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Travels on the Inside Passage
A log of cruising adventures in coastal areas of British Columbia, Canada and in Southeast Alaska.
Attack of the Killer Whales
It's not science fiction, folks!
25 August 2014,Monday, Posted at Kwatsi Bay

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Bound for Viner Sound, we hear Whimsey calling in to Echo Bay for moorage. We decide to alter our plans and go to Pierre's Echo Bay Marina. Pierre's is packed with boats, the Echo Bay Yacht Club is having their annual salmon derby with the wrap-up ceremonies tonight after dinner. We tie up at the transient dock for a couple of hours and Pierre finds a spot for us to moor for the night. We get reservations for the BBQ prime rib dinner and meet up with Tom and Pat on Whimsey.

Dinner was fabulous, as it always is, and we had a good time getting caught up with old friends and making some new acquaintances.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

We linger at the dock until the morning fog lifts since we do not have far to go today. We travel five miles up to Viner Sound, just off Hornet Passage. Viner is a long finger of water that extends two miles into Gilford Island. It terminates at the mouth of a stream that leads down from an inland lake. There are two coves to anchor in and the B.C. Forest Service has installed mooring buoys. We tie to the inner buoy in the north cove, a spot we have stayed in before. The cove is very protected from all winds and the mountain to the north is very scenic, with high rock walls. There is a small stream that empties into the cove as well.

Soon two more boats enter and one takes the outer buoy while the sail boat anchors and ties a line to shore from her stern. We have a pleasant evening and a quiet night.

Friday, 22 August 2014

We had planned to move on to Wakana Bay today but are enjoying the cove and decide to stay one more night. Rob launches the Bullfrog tender and heads out to explore for the morning with camera in hand. We always have hand-held radios to keep in contact when off in the dinghy. Soon a call comes from Sharon on Sirena "Rob, there are dolphins in the channel!".

They were after the salmon that are schooling at the mouth of the streams. The salmon are waiting for a chance to go upstream and spawn. This has been an incredibly dry summer in B.C., the stream levels a are very low. This, combined with a record run of returning salmon, make fishing conditions excellent for all of the predators in the area, humans included. When there is a good freshet of rain, the bears will get in on the harvest.

Rob spent the next hour recording the Pacific white-sided dolphins as they raced around the head of Viner Sound in a pod of about 50 or more. The dolphins continued to swim out in the main part of the sound, but did not enter our cove until late afternoon. Why? The answer was soon apparent when we spotted the large black fins of orcas, or killer whales, out in the sound. There were at least 7 orcas of all sizes and they were on the prowl for dolphins. The dolphin action became frenetic as they dashed in and out of the two coves, seeking the safe haven of shallow water. The orcas were relentless in their pursuit and came into our cove numerous times, swimming under Sirena with such speed that the wake caused us to rock violently from side to side. There was obviously some high drama going on under the surface as the orcas attacked the pod of dolphins. This went on for at least two hours and when things settled down there were three mortally wounded dolphins beached on the rocks at the head of our cove.

We had the "National Geographic Moment of a Lifetime" today. Watching all this unfold was mentally draining for both of us. Rob had recorded over a thousand digital images and about an hour of video. There is a lot of editing to be done and we will try to post some of the pics online when we get to a good internet connection.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

We departed Viner Sound to travel up Tribune Channel to another of our favorite stops, Kwatsi Bay. Enroute we travel through the Burdwood Group of islands and across the face of Deep Sea Bluff. Rob captures video footage of both while Sharon steers Sirena past the scenery. We get to Kwatsi Bay and tie up at the floats. Anca and Max greet us and welcome us back. We will have a happy hour gathering at five. There are six other boats at the dock tonight, three sail and three power.

Coastal BC
Back in the Broughtons
Some fog, some sun.
19 August 2014,Tuesday, Posted at Kwatsi Bay

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Our business having been taken care of, we depart Port McNeill and head back to the west end of the Broughtons to continue our cruise. We will work our way from west to east and then head down the coast towards home.

Our trip across the strait is again in dense fog starting about six miles north of Pultney Point. There is some traffic coming out of Wells Passage towards us on the opposite course. We track these recreational vessels and avoid them by altering course a bit to the east. After two hours we arrive at our waypoint off Boyles Point, at the entrance to Wells Passage. There is another vessel exiting the passage and we communicate with them, agreeing to a port-to-port passage. The fog persists until we reach the entrance to Drury Inlet. We are in time to catch the slack tide in Stuart Narrows and pass through into Drury.

Monday, 18 August 2014

We spent a couple of days at Jennis Bay visiting Kim and Kent, the proprietors. They have two wonderful dogs, Bravo and Koal, who enthusiastically greet every boat that arrives. They are well trained and behave like gentlemen around visiting dogs. Bravo is a 13+ year-old yellow Lab and gets gets around pretty good, despite his age. He has lived at Jennis Bay all his life and at one point survived being attacked by a wolf. Bravo lost an eye in the encounter, but gets on just fine. He is the alpha dog at Jennis Bay and has trained his understudy well. Koal is a 2 year-old black lab-mix with piercing blue eyes, must be part Eskimo. Kim rescued him from the reservation when he was a pup. He is full of youthful energy and loves treats from boaters. We always have a bag of dog treats on board and love making new dog-friends.

Jennis Bay Marina has great happy hour events. There is a small crowd tonight, only four boats tied up, but we have plenty to go around. These events are found nightly throughout the Broughtons in the summer and everyone looks forward to them. Kim usually whips up some fabulous appetizer dishes to go along with what the boaters bring. Kim always invites the women to join her in the cook-house when she is working in there, she refers to the galley as her "woman cave". No men allowed.

Today we wait until afternoon to ride the outgoing tide down Drury Inlet, through Stuart Narrows at slack and then catch the flood going up Grappler Sound. We anchor for the night in Turnbull Cove.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

We head over to Sullivan Bay to pick up some groceries and decide to stay overnight. They, like all the marinas in the Broughtons, have a happy hour at 5. We attend with our appetizer contribution and chat with the other boater. It is a good way to connect and gather information about places and events.

Coastal BC
Our Time in Belize
Partlly cloudy mornings, sunny afternoons
15 August 2014,Friday, Posted at Kwatsi Bay

Saturday, 09 August 2014

We departed Westerman Bay and traveled 25 miles inland. We look for the waterfalls that cascade down from the high mountains. The summer of 2014 has been very dry and the waterfalls are running at just a trickle. We do find the first of two native pictographs that are described in the books, this one high on a cliff at the entrance to Alison Sound. The painting is done in ochre on a lichen-free south facing bluff. It may be the work of the Nakwaktok people who inhabited this area and is believed to date to 1868.

The entrance to the sound narrows to a channel less than 300 feet wide and mountains stand two and three thousand feet high on both sides. There is a bit of current running in the channel, which is split in two by a small islet. We transit west of the islet and are soon in the main arm, passing Summers Bay, through another narrows and then to the head of the sound.

Alison Sound is very pretty. It is surrounded by mountains that reach 4000 feet up from the water. There are two creeks that empty into the sound at its head forming a large delta. The anchorage here is in deep water and the bottom shoals steeply to the mud flats. We take pictures and return down inlet a few miles to Summer Bay where there is another native pictograph. We choose to anchor in Peet Bay, just across the sound. This is a very nice, small cove on the south shore of Alison Sound and we have a pleasant night. We deploy our stern anchor to keep the boat from swinging in this tight cove.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

We are anchored approximately 27 nautical miles due east of Cape Caution, which is on the ocean shore. There is little coastal fog or low clouds this far inland. It is a sunny day when we wake and the tide has changed to an ebb. We have breakfast and depart to head back down Belize Inlet with the tide. Typically, the up-inlet winds start by mid-day and build through the afternoon hours. An early departure means we will not have a head wind to buck through.

Our next anchorage will be in Strachan Bay, not far from Westerman Bay where we were on Saturday. The trip takes us close to an active logging operation on the south shore of Belize. There are several camp barges, a log booming area and log dump. The road goes up the hill to a cutting block where a swing-boom yarder is working. Rob starts having flash-backs to his days of working in the woods of Oregon. This will not be the last logging site that we will see on this trip.

We opt for an anchorage in Village Cove, just at the entrance to Mereworth Sound. It is very cozy, we are tucked behind some islands in the north end of the bay. The only other boat we see is a passing crew boat, headed into the main part of Strachan Bay.

Coastal BC
Seymour Inlet
Pleasant summer weather.
15 August 2014,Friday, Posted at Kwatsi Bay

Monday, 11 August 2014

Another sunny day awaits our explorations so we get going and check out Strachan Bay. There is a floating home, logging camp and booming area on the north shore; and another floating home at the outlet of Pack Lake. The anchorage in the south cove looks attractive, but the day is just starting so we continue on.

We travel down Belize Inlet to Mignon Point, where Belize joins Seymour Inlet. We head east to pass in front of the Nakwakto Rapids, which are running at full song on the flooding tide. The overfalls at Turret Island are impressive. We pass approximately one-half mile from Turret Island and experience a good bit of turbulence. We pass through the maelstrom of current quickly by throttling up the engine and are soon in quiet water. Seven miles past the rapids, Seymour Inlet turns sharply inland at Harriet Point. We explore Charlotte Bay, finding two logging camps and numerous crab pots. Moving on to Wawatle Bay, there is more evidence of logging and the wind is funneling in to the bay.

Anchorages are becoming harder to find and we have been under way for four hours so we make a strategic decision. We will back-track down Seymour, exit through the rapids at high-slack tide and make for Skull Cove. It is now 1500 and the slack is at 1715. We spend some time checking out Nugent Sound; another logging camp. Our timing is impeccable and we transit Nakwakto Rapids at slack tide.

The change to ebb helps us down the narrow Schooner Channel to Skull Cove. Sharon remarks "We're Home!" This is the fourth time that we have anchored here over the years. The coastal fog has set in and there are two other boats in the outer-most cove, we pass them and anchor in the inner part where we usually do. The fog persists through the night and is so heavy that there is condensation laying on the decks and rails, almost as if it had been raining. The seawater temperature dropped about 20 degrees from the inlet temperatures, hence the heavy fog.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

This morning finds more dense fog dripping out of the sky. We are in need of a few things and are going to spend some time back at Port McNeill. We listen as the weather forecast plays the same broken record "Fog patches dissipating late in the day. Northwest wind building to 15 by late afternoon." Fog is the lesser of two evils on Queen Charlotte Strait. The tide is flooding this morning and will help us move along. We choose a late departure, 1030, in hopes that the fog will lift. It does not. We head down Ripple Passage, pass Willoughby Rock with its guardian green buoy, and find the Echo Islands in the Deserter Group. From there it is an 18 nautical mile run on course 148° True to Pulney Point on Malcom Island.

There are a few boats heading down the mainland coast and we track them with radar and AIS. When we get on course for Malcom Island, there is no more traffic but we still keep a sharp lookout for debris in the water. As we are about to cross the Gordon Channel, a main shipping lane, we spot the "SS Volendam" on the AIS display. She is off our starboard bow, opposite the Gordon Islands, heading east for Blackfish Sound at 20 knots. Our plot shows that she will cross our track ahead of us by 500 yards (one-quarter of a nautical mile). This is safe enough but we still are uneasy being that close to a large passenger liner in dense fog. The bridge watch on the "Volendam" hails on the radio "to the vessel 4 miles east of the Gordon Islands heading southeast". That's us! Rob calls back and exchanges position and passing expectations. Sirena offers to change course to port to open up the closing distance (or CPA, closest point of approach). The "Volendam" concurs with our intentions and we both proceed without further incident. Shortly thereafter, the fog begins to lift and we spot Malcom Island in the distance. We also see the stern of the cruise ship heading away from us. The rest of the passage is routine and we are able to find a place to moor at the town dock. Marieke, the daughter of Max and Anca who own Kwatsi Bay Marina, helps us find a place and takes our lines. She has a wealth of local knowledge and tells us where to find our immediate needs.

Coastal BC
Moving on to Nakwakto Rapids
Dense Fog
14 August 2014,Thursday, Posted in Port McNeill

Thursday, 07 August 2014

We are replenished and ready so we depart at 0600 to get across Queen Charlotte Strait before the winds pick up in the afternoon. Our anchorage today will be in Skull Cove on Bramham Island at the mouth of Schooner Channel. This will be our staging point to transit the Nakwakto Rapids on Friday. Skull Cove is empty when we arrive at 1230 after a foggy passage across the strait. We anchor and the fog lifts. We spend the afternoon watching the sea birds that populate the cove. As evening falls, another boat finds her way in through the re-forming fog and anchors astern of us for the night.

Our plan is to spend some time exploring the waters inland from the rapids: Seymour and Belize Inlets. The gateway to these inlets, Nakwakto Rapids, are considered one of the world's fastest moving bodies of salt water. They can reach speeds of up to 14 knots on maximum ebb tides. Our guide books give detailed descriptions of how to run these rapids, at slack current, and we plan to follow their advice precisely. We have used the tide and current tables to calculate high slack to be at 1500 (3 p.m.) on Friday.

Friday, 08 August 2014

The fog persists in Skull Cove until after lunch and clears in time for us to start moving towards the rapids. We have the flooding current pushing us up Schooner Channel and arrive a bit early. Cougar Inlet is the last quiet water refuge outside the rapids and we spend a half hour inside the entrance. Our transit of the Nakwaktos is easy, we go through at 1445 with the aid of the dying flood. There is a small islet in the middle of the narrows that divides the rapids in two. We transit east of the islet, Turret Rock is the official name on the chart. Locally the islet is referred to as Tremble Island - it is said the current here flows with such ferocity that the rock shakes perceptibly in large tide. We decide to not test the lore, at least on this trip. There are wood signs nailed to the trees with the names of other vessels that have braved the Nakwakto Rapids.

We travel up Belize Inlet and find anchorage in Westerman Bay. We have not seen any other cruising boats today and have the anchorage to ourselves. This will turn out to be a recurring theme as very few cruisers visit this area.

Coastal BC
Time to Replenish
Nice summer weather, but foggy
14 August 2014,Thursday, Posted in Port McNeill

Sunday, 03 August 2014

We move on today towards Port McNeill, B.C. We have been out for a month and are in need of supplies and fresh water. We will also have access to a laundromat and a good internet connection. Most of the marinas in the islands have a satellite connection, but the band-width is limited. They ask that we do no down/up loading of large files and limit our use to email only.

We travel down Cramer and Spring Passages to cross Knight Inlet and into the Village Group of islands. Along the way we spot our friends on "Rubinesque" and they hail us on the radio. They are returning from McNeill and we exchange greetings.

Our anchorage for the night is in Farewell Harbour, off Berry Island. This puts us just off Blackfish Sound and about 17 miles from Port McNeill.

Monday, 04 August 2014

Our passage from Farewell Harbour to Port McNeill is timed to have the ebbing current give us a speed boost and to avoid the early morning fog. We had some entertainment along the way in the form of humpback whale and Dahl porpoise sightings. The Blackfish Sound and Cormorant Passage are the bodies of water that we are traveling through and they are teeming with schools of sockeye salmon. The fishermen are out in force and so are the marine predators. We sight four humpbacks and more porpoises than we can count in the two and a half hours that it takes to get to North Island Marina. Port McNeill has it all for boaters and the marinas here are full during August, reservations are a must. We have lots to accomplish: laundry to do, grocery shopping, supplies to take in, fueling the boat, clean up the boat and enjoy a few meals ashore. We plan to be in town for three nights.

We meet up with a few friends while here: Byron and Sue off "Eagles Gig" and Rod and Susan off "Merlin". Merlin is heading out tomorrow for Seymour and Belize Inlets, where we are headed next.

Coastal BC

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Who: Rob and Sharon
Port: Bellingham WA
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