06 July 2022 | Ocean Falls
Day 2 of Pruth Bay was our chance to walk out to the beautiful beaches on the western shore of Calvert Island. After a short trip to the dinghy dock, we walked through the Hakai Research Center to the trail leading to the West Beach, one of 9 such beaches and considered one of the best in all of Queen Charlotte Sound. It was extremely low tide which gave us the chance to explore some of the rocks which are generally submerged. We could see the massive number of small Mussels attached thereto. We returned to Lion’s Paw for the remainder of the day to get some additional downtime before moving on.
We arose the following morning to overcast skies (What else is new?). We weighed anchor and headed to our next destination-Codville, one of our favorite stops from our last trip to the Central Coast on our return from Alaska 7 years ago. The trip was quite eventful. First, we had a great trailing current that pushed us to over 8 knots for about an hour. We then entered an area where we were exposed to the ocean swell from the Sound which gave us a bit of a roll and yaw as we were going with the swell. We finally returned to Fitz Hugh Sound where we were pleased to find a good wind from the stern, so it was time to finally set sail for a day of no motor. We were able to sail for about 2 hours at 6+ knots in 14+ knot winds. When we finally reached the turn in for Codville, we furled the genoa and doused the main so that we could enter the narrow passage into the Codville Lagoon. We proceeded to the site where we had previously anchored alone to find two power boats rafted together, so we set our anchor clear of theirs. As we settled in for the afternoon, we were joined by 4 other boats, bringing the total to 7 for the night. The next morning, 3 of the boats left early. Codville is popular because there is a trail to a fresh water lake with a sandy beach. I decided to make the hike, but Debra passed because she had a vivid memory of our prior visit. By late morning, I went ashore and made the hike to the lake of about 3/4 of a mile. Because it is bear country, I took my phone and played music from my collection for the noise recommended when in bear country. The trail consists of sections of improved boardwalk over marshy areas and then short steep sections up and down. Once at the lake, I began to hear beeps from my phone that seemed to never end. After looking at the display, lo and behold, I had internet! All of the emails and texts which had been building up over the last several days came pouring through. I sat down on the log which Debra and I had enjoyed 7 years ago and which was still there, and I went through the list of all of the text messages and emails, virtually none of which were worth reading. I was soon joined by the couple who had arrived on their sailboat the previous day. They were from Tulsa, Oklahoma, but they were keeping their boat in British Columbia. I left them to their solitude as I made my way back to Lion’s Paw. Shortly thereafter, we weighed anchor and headed to our next destination, Ocean Falls.
We arrived at Ocean Falls at mid-afternoon and found a spot on the government dock. We had read that there was free internet there, but the office was unmanned, and no one knew the correct password. We had been told that Ocean Falls was the place to crab, so I launched the dinghy and set the trap in the area where crabbing is supposed to be best. I then took a walk into the virtually deserted town. Debra stayed behind and found the password, so we have internet. A prior logging town with a huge pulp mill was a bustling community with a large, 5 story hotel (now deserted and deteriorating), an olympic sized swimming pool and a Hudsons Bay Department Store, all gone now. There is a small boarding house with an ice cream shop, and I walked there where I met the proprietor, a gentleman who had come to Ocean Falls in 1997, long after most everything had shut down. He was a great source of knowledge about the town which he was anxious to share. There are now only 7 physical residents of the town (There are actually 60 people that consider themselves as residents, but they live in a small residential neighborhood about 5km from the actual town according to someone at the town hall.). We were treated to a photograph of us in one of the deserted jail cells; something that apparently is a favorite of visitors. Ocean Falls does have ferry service from BC Ferries, but trips are every 2 weeks. The two sources of industry left are the hydroelectric dam and a large building housing a blockchain facility manned by a single person (using the cheap electric power of the dam). There remains the historical museum which was here when we last visited, but the caretaker and creator died last year. There are a couple of people who have kept it open.
After dinner, I returned to check the crab trap, and it was empty. I moved it a few hundred meters and set it again for the night, but I did not feel that I would have any better luck after a 3rd round of crabbing since leaving Salt Spring. We had a quiet night onboard, and it managed to rain lightly for a bit in the middle of the night. I love the sound of rain falling on the deck above our bed. I awoke this morning and hopped in the dinghy to check the trap again. When it came to the surface, I was pleasantly surprised to see 4 large males (you cannot keep females) in the trap! I whipped out my measuring tool, and all four were legal “keepers” (See the lead photo). They are now cooked and stored in the refrigerator for dinner tonight and beyond. The trap has been reset, and we hope for another catch tomorrow, but this clearly met our hopes for crabbing here in the Central Coast. There is one other place where we will stop which has a good reputation for crabbing. You can never have enough of this amazing delicacy.
After cooking the crabs, we went for a walk around the town. It was fun to compare what we saw seven years ago, and much has not changed. We walked to the overlook of the hydroelectric dam and stopped by the ice cream store to purchase a cinnamon roll and a loaf of bread (as advertised on their menu board). Debra asked about gluten free bread, much as a joke, but the proprietor said that they did not make bread, but that they could make a gluten free cake. Well, tomorrow is Debra’s birthday, so the timing could not be better. They will deliver it to the boat this afternoon. We will spend the second night here in potentially poor weather. The wind has started to blow, and some more rain is in the forecast. Tomorrow we head for our next stop, Troup Inlet.
02 July 2022 | Pruth Bay
We have finally accessed an internet connection since leaving Port McNeill, so there is a fair bit to catch up on. We departed our anchorage early in the morning to catch the favorable current into Queen Charlotte Strait, and it was a great decision. Once in the Strait, it was virtually no wind or swell, and it was overcast but not foggy. The trip to Allison Harbour was uneventful, and we arrived to an anchorage all to ourselves. After settling in, I set the crab trap in the mid-afternoon. When checking it after dinner, there was only one undersized male in the trap, so I returned it to the bottom for an overnight drop. I awoke early next morning in anticipation of a full trap, but to my great disappointment it was empty. We had decided the night before that if the crabbing was not good, there was no reason to stay for a second night, so we were soon off to points further north. Our first encounter was a large group of sea otters floating on their backs, either feeding off of sea urchins or mothers carrying their pups on their bellies. I also briefly spotted a pair of Orcas, one male with a very large dorsal fin. Once in the open water, the first task was to round Cape Caution, a notorious place for large waves because it is very shallow for a few miles offshore, so the wiser navigators stay out in deeper water to avoid the possible danger. It adds for a slightly longer trip, but discretion is always the better part of valor. There was actually minimal wind and only a moderate swell of about one meter as we made our way north, and when we passed the Cape well offshore, there were a few other boats traveling in both directions that were following the safe course. After passing that point, we turned slightly to starboard to head to our destination for the day, and we ended up in a bit of a beam sea (swell hitting us perpendicular to our directdion of travel) which caused Lion’s Paw to roll slightly side-to-side as each swell passed. We decided to set the mainsail to counter the motion since there was enough of a breeze to fill the sail. Sure enough, it totally eliminated the rolling even though we continued under motor. The rest of this segment proved uneventful under continuing overcast skies.
We approached our intended destination, Fury Cove, a place we had not visited in the past, although it is a very popular stopping place for boats transiting the Cape, either before or after depending upon the direction of travel. We furled the mainsail and entered the cove through the narrow, shallow entrance without incident. There were 3 other boats already at anchor, and we eventually found a suitable spot to anchor. We settled in for the day, continuing our daily games of cribbage and dominoes, but we had decided to add a third-rummy, a game I had learned crossing the Pacific on Nomad. After several days of practice, we had decided to add it to the daily challenge. During the practices, I seemed to have a fairly strong upper hand, but since adding this competition to our daily challenge, Debra has yet to lose! I have only managed to win one round of the best 2 out of 3 scoring, and Fury Cove was no different. We settled in for dinner, Neflix and a good night’s sleep, awakening as the only boat remaining in the cove. We had decided to spend an extra day at the cove and take advantage of the beautiful white beach which looked like pristine. It was July 1st, Canada Day, and we observed a couple of skiffs going ashore and setting up a picnic, flying the Canadian flag. We launched our dinghy and landed close to their skiffs. As we walked towards the beach we had a chance to briefly talk to the four people who we learned actually lived on a nearby island and annually visited the beach on major holidays. They had two very large dogs who were very eager to make contact with us, but the woman put them on their leashes (they had been running free) and continued to have them on leashes as long as we were on the beach, as well. The first thing we realized was that this was not a white sand beach; it was a midden of massive amounts of crushed sea shells, the remnants of First Nations people who had obviously made this their home at one point in the past. We walked a bit around the area stepping on the boulders of black volcanic basalt strewn amongst the midden and sat to enjoy the beautiful views of Fitzhugh Sound and the cove and Lion’s Paw (see the lead photo) before returning to Lion’s Paw, where Debra continued her domination of rummy. We were joined by a few other boats for the evening.
We arose this morning with our next destination well established-Pruth Bay, the home of the Hakai Institute, a marine research center. We were looking forward to this stop for two reasons- (1) There are five beautiful beaches which are within walking distance and face out to open ocean, and (2) We have internet access which allows me to post this latest blog. We have set anchor in the harbour and are settling in for an extended stay before moving further north. Travel to this anchorage was under continued overcast skies, but the skies have begun to clear with sun breaking through. Hopefully this will continue for the remainder of our stay.
I think that this is enough to bring an end to this blog. Our next likely blog will be in 4 days or so when we reach Ocean Falls which advertises free wifi.
27 June 2022
After a morning of laundry and cleaning the boat on Sunday, it was a day of simply hanging out on Lion’s Paw. We ended the day with dinner at the local brew pub. We had checked out the menu the night before, and they had gluten free jamalaya as an entree. Debra was psyched as it is usually made with flour which eliminates it from her menu options. We sat down at a long table in the sun and were handed menus, but tonight’s no longer included the jambalaya. When we inquired from the waitress, she advised us that they had run out the night before, and it would be another week before it returned. Totally bummed, Debra had to settle for jerk chicken tacos. I, on the other hand, chose beer and clam spaghettini which was quite good with tons of fresh clams in the shell.
We awoke today to another foggy morning. Our plan was to rent a car for grocery shopping in Port Hardy, about 50 km away, and a visit to the Whale Interpretive Center in Telegraph Cove. It was quite a logistical effort. The marina does have a courtesy vehicle that you used to be able to use to tour the area, but due to past problems, it was now limited to airport trips. I checked the internet for rental cars and found a National Car Rental facility at the Port Hardy Airport. To take advantage of this, we used the courtesy van to drive to the airport, pick up the rental vehicle (an oversized Ford 250 pickup truck), leave the van at the airport, drive the truck to the grocery in Port Hardy (which is far superior to the local grocery here in Port McNeill) and back to the airport where we then drove both vehicles back to the marina. After unloading all the groceries and having some lunch, we drove the truck to the Center and had a personal tour by one of the docents. It is an amazing display of marine mammals including numerous poised skeletons assembled by Bob DeRoos’ son, Mike. The highlight is a 25 foot humpback whale which hangs from the ceiling, and there is a short video showing the whole process from cleaning the carcass of a beached whale to hanging at the Center. It was then back to Port McNeill to pick up the van, drive both vehicles back to the airport, drop off the truck and return the van to the marina. How is that for a day of travel? We are now back aboard Lion’s Paw where we will shortly have dinner before calling it a night. The weather says that it is time to move north with a first destination of Allison Harbour before transiting around Cape Caution and finally into the Central Coast, most likely after a two night stay in the Harbour for some downtime and crab trapping. Internet is sure to become spotty, so do not expect daily postings over the next several weeks.
25 June 2022
We survived the night on the dock at Toba. We left the following morning, timing our traverse of the three successive rapids, Yaculta, Gillard and Dent. Our destination for the day was Blind Channel Resort, the place we had visited in 2015 and where we met Bob DeRoos, who attracted us to Ganges on Salt Spring Island for our summer home. We timed our traverse perfectly, following the guidelines we had been provided by experienced sailors. Yaculta was a bit of a struggle, as we had to enter while still under flood tide on our nose, and the current was running about 3 knots at the worst spot (It can run up to 10 knots). Gillard was next, and that was about 2 knots. Dent, which is noted as the most troublesome, was at slack just as we passed through the narrowest section-no whirlpools or back eddies to throw us for a loop.
We continued on to Blind Channel where we were somewhat challenged by the currents in Mayne Passage where the marina lies. We adjusted appropriately and docked without incident. The marina was quite a different experience than our first visit. That was in May when Bob and we were the only boats. This time, all but one spot on the docks was full, and there were a fair number of larger power boats, mostly from the US. A feature of the marina is the restaurant, which is only open June through August. We took advantage and had an outstanding meal. When we had first booked our spot via internet from Toba, the weather forecast was horrendous for our trip up Johnstone Strait following Blind Channel. It called for three days of high winds, 15-30 knots, which is passable but very uncomfortable and challenging when combined with the current. Therefore, we were expecting to have three days at Blind Channel before continuing our journey north. However, when we checked the weather in Blind Channel, it had changed favorably. It forecast one day of much lighter winds, so we decided to move on to our next stop, Port Harvey. The winds were again forecast to resume the following day, so we were prepared to anchor at Port Harvey for at least 2 days.
We left Blind Channel at 6am in order to traverse Green Rapids, the next challenge, on an ebb, which meant that we would run with the current. Sure enough, we shot through Green at a maximum of 10 knots and were treated to a fairly long run of 8 knots before things quieted down. The winds were as predicted, and we arrived at Port Harvey by early afternoon. We found an anchorage which was relatively sheltered from the wind and settled in for the day under sunny skies and quiet solitude. Again, we were able to check the wind situation, and we found another window of calm winds for today. However, it did call for strong winds that evening, and sure enough, it blew hard. I put out some additional scope to our anchor as an insurance policy if the wind continued through the night, but it subsided within an hour or so.
Once again, we chose to time our departure to utilize the most favorable current in Johnstone Strait. That meant a departure time of 5am. With the extended daylight hours, we left under clear skies as the sunrise appeared around 6am. As we were leaving, I checked for AIS signals from other vessels in Johnstone Strait, and there were 2 very fast targets (moving at about 20 kts.). Checking their identity, they were two cruise ships which had apparently left from Vancouver early this morning. One was the Celebrity Millenium, a ship with which we had some familiarity. The other was the big shock-The Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth (see the lead photo as it was reflecting the sunrise). As we watched both ships pass us and started focusing far ahead, we spotted a fog bank in our path. Before long, we entered very dense fog for the next 2 hours. With Debra at the companionway watching for floating logs and I at the helm watching our chart plotter and radar screen, we completed the traverse without incident. Our AIS signal helped immensely as I was able to identify and communicate with boats headed opposite to us. With boats passing less than a 1/4 mile away, we could not see any of them because the fog was so dense. We called ahead to the marina at Port McNeill check their condition as it was so dense that docking could potentially become an issue. While it was foggy there, it was not so dense that we could not maneuver in the marina, so we proceeded on. As we were about ½ mile from the marina, the fog broke, and we arrived under clear blue skies. We are now settled in for the next few days as we prepare to head to the Central Coast.
Toba Wilderness Marina
23 June 2022 | Toba Inlet
We left Laura Cove under clear skies and no wind. We headed north out of Desolation Sound, heading for our anticipated next stop of Toba Wilderness Marina, a place that we had once visited in the past. As we entered Toba Inlet to make the crossing to the marina, Debra called on the VHF radio, asking about availability. We anticipated no problem with lack of other boats at our previous stops, but the first question from the marina was “Do you have a reservation?”. When Debra said “no”, the person said to hold on and came back indicating availability. However, there was a problem: It was only 10:30am, and they were insistent that check in was not until noon. We were 20 minutes away. We had recently passed Walsh Cove, an anchorage that we had considered as an overnight stop if Toba was unavailable. We turned around, returned to Walsh and dropped anchor for a temporary stay until we would ultimately arrive at the marina at or near noon. After waiting for the hour necessary to time our arrival at the marina, we weighed anchor and arrived shortly after noon. We settled in for our stay as we planned our next leg which involves a series of three rapids in close order, culminating with the final one, Dent Rapids. The plan was to time the rapids and proceed on to Blind Channel Resort, several miles beyond the rapids. Debra emailed them (there is no telephone service here, only internet), and they confirmed a reservation for tomorrow. We then started checking weather for the coming days, only to learn that the weather for Johnstone Strait, the route to our jumping off point for the Central Coast, looks very bad over the next 4 days with forecast winds of 20-30 knots of headwind to Port McNeill a 2 day journey from Blind Channel. We have therefore arranged with that marina to have an extended stay while we wait for the winds to calm down in the Strait enough to make the journey at least tolerable.
Toba is a very nice facility with excellent docks, nice showers and wifi. There are also some nice trails to explore. One of the more challenging is a climb up the mountain against which the marina lies. I decided to take on the task while Debra elected not to press her physical efforts. It was a good choice for her as the trail is relatively long and steep with an apparent “outlook” at the top, which I could not find. Nevertheless, it was good exercise, and I found bushes of salmonberries (similar but not as sweet as raspberries) which produced some ripe fruit for the picking. All seemed to be good until I returned to Lion’s Paw, and the normally protected docks were being exposed to waves of strong winds blowing across Lion’s Paw, making for some uncomfortable motion and wind noise. Nevertheless, we were able to complete our dinner plans, cooking on our propane grill which acted like a champ. The winds have finally quieted down, but we are now experiencing a series of remaining wind waves which are bouncing us back and forth against the dock by our fenders as our docklines stretch and compress with each wave. We are not sure how long this will last, so it may make for a very unpleasant night of sleep. This will be a unique experience, rendering this an unfortunately disappointing stop of our journey.
That is all for now.
22 June 2022 | Desolation Sound
Yesterday, we arrived at Tenedos Bay where there were only three boats in the lagoon, which can easily hold 10 or more. We set anchor and settled in for a sunny day. I took advantage of the quiet waters, launched my kayak and did a circumnatigation of a small island which makes up a part of the lagoon’s shoreline. It called for a traverse of a very shallow area which goes dry at low tide, and I timed my trip accordingly, passing over the shallow with about 2 feet of depth. Upon returning to Lion’s Paw, we launched the dinghy and took a trip across the bay to a gravel beach which began a trail to a beautiful fresh water lake. It was one that we had again visited with Debra’s dad years ago. It is known for the log jam that has been created over the years at the mouth of the creek which flows from the lake to the ocean, creating a partial dam. You can walk out onto the logs as they are nicely lined up parallel to each other, the larger ones not bobbing as you step on them. If you dare, you can make your way to the edge of the dam and take a swim in the cool water, but we passed on that opportunity this trip, having done so once before. However, we did sit on one of the large logs for quite awhile, enjoying the view under sunny skies. As experienced at Teakerne Arm’s trail, we were once again alone. There were two kayakers on the shore of the bay, but they were enjoying the sun from that shore. We returned to Lion’s Paw, where I decided to take a brief dip in the ocean before we settled in for dinner. We experimented with roasted potatoes on our gas grill, and they turned out so much better than the oven, so it will be our method of cooking for the future. We squeezed in a game of dominoes before bedtime, and Debra continued her winning streak, extending to 5 matches in a row.
I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of light rain on the roof of the cabin, and it was raining as I awoke early this morning. In fact, it has continued to rain pretty much nonstop all day. In a way it feels a bit like a typical day in Southeast Alaska. We weighed anchor at mid morning to try out a different site in Desolation Sound. Prideaux Haven is the most popular anchorage in Desolation Sound with two famous coves-Melanie and Laura. We chose Laura for this part of our visit. We would normally see double digits of vessels stern tied to both shorelines, but we arrived to only 2, both at the western side of the entrance. We therefore headed to the empty, eastern side where we have been able to set anchor directly between the two shorelines, allowing adequate distance to swing throughout our stay. It is now late afternoon, and there are only 3 other boats here. Tomorrow we head further north with one more stop in Desolation Sound before taking on the challenge of Dent Rapids, the northern exit to the Sound and Johnstone Strait on our way to the Central Coast of BC. There is no connectivity here in the Cove, so hopefully we will be able to transmit this blog once we leave here tomorrow.