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Voyages North
Nenahlmai Narrows. July 30, 2014.
Elsie Hulsizer
08/02/2014, posted at Port McNeill

Photo: Starfish and mussels on the shore of Nenahlmai Narrows.

The outboard roared as Steve put it up to full throttle, but the dinghy remained in place -- no match for the 6 knot current of maximum ebb in the Nenahlmai Narrows. But then we knew that; we'd come here to see the current through this narrow slot too shallow for our sailboat.

He started to turn the boat when I saw the riot of orange at and just below the water's edge. "Starfish!" I shouted. He gunned the outboard again and drove us as close to the shore as he dared. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of starfish lined the edge of the Narrows in a broad band of orange. Other orange splotches were scattered along the bottom farther out-- everywhere a rock provided the right depth for mussels and starfish. It would have been impossible to count the starfish even if the current hadn't been running; they were so piled on top of each other.

It was clear what was happening; water rushing in and out of Nenahlmai lagoon carried an abundance of food for the filter feeding mussels. The mussels in turn provided an abundance of food for the starfish.

Just two months earlier we had seen the devastating effect of starfish wasting disease on Blakely Rock in Puget Sound; starfish with missing legs, starfish whose bodies looked like mush and the numbers of starfish far fewer than we had seen there before. It was thrilling to see this pocket of healthy starfish. They represented hope for Puget Sound.

Frederick Sound. July 27, 2014
Elsie Hulsizer
08/02/2014, posted at Port McNeill

Photo: Osprey anchored in Frederick Sound, Seymour Inlet.

Steep cliffs towered above us as we wound our way to the head of Frederick Sound in Seymour Inlet. The chart showed the Sound narrowing near its head, turning right, then left, before ending in a protected basin. I stood on the bow watching as we entered. What would we find? A beautiful anchorage? A noisy industrial logging camp? I knew we wouldn't find pristine wilderness. In Cruising the Secret Coast: Unexplored Anchorages on British Columbia's Inside Passage, Jennifer and James Hamilton had reported seeing a large logging camp here. But that would have been sometime before 2008. We were hoping to find only the abandoned site of a former industrial logging camp, not pristine but still beautiful.

And that's what we found. A steep almost bare rock dome on one side, forested hills on another and at the basin's head a green marsh. To the side of the marsh sat a large pile of slash and a row of abandoned fuel barrels. A small floating dock led to a logging road that snaked up the creek bed and disappeared around the corner.

Cruising in Seymour Belize Inlets means sharing the waters with logging camps. And that means being flexible. Logging camps come and go, parking in one spot for a few years, then moving on. No guide book can keep up with their movements. The best thing to do is be prepared to either share an anchorage, if there is room, or move on.

In this case we were lucky. We had a beautiful anchorage to ourselves. We even had a dock to land the dinghy on and a road to walk on.

Alison Sound - worth the rapids July 24, 2014

Photo: Alison Sound anchorage

Photo: Anchorage at the head of Alison Sound in Belize Inlet.

A broad river delta stretched ahead of us and steep promontories towered above us. This anchorage was so different from little Village Cove where we had anchored the night before that it was hard to believe we'd come only 30 miles to get here.

We'd passed through more dramatic scenery to get here. The long east-west arm of Belize Inlet with its mountains growing taller the farther from the ocean gave the sense of motoring into the mountains -- except of course we had been at sea level all the way. Just before we turned into Alison Sound, the sight of a half dome towering over the inlet had astonished us. Closer to the water cliffs of bare black rock lined the shore.

Belize Inlet
Photo: Half dome in Belize Inlet, with waterfall.

Just the trip up Belize Inlet to Alison Sound had made braving the rapids worth it, I thought. And then we saw the pictograph.

Our guidebooks had described it but all we knew of its location was it was west of Summers Bay. As we approached the bay we scanned the shore, looking for a cliff with light colored rock, the rock of choice for pictograph artists. There was only one cliff in the area, it had to be it. We motored over.

"I think I see it," said Steve, pointing to a spot about 20 ft up. "Just above that small tree."

It took me a few seconds to find it, but when I did I had a start of amazement. A simple drawing in red ochre of 6 small canoes facing one large one -- all clear and bright as if they'd just been painted. No one knows who painted it other than it was probably a member of the Nakwaktok First Nations and could have been done more than 100 years ago. Archaeologists believe that this pictograph, and one other in Belize Inlet, depicts an attack by Nakwaktoks on a trading ship and subsequent reprisals in 1862.

Photo: Pictograph in Alison Sound

Later that afternoon, we took the dinghy up Waump Creek. As we approached the delta, I looked down through the water, expecting to see seaweed or other evidence of saltwater mixing as at other deltas. But all I saw was bare sand and clear water. The tide was falling and water logged stumps crowned with flowers stuck out above the water like little islands, their limbs free of mussels and barnacles With the only source of salt water the narrow Nakwakto Rapids and with an additional barrier in the form of narrows in Allison Sound, little salt water gets up here. It was like cruising in a lake.

Waump Creek
Photo: the mouth of Waump Creek

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Voyages North on SV Osprey
Who: Steve and Elsie Hulsizer (author of Glaciers, Bears and Totems and Voyages to Windard)
Port: Seattle
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