July 15, 2008 – Leaving Spruce Harbour
We left Vancouver on July 15 after a nice dinner at the Mongolie Grill and evening with Michael and Nancy.
We stayed two nights at Jedediah Island, a marine park that was a farm. The descendants of the farm's sheep still wander all over the island. The horse Will died in 2003. We found the trail leading to his grave. We also stumbled across a trail leading to the highest point on the island. It was a bit of a slog getting to the top. I had a book along and Urs continued climbing and shooting pictures.
The next morning we went for a swim. The water was 19 degrees C (ca 69 F) -- just warm enough to swim around the boat and clean the corrsion monitor. The warm outdoor shower was a treat.
The wind has been howling and, of course, in the wrong direction: right on the nose. Found a quiet anchorage on Lasqueti Island.
Saturday, July 19, 2008 -- Von Donop Inlet
We picked up Liz and Anders from their Smelt Bay, Cortes Island, property and cruised to Von Donop Inlet at the northern end of Cortes Island. Along the way we set two prawn traps and wished them good luck. We anchored at the end of the inlet with about 25 other boats. The water was about 21 C (70 F), so we swam a couple of laps around the boat.
Appetizers on deck with a bottle of Justin Boxler's Alsatian Pinot Gris that Liz and Anders had brought back from their recent trip to Europe. What a treat.
Sunday July 20 -- Hike to Cliff Peak
Urs and Anders studied the chart and thought it would be nice to climb Cliff Peak. Urs had met hikers a couple of years ago who were on their way to the mountain. I looked at the chart: Cliff Peak is over 500 meters (1600 feet) high and the contour lines are close. Me: "It's practically straight up." Urs: "That means the view will be great!"
We got up early and packed a lunch and rowed to shore. We have a great system of anchoring the dinghy with a shore tie that allows us to leave the dinghy without worrying too much about the tide, which were from 2 to 12 feet that day. The day was cooler than it had been for a while; perfect for hiking.
The trail was very well maintained, with boardwalks through the patches of skunk cabbage and bridges over drying creeks. One creek looked like it would be perfect for a cool wash on our return. The signs were not particularly clear: "Mud Bay 1 km"; "Lagoon 2 km"; "Boater Trail". Finally, we got to the sign "Squirrel Anchor". This was where Urs had met the hikers. There was no sign pointing to Cliff Peak but we headed in the same direction the others had gone. The next sign pointed to Haywire Bay, which was not on the chart, so we continued on. Then "Lagoon 2.5 - 5 km" on one line and "More" on the next line. We studied the chart and decided that the most logical place for a trail up the peak was near the lagoon. We quickly came to the lagoon and kept on walking along an old logging trail.
Finally, a sign, "Cliff Peak"! That was the beginning of 2 hours up the mountain. The good thing was that the trail didn't have lots of up and down switchbacks; the bad thing was that it never even really got flat. The view at the top was worth it: Teakerne Arm, West Redonda Island, and Lewis Channel, lots of mountains. After a massive photo session, we had a well-deserved lunch.
In the early 1790's, Capt. George Vancouver anchored his sailing ships Resolution and Discovery in Teakerne Arm for quite a while. From there they explored and charted the surrounding area. Some of his crew are supposed to have climbed Cliff Peak during that visit.
The walk down was much faster. And the wash at the creek was fantastic. In total, the hike was 6.5 hours.
Back at Raven Song, we had a nice swim.
Let's see: rowing, hiking, swimming; isn't that a triathlon?! It sure felt like it.
Monday July 21 - Wednesday July 23 -- through the rapids to Johnstone Strait
On Monday, we pulled up our prawn traps: 59 prawns!! We anchored in Smelt Bay. Did a quick shopping trip to restock veggies. Another bottle of Justin Boxler's wine and delicious prawns for dinner at Liz and Anders's home!!
Tuesday, we pulled up the anchor after breakfast and caught the ebb tide northward. We were heading to Church House at the south end of Bute Inlet, with the plan of traversing the 3 sets of rapids on the next day. However, we saw lots of boats heading to Yuculta Rapids and realized it was just about slack water. Check the chart and guide books. Yes, there is now a public dock in Big Bay, Stuart Island, between the first two sets of rapids. A quick call verified that they had room for us. There were some eddies in the rapids but calmer than our last trip through. We saw friends from the Marina, Georgia Dawn, coming from the opposite direction. They have been in Alaska for the past 1.5 years. We had a nice chat on VHF. Tied up at the dock, bought an ice cream cone, and hiked to Eagle Lake. The marina has two old, heavy boats with heavy, clunky paddles at the lake so that their guests can row to a dock in the middle of the lake. The wind was blowing hard, so it was a struggle. But the sun was out and the swallows and eagles were flying around and we had a refreshing swim. Another triathlon day!!
Wednesday, we left the dock just before the slack from flood to ebb. Went through the rapids at Gillard Passage and Devil's Hole and Dent Island. The chart describes the eddies and whirlpools here as "violent". When we went through, the eddies were strong but manageable. The ebb current added an extra knot on our speed. As we got to Greene Point Rapids, the current was 4.1 knots. The eddies before the rapids pushed Raven Song around. Sailing Directions describes these rapids as having "considerable overfalls" on high tides. I chickened out. Urs found a protected anchorage for us to have lunch and wait for a drop in current. The passage was uneventful. Anchored at Helmken Island. Winds predicted to be calm for the trip up Johnstone Strait Thursday.
Saw our first black bear feeding along the beach and orcas in the distance, likely transients, as well as a lone humpback whale "steaming" west in Current Passage.
The weather continues to be sunny and warm.
July 23 -24 -- Helmken Island, Johnstone Strait, Port McNeill
|Arrived at Port McNeill today, having caught the ebb tides and cruised at over 7 knots much of the time in light head wind and calm seas up Johnstone Strait. Uneventful. No orcas, just harbour porpoises. We did some quick reprovisioning and it's off tomorrow through Queen Charlotte Strait toward Cape Caution. Light winds and some rain are forecast.|
Weather Reports and Cape Caution
Weather reports are an important part of our daily routine. The coast guard updates
the reports four times a day. We listen at least twice a day; 4 times if a storm is
brewing. A westerly means that we need an anchorage on the east side of the island.
Strong winds means a well-protected anchorage and lots of anchor chain, or maybe just
another night in the same anchorage.
Cape Caution lies on the mainland coast, across from the northern tip of Vancouver Island. This cape faces the open ocean and is exposed to the full brunt of wind and swells from the south west. It is the only fully-open ocean exposure for marine traffic along the Inside Passage. If there are strong winds, the strong currents and shallow bottom of the cape produce extremely high waves; after the storm, swells can be 6 or 7 feet.
The following is selected parts of the early morning weather report for our passage:
Weather report; transmitted from Port Hardy; issued by Environment Canada at 0400 Saturday, July 26:
Technical Marine Synopsis for Coastal Waters Weakening front in a line NW - SE over central Vancouver Island Stationary ridge in a line NE - SW over Queen Charlotte Islands Weakening low over the Gulf of Alaska
Wave Height Prediction Seas 1 - 2 meters subsiding to 1 meter or less early this morning increasing to 1 - 2 meters this evening
Current Lighthouse Weather Reports - Egg Island at 0740 Wind calm Seas rippled Light rain and fog Visibility 4 miles
Current Ocean Buoy Reports - West Sea Otter Combined seas 1.1 meters
Actual Experience just off Cape Caution at 1030 Very gentle swell of less than 1 meter Drizzle and fog No wind Visibility about 1.5 miles
This weather is ideal for an easy passage with little rolling. We can even leave a coffee cup standing by itself on the countertop while pouring the coffee. The only thing better would be WIND FOR SAILING.
Friday July 25 to Saturday July 26 -- Around Cape Caution
Friday morning, we left Port McNeill, travelling across Queen Charlotte Strait to Miles
Inlet, a beautiful anchorage just south of the Cape. On the chart, Miles Inlet looks
tricky because at one point it is very narrow, maybe 2.5 times the width of our boat
(ca 45 feet). However, it is deep enough. The inlet is a perfect spot to hide out in
a storm. There are lagoons to explore and very sheltered.
We were anxious to get around Cape Caution while the weather was still calm.
Saturday morning, we raised the anchor and headed out into drizzle and fog. At one point, visibility was less than a mile; I sure was glad for the radar: a big ferry was a blip on the screen long before it came into sight. We've never crossed Cape Caution in such flat seas; they were 1/2-a-sandwich seas! We saw a pod of orcas. Then a humpback surfaced maybe 30 feet in front of the boat! Then he showed his flukes and dove again. I yelled down to Urs (I'm sure he thought it was a major disaster) but the whale never surfaced for us again.
We've chosen Pierce Bay near Addenbrooke Pointe as our anchorage. There's a creek running into the bay (we're hoping for crabs) and lots of nooks to explore.
We plan to slow down now and enjoy the north coast.
Sunday July 27 -- Fish Egg Inlet
Today was a lazy day, reading, baking bread, and exploring the islets of the bay.
Urs went into an exposed cove and found a half dozen floats.
We had wanted to stay in Pierce Bay for another night; however, the winds are predicted to rise tomorrow. The entrance to Fitz Hugh Sound is exposed so we gathered up the empty crab trap, raised the anchor, and set off.
We'd hardly gotten out into open water, when we saw a group of humpbacks in Fitz Hugh Sound. We spent 45 minutes with the engine off watching the whales feed all around us. Very exciting.
The prawn traps are down. It's late as we get into the anchorage, so dinner will be fresh bread, cold cuts, cheese and salad.
Sunday July 28 - Saturday August 2 -- Fish Egg Inlet to Hurricane Anchorage
We tucked up for three nights in Fish Egg Inlet, waiting for the wind and rain to die down.
The first cove we chose was so well protected that we didn't even get the weather forecast
despite the fact that the transmission tower was just on the other side of Fitz Hugh
Sound! Urs went out with the dinghy and found that the 992 millibar low in the Gulf of
Alaska was producing wind over 40 knots and gusts over 50 knots at Cape St. James, at
the southern tip of the Queen Charlottes.
On Tuesday, we left the first anchorage for Joe's Bay, also in Fish Egg Inlet. Elizabeth Lagoon has a reversing tidal rapid into Joe's Bay. That and the eel grass made the bay the perfect place for Dungeness -- and prawn heads are the perfect bait. In the dinghy, we set the crab trap and headed toward the lagoon. We could hear the rush from the rapids. We were about 3/4 through a rising tide. I was afraid that we'd be pulled into the lagoon. However, the wall at the mouth of the lagoon must be quite high as water was still flowing out. A nasty rock in the middle would do some damage to the dinghy if one misjudged the tide.
It rained cats and dogs overnight.
On Wednesday morning, the bay was filled with foam from the lagoon's outflow. The current from Elizabeth Lagoon's falls was very strong; the height of the rapids was about 5 feet.
We picked up 2 legal Dungeness crabs and 113 prawns!! The wind was about 15 - 20 knots southeast: perfect for crossing Fitz Hugh Sound. We sailed at 6.2 knots only under the Genoa! Anchored in the L-shaped Lewall Inlet. The entrance looked narrow on the chart but it is much wider than Miles. A number of streams coming into the inlet made the water brackish. I put down the crab trap and explored in the dinghy.
Thursday morning yielded two more Dungeness crabs! Entered Watt Bay on Winter Island. Our guide book named two of the coves: "NFG" had rocks across the entrance; "Domestic Tranquility" had a heart-attack-creating slalom of rocks across the entrance. Urs steered into Tranquility while I stood bow watch on a falling tide -- bad time to run up on a rock. A raven welcomed us. It was tranquil until the recreational fishermen returned, running their generator and rock music. Oh, well, they turned in early.
Friday, we explored all the rocky, tree-coverd islets. Eagles, ospreys, and ravens called overhead. Urs photographed some of the trees but complained about the overcast lighting. At the exposed coast of Camel Island (it has two humps), Urs gave me a refresher course on using the fishing reel. I had barely gotten my hook in the water and he cries, "I got a bite!" Reel in my hook to help Urs land the fish. A nice rock cod. While trying to recall the reel instructions, I hear, "I got another one!" I reel in again. This time a small kelp greenling that we let go. I'm faster now with the reel but it was only half way down, when I hear, "It's a big one this time!" A 62-cm (25-inch) lingcod! Wow! Fish for dinner tonight! I was a little annoyed that Urs caught all the fish until I realized it was August 1, Swiss national day!
Saturday morning was beautiful and sunny. Urs left with his camera in the dinghy to take pictures of all the rocks and trees. Then we headed west to the Breadner a series of rocks and beautiful islands. Made a false start through a patch of rocks; I guess that's what reverse gear is for. Kelp is a helpful marking of shallow spots but it's not always reliable. Put down the prawn traps and headed for a sheltered cove. Urs smoked the lingcod that we didn't eat Friday and tried (so far unsuccessfully) to fix our watermaker. Quiet spot with 3 other boats -- more than we've seen in the previous week!
A Disturbing Experience
We sent the following note to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO):
"On August 3, 2008, at ca 1100, Urs Boxler on S/V Raven Song saw something disturbing, though it may not be illegal. He saw a large trail of dead fish floating behind a large blue trawler named Osprey. The fish were ca 6" to 10" long. The big trawling flaps were on the stern of the Osprey. The observation was made west of the southwest corner of Spider Island."
I think that what the ship was doing is probably perfectly legal, though despicable. They fished day and night for 72 hours.
One day when we were out exploring in our dinghy, a DFO boat approached make sure we knew that there is no fishing in the Goose Group. That's the first DFO boat we've seen in 9 summers of cruising. Maybe they were in the area because of our report? Who knows. I should have asked them about the trawler.
The sea bed in Queens Sound is quite flat and probably good for trawling. However, it seems ridiculous to prohibit recreational fishing in an area adjacent to one that is essentially being clearcut and destroyed. Imagine a clearcut slope that has been bulldozed. All those fish that are tossed overboard and die. Even if they did live, their habitat is destroyed.
Enough rant. Well maybe not. Saw a dead sea lion nearby. My first thought was the blasted trawler. I'm finished now.
Sunday August 3 - Tuesday August 5 -- Goose Islands
On Sunday morning, we pulled up another 139 prawns before leaving spider anchorage!! Prawns for dinner!
We motored across Queens Sound to the Goose Group. This is a small group of islands out in the open ocean on the central coast. They are exposed to the full brunt of storms that the North Pacific can throw at them. There are maybe four anchorages in the group and these are full of rocks and reefs. Also, the islands are very flat, so there's no place to really hide from the wind. We waited for a calm-weather window. Finally, the prediction was for 10 - 20 knots in the afternoons, with morning fog for the next few days. The prediction was accurate.
Halfway across the sound, fog rolled in and the radar went on -- 1 mile of visibility. We couldn't see land on either side of the sound.
Of the four anchorages, we used three. In Goose Island Anchorage, there is room for a dozen or so boats. It was empty when we arrived but two others joined us later. We used the narrow anchorage at the south end of Goslin Island for a temporary spot on Monday morning; had to anchor in the swell as there were already two boats farther in. Stayed over night in the more protected, small anchorage east of Gosling.
As we arrived, a sea otter and two sandhill cranes greeted us. This is one of the few places where there are sea otters in the Inside Passage; what a treat to see one!
Every morning, the fog was thick and the winds were calm; then in the afternoon, the winds picked up and the fog burned off, revealing a beautiful blue sky by afternoon. In the dinghy, we explored the various log-covered coves on the east and west sides of the island group, finding lots of floats for our collection on Pender Island. I gathered sea weed samples for identification. One spot looks like it must be a particular haven for kayakers. It has two sandy beaches and aqua blue water and two easy accesses. The kayakers have constructed a large, sturdy beach hut made of driftwood and surrounded by a driftwood fence! They collected floats, a plastic baseball bat, and a basket ball! It looks like something you'd imagine on a remote South Pacific -- except that I had on 2 sweaters!
The sandhill cranes and sea otter were there as we left.
We really enjoyed the Goose Islands.
Thursday August 7 to Sunday August 10 -- Kakushdish Harbour
Thursday we got up early and headed for Bella Bella to fill up our water tanks and do
some shopping at the band's grocery store. Then headed for Shearwater Marina to
finish the grocery shopping, access internet and do some chores. While we were there,
we met four other cruising friends! Steve and Alice on Second Wind had just caught a
coho, which they brought to Raven Song for dinner!
Friday noon, we headed to Kakushdish Harbour (52 09.064 N 128 00.883 W [Google Earth doesn't recognize the names of places along the BC coast; maybe it will recognize latitude / longitude?]. A couple who are researching sandhill cranes told us that there are lots of cranes there. Not long after setting the anchor, we heard the plaintive cry of arctic loons and the soft kwok-kwok of the merganzers. Soon the incredibly loud rattle of cranes was added to nature's symphony -- there were about 10- 12 sandhill cranes overhead. We took the dinghy to a small island, where we picked wild gooseberries, sakatoon berries, and thimbleberries.
Saturday morning, the cranes woke us up at 6:30. There they were, picking through the seaweed (rockweed) at low tide. Quickly put on warm clothes and set out in the dinghy. It was fanastic! Urs rowed slowly, stopping often, of course, to take pictures. When we were 200 feet away, they got nervous and we backed away. They seemed to be flicking the rockweed, possibly to reveal the snails? I'm not sure what their diet is. They seemed to come and go in pairs or even-numbered groups. Every once in a while a pair would raise their heads, stretching and calling together.
The crane researchers told us that the lesser (or northern) sandhill cranes are smaller than the greater (or southern). The lesser usually nest in Alaska; the greater nest in central Canada. The lesser usually build their nests at the edge of a bog. This subgroup obviously nests in BC and it builds its nests in the middle of the bogs, possibly as a protection from predators.
Back at the big boat, a bowl of warm oatmeal got our blood flowing again. Then we put on boots and headed up the hill starting where the cranes had been. The researchers told us to bushwhack our way straight up the hill and we'd find a large area of bogs. After 45 minutes of slogging through fallen trees and undergrowth, the forest opened. Only stunted, bonsai-looking trees, just one bog after another. It seems like the hill is a granite bowl filled with soil, water, and vegetation. While Urs took pictures, I gathered flowers and plants to identify on the boat. I found a particularly beautiful, large flower on a 5-foot plant. The flower didn't break off easily. For some reason, I decided to use brute force rather than my teeth.
Back at Raven Song, Magpie was happy as usual to see the bouquet. Until I know what the flowers are, I keep the flowers away from her, as she loves to chew them. However she was immediately attracted to the big, pretty flower but turned her back on it at first sniff. It turned out to be Indian Hellebore, "... one of the most violently poisonous plants on the Northwest Coast ... to eat even a small portion would result in loss of consciousness, followed by death"!
Sunday morning, we went back for a photo session with the cranes. It was flat calm. After an hour, it started to rain. We raised the anchor and headed toward Fjordland. The wind picked up in Seaforth Channel (52 13.89 N; 128 14.25 W). We raised both sails. Variable wind for a while and then a nice wind that pushed Ravensong at up to 6.7 knots for about 5 hours. (Magpie and I didn't like it when we were heeled over sailing close to the wind.) We changed where we're heading three times to take advantage of the wind. Final destination is Salmon Bay (52 29.10 N; 128 12.10 W) -- well, final until we change our minds.
Later: well, we didn't change our minds. Wolves gave a concert during dinner.
Monday August 11 to Friday August 15 -- Fiordland
Monday, we headed up Kynoch Inlet (starts at 52 45.848N; 128 07.501 W) in the
provincial park called Fiordland. It is a beautiful area with sheer, granite, mountain walls
and domes. It felt like driving Raven Song through Yosemite National Park in California
-- and we didn't need reservations! and no one else was there! Despite the clouds, the
scenery was beautiful. Hundreds of spectacular waterfalls poured into the inlet.
At the end of Kynoch Inlet is Culpepper Lagoon (52 45.168 N; 127 52.809 W --
probably worth looking at with Google Earth). We have great respect for lagoons after
our experience two years ago, when smooth water that we'd paddled the dinghy over
an hour previously had turned into a 3-foot, rocky waterfall. Because of the sometimes
15-foot tides, a lot of water moves in and out of the waterways. The flow into and out of
Culpepper Lagoon is restricted by a narrow entrance that is deep enough (ca 10 feet) to
traverse even at low tide. Our guidebook says that the drop at spring tides (full or new
moon) can be up to 4 feet over a distance of less than 100 yards. "So what's wrong with
that?", I ask. Guidebook says, "At spring tides, current [over 9 knots] and turbulence is
strong and dangerous to any size vessel except at high water slack." Well, at least we
had lower neap tides.
The only tide information we had was for a point about 30 miles away. We aimed to arrive at low tide and wait for calm water. When we got to the entrance, the water was flat calm. I stood bow watch with white knuckles. The water was a cedary brown, so I'm not sure I would have seen anything. The depth sounder at mid-channel stayed in the 19-foot range. Yet another heart attack avoided.
Inside the lagoon was beautiful. I kept thinking about the huge glacier that once filled the bowl. There are still ice fields in the surrounding mountains. Even at sea level, there is still, in August, a pile of snow at the foot of a an avalanche shute. Wisps of fog drifted in and out, up and down; sometimes the fog was so thick, we could barely see the bow. We explored the river and mud flats. Saw some water mammal that we didn't recognize: flat, whiskery face; somewhat curious; not a sea otter, river otter, seal. Lots of loons, murrelets, and mew gulls. The far corner of the bay was much foggier than at the entrance, probably due to the snow fields in the mountains. The rivers kept Raven Song safely away from the mudflats even on a rising tide. So much water comes into the lagoon that the water is sweet even outside the lagoon.
Wednesday morning was pea-soup fog, right out to the entrance. A half hour before high tide, only a slight current ran into the lagoon. We headed out.
Thursday, we awoke to glorious sunshine. Traveled up Mussel Inlet (52 51.175 N; 12 09.259 W) to Poison Cove (52 54.340 N; 128 02.006 W). Poison Cove was where one of Captain Vancouver's crew died from eating mussels contaminated with red tide (PSP). At noon, we turned off the engine and drifted down Mussel Inlet while eating lunch. We anchored in Carter Bay, where, in 1909, the sinking ship Ohio was able to beach without losing any of her 150 passengers. Though we clearly saw her bow above the water two years ago, this time it was under water because of a higher tide -- we nearly ran into her with the dinghy! Glimpsed a black bear at the mud flats. Moon was too full to see the Perseid meteor shower.
Friday, we travelled to Alexander Inlet on Princess Royal Island. Lots of islands and quite narrow. Almost at the inlet's head (52 38.293 N; 128 39.028 W), we were treated to a 40-minute display of a humpback whale bubble feeding happily. Bubble feeding is an ingenious technique whereby a single or multiple whales working together dive under and encircle a school of herring and blow air bubbles in a circular pattern. The rising bubbles create the effect of a net entrapping the herring. Then the whale(s) charge up vertically from below mouths agape scooping up the fish. Later in the night we were treated to a concert from a single lone wolf. Who knows, maybe we'll see a kermode bear next!
Saturday August 16 to Friday August 22 -- Swindle Island
Saturday, we followed a boggy animal trail along the lagoon at Alexander Inlet. It was close to high tide but the entrance to the lagoon was too narrow for us to enter on the dinghy. The shallow entrance was a favorite fishing site for a heron.
On Sunday, we left for Klemtu on Swindle Island, mostly to fill up the water tanks. Arrived late. The current was running at about 3 knots. Water is available at the fuel dock, which is in the main channel. We decided to fill up the next morning at slack.
On Monday, we untied the lines, filled up the water tanks, and checked the weather report: Gale warning upgraded to storm warning, winds up to 50 knots. We had wanted to go to an exposed area but not in a storm. We decided to wait it out at Klemtu. So back to the dock.
Klemtu is a dry, native village. Everyone says hi and will stop to talk given any opportunity. Aubrey was casting for salmon on the dock next to Raven Song. When I looked up from my reading, he was reeling his line in and told me he had a fish. I got our net; Urs helped land a beautiful, 20-lb coho. We chatted for a while. The next morning, he came by for coffee and Swiss fruit pie. Ben asked about the name "Raven Song". I demonstrated how I sing with the ravens on Pender Island; he said they were much prettier birds than the bald eagles. There are three stores that sell groceries but they get resupplied every 2 weeks on Sunday -- that was the previous Sunday! Found some iceberg lettuce, apples, brownish celery, and grapefruit; no cream or yogurt. Met a nice young woman who described how she freezes even milk.
One man, I'll call him Cal, told us about the residential school at Alert Bay. It was one of the worst. His wife had gone to another school and wasn't so traumatized. The matrons and teachers would beat them for any little infraction. One teacher beat him so hard, he couldn't sit down for a week. Among the persecutors were what he called "monitors", the senior native boys whom the matrons appointed to keep everything in order when the matrons were away. Of course, the monitors had been abused when they were younger and enjoyed wielding power over the weaker ones. One abuse was to make the younger boys crawl along the floor while the monitors beat them. Cal seems at peace now but spent many years drinking and a couple of months in jail. He and others receive one-on-one counselling. Cal seems at peace though the hurt is still evident. He is looking forward to receiving his compensation from the government; southern villages have received theirs. He is upset at the loss of records verifying that some of his friends attended residential school.
Klemtu has a successful fish hatchery and many are employed by a nearby fish farm. We met two young people working for fisheries. They were taking underwater videos in local waters. They were not allowed to tell us what they had seen but were clearly concerned there is much less underwater life the closer one gets to the fish farms. We are very encouraged that DFO is taking the problems caused by fish farms seriously.
By Wednesday, the storm had passed. We headed through Myers Passage, north of Swindle Island. Meyers Passage is another rocky, relatively narrow spot. A 3-knot current was against us; I'm sure we planned a slack transit on our first year through. Anchored in Parson's Anchorage at the northwest corner of Swindle Island. Spent a sunny Thursday exploring the area. Tried to get into a lagoon at the end of another anchorage but the falls were to high. Caught 2 Dungeness and 6 rock crabs! Crabs for dinner!
Friday, we sailed to Racey Inlet on Princess Royal Island. Yes, sailed! Another front arrived overnight bringing southeasterlies. Before raising the anchor, we put away everything and locked all the cupboards. Out in the 5-foot swells of Laredo Sound, things we'd forgotten tumbled onto the floor. Wind got up to 24 knots, pleasant for down-wind sailing. The swells eased in Laredo Channel; Magpie and I were much happier. We sailed comfortably at up to 7 knots speed over ground with only 70 percent of the foresail poled out. Great performance, Raven Song and crew!
A couple of animal highlights: In Alexander Inlet, an osprey dove after a fish. In Klemtu, mew gulls dove repeatedly for fish. Both times, the birds were completely submerged. We'd never seen this and the behavior is not described in our bird books. Late at night in Parson's Anchorage, a whale (probably humpback) fed for over an hour within 500 feet of Raven Song; we never saw anything but heard the blows. Unusual to find a whale in 60 feet of water.
Bugs have been wicked in the anchorages: horseflies, blackflies, and midges.
We are again in an area that is either poorly charted or totally uncharted; many patches of water have no depths marked, whatsoever. Our current chart's scale is 1:77,429 and that's the most detailed chart available. [It's called a "Natural Scale". Anyone know why?] Most charts have more than twice that detail; tricky spots will have more than 4 times that detail. We often have a bow watch.
Friday August 22 to Wednesday August 27 -- Storms, Storms, Storms
Weather has been awful: rain, fog, wind. One thing we've learned is to be flexible.
Friday we left Parson's Anchorage through Laredo Channel to Racey Inlet; sailed most of the way with the Genoa poled out. Racey Inlet has a tricky, zig-zag entrance through the rocks. The anchorage at the head of the inlet is cosy. At the stern, we could see out both sides of an island. At the bow, was a stream that might be attractive to bears. We felt particularly comfortable because the spot was well-protected from the predicted overnight gale.
Despite all the rain overnight, Saturday morning was still overcast and raining. We had no reception for the weather forecast because we were so tucked into the mountains, but we decided to continue on, in the hope that we'd travel on an overcast day and save the sunny ones for exploring. We pulled out the Genoa and headed for Campania Island. Thick fog. Raven Song rocked back and forth with the 5-foot waves from port. The winds increased. The weather forecast was for gales and more in the days to come. The entry to McMicking Inlet, our chosen anchorage, is rocky and exposed to the wind. So even though we were close enough to see Campania coming out of the fog, we changed course and headed to the west coast of Princess Royal Island, where we had seen Kermode bears two years ago. The following seas were more comfortable but the wind kept increasing. By the time we reached our anchorage, the squalls were up to 50 knots. This was the first time we experienced that much wind out on the water. Underway, the barbeque cover blew off.
We anchored with lots of chain for good holding. Raven Song danced around the anchor, 90 degrees on each side of the wind. We locked all the cupboards. Urs held anchor watch until 2 AM. When Raven Song's dance extended to an arch of 270 degrees, Urs turned on the radar, thinking that perhaps we'd lost the anchor. The 70 seconds that it took the radar to warm up, felt like a life time. The radar image showed Raven Song in her original location. Urs noticed that the nearby fishing boat was slowly drifting and contacted the fisherman by radio. Automated weather reports from ocean buoys, indicated that the barometer was rising and the front had passed them. Winds abated. But one final blast of 50 knots slammed Raven Song, she heeled at a steep angle, and all the dinner's dishes crashed onto the floor with a noise even louder than the screaming wind. Usually, I put the dishes in the sink but that evening the sink was full of baking dishes. Fortunately, only one wine glass shattered into 1000 pieces, though that made quite a mess and required an immediate vacuum clean-up. That was our roughest night yet.
Sunday, we slept a lot. Took the dinghy out and saw a black bear with cub.
Monday, the weather forecast was for more gales. We took the dinghy out at 7:30 and saw bears. At 9:45, Urs raised the dinghy and started the engine, planning to depart because of the coming storms. Neither of us wanted to go. We both moped around. Finally, we decided to listen to the weather forecast again. It looked like we'd be ok for one more night before taking the 3.5-hour trip to shelter at Hartley Bay.
Lowered the dinghy. Went up river. More bears. The forecast changed from gale warning to storm warning. Packed up quickly. Raised the dinghy. Pulled up the anchor and intending to go to Hartley Bay. However, our friends, who had just arrived, turned into the neighboring cove. One of the fishing lodges was recently towed to Prince Rupert; its dock was empty!!
We were all ecstatic that we'd be safely moored so close to a wonderful wilderness area!!
So, once again, our motto is, "These are the plans until they change."
On Tuesday Sartine Island automated weather reporting station reported wind of 50+ knots.
On Wednesday morning Egg Island Lighthouse (near Cape Caution) reported actual winds of 48 knots and gusts to 62 knots.
Sunday August 24 to Wednesday August 27 – Bears, Bears, Bears
Sunday, we explored the estuary and
saw a black bear with a cub.
Monday, we got up early. A black bear with a cub headed from north of estuary to south. There was a terrible racket in the forest. When the mother was about half way across, she turned around. A second cub emerged from the forest. They walked along a grassy ridge and disappeared. Urs pointed toward the south shore. He was sure that the yellow rock was a Kermode bear – well, the rock moved. It was eating a salmon. The ravens sat around waiting for a leftover morsel. Finally, the Kermode had enough. As he walked away, the ravens devoured what was left. The Kermode wanted to take a trail into the forest; however, a black bear growled and chased it out. They had a loud skirmish. The Kermode backed off. Probably a mother defending her cubs. He walked along and eventually disappeared into the forest.
[This is where we had to make the tough decision about moving on because of the gales or staying on. We stayed on.]
After an early lunch, we anchored the dinghy on the mudflats and walked to the grassy field next to the river. Before long, a mother with one cub came from the north and walked along the river and disappeared into the forest. Then Urs pointed to a black rock, which with the binoculars turned out to be the mother sitting and snuggling her cub. They went back into the woods and appeared farther upriver. Mother walked along a log, watched the salmon stuck in the low tide, and jumped in. She came up with a huge salmon. Off they went into the woods. Ten minutes later she was fishing again. In this way, she caught three salmon.
At the same time, Urs saw the Kermode in the distance at the west end of the estuary walking slowly toward us. He came closer and closer and finally settled down on a log 100 meters in front of us and scratched every itchy corner of his body.
Meanwhile, a sailboat anchored in front of Raven Song. Two dinghies tied up next to ours. The sailors stayed respectfully back but we waved at them. While the Kermode was scratching, I looked back and saw two huge cameras, so I moved over to try to stay out of their way. As the Kermode walked away, Urs turned around and said, "That's Linda and Gerd!" Our friends had been to Alaska this summer and were now heading south. They just happened to anchor at the same place as we did!
[Later that afternoon the weather forecast issued storm warnings for the whole north coast. Not wanting another night with anchorwatch, we all decided to abandon bear watching and head for Hartley Bay. Then we discovered an available dock from a fishing lodge, so we took that opportunity to stay in the area.]
The routine remained the same for the rest of the time: up to the river early morning; back to Raven Song for lunch; up to the river before low tide in the afternoon. The estuary is oriented north-south. There is one grass ridge at the north end, then a ditch, and then a grass plain east of the river. We liked to sit and wait on the large grass plain. There we had a good view of the whole area, including a couple of good fishing holes.
Wednesday was the most spectacular day. As we arrived, we saw the Kermode eating grass on the grass ridge. While he was grazing, he heard the salmon in the first fishing hole and dashed into the water. He chased the fish for a while without a catch. We walked to the grassy plain. The Kermode walked back to the a favorite tidal grass patch for more grazing. Then he walked through the ditch just 40 feet away from us. He climbed onto the plain and walked by about 24 feet away from us – closer than the bow is to our helm! There were lots of pictures and the four of us stayed close together.
One male black bear and the Kermode tolerate each other. However, on Wednesday, they had two confrontations. Once the black bear charged. With ears laid back, they were head-to-head. Then the black bear backed off. They circled each other, walked in parallel, and eventually went back to grazing.
A small, young bear poked his head out of the bushes, saw us, and returned to the bushes. After a while, he came out and ignored us.
The mother with one cub fished successfully three times.
The mother with two cubs wandered around and fished. She grazed on the grass plain. The cubs stood up to look over the grass. Then the all sat down for a rest. A male grazed closer and closer to them. Finally mom stood up, the cubs scampered to the other side of the river, and mom followed staying between the cubs and the male.
As we were leaving in our dinghies, there was a terrible ruckus. The Kermode was chasing the two cubs. We didn't see what had happened before but the mother was trailing behind. One cub high-tailed it into the forest; the second stayed on the beach for a while and then went into the forest. The Kermode went after the first. We were heart broken. We put out the dinghy anchor and waited. Mom and at least one cub reunited on the beach. Thursday morning, we saw both cubs. What a relief! We know that male bears occasionally kill small cubs when they have a chance, perhaps for food, but mostly to mate with the mother again sooner?
In the morning, we left too late: the tide came in; the ditch was flooded; the water was over the top of our boots.
In the afternoon, we left too late: the tide went out; our dinghies were aground!
It was a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Narrow waterways are home to an ecosystem that thrive in the nutrient-rich wash of the tides.
Sea weeds vary in color from the bright, spinachy green of Sea Lettuce to the oily blue of Iridescent Seaweed; in shape like the self-described Turkish Towel, delicate Sea Lace, Feather Boa Kelp, Sea Cauliflower; in edibility from the delicious Fir Needle [Matsumo] to the destructive Stringy Acid Weed; in habitat from the subtidal Bull Kelp to the high intertidal Rockweed.
In the kelp beds, small fish seek shelter from salmon, seals, and sea lions in the kelp. Water boils are often small fish jumping out of a predator's range. Dense eelgrass beds are breeding grounds for fish and crabs.
Crabs and shrimp of all colors and sizes forage on the sea weed. The 3-inch Kelp Crab clings tenaciously to the kelp [or a fishing net!]. The 1.5-inch Graceful Sea Lettuce Crab has a white carapace and black or orange legs; it decorates itself with plants that grow in the area. The Graceful Sea Lettuce Crab is much tamer than the Kelp Crab. Sea Fleas also find a home on Sea Lettuce.
White or pink and green Anemones grow on the floor and steep walls. Their stinging tentacles reach out into the water in an attempt to capture their prey. Related to Anemones are the Orange Sea Pens, which grow in deeper waterways. We saw them for the first time in Meyers Narrows. They are beautiful, reminding me of a combination of a large feather and a skunk cabbage.
Our friend Linda introduced us to Nudibranchs. They are elegant and colorful. Some eat anemones; during digestion, the stinging chemicals of the anemone are concentrated in tentacle-like extensions, which in turn provide the nudibranchs with protection.
Sluggish, fat Sea Cucumbers and colorful, bright red Ribbon Worms, many-shaped Starfish, and Sun Stars and Sea Urchins are all over.
This week, we enjoyed three such waterways at low tide: entrance to Clarke Cove, the narrows in Meyers Passage and Higgins Passage.
Friday August 29 to Thursday September 3, 2008 -- Narrow Entrances and Narrow Passages
On Friday, we left the dock with our friends Linda and Gerd, stopping at
Ashdown Island to watch the sea lions at a favorite haulout. Our goal was Clarke Cove
a little farther south on Princess Royal Island. The entrance to Clarke [52 12.174 N; 128
10.056 W] is extremely narrow; by entering at nearly high tide, we hoped to get another
couple of feet in width. On approach, it seemed impossibly narrow. On the bow, I saw
Raven Song start to head toward the charted rocks. I turned toward Urs and punched
my right hand into the palm of my left, our signal that means there's a rock where I'm
pointing. Urs pointed up toward the roof of the cockpit -- that's a new sign; what on
earth could it mean?! Safely in the cove, Urs explained that he had to go close to the
rocks to avoid the overhanging tree on the other side of the entry. So now there's
another sign in our visual communication system!
Saturday, we went back through the narrow entrance at high tide. As we headed south, the wind picked up. We sailed for about 5 hours. We entered Meyers Passage, anchoring just west of the narrows [52 36.288 N; 128 37.193 W]. Sunday morning, we viewed the sea life in the narrows and glided with the current. We searched unsuccessfully for the petroglyphs chiselled into rocks by early natives.
Sunday at noon, we bucked the 3-knot current out of Meyers Passage heading west and then south to Higgins Passage. Again, we had great sailing wind: 15-20 knots from abeam. As we got close to Higgins Passage, a pod of Dall's porpoises joined us for about 20 minutes. They rode our bow wave and then switched to Gerd and Linda's bow! What a privilege. Because the first narrows in Higgins Passage [52 29.017 N; 128 43.876 W] dries at low tide, we timed our entry at just before high water. Our anchorage was between two narrows, both tricky to navigate; no other boats visited while we were there. That probably accounts for the abundance of Dungeness crabs. In addition to the aquarium-like sea life at the narrows, we saw 4 sandhill cranes several times. We heard howling wolves and saw fresh tracks in the mudflats. We positioned ourselves at the top of the mudflats early one morning, waiting for wolves or cranes while we drank coffee and ate bread with cheese. Only the sandpipers ignored our presence and the clicking of the camera. As if to taunt us, the wolves howled at each other all around us. Finally, Urs glimpsed a moving black speck on the other side of the passage -- a black wolf appeared in our binoculars!! What excitement. In the meantime, Gerd and Linda left on their way southward.
On Wednesday, we went through the second narrows, anchoring in a nearby cove. We explored the uncharted Higgins Lagoon in the dinghy, but got scared away by the strong current that flowed into the lagoon like a broad, swift river.
On Thursday, we anchored in an uncharted inlet on the north end of Price Island [52 16.709 N; 128 40.193 W]. The author of our guidebook wrote that they'd anchored at the entrance once. We entered very slowly with a bow watch, circled several times with our forward-looking, underwater sonar. Urs chose a spot away from an underwater rock. The anchor caught a couple of rocks but soon set. This was another good spot for Dungeness and sandhill cranes.
Because the weather was miserable, we left Friday morning.
Friday September 5 to Saturday September 6, 2008 -- Price Island Inlet
Higgins Passage, where we had been, is between Swindle Island and Price Island. We traveled down the east side of Price Island. There is a charted but undescribed passage between the south of Price Island and the north of Day Island. On the chart, it looks flat and is supposed to have sand bottom; the wind was not coming from the exposed southeast entrance. Always preferring to obtain local knowledge, Urs radioed the lighthouse keeper at McInnes Island. He didn't know anything but invited us to visit. We entered the inlet through a kelp bed in a mild swell, avoiding the reef to the south. The anchor set easily close to the entry.
We took the dinghy out to the lighthouse, which Urs wanted to photograph. Unfortunately, McInnes island has no dock and a rather steep, rocky base which would make landing in the 3-foot swell very difficult. With reluctance, Urs radioed the lighthouse keeper that we would not be able to visit. I always thought I'd enjoy a year lighthouse-keeping, not however if it means no visitors and no way of getting off the island for exploring or fishing.
Over the two days, we explored the islet archipelago by dinghy. Just south of McInnes are several sea lion haul-out rocks. One sea lion accompanied us for about 15 minutes. We rode past a pod of feeding Pacific white-sided dolphins. Up the inlet, we saw two river otters. As we were exploring a nearby cove, one river otter sat on a rock barking at us. Then he went under the rock. He and the second otter barked back and forth. It sounded like Inuit throat singing. A head popped up; more throat singing; some movement in the water; more throat singing. Finally it was quiet. At the mouth of the cove, 8-10 heads stretched up out of the water. It was now obvious that we had disturbed a whole family of otters. We won't do that again. [During this episode, Urs was having trouble with his camera and I was worried about living with a cameraless Urs for the next month. Fortunately, it was just the battery.]
The heavy fog lifted. Rocky islets glowed in the sun. These islets are exposed to waves that come unobstructed from Japan. Nothing can grow on the lowest 20 feet of rock. Above that are low mosses and hardy shrubs with a few stunted trees leaning away from the prevailing winds.Urs went beachcombing in an exposed cove and brought back a glass float!
We left Price Island in dense fog and a low swell heading for Bella Bella to fill up the water tanks.