We got up early in hopes of calm winds in the Strait of Georgia in the morning. Today, we hoped to cruise around Mitlenatch Island, a bird sanctuary that lies in the middle of the Strait of Georgia and then try a little fishing around Grant Reefs. We also wanted to arrive at Powell River in time to find a space at the marina. We made a silent departure, not wanting to wake the people on the other boats, and headed out.
The climate south of Johnstone Strait and Discovery Passage is so much sunnier and warmer than the climate to the North, where we had been. The water temperature in the Strait of Georgia is around 60-65 degrees, nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the water to the North. The sun can also be very intense in the summer. Today proved no exception to that rule. The sun was out and it was warming up.
We headed out and over to Mitlenatch. This is a special island to us. Several years ago, we purchased a watercolor painting by an artist who lives near Port Neville. She spends summers as the naturalist on Mitlenatch Island in a small, rough watch keeper's house. The watercolor is the view out of her window on the island. We like it a lot. It reminds us of our trips out this way.
Dona and Debbie had visited Mitlenatch in May and found commorants, Rhinocerous Awklets, murres, Pigeon Gillamots, and other birds. They also discovered Harbour Seals and Stellar Sea Lions on the southern side of the island. This time the Stellar Sea Lions were gone, probably travelling further north to find food and also mate before returning to California for the winter. The Harbour Seals were still there, however, and looking cute as ever in the many poses they struck, some trying to keep their rear flippers and heads out of the water. Some just melting into the rocks.. We will share photos above.
After watching the birds and seals for a bit, we headed to Grants Reefs, across the Strait of Georgia. When we arrived, John started jigging for ling cod and rock fish in about 100 feet of water. He had a strike and, reeling in, discovered a shark (called dogfish in these waters). We cut the line and rerigged. John caught another shark. Figuring that this must be a place for sharks, and little else, we pulled in our lines and headed to Powell River.
Powell River (actually Westview) is an old fashioned marina, one that serves fishing boats first and private boaters second. We like it that way. The docks are old and a little warped, there are many shrimp and crab boats tied up, and it has a really funky type of feel to it. The Harbormaster is known for always making room for another boat when it comes in, so it is not uncommon to be rafting with another boat. We tied up and went up to town to the café and bakery for our Internet fix and a snack. Along the way, Don took a peak in the finest fishing gear store between Seattle and Juneau. It is a great place!!
When we got back, a wedding was taking place near us, on a boat. It was a small party and after the ceremony, they raised a sail that said, "Just Married." Cute! Then, a boat came in looking to raft up. A number of other boaters sort of ignored him but we welcomed him to tie up alongside of us, as long as we could depart early in the morning. He was happy to do so since he, too, needed to depart early. We tied him up alongside our boat and helped him with his power cord.
Don made dinner, linguini with marinara sauce and Italian sausage. It looked pretty good. We will attach a photo. Then, Day 2 of the Iron Chef Jiffy Pop Contest. This time the women took their turns. Katie and Sarah did well, with Sarah taking the winning score with 32 points. I guess the men will have to practice their stuff this winter so as not to be embarrassed next year.
This morning Debbie and Don got the boat underway in stealth mode at 6 am, so as not to wake the other boaters. We needed to make it to Dent rapids at precisely the right time to avoid Devil's Hole. Devil's Hole is a huge whirlpool that occurs in Cordero Channel, just south of Dent Rapids when the tide is either ebbing or flooding. It has been known to suck boats down and spit them out a bit later. We wanted to avoid that possibility, so it became important to read our tide charts correctly and get the time of slack water correct. Then, of course, you have to time your approach so you are there at slack water.
We checked and double checked our estimates and concluded that slack water in that section was at 7:45. That was our target. As we were cruising in the early am, some members of the crew got up to see the excitement. We were all disappointed (a bit) to realize that we had timed everything perfectly and we ran through Dent, Gillard, and Yaculta Rapids at precisely slack water. There was not a single whirlpool to been seen and photographed. I guess that was a good news, bad news type of story.
Having navigated the most challenging part of the journey successfully, we then cruised up Calm Channel, Sarah's fav place on the whole trip ;-), and headed over to see what was cooking in Teakerne Arm and the waterfall there, that runs into the ocean. We found the waterfall crowded with boaters anchored there. It was BC Day weekend and everyone was out. The waterfall, very full in the spring, was still running so we took a few photos of the waterfall and a log boom that was tied to the shore, awaiting a tug to tow it to a mill. Then we headed over to Heriot Bay and Drew Harbour as the wind was beginning to pick up. It was a bit of a tricky landing at Taku Marina, with all of the wind. We managed it, though, and settled in hoping the wind would drop so we could drop Rubber Ducky and go fishing. That, however, was not to be. Debbie and the others hiked up a steep hill to go to a grocery store to pick up a few things. Don stayed at the boat to fill up our tanks with water.
That evening, Don grilled a great steak dinner with steaks we had located in Bellingham, at the beginning of the trip. After initially seeing a limited meat selection there, Katie was smart enough to ask the butcher if he had anything better for grilling. He did and boy did he did!! The steaks looked awesome and Katie and Don had been tempted to eat them all on the first part of the trip, but being the exceptional crew mates on this boat that they are, they had been saving them until everyone was on board. Tonight was the night for those exceptional steaks. We will post a photo. Delish!!!
After dinner, we had the first portion of "Iron Chef Jiffy Pop", a new extravaganza on this trip thought up by Don and Katie. Don and Katie had picked up 5 Jiffy Pops in Bellingham. Jiffy Pops are a self-contained package of popcorn, butter, a pan and an aluminum foil top that expands as the kernels pop. It was a Leu family tradition that Don's dad would always bring a Jiffy Pop on each backpacking trip and each time he would burn it horribly and get grief from everyone. So, to honor his memory, Katie and Don picked up a Jiffy Pop for each person in Bellingham. The contest would be scored with 2 points for each burned piece and 1 point for each kernel that was not popped. The lowest score would win.
This evening was to be the men's turn, so they could show the ladies how to pop Jiffy Pop. Don and John did pretty well, but had scores in the 40's. Don should have had bonus points for no burnt popcorn pieces and John should have received bonus points for exceptional butter distribution, but the women on the boat wanted none of that. The men's scores certainly left room for the women to do better. They are scheduled for tomorrow night. (One can eat only so much popcorn at a time!!)
We went to bed happy that we had made it past Devil's Hole and would now begin our trip down Georgia Strait.
We got up this morning at Echo Bay --- well, at least some of us got up (Debbie and Don). The forward cabin (Sarah and John) and the aft cabin (Katie) thought we were in a different time zone, and slept in. ;-)
I want to say, too, that a few readers have praised Sarah for her blogs. Let me point out that Sarah's blog entry is in the singular form, not the plural. Don has been slaving away, writing blog entries. He stays up until 3 am trying to find just the right words. Not that he is looking for any praise or anything, mind you. Just recognition for what is right. (BTW, nice work, Sarah!!)
We had to hang around this morning until 9 am, when the sailboat ahead of us, Princess Illiana, departed. Then we could depart. We left in the fog. But, thanks to Captain Don's exquisite chart routing and planning we were in good hands. Captain Don had planned to arrive at Chatham Channel at noon, just when the tidal current would be perfect. He also planned to cross Johnstone Strait, a location where the winds really build up in the afternoon, by 2 pm, which, we did! The crew was lucky to have such a talented navigator aboard.
The captain suffers from one small problem. He needs a nap in the morning. So Debbie took the crew through the dangerous Chatham Channel. She pulled it off without a hitch and questions were raised about needing Captain Don on board. There was brief talk of a mutiny, but when the Captain awoke, he threatened 40 lashes for anyone who doubted his skills.
During this time, we saw a haul out for harbour seals, a rock island that was easy for them to get up on. They looked so funny, lifting their tails and heads up so as not to get wet from the rising tide.
After Chatham Channel, we went down Johnstone Strait. It was just as Captain Don predicted, 10-15 knots and building. We saw 5-10 salmon jumping multiple times as we passed. Clearly, they we thankful that we were departing their home waters. Or, maybe it was that they were simply laughing at us for not having caught our summer salmon. Johnstone Strait kicked up to 30 knots, just as we left the final section, near Fanny Island.
Once we hit calmer waters, Captain Don turned the helm over to Debbie to take a break. As he was getting into a comfortable rest position, Sarah's ipod started playing "Hotel California," one of Captain Don's all-time favs. Immediately he was up and dancing around the boat: happy he got the tides and weather spot on; happy he was in northern BC; happy he was on a boat with his family; and, just happy. He may be in trouble, though, if his daughter posts the video that she took of his dance on this blog or on YouTube. It was not something you would want others to see!
Somewhere in here, Katie, Sarah, Debbie, and John picked the crab we caught and cooked yesterday. They picked a large bowl, and then fixed a prime rib, Dungeoness Crab, and lettuce salad. It was too good!!!
About 4 pm, we arrived at Cordero Lodge, a small, old fashioned marina (no power or fuel) in Cordero Channel. We encountered strong currents as we sought our landing at the dock but Captain Don gunned the boat into reverse at just the right moment and saved the day...again...by bringing the boat to a smart, snappy landing ...in front of cheering crowds!!
Cordero Lodge is reputed to have an outstanding German restaurant. We decided to explore and see what foraging might bring us. It was awesome. The Weinerschnitzel was to die for as was the Apple Strudel. And, at the end, the older, German owner brought us special complimentary schnapps. Debbie sipped, while the rest of us tossed it down.
We wrapped up the day with a day of Pitch, a long time family card game. It ended as the most perfect day of the trip. Captain Don reigned supreme!!
Tomorrow, we have to get up very early so as to make a safe passage by Devils Hole, an enormous whirlpool that has taken boats down. We need to double check our tide tables, but is looks like we will need to depart at 6 am in order to catch slack water at Dent Rapids at 8 am.
One of the things our family enjoys doing on the boat is playing card games. Pitch, or "Hi, Lo, Jack, Joker, Game", has been a Leu family tradition for ages. I was taught to play by my grandpa and at one point got so good at it that my uncle would have me play his hands for him (for money) when I was 10 at family reunions. Sadly, not many people know how to play this game, but we always play it when we are together. On the way to Pierre's Echo Cove, Sarah and I taught the game to John and we proceeded to play.
In order that this blog might be somewhat educational (maybe this should be under "technical tips" lol), here are the rules for Pitch: In each hand, players are competing for up to 5 points: Hi, Lo, Jack, Joker, and Game. Hi is the highest card or the trump suit (more on that later), Lo is the lowest trump suit card, Jack is the jack of trump suit, Joker is the joker, and Game is the total number of points each player takes in a hand. The game ends when someone reaches 11 points.
The deal rotates, and 6 cards are dealt to each player, 3 at a time (my Grandpa was very insistent on the three at a time part. Though this always bothered me, Wikipedia confirms that this is the correct way to deal). The person immediately to the left of the dealer starts the bidding. You bid based on how many of the 5 points available you think you will be able to take. You can bid anywhere from 2-5 points. You can also pass. If you bid 5 (aka "shooting the moon") and win, you win the game automatically. The Jack and Joker are not always out, though, and this must be taken into consideration. If everyone passes to the dealer, the dealer must bid 2. Bidding goes around, and all bidders have the option to outbid higher bids if they so desire. People who pass cannot jump back into the bidding.
The person who wins the bidding determines the trump suit by the first card they play. If they play, for example, the ace of spades, spades is the trump suit. You have to follow suit if you have it, except you can play trump at any time. The game then proceeds, with people taking various tricks. Whoever plays the lowest card of trump gets to keep it aside as a point for Lo, even if someone else takes the trick it is played in. So, for example, if Sarah leads with the ace of trump, and John plays the deuce of trump, John gets to keep the deuce of trump for Low. Sarah would, however, take the rest of the cards in the trick. Jack can be taken by a higher card of trump, as can Joker, which plays as a card between the T and J. Game is calculated based on the tricks you have taken with all T's as 10 points, all J's as 1, all Q's as 2, all K's as 3, and all A's as 4. After all 6 tricks are played, points are determined. People who did not bid can win points, but the bidder must make their bid or they are set (as in the game "Spades") and you lose the number of points you bid, regardless of any points below that you may have made, though you cannot go negative.
Pitch is a really fun game and sadly, after we taught John how to play he kicked our butts with his aggressive bidding and luckbucket ways. Shortly after he kicked our butts, we were called to the bow by my Mom. Several Pacific White-sided Dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) were surfing in the bow wave of our boat. John got some really amazing video of this (see attached video below). I've seen lots of dolphins before, but not ever like this. There were so close, it felt like we could reach out and touch them as they played in the wave.
Later in the day, we made it to Pierre's Echo Bay, a nice, relatively small marina (though they had a very well stocked general store for others who may be boating in the area). We had to back our boat in between two other boats, stern first. The other boat owners came out onto their decks as we squeezed backwards, looking somewhat nervous until it became clear that we were not going to hit their boats. After docking we ran into some friends from Squalicum Harbour Marina, the owners of "Eagle's Gig," another Grand Banks. John and Mom went for a walk while Sarah and I played Gin and my Dad took a nap. Wednesday night at Pierre's Echo Bay is prime rib night and the owners of the marina prepared a giant prime rib meal on which we all stuffed ourselves. In addition to prime rib, we had baked potatoes, green beans, carrots, corn succotash, salad, rolls, raspberry cheesecake, and peanut butter pie, a la mode. After such a great meal, we were all very sleepy and turned in early.
I write poetry on these trips, more to entertain myself than anything else, but I have dreams of publishing a collection of my poems with photographs. I already have a title picked out and most of the poems I write fit: Finding Meaning from Mountains, Seeking Lessons at Sea. Here is a draft of one that seemed to emerge on this trip. It was prompted by an episode during our May cruise.
PASS IT ON
These three simple words
Carry a history of meaning
In cold Northwest waters, the BC north coast.
We keep common watch
For deadheads and danger
For safe harbour and weather and all we hold dear.
We count on each other
Commox Coast Guard is South
A radio voice, so far from us here.
You measure your skill
By the problems you solve
Tidal races, poor holding, oncoming gales.
The rough coastal waters
Challenge all of your courage,
And your ability to inhale majesty, on the grandest of grand scales.
"Queen Charlottes outside? No water on that coast."
"Echo Bay north? A great hot spring."
"I am adrift off Egg Island. Can someone assist?"
A bond, a commitment.
We cruise independently
Yet welcome a tossed line, whenever it appears.
The unexpected happens
Our dinghy is stranded.
Ninety miles from nowhere, even further from home.
A cruiser appears
Tide is dropping, daylight closing.
Most welcome assistance in a most difficult spot.
We thank her, we thank her
What more can we say.
We both share a commitment, to all of us here.
As she leaves us, she tells us,
Those words we all know:
Pass it on to the next boat
Pass it on to that trawler
Pass it on to another
Who has need of your help.