Log: Anchorages and Outposts on the way North

Sunday, May 20   Shoal Bay  50º27.49’N 125º21.95’W

Mark MacDonald is as full of life as ever. More so because this is early season. We notice the new “Cold Beer” sign on the wharf.  He serves us dark drafts in icy mugs in the lodge, their kitchen-dining room.   He and Cynthia have around the table this month a Spaniard, a New Zealander and a Swede. The garden is in and damages wreaked by winter storms are being repaired. The lawn’s even mowed – yes, it’s a lawn, a bit weird for a wilderness settlement. I remember Cynthia pushing a mower, sweat falling from the brim of her straw hat, when I first set set eyes on her. The lawn means that   kayakers have a place to pitch their tents and there is a stupendous view from everywhere.  (In fact, it was from the lawn that the masthead picture of Aurora was taken.)  I’m so sorry we won’t make the pig roast and International Music Festival. Mark says it’s almost reached its natural capacity of about 100 people on the lawn. The bay doesn’t have much room for people to anchor and not that many come by kayak or water taxi.

Monday, May 21 Forward Harbour 50º28.93’N 125º45.29’W

Jack checked and rechecked the times of slack for both Whirlpool and Green Point Rapids but in the end tide and time mean a wait for vigilant sailors.  We spent a long afternoon in a stiff wind at anchor in the little nook just before the second set of rapids.  I did the watch on deck and anchor held nicely.  No sooner were we through, we turned into pretty Forward Harbor to anchor as it was too late to go on.

Tuesday, May 22 Lagoon Cove 50ªº35.93 N 126º18.85’W

When we pull up to Lagoon Cove. Bill remembers our names again although he was tying up another boat and we know he didn’t have time to run to his records. Jean, his apple-cheeked non-wrinkled blond spouse of many years, seems back in her element. Mentions she’s 77 and is ready to give it up at 80. It’s the twentieth summer for them, the seasonal rhythm of the hard work of running a marina part of who they are.

There are only three boats, about 20 people at happy hour to consume the huge plate of prawns our hosts traditionally set out. Bill’s noosed bear story is as great as ever. Jean gives us a tour of the house, which was built on Minstrel Island, floated over to East Cracroft and winched up on the hill. Combining skills of logging, raft building and seamanship, people in these parts are quite at ease moving dwellings from place to place.

Since she knows we cast our lines off early,  Jean appears at the boat later in the evening to bid us farewell with a huge bunch of rhubarb stalks, wrapped in a large leaf.

Clear early morning. Leaving Cruz asleep in his bunk over the anchor locker, we are the first boat out of the cove. I notice a commotion off starboard and discover a group of Pacific white-sided dolphins splashing merrily around. The first ones we’ve encountered, despite being on the lookout. Suddenly, in unison, they beeline for our boat. “Oh, great, they’re coming to play!” I shout. Then they disappear under our ship. Their beeline points to a prawner that has followed us. After packing shrimp all night, they must be ready to dump the heads overboard. Dolphins are dogs of the sea, dogs that returned to the sea.  Man’s best friend on the water as well.

Wednesday, May 23 Sullivan Bay 50º53.10’N 126º49.63W

Aurora’s the only visiting boat at Sullivan Bay, the only other guest a woman from Alberta, a fly-in fisherman. Manager Debbie helps us top off with diesel. She wants to take our picture so her blog can show Sullivan Bay is open for business. We take hers in return.

At the yet unnstocked store we find needed stapes among last season’s goods: toilet paper, toothpaste and salt. They don’t even have sugar. When Cruz needs more sugar to make a cobbler with leftover strawberries and Jean’s rhubarb, it’s provided by the new chef at Sullivan Bay’s restaurant, who has arrived by float plane within the hour.

A hundred emails dribble in on wifi. With my annual spring cleaning, I’m unsubscribed from lists so it’s kernels not chaff. A real time exchange with Abby Brown confirms she’s moving mountains so that PHLUSH can give Jack Sim a proper welcome. Not only has she set up his presentation at Mercy Corps, she’s gotten Congressman Earl Blumennauer, a champion of international assistance for water and sanitation, to introduce the Founder of the World Toilet Organization!

Thursday, May 24 Allison Harbour 51º02.67’N 127º30.84’W

The passage from Sullivan Bay out into Queen Charlotte Strait is almost as beautiful as the one from Lagoon Cove to Sullivan Bay. Mist-covered four thousand foot peaks rising up from fathomless seas, the mountainsides gashed with long triangular landslides, old and recent.

We enter Queen Charlotte Sound as the sun breaks on Vancouver Island (and a cruise ship, one of only two we would see underway our whole trip!)  It’s windless so we motor on, passing the safe haven of Blunden Harbour to navigate the rock strewn entrance to Allison, which is that much closer to our open water rounding of Cape Caution. 

Friday, May 25   Still at Allison Harbour 

Thrity-five knot gales on Queen Charlotte mean a second day and welcome down time with good books. Aurora stays tucked in a cranny of Allison Harbour, the last safe anchor before the Cape Caution run. At dawn, Environment Canada lets us know that today it will blow itself out to be promising for tomorrow. Jack has uploaded onto my hand-me-down iPad Kindle his favorite reads of the past year as well as several of Kinza’s. Yesterday I finished Amore Towle’s Rules of Civility. At first I tripped on silly similes but soon imagination conspired with our arrival north of the 51st parallel to pull me father from my quotidian Portland existence. The nicely developed characters bounced off one another in a period piece reminiscent of the Great Gatsby. Today I finished Jim Lynch’s Truth Like the Sun, a beautifully fashioned piece of historical fiction on Seattle, with alternating chapters set in 1962 and 2001. Now I’m on to Walking Home, by Lynn Schooler, an Alaskan writer who rarely disappoints, introduced to us by a Juneau bookseller three years ago,

Saturday. May 26 Green Island Anchorage off Fish Egg Inlet

We chose the right day to round Cape Caution and then headed way out in the Sound to avoid the turbulence around Egg Island heading into Fitz Hugh Sound. Berry bushes – probably invasive Himalayan blackberries deposited by mariners – that make the little island in the middle of this multiply protected anchorage so blindingly green. Pulling out a bit after 5 in the morning, we notice several new boats. This a favored anchorage for everyone rounding the Cape, whether from the Broughtons or from God’s Pocket in the archipelago off the tip of Vancouver Island.

Sunday, May 27   Shearwater Marina at Old Bella Bella

I’d forgotten that Shearwater is a major stopping place but it makes sense. It’s the original Bella Bella:  the new First Nations town now sits a couple of miles away. It’s on a section of the coast dotted with crumbling canneries and the main supply point between Campbell River and Prince Rupert. Since it’s Sunday, the store, post office, and chandlery are all closed and Christophe, the new harbour master recently retired from piloting supply barges up and down the coast, has run out of Internet passwords to sell.  But the coin-operated laundry is open. It is strategically placed, claims to be the nicest on the BC Coast, and features an enormous wooden table made from a single slice of a tree. 

While folding our enormous heap, I chat with Doug, who works with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the Kenai Penninsula. His family is taking a new, used Nordic Tug home so they can spend the rest of their summers exploring Alaska. We agreed on Alaska and shared similar disquiet about consequences of proposed mega projects, namely the Enbridge pipeline and the Pebble Mine.

Monday, May 28 Kurtze Inlet off Princess Royal Channel  53º05.17’N 128º26.04’W

We got an early start and had a long day. The First Nations settlement of Klemtu now has a new cultural center, an electrical generating station and a modern ferry dock in addition to its handsome traditional big house. In contrast, the once thriving cannery town of Bute Bay continues to fall into the water.

We sail through the glistening waters near Hartley Bay but leave our visit to this enchanting First Nations village for the return trip.  Instead we head up the long narrow Grenville Channel  until we reach Kurtze Inlet, towering peaks on both sides but opening to a broad valley.   We drop anchor right in front of an ice covered waterfall. Bursts of setting sun drop rainbows around the bay and on the green flood plain of the river.  Our most magical anchorage yet.

Tuesday, May 29 Lowe Inlet off Grenville Channel  53º33.18’N 129º34.48’W

Progress up Grenville.  Nice current plus wind at our back lets us sail some wing and wing, that is, main on one side, jib furled on the other.   The view ahead is lush green punctuated with waterfalls tumbling down from frozen peaks.  Looking back off the stern the narrow channel is bordered in white: the north faces of these peak near more warmth before a melt.

Wednesday, May 30 Kumealon Inlet off Grenville Channel  53º51.87’N 129º58.64’W

Short trip. There’s a low front is off Prince Rupert, our destination, so we shelter here and spend the rest of the day reading and swinging at anchor.  A single hander in a small sailboat flying the Maple Leaf arrives and anchors off the stern.  We puzzle over this.

Thursday, May 31 and Friday, June 1   Prince Rupert  54–35.59’N 130º53.54’W

Prince Rupert. Rain. Grocery shipping. Internet at Cowpuccino’s and at the library. Chats with folks on dock. Supper out – our first – at nice bar overlooking boats.

Saturday, June 2 54º35.59’N 130º53.54’W Dundas Island

Sailed downwind. Anchored with gusto because we were so hungry.  Interrupted naps to reanchor as rudder was on the bottom.  No mosquitoes. No deer. No anybody.


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