The weather has changed and it actually rained a bit as we continued our journey homeward, ending up in Ballet Bay on Nelson Island. We had planned to go on up into Hotham Sound to swim, but with the cloudy, somewhat cooler weather, decided to stay down at the mouth of Jervis Inlet. There are lots of little islands to paddle around, and the shore is lined with summer homes to admire.
A westerly wind piped up about midnight last night (a late change in the forecast—we wouldn’t have chosen to stay there if we had known earlier what was in store) and Snug bucked on her anchor line for an hour or so. It didn’t last long, though, and when we woke in the morning the sea was as glassy as when we had gone to bed.
We carried on to Westview where we had set up a visit with Jan and Stan who live there. (Jan is my childhood neighbour that we met unexpectedly at Shearwater.) Jan picked us up from the marina and we had a great time touring their acreage, tasting Jan’s wine that she makes from fruit from their farm, and sharing our cruising stories.
The day was hot and sunny and still as we moved down the west side of Cortes Island, through the narrow channel between Cortes and Marina Islands, past Hernando Island to Savary Island. There were lots of boats anchored or beached on Marina and lots of sails in the bay on the other side—people enjoying their summer everywhere you looked, although the sail boats weren’t going anywhere in a hurry. I swam off Snug when we got anchored at Savary, then we rowed in to walk the sandy beach and swim from shore. Lots of people doing the summer thing there too. The “super moon” rose over Savary and there was a lovely sunset to the west.
Last year we found a lovely anchorage in an unnamed bay on the east coast of Read Island with a beautiful view down Sutil Channel and the mountains of Vancouver Island. We headed there today, hoping it would be unoccupied and that the water temperature would be warm enough for swimming. The bay was empty and no one was at the very cute cabin at the head either—perfect! It’s amazing how few boats are on this side of Cortes Island, considering how many are in Desolation Sound on the other side of Cortes. The water was a little on the cold side for my liking (62 F), but I did get wet—can’t claim to have actually swum, but I did get wet. A little offshore breeze held Snug’s bow into the bay in the evening and we sat in the cockpit with a glass of port in hand, enjoying the view.
Bears on the beach again!
The engine noise of a boat leaving Port Harvey early this morning woke us, so we figured we might as well get going to beat the wind on Johnstone Strait—it was 6:30 when we got underway. Ron steered a course close to the shore out on the strait, and spotted black bears on two beaches before we were down to Port Neville. We exited the strait at Sunderland Channel and went careening through Whirlpool Rapids in Wellbore Channel reaching 11 knots (our usual speed is just over 6 knots). Chancellor Channel was breezy as usual, but not too bad for seas, and we whooshed through Greene Point Rapids maxing out at 12 knots! A group of Pacific White-sided Dolphins came and played in Snug’s bow wave in Cordero Channel—that always makes us smile! We had to wait awhile for slack at Dent Rapids (that’s one we don’t run—there’s an area in the rapids called Devil’s Hole, which speaks for itself) so dropped the hook up against the shore just north of Dent Island and had a nap before going through. We tied up at the community dock in Big Bay on Stuart Island for the night, not wanting to buck the tide below the Yucultas.
Bear on the beach!
A humpback was cruising around at the mouth of Knight Inlet this morning, and a group of orca met us a little way up the inlet—with a baby in their midst! Lots of fork-tailed storm-petrels were skimming the water. We’ve not identified them before; we’re not sure if we haven’t seen them in previous years or just been oblivious. We went up Knight to Minstrel Island, made the turn into Chatham Channel with the current running with us and went down Chatham and into Port Harvey. We anchored at the edge of the shallows at the head of the bay and were just finishing up our lunch when Ron noticed movement on the beach—a black bear was flipping rocks and foraging along the water’s edge. We were a long way from the beach because it’s so shallow there, so Ron grabbed the camera and jumped into the dinghy to try to get near enough for a clear photo. He managed to get reasonably close without the bear noticing him, so we now have some nice black bear images.
We went back to Sointula this morning to top up the water tank and the fruit bowl before we begin a major move to the south tomorrow. There were no dockside berths available when we arrived so we rafted to a local log salvage boat. Old Nanaimo friends, Wilf and Marg Bradley, were tied up (in our spot!) and we made a date for a visit later in the day. Bikes were available at the harbour office when we went up to register at mid day so we set off to do the Kaleva Road ride before our grocery shopping. It was a perfect day for a bike ride—sunny with a little breeze off the sea. Chores done and clean again, we’re ready to leave the Blackfish Sound area for another year and point Snug’s bow toward Gabriola.
Today we had a couple of close encounters with wildlife that make this cruising life so enjoyable for me—small things but they made me smile. The first one occurred in the group of islets east of our anchorage just at the edge of Weynton Pass. We paddled there this morning to hang out in the kelp bed and see who showed up. There were several species of birds on the rocks and lots of seals around. Last year seals were swimming under our kayaks here, clearly visible in the relatively shallow water, and I was hoping to see them underwater again. I wasn’t having any luck, despite my patient waiting, but Ron was sitting quietly at the edge of the kelp bed and a seal was swimming close by. I nosed in beside him and the seal swam under our boats and surfaced beside us, seemingly unconcerned with our presence. Usually when they surface and see us, they make a huge splashy commotion as they disappear again. This one, however, kept swimming around and under us, surfacing from time to time and then lifted its nose and pushed the bow of my kayak, making it slip backwards out of the kelp.
Later, back at Snug, we set out to execute a plan to get some close up photos of an eagle—we had saved the head and entrails of the coho we caught yesterday with this in mind. I spotted an eagle high in a tree on one of the islands beside us (there’s always an eagle) and we rowed over to position ourselves under the tree. I climbed a little rocky knoll with camera at the ready, and Ron waved his arms around and then dumped the fish guts on the beach. As soon as Ron was out of the way, the eagle swooped down, landed on the beach and started eating the bits and pieces, sidestepping its way around the pile. Then it grabbed a piece in its beak and took off, heading to the next island to our east. (Was there a nest there? I’m going to assume there was.) It hadn’t eaten everything, and in a few minutes it was back for another helping, then picked up the backbone with its beak, transferring its prize to its talons in mid flight as it headed back to the nest. The head was still on the beach surrounded by a bunch of crows. We waited quite a while and watched as an eagle came from the direction of the nest and land on a tree on that island. More waiting and another eagle flew from the same direction and landed in a tree above us where we had spotted one at first. More waiting and we were just figuring that there was something unpalatable about the salmon head, when it swooped down with a loud rushing of wind in its wings, grabbed the head with its talons and kept going. So cool!
Today was what we have come to call a classic Blackfish Sound day—calm water, sunshine, humpbacks every which way, Dall’s porpoises coming to ride the bow wave, orca passing through, sea lions, minke whales, and this time, even a coho in our net.
We caught the fish as we left Freshwater Bay this morning, trolling up the shore of Swanson Island. At that point we turned to cross Blackfish, seeing humpback blows at the top of Hanson Island. The sea was glassy and we were planning to just hang out in Blackfish and see who showed up. We heard a report of orca coming down the back of Malcolm Island, so we headed up that way and when we found them just above Donegal Head, shut down and pulled out a head sail to keep pace. It was quite a large group, slowly moving south, foraging and doing lots of spy hopping and tail lobbing. A humpback breached a bunch of times well ahead of us—huge splashes as he crashed back into the water. The orca spread out in Cormorant Channel and we moved into Weynton Pass to look for the eagle nest in the Plumper Group. We had heard there was a young one getting ready to fly and we did see some flapping around, but couldn’t get Snug in close enough for a clear view. Just below the nest, a sea lion laboriously hauled himself out and posed for photographs. By then it was getting to be beer time, so we crossed Weynton heading for our anchorage in the Pearse Islands. As we got near the islands, what we thought was an orca came towards us, close to shore. The next time we caught a glimpse of fins, we realized it was two minkes working around the edge of the islands, not orca at all. We dropped the anchor in a little bay at the edge of the Pearse group, with a lovely view east down Johnstone Strait.