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Voyages North
Shoal Bay Bluegrass. August 21.

Photo: Bluegrass Festival at Shoal Bay.

By afternoon we've got current and wind against us and the sky looks dark and threatening. We look in the Waggoner Cruising Guide for a place to stop when w see a notice about a bluegrass festival that day in Shoal Bay, just a few miles away. We turn up Mayne Passage just as the rain hits.

In Shoal Bay the public dock is packed two and three deep and the bay itself is croded with anchored boats. We're circling the bay looking for a place to anchor when we hear someone calling us on the radio. It's Paul, the owner of a Devlin-built powerboat Ellie K that we first saw at Sullivan Bay. They're rafted to an even bigger powerboat but they offer to let us come along side. We learn the music is on hold because of the rain but a pig roast and potluck dinner is scheduled for 6 pm.

At 6 pm it's still pouring rain but we take our potluck dish and head up to the dock. The small pub can't hold everybody so they've put out tarps on the porch. We huddle with our fellow boaters waiting for dinner to start and exchanging sailing stories. We've seen mostly powerboats up north but now we're in the company of sailors too. We stand in the rain for roast pork, salads, casseroles and chocolate cake. By the time we've eaten the rain has stopped and we sit on plastic chairs listening to music.

Port McNeill to Johnstone Strait. August 20-21

Photo: Orcas in Johnstone Strait.

I spend the morning reviewing the photos and their captions, working against the dual deadlines of marina checkout time and tidal currents. We beat the checkout time but not the currents. Sailing south we're aiming for Port Neville but adverse currents force us to turn into Havannah Channel instead. We anchor in a little nook off Misty Island.

The next morning we've lost our good northwest wind and are motoring along the Vancouver Island shore of Johnstone Strait when suddenly there are Orcas on both sides of us, so many I don't know which way to point my camera. We slow down and drift to not disturb them.

Mound Island anchorage to Port McNeil via Alert Bay. August 19-20, 2010

Photo: 'Namgis Burial Ground. For the sad and intriguing story about the Haida mortuary pole at the center of this picture, read my book Glaciers, Bears and Totems when it is released in October (Harbour Publishing).

We leave Mound Island anchorage for Port McNeil, motoring out Blackney Passage where the flood tide is sweeping into Johnstone Strait from Blackfish Sound. A tug and barge emerge from the fog, heading right towards us. We slow down and wait for it to pass, then fall in behind it. Just before we enter Johnstone Strait, we see a single tall black fin slicing through the water: an Orca, the blackfish that Blackfish Sound is named for.

The flood tide turns south in Johnstone Strait and we turn north, hugging the shore of Hanson Island where we hope to find less current. What we find is a string of gillnetters fishing for sockeye. We peer through our binoculars looking for strings of white floats and weave through the fleet. I'm thankful the fog didn't follow us into Johnstone Strait as avoiding the nets is difficult enough without fog.

We're just coming up on Cormorant Island when we see a big cell phone tower on the land. I get out our Canadian cell phone and call my publisher who tells me the next version of my book isn't ready yet. All they have for me to review are the color photos and the comments aren't due until Monday (It's Wednesday). We divert to Alert Bay. When we tie up at the small town marina, I look over the side into the water and see the sea bottom covered with the silver carcasses of salmon.

We stroll along a new boardwalk, talk to Native carvers and visit the U'Mista Cultural Centre. In the evening we walk by the 'Namgis Burial Ground to see the memorial poles in the warm light of the setting sun.

The next morning we motor the last five miles to Port McNeil for laundry, grocery shopping and oil changing. By dinner I'm tired and I haven't even looked at the photos I'm supposed to be reviewing. I realize that the fact that comments aren't due until Monday is meaningless as we won't be anywhere near an internet connection then. I'll have to do them in the morning before we leave. The continuous search for wifi and the question as to whether it will be fast enough when we do find it is getting tiring for us both and stressful for me. The leisurely life of cruising doesn't mesh with the world of deadlines and today's expectation of instant communication. We decide to just head south for Pender Harbour and pick up the manuscript in person.

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