Ocean Falls

June 2nd, 2011

Our plan for the day was to take a walk around town before heading on. Ocean Falls is an interesting place; it’s really a ghost town. In its heyday, it was a Crown Zellerbach paper plant town, complete with hotel and cafes and high school, hospital and Olympic size swimming pool and fire station and houses. Now it’s mostly falling down, as Crown Zellerback departed in 1980 or so, and only a few hardy souls hang on. The owner of the dam/power company just sold it to a Quebec company, and was doing re-facing work on the dam, so we wanted to see that as well.

 Morning brings 
some fog, which quickly lifts

Morning brings some fog, which quickly lifts

 “The 
Shack” at Ocean Falls   

“The Shack” at Ocean Falls

 

 Docks 
on the right, Ocean Falls on the left   

Docks on the right, Ocean Falls on the left

 

 View back to the 
docks from the road to town   

View back to the docks from the road to town

 

 The Mermaid of 
Ocean Falls

The Mermaid of Ocean Falls

I was over doing some more recycling when the folks from Zucchini asked me aboard to chat about destinations and whatnot. Bob found me there about a half hour later. We chatted in their comfy pilot house and got some ideas about more places to go, and we recommended Elcho Harbour to them. They were waiting for Herb Carpenter, the Harbourmaster and owner of the Marine Ways, to come by to say hi. We were still aboard when he arrived, so we were able to spend some quality time with Herb. He is amazing – great sense of humor, incredible stories to tell (the bear and Cosmo Mike was my favorite) – we had a blast. He is originally from Kodiak, AK, but now makes his home in Ocean Falls. He bought the Marine Ways and has rebuilt it, and his wife Lena has a small gift shop there as well. Lena was not around, but Herb opened the shop for Diane and I to peruse. Lena has great artistic talent, most of the things for sale are items she made, knitted and/or painted. After spending some money, all four of us (the Zucchini team was there with us!) got a room by room tour of the Marine Ways. I think Herb said it was 20,000 square feet. One room after another had treasures to see – boats, engines, woodworking shop, apartments, and even Herb’s version of a “Man Cave”, which is a great room with a kitchen and a screened in porch overlooking the harbor where he entertains his buddies on Wednesdays.

 The gift shop is 
located under the Orca   

The gift shop is located under the Orca

 

 Inside one of the 
marine ways   

Inside one of the marine ways

 

On the 2nd floor is the “museum” that houses all the stuff from Ocean Falls that Norman Brown (a.k.a. Barely Normal Norman, a nickname I think is proud of) has found in the years he has lived there. It seems as if the prior residents left tons of stuff behind when the town was deserted. There are old signs and dinnerware, and a totally cool 1940’s egg boiler and timer that still works, as well as old bowling pins, jewelry, toys…you name it. A lot of fun to look at, all lovingly found and cataloged by Norman.

 Memorabilia abounds in the 
“museum”   

Memorabilia abounds in the “museum”

 

 I 
wonder who the winner was

I wonder who the winner was

 Ocean 
Falls produced world class swimmers that competed 
internationally

Ocean Falls produced world class swimmers that competed internationally

 Nearly Normal Norman, recorded in a photo 
in his “museum”

Nearly Normal Norman, recorded in a photo in his “museum”

 Norman today   

Norman today

 

Team Zucchini headed back to their boat, and we decided to walk up to the dam and Link Lake above it. The views are amazing of the dam and the water pouring over from Link Lake. The lake itself is massive, and we only saw a small portion of it. On our way back we walked past the old Garden apartments that are totally unsafe, the old Co-op, the old hotel, the old high school, the church (it’s in better shape), and a lodge that is where the dam repair crew is being housed. Under the growth, you can see the entire infrastructure that exists in this town, from curbs to sewers. You can almost hear the voices and bustle of the town in its heyday. Right now, you need a lot of imagination.

  The court 
house is the center of attention in the town

The court house is the center of attention in the town

 Mother Nature is 
quickly reclaiming the unused structures of Ocean Falls   

Mother Nature is quickly reclaiming the unused structures of Ocean Falls

 

 The once proud 
Ocean Falls Firehouse

The once proud Ocean Falls Firehouse

 The damn is the reason Ocean Falls exists. Hydro-electric power is sent 
to Bella Bella and Shearwater   

The damn is the reason Ocean Falls exists. Hydro-electric power is sent to Bella Bella and Shearwater

 

 Built in the early 1900′s, the dam is an impressive sight   

Built in the early 1900′s, the dam is an impressive sight

 

When we got back to the boat about 1:30, a large blue-hulled motor vessel was at the docks where Zucchini had been. It was the 57’ Blue C’s, and I recognized this boat from last year in Alaska, when we were anchored in Takatz Harbor. We introduced ourselves to Carl and Carol (the “C’s in Blue C’s), and had a great chat. They shared some route plans with us, and we sat in their pilothouse for a while and chatted, and Bob got a tour of the engine room. By the time we left so they could walk the town, it was 3:45pm and we decided to stay another night!

Bob made halibut tacos and we watched another round of his favorite Comedy Channel shows and did a load of laundry. Another peaceful night.

 It’s halibut taco 
night!   

It’s halibut taco night!

 

Ocean Falls

Our plan for the day was to take a walk around town before heading on. Ocean Falls is an interesting place; it’s really a ghost town. In its heyday, it was a Crown Zellerbach paper plant town, complete with hotel and cafes and high school, hospital and Olympic size swimming pool and fire station and houses. Now it’s mostly falling down, as Crown Zellerback departed in 1980 or so, and only a few hardy souls hang on. The owner of the dam/power company just sold it to a Quebec company, and was doing re-facing work on the dam, so we wanted to see that as well.

)cean Falls-7-Edit-Edit

Morning brings some fog, which quickly lifts

)cean Falls-51_2_3

“The Shack” at Ocean Falls

)cean Falls-62-Edit-Edit

Docks on the right, Ocean Falls on the left

)cean Falls-83-Edit

View back to the docks from the road to town

)cean Falls-187_8_9-Edit

The Mermaid of Ocean Falls

I was over doing some more recycling when the folks from Zucchini asked me aboard to chat about destinations and whatnot. Bob found me there about a half hour later. We chatted in their comfy pilot house and got some ideas about more places to go, and we recommended Elcho Harbour to them. They were waiting for Herb Carpenter, the Harbourmaster and owner of the Marine Ways, to come by to say hi. We were still aboard when he arrived, so we were able to spend some quality time with Herb. He is amazing – great sense of humor, incredible stories to tell (the bear and Cosmo Mike was my favorite) – we had a blast. He is originally from Kodiak, AK, but now makes his home in Ocean Falls. He bought the Marine Ways and has rebuilt it, and his wife Lena has a small gift shop there as well. Lena was not around, but Herb opened the shop for Diane and I to peruse. Lena has great artistic talent, most of the things for sale are items she made, knitted and/or painted. After spending some money, all four of us (the Zucchini team was there with us!) got a room by room tour of the Marine Ways. I think Herb said it was 20,000 square feet. One room after another had treasures to see – boats, engines, woodworking shop, apartments, and even Herb’s version of a “Man Cave”, which is a great room with a kitchen and a screened in porch overlooking the harbor where he entertains his buddies on Wednesdays.

)cean Falls-166-Edit-Edit

The gift shop is located under the Orca

)cean Falls-77

Inside one of the marine ways

On the 2nd floor is the “museum” that houses all the stuff from Ocean Falls that Norman Brown (a.k.a. Barely Normal Norman, a nickname I think is proud of) has found in the years he has lived there. It seems as if the prior residents left tons of stuff behind when the town was deserted. There are old signs and dinnerware, and a totally cool 1940’s egg boiler and timer that still works, as well as old bowling pins, jewelry, toys…you name it. A lot of fun to look at, all lovingly found and catalogued by Norman.

)cean Falls-95-Edit

Memorabilia abounds in the “museum”

)cean Falls-92

I wonder who the winner was

)cean Falls-89

Ocean Falls produced world class swimmers that competed internationally

)cean Falls-101

Nearly Normal Norman, recorded in a photo in his “museum”

)cean Falls-174-Edit

Norman today

Team Zucchini headed back to their boat, and we decided to walk up to the dam and Link Lake above it. The views are amazing of the dam and the water pouring over from Link Lake. The lake itself is massive, and we only saw a small portion of it. On our way back we walked past the old Garden apartments that are totally unsafe, the old Co-op, the old hotel, the old high school, the church (it’s in better shape), and a lodge that is where the dam repair crew is being housed. Under the growth, you can see the entire infrastructure that exists in this town, from curbs to sewers. You can almost hear the voices and bustle of the town in its heyday. Right now, you need a lot of imagination.

)cean Falls-107

The court house is the center of attention in the town

)cean Falls-108_9-Edit

Mother Nature is quickly reclaiming the unused structures of Ocean Falls

)cean Falls-131_2_3-Edit

The once proud Ocean Falls Firehouse

)cean Falls-117_pano collage-Edit

The dam is the reason Ocean Falls exists. Hydro-electric power is sent to Bella Bella and Shearwater

)cean Falls-144_5_6-Edit

Built in the early 1900's, the dam is an impressive sight

When we got back to the boat about 1:30, a large blue-hulled motor vessel was at the docks where Zucchini had been. It was the 57’ Blue C’s, and I recognized this boat from last year in Alaska, when we were anchored in Takatz Harbor. We introduced ourselves to Carl and Carol (the “C’s in Blue C’s), and had a great chat. They shared some route plans with us, and we sat in their pilothouse for a while and chatted, and Bob got a tour of the engine room. By the time we left so they could walk the town, it was 3:45pm and we decided to stay another night!

Bob made halibut tacos and we watched another round of his favorite Comedy Channel shows and did a load of laundry. Another peaceful night.

 )cean Falls-190-Edit

It's halibut taco night!

Ocean Falls

Our plan for the day was to take a walk around town before heading on. Ocean Falls is an interesting place; it’s really a ghost town. In its heyday, it was a Crown Zellerbach paper plant town, complete with hotel and cafes and high school, hospital and Olympic size swimming pool and fire station and houses. Now it’s mostly falling down, as Crown Zellerback departed in 1980 or so, and only a few hardy souls hang on. The owner of the dam/power company just sold it to a Quebec company, and was doing re-facing work on the dam, so we wanted to see that as well.

)cean Falls-7-Edit-Edit

Morning brings some fog, which quickly lifts

)cean Falls-51_2_3

“The Shack” at Ocean Falls

)cean Falls-62-Edit-Edit

Docks on the right, Ocean Falls on the left

)cean Falls-83-Edit

View back to the docks from the road to town

)cean Falls-187_8_9-Edit

The Mermaid of Ocean Falls

I was over doing some more recycling when the folks from Zucchini asked me aboard to chat about destinations and whatnot. Bob found me there about a half hour later. We chatted in their comfy pilot house and got some ideas about more places to go, and we recommended Elcho Harbour to them. They were waiting for Herb Carpenter, the Harbourmaster and owner of the Marine Ways, to come by to say hi. We were still aboard when he arrived, so we were able to spend some quality time with Herb. He is amazing – great sense of humor, incredible stories to tell (the bear and Cosmo Mike was my favorite) – we had a blast. He is originally from Kodiak, AK, but now makes his home in Ocean Falls. He bought the Marine Ways and has rebuilt it, and his wife Lena has a small gift shop there as well. Lena was not around, but Herb opened the shop for Diane and I to peruse. Lena has great artistic talent, most of the things for sale are items she made, knitted and/or painted. After spending some money, all four of us (the Zucchini team was there with us!) got a room by room tour of the Marine Ways. I think Herb said it was 20,000 square feet. One room after another had treasures to see – boats, engines, woodworking shop, apartments, and even Herb’s version of a “Man Cave”, which is a great room with a kitchen and a screened in porch overlooking the harbor where he entertains his buddies on Wednesdays.

)cean Falls-166-Edit-Edit

The gift shop is located under the Orca

)cean Falls-77

Inside one of the marine ways

On the 2nd floor is the “museum” that houses all the stuff from Ocean Falls that Norman Brown (a.k.a. Barely Normal Norman, a nickname I think is proud of) has found in the years he has lived there. It seems as if the prior residents left tons of stuff behind when the town was deserted. There are old signs and dinnerware, and a totally cool 1940’s egg boiler and timer that still works, as well as old bowling pins, jewelry, toys…you name it. A lot of fun to look at, all lovingly found and catalogued by Norman.

)cean Falls-95-Edit

Memorabilia abounds in the “museum”

)cean Falls-92

I wonder who the winner was

)cean Falls-89

Ocean Falls produced world class swimmers that competed internationally

)cean Falls-101

Nearly Normal Norman, recorded in a photo in his “museum”

)cean Falls-174-Edit

Norman today

Team Zucchini headed back to their boat, and we decided to walk up to the dam and Link Lake above it. The views are amazing of the dam and the water pouring over from Link Lake. The lake itself is massive, and we only saw a small portion of it. On our way back we walked past the old Garden apartments that are totally unsafe, the old Co-op, the old hotel, the old high school, the church (it’s in better shape), and a lodge that is where the dam repair crew is being housed. Under the growth, you can see the entire infrastructure that exists in this town, from curbs to sewers. You can almost hear the voices and bustle of the town in its heyday. Right now, you need a lot of imagination.

)cean Falls-107

The court house is the center of attention in the town

)cean Falls-108_9-Edit

Mother Nature is quickly reclaiming the unused structures of Ocean Falls

)cean Falls-131_2_3-Edit

The once proud Ocean Falls Firehouse

)cean Falls-117_pano collage-Edit

The damn is the reason Ocean Falls exists. Hydro-electric power is sent to Bella Bella and Shearwater

)cean Falls-144_5_6-Edit

Built in the early 1900's, the dam is an impressive sight

When we got back to the boat about 1:30, a large blue-hulled motor vessel was at the docks where Zucchini had been. It was the 57’ Blue C’s, and I recognized this boat from last year in Alaska, when we were anchored in Takatz Harbor. We introduced ourselves to Carl and Carol (the “C’s in Blue C’s), and had a great chat. They shared some route plans with us, and we sat in their pilothouse for a while and chatted, and Bob got a tour of the engine room. By the time we left so they could walk the town, it was 3:45pm and we decided to stay another night!

Bob made halibut tacos and we watched another round of his favorite Comedy Channel shows and did a load of laundry. Another peaceful night.

 )cean Falls-190-Edit

It's halibut taco night!

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls

Today we had an amendment to the float plan. I had originally planned for us to go a bit further up Dean Channel to Eucott Bay Hot Springs…but neither of us was in the mood for a soak, and it was not particularly sunny or bright today. So instead, we decided it was time to head for Ocean Falls.

As we were enjoying breakfast, Bob spotted the four Grizzlies back out on the flats again. We watched them for a long time, as we could see them better than last night. They were eating the grasses but also rolling in the creek, and the juveniles were “fake fighting” and standing up on their hind legs and cuffing each other. One tried it with the big Grizzly male, who tolerated it for a few seconds and then cuffed the youngster with meaning. The youngster desisted. Two eagles kept the bears company.

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls-148

Four grizzly bears entertain us

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls-177-Edit-Edit

The kids decide to try some bear wrestling

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls-180

It ends in a draw

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls-7

Bald eagles look much less majestic when they are scrounging on the beach

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls-45_6_7-Edit-Edit-Edit

Elcho Harbour is one of the prettiest anchorages you'll find

Bob took the helm for Ocean Falls. I worked on the blog, and the waves were one foot chop in Dean Channel. Alaskan Dream took them in stride, though, and I felt no jostling as we headed back down the Channel.

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls-247-Edit

Waterfall along the way

As we neared the turn for Cousins Inlet, I saw a dark hulled motor vessel ahead of us, also bound for Ocean Falls, but we were too far away to tell what type of boat it was. It was windy and gray as we passed a few cabins on the shoreline and saw the small town (80 residents?) of Martin Valley in the distance. Once we got abeam Martin Valley, we could see the Ocean Falls dam. This dam provides hydroelectric power to Martin Valley, Shearwater and Bella Bella. You can see the overland power lines emanating from Ocean Falls. We passed these along out route since we left Shearwater.

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls-288-Edit

Karen makes ready the lines for our mooring at Ocean Falls

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls-315_6_7

Ocean Falls, a town with a long rich history from boom to bust, and now starting to write a new chapter

Though not charted, there is a nice log breakwater protecting the Ocean Falls docks. We picked a spot on the inside of the outer dock, which turns out to be newly installed this year. The wind provided a nice assist as we tied up. And we had great 30amp power and unlimited amounts of the famous Ocean Falls water. It comes from Lake Link but it is also filters and UV treated!

We headed to “The Shack”, which is the wharfinger’s office as well as a mini club house for boaters. It is much nicer than the name implies. Inside were 2-3 computers hooked up to the internet, a book exchange, and several tables with a view outside. Alongside were recycling containers, which I immediately took advantage of. We met Neil, the wharfinger, and paid a reasonable moorage and power fee ($23.25 for 49 feet and $8 for 30amp power), and then headed off to walk to the “grocery store”. It’s about a mile walk up the paved road to Martin Valley. It is only open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3-5pm, and there is an orange “light” that flashes when the store is open for business. It was fun to look at the store, and we had a nice chat with Jimmy, and ended up purchasing eggs and tomatoes before walking back. It was still overcast and windy, but no rain. As we rounded a turn in the road, I said “Oh Sh%*! There was a very large black bear ambling down the other side of the road right at us. I have read all the “bear encounter protocols”, which flew out of my head as soon as I saw that bear. Bob, luckily, kept a level head and stopped, the said “Yo Bear” so the bear saw us and heard us. The bear turned 180 degrees, then thought better of it, and turned back around to continue his walk down the road. After all, he was on the road because it did not want to bother with trudging through the thick forrest. It took one more “Yo Bear” before the bear decided it made sense for him to leave the comfortable walking path of the road to head into the forest instead. During this encounter, I stood behind Bob. I tell myself it was to avoid looking at the bear and giving off the smell of fear, not that it was to ensure the bear had a better target!

Elcho Harbour to Ocean Falls-319-Edit

The “store”. Notice the orange flashing light signaling “we're open”

We walked back to the docks, occasionally looking over our shoulders to ensure the bear was not trailing us. We met the folks on Zucchini, the green hulled motor vessel we had seen entering Cousins Inlet earlier today. They are from Connecticut, and keep their boat on the West Coast.  We chatted briefly. We also helped a sailboat with 2 fellows from Bella Coola tie up in all the wind. All they wanted to know was where they could see the first game of the Stanley Cup (Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston). I suggested they walk up the road to town to Slaggo’s Saloon (with a sharp eye out for the bear). Then Bob and I spent a nice, quiet and well-powered night in Ocean Falls. Dinner was Thai Peanut Chicken and Jasmine Rice. We were able to get Sat TV, and watched Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert before heading off to bed.

Shearwater to Dean Channel, Elcho Harbour

We had a leisurely morning, and made our last visit to the restaurant so Bob could enjoy one more night of freedom from the galley! As we made our way back to Alaskan Dream, we stopped over to look at the new green lodge, which was the site of lots of construction (building a stone “foundation/breakwater”. The owner of Shearwater came over, introduced himself, and encouraged us to go inside the lodge and take a look. This fishing lodge is really nice, and is called Big Time Sportsfishing. It has a grand stone fireplace, large dining room, a roomy sitting area up on the second floor with leather chairs, a pool table and a bar, and then several rooms (many with views). Pretty cushy digs!

IMG_0501-Edit

The “fishing lodge on a barge”, settling into its new home on land

_RE70948-Edit

Here you can see the complete lodge as the stone breakwater/foundation nears complication

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Shearwater, a must stop in your travels

We left Shearwater’s docks at 10am, and the sun was just starting to come out. I chose to take Gunboat Passage, the scenic route to Dean Channel. It is well marked, and not too tricky, but you need to pay attention. Bob swears he saw a humpback in the passage, but I didn’t see it, so it was an unconfirmed sighting!

_RE71014_5_6-Edit

Karen checking for wildlife from the bow

I took the helm most of the way after that, and it was glorious in Fisher Channel and then Dean Channel. The low lying islands and topography gave wave to higher mountains with snowy caps, and it was a lovely ride up Dean Channel. We saw a pod of about 20 porpoises go flying by, clearly chasing fish and not interested in stopping to play with us.

_RE70973

It not like this here everyday, but when it is, there is nothing to match the grandeur

As we got to the entrance of Elcho Harbour, we detoured to see Sir Alexander Mackenzie park, a site commemorating his accomplishments. Sir Alexander Mackenzie rock is marked by a 43’ cairn. On July 22, 1793, we completed his overland journey across Canada to the Pacific Ocean (or as close as he actually got, which wasn’t all the way), and he marked his accomplishment with vermillion paint on a rock. The inscription has since been carved into the stone. You have to look hard to see it, but we did! Apparently, MacKenzie ended his journey here because the waters beyond the rock were Bella Bella Indian territory and his Bella Coola Indian guides could not assure his safety.  (Thanks to the Waggoner Guide for this background)

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Sir Alexander Mackenzie park

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Here is where to look to find the inscription

IMG_0528

A beautiful cruising day

We entered Elcho Harbour and it was absolutely gorgeous, it reminded us of Gut Bay in Alaska and also of Switzerland. The inlet extends 2 miles back off Dean Channel, and ends in a grassy bowl with streams and estuary and mudflats. Several waterfalls line the way in. We spent some time seeking the right place to drop the hook, as the anchorage is either deep (80+ feet) or super shallow due to the mudflats. The sun was shining and there was absolutely no wind. We got a good set in about 80’ of water, with great views of the head as well as the mouth of the inlet (and all the snowcapped mountains in both directions).

After getting the anchor set, we were sitting inside with windows and doors wide open when several dark eyed Juncos (small birds) started flying around and dive bombing the boat. One flew in the door, and I shrieked and hid in the bathroom while Bob sat calmly as it flew back out. Ick!

We relaxed and enjoyed the scenery up on the flybridge, and hoped this might be a good place to see bear. Sure enough, about 6:00, out come FOUR Grizzly Bears, a huge male and 2-3 juveniles. They were backlit by the sun and so gorgeous. They were in all the creek beds and spend several hours out there eating grass and rolling in it and entertaining us.

Dinner was halibut tacos, wine and 2 episodes of The Good Wife.  The sunset was stunning, with alpenglow. It was quiet and peaceful and we were, once again, all alone.

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Elcho Harbour does not disappoint

 

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?

20110529-_RE70846

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.

20110530-_RE70852-Edit-Edit

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.

20110530-_RE70850

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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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Sunset over the stern of Far Out

Dodwell Group Inner Basin

Last night before bed, we had agreed to go kayaking into Dodwell Lagoon in the morning, on a rising (near high) tide. It was overcast and kind of gloomy when we awoke, but we decided to press on, because we’ve found that as soon as we’re in the kayaks, we have fun exploring no matter the weather.

We headed out of the inner basin, around the rocky islet and off for the lagoon. It was a good ride, with favorable current and the tide still rising. We went through the first narrows in the lagoon with no issue, but when we came to the second set, it was all whitewater. We expect that was because it was so shallow. The Hamilton’s book says that you need at least a 12’ tide to explore the whole lagoon, and we’d agree. We were on a 10’ high tide, and it was about 2’ too low to get through this second set of narrows.

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Low tide reveals lots of colors and textures

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The fate of the trees on the bank is certain

No worries, though, because the lagoon is large and there was a lot to look at. I wonder how many people venture into this lagoon each year? We were certainly all alone except for some birds, and we felt like we could be the only people on earth, it was so quiet and still.  We realized we haven’t seen another pleasure boat, or fishing boat, or spoken with anyone else since we left Pruth Bay 5 days ago. But that’s just fine with us!

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Karen explores a small drying area

A great place to explore is when you first enter the drying area into the lagoon. On a 10 foot tide we could paddle all around this area, which for the most part is dry at low tide. It also provided us with a current free exit when we left and the tide was still rising.

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The tide was too low for us to enter the second lagoon, the rapids were fast and shallow

We spent the afternoon doing some chores, I worked on the blog while Bob did engine room chores.  I also cleaned the interior, as it is about 10 days since we left Port McNeill. We pretty much took it easy. Bob called the owner, Barry, on the Sat phone to find out where the multimeter was, because we needed to trouble shoot the battery on the dinghy. That was the total of our interaction with other people for the day!

As it turned out the owner had put five new batteries on the boat before the start of the season(no small expense there), but one he did not replace was the dinghy battery. I checked out the battery and the charging circuit coming from the Honda outboard and the battery was diffidently the culprit. I’ll try to find a replacement battery in Shearwater.

Dinner was delicious grilled pork tenderloin with orange marmalade glaze and mashed sweet potatoes, which made an excellent dinner with some good Argentinian wine. One episode of The Good Wife later, it was time for bed.

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I can do no wrong if I serve Karen sweet potatoes

West Spitfire Cove To Dodwell Group Inner Basin

We enjoyed a peaceful night, the winds were calm, and no swells can make it into this protected cove. We awoke to clouds, but they quickly parted, revealing blue skies and bright sun. Today’s plan is a short 8 nautical mile trip to Sans Peur Cove (off Sans Peur Passage, in the McNaughton Group), so we took our time enjoying breakfast, some housekeeping and a little planning.
The route to Sans Peur takes us down Spitfire Channel to the west, on the “outside” for just a mile or so and around Superstition Point and Superstition Ledge. The combination of shallow waters and the ocean swells made for choppy seas and we certainly can understand why some kayakers choose to portage from Swordfish Bay toSuperstition Cove rather than deal with the currents and rip tides off Superstition Point. 
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Superstition Point
We left the shore about a mile to our starboard side and with the stabilizers working, we had a good but confused ride. It honestly was the most “motion” we’ve felt on this calm-to-date trip, far more than around Cape Caution. As soon as we turned into the entrance to Cultus Sound, the seas were on our stern and everything calmed down very quickly. Karen says “Cultus” means “worthless” or “good for nothing” in Chinook jargon, but today it means sunny and beautiful. She sat for a while on the bow, just enjoying the blue skies and lack of wind.
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Karen enjoying the peaceful ride in Cultus Sound
Sans Peur requires a few doglegs to make your way in, but the charts are pretty good and kelp marks the fairway well. It’s a small cove and requires a stern tie. I set the hook (short scope) from the helm while Karen watched our stern to make sure we did not drift back into any rocks. Then, without too much drama, we got the stern tie set to a dead tree and were back on the boat in short order. The more you do these stern ties, the better you get at it.
The wind was about 15 knots out of the Northwest, which hit our bow in the forward port quarter. The anchor and stern tie were work hard to hold us in place. We decided to have a light lunch of leftover mac & cheese and see how things held.
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Little islets dot our stern tie spot
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Great view off the stern held fast by the stern tie just to the right
Although we held well, we’re only 28 yards from the lee shore and the winds are forecast to continue at this speed or higher all night. After checking our guidebooks for an alternate anchorage in the McNaughton Group with better wind protection (and finding none),we decided to head for our next planned anchorage in the Dodwell Group, just 4.5 miles away. We brought the dinghy on board and retrieved our 300 feet of stern line. The only hiccup was the anchor chain piled up again inside the locker, requiring me to go down and flake the chain as it came onboard. Alaskan Dream has 375 feet of chain, which we love, but it is at the limit of what will go back into the locker without some help. I think once you pay out more than 150 feet, you can plan of a 50/50 chance of have to flake the rode. Next stop, I ‘m going to pay out a bunch and see if I can flake it in so that it is less likely to pile up and jam.
Back underway, we have a short trip until we anchor at the Dodwell Group in the inner basin at the northern part of the group. Here too, you make a few turns around some small islets, and then find yourself in a moderately sized cove with good protection and nice views encompassing even more islets and rocky ledges. We anchored in the northeast corner, in about 40 feet, to protect ourselves from the northwest winds that were so troublesome in Sans Peur Cove. Of course, here the winds were out of the southwest. No matter, we have lots of room to swing. However, the crazy anchor chain did jam again on the way down. Fortunately, enough was paid out that we could set the anchor before addressing the jam in the chain locker.
One breathtaking day
With the winds, we decided to hunker down til late afternoon before going exploring. About 5:30, we headed out in the dinghy to explore some of the other anchorages that the Hamiltons talk about in their guidebook.We headed first toward Soulsby Point, where there is an old, abandoned fishing camp on the 20 meter island just west of the point.
Lots of great fishing stories were told here
It is amazing how much more fun a dinghy ride is when you do not have to shout to be heard. These headsets come in handy in so many ways.
We explored Soulsby Cove, and Forbidden Basin (so named by the Hamiltons because they could not get their anchor to set there, even with a tandem anchor).All the sites are pretty, but none are better than where we are!! It was only about a 3.5 mile round trip to explore these areas.
Karen is checking the how much water we have in the shallows with our handheld depth meter
Dinner was Karen’s favorite – Curried Chicken Salad with Golden Raisins and Celery, served with hot, fresh, homemade drop biscuits. We watched a little Sat TV until the signal could’t keep up with the movement of the boat any more. An early night for all!

Kittyhawk Group to Spitfire Cove West

 

A very peaceful night in Kittyhawk. It was a fairly gray day, and the route plan was to head to Brydon Anchorage on Hurricane Island, with Hurricane Anchorage as an alternate depending on winds. We were supposed to have SE winds again, and Brydon did not look like the place to be, but we wanted to check it all out. And given that everything was so close – about 2-3 nautical miles at best from Kittyhawk, why not turn it into a day of exploration?

A few dogleg turns took us out of Kittyhawk and almost right into Brydon. There are 3 anchorages in Brydon, with the Northwest being the favorite of the Hamiltons. For us, the SE corner was the one we found most cozy, but we were not in a mood to stop yet. We swung around the SW tip of Hurricane Island and took a look at Hurricane Anchorage. It is big with room for lots of boats. Good wind protection too, but just not something that spoke to us. So we went up Hurricane Channel, happy for the high tide. It was easy until the narrow part at the north end, where the electronic charts were off just a bit and we were happy to have the kelp marking the fairway. Once through, we turned right, had a peek down East Spitfire Channel to the very narrow area, and turned into our new home, Spitfire West Cove.

The sunny day brings out the textures of the tidal zones

This cove is quite pretty and large, with some rocky ledges along the sides that keep you from anchoring too far towards the head. The views are great in all directions, especially when the winds orient you to look at Spitfire Channel and across to Spitfire North Cove.

Having skipped breakfast, we decided to have an early lunch up on the fly bridge, enjoying the view and the brightening skies. Then we launched the kayaks, with an eye on Spitfire Lagoon (reached through Spitfire North Cove). The paddle, as always, was into the wind, and as we crossed Spitfire Channel there were some little waves on our beam. But once we turned into the Cove, it calmed down. The entry to the Lagoon was very “kelpy”, but we had plenty of tide (it was falling, but not a big swing from high tide). The lagoon was peaceful, and we went up to the head where trees choke the stream.

Karen leads our “expedition” into the lagoon

Exiting the lagoon, we headed to the east in Spitfire Channel to check out the narrow constriction area where all the guidebooks urge caution. The current was pretty strong so we didn’t go all the way through in our kayaks, but it was definitely a challenging area for a larger boat. Doable, but you’d want the right high tide and avoid having the current pushing you as you maneuvered through.

Karen headed up to the flybridge to enjoy the sunshine and read her Nook, while I worked on pictures for the blog. Karen saw a small dinghy race up the channel – other than that, we have not seen sign of another human being since we left Pruth Bay. Not even any fishing boats. This is definitely an area where you need to be self-sufficient.

Dinner was Penne with Hot sausage, fresh peppers, onions and a little cinnamon topped with parmesan, accompanied by some good wine. Somehow we ended up watching the Disney Movie, Tangled, which tells the story of Rapunzel. It was silly, but we enjoyed it well enough.

As the old salt says: "Red sky at night, sailor's delight".

Kittyhawk Group

Last night, the rain woke us at 12:43am. It is quite loud on the “roof” of the aft cabin. The anchor alarm also sounded a few times during the night, but it was a spurious GPS signal rather than worrisome anchor dragging. When I (Karen) headed up to the salon about 7:30, we were facing SE, and shortly after it started to get really gusty (as forecast).

We decided to make it a lay day, and spend another night in Kittyhawk.  We really like it here, there are interesting views on all sides, and our anchor is well set, though a bit noisy on the rocky bottom on the ledge we are perched on. With the wind shift, we have swung 180 degrees since yesterday.  In honor of our lay day, Bob made killer cinnamon raisin French toast for breakfast. I read my Nook, Bob worked on pictures from the trip so far, and we were happy to be inside.

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Karen paddling under the cloudy skies

About 3:30 or so, the wind died down and the gray skies brightened some. We decided to kayak. The water is lovely and clear, with some shell “sand” below so you can really see what’s down there. We paddled out along the 72 meter island, go into some kelp and some swells, and then cut back into the anchorage from the Eastern side. Paddling near the rocky islands that are scattered around the anchorage is fun, and I love seeing all the purple starfish that call British Columbia home. I did let out a shriek when a Mink went scurrying along one of the rocky islets, I just wasn’t expecting it.

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The purple sea stars of British Columbia are unmistakable

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All the life and textures that reveal themselves at low time are remarkable

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More low tide views from the kayak

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Bob coming around the corner after finding some more subjects for his camera

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Noting but a kayak can get you so intimate with the environs

The highlight of the day, as always, is Bob’s cooking. Tonight’s dinner was an excellent adult version of “Mac and Cheese”, based on a dish we had in March in Nantucket. It is made with lots of different cheeses, some true Macaroni pasta, and peppadews, crispy bacon, peas, and some Chinese 5-spice, with toasted Panko Crumbs on top. Coupled with a good bottle of wine, we had a fabulous meal and you can certainly tell we are not roughing it.

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“Mac & Cheese”

Two episodes of The Good Wife later, we called it a night. Tomorrow we plan to head Brydon Anchorage, a short 2 miles away on Hurricane Island.

Pruth Bay to Kittyhawk Group

It was a slow morning. I did not get out of bed until 8am and we did not depart until 11am. But that’s OK, we’re on vacation, and today is a short travel day. Our plan is to anchor in Lewall Inlet, only 8 miles away across Hakai Pass. And hanging out in Pruth Bay longer allowed use to use their free wi-fi to update our blog.

As we were pulling up our 200 feet of anchor rode, the chain started to foul in the hawsepipe as it entered the chain locker when we had about 15 feet or so left to pull in. Sometimes you can prevent this by paying out some chain and then bringing it back in. Not this morning. So down to the chain locker I went to un-pile the chain and re-flake it on board so there was no fouling. This requires laying prone on the forward V-berth and using gloved hands to wrestle the anchor chain. Karen remained at the helm, ensuring we did not drift anywhere undesirable. Problem fixed, we started to head out.

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View of the Institute from Pruth Bay

We went slowly, only 4.7 knots to enjoy the reduced sound levels. It was a beautiful morning with high clouds, and light and variable winds. We saw our friends on Island Mist fishing in Hakai Pass when we entered. We headed across this often swelly pass with minimal swells to speak of. After passing the Breaker Group (aptly named islands), when then took the narrow southern entrance into Edward Channel. When we arrived at Lewall Inlet, it did not offer any great kayak opportunities or inspire us to stay (otherwise it was a fine anchorage with lots of protection from most winds), so we left this anchorage and made our way out Nalau Passage and set a course to the Kittyhawk Group.

The Kityhawk Group is a rag-tag bunch of little island and islets. Not many anchorages, but lots of good exploring either by dinghy or kayak. We found a spot in the northwest that should give us good protection from the forecast SE winds. The group as a whole is littered with debris on its shores, the results of the pacific storms that roll in through here. As a result, there is some floating junk that you need to dodge. There is also a fair amount of kelp, but at low tide (when we entered) the kelp “edges” help make the fair channel visible. We found a 33 foot ledge in the large bay and set the anchor there. The bottom must be very rocky, because as we spun around in the variable winds, we were treated to the growling of the anchor chain being pulled over the bottom.

Karen took her Nook and went up to the flybridge to read and enjoy the view, protected from wind by the canvas enclosure. I stayed down in the salon and worked on pictures. It was a nice afternoon, and the sun actually came out for a while, though the winds remained fairly active (as did the anchor chain noise).  Tonight’s meal was cheeseburgers on the grill with brown sugar glazed baked sweet potatoes, chased by a nice beer. By this time, the wind was calm, though we knew it was forecast to change to the SE 10-20. We watched some Satellite TV and saw the trail of destruction the tornadoes had left in Joplin, truly a disaster for those folks. The pictures were sobering.

At 9:30, we listened to a weather update that forecast lighter SE winds overnight and headed off to bed, confident our anchor was well set.

Fury Cove to Pruth Bay

We awoke to a lovely morning in Fury Cove. Our powerboat neighbors had already departed, but the sailing fleet was still in the anchorage. It looked like a good day to head north to Pruth Bay up Fitz Hugh Sound.

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Another variation on my egg scramble holds us until dinner

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A beautiful day  -- all is great in Fury Cove

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The famous beaches at Fury Cove

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The contrast between sea, forest and sky continues to fascinate

We departed at a leisurely 9:45am, and went out through narrow Breaker Pass rather than leaving Cleve Island to starboard. Karen worked on editing previous blog entries while I took the helm.I chatted briefly with the BC Ferry Northern Explorer on its way to Prince Rupert, just to clear up that we would parallel his path until he was ahead of us and we could then turn behind him toward Calvert Island.

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B.C Ferry Northern Explorer makes its way north

As we made our way up Fitz Hugh Sound, sighting two Dall’s porpoise frolicking along the way, the ferry suddenly did a 180 degree turn, about 5 miles ahead of us. He continued around until he was abeam the Sound and stopped dead in the water. We had no idea what he was doing…and are still uncertain.He was just abeam Addenbroke Lighthouse, and we saw a dinghy come charging out to the ferry, and a high speed dinghy from the ferry head off to the north, and we suspect that they rendezvoused out of our sight to exchange either crew or supplies. Very unusual…and that hard 180 degree turn certainly made it look like it was a last minute decision. Still, very fun to watch.

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Addenbroke Lighthouse looks like a great place to be a light keeper

We continued on our way to Pruth, and as we turned into Kwakshua Channel, the winds and waves were more evident. We had decided to head to the end of the bay, where the Hakai Beach Institute is located, to see if we could pick up what is rumored to be free wi-fi so we could check email and post blog entries. There were 4 boats in the bay already, 2 sailing vessels, the Nordic Tug Sandpiper and a power boat from Bellingham, WA named Island Mist.We dropped the nook quite a ways back from the Institute’s docks and decided to head for shore to take the walk to West Beach, a true sandy beach on Pacific Ocean. Sandy beaches are hard to come by out here, most are made of shells at best!

The docks were super, and we tied up our dinghy and chatted with some Institute staff who were waiting on a float plane to take them to Port Hardy. They said the Institute was privately owned by 2 well-off scientists who wanted to create an ecological center and attract lots of scientists to come and study. They apparently bought the place from the previous owners who ran it as a high end fishing resort. The entire property is 215 acres, and has numerous buildings: welcome center, two lodges, staff housing, and a hard hat area with lots of equipment. Seems pretty self-sufficient, and was being very well landscaped when we arrived.

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Karen greets and is greeted by some of the staff waiting for the float plane

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Pretty nice facilities at the Hakai Beach Institute

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The view of Pruth Bay from the Hakai Beach Institute

The walk to West Beach was super, flat and fairly short through the forest. You could hear the sound of breaking waves before emerging from the forest on to a very large and flat sand beach, reminiscent of the beaches we saw at Cannon Beach, OR (without the tall towering rocks).

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Along our walk to the beach we found new life cascading down from an old-growth downed cedar

Bob's ready for action. The next photo awaits.

Instead the view oceanward was framed by several islets. We went for a long walk in hard sand, Karen looking for shells and other treasures while I took pictures. We walked to the south end and spent time in some rock cliff formations checking out tidal pools full of interesting creatures, including these odd green sea cucumber or sea anemone type critters.

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What a beach!

Pruth Bay Beach from Robert Minkus on Vimeo.

It was completely sunny, warm and so beautiful, it was hard to believe that we were at the beach in the sun and yet could see snow-capped mountains when we turned back toward the head of Pruth Bay.

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Beach, forest, snow-capped mountains. You'll find this nowhere else.

A group of kayakers from Bella Coola were on some sort of trip, and were camping on the beach. This was a huge camp, and these teens seemed as if they were having a lot of fun.

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Weekend at the beach and kayaking day trips

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Nature is an amazing artist

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Karen looks through the wave cut granite

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Sea star is such a perfect name for this critter

We saw the trailhead to North Beach, but were ready to head back to the boat. Next time, we’ll mountain goat our way to North Beach as well. This is a jewel of a stop, and definitely a must do in sunny weather.

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Along the path to the beach, someone with a sense of humor created this long art. We call him “Stumpy”

As we headed back to the docks, we met the couple who own Island Mist, Frank and Margo. They recognized our boat, Alaskan Dream, as having been previously Samaria, owned by “slip neighbors” of theirs in Bellingham. It is a really small world. They boat for the season, and Frank was born in Petersburg, AK with a brother who lives north of Craig. They were really nice and quite happy to see Samaria again.

Back at Alaskan Dream, we uncapped two beers and sat up on the fly bridge to look at the lovely view. Two more boats arrived and the Nordic Tug left, making for 5 boats in the bay plus us. A veritable crowd for this time of year!

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Herb garden on the Nordic Tug

I made pizza again, this time with some sweet sausage and red peppers as well as the flank steak, gorgonzola cheese and balsamic glaze. This is Karen’s favorite meal, and she was happy to have it two days in a row, which was necessary because I made enough dough for two pizzas the night before.

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Another variation of my pizza recipe

We wound down watching 2 more episodes of The Good Wife, and headed off for a peaceful night’s sleep.

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The sun starts to set on Island Mist in Pruth Bay

Geetla Basin to Fury Cove via Dawson’s Landing

It’s happening again. The sun is up, the skies are clear and the winds are light. Today’s route is planned with two legs. The first stop is Dawson’s Landing, and our ultimate destination is the popular Fury Cove near the junction of Rivers Inlet and Fitz Hugh Sound.

The boat has been running great. The only problem I have not resolved is that only two of the three burners on the stove work. I have a couple of ideas to check out, but as I have been getting along fine with two burners, I have not been motivated to start taking things apart.

Dawson’s Landing is only a two hour hop from Geetla Basin. It has a full store with everything, and I mean everything, you could want. From fuel, to parts, to food, it’s one of the best stocked groceries you’ll find in the hinterlands.

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The store, et. al., at Dawson's Landing

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Fuel dock is just to the right of the store

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Other cabins, fishing lodge and who knows what, line the docks at Dawson's Landing

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The official “greeter” on the docks. Super nice. I wonder how many boats he has seen come and go in his day?

It is Victoria Day today, a Canadian holiday, so we did not know if they would be open. We approached the docks, which were cluttered with overwintering docks and miscellaneous floating stuff from fishing lodgings in the area, but no visiting boats. It looked quiet. We easily found an open spot for Alaskan Dream and tied her up. Nora was kind enough to open the store for us and we were able to fill some needs in utensils and food, and I even found a great fleece vest. Like I said, it’s a great store, and Nora is extremely nice.

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One amazing wilderness store. The other half, full of marine and fishing supplies, is to the right.

We also took on water, and as the tanks, filled I walked around and took some pictures of the environs. Nora said that only six of the nearby fishing lodges were opening this season. The economy has been tough on the industry. Some went bankrupt, some fell victim to the health of the owners, and others suffer from the reduction in boating and fish.

As I mentioned there were a multitude of random docks and structures that were overwintering or being repaired after the winter. It seems a never-ending job to keep all this floating equipment, lodging and whatnot in working order and good repair. It seems there is 9.5 months of maintenance for a 2.5 month season. Such is the life out here.

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Winter storage, winter projects. Soon to be gone from the front of the docks, ready for the season to start.

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Exploring the docks, looking for stuff to photograph

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How's this for a helm station

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I thought the herb garden was a nice touch

After the tanks were filled and we checked out email by using Dawson’s WIFI, we set out for Fury Cove down Darby Channel. It was a bit windy, and when we joined up with the Sound, we did see the Disney Wonder cruise ship headed south to Vancouver. Fury Cove is a popular anchorage for those enroute to Alaska this time of year. Its claim to fame is a white shell beach. Sure enough, as we pulled into the cove, you were rewarded with a view out to the West overlooking the white beaches. There was a kayaker’s area with a set of stairs that could be seen from the anchorage. We were the first to arrive, so we had our pick of places to anchor and took a spot overlooking the gap out to the West.

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The view back into the anchorage at Fury Cove

Fury Cove panorama video

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One of the cuts between Fury Cove and the ocean

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Karen searching for shells

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Driftwood makes a good prop for this portrait

It did not take long for use to make our way to the beach in the dinghy. It was lowish tide, so we timed our exploration well. There is a lot to explore. We walked the beaches and even checked out the rather luxurious kayaker’s cabin just in the woods.

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Welcome to the Clam Shack. Humble, but I bet it looks like the Ritz after kayaking in the rain for a couple of days.

We then just sat on some driftwood and enjoyed the plentiful sunshine, watching a family of Long Billed Dowitchers (2adults and 12 babies) foraging along the shore.

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Yummy! Bugs!

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Dad always keep himself between me and his chicks. But for the most part, they cared little that we were there watching.

One suggestion given to us, which we did not do, was to make our way to the other side onto the southwest beach and build a bonfire and watch the sunset. Sounded like a great idea -- maybe on our next trip!

As the day wore on, we were joined by three sailboats and one other trawler. We were on the flybridge, enjoying a beer and the sunshine, watching the anchoring dance.

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Karen could eat this every night. Not certain I could make it every night.

I made Karen’s favorite Pizza (with gorgonzola, caramelized onions and flank steak), and two episodes of The Good Wife kept us entertained until bedtime. All 5 boats in Fury Cove enjoyed a still night at anchor.

Ahclakerho Islands to Geetla Basin

I hate to start every blog post with a weather report, but it is so spectacular today that it cannot go without reporting. Clear skies and calm winds, a real treat for this time of the year.

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What a beautiful morning, you just know it is going to be a good day

We are off for Geetla Basin, which means we need to head back down Smith Sound and round up into Rivers Inlet, while avoiding any ebb issues. We think we have the timing right, so we’re not concerned, and the wind is benign. This time, on the way out, Karen saw the pictograph. It makes you wonder – what does it mean, that “bug”?

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I love the way life clings to even the smallest opportunity. We call these bonsai islands.

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Beautiful ride up the channel under the Northwest Exploration burgee

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Currents in the channel reflect in the sun

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The current was running almost two knots on our stern as we departed the Ahclakerho

Today is the day we try the watermaker for the first time. One tank is down a little more than half, owing to the two loads of laundry we did enroute to Fly Basin. Alaskan Dream is equipped with a Village Marine water maker that produces about 20 gallons per hour. The only downside of this installation is that there is no remote operating panel in the salon, which means you have to go into the engine room to operate the unit. And, of course, you only operate water makers when you’re underway. Not a big deal, when you consider the flexibility it gives us in planning trips to areas where water supplies are scarce. The owner did a great job of writing up the operational instructions and with a turn of a valve here, a flip of a switch there, check the flow, turn another handle and lo and behold, we’re making fresh water.

After a couple of hours, it seemed the fill rate, which one can monitor with the water tank gauges in the salon, had stopped. When I went to check the water maker, it had switched itself from normal to “dump/cleaning”, and the psi of the outflow had dropped well below the desired target. Inspecting the 5 micron filter, it was completely encased in a 1/6 inch of green slime. That was a surprise, given that we were running in large open channels and the water is so cold (46F). I changed the filter, and all was well. Tomorrow we’re moving to different waters and we make some more water in earnest and see what the filter captures as we travel.

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Green slime clogs the watermaker filter

The big excitement for the day was spotting a small pod of Orca. As we were entering the mouth of Rivers Inlet, Karen spotted the fin of a female. As we continued to scan the area for more activity, the larger fin of a male appeared and later another small fin. They were traveling in a straight line in the opposite direction with a sense of purpose. We watched as they departed Rivers Inlet while we began making our way up. Our destination was Geetla Basin. But on the way up, we took a short detour to check out Duncanby (a high end fishing resort that was not yet open), and we enjoyed winding our way along the small islets. We also saw the Cannery under renovation at the end of Goose Bay, but did not go down to tie up and go ashore.

Just off the open and sometimes challenging Rivers Inlet, you’ll find Geetla Basin. A quick turn in though a narrow entry and then some rocks, and you’re rewarded with a wonderful small anchorage that can handle two or three boats with ease. It was very well protected and offers good holding…and we were again alone, with the exception of a frolicking seal. This anchorage is recommended by the Hamiltons in The Secret Coast, and it’s a great spot.

Immediately after securing Alaskan Dream, we launched the dinghy to explore the east/west oriented lagoon that is at the end of Magee channel. According the Hamilton’s Cruising the Secret Coast, you can take the dinghy in there on higher tides. They were right as always and we explored, looking to the float house that they reported at the west end. It was not there, but we did find that it looked possible to go through the cut at the west end into Darby Channel. Certainly only something to be attempted in a dinghy or Kayak, but at this high a tide, it was doable.

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The dinghy is a great way to do a quick overview, before launching the kayaks

We swung by the entrance to Geetla Inlet, where the kayaking was supposed to be good. The tide had to be above 10’ at Bella Bella to allow entry. Saw that the dinghy path was blocked by a downed tree, so we went back to the boat to get the kayaks and wait for the tide to rise a bit.  The challenge here is that about one third of a mile up the narrow inlet channel is a section about a quarter mile long that dries.. To complicate matters further, one must manage the currents flowing in and out of the two large lagoons to avoid fighting the current on entry and exit. We left about 5:19, knowing high tide at Bella Bella was at 6:08. Our plan was to ride the current in, and then ride the current out.

We did ride the current in.  The base current was about 1.5 knots in the wider entry section, which made for a great ride. However, in the narrow, shallow, rocky sections, the current would pick up a couple of knots and some small rapids made us pay attention as we navigated between rocks and fallen trees.

We paddled into the first large lagoon and came upon twenty five or so sea gulls making the most ungodly racket. The only thing we could think of is that it was mating season, because no one was fishing.

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Bob backlit in “Gull Lagoon”

I decided that it was time to head back, because it was about 6:15 and the current should be changing soon to run out the inlet. Well, Karen and I fought our way up-inlet for a while and finally had to take shelter in a spot out of the current behind a fallen tree to wait for the current to slow and then reverse. We clearly did not use the correct current info! We had to wait, with me holding onto a rock and Karen holding on to my kayak, for an hour for the adverse current to slow and then stop. Karen was so impatient, she wanted to go anyway, but I convinced her to wait, and it was a good decision. We cast off at 7:21 and had a lovely paddle back to the boat, without having to fight any current. We were happy to get back to the boat, that’s for sure!

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Waiting for the current to go slack

After stowing the kayaks and the dinghy, we had an easy meal of Chili and homemade drop biscuits. One more episode of The Good Wife later, off to bed at 11pm…and it’s still sort of light out.

 

 

 

Ahclakerho Islands

Ahclakerho Islands

The Northwest weather has returned: cloudy, overcast, a little fog in the morning with a dampness in the light breeze. It has been declared by Karen “a lay day”. I did not get up until 9. Karen was up at 8 and I found her reading her Nook, drinking her second cup of coffee, nestled under her blanket on the settee. It was a perfect morning for her.

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Breakfast scramble, lots of veggies and yummy on a sleepy morning

I did not make breakfast until 11am, after we looked at our planned schedule and decided that we would just stay here, tied to the shore and comfortable, rather than head further down the channel to Broad Basin. After a week on the go, it is good just to stop and recharge and slow down.

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The stern tie masterfully set by Karen. It's a lot of work, but well worth it for all the small anchorages it opens up to you.

Karen had asked me to buy Season 1 of The Good Wife, and we watched the first two episodes which were quite good. I made some chili for future consumption and worked on the blog and pictures, while Karen continued to commune with her Nook.

Dinner was marinated and glazed pork loin with hoisin sauce and maple glazed carrots. Even Karen’s sweet tooth was satisfied by those carrots!

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 Karen loves all things glazed; glazed carrots, glazed pork tenderloin

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 Sun starting to set, no wind turns the water into a mirror. What's out your window?

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The clouds are still playing with the tops of the mountains after sunset

Fly Basin to Ahclakerho Islands

Fly Basin to Ahclakerho Islands

Our neighbor last night left about a half hour before us. We weighed anchor and began our trip at 7:57am in order to arrive at the narrow Ahclakerho Channel at low slack about 10:00am. The channel looks narrow on the chart and there are some rocks that line the fairway, but we found the Nobeltec charts to be spot on and the trip was an easy passage in beautiful sun.

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Beautiful sunrise at anchor

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We enjoyed a calm and still night at anchor

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Sticky mud and shells make for good holding

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Fly Basin is well protected and we enjoyed a calm night

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There is a reason power boats got the nickname “stinkpots”

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You never are in doubt where the high tide stops. The trees look as if they are trimmed with a laser.

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These are the views views you see cruising nowhere else

Karen had read about some pictograph in the channel across from one of the small islets. I was able to a get a photo, Karen will have to wait for the return to see it. I find it difficult, at best, to spot these ancient symbols. Often faded, they seldom look like anything you expect. Add to that, the fact that the rocks themselves are emblazoned with marks from Mother Nature, and it’s no wonder we bat about 50/50 in spotting these. I got a picture, and when we later looked at the blow up of the pictograph, it was a crazy bug with eyes and a mouth.

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The anchorage in the small “V” shaped notch at the eastern end of the larger of the two Ahclakerho Islands is cozy but not cramped. Because of the shoaling at the northwest end and the marked (but not seen) rock, we did what most people do and set a stern line to the south shore. We have not done a stern tie in a couple of years; add to that a new (to us) boat with different equipment than we are used to, and it took us about an hour to do the “stern tie dance.”

We set the anchor in about 15 feet of water (rocky bottom!) on a plus 2 foot tide about 85 yards from the rocks. From there we set the anchor at the 50 foot mark on the rode and then proceeded to pay out a total of 250 foot of chain. That allowed Alaskan Dream to sit 30 yards from shore in 33 feet of water.

It was low tide ant only one foot above low water, so Karen had to climb the barnacle-encrusted and slimy, slippery rocks to find a suitable place to run our stern line. We were so close to shore that I just rowed us to and from the boat in the dinghy rather than starting the engine. Our stern line was nicely long enough to get the job done, and we were finally snug in the cove.

The bonus to this anchorage is the great Kayaking to be had. At first it only looks OK, but once you get out and start to explore the north shore line of the large island, you’ll find some special small spots and passages that are a kayaker’s delight.

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Karen loves to explore what she calls “Kayak Garages”

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I love all the different textures and colors you find as you look closely from the cockpit of the kayak

In addition, on the west end of the “v” anchorage you’ll find a drying pass that, at high water can be paddled up for about 150 yards. From there you turn around and get a great photo of your boat with snowcapped (it was May 20th) mountains in the far distance.

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The view from the kayaks is not to be missed

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Alaskan Dream framed by the snow capped mountains

Karen and I spent about 2 hours going in and out of every little nook and cranny we could find. Occasionally we were join by the local seals who were as least as interested in us as we they.

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The end of the little drying inlet was messy but still a fun paddle

There were also these triangular (like baby conch) shells everywhere with some sort of sea life inside. We have not seen these before but they were in abundance, along with lots of big clams and mussels.

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An abundance of mussels, but it's the wrong time of the year to harvest them

Dinner selection was driven by chef Bob, who wanted “comfort food” and thus made a fusilli gorgonzola with peppers, onions and kielbasa. After dinner, we decided to check out Broad Cove by dinghy as an alternate anchorage. It was about a 3 mile ride, and it was nice, but not as cozy as where we already were. The dinghy on Alaskan Dream is so nice, very stable, and with an electric start, so easy to get going. It also gets up to 14kts, which is nice for those times when kayaking doesn’t cut it!

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Dinner aboard Alaskan Dream

We were the only pleasure boat in the area, but we did see a fishing boat tending his prawn pots.

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Just us and Mother Nature. Adventure the way we like it.

Miles Inlet to Fly Basin

We awoke to sun and not a cloud in the sky. Today is the day we round the infamous Cape Caution. Renowned for its crappy seas, Karen has read everything she can about making the passage. From the Hamiltons to Waggoner, to an account of a tug boat skipper, she has gleaned all there is to know about the do’s and dont’s. As it turns out, the weather and forecast were almost perfect. Low westerly swells and seas rippled at Pine and Egg Islands were just what we wanted to hear from the VHF radio weather report.

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A good hearty breakfast before rounding Cape Caution

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Entrance to the north lagoon at full outflow

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The channels in some locations are narrow but deep. Here we are in 50 feet of water with the shore only 15 feet to starboard. It feels strange at first, but you get used to it.

Here are the buoy reports at 4am. Many say to not round the Cape if the seas at West Sea Otter are greater than 1.5 meters. However West Sea Otter is out to sea and the other two islands are on the route. With that report of seas rippled, that was the deciding factor.

Buoy Reports:

 West Sea Otter: SE4 Seas 1.7 meters, low westerly swell

Pine Island: Calm, Seas rippled

Egg Island: SE4 Seas rippled

The reports were spot on and though the seas were a bit confused at Slingsby, we had timed avoiding the ebb correctly and we made our way around the Cape in comfort. The outside air temperature was only 52.2F, but the combination of sun and light winds almost made you want to sit outside on the bow.

Again, there is not much traffic to be seen. We did see a large tug towing a monstrous barge of logs, going the opposite direction. The barge sported two cranes for loading and unloading. The only other traffic we saw in Queen Charlotte Sound was on the AIS. The cruise ship Island Princess was in range of the AIS but out of sight as she headed north for our ultimate destination of Ketchikan, Alaska.

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The light at Cape Caution. Somehow I expected something more given the reputation of the Cape

It was only as we approached our destination that we saw a couple of fishermen tending their crab pots in Browning Channel.

The entrance to Fly Basin in Takush Harbour is spotted with rocks, but they are well charted and the channel you see on the charts provides a fair passage although it does have a couple of doglegs to contend with. You are rewarded as you arrive in Fly Basin, a large but well protected anchorage with good holding. We dropped in the hook in the east end in 33 feet, expecting to lose about 8 more feet at low tide.

We were happy to have amended our earlier plan to go all the way to Ahclakerho Channel, we were ready to drop the hook and bask in the sun.  We did a couple loads of laundry and about 5pm, a small boat with two kayaks aboard joined us in the anchorage.  We had  curry chicken salad for dinner, Karen’s all time favorite, and then watched via Satellite TV some Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert before heading to bed.

Port McNeill to Miles Inlet

We’re off. To be precise, we cast off the Port McNeill docks at 7:57am, three minutes ahead of schedule; schedule is a very loose term when you’re on vacation and cruising the Pacific Northwest. Fortunately, the weather is cooperating with a high overcast and a fresh breeze out of the northwest.

We were pretty much alone in our travels, only seeing three small boats and one seal. There was not much sightseeing to be had as we made our way to Miles Inlet. Most of our time was spent watching for, and then dodging, debris in the water. It’s a full moon, and the 18 foot tides have been washing logs and all manner of flotsam into our path. The day before, a call came into Port McNeill from a boat requesting a diver to inspect his running gear because he hit a deadhead and one prop was making a lot of vibration. He eventually continued on to Port Hardy where they have a haul out. Mariners beware; these waters can surprise with floating obstacles and during large tides, the risks increase.

The ride was nice; the seas were rippled to one to two foot chop with 1 to 1.5 foot swells. The sun made a couple of valiant attempts to make an appearance, but was too shy to do more than tease.

Miles Inlet is a great place to stop before making the trip around Cape Caution. I checked our tracks from 2009 when we last anchored in Miles Inlet and it said we anchored in the South arm opposite the entrance to the South lagoon. However, when you check the charts it shows the area has only 3 to 4 feet of water at mean low tide. We could not remember if last time the low tide was high and that why we were able to anchor there. So, not confident we could ignore the published soundings, we did what most people do and anchored in the “T” junction. We later checked out the depth in the dinghy and we calculated the depth and low mean water to be more in the 9 to 10 foot range. Karen thinks the Vipond and Kelly book, Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage, is where we found that anchoring in the South arm is a possibility depending on the tides.

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Karen enjoying her dinghy ride in Miles Inlet as the sun shines

While out in the dinghy, we went to inspect the entrances to both the North and South Lagoons. The tides were just starting to flow out and there was already an impressive display of white water. Every time we are here, we say we should stay an extra day and go into the lagoon at high slack and explore until high slack again. However, it always seems the urge to move on overwhelms our urge to explore. Next time!!

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South Lagoon Entrance with a good outflow. So inviting; so scary if you get the timing wrong.

We were the only boat in Miles Inlet that night, and it was really peaceful. Dinner was delicious pork tenderloin with Mustard Glaze and jasmine rice with crasins, accompanied by a lovely glass of wine.

 

 

 

 

 

Port McNeill to Miles Inlet

We’re off. To be precise, we cast off the Port McNeill docks at 7:57am, three minutes ahead of schedule; schedule is a very loose term when you’re on vacation and cruising the Pacific Northwest. Fortunately, the weather is cooperating with a high overcast and a fresh breeze out of the northwest.

We were pretty much alone in our travels, only seeing three small boats and one seal. There was not much sightseeing to be had as we made our way to Miles Inlet. Most of our time was spent watching for, and then dodging, debris in the water. It’s a full moon, and the 18 foot tides have been washing logs and all manner of flotsam into our path. The day before, a call came into Port McNeill from a boat requesting a diver to inspect his running gear because he hit a deadhead and one prop was making a lot of vibration. He eventually continued on to Port Hardy where they have a haul out. Mariners beware; these waters can surprise with floating obstacles and during large tides, the risks increase.

The ride was nice; the seas were rippled to one to two foot chop with 1 to 1.5 foot swells. The sun made a couple of valiant attempts to make an appearance, but was too shy to do more than tease.

Miles Inlet is a great place to stop before making the trip around Cape Caution. I checked our tracks from 2009 when we last anchored in Miles Inlet and it said we anchored in the South arm opposite the entrance to the South lagoon. However, when you check the charts it shows the area has only 3 to 4 feet of water at mean low tide. We could not remember if last time the low tide was high and that why we were able to anchor there. So, not confident we could ignore the published soundings, we did what most people do and anchored in the “T” junction. We later checked out the depth in the dinghy and we calculated the depth and low mean water to be more in the 9 to 10 foot range. Karen thinks the Vipond and Kelly book, Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage, is where we found that anchoring in the South arm is a possibility depending on the tides.

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Karen enjoying her dinghy ride in Miles Inlet as the sun shines

While out in the dinghy, we went to inspect the entrances to both the North and South Lagoons. The tides were just starting to flow out and there was already an impressive display of white water. Every time we are here, we say we should stay an extra day and go into the lagoon at high slack and explore until high slack again. However, it always seems the urge to move on overwhelms our urge to explore. Next time!!

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South Lagoon Entrance with a good outflow. So inviting; so scary if you get the timing wrong.

We were the only boat in Miles Inlet that night, and it was really peaceful. Dinner was delicious pork tenderloin with Mustard Glaze and jasmine rice with crasins, accompanied by a lovely glass of wine.

 

 

 

 

 

Swanson Harbor to Auke Bay, Juneau

It’s almost over. Today is our last day on the water. In fact, it’s only a half day, because the boat is due back at noon. We got an early start, and with the weather and tides cooperating ,we had a nice ride to Auke Bay. Karen and I trade duties at the helm; an hour at the helm then an hour packing. Whenever Karen took the helm, though, the waves would get rougher and the traffic more dense. Go figure.

Our hopes were that we would see some humpbacks as we turned the corner around Point Couverden. But they were nowhere to be found. We did see a little activity as we approached Auke Bay near one of the green cans, but it was just a couple of blows and we did not stop. As we were in that area, though, we once again spotted Northern Song and chatted up Captain Mike as he headed to take a look at the whales before also going to Auke Bay.

Our first stop at Auke Bay was for fuel. There are two fuel docks, but we only saw the one that’s visible as you pass the harbor entrance. The dock was extremely small, and was full except for the area around back. Karen thought there was no way I could get Arctic Star into that dock, but I did. There was one young man on the fuel docks with his nose buried in his high school math textbook. He finally did come out from the “fuel shack” and helped Karen tie up.

We indicated that #2 diesel was what we wanted, but he just stood there. He finally informed us that he was not allowed to hand us the fuel nozzle because they did not want the liability of putting the wrong fuel in a boat. In fact, all he could say was “the green handle was our friend.” Silly, and in my opinion, a lawyer would have a field day with their approach if it ever came to that.

After we took on 300+ gallons of diesel and a couple of gallons of gas for the dinghy, we called our friends at Northwest Explorations to see if they had a preferred spot they where they wanted us to tie up. Auke Bay is a first come, first serve harbor, so we did not know what to expect. The day before when the Mother Goose boats arrived, there was very little space and they were spread all throughout the harbor. Just this morning they were able to move the boats and consolidate their location. Luckily, they also had a great spot for us.

Bill Douglass and Emmelina helped us tie up. Bill demonstrated a new method to tie up to the bull-rails that you find everywhere in the Pacific Northwest. It was shown to him by another cruiser, but since I did not catch that person's name, I call it the Douglass Hitch. It will become our preferrd method to tie up. Here a video of Bill's demonstration.

Brian Pemberton and Bill then greeted us with the replacement control head for the stabilizers in hand and a new fathometer for the helm station. The next charterers would have absolutely everything in perfect working order!

As they began their repairs, we began the process of unloading. Brian was kind enough to take me and my 35 pounds of frozen fish to a Jerry's Meats & Seafoods so I could have them pack adn ship it to my home. Next, he took me to the airport to pick up our rental car. Now that's a full service charter company.

I had rented from Budget, but later found out from Brian that Rent-A-Wreck is the way to go. Their cars are not wrecks and they deliver to the docks and the price is right. We hung out with the Mother Goose fleet for a while longer, then headed off to our Hotel, Grandma’s Feather Bed, a cute Victorian not far from Auke Bay that is actually part of the Best Western Chain. We offloaded and then drove over to the Mendenhall Glacier to scope it out for more exploration the following day, followed by a quick walk through town and a drink at the bar in the Westmark Baranoff hotel. We capped off a great day with extremely tasty pizza and Alaskan Amber on Douglas Island at The Island Pub, which was very laid back indeed.