An island life for all

Thu Jul 27, 2023

Last summer, I mentioned that we tried marine camping on our paddleboards. On the plus side, we were able to escape the summertime crowds, halt the bleeding of our bank account, and circumvent the impossible camping reservation system. Minuses included swarms of mosquitoes, a leaking paddleboard, and mistiming the tides, resulting in a really rough paddle back to shore. Even the group of seals that were tailing us were wondering what the hell we were doing out on the open ocean in an inflatable.

At this point in my story, Let me issue a standard warning that paddling on the open ocean in an inflatable paddleboard is dangerous. Even the paddleboard user manual has a warning unequivocally stating that you should not use this product on the ocean.

Being a technical writer, I know that this warning is only included for legal reasons. But such warnings have obviously has not stopped a flood of people taking to the ocean in paddleboards. I’ve seen it all - yoga on paddleboards, cats riding paddleboards, and just yesterday - river rafting on a paddleboard. Seriously, don’t be an idiot. Ocean paddleboarding is for the experienced only. The ocean is merciless and can turn ugly fast. Studying the trip reports, tides, offshore currents, and nautical distances is important. Even more important is knowing your physical capability and only paddling in extremely calm conditions.

I also recommend buying the loudest air horn you can find. Most boaters follow marine protocol. But unfortunately, the bigger and more expensive the boat, the more likely they won’t think twice about pushing the throttle to full speed and swamping a tiny paddleboard in their wake. Or even worse, come right at you as if you were invisible.

Despite this, or perhaps because of this, I believe that beautiful islands should be accessible to more people. In my previous summertime post, I wrote that “intruding on an area previously reserved for wealthy, old, retired snobs in luxury yachts is especially gratifying.”

Well, dear reader, it remains extremely gratifying to cruise into a “secret” sheltered cove and remind the rich that money can’t always buy you an island all to yourself. Release the desperate masses onto them, I say. For this reason, I’m starting this new summertime series on so-called “boat only” islands that are completely accessible by cheap paddleboards. You don’t need a mega-yacht to get there, only an Amazon account and some gumption.

Last year, we braved the journey out to the Copeland Islands and camped on a small, picturesque island.

This year, we had our sights set on Wallace Island. If you’re interested in doing this paddle yourself, you don’t have to keep reading. Here is an excellent trip report that will tell you everything you need to know.

Unfortunately, after all our best-laid plans, we did not end up camping on Wallace Island after all. If you’ve read the trip report, you’ll know that the best place to make the crossing is from Salt Spring Island. However, when we arrived at Salt Spring Island, it was unusually windy, making ocean conditions unsuitable for paddleboarding. We did make it out to Wallace Island later in the week, but only on a day trip. It was a fascinating place - I’d definitely like to come back camp there for a night or two sometime in the future.

The bulk of our time was spent camping at Ruckle Park, which is one of the few remaining first-come-first-serve walk-in camping sites left in BC. Ruckle Park seems quite popular with Vancouver-Island teenagers looking to escape their parents. I can’t say I enjoyed the weekend crowds. But during the week, it’s much quieter. And where else can you get a stunning ocean view for twenty bucks a night.

One late afternoon, we spotted an orca pod close to shore. Seeing those majestic fins gracefully carve through the sea and actually hearing the burst of air from their blowholes is an experience I won’t soon forget.

We also paddled out to Chocolate Beach on Third Sister Island in Ganges Harbour. The beauty of this beach is on par with anything in Hawaii:


I’ve been to most of the Gulf Islands, but for some reason, I’d never been to Salt Spring Island until now. What I liked about Salt Spring was that there were plenty of freshwater lakes to swim in, which made camping without showers bearable. I also liked the arbutus trees.

What I didn’t like about Salt Spring was the snobbish attitude of many residents with a few even displaying naked hostility. Hakuna matata my dudes - you’ll live longer. Well, maybe a little bit longer (most Salt Spring residents appear to only have a few days left to live).

There was one private island we paddled by where the elderly owner was stalking around like one of the narrow-minded grownups who each owned a small planet in The Little Prince. This scene perfectly encapsulated the people on Salt Spring Island for me. But, the people never once detracted from the physical beauty of the landscape, which is the main reason to go there.

That sounded a bit weird, but that’s just the way the world works. The most beautiful places on Earth attract the ugliest people who hoard equally obscene amounts of wealth and unhappiness. But, the ugliest places on Earth have the most beautiful people who are full of smiles and generosity despite impoverishment and shockingly-bad living conditions.

Well, I have to run, so I’ll leave you with that thought of the day. Until next time, stay cool my friends and remember - nobody owns the ocean. It belongs to us all.

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