Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Smith Inlet, Part 1

The Lower Inlet

Weather was not our friend as we headed down FitzHugh Sound. Oh! how I missed those weeks of warm, sunny weather in July and early August. Heavy rain, ugly chop on top of 6-foot swells and strong gusty winds accompanied us all the way to Smith Sound. We spotted 4 whales on the run south, but didn't linger. Whale watching isn't as much fun in chunky water with rain and low clouds limiting visibility. 

Several harbors at the mouth of the inlet are popular, protected anchorages where southbound cruisers wait for good weather before setting out to round Cape Caution. Weather and sea conditions do matter. With only a smattering of small offshore islands to break up the ocean swells, vessels are exposed to the open Pacific Ocean for most of the 50+ nautical mile run across Queen Charlotte Sound. That exposure is a big deal to pleasure boats that travel in the 7 to 10 knot range, maybe less of a concern to larger commercial traffic.
  
Photo: tug with an unusual tow heads for Cape Caution
Photo: this tow might benefit from minimal swell and wave height
We have previously used Millbrook Cove on the north side of Smith, but on this trip peppy SW winds swirled around in that bay and strong swells rolled far inside. We moved across the inlet to anchor on the southerly shore. Fly Basin was new to us and offered complete shelter from both wind and choppy water. The basin entrance is quite shallow, shallow enough to restrict  passage at very low tides. That may be the reason we had so little company inside the basin. Half a dozen other boats chose to anchor outside in larger Takush Harbor.  



We didn't see or hear any other cruising boats the next day as we traveled up the inlet, but one small helicopter and a few crew boats did attract attention as they noisily buzzed about.


Photo: this helicopter flew up and down canyons, buzzed along the shoreline and disappeared over the ridge line - photo op or timber cruising? 

Photo: what WAS that chopper doing there, perched on the rocks?
Photo: a modern day logging operation in Smith Inlet
A pair of humpback whales cruised slowly along the surface near the Burnt Island logging camp. They lazily traveled back and forth, following a rip line as they fed. We never saw them dive or jump or even wave a fin, but it was fun to see whales nearby. 




All of this was interesting, but we were ready to move on, eager to explore the large river that emptied into the head of Smith Inlet.

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