How to tell a rock from a large mammal

How to tell a rock from a large mammal.
As soon as we passed Allison Harbour coming north, the look and feel of the coast changed. Gone were the moss covered evergreen boughs dropping to within an inch of high tide.   Gone were the precipitous slopes that fall abruptly thousands of feet to the sea and hundreds of feet more straight down to the sea floor.  As you approach Cape Caution, it looks more like Maine.   Rocky shores scoured by surf.   Stretches of sand, tantalizingly out of reach.  And a vast shoal from which rock outcroppings throw waves high into the air.
And so it was as we sailed out Duncanby Landing.   Gentle swells coming from the open sea to the south lapped the beautiful little islands at the mouth of Goose Bay with foamy white tongues.  As we circled the headlands on the east bank of Fitz Hugh Sound, breaking surf would appear and disappear beyond the swells.   We would mistakenly see vessels, which are often white and stand our starkly against the green slopes further to the south.  As we sailed past on a broad reach with a boost from an ebb, we paid careful attention to the isolated rocks not far off the shore, the ones that lie more or less at the surface.   In the calm waters to the south, they’re referred to as “drying rocks” because they appear only at low tide, when they dry off.  Where there is surf, however, rocks never dry.  They throw up plumes of surf or ripples of whitecaps.
As we sailed north, we kept seeing rocks farther from shore and started to lose faith in our charts.   Those rocks were not supposed to be there!  Keeping a wary eye on things we kept moving toward the center of the otherwise shoal-less sound.   
Then a pair of humpback whales passed us, arching an out of the water as they spouted spray high into the air.    Silly us!  We had been trying to locate whales on our chart!
Once we figured out what we were looking at, whales were everywhere.  As we rounded Applebooth Island and headed to our anchorage in Illahie Inlet we were surrounded.  Snorting noisily, they dipped and dived, huge spans of tails entering the depths last.   Leviathans.  Much bigger than us.   Snorting noisily.  One breached and came down with a terrifying, elongated splash.  
What happened yesterday evening at dock presents a curious analogy.  Using the main halyard, Jack had just hoisted the dinghy high out of the water and over the boom so I could position it on deck.  It’s an operation that takes considerable concentration.  So it was not until several of the fly-in fisher guests walked excitedly on to our dock, cameras in hand, that we took notice: a family of grizzlies had just sauntered down the shore.  Ignoring us on the dock 125 feet away, the mom and her two cubs feasted on the mussels exposed by low tide.   
Now if whales look like rocks, brown bears do all the more so.  They are big and round with thick luminous brown fur with yellowish orange highlights.  They blend perfectly with the plump curves of intertidal rocks covered with wet brown and golden seaweed.

As soon as we passed Allison Harbour coming north, the look and feel of the coast changed. Gone were the moss covered evergreen boughs dropping to within an inch of high tide.   Gone were the precipitous slopes that fall abruptly thousands of feet to the sea and hundreds of feet more straight down to the sea floor.  As you approach Cape Caution, it looks more like Maine.   Rocky shores scoured by surf.   Stretches of sand, tantalizingly out of reach.  And a vast shoal from which rock outcroppings throw waves high into the air.

And so it was as we sailed out Duncanby Landing.   Gentle swells coming from the open sea to the south lapped the beautiful little islands at the mouth of Goose Bay with foamy white tongues.  As we circled the headlands on the east bank of Fitz Hugh Sound, breaking surf would appear and disappear beyond the swells.   We would mistakenly see vessels, which are often white and stand our starkly against the green slopes further to the south.  As we sailed past on a broad reach with a boost from an ebb, we paid careful attention to the isolated rocks not far off the shore, the ones that lie more or less at the surface.   In the calm waters to the south, they’re referred to as “drying rocks” because they appear only at low tide, when they dry off.  Where there is surf, however, rocks never dry.  They throw up plumes of surf or ripples of whitecaps.

As we sailed north, we kept seeing rocks farther from shore and started to lose faith in our charts.   Those rocks were not supposed to be there!  Keeping a wary eye on things we kept moving toward the center of the otherwise shoal-less sound.   

Then a pair of humpback whales passed us, arching in and out of the water as they spouted spray high into the air.    Silly us!  We had been trying to locate whales on our chart!

Once we figured out what we were looking at, whales were everywhere.  As we rounded Applebroke Island and headed toward our anchorage in Illahie Inlet, we were surrounded. Snorting noisily, they dipped and dived, huge spans of tails entering the depths last.   Leviathans.  Much bigger than us.   Snorting noisily.  One breached and came down with a terrifying, elongated splash.  

What happened yesterday evening at dock presents a curious analogy.  Using the main halyard, Jack had just hoisted the dinghy high out of the water and over the boom so I could position it on deck.  It’s an operation that takes considerable concentration.  So it was not until several of the fly-in fisher guests walked excitedly onto our dock, cameras in hand, that we took notice: a family of grizzlies had just sauntered down the shore.  Ignoring us on the dock 125 feet away, the mom and her two cubs feasted on the mussels exposed by low tide.   

Now if whales look like rocks, brown bears do all the more so.  They are big and round with thick luminous brown fur with yellowish orange highlights.  They blend perfectly with the plump curves of intertidal rocks covered with wet brown and golden seaweed.

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2 Responses to “How to tell a rock from a large mammal”


  1. 1 Helene July 1, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    No pictures of the whale rocks??

    • 2 Carol McCreary July 8, 2009 at 11:12 am

      There are times on a sailing vessel when you simply do not engage in recreational photography: winds over 30 knots, seas over 10 feet, and when you are surrounded by mostly submerged behemoths whose behavior you don’t understand.


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