Summer Cruising Through Sidney, Vancouver Island, & Prince Rupert - Part 4
Blog 4. July 10th to July 28th, 2019.
We remain at the dock in Prince Rupert for four nights. Steve’s Air Canada flight on June 12th is delayed and then cancelled - reportedly due to problems concerning availability of crew. With the following day’s flight already fully booked, it looks as though our schedule is in the bin. At 40 minutes notice, Steve is able to board a flight to the town of Terrace, 70 miles inland from Prince Rupert. We try to hire a car to go meet him. None are available in Prince Rupert but, in their office, we are able to book a car for Steve at Terrace airport for him to drive one-way to Prince Rupert. When he lands in Terrace he learns his checked bags are still in Vancouver. Fortunately there is one more flight that day and he waits the two hours for it to land before driving to Prince Rupert where he finally arrives late in the day.
July 13 Saturday
We fill the water tanks and leave for the fuel dock at 1015. Our timing is less than ideal. Ahead of us at the dock are a high-speed tourist catamaran and a car ferry both taking on vast quantities of fuel so we have a long wait before it is our turn. It takes an additional hour to fill our tanks with 3,600 liters of diesel so it is 1217 before we are finally underway. We head south past Prince Rupert’s commercial docks and, at low tide, pass though a narrow rocky entrance to anchor in Ire inlet on Anger Island at 1925. (It sounds like someone was rather cross when naming these places). Midway through cooking dinner, a jellyfish is sucked into the generator cooling water intake causing a minor disruption.
July 14 Sunday
Up at 0700. Lovely sunny morning. Christine bakes muffins. Another jelly is sucked into genset intake. Chris deals with it and we get underway immediately at 0756. The tide is even lower than last night so the tight entrance seems even narrower! The vivid green seaweed draping the rocks appears almost fluorescent in the morning sun and branches are draped in a gauzy green shroud. Once in Principe Strait, the sun disappears in the mist and the sea turns absolutely mirror calm. We see two groups of orca at 1024. We initially anchor amongst rocky surroundings in Devlin Bay on Trutch Island at 1145 and tour the area in the tender. The boughs of some trees are heavily draped with moss. Chris is not confident about the holding and we decide to move. We carefully negotiate the tricky, rock-strewn entrance and re-anchor in Langley West Cove on Barnard Island. Christine and Steve go ashore for a hike. It is a lovely evening. The orb of the setting sun hangs above the trees before engulfing us in their shadow.
July 15th Monday
Lovely morning. Lots of jelly fish. Underway at 0844. Mist hovering over the narrow entrance becomes dense (and very photogenic) as Chris threads Venture past the menacing rocks. Once through, fog hanging over Nepean Sound restricts visibility. We are now back on the exposed west coast and the shoreline is piled high with bleached logs. The lower 50 ft of the offshore islands are bare of vegetation due to the onslaught of winter waves from Hecate Strait. At 1106 we anchor in Giller Harbour, behind Adams Island. Chris goes to launch the big tender and discovers problems with the davit. He and Steve spend the rest of the day, pestered by horse flies, trying to identify the problem which eventually turns out to be a faulty ground connection - possibly arising from the retrofit of the remote control. Christine and Steve go ashore after dinner. They report seeing wolf tracks and scat. They also collect beached garbage including a serviceable snow shovel. We bring this on board to dispose of at the next large town.
July 16th Tuesday
Overcast. Ultra-low tide. Up anchor at 0846. In the distance we see humpbacks bubble feeding. At 1130 we pause at Whale Point, Taylor Bight, Gil Island. We contact the small research station there and speak to Herman Moutere on the VHF to report our orca sighting yesterday and tell him that we have photos. We copy photos onto a thumb drive and Herman comes out to Venture in his boat where he copies them onto his computer. Within 10 minutes, he reports that the pod we saw was A42 - part of the A5 Northern resident killer whales who are salmon eaters. He tells us that rain is expected. This is badly needed as the streams are drying up making it hard for salmon to move upstream to their spawning grounds. Herman relies on water to generate all the power for the research facility.
A short time later, on the VHF, we hear a boat named Hawk Bay call the whale center we had just left. This is Stan Hutching’s boat that I had been told to look out for by a couple we had met on a previous trip. Chris calls Hawk Bay in the VHF and it turns out that the boat is not far away in Whale Passage. He speaks with Stan who arranges to meet us in nearby Cameron Cove which, coincidentally, is our planned destination and a place Herman recommends as a good spot to be on the look out for wolves. Stan is featured in a film titled “Creekwalker” which depicts his 40 year career of walking 50 of the creeks and rivers counting salmon returning to spawn. Stan, with his wife Karen, is the only remaining creekwalker from the many that, for years, patrolled the streams and rivers of British Columbia. It is a thrill to have him come aboard after watching his work in the film. Herman, from the whale research station, also appears in the same film - another interesting coincidence. We have nice long talk with Stan. He tells us he has seen virtually no salmon so far this season and there has been no commercial fishing scheduled. I ask his opinion as to the reason for so many dead trees and he tells me it could be because they are stressed due to lack of rain.
Interesting to reflect that, if we had not seen the orca and reported the sighting to the whale research station, we would not have been on channel 6 and would not have heard Stan, also on channel 6, reporting his sighting and we would have been anchored in adjacent bays in the same area without knowing because Hawk Bay does not transmit on AIS!
July 17th Wednesday
As forecast, it rains throughout the night accompanied by wind. At 0600, Steve and Christine take the tender to the beach at low tide in the hope of seeing wolves but see none. After they return, the wind gusts to 33 knots. Chris notices three boats rafted up on one anchor drifting out of the anchorage after their anchor dragged. He takes off in the tender to alert them and has trouble waking them up by banging on the hull. They are lucky not to go aground. We get underway at 0727. Without warning, a humpback whale surfaces right alongside Venture. It is lucky we do not strike it. Rain and mist restrict visibility. We divert past Hartley Bay and hover offshore for marginal cell phone coverage. We continue up Gardner Canal, recommended by Stan Hutchings. It continues to rain but this turns out to be serendipitous as it gives rise to countless waterfalls varying in size from slender ribbons to thundering torrents. None of us have ever seen so many. At 1700 we reached Chief Mathews Inlet and have difficulty anchoring due to the steep drop off in depth. During the evening, the rain stops and the sun peers through the clouds, highlighting ice caps atop the highest peaks.
July 18th Thursday
The tide is ultra low revealing bleached tree trunks stranded on the nearby sandbank. Skeins of mist drape the surrounding mountains. Anchor up at 0930. We stop by
Kamano Bay for a quick look at the Alcan depot. We spot the tug towing two barges we encountered yesterday. The barges are loaded with what are clearly tunnel segments with many more stacked on shore. The rain has ceased and the waterfalls are flowing much less than yesterday - some of the smaller have disappeared altogether. We attempt some drone flying of Venture passing an impressive waterfall. We lose communication with it due to poor GPS coverage in the steep-walled fjord but manage to spot it visually, allowing Chris to regain control and bring it home.
At 1224, we anchor in Owyacumish Bay. Again, it is a bit tricky but we are held in place by the flow of water from a large waterfall. We make expeditions ashore, bushwacking through dense forest and taking the tender a short way up the Prim river until being stopped by rapids. We do not see any salmon or other wildlife. Roast pork for dinner!
July 19th Friday
Up at 0600 on a misty morning. I take a nice still photo of a stranded tree at mouth of Prim river. Underway at 0655. We spot Hawk Bay at anchor and call them on VHF. We anchor in Bottleneck at 1625. A pair of loons patrol the anchorage. Chris takes Steve ashore who goes bush-wacking through 2nd - or 3rd - growth forest. He reports solid, almost impenetrable, undergrowth.
July 20th Saturday.
Up anchor at 0817. Overcast day. We briefly get one bar of cell phone coverage off Klemtu and, later, slightly better coverage off Bella Bella. We turn into Codville Lagoon and anchor at 1445. Christine and Steve go ashore to hike a trail. While they are away we tour part of the extensive lagoon in the tender.
July 21st Sunday.
Up anchor at 0927. Another nice day. At 1110, we do a drive-by of Namu - an abandoned, decaying, cannery we have visited once before. We pause briefly at Koeye River inlet at 1200 before anchoring in Schooner Retreat at 1410. Another boat enters just ahead of us making a total of ten boats in the anchorage. We go ashore in the afternoon in the small tender.
July 22 Monday
Underway at 0635 for crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait. The weather is good and sea not rough. En route we are briefly immersed in a dense fog bank. We arrived in Port McNeill at 1345. Bruce Jackman meets us at the dock and invites us to a party. At 6.pm we go to the hospitality area taking with us a dish of barbecued chicken wings to complement the pickled herring, salmon and other hors d’oeuvres provided by Marc Onetto. Pizza is provided by Bruce. We enjoy an interesting evening in good company with interesting people.
July 23 Tuesday
Lovely morning. I visit a GB 42 which is in immaculate condition to tell owners how good she looks. It turns out their dream boat is a Fleming 55 and they have watched all the videos. They have never been to Alaska and I encourage them to go. They visit Venture and I give them a DVD of last years trip. It seems that almost everyone we meet has watched the videos. Steve leaves for Seattle by floatplane at 1300. Superyacht Avviva, 167ft, docks opposite us on south side of C dock.
July 24 Wednesday.
Sunny morning. Underway at 0915. Very calm trip down Johnstone Strait. We enter Port Neville which we have never visited before. There is lot of clear cut logging on hill sides as there is all the way down Johnstone Strait and Discovery Passage. In fact all throughout the Great Bear Rain Forest. We anchored in Baresides Bay at 1420.
July 25th Thursday
Underway at 0725 under rain showers. Out in Johnstone Strait we see a smaller Regency cruise ship heading north. We anchor in Waiatt Bay, Octopus Islands at 1217. Chris and Christine take kayaks ashore and walk across a narrow neck of land to Small Inlet where we anchored two months ago on our way north. Louisa and I take the large tender around the bay.
July 26th Friday
Underway at 0645. We elect to negotiate the trickiest of the two exits from Waiatt Bay. We arrive at Surge Narrows after they have started running in our direction. We are swept through on the wings of the turbulent water at 14.5 kts. We proceed down the eastern side of the Strait of Georgia. Initially mirror calm, a brisk southerly wind blows up in the afternoon. There is plenty of traffic – mostly sailboats under sail which is a rare sight in these waters. We anchor in Buccaneer Bay in the Thormanby Islands in late afternoon. This is not far from the city of Vancouver and is a busy holiday spot.
July 27th Saturday
At 0500 wind gets up. The boat next to us drags anchor and strikes the sailboat behind it. The two, together, then collide with a larger trawler style boat. It takes a while to disentangle the mess but no one is hurt or significant damage sustained. After all the excitement we are underway at 0713. Wind is from now NW down the Strait of Georgia which is from aft so not too uncomfortable. We go through Polier Pass at near full flood with the tide against us. Like all Flemings, Venture has ample reserve power so we experience no problems. We anchor in Montague Harbour at 1226. It is the height of the holiday season and there are large numbers of boats in this popular anchorage and float planes come and go. Several small boats stop by and people tell us how much they enjoy the videos. One couple had only watched their first video the day before and, lo, here is the actual boat! A recent 65, Valinor, enters the harbour and anchors nearby. The owner comes over on his paddle board and introduces himself.
July 28th Sunday
On the last day of our cruise we are underway at 1130. It is a gorgeous sunny day with plenty of traffic, including massive BC ferries, plying the waters. We arrive at Delta at 1330 where Brian and Kevin are on the dock to meet us. Despite the hiatus in Queen Charlotte, which disrupted our plans, we have traveled 1,848 nm with 34 nights at anchor and 29 at a dock.