Having been tourists yesterday, it was work today. I packed up the laundry and my computer and headed up to the laundromat at the head of the dock to do double duty—I had some correspondence to catch up on and work to do on the magazine while minding the washers and dryers. Meanwhile, Ron changed the oil in the boat, vacuumed, and put water in our tanks. By the time all this was done and we’d had lunch it was mid afternoon. We put on our walking shoes again and walked up 2nd Street from this end, which climbs a hill and has a wonderful view over the water to McNeill. Then it was back to the boat for a beer and another burger from the Burger Barn, a take out place on the harbour parking lot. Then more walking to burn off all the calories from two days of indulgence.
There is lots of evidence in Sointula of a once thriving but much diminished fishing industry. Idle herring skiffs are pulled up onto the grass all along Rough Bay and old net sheds and boat houses, no longer maintained, are slowly falling down.
Today was another “change our minds in mid-stream” days—we had intended to carry on down the mainland coast to Eden Island where we really enjoyed paddling last year but it was foggy on that side of Queen Charlotte Strait and Malcolm Island looked clear. Our provisions were running low again, and sunshine and a trip to town sounded good, so the tiller was pushed hard over and we crossed the strait, rounded Pulteney Point and pulled into Sointula. The berth we occupied twice last year was waiting for us again—we felt quite at home as we tied Snug’s lines to the dock. Not feeling like diving into chores, we headed off for the mile walk down 1st Street to town to see what had changed. Not too much, as far as we could see, other than the Credit Union building had “This Location is Closed” signs posted and one of the restaurants that was operating last year was vacant. We stopped for ice cream at Deb’s Deli and carried on to the end of 1st Street where the cemetery is located and there’s a bench looking out to Haddington Island and Vancouver Island beyond. There’s also a well organized and productive community garden nearby which we had a little walk around, wondering if there would be any food waiting for us in our garden when we get home. We walked back to town via 2nd Street and sat on the pub’s waterfront deck for a beer before going back to Deb’s Deli for a salmon burger. Before settling down for the night we did another walk in the other direction along 1st Street which circles around Rough Bay. Lots of walking today!
We scooted down the mainland coast with a headsail pulled out to take advantage of a westerly wind and were turning into Blunden Harbour by mid day. After lunch we paddled the eastern side of the big harbour and a peaceful inner cove that dries at low water. By the time we made our turn, the wind had picked up considerably and we had to work hard to get back to Snug.
It was so foggy at 7:00 this morning that we couldn’t see the other side of Smith Sound. Definitely a day for radar. The fog lifted slightly and then dropped back down all morning and we could just barely see the top of Cape Caution as we rounded into Queen Charlotte Strait. The Coast Guard Radio would have described the sea conditions as “wave height 0.0 metres with a low westerly swell”—quite pleasant, other than not being able to see anything. We did spot some sea otters in the mist before we were out of Smith Sound and lots of birds out on the open water. The sky overhead cleared as we ran down the mainland coast below Caution but the fog was hanging over the land in the distance. The swells increased in size and big rollers were lifting Snug’s stern and sending her swooshing down the waves. We were heading for the lovely little sandy beach at Shelter Bay but changed our minds as we passed the group of islands just above Shelter Bay—the paddling possibilities looked more interesting so we pulled in behind Arm Island and dropped the anchor in a protected inlet there. We were soon in the kayaks, exploring the channels among the many small islands and reefs and then going outside to ride the big swells on the edge of Queen Charlotte Strait as we completed a circular route to return to Snug.
We ran down to the mouth of Rivers Inlet and out onto open water to get around into Smith Sound under clear skies. Conditions were moderate, with swells rolling in and some breeze keeping the main full. We spotted a blow on the north end of False Egg Island, close to where we saw a grey whale feeding last year. It disappeared around the west side of the island and I kept watch to see if I could pick it up again as we passed the south end. When we were opposite the bottom of the island, I was watching with the binoculars and could see three high blows and then a tail. I couldn’t tell if they were greys or humpbacks at that distance and there was too much lumpy sea action to go out and investigate.
We anchored in Dsulish Bay in Smith Sound between a small island and a sandy beach, not sure if this was a lunch stop or our overnight anchorage. With light winds and a prediction to go even lighter, this quite open anchorage seemed fine—a bit of a swell was rolling in but not enough to be a problem. And we had a beautiful view across Smith Sound. We rowed ashore to walk the beach, looking for treasures and evidence of animals. There were some old prints but they were so faded we couldn’t be sure what critter had made them. The sand was reddish brown and we wondered if it was dyed by the brown water coming off the land. Huge, bleached logs lined the high tide line. The sun was shining and the deep, soft sand at the top of the beach burnt our feet, making us retreat to the waterline to cool them off. We sat on the sand for awhile, too lazy to launch the kayaks to explore the adjacent beaches.
Today we ran up to the head of Rivers Inlet where we’ve never been before, hugging the shore and scanning for the non-existent bears. We did see a humpback though, which we weren’t expecting. We also saw evidence of some of the eighteen fish canneries that operated here from the 1800s into the first half of the twentieth century. What a different place it must have been then—bustling with cannery and logging activity. There was a seasonal hospital in the summer months too, and with everyone moving around by boat it would have been busy with traffic. Now, old pilings and abandoned equipment rusting on the beaches are all that’s left of the commercial fish industry at most of the sites. There is a village at the head of Rivers Inlet, just out of sight up the Wannock River, inhabited by descendants of people who have lived here for 10,000 years. A few other people still live scattered along the shoreline and in the summer, several fishing resorts come alive with sports fishermen.
We dropped anchor in Kilbella Bay to paddle the river estuary. It is a wide estuary, formed by the Kilbella and Chuckwalla Rivers which converge before emptying into the inlet. It’s quite an amazing place—narrow channels winding through islands of grasses and wild flowers like a maze. Lots of bird activity—swallows swooping around, well fed no doubt, geese honking their annoyance with our presence, placid herons, chattering kingfishers and unidentified song birds. We paddled up a main channel lined with old pilings and kept going and going inland until the waterway narrowed and we were finally stopped by a windfall across the channel. When we entered we were wondering about the possibility of seeing bears, but by the time we got to our turning point, in murky water closely lined with ancient mossed covered trees and huge devils club leaves, my thoughts had turned to crocodiles and alligators!
Underway again and heading back down the inlet to our more protected evening destination in Sandell Bay, we were startled by the humpback surfacing quite close to Snug, rising out of the water with its mouth gaping, obviously feeding. We slowed to watch as he came up again and again, working close to the shoreline, turning and going back up the shore again—quite a spectacle!
It is very beautiful here—the inlet isn’t as narrow as those we travelled further north in Fiordland last year, but the mountains are high and snow capped, and waterfalls run down sheer rock faces to the sea.
Ron spotted two blows ahead when we were heading down Kwakshua Channel out of Pruth Bay this morning. He slowed down and kept watch, but when we saw them again the whales were far behind us. They must have been doing long dives and we went right past without seeing them. It was flat calm when we got out onto Fitz Hugh Channel but it was so grey and misty that even if there were whales around we probably wouldn’t have noticed the blows. I stood in the cockpit in the rain in my wet gear when we ran up Darby Channel and watched the shores slide by on either side. There is much less grey in the forest here—not as many standing dead trees. When we got into Dawsons Landing, White Raven was there getting fuel, and about six boats were tied up. We had a quick chat with Bonnie and Doug before they headed off to Fury Cove to be set up to round Cape Caution when the winds go light. We bought some groceries and used the showers and spent a quiet evening at the dock.
We eased out of the narrow entrance to Fish Trap Cove this morning when the tide was high enough to give our keel some clearance. Our intention was to get across Hakai Pass travelling west of all the islands below Hunter Island, and into Pruth Bay. Once out on open water, however, the swells were so big we opted to turn into Nalau Passage between Hunter and Sterling Islands and take the more protected route to the north and east of Sterling Island to minimize the time spent in the rollers. The change in sea conditions was amazing—as soon as we were in Nalau the sea flattened out and we were in completely calm water again until we spilled out into Hakai where we were back in huge ocean swells. The wind was light and the distance short, and we were across Hakai in no time.
Once settled in Pruth, we put on our rain gear and hiking boots and headed off to walk to North Beach, since we hadn’t done that hike on our way up the coast. It was misty and grey on West Beach, beautiful and green on the forest trail, and misty and grey again on North Beach. We found several patches of the beautiful blue King Gentian alongside the pond that’s at the midpoint of the trail to North Beach. It was raining again by the time we got back to Snug.
July 23, 2014: Fish Trap Cove, Watt Bay, Hunter Island
Doug and Bonnie came over this morning for coffee and to see Snug’s interior layout. Coincidentally, they have two sons named Steve (a sailor) and Ben. We parted company around 11:00, White Raven heading for Pruth Bay and Snug crossing Kildidt Sound to a little cove, unnamed on the chart, but called Fish Trap Cove by one of the guide books (Hamilton). We worked our way among all the rocks and islets on the west side of Kildidt under blue skies, seeing one sea otter cruising through a kelp bed.
The entrance to Fish Trap Cove is narrow and shallow and the new chart shows a different reef configuration compared to the old. I stayed on the bow pointing at the deep(er) channel as Snug crept in dead slow. We found as long as we stayed as close to the port shore as possible, we were fine. Once inside, we were in a lovely secluded basin with a stream entering at the far end. We put the kayaks in the water and paddled the perimeter and looked for the stones marking the fish trap at the mouth of the stream. Huge orange jellyfish—the biggest we’ve ever seen—were in the bay, and also huge mussels in the narrows created by the fish trap. Wherever water is constricted and flows fast, the sea life increases in size and number. In Judd Cove, just outside the entrance to Fish Trap, there was a cabin perched on top of a herring skiff anchored and moored to shore—obviously a fishermen’s retreat. A red throated loon landed and stayed on the surface long enough for me to get a photo.
We saw no mammals except a seal while we were in Fish Trap, but lots of different birds: merganser, red throated loon, pair of ospreys, ancient murrelet, eagle, raven, pair of kingfishers and gulls. The poor eagle was harassed first by a gull and then the ospreys—it was just sitting there quietly minding its own business as far as we could see.
At the risk of repeating myself, yesterday it rained—hard—all day. There was no wind in the anchorage despite the wind outside, but the constant rain kept us aboard and stationary for the day. Lots more knitting done. Ron sorted the paper charts, reorganizing, identifying duplicates and finding notations about our trip to Central Coast 22 years ago—“Oh, we went there!” There aren’t many boats around, but the odd comment on the radio indicated that others were hunkered down for the day too.
This morning, however, the rain had stopped and we made our move to get a little further south. This meant being out on Queens Sound for an hour or so—big swells were rolling in and crashing on the very rugged coastline. We intended to nip into Swordfish Bay—we were in there last year and first saw sandhill cranes—but decided the big swells and narrow entrance made that plan a little risky and we didn’t want to get stuck in there if conditions on the sound got worse, making an exit dicey. So, Plan B: carry on into Spider Channel, and then for a little adventure, through the very narrow Spitfire Channel into Kildidt Sound. I was reluctant to get anchored too early for another rainy afternoon (the rain had resumed and it wasn’t looking promising for good paddling conditions), so we wound our way through the maze of islands to the east of Kildidt Sound, just exploring. We seem to be in murre territory now, seeing more of them (although not lots) than murrelets. White Raven, the Saturna 33 that we had met up with in Shearwater appeared and we shut down in the middle of Spider Anchorage for a chat, eventually deciding to move over to the Edna Islands together.
The sun made an appearance and Ron launched the kayaks, determined to get out paddling even if the clear sky was short lived. We had a great paddle through the gut between the two biggest Edna Islands, spotting huge sea cucumbers below the surface and a single sea otter all wrapped up in kelp, and ventured north of Typhoon Island into the swells. We thought we might paddle around to the beach on the west side of Typhoon, but gave up that idea pretty quickly. The sea was completely calm in our anchorage on the east side of the Ednas, but got decidedly different outside and we were paddling in conditions beyond our skill level, so turned around and satisfied ourselves with an exploration of the beach on the east side of Typhoon. A yellow legged seabird was on the shore as we passed by and it posed beautifully for photographs. We thought it was a Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs—because of the the yellow legs!—but found when we got back to Snug and checked the book that it was a Wandering Tattler—another new species for us.
We joined Doug and Bonnie aboard White Raven for happy hour and had a great time comparing our two boats’ accommodation and histories and generally having a good visit.