Sunday, June 30
We woke this morning to the call of a loon and heavy rain hitting our deck. We were gearing up for a lay day, since going up to Fiordland seemed pointless with the sky so socked in. But by 10 or so, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining again. We resumed our trip up Mathieson Channel, heading over to the mainland side to get closer to the waterfalls coming out of McPherson Lake. Water was coming down the cliffs everywhere, some just a ribbon falling from a great height and disappearing and reappearing before entering Mathieson Channel, and others with a greater volume of water tumbling down the mountain side. We noticed some pictographs on a rock face just below McPherson Lake (the lake was not visible to us but marked on the chart), then the biggest waterfall we had seen up until then. That was soon surpassed by a really spectacular waterfall where Lessum Creek falls into Kynoch Inlet. We ran down the 9.4 nautical mile length of Kynoch (.7 nm wide), pretty much awestruck by the sheer granite walls rising out of the sea and the numerous waterfalls along both sides of the inlet. Valleys and bare rock bowls led off into the interior and areas of snow were visible high above us. It was amazing! Then, to make the day even more incredible, we passed a small group of orca slipping quietly down the inlet. We saw them on the surface twice, then they disappeared. Right up at the head of the inlet, snow had piled up at the base of a cliff, then water had created a tunnel in the snow.
An inflow wind picked up and the abrupt drop off made anchoring uninviting, so we swung around and headed back down again, hugging the north shore, finding several more pictographs along the way. We passed through Mathieson Narrows and into Mussel Inlet heading for David Bay where we dropped the anchor in a small patch of water with reasonable anchoring depth and took a stern line ashore to hold us there. Mist rolled in as we got ourselves settled.
Disaster! As Ron was transferring today’s photos from camera to laptop this evening, iPhoto crashed and we lost three days worth of photos.
Saturday, June 29th
Sunny today! No rain! We travelled most of the day, casting off our lines at Shearwater around 10 am and dropping anchor in Rescue Bay at 5 pm. We hovered outside Bella Bella for awhile this morning, dealing with business related email, then headed off under mostly clear skies and completely calm seas with Klemtu as our destination. We skirted Millbank Sound, taking the back route up Reid Passage, then Mathieson Channel, reaching 8.3 knots with main up, motor running and favourable tide helping us along. En route, when we looked at the charts and read our guide books, decided that the much acclaimed Fiordland Recreation Area was too close to pass by without visiting and so changed our plan to include a run up to Kynoch Inlet before coming back down Finlayson Channel to Klemtu.
After anchoring in Rescue Bay with a beautiful view up Mathieson Channel, we paddled the perimeter and down into Jackson Narrows, discovering a Marine Parks sign. About a dozed seals were hanging out in Rescue Bay, following our kayaks, startling us with loud snorts, and thrashing around and even leaping clear out of the water. We’re sharing this anchorage with one other boat.
Friday, June 28
Ron promised me a quick and easy stroll to Sagar Lake, with its unusual red sand beach, before breakfast and coffee this morning — but no, it wasn’t so quick or easy. The trail was quite muddy (good thing I wore my gumboots!) although boardwalks had been installed in places, and it was a good half hour both ways with lots of scrambling over roots and up rocks. Our memory of the last time we walked that trail has obviously faded. The forest was beautiful, though, when I could lift my eyes from my feet, and the lake was lovely and serene. Until we came across the pile of bear scat on the beach. Ron assured me it was old scat but we turned around and headed back to the boat (and coffee) anyway.
Leaving Codville Lagoon we could see that HB and her calf a little further north in Fitz Hugh, and other blows to the south, then entered Lama Passage for a quiet trip up to Shearwater. It was raining when we left and it hasn’t stopped since. We bought moorage at Shearwater Marine, thinking we would have good wifi service and could get caught up with blogging and business emails. Nope. It seems the good coverage is at Bella Bella and service here is intermittent. Oh well, we got showers and a good pub dinner, and persevered enough to get some work done. We’ve decided our turning point will be Laredo Inlet on Princess Royal Island and will continue on in that direction tomorrow.
Thursday, June 27
Today’s plan was to head out onto Fitz Hugh Sound and get ourselves up to Codville Lagoon in time for a walk up to Sagar Lake. We were out in the middle of the sound when a large group of Pacific white-sided dolphins came towards us. They were leaping clear out of the water and dashing back and forth like crazy. A few approached Snug as they passed, and swam briefly in the bow wave, but didn’t linger long. At the same time there were a couple of whales off in the distance close to the mainland shore, likely humpbacks from what I could see. Then we noticed blows on the Hunter Island side — another group of four HBs were milling around. We slowed to watch them, and no sooner were underway again than we overtook two more HBs close together in mid channel. One was tail lobbing and generally fooling around, making us suspect it was a female and her calf. Man, it’s hard to get any knitting done out here!
Ron had read that there was Telus service at Codville Lagoon, but it proved to be very illusive and so spotty that we couldn’t do much. The day had started out sunny, but the clouds chased us up Fitz Hugh and by the time we anchored it was raining. We ended up staying aboard and just watching the rain from our warm and dry vantage point, and then going for a row around the bay in the evening.
Wednesday, June 26
The weather is changing so fast here right now — one minute it’s pouring, the next minute the sky is clear and blue; we think the wind has diminished, then a huge gust hits, threatening to blow away our cockpit canopy. We are keeping our screen door in place when we’re at anchor since we’ve both been bitten by some nasty little creature. Haven’t been bothered by mosquitoes but we’ve seen small black flies and the occasional bull dog.
There was more hiking to be done from Pruth Bay and other anchorages along Kwakshua Channel, but the weather seemed reasonably settled this morning so we decided to head up to Adams Harbour at the north end of Calvert Island to paddle among a group of small islands in Choke Passage on the edge of Hakai Pass. To get there, we travelled up the north-south arm of Kwakshua Channel and passed an archeological study site. We had noticed the workers commuting in kayaks, canoes and aluminum skiffs between the site and the Hakai Beach Institute. Scientists believe this village site dates back 10,000 years.
True to form, although the sky was clear when we launched the kayaks, it poured and cleared several times while we were paddling. We had the forethought to wear our rain proof jackets, so only our hands got wet. It is quite cool to be in a kayak when the rain is bouncing off the water all around! When we poked our bows out into Hakai, we were riding long, slow swells which crashed into the rocky shores of the islands on either side. Huge mussels and sea stars hung on in the crevasses. We saw urchins below in the more sheltered waters.
At the top of Calvert Island is Sandspit Point where a home (called a private resort in one of the guide books) is hidden among the trees above the sandspit. What is visible is a long boardwalk with driftwood railings that skirts the shoreline and leads to deeper water where, presumably, boats could be tied to a floating dock. Neither a dock nor floorboards on the boardwalk were in place, so either it is no longer in use or the owners do a lot of work when they come in the summer.
There is no sign of sports fishing activity here – too early in the season ? no fish left? the recession has made the sports fishing enterprises unprofitable?
When we returned to Snug, the current was holding us broadside to the swells, and a few gusts of wind that shook the boat left us feeling vulnerable, so we upped anchor and crossed Hakai, looking for a more sheltered anchorage. Rolling swells but no surface chop made our transit of the infamous Hakai Pass uneventful. Just inside the Breaker Group of islets we spied a sea otter spying us! We’re hoping to see more of those guys (and get photos) in the days to come. We settled down again in Lewall Inlet on Stirling Island — a completely calm and protected inlet, so still that the trees on the shore were perfectly reflected in the water. Everywhere we go there are chattering kingfishers swooping low from branch to overhanging branch and eagles perched high in the trees imperiously surveying their kingdoms.
Tuesday, June 25
Went back over to West Beach this morning then to North Beach via the trail that leads from the north end of West Beach. This trail is not as flat and level than the one to West Beach, with some clambering required, but not difficult. The Hakai Beach Institute has installed new board walks over the muddiest bits and stairs at the steepest bits. There is a wetland midway across with lots of native water lilies. North Beach faces Hakai Passage and it rivals West Beach for beauty. No one else was there and we enjoyed the solitude and sunshine. Ron took lots of photos and I did a bit of yoga on the sand. Fabulous. We debated about going up to a lookout on the south end of West Beach when we got back but realized the incoming tide would have stranded us so came back to Snug for lunch. Good thing, because not long afterwards the wind started to blow and the rain came bucketing down. I spent the afternoon knitting. One of my goals for this trip is to finish several works-in-progress that I brought along, and today I finished the first one — a pair of socks. Yay!
Monday, June 24
We raised the anchor at 7:30 this morning with a gentle rain falling and no wind. We were hoping to benefit from a flood tide to carry us up to Pruth Bay on Calvert Island. That theory worked until we left Smith Sound and entered Fitz Hugh Sound at which time we lost a tide-related knot of “speed over ground.” As we passed False Egg Island we spied a blow — a gray whale was feeding tight to the island, working back and forth along the shelving shoreline.
It rained most of the day, but with no wind it was pleasant travelling. I knitted and made soup in my nifty pot that fits on our small diesel stove. The entrance to Pruth Bay is a five mile long channel that exits left from Fitz Hugh Sound. At the end of the channel is the Hakai Beach Institute, a research facility that used to be a private lodge owned by Americans (Google Hakai Beach Institute for more information). The Institute kindly blankets the bay with wifi signal (no password required) and so we were able to reply to email and update this blog. They also have a webcam on the dock, so if you look quick before we leave, you’ll see Snug anchored out, slightly to the right: http://icons.wunderground.com/webcamramdisk/h/a/HakaiWeather/1/current.jpg
When the rain let up a little we donned our wet gear and rowed to the Institute dock which welcomes dinghies and then followed the signs to the West Beach trail. This is a beautiful trail that leads to a spectacularly beautiful sandy beach. The last time we were here, Ben and Steve boogie boarded in the surf and David (age 13 months) toddled around on the sand.
It’s overcast now but calm, and we are looking forward to exploring this fantastic cruising area in the next few weeks — so many anchorages, channels and islands to choose from!
Sunday, June 23
We left Shelter Bay at six this morning to catch the ebb tide. The sky was clear and sunny and the strait was calm with just a slight ocean swell. Perfect conditions to round Cape Caution! Noticed a large installation of wind turbines at the top of Vancouver Island (way off in the distance). Ron stopped the boat and put a line in the water in a shallow spot just past Cape Caution and hooked into a rocky right away — just like the old days down south. The ferry out of Port Hardy passed by heading north and a power boat overtook us, then turned up into Smith Inlet. Other than one other small sport fishing boat that buzzed by, we were alone on the water all the way to Smith Sound.
Our destination was Millbrook Cove, an anchorage in which we had sought refuge when we were in this area 21 years ago. We were travelling with Mum and Dad in their boat and the three boys were aboard with us. We were heading south but some of us were feeling seasick in heavy swells. We decided to abandon our day plan and head for calm water. Unfortunately the nearest anchorage was inside a number of rocks and small islands and dense fog rolled in making it impossible to see anything. Fortunately we had installed radar for that trip and it saved the day. Dad tucked in close behind us and Ron navigated the channel into the anchorage by radar alone. We were all amazed when the fog lifted and we were in a seemingly land locked bay. No fog hampered our entry this year! Two other sailboats arrived after us.
We paddled the perimeter of the bay and ventured outside for a short distance. Didn’t see much in the way of sealife in the water — maybe the tide was too high and it would have been more interesting at low tide. There were numerous eagles perched at the entrance to the cove and later we saw a group of gulls diving on a herring ball; I guess that’s why the eagles were congregated. Sitting in the cockpit for happy hour, we watched an osprey wheeling around, dive and catch a fish. Beautiful sunset!
Saturday, June 22
We crossed a calm and misty Queen Charlotte Strait today, leaving McNeill just after 9 am and arriving at Shelter Bay on the mainland just after 3 pm. Somewhere out in the middle there was a huge raft of birds — a mix of rhinoceros auklets and gulls and maybe lots of others that we didn’t identify. We skirted the Millar Group of islands, then raised the main to take advantage of a northwest wind as we angled across the strait to our anchorage.
Shelter Bay is a beautiful place with a lovely sandy beach. We’ve been here twice before and have found the perfect spot to anchor Snug where it’s deep enough (the sandy beach shelves out) and where the rocks are avoided (there are charted rocks in this little nook). We launched the kayaks and paddled up the coast about 1 1/2 nautical miles. There were no waves hitting the shore, but the kayaks rose and fell with the swells giving us a west coast kind of experience. Huge mussels, gooseneck barnacles and robust seaweeds cling to the rocks here and the trees on the islets are swept back by the prevailing winds.
Friday, June 21
The wind dropped during the night and when Ron got up at 5 am the strait was glassy calm. We drove into thick fog somewhere around Port Neville which lasted until we got up to West Cracroft Island But that’s OK because we have radar! Carried on right up to Port McNeill, arriving at 1:15. The only wildlife spotted en route was a few Dall’s porpoises. After a stop at the fuel dock, we tied up at the marina and headed straight for the showers. Did our usual dash around town with stops at the thrift store (two balls of yarn), liquor store (one large bottle of gin), and the grocery store. Walked up to the Haidaway for dinner later.