Sunday, July 13 Echo Bay. 50º45.1’N 126º29.8’W After our third day of fog, we reach the comfort and relative sanity of Echo Bay. Here a convivial Quebeçois named Pierre Landry has fashioned a fine floating wilderness outpost. “A forty year over night success,” says his wife Tove. They work incredibly hard. Pierre is a year rounder; Tove teaches school in Nanaimo. Come June floats need to be in order, laundry and showers work, small store stocked with bare essentials and fuel dock amply supplied.
But what makes Pierre’s Echo Bay a better welcome than most places in the Broughtons is the amazing food. Whole pig roast pot lucks on Saturdays, full prime rib dinners on Mondays and Thursdays. The wood and charcoal barbecue is about six feet long and four feet in diameter. This is just what we need after all those nights on the hook. Same for cruisers who are tired to dinghying to shore to walk their dogs. Lots of dog at Echo Bay.
Echo Bay, a community of over 100 in the 1960s, now has only 8 residents. The school is closed: the classroom a perfect time warp of fin de siècle computers and a library of colorful children’s’ books. At the end of the path around the bay is a little cover where Billy Proctor lives.
Billy is a wise old timer, who I found sitting on the bench in front of his “museum”. We sat and chatted for an hour watching a supermoon tide rise. He’s closed the hatchery, saying the salmon at back. It started in 2010, when he caught 700 in a day from his traditional wooden troller; his previous record was 500. He’s still mad as hell about the Norwegian fish farms.
Across the cove is Alexandra Morton’s place with the biology lab and young researchers tracking the lice and disease that affect wild salmon as they pass the net pension their way to their natal streams. (Later I talk to MJ, who says these farms will work off shore; it just means balancing the as yet unknown costs to wild stocks with the expense of converting old oil rigs. “Be sure to watch the documentary Salmon Confidential,” says MJ.)
Billy continues to be an astute observer of Nature and what’s got him riled now is the destruction of the Arctic. “Do you know how many sailboats made it through the “Northwest Passage” this year? Lots. Damn icebreakers cutting though ten feet of ice.” What bothers him is the lack of awareness, apart from the narrow issue of polar bear habitat. “What about all that warm water that’s exposed? All those hydrocarbons released by the icebreakers and all the fuel tankers which supply them?” Billy says the Russians are considerably more active than Canadians or Americans at breaking up the Arctic,as they look for oil and new fishing grounds.
Tuesday, July 15 Forward Harbour. 50º28’N 120º45’W Morning fog burns off to give us great weather. We enjoy a hour sail down Johnstone with jib sheet out of car and in block normally used for the spinnaker. It’s dusk by the time we join the twenty-odd fishing and rec boats in Forward Harbor. We creep around the basin and drop the hook for a perfect anchorage very close to shore.
Wednesday, July 16 Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island. 50º05.9’N 125º014’W It’s a long day but, remarkably, we manage five sets of rapids! Whirlpool, Greene Point, Dent, Gaillard, and Yaculta. Between the first and second we pick up some good wind by flying south under sail, are able to move on before the next tide cycle.
While waiting for the the tight slack window needed for the last three we tie up to a sail boat at the Shoal Bay Wharf and say hello to Wharfinger Mark and his partner Cynthia. Cynthia thinks she’s been to Port Townsend and mentions I pub I don’t recognize. Mark later straightens her out on the difference petween Port Townsend and Port Angeles and seems delighted with our invitation to come visit.
Toward the end of an eleven and a half hour day, we negotiate Uganda passage around Shark Spit near high tide. This is a nice place for a day anchor but it looks as though no other boats are there for the night. With the narrow gorge that leads to a large natural basin less than a mile away we go on to Gorge Harbour where we find a space at the dock.
Gorge Harbour has been fancied up into a remarkably well-staffed resort yet is still not very expensive. New, wide docks with flower baskets and good WiFi lead to a well designed ramp and the long-renowned restaurant. It’s completely accessible, all tastefully ramped and handrailed. A mix of lawns and nature-scaped banks and stream bed are peppered with Adirondack chairs, each with a distinctive view. There’s a lawned terraced area for barbecues and campfires. Fresh produce is available from a nearby farm or the Gorge Harbour store. There’s laundry, showers and a liquor agency. The two old fashioned pay phones are a godsend to those avoiding roaming charges. There’s a paved deck with a huge fireplace where I do morning yoga with 20 other guests and staff, including the yoga instructor who is also an LMT. A camping area with decks and tables and a gazebo for rainy days is popular with both motorists and cyclists.
This is the only place we’ve seen with a good kid’s playground, a beach volleyball court, a swimming pool and a hot tub. There’s a dinghy dock for boaters who anchor out. Kayaks and walk-on-water board are available. Best of all is what there isn’t: noisy sport fishing boats,float planes, or four-by-fours.
Gorge Harbor is a great little place from which to explore this history-rich island. There’s a car ferry from Campbell River to Quadra Island and another from the west coast of Quadra across Sutil Channel to Whaletown. While you don’t need a boat to visit Cortes Island, it is a good jumping off place for people with trailerable boats who want to go to Desolation Sound without enduring the rigors of Malispina and Georgea Straits.
Friday, July 18 Pender Harbour. 49º30.9’N 124º02’W Leave at 6 am and head SE straight into the sunrise over Desolation Sound. One of our most beautiful mornings. Disappointed not to have wind in Malispina Strait but it gives me a chance to finish reading A Compass and a Chart, the biography of Gerry Brown’s father. We pass Taxeda Island, where in the late 1950s, Fred Brown taught school in Blubber Bay and worked in the lime mining village of Vananda. Once we get into Pender Harbour, which is full of houses! – we radio Fisherman’s Marina. Dave Pritchard meets us at the docks along with Joe, a congenial live aboard recently installed in Astoria.
Jack and I visit the first of the four freshwater lakes that spill into Agamemnon Channel, which in turn joins Jervis Inlet and the waters on the way to Princess Louisa. After the walk we join Cruz on the deck of the Garden Bay Pub. Inside the bar the Friday night meat draw is going on, another fairly weird event to distinguish a small out of the way community. The MC standing next to a cooler of full wrapped meats, draws lots, and calls them out. Bar patrons have anywhere from 10 to 100 raffle tickets. I think it’s a benefit for the local long board team. Meat is a more interesting and practical prize than what many raffles offer. And I get the idea that no vegetarians live north of Vancouver. Since the Internet is good, we check out General Jackson. Yikes! General Jackson is the tug that killed Luna!
Saturday, July 19 Smugglers Cove. At 5:30 am we cast the lines off the dock at Fisherman’s Marina in order to catch Malespina Strait before winds and seas kick up. But they are already kicking. We struggle past the Francis Point and Thormanby Island, through Welcome Channel and past the lighthouse on Merry Island. Both wind and tide are working against us and finally we’re down to 1 knot over land.
So what do we do? We turn around and unfurl the polled out jib with the working sheet on the block at the stern and the lazy sheet cleated to the bow, acting as a down haul. It’s brilliant. In 30 minutes we’ve gone the distance it took us three hours to cover southbound. We pull into Smugglers’ Cove at the north end of Welcome Passage just as last nights’ boats are pulling out. The cove is small but has all sorts of nooks and crannies. On the fairly steep rock walls are great big red rings for stern tying. Cruz does the bulk of the work, taking the dinghy to shore with the yellow propylene line from the bobbin on Aurora’s stern, scrambling up on shore, putting the line through the ring and bringing it back to the boat. This takes time as he has to work between gusts. The crew is not of one mind about stern tying. Sure, it bumps against the dynamics of air and fluids. But it’s the only way to squeeze a bunch of boats into a small safe space so I think it’s pretty cool. It certainly is cultural: Canadian boats do it, American boats usually don’t. By the end of the day twenty boats have squeezed into Smggglers’ Cove. Only two boats have the US flag and the other one is the lone boat that’s dropped anchor in the middle and is swinging 360º. What atrocious manners! I’ve written about Stern Ties in the past and there’s certainly more to say. The American insensitivity to the need to stern tie is matched by frequent Canadian insensitivity to need for wheelchairable floats, ramps and docks.
Sunday July 20 Vancouver’s Coal Harbour. 49º17.5’N 123.07.6’W Today we have winds from the Northwest which take us into Georgia Strait to Vancouver. No huge cruise ship meets as as we pass under Lion’s Gate Bridge, but sticking a bit close to starboard the shoal gets a bit close as well. At the Coal Harbor Marina office there’s a nice note from Gulalai, who’d just been there, not having gotten the (expensive roaming phone) message that we’d be a day late. So I call her cell from the public phone on the dock and say I’ll head her way for the evening. Do I want to spend the night. Certainly. It’s Ramadan so that means a family party with her and Habib and their kids who I’ve watched grow up. Besides there’s too much testosterone on the boat; I desperately need female company. Hanging out in the kitchen with Hala and Gulalai is a high point of the summer. Smart, spunky Hala has her degree, is interviewing for a job at Adbusters, and has just gotten engaged to Mahmood. We missed the party but I meet Mahmood – a smart and spunky match – and look at all the pictures of the party. Engagement parties, evidently, are not an established Afghan tradition so the event is inspired, imaginative and, in its multiculturalism, typically Canadian. I’m so sorry we missed it.
Iftar is delicious. Leaving Gulalai and Hala to stay up having a good time right through the pre-dawn meal, I head early to bed – in a room with bath – so I can sneak out of the house the next morning to meet Frances. This time the SkyTrain takes me round past New Westminster on a fork of the Fraser River to a stop where I catch the bus up Burnaby Mountain. Frances and I catch up over a scrumptious breakfast featuring real maple syrup and farm raised eggs. What a relief to be back to real food! Not that we didn’t dine famously from Vancouver to Juneau, it’s just that it was on board DIY. Next Frances shows me her fabulous new condo with a view that goes on forever. Then Frances gives me a tour of the Simon Fraser campus on her way to work as acting head of acquisitions at the huge campus library. Mind you, I’ve just finished the biography of Fred Brown who taught there for 12 years beginning with SFU’s early days as a hotbed of radicalism. I recommend A Compass and a Chart to Frances and she says, “Funny coinsidence! That title came across my screen last week because of a cataloguing error.” Built in 1964, the campus was designed in a well-structured competition and has emerged as one of the great examples of Brutalist Architecture. The campus sits on the flattened mountaintop and consists of heavy, fortress-like contiguous structures with huge courtyards. It gave me the urge to call up five thousand other people and have a demonstration. Not hard to imagine a Korean War conscientious objectors like Fred Brown and friends creating fertile ground on which to welcome the draft dodgers of the Vietnam War.
After leaving Frances at the library, I walk toward the bus bays past the offices of the Hakai Network for Coastal People, Ecosystems & Management. The Hakai Beach Institute is their research station on Calvert Island just north of Cape Caution and comes highly recommended as a place to visit. Got back to the Habibs late morning and we decided to go and see Jack on the boat. The walk to the SkyTrain is along along lovely, leafy green Byrne Creek where the coho and chum are again coming to spawn right in the middle of the city. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig1s7Vd89MU But when we got to the station about 1 pm, we discovered that all the trains were stopped. Busses were called into service but could not keep up and lines – polite Canadian line – lengthened to hundreds of feet. We get as far as Metrotown when it looks hopeless and Gulalai and Habib just walk back home. After an hour of convivial chaos on the bus I get to Coal Harbour. Poonam was going to come by after work but when I realize she’ll never make it, I text her. It’s not so sad because we spent a marvelously active Easter weekend in PT and on the Olympic Penninsula. In the end, the SkyTrain breakdown lasts nearly four hours, I believe the longest interruption of service ever. Not bad for a 29-year old transit system with driverless trains!
Jack and I take off on bike and scooter, across downtown, along English Bay, over the Granville Bridge, and then back again on the little ferry and over the hill to the other side on the Cardero Street bikeway. After that I did the classic bike ride around Stanley Park, through the sun setting on the Strait. Tuesday, July 22 Bedwell Harbour on South Pender Island 48.45’N 123º13.9W Our last night on the hook. Always feel wistful toward the end of a cruise. Never knowing what food we can and cannot bring into the States, we feast mightily. Wednesday, July 23 Friday Harbor. 48º32.39.3’N 123º00.88.6’W It’s a short hop across Boundary Pass and down San Juan Channel to Friday Harbor. It starts to rain as Jack gets off to call US Customs and then we wait 10 more minutes until the agent arrives to match our faces to our passports. While we’re at the customs dock the the tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain docks right in front of us. “I’ve sailed on that,” says Cruz, who takes every opportunity to sail on whatever boat he can find in San Francisco Bay.
Thursday, July 24. Port Townsend. Back to home port. This time we’re greeted not by the Puget Sound Canoe Journey, as we were in 2010, but by Coast Guard calls on the VHF, a large Coast Guard ship, speedy red and black inflatables with guns mounted on their bows, and a nuclear submarine that had to shoo small boats out of the way as it went down Admiralty Inlet toward the Bemerton base. While driving to the Tacoma Amtrak station, where we said a goodbye to Cruz, we saw a sign to the “Underwater Warfare Center.” Unsure which group is more protective. Homeland Security protecting the military? Or our local tribes who are using Native experience and hard fought court cases to protect our live giving lands?