Friday, July 25, 2014

Goodbye Haida Gwaii, and thanks for the fish

Haida Gwai in the rearview mirror
 Wed, July 24th - Cape St James, southern most tip of Haida Gwaii

A short weather window of NW winds and clear skies came along on Wednesday morning.  It looked like it would be at least another week before NW winds would appear again so we decided to jump at this opportunity.  As we motored south out of Louscoone Inlet, Bill spotted some big whale spouts backlit by the sun along the shore.  Good.




Unfortunately, soon after that, there were 2 big bangs and a log slid out behind the boat. Bad.   But the prop continued to turn smoothly, so we figured no harm done.  Bill usually keeps a keen eye ahead, but we have the inflated dinghy on the bow and it really interferes with vision of the surface directly ahead of the boat.  It's like having a dinghy strapped to the hood of your car.  Doh!

We continued on.  Soon a pair of humpback whales surfaced perhaps a hundred yards ahead of the boat, passing right to left toward shore.

Half an hour later, a solitary orca appeared off a few hundred yards off to port.

In the meantime, a pair of brown albratross decided to pay us a visit, circling around the boat for an hour or so.  One of them grew tired and touched down on the water.  That was the last we saw of them.  They are known to range across the Pacific from Midway to Moresby Island.  We consider ourselves lucky to see them this close to land.

About two hours after we saw the orca, there was a big thud, not sharp sounding, but it nearly stopped that boat and there was a lot of turbulence in the water.  We think we hit a sleeping whale, but we saw nothing....  Yikes!

It took a while for the wind to fill in and we had protection from the swells and posi-current for a while past the south tip of Graham Island (Cape St James), so it gave us a chance to get our sea legs while making good progress.

Whooo Haaaa! - Passage to Vancouver Island  


The wind gradually built up into the high teens and we were sailing under nearly cloudless blue skies.  This is as close to trade wind sailing as we will ever get in this part of the world and it was fantastic.

This was our first overnight passage in almost two years.  We did 4-hour watches starting at 2000 (8pm), Kathi, 0000 Bill, 0400 Kathi, 0800 Bill.  It's a tiring routine.

Eventually, we had big seas off the quarter and the wind topped out at 26kts with Jarana under a single reefed main and partly furled jib.  We slid down the waves to the roar of our own surf.  It was a blast, what ocean sailors live for.  Except it's much colder than the trades, so we were bundled up.  Our top speed was 12.6 kts!  Yeee Haaa!

There was no moon and soon clouds covered the stars.  It was almost surreal sailing along in the dark with the whitecaps and boats bow wave phosphorescing brilliantly under the moonless sky.  Fortunately, there is little ship traffic and not so many logs floating around.  Like we saw crossing Hecate Strait, there were thousands of tiny sail jellyfish, blue on the water surface with tiny curved clear sails.  Some came aboard with the spray.  We slid past the SW side of Triangle Island; it's silhouette was just visible in the dark. We gybed back onto starboard to avoid Sartine Island which loomed ahead.  South of Scott Islands (west of Cape Scott), there were a few active commercial fishing boats  but they were well lit and visible on AIS.  As the glow of the morning twilight began the wind began to taper off and by sunrise we were motoring for the last leg of the trip.

Cheated Death, One More Time (just kidding Jean)
After 178 nm, we arrived 1130 on Thursday, at Kains Island light, motoring under light winds and calm seas, and anchored in this calm inlet  to rest and clean up before going to Winter Harbour for fuel and whatever else looks good.  Maybe chat up some thirsty fishermen for a fish..... Sometimes it works.

Thurs, July 24th - Browning Inlet, Quatsino Sound, North Vancouver Island,
50 29.9773 N   128 04.6693 W

Damage report:  hardly anything   The house batteries are getting pretty tired, they're 5 years old.  We use a lot of power at night underway for instruments, plotters and lights, so it was the first big test of the batteries for a while and they showed their age.  We're really glad the gooseneck broke in calm Victoria Harbour in midday, and not out on the bounding main at night.

Snafus:  In trying some fancy footwork furling the jib with the pole still attached, we ended up with the topping lift wrapped up in the furler and with Jibsheet Macrame around bow cleats, through chocks and under the dinghy.   It was a chore to undo, in the cramped deck space forward of the dinghy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sac Bay to S'Gang Gwaii and Louscoone Inlet

Wed, July 16th - Sac Bay is a bay within a bay (De La Beche), surrounded by rocky hills with some chattering streams and waterfall. We were all by ourselves except for the eagles and seals. Weather was calm and sunny, good for dinghy exploring. And it was warm and private enough we could take showers on deck. Yay! We stayed 2 nights.
52 32.0063 N 131 40.5520 W

Thur, July 17th Hot Springs Island and Marshall Inlet
Our capable guide, Daastsii (aka Sarita)

 It was a short jaunt to Hot Springs Island. It has a very tight rocky approach, but there was a mooring that saved us a lot of grief anchoring in the rocks. The watch people included 2 little girls, Jordan and Sinita who took us around the island Unfortunately, an earthquake turned off the hot water to the big pools a couple years ago. So there are only a couple little wading pools near the tide line. One is too hot, the other is too cold. But the girls were delightful. 52 34.4051 N 131 26.5280 W

Afterwards, we motored over to Marshall Inlet, which we selected over a nearby Matheson inlet which had a shallow sill to enter. Big mistake
52 34.4051 N 131 26.5280 W

Fri, July 18th Marshall Inlet to Section Bay
Overnight the wind came up on the west side of the island, and funneled though to our side. The wind was moderate, but was punctuated by big 30 knot gusts blasting through the anchorage and it rained harder than any place we've been on this trip so far. The boat was secure, but kind of noisy. When we left the next morning, we pulled out just the little jib and squirted out into open water like a watermelon seed. Of course, that only lasted a little while, and we were motoring again.

Section Bay was a great spot. It was kind of open to the north, but there was a mooring with a huge buoy and we were nicely sheltered from the west winds. However, the rain started again. 52 25.1050 N 131 21.8093 W

Sat. July 19th Section Bay to Bag Harbour.
Under sunny skies we motored around to Bag Harbour at the south end of Dolomite Narrows. If you check our location on the chart, we went around the long way (east around Burnaby Island). Dolomite Narrows, is very shallow and winding, so it's good to explore by dinghy.
Many seacaves in the area
 Bag Harbour is big and round with a flat muddy bottom (Anchors love it). And finally, we actually had human company. It was a powerboat from Bellingham. We chatted a bit. They left next day and were replace by kayakers, but we were never close enough to speak....That night Bill cooked a lamb roast on the BBQ. It was really good and made 2 dinners. There were lots of deer grazing on the shoreline here and even more along the shore in Dolomite Narrows.

The weather got windy and rainy so we stayed 3 nights. 52 20.8067 N 131 21.6152 W

After the rain

Tues, July 22nd Bag Harbour to S'Gang Gwaii 52 06.1293 N 131 13.5561 W
S'Gang Gwaii is a very special Haida village on a small island at the very southernmost end of the Haida Gwaii archipelago. It's a world heritage site. The totems are kept free of the moss and lichen covering most of the other ones we've seen.
Mortuary pole and Guide Natasha

There were lots of other people there, some by kayaks, others in big RIBS (fast launches) and a couple skippered sailboats that take passengers. It was the most people we'd seen and heard since Prince Rupert.

Remains of long house
The island is very rocky all around, but there is a great cove on the north side with an available mooring. So we took that.  At the other villages, we have been the only visitors, so followed the watchman/guide around alone. Today we were with several other people, mostly from BC. So that was different for us.

Tonight is our last night in Haida Gwaii. Bill found us a great anchorage in Louscoone Inlet, sunny, calm quiet and alone. (Actually, one of the skippered sailboats is in the next cove, but we can't see them.... We didn't have a fancy dinner as we're preparing for our ocean passage back to Vancouver Island. This involves taking the outboard off the dinghy and stowing the dinghy on deck. Prepping the main for hoisting and stowing all the loose stuff in the cabin so it doesn't fly around. Also I try to prep easy comfort food for the passage.

I hope we can remember how to sail if we get any wind. It's been a long time since we've been out on the ocean standing watches.
52 10.0300 N 131 12.9334 W

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Louise Narrows, Tanu Village and Windy Bay - Haida Gwaii

On July 13th, we motored to the south end of Louise Narrows and dropped the hook in a small cove at the south end. Louise Narrows is a slim opening between Louise Island and Moresby Island, made passable by dredging a very tight channel. There are sections where two boats could not pass each other. We explored by dinghy in solitude. Earlier in the day, we'd seen a couple local small boats headed this way, but that was it. 52 56.6430 N 131 53.9909 W
Dana Passage


The next morning, July 14th, we motored south through scenic Dana Pass to Tanu Village where we were welcomed by watchmen Walter and Mary and their little granddaughter Raven. As we dinghied to shore, a family of orcas passed between us and Jarana at anchor! They were so close, it was really exciting. Will post photos later. We were to see a lot more of those whales when we left. 52 45.7670 N 131 36.6970 W



Walter gave us a great tour of the many remaining fallen longhouses and a great explanation of village life and the mortuary poles. I wish I'd take photos of Mary and Walter, they were terrific.

July 15th we motored out to Windy Bay in glassy calm. Windy Bay is a tiny rock strewn cove and river mouth. Fortunately there is a good mooring to use, so we didn't have to solve the anchor-swingroom-depth problem. Carla, her son Anthony and toddler daughter Shyla welcomed us and gave us a tour.

Windy Bay village is located on Lyell Island near the site where the Haida protesters took a stand in 1985 to stop logging on the island and ultimately led to the formation of the Haida Gwaii National Park and Reserve. A new longhouse was built there around that time. In August 2013, visitors, volunteers, Haida and Parks Canada staff raise the Legacy pole there. It was the first monumental pole raised in Gwaii Haanas in 130 years and commemorates the 20th anniversary of cooperative management between the government of Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation. It's an idyllic spot. Carla and Anthony led us on a circuit through the forest and pointed out the many plant species, and trees where planks and cedar fibers has been taken long ago for use by the inhabitants. 52 41.4100 N 131 27.3000 W

Later in the afternoon, we motored west from Windy Bay to Sac Bay in De La Beche inlet. 52 32.0063 N 131 40.5520 W

Tanu we motored to Stalkungi Bay at the west end of Tanu Island. It was another snug spot, so snug we were concerned about swinging room. As we were searching for the perfect spot to lower the anchor, Bill noticed lots of steam in the exhaust (overheating) and shut down the engine. We had to put down the anchor where we lie. He quickly readied the dinghy to use as a tug if needed. After a half hour, of pushing and prodding with a piece of stiff twisted wire (roto-rootering) past a couple bends and connections, he managed to clear some pretty resistant chunk of matter from the engine intake hose and seacock. Whew! 52 45.9800 N 131 44.9000 W

Anyway, concerned about swing room, we dug out the stern tie line and Bill dinghied towards shore trailing it from the boat. It doesn't quite reach, so I back a bit. Hmmm... Bill couldn't get close enough to tie to anything. I guess we were farther than it looked. So he went to the side of the bay and discovered it too, was much farther than appeared. So we concluded no need to tie.

Most of the charting is pretty good, although often depths are understated, ie real depths are greater than we expect and sometimes not practical for us. Most anchorages have had nice sticky mud bottoms that the anchor digs right into. But sometimes, when backing down to set the anchor we just bumpily drag it across a rocky bottom.
 
July 15th we motored out to Windy Bay in glassy calm. Windy Bay is a tiny rock strewn cove and river mouth. Fortunately there is a good mooring to use, so we didn't have to solve the anchor-swingroom-depth problem. Carla, her son Anthony and toddler daughter Shyla welcomed us and gave us a tour.

Windy Bay village is located on Lyell Island near the site where the Haida protesters took a stand in 1985 to stop logging on the island and ultimately led to the formation of the Haida Gwaii National Park and Reserve. A new longhouse was built there around that time. In August 2013, visitors, volunteers, Haida and Parks Canada staff raise the Legacy pole there. It was the first monumental pole raised in Gwaii Haanas in 130 years and commemorates the 20th anniversary of cooperative management between the government of Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation. It's an idyllic spot. Carla and Anthony led us on a circuit through the forest and pointed out the many plant species, and trees where planks and cedar fibers has been taken long ago for use by the inhabitants. 52 41.4100 N 131 27.3000 W

Later in the afternoon, we motored west from Windy Bay to Sac Bay in De La Beche inlet. 52 32.0063 N 131 40.5520 W
 Find an online map of Haida Gwaii to see the location of the villages. If you don't see the anchorages on the map, try searching for the lat/longs given in Google Earth or Open CPN.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Skedans Village - Haida Gwaii

Pretty cool, huh.

Early on 12 July we left Queen Charlotte City (QCC) for Sandspit Marina to fuel up. The tide was very low (more than 20ft from the high), so the small marina was a forest of tall pilings. Under calm & sunny skies we motored (again) out over the bar. Our first stop was the former Haida village known as Skedans. As we dinghied in, a family of orcas passed between our dinghy and Jarana.



There are numerous totem and morturary poles. (great photos to post later) Each village site has watchmen onsite. When we came ashore, a young couple were baiting large hooks with salmon meat to catch halibut. Nicholas gave us a great tour with much historical explanation. Historically, the two main Haida clans are Eagle and Raven. Nicholas' ancestors were from Skedans, and he knew his grandparents. Many in his greatgrandparents' generation vacated the island villages after a devastating smallpox epidemic in the early 1900s. Most survivors were taken in by the Skidegate village. Many children were sent to the notorious boarding schools far away to be stripped of their native culture and language.

The Haida lived in longhouses. Interestingly, it was traditional for each clan to assemble the houses of the other clan, and they had to be raised in one day. They used logs for posts and beams, and planks for walls, floors and roofs. There are many remaining large poles and beams, but they are swathed in moss, so it's difficult to see the carvings. There are many remaining mortuary poles, tall and thick with cutouts in the top for boxes of remains, all long gone now. Many artifacts and poles have been removed to museums far and wide. Some remains are being repatriated.

The Haida Nation posts watchmen at each village site to protect and explain the remaining artifacts. They are very interesting and give us a warm welcome when we arrive. There were a couple large sailboats that host tourists to visit the area standing off Skedans when we arrived. The watchman sites usually limit the number of concurrent visitors to 12, but so far, it's just been us.


After our visit, we motored a few miles to the Limestone Islands to anchor overnight. We saw a couple kayaks along the shore and a converted fishing boat anchored for the night as well. It was the last time, so far that we've shared an anchorage. Limestone Bay has a lovely long, sandy beach. So the next morning we dinghied ashore for a walk and some exploring. There was a vacant kayak camp with tent platforms, kitchen benches and other conveniences.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Over the Horizon to Haida Gwaii

On Tuesday, we left the busy port of Prince Rupert and motored (again) out towards a jumping off point.  After a long afternoon and a false attempt at Larson Bay, a recommended stop, we picked our way through a rocky path to Griffin Bay.  Loon song greeted us and it was a good anchorage among beautiful, peaceful and solitary scenery overnight.

Wednesday morning we set off across Hecate Strait.  We hoisted the main and anticipated our first sail in weeks.  Moderate northwesterly winds were forecast,.... but Noooo.  We motor sailed sometimes, when there was enough breeze for that.

Before long, we could see the mountains of Haida Gwaii revealed through the clouds in the west.  It was an easy approach.  Skidegate Inlet divides the two main islands, Graham and Moresby, with low forested mountains on either side.  The anchorage in front of Queen Charlotte City (QCC pop ~700) was excellent.  The following morning we found a berth in the municipal marina at the foot of the ramp among the sport and commercial fishing boats.





The weather was (and continues to be) sunny - Praise Be!  It's breezy of the strait in the afternoon, but excellent biking weather.  Since most of our visit will be in the Gwaii Haanas National Park, we attended a required orientation at the wonderful Haida Gwaii Museum in Skidegate.  It was a great bike ride from QCC to Skidegate on a good road, light traffic, light wind and SUNSHINE!!!  and more is forecast.


As an additional bonus, we met two other cruiser boats, Linger Longer from Shilshole D-dock, and Saracen from Vancouver.  We'd seen Saracen at several other spots, so it was about time we got acquainted.  We hope to see more of both of them later in the park.

Moving on: the plan is to get fuel at Sandspit and make our first stop at Skedans, a former Haida village site.





Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Prince Rupert, BC, Our North Turn Around Point

We spent 3 nights in Prince Rupert.  It's a great town, everybody has been very friendly and super polite.  There are several good, not fancy restaurants and great provisioning.  The laundromat is a long walk, but we needed a lot of walking after being confined to the boat for several days before we arrived.  PR is a fairly small town, but a big port, with lots of big ships calling at a coal terminal, a grain terminal, a container terminal, a cruise ship dock.  There were a couple log ships anchored upstream, but we never saw the log terminal.

The Museum of Northern British Columbia is terrific, with a good history of the First Nations Bands and Clans before the Europeans took over.



Commercial and sport fishing are big here and we arrived during the coho opener.  From our berth at PRRYC we had a view of the constant activity at the fuel dock.  There were fishing boats, yachts, pilot boat, big excursion schooner Maple Leaf, tugs, and other work boats.



The days are long, sunrise is early and sunset is after 10pm.  The weather is mostly overcast, but much warmer than out in the islands.



And the eagles are everywhere around the town.  Strangely, we see very few sea gulls around the fishing boats.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Rain Rain, Falling Down


After sunny, balmy Ocean Falls, we pressed on and endured several rainy dull drippy days.  However, the scenery was spectacular.  We saw whales most days too.Conditions were calm for our trip up majestic Prince Royal Channel



We had another couple warm sunny days at Bishop Hotsprings, and warm baths and did some laundry

 Of course, there's compensation for the rain:  waterfalls.


















 We haven't met many other cruisers, so for "entertainment" Kathi listens to the weather forecasts.  However, for several days, we were so isolated up inlets and behind mountains, we didn't have vhf radio reception.  However, we could still get HF radio and get weather and email that way.

One (rainy) night, we anchored in jellyfish soup.