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 nautical 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 Islands 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 whale 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 ashore 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.