June 26, 2019–Connecting with the past

Departure Port:  Echo Bay Marina; Departure time:  9:30am; Destination:  Village Island; Arrival time:  12:30pm; Conditions:  mostly sunny, light wind, mid 70’s; Water temp:  58 degrees

DSCF2189Today is to be an easy day.  We fix up a fancy breakfast:  cheese omelet with bacon bits, juice, coffee, and toast with jam.  I say a brief hello and farewell to Pierre and we’re off.  We poke along down Cramer Passage, headed southwest.  We pause for a half hour or so to fish in the Fox Group, with no luck.  It’s time to cross Knight Inlet and work our way through a scattering of small rocky islets toward our destination of Village Island.  We anchor in the little bay just north of the abandoned and deteriorating Mimkwamlis village site.  A local First Nations Band has assumed the role of Guardian for this important cultural site, and they have recently constructed a new dock and headquarters building.  No one is here when we arrive, but while eating ourDSCF2190 lunch on the boat, we see an aluminum boat tie up at the dock.  Several guys get out and head over to the headquarters building.  We cross the bay in the dinghy and tie up to the dock.  As we’re walking up the dock we’re greeted by two guys who had come over in the boat.  They introduce themselves as Jake, who turns out to be chief of his band and head of the Guardian group which is caring for this place, and Sean, who is an archeologist, working on an archeological survey of the island.  Jake welcomes us to Mimkwamlis and explains that they charge $20 per person to visit the island.  He offers to give us a guided tour.  We are glad to pay the fee and accompany him on a guided walk through the village site. 

Jake explains that he is a blood relative of people who have lived here for uncounted generations.  He says the population has been estimated at 2000 people at one time.  Traditional cedar longhouses, facing the bay, once lined the waterfront along the bay.  Several families lived in each house, and the structures stood very close together, to maximize use of the space.  One day in 1921 all but two people from the village traveled to a nearby village to attend a potlatch.  While they were gone, a fire broke out and all but two of the longhouses burned.  Efforts to rebuild were made, but the fire took its toll on the village.  In the ensuing years, wood frame structures took the place of traditional construction, however, the fortunes of the village progressively declined.  It was finally abandoned in the 1970’s, with only occasional inhabitants spending time here after that.  The ensuing years  have been hard on this once thriving village.  The totem poles have all fallen, and once on the ground, they have quickly deteriorated.  One pole I saw on the ground 5 years ago still had the recognizable features of a wolf.  Today, no carved features can be distinguished, and it looks to be nothing more than an old rotting, moss covered log.  A couple of massive upright cedar longhouse DSCF2195logs still stand, however, they will soon join the totems in simply adding nutrients to the soil.  We found the remnants of one longhouse support log, whose center had completely rotted out.  A very large tree is growing inside, and segments of the former cedar log surround the living tree, much like barrel staves wrapping around it. 

After our tour, we tend our crab pot, which we’d dropped on our way over to the village.  We pull up a medium sized rock crab, but no dungeness.  We move the trap to a new location, still hoping for that first crab dinner.  It’s a warm afternoon, so we return to the boat, read a bit, and start to nod off.  Our naps are interrupted by a nearby “whooshing” sound, which I immediately recognize as a whale spouting.  We hear it again, and see a bit of spray, out in the main channel, just beyond the rocks which define our anchorage.  We grab cameras and hopeDSCF2196 the whale will give us a view.  We next see him out beyond the rocks, and then he makes a turn into our little bay.  Greg shoots video on the Go Pro, and I try for still pictures.  Whales are difficult to photograph, but I finally get a decent picture when he surfaces a short distance from the boat. 

After the whale departs for places unknown, I fire up the barbque and cook some hamburgers.  We’re still eating very well on the provisions brought from home.  My plan of using the Engel refrigerator as a freezer has worked out very well.  After dinner I make one more run out to the crab trap, again with disappointing results.  I relocate it to a place closer to the boat, and it’s time to settle in for the night  We get a light rain shower, but right now the sky is clearing off.  In the morning we’ll make our way over to Alert Bay, where we’ll take a slip in the marina.  We plan on visiting the wonderful First Nations museum while there.

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June 27, 2019–Pleasant day at Alert Bay

IMG_4459Departure Port:  Village Island; Departure Time:  8:45am; Destination:  Alert Bay; Arrival Time:  11:45am; Distance Cruised Today:  15 miles; Total Miles on Trip:  354; Conditions:  Heavy overcast in the morning, sunny afternoon, rainy in evening, high temperature:  75 degrees; Water Temp:  50 degrees

We both slept well last night, and wake up refreshed.  The sky is completely overcast, and it’s dead calm as far as we can see.  Granola and milk serves as breakfast.  I make the run out in dinghy to pull the crab trap.  Nothing but one small red rock crab.  I return to the boat, shake the old bait out of its holder, fold up the trap, and prepare to haul the anchor and begin our 15 mile run to Alert Bay.  It’s a comfortable passage, with very little boat traffic.  No wind to sail with, but current mostly in our favor.  We proceed down Village Passage, finally leaving the Broughton Islands behind as we break out into Blackfish Sound.  We enjoy two good humpback whale sightings, one of which arches its back and sounds, about 200 yards directly ahead. 

Just before noon we approach the town of Alert Bay.  I call the Alert Bay Boat Harbour on the cell, and receive instructions on where we’re to tie up.  The harbour master says he’ll meet us onIMG_4465 the dock to help tie us up.  This marina has a much different feel compared with the other places we’ve visited on this trip.  Alert Bay is much more of a blue collar moorage, with working fishing boats predominating.  With the help of Steven, the harbour master, we tie up right in front of an imposing aluminum fishing boat named Western Moon.  First thing I do is place a cell phone call to my wife, Sandy.  We’ve been mostly out of communications for most of a week, and it’s time to reconnect.  She’s been following the trip via this blog, but it’s not the same as being able to hear each others’ voices. 

After securing the boat we walk up to the office, where Steven checks us in.  He’s a very personable fellow, and member of the local band.  We learn from his wife, who is also busily working on marina chores, that Steven is a premier First Nations artist, specializing in wooden mask carving and jewelry crafting.  We page through some binders with photographs of his work, and it’ truly wonderful to behold.  His commission work is owned by collectors all over the world.  This marina job provides him with a regular income, so the pressure on selling his carvings isn’t so great.  Steven and his wife are excited about taking off tomorrow to attend a Rolling Stones concert in Toronto.  We instantly take a liking to Steven and his wife. 

IMG_4469Following lunch on the boat, we go for a walk through town and up to the ecological park.  The band has set aside a large tract of land for preservation  in the center of the island.  Trails provide numerous opportunities for loop walks.  A highlight is the boardwalk through an environmentally rich bog.  We also walk the John Anderson Big Tree loop, which takes us past several magnificant Douglas Fir and hemlock trees.  On the way back to the boat, we drop in to the liquor store and buy a 15 pack of beer, which is a high priority mission, considering we drank our last two cans of beer with dinner last evening. 

We return to the boat.  Greg gives his wife a call while I tend to a few organizational chores before we put dinner together.  I’ve got chicken thawed, and I’ve got gourmet plans for it.  We’ve got all the ingredients for Thai peanut chicken, made with coconut milk and a special Thai peanut sauce.  We add canned corn and serve it over long grain and wild rice, garnished with crushed cashews and spicedIMG_4470 up with hot sesame oil, and washed down with glasses of chilled white wine.  We’ve had some great meals on this trip so far, but this one really tops them all. 

While Greg washes the dishes, I put the cockpit surround up.  The weather forecast calls for rain this evening, and I want to have things closed up well ahead of time.  For a change, when the pitter patter of rain drops begin to sound on the cabin roof, we’re snugly closed in.  The cockpit cushions will stay dry tonight.

June 28, 2019– Layover, Taking Time to Connect with Past and Present

DSCF2217Greg and I had decided we could sleep in a bit, since this is to be a layover day, our first scheduled layover day of the trip.  Consequently, we’re still asleep when startled by a loud rapping on the side of our cabin.  Without a clue as to why someone would be rousing us at this early hour, I bolt out of my sleeping bag, jump into a pair of pants, and open the side panel of the cockpit surround.  There stands Tobi, wife of the harbourmaster, Steven, reaching out to hand me a plastic bag.  “Here’s your salmon, for crab bait,” she says.  I’d mentioned yesterday, when we checked in, that we were trying to find some crab bait and she had said she still had a salmon or two in her freezer that we could have.  I said that we were going to be out walking until afterDSCF2220 she was going home, and I knew that she and Steven were flying out today for Toronto and that Rolling Stones concert they were so excited to see.  I figured that was the end of the crab bait thing but no, here she is, frozen fish in hand, making good on her offer before boarding the early ferry.  I thank her profusely, simply amazed that she would go out of her way to extend her hospitality with this generous act. 

We tuck the fish into the ice chest, and then strike out for the U’mista Cultural Centre.  We follow the boardwalk along the edge of the bay.  We pass several covered platforms, built out over the tidelands, which offer benches where you can sit and take in the view.  Each one features a dramatic, colorful traditional carving which tells a story about the origins of the people around here.  We pause to gaze at a long, weathered building which, according to the informational sign, is the Namgis First Nations Netloft, an important structure devoted to the drying and repairing of purse seine and gill nets.  The netloft dates back to the first half of the 1900’s, but is still in use. 

Just past the Netloft we come to U’mista.  This museum houses one of the finest collections of traditional carved wooden masks to be found anywhere in the world.  The story of their preservation encapsulates the often sad history of interaction between white and First Nations cultures.  The masks, decorated boxes, button blankets, and ornamental copper shields displayed here reflect a highly refined art form, and DSCF2227these objects represented the cultural heritage and material wealth of the people who created them.  It was the practise of people here to periodically sponsor great celebrations, called Potlatches, where a family would invite people from all around to come, feast and view elaborate ceremonial dances, with the performers wearing brightly colored regalia consisting of the masks, button blankets, and coppers.  After the dancing, the sponsoring chief would then give all these precious objects away.  Potlatches were joyful occasions of hospitality and generosity.

In 1885 the Canadian government, believing that Potlatch simply contributed to Indian idleness, passed a law banning Potlatch.  This law was widely ignored, and Potlatch continued to be practised.  However, in 1921 a local First Nations man named Cranmer held a big Potlatch and the authorities decided to clamp down.  Police arrived on the scene, and they confiscated virtually all of the band’s ceremonial regalia items.  People were forced to surrender their treasurers under threat of imprisonment of all family members.  Several people were actually jailed.  The confiscated items were hauled back to Ottawa, where most were placed on exhibit in the national museum.  Some found their way into private collections.  The detested Potlatch ban lawDSCF2229 was finally repealed in 1951, however, the Alert Bay regalia was still not home.  The Namgis Nation petitioned through the courts, and the struggle dragged on for decades, however in the late 1970’s they finally prevailed, with Canada’s Supreme Court ruling that the conficated regalia must be returned.  The Canadian Government committed to building a museum to house the artifacts, however, the Namgis would be responsible for its operation and maintenance.  That was more than fine with the people here.  It was a great day of celebration when, in 1980, the long absent treasures came home.  Some in the crowd held a living memory of when they had been taken away.  It is these artifacts that Greg and I came here to view.  A sign respectfully asks that no photographs be taken, and we honor that request, thus, no such pictures can be presented here.  You simply must come here yourself to see these magnificent artistic creations.

After our visit to the Big House room where the artifacts are exhibited, we do a bit of shopping in the museum’s gift shop, where many beautiful things are offered for sale.  We then exit the building and hike up the hill to view the world’s tallest totem pole, which is indeed extremely tall, and supported by several guy wires. The carvings seem to be quite modest.  We walk back to the boat and eat our lunch in the enclosed cockpit.  While napping afterward, it begins to rain, and the rainfall persists for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening.  We spend time transferring food stocks from the 4 large storage tubs which are crammed deep in the back of the interior area under the cockpit, into our 5 smaller working tubs, which are stored in the much handier locker beneath the forward table bench seat. 

DSCF2230We walk over to the General Store, to pick up a few grocery items, as well as a gallon of kerosene for the Wallas Stove.  Chores are wrapped up by adding a gallon of kerosene to the stove fuel tank, and by packing our fresh meat into the freezer.  We go out for dinner tonight at the Bayside Restaurant, which serves very good food at reasonable prices.  On the way back to the boat, we engage in conversation with Stan, owner of a large fishing boat, Pacific Rainbow, which is docked just across from us.  Stan’s boat is 65 feet in length. built in 1942, and she’s rigged to fish as a purse seiner.  The boat has a large drum on its stern, which is used to deploy and haul in the long net, which can be as much 1/4 mile long.  He mainly fishes for sockeye, pinks and chum.  When the fishing is good, he can catch as many as 3000 salmon in one net haul.  Fishing is closed right now, however, and a sockeye season this year is not likely.  Stan hopes that a season will open in the fall.  He’s been fishing for 68 years.  When friends of him complain about getting old, and the fishing getting harder and harder to do, Stan simply tells them to “get the heck out of my way.”  He has an open, easy manner, and is quick to flash his warm, engaging smile.   He shares a few tips with us on how to time the tides and slack when running past the capes which lie in our path.  We hope Stan has many more years of good seine pulls in his future.

June 29, 2019– Port Hardy, Last Civilized Outpost

DSCF2232We time our departure from Alert Bay to put us in Port McNeil in good time for a visit to the IGA grocery store, so we can purchase some final provisions.  This works out to a 7am departure, and one hour later we’re approaching the Port McNeil municipal marina.  Their office doesn’t open until 8:30, so we tie up temporarily at the end of G dock, right behind SeaEsta.  We met the owners, Michael and Heidi, yesterday while walking around Alert Bay.  They are on the home stretch of their circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, which they’re doing in a clockwise direction.  They shared some good tips and recommendations with us.  We chat with them until I can get the marina dockmaster on the phone.  He says it will be fine for us to tie up temporarily at their loading dock, right at the end of the DSCF2233ramp, while we do our shopping.  We move the boat over there, tie up, and walk up town to the IGA.  We stock up on bread, eggs, apples, tomatoes, margarine, and soda.  Other than that, we’re still really well provisioned.  Using the Engel as a freezer has really helped out our ability to carry fresh meats, cheese, and premade frozen meals.  And since we’re nearing the edge of civilization, we treat ourselves to coffee and donuts. 

Around 9:30 we’re back aboard and idling our way out of the marina.  We set a course for Port Hardy, where we’ll top off our fuel tanks, fill the water tank, and take a slip for the night.  The run to Port Hardy is peaceful, with the water glass smooth for virtually the whole way.  We scan the waters for whales, but none are to be seen.  We do start seeing boats out trolling for salmon, which confirms that we’re finally in waters where the salmon fishing season is open.  We postpone fixing lunch on the way, snacking to keep hunger at bay, and planning on having a late lunch at the Quartermaster Pub, after we tie up in the marina.  The run takes a bit longer than anticipated, with current against us about half of the time, and we don’t finish fueling, checking in, and tying up until a little after 2pm.  We go over to the pub and enjoy outstanding halibut fish and chips.  Back at the boat it’s chore time, washing apples, filleting the salmon Tobi gave us for crab bait (the crab will get some, but not all of that fine fish), and generally putting things in order for our run out to Bull Harbour tomorrow.  We review the charts, cruising guides, weather forecasts, and tide tables in anticipation of our run up Goletas Channel to Bull Harbour.  This will be our jump off place for rounding Cape Scott and finally reaching our goal of the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  We’re eager with anticipation.

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June 30, 2019–Across the Top of Vancouver Island

Departure Port:  Port Hardy; Departure Time:  6:30am; Destination:  Bull Harbour; Arrival Time:  11am; Miles Cruised Today:  29; Total Miles:  450; Conditions:  glassy smooth seas, air temp:  65 degrees, water temp:  54 degrees

Today our northward voyage up the east side of Vancouver Island comes to and end, and we turn westward, toward the outside of the island.  We’ve traveled 13 days since clearing customs at Bedwell Harbour, and have logged 400 naDSCF2235utical miles in cruising up the east side of the island.  Our route has been anything but direct, with our crossing of the Strait of Georgia, our zig zag passage through the tidal rapids region, and our big detour through the Broughtons.  We pull out of the Quarterdeck Marina in Port Hardy at 6:30am, run for half an hour to Duval Point at the mouth of Hardy Bay, and then turn due west, toward Cape Scott.  The water is glassy smooth, so I set a diagonal course for the north side of Goletas Channel and follow the south edges of Duncan, Balaklava and Nigei IslandsDSCF2236 on our way toward Hope Island and our destination of the day, Bull Harbour, which is the last secure anchorage before we venture forth to round Cape Scott. 

Our run is highlighted by some remarkable wildlife sightings.  The smooth water surface makes it easy to see salmon leaping into the air.  We see a large sea lion cruising along, oblivious to our presence.  I put binoculars on a large group of sea birds, and discover that they are phalaropes, with their tall, thin necks and long bills, busily swimming in tight little circles.  About 200 yards out ahead of us I see a humpback whale surface and dive, with tail flukes waving goodbye to us.  Out of the corner of my eye I think I see another salmon jump, right next to the boat, but I’m mistaken.  The water alongside rips open to reveal a Pacific white sided dolphin rocketing along, just below the surface.  He’s come out to play with us.  He shoots ahead, turns sharply, and then rises several times in our wake.  He comes right alongside, and seems to look up at us, and then abruptly, he’s gone.  It’s an experience that puts big smiles on our faces. 

As we near Bull Harbour, we glass to the west, toward the daunting Nahwitti Bar, which we must get past tomorrow.  The incoming Pacific swell clashes with this shallow bar and at any time other than slack, it creates very rough seas.  If a contrary wind is added to the mix, it can quickly set up breaking seas.  We plan to avoid the bar by taking a circuitous route behind Tatnall Reef, but we’re still interested is seeing if we can sight the rough water with our binoculars.  Instead of seeing high seas, we sight something far more spectacular.  Out toward the bar we sight a breaching humpback whale.  This DSCF2245whale launches itself out of the water, exposing more than 3/4’s of his enormous body, 4 or 5 times, each time arcing high into the air before crashing back into the water with an incredible splash.  On one of his breaches I clearly see his long pectoral fin.  It’s as if he’s extending  a welcome to the wild waters of Vancouver Island’s west coast.

Shortly before 11am we enter Bull Harbour.  We work our way into the inner part of the harbour, which is nearly devoid of other boats.  We anchor in 20 feet, fix lunch, and then take naps.  It’s quiet and peaceful here.  A small collection of houses are clustered on the narrow spit at the head of the bay.  The land here belongs to a First Nations band, and we can only go ashoreGOPR0404_Moment by permission, which we have not made arrangements to do.  We busy ourselves with getting our fishing poles rigged.  I also set out the crab pot, since I recall reading somewhere that the crabbing can be good here.  I hope so.  You’ll have to check tomorrow’s post to see if we had any luck.  Dinner tonight will be salmon fillet, courtesy of Tobi’s crab bait gift.  It should be excellent.

July 1, 2019–Rounding Cape Scott on Canada Day

Departure Port:  Bull Harbour; Departure Time:  6:30am; Destination:  Sea Otter Cove; Arrival Time:  3pm; Lunch Stop:  Guise Bay; Distance Cruised Today:  34 miles;  Total Distance for Trip:  484 miles;  Conditions:  Mostly overcast, sunny in afternoon, wind calm in morning, 10 knots in afternoon, seas 1.5 foot or less; water temp:  55 degrees; air temp:  65 degrees

DSCF2249DSCF2251The water is glassy smooth in Bull Harbour when we get up.  We’re pleased to find no fog.  We’re underway by 6:30am, which we’ve calculated should give us ample time to arrive at Cape Scott at slack.  The water looks very tame out on the Nahwitti Bar, and we see several go fast fishing boats charging past us, and headed straight for the bar.  However, we stick to our plan and cross over behind Tatnall Reef, where we take the more protected inside route.  We cruise along at a leisurely 5 knots.  We catch up with the fishing boats at Cape Sutil, where 10 boats have lines out.  We don’t see any fish caught when we pass, just beyond the fleet of trolling boats.  I then set my waypoint for Cape Scott, some 14 miles distant.  Since I have a clear straight line course to the Cape, I can determine both the distance and our projected arrival time, based on the speed we’re making.  This helps assure that we’ll arrive at our desired time.  About halfway toDSCF2261 Cape Scott we see our first sea otter.  He’s bobbing on his back, with both head and webbed feet sticking out of the water.  This is the first of several otters we see this morning.  We near Cape Scott about half an hour ahead of our desired time, however, both wind and water remain calm, so we continue on our course.  Our passage around Cape Scott without difficulty, despite its well warned reputation for nastiness.  In fact, we’re probably enjoying one of the most pleasant roundings of the Cape thus far this season.  This marks the end of our passage across the top of Vancouver Island.  Once we turn to the southwest, we begin our run down the outside west coast of the Island. 

Just a mile or two past the Cape we turn into Guise Bay.  It’s lunch time, and this inviting little bay, just behind Cape Scott, is a perfect place to eat and then go ashore in the dinghy for a beach walk.  We find another sailboat already anchored here, as we make our way in.  She’s named Winging It, a 28 foot sloop, and when we go ashore we meet the young family sailing in her.  They are Alex and Maria and their two young kids.  They started in Port Hardy a few days ago, and they’ll be taking a month to cruise down the outside, just like us.  It’s more than likely that we’ll encounter them again as we proceed on our voyage.

DSCF2267After our walk, we return to the boat and get underway.  A breeze has come up, so I unfurl the jib and we motor sail 6 miles down to Sea Otter Cove.  We trail a fishing line on the way, but have no luck.  The entrance to Sea Otter Cove is a bit tricky, with rocks and kelp beds to watch out for, but we work our way into the anchorage area near the head of the cove without trouble.  We decide to pass up the big mooring floats, which are designed for very large boats, opting instead to anchor a bit further in and closer to shore, where we have a little more protection from the wind.  I’ve programmed a layover day here, however, we decide to move on in the morning, with Winter Harbour and Browning Inlet as our goal.  We’ll troll for salmon a bit, with the downrigger, on our way.  This plan will put us 2 days ahead of our schedule.  We have a lot of great places still ahead, and we expect that we’ll have no trouble spending those extra days in attractive surroundings.

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July 2, 2019–Down the Coast to Quatsino Sound

Departure Port:  Sea Otter Cove; Departure Time:  7:30am; Destination:  Browning Inlet; Stop Along the Way:  Winter Harbour; Arrival Time:  4:30pm; Distance for the Day:  29 miles; Total Distance Cruised:  513 miles; Conditions:  seas calm to light chop, light wind to calm air, 68 degrees, 58 degree water temp

DSCF2276We are in no hurry to get underway today, taking our time with breakfast and raising the anchor at 7:30am.  We motor out of placid Sea Otter Cove at low tide, with mud flats and weed beds showing all around.  Once outside, I rig the salmon pole and downrigger for some salmon fishing.  As soon as I lower the downrigger ball, the fishing line pops free of its clip.  I thinkDSCF2279 it’s simply come undone, but no, the rod tip is bouncing, a sure sign of fish on.  Greg reels the line in, and we soon see what we have.  Not a salmon, but a decent sized black bass.  I put it on a stringer and we set up to troll again.  We idle along at 2.5 knots in our intended direction of travel.  It takes us 45 minutes before our second fish hits; another black bass.  We agree that if we catch a third black bass, we’ll take the line in and travel.  Sure enough, a short time later we land our third bass, the largest of the bunch.  We now have a nice string of fish, plus a good new supply of crab bait once I filet the fish out. 

We enjoy a lonely cruise down the coast toward Quatsino Sound.  The sea is nearly flat, with only the slightest hint of a swell, and absolutely no surface chop.  It’s overcast, but comfortable.  We sight a few sea otters, some harbor porpoise, 3 sea lions, and get a brief glimpse of a whale.  Close to noon we approach the entrance to Quatsino Sound.  As we turn eastward, into the sound, we find that we have cell service out in open water.  This will likely be the only place on the west coast, until Tofino, where we’ll have cell service, so we text and phone our wives.  They are glad to hear from us, and we’re pleased to hear that things are good back home. 

We motor up the inlet to Winter Harbour, where we fill the gas tanks (got 5.5 miles/gallon since leaving Port Hardy), pick up a few groceries, get ice, and fill the water tank.  We’re now well stocked for a lengthy time without support services.  With harbour chores completed, we cast off and head for nearby Browning Inlet.  This narrow inlet is quiet and peaceful, with no one around.  We anchor in an attractive nook along the channel, and while I’m setting out the crab pot, Greg busies himself with dinner.  He fixes the last of the salmon given to us by Toby at Alert Bay.  He uses a recipe he found in Billy Proctor’s book, marinading the salmon in soy sauce and brown sugar.  It comes out great, and we hope to recreate this feast again, with a salmon we catch on our own. 

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July 3, 2019–Challenged by Wallas

DSCF2289Departure Port:  Browning Inlet; Departure Time:   8am; Destination:  Julian Cove; Arrival Time:  12 noon; Distance Cruised Today:  20 miles; Total Miles Cruised:  533; Conditions:  Cool, overcast, calm waters in morning; clear and sunny, breezy in afternoon

It wouldn’t be a cruising trip without the Wallas kerosene stove acting up, and this one is no exception.  The stove has been on fairly good behaviour thus far, although recently, it’s been hinting that it’s not completely happpy.  In the mornings, when it’s chilly and damp outside, and when we’re especially eager to get our coffee water quickly heated, the stove has been refusing to light.  I’ve had to resort to starting the outboard, thereby giving the battery a voltage boost, in order to get the stove started.  Later in the day, the stove has lit just fine, but mornings have become a problem.  This morning, Greg and I decide that we have time to fix up a fancy breakfast, opting for French toast.  I start the engine, and hopefully give the stoveDSCF2290 button a push.  No ignition.  We wait 3 or 4 minutes and try again.  Still no joy.  This cycle repeats 3 or 4 more times before we acknowledge defeat and resort to cooking on the butane cylinder portable camp stove, which I carry as a backup.  Of course, the fuel cylindar is nearly empty, and has to be changed before we fry up our.last 2 slices, but at least we’ve completed breakfast.  But now a bit of a worry has arisen.  I know that the 3 cylinders of butane stove fuel we have along will not be enough to fuel all of our cooking for the remainder of the trip.  Our third backup is to cook on the propane barbque burner, which is possible but not in the least degree convenient.  While propane fuel canisters are widely available, we’re virtually certain that fuel for the butane stove will be impossible to find out here.

As I say, it’s a worry, but nothing we can do at the moment but enjoy the day.  I climb into the dinghy and row out to retrieve the crab trap.  One of our cruising guides says crabbing is good here, and I’m hopeful, since I’ve baited it with some particularly tempting bait.  I look for the crab trap float, but it’s not where I put it out last evening.  I finally spot it, considerably further down the inlet.  Curious.  I row down there and haul it up.  I find the line badly fouled with green floating algae scum, which is all over the place here.  Apparently, it collected around the rope and the outgoing current dragged the trap to its current location.  It feels heavier than usual, which is a good sign.  When it emerges from the depths, however, disappointment once again.  All I’ve managed to catch is one small rock crab and 2 rocks.  They must have gotten inside during the trap’s journey toward the inlet entrance.

IMG_4576I stow the crab trap stowed on deck (I’ve also read that Julian Cove, where we’re headed, is also good for crabbing). and we row ashore for a short walk before departing.  We come across a small cat-sized creature, rather mangy in appearance, who is poking his nose into the rocks.  He’s not the least afraid of us, allowing us to approach to within 6 feet or so.  Occasionally, he stares at us and hisses with a very irritated look on his face, before resuming his search for breakfast.  He’s perhaps the rattiest looking mink I’ve ever seen.

We get underway at 8am.  Out on the main channel it’s nearly calm, overcast, but the low hanging clouds show signs of breaking up.  We maintain just over 5 knots of speed, and find we’reDSCF2297 getting a welcome push from the incoming tide.  Out on the main body of Quatsino Sound, we once again find we have cell service.  We check in with our wives, and I manage to upload some recent posts.  I phone a resort down on Esparanza Inlet, where the Waggoners Guide says fuel is available.  Getting to that area will involve our longest run between fuel docks, and I want to confirm that they do indeed have gas for sale.  My call goes through and I learn that they don’t have gas available.  Very good to know.  They point me toward another place, Esparanza, where we can count on filling our tanks.  I’ll verify this evening that Esparanze is within reasonable cruising range for us.  My final call is to my Wallas stove dealership.  I want to talk with the technicial, to see if he can point us in a useful direction in getting the stove to work.  He suggests a few things for us to check.

We arrive at our destination for the day, Julian Cove, and it’s every bit as lovely as the descriptions we’ve read.  A large cruising sailboat is already anchored here, but he takes off in mid afternoon.  We suspect he was just hanging out here, waiting for slack at nearby Quatsino Narrows.  We now have the place to ourselves.  After lunch and a nap, we take a run at stove repair.  I check out the things the technician suggested, and find nothing amiss.  While I’m poking around, I shove on the power connection wires.  I’ve had trouble with this plug fitting DSCF2298coming apart in the past, and this time I find that it’s slipped a bit.  I push it 1//8 inch further in, and begin wondering if this loose connection may have caused a drop in voltage to the stove.  We test the stove, and voila, she fires right up.  Now, I know better to think that I’ve won, but at least we have cause to hope that the stove will run for the duration of the trip.  Now, If I can just row out and pull up a nice mess of Dungeness crab, things will be perfect.  We’re not counting on that, however, and our dinner menu tonight features fresh caught black bass fillets, dipped in egg batter and rolled in Panko.  Should be very tasty.

Post Script:  Yes, dinner was outstanding.  Wallas held up his end of the deal, and the fish was outstanding.  After dinner I go out in dinghy to give the old crab trap a pull.  This time my efforts are rewarded.  One nice male Dungeness, a full 1/8 inch over the minimum size.  He’s really feisty, but I manage to get himcleaned and into the cooler with all fingers intact.  I set the trap out again for an overnight try.  It would sure be great to get a second.

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July 4, 2019–4th of July Special: Museum, Dinghy Explore, and Crab Feast

Departure Port:  Julian Cove; Departure Time:  8:30am; Destination:  Varney Bay with a stop at Coal Harbour; Arrival Time:  3pm; Distance Traveled Today:  13 miles; Total Cruised to date:  546 miles; Conditions:  overcast, air temp:  64 degrees; water temp:  61 degrees

DSCF2304The Quatsino Narrows rapids control our movements this morning, with an ebb current of up to 6 knots early, easing to slack at 10am.  This gives is time to fry some eggs and make toast, as well as check the crab trap.  The trap comes up empty, but breakfast is great.  We take off a bit early for the narrows, figuring with our 60 hp engine we can challenge the current a bit if necessary.  We reach the narrows about 40 minutes before slack.  The current is still running about 2 knots, so I swing from one side of the channel to the other in search for helpfulDSCF2305 backcurrent eddies.  We exit the narrows right at the forecast time of slack, and then head for Coal Harbour, where we’ll top off our gas tank.  Greg goes below to put lunch together while I anxiously eye what looks like a rainstorm headed our way.  I put my foul weather gear on, just in case, and I also engage the autopilot so I can put up the cockpit surround.  These precautions prove unnecessary, as the rain never materializes.  We head for the fuel dock, intending on a port side tie, which works best for us given how I’ve got the boat set up.  Once we get close, however, it’s clear that we need to do a starboard tie.  Greg deploys the midships fender on the starboard side, but when I attempt to do the same for the stern, I discover that the fender is missing.  Somehow it has come undone and is no longer with us.  I grab the one from the port side and switch it over, and we tie up at the fuel dock.  We only take on 6 gallons, however, given the long distance we must travel, at least 140 miles, before our next gas opportunity, I want to start out with completely full tanks. 

We eat lunch on the boat, and then walk into Coal Harbour in search of the museum.  During World War II Coal Harbour was the site of a Canadian Air Force seaplane base, and for nearly 20 years after the war this place was headquarters for the last whaling station located in North America.  The museum is housed in a hanger building which dates back to the war, and it features fascinating exhibits on whaling, the seaplane base years, and logging.  One whole room is filled with chain saws, some of which are at least 5 feet long, and requiring 2 men to operate.  The DSCF2307whaling exhibits are amazing, but also sobering and quite saddening.  Over 19,000 whales were slaughtered and processed here, and turned into dog food.  We view the huge jaw bones of a great blue whale, which dwarf Greg by comparison. 

Around 1:30pm we get back on board and shove off, needing to cruise just 3 miles to reach Varney Bay, our anchorage for the night.  A light breeze is blowing, from a favorable angle, so I raise both sails and shut the engine off.  We’ll save a bit of gas this way, and we have time to spare in getting to Varney Bay.  I want to be there by 3pm so we can time the high slack on Marble River at the head of Varney Bay.  We sail for most of the way, with speed a mere 2 to 3 knots, however, we are anchored by 3pm.  I put the crab trap out and we then head up the bay in the dinghy.  The Marble River flowsDSCF2308 through a remarkable little canyon just above the bay, and we’re eager to see it.  The scenery there exceeds all expectations, with near vertical rock walls on either side, covered in many places by lush ferns.  The rock is marble, and it’s eroded into amazing forms, including several rather deep alcoves or caves right along the waterway. We are able to travel a couple of miles up the river, finally reaching a very deep cave.  The water shallows here, but we row a few hundred yards farther before reaching a small rapids which marks the true head of navigation.  This beautiful place is definitely one of the trip highlights to date.

We run back down the river, hungry and looking forward to tonight’s dinner.  We check the crab trap on the way back.  It’s empty, but no worries, since we already have crab in the refrigerator.  I boil salt water on the barbque burner, while Greg fixes pasta shells in garlic sauce on the stove (she lights on the 3rd try).  We melt butter, and toast up English muffin halves, which we cover with margarine and melted Swiss cheese.  The crab is steamed on the barbque while preparations in the cabin are completed.  Then the feasting begins.  Greg just keeps repeating:  “Oh, this is good”, and it is, truly delicious. 

Well, that was our 4th of July.  No fireworks, but for us, completely unnecessary.

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PS:  In case you’re having trouble making sense of the last two photos, just turn your head sideways.  They’re reflection shots rotated 90 degrees.  In still places with interesting shore features, such as we found on Marble River, you can create some amazing images.  I think the second one looks like a moth.

July 5, 2019–Perfect Day at the Beach

Departure Port:  Varney Bay; Departure Time:  7:30am; Destination:  Gooding Cove; Arrival Time:  12:15am; Distance Traveled Today:  21 miles; Total Distance for the Trip:  567 miles; Conditions:  Strong ebb current in Quatsino Narrows, mostly calm seas afterward; wind 5mph or less; 75 degree air temp; 58 degree water temp

DSCF2333We’re waking up most mornings at around 5:30am, and that’s the case today.  We take our time with breakfast, cleanup, etc. and are off the anchor by 7:30am, more than 2 full hours ahead of slack for Quatsino Narrows.  That’s by design, since the Narrows are ebbing, so they’ll give us a good push.  I’m confident that, with the power available in my 60hp outboard, I can easily handle any swirls or disturbed water in the strongly ebbing Narrows.  I have the throttle set at around 1300 rpm, and we’re making just over 3 knots as we enter the narrows.  We feelDSCF2334 the current steadily strengthen and our speed at our low rpm soon accelerates to a steady 8 knots, and at one point, scoots us along at 9 knots.  This means that we’re riding in a 5 to 6 knot current.  As I expected, we have no issues with control, and we simply enjoy the free ride.  The current makes its presence felt a surprising way out into the main body of Quatsino Inlet.  We’re a mile or two beyond the Narrows before the water completely smooths out. 

The sky is almost totally clear, in sharp contrast to the continuous overcast of yesterday.  We enjoy the warmth that sunshine brings.  We pick up cell coverage out in the main inlet, so we both place phone call to wives, and I also call my mom.  It’s amazing to have such communications in a remote place like this.  However, cell service is a luxury soon to end.  We expect to be out of cell service for the next couple of weeks.  This means, among other things, that I won’t be able to upload my blog posts, until I either have cell service or a wifi connection.

About 3 miles short of our destination we put out a fishing line, using a diving device called a “Lady-Go-Diva”.  We troll a squid imitation referred to as a “Hootchie”.  It seems to fish well, however we get no strikes.  As noon approaches, we near our destination, Gooding Cove.  This lovely spot is in a great strategic location, right at the mouth of Quatsino Inlet.  If we don’t stay for the night here, we must continue for another 25 miles, to the next anchoring spot.  We could make that distance today, however, we are enjoying outstanding weather, sunny, clear, nearly calm, and with similarly great weather DSCF2335forecast for the next several days.  We find no reason to go further.  The only risk this anchorage poses is exposure to the swell, which sneaks in here on a westerly or northwesterly wind.  It looks a little rolly, but we’re banking on the wind settling completely this evening, which should calm the little bit of swell we at first feel.

We break routine of our usual noon meal of either lunch meat  or peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and decide to fancy things up a bit.  Today it’s Cup of Soup (cream of chicken) andIMG_4641 BLT’s.  We still have fresh romaine lettuce from the very start of the trip.  It’s amazing how well it’s kept.  We have cherry tomatoes we can slice, plus mayo and butter for the bread.  For bacon, we use bacon bits, sprinkled on.  Bread is toasted in a skillet, and they turn out great.

Following lunch and the obligatory reading/nap session, we try an experiment.  We’re anchored near a nice sized patch of kelp, and we decide to lower the Go Pro waterproof camera down with a length of rope, to see what it looks like below the surface.  The effort is modestly successful, and we’ll continue to explore underwater photography opportunities.  It’s now GOPR0494_Momenttime for a shore excursion.  Greg goes equipped with a plastic bag for shell collection, and we both pack bear spray.  I also grab the trash bag so I can burn our paper trash. Gooding Cove features a lovely sand beach, with lots of interesting shells, rocks and bits of driftwood to examine.  We find a kayak camp site at the far right corner of the beach.  Greg goes over to check things out, and finds fresh bear tracks in the sand, near the camp.  We find good evidence of crab in the vicinity.  I go back to the dinghy and row out to the boat so I can deploy the crab trap.  We’ll leave it out overnight, and pick it up in the morning.  I row back to shore and pick Greg up. 

Back on the boat it’s time for taco chips and guacomole dip, washed down with rum and coke, with some appropriate island music playing on the CD player.  We feel extravagent with electricity, since I’ve had my 2 solar panels aimed perfectly all afternoon, and the batteries are very happy.  For dinner, we boil noodles and heat up beef strogonoff.  Sandy premade this meal before the start of the trip, and placed 2 meals worth into seal-a-meal bags.  They have been sitting in my Engel refrigerator, which we’re running as a freezer for this trip, just waiting IMG_4641for use.  This morning I took tonight’s frozen dinner out and stuck it into the ice chest to thaw, and coincidently add some chill to the ice chest.  This system is working out great.  We put the sealed bag of strogonoff into a pot of water, with a wire grate in the bottom, and heat it up.  This avoids creating a messy pot to wash up, and we can use the water to either wash dishes or make tea with.  The dinner turns out terrific, with generous dollops of sour cream placed on top for the perfect finish.  As you can by now gather, meals on this trip are anything but basic.

Tomorrow we’ll go outside for the run down to Klaskish Inlet, which is supposed to be very scenic.  Before leaving here, however, Greg and I plan to visit the water just off a rocky point.DSCF2339  On our way in I had a bunch of fish show up on the sonar display.  Later today an aluminum sport fishing boat showed up, and he just hung out there all afternoon.  We heard him talking to a buddy on the VHF, saying he’d caught a nice spring chinook salmon and a small halibut, and he’d lost a bigger halibut.  We figure we’ll do a bit of jigging for halibut before we begin our run to Klaskish.

And, the perfect day at the beach wouldn’t be complete without a spectacular technicolor sunset.

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