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Time to Dream

by Dan Lewis

My first trip south for winter was also my last. Now the farthest south I go is to Long Beach, five miles south of Tofino, to go storm surfing in my new surf kayak. I find that winter is a fine time for dreaming about future trips. And it's a great time to get down to some serious planning for summertime fun!

There are many ways of going about planning trips, and many sources of information. I gain inspiration by reading accounts of other people's adventures. Two of my favourites include Paddling Through Time by Joanna Streetly, and Visions of The Wild by Maria Coffey and Dag Goering.

Guidebooks are a good source of further information. An excellent example for the BC coast is Kayak Routes of the Pacific Northwest Coast, edited by Peter McGee. Guidebooks can also help you narrow down your choices to areas which are appropriate for your level of skill„one of the key ingredients of a safe trip.

Once you have an idea where you want to go, it's time for the charts. You can get a catalogue of charts from the Canadian Hydrographic Service. Charts come in different scales. The best compromise between detail and amount of area covered is a scale of 1:40,000. At this scale you can clearly see the beaches for camping and picnicking, sources of water and so forth. I also use a 1:150,000 chart on longer trips, to provide an overview of the route.

The part I love is spreading the charts out on the living room floor, joining them together so I can see the whole trip laid out before me, like a bird's eye view of the area I will visit. I start to build an image in my mind's eye of the mountains, valleys, bays, and coastline I will explore.

One of the key things you want to check for are beaches on which to land. Which ones look good for camping? Which ones have creeks coming in where you can gather water? Which ones look like they might have surf waves to avoid (or play in)? How far will you have to paddle between safe landings, and between campsites?

Where is the put-in? The take-out? Are there any settlements along your route? Although we often are seeking "wilderness" on outings, clean polypro, a piece of fresh baked pie or a hot shower can be quite a perk after a week or two of paddling.

There are some further sources you might want to check before heading out. One is the government's "coast pilot", Sailing Directions, which is loaded with interesting information, much of it useful to paddlers. The front section is full of info on natural conditions such as winds, swell, climate, precipitation and more. This can help you decide which month is most likely to provide you with favorable conditions. The rest of the book is a written description of the coast. If you have the charts out in front of you while reading, and take the time to find all the features being described, it can help you pick out details you might otherwise miss until you actually get out there -- a great way to pass those long winter evenings.

Other favorites of mine are the sailing guides published for the sailboats and powerboats which ply the coast in summer. These often contain a wealth of local cultural history and anecdotes.

Some people like to mark up their charts with all the info they have acquired. Others like to photocopy relevant data to bring along. It's not a bad idea to draw lines to indicate likely crossings. You can then measure the exact distance of each crossing, and note that on the chart along with the compass bearing for the crossing. This can help reduce the pressure of dead reckoning in fog, should you ever choose to do such a silly thing!

I remember poring over charts for hours looking at places with names like Brecciated Point, and Jurassic Point, picturing all the fun I would have exploring the rock gardens off shore. Imagine my dismay upon arrival to find that these places had been clearcut right to the shoreline and left devastated. Nowadays you can check LANDSAT and aerial photos to locate clearcuts and wild forests.

So you needn't head to far-off lands this winter. You can travel in your mind, right in the comfort of your own home. Winter is time for dreaming. And summer is just around the corner.