Tuesday, June 23, 2009
In the middle near the top of Vancouver Island is a lumber mill town deep in a fjord, and that’s where we are. It is by far the friendliest place on a very friendly coast. Within a couple of hours of arriving, we were given a three-pound slab of fresh halibut, 40 huge frozen prawns, loads of fishing advice, a ride to the gas station, which sells fishing tackle, and a snug berth at the humble but mighty Port Alice Yacht Club. “What’ll we owe you for the berth?” asked Jim. “Oh, five hundred a night, plus another three hundred for electricity,” deadpanned Lee, the harbormaster. “And a hundred more for security,” added Dave, who’d driven down to welcome us after seeing us coming down the fjord. They gave us a gate key and showed us a little hole in the wall where we could place a nominal donation upon leaving.
Although we spent over a hundred dollars on fishing tackle, we think the best advice may have been from the loquacious gang at the hardware store: “Always BUY your fish. It’s cheaper than the three thousand dollars a pound it costs us old farts who went and bought all the gear.” So, did we eat out last night? Hell no, we made fish and chips on board. Delicious.
Port Alice has an excellent grocery store. We’ll reprovision here for the next six weeks. Catching up on stories, here are a few:
Coastwise from Kyuquot Sound: Rockin’ and rollin’ in a big swell, we threaded our way through a rocky inside channel north of Walter’s Cove, to yet another gorgeous cove in the renowned Bunsby Islands. We just love that name—Bunsby. So proper. “Shall we have tea in the Bunsbys?” we asked each other. Indubitably! Over tea and sandwiches we toasted our tea-loving friend Dave Mac. Then we set the crab trap, took solar showers, and sunned our stunned buns in the fun Bunsbys, under warm afternoon sunshine.
A swell passage: Leaving the Bunsbys, we were greeted by a hearty swell and a headwind, and met three cruising sailboats all headed south. One called us on the radio and said, “You’re doing it the hard way. You’re sailing upwind!” But we made sheltered Columbia Cove in good time and it is a stunner. You can anchor snugly at its head, but with the rugged views all around it feels like you’re clinging to a high rock wall.
Offshore: June 20 was our day to round the fearsome Brooks Peninsula. At least that’s how the cruising guides describe it. They like to put the fear of Neptune in you. Underway at 0500, the winds were light so we motor-sailed. Jim said, “I hope we get ten foot swells!” However, he forgot to ask for enough wind. Around Cape Cook and Solander Island the swell stood right up and began tossing us around as it ricocheted off the cliffs. Three humpbacks and two black-footed albatross, along with lots of other bird life, frolicked in the now-billowing main. The swell built (but the wind didn’t) to 8 to 10 feet, then 10 with a few 12s. Must be a big storm far away. A couple of southbound sailboats we passed disappeared completely in the troughs. Seeing small mountains come at you and lift, then drop you, is fun in a queasy kind of way. Jim has promised to order more wind next time.
Entering Quatsino Sound surfing down big swells, we came around the corner to Forward Inlet where ten eagles greeted us with dives and swoops for salmon all around us. They fold their wings and rocket down to the water, flaring out at the last minute to extend their sharp talons and snag a fish. It was an awesome sight. Another disgustingly lovely cove in Browning Inlet gave us solitude and a peaceful night.
Next morning, over coffee in the cockpit: Karen: “Sure is a nice day.” Jim: “The Dreamspeaker Cruising Guide says they saw a black bear on the shore right here. I want to see a black bear.” Karen: “That was more than a year ago.” Jim: “But they promised us a black bear.” Karen: “It’s a marketing issue, isn’t it. Should we feel ripped off?” Then... we kid you utterly not, a bear appeared. “Hey! A black bear! I don’t believe it!” The bear hung around and we examined it with binoculars to be sure it wasn’t a mechanical wind-up Disney bear. It was not, and it stayed there munching grass while we raised sail and got underway. But it was irresistible to call to it: “Bye-bye, Boo-Boo!”
Fjordwise: On the 28-mile way up the fjord to where we are now, the biggest gust of wind we’ve had yet heeled us over and put the rail under water. A few unsecured objects in the galley took the opportunity to pelt Karen, who voiced her feelings in choicest nauticalese. We trolled for salmon, lingcod, snapper, hell, anything that would bite, all the way up the fjord, but no luck. However, Julian Cove was enough reward. On the way in, a light green delta-winged underwater formation glowed eerily, and we avoided it until later when we went exploring by dinghy. It was a huge raft of jellyfish, 25 feet long, 10 feet wide and 15 feet deep, all mushed together in a writhing mass. “Don’t fall in,” I said to Jim, which is exactly what he did about an hour later, though happily, not into the jellyfish. Seems he’d been getting a bit nonchalant about leaping aboard from the dinghy. Karen heard a big splash and found him half-wet and clinging to the gunnels looking comically sheepish. It was an excellent photo-op.
It being the solstice and a good day, we decided to stay up until we could see stars, no mean feat in these light northern summers. We finally saw Venus at nearly eleven o’clock pm. With her guitar Karen serenaded Jim while he pulled up the crab trap in twilight. She made up a new version of “Shoals of Herring.” But the trap was empty. Turns out crabs don’t appreciate music.
We'll be headed out to sea soon. We may go directly from Quatsino to the Queen Charlottes if the weather looks good enough. It's a hundred and thirty miles direct, more if you have to tack. We'll let you know as soon as possible how it goes, but it may be awhile.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
We are lazing at Tofino.
Captions for these photos:
The ship's coffeepot, log and charts of the Straits crossing.
Same cruise ship a couple minutes later.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Under sail in the big rolling Pacific swells and a SE wind that we wished was stronger, we trundled right up the coast past thundering breakers, squadrons of pelicans (??) and two humpback whales spy-hopping to get a look at us. Also saw the first sooty shearwaters of the trip. Have been counting marbled murrelets for a friend who studies them. The boat performed magnificently and we are now at anchor in Tofino Harbor, tired but pleased. After today, we figure internet access might be more limited to the north of here.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
First day: After another delay, we sailed out of Port Townsend on a steady breeze into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, anchoring for the night just inshore (in 75 feet of water) of where Vancouver anchored in May 1792. Sockdolager and Discovery are separated by a mere 217 years. To commemorate our departure, his arrival, and the wild beauty of this place he named, we read his exact words from his journal, looking around and matching scenery to description. We marveled at snowy mountains, including a volcano, found features he named in Discovery Bay, and watched Protection Island’s huge cliffs stuffed with birds come alive. A gift bottle of sparkling brut didn’t hurt matters, either. The birds of Protection Island raise a din unmolested by humans, Heumanns or Sullivans; none of the latter are allowed ashore at this national wildlife refuge, where tufted puffins and rhinoceros auklets nest. If I come back as a bird I want to be called a rhinoceros. But the closing of the refuge to the public gives us another gift: birdlife and its sounds as sailors may have witnessed 217 years ago. The anchorage was calm, sunny, and we had it all to ourselves.
Second day, flat calm, and another national wildlife refuge: Dungeness Spit. We anchored near the historic lighthouse, rowed ashore and were treated to a tour by the lighthouse keepers. Vancouver’s descriptions of this wild place showed it hasn’t changed much.
Third day, it was sail all the way, including weighing anchor and coming into Port Angeles under sail, which is indescribably fun after a sparkling day in the Strait under main, genoa and staysail. An air inversion created weird mirages and effects, such as a distant boat splitting into three parallel images, distant points of land hanging out over the water, and the ability to hear very clearly, VHF radio calls from Point Roberts to Bellingham to Oak Harbor.
This morning we arose at 3:15 to catch a speedy ebb tide, and although there was again no wind and we had to motor, it was a watercolor morning and we are now in Neah Bay positioned to catch a favorable forecast wind to take us to Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island. We’ve only just started, but already it’s hard to beat.