Level: Challenging

Distance: 54 km

Time: 2 - 3 days

Warning: Winds, Open Water

Tide Table: Blind Bay

Marine Chart: Jervis Inlet 3514

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Access: Via Egmont

No matter how you slice it crossing several kilometres of open water will be necessary in order to reach Hotham Sound. The shortest gap is two kilometres across the ferry lanes from Captain Island to Foley Head. A further sprint of 1.3 km across the ferry lanes through the turbulence at the head of Agamemnon Channel is necessitated by this approach however. Make for Egmont Point after launching your graceful craft instead. Once past the point steer a course for Foley Head 3.4 km away. On this bearing only the currents of Jervis Inlet come into play and marine traffic is far less up-and-down the channel. As a bonus, the seal haul out at the Miller Islets provides a distraction about a quarter of the way across. Powerful winds do emanate from Jervis Inlet so an early morning start is recommended.

A mid-day view of mist-shrouded Hotham Sound taken from near Captain Island with steep-sided Foley Head darkly dominating the right foreground. The delicate tendrils of Freil Falls, just above the headland, are all but obliterated by the wet coast weather.          

At Foley Head zig right for a side excursion to explore nearby Sydney Island and Goliath Bay or zag left and follow the coastline for another 4 kilometres before rounding into the typically calm waters of Hotham Sound proper. Either way you're bound to encounter a number of active aquaculture operations tucked into the nooks and crannies of the coast hereabouts.

Plan to stop at Granville Bay for lunch, a snack or a much-needed stretch at the very least. Paddlers will want to stumble out of their boats again for pictures at the rocky beach in front of 444 m Freil Falls, a spectacular hanging valley visible even from the ferry as it shuttles its way between Earl's Cove and Saltery Bay. The small, oyster-encrusted beach just prior to the falls is an ideal place to pitch up to five tents. A seasonal brook pours fresh water over the rocks at the south end of the beach.

Less than a kilometre further on, Harmony Islands Provincial Marine Park is undeveloped, lacking both water and decent access but the south end could do in a pinch. Being only 12 km from Egmont you may wish to push on however, secure in the knowledge that beaches suited to camping abound in Hotham Sound. The small prominence before Syren Pt, for instance, hides a landing, a dependable source of ice cold water and even a viewpoint from which to toast the sun god's daily demise.

Be sure to include an oyster-shucking knife in your camping kit whenever advisements from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Red Tide Advisory page are favourable. Pry open the lid, add a squeeze of lemon and a dash of Worcestershire sauce then tip it back. Yum! There's nothing quite like oysters on the half shell fresh from the source. Return the shells to the water so the microscopic oyster spawn they harbour can mature and so bears with a gourmet flair will not be attracted to your site.

Continue probing the foreshore to the twin bays, Lena and Baker, at the head of the sound before doubling back along the opposite shore to St. Vincent Bay.

A well-developed campsite, established by kayaking outfitters, will be found 3 km from Baker Bay. Several more sites will be found across the sound from the Harmony Islands.

Culloden Point, 18 km from Baker Bay, is the jumping off point for another open water crossing. Currents are not significant here but your group will be crossing the ferry lane. As always cluster together to enhance your visibility as you make the three kilometre sprint to Nelson Island. Numerous spots to pitch a tent will present themselves along the final 10 km of the trip but the best beach by far will be found just before Captain Island. If still uncomfortable with turbulent water choose an early morning or late afternoon slack tide to scoot across the ferry lane of Agamemnon Channel on the final leg of your return to Egmont. Whenever forced to paddle against an outflowing tide in Skookumchuck Narrows hug the shoreline to pick up a boost from the numerous backeddies here.

The End

Oregon Grape

Oregon Grape

Looking much like tiny concord grapes on a holly bush, the intensely sour fruit of the Oregon grape is loaded with Vitamin C. Munch them directly from the bush for a surefire pucker or render them into sugar-loaded jelly for a more palatable treat. Traditionally Oregon grape berries were mashed with other, sweeter berries to enhance their flavour. The inner bark of both stems and roots was a source of brilliant yellow dye during pre-European times. The source of the colour, an alkaloid called berberine, is known to possess antibiotic properties that are still used to combat both internal and external infections. An extract concocted from the roots is used by modern-day herbalists to correct a wide range of liver, kidney and urinary tract problems.

Illustration by Manami Kimura