Around Brooks Peninsula – Daily Log

Pelican Moon and Aurora at Winter Harbour

June 26    Quatsino Inlet is windy and beautiful. We read that there is a nice anchorage at East Cove and head there. Yes, it’s superb and just big enough for a single swinging boat. We drop the hook only to find that smack in the middle a deadhead, a regenade log escaped from a boom, is stuck in the mud at a 35º angle to shore. As I’m tying to get the anchor up and keep the boat of the deadhead a sea otter swims up to check us out. The next cove next to it has midden beach. We make a couple of anchoring attempts but drag through seaweed toward a rock ledge. A bald eagle swoops down to the the surface to make a talon catch but we can’t watch. We head back down Quatsino against winds funneling in, cold sea breeze hitting the warm land, water ebbing out causing chop. We turn back into Forward Harbour and tie up in a large even bottomed basin of 6 fathoms depth within view of the Green buoy at Winter Harbour entrance. A really nicer anchorage despite a couple of rocks that make “anchor chain thunder” on swings We celebrate with a big dinner. I know the low low tide will come before dawn. Rather than check for an unlikely drag, I realize we have nice water all around and at worst we could kiss the ground briefly. I turn over and go back to sleep. I dream we bounce gently off the bottom and wake up, feeling foolish, because of course we haven’t. Go back to sleep.

June 27   Just as I am about to dish up breakfast, I see a classic wooden troller coming our way towing a house. The Waggoners had mentioned there was a floathouse tied up in the best part ofour anchorage but as we approached we did not find it. Now evidently it was back. The troller pulled into a small bay, now helped by a power boat that had suddenly appeared. When we pulled anchor and passed, we realized it was a minuscule fishing lodge we’d seen getting spruced up for the season at the docks in Winter Harbour.

The swells were significant as we crossed Quatsino Sound. I’d forgotten to take a Dramamine but did so and then took the helm. Handling the boat while focusing on the heading and using all my balance muscles to stay upright is the ideal cure for seasickness. And it works well for Jack to do a precise reading of the charts and tell me how many degrees to correct the course.

Once we got into Brooks Bay it was much calmer so Jack sent me forward to watch for swells breaking on unmarked rocks lurking just below the surface. Unmarked, not uncharted, these are rocks that in heavier travelled waters would likely have buoys on them.

I see white foam break over a couple of jagged black peaks and call back to Jack to go dead slow. A pair of whales are lying right across our path, probably asleep. We turn out of their way but wake them up. When they are on our beam, they spout and dive, one giving a strong, slow, beautiful show of tail. Humpbacks are such magnificently adapted creatures! To think, they walked on earth at one time!

June 28  Ah, now we are really cruising. Today we rounded Cape Cook and the Brooks Peninsula. It was an easy and entirely uneventful four and a half hour trip trip. We saw one other boat (a wooden toiler poles out), a male orca, and several lively, mixed groups of birds feeding – gulls, pelagic cormorants, and tufted puffins.

We’d had to leave our entirely-protected, granite-enclosed basin at the head of Klaskish Inlet to pick up the weather report on VHF but when we learned there was no wind (a mere 6 knots) we motored on, following the 195º heading recommended by Douglass between the shore rocks and the Clerke Reefs to bring us safely abreast of Solander Island. There was a lot of fog but pretty good visibly at sea level. In any event, in yesterday’s sun we’d gotten a good look at the coast. I spent the trip sitting on the spinnaker trunk enjoying the feel on my face of a fine mist that failed to dimple the clear surface of the seas but completely soaked my clothes.

Now we are gently rolling on the hook in Columbia Cove, unnamed on the charts but located just north of Jakobson Point. It’s rained all afternoon and the weather is changing. We chose the right day to come around Brooks to what Jack calls the “Banana Belt” although it’s mistily and mostly looks like the coast of Maine. Down south in Juan de Fuca, both at the west entrance and in Port Townsend, the winds are howling.

I’m halfway though Frank Schaffer’s Sex, Mom and God. Really good on the inside history of the rise of the Right in US politics as well as in contemporary Islam. It came out in May and includes the export of fundamentalist intolerance to Uganda, calls for death to homosexuals, and the brutal murder of gay activist David Kato. The book investigates, with occasionally outrageous humor, the doctrinal issues and it setting off light bulbs in my head.

Still, this book doesn’t speak to me quite as much as  Crazy for God. You see, I met Franky in the early sixties when he was his “nine-year-old self” and I was sixteen. Later in the decade I lived with his family, in the small Swiss village of Huémoz, and studied under his famous parents. The experience has ultimately made me wary of any comprehensive body of thought or exclusive community of like-minded individuals, no matter how friendly. Anyone who hasn’t read Frank’s stuff should. It runs the gamut. I’d say start with the hilarious laugh out loud fiction trilogy try Portofino and Saving Grandma. You will thank me.

June 29   As we pass the rocky islets of Checleset Bay, an oblique shaft of early morning sun made breaking waves and wings of feeding sea gulls sparkle against steep, deeply rainforested slopes, wavy curtains of mist in the background.

We’re getting smoother at navigation. Once we decide – independently – on the best general course, we pull up the anchor. With Jack at the helm, I sit with my back against the mast watching out for ruffled waters, logs and revealing, ever-reshaping contours of the coast. I glance at the chart and every twenty minutes or so go back to the cockpit to check my notion of where we are with Jack’s GPS. When we need to tightly negotiate rocks, I take the helm and Jack, with GPS and chart, tells me to pilot so many degrees to port or starboard.

We do not see another boat (or a single aid to navigation) the whole way but at Bunsby Islands we pull into a small cove and find Pelican Moon pulling out. The Perry-designed Tiyana is crewed by Wade and Carla from Port Angeles. No, they hadn’t see any sea otters, although the Bunsbys are their breeding grounds and although Quatsino Sound was full of them. According to some fishermen at Winter Harbour, the sea otters were introduced because the sea urchins were devouring kelp forests which is salmon habitat. Otters of course love urchins and the seaweed is back in force. But otters also like crab so they have disappeared much to everyone’s chagrin, the upside being you don’t have to be on the lookout for trap-marking buoys or worry about getting your prop tangled in leaded lines. According to the Douglasses (in Exploring the West Coast of Vancouver Island), when the hunted out sea otter was finally given protection in 1911, less than 2000 individuals populated their traditional range from northern Japan through the Aluetians down to Mexico. They don’t say how they were counted. The last known BC sea otter was shot in 1929 just south of here. When BC decided to reintroduce them in 1969, they captured and released 89 otters from Alaska. Today it’s though there are about 1500 along the Van Island West Coast.

We spend a beautiful day in our private cove, warm with occasional sun bursts. From our flat-watered anchorage, we gaze out on a fine midden beach across Gay Passage and on the open water surf breaking south on the coast. I empty the wet locker of our foulies and gloves and everything finally dries.

I finish Sex, Mom and God. A scrupulous, loving, on-the-mark portrait of Edith Schaeffer. A singular dissection of contemporary American politics and belief systems gone awry. A superb memoir. I like this: I’ve arrived at the F-you stage of life…The F-you stage sound antisocial. It’s not at all; it’s just my way of saying that these days I’m content to let the chips fall where they may. The point is that the F-you stage isn’t directed at anyone, just against the Virus of False Certainty that is threatening to destroy us. The F-you stage is a state of mind that I fell into after hitting my fifties wherein I say what I think because almost niching embarrassed me these days, except my own past false certainties. Knowing you could and probably are [sic] wring about most of what you say is freeing.

Kyuquot dock and floats

June 30  An exciting day. We sailed out of the Bunsby Islands – suddenly sea otters everywhere again – negotiated offshore reefs, and made our way – managing a bit of swell, reef and hard rain – to pull into one of the most resilient small communities on the west coast of the Americas – Kyuquot. Coupled with the island of Walters Cove this Native community has numbered more or less 300 souls for 70 odd years. At Port Hardy’s Book Nook we’d picked up and since read Elinor Witton Hancock’s Salt Chuck Stories from Vancouver Island’s West Coast, we have a greater appreciation of where we are than from anything in our West coast cruising guides (namely the otherwise marvelous Waggoners and the Douglasses’ West Coast of Vancouver Island. The chapter Miss Mac and the Red Cross Outpost Hospital is based on an oral history interview with one of the nurse who was sent to open the small hospital in 1937. The original frame building stands there today, unchanged, still operating and staffed by a nurse. We tied up at the public dock along with three Canadian boats circumnavigating the Island. Soon there was a lot of activity on the docks and so I went up on deck to find that the supply ship Uchuck III had just pulled in on its weekly visit!

July 1. Canada Day. It has rained all day without a break. This had to happen. There is someplace near here that gets 300 inches annually. But the weather has been so splendid we were hoping against hope for the rapid establishment of the Northwesterlies, which bring good weather. The Pelegrin out of Nainamo headed out to see how it was and found there was good wind but also fog and of course ceaseless rain; they were back within the hour. We talked to the other folks on boats and with Sue, the shopkeeper/post mistress at the head of the dock and took a very short walk and got very very wet. Sitting under an umbrella out on the end of the dock, we were able to bring in our mail; now hoping for a break when I dare use my keyboard and get something out. How different from Canada Day two years ago in Klemtu, when every house and every boat of this native village had a barbecue.


Author: Carol McCreary

10 Inside Passages to Alaska. 10,000 miles. 10,000 hours on the S/V Aurora. This is the story of how Jack and I took up sailing late in life and are now finally getting the hang of it.

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