Beach littered with logs and woody debris

The photo above is a view from Orlebar Point on Gabriola Island. (Click on this or the images below to see the details.)

It’s not unusual to see big logs on this exposed shore. Escapees from logging operations frequently wash up here, especially when we have extreme high tides, as we did last week.

But what’s different this time is the proliferation of shattered, woody debris among the logs.

Different, but not really surprising. Southern BC experienced unusually heavy rains last fall. Steep areas that had been impacted by logging or summer wildfires must have been primed and ready to let loose a torrent of woody debris when those rains hit. And of course, everything eventually flows to the sea.

Driftwood in water on foggy day

It reminded me of our boating trip last summer, when we found our routes littered with myriad pieces of shattered forest (likely from the massively destructive landslide in Bute Inlet the previous fall).

One narrow passage we’d enjoyed in the past was completely choked off by woody debris, forcing us to do a quick 180 and take a longer route. Currents in another passage contained swirling logs, tricky to dodge even at slack water.

Heavy logs and large tree stumps floated into our anchorages with incoming tides. Things went bump in the night a few times, making for less than optimal sleeping conditions.

Logs, tree stump and other floating debris

One day we were forced to weigh anchor and move to another bay when a floating tree insisted on taking our spot. Another time a runaway tree blocked the entry to the only decent anchorage in an area we’d hoped to explore.

Overall, it seems that glacial melt, steep slopes, deforestation, and extreme weather events are conspiring to make safe boating a bit more challenging each year.

I do love modern navigation gear, but it’s not enough. Anyone boating in the Pacific Northwest would be wise to also employ a decidedly old-fashioned mariner’s practice: maintaining a constant watch.

Stay safe out there!

About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Focused on nature on the BC coast

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