Circumnavigation of Chapel Island....well, almost

By Brian Newhook

Date: September 2-3, 2007
Paddlers: Brian Newhook and Trent Hardy
Kayaks: 2 x Seaknife SK-17 Pro

NTS Map: COMFORT COVE 02E-07 (thumbnail, click on map to enlarge)

Total Distance: approx. 35kms (more if you explore all the little bays and surrounding islands)

We've been trying to do this paddle all summer, however, weather, weddings, work and other things have kept us away. But this weekend nothing was going to stop us...other than the weather. The original plan was to leave on Saturday morning from Boyd's Cove,  paddle south around Chapel Island, spend the night on Inspector Island, then continue north into Dildo Run where we would spend the night on Coaker Island, then return south to Boyd's Cove the following morning, a total of about 50 kms. Not too bad. All we needed was the weather to cooperate, and that's where plans fell apart. Wind and rain on Saturday kept us off the water, so we had to postpone the trip for 24 hrs and alter the plan slightly. Instead of going to Coaker Island, we would continue around Chapel Island to complete the circumnavigation and spend one night camping on Inspector Island.

We met in Gander at Tim Hortons on Saturday evening, then drove to Cottlesville, where Lindy Rideout of Seaknife Kayaks was gracious enough to let us sleep in his boat house for the night instead of in our tent in the wind and the rain. Lindy's hospitality was second to none as always. If you are in the area, be sure to drop in to visit him. You won't be disappointed.

In planning a trip to this area, you need to consider what direction you will travel in, based on the winds and tides. Some places are impassable when the tide is low, and the two causeways in the area may cause some grief if you don't consult your tide tables and arrive at the right time, heading in the right direction.

I'd also like to note that we were able to get cell phone service during the entire trip.

Day 1: Boyd's Cove to Inspector Island, 19 km

There are lots of great places to launch in Boyd's Cove. We chose the beach at the intersection of routes 335 and 340, just south of the community.

Departure beach (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)


Paddling down "The Reach" (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

There was a slight breeze coming from the northwest, however, the reach is protected from these winds by Chapel Island, so the first 8 km of our paddle down the reach was very nice, with no wind and sunny skies. We heard that fresh water is hard to find in this area, so we were always on the lookout for it. Two coves along this way had small brooks running into them, a good place to refill water bottles. They are easy to find if you just listen for the sound of running water.

The brook runs down under these alders (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

A great feature of this area is that you can land virtually anywhere, although beaches adequate for a campsite can be hard to find at times. But you can stop for lunch almost anywhere.

Typical shoreline of Chapel Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Once we rounded the southern tip of the island, we had to paddle into headwinds until we arrived at our lunch beach.
 

Chapel Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)


Chapel Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

After lunch we continued towards Inspector Island. Along the way, we saw that someone had built an Inukshuk on a rock near shore.
 

Chapel Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Chapel Island (photo Trent Hardy, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

 Trent checks the map (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

There is an osprey nest on top of a tree at the western-most point of Chapel Island near some cabins.  We stopped for a few pictures as two ospreys circled over us, checking us out.

Chapel Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Chapel Island (photo Trent Hardy, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

We arrived at Inspector Island around 2 pm, at low tide, which made it hard to enter some of the smaller coves to find a campsite. We rounded the eastern side of the island searching for a good campsite, ideally one with a level beach and freshwater.
 

Inspector Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

We stopped at the first cove, which has a small island at the mouth of it (it's not an island at low tide). There was very little water in this cove, and although it looked very grassy inside, after an inspection, we found it was mostly boggy, so we thought we'd continue around the island for a better place.

Chapel Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Chapel Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

We were almost ready to give up and search on nearby islands when we found a small inlet on the north side. if you look closely at the map, it's the narrow inlet on the northern side, facing a few smaller islands. It was almost completely dry with the low tide, so we had to drag our kayaks up the beach to our camping spot. Inside this inlet there are two small brooks with fresh water, which makes this a very attractive campsite, although you might want to land here at high tide, especially if your boats are loaded with gear. Lots of driftwood in this area to burn as well. We spent a few hours beach combing and picking through the woods but the woods on the island are pretty thick. This island is an important Beothuck site and was excavated in the 1980s.
 

Chapel Island. Low tide (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Chapel Island. High tide (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Chapel Island. Low tide (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Chapel Island. High tide (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Chapel Island. High tide. View from the top of a cliff near our campsite, Chapel Island in the distance (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Day 2: Inspector Island to Boyd's Cove (almost), 16km

After a breakfast of oatmeal and toast, we were on our way northeast towards the Curtis Causeway. I marked the causeway on my GPS the day before when we drove over it, and it said we were 4.62 km from it. With the wind at our backs we made the relatively straight run to the causeway in no time. This causeway can make or break your trip, as the water can flow 8-10 knots depending on the tides.  We got there at 10:30 am, with the tide still rising and the current flowing in the direction we were traveling in, so our crossing was very easy, with no problems. You really have to consult your tide tables and plan ahead, or you could be in for a painful portage up the steep sides of the banks of the causeway. If you are heading in the direction we did, it's best to arrive at high tide, when the water is still rising, as you will have a nice, gentle ride to the other side.

Heading towards the causeway (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Curtis Causeway (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Once you are in this area, you have entered the famous Dildo Run. It is a maze of islands that is an amazing place to paddle. The paddle up this side of the island went by very quickly, with the wind at our backs and nice 2-3 ft surfing waves. We didn't have to do a heck of a lot of forward paddling, just ruddering to keep our kayaks straight as the wind and waves pushed us on. It made for a fun ride. We stopped for lunch once on the northern tip of the island. We could see Dunnage Island off in the distance. We had hoped to explore it to, but we didn't have time. There will always be next year!

 Dildo Run (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

 Dildo Run (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Dildo Run (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Dunnage Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

Chapel Island. Lunch beach (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

One thing I should note about this area is the danger of grounding. The rocks that lurk beneath the surface are everywhere, and if you are like me, and love to rock hop and pick your way in around the islands, you will constantly be banging into rocks and grounding, which can leave some nice gouges in the bottom of your boat. The real danger is hitting one and capsizing and risking hitting your head on the rocks. The rocks can be very hard to see, and shoals often extend farther out from the island than you would think.

Chapel Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

After our lunch, we headed off for the final leg of the journey. There are some beautiful beaches along this stretch of the island, and lots of little coves and islands to explore.

Chapel Island (photo Brian Newhook, click on thumbnail image to enlarge)

As we approached the eastern point of the island, we could see how the southwest winds were gusting pretty strongly through the channel between Chapel Island and the mainland. White caps were blowing off the tops of every wave, and we knew we were in for a struggle for the last few kilometres back to the car. We rounded the point and were blasted in the face with 50-70 kph winds and spraying waves.  Just past this point there was a small wharf/gravel pit area where  people were camping. They  shook their heads in disbelief when the saw what we were paddling into, and I can't blame them! As we past that area we knew that the headwinds were too much and I was struggling to maintain forward motion with every stroke. We quickly decided to get the hell off the water on a nearby beach and walk on the dirt road back to the main road to our cars. We were so close to finishing, we could see the Reach Causeway about a kilometre away, but it would not have been a good idea to keep going in those conditions. We were walking for about 10 minutes when an kind old chap picked us up and gave us a ride back to our vehicles. You gotta love Newfoundland hospitality!


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