Routes and Campsites
There are a number of camps in Desolation Sound – both within the provincial park and on crown land – but in the busy summer months these can fill up very quickly. A trip leader needs to have a route and camping plan set out before they leave, but they also need to have backup plans in case these camps are full, or in case the wind picks up from a certain direction, or in case a member or more of the group is not a strong paddler and can’t make the distance, or any number of things that may force a plan to change suddenly.
Please ensure that you have researched the area and the campsites throughly before you arrive – while our staff can often provide handy hints or tips, it is not their job to plan your trip out for you on the morning of the adventure. Also note that within Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park there are designated camp sites that are monitored in the summer by Parks employees. You cannot simply camp wherever you feel, and if a site is full, you will have to paddle to the next one to find a place to stay. Even outside the park many of the crown land sites are not suitable for large groups – it is for this reason that we have had issues in the past with groups clearing land to make more sites, despite the fact a larger, unused camp lies nearby. Prior research is vital.
Reading Weather, Tides and Currents
Weather on the west coast in unpredictable, even in the generally warm and dry summer months, and can change quickly and seemingly without warning. A trip leader needs to have the means to read the weather both by constantly checking updates (VHF radio, smart phone, etc) and also by reading the environmental cues around them. This can include noticing cloud buildup and formations, wind direction and what this indicates, understanding anabatic and katabatic winds, and more.
When leading a trip with youth, this becomes doubly important. If the wind is building and you start a 30 minute crossing, are you going to be able to keep 6 double kayaks with tiring paddlers together? In a sense its not just the ability to read weather, but the ability to make decisions based on this that keeps people safe and comfortable on the water, and in camp.
While there are not huge ocean currents in Desolation Sound, there are a few areas that can run at 2.5-3 knots depending on the tidal activity of the day. Are you able to a) plan around these times, or b) successfully see a young group through an area with currents like this by travelling in eddies and using physical landmarks to your advantage?
Finally, can you read a tide table and put the information into practice? Great campsites can become flooded during king tides, and untied boats can easily slip away unnoticed on a rising tide in the middle of the night. Often young guests will leave their personal effects below the high tide line without thinking that in an hour or two they will be underwater or floating away!
Food and Water
Sometimes young kids eat a lot, especially when they’re active. A comprehensive meal plan is crucial when leading overnight trips into the wilderness. Not only this, but a balanced diet that provides enough energy for the activity is very important.
Water is scarce in Desolation Sound, and so you need to ensure you are taking as much as you can, that you know places to fill up and plan your route accordingly, and also that you have to ability to treat any water that you source from streams or lakes in the wilderness.
Leader to Child Ratio
Larger groups require more trip leaders, and groups that have a high ratio of children to leaders are difficult to manage both on and off the water. Weather plays a big part in this as well, and should be taken into consideration. It might be fairly easy to manage 4 double kayaks yourself in perfect conditions, but as soon as the wind picks up a little and you need to make a crossing to your campsite, suddenly it is impossible to keep everyone together.
We insist that all youth group trips abide by the client-guide ratio set out by the Sea Kayak Guide’s Alliance of British Columbia. This ratio is 1 certified guide for every 5 guests – or 1 to 6 for trips only using double kayaks.
This should be the minimum that a school or youth group should use when kayaking overnight in Desolation Sound. When you take into account potential weather issues and the fact that young people tend to tire much quicker than adults, it may be wise to work with a smaller ratio.
Double versus Single Kayaks
Linked to the above consideration, the common approach by youth groups looking to minimize risk is to take a majority of double kayaks. Doubles are more stable and easier to control in windier weather, and for trip leaders minimises the sheer numbers of boats they need to look out for. Doubles are also helpful if some members of the group are tired or weaker paddlers, and pairing them up with a stronger paddler can keep both the fast and the slow paddler paddling together at a middling speed.