Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
10 September 2018 | The Laughing Oyster, Okeover Landing
Smoky, warm, light winds
Smoke at Manson's Landing
Getting to the Broughtons is more difficult than getting back. From Port McNeill to Desolation Sound was three great sailing days, with a bit of motoring through the rapids. But as we entered the Desolation Sound area, we were ready to stop. We decided to spend two nights in this beautiful quiet anchorage. Although just a few miles off the beaten path to the favourite anchorages in Desolation Sound, it gets far fewer boats. Here too we saw far fewer boats that when we left in mid-July.
Anchor down and set, we headed ashore for a short hike to stretch our legs. We had not really done any walking since Port McNeill, four days ago. Then back to the boat for dinner. We are still working our way through the freezer where we stocked up hurriedly on our way north. We still have four big steaks from Big Bay and tonight, we split one. With fresh veggies from Port McNeill and a BC Cab Sauvignon, a nice dinner.
In the morning, we did the reverse hike we did a few weeks earlier... we hiked from Von Donop to Squirrel Cove, where we counted just 14 boats. Although we could not see the full anchorage, there were far fewer boats in the inner anchorage that we could see. Clearly the season is winding down here. Back in Von Donop, we did a dinghy tour of the area, a few boat jobs and the day was over.
When we came through the rapids into Desolation Sound, we noticed a change... smoke. With the wildfires raging in the interior of the province, the smoke has been slowly working its way to the coast. We noticed signs of it when heading north, but today it was noticeably heavier, with warnings about health concerns and not exerting yourself.
Next morning (August 20th), we raised anchor and rounded the west side of Cortes Island and headed for Manson's Landing. We arrived to find a crowded anchorage, typically very deep everywhere but some very small areas between deep water and drying flats. Rather than anchor in 70', we crept up to a nice 20' and set the anchor. Not a spot for low tide as we would be just a few feet from grounding, but fine for a few hours around high tide.
We clearly need more anchor rode. We carry 200' of chain on our main rode. That means safe anchorage in about 40'. But many of the anchorages in the areas we have been cruising are significantly deeper. So we will have to decide whether to replace the entire chain with 300', or add to the existing with 150' of rope. A project for next winter.
But for now, we were well set for a few hours, so we set off ashore. We walked up the road about one kilometre to the commercial centre of Cortes Island. It contained a couple of cafes, grocery store and a few other shops. We decided on a small cafe for lunch and were not disappointed... excellent. Then a few groceries in the attached co-op and we headed back to the dinghy. We took the dinghy into a lagoon, accessible only for a few hours around high tide, found a path up to Hague Lake where we stuck our toes into the warm water. But time to catch the tide and avoid finding ourselves trapped inside the lagoon.
Back aboard, we hoisted the anchor and rounded Sutil Point and dropped the anchor in Cortes Bay in better anchoring depths.
The smoke is getting worse, causing us to re-think the remainder of our stay here. We have some areas we would like to see, but with the smoke, little of the spectacular scenery is visible, not to mention the effect of breathing the smoky air. Our eyes are sore and we are doing little that requires exertion.
But we had one stop we were not going to miss... dinner at The Laughing Oyster. We had a delicious lunch there on our way north and wanted to try dinner. And we learned that Wednesday was Seafood Buffet night. So we made reservations and headed down.
Leaving Cortes Bay (August 21), we motored in light air across the Sound down into Malispina Inlet and up Lancelot Inlet to the Susan Islets for the night. Next morning, we dug clams at low tide, only to find the area closed due to shellfish poisoning, so back they went. In the afternoon, we headed down Lancelot Inlet and into Okeover Inlet. By now the smoke was at its worst. With less than 1/2 mile visibility, we watched the radar screen all the way down. But we met little traffic. Boats were just staying put in the dense smoke. But the meal was worth the trip.
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.
08 September 2018 | Port McNeill, BC
Still sunny, light NW winds, hot
Tug setting up a log boom for towing south.
Billy Proctor told me about sockeye fever. And in Port McNeill, we experienced it. I have learned a lot about salmon fishing on the west coast. Some from Billy directly, some from fellow cruisers, some from fishermen and some from Billy's book. I doubt I have it all correct, but, from what I have learned, this is how it goes.
The sockeye fishery is the biggest salmon fishery on the west coast. And the biggest river is the Fraser River, emptying into the Strait of Georgia through two main branches in Vancouver. The main body of the run comes in south of Vancouver Island through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. About 30% of the run come in north of the island down through Queen Charlotte Strait and into the narrows of Johnstone Strait.. just where we were headed.
The sockeye fishery is a 36 hour fishery, beginning at 1800 hrs. But what day is a well guarded secret by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They monitor the run and determine when it is at its maximum, and the season is on. Because of the narrow waters, forcing all the fish into a few narrow channels, fishermen from as far away as Bella Coola come south, burning over $1,000 in fuel to participate. Each fisherman has a quota, and there is an overall quota. The sockeye run goes in cycles. Every fourth year is the biggest, and this was year four.
We motored across Queen Charlotte Strait in flat calm waters, with about 1/2 mile visibility in fog. As we were on our first leg heading south, we were disappointed to not be sailing. All the way north we motored into headwinds, so we are looking forward to some nice sailing as we head south, but today, our first southern day, no luck.
Port McNeill has two marinas, one municipal and the other private. We had arranged a slip at North Island Marina, the private one. It has the only fuel dock in town and we wanted to fill up. We got into our slip with no trouble and asked about fuel... “well, maybe tomorrow.” After registering, we watched as boat after boat pulled into the fuel dock, all fishing boats taking on 1,000 gallons each. Later we finally figured out that they were filling up in preparation for the opening, only days away.
We had booked our slip for two nights... even all the slips for recreational boaters are fully booked... a busy spot. Next morning, we took a ferry to nearby Malcomb Island, and its main community of Sointula. A very interesting history.
Early in the 20th century, a group of Finnish settlers who were employed in coal mining on Vancouver Island decided to establish an egalitarian community where all were equal . They settled on Malcomb Island and named there community Sointula, meaning “harmony” in Finnish. After a few years, to no ones surprise, it petered out. But a few settlers remained and today it is a combination of the original settlers, fishermen, summer residents and aging hippies. We had an excellent lunch at Coho Joe's. Then we borrowed bikes from the tourist bureau and biked a few miles down the shore.
Back in Port McNeill (a 20 minute ferry ride, free for BC seniors) we headed for Port McNeill's finest restaurant, Northern Light. It took a few minutes to convince our waitress that we wanted to see the wine list (You have to order the whole bottle!), but the expense was worth it, with the Halibut Neptune, a Bearnaise sauce with shrimp and crab... delicious!!
08 September 2018 | Port McNeill, BC
Well, true to recent form, the morning dawned foggy in Napier Bay. We wanted an early start to beat the wind and current. But before we left, we took some extra time to watch a bear wandering on the shore just off our stern.
Our objective, Blunden Harbour, was just 12 miles up Queen Charlotte Strait, but in this area, the winds build from the north-west in the afternoon, creating an uncomfortable ride. So we set out in the fog, using the AIS reception and radar to feel our way down Wells Passage into Queen Charlotte Strait. We saw lots of small boats fishing along the shore, but only met a few out in the strait. Approaching Blunden Harbour, we watched three radar targets leaving, and wondered if we would be anchoring in another crowd. But, safely into the harbour, we dropped anchor in a cove with just one other boat in sight.
Blunden Harbour has a long history, recently as a logging camp, but for years before as a native village. The middens (remains of shellfish) are huge. Now there is nothing left of either the village or the logging camps. We walked the shore thinking about its past.
We set the crab trap and went off on an exploration of the area. It is an intricate maze of islands with the incoming tidal current sweeping water into a large lagoon. We poked our noses into the lagoon but decided to turn around for two reasons. First, we were running out of fuel. Second, the entry is a tidal rapid. So once in, you are in until the current changes in your favour. So we retreated to the boat for the night.
This morning, we hauled our crab trap with no success. The neighbouring boat told us that they had been thee a few weeks before and watched as commercial crab fishermen covered the area with traps, wiping out the stock.
New plan... Port McNeill for supplies, as always, running low. We delayed our departure until late morning, hoping for the fog to lift and the wind to rise... we are now heading downwind... in a southerly direction. No luck. We motored in fog and flat waters 23 miles to Port McNeill where we tied up at the North Coast Marina.
Port McNeill is a small town on the north coast of Vancouver Island that owes its living to fishing, logging and mining. But it has everything the cruising sailor needs.
Turn Around Time
16 August 2018
Sullivan Bay "Floating Village"
We woke in Turnbull Cove to another morning of light fog that quickly burned off leaving another cloudless day. After breakfast, we took the dinghy ashore for a short but steep a 3/4 mile hike up to Huaskin Lake. BC Forestry has built a large raft that you walk out to on a ramp. Jeannie swam in the (to her) warm water, but it was just below my threshold, so I just dipped my feet in and watched. Back aboard we prepared to get underway, and watched in astonishment as boat after boat streamed into the cove. By the time we left the numbers had swelled to ten. Time to seek out even more remote anchorages!
So we set off for Drury Inlet. I thought I had timed our travel to arrive at Stuart Narrows at slack (our last set of rapids), but our speed wasn't what I planned. But we chugged on. According to the current tables, slack was at 1;55 pm. But by the time we arrived at 2:30, we slid through at slack!
Inside the narrows, we headed for a small anchorage, Davis Bay, just a few miles into the inlet. We have three cruising guides. One said this was the best anchorage in the inlet, another said it was a navigation horror, and open to the winds. The third didn't mention it at all. But we settled in. It is a small anchorage, so that once we were anchored, there wasn't room for any other boats. Settled in, we took our prawn trap out and set it in 120' of water. We had been assured that Davis Inlet was excellent for prawning. Then a kayak expedition to explore the area. In the evening we checked the trap... nothing. So we relocated it and left it for the night. In the evening we watched a black bear prowl the beach off our stern in search for food. He finally settled on some berries and sat on his haunches munching.
Next morning, out to the trap and... success!!! We had one red rock crab, too small, so back he went, and three tiny prawns! These we kept as we are sure we will catch more and will add them to the haul for a dinner. Then we were off to Sutherland Bay at the western end of the inlet. This is as far west as we can go in the Broughtons. We anchored and set the prawn trap, then off exploring. We have one trap, using it for either prawns or crab, depending on depth. We wanted prawns, so found the deepest spot in our area and dropped the trap. Then off on a dinghy tour.We took the dinghy into some long arms through areas too tight for big boats, the only sign of life was the logging activity.
There has been extensive logging all through the Broughtons. Areas that have been re-planted grow green and lush while recently cut areas show the scars of the slash left behind. We landed at the dock of a logging camp, empty on the weekend and hiked up the logging road to stretch our legs. Not too much of interest, but lots of "evidence" of bears, so we decided to head back to the boat. Another quiet night with three prawns for an appetizer.
We are close to Queen Charlotte Strait now, and in the month of "Fogust" mornings are now foggy. Usually it burns off before eleven. We were in no particular hurry to leave as the slack at the Stuart Narrows was not until 3:30 pm. So we waited out the fog, went for another walk and picked up our trap. No prawns, four rock crabs. Three crabs were female, so we released them. The fourth was soon dispatched on the foredeck and in the pot. We need a couple more to make crab cakes.
Around noon we got underway and slowly ran down the inlet. At the narrows, we found ourselves early, but slogged through, reduced at times to just two knots. Through, we headed for nearby Napier Bay for the night. Not an anchorage of any real significance, it was close to Queen Charlotte Strait. Plans have changed. From here we planned to head for Sointula, on Malcolm Island, just off the Vancouver Island coast. But we decided to push just one anchorage further, to Blunden Harbour, home to an abandoned native village. From there, we'll start to work our way back south. Hopefully that will bean more sailing! With the prevailing north-west summer winds, we have had a motoring trip so far, and look forward to the change.
Pierre's Echo Bay Marine Resort
16 August 2018 | Turnbull Cove, BC
Sunny and hot (still)
When we were in Port Harvey, we decided to take advantage of the internet and make a couple of reservations, one at Lagoon Cove and one at Pierre's Echo Bay Marine Resort. Pierre's is famous for its dinners. They serve prime rib on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Roasted pig on Monday and Saturday and Halibut fish and chips on Wednesday. So we booked in for Wednesday along with Paula and Mike from Verstovia who we have been travelling with on and off.
Lately we have had fog in the mornings, burning off by around 10am, and today was no exception. So we just enjoyed a leisurely morning in the cockpit, getting underway after the fog lifted. Our route was just seven miles, so we took a few scenic diversions, arriving at Pierre's in early afternoon.
After lunch and signing in, buying a few supplies, we were off on a short hike across to Billy Proctor's. After 15 minutes on a very up-and-down trail, we came out at Billy's museum, with Billy sitting quietly on a bench out front. Billy is a widely known local character, now in his early 80's. He has spent his entire life in the Broughtons, except when away fishing. Except for one fishing trip to Alaska, he has not been outside British Columbia. He has two daughters, both with university degrees. A man of contrasts. He still holds a commercial licence and has a boat, but hasn't fished for years.
He cleaned off a space on the bench and invited me to sit down. His museum consists of things he has found on the beaches or dug up in the area. It contains, among lots of other things, old arrowheads, glass Japanese fishing floats, old bottles of all sizes, colours and shapes, an early two man chain saw, and lots more. When asked what's inside, he replied "Just some old junk." Sitting in the warm afternoon sun, we talked for over an hour on topics ranging from the area history, the current state of the fishery, politics and much more. But it was time to head back for Pierre's fish and chips. Before we left, we went into his tiny bookstore where he sells books relating to the area, including a couple he has written, one of which we bought. He rang in the sale on an enormous ancient cash register, still in perfect working order. A very enjoyable afternoon.
Back at Pierre's, we sat down with Paula and Mike and two other couples, both from Seattle. In the marina there were about 25 boats (one other sailboat), only three of which were Canadian. The rest were from the US. And that has been typical here, at least 80% of the boats from the US.
Dinner was buffet style with halibut, home cut fries and cole slaw. Dessert was key lime pie. And it lived up to its reputation! Everyone waddled away happy.
Next morning we said good by to Paula and Mike. They were starting back south to Saltspring Island where they live and we headed off north-west for more exploration. Our destination was Turnbull Cove where we could hike up to a lake for a swim. Up Sutlej Channel, we passed , Tribune Channel, Kingscomb Inlet and pulled in to Sullivan Bay Marina. We topped off our fuel (lots of motoring here) and bought more supplies, including wine and beer which had run out. Up Dunsany Passage, into Grappler Sound, through a couple of narrows with swirling currents slowing us to just two knots, and we turned into beautiful Turnbull Cove. A large anchorage, there were only four other boats, so lots of room to anchor. Another beautiful evening after another hot and sunny day. Since we began sailing in late June we have had just one day of rain. Great for cruising, but all the marinas are running out of water, and the forests are tinder dry! The forecast shows showers and cooler weather the day after tomorrow. I guess we should hope for it.
Broughtns Part 3
15 August 2018 | Pierre's Echo Bay Resort
Sunny, Hot, light winds
Kwatsi Bay Marina
In the quiet morning air of Kwatsi Bay, we waited for the fog to lift. Not a Down-easter pea soup fog, but a light cloud clinging to the water until the sun burnt it off, (an August feature here). After lots of good-bu's to Anka (Max had left for supplies in Sointulla) we were off down Tribune Strait to Siboon Sound where we tucked into beautiful MacIntosh Cove. In the entire sound, we had only three other boats. Out in the kayak to explore the area, we quietly drifted back to the boat when we spied three bears, a mother and two cubs, on the shore. In our quiet approach they did not hear us until we were quite close. But when they saw us, they just quietly ambled up into the woods and disappeared.
Emboldened by our success in Potts Lagoon, we set the crab trap, confident of a nice haul in the morning. Back aboard, we thawed another steak. We're getting a bit tired of frozen meat, but the plan is to re-stock in Pierre's Echo Bay Marina on Wednesday when we will spend a night and enjoy his famous cuisine.
In the morning we checked the trap and our haul was: one sea urchin (tiny), one rock cod (undersized) and one tiny spider crab (no meat and no season), so all were released. Then off to new destinations.
Plan A was Waddington Harbour, a small harbour about 15 miles away, through two straightforward channels into a small group of islands.
Arriving, we were a bit surprised at the crowd, making for tight quarters. We tried anchoring in one open area, but found only kelp and soupy mud. Not good for the nightly winds that blow through. We tried a couple of other spots, either too deep ( a common problem on the west coast) or too crowded.
Off to Plan B. Up Blunden Passage, past the four way intersection with Misty Passage and Old Passage, and through the very tight narrows, where we turned down int Lady Boot Cove. Its name derives from its shape, a long leg down to where there is a small branch off (the heel) and the main branch into the toe. With just two other boats there, we anchored in the toe and went ashore to stretch our legs. Lady Boot Cove is on Eden Island, part of the Broughton Islands Marine Park. But it is a wilderness park, meaning nothing has been done to create anything ashore. So we landed at a tiny beach, stumbled over a bunch of rocks for an hour or so until the tide forced us off.
Cruising the Broughtons, Part 2
15 August 2018 | Kwatsi Bay Marina, The Broughtons
After a calm night, we woke in Potts Lagoon to yet another beautiful sunny morning. The weather here has been impressive! We came equipped with warm clothing, down vests, etc. But they are tucked far away. The days have been sunny and hot, cooling off in the evenings, perfect cruising weather.
Off to check the crab trap, where we found four nice male Red Rock Crab, all well over the legal minimum. By some miracle, I was able to pull them all out of the trap without getting my fingers caught in their snapping jaws. Into a bucket and off back to the boat to clean them. I had watched our neighbours at Lagoon Cove with interest and went at it with some trepidation. Red Rock crabs have a much harder shell than the Dungeness crabs that our friends had caught. But after some struggling on my part (more on the crab's part), we had them dispatched and into the pot. Next job, Jeannie's, picking the meat out. This turned out to be the worst part, given the amount of complaining I heard.
But off we went deeper into the Broughton Archipelago. We retraced our steps up Clio Channel, passing Minstrel Island and its abandoned village out into Knight Inlet, the longest inlet in BC. But we just crossed it into beautiful Tribune Channel. We wound our way up for 16 miles between the towering cliffs plunging straight down so that we motored along just a boatlength off the cliff face, still with no reading on the depth sounder.
Rounding Irvine Point, we turned into Kwatsi Bay, our destination for the night. Heading in, we called the Kwatsi Bay Marina on VHF 66A and received a warm welcome and docking instructions. Tied up, we met owners Max and Anka and were told about the (minimal) facilities and the happy hour for which they are well known. Normally we would avoid this sort of activity but the warm welcome made it impossible. Also, our friends Mike and Paula on Verstovia were there to meet us. So with the four other boats in the marina, we enjoyed a beautiful evening on the dock.
In the morning, we decided to stay another night, and hiked a short way to what would in a normal summer be a waterfall. We invited Frank and Marchien Archer, dockmates, on the hike. This year, heading for a record dry summer, the falls were just a trickle. But it was good to stretch our legs.
Back at the dinghy, we dragged it out with no damage (this time) and back to the boat for lunch. Afternoon was kayaking around the bay and just relaxing.
The evening was a pot luck on the dock, again not something we would normally look forward to, but with our friendly hosts, we prepared Chicken Pesto Penne and again enjoyed ourselves, meeting new dockmates, including one who was a musician in LA whose band hosted such sit-ins as Taj Mahal and the Rolling Stones. He was very modest but his crew had mentioned it, so we enjoyed hearing his experiences. He has since become a lawyer!! From bad to worse, I said.