Access: Take the bus as far as the turn off to Egmont [See Getting to the Sunshine Coast] where you will meet your prearranged pick up for the 8 km ride into Egmont itself. The folks at Egmont Marina Resort will arrange for a pick up as part of multi-day kayak rentals. This is something to add to the negotiations when calling to make your kayak reservations.

Click to View Map

The tiny rural backwater of Egmont is an ideally situated jumping off point for a variety of prime kayaking areas including Nelson and Hardy Islands, Hotham Sound, Jervis Inlet in its entirety as well as the jewel at the end, Princess Louisa Inlet. All of Sechelt Inlet is likewise accessible from Egmont though a formidable barrier must first be circumvented. Since the raging rapids of Skookumchuck Narrows stand in the way it is the recommendation of this book that kayakers access Sechelt Inlet from its lower end only. That route is described here.

Tidal Whitewater Tidal Whitewater Tidal Whitewater

Skookumchuck -- meaning "big water" in Chinook Jargon -- Narrows is a must-see phenomenon however and is best viewed from the safety of solid ground. An easy 4 km hike provides access to viewpoints overlooking the Narrows. The trailhead can be reached from Egmont by walking back towards Highway 101 for 20 minutes or so. Time your visit to coincide with a particularly extreme tidal mood swing to see the rapids in all their fury. The worst time to see this natural wonder is of course when the tide is slack. On a typical three-metre tide as much as 9 trillion litres of seawater is flushed through the narrows at speeds up to 26 km/h, spawning cascades as high as 5 metres; giant, basketball court-sized whirlpools; standing waves as big as a bus and a multitude of mixed metaphors.

Many of the place names hereabouts commemorate Commodore Nelson's 1797 victory over the Spanish during the Battle of St. Vincent. Nelson's superior officer was Sir John Jervis while Captain Island takes its name from the H. M. S. Captain, Nelson's flagship. Another flagship from Nelson's victory at the Nile has been reincarnated as Vanguard Bay while Nelson's man-of-war, the H. M. S. Agamemnon has morphed into the narrow channel separating Nelson's very own island from the mainland. The names date from the 1860s when Captain Richards undertook a detailed survey of the coast from the H. M. Plumper. He borrowed names for Hotham Sound, Hardy Island, Cape Cockburn and Fearney Point from captains of other ships which took part in Lord Nelson's celebrated victories. The regal reaches of Jervis Inlet derive their names from fur trading vessels dedicated to royalty which plied the coast hereabouts in the late 1780s.

The End


Dentalia

Dentalia Shells

These thin, tubular mollusks formed the currency of commerce throughout the Pacific Northwest as long as 3000 years ago. Pre-European civilization is often considered a barter economy, with, for instance, coastal tribes swapping oolichan grease directly for prized Oregon obsidian. Commodity traders, however, could rely on this wampum to close a transaction when interest in the goods was decidedly one-sided. Called hykwa in Chinook jargon, dentalia shells possessed all the necessary attributes of money, being portable, recognizable and durable but rare and desirable enough to foster trade. Being available in a variety of sizes, the tusk-like shells were even divisible into small change. Professional traders are known to have tattooed measuring lines on their forearms as a handy calculator of individual shell values. Only a handful of groups, including the Nuu-chah-nulth in the vicinity of Tofino, possessed dentalia in quantities sufficient enough to make them wealthy. Harvesting the deep water mollusks was no easy undertaking however. From a dugout canoe a long, broom-like apparatus was thrust straight down into the muddy sea bottom then retrieved. With any luck a shell or two would be trapped amongst the stiff twigs at the end of the handle. Dentalia were also ostentatiously displayed as symbols of wealth and power in the form of body adornments. Perhaps most recognizable are the breast plates invariably worn by cheesy Hollywood Indians.

Illustration by Manami Kimura