A Cruise To Alaska 2012 - Part Four

Prince Rupert To The End

 

From Prince Rupert South our trip took on a different flavor. For one thing, we were on our way home after a wonderful trip during which we had seen dramatic glaciers and ice. For another, we had to meet a schedule where we needed to be at the northern end of Vancouver Island to meet our next guests from Taiwan. Originally the plan had been for them to join us in Alaska but the current US procedure on issuing visas for Taiwanese is so difficult, time-consuming and expensive that the policy can only be interpreted as "You are not welcome here". Canada, on the other hand, does not require visas for Taiwanese so naturally our visitors preferred to go where they and their money would be welcome and we hastened south to meet them.

July 7th Saturday.
The morning dawned grey and rainy but the strong south-easterly winds which had been forecast stayed away. When we got underway at 0745, the BC ferry Northern Adventure was about to leave the ferry terminal. There was a Korean ship called the Daphne leaving the dock when we passed the coal wharf so we had to slow down and alter course to keep out of her way. She was heavy in the water as she set off on her long voyage to Korea.

We entered narrow Grenville Channel and had the tide against us for most of the way so our progress was slow. We saw very little traffic except for a gaggle of large powerboats we appeared all at once although not traveling together. One of them was Islander who called to ask if Tony Fleming was on board. The captain said I had sent him a DVD of our visit to Galapagos which they had found interesting and informative prior to their own visit there. He gave us recommendations for places to visit in British Columbia.

We continued south and we saw a black bear on the shore. Once again there were many logs in the water. Some served as roosts for seagulls and I even spotted one with a seal perched precariously on it. We went past Hartley Bay to see if we could get e-mail. Got 3 bars on Telus but no mail would come in.

Anchored at 1730 in channel behind Promise Island.

July 8th Sunday.
Underway at 0730. Absolutely calm morning with hazy sun. We encountered one whale which was blowing and barely surfacing. The seemingly endless forested slopes, framed through the salon windows, were like a moving tapestry of trees. Once again there were many logs - everybody commented on the number this year. The radio talked of searing drought in the US as we passed prolific waterfalls gushing torrents of water into the sea. We arrived in Shearwater at 1812 after 102 miles. There was a Fleming 55 at the dock - the first we have seen on this trip. The owners told me their boat had been shipped across from the US East Coast.

July 9th Monday.
We went first to the fuel dock at 0815 and took on 750 litres (200 gals). The water this morning was even flatter; its glassy surface reflecting the trees and surrounding landscape. The sky was overcast but not raining. We saw a whale off to port and stopped to take a few of the usual "distant glimpse" photographs. The weather gradually improved so, by the time we arrived at Duncanby Landing, Goose Bay, we had clear sunny skies and unaccustomed warmth. We were the ONLY boat to tie up along their extensive dock. This is primarily a fishing resort and their clients fly in to go out in small charter boats. It was very isolated with the buildings built on pilings along the shore. There was a forecast of rain overnight which seemed unlikely as the evening skies were clear.

July 10th Tuesday.
The forecast was correct and I heard the patter of rain during the night. Underway at 0805 in calm but misty conditions. Once we turned the corner and headed out for the crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait the sea was initially right on the nose and quite bumpy. About 30 minutes after a leaving, a whale surfaced briefly quite close on the port bow. We stopped and shortly afterwards he surfaced again about 20 yards directly in front of the boat. He then dived without his tail coming out of the water. We waited about five minutes but he did not re-appear and, with the boat stationary, the motion was uncomfortable so we continued on. When we changed course it calmed down and, when passing Cape Caution at 1030, was glassy with slight undulations but also very misty. These are treacherous waters as Captain Vancouver discovered almost exactly 220 years ago when, on August 6th 1792, he almost lost his ship Discovery when she drifted onto a reef in fog.

We spent one night in Port Hardy before moving on to nearby Port McNeill. En route we met a gaggle of boats heading north including 4 GB's and Fleming 55 Tiger Lily. We barely caught sight of them through the mist but we talked on the radio.

We arrived at the Fuel Dock Marina in Port McNeill at 1223. Chris discovered that the owner of the sailboat across the dock from us had purchased his boat in the Caribbean and sailed from there via the Galapagos and Hawaii. A surprising number of people we have met on the trip have undertaken voyages of impressive length. Just looking at the boats tied up in the marina or sharing an anchorage gives no idea of those which have traveled huge distances. I was reminded of the French boat in Loch Scavaig on Skye which had been to Franz Josef Land (where is that? - northeast of Svalbard) Where is that ?(north of the Lofoten Islands. And where are those - east of northern Norway well north of the Arctic Circle. And for whom Iceland was merely a stop on the way to Greenland!

The Fuel Dock Marina is family owned and they have made many upgrades to their facilities. Steve who manages the marina, had organized a Happy Hour in his new hospitality tent. Here everyone brought their own drink and a plate of munchies and got together with others. We chatted with a couple who have a 1981 vintage single screw GB36. It turned out he had met me many years before. He wanted to take our photos alongside his boat. On the way back to Venture a guy stopped me on the dock and showed me that he had two of my DVD's - Galapagos and Iceland. He said he had been given them by Steve d'Antonio from Passagemaker magazine. It is amazing how these things get around!

Steve offered to provide a courtesy car for us to pickup Fred on Friday and for us to use tomorrow to go to Telegraph Cove to see the whale museum.

July 12th Thursday.
Beautiful weather when we arose this morning. At 0945, Louisa and I walked up to the office at the top of the ramp where, as promised, we were provided with a Mercedes SUV to self-drive to Telegraph Cove which was an attractive small boardwalk town. We walked to the Whale Museum and then had chowder and sandwich in Cove Café.

Went to Happy Hour again. I spent some time chatting to Steve's father, Bruce, who made me another offer I could not possibly refuse. He offered to arrange a flight in their helicopter the following morning to overfly the Broughton archipelago. He and his wife had watched my Galapagos and Iceland DVD's that morning. He complimented me on their professional quality and told me he found them informative and interesting. This is good to know because it is hard to judge ones own work. It seems that almost everyone we have spoken to has read or at least heard about the travels we have undertaken in Venture.

July 13th Friday
Once again we awoke to clear sunny skies with a low bank of cloud to the east. I walked up to the office to see Bruce Jackman to see what the plans were for the helicopter ride. He said they would wait until the clouds had cleared off the Broughtons and planned to take off at 11 o'clock. He said that he would go to the airport to meet Fred and his wife who were due to arrive at 1205.

We walked up to the helicopter pad at 11 and met our pilot Chris who was a slender young woman. The helicopter was able to take Chris, Louisa and myself plus Steve who runs the marina. We took off and headed over to the Broughtons which were still mostly hidden under a blanket of cloud. We flew up to the twin peaks of Stevens Peak at 5,052 ft with the intention of a possible landing but the rocks had moved during the winter snow and there was no safe landing spot. We then flew to Connolly peak, slightly lower at 3,651 ft where we landed on a tiny platform perched on a ledge at the top of the mountain. Here there was a microwave relay tower and boxes full of batteries and electronic equipment plus the tower with two dishes and an array of solar panels. We took lots of photos while we waited for the mist to clear which it did quite quickly once the process had started. We took off after about 20 minutes and flew down to Echo Bay which we circled a couple of times. The slips were mostly empty but within a few hours would be packed with visiting boats - Venture among them. We returned back to Port McNeil after a fantastic flight which will be long remembered with gratitude.

When we arrived back at the marina, Fred and his wife Linda were waiting for us. We exchanged greetings and walked down to Venture. We met a few more people from other boats before moving to the fuel dock where we took on 1500 liters (400 US gallons) of fuel. By the time we left at 1415 for Echo Bay, the sky was clear blue and the sea completely calm. While underway we heard on the radio of a 65 ft boat which had hit the well-charted but unmarked, rock between Echo Bay and Pierre's old place.

We arrived at Echo Bay just as the grounded boat was limping into Pierre's place. This was a pity because they were given the berth intended for us which was close to the centre of activity. We were allocated an alternate berth deep inside the marina which was very nice and actually more peaceful. Pierre was on the dock to take out lines at 1710. The marina was now almost full with some quite large vessels. We attended a lecture on forest survival by a young woman who had practiced what she preached by living in the forest, without outside support, for one year. We were briefed on the upcoming pig-roast by Tove and requested to make a Viking-themed table decoration using supplied milk cartons and anything else that came to hand.

July 14th Saturday.
I spent some time making the Viking boat for the table center-piece out of a milk carton and cereal boxes. I used cinnamon-flavored dental floss for the rigging. As a boatbuilder I felt I had to responsibility to make a special effort!

We had a pleasant surprise in the afternoon when our friends Doug and Cathlyn from the Nordhavn Penguin showed up. They had set off at 0300 to make it around Cape Caution where they said that the conditions were not very nice.

Went to the Happy Hour at 5.15. I was wearing my Archie hat which I had bought in Scotland during our visit there. Pierre and Tove both had Viking hats. The pig was beautifully roasted in the enormous roasting spit, supplied by the Seattle Yacht Club, mounted on a piece of boat shaft. There were 105 guests to feed so Tove had everyone organized by table with lots drawn out of Pierre's hat. The food was delicious and the side dishes brought by the attendees were varied and good. I supplied a cabbage/bacon dish I had cooked up.

After dinner, suggestions were solicited to name the late, lamented pig we had just consumed. The names were voted on by the loudest response from the diners. I suggested Porquoi which won the vote and I received a small pig key ring as a prize.

July 15th Sunday.
We had many people visit Venture in the morning and did not leave the dock until 1055. We saw lots of pleasure boats while underway today. We had the usual low overcast cloud which burned off around midday. We arrived at Lagoon Cove at 1420. We backed in and rafted alongside the Tollycraft we had visited this same morning. Another boat rafted alongside us and yet another alongside him. Penguin arrived shortly after us. We had a briefing from the lady who runs the marina with her husband. Bill and Jean Barber.

We all went up to the patio for Happy Hour where we shared each others munchies. It was very hot in the sun. Bill, who runs the marina with his wife, told a story about a bear bone. The guide book describes Bill as one of the few remaining lying story-tellers. I think this is an apt and accurate description. He is certainly great raconteur of dubious tales.

After dinner we went up to the grassy area behind the house where there was a campfire. Lady there from the Tollycraft next to us (Midnight Sun, Tacoma) sang very nicely with guitar. People roasted marshmallows in the fire. Personally I prefer them 'raw'! Returned to the boat around 10 pm as dusk was setting over the peaceful anchorage.

July 16th Monday
The weather continued to be wonderful. Underway at 0845. We went out into Johnstone Strait where, for once, we had the current with us. Our SOG (Speed over the ground) reached as high as 14.1 knots in Current Passage. As a result, we reached Dent early and diverted into Frederick Arm to await slack in the rapids. We moored at Dent Lodge marina at 1620. I had a conversation with Justin who runs the lodge and also the jet boat that took us through the rapids last year. He said he really liked the video I had made of that excursion. He said many had tried to film the rapids but none had been so professional. I told him that Venture would be back in September with the NY Yacht Club charter.

July 17 Tuesday
Another wonderful day. Got underway at 0900. We went through Yaculta a couple of hours ahead of slack but no problems although the water was interestingly swirly. We saw some large trees in the water complete with roots.

Our next destination was Gorge Harbor where we arrived at 1153 through the very narrow entrance. This place has had a change in ownership and is very attractive. Once again it was very warm - about 77 degrees F. We went to the restaurant for dinner at 1830. According to the menu, the restaurant building had once been afloat but had been dragged up to its present spot about 100 ft above sea level in 1979.

July 18th Wednesday
Got up at 0620. Another sunny day although it became overcast by 0900. We were underway at 0750 as we had 70 miles to go down the Georgia Strait to Nanaimo. We had uneventful journey. The wind was from aft for most of the way and then died and we had some swell from ahead. We arrived in Nanaimo at 1513. Went for walk to the park along the waterfront.

July 19th Thursday.
Another beautiful sunny day for the last day of our cruise to Alaska. We had celebratory bacon and eggs for breakfast which was a rare treat. Departed Nanaimo at 0950 to arrive at Dodd's Narrows at 1020 shortly before slack. There were many boats going through at the same time in both directions. We arrived at Delta at 1430 and backed into our usual slip. Weather sunny and hot - 75 degrees F. Total mileage for the trip 2,500 nm. 64 days elapsed time. 44 nights at dock and 20 at anchor. Another successful personal voyage of discovery for everyone aboard. Thank you Venture!