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Journals 08

July 7, 2008 Boat Inlet to Butedale

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Boat inlet has a shallow entrance, and we had to exit before 9am before the tides got too low. This put us into the Matheison passage in an adverse ebb tide. The wind hadn’t picked up as forecast, which was both a blessing and a curse. Good because wind against a tide makes uncomfortable seas, but bad because we couldn’t sail, and had to motor against the current. The swell had risen even higher last night as the low approaches the coast. We had just a few miles more running in it. Where the ebb tide met the incoming swells made for some white-knuckle helmsmanship. There was a small passage of big steep breaking swells over a shallow area, where the tide came against us at three knots. It was no problem for the Silent Partner, however I was focused on Modulus behind us, disappearing into the wave troughs. Soon we were in protected waters again, though, and we had a “glassy” transit of the Matheison channel. We hit Jackson narrows at low tide. It was really cool to navigate the intricate shallow passage while looking down at the sea floor bottom the whole way. It was about 15 feet deep, crystal-clear, and full of marine life swimming below. The kelp forests started to stream westward, indicating that we finally picked up the favorable flood tide. North of Klemtu we really got a boost, and steamed along at an amazing 9 knots. Bucking tide or riding the flow, it all evens out on a long voyage. My visions of picking up the southerly gale to Butedale never materialized. It was calm most of the day and there was even a hint of north wind. At one point the dolphins came up to us in the clear water. It was amazing to see them pumping their tails through the water and bouncing off each other and the boat. Sometimes they look up sideways at you from underwater. A gaint BC ferry passed us, sending out a huge wake that rocked the waters of the channel long after it was out of sight. The waves kept on bouncing off the walls of the narrow passage. Toward evening we finally came up on Butedale, an abandoned cannery town. The weather cleared as we came up to the rickety dock. Butedale looks different than last time I saw it. Several buildings collapsed under the heavy winter snow loads. One building by the dock fell into the ocean just two weeks ago. Lou, the town’s only inhabitant, said it broke into several pieces and pointed out into the channel where he though they went. “She’s gone, though, won’t be nothing left of her soon.” Lou still maintains power to his house and deep freezers with the old Pelton wheel hydro system. It was interesting to see the setup after using one myself for the past three winters in Jawbone Flats, Oregon. We walked around a bit to stretch our legs and check out the ruins. The old cannery buildings were made out of incredible timbers, many of them are still in prime condition. Apparently people are slowly scavenging the good wood when nobody’s around. Lou said the floor was taken up out of the main building this year. I can see why, it was made out of four by twelves that were about 50 feet long. I have mixed feelings about the scavenging. These buildings are very old and incredible, but they won’t be standing for many more years, and then all that good wood will go to rot. Someone had set up a bowling alley on the remaining parts of the floor. The planks made a great bowling surface and we played a few rounds. Apparently the bears are out in force around the woods, so we didn’t hike up to the lake this time.

July 6, 2008 Ocean Falls to Boat Inlet

Monday, July 14th, 2008

At 4am the current and winds shifted, pinning the boat to the dock. The fenders kept popping out, and I made several trips out in my underwear in the rain, to re-adjust the lines etc. I received an ugly forecast on the VHF and eventually fell back to sleep until 11am. No end in sight on the rain for another four days at least. We were getting a bit stir-crazy at the dock, and the prospect of spending a fourth night in Ocean Falls was not appealing. As soon as the winds eased up a bit we made our move, and it turned out to be a good choice. It wasn’t so bad out there, and the rain even tapered off. Our 100 mile, week-long circumnavigation of King Island was completed when we turned the boat into the Gunboat passage. King Island and Bella Coola were well worth the side trip. It was some of the most spectacular coastline in all of BC, a challenge to navigate and world-class sailing. Best of all we used almost no fuel because we tacked all the way from Bella Coola. At Shearwater the fuel dock was conveniently open on a Sunday, so we topped up our tanks. We may as well not have even bothered to do it. The fuel attendant was very impressed with Silent Partner’s economy. Our plan was to spend the night in Shearwater, and I called in to the harbor master on the VHF for a slip assignment. “A buck a foot for the night, and we can’t get you any power” they said. No thanks! Way too steep a price, even for Puget Sound. Colleen and I weren’t about to pay thirty bucks to sit at a cold dock. A big gale is supposed to blow through tomorrow so we used our weather window to motor down the calm Seaforth channel. Near Ivory Island lighthouse a large groundswell had already picked up, creating impressive breakers around the shoreline. I like how all the islands disappear when the boat dips into the troughs of the swell. Far out in the ocean to the southeast, a low pressure system was stirring up the water. These large swells are just like ripples in a pond, radiating out from the storm’s center. We tucked in behind Ivory Island and threaded the needle through Reid passage, where we sit at anchor tonight, in tiny Boat Inlet. It is a very peaceful spot and a bombproof anchorage. We’ve got a pot of rice cooking on the wood stove, and we’re dry and warm after a rainy day’s sail. I already feel like I’m in Alaska now, listening to the quiet crackle of the fire in a calm secluded bay. There’s just nothing quite like it.

July 5, 2008 Ocean Falls (2nd storm day)

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Harbor-bound again.  Despite the nasty forecast, many boaters left Ocean Falls today.  Around noon a howling gale came from nowhere, drumming rain pouring sideways from the sky.  The bay became more white-cap than water, and the white-caps became a “storm white” color as we call it where I’m from.  My hat blew off my head as I rescued the Modulus from capsizing, and hauled her onto the dock.   I hope everyone’s doing OK out there.  Colleen and I are in no hurry to be anywhere anytime soon.  Today we’re relaxing, reading, and writing.  Just sitting back and enjoying the storm.  A safe harbor in a storm is a wonderful thing!

4th of July, 2008 Ocean Falls (storm day)

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Well, here we are in the mostly-abandoned town of Ocean Falls.  There used to be over 5,000 people living here, and today there are only 35.  It’s a ghost town to the extreme.  Imagine what a city would look like 30 years after the downfall of human civilization, and there you have Ocean Falls.  Fire department, courthouse, 5 story hotels, and grocery stores–all abandoned and trapped in time.  The bridge across the inlet to the old mill collapsed last week.  Behind town is a massive hydro-electric dam which still supplies power to the surrounding communities.  The waterfall is gigantic and very impressive, draining from 18 mile-long Link Lake above.  Colleen and I are spending the day here in the rain, waiting out a spell of bad weather.  It is a luxury to be tied to the dock with the heaters blasting.  Most of Ocean Falls’ inhabitants have built a small community one mile or so from the main ruins.   We walked there to find Audrie’s plants, to buy some vegetables.  Audrey was in her greenhouse, tending a very impressive garden.  She’d electrified the perimeter and fenced it off in wire mesh to keep the bears out.  We were surprised to learn that none of the locals buy any vegetables from her.  We got many great veggies and are enjoying fresh salads with every meal!  We’ve been talking to many people here at the docks.  I couldn’t believe the power boaters talking about their fuel consumption.  “Oh, we do really good, we get about 1.35 miles to the gallon, going about 25 knots.”  My God.  I don’t care how fast your boat goes, 1.35 miles to the gallon???  And that was a small boat too!

July 3, 2008 Eucott Hot Springs to Ocean Falls

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Colleen looked too peaceful to wake this morning.  I couldn’t find the clock anyways, but it was hard to guess because it’s basically always light outside.  By the time we got up, it was eleven o’clock!!  We both needed a rest and awoke refreshed.  It goes without saying that we began the day with another soak in the hot pool.  We sailed from the anchorage and into the Dean Channel.  Winds were the same as yesterday, coming at us on the nose.  So in a continuation from yesterday we tacked down the channel.  We got a bit over-powered and we ducked into an inlet while I put a reef in the mainsail.  On the way back out into the channel we sailed by the rock where Alexander Mackenzie, the first white guy to cross the continent by foot and reach the pacific, had written his name.  He got there thirteen years before Lewis and Clark, which Canadians go out of their way to point out.   I thought it was also very Canadian that he chose a non-descript rock in the middle of the channel, just 20 miles from the open ocean, to  terminate his trip.  They’re just so much more modest than us Americans.  At any rate, it was impressive to see his name carved into the rock with the date “1793.”  We continued tacking all the way to Ocean Falls, where we shook out the reefs and had dinner on the water as we approached the town.  I am very pleased with our tacking progress, which only adds several hours to each day’s run.  Infinity miles to the gallon makes me smile too.  Sweeping across the channel in long tacks lets us see the mountains from all different angles, teaches patience, and is downright satisfying.  Another great sailing day.

July 2, 2008 Bella Coola to Eucott Hot Springs

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

We were so tired out from last night’s festivities that we missed the first tide out of town.  Around noon we motored out of the harbor and put up the sails in light wind.  I wanted to show the good people of Bella Coola what a sailboat was.  All day the wind increased and blew–of course–directly from the direction we wanted to go.  And all day long we made big, beautiful tacks from one side of the channel to the other.  Silent Partner did a great job sailing to windward.  Eventually we sailed across the face of the “Mesachie Nose”, flying along at 8 knots.  It was truly world-class sailing.  Clear skies, incredible mountains, and a booming wind.  It was a joy tacking down the channel.  Silent Partner spoke all day as her fiberglass hull hummed in the water.  The humming seemed to attract the dolphins, our constant companions in these waters.  Sometimes several dolphins would leap from the water in unison, and then dive under the boat.  One dolphin was particularly athletic, jumping higher than all the other dolphins and doing barrel rolls in the air.  Soon after sailing by the nose we entered Labrouche channel, or “Lovely Labrouche” as the fishermen called it.  Here was a passage with light winds, huge mountains, and giant waterfalls that brought volumes of water down from great heights.  The wind got behind us and we enjoyed a quiet sail after the intense activity of tacking.  Lovely Labrouche was over too soon, and we came out into the windy Dean Channel.  A close reach brought us right up to the Eucott Bay entrance.  I rank that sail from Bella Coola in the top 10 category.  Eucott Bay is basically a big muddy basin set in a rocky fjordland.  The entrance was very dramatic, marked by a massive avalanche that has just stripped the mountainside to bare, white bedrock.  The bay is ringed by grass and as soon as we entered the horseflies swarmed the boat.  After anchoring we hung out on the boat until sunset, and enjoyed dinner until the horseflies went to bed.  Then we rowed to shore and enjoyed an incredible hot springs soak!  After a great sailing day it was awesome to look out at the boat from the soaking tub, calmly anchored in a quiet bay and surrounded by snowy peaks.  On our way back to the boat, we rowed around the bay to cool off a bit, and into the mouth of a river that empties into the anchorage.   It was high tide and all of the grasses were submerged.  We floated out of the river mouth with the current, over lush grasses underwater below.  I told Colleen that we were “rowing the lawn” and cracked up.  I don’t know why I got such a kick out of it!  Perhaps I am now completely on island time.

July 1, 2008 Canada Day in Bella Coola

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Today we “schwacked” around town for a very Canadian experience of Canada Day.  Most people had celebrated their weekend at the rodeo, so nobody was really treating today like a holiday.  “Oh, you know, it’s not really that big of a deal.  We don’t do all those fireworks and stuff like you do in the states.”  Instead, we did what most of the folks seemed to do every day: sit around on the boats and watch the world go by.  We spent the morning on MaryLou and Del’s boat, on old wooden fishing boat from 1920s Seattle.  Del spotted an elephant testicle floating in the estuary through his binoculars.  He got very excited, grabbed his gas can, and sped away in his skiff to retrieve it.    Everyone in the harbor came by to chat and have a cup of coffee.  Immediately after the coffee the beers came out, sometime right before 10am.  I took that moment to do a few chores before the whole day passed by.  Most importantly, I went up the mast with the bosun’s chair and a borrowed mirror, and tightened down the masthead light, which has been hanging loose.  By holding the mirror above, I was able to see where the screws were.  It was a fancy maneuver at the top of a swinging 40′ pole!  Our friend Wayne is a native from Alberta.  He used to ranch out there, and the whole maritime scene is new to him.  Wayne is working on Ken’s boat, an old fishing tender, and now they charter out to transport tourists.  He was very interested in Silent Partner, and made for her one of the nicest gifts.  He’s a terrific artist and wanted to make something for us to bring good luck to the voyage.  In the afternoon he walked down to the estuary and found a piece of driftwood, and painted an amazing picture of an Orca whale at sunset.   Wayne is a quiet thoughtful man, and it’s not often that you come by someone like him.  Silent Partner has some of the greatest friends.  We received many other thoughtful gifts from our friendly neighbors to the north today too.  Del gave us a “Canada chiller pack” that holds a 24 pack of Molson and wears like a backpack.  “You’re honorary Canadians now” he said.  Apparently it is cheaper to buy the loaded chiller pack than the normal case.  In the afternoon we walked into town to escape the heat.  I took the chiller pack with me, and the disguise really did work.  We went back to the harbor at about 5pm, and from there it took 9 hours for us to make it back to Silent Partner.  Ken and Wayne had us over on their packer boat with several other fishermen, and everyone stayed up drinking until 2am on various boats.  Prawn season just ended today, and the fishermen were complaining about fishing, telling lies, and drinking their sorrows away.  It is not a good time to be making a living with the BC fishery.  “Just a bunch of goddamn rocks and trees up here, and we’ve got to pay a fortune just to stuff a bunch of bugs (prawns) in a box!”  Ken had an interesting solution for a bathroom on the boat– he strapped a port-a-potty to the back deck.  It was quite nice, actually.  Ken said that everyone in the harbor uses it while he’s not there.  All in all, it was a very memorable Canada day.  Eh?

June 30, 2008 Cathedral Point Cove to Bella Coola

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

We were rudely awakened at 2:30am by the wind and waves. Fierce outflow winds from the interior snowfields screamed down the Burke Channel. The wind held Silent Partner in one direction while the refracting waves curled into the cove, broadsiding the boat with an uncomfortable rolling motion. We rocked around all night and didn’t get any more sleep. A few times I went up on deck to check our position and lengthen the scope of our anchor line. By 5am we’d had enough. The boat was getting dangerously close to shore with our scope out, necessary to keep a lot of scope in such high winds to reduce the risk of dragging. We had no choice bu to get out there and buck the waves. This was the Burke showing us her true face after putting on such a peaceful disguise last night. It was quite a stark contrast from the serenity of last night. Despite being pounded by the waves, the scenery was from another planet. We passed by a huge white mountain that jutted into the channel at a place called “Gibraltar Point.” I’m sure that this rock of Gibraltar is way more impressive than the real one, too. 9,000 foot peaks came into view, and some of the snow chutes came all the way down to saltwater. Gradually the wind eased until there was none at all again. We turned into the North Bentnick Arm and made our way up to Bella Coola. The water turned milky from the glacier water at the entrance of the arm. Finally, after a hard-won battle with the Burke, we came into Bella Coola harbor, one of the only sailboats among a sea of idle fishing boats. We quickly made many friends in the harbor, and then walked the mile into town.  Bella Coola can be reached by road, however it’s a 350 mile drive off the main highway from nowhere, and mostly gravel roads.  Most people come by boat.  We stopped back in with Tom, the harbor-master.  It was his third day on the job and he was very chatty.  Once he got going telling bear and cougar attack stories, there was no stopping him.  “Oh, there was this guy a few years back, and hiking up that mountain there.  The bear decided to teach him a lesson, didn’t want to kill him.  Just “schwacked” him around a bit, took off his scalp and such.  I guess that part comes off pretty easy once you get it started.”  “Tomorrow you could schwack your way up that mountain there, flies’ll be real bad, but that’s the price of the bush.  Just be real respectful of the bears, but don’t ever run from ’em.”  After awhile we paid Tom’s discounted mooring fee and returned to the boat.  I was very tired out from last nights rolling anchorage, and passed out at 7.

June 29, 2008 Fury Cove to Cathedral Point Cove

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Dense fog this morning.  I couldn’t see the shores of the cove. I could make out just a few other boats anchored nearby, looming in the fog.  The first three hours of the good flood tide were spent waiting for the fog to lift.  The next three were spent picking our way through the fog banks along the shores of Fitz Hugh sound.  The fog finally lifted off the Addenbroke Island lighthouse.  The lighthouse keeper came out of his house and waved to us from the front door as we sailed by.   A nice westerly filled in once the fog lifted, and we had a peaceful sail up to the abandoned town of Namu.  Namu was once a thriving cannery town that went to ruin after the mismanagement of the BC fishery.  Today we found only one lady living there with her husband.  She was arranging a kitchen she’d pieced together on a floating dock.  It was quite impressive!  There was a big open cauldron made from an industrial vat, with fuel drums stacked atop each other for the stove pipe.  An enormous slab of cedar served as the dining table, that could probably seat 40.  The whole scene reminded me of scenes from Kevin Costner’s “Water World.”  All kinds of gardens bloomed among the ruins, clearly they were not lacking for fresh produce.  The caretaker smiled at us “Just be real careful when you walk around.  Stay 20 feet apart so when you fall through the walkways you call pull the other person out!”  Namu is in various stages of serious collapse.  All of the old timbers and boardwalks have gone soft and the buildings are all out of kilter.  We explored until the tide turned, and then continued on our way.  We decided to turn our course into the Burke channel for a side trip to Bella Coola.  Thus began a 100 mile long detour to circumnavigate King Island.  The Burke is a challenging body of water.  We encountered tide rips and a strong ebb for its whole length, even despite running in on a spring flood of 17 feet!!  There are so many waterfalls and rivers dumping into the channel from the interior that it created a layer of fresh water over the top several feet deep, which ebbed at 2.5 knots.  Wow.  The wind fell calm and we motored against our “flood tide ebb” for 25 miles to Cathedral Point Cove.  The entire passage was chuck-a-block full of dolphins, which played about the boat in great numbers.  They were having feeding frenzies in all of the tide rips.  Further and further into the mountains we went, each bend revealing higher mountains and more dolphins than the last.  It was awesome.  I hung the solar shower from the boom and had an extremely satisfying hot shower at the helm, as I navigated through the dolphins.  I enjoyed the shower so much that I took another one later in the evening.  I just can’t believe I didn’t have a shower on the boat before!  Cathedral Point Cove is a striking anchorage.  The mountains are beginning to get extremely steep, rising a mile straight out of the sea.  The cove itself is a geologic anomaly, ringed by tall cliffs and looking directly out into the channel.  And we have it all to ourselves!  On an otherwise iron-bound coast, it is a shallow oasis.  Most of the inlet plunges to fantastic depths directly from shore, making it impossible to find anchorage.   I rowed to shore and bushwhacked my way up to the Cathedral Point weather station on the bluff.  Sizes are deceiving from the boat.  What looked like a freshly mowed lawn from the deck of Silent Partner turned out to be 10 foot tall bracken ferns tangled with extremely dense (and prickly) spruce trees.  I discovered a helicopter pad at the weather station, which explains why there aren’t any trails leading up to it.  From the landing pad, I had a great view of the channel and Silent Partner at anchor there.  The place reminded me of Taz Basin on the Kenai Peninsula, when Ryan and I anchored there and climbed the peak.  Back at the boat, Colleen cooked up a fine dinner of Indian food which we enjoyed sitting on the bow, in the sunset.  It was an excellent moment in time.  Later I rowed modulus out into the Burke Channel, flat as glass and still enough to hear a pin drop.  Dolphins by the hundred swam through the channel, making their soft chuffing noises.  I counted a chuff at least every second.  It was a surreal experience, beyond description.  Certain moments in nature just give me the shivers.  I just counted my lucky stars to be alive and in such a fantastic place.  A solitary Humpback whale swam right past the entrance of the cove.  Billowing clouds of mist rose into the still air, and the sounds of whale breathing echoed off the cliffs.  Totally incredible.  Colleen could hear the trumpeting underwater sounds of the whale through the hull of the boat.  On my row back I contemplated all of the incredible moments I’ve had while rowing in the Modulus.  I followed the shoreline of the cove, which was ringed with old-growth fir and spruce trees.  There was one log that stuck out off the beach and hung out over the cove.  On the end of the log was a big pile of bear scat, composed primarily of crab claws.  I laughed at the image of a bear pooping on a log balanced out over the water like that.  It was a fine evening, a still moment in time that I will never forget.

June 28, 2008 Walker Cove to Fury Cove

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Silent Partner made her 5th successful crossing of the Queen Charlotte Sound today. We were so lucky to have a calm, clear morning. The sun was already lighting up the eastern sky when we pulled up the anchor at 0330. Sun-up found us gently rolling through a low south-westerly swell. We gained Cape Caution by 0800 in calm weather. Right off the Cape we sighted a Humpback whale. Almost too soon, the crossing was over. We motored into Fury Cove and threw down the hook. Another Humpback mooned around in the entrance to the Cove. I must say that I’m a bit surprised to see so many Humpbacks this year! We’re getting lucky with the whales. Colleen had taken a Dramamine tablet earlier in the day, and it made her feel sick and drowsy. She might have been better off without it. I think that Dramamine stuff just makes people sicker than if they had taken nothing at all…. We both fell asleep in the sunny afternoon at anchor, relieved after the big crossing. I put away all of my charts, weather forecasts, books, and all other things pertaining to navigation. The crossing went so smooth and fast that it was almost as though it was all a dream…. Later in the day Colleen and I explored the white clamshell beach and a cabin nearby. It felt good to lie down on the shady beach rocks and look out to the boat. With the Queen Charlotte Sound behind us, I can now focus my energy on the northern coast of the Inside Passage. Many great choices and routes lie in front of us. It will be like one of those “Choose your own adventure” books I read as a kid. Apparently, Fury Cove is a popular anchorage among the cruising circle. Soon ten other boats filled the anchorage.