.
Quiet gentle canoeing is a great way to see wildlife. From ‘big red’ the canoe we saw purple starfish, curious harbor seals, a mink, river otters, bull kelp, and shellfish galore. Above the water we saw at least 5 eagles, the heron, and kingfishers. Mum also told some stories about the relations – human family and the nature in this area.