Greetings! Karen and I arrived in Sitka and are taking advantage of the free internet at the excellent library here to try to learn how to post videos to Youtube and include them on the blog here. So….. without further ado, here’s our first effort. Hope it works for you, it seemed to load a little slow for me.
There may be nothing so refreshing on a hot summer day as sailing slowly across the face of a glacier, catching the chill breeze on your face. This we did in Glacier Bay National Park during the past week. We were very fortunate to have several days of clear sunny weather in what is often a cloudy drizzly place. Glacier Bay is an amazing body of water running northward from Icy Strait for about 45 miles as the eagle flies to Muir Glacier. The water area includes over 600,000 acres and there is more than 1,000 miles of coastline. The entire park includes over 5,000 square miles, about the size of Connecticut.
Reflections of Glacier Bay
Established in 1925 as a National Monument and as a National Park in 1980, the park limits the number of daily vessels to 2 cruise ships, 3 tour boats, 6 charter vessels and 25 private vessels. It seemed like we saw far fewer vessels than this each day. Our permit was one of only a few issued on short notice to vessels that will arrive no later than 48 hours after applying. We made it to the park Wednesday after a very nice sail from Juneau covering 65 miles in 13 hours, very good speed average for us, we had both wind and current helping us along. After turning north from Icy Strait we called park HQ on VHF to tell them we were entering and they notified us of the Whale Waters restrictions in effect that limit vessels’ speeds and excludes certain areas from entry. Indeed we saw multiple whales as we turned into Bartlett Cove and had to alter course to keep our distance from them.
Thursday morning we rowed ashore to register and attend the required orientation session. We also had breakfast at Glacier Bay Lodge and checked out the exhibits including the reconstructed skeleton of “Snow”, a pregnant whale killed in a collision with a cruise ship in 2000. To say she was a big-boned girl would be an understatement.
Bones of “Snow”, may she RIP.
Then we headed north, dodging whales and a cruise ship in the Sitakaday Narrows. On the way to our planned anchorage we went by South Marble Island where vessels are not allowed closer than 100 yards. We had enough wind to sail slowly at about 2 knots and shut down the motor. We had thought the island was a bird sanctuary or rookery, and it was, but the larger surprise were the Stellar Sea Lions. Apparently immature and unsuccessful male sea lions congregate here. These animals can grow to 2,000 pounds. We saw hundreds of them and they were noisy and acting grouchy with each other, pushing and shoving. It was utter cacophony, we could still hear them over a mile away as we headed off.
Mama sea otter and pup
One of many islets thronged with sea lions.
Friday we weighed anchor and went to leave our nice little cove only to run into a blockade. Patrolling back and forth across the entrance were a group of 3-4 whales. We had enough breeze to barely make way under sail so we shut down the engine and waited for a chance to get out. It was like trying to cross a freeway with the big rigs going 4 MPH while you’re going 2 MPH.
Humpback spouting off.
We made for Wachusett Inlet because this was the last day it would be open to motorized vessels for the rest of the summer. Beautiful scenery, glaciated mountains, turquoise waters, puffins and porpoises. At the outlet of a stream we saw a grizzly bear sitting on his haunches watching the water. A patient little fisherman he was, he’d wait for a salmon to head upstream then wade in behind it and grab it. Then he’d carry it up to the tall grass and about 10 minutes later come back to fish some more.
Bergy bit floating by Tarani at Wachusett anchorage.
That night we anchored just outside the closure boundary in a little unnamed cove and watched the parade of bergy bits go floating by with the tidal current. Next day we made it to Muir Glacier although it was high and dry, no longer a tidewater glacier.
Most of the glaciers in the park are receding and thinning. The advance and retreats of the glaciers here are well documented. Back in the 17th and early 18th century the Tlingit Indians had to abandon their settlements due to rapidly advancing ice associated with what is known as the Little Ice Age. In 1794 the entire bay was filled with ice when Vancouver visited in HMS Discovery. A hundred years later John Muir was able to visit guided by Tlingits. Today the remaining tidewater glaciers are Johns Hopkins, Lamplugh, Margerie and McBride. Of these only Johns Hopkins is advancing and thickening, although Margerie is considered stable. While global warming is definitely implicated in the rapid retreat of mountain glaciers, the factors influencing tidewater glaciers are more complex.
On Saturday we made it to Reid Inlet and after anchoring went ashore and checked out the glacier up close. We walked up along the north shore but at the glacier were blocked from getting to the beached snout by a rushing torrent of muddy water coming out from under the glacier at its edge. We scrambled uphill a few hundred feet and were able to step onto the glacier itself. We went up a couple hundred feet for a great view looking out over the bay.
Getting close to the glaciers with boats is tricky. The charts are not accurate because things change from year to year, the mudflats and deltas are in continual flux. The depth sounder is unreliable because of the turbidity. At one point at the Muir Glacier we inched our way forward, closer and closer to the exposed mud but not knowing when we’d run aground. When the depth sounder seemed to start working again and showed 20 feet we tried to anchor but without success. We used our lead line to try to sound the bottom old-school fashion but ran out of line at 60 feet. Faced with an uncertain bottom and with a tang of crew mutiny in the air we gave up and retreated.
Tarani on ice!
Sunday we got up early and motor-sailed up to Johns Hopkins Glacier, dodging bergs as big as our boat. Cruise ships are prohibited from entering this inlet and we had the place to ourselves for an hour or two. Words fall short in trying to describe this experience. We drifted about 1/4 mile off the glacier with the motor off. Loud cracks and booms echoed off the mountains and water. Gulls wheeled and cried and dove for fish. Seals were hauled out onto pack ice about 1/4 mile away on each side. A fresh salty fishy tang was in the air and the sun was rapidly burning away the remnants of the morning mist. We could hear avalanches behind the face as the crevasses and impossibly lofty and tilting peaks rearranged themselves. There was a dynamic tension that you could feel as pressure built. Eventually a chunk or slab of the face would collapse. You would see it before you could hear it or feel the percussion in your chest. Tons of snow and ice falling into the water and sending up a mega splash and a mini tsunami. The swells that reached us were impressive but manageable. We spent hours here, much longer than most boats that arrived and left. We exhausted the battery on our camera in our efforts to capture the majesty and wonder of it all. We recharged it from the well-supplied solar panels while we sailed back and forth but we never got the perfect picture. Eventually as the tide turned we found the pack ice closing in on us and sadly knew we had to go.
Johns Hopkins glacier not Johns Hopkins U. where our daughter is.
Karen likes glaciers!
We motor-sailed up to a little nook behind Russell Island and in the shelter of an unnamed islet. As usual when we’re approaching an anchorage Karen goes forward to prepare the anchor. This was when she saw something swimming in the water, it was a grizzly swimming back from the islet, only his massive brown head above the water. He hauled himself out on the rocky shore, shook himself like a dog and with a glance over his shoulder at us ambled off into the trees. Wow.
Grizzly taking a dip on a hot day.
At Margerie Glacier next day we had many bergs but no real pack ice or seals and more room to sail. Here we sailed back and forth enjoying the experience. At any given time we’d have 1-2 vessels with us. When the cruise ship Noordam arrived we communicated with the bridge as to what his intentions were and to make sure our sailing would not interfere. They basically position about 0.3 miles from the face and spin 360 degrees to give everyone a chance to see what they came so far to see. We hoped but weren’t sure that they enjoyed seeing a little sailboat in some of the pictures.
Nearby, but getting far less attention, was the Grand Pacific Glacier. This girl does not appear to be in the water anymore but she is huge. She’s very dirty, covered in brown and black because she’s been grinding away at the earth. Two miles wide and 34 miles long she is slowly receding towards the Canadian border only a half-mile away. She’s the Grand Dame of the place. Again we spent hours here until everyone else left. We wandered over to a little cove only a mile south of the glacier with the though of anchoring there for the night. It was however, exposed to the direction of the forecast wind and also to drifting bergs should the winds or tides push them that away. Also, the water was again highly turbid and the depth sounder was acting freaky. We bailed and headed south, back to the safety of the cove we’d been in the night before.
The sun was still warm and we had a couple hours to cruise so we hung our bed linens out to air and took solar showers on deck. After refreshing ourselves we looked back over our shoulders to get a last look at our glaciers and it was then we noticed a little nook just mile or so behind us. Checking the chart we found that, no surprise, this little cove had no name but it looked well protected and if we could find shallow enough water to let out enough anchor without ending up on the beach it might work. We swung around and found a special little place. No name, not mentioned in any guide books, and with no one around. This is the best part of cruising!
Tarani at anchor north of 59 degrees, Tarr Inlet.
The next morning we knew it was time to get going when the wake from a large cruise ship headed into the glaciers rocked our boat. Up anchor and away. An hour or two later we were on course to head south when we glanced over to Lamplugh glacier and though it looked like it had been calving so, even though we’d gone by it before, we deviated course to check it out. Just then the big cruise ship, Crown Princess, was coming around the point behind us after their visit to the Tarr Inlet glaciers. Many large bergs were floating around and the cruise ship slowed to navigate. The sight of the large vessel right off our stern was pretty impressive. The officer on duty contacted us and advised their plan to stand off Lamplugh and do a spin. He assured me my course was fine and I let him know our intentions to sail once across the face of the glacier then turn and leave the view unobstructed for his passengers. He assured us not to worry, that we were part of the scenery. How nice.
Eagle on ice.
That evening as we entered Blue Mouse Cove under sail again we had to luff up and wait for a whale to get out of the way. Today we came back to Bartlett Cove. We got fuel, showers, dined at Glacier Bay Lodge (Aramark) and took full advantage of the NPS wifi upstairs in the nook. As the clouds rolled in and the weather changed we realize our Alaskan adventure cruise was half over, but half still to go. We had made it up north of 59 degrees and now we must head south. Much fun still ahead but it will be hard to forget the joys and wonders of Glacier Bay. Next stop: Hoonah, just across Icy Strait. Weather forecast E 15 knots, 3′ seas, rain. Sounds nice!
Stay tuned! Sorry for the delay between posts, internet is not always available up here, and that’s a good thing!
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We left the sailboat anchored in a minefield of crab pots and just a stone’s throw away from a mud flat. It was close to low tide and the water had dropped about 18 vertical feet revealing lots of mud and lots of activity amongst the birds. Ducks were busy swimming and diving. Gulls were beach combing for tasty treats. A couple eagles were perched on crab pots that had been exposed. As we rowed towards shore the flies and gnats tested us as prey and found us to be good. We found a little creek winding up through the mud and went up until we grounded then pulled the dinghy across the mud, every step required a hand assist to the boot to break the suction of the brown over black sticky ooze. We tied off the dinghy to a barnacle rock, shouldered our packs and set off.
While in Petersburg a couple days before we kept seeing these signs for Farragut Farm. The grocery stores and the little restaurants seemed to be proud that they were supporting a local farm. The flyers indicated that everything was organic, fresh and tasty, and grown only 24 miles away. The flyers also described the farm as off-the-grid and fossil-fuel free. It sounded very cool.
Later that evening while Karen was working on dinner I was sent for ice. It was not a far walk to Kito’s Kave, a classic fisherman’s dive bar and liquor store. When I got there I realized I was thirsty. When the barkeep set my pint down I saw that right under my elbows, under the glass, was an old chart for Farragut Bay. Surely this was a sign but it took another pint for me to be sure of that. Surprisingly, I remembered the ice on my way out. I described my serendipitous experience to Karen and she agreed. We must seek out Farragut Farm.
We had little information to go on, the internet connection at Kito’s had only mentioned that the Farm was near Francis Anchorage. This was on the chart and the next day we found ourselves heading into an area that is only described in our cruising guidebooks as somewhere with extensive shoals. We pointed our binoculars landward and saw a cabin with a wind generator on a pole next to it. This could be the place for an off-the-grid operation. There was a small tongue of slightly deeper water that indented the mudflats and was charted as 4 fathoms deep. As we slowly worked our way in we found ourselves surrounded by dozens of crab pots, carefully we dropped anchor in about 30 feet.
When I write about climate change its much more enjoyable to focus on positive examples of adaptation. It is easy to get gloomy by reporting on the latest research that indicates change is happening faster than was thought possible only a couple decades ago. It sometimes seems an exercise in frustration to remind how we must abandon the burning of fossil fuels that subsidizes the unsustainable lifestyles that most of us live. Instead its much more fun to take a close look at ways that communities are working towards resilience. It can truly inspire hope in humankind to find places and people that could thrive in a fossil-fuel-free future. Farragut Farm sounded like it might be one of these places.
Southeast Alaska’s residents have many resources to draw upon. Fat fish swim in the sea, crabs and prawns are plentiful. Deer, elk, moose and bear inhabit the forests. However, they are also heavily reliant on supplies delivered by tug and barge and aircraft. Petersburg, it seems was making a move towards increased resilience by supporting local production of non-meat food. A salad and some nice fresh potatoes goes great with a sweet salmon.
Over the mudlfats, across little tidewater creeks and sandbars then we were into the grasses. We were working our way towards the wind generator but the closer we got the taller the grasses got.The footing was tricky, you couldn’t see where your feet were and there were lots of little sinkholes and small driftwood. Eventually we found an electric fence and followed it to a corner of the property. It became apparent that this was no farm, no one seemed home and the grass was up to our shoulders. I offered that we’d given it a good try and maybe we should turn back. Karen suggested we go forward just a bit to a line of trees up ahead. Just past the trees we found a little trail in the mud and then we caught a glimpse of some greenhouses and knew we’d found it.
The trail towards the farm followed planks laid down in the mud through a wood that had a rain forest feel to it. Eventually we emerged at another electric fence at the edge of the farm. We could hear a BBC broadcast playing on a radio somewhere. “Hellooo”, we called several times before someone heard us. It must have been a bit of a shock to have something on two legs emerge from the brush but Marja greeted us warmly and invited us to duck under the hot wire.
She gave us a tour of the place and we met her husband Bo. The place was beautiful. Crops were mostly in raised beds, weed-free and very healthy looking. Accents of orange and red and every color. Hummingbirds buzzed around, solar panels in abundance were mounted on the house and outbuildings to power refrigeration and provide for pressurized water. The grassy meadows ran away to the north where the forest met them at the base of the snow capped mountains. It truly seemed we had stumbled into a garden of eden.
We asked a few questions but we knew that they, like farmers everywhere, were busy. Indeed, they had a big market coming up in just a few days and we didn’t want to take up too much of their time. We apologized for showing up out of the blue (or green as it were) and we thanked them for showing us around. They suggested a better way back to our boat was to follow the trail that ran along the tidewater slough behind the farm. They told us to be careful not to get between a mama moose and her calf. OK, then.
We passed by their sailboat on the way back, high and dry on the mud. This is how they transport their goods to market. Old school. We found our dinghy also high and dry and had to drag it back across the mud to the water’s edge. After dinner we felt pretty tired and settled down to read and drift off for a nap in our bunks. A little while later, from the depths of quasi-dreamland I heard some kind of bird making a plaintive cry that sounded almost human. It sounded like it was calling, “Helloo”. It got louder and clearer and I went on deck to find Bo in his rowboat. He wanted to know if we would be interested in helping them get their harvest together for their upcoming market. Without hesitation we both agreed, Karen had been sorely missing her garden and I wanted to learn more about how they make it work. It seemed like it would be a good change of pace.
Hard work was indeed a change of pace. We arrived about 9:00 and were put to work right away. First thing that needed doing was inspecting, weighing and bundling multiple varieties of kale. Some were for the Petersburg market and some were to be sent to Juneau. Bo made sure I inspected each and every leaf for defects, bug holes, discoloration, etc. But thing was the kale was practically perfect; shiny, glossy, clean. After banding the kale went right into coolers so that the stems could rest in water and stay hydrated.
Marja put Karen to work harvesting snap peas and garlic scapes. The peas were weighed and placed into 8 ounce and 18 ounce clear bags. The garlic scape is the tall part of the plant from which the plant tries to produce a flower. However this takes energy that the farmer would rather see go into larger bulbs. As it turns out the garlic scape is a very tasty and versatile product. Marja was into making pesto with it but its also great in stir fries, etc. (I put it into mason jar pickled kimchi carrots.) After I finished with the kale I helped Bo harvest little baby candy carrots. These got plunked into the veggie washer machine until they were cleaner than clean and then packed into little 1/2 pound bags for people to munch on as walk-around snacks for at Petersburg. At about lunch we were treated to a fabulous salad topped with smoked salmon. When the tide was high enough Marja had to leave to fetch the skiff up the slough so the product could be loaded and transported out to the sailboat on the mud.After lunch it was back to work, more harvesting, weighing and packing. At the end of the day we even got to weed the onion bed. It felt great to dig through the soil rich with compost that includes shells from crabs and barnacles.
Back on our boat we were that good kind of tired that comes after a decent day’s work, and we were energized by knowing that people like Bo and Marja are out there making it work. Southeast is lucky to have Farragut Farm. Special thanks for the bags of fresh goodness they gave us as we said goodbye. For more information see their Facebook page, or this article in Edible Alaska: http://ediblealaska.ediblefeast.com/shop/off-the-grid-Alaska%27s-farragut-farm
Support your local farmers! Especially those working off the grid and transporting goods by sailboat!
The Good The (not too) Bad and The Ugly
It was good it didn’t rain the whole time we were there.
Too bad, the Wheelhouse Brewery tasting room wasn’t open while we were there.
The sunrise on our day of departure was “ugly” (red sky at morning sailor take warning)
Nice quiet anchorage just south of US-Canada border.
Bad biting sneaky little bugs found us after we went to sleep even though we tried to hide.
Ugly scabby sores that take a week to heal.
Good sunrise as we got underway at 0430 (0330 AK time).
Not much wind but conditions much better than NOAA or Environment Canada forecasts. Not bad.
Ugly Hair Day
Good people and good bars (The Asylum, Arctic Bar, Sourdough and its gallery of shipwreck photos, thePotlatch,etc.)
Bad red-light district on Creek Street (where men and salmon go up to spawn.)
Ugly humongous cruise ships, about 4 at a time. Also ugly was the driver of this antique fire engine in a picture at KFD’s museum.
Good sighting of a humpback whale feeding as we left Tongass Narrows and headed up Clarence Strait. Forecasted SE 15-20 winds and 4 foot seas seemed overly pessimistic, conditions were much more benign so we headed across.
An hour or two later,after we were committed winds picked up to what was forecasted, Tarani showed her usual tendency to roll in a quartering sea.
Things got exciting maybe even a little ugly as wind picked up further. NOAA now issuing an updated forecast of wind SE 25 and 5 foot seas. We had all of that and a little more. Reefed sail then reefed again. Winds gusting to near gale force, took the main down, was still making about 5 knots with bare poles. Last hour or two was surfing downwind with staysail only.
After a nice tight entry, crabbing through rollers between foamy rocks we found a totally calm haven and an open dock to tie up to. Good. Very Good.
No bad and no ugly, just a beautiful quiet scenic place. Kayakers Donna and Don, paddled in between showers. They’re a middle-aged couple (like us, haha) who are paddling from Bellingham to Juneau. Actual adventurers. Also met Tom and Anita of Spirit Quest here who are from Port Townsend and had been a couple slips down from us at Point Hudson. Small world.
Posted from Wrangell. Next internet probably in Juneau in about 1 week’s time.
Pacific Northwest cruisers use multiple references as they plan their travels through these waters. Tide and current tables as well as charts and weather reports are the basics. Beyond this are the “Sailing Directions” and guidebooks that describe different anchorages and help you discover interesting places to visit along the way. The different guidebooks often offer similar descriptions of places. The similarity between guidebooks is not surprising if you allow that the various authors must be reading each others offerings.
Recently I was intrigued by a contradiction between two of the guidebooks. We had just left Windy Bay on Sheep Passage and were making for Hiekish Narrows. The Narrows can run up to 5 knots, north on the flood, south on the ebb. I wanted to make sure we’d be going with the flow.I also glanced at the information for nearby Carter Bay, the site of one of the more significant shipwrecks of its era. At 1:00 a.m. on August 26, 1909, the steamship Ohio went down there but one guidebook said the quick action of the captain saved all aboard while another guidebook said four had died. Hmmm. It was my understanding that those who drowned in shipwrecks back then didn’t simply die, they “perished”. So what really happened back on that dark and stormy night? We decided we had a mystery to solve and first hand investigation of the site was the first step.
As we turned north into Carter Bay the fog cleared a bit and we were confronted by a large cedar tree in the middle of the bay. The chart showed the symbol for a wreck up near the beach but did not help us understand this tree. It was upright and about 30 feet tall, its branches were rusty brown and it looked pretty dead. Initial impression was of an ominous sign that we were entering dangerous waters. Most sailors avoid areas where trees are sticking up. The closer we got to the tree the more nervous the first mate became. The depth sounder showed us to be in 90 feet of water but this did not reassure her much. We crept past the tree which I guess was some massive snag that had been floating around and ran aground in the bay with its rootball on the bottom and 90 feet of its trunk underwater. Quite impressive.
We proceeded at dead slow speed, the mate on bow watch and the depth sounder dropping quickly. We could see the mud and rocks of the beach clearly ahead and a barnacle-encrusted something on the water about twenty feet ahead of us. We were distracted by a bear on the beach. Then a large-sized eagle screeched to us from his perch in a snag. When we were about in 10 feet of water we could see the bottom and our fear of grounding was quite high. It was then that we realized that we were almost on top of the wreck.
We could make out a ghostly triangular shape in the water next to us that we had to be the uppermost portion on the bow angled up towards the surface as though it was trying to surface for a gasp of air at the next low tide. The barnacled thing sticking out of the water wasn’t right at what might have been the bow but was not far back, maybe it was a stanchion.
The SS Ohio was launched in1872 and was at that time one the largest iron ships ever built. She was 343 feet long and 3104 gross tons. For 25 years she crossed the Atlantic on the Liverpool-Philadelphia route but with the onset of Gold Rush fever she was sold and transferred to the west coast to run between Seattle and Nome. In those days the passage would have taken 9-12 days and cost $75-$100. Interestingly, two years before she met her fate at Carter Bay she hit an iceberg in the Bering Sea. She remained structurally intact but 75 passengers panicked and jumped overboard, Four drowned before they could be rescued. Four perished that is.
In 1909 before widespread aids to navigation were placed, before radar and GPS and modern radios, the ships in this tricky area of the Inside Passage followed a custom whereby southbound ships would use Tolmie Channel that runs along the west side of Sarah Island, while northbound ships would use Finlayson channel. At the northern tip of Sarah Island, just past Hiekish Narrows the two channels join together as Graham Reach. The Ohio was going up along the east side of Sarah I. and had to make a sharp turn to port, just where Sheep Passage comes in from the east, and then line up to go through the Narrows, one side or the other of Hewitt Rock (see detail below).
Above: Running roughly N-S, on the left is Tolmie Channel, on the right is Finlayson, with Sheep Passage feeding in from the right. Carter Bay, site of the wreck, is just above the lower right corner. Detail below left. symbol for wreck in the upper right corner.
But the Ohio was running on what was reported to be a very dark night. High winds out of the southeast, heavy rain falling. The Captain (whose name I have not learned yet) cut the corner too closely and struck on an uncharted rock that is now named Ohio Rock. Apparently he rapidly understood his situation and he gave the order to steam at full speed for Carter Bay. At least one reference indicated he did not make it as the boilers exploded when they became filled with seawater (evidence indicates he did make it). One can imagine the state of the passengers, most of whom were probably quite asleep. It is reported that some passengers jumped but others were transferred ashore by the Ohio’s boats. And the marooned were evacuated with the aid of a fishing boat, the Kingfisher, and the steamers Humboldt and Rupert City.
And yes, four people perished. The story is that some crew stayed behind to aid a sick soldier. The soldier was Dock A. Hayes. The three crew were QuartermasterAlbert Anderson, Wireless Operator George Eccles, and Purser F.J Stephen. And that for me, that tale of professional heroism, is thus far the big story of the wreck of the Ohio.
Above: In her prime. Note the masts for auxilliary sails.
Wreck of the SS Ohio, photo taken at 0830, 17 June 2016. 2.5 hours after a low tide at nearest tide station Bella Bella of 3.6 feet.
We circled the wreck then headed back out. The bear wandered into the woods. A last screech from the Eagle and we creeped past the proud but dead cedar tree who was probably about the same age as the Ohio. This mystery remains unsolved.
Left Fury Cove in kind of nasty conditions as we crossed over towards Hakai Pass. A couple hours later we we were rewarded by a sun break and this kind of fog I never saw before.
Anchored at Pruth Bay, next morning visited the Hakai Beach Institute, very nicely done, privately-funded marine research project. They maintain a number of trails to beaches on the ocean side of the island which we hiked. Beautiful. Kept a watch out for sea otters in Hakai Passage on our way out where we saw them last year but didn’t see any today.
One Pretty Potty!
Here kitty kitty.
Kynoch Falls, up Mathieson Channel
Absolutely beautiful Kynoch Inlet.
Karen is always sunny.
Its been rainy or foggy or drizzly since… I forget, 10 days or so. After Pruth Bay we anchored at Codville Lagoon, stopped in Bella Bella, anchored at Kynumpt Inlet, Rescue, Bay, Windy Bay and Coughlan Anchorage. Our little Sardine Stove is our best friend at the end of the day to get us all dried out.
Cooking on the boat demands planning. A lack of counter space directs a step-by-step approach to prepping. We make our own dough and try to rise it in a mixing bowl with a glass lid set out in the sun. Hence the name “Solar Pizza!” However, lately on this trip- no such sunshine. So, I used heat off the diesel engine and later from the wood stove. Still, it didn’t rise as well as when set out in the sunshine.
A simple boat pizza (or a calzone!) with caesar salad makes a great meal!
* all meals prepared by nonprofessionals on a little sailboat for crying out loud. Do try this at home.
Johnstone Strait can be a son-of-a-bitch, but if you’re heading on towards other parts it can be a helpful shake-down for both crew and boat. On our 2nd try we made it out of Sunderland Channel and into a rough body of water. Winds were SW at only about 15-25, but there was a ebb current heading west towards to Ocean. I guess it frequently tends to get rough at the confluence of Sunderland and Johnstone according to locals.
Once we remembered we were in a sailboat and got her set up to sail, and turned off the infernal combustion engine we did great. Tacking up Johnstone with a reef in the main and the jib furled in a notch or two made for an interesting morning. Had to keep a vigilant watch for major sized timber floating around.
By the time we approached Havannah Channel the wind had died right off. We were coasting along on the fumes of the breeze and sailed the last mile or two at half the pace of a dead man walking.
Pizza at Port Harvey
We’d planned to make a definite stop at Port Harvey marina to support the proprietors there, George and Gail who pretty much lost everything last fall she their barge sunk, taking down with it the restaurant, the store and gift shop. Everything except their home. And the dock. And the diesel generator shack.
We tied up right behind Darwind who had a similar Johnstone story to relate. We met the neighbors, all nice boats and people. Helped George move his 500# pizza oven underneath the party tent staked out on the dock. And gave him our order for pizza, veggie of course.
Pizza was grew, cinnamon buns delivered to the dock the net morning were great also. I encourage all cruisers to stop in an spend some money at Port Harvey. These folks are great.
Provisions at Port McNeill
Port McNeill was about the same as usual except I Karen and I tried a new restaurant this tine; “Sportsman’s Steak House”, not a spot that the average vegetarian gravitates to, as you might imagine. However, it was our 29th anniversary dinner spot and it was actually very good. Karen has grilled salmon over tortellini while I ordered the Veggie Greek plate that was chock full of excellent renditions of mediterranean goodness. Atmosphere was very nice, not “Sportsman” at all. Prices on their bottles of wine were very reasonable. We moved on to the pub next door for dessert as very happy campers.
Rainbow indicates where I throw all my gold.
Crossing Queen Charlotte Strait we sailed sweetly to windward all the way into Blunden Harbour. There once again found John on Gypsy Woman and after dinner I rowed over to his boat and we had an Alaskan Amber. On return to our boat I told Karen we should deflate and stow the dinghy in preparation for rounding Cape Caution the next morning. (Note to self: get out of the dinghy before pulling open the valves that deflate all the sections. 2nd note to self: when you abandon the dinghy because its sinking try to take the painter with you.)
Next day, I almost puked rounding Cape Caution. We got some awesome sailing in but with 2 meter swell coming in from our stern quarter our boat likes to roll. Side to side. Tried to drink a lot of water and keep eating stuff, that helped. Once past Cape Caution we turned northward and it was a good downwind run to days end anchorage at Fury Cove. Got the stove going to dry things out and went to bed early as the rain continued.
Fury Cove, off Fitz Hugh Sound
This section of the trip, from north of Desolation Sound to the west end of Johnstone Strait, is taking a longer time than during my two previous years’ through here. We made it nicely through Yuculta Rapids, Gillard Passage and Dent Rapids, despite it being a largeish spring tide. But after those challenges we figured we might not make it in time to safely transit the next two rapids at or near the slack current. So why not drop down Nodales Channel to Thurston Bay “Parc Marin” and take a lazy break for the whole afternoon.
Next morning I can’t remember what excuse we used for not trying to make the morning turns at the rapids but instead we woke late and rowed to shore to explore a muddy creek outlet at low tide. We found a stand of abandoned apple trees, some bear tracks and a midden of human artifacts from maybe the early to mid 20th century. Look for the sole of a toddler’s shoes among the broken pottery and bottles in the photo above. Wonder what the story was of this bygone settlement?
Then we slowly cruised towards Shoal Bay, visiting with Mark the owner of the place there. Checked out their garden, and their outdoor wood-fired oven. Way cool place.
Next to Blind Channel resort with just enough time for fuel and some grocery purchases. Was able to crab (sliding sideways)up into Greene Point rapids against the flood tide but then we couldn’t quite get to Whirlpool rapids in time (or so we told ourselves). Instead we went up Lochborough Inlet to Sidney Bay. Came upon a sturdy but rustic wood float that had a library in a dinghy.
Well, being too lazy to row across the bay to pay the moorage fee to stay we opted to anchor out instead. Its a sweet little cove. While anchoring Karen got a little lazy with the lever on the anchor windlass (Bad Windlassie!) and it taught her a lesson by splitting her lip. Poor kid, she says it doesn’t hurt but I’m pretty sure she would have got a few stitches in town. But we’re too lazy to call a Coast Guard mission to evacuate her so she’ll get a little scar instead. After a few days I plan to start calling her Scarface, maybe she’d like a cool nickname like that.
Next day after Whirlpool Rapids we tried to head down Sunderland Channel to Johnstone Strait where it would have been a run of at least another 5 or 10 miles into a sheltered side bay. But the wind kept building until we had about 25 knots with 3-4’ steep chop due to wind on ebb current action. And the forecast called for gale winds of 30-40. So, being too lazy to sail in such conditions we turned around, flew out the staysail and went back to Forward Harbour like a dog with its tail between its legs. On the way in we noted an example of extreme laziness, off to one side was a wrecked powerboat of some size laying on its side, sunk in about 6’ of water at low tide, its green mossy cabin giving it a dread appearance. Eventually we joined about a dozen other lazy boaters anchored while waiting for the gale in the Strait to blow itself out.
We don’t mind these delays very much. Turns out we enjoy being lazy, this afternoon we strolled along the barnacly beach and read books and took safety naps. I keep asking Karen, “Is this more or less what you had in mind?” She keeps saying yes.
Frances Bay, looking towards Pryce Channel. 3 June 2016
We’re anchored tonight in Frances Bay where a logging operation was active not very long ago. Its beautiful, its absolutely quiet and we have the place to ourselves. .The setting sun is lighting up the mountains on islands to the south of us, there are shear rock faces with ledges limned with mossy grass to the east rising up to a thousand feet or more. Not far away are the inlets of Bute and Toba that meander up to provide drainage for Canadian glaciers or if they be not glaciers are at least snow fields sitting pretty with snowpack in early June.
Besides the clear-cut, the remnants of the logging operation include the log and steel dump ramp that allows trucks and loaders to slide the logs down into the water where they can be lassoed and corralled by little tugs into rafts that bigger tugs can haul away to a mill somewhere. There is also a half submerged dock that is rimmed with old, very old tires and connected to a rickety ramp that runs up onto shore. The floats for docks or barge tie ups are old propane tanks. Several of these float in the bay resplendent in their salty rusty deep reddish patina.
A northwest cruiser’s guide book warns that the bay is mostly rocky and the bottom is foul with big greasy logging cables. Indeed our first effort at anchoring produced much dragging of the anchor across rock in 50’ of water and much effort pulling the whole thing back up. The next time we dropped anchor much closer in to the old operation and crossed our fingers. The anchor went down in 35’ of water and then we engaged reverse. It started to drag across some rock and we were reluctant to keep dragging it very far across the bay knowing that sooner or later it would snag on something bad. But just when we were ready to haul the whole mess up and get out of there it stuck. Whether its sunk into a nice patch of mud or on a humongous cable we won’t know until we go to retrieve it in the morning. But we’re probably safe for tonight so that’s enough.
Its been three days since we left the hustle bustle of the big city behind. Our first night was in Pender Harbour, next night in Copelands Marine Park where the wind blew 25 knots straight into our anchorage starting at midnight and where we found out how very dark it is out here in the natural world. Last night was in Tenedos Bay in Desolation Sound, a very pretty and popular little spot . Its been a great contrast moving from big city to quasi-wilderness so quickly. And, best part of the story is that Karen invented a new drink. After cooking a tofu-green bean- mushroom curry dish tonight we had some coconut milk left, which when combined with kahlua, vodka and a little ice yields the eminently satisfying “Asian Caucasian”. In other words, the dude abides!
Note: Internet connection is increasingly more difficult as we move north. This post, written for 3 June is just now being posted 6 June. Oddly I’ve got a connection just as we’ve turned around away from Johnstone Strait after having “poked our nose out”. Seems the forecast for gale force wind today (NW 30-40) is developing. So we’ve turned tail and are running downwind back up Sunderland Channel to Forward Harbour. We will try to head back out on Johnstone Strait tomorrow. We will have to because we’re almost out of beer.
Sailing in Desolation Sound, 2 June 2016.