British Columbia Wilderness
17 July 2019 | Port McNeil, Vancouver Island
Jo Winter | sitting out a low in Port MacNeil
We had very mixed feelings about leaving Alaska, almost exactly a year after we arrived in Dutch Harbor, and after doing a last big restock in Safeways, we caught the tide south down the Tongass Narrows, retracing our route from Misty Fjords. This time we continued strait on to Foggy Bay.
We had had bright, warm sunshine for days now, and had motored with sun and tide, wearing shorts and t-shirts all the way to Foggy Bay. The name seemed wholly inappropriate for this beatutiful, protected little cove inside the wider bay. Although there were two other boats anchored there by the time we arrived, there was plenty of space and best of all the tide was low so that when we came through the narrow passage before the anchorage , we found a mother black bear with two cubs eating molluscs on the foreshore.
Annoyingly the low sun was directly behind them, and photographs were impossible, but we drifted past noislessly watching the three bears going about the serious business of eating!
We made an early start next day leaving Foggy Bay and the bears behind, the tide was not low enough to expose the foreshore, and I suspect they are later risers than we were that day. We had a benign forecast for crossing the Dixon Entrance, which can allegedly be rough and thoroughly unpleasant.
Formalities decree that yachts should stop nowhere between Foggy Bay and Prince Rupert, and as we only had 55 miles to go it was no problem. The chaps were both asleep as we crossed the border 20 miles into the trip, duly taking down our American and Alaskan courtesy flags, and hoisting our Canadian one, which I was relieved to find I had remembered to buy!
Cow Bay is almost downtown Prince Rupert, and the PR Rowing and YC had space for us, as well as spanking new facilities in their club house and a very good value laundrette. The only customs and immigration clearance that we needed was a phone call to the East Coast of Canada, where our details were all recorded, but nothing was stamped either exiting Alaska or coming in here, which I hope won't give us a problem further down the line!
Flora and Dan decided to go hiking next day, while we set off for the excellent museum, and then a 45 minute bus ride to visit an old cannery museum, which was fascinating and excellent. Our guide was a well informed articulate 16 year old, who aspires to do drama as a career, I hope he goes far, as he was great!
The Inside Passage southwards from Prince Rupert takes you through the narrow Grenville Passage, where yet again our tides were spot on, one of these days I'll make a mess of it and we'll find ourselves fighting 5 knots! That day luckily is yet to come, as next morning, when a whole fleet of yachts going in the opposite direction appeared on the AIS, my loyal crew reckoned I must have messed up! Oh they of little faith, we luckily carried 3.5 knots of fair tide, which they in turn battled!!
We were only going 25 miles on down the Grenville Passage next day. It was beautiful, with high mountains falling down to the channel below, all covered in numerous varieties of spruce and cedar. The sun was shining, and the sketch book came out in a feeble attempt to capture the beauty of it all. Lowe Bay , is a favourite spot with several boats, and we anchored right in front of the Verney Falls. Next morning as we enjoyed a late start to play the tides we watched as a float plane came in to collect someone from a neighbouring boat, and then their rib chasing the plane down the bay as it left!
The choices of fabulous anchorages along this coast is second to none, but our luck did change for a day of rain to remind us that we are in one of the high rainfall areas of the world, and forests are 'rain forests'. But we took a punt on the weather and diverted to Windy Bay, in Sheep Passage, hoping that the rain might let up and give us a view of so called 'Fjordland' next day.
Our luck held, and next day the clouds cleared and we motored for 8 miles up the beautiful Kynnock Fjord, before retracing our path and heading onwards. We had arranged to meet my brother Mike and his wife Laurian at Bella Bella, a native settlement on Campbell Island, and the only place that had air connections from Vancouver. Not only could they fly there, but nearby Shearwater bay had a small marina and a laundrette!
Luckily the flight arrived in the afternoon, so Flora and Dan had to move out of their cabin and the boat was scrubbed from top to bottom, and along with all our clean laundry, we felt very presentable by the time they arrived!
So now with six of us on board provisions were beginning to run rather low, although I have endless supplies of 'dry stores' which I am pretty good at improvising with for a few days, as well as meat in the freezer.
A couple of days later, as we slowly sailed along the Fitz Hugh Sound, watching lots of Hump back Whales, one breached for us, and another three appeared to be 'bubble feeding', which is when they club up and drive small fry into a shoal that they bring to the surface, and then feast on! It was fascinating to see, and lovely to have six of us to share it!
We were heading for Pruth Bay, and as we were sailing so slowly we had been fishing, and amazingly it seemed to us we hauled in a large salmon, but it was to be 'the one that got away', there was general panic and excitement, which sadly gave way to huge disappointment at losing our first salmon!!
Instead we landed at the Hakai Research Centre jetty in Pruth Bay, and had a wonderful walk across the island to a stunning white sand bay looking across the Pacific Ocean, and then an onward more testing half hour took us to another lovely bay, where huge trees smoothed and shaped by the ocean and moulded into sculptural forms lay on the foreshore, if only one could take some home!
We had a short 20 miles to go the next day to tiny Home Cove, here one yacht just fits at the end of the cove, and the wreck of some vast steel hulk rots on the shore line, but at last our fishing skills were rewarded, and this fierce skipper insisted on ruining a good sail, winding in the genoa, and fishing while we ate our lunch, before going into the bay. One very lively pink salmon was safely landed and valliantly filleted by Giles, and we all feasted off the freshest salmon any of us had ever had, beautifully cooked on the bar-b-q!
An early start to catch the flood tide into Queen Charlotte Sound was the next day's plan. We were a day ahead of a forecast SE gale, which makes the Sound a fearsome place, but even so thick fog decended on us wrapping us in a cold white damp blanket, while we watched carefully at the AIS and radar. A large fishing boat appeared immediately behind us, which we had totally failed to see on radar, and even after a violent horn hooting and course change he was scarcely visible on the radar. If they don't have AIS you would think that a radar reflector would be a good idea! In general the AIS is brilliant, and allows you to call anyone up by name and check their intentions.
After an eleven hour passage into the Queen Charlotte Strait, when the visibility returned we pulled into Port McNeil, just before the Harbour Office shut for the day, and were allocated the last available berth in the town marina, and told that 30 knots is due for tomorrow. What a nice feeling to be safely tucked in!