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Month: July 2013

Day 48: Freshwater Bay to Bond Sound

Day 48: Freshwater Bay to Bond Sound

Wednesday, July 31

It was misty again this morning when we woke, but not so thick that we couldn’t see where we were going. We have a few days before David and his friends come up to Telegraph, so we decided to go back into the Broughtons — the islands between Blackfish Sound and the mainland of B.C. We thought we might go looking for bears again and maybe visit Billy Proctor’s museum in Echo Bay. We wound our way through the islands behind Swanson Island, past the old village of Mamalilaculla where we photographed fallen totem poles when we first visited this area 25 years ago, across Knight Inlet and into Retreat Passage and then Cramer Passage, travelling up the coast of Gilford Island.

Billy Proctor is a well-known personality in this area. He was born in Port Neville in 1934, and grew up in Freshwater Bay where his parents ran a fish buying operation. He has lived around the corner from Echo Bay for years and raised a family there, mostly fishing for a living. He has also written and co-written a couple of books about his life and times and built a museum to house his “junk collection” as he calls it. We tied Snug behind Billy’s boat at his dock and went up to see his junk collection and gift store where he sells cards, local pottery and books about this region. The museum houses bottles, tools, machinery, household items, First Nations artifacts, fishing gear, photographs, newspapers — much of which he has found in his lifetime of living and working in the Broughtons. There is a new attraction at the museum — a hand logger’s cabin which Billy recently built from a single log he found floating and then furnished as it might have looked in the hand logging days. Ron sat with Billy for awhile and got some fishing advice and Billy’s opinion about the reasons for the decline in B.C. fish stocks.

After visiting with Billy, we motored in and out of Echo Bay just to see how it looks now, having been in many time in the past, and carried on up Tribune Channel toward Bond Sound, which Billy said is “teaming with life.” Tribune Channel runs between steep, treed mountains, but at regular intervals the mountainsides are stripped of their vegetation by land slides, leaving long, thin gashes of bare rock exposed, showing how thin is the layer of soil that the trees root into.

Bond Sound is open to the south and deep right up to the shore — not a great anchorage in unsettled weather, but no big winds were predicted so we figured we would stay overnight. As we were circling around deciding on the best place to drop the anchor, we could see splashing near the far shore. I looked with the binoculars to see a big group of dolphins dashing around and leaping high out of the water. We went to have closer look and of course they (Pacific White-sided Dolphins) came streaking over to play with Snug. When we moved out of their playground they resumed their jumping, looking like the Bond Sound Acrobatic Troupe performing as a tourist attraction.

As I was making a risotto and salad for dinner, Ron dropped a line over the side and pulled up six sole, keeping two big ones to add to our meal. We had anchored at the mouth of the river that empties into the sound and it was certainly teaming with bird life — mostly gulls which we haven’t taken the time to identify. We had intended to paddle into the estuary after dinner when the tide was higher, but by then an inflow wind had blown in, making the surface of the water quite choppy so we postponed our exploration till the morning.

Day 47: Double Bay to Freshwater Bay, Swanson Island

Day 47: Double Bay to Freshwater Bay, Swanson Island

Tuesday, July 30

We dropped anchor in our second favourite spot on the Hanson Island side of Blackfish Sound last night because there was a boat in our most favourite anchorage in Freshwater Bay, and crossed over today in the early afternoon. We put the kayaks in the water and went out onto Blackfish, hoping to see whale activity. One HB surfaced quite close right away but the others seemed to be up around Stubbs Island and the orca were in Johnstone Strait so we paddled down the shore of Compton Island (to the south of Swanson) through Whitebeach Passage and up the other side of Compton. Compton Island is I.R.; some small cabins are being built there either for First Nations use or to generate some tourism revenue (I’ve seen a poster somewhere about this initiative, but I forget the details). When we got back to Snug, we weren’t seeing any blows on the sound and it was beer/gin time so we sat up on the bow with drinks in hand to toast Rick’s birthday and keep watch. Two cruise ships passed by — one was humungous! — and a couple of Dall’s Porpoises with a tiny baby in tow swam into the bay.

Day 46: Telegraph Cove to Double Bay, Hansen Island

Day 46: Telegraph Cove to Double Bay, Hansen Island

Monday, July 29

Telegraph Cove was socked in with fog this morning so we waited until the sky looked brighter before venturing out onto Johnstone Strait to do some sight seeing with Geoff. By the time we got into Weynton Passage the visibility was good and the Dall’s had arrived. They played around Snug for quite awhile, and even followed us when we spun around to watch a humpback between Stubbs Island and the Plumper group. Just then a Steller’s sea lion surfaced with something in its mouth. We’d heard there were orca along the Swanson Island shore, so we headed that way, but stopped when another humpback surfaced close by. Ron turned off the engine and pulled out a headsail and we drifted down Blackfish in the company of some of the commercial whale watch boats. A group of maybe eight orca were moving slowly, tight together in resting line, and angling across Blackfish to the Hanson Island shore. We spent a lovely couple of hours just keeping pace with the whales and enjoying being there. Eventually we fired up and went over to Flower Island and Freshwater Bay to show Geoff the kayak camp possibilities there. Geoff wanted to be in Port McNeill to meet his group for dinner, so we dropped him off back at Telegraph around 5:30. We had a really nice day — what we would consider a classic Blackfish Sound summer day!

Day 45: Sointula to Telegraph Cove

Day 45: Sointula to Telegraph Cove

Sunday, July 28

The wind finally died overnight and the boats that were waiting to go north were gone when we got up. Our day’s destination was Telegraph Cove to meet Geoff who was driving up from Nanaimo, so it was just a short hop for us. We tied alongside a dock on the east side of the cove and waited for Geoff to arrive and later went to the pub for dinner. Geoff is on his way to Port Hardy to board the ferry to Bella Bella with a group of Nanaimo paddlers. They plan to paddle back to Port Hardy, scouting out good kayak camp sites en route.

While Geoff got set up in the campground, Ron and I visited The Whale Interpretive Centre, having not been in there for a few years. The centre is run by the Johnstone Strait Killer Whale Interpretive Centre Society and enjoys rent-free premises at the end of the boardwalk, thanks to the generosity of Gordie Graham who owns the boardwalk and surrounding buildings. This is an amazing resource with fully articulated skeletons of land and marine mammals, including a 60 foot fin whale.

Day 44: Sointula, Malcolm Island

Day 44: Sointula, Malcolm Island

Saturday, July 27

We borrowed the bikes again today and rode into town to go to the Farmers/Craft/Flea Market and to visit the museum and to shop for groceries at the co-op store. The market turned out to be one guy selling all his boating books, one Finnish woman selling her cardamom bread, one woman selling her hand knitted socks (didn’t need any of those!) and one guy with a bunch of garage sale type stuff. Unfortunately, a customer had just loaded up a box of the boating books so we missed all the good ones. I bought a loaf of bread, though, and it was very good in a sweet, white flour kind of way.

The museum was interesting and worth a visit to get a better sense of the history of Sointula. The community was established in the early 1900s when a group of Finnish immigrants, disgruntled by the oppressive working conditions in the coal mines of Nanaimo, asked Matti Kurrika, a charismatic utopian socialist to come and lead them in the establishment of a new, egalitarian community. Everything was to be owned and shared equally and everyone would participate in the building of the new society. Equality of men and women was a revolutionary concept at that time.

Under the auspices of the Kalevan Kansa Colonization Company, land on Malcolm Island was secured, and a foundry, brickyard, sawmill and blacksmith shop were established. The Finnish word “Sointula” meaning “place of harmony” was chosen as the name of the community.

Kurrika’s leadership didn’t last long and a second man, Austin Makela, took over the leadership role when Kurrika left. A series of misfortunes followed and just four years later the company was disbanded and the land returned to the government of B.C. The people didn’t give up though — they purchased land individually and turned to fishing and hand logging so they could remain on Malcolm Island. The sense of independence and self reliance is still evident in Sointula today, and Finnish names are still in the phone book. There is a quiet, unhurried lifestyle here, reminiscent of the way Gabriola used to be. Malcolm Island is governed by a regional district and services are mininimal (no RCMP office, for instance), but there is concern about how to keep the community viable with the downturn in the fishing and logging industries.

Day 43: Freshwater Bay to Sointula, Malcolm Island

Day 43: Freshwater Bay to Sointula, Malcolm Island

Friday, July 26

We got underway at 8:00 to ride with the tide (in theory) to Sointula. The Dall’s Porpoises came to say good morning and there were HB blows in every direction in Blackfish Sound. It was hard to avoid them — whales kept popping up on our route, including a female with a calf close beside her. The space at the Sointula dock that we occupied last week was empty, so we slipped in there again, feeling quite at home. For an afternoon adventure, we borrowed coaster bicycles from the Harbour Authority office and rode down 1st Street through town and then onto Kaleva Road that runs nine kilometres along the Malcolm Island waterfront. The whole route was flat so it was an easy ride that took us past farms and forest and ended at Sund’s Lodge. After dinner we set out to walk the docks on the other side of the harbour (there are two sets of docks behind the breakwater) but ended up walking right back into town, it was such a nice evening.

Day 42: Freshwater Bay, Swanson Island

Day 42: Freshwater Bay, Swanson Island

Thursday, July 25

We had a really lazy day today. Got up late and stayed on the boat most of the day. It was quite windy and we didn’t feel like working too hard paddling so we left the kayaks on Snug’s deck. Ron spent the afternoon working on accounting and I sat in the sun for awhile and knitted for awhile. It was a day of threes: people in three kayaks had a lunch break on our beach, then three 24 foot powerboats came in and rafted up for a few hours, then three cruise ships steamed down Blackfish Sound. Eventually we went ashore to pick mint and then rowed out to Flower Island to do some jigging off the kelp bed. There were humpbacks feeding quite close to Flower, rolling around and coming out of the water with their mouths open. Later we sat in the cockpit appreciating the clean, fresh air here and admiring our view of the mountains on Vancouver Island.

Day 41: Telegraph Cove to Freshwater Bay, Swanson Island

Day 41: Telegraph Cove to Freshwater Bay, Swanson Island

Wednesday, July 24

Today wasn’t quite as exciting as yesterday but we had a great time. I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post that not only did we see the humpback breaching, we heard it vocalizing, which was also pretty cool. Anyway, this morning we left Telegraph and headed through the same pass that we were in yesterday with the HB. One of the commercial whale watching boats was out there, probably with an animal, but it was too foggy to see much and we decided to carry on to our anchorage at the bottom of Swanson Island. A bunch of Dall’s Porpoises came by for a play again as we crossed Blackfish Sound. That is so much fun!

Freshwater Bay on Swanson Island is probably our all-time favourite place to be anchored because it is sheltered from winds and waves but it’s on the edge of Blackfish Sound where there is a lot of whale and boat activity to watch. Cruise ships and pleasure boats pass through here on their way north and small boats are often fishing along the shore of Swanson. We’re almost always alone here, other than kayakers from time to time, because it looks open to weather. There’s a small beach in the bay and an old homestead above the beach where we always pick an armful of mint to bring home. Snug’s interior has a distinctive aroma after we’ve been to Freshwater Bay! It is so beautiful here that it all but takes your breath away.

Ron rowed out to do some fishing outside the bay and later we went in to the beach and built a little fire to cook our not fish dinner. All evening there was a continuous parade of humpbacks out in Blackfish, some out in the middle so we could just see the blows, but often right outside Freshwater. We heard another breach and saw the splash, but the whale was just out of sight behind one of the little islands that shelters the bay. Another lovely day!

Day 40: Port McNeill to Telegraph Cove

Day 40: Port McNeill to Telegraph Cove

Tuesday, July 23

Today was right up there as being one of the most exciting, fun days of our trip!

The plan we had formulated was to go for breakfast together, then Rick and Mum would goof around shopping and whatever in McNeill and then drive to Telegraph Cove in the afternoon. Dad would come aboard Snug and we’d get out on the water to look for whales, see some of the places they used to come to during their cruising days and then drop him off in Telegraph Cove to go back to the motel with Rick and Mum.

So off we went — cruised down Johnstone Strait, close in to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island and then turned toward Stubbs Island where humpbacks usually hang out. We soon spotted a blow and watched one whale cross our stern. We intended to continue into Blackfish Sound, circle around Hanson Island, through Blackney Pass, back into Johnstone Strait and up to Telegraph Cove. But the current was so strong as we tried to get past Stubbs Island that we couldn’t make any headway and swung around to go with the flow through Weynton Passage, around the other side of Hanson Island. There was another blow in that direction, so we figured we’d see a second whale going that way anyway. Well, we sure did see a second whale — jumping clear out of the water! It was so exciting to see that huge whale come right out of the water and crash back down with a humungous splash! After the first one we were going “wow that was amazing” and then it happened again and then again . . . for a total of nine breaches! The current was swirling around in Weynton Pass and Ron held our position as we watched the spectacle that must have lasted at least half an hour — I kind of lost track of time.

Then, no sooner had we decided to carry on with our sight seeing tour, than a group of Dall’s Porpoises appeared and came tearing over to play in our bow wave. They were dashing back and forth alongside the boat and right under the bow and splashing and jumping and generally frolicking about as we watched in absolute delight. They actually visited us twice and then we saw them again playing with another boat as we headed back to Telegraph Cove.

Rick has friends in Telegraph, so by the time we got in, they were all visiting in Jim and Mary’s living room and had hatched a plan to go for dinner at the pub in the Cove. Jim kindly tied Snug alongside his boat, Gikume, and we went up to the house too before we all went for dinner. What a day!

Day 39: Sointula to Port McNeill

Day 39: Sointula to Port McNeill

Monday, July 22

We walked into town again this morning looking for coffee, and although most of Sointula is closed on Monday too, we found a coffee shop alongside the ferry line-up which was open and full of people waiting to get on the ferry to Port McNeill. Had a nice chat with some locals who perched on the stools beside us on the porch of the coffee shop (cute old house converted to cute coffee shop) and then headed back to Snug to make our own way over to McNeill. Did the usual mad dash around the grocery store and liquor store and tackle store and gift shop and then Rick texted to say they were here and to “bring beer.” They were booked into McNeill’s, a motel right on the waterfront looking across at the marina, which turned out to be a great spot. McNeill’s has a new owner and I think the rooms have been recently gutted and refurbished because everything looked fresh and clean and new. We visited and went for dinner and then called it a day.