Mikey and I untied our kelp anchors and backed our boats into open water. A stiff current picked us up. We drifted with it a moment, then dug hard with our paddles, sweeping our kayaks around head-on into a strong four-knot ebb. “Gonna be nice to get out on the open water and away from these damn currents,” I shouted over to Mikey. “How long till slack?”

Mikey looked at his watch. “Less than an hour.”

“That last forecast had the front about six hours out,” I said, “and the tide’s just about right. A fat man could squeeze through that window. Let’s grab a bite of lunch and go.”

“Right on.”

A strong ebb tide scoured the northeastern shore of Vancouver Island. Large beds of brown bull kelp arched gracefully from the bottom like willows in a blow. Dead ahead, a pod of sea lions breached, popping up as a group, muscling five feet out of the water with the force of their tails.

We paddled short, tight strokes against the current, then angled toward our right, ferrying across the fast water between rocks toward a beach where our brethren were fixing lunch. We could see the red-and-white tower of the lighthouse above, then nothing but forest as we got out in knee-deep water to secure our boats below the headland at the tip of Cape Scott.

Cape Scott marks the extreme northwesterly tip of British Columbia’s enormous Vancouver Island. It provides the first taste of open ocean and rolling swell for sea kayakers rounding the rugged point and traveling south. Our destination, Fair Harbour, is roughly 200 miles from where we launched at Port Hardy. In between lies some of the province’s wildest, most challenging coastline.

Ragged clouds scudded under a tepid sun, the air cool and surly with the promise of storm. We ate jerky and mustard sardines, facing east up the channel we had spent the last week paddling down. After talking so much about it, and paddling semi-sheltered seas for the last week, we were itching to get a taste of the open ocean. Our plan was to round the rocky cape and angle quickly south into the shelter of Hansen Lagoon.

It took only minutes to paddle the short distance out to the first corner of the cape, where we stopped a moment, jockeying our kayaks around in brisk currents.

Mikey paddled over. “Not too bad, eh?”

“Not till we get around the corner.”

We hugged the shore, paddling through wandering lanes in the immense kelp beds. When the lanes closed down, we paddled out into open water. It was an enormous rock garden, but with the swell down and the wind fairly sheltered, it seemed like a sleeping giant, and I felt confident tiptoeing past.