Distance: 14 km r/t
Time: 1 day
Marine Chart: Jervis Inlet 3514
Access: Via Egmont
Tide Table: Egmont
Malibu Camp, a nondenominational christian youth centre situated at the mouth of Princess Louisa Inlet, has good news for kayakers. Until recently a visit to this magical little waterway required a boat, an airplane or, for kayakers, a week or more to paddle the full length of Jervis Inlet. Every six days throughout the summer the 38 metre Malibu Princess makes a freight run to Malibu camp and kayakers can piggyback to the head of the inlet, turning a momentous undertaking into a simple day trip. Alternately, more intrepid paddlers can reach deep into the Inlet on the Malibu Princess and paddle back one way. Being on a six-day cycle means the ship leaves on a different day each week. Call the M.V. Malibu Princess to get their schedule of departures or to book passage. Though not explicitly noted in company literature, the captain was adamant about ensuring that we were well-fed on the morning red-eye as well as the return voyage at supper time.
Upon arrival at Malibu Camp the ship will dock at one of two wharves depending on the tides. If water is high and the captain decides to use the inner dock then kayakers can just paddle away once their craft is unloaded. The more likely scenario however is that the Malibu Princess will dock on the outside, presenting kayakers with four choices: shoot the rapids on a flood tide, wait for slack water to navigate Malibu Narrows, portage through the camp and around the whitewater or hitch a ride aboard the smaller vessels which are used to ferry freight around the rapids. In all likelihood kayakers will have to wait until all of the freight is unloaded but this service is included in the price of passage.
If planning to return to Egmont aboard the Malibu Princess on the same day keep an eye on the clock. Be sure to keep the captain apprised of your intentions and find out directly from him exactly what time the ship will be returning in the late afternoon. The Malibu Princess actually makes two return trips along Jervis Inlet on the same day. The first one is the freight run at 6 AM which returns to Egmont with a load of 300 happy campers. On the next run the ship will arrive at Malibu Camp stuffed to the gunwales with a fresh batch of christians teens. If you can return to the camp early enough the arrival ceremony is a spectacle certainly worth watching. On the final run back to Egmont the ship will be virtually empty.
Egmont Marina Resort will deliver rental kayaks to the Malibu Princess in the morning, picking them up again at the end of the day. Malibu was originally built for the gliterati of the 1940s. Since wildlife and the wild life are incongruous, the luxury resort failed to attract enough of the spoiled Hollywood crowd to make a profit. Eventually it was sold to the Young Life Foundation which provides christian retreats for hundreds of teens each summer.
From the first dip of the paddle it will become apparent that Princess Louisa Inlet is nothing less than a natural wonder. Surprisingly calm conditions prevail in the narrow waterway which is just 7 km long, sandwiched between towering granite walls laced with countless waterfalls on either side. During spring runoff until late June more than 60 waterfalls can be seen dropping 2000 metres or more into the sea. At the head of the Inlet, Loquilts Creek crashes over 37 metre Chatterbox Falls filling the air with thunder and a fine cooling mist. Rustic campsites can be found adjacent to the falls or about halfway along the inlet tucked in behind Macdonald Island.
Though half a day is plenty of time to paddle the length of Princess Louisa Inlet and back it is certainly not enough time to fully appreciate its splendour.
The park at the head of the inlet owes its existence to the generosity of "Mac" Macdonald who purchased the land in 1927. Having struck the motherlode the previous year while prospecting in Nevada, James Macdonald promptly retired, wintering over in Mexico while devoting his summers to Chatterbox Falls. Never the recluse, "Mac" considered himself to be just a custodian of the property which rightfully belonged to the wider society of mariners who frequent the area. As early as 1953 "Mac" transferred title of the property to a perpetual trust which in turn discharged its duty by overseeing the formation of a Provincial Marine Park. "Mac" continued to host all manner of visitor to the park until 1972, when, at the age of 83, he retired for good. He died six years later.
Refer to the map of Malibu Rapids to see the best approach when returning on a flooding tide.
The venturi effect of the narrows accelerates the water up to 19 km/h. As it leaves the chute the current bounces off the south wall, cutting across to the other side of the Inlet before straightening out. Kayakers should approach along the southern wall carefully watching the line of foam to discern current patterns. Head into the current at an oblique angle as it cuts across the inlet. Expect your kayak to be jolted hard when it reaches the main stream. Paddle like mad at this point steering with but across the stream towards the cliffs along the opposite bank. Your objective is to catch the back eddies which will sweep you towards the dock. If you miss the back eddies you will be swept back into the inlet from which you must try again. Bucking the tides head on is an exercise in futility.
Unless of course you want to shoot the chute on the ebbing tide hug the cliffs along the north bank to make an end run around the main part of the current. Upon reaching the dock hang on, especially when clambering out, to avoid losing your kayak to the current. Though Malibu rapids is nowhere near as menacing as those at Skookumchuck, better than average kayak competence and the confidence which comes with it are needed to run them. Expect a drop of a third of a metre with the turbulence of a Class III river. Veer to the right of Malibu Islet if possible to reach the outside wharf.