Dodwell Group Inner Basin to Shearwater

Awoke to gray skies and not much wind. I could tell Bob was ready to cast off for Shearwater, where we can do lots of errands and get internet access. I think what he was really looking forward to was the fact that there was a restaurant, so we could have someone else cook for him for a change!

The anchor chain has been jamming as it entered the chain locker, so we let out another 50’ (now 200 total) and then he flaked it in as I pulled up the chain (actually, the windlass pulled up the chain, I just hit the switch). We are hoping that will minimize future jamming after we leave the marina at Shearwater. The anchor revealed that the bottom in Dodwell as mud with some grass. The holding was good.

I helmed almost all the way to Shearwater. It was low tide, and Soulsby Point at the end of Dodwell Island was definitely eye-catching, I can see how that might catch a propeller or two if someone isn’t paying attention and the tide is just a bit higher.  The water was calm, and the sky was cloudy. There was not another boat in sight or on AIS. As we entered Lama Pass and headed toward Bella Bella, the narrow part of the channel was filled with floating log debris, which had me weaving my way in and out of the detritus.  Bella Bella was a pleasant sight, a small (200 people?) native town that has a 12-bed hospital and a grocery store. We continued on past Bella Bella and headed for the docks at Shearwater.

We have never been here before, but the guidebooks indicate that the docks are nice and they have power on them…and they are usually crowded. As we approached, all three things were not exactly true. The docks looked pretty torn up, there was no power on the docks at all, and there were only a few boats there when we arrived about 10:30am. We picked a spot on the “inside” of the main dock to avoid as much swell as possible, and tied up. A nice woman from a departing sailboat gave us the access code for the internet, as it was good for another day and she was leaving. That saved us $10!

We had lots of things to accomplish in Shearwater. First, when we got on Alaskan Dream in Port McNeill, we were short two cruising guidebooks. I had called in advance to make sure they would be aboard, but there was a snafu and they were not. The remoteness of Port McNeill and Port Hardy kept us from being able to source replacements, one of which was essential as we moved north. Northwest Explorations, the wonderful charter company, had the two books shipped on Pacific Coastal Air to Bella Bella, and they were awaiting our pick up. So we took the water taxi over to Bella Bella at 11:00. The captain, Vern, was extremely friendly, and no sooner had we headed out back towards Bella Bella than out of Seaforth Channel came the large cruise ship the Disney Wonder! It was so big in the small channel; it dwarfed the channel and the water taxi. Vern delighted his passengers by detouring around the aft of the ship. Hanging off the aft was a “sculpture” of Donald Duck, who looked like he was painting the stern, suspended by a “rope”. Another Disney Duck, one of the young ones whose names I cannot remember from my days of watching cartoons, was poised above Donald, holding a pair of scissors and about to cut the line. It was so funny, we all laughed. I wonder how big those figures were? 30 feet? 40 feet?


The Disney Wonder fills our view from the water taxi

As we ran alongside the Disney Wonder, passengers on their decks waved, and we saw that on the top deck, an outdoor movie was being shown. We tried to get them to honk their horn (apparently, one of their horns plays “When you wish upon a star”), but we had no luck. Still, it was a very cool way to be introduced to Shearwater and Bella Bella.

Upon arrival at Bella Bella, Vern called us a taxi, and we rode the taxi van out to the small airport. Bob picked up the package while I chatted with the driver, who was an ardent Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He had Steelers dice hanging from the rear-view window. Go figure.


The docks at Bella Bella, the water taxi is in the distance near the ramp

Back in “town”, we went to the Band Grocery Store, which had great selection and fresh produce, and grabbed a few things before jumping back on the water taxi for Shearwater.


The band store is a great place to provision in Bella Bella

Back at the boat we offloaded our groceries and books, and headed for the restaurant for a killer burger and fries. Bob was in heaven.

While on the water taxi, we learned that in the winter, hurricane force winds had hit Shearwater and totally detached the docks, sending them out into the bay. Apparently some floating lodges ended up in the bay as well. Shearwater has the docks back together, a bit the worse for wear, but no power reestablished yet.

Shearwater is a big complex (for out here), and there is a grocery store/liquor store/post office, a nice Laundromat(maybe the best we’ve found cruising the northwest), a marine store and a Marine Works. We happily did 2 loads of laundry and a little grocery shopping, but we failed to find a replacement battery for the dinghy, so the electric start is no longer functional. You can still start it the old fashioned way (pulling the string), but it’s definitely more effort.

We paid our moorage ($1 a foot) for the evening, and then had beers on the flybridge with Scott Kennedy, a Montana native who moors his boat in Bellingham. He was single-handing the boat up to Alaska, where he would pick up his fiancée in early June. We had a lot of fun talking, and he is a friend of Brian Pemberton’s, the owner of Northwest Explorations. Small world!


Scott's fishing machine

A few more boats arrived, including the lovely Far Out, a 71’ DeFever (used to belong to Art DeFever himself). We took their lines as they approached the docks, and learned a bit about them, including the fact that they have done 30,000 miles in that boat, including the Panama Canal and South America and the East Coast.


Far Out on the docks in Shearwater, Alaskan Dream is to the left


Classic tug converted to a fishing lodge that floats

Never ones to pass up good food, we headed up to the restaurant again for a late dinner and enjoyed it while soaking in the view over the docks. The clouds had finally lifted and it was a lovely and tranquil night. At the restaurant, we met Sarah, who lives in Rivers Inlet (Sunshine Bay) but was up in Shearwater doing the census! She was great fun, and told us a lot about life “in the wilderness” and how she moved from rural England directly to Rivers Inlet. We will try to visit her next time we head up this way.


This prawner is very optimistic given the number of pots he managed to put onboard

On our way back to the boat to call it a night, we stopped to look at the 4-passenger Robinson R-44 maroon helicopter that is based in Shearwater. It was a sobering thought to see the 4 Mustang life vests that everyone wears when in flight – makes sense, as the majority of the flights are over water!


Sunset over the stern of Far Out