Voyages North

22 August 2016 | posted at Prideaux Haven, Desolation Sound
29 July 2016 | Posted at Hakkai, Fitz Hugh Sound
29 July 2016 | Posted at Hakkai, Fitz Hugh Sound
29 July 2016 | Posted at Hakkai, Fitz Hugh Sound
08 July 2016 | Posted at Ucluelet
08 July 2016 | Posted at Ucluelet
11 January 2016
30 August 2015 | posted at Maple Bay
30 August 2015 | posted at Maple Bay, B.C.
30 August 2015 | posted at Maple Bay, B.C.
21 August 2015 | Posted at Port McNeill
09 August 2015 | Posted at Prince Rupert
05 August 2015 | posted in Ketchikan

Roscoe Inlet, B.C. Central Coast. August 5, 2016.

22 August 2016 | posted at Prideaux Haven, Desolation Sound
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: A pictograph on a cliff in Roscoe Inlet.

I stared up at the straight black cliff that towered above our boat in Roscoe Inlet. Large vertical cracks interrupted the smooth rock, providing footholds for scattered trees.

We were looking for pictographs, native rock paintings in red ochre. One is reported to be near this cliff. Black rock does not make good background for pictographs and I was about to suggest we move on when I saw a white triangle in the black rock. Was that a red shape in its center?

Steve saw it at the same time. "That's it," he said, looking through the binoculars at the white triangle.

Steve motored Osprey to the base of the black cliff. I could see a string of red dots, a couple of faces and several unidentifiable forms. A ledge below had provided a platform for the artists.

One of our goals for the summer is to find and photograph as many pictographs as we can. If we find enough well-preserved pictographs, we might be able to produce a book. Nineteen pictographs are reported in Roscoe Inlet in a list assembled by Doris Lundy in a 1970 Master's Thesis for Simon Fraser University . And although we couldn't expect to find all she listed, we knew from a past excursion into the Inlet we would find many. On this trip we saw a painted rockfish, a whale, several faces, several coppers (shield-shaped copper sheets used as a sign of wealth) and a number of just plain blobs and streaks that might have depicted something originally. No one really knows exactly who painted them, except that it was Native Canadians (or Alaskans farther north), or why. We also don't know how old they are although some are estimated to be several hundred years old. Some can be aged by the objects they depict: square rigged ships and stagecoaches. None of the Roscoe Inlet pictographs we saw had such objects.

Roscoe Inlet winds its way into the interior for 21 miles. The Waggoner Cruising Guide describes the Inlet as "drop dead beautiful," which may explain why so many people go up there and never notice the pictographs. Domes, bowls, river valleys, sheer cliffs, and green forests of hemlock, spruce and cedar kept diverting my attention. Around every bend there might or might not be pictographs but there would definitely be dramatic scenery. We spent a day and a half there, anchoring at Boukind Bay the first night, Clatse Bay at the Inelt's entrance the second. Very little wind makes its way to the inlet head. When we reached the end of the inlet, we turned off the engine and drifted in the deep water, enjoying the scenery while we ate lunch.

If you go, don't just look at the scenery. Look close for the art.

Photo: Roscoe Inlet scenery.
A dome in Roscoe Inlet

Rounding Cape Scott: Winter Harbour to Millbrook Cove. July 26, 2016.

12 August 2016 | posted at Port McNeill
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: Cape Scott at the North End of Vancouver Island with the Cox Island in the background.

“West Coast Vancouver Island. Gale Warnings in Effect.“ With a forecast like that, what were we doing in the ocean heading north around Cape Scott?

We were facing the most challenging passage of our trip, from Winter Harbour in Quatsino Sound north up the west coast of Vancouver island, east around Cape Scott and northeast across Queen Charlotte Sound to Smith Sound, 75 miles in one day. We needed good weather and hoped for good winds, but not gales.

When we first read the forecast, which included increasingly strong northwest winds every day for the next four days, we assumed we would have to delay our passage north, perhaps even for several days. But then we looked closer at the next day’s forecast and read “Northwest winds 10-20 except northwest 20-30 south of the Brooks increasing to 25-35 in the afternoon.” We were going north, the Brooks was south of us; we’d already rounded it four days before in 10 knot southerlies. What we had read was a typical west coast of Vancouver Island forecast. The winds always blow stronger south of the Brooks and north of Estevan. I had always assumed that when the forecast called for gales on the north portion of the west coast of Vancouver Island, that whole coast could expect gales, with even higher gales north of the Brooks. But now we realized that wasn’t always true.

We left Winter Harbour at 0800, motoring out the Sound in a flat calm. Far ahead to the south we could see the imposing hump of the Brooks capped with a cloud. With seas so calm we took a shortcut between Kains Island (where Quatsino Light is located) and Cape Parkins to the north. Sports fishing boats zipped by us, weaving among the rocks, their erratic motion more a danger to us than the rocks themselves.

As we emerged from the passage and headed northwest up the coast, long low swells rolled in but only a slight chop disturbed the water surface.

We motored north against a light northerly. Humpback whales spouted in the distance. Steve pointed out the islands off Sea Otter Cove gradually coming into view. Two-thirds of the way up the coast, Sea Otter Cove was our escape hatch. We could always duck in there if gales did come up. But there was no need.

At 1040 I sighted Cox Island off the north tip of Vancouver Island. Seeing it made the distances seem smaller, more manageable. What had seemed like an impossibly long journey was in our grasp. At 1252 Cape Scott light was abeam. We set course for Egg Island Light. At 1400 we set sail on a close reach. Half an hour later, we rolled the jib in; there wasn’t enough wind. But as we neared the coast, the wind increased and the clouds disappeared until soon we were sailing 7 knots on a brisk broad reach. As we approached Egg Island, the light tower at Cape Caution came into view. We looked at it and laughed. When going to and from Alaska, Cape Caution always seemed an intimidating milestone.. From out at sea it was inconsequential, a mere bump. Amazing what a change in perspective does.

We screamed into Smith Sound, spray flying and the boat heeling, as the evening light lit up the islands and hills behind them. Dropping sails at Millbrook Rock we motored into Millbrook Cove. Five other boats were ahead of us, but we squeezed into a corner. We weren’t back in civilization but we were no longer on the wild and isolated west coast of Vancouver Island.

We’d made the right decision to brave the forecast and learned something about the weather patterns on the coast.

Two small towns: Zeballos and Walter’s Cove. July 17-July 22, 2016

12 August 2016 | posted at Port McNeill
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: the Zeballos Museum

We walked down the Zeballos main street, passing several mining-era buildings with their characteristic false fronts. But we were looking for a new building, the Post'n Beam Lodge, the replacement for the Zeballos Hotel that had burned down several years before. A year earlier, when preparing the paperback version of Voyages to Windward, I'd spoken by phone with an owner of the Post'n Beam. He had assured me it would open soon. And perhaps it had; but it was not open now and the plastic sheeting on the building's sides and the piles of construction debris on the ground told us it was unlikely to reopen soon.

When Steve and I visit small towns, we like to eat out at local restaurants. It's an opportunity to meet residents and find out what's going on. But with the Post'n Beam closed, our plans were fast dissolving. We turned and walked along the street, so empty we could have walked down its middle without fear; there was so little traffic. I pointed to the sign for the Iris Motor Lodge where we had eaten in 2004 among a happy group of sport fishermen. "Maybe they've opened up again." But when we got there a sign in front of the lace-curtained windows said "closed."

Two men were climbing into a large white SUV as we approached the Iris. They must have seen the disappointment in our faces for one of them rolled down a window and said, "This is not a very customer friendly town. A visitor can't even get a bite to eat."

"What happened?" I asked, gesturing toward the Post'n Beam.

"Bankrupt. But they were scumbags. We'll see what the new owners do. They claim they'll open soon. But maybe they'll be scumbags too." He laughed. Taking out a pack of cigarettes, he drew one out and lit it.

I asked him about the Iris Motor Lodge. He laughed again, and said, "It's a lumber camp. That's where we work." Then, with a startling change in subject, he said, "But hey, we could be worse off. We could be a black in America, or a white cop. They just shot three more cops today."

He looked at us and asked, "You're not American, are you?" We had to admit we were.

"Well I tell you, what should really scare you is that fellow Trump. If he gets in, we should all be scared. It's bad. Not that our government is perfect, they should invest more in our people, not just immigrants, but we don't have nobody like Trump."

We assured them we were concerned and did not plan to vote for Trump.

I looked at the two men, red-faced smokers with short hair. They looked like rednecks in America, but their politics didn't sound redneck.

The man at the wheel started up the truck and they drove off, leaving us to walk down the empty street. We passed an attractive little house with a B&B sign in the yard and a For Sale sign on the fence. What was the point of a B&B if there was no place to eat lunch or dinner?

Beyond the B&B was the museum in another small house with a giant rusting pulley in the front yard. On past visits the museum had been closed and we'd had to roust up someone at City Hall to let us in, but to our surprise, the door was open. We walked in and were greeted by a neatly dressed young woman. She was the curator she told us. She'd taken the job for the summer because it would look better on her resume than a job at McDonald's.

The curator showed us around, telling us about the town's history and the several gold mines that once operated here. They'd opened about 1920 and closed at the beginning of WWII, when the workers all went to war. By the time the war was over, there were no workers to come back. She pointed to a photo of a man holding a machine that looked like a big jackhammer. The other reason there were no returning workers was that gold mining was very dangerous and unhealthy and many workers died from injuries and illnesses.

We wandered around the museum looking at the old photographs and other memorabilia. Curious if anyone ever came to the museum in this quiet town I asked her how many visitors she got per day. Four or five, she told us, but the other day she had had 20. Historians and students especially like to come there to study the museum's documents.

We talked some more. The local school was excellent she said. Her boyfriend had attended it but no one from his family would be staying in Zeballos; there was nothing for them to do here, she told us.

We'd been looking for a restaurant so we could talk to locals to find out what was happening in town. But we hadn't needed a restaurant to find out what was happening.

Zeballos is an attractive town with quaint stores and houses, attractive mini-parks sprinkled around the town and hiking trails that cross the river delta and lead through the nearby mountains. In 2004 when we came here, I wrote an optimistic story about the town, the way its people worked together and the hope everyone seemed to have for the future. I quoted the owner of the store who told us, "The town is at a crossroads."

Maybe it's still at a crossroads.

Walter's Cove, Kyuquot Sound. July 21-22, 2016

Kyuquot Inn

Photo: The Kyuquot Inn seen from the water.

We walked along the dirt trail that led along the waterfront, then turned right and stepped into a forest. I looked up. Massive spruce trees, straight and tall, towered over us. No matter how many times we visited Walter's Cove the enormity of these trees so close to the little town always astonished me.

We continued our walk, stopping to snack on bright red thimbleberries in the underbrush before coming out of the forest to the waterfront again. We ducked under the overhang of a sports fishing lodge, walked across the front yard of several small ramshackle houses, then turned the corner onto the grounds of the Kyuquot inn. Java the Hutt coffee shop, our destination was on our left, facing the water.

Inside the coffee shop heavy wooden tables and old-fashioned knobbed chairs occupied the floor. We found an empty table and sat down. Notes on a blackboard listed menu items: burgers of various types, pastries and a salad. A young woman came out from behind a counter and took our order: two chicken burgers and coffee.

I had just stood up to look through the shelf of used books for trading when I noticed a middle-aged woman with a pleasant face. She looked familiar. I saw she was looking at me and having the same reaction.

"Haven't I met you before?" she asked.

"Aren't you the daughter of the former lighthouse keepers at Friendly Cove?" I asked her.

We quickly established that she was the lighthouse keepers' daughter and that I had sold her a book here four years ago. We had run into her a number of times in the thirty five years we'd been sailing this coast.

"Sit down and join us," suggested Steve.

We were soon catching up on the news of Walters Cove. The town was doing well, Nicolena told us. She was busy. In fact, she had to leave soon to help at one of the sports fishing lodges that had an overload of guests. That gave us an opportunity to ask about something we'd been wondering about. In Alaska some of the towns resent the sports fishing lodges, believing they don't support the town. In some cases the lodges even bring in hired help from the lower 48.

"Do the lodges support the town?" asked Steve.

"Oh yes, they hire a lot of local workers," Nicolena replied.

Our lunches came and Nicolena left for her job. As I ate, I looked around at the other diners. Many of them were residents of the Native village across the cove. They sat together in groups, talking and texting on their phones (the Kyuquot Inn offers free wifi; there is no cell service.) That was the answer, I thought, thinking of the empty Post'n Beam in Zeballos: the Inn was serving the locals, not just the tourists. Another difference was the low budget operation. Java the Hutt occupied an old school house. The windows were still the classic multi-paned windows of old school houses everywhere. The Post'n Beam represented expensive new construction.

I was thinking about this when I overheard a woman at the table next to us. She was talking about "my store." We had been dismayed to read the sign on the Kyuquot General Store, "MWF 1-5," a significant cut in hours. I wondered if the General Store had competition in the Native village.

I leaned over to ask her. "Excuse me, did I hear you say you owned a store? Is it in the Native village?"

"Oh yes, you can see it from the windows," she gestured across the room. "It's the dark green building just up from the dock."

"What do you sell?"

"Oh, ice cream, snacks, frozen meats, some produce, eggs and things. And some carvings and baskets."

"What are your hours?

She told me some hours that sounded like all day, every day.

"You must have staff to help," I commented.

"Staff? Oh no. I do it all myself."

I tried to reconcile the fact that her store was open all day with the fact that she was sitting here in the restaurant and her store was obviously not open.

"So who's there when you're not?" I asked her.

"Well of course, if I'm not there, it's not open." She shrugged.

That's when I remembered Island Time. The "time zone Vancouver Islanders lived in that meant they were never in a rush. It didn't matter if she wasn't at her store during working hours. Anyone who lived in the village could just come back later.

I left the restaurant planning to visit her store. But we spent the afternoon and evening watching the Uchuck III unload and the next day working on the boat, shopping at the general store and filling our water tanks. Then we listened to the weather report: a weather window was closing in two more days. If we wanted to make it north around the Brooks Peninsula before the wind turned strong from the north, we needed to leave that afternoon for the Bunsby Islands.

We weren't on Island Time; we were on cruising time.

Vessel Name: Osprey
Vessel Make/Model: Annapolis 44 sloop
Hailing Port: Seattle
Crew: Steve and Elsie Hulsizer (author of Glaciers, Bears and Totems and Voyages to Windward)
Elsie and Steve Hulsizer have sailed northwest waters since arriving in Seattle via sailboat from Boston in 1979. [...]
2015 blog covers trip to SE Alaska 2014 blog covered trip to Seymour and Belize Inlets through Nakwakto Rapids 2013 blog covered a trip to SE Alaska and back. We left Seattle on May 16 and returned September 9. 2012 blog covered a trip from Seattle up the west coast of Vancouver Island, then [...]
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