Log: Southbound home

Boat Repairs in Exotic Places

Okay so there’s a gap in our itinerary for what cruising sailors refer to as “boat repairs in exotic places.” You have to find a mechanic, parts, and a boatyard to pull the boat out of the water, move off the boat with clothes, stuff and perishable food, manage the crew’s patience and tolerance for uncertainty, and choose whether to spend the time in a cheap motel, on a land excursion or a flight home. Let’s leave this story for some other time.

After three and a half weeks we head back to the boat. Jack carries our two bags and my backpack on the scooter and in Prince Rupert we provision a single bag of groceries, a bottle of gin and a box of wine and take a cab to the Port Edward xboatyard.

We’ve got a congenial and talkative cabbie. Somehow we start talking about Haida Gawaii and he asks if we know the story about the Golden Spruce. We do, we’ve read John Vaillant’s strange tale of the demented environmentalist who chops down this albino tree, as sacred to the Haida as the white Spirit Bear is to the tribes of the coast.

“I drove that guy and his kayak to the ferry,” says the driver says.”

“The blue plastic kayak?” I ask.  “The only evidence of his disappearance ever found?” Yep.

Then he tells us about his tribe, the KitSan, I believe, from the interior of northern BC interior. They warred with the Haida for generations. Mind you we’ve just come from the BC Museum in Victoria, where the vast collections of objects of Haida material culture – especially the argillite carvings – speak of their power and vision. Everybody knows that the Haida must have been an awesome enemy.

“You know,” the cabbie says, “we got a totem in our village. It’s very simple. Just a woman with a baby and a tiny canoe.” With measured drama, he goes on to explain how she was kidnapped by a Haida Chief and bore his child and then built the tiny canoe. One night she escaped with her child and paddled all the way across the terrifying Hecate Strait and up the river to return to their village on the mainland.

Tuesday 26 July – Port Edward

Port Ed is a busy, mixed bag of a working port hidden away behind the coal and grain bulk terminals on Prince Rupert’s Ridley Island.  Finally Aurora is splashed, bills are paid, and we’re good to go with full water tanks and our lone grocery bag of provisions. Just before dawn we’re off, elated.

Port Ed
After two and a half weeks at this Port Ed boatyard, Aurora’s back in the water and we’re headed south.

Then we discover I’ve done something completely stupid.

As part of the take off routine the night before, I’d closed the raw water intake to check the filter, saying to Jack’ “Remind me to reopen it”: distrusting my short term memory is part of the routine. Then I figure it’s probably been done as part of the repair and grab my high intensity bike light to peer though the clear plastic lid of the filter. Yep, good to go.

On the way out of Port Ed I notice the exhaust is white and mention it. A few minutes later Jack notices the engine is heating up faster than usual and we put two and two together. I forgot to open the valve!

I rush below and open it but still no water is flowing through the filter or out of the hull. We need to let the engine cool down. Rather than add minutes by going back to the dock, I spy a netfloat about 30 feet long where fishermen repair their gill nets.  Dawn is breaking and the big seiners are pulling in to the processing plant, but I figure it’s too early for gill net repair. I get the fenders out but position them way too high. Like so many floats and breakwaters in the area, this one is made of metal detritus left over from Port Ed’s earlier industries, such as the rendering plant that was a sideline at the cannery after salmon fishing crashed. At a short distance the float looks like it’s all wood but it sits on rusty cylindrical tanks which gouge our gel coat.

I tie up, pull the steps from the companionway and find a very hot engine. We need to check the “fresh water” system – really chemical coolant – but I don’t dare open the cap lest hot antifreeze splash all over me. So we wait. Finally, dressed in full foulies and goggles, I out a rubber gloved hand into the engine room and remove the cap. The tank is still full to the brim with coolant. I replace the cap. Funny how you need both the fresh and raw water systems working together.

So we decide it must beworking and fire up the engine. Alas, no bubbling is observed under the transparent top of raw water filter and no water is spraying out with the exhaust. (Nigel Calder says there are two things you check as soon as you start the engine: check the oil pressure and lean over the rail to see if water is spurting out with the exhaust. Lesson now learned.)

Sweet little impeller.
Our sweet little impeller.

All we can think now is that we must have fried the impeller. It’s a spinning valve with rubber teeth. I can show you a picture but you won’t get the whole picture. Impellers are located at the base of the engine and you have to contort your body into a pretzel to get to the place. Then you have to take off the plate covering the impeller and not drop your screws into the bilge, something that has unfathomable consequences when you’re dealing with a closed system.

So changing an impeller is a rite of passage. My First Time was on the west coast of Vancouver Island. We were precariously anchored off a rocky point among 30-foot long fronds of slippery bull kelp. Sea sickening swells were rolling across the open Pacific from Japan. But I did it. And, emboldened with experience, I did it again!

Wednesday 27 July – Lowe Inlet 53º33.5’N 129º33.9’W

Now those coordinates! Write them down! That is the only really good place to anchor in Lowe Inlet. It’s stage left of spectacular Verney Falls, which feeds Lowe Inlet. And it’s not just when the salmon are practicing to jump over the falls and head up into the mountains to spawn and die or not spawn and die anyway in the jaws of a bear. What a spectacular anchorage!  Two, three foot salmon thrusting themselves clear out of the water and coming down with a fantastic splash. A little the summertime thrill of fireworks, but all 360 degrees around you so you head is always spinning.

While I’m here – at Lowe Inlet – I must confess that this is the site of the stupidest thing we’ve ever done. But there’s sort of an unwritten statute of limitations on this saga. So patient readers, stay alert. By next summer the time may be right to come clean.

Thursday 28 July – Green Inlet 52º55’N 128.28.9’W

It's not everyday that you see a bird boat with 13 seagull passengers.
It’s not everyday that you see a bird boat with 13 seagull passengers!

The sun is finally setting when we turn into Green Inlet. The tiny anchorage is tucked behind some islets near its mouth. As soon as it flashes 40 on our depth sounder, Jack calls it out and I drop anchor. Anchor and chain spool out at a ferocious speed, impossible to control. 120 feet! Jack comes forward to help and we get out more chain but don’t feel like putting out all. Instead I’ll sleep on deck and monitor the situation.

Note these coordinates and avoid them. Like the plague. Like Zika. Oh, and by the way the bottomless nook behind the islets is appropriately named Horsefly Cove. Fortunately, horseflies give up at night and as we the days are shortening with the season and our southerly course.

Friday 29 July – Ormidale Harbour 52º11.6’N 128º08.4’W

We survive the night at Green Inlet in 120 feet of water with only 1:2 scope (but all chain.) Worth sleeping on deck rather than trying to find a better spot in this tiny, deep, protected cove. Seems there’s an uncharted bump in the middle of this deep bay that’s only 40 feet.

Heavy fog rolls down Grenville as we pull into the Channel and soon a target – probably a tug and tow – appear on the radar behind us. I hope it’s northbound and out of our way. Jack checks the GIS and finds they’re following us. He hails the vessel whose captain appreciates the call. He sees us on his radar, says we’re in fine place where he can pass on starboard, and tells us there’s another tug and tow following him. Jack confirms with captain #2 as well. We hear the groan of the diesel very near, then a break and the second tug boat passes.  Apart from BC Ferries’ Northern Expedition, which plies the Prince Rupert to Port Hardy route every day,  these two tugs are about the only commercial boats we’ve encountered

New this trip is Orimidale Harbour off Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella.
New this trip is Orimidale Harbour off Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella. It’s spacious with a couple of more protected coves.

Finally the fog breaks and we see the temporarily coupled tugs and their tows part ways. Not far from Klemtu we grab a cell phone signal and call Christophe at Shearwater. Not a chance of moorage, he reports.

Millbanke is much kinder than on the northbound passage so I peruse the charts and the Waggoners and find this huge protected harbor in Seaforth Channel. We expect it will be ringed with houses but the only thing there is a large new working boat that must belong to the Hieltsuk tribe in adjacent Bella Bella. We find our own little cove and anchor twice to get it just right. Note these coordinates! How come no one talks about this convenient anchorage that is an alternative to the always-crowded Shearwater?  It’s a bit open to the Northwest but has a couple of coves and  should be good in a storm from the south.

Saturday 30 July – Codville Lagoon 52º03.5’N 127º51’W

Today is a rest day. I lie in bed finishing Heroes of the Frontier, Dave Eggers’ new book that was released on Tuesday.  As we said good bye to the land of wifi, the text flowed onto Jack’s Kindle, the reading into my Audible.com library. We’d both pre-ordered as it was Dave Eggers and Alaska and what’s not to like? Well, this book. I don’t get it. It makes me feel uneasy and literarily insecure. All along I think it may erupt into either very dark darkness or full blown satire. Alas, it does neither. Now Jack is reading it and shaking his head but I’m hopeful he’ll have some insight. Is this book just about how poor decisions lead to ever poorer decisions foreshadowing the weathering of otherwise sensible and sensitive young children tethered to a wholly dysfunctional parent? We should be on wifi in another week; it will be interesting to see what the critics have to say about Heroes.

We take a break in our grasse matinée at anchor to move the boat, checking with Christophe at Shearwater on the possibility of space at the dock. Nope, not this trip. Fine. We’ll ration our protein. Cooking will be a lot simpler. Nothing wrong with the boat that needs attention. We’ll live with the dirty laundry. And won’t have to risk risk Lama Passage in deep fog. It’s great that he Hieltsuk tribe has such a successful operation in Shearwater. It would be nice to have a dock in Orimidale or if other tribes along this long long stretch of wilderness offered a few more services.

No sooner are we past Bella Bella when things get weird. Over channel 16 we hear, “Calling the Canadian Coast Guard, calling the Canadian Coast Guard.” (And what other coast guard would reply?) Coast Guard lady answers and asks how they may assist. “There’s a fishing boat harassing a bear. They are preventing it from swimming to shore.” Seems some hysterical environmentalists from Florida on a fancy boat named True East want the coast guard to arrest the fishermen. But the bear is not headed to any old shore – it’s the fish processing plant! Smarter than your average bear!

We continue down Lama Passage, cross Fisher Channel and pull into Codville Lagoon.  It’s a wonderful place with dozens of semi private nooks.

Codville Lagoon is a wonderful anchorage just two hours south of Shearwater.
Codville Lagoon is a wonderful anchorage just two hours south of Shearwater.

Sunday 31 July – Fury Island 51º29’N 127º17’W

Fury Island is wonderful in every way. Nothing as magical as our last trip, perhaps, but still pretty great. White shell beaches. Views of the open ocean beyond at high tide. A soft bottom that hugs your anchor and won’t let it go.

Fury Island is the jumping off place for the rounding of Cape Caution, a day long slog through whales and rocks that look like eggs as open ocean swells ends in great vertical splashes against the formidable headlands.

No matter how much you relax and doze and dream at Fury Cove, you know your supply of adrenalin is restoring itself. And all you you need the next morning at dawn is a good cup of coffee and to be on your way. In any weather Cape Caution makes you pay attention.

Our southbound rounding was as flat and calm and pleasant as the one north. You just never know with Cape Caution.

Monday 1 August – Blunden Harbour 50º54’N 127º51’W

Cape Caution is dead flat and because it’s British Columbia holiday there’s no traffic.  We spend a peaceful, windless day out on the water.  Blunden, south of Allison Harbour, is the perfect landing place after rounding Caution.  Allison the perfect take off place northbound.

Tuesday 2 August – Waddington Cove 50º43’N 126º36.9’W

I love the part of the Broughtons that is all dramatic steep-walled bottomless channels and I love the low islands to the northwest. Waddington is a wonderful anchorage. But at the helm I can’t find the way to it through the rocky islets without Jack on the electronic chart signaling every move.

Wednesday 3 August – Port Harvey 50º34’N 126º16’W

Gail Campbell takes our lines at the dock of the grandly named Port Harvey Marine Resort.  Soon afterwards, George roars up in their fast aluminum boat with their daughter, son-in-law and little grandkids.

The couple has been working on their own all summer. A modest new lodge is rising to replace the large two storey structure with restaurant and general store.  The old building was on a bladder and sank over the winter; the new one is on a barge. Work has now been put off until next winter so cruisers can be served.

There’s a huge tent on a float where homemade pizza is baked and served. Hot croissants and cinnamon buns are delivered to the dock at 7am.  The wifi is strong.  Moorage is only $1 a foot.  Bravo, Gail and George.  You rock!

Thursday 4 August – Blind Channel Resort 50º24.8N 12530’W

While power yachters stay hunkered down at Port Harvey thanks to reports of 35 knot gales hitting Johnstone Strait later in the day, we cast off well before dawn.  Jack has put down electronic “breadcrumbs” so we can exit the way we came in.  When we reach Johnstone we turn of the running lights and enjoy the light on the water.

We're out on Johnstone Strait at sunrise to catch the current and avoid afternoon gales.
We’re out on Johnstone Strait at sunrise to ride the current, avoid afternoon gales, and catch slack at Whirlpool rapids.

Blind Channel Resort, now moving into the hands of the fourth generation of the Richter Family promises fuel, delicious spring water,  a fine small grocery with produce from the resort garden and world-class food.  Since one of my goals is to get this blog fact written and fact checked, we’re disappointed at the poor quality of the wifi and surprised at the lack of cell phone service.  And even with the big yachts around us acting as breakwaters, we rock and roll all night at the dock.  We need to find a good place to drop the hook so we can just swing.  Options, however, are limited.

Friday 5 August – Von Donlop Inlet 50º08.6’N 124º56.8’W

We’re off mid morning to catch Dent and Yaculta Rapids at slack. We pass tiny Shoal Bay where dozens of boats are rafted five thick at the wharf.  Since we’re making such good time it’s not painful to miss the annual Blues Festival and Pig Roast which Mark offers for a $10 donation, with proceeds to a local environmental charity.  At Shoal Bay we like to be tied up at the float: getting to shore when rafted or anchored out is tedious.  We’ll leave this an early season destination and try to get Mark and Cynthia to visit us in Port Townsend.

We exit Yaculta Rapids into the beautiful grand expanse of Calm Channel.  True to its name, the channel has little wind but at least it’s behind us.  We pole out the genny on starboard and push the main out over the port rail – wing on wing.

Calm breeze in Calm Channel. We pole out the genny on starboard and push the main over port.
Calm breeze in Calm Channel. We pole out the genny on starboard and push the main over port.

We move slowly slowly just enjoying the sun and warmth.  There’s no space at George Harbour and as nice as the hot pool would be this evening, we’re delighted to be at Von Donlop Inlet.  We go all three miles in, past the stern-tied boats to the large basin at the end with it’s even bottom and good holding ground.

Since sails wing on wing block the view from the cockpit, I hang out in the bow.

Saturday 6 August – Ford Cove on Hornby Island  49º29.8’N 124º40’W


Ford Cove represents the one major departure from our usual southbound route.  Normally we head down to Desolation Sound then past Lund to the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver.

A brochure we pick up on the Coho Ferry – Denman Hornby – highlights an option.  These two islands are not part of the Gulf Islands but rather lay near Vancouver Island at the entrance to Comox.  We’ve know the rollicking, often rough passage behind long Denman.  Little roundish Hornby sits to the east.  To get to Hornby by car you take a small BC Ferries boat to Denman and then an even smaller ferry to Hornby.

According to Ford Cove Harbour Manager Jean Miserendino, Hornby has about 800 year round residents but goes to 5000 in the summer.  Sounds like the whole island takes on the ambiance of a three month festival every summer.  Fords Harbour is already jammed with local boats: commercial fishing vessels, rec boats, and run about are rafted three deep.  Managing comings and goings of community members must take some real cooperation.

We need to come back and explore.  Hornby is little and will be easy to get around. Its local  park sits atop a bluff overlooking Tribune Bay.   With a sandy crescent beach, rare in these parts, Tribune Bay is an inviting anchorage, though it only works in the good weather brought by gentle NW winds.

While finding a dock attached to land at Hornby doesn’t look feasible, the transient float where we tie up is less than 100 feet from a finger that leads smoothly to the pier – easy enough to shuttle Jack’s scooter and then Jack into shore in our little inflatable.

There’s still about 45 feet of free space at our float when the sun sets.  Hearing the voices of a crew about to land, I stick my head out of the companionway and see a fine wooden schooner. With Baggywrinkles!  I go help with the lines, getting midline and stern with no problem. Even so, a rookie crew member bounds off the bow and rolls onto the float, young and unhurt.  The schooner?  It’s Nevermore, whose permanent slip is near ours in Port Townsend.

This fine wooden schooner, Nevermore, has its permanent home near Aurora in Port Townsend.

Sunday 7 August – Ladysmith Maritime Society 48ø59.8’N 123º48.7’W

We’re making good time and feeling great.  Our predawn departure from Hornby gets us at Dodd Narrows safely before slack, with the water still flowing south.  We’ve called Mark at the Ladysmith Maritime Society and there’s space for us.

Eager to end relax after a long day we head through the narrows early.  It’s still clear of northbound boats but it’s full of strong whirlpools.  And there among the swirls at the neck is a fisherman casting from a very small rowboat!  He waves to us as we speed by.  A crowd has gathered on both shores to keep an eye on him, not that they could help much.  Ah, reentry to the Gulfs and the San Juans!  This is our first brush with summer craziness.  As we clear the narrows, the first northbound boats are arriving, circling, waiting.  Soon the VHF squawks, “Third-foot sailboat  northbound through Dodd Narrows. Calling any concerned traffic.”  The prudent sailors on the other side are concerned and get the guy – of course it’s a guy – on the radio and help him with the math concerning the speed of his boat and that of current thinks he can overtake.

Ladysmith Maritime Society. Is there a better marina anywhere long the Inside Passage? Let us know.
Ladysmith Community Marina. Is there a better marina anywhere long the Inside Passage? Let us know.

How good it is to dock at Ladysmith with smiling volunteers on the docks to take your lines!  We decide that again this year the Ladysmith Maritime Society has the best marina on the Inside Passage.  There is nothing particularly promising about its location in a traditional logging community on a bay still filled with log booms and next to a clamorous milling operation.

A new float at Ladysmith features a marine science display.
A new float at Ladysmith features a marine science display.

But where else is there so much going on?  Old timers restoring historic local wooden boats.  Birders tracking and banding purple martins.  Folks in the little museum trying to understand the material culture of the region’s past.  People building the spectacular new marine science float with its windowed deck, touch tanks and interpretive displays.  Disabled people learning to sail in specially equipped Marin 16’s and sometimes going off to compete in regular races. Multi-generational families from all over town filling every seat at the Oyster Bay Cafe for a gourmet Sunday brunch.  Cruisers just hanging out on their boats, talking to passers by, using Internet, doing laundry, taking long warm free showers all for one small Canadian dollar a foot.  And no tax: LMS is a nonprofit.  This place rocks!

Monday 8 August – Watmough Bay – 48º25.8’N 122º48.6′W

Out of Ladysmith it’s morning of big boats.  Our southbound course takes us to Houston Passage, a tight U- turn around the tip of Salt Spring Island.  On Channel 16 a captain is hailing “a northbound sailboat.”  No answer.  It’s not us being called; we’re still southbound. But then given the Houston’s U, boats from either direction enter northbound and exit southbound. Hmmm. Something to remember.

A large ship makes the tight turn through Houston Channel at the north tip of Salt Spring Island.
A large ship makes the tight turn through Houston Channel at the north tip of Salt Spring Island.

No sooner do we enter the Passage than a ship, bright orange in the morning glare, appears among the trees.  We hail the captain but there’s no reply.  Not on 16 and not on 11 (though we should be on 12 as we’re now in Victoria traffic). Then the “northbound sailboat” appears and we have the Argent Sunrise on port and Osprey on starboard.  At this particular point, there’s enough room but still.  When I see that S/V Osprey is out of Portland, I take it personally.  In general, skippers who cruise among the big ships on the Columbia River are unusually skilled at rules of the road and using VHF.  If you know Osprey, mention the confusion wrought by their failure to monitor VHF

Out in Boundary Channel we have no trouble reaching the pilot of a large container ship making the 72º turn around Stuart Island. He says we’re fine and thanks us for the call. We cross behind his stern and bring down the pennant.

The Maple Leaf pennant come down. We're back in the USA.
The Maple Leaf pennant comes down. We’re back in the USA.

As we head deeper into the San Juans, things get crazy busy but nowhere more than in narrow channel north of Shaw Island.   Huge power yachts roar by rocking us and the folks in kayaks, rowboats and sailing skiffs that should be comfortable in this narrow interesting waterway.  Hey, San Juan County, how about a speed limit?

We we finally exit we’re somehow passed by three large Washington State Ferries in the space of five minutes.   We forgo Spencer Spit and James Island to avoid being rocked by traffic all evening and head south to Watmough, where we find our first mooring buoy of the summer.  This charming bay is closest point in San Juan County to PT and its three mooring buoys are provided free by the local community.

There’s little wind or current in the bay but interestingly we don’t spin.  Rather we rock gently all night on what must be swells Pacific swells sneaking all the way in.

Tuesday 9 August – Home in Port Townsend

With a mid morning departure, we can flood home.  No wind. No fog. Hardly any other boats. But Growlers. As we slip east of Smith Island we see their Oak Harbor.

Finally we near Point Wilson.   There are a couple of ships on the AIS.  The fast one is the Victoria Clipper, which passes soon after it appears.  Behind it a large cargo ship looms.  We’re on the south side of the southbound lane and should be fine. Jack hails the captain to make sure. No answer on 16.  We try 12, forgetting that Puget Sound traffic is channel 14.  Still, everyone is supposed to on 16.

Suddenly the big ship changes course.  We turn into the commercial shipping lane, at it – Matson Line – passes us starboard, leaving us to take the wake.  Point Wilson throws its own surprises even without traffic in the mix.

I’m already wary of civilization, missing the wilderness. But some I’m home watching the eagles and herons in the tree above my desk or turning over rocks at low tide and marveling at  dozens of exotic creatures.


Log: North to Alaska with David

On Friday afternoon, May 20 2016, we finally shuttle selves and supplies from house to the docks, grab celebratory drinks at the Pourhouse and take out from 123 Thai and move onto Aurora for the next twelve weeks. We turn in early and are off before dawn, with David still tucked in under his goose down comforter in the V-berth.  Goodbye, Port Townsend.

Sat 21 May – Montague Harbour 48º53.6’N 122º23.8’W

Good old Point Wilson rocks and rolls us before we make a straight shot across Juan de Fuca on the ebb to pick up the push of the flood into Haro Strait. Search for orcas to no avail. David – whose father was from Sashkatschewan – does the honors of flying the Canadian pennant as we dodge a big ship in Boundary Channel.


Sequestered on the boat at the customs dock at Bedwell Harbour, we watch Captain Jack make his way off the boat, along the float and up the long steep ramp to phone in our arrival. This time the officer up in the dock invites him to sit down and actually apologizes for the inconvenience. “Lots of people find the walk difficult,” he says. “We been trying for years to get this situation fixed.” So he gives Jack phone and email of the higher ups in Ottawa and encourages everyone to complain directly about this egregious accessibility gap.

We’d hope for an unoccupied mooring buoy at Montague Marine Park on Galliano Island so that David could enjoy the challenge and comedy of catching the ring with a pole and tying up. But as it’s a beautiful night with the locals out for the weekend and all are taken,  So we find a space, drop anchor and prepare David to be rudely removed at dawn from his bunk over the anchor chain locker.

Sun 22 May – Ladysmith 48º59.8’N 123.48.7’W

Up and down the coast our movements are determined by tides and currents as well as winds and seas. The Captain has calculated that a late Monday morning transit of Dodd Narrows – ever so narrow and so often clogged with log booms – is optimal. So we have some options of where to wait. I vote for Ladysmith and prevail. On the VHF, Harbormaster Mark tells us they’re full but if we’d anchor he’ll call us when 40 feet of dock became free. So we continue up past the log booms and the sawmill, drop anchor at the head of the inlet, and have a nice lunch.

The community-owned non-profit Ladysmith Maritime Society is the best. Mark and a young man, who was obviously being trained, appear on the dock to take our lines  – the last time anyone will do this for weeks.  Once off ship, Jack rolls right into the handicapped shower, David walks into town to do some last minute shopping for his culinary wonders, and we all wallow in the broad bandwidth.

Mon 23 May – Boho Bay 49º29.8’N 12413.8’W

Dodd goes flawlessly and we sail northeast across Georgia Strait to the little cluster of islands southwest of the mighty Taxeda. Alone in Boho Bay off Lasqueti, we drop the hook in our little spot near the big rocks just as a river otter swims around it in pursuit of dinner. His catch is quick and efficient but eating a whole foot-long fish is something sea otters do not do elegantly. They don’t use their paws but jerk their heads up, taking the fish head first. They snap their heads around, biting, chewing, and swallowing an inch at a time, fishtail in the air. The last time I saw an otter eating, I nearly called marine mammal rescue thinking the captive fish had snagged the poor otter with a stray hook. Now I know otters just look like they are gagging when they eat.

Boho Bay is our first distant, isolated, off-grid anchorage and gets us started on the definition of “wilderness”.  It also is the first of a series of technical adventures regarding our electrical system. It starts when our fairly new carbon monoxide alarm goes off. We figure that when we were anchoring, some diesel exhaust must have entered the salon. So we turn on the engine blower, open up all the hatches and port holes and hang out on deck.

The damn thing continues to scream and the reset works for about two minutes. We consulted Nigel Calder and finally dig out the leaflet with tech info in twenty languages that has not yet been filed in the three-ring binder marked “S/V Aurora Operations Manual – Vol IV”. Finally, I wedge in a piece of bamboo skewer to keep constant pressure on the reset button.

We’d wondered about our ever so slightly bulging batteries, even though folks in Port Townsend had assured Jack they weren’t ready to be changed out. Bank 2 is drawing 9.0 volts of DC juice while Bank 1 has 14. Something’s off.  We decide to check things out in Campbell River.

Tues 24 May – Campbell River 50º02’N 125º14.6’W

It’s a long long long day, but there are no joint Naval Exercises in Whiskey Golf so we power though the rough waters along Taxeda and motor-sail up Georgia Strait under vast clear skies, elated that the Comox glacier appears bigger than last year.  The light-and-color show of sky  on water continues all day. When the view on port appears white and grey and on starboard true blue, I remember to take a photo.


Under still glorious skies, Jack catches the back eddy which takes us into the First Nations-owned North Coast Marina. On the adjacent shore is  a boatyard, the Ocean Pacific chandlery, Riptide Pub, a Starbucks, and the biggest supermarket I’ve ever seen. Campbell River is the last town with roads to serve the interior or Vancouver Island plus all the roadless small communities of the Discovery Islands, Desolation Sound,and the Broughtons.

It’s 4:45pm when we tie up so I run up to Ocean Pacific to see if someone can help us the next day. Lisa checks with the manager who says they’re  booked up but they’ll spread the word. Sure enough, Lisa calls the next morning to say someone will be around later in the day. Jack volunteers to wait around and handle it, dispatching David to Starbucks and me to the Campbell River Museum. In the end we gain four new “golf cart” batteries and lose a bit of confidence in our Port Townsend shop, which has recently changed hands.

Thurs 26 May – Shoal Bay 50º27.5’N 125º21.9’W

Could a passage of Seymour Narrows be any less dramatic? We encounter no line up of boats, share the space with no large ships, log booms or barges messily loaded with salvage timber. As we pass through the whirlpools above what is left of Ripple Rock, I tell Jack and David about the tremendous project undertaken to blow its head off. One of the must-see films at the museum is based on newsreels from the 1950s. It took some time for Canadian and US technocrats to rule out a nuclear explosion and years longer to put in place the tunnels required to do the job with conventional explosives. In the end, the massive rock on which so many ships and lives has been lost blew up into the air and the sea in a perfectly executed blast.

Morning rays brush hills
Lighter, brighter greens. Until
Canvas is complete.

North of the narrows everything changes. Is this where the wilderness begins? David is skeptical – there’s evidence of clear cutting. While we see no active camps and replanting of trees was well along, we pass a small tug towing a large log boom. I take David’s picture with it.


Of more concern are the fish farms, great pens of Atlantic salmon (color added) that attract sea lice and foul anchorages. Nobody knows who owns them – Norwegian and Chilean technologies, yes, but managed by huge multinational corporations. Next to nobody knows anyone who draws an income from this business and if they did, they might not admit it. These farms don’t need farmers: fish are fed fish meal brought in on barges which serve all the pens in an area.

At the “magic chowk” where Cordero Channel crosses Nodales at Frederick Arm, we hang a left toward Shoal Bay with the usual great anticipation. Beautiful as always and there is space at the dock.

Iridescent flash!
Orange hummingbird visits.
“Rufous,” says David.


Mark has made progress on the house and Cynthia has produced pottery over the winter and is working on a commission for a new lodge. We have drinks and guacamole on the deck as rufous hummingbirds swarm among the petunias, preferring the Mark’s sugar water from the red plastic blossoms on the feeder. There’s one other cruiser, plus several summer helpers, including a Nova Scotian who’s helping build for winter use a mini hydroelectric generator on the bay’s lone small stream.


Fri 27 May – Port Harvey 55º.34’N 126º16’W

Jack has timed our departure to so we’re near slack at Green Point and catching a favorable ebb through Whirlpool Rapids. The morning is glorious, the water smooth so we power down and have a nice breakfast when David emerges. We’ve done these rapids more than a dozen times so they present no trouble.

Mirror smooth surface
Johnstone winds cannot ruffle
Whirling Green Point pools

It’s Johnstone Strait beyond them that the huge question mark, no matter what Environment Canada has to stay. But it too is welcoming; there is no need to seek shelter in the bull kelp wilds of Port Neville. Instead we spend a long day going all the way to Havannah Channel, eager to see George and Gail at their mini resort at Port Harvey.

No Johnstone traffic
Save a cabin on its way
To summer moorage

Our Waggonners guide wisely counsels patience as the place is tucked in at the very tip of the inlet. Still the red and white two story lodge just doesn’t appear in our binoculars! What is going on! We decipher the docks, which look fine, and as we approach, George and his dog walk out to meet us.

The lodge has sunk! It’s gone. Totaled. Inventory, equipment, everything: lost. The fine structure with a hardware store/mini grocery down stairs and a deck and restaurant upstairs was on an inflatable bladder.

GeorgeGeorge is all smiles, undeterred. (Dog is sad; he only meets boats in hopes of finding dog friends.)  George and Gail are rebuilding. A sturdy old barge has been secured in place.  The lodge is being framed this month. It will be one story because “a lot of our cruisers are getting older and don’t like the stairs.” A tent is going up on a nice wooden float to shelter cruisers who feel convivial. Electricity will be restored to the docks soon. In the meantime, homemade cinnamon buns are delivered for breakfast and pizza for lunch or supper. Getting all the permits required for the café kitchen will take a little longer.

While David is devouring his enormous bun and chatting with George, I run up to the house to see Gail, the baker. She’s in a pink chenille bath robe and tennis shoes, grey like me, resilient and smiling like her husband. I condole, commenting on the effort before them. “It’s okay, she says, “I love to work.”

Sat 28 May – Waddington Bay 50º43’N 126º36.8’W

May 28th is Mom’s birthday. She would have been 106 today.  And she would have loved knowing that the United Nations chose this date for a new annual awareness day, one for which Anna is representing PHLUSH back in Portland.

Mom, sex ed leader,
do you know your birthday is
Menstrual Hygiene Day?

We cast off and make our way down Port Harvey and up Havannah Channel. Low hanging garlands of mist decorate the dark green hills.

My raisin wrinkles.
Thirsty for dew, face morn’s mist.
Grey skies! Silver sea!

Bleached white shells making an old Native kitchen midden highlight a patch of shore under the bright but shadowless morning.

Streak of bright white.
Bleached shell beach. Native people
Would’ve breakfasted here!


Only David has indulged in cinnamon buns so I go below to make breakfast. Do I sense smoke as I as pass the aft stateroom? Sure enough, there’s a slender plume emanated from the the trusty inverter where we charge our cell phones and laptops. I shut it off, pull the plugs on the greater than usual number of devices there and call Jack down. He turns the switch on the battery banks, shutting down the whole DC system, then pulls the inverter away from the back and side walls of the cabinet and pulls out a bag of cough drops that’s blocking the vents. “See, here’s the problem” he says, chiding me for negligent housekeeping. He goes back to the cockpit to navigate the narrow, kelp-clogged Chatham Channel. “Let it cool down and we’ll try it later. It’ll probably fix itself like so much else.”

What?!  I quickly consider the consequences of an onboard electrical fire. Sure, our fire extinguishers are current, but we don’t even have the dinghy deployed. It’s still tightly wedged – deflated – in the forward locker!! But enough for now, I shift gears as I’m called to the deck to help with the tricky navigation. I stand directly behind Jack, back to back, finding the two red range markers on a distant hillside with my binoculars. When one appears to be directly above the other, it means the boat is on the required 270º bearing. I have to guide Jack in turning a degree or two to port or a degree or two to starboard until we’re precisely on course. Then, thanks to a dogleg in the channel, I turn forward and pick up a second set or ranges in the direction we’re headed. Finally we’re in deeper water emerging toward Knight Inlet and Jack is telling David to be on the lookout for the Pacific white-sided dolphin that like to play in our bow waves.

“Aren’t we going into Lagoon Cove to check out the electrical? It’s ten minutes from here!,”  I say.  There’s some resistance but I stand firm. At least I can deploy the dinghy. We head into The Blowhole and soon are hailing folks on the dock.

We haven’t stayed at Lagoon Cove since master story teller Bill Barber died – it’s just too sad. There’s never been much in the way of amenities, just an extremely caring welcome. The fuel dock serves neighboring shrimpers and crabbers and the people at the fish monitoring station who share their Internet with Lagoon Cove after work. Jean Barber still summers in the house above the docks but this renowned cruising stop in an unspectacular location is now for sale.

A very perky person welcomes us on the VHF and soon we see her bouncing around the dock. She waves us in, grabs a line and introduces herself. “My name is Jam.”

“Hi, Jan.”

“Jam! Like peanut butter and Jam.”

She’s a fellow cruiser. Points to a nice ketch, Sea Esta. Says Jean had to go away for a few days and she’s just helping out. There are only a few boats in.  Jack ventures the question, now with fairly low expectations. “Is there anyone here who can answer some questions about our electrical system.”

“Sure!” say Jam. “My husband is really good at that stuff! Right now he’s out helping someone set the trap so we’ll have prawns for happy hour!”

“You got boats coming?” I ask.

“All the time! Last weekend it was Victoria Day! We really packed them in here!” She does a little hand chop motion to show boats moored stern-in to the dock (rather than tied up laterally to it). Indeed, Lagoon is the only place we’ve ever stayed that practices Mediterranean mooring.

Gratified that people still come and that the host’s huge plate of prawns still graces the pot luck BYO happy hour table, I finish up deck tasks while Jack and David make lunch. After a while a young guy with a bushy red beard shows up. It’s Dave; he towers over Jam, who’s probably a Canadian Filipina. Dave looks at the ancient inverter, shakes his head, says it’s dangerous, you can’t use this. Another cruiser suggests using the cigarette lighter and offers a couple of USB plugs. They don’t work so Dave checks things out and finds out the lighter had just never been wired in and fixes it. Then Jack wonders whether the reason our diesel furnace won’t turn on is that the guy in Cambell River who installed the batteries just forgot to rewire it. This turns out to be the case. In less than an hour Dave has everything in order. By 2pm he’s sitting at our nav station eating the breakfast Jam has delivered because he’s been busy nonstop all day. We say goodbye, put some cash into Dave’s pocket and his name our 2016 Pantheon list.

Knight Inlet’s dolphins let us down but the afternoon has broken warm, dry and colorful. We motor thought a the ever-changing palette all the way to the low islands of the Broughtons.  It’s a long day and there is only a single sign of human habitation.  As we float past, I snap of photo of the First Nation longhouse, while David pulls out his phone, catches some waves from the village cell tower, and text Karen with news of our progress.


We watch the sun set from Waddington Bay, the all-around sheltered anchorage with view holes that we discovered on our 2015 South of Cape Caution Cruise.

Sun 29 May – Allison Harbour 51º02.7’N 127º30.7’W

If the weather gods continue to cooperate and we get an early start, we should be able to make it all the way to Allison Harbour. This is the ideal jumping off point for Cape Caution and the weather should hold for a next day crossing.

We rout David from his berth, throw his bedding on top of ours, remove the mattresses, open the anchor locker, and send him up on deck with his first cup of coffee. He activates the windlass with his foot, bringing up the chain in small bites, letting the motor cool off every ten seconds and giving me the chance to flake it neatly in the locker below. Now that we’re in the wilderness, David will be subject to this routine every day.

Under clear skies and on windless seas, we motor on to Allison Harbour and snug into a sweet little cove. Let us remind the unwary reader that “harbour” is a geophysical term. This one bears no signs of human habitation apart from our ephemeral presence.

Mon 30 May – Pruth Bay, Calvert Island 51º39’N 128º07’W

Cape Caution really lived up to its name on our 2014 cruise. Fourteen hours of stomach churning rollers northbound, General Jackson in the fog southbound. This time? Easiest yet. Mirror seas reflect a cirrus-domed firmament with dappled blues and silvers. Small sandy beaches glow golden even though we give the Cape wide berth. The red roofs of the Egg Island light station and the gentle wave of the Maple Leaf flag assure us that someone is keeping watch.

cirrus.jpgWe learn one new lesson, however. Just south of the Cape, Jack hails the pilot of the lone southbound vessel we encounter – a tug towing a large barge. He just wants to confirm that passing port to port works best. He tries on 16 and then on 11, the Victoria Coast guard channel for commercial traffic south of Cape Caution. No answer. Why the tug didn’t answer the call on 16 is a mystery – it’s the law for everyone to monitor it. But not being on channel 11 is less of a mystery. The pilot was probably still on channel 78, which is the Prince Rupert Coast Guard channel used by commercial vessels north of the Cape. The lesson: Cruisers should toggle between channels 11 and 78 to track traffic and to announce their presence in fog. (In our case, we have three VHF radios and can monitor all at once. The reason we happen to have three radios is that in 2014 the handheld failed mid trip. Once back home we purchased the the same model, as it continued to get good reviews. Then we found the new charger charges the old radio charges perfectly well.)

Version 2We get past Cape Caution so fast that we suddenly have a new option. Jack’s conventional wisdom is this: if we’ve been beaten up by twelve hours of rough water, we turn into Fury Cove. If we’ve still got energy, we continue north to Green Island Anchorage. Southbound Fury Cove is preferable to Green Island because it gives a head start on the Cape. Going northbound, Allison is preferable to Blunden Harbour for the same reason.

The new option is Pruth Bay at the north end of Calvert Island. For years I have read about the Hakai Institute, looked longingly at the photos of the georgeous Pacific beaches, and perused charts of all the tiny islands in the Goose Group and in Hecate Passage. In fact the entire Hakai Luxvbalis Conservancy Area has hundreds of small western-facing islands in addition to the two main ones: Calvert and Hunter. This huge, protected, undeveloped provincial park extends nearly to Lama Passage.

So we head to Pruth Bay and have the hook down by 3pm. David and I deploy the dinghy, jump in and row to the Institute dock. Nearly a dozen of their boats range from solid inflatables to aluminum research vessels to small, fast passenger ferries. Several young researchers loading gear say they’re looking at oceanography and nearshore geology. The Institute, run by the Tula Foundation in a former fishing lodge, also studies First Nations culture. There are no services for outsiders apart from a welcome kiosk, a restroom, wifi and a path to the beach.

The Pacific beach is extraordinary, more beautiful than what you sail past as you leave Tofino. I don’t take camera or phone in the dinghy but David does – by accident it seems – and before we return slurps up the latest news on wifi.

Can your mind be free
If you need answers now?
Screw your devices!

Tues 31 May – Shearwater 52º08.8’N 128º05.3’W

We rout David from his slumber in the V berth to raise the anchor. I’m eager to go and bring the chain up in a ten second bights, which results in it getting stuck in the tube. I swear, tug from below, run up on deck, tug from above until I heard the tumble down into the bow. The David gets up in the bow, his foot on the switch, his eyes on his Apple watch stopwatch. We’re still not coordinated.

Anchor up, we’re off into Fitzhugh Sound, waveless, wind-less, whale-less. Gorgeous but disappointing. On clear still days like this you can hear whales splash and blow and flumes of mist linger in the air a bit longer.

leaving Hakai

We’ve never had a shorter passage to Shearwater. Seven hours later, we’re approaching the float, Christophe there to take our lines. Expectations are high: there’s wifi, water, public phones, a pub, and a chandlery. With luck, we’ll be able to charge our now-empty phones, iPads, and laptops as well as batteries for Jack’s scooter and the Milwaukee wrench. Shearwater is the only place between Campbell River and Prince Rupert where cruisers can stop to get things fixed.

While we are comparatively undaunted, David is mystified at the succession of problems we’ve faced. “Can’t you just read Consumer Reports and find a boat that’s reliable?,” wonders David. A skipper from Portland in a UofO cap finds this hilarious, thinks for a minute, and recounts – day by day – equipment failures and maintenance required on their similarly sized sailboat.

The guys go shopping and come back with an inverter that is a tenth the weight and three times the capacity of the old one and a double USB plug for the cigarette lighter. An hour later everything is recharged.

After doing laundry and slurping beer and election news at the pub, Jack needs some downtime. So I explore Bella Bella with David. The tin can ferry is terrifyingly fast – dock to dock in less than five minutes. Bella Bella is one of the largest native villages on the coast, the home of the Heiltsuk Nation. As we stroll through town a woman greets us, excitedly offering the first salmon berries of the season. At the fishing port and the solid waste center, we’re among hundreds of eagles, many flying just above our heads. I realize they have a variety of calls, not just the familiar multi note downward trill. The town has everything: a large school, a hospital, a tribal center, social and environmental non-profits, a good grocery, and variety of colorful totem poles. I am surprised that the wastewater treatment plant is on a hill. Good in a tsunami but it must need powerful pumps and efficient electricity generation.

Thur 2 June – Khutze Inlet 53º04’N 128º3’W

Leaving Shearwater, I bring up the fenders but drop the biggest one overboard. As Jack brings the boat around, I head forward with the fending pole and tell David to fetch the extra one from the shower. I belly down on deck and crawl out over the bow, held by the jib-sheet looped around my foot. One swipe and the fender i.e. retrieved. Thirty seconds. We could not have done that a few years back. Everyone is impressed.

We’ve always loved crossing Milbanke Sound and seeing the pretty light stations south and north of it. This morning however, it’s rough, beats us up, keeps David below, pretty miserable. Then we get the waves behind us and it’s a different day.

Oh, Great Pacific!
You throw us mighty waves.
Ha ha! We surf them!

Once we get in Finlayson Channel, I go below to start some soup. By the time we get to Klemtu, it’s ready so I turn off the gas as we approach the fuel dock. The attendant is not to be found: we call, ask around, have lunch. Finally I get a woman at the grocery store to call. “He’s in a family meeting,” she says. Which means someone has died and there won’t be anyone to pump diesel today.

We set out again, motoring up Graham Reach to lovely Kurtz Inlet. Rather than go on to where the Inlet shoals out into a bear beach, we drop the hook in the shelter a notch near the mouth.

Friday, June 3 – Hartley Bay 53º25.4’N 129º15’W

There is no stretch of wilderness less inhabited and more spectacular than the east coast of Princess Royal Island. This is where you find the tallest trees, the boldest waterfalls. It’s the land of the spirit bear, revered by tribes and adventurers alike and off limits to trophy hunters. Maybe someday we’ll see one.

Where Graham Reach turns into Fraser Reach we stop to take a look at the ruins of the old Butedale cannery. The rickety docks and likely fouled bottom of the bay there have prevented us from every spending the night. But while the decay continues, despite the efforts of a recently retired caretaker, a new aluminum ramp signals that things may improve in the future.


Hundreds of canneries have been reclaimed by sea and the forest, however, and maybe that should happen here. (And how many have been saved. Port Edwards near Prince Rupert is the most extensive restoration and hardly anyone goes. Hoonah has turned one into a nice interpretative center and south of Craig one functions as a classy fishing resort. Astoria Oregon has saved a few buildings. Anywhere else? In the Pacific Northwest, weather and wilderness just take over.)

Icy old fingers
Scrapped earth, left waterways
For migrants. Whales. Us.

Liquid silk on stone
Mountain hearts open to showers
Rainforest cascades!

Mackay Reach. Slate grey
With white dots and dashes.
Weather’s Morse Code

By the time we’re in Mackay Reach the color of the water and wave action have changed, as if to tell us something. Wright Sound is rough. We take the waves on various quarters, with a couple of good rocking on the beam. David, having earned, is in the cockpit. We find standing, letting sea legs strengthen works. As we approach the channel into Hartley Bay, Jack says “Oh, no, the depth gauge seems not to be working.” A check of the chart, however, shows we have 1600 feet under our keel! At this depth soundings are impossible and useless. With a few minutes we are back to normal, cruising with 160 feet of water under our keel. Around the bend is the First Nations village of Hartley Bay, population 165.


We’re barely tied up at the fuel float when the attendant welcomes us and sends down the diesel hose from the dock way above. She suggests I use the long handled hook laying on the dock to grab it and avoid falling in. As the diesel flows, she calls out our progress: 70 liters, 80 liters until I slow to listen for the bubbling that shows our take is full.

I go up to pay and ask to leave the boat a few minutes while I scope out 40 feet of dock space. At the moment there isn’t but it’s busy. We’re the only rec boat but local boats are coming and going including the RCMP -the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Then the fuel attendant reappears and within earshot of the Mountie says, “If that RCMP boat could squeeze into that 37 foot space you could go there. I can’t ask, but you might.” Before I know it, the petite blond has moved her boat, leaving the best spot at the docks for us. So Hartley Bay and so Canadian. I am moved.

As soon as I step down to get one of Aurora’s lines on the new toe rail, I hear loud barks followed by a sustained and barely audible growl. A splendid young husky. I can’t help looking her in the eyes because one is blue and the other brown. When I feel the light touch of teeth through the many layers of cloth on my leg, I tug the second line under the rail and, bitter end in hand, jump back to the safety of the boat.

Later in the evening there’s a knock on deck. I emerge to this picture. The dog, her owner, Kyle Clifton, and an enormous crab he’s brought as a peace offering. Seems the elders told him about the dog drama.


I dive into the lazarette for the 12-qt crab pot that hasn’t been used all season because we’re too busy to crab. Crab looks delicious. Huge scary claws, even looks too big for the pot. I ask Kyle if he can break him in two to clean him but he’s a purist, comes with the traditional recipe. I invite him on board to do it right.

Kyle is in charge of a team of wildlife specialists who monitor vast expanses of the Spirit Bear Coast for the Gitga’at First Nation. We pepper him with questions. He tells us where the whales are. We learn that approximately a third of brown bears here are albinos, Spirit Bear. No, there’s no store in Hartley Bay. Folks fish and hunt and provision groceries in Prince Rupert 60 miles away. If they run of sugar borrow from a neighbor. Everyone is in touch on Facebook. We wonder about the new houses along the boardwalks. Earthquake safe? Yep, says Kyle, they’re on still rods punched into the muskeg. Just waiting for folks to new furniture and move in. We hear the history and learn why there are places named Metlakatla north and south of the international border. What about Enbridge? Won’t the pipeline go through now that Keystone XL is stopped? Kyle is fairly confident it won’t. The evidence is in, the legal work done. The Hartley Bay Band of the Gitga’at Nation has been fighting for years. This is where we first heard about this impossible threat, where we got the bumperstickers and posted them on the port side of our salon.

Bumperstickers is probably the wrong word. Hartley Bay has no cars. Apart from several new houses it’s barely changed since our last visit seven years ago. Modest affluence. The foot ferry from Prince Rupert calls twice a week, tying folks here to their kin in the burg of 13,000 sixty miles to the north. Kyle’s family is there and will join him on his boat as soon as school lets out. His wife, who also works for the the tribe is East Indian, via South Africa and Vancouver. We figure that with grand-parentage from Kerala and Calcutta and the Tsimshian and Haida First Nations, nobody but nobody is “more Indian” than Kyle’s kids. Maybe we’ll meet the whole crew on our trip south.

Saturday, June 4 – Kumealon Inlet 53º25.4’N 129º15’W

With Davy still enjoying his zzzz’s, we cast off and get a smooth start on long narrow Grenville Channel.  There’s almost no traffic save a couple  of tugs pulling huge southbound barges with 40 foot containers of frozen fish stacked six-high plus equipment, vehicles, and boats on top of them.  As the second one approaches we hear, “Hailing the northbound sailboat!” on the VHF.  We switch to another channel for instructions on how to pass but the pilot – this must be a hell of a lonely job – just wants to share news of a pod of orcas ahead.  “I got some great video!” he says. I put down my book and focus intently, wearing my eyes out for the next half hour until I see a couple of spouts. No creative orca play but it’s good to know they are there.

A string of small gillnetters passes as does Sleighride, the Ducks from Portland we met at Shearwater.  We encounter them when we turn ino Kumealon Inlet, one of the few good anchorages along Grenville.


Forgot spring ebb! Oops!
Watch anchorage walls close in!
Twenty-four foot drop!

Of course we should have looked at our tide tables before being tempted by that tiny little cove. We even make fun of Sleighride for dropping anchor in a less picturesque spot the middle of the bay.  We relax, take well deserved naps, pour drinks, go up on deck  and watch the tide roll away.  And it does. In this part of the world we have two high and  two low tides a day.  And this we’re coming off a big spring.  Yikes!  A 23.81 feet drop in maybe six hours:  that’s about a foot every quarter hour.   Like  someone has has pulled the plug.  We scramble to re-anchor a quarter boat length away from shore.

Sunday, June 5  – Prince Rupert 5 59º19.2N 130º19.2’W

SkinnyFloatLanding at one of the skinny metal finger floats at the ancient Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club with current ripping below is challenging. So, too, must be keeping anything in place over 150 feet of water. But someone is waiting to take our lines.

Bald eagles swoop overhead. We have the tallest mast around and in a matter of time one perches on our windex, bending it, immobilizing the vane. We can live with this. We’re sailors and we don’t really need a wind vane to know which way the wind blows.

Prince Rupert’s deep water port has turned it into the biggest city on the Northern BC coast.  Of course, there’s no competition. We discover that the Alaska State Ferry calls there and both picks up and drops off passengers. This happens just after midnight so on our ferry trips we just hadn’t noticed.


Wed 8 June – Foggy Bay 54º56.9’N 130º56.3’W

We head out in the fog, me on the bow blowing the horn, rousing David from otherwise undisturbed slumber. We navigate Venn Passage on a low but rising tide and head out into open water. Beautiful morning. We cross the border, haul down the Maple Leaf flag, and pick up some bars of AT&T. Jack calls Customs and Border Protection in Ketchikan to get permission to anchor just over the border, rather than continuing on all the way to Ketchikan. In the afternoon, we wind our way among the rocks through the hidden entrance to Foggy Bay.

It’s a perfect evening and so we hang out on deck. I do a photo shoot of David with Jack for the folks back in Pittsburg.


Thurs 9 June – Ketchikan

David cheers. We’ve arrived!  We snug into Thomas Basin behind enormous cruise ships. Within minutes the customs officer appears from her office in the federal building overlooking the harbor and were free to roam.  In the monsoonal rains the city is famous for, we do our laundry, bring on a few provisions, and celebrate David’s last day with a trip to Totem Bight.

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.

Log: Watery Roads through the Wilderness

Wednesday, May 28  Campbell River  50º28.9’N 125º45.2’W Rips, ripples, and whirlpools. All day. Which get us off to a slow start because we have to wait for slack before traversing the notorious Seymour Narrows. The waters froth and bubble but are good enough to get us out of civilization and into the wilderness. Straight north along Discovery Passage. We’re headed for Alaska so no niceties like stopping by to see Mark and Cynthia in our beloved Shoal Bay are all reserved for the return trip. Instead of turning right into Nodales Channel we turn left into a section of Johnstone Strait and plow the seas against the tide all afternoon, in the teeth of a south flowing flood and the strong wind on our nose. This leaves a 4 or 5 knot gap between our boat speed and our speed over land. It’s beautiful day and I’m happy to be at the helm, but completely unaware how exhausted it’s leaving me.

As soon as we got to Mayne Channel we shot though with the flood into Greene Point Rapids. The long day is fading and we are way past slack by the time we get to Whirlpool Rapids. We pull into Forward Harbour and drop the hook, too close to shore, as it happened. Bringing the anchor up I scream at myself for jamming it so soon after figuring out how to avoid doing so. The next try puts us right in front of a fishing boat. Its skipper didn’t appear on deck  – probably is asleep – so we let it be, have supper, feel the wind die and sleep.

At anchor with waterfalls above.  Jack's photo.
At anchor with waterfalls above. Jack’s photo.

Thursday, May 29  Katwsi Bay  50º52’N 126º14’W  Imagine an anchorage from which you can look straight up through your galley hatch at a rock face with three waterfalls whose rushing flow competes with the songs of forest birds. It’s a little like being moored at the foot Half Dome. We are in Katwsi Bay, a finger of watery wilderness off Tribune Channel. A hundred feet from shore we were in hundred feet of water so we had to snug in close to the shore, less than a boat length away. We’ll be out of here before tomorrow’s spring low low tide.

It was a long day punctuated by naps. Johnstone Strait was on its best behavior and delivered us to Havannah Channel. Cruz took us through narrow Chatham Channel, steady on 271º east and then through the Blowhole along Minstrel Island. It is so named because back in the days when loggers and fishermen still lived in these parts year round, the settlement here hosted minstrel shows.

Today the year-rounders are corporate extractors. On the north side of Tribune Channel a new brown ribbon of clear cutting appears several hundred feet above the forested shoreline. It runs for several miles. As we see no skids, we figure the logs were removed one by one by helicopter and dropped into the water, where the log booms were formed. Must have been a huge operation. The international corporations that operate the farms that raise Atlantic salmon (color added) are taking up more and more of the shoreline, ugly large pens bolted to the shore, marked by large yellow plastic floats. There’s even one in front of Lacy Falls. What fish farming “extracts” is the purity of the waters and the genetic exclusivity of native stocks of chinook, coho, and sockeye.

Up here there are no ports, no trollers, gillnetters,or longliners, though you see the occasional family shrimping operation. We saw one small boat with its DIY processing and packing area built out significantly over the stern. It’s unlikely this boat has a freezer, so it probably calls a float plane when the shrimp is ready to ship.

Steep cliffs rise from great depths.
Steep cliffs rise from great depths.

So does this leave recreational boaters with no place to tie up? Not exactly.There are nearly a dozen seasonal, family run marinas that dot the maze of the Broughtons narrow channels. One finds them every 25 miles or so. They serve cruisers in the same way that country inns served motorists a century ago in the earliest days of road trips. Mostly are float operations tethered to the shore in small bays among the steep glacier carved cliffs that rise straight from the sea.  (Hiking is impossible most places and boats with dogs on board simply shun the Broughtons.) The owners and managers of these magical marinas are passionate about the area and possess the practical knowledge required to provide electricity and water and dispense diesel fuel while making sure their guests take their trash and other wastes away with them.

No one was better at this than Bill Barber. His renowned Lagoon Cove has no store, no café, a single shower stall and a wi-fi modem shared in off hours with a nearby aquatic research station. But Bill could tell stories like nobody else and always made sure there was a plate of fresh shrimp at 5 pm pot luck happy hours. When Bill passed away from cancer in the spring of 2013, a great sense of loss descended over the cruising community. As we’d missed last summer, we stopped with condolences and found the marina filling up with early season boats. Pat and Bob, the managers, said we’d just missed Bill’s widow, Jean, who’d been there with a realtor a few days earlier. Selling the place will not be easy as it requires an owner with Bill’s level of energy, creativity, and ability to solve complex problems in the wilderness.

A traditional prawner passes a corporate fish farm.

Friday, May 30  Blunden Harbour 50º54’N 127º16.7’W We pull the hook at 5:40am, rousing Cruz just long enough to flake the chain in the locker in the bow so it doesn’t jam. Dawn is a spectacular play of light, color and mist. We wend our way through the deep fiords of the “Mainland” and exit into Queen Charlotte Strait through Wells Passage. We’re making incredibly good time heading west and northwest in favorable weather, which comes in that same direction and strengthens in the afternoon. It’s too strong to continue on to Allison Harbour so we pull into Blunden.  In the past we’ve sheltered among as many as twenty-five boats while waiting for favorable weather to get past Cape Caution. This time we are alone. In fact, we have not seen a single recreational boat since we left Lagoon Cove.

Saturday, May  31  Green Island  51º38.5’N 127º50.3’W  Wow! Not only have we rounded Cape Caution, we’ve come farther than we could have imagined a week ago. Rhythm among the crew is now well established so we spell one another and manage. Departure at 5 am is no problem for Jack and me and S/V Aurora is appropriately named. Cruz is a night owl who spells us when we start to fade and and is cooking on all three burners by 8 pm when it’s time for dinner followed by bed. Today we’ve covered nearly 60 nautical miles and, as expected, the roughest seas to date. On the first 28 miles on the way to Cape Caution, Jack hailed the skipper of a southbound tug with tow to who said conditions aroun Caution were better than where we were. Which was heading into the particularly roiled waters where Slingsby Channel dumps into the Pacific.

Only a handful of boats rounded Caution this morning and morning is what counts: Three powerful tugs, two with tows, a gill netter, a Canadian Coast Guard cutter, and three rec boats – a southbound ketch a and northbound a big powerboat, a big, fast sloop and us. Once round Caution, we pushed on rather than wend our way though the Egg Islands and their neighboring rocks. As I hadn’t reviewed Jack the Skipper’s navigation plan, I suffered the why-aren’t-we-there-yets all afternoon. Approaching the gaping mouth of Fitzhugh Sound we zig zagged, hitting the 9 foot swells first on the bow quarter and then getting some relief by having them push us on the stern quarter. In time we were in, motoring up the Sound past the Addenbrooke Island Light Station but disappointed to find that the Humpbacks were not yet feeding. At 3:30pm we pulled into the well-known and well-protected Green Island anchorage in Fish Egg Inlet. We’re the only boat here. A welcoming party from the Canadian Coast Guard cutter and some of their Fish and Wildlife cronies stopped by in an inflatable, checking decks for fishing gear and traps, we suspect. We’ve no time for that, you can only get licenses on line and we’re completely unplugged and enjoying the wilderness.

Cruz on a day to relax & read.
Cruz. On this day to relax and read.

Sunday, June 1. Bella Bella/Shearwater 52º08.8’N 128º05’W  We motored through Fitzhugh Sound through many shades of grey. Yet the sun was burning hot by  the time we reached the First Nations community of Bella Bella and neighboring Shearwater, the first outpost for communications and provisions since Campbell River.  The passage was windless and the waters wide. We’re making progress on our route and through our books.  Harbor Master Christophe met us on the Shearwater dock with the news that new WiFi reaching all boats was only two days old.   Relaxing day.  I did laundry, Cruz polished up the deck and Jack cheered us  on.   Back into the wilderness tomorrow, with an overnight at wonderful Khurtz Inlet on Grenville Channel.

Monday, June 2. Khutze Inlet  53º05.2N 128º28.1’W We got off a late start – nearly seven according to Jack’s log – thanks to an old salt who called over to me at the dumpster as he was waking up with coffee and a cigarette. I agreed that the weather was promising and commented that Shearwater looked great, particularly the new mural commemorating the top twelve of Shearwater and Bella Bella, Native and not alike. He said yes, it’s taken awhile for the Central Coast to get organized but now they are. And went on to rail against Enbridge, fish farms,and corporations, sprinkling it all with references to ancient history and the Bible. A group of attractive, muscular young men went by, packs dangling hiking boots, short shovels in hand. Clam diggers? No, tree planting. They start at $200 a day but one once got so good at it he made $900. What kind of trees, I wonder. “Oh, there’s not trees for harvest,” the skipper of the Clowchan Spirit says. “The Tribes want the land restored to its original state. So it’s a mix.”

We pull out into the fog, even turn the radar on, but it’s not needed. In the channels between two of the prettiest light stations on the coast is Joanna Rock. Ugly. Barren. Low lying. I figure the guy that named this place mush have really had something against Joanna, whoever she was. Then the sun beams as we pull out into Milbanke Sound with its open ocean horizon and Japan beyond. It’s dead flat. Then north into with a bit of push. When Cone Island appears we take the Klemtu Channel to get some diesel. Apart from the school on the hill, the lovely Great House on the water and the now scheduled flights from Bella Bella in a twin engine goose plane that lands on its belly, Klemtu seems a bit more down at the heals every time we pass. The dock’s still a mess. No sign of a fuel dock but with binoculars we spot some hoses and pull up behind a boat noisily disgorging farm fish into a processing plant. It looks as though they are moving a lot of product as standing by to filled and then to southern markets are huge new refrigerator trucks, minus their cabs. BEAUTIFUL BC FARMED SALMON screams across the sides in four-foot high all caps. Salmon, my eye. Frankenfishy descendants of an extinct Atlantic species raised in prison. Color added. In fact, what’s all that pink scum around the dock? Klemtu seems sad. So different from Shearwater/Bella Bella; a universe of difference from the tidy Gitma’at Band of subsistence fishers at Hartley Bay. For some reason a tune comes into my head: the way we learned to count backwards. “Ten little, nine little, eight little Indians…”

Weird sail plan works well.
Weird sail plan works well.

We fill up – Jack guesses we can take 100 liters and feels smart it turns out to be 97. No bad for all the way from Lagoon Cove plus the stresses endured rounding Cape Caution. The wind in Tolmie Channel is on our nose as it has been for much of the trip. The sunny days and warm breezes that have been with us the whole trip don’t want to quit, which is fine. The high pressure system, however, means northwest winds that circle in clockwise from the sea to brake our headway. But then for some strange reason, the wind changes direction and is on our stern! With the tide moving in the same direction, no less. Suddenly it gets animated in the cockpit, as Jack and Cruz try to squeeze out a little more speed than brought by the jib, which is poled out on port. Rather than start over and turn into the wind to bring up the main and go wing on wing, they figure out way to do it. Traveller gets moved was far as it will to starboard, the mainsheet out all the way, reefing cords dangling just above the surface of the water. Then they raise the main half way up against the shroud. Voilà a “square sail”. It works. Water, wind, boat move silently all together along our chosen course. My jaw drops as a little trough appears between two wavelets in front of our bow and just stays there. A beautiful sail.

Everything is green this year.
Everything is green this year.

As the sun disappears behind the mountains, we pull into Khutze Inlet, a favorite place the Inside Passage and the first with tidewater ice. As there is considerably less snow on the peaks than in previous years, we wonder how big the blocks of ice that fall to water level from the cascades above will be. On arrival, the falls are blanketed in green: there is no ice whatsoever!   (Check out photos of the ice on _____and  July 8, 2012.)


Compare with 2012 tidewater ice!
Compare with 2012 tidewater ice!

Tuesday, June 3. Lowe Inlet. 53º334’N 129º34’W  Today this log is just the essentials. Something stupid happened and I’m not ready to talk about it. Amazingly, Skipper Jack kept upbeat. “Just think! This is a story you’ll never forget.” True. That made me think of the last time something like this happened. Over a decade ago I finally got my driver’s license. Had to drive out to a Commonwealth of Virginia DMV testing site somewhere way outside Arlington, Virginia. So far so good. Then I passed the test.

Got back in the car and Jack was so nervous that he made me drive. Into what was then a driving grey rainstorm. Going over a bridge less than two miles from the DMV I managed to sideswipe a big grey car passing me. No damage anyone other than both cars. Completely undone, disgraced, forlorn. The only person I managed to tell about it was Jerry Schwarz. He hooted. “That’s one great story! And you’ll have it for the rest of your life!” True.

Wednesday, June 4. Prince Rupert. 54º19’N 130º19’W An early start, well before 5 am. Mostly because only Jack got a night’s sleep and getting up at four is normal. A rare bit of drizzle as we moseyed up Grenville, alternating naps. Then the confused confusing approach to Prince Rupert, shirting the board Skeena River delta on the east and a bunch of pesky rocks on the west. Plus a couple of what I can only call TMT moments. Too Much Testosterone. Jack and Cruz started racing a couple of boat behind us and then raced to the dock when they heard the other boats trying to line up moorage but unable to get through on their satellite phones.   When we lower the main, we find one of the battens has blown out of the slug that moved up and down the track in the main.  And the ring in the pins of adjacent slugs need replacing.  One more thing for the Prince Rupert to do list.

Cruz at work while the Captain "supervises".
Cruz at work while the Captain “supervises”.

The ancient and grandly named Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club is a rattle of metal floats; you tie up at grillwork over styrofoam 18 inches wide. Pad eyes rather than cleats or the nice wooden toerails you find everywhere else in Canada. The whole thing floats over a hundred feet of water, so so rock filled sea walls to control the slurp and rush of the flow.

The staff are nice as can be but too busy to helping boats get in across the impossible currents to respond to VHF hailing, or for that matter, sat phone calls. So when we’re close we just tie up on the outside finger and the guy runs down to us and sends us to where he thinks we’re supposed to be. And the TMT team just goes for it, knowing the other hapless (nice elderly Canadian) boats may be out of luck. And the current slams us into the the end of the big ugly rusted pipe that serves as the breakwater. And suddenly there’s more work to do. Cruz takes it on. Jack does a bit of supervision but mostly pits in Kindle time. Cruz and me, we stay really busy in Prince Rupert.


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.

Daily Sailing Log – First Fortnight of June 2011

June 5    Point Wilson behaves and we sail across Juan de Fuca. Speed up Cattle Pass and tie up at Friday Harbor. Talk to skipper of schooner Spike Africa. Tour town on foot (amazed at sheer number of public restrooms but that’s another story). Grab a couple of chops from the supermarket and as I’m cooking them a guy pulls up in kayak, later in sailboat, joining us for supper. Fast talking Alaska fisherman called Ike. Gets $20 cash in return for an iffy check and his story of saving Barbara his Jack Russell in the middle of Juan de Fuca and losing wallet and credit cards in the process.

Neighbor boats

June 6 Cross Boundary channel and put up the Canadian pennant. Pass customs at Poet’s Cove in Bedwell Harbour before sailing on to Galiano Island. Tie up on a buoy in Montague Harbour with a view of anchored neighbors: A red sloop, a troller, an antique schooner and the bakery – fresh bread, pies, and cinnamon buns to tempt the crews of the dozens of boats here in a few weeks. Marine Park attendant comes around in a dinghy to collect the $12, saving us the trouble of inflating ours. Start Farmers of Forty Centuries and put away some of the stuff in the V-berth. Lovely sunset.

June 7 We scrape bottom going out because we are trusting memory rather than the chart. Motor up west coast of Galiano to Proiler Pass, arriving at slack. Cross Strait of Georgia with all sails out catching southwesterlies and arriving English Bay on one tack. Bay is brown, probably both the Fraser and local streams. Lady Washington appears from the south, motoring. Lions Gate waters very ruffled but no problem. Tie up in C65 at Coal Harbour. Deal with email in pm. Announce arrival to Poonam and Arvind and to the Habibs. Walk the waterfront past the spectacular new Convention Center with its ecoroof and signs telling wonderful stories. First visit to Gastown. Supper under a heat lamp in a sidewalk pub. Jack has halibut chips, I opt for the wild mushroom penne. Delicious.

June 8 Long walk day. We take the Burrard bus over the bride to Kits and visit the Maritime Museum. It’s home to the St. Roch, the RCMP ship that made a two year voyage through the Northwest Passage in 1944, only the second ship to do so after Admunsen. Several years ago the museum sponsored a rerun: they made it in 27 days thanks to the intervening meltdown. Museum is good, basic. Lady Washington and Hawaiian Cheiftan are both tied up at modest docks. Eschew cute False Creek taxi to come back along the path. Pass Shakespeare Festival under lovely tents and opt to take the bus back and of course do the waterfront again. Can’t find a place in the sidewalk cafe near the seaplane base so go back to the boat. Besides the Canucks are losing. We know they do when the evening passed without horns honking.

June 9 Haul the dinghy out and inflate it expecting it to go limp: it doesn’t. Don’t know why it did last fall at Longbranch. Put together all of my Sustainable P work for Jim Cotner in hopes he can do something with it, though Tim Crews’ recommendation on Farmers of Forty Centuries is at least as interesting as 18th century sanitation infrastructure. Arvind and Poonam show up with an early supper of sag paneer and cumin potatoes and stay the evening. Thinking Frances might know a Saraiki-language librarian, we call and invite her over. She’s busy – playing in a professional string quintet – and so we agree to meet in Victoria in late July.

Gulalai and Habib

June 10 Take the SkyTrain out to Burnaby to see the Habibs. Stop by and say hello to her Mom. They absolutely love Burnaby. Really rooted. Sold their house to a developer and now are renting but have bought a beautiful new house which they are renting to former owners. Walk around Deer Lake with yellow iris in bloom and white blossoms ready to pop on lilly pads. Somehow after arriving back home, we are seated at a splendid dinner. Gulalai knows how to organize and time things. We are introduced to Osh, a soup of meat, coarsely chopped vegetables, mushrooms, spaghetti, and thickened with karout, a semi solid fermented, garlicky cheese made of goats milk. Gulalai gets it from a Persian shop and of course sends us how with a bottle, along with homemade pickles and a cake sent over by Mom. As ordered we arrive empty handed and return full handed.

June 11  Early departure for the Sunshine Coast where the entry to Pender Harbour seems as unfamiliar as ever. But Fisherman’s Marina is as familiar as ever. Dave and Jennifer greet us on the docks. At 10 pm I’m talking to all the people assembled at the Sheraton Karachi to celebrate the 20th anniversary of KZR. Imran gives a very heartwarming little speech on my contribution to the founding of the Development Division and I am somewhat at a loss for words. But, not quite sure Skype will work, I have sent some thoughts ahead in an email.

June 12  I beg a day’s lingering. Finish up the emails, delegate PHLUSH tasks, fix the website a bit. In the afternoon we hear some good music at the Garden Bay Cafe before taking a walk along the lake. When we get really old we should just moor there at Fisherman’s for a month.

Squirrel Cove sunset

June 13   Under sail we run up the coastpast Powell river and Lund, where Route 1 comes to an utter and final end.   We take the chance to try out the Monitor Windvane then bring it in and reef.  While reefing the sail catches in the clip of the lazy jacks and I fear it has caught a thread; it hasn’t and an easy fix is to reverse the direction of the clips.  Will also remind Lisa, our rigger who designed the otherwise-brilliant jacks to make sure they get installed right.  Finally we sail into Desolation Sound, splendid and desolate, Mt. Denman towering behind, white with snow, jagged, unsmoothed by later ice ages. We tie up at the public dock, run by the tribes, supported by Fisheries at Squirrel Cove.

Waiting for tide at Big Bay

June 14 Pre-six am departure for the rapids. Hurry up and wait. Passed by Mary Grace, a trawler from PT that ties up on D dock. Enter the rapids 20 minutes before dead low slack. Piece of cake. But no time until high slack for the other ones so we go on into Big Bay. Tie up at the Stuart Island Community Dock, supported by Transportation. Empty except for old wooden tug, southbound, inhabited by family with 30 year old memories of lots of salmon and good times. Now Big Bay is on the one hand ramshackle and on the other fancy fly in fishing lodges. A private helicopter lands nearby as I finally sink into an afternoon of reading and writing. Three some hours into our stay, the flood runs our mooring lines taught and roaring rapids fill the soundscape. Then just before it turns to an ebb we fight through the whirlpools of Gaillard and pass the Dent Islands on a mirror sea. This is the most lovely part of the trip. At the intersection of Codero Channel and Nodales Channel and Frederick Arm, it starts to pour. An hour later we are in struggling sun, tying up at the public dock at our beloved Shoal Bay, opposite Philips Arm, or as Jack call it, my “screen saver.”   I try my hand at cooking Afghan “osh,” using the karout goat’s milk paste that Gulalai gave us.  Roger, a Shoal Bay volunteer and inhabitant of a ketch he built himself comes by with a nice dog and some of the news. Seems the dog belongs to Mark MacDonald’s wife, the widow of a close friend. The most eligible bachelor of the coast is now a married man.

June 15  A rest day. I just can’t rouse myself out of bed until 8:30 am. The snows are still way below the tree line on the hills at the head of Philips Arm and things are busy at the Shoal Bay settlement. Kelly and his wife are back for what must be at least five seasons. He’s helping frame the roof of the new house Mark is building. Kelly’s wife is tossing around flag stones on the path to the laundry and shower, Roger is rebuilding the boardwalk and the woman pushing a mower through too tall grass (must be the first dry day in a while) turns out to be Cindy, the new bride. She is lovely and loves wintering at Shoal Bay. (Lots on Shoal Bay on blog in 2008 and 2009 blogs-will get links in here soon.)  The rest of the day doesn’t go as well.   The Canucks lose game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals on home territory and I realize I have been very stupid.  Returning to the boat, I linger on the dock talking with Jack who’s sitting in the late day sun reading, the wake of a now-invisible boat bounces Aurora’s stern and I realize our inflatable dinghy is at risk.  Just as I prepare to rescue it, the Monitor Windvane slashes through its bow!   I pull it up on dock.   We’ve got a patch kit but the patches are 4 inches in diameter and the slash is  a six inch vertical tear.   Jack suggests gluing on a piece of the bike inner tube we use to bungie his scooter and the ladder to the deck.  Fortunately I check with Roger who points out that glues and patches are very specific and advises reading the manual.  But he recommends something not in the manual: if the breech is large, patch from the inside.   We spend the rest of the evening in the painstakingly gluing two overlapping rounds inside the tear.  At least it isn’t raining.  We roll up the dinghy and let it cure on deck.