Beaches & Bears
15 September 2011 | Tofino, BC
photo courtesy Wade Biggs
15 Sep 2011 0630 Tofino Harbour (SW coast Vancouver Island BC)
Light rain falling, just greying a bit (rather than an actual sunrise). Later today we will move on; but first to catch up since end of August and departing SE AK:
Before leaving Ketchikan, I thought it prudent to get some maintenance tasks done e.g. adjusting valves on the genset. As is always the case you go to do one thing and discover a new problem, much more pressing than the original; in this case a crack in the genset exhaust elbow... Yikes! Fortunately, just as they have in the past Barb & Bill in the parts department of Hatton Marine (Seattle) had the parts to me overnight before departing Ketchikan (after taking aboard 400 gal diesel).
While waiting for the package at the airport cargo office, I met an interesting fellow -- Jim is an AK fisherman out of Craig (SW coast Prince of Wales Is; we stopped there end of last summer) and his wife is Chinese; they live in Szen-Jen (spelling, I know) during the winter, which is just north of Hong Kong. Dorothy's gone shopping there with Tjasa (one of the world's best shoppers!).
Despite 'gale' and 'small craft' warnings, which caused us to skip a stop in Dora Bay to visit Darlene (who manages the Great Northern Boaters Net, at the AK end -- great job Darlene! We'll make it out to see you another time) 31 Aug turned out to be a beautiful traveling day across Dixon Entrance. In one exposed area we did get stbd bow chop 1-2' for a few hours (but prior to that sunshine and a nap on the foredeck). After dark things began to pick up and Environment Canada & Canada Coast Guard warnings became more strident.
At one point we almost entered Pearl Harbor, but it does not appear to have adequate SW-S-SE protection (which are the wind directions an advancing storm will move thru). It had already been a long day and I did not look forward happily to several more hours underway around the bottom of the peninsula to enter Prince Rupert, so in the dark, in increasing rain, we gave Venn Passage a shot (narrow, shallow, curvey back door into PR we've transited -- in daylight, benign conditions -- twice before). There are about a dozen markers which are not! lit which required Dot and Wade on deck with spotlight held on the the marker until a corner could be completed; otherwise the passage went well including the 3 tri-color light range markers (which I haven't had an opportunity to see inaction before). We found a space at the PRRYC long float, cleared Canada Customs by phone, took the dogs for a short walk and off to bed. Awakened at 0600 by severe boat rocking in chop coming up the bay, created by the S wind. Got up and doubled the fenders between the boat and the float to which we were tied, to prevent the hull grinding against the bull boards. Forecasts that morning, Thursday 1 Sep, suggested we might be pinned down there until early the next week.
2 Sep PRRYC. Making use of down time, I changed out the Gulf Coast filter (thru which passes all fuel moved by the transfer pump). I use bumpy water days as an opportunity to filter the contents of one or more of our 6 fuel tanks, hoping to capture and sediment or crap which may be hiding there waiting to cause me a problem later.
Based on continuing less-than-benign forecast for crossing Hecate Strait to the Queen Charlotte Islands (our original plan), we've decided to forego the QC Islands and head down what we call the "inside-outside" -- rather than the well-traveled inside passage route, smaller, less-traveled, less protected and far more interesting than the usual.
Overnight in Captains Cove off Petral Channel -- no beach for the dogs, just marshy grass which required baths and rinsing before being allowed inside the boat.
3 Sep after a days travel, we anchored in Devlin Bay, a wide spot off Estavan Sound where a passage goes out to Hecate Strait. Not much of a beach for the dogs, but a beautiful, calm evening in the anchorage (and Wade got some great photos). About 0100, the weather picked up.
4 Sep Gray, rain, wind; not the same place as 12 hours ago... Underway intending long day to Shearwater but Caamano Sound hit us with SE high winds and ocean swells; both stabies (paravane stabilizers) out; less than 20 nautical miles for a morning of pounding and high fuel usage -- approx 5 gal/hr @ 1850 rpm
Pulled into Chapple Inlet (top of Laredo Channel): cute place, great little island at the entrance to Kiln Bay. A local boat back-tied there just inside to the left; we plunked down our anchor in the middle of Kiln. Weather reporting storm force from QC Sound to Dixon Entrance -- it may take awhile to get south and make our crossing to Vancouver Island.
5 Sep. 0800 depart; moving fuel from aft tank to #2. A stiff wind up Laredo Channel, crossed back of Laredo Sound to Meyers Passage -- between wind, wind waves and ocean swells against current (then later with current but the current against wind) it was quite active for awhile; 2-3 meter steep waves slapping the starboard bow. In the midst of the action Rusty goes on deck to poop and places himself on the port deck in front of one of the scuppers; as he pooped, his turds hit the deck and rolled overboard out the scupper! Super dog! Anchored in Rescue Bay, Jackson Passage.
6 Sep Rescue Bay to Bella Bella: swells at bottom of Reid Psg (west end Seaforth Ch) some stiff wind but generally a nice run to Shearwater. Squeezed into a tight spot on the dock with help from a breeze off the dock and other boaters catching lines and calling distances. Ended up across the dock from ATA Maria, a Nordhavn motorsailer -- beautiful boat which we also saw in PR and Ketchikan. Also chatted with Tor & Jess off SV Yare, a beautiful homebuilt steel 32' ketch. We first had contact with them over the radio in Peril Strait earlier in the summer. They're cruising with 16 mo old twin boys! (how bout that Wooshee!?)
7 Sep in glorious sunny weather, rather than plodding done Fitzhugh Passage towards the Queen Charlotte Sound crossing, we took a convoluted "inside-outside" with two exposed sections down to Pruth Bay and it's fantastic beach. Disregarding seeing animals (or glaciers) this passage was to me, the best cruise we've had in the Pacific Northwest -- kind of a Disneyland jungle boat ride without the hippo; several openings with big lumpy swells (out of multiple directions), spray blasting off rocks to port, stbd and ahead; kind of Carmel-ish; brilliant blue sky, warm; narrow technical passages; smooth, quiet fairylands of islets and anchorages -- a great kayaking, exploring, diving place! So for whoever is interested, here it is: north to south (Bella Bella to Pruth Bay, Calvert Island): Hunter Passage (S) > Sans Puer Psg (S) > (W) out Cultis Sound > (S) Spider Ch > (E) Spitfire Ch > (S) Hurricane Ch > (E) Brydon Ch > (S) thru Kildidt Sound > (E) Nalu Psg > (S) Ward Ch > (S) Hakai Psg > Meay Inlet > Pruth Bay.
As if that already wasn't a great day, we hiked across the little peninsula to the big sand beach where Rusty & Rascal ran and played and dug in the sand and ran some more!! *and once again I was bitten by the no see, no feel "white sock" bug leaving behind weeping blood wounds and itchy egg-sized welts!
8 Sep we motored out of Pruth Bay, down Fitzhugh and out into Queen Charlotte Sound in thick fog with both radars and the foghorn going. In past years we went east of Vancouver Island, but this time we crossed to the northwest tip of the Island, rounding Cape Scott still in fog. We had a lumpy swell all the way out of W & SW, but no wind to speak of. At one point, in the fog, we had four cruise ships within a mile, 3 crossing in front of us, one behind -- Seven Seas Navigator, Rhapsody of the Seas, Celebrity Millenium & Queen of C-something -- we listened as wheelhouse staff from two of the ships bickered with each other over the radio as to which ship was over-taking the other; something to pass the time in the fog
We broke out of the fog just a few miles north of our West Vancouver Is destination, Sea Otter Cove. The description in the guide and the chart did not seem encouraging, but it was the only viable anchorage for another 20 nm. We came in from the south, thru San Josef Bay; one very shallow spot on the north side, to big moorings, the southern-most one in deepest water. Great beaches for the dogs and lots of bear sign. Our neighbor was SV Wind Pilot out of Vancouver (Deb & Bob)
9 Sep. Had a long morning's exploration of Sea Otter, by dinghy and beach-combing, then departed at noon, on the high tide. Big sloppy swells W & NW, wind out of N so we tried sails but really needed a whisker pole (which we broke in PI and have not replaced). Into Quatsino Sound, Wind Pilot just ahead of us, bears on the beach to the right and Peter & Anna Maria (off Windhover out of Las Vegas) in their dinghy behind us. Winter Harbour, good protection, marginal facilities but doing the best they can with what they've got.
10 Sep. Many fruitless attempts to use the Winter Harbour pay phone; underway about 1200; Wade's cell working in main part of Quatsino Sound, apparently from Port Hardy.
Out around Brooks Peninsula -- big, mushy, confused swells; lots of wind; hand-steered for a couple hours (auto-pilot having difficulty keeping up with all the action) both fish out, still doing 7+ knots with wind more or less behind us.
Into Bunsby Islands, Gay Passage, Scow Bay -- technical but quite do-able; baby bear on the beach; several small beaches but not really good dog-running. Dinner aboard DE with Peter & Anna Maria off SV Windhover.
11 Sep. Despite having dreamed for years of kayaking in the Bunsbys, the reality really had nothing to keep us, though I'd been wanting to take a break. We continued south out Gay Psg on an inside route past Walter's Cove (a town) to Rugged Point Marine Park -- beautiful sandy beaches and sunshine, a great spot for us, and the dogs; overnight.
12 Sep. Not nearly so attractive in gray, drippy not-quite-fog, we departed Rugged Point into Clear Psg southbound then outside for 3 miles before getting in behind Catala Is, then Esperanza Inlet. Wind was SE, choppy, bouncy in Clear Psg but once outside, the very short period, steep seas made things quite uncomfortable; ultimately both fish in the water, which made a big, big difference (are you paying attention Kimley?).
Inside Esperanza, the sun came out for the remainder of the day. Dot, the dogs and I took the dinghy into Nuchalitz to check if anyone was at Tim Neimeyer's cabin. No one home; we left a card. (on two occasions, Tim has kindly lent us the use of his cabin -- once my brother Tom, Kirk S. and I flew in there from Gold River and another time Erne B. son Patrick and Bob R took a skiff out from Zebalos. While dinghy-ing to Tim's place, Rascal launched himself off the bow, at speed, in deep water, for reasons locked deep inside his doggy brain. He went right into the tunnel between the dinghy hulls, but I managed to get the engine up in time to avoid either cutting him with the prop or trapping him under the boat with the lower unit of the outboard. He did swim like the dickens, for the boat, once he popped out.
Back to DE and around Nootka Island for the rest of the day to Bodega Cove off Tahsis Inlet for an anchorage. Got a good long look at a big black bear on the shore, Bodega Cv.
13 Sep. Forecast light winds out of NW -- good traveling weather. Out Nootka Sound along Hesquiat Penninsula in the fog, glassy surface with a little swell; eventually rounding the penninsula into a significant NW swell, but long period, light wind, no chop and into Hot Springs Cove.
The springs were interesting but (for me anyway) not really refreshing. Hard to get comfortable in the rocks, all kinds of floating bits in the water; lots of people; the rocky surf area beyond the springs full of dirty water and not particularly inviting from a Banzai Bozo point of view. But, the one mile walk from the Provincial Park dock, out to the spring was worth the time and effort on it's own merits. Cedar boardwalk, many planks with boatnames carved into them -- some quite elaborately carved. We hung out with Windhover at the springs, then under the influence of the apparent beautiful evening offshore, we went ahead south on the outside of Flores Is. The evening turned not so beautiful as we dove into the fog offshore with big NW swells. Russel Channel to Millar Ch then back down into Matilda Inlet in the dark to tie up overnight at Ahousat General Store.
14 Sep. Dorothy and my 43rd wedding anniversary; which Dot was kind enough to remind me of this morning without scolding me for forgetting. Slept in a bit; some shopping and conversation with Hugh at the store. He grew up in Hot Springs Cove, oldest of eight (went to school with 12 total kids in his school, not his class, his school). His parents gifted the hot springs park to the province. He bought the store property in '59, built most of what's there -- think Stewart's Point Store, the old hotel and PO. Was at one time the local police as well, very interesting guy.
Underway before noon towards the town of Tofino, namesake of our big double kayak which gave good service back in the days we were kayak camping Barkley Sound. A great little tourist town, nice people, wharf floats kinda tired, but adequate. We ended up with a funky tie-up, but what the heck, it's only overnight. The Marine Supply store is excellent! Had a great anniversary dinner at a very nice restaurant in Tofino; Windhover and Wade helped us celebrate.
And now we're an hour away from heading south to Barkley Sound, and from there we'll head into Straits of Juan de Fuga, across to Port Angeles to clear US Customs. Dot will bus into Seattle to get some things, while I do some maintenane jobs, before starting the trip down the Pacific Coast to Bodega Bay. We'll be there soon.