The Final Leg

Well, today is the day. About 22 NM from Roche Harbor back home to Skyline. It was another beautiful summer day, and Roche Harbor was hoppin’. It was quite an experience just maneuvering through the marina and around the line of boats waiting to check in at the Customs Dock.

Peak season, and Roche Harbor is busy!

As we were exiting the harbor a Kenmore Air flight landed in the channel right next to us.

I’ll bet the passengers were surprised to see us up close.

Lots of boat traffic back and forth but a nice easy ride through the Islands. Gwen and Miranda took it all in from the foredeck.

Sunny, but OK, not hot. Blankets help.

It was an uneventful trip right up to the very end. We arrived at Skyline at the peak of the flood tide, and the currents at Burrows Passage in the way in to Skyline were as big as I’d ever seen – 4+ knots. What I didn’t realize, but should have, was that there was a fair amount of current getting into our slip, which combined with a bit of wind, kept pushing us off the dock. Not so easy to swing the back end of a single screw boat against wind and current. It took several tries but we got tied up with no contact or damage.

Home at last

Crossing the Strait of Georgia

The Strait of Georgia lies between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland, and can be quite challenging to cross. That’s not the case this morning.

A beautiful morning on the Strait of Georgia

It’s a beautiful morning in the Strait, with light winds and flat calm seas. Next stop Ovens Island after transiting Gabriola Pass into the Gulf Islands. We’re on time to hit it right at slack.

The (jarring) Return to Civilization

Continuing our Southward journey, our plan for last Friday was to travel from Lagoon Cove to the Octopus Islands.  That meant an early start in order to arrive at the Okisollo Rapids at or around slack water.  As it turned out, currents on the way down were favorable and we got there a bit early, upon hearing from another boat that conditions were mild through the rapids, we decided to transit both Okisollo and nearby Hole in the Wall rapids and proceed on towards Desolation Sound.  As soon as we entered Calm Channel, we realized that we were back in civilization, with an exponential increase in boat traffic.  And it seemed that all of it was headed towards Squirrel Cove, a convenient anchorage on the way to Prideaux Haven from the North.  There were more boats in Squirrel Cove than we have ever seen before… I counted nearly 50.  Our friends Kevin and Alison on N55 Red Rover greeted us on the way in and told us that there had been even more boats there the day before.  This was quite different from our experience over the past couple of months, when we were often alone or shared an anchorage with just one or two other boats.  

I counted 40 plus boats in Squirrel Cove, more than I had ever seen before

We had a similar experience visiting Prideaux Haven, the main anchorage in Desolation Sound Marine Park, and Miranda’s favorite.  We have fond memories of sunshine and warm water from visits as far back as seven years ago.  This is arguably the most popular anchorage in the area, and is always crowded.  Like many of the spots in the Desolation Sound area, anchoring often requires a stern tie.  A stern tie is similar to a Med mooring, in that you drop your anchor and back up towards shore, fixing a line from the back of the boat to a spot on shore.  The boat is oriented perpendicular to the shore, and the tie limits the swing, allowing many more boats to fit into an anchorage.

Stern tied to one of the new pins in Prideaux Haven.

BC Parks and the BC Parks Forever Society have undertaken a project to install stern tie pins in Prideaux Haven and other locations around Desolation Sound (http://www.marineparksforever.ca/sterntie.html).  This makes it much easier to stern tie, and preserves the trees along the shore, which had served as the tie points before the pins.  Here is a picture from the Waggoner Guide (the “bible” for NW boaters) showing the locations of the stern tie pins, which are clearly marked and have a length of chain hanging down from the pin to make it easy to access regardless of tide.

Nifty map of stern tie locations from the 2019 Waggoner Guide.

Unfortunately, when we came into Prideaux, very few boats were actually using the stern tie pins.  This was quite different from our earlier visits, where most boats were stern tied even without the convenience of pins.  There were many large (50’ or greater) boats swinging at anchor, very close to each other.  Furthermore, in many spots, the anchored boats made it impossible to actually get in and use the stern ties.  We eventually found a spot that we could squeeze in and stern tie, so all was good, but we wondered why the other boats were not making use of them.  Gwen thought it would be a good idea for the Waggoner Guide to include some information about how to stern tie in addition to listing the locations of the pins.

My conclusion after touring the area in the dinghy is that the area where most of the new pins were placed (South of Eveleigh Island) is where boats that did not want to stern tie came to anchor.   Honestly, I was a bit suprised that so many large boats were anchored so close together (some only a boat length apart) without using the stern ties.  All fine unless the wind picks up. Kevin and Allison from Red Rover were here a couple of weeks ago for the annual summer concert and reported anchor dragging carnage when the wind came up in the middle of the night.

Lots of big boats swinging in Prideaux.

Anyway, we enjoyed a relaxing couple of days at anchor after so many long runs down from Ketchikan. From Prideaux, we traveled down to the SYC Outstation at Garden Bay, and as I write this we are preparing to depart for Ovens Island in the Gulf Islands, across the Strait of Georgia.

Dueling Fogust posts!

Miscommunication at the editorial board meeting the other morning. We decided that the fog was worthy of a post. I thought Gwen was going to do one at Lagoon Cove. Not seeing anything I dashed out a post myself, without realizing that Gwen pulled the fancy trick of “scheduling” the post.

OK, so which one do you like best? We’ll tally the number of likes for each of us and the winner will receive a potentially valuable prize (and bragging rights around the editorial office).

Fogust

Now that we are well into August, the fog that is typical of Alaska and northern British Columbia has become a usual morning and sometimes all day, occurence for us. The locals call this time of year “Fogust”.

Looking out from Blunden Harbor. Fog banks roll in and out with regularity now.
Departing Blunden Harbor in the early morning. Heavy fog in the anchorage.

We use radar and lots of peering into the mist to navigate. Sometimes we have to call up other boats on the radio to clarify intentions to avoid collisions, but for the most part its not been a problem. It can be quite stunning to see whisps of fog lying over islands with sun shining above.

Fog was prominant for our crossing of Cape Caution. We had a long foggy but calm day, and ended with an overnight stay in Blunden Harbor. ONce we entered the bay, the sun came out and the fog remained outside.

Blunder Harbor is the site of a former First Nations summer village and we can still see signs of the long house and the shell midden on the beach. The First Nations group still uses the site but doesn’t live there any longer.

The beach at Blunden Harbor. There are remains of a long house in the grass above.
More remains of the longhouse.

It was too windy for kayaking but we did a dingy trip up the long inlet to see if we could cross into the hidden lagoon, but found the entrance too shallow and some overfalls which would have made for an exciting ride. It was beautiful in the sunshine though after a day of fog!

Can’t really see the overfalls here but the narrow entrance has a very shallow bar that we decided not to brave.

Fogust…

All of the Canadian marine weather bulletins define fog as implying visibility of less than 1 NM. We’ve certainly been experiencing plenty of that coming down around Cape Caution into the Broughton Archipelago, with visibility often less than 1/8th mile.

It started In earnest coming out of Shearwater to Pruth Bay. It continued the next day around Cape Caution to Blunden Harbor. And then more the following day down the Queen Charlotte Strait to Lagoon Cove.

A wall of fog

Actually, it cleared up for a bit in Queen Charlotte Strait the other day, but then we saw this wall of fog shown above guarding the entrance to the Broughtons.

Fortunately it tends to dissipate in the afternoon, revealing views like this.

View from the deck at Lagoon Cove.

We are in it again this morning, heading down Johnstone Strait to the Octopus Islands. The good news is that, in our experience, winds tend to be low and seas calm in foggy conditions.

Sleeping Whales

We spend a lot time underway watching out for and avoiding logs. Especially during this last week as we have been making long runs and the tides are high, sweeping driftwood and logs off the beaches and back into the waterways. But those are not the only things that can be lurking under the water.

I am used to looking for blows from whales and seeing them in the distance is always a happy occasion. But after an up close and personal experience the other day, I really don’t want to see them up close!

My preferred viewing of whales – I need to use my maximum telephoto lens and crop the photo to get a good one!

I was piloting while Larry and Miranda were down in the salon reading and hanging out. The sun was slanted across the water from my left, making it a bit difficult to tell exactly what was coming up in the water. There were spurts of many logs at times, and other times seaweed – which I feel silly avoiding but do it a lot out of concern for a lurking log. I had relaxed as we had entered a log free zone for a while, and was sitting back in the helm chair rather than perched on the edge of my seat or standing up. I saw a slight difference in the wave ripples ahead but nothing breaking the surface. I wondered what it was and decided to turn slightly to port to avoid it “just in case”, but I really didn’t think it was anything significant.

As I started the slight leftward turn, a whale dorsal fin appeared in front of me, just off our bow pulpit. A large humpback headed for our starboard side. I freaked out and yelled, pulled back on the throttle and then put it in neutral. The whale turned tail up and dove just off our starboard bow. There was no contact, and he must have taken a big breath in without breathing out, because there never was any blow that I saw.

We sat in neutral for a while as I regained my composure. I was so very glad not to have hit the whale. After that I have been hyperalert for sleeping whales. We saw one two days ago in Queen Charlotte Sound, but this one was sitting on the surface with a visible dorsal fin. It clearly was asleeep – not moving, not blowing. We had good clearance from it on our port side.

I did a little research and found this article on how whales sleep from Scientific American. Apparently they sleep with half their brains and alternate eye at a time. This must be how the whale I encountered woke up enough to avoid us as much as I avoided him. I can see how they don’t have time to avoid boats traveling at high rates of speed. The speed restrictions that were in place in Glacier Bay in the whale feeding zones make complete sense to me.

Breaching whales in the distance from the bubble feeding pod we were observing. This is a very cropped photo – I honestly was so focused on what was happening closer to me I didn’t notice the breaching whales as first.