08 September 2018 | Von Donop Inlet, Desolation Sound
As usual, sunny, hot with smoke in the air
Next morning we were ready to cast off and enjoy the nice north west wind, our objective, Port Harvey. But we were warned.. the sockeye season had opened the previous night! No wonder the fuel dock was empty. And with the fog, we were warned that it would be a real problem working our way down through the fleet. The fishery is a gill net fishery, streaming their nets 1/4 to 1/2 mile behind the boats. And the challenge was to figure out whose net was attached to which boat. But in the end, we had no problems. We worked our way down the western shore, closer to our destination, while the fishermen seemed to prefer the eastern shore. Not only that, we watched boat after boat streaming back to Port McNeill after filling their quota after just 12 hours. So, maybe it will be a big season, just like Billy told me it would be.
Johnstone Strait has a reputation for some serious weather. When the winds on Queen Charlotte Strait, a few miles north, are mild, Johnstone Strait can see gale force winds. Not only does the water narrow, but the mountains funnel the winds into the narrow waters, so that gale force winds are not uncommon when the weather a few miles away is benign.
But sailing down, we enjoyed a 15 knot following breeze as we worked our way down the strait to Port Harvey, where we began our trip into the Broughtons. Great to be sailing again!
We knew our arrival at the Port Harvey Marine Resort would be far different than our arrival last month. We had word that just days after our departure, George Cambridge, who owned and operated it with his wife Gail, died suddenly a few days after we were there. When we were there, I had asked Gail how they could possibly operate the place with just two people. She said that one of them had to always be there. Two people were needed. But now there was only one. Gail has left, and the marina is closed, but boaters are free to tie up. Not only do we feel the loss of George, but the timing just adds to the feeling of loss. They had just been rebuilding the marina and buildings, restaurant and store, after a tragic sinking two years ago. The new docks and buildings pointed to a great future. But this is a remote spot, and it will take a special type to continue here.
When we arrived, we found the docks were just about full, so we had willing hands to help with our lines. In the evening we gathered on the dock and remembered George. Although we only met him for the first time a few weeks ago, we quickly learned to enjoy his dry humour. Sitting on the docks we speculated on the marina's future and toasted George, wishing him fair winds.
On the dock that night, we met Peter and Marsala on Northern Light, a Bennetau 50 from Victoria BC. The discussion about weather (all were heading back south) was, as usual, full of varying opinions. To us, the next day seemed the best to head south. Nice following winds and a following current. All agreed that heading off early would be best.
Next morning, we dropped our lines at 0730, early for us, with not a sign of others. We had a great downwind sail through Johnstone Strait, past Fanny Island and its Environment Canada weather station (I check it regularly) into Sunderland Channel. Two miles into the channel, the winds dropped from 20 knots to calm, leaving us motoring into Forward Harbour where we waited for the change of the currents.
We dropped anchor waiting for slack in the Whirlpool rapids, just outside the harbour entrance. As we waited (wondering where our dockmates were), in came Northern Lights. They told us that everyone else had decided to stay another day.
At 1500 hrs, we headed out into the slack Whirlpool Rapids and down into Cordero Channel. Here we faced a following 20 kt wind bucking the yet to change current... a rough ride. But by the time we reached Green Point Rapids, all was well... calm winds and waters. We considered an anchorage just off the rapids, but too many boats! So we carried on to Shoal Bay where, after some anchor dancing, we pulled into the wharf. We have begun to see smoke from the many forest fires far inland.
Like so many areas up and down the northern coast of BC, Shoal Bay once was a complete town, at one time boasting a population larger than the newly founded Vancouver. But today all that is left is the wharf, maintained, for some reason, by the federal government. The one remaining structure is a small pub/home. Again we met up with Peter and Marsala from Northern Lights, and went ashore to the pub. A bit of a disappointment, ($9.00 for a beer). So back to the boat for the night.
In the morning, we were off early, wanting to time our trip through the rapids, Dent, Gillard and Yucultas. All within a distance of 5 miles. As we set off we watched a flotilla develop around us, all jockeying speed to arrive at the rapids at slack. And we all did.
Through into Calm Channel, we hoisted the main, shut the engine down and pulled out the spinnaker! I don't think it has been used since 2007 in the Bahamas. But today it flew beautifully. We had a couple of gybes, working our way down past Raza Passage, Deer Passage and into Sutyl Passage where the wind died and we motored into Von Donop Inlet, fast becoming a favourite anchorage.