It was raining hard in Comox this morning when we walked up to the avenue for coffee and a visit to the very nice yarn shop there. The rain came and went all day, and the sky was black and foreboding when we were crossing from Comox to Lasqueti Island. But by the time we dropped anchor in False Bay the sky had cleared and we had a lovely, peaceful evening doing not too much.
We hung out in Comox today — went to an art show that was set up in the park at the marina, walked down to Filberg Lodge and had lunch in their tea house, and walked a trail in the Mack Laing Nature Park further down the road. Naida and Steve drove up and we had a good visit, hearing all about their trip to Ireland.
Receiving word that Mum wasn’t well and was being admitted to hospital influenced our decision to head for Comox today in case I wanted to get home quickly. It was a lovely day to cross the top of Georgia Strait — flat calm and a gentle northwest wind. We kept a sharp look out for whales and heard there were orca between Savary and Hernando, but didn’t see anything. We tied up in the Comox Harbour marina and ran for the showers. Later we walked the boardwalk that skirts the harbour and watched a seal and her pup haul out on the dinghy float. We saw the same behaviour last year when we were here, so I guess she’s a resident seal and doesn’t mind exposing her babies to gawking eyes in close proximity. There’s a strong southeast wind warning for tomorrow, so we’ll likely stay put and head south again on Monday.
Day 57: Evans Bay to unnamed bay, Cortes Island (Plunger Passage)
Most important news today — Casey Christine Mumford was born to Steve and Lindsay at 11:13 am. Ron is a grandfather!
A pair of Common Loons was in the bay as I sat in the cockpit with my coffee this morning, and seals were making snorty and growly noises on the islet at the mouth of the bay. A line of seventeen mergansers swam from one side of the bay to the other. They usually seem to like to stay tight to the shoreline but they were venturing forth today.
Needing ice and a few groceries, we ran down to Heriot Bay, anchored among the local boats opposite the ferry dock and rowed in to the hotel dock for a quick trip up to the store. Drew Harbour (Rebecca Spit) looked so hot and busy when we got back that we crossed back over to the west coast of Cortes Island searching for more breeze and a more secluded anchorage. Again we were lucky to find a little bay with a beach. There is a small, yellow cabin above the beach but no one is home at the moment. We rowed in and swam from the shore — lovely!
We made a short hop across Sutil Channel this morning, looking for a quieter anchorage (and cleaner swimming water?). We ran up to the head of Evans Bay on Read Island, looking for unnamed nooks where we might tuck in. We’ve been up there before visiting people who have a kayak expedition business and advertised in WaveLength. There are off-the-grid homes all along the east shore of Read, some quite substantial with multiple solar panels and wind generators. We found what we were looking for back down at the entrance of the bay — an open bight that faces south. There used to be an oyster aquaculture operation in there, but it looks inactive now. A cute little unpainted cabin sits in a grassy clearing on the shore, probably used as a summer vacation home, although no one is around now. We paddled and I swam (water temperature: 67 degrees). We sat on the foredeck to catch the breeze and looked south to the mountains on Vancouver Island beyond Quadra Island. It is very beautiful here, but tamer, and the possibility of the unexpected seems less. Maybe I just need to look and listen more closely. Seals and mergansers are in abundance.
Day 55: Tallac Bay to Von Donop Inlet, Cortes Island
Suddenly it’s hot! Being below the rapids makes a big difference in air and water temperature and in boat traffic and chatter on the marine radio. We flew through Dent and Yuculta Rapids at the start of the flood tide, and rode it down Calm Channel leaving the Rendezvous Islands to port, then into Sutil Channel and finally into Von Donop Inlet. This is a long, narrow inlet with plenty of room and good depth to anchor. We got hot enough, even while under way, that I had to get into the water to cool down when we dropped anchor. The heat kind of sapped our energy and we lazed around the rest of the afternoon and read and slept. When it cooled down a bit in the evening, we got into the kayaks and paddled to a lagoon that is only accessible at high tide, thinking we might go in and explore, but the water was still rushing in and we didn’t have the energy to fight our way back out. We turned around and paddled to the head of the inlet and counted about forty boats at anchor spread out all along the length of the inlet. The only wildlife sighting to report today is Pacific White-sided Dolphins just tearing along in Calm Channel just below the Yucultas.
Day 54: Telegraph Cove to Tallac Bay, Cordero Channel
Today was a travelling day — we motorsailed the length of Johnstone Strait, bore left into Sunderland Channel, then right into Wellbore Channel (through Whirlpool Rapids) and then left again into Chancellor Channel, thorough Greenpoint Rapids, finally dropping anchor in Cordero Channel after 60 nautical miles and 9 hours, averaging 6.6 knots and having taken advantage of a flood tide and north wind. There are several sets of rapids that skippers have to plan for when travelling this route (the alternative to Discovery Passage and Seymour Narrows). Tomorrow we will transit Dent and Yuculta Rapids at slack tide, and then we’ll be done with the rapids.
A group of orca was crossing the strait as we left Telegraph Cove this morning, and one was leaping out of the water repeatedly, too far away for photographs, unfortunately. We could see thick fog in Blackfish Sound as we passed Blackney Pass, but the strait was clear and calm at the start, with the usual afternoon wind building, so that by the time we got down to the bottom we whooshed into Sunderland, riding maybe two foot waves. Just before the entrance to Sunderland a couple of Pacific White-sided Dolphins showed up to play in Snug’s waves. The turn into Wellbore Channel is always a highlight of the trip home for me; it is such a pretty stretch of water. It is also the location of the last arbutus tree — there are no arbutus north of this point. We often see black bears on this run through the series of rapids, but guess what, not this year!
We startled a pair of Great Blue Herons off the beach when we dropped anchor and an osprey was wheeling around looking for fish. We rowed ashore to look for prints in the mud, thinking we were in a prime bear location with a creek entering the bay, but only saw evidence of the herons. There was some old scat in the bush behind the beach and we found a deer skull, with antlers till attached but nothing to indicate recent bear activity.
In Jim Borrowman’s words, it was a spectacular day for watching marine mammals today. The Dall’s showed up pretty much right outside Telegraph this morning and followed us down Johnstone Strait as we headed towards Blackney Pass. It was quiet for awhile, then in Blackney Pass a group of Pacific White-sided Dolphins joined us and stayed with Snug a long way up Blackfish Sound, swooshing around the boat and criss-crossing her bow. We had heard there were orca in Blackfish and we found them just north of Freshwater Bay on the Swanson Island side. There was a group of about six or eight milling around in mid channel, thrilling the people in the boats that were all shut down, just watching as the whales got close, moved away, then came back again. Gikumi had been there all morning and the whales kept back and frothing and circling around for hours, not seeming the least bit bothered at being the object of everyone’s attention. Ron put the hydrophone in the water and we could hear the whales call as we drifted and ate grilled cheese sandwiches.
Eventually we left them to head towards Weynton Passage to look for humpbacks. We soon met one coming toward us and swung around to parallel its course for a bit. It suddenly made a 90 degree turn ahead of us and surfaced again close against another whale. They rolled around together and eventually moved off. As we got underway again, a Steller Sea Lion came through Weynton against the current. Then the Dall’s were back, streaking along the surface of the water to dash around madly in the bow wave and around the boat. We crossed Weynton doing nine knots with the current and anchored in the cove in the Pearse Islands where we were two nights ago. David and Jesse rowed ashore to explore and the rest of us sat up on Snug’s bow, soaking up the sun and that great view to the east. I made a fish chowder with some cod Ron had jigged up yesterday and then we went back to Telegraph where our guests disembarked and headed down island. That was a wonderful day!
We got into our slip in Telegraph Cove mid-day and headed for the showers, not sure how early the crew from Nanaimo would arrive. Which they did about 2:30. Linda had driven the whole way and was ready for a rest but David and Jesse were keen to get out on the water, so we cast off again with a promise to be back in time for dinner in the pub. There was a group of orca coming out of Weynton Passage and crossing Johnstone Strait right at that moment, so we had a good look at them, then turned back toward Weynton as the orca moved further east. The group of Dall’s Porpoises that seems to be hanging about between the cove and Weynton Passage made an appearance, making us all laugh with their antics around Snug’s bow. When they left us we cut through the Plumper Islands and out into Blackfish Sound in search of humpbacks. Another big group of orca were between Stubbs Island and the Plumpers heading through Weynton, and then a humpback surfaced. Quite an exciting introduction to the top of Johnstone Strait for Jesse!
We’re setting ourselves up to be in Telegraph Cove tomorrow to meet our David, David’s friend Jesse, Linda (Jesse’s Mom) and another David (Jessie’s step-dad), so made out way to the Pearse Islands which are directly across Johnstone Strait from the cove. Jesse and family will be camping at Telegraph and we’ll take them out to see whales (hopefully) on day trips.
After leaving Eden Island, today’s travelling took us on a meandering path among islands and islets and out onto Queen Charlotte Strait, and then south to Blackfish Sound. A number of humpbacks were milling around Stubbs Island as usual, but we kept moving, heading for a little bay on the edge of Weynton Passage that has a lovely view east down the strait. With the anchor down, we did some housework to make the boat clean and tidy for our guests, then paddled to some islets outside the bay. There are kelp beds among the islets where we like to hang out and watch for action in Weynton. A bunch of seals were hanging out in the kelp too, and as I looked down to see what was on the ocean floor about twelve feet below me (mostly green sea urchins), seals were swimming under my kayak. So cool! Ron was photographing seals and birds while I was looking down, and we were hearing whales blowing out in Weynton. Eventually one of the whales came close and we realized it was a minke — our first sighting of a minke this year!
Later we went ashore to burn some paper packaging and explore the beach where we had cooked dinner over a campfire two years ago. There was a perfectly good plastic lawn chair on the beach which we rescued — no point in it becoming more plastic garbage to litter the ocean!