Posts Tagged 'Alert Bay'

Truth, Reconciliation, and U’mista

We catch the 8:40 ferry from Port McNeill, arriving in Alert Bay about 45 minutes later. It’s our first time in a place I’ve been hankering to visit all the years we were speeding north, usually through the sheltered northern route through the Broughtons. And all the more so this year, since the report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools was finalized on June 2nd. Our Waggoner’s cruising guide says this of Alert Bay : “One can learn more about native culture here, in less time, than anywhere on this part of the coast.” This turns out to be true, although I think that getting a grasp of the cultures of traditional Pacific Northwest peoples from the Nisqually Reach to Sitka is more of a lifelong endeavor.

SunMan

Native public art along the Alert Bay waterfront includes this contemporary representation of Sun Man.

We disembark at the ferry dock, where a carved sign hung from log gate adorned with native art proclaims ‘Namgis First Nation – Gilakas’la – Welcome. We take the fine boardwalk northwest around the Bay. We run into a bald eagle resting on the boardwalk rail, two local elders worrying about its health, and the owner of a nearby coffee shop who will contact animal rescue. We pass the Anglican Church, sugar white Victorian confectionery, 1892-style. At regular intervals along the boardwalk are log pavilions decorated with totem-type sculptures, among them the first of many Thunderbird and a Sun Man motifs we’ll see throughout the day.

Finally, I catch up with Jack at our destination, a traditional plank and beam longhouse that houses the U’mista Cultural Center. The Center represents the culture of the Kwakwala-speaking peoples, also known as the Kwakiutl. If the Salish Sea is the homeland of speakers of the Salish languages, these waters might be called the Kwakiutl Sea. The waters start at Campbell River and extend north deep into the mainland beyond Cape Caution and around the top of Vancouver Island to Quatsino Sound. The local ‘Namgis Band, who migrated here from the mouth of the Nimpkish River near Port McNeill are just one of many many groups.

The U'mista Cultural Center houses a collection of potlatch masks and regalia seized by the government in the 1920s and returned to the Kwakwala-speaking peoples in the 1980s.

The U’mista Cultural Center houses a collection of potlatch masks and regalia seized by the government in the 1920s and returned to the Kwakwala-speaking peoples in the 1980s.

U’mista embodies the idea of ‘return home’. The Center was built to contain the regalia, masks, rattles, whistles and coppers seized by the government, with participants hauled off to prison, in 1921 and returned in 1980. The potlatch, perpetually misunderstood, was outlawed in 1885, but continued underground in the communities on this part of the coast. I’ll let the Center’s leaflet explain potlatch:

Since time beyond recollection, the Kwak’wala speaking groups had expressed their joy through the potlatch. The word “potlatch” comes from Chinook jargon, a trade pidgin formerly used along the coast. It means “to give” and came to designate a ceremony common to peoples on the Northwest Coast and parts of the Interior. The potlatch ceremony marks important occasions in the lives of the Kwakwaka’wakw: the naming of children, marriage, transferring rights and privileges and mourning the dead. Guests witnessing the event are given gifts. The more gifts distributed, the higher status achieved by the potlatch host. It is a time for showing the masks and dances owned by the chief giving the potlatch.

Although there was no immediate opposition to the potlatch at the time of initial contact with the white man, such opposition began to grow with the coming of missionaries and government agents. Frustration over unsuccessful attempts to ‘civilize’ the people of the potlatch led officials, teachers, and missionaries to pressure the federal government into enacting legislation prohibiting the ceremonies.

The exhibit of stolen and returned treasures is introduced by stunning footage contemporary pot latches. It’s possible that no one does potlatches better than the ‘Namgis and the U’mista Cultural Center has kept traditions alive. Rather than borrow the century old masks from the museum – the Tlingit around Sitka periodically don their regalia displayed in the US National Park Visitors Center – they have created their own. Their carvers have created both reproductions and brilliant contemporary renditions. Every family has a capes and tunics hand sewn in traditional styles, many with motifs outlined with hundreds of shell button. The women know how to remove cedar bark in long strips without harming the trees and weave the conical hats. Cedar strips, twisted, knotted or simply hanging loose, hula-skirt fashion, also complete the costumes of the highly acrobatic male dancers.

Filmed in the large ceremonial big house we later walk up the hill to see, the center’s documentary shows a recent celebration. Chiefs, drummers, dancers, and processioners with small children in their arms circle a live fire in the middle of the room. The entire community, turned out in full dress, is seated three tiers deep along the four walls. Dance, costumes and music are spectacular.

At the Alert Bay big house the 'Nagmis have revived elaborate and stunning potlatch ceremonies documented in films produced by the U'mista Cultural Center.

At the Alert Bay big house the ‘Nagmis have revived elaborate and stunning potlatch ceremonies documented in films produced by the U’mista Cultural Center.

We witness some of this live because our visit happens to coincide with National Aboriginal Day. “The band is celebrating with a procession at noon followed by a salmon bake,” the young man at the U’mista reception desk tells us as we enter, “You’re invited to join us for lunch.” Really?

When head outside after our U’mista visit, sure enough, a tent with seating has been set up on the waterfront and several feeble members of the band are being carefully wheeled from the elders’ home on the hill. Soon a small procession led by newly elected Mayor Deborah arrives. It is such a hot day that the walkers immediately cast off their robes, leaving on only their protective cedar bark hats.

Alert Bay's recently elected Mayor Deborah leads the procession to International Aboriginal Day Celebrations   at the U'mista Cultural Center.

Alert Bay’s recently elected Mayor Deborah leads the procession to International Aboriginal Day Celebrations at the U’mista Cultural Center.

“Please, have something to eat,” says a bystander.

“Let us wait until others are served,” we say, noticing the short line. We wander off only to be engaged in conversation by a couple lunching on lawnchairs in the deep shade of a cedar tree.

“Have you had lunch?” they ask. We say no. Having just noticed the site where the Indian Residential School stood we ask when it was taken down.

“Oh just this year,” they say, introducing an attractive man sitting on the grass nearby. “Larry was a student there.”

“I was there until it closed in 1976,” says Larry, shaking his head. “It’s good not to see that old building there. Come on, I’m taking you to get some lunch.”

True, there are copious amounts of food: especially salmon but also potato salad, carrot sticks, tossed salad, water melon and delicious warm morsels of what Alaskans call ‘fry bread’ and people here call ‘bannock’. If the potlatch is central to the local culture and giving is the spiritual core potlatch, it makes sense that there is more than enough food for everybody.

We learn a lot about giving and taking and destroying and restoring during our day at Alert Bay.

In addition to the permanent exhibit of potlatch items, the U’mista Cultural Center also has rotating exhibits. Along the ramp to the main hall are historic photos of native villages throughout the Kwakwaka’wakw region, including many sites where we’ve anchored or docked. Each is paired with documents from a 1980s oral history project: a striking photo of an elder and text with his or her words. These elders speak less about everyday activities and material culture than about the stories that explain the spiritual heritage of that particular First Nation. Several of these refer to quaking earth and deluge, which would be the Cascadia Subduction Zone seismic event of January 1700, also documented by the Japanese the “orphan Ttsunami'” and recently affirmed by contemporary seismologists thanks to the work of geologist Brian Atwater.  (You can download this intensely interesting, profusely illustrated account from the USGS website here.)

Currently at U'mista is portion of the powerful exhibit on Residential Schools from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

Currently at U’mista is portion of the powerful exhibit on St. Michael’s Indian Residential School from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

But the U’mista exhibit that really wallops me is Speaking to Memory: Images and Voices from St. Michael’s Indian Residential School.  One of the largest of the Indian Residential Schools, St. Mike’s became the home to generations of children who were forcibly removed from their homes throughout the far flung network of islands and Inlets of the Kwakwaka’wakw region.  The gallery at U’mista contains selected items from the larger 2014 exhibit at MOA, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.  Dominating the center of the hall are participatory works of art – a miniature dugout racing canoe covered with thousands of colorful, individually decorated, Scrabble-like tiles and a couple textile panels incorporating messages in the native language. But it’s the text and photographs around the edges that grip me to tears for an hour and a half.

The first wall pairs two photos, one taken in 1930 and the other in 2013. Alert Bay’s St. Michael’s Indian Residential School, one of the 120 federally administrated schools across Canada, was the forced detention center for children from villages throughout the Broughtons and the villages of Vancouver Island. It was operated by the Anglican Church of Canada until 1976 and had stood empty as no appropriate use could be found for the building. Until several months ago it filled the space between U’mista and the attractive modern health clinic and adjacent home for elders. Colorful sticky notes and whiteboard messages in English and Kwakiutl record the feelings of Alert Bay citizens about the final erasure of St. Mike’s from their village landscape.

Photos of the former St Michael's Indian Residential School at Alert Bay in 1930 and 2013.

Photos of the former St Michael’s Indian Residential School at Alert Bay in 1930 and 2013.

Next I move along two walls move on which are tacked floor to ceiling photos of students in BC residential schools coupled with poignant recollections of life in them. I read every single word. The “student” testimonies are those of adults looking back in the early 1990s. Most, not all, refer to heartbreaking injustices inflicted on children. Most, not all authors, are Anonymous: the past has not yet receded and there’s still risk of retribution. (I am too shattered to think about notes; after all, everything is now part of the historical record. But before walking out into the mid day sunlight I snap a quick photo of a couple of the testimonies, a random souvenir.)

And they did not spare the rod, perhaps that’s where our people learned to hit as a way of getting their way. And when we got into alcohol, we drank as if there was no tomorrow. If there is anything good to be said about St. Mikes, it would be soccer. They brought soccer to us. Oh yea, as a special treat on Easter Sunday we had one hard-boiled egg. The only time we had an egg.

Anonymous, 1991

We were not allowed to pass the line. We couldn’t go near the boys and the boys couldn’t come near us, and we weren’t allowed to go outside the gate or outside the fence. If we did that we got punished. We were well protected you know. That’s what I like about that. That saved me maybe from a lot of things, you know. When they get strict with us and we learn obedience and we learn to try and follow the rules, you know.

Anonymous, 1991

I wonder how this all plays out. Alert Bay’s Anglican church is still shipshape and beneath the totems of the village’s contemporary burial grounds is the odd headstone in the form of a cross. Forbearance and inclusivity seem to reign. Mentally I run through the churches we’ve seen all along the coast. From the Bible church at the foot of Washington’s Hood Canal, the graves of its cemetery decked out in tinsel, to the onion-domed gem in Ninikchuk, Alaska, whose Native priest gave us a tour, speaking with pride about Orthodoxy’s deep global roots and the Fourth Century priests who made their way from the Eastern Mediterranean to China. I wonder: is it overarching tradition of Native spirituality that fosters such forbearance and inclusivity?

The village’s Victorian Christ Church was built in 1892.

At last I come to the final room of the exhibit, a series of seven long scrolls bearing official letters of apology from the Prime Minister and from the heads of the churches with whom the Canadian federal government contracted to operate the schools across the country. Here’s an excerpt from the long letter from Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language. While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools, these stories are far over-shadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and communities.

The panel with the letter from Anglican Bishop Michael Peers is a litany of contrition.

I have felt shame and humiliation as I have heard of suffering inflicted by my people,and as I think of the part our church played in that suffering.

Among the tragedies of the Residential Schools was the loss of dozens of Native languages in British Columbia alone. Bilingual signs are an effort to keep words alive.

Among the tragedies of the Residential Schools was the loss of dozens of Native languages in British Columbia alone. Bilingual signs are an effort to keep words alive.

I am deeply conscious of the sacredness of the stories that you have told and I hold in the highest honor those who have told them.

I have heard with admiration the stories of people and communities who have word at healing, and I am away of how much healing is needed.

I also know that I am in need of healing, and my own people are in need of healing , and our church is in need of healing. Without that healing, we will continue the same attitudes that have done such damage in the past. ….

I am sorry, more than I can say, that we were part of a system which took you and your children from home and family.

I am sorry, more than I can say, that we tried to remake you in our image, taking from you your language and the signs of your identity.

I am sorry, more than I can say, that in our schools so many were abused physically, sexually, culturally and emotionally. …

This resonates with me. This is the time and place for it to do so.  My past is longer than my future. I have experienced – albeit at some distance – so much injustice spiraling without resolution, no end in sight. In the past two weeks, I’ve read two compelling works of fictional realism on the great anti-colonial wars of my lifetime. Kamel Daoud’s recently translated Mersault Investigation is set in Algeria, where we spent our honeymoon in 1971. At the time, the nation’s honeymoon with national liberation following a valiant fight still had not dissipated into violent score settling of age old strife. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen gets to the heart of the sad saga of the war in Vietnam. Our invasion, the war without reason, and its retributive aftermath. Vietnam is where I plan to celebrate my 70th birthday on a bicycle trip with our daughter Selena.

The next book in my queue came just when I needed it. The Book of Forgiving is a new work by Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho, an Anglican priest.  Archbishop Tutu has witnessed some of the worst crimes people can inflict on others. So wherever he goes, he inevitably gets asked this question: ‘How do I forgive?’ This book is his answer. He and his daughter lay out the simple but profound truths about the significance of forgiveness, how it works, why everyone needs to know how to grant it and receive it, and why granting forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves when we have been wronged. This is a How to Book and it’s good. Illustrating with myriad examples,the authors explain the four-step process of forgiveness—Telling the Story, Naming the Hurt, Granting Forgiveness, and Renewing or Releasing the Relationship.

As I start the last chapter of the beautiful, short Book of Forgiving we come in range of wifi and learn this: A young white supremacist, welcomed into a Bible study group at an historic Black church, shoots everyone there, killing most, including the pastor, who is a State Senator. Three days later I watch a video of the parishioners addressing the accused who has been taken into custody. They talk to him one by one, telling him forgiveness is there. Not just from God but also from their community. It’s as if they have read the Tutus’ book.

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Log: Beyond the Salish Sea

Wednesday, June 17  Campbell River to Shoal Bay 50º27’N 125º22’W

Slackers waiting for slack, we head to the Canadian Superstore to stock up on bread, eggs, and fresh vegetables and then pick up wine the liquor store opens at 9. Jack takes the stuff back to the boat – improbably moored on A dock with the small sports fishing boats. Sea Runners and Puffin have both left while Dan and Heather aka Team Coastal Express, are still bedded down, preparing for their first day of vacation. Forced back twice by Seymour Narrows this invariably cheerful pair is taking their adventure back south.

Dan and Heather, aka Race to Alaska Team Coastal Express, resume their cruising lifestyle.

Dan and Heather, aka Race to Alaska Team Coastal Express, resume their cruising lifestyle.

We motor the five miles up dodging stray logs on the way to Maud Island to get our first look at the waters. We hit the Narrows 50 minute before slack, shooting through and letting the ebb carry us north. This is where the waters between Vancouver Island and the (so-called) Mainland where the tide ebbs north and floods south. To our stern is the Salish Sea, where the flood has been north and the ebb south. We pass two southbound tugs with barges, one haphazardly loaded with second rate clear cut, the type of load that helps explain the errant logs.

In wild Plumper Bay, opposite the tiny Vancouver Island community of Brown Bay we spot the distinctive upside-down yellow triangle of Sea Runners’ sail and the masted monohull of Team Puffin.

Whew! Teams Sea Runner and Team Puffin made it through Seymour Narrows on the flood!

Whew! Teams Sea Runner and Team Puffin made it through Seymour Narrows on the flood!

As concern for these end of the pack Racers to Alaska dissipates, we embark on a gorgeous dreamy cruise up Discovery Passage. Vancouver rightly saved the name Discovery for this fine section of the coast as well as for the Bay which with Port Townsend Bay forms the Quimper Penninsula. The latter, richly timbered, served as the shipyard for HMS Discovery and the other ships of the Captain’s small fleet.

We continue Northeast through Nodales Channel, presumably named by Vancouver’s respected contemporary, Spanish Captain Quadra, until we enter the great carrefour, the spectacular chowk where Frederick Arm meets Cordero Channel. The short distance to perfect little Shoal Bay with its imposing view up Phillips Arm, snowless again this year.

At the Shoal Bay wharf a happy handful of boaters on the dock find us the 41 one feet we need and squeeze us in. Salmon fry splash about, tiny silver torpedoes. The sun has taken it out of us so we lunch and nap and rest below deck until a knock on the companionway hatch brings notice of happy hour. (Or is it “appy” hour?) We pull humous from the fridge, pita chips from a locker, folding chairs from the lazarette and head a boat length down the float. Like us, people who love Shoal Bay come back year after year.

“I love it!” says Wharfinger Mark McDonald. “A boater-managed dock!” He’s watching approaching boats through binoculars from home on shore, where I’ve gone to pay up – 50 cents a foot. Two sizable Grand Banks trawlers approach Aurora as Jack appears on deck to help them raft to us. Since our arrival, port side fenders have been out – Shoal Bay Protocol.

Shoal Bay

Shoal Bay

That evening, I join Tom and Karen from Sandpoint and Helen and Ron from Nanaimo at the pub – vacated earlier in the day when the logger lodgers flew off for their long weekend in a tiny, playful, bright yellow helicopter. Helen interviews Mark. For years we’d thought he was some IT guy who taken his money and run. Then he shows up with a new bride, a widow he’d known years before. Thanks to Cynthia, who’s put up some pictures showing Mark with fine horses and the likes of Willy Schumacher, we’re now getting the story. Born in New Westminister, Mark had always been around horses so when it was time for college, it needed to be someplace near a racetrack. Soon enough he’d abandoned his studies in southern Calfornia to train horses. After 25 years he became a off-grid homesteader on this mining townsite, once home to 5,000 people, now reclaimed by the forest. In his spare time, he’s a horse broker who serves a mostly British clientele without every leaving Shoal Bay.

Friday, June 19th Shoal Bay to Blind Channel 50º25’N 125º30’W

Ron and Helen, crew of S/V Parsifal out of Nanaimo.

Ron and Helen, crew of S/V Parsifal out of Nanaimo.

Did we mention this was going to the the laziest cruise yet? After the leisurely morning we cast off for the short ride to our next destination, dumping contents of our toilet along the way. I have gotten too bold with my experiments in fluid dynamics and inadvertently watered down the poop pot. But everything is back together with a fresh bed of desiccating coir fiber by the time we arrive at the Blind Channel Resort, expertly run for many years by the Richter family. I eschew hiking the trails in favor of downloading some serious reading in ecological sanitation and exchanging Tweets with other Race to Alaska fans. Everyday a new team arrives at the finish, everyday another welcome bash thrown by the good folks of Ketchikan.

Dinner hour coincides conveniently with a rising tide. As we shove the scooter up on the ramp, Eliott Richter meets us and ushers us to the dining room. Blind Channel is known for its cuisine. There is a rich garden and fishing boats stop at the dock, often to meet to float planes which deliver the fresh catch to Vancouver for flights to Japan.

Blind Channel Morning

We leave Blind Channel before dawn to catch Greene Point Rapids at slack.

Saturday, June 20  Blind Channel to Port Harvey 50º34’N 126º66’W

Port Harvey, not to be confused with the city of Port Hardy, is a geographic feature, a body of water rather than a settlement.

Now it boasts the Port Harvey Marine Resort, which is top-notch in its simplicity. It consists of a structure on a barge floating in a bay opposite some tied looking forestry operations at the end of Havannah Channel. You are greeted at the dock with a wifi password, a simple menu of hamburgers and pizza, and the understanding that there is no obligation whatsoever to partake of either. And yet even now in June nearly every table at the little cafe off the deck over the store is full. And it’s right-sized for the communal conversation that owners George and Gail Cambridge keep animated as they proffer drinks,food and their famous desserts. Helping this summer is Tom an amiable, sailor, adventurer, cook, bartender, dock fisherman, and handyman whose perfect RP (Received Pronunciation) bespeak fine schooling on the other side of the Atlantic pond.

Port Harvey Marine Resort floats on a barge.

Port Harvey Marine Resort floats on a barge.

Jack goes for the burger with fries me the pizza. I’ve brought containers from the boat so Jack can have his poutine for lunch. For breakfasts in transit, nothing is better than leftover pizza heated on the stove top toaster George has sold me.  Jam packed with practical items, Port Harvey’s store is a minor wonder on this coast. It seems the Cambridges are transitioning from the hardware business in Alberta.

Port Harvey offers great shelter at the dock or at anchor just a short distance from Johnstone Strait. Pointing to an exposed line of Doug Firs on the shore, George says, “Just look at those trees. If they’re not moving, you can head out with no problem.”  There’s never been a place in Port Harvey for rec boats to tie up and Gail and George have the right mix of business experience and the middle age stamina to make this place a success. Without a fuel dock, the Pacific water is clean: folks catch crab right off the dock. As fresh water is in short supply, however, they’ll be limited in the services they can offer. This is a good thing.

Monday June 22 – Port Harvey to Port McNeill 50º34’N 127º05’W

Kayakers cross a placid Johnstone Strait behind us.

Kayakers cross a placid Johnstone Strait behind us.

What a beautiful passage! Johnstone Strait is like glass and this section is new to us. Shrouds of fog lift so we enjoy the views and wildlife. We pass the famous reserve at Robson’s Bight where British Columbia’s pods of resident orcas breed. They’re away now but porpoises hobby horse through the water and Pacific white-sided dolphins come and play with our waves. We pass tiny Telegraph cove, set between mountain and sea. I wonder what management skills it must take to shoehorn boats into such as small space. We pass Cormorant and Malcolm Islands before landfall on Vancouver Island, where we pass the small ferry that connects Port McNeill with the villages of Alert Bay and Sointula.

Tiny Telegraph Cove nestles in green slope of Vancouver Island.

Tiny Telegraph Cove nestles in green slope of Vancouver Island.

George has recommended the Fuel Dock, now rebranded as North Island Marina. Jessica Jackman meets us as we tie up against strong current. The marina doesn’t offer post card views but is competently run. Fuel hoses can reach rec boats tied up on one side while serving commercial vessels on the other. Port McNeill is on Vancouver Island so that means roads which can take recycling and garbage, water to operate a lundromat, and roads to other places. Jessica even offers a complementary car and suggests a visit Telegraph Cove. We’re here, however, for Alert Bay and Sointula and the BC Ferries schedule can accommodate visits to both in a single day. As it happens, our time at Alert Bay is so full and gives us so much to ponder, we simply eschew the former commune founded by Finnish socialists in the early 20th century.

Wednesday, June 24 Port McNeill to Echo Bay 50º45’N 126º30’W

Port McNeill near the north end of Vancouver Island is our westernmost point as we turn north into the Broughtons. Jack suggests we go to the well known Pierre’s Eco Bay Lodge and Marina. Last year he volunteered to walk up to the store to pay the moorage and found the lack of handrails made docks and stairs dangerous to navigate. (Think rainforest moss on wet wood.) He mentioned the situation to Pierre’s wife, Tove, and just wants to see if anything had changed. It hasn’t.  Jack doesn’t leave the boat. I photograph the eight obstacles to get from the boat to the restrooms, laundry and showers.

Latish in the evening I corner Pierre, trying to match his charm and easy-going-ness.  “Look at the type of people who love to come here year after year,” I say. “They’re not young. They’re hip-replacement candidates. They may be cruising because they’re recovering from something and can only walk with difficulty. Or they’re here for a wedding or family reunion with elders in wheelchairs in tow.” I tell him there are fixes, like the rubber covered aluminum plates that bridge the docks at North Island Marina in Port McNeil and promise to send some photos. I complement him on the new Adirondack chairs; at least weary walkers can have a seat. He is nice and I am nice.

Before turning in, I come up with a rating system for docks.

1 = Stay on your boat. It may be secure but you are not when you’re on the docks. Athleticism required to access services. Everything moves. (Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club’s strange metal docks. The alternative in Prince Rupert, the port facility at Rushbrook, was a 1 in 2012 but then in 2014 metal bridges joining floats had been installed.)

2 = Anyone with the slightest mobility impairment or an uncoordinated child must be accompanied at all times to be safe. Dangerous gaps between floats or floats and ramp. Steps without handrails. Leaning or unsteady floats. (Pierre’s Echo Bay; up from a ‘1’ thanks to the new Adirondack chairs.)

3 = Allows partial independence for mobility impaired. A visitor who uses a wheelchair or scooter will need assistance at some places on the docks or at some points in the tide cycle. (North Island Marina in Port McNeill; Blind Channel Resort.)

4 = Pretty safe in good weather. Smooth, flat, unobstructed docks, with toe rails and hand rails. (Port Harvey, where entire resort currently floats – access to land and dog walking is still difficult; Nanaimo, where only problems are heavy dock gates and ramp angles on low tides.)

5 = Independent wheelchair users can access all facilities. (Gorge Harbor!)

Thursday, June 25 Echo Bay to Waddington Bay 50º43’N 126º37’W

We’re at anchor in 30 feet of water. It’s sheltered and peaceful even as the sun goes hot and the winds come up in the afternoon. Not much to report. Reading, listening to audible books, daydreaming, cooking, fixing things that need to be fixed. And organizing photos and writing this blog.

A gift of freshly caught and filleted ling cod is delivered to us at anchor.

A gift of freshly caught and filleted ling cod is delivered to us at anchor.

Supper is ling cod with mushrooms, scalloped potatoes and onions with Parmesan, Swiss chard, very long grain black rice left over from a former voyage, a tossed salad and fresh cherries, purchased in Campbell River for $3 Canadian a pound because the hot sun has brought the British Columbia crop to abrupt maturity far earlier than normal. The origin of the long cod?  Remember Matt and Elizabeth of the cement schooner Peregrine and Salt Spring Island?  Here they offer just-caught and filleted ling cod to the boats moored off Lesqueti Island.

Saturday, June 27 Waddington Bay to nook on Crease Island behind Goat Island 50º37’N 126º38’W

The wind is blowing when we drop anchor in about 24 feet of water but things soon calmed down and everything is just perfect. 360º of an ever-changing light and color show as the sun drops in the sky. I stay up until 10 to take photos.

It’s Dave who recommended Goat Island; he doesn’t like to be hemmed in; needs the view. Dave and Janet are Valiant 40 owners we met at Echo Bay. They were in the Peace Corps in on a Pacific Island and – like us – had to get married to serve together. Then they learned to sail and sailed home to Portland in their first boat. We toured each Valiant. Theirs looks the same except for a deck that extends 18 inches toward the bow to allow headroom in the V-berth.

Sunday, June 28 Goat Island to Forward Harbor 50º29’N 125º45’W

My pleas to just stay put another day do not cut it with Jack the Skipper, who notes that there are still hundreds more anchorages waiting for us. The weather is good and he is eager to get into Knight Inlet and Johnstone Strait and have the sails catch the light NW winds.

A passing boat throws early morning sun sparkles on Knight Inlet.

A passing boat throws early morning sun sparkles on Knight Inlet.

We head out at dawn, enthralled by the play of light on the dark water. Flocks of rhinoceros auklets swim past each followed by a line of sun sparkles. A line of cormorants splashes drops of gold in their awkward struggle to take flight. Very pretty this morning, but they are designed to fly underwater. Porpoises cut in and out of the water, something much larger snorts off our stern and disappears, but our beloved Pacific white-sided dolphins ignore us. We associate Knight Inlet with our first prolonged encounter – with about 100 of them.

The golden dawn turns to the morning as the Inlet opens wide, a succession of mountains and bays in every tone of grey. A boat passes, throwing curving swaths of silver glitter on the water. There is no wind.

Eagles and gulls compete in feeding frenzy.

Eagles and gulls compete in feeding frenzy.

There must be a herring ball causing the feeding frenzy near Minstrel Island. The auklets simply flip upside down from the water’s surface but the gulls are diving in flight, trying to stay out of the way of eagles talons. Gulls, eagles, and crows – our everyday birds at home – are all smart and acrobatic. But it’s their interactions that are especially fascinating.

We take the bull kelp clogged Chatham Channel near low slack prepared for very low waters but we rarely have less 25 feet under our keel. Out in Havannah Channel the wind is brisk and Johnstone looks perfect. The day is getting on and there are the usual strong wind warnings but it comes to nothing. We have to motor the whole way to Forward Harbor.

Forward Harbour is an old friend of an anchorage.

Forward Harbour is an old friend of an anchorage.

We drop anchor at the edge of the shelf, our depth waving from 30 to 60 feet as we let out 150 feet of chain. I have forgotten how spectacular Forward Harbor is. I put the folding chairs out on the bow and we have a simple supper watching the sun set on the high peaks at the end of the bay.

Monday, June 29  Forward Harbor to Shoal Bay 50º27’N 125º22’W

I need to flake the first 50′ of cain so it fits properly in the re-designed locker under the V-berth but once that is done, I can let the remaining 100 feet in more smoothly, stopping only to knock only to the peak so that the chain does not pile up and jam. Redesign is good for this. But when I’m on the last 25 feet, the windlass quits! I have to bring up the remaining chain and the anchor by hand. What is the problem? A blown fuse? I reset the trip switch, which appears not to have tripped off.

In the narrow neck of Forward Harbour the captain of a tug prepares a log boom for transit though Whirlpool Rapids.

In the narrow neck of Forward Harbour the captain of a tug prepares a log boom for transit though Whirlpool Rapids.

We navigate past a log boom waiting with its tug at the neck of the bay and pass the swirlls and outfalls of Green Point rapids. Then I go below and use my 700 lumens bike light to check the cables that lead to the solenoid and windlass motor. Nothing seems amiss but the foot switch still doesn’t work. We discuss options – someone at Blind Channel may help with a diagnosis when we stop for the essential liquids: diesel, water, wine and gin. But one more try with the windlass and it works! Either switch is cranky – it looks perfect – or it just had to cool off. In any event, we’ll just raise the anchor more slowly from now on.

Thanks to a “changing of the guard” the whole north side of the Shoal Bay dock is free. The southbound boats have left and shortly northbound boats will take their place. And when the northbound boats cast off, they leave space for southbound boats, which arrive an hour to two later. One goal of this cruise is to help us better predict things like this. And the winds in Johnstone, the back-eddies off Cape Mudge, the energy our solar panels are capturing, and the sounds of the anchor chain on the sea bottom. We dream of making a new variation of this trip every summer for years to come. To be safe and comfortable doing so, means draft and tweaking rules of thumb.

We’re greeted at the dock with “We used to have a Valiant, too.” Marilyn and Jim have “passed over to the dark side” and now have of Blue Coyote, a 26′ Ranger Tug which “bobs like a cork.” Back problems were making things hard for Marilyn. We chat for a good long time about the adaptations they’d made when they bought their Valiant in Trinidad and how Bob Perry either loved or hated them when they met him at a Port Ludlow rendezvous. You can feel their nostalgia for their old boat. Jack says “Hey, I’m a qudriplegic” and explains how – until his First Mate breaks down – we’re going to stick with our boat. Later I learn this lively pair we take to be in their mid-60s are both well into their 70s.

The logger lodgers with the toy yellow helicopter have left and the Shoal Bay Pub is open. I go up to pay my $0.50 a foot and join Mark and Cynthia a couple of others there for a beer. We exchange stories about the Race to Alaska. A week without Internet means my last news is Roger Mann’s arrival in Ketchikan. I remember I took a screen shot of his boat.

Roger Mann racing to Alaska.

Roger Mann racing to Alaska.

“That’s him!” yelps Mark. Seems they ran into Roger and his strange craft in Brown Bay, the place just north of Seymour Narrows where they leave their truck so they can provision in Campbell River. They meet him briefly as he exits the shower. Yes, old and cheerful. And also a short and compact.  This would have been the morning after Roger had fallen into the raging waters of Seymour Narrows in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, June 30 Shoal Bay to Von Donop Inlet on Cortez Island 50º085’N 124º56’W

There are two northern doors to Salish Sea. One is Seymour Narrows which flows between Vancouver and Quadra Island and leads to Discovery Channel and then either to Johnstone Strait or to the “Inside Inside Channel” route via Nodales Channel. The other consists of the neck of water that flows through Dent, Gaillard and Yucalta Narrows. North of these two areas confused waters, the ebb is north and the flood south; south of them the flood is north and the ebb south.

Ochre sea stars, decimated two years ago by a viral

Ochre sea stars, decimated two years ago by a viral “wasting” disease, reappear on Cortez Island shores at low tide.

That south ebb takes us into broad and beautiful Calm Channel with its many options for exploration to in the northern reaches of the Salish Sea watershed, such as Toba Inlet, its waters light blue with fresh water melt from its glacier. We continue south and dip into Von Donlop Inlet, which extends long and narrow into Cortez Island. It’s very low tide and what do I see in the bright green seaweed-fringed crevices in the rocks! Purple and bright pink Ochre Sea Stars! This is the species so decimated by sea star wasting, the disease recognized just this year – thanks in part to sample collection by citizen scientists – as caused by a virus. Without sea stars the Salish Sea food web is broken. This is cause for celebration.

We motor the shallow Inlet past several nice anchorages, where most boats are stern tied. Yes, we are back in the land of this strange Canadian custom. We continue on realizing that even the middle of the channel is safely anchor-able. But there’s lots of room at the head of the Inlet. As we approach the sweeping low tide beach and prepare to point into the wind, I call out to folks on the deck of a boat already anchored, “We want to pass behind you if there’s enough water. Are you stern tied?” “Yes, lots of water. No stern tie! Is that a Valiant?”

Fraser Smith closes transom door of S/V Northern girl after having

Fraser Smith closes transom door of S/V Northern girl after “walking” the two chocolate labs.

Nothing is sweeter to the ears of a boat owner than appreciation of one’s boat. Late in the afternoon the crew of Northern Girl from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory stop by in their dinghy after watering their two black labs. Kara and Fraser Smith are Bob Perry fans with a Bob Perry boat – a Northwind Islander – with the most ingenious feature. A door in its transom opens as a ramp down to the dinghy. Perfect for dog lovers who have to make the four daily trips to shore and back.

Wednesday, July 1  Von Donop Inlet to Gorge Harbour  

Pull into to Gorge Harbour on the south end of Cortez Island, ready for some Internet and the opportunity to post a couple of blog posts.  Despite keeping a daily blog, I have somehow managed to be two days behind the calendar date.  I’d always wanted to celebrate Canada Day but thought it was Friday.   Turns out it’s today.

There’s a heat wave, just like the first time we came here.  In the eighties here but much much worse in Portland and Seattle. While the docks are half empty, the Gorge Harbour lodge, restaurant and campground are full of people. The kids have built lantern boats but, alas, they can’t be lit thanks to the drought-caused fire danger.  Instead a fire is lit in the big fireplace on the stone patio where a  very funky band of local old guys is playing.  One is calling square dances and managing to get people up on their feet.  It’s too hot for me but when the sun finally sets and the big full moon rises I got out and enjoy the end of the evening.


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