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

Port Neville (Johnstone Strait) to Cordero Islands. August 18, 2016

29 August 2016
Photo: Sailing in Sunderland Channel

We exited Port Neville with our mainsail rattling in the stiff breeze. It was going to be a fast ride south down Johnstone Strait to our planned turn at Sunderland Channel, four miles away.

The Inside Passage in this area between Vancouver Island and the mainland is a maze of channels, offering a number of alternate routes south. Johnstone Strait, the most direct, is also the windiest and roughest. It's the route we usually take because it's the fastest and we're more apt to be able to sail. But today, we were planning to turn off at Sunderland Channel and take an alternate route to look for pictographs (see post on Roscoe Inlet for more about pictographs).

Once out of Port Neville, we let out the main, rolled out the jib and headed down Johnstone Strait, Osprey seemingly flying through the water.

"We'll never be able to get close enough to shore in this wind to find those pictographs," said Steve. "Let's just keep going in Johnstone.

But then we noticed our speed over ground was only five knots when we should have been at least seven. We hadn't checked the current in Johnstone Strait because we planned to be in it for only a few miles. A quick look at the current tables showed we had three more hours of ebb. We needed the flood. Wind against the tide would not only slow us down, it would make for an uncomfortable wet ride. Already, Osprey was bucking in the steep waves as we got farther out in the Strait. Steve, at the wheel, had to struggle to keep us on course.

"The side channels like Sunderland are supposed to be quieter," said Steve. "Let's try it."

Forty-five minutes later we entered Sunderland Channel. The seas quieted and the wind slackened. We skimmed along the shore on a broad reach. We could looking for pictographs after all, but we would have to look fast.

Shaw Point came into view, the site of the first pictograph on our list for the day. Steve had the binoculars. "I see it! You'll have about one minute to photograph it before we'll be past it. Can you do it?"

I had seen it too, even without the binoculars. As Steve steered the boat towards it I could see it was a copper clearly outlined in red. I quickly shot a distant image to put the pictograph in perspective, changed lenses to the telephoto, took two more shots, then a shot of our chart plotter to get the location. A quick glance of the camera screen showed I'd gotten good images.

Photo: A pictograph of a copper on Shaw Point, Sunderland Channel.
I was just putting my camera down when Steve asked, "What's that in the water? Is that an animal?"

I looked ahead and saw a dark shape approaching the beach. Two round ears stuck above the water. A bear! Would it get out of the water soon enough for me to photograph it? It seemed to be taking forever to swim just a short distance. "Come on, bear," said Steve. "Swim!" Just as we were about to pass it, the bear hoisted itself out of the water, shook itself off and climbed up the beach. I had just enough time to get a series of photos.

The bear had obviously been swimming across the channel from Hardwick Island, a distance of almost exactly a mile. We had heard of bears crossing channels like this, now we had seen it in real life.

Photo: Black bear climbing up the beach.

A beautiful pictograph and a bear, both in just a few minutes. I was glad we'd chosen the slower route.

We continued sailing up Sunderland Channel, motored through Whirlpool Rapids in Wellbore Channel with the flood, sailed again in Chancellor Channel, then finally, motoring through Greene Pt Rapids, ended our day at anchor in the Cordero Islands.

We had one of the best sailing days of the whole trip in channels we would normally expect to be calm.

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.
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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Osprey's Photos -

Voyages North on SV Osprey

Who: Steve and Elsie Hulsizer (author of Glaciers, Bears and Totems and Voyages to Windward)
Port: Seattle