Voyages North

03 June 2018
22 September 2017 | Posted in Seattle
08 September 2017 | Posted at Spencer Spit, San Juan Islands
18 August 2017 | Posted at Spencer Spit, San Juan Islands
17 August 2017 | Olympia
22 August 2016 | posted at Prideaux Haven, Desolation Sound

July 26, 2018. Klemtu. A Modern Pictograph

21 August 2018
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: A pictograph on Cone Island

We were approaching Klemtu, a Kitasoo / Xai’xais village on British Columbia’s north coast when I saw the pictograph on Cone Island: a canoe with a series of hands beneath it, all done in dark-colored ochre. This was no usual pictograph, faded with age, its colors smeared. We hadn’t seen any reports of pictographs here but the cliffs to our starboard were ideal for them so we had been idly scanning them as we motored along.

“Hey!” said Steve and pulled back the throttle. He motored Osprey closer to the pictograph so we could see it in more detail. Where most pictographs were almost primitive, like stick figures, this was more robust. I could almost imagine it on the wall of a gallery.

I was thrilled to see it and delighted to learn later that it had been done by school children at Klemtu who had researched and experimented with different binders for the ochre, finally concluding that the traditional mix of ochre and fish eggs was the best. They had painted it in 2016 and it still looked brand new. And in making the design modern, they had taken their traditional art into the present. I hope this is the beginning of a trend.

As we approached the village, I heard the croak of a raven, then the clonk of another: the sounds of a first Nations village.

We turned the corner to see the town mostly unchanged since the last time we had visited although somewhat grown with the addition of more houses. The Big House on the point still dominated the village. Houses circled the bay with a large fish processing plant on the north end. We anchored in the center of the bay, thankful there were no other boats. Although the bay appeared to be of good size, extensive shallows along the shore and a deep area in the center limited swinging room. There was just room for our boat plus one or two others at the most.

We had come here because it was on our way to Meyers Passage where we were going to look for pictographs, but also because I had forgotten to buy eggs at our last stop, Shearwater.

The Band Store was already closed for the day but was due to open at 9:30 the next morning. So that morning, while Steve puttered around the boat, I rowed to a small dock and walked the few steps to the store. A clerk was just opening the door and starting up the cash register when I arrived.

“Where are the eggs?” I asked.

“No eggs,” she answered.

My expression must have shown my dismay because she quickly added, “We’re suffering too. But we’ll get another shipment tomorrow when the ferry comes in. We hope there will be eggs but sometimes they just send dry goods.“

I rowed back to Osprey pondering the tribulations of living in a small isolated community dependent on a ferry.

We left for the day but returned that afternoon. On our way back we’d passed the ferry dock unloading people and goods from the biweekly ferry arrival. No point in checking for eggs yet.

The sun was shining; it was a good day for a walk.
At the dock, a young woman took our dinghy line and chatted with us. Her name was Chantelle she told us and she worked as a Coastal Guardian. “I protect our resources,” “Things are much better now than the old days.” Then she laughed, “I mean than before I was born. “I’m only 24.”

We started our walk around the bay, on a sidewalk that ran along the water. Periodically a bench interrupted the sidewalk and next to each bench a bear-proof trashcan painted with a picture of a bear. They were evidently a success as we saw little litter. I recalled a conversation I had once had here with another boater. “It wouldn’t be a bad place if they just cleaned up the litter,” he told me. I looked at him in amazement. That would never happen, I thought, thinking of other Native villages I had visited. I was glad to know I’d been wrong.

At the end of the sidewalk, we turned at a newly painted totem pole and followed a road up a hill. Near the top was a modern new building. A youngish man stood on the porch.

“Are you staying at the lodge?” he asked, referring to the Spirit Lodge next to the water. When we told him we were on a sailboat and had been looking for pictographs, he invited us into his office to look at a large map. His name was Doug and the building was the new home of the Stewardship Office. All the Northern BC First Nations were working together to preserve their resources. He was optimistic. Someday they hoped to see the salmon runs come back. We told him we’d met Chantelle. “She’s my girlfriend,” he replied. This was a small town.

I left feeling optimistic about the future of Klemtu and the Northern BC resources.

The next morning we took the dinghy back to the dock and walked up to the Band Store. In the refrigerated display case at the back, we found stacks of full egg cartons just unloaded from the ferry.

Street Signs in the Wilderness. Green Island Anchorage. July 23, 2018.

20 August 2018
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: A "street sign" identifying Green Island Anchorage.

From Fitz Hugh Sound, we turned into Fifer Bay then into the narrow channel between Sweepe and Blair Islands. From there we exited into Patrol Passage, entered Illahee Inlet, passed two unnamed islands and finally put Green Island to Starboard before swinging around to drop our anchor.

We knew where we were from the chart, but If we had had any doubt after all those turns, all we had to do was to check a wooden sign on a small unnamed island at the anchorage entrance: "Green Island Anchorage" it said, its black letters just barely visible beneath the green lichen draping the sign.

Many, but not all, of the undeveloped anchorages on the Inside Passage have such signs, usually near the entrance of the bay or cove. Who puts them there, I've never been able to find out, but I doubt it's anyone official. When I first saw them, I thought they were just a quirky characteristic of the Inside Passage. But I've come to see them as something more: a reminder that the Inside Passage is more than just a playground for recreational boaters. It's also a historic highway. Before the European explorers arrived, First Nation peoples plied the Inside Passage in their canoes -- visiting, trading and even warring with other tribes. As Europeans settled the land, they too used the Inside Passage as a highway for goods and people while the First Nations continued their travels, sometimes commuting to summer jobs of hop picking in Puget Sound and fish processing all up and down the coast. During the Klondike Goldrush, the Inside Passage was a highway to riches, or at least adventure, bringing goldseekers to Alaska and gold south.

Today, a parade of tugboats, ferries, fishboats and even cruise ships pass through these waters. It's still a highway, but it's also a wilderness.

Humpbacks In Fitz Hugh Sound. July 23, 2018

20 August 2018
Elsie Hulsizer
Photo: The white tail of a humpback whale.

We had rolled up our jib to enter the channels to Green Island Anchorage in Fitz Hugh Sound on British Columbia's Central Coast when a sudden eruption of white water ahead caught my eye. I grabbed the binoculars in time to see the distinctive white tail of a humpback whale rise in the air. I expected to see it disappear into the water as the whale dove but instead it came down hard on the surface of the water with a resounding splash. The whale was lobtailing: striking the water repeatedly with its tail.

Another whale popped up next to the first and did the same thing, then the first whale (or was it a third?) rose up out of the water, its entire body in view before plunging back with an even bigger splash.

For the next 15 minutes the whales entertained us with their lobtailing and diving. Finally, the water turned quiet and we saw the whales' backs moving north toward the island and away from us. The show was over.

Each year that we have sailed through Fitz Hugh Sound we have seen more whales than the first year. A researcher we met at Shearwater confirmed our observations; more humpbacks come to Fitz Hugh now than previously but they don't know why. We used to think of humpbacks as an Alaskan phenomenon only but no more.
Vessel Name: Osprey
Vessel Make/Model: Annapolis 44 sloop
Hailing Port: Seattle
Crew: Steve and Elsie Hulsizer (author of Glaciers, Bears and Totems and Voyages to Windward)
Elsie and Steve Hulsizer have sailed northwest waters since arriving in Seattle via sailboat from Boston in 1979. [...]
2017: local cruising including South Puget Sound and San Juan Islands 2016:north up West Coast VI, across QC Sound to central BC coast 2015: trip to SE Alaska 2014: Seymour and Belize Inlets through Nakwakto Rapids 2013: SE Alaska and back. 2012: from Seattle up the west coast of Vancouver [...]
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Osprey's Photos -